Fear At Every Turn

A good friend and mentor of mine often commented that fear is a terrible motivator and reason for doing something. I agree with this sentiment completely, but I find that I often have a difficult time putting that idea into practice. Fear is not always my main reason for my thoughts, actions, and inaction. However, I feel that fear is a constant companion perched on my shoulder and always quite willing to whisper in my ear.

It seems that fear is something that pops up all over the place. At best it feels like you’re playing whack-a-mole trying to drop the hammer on every fear as it pops from its hiding place. At worst it sometimes feels like your drowning. You don’t want to succumb to the fears that you have, but feel powerless to fight them off in any meaningful way.

These fears go into various aspects of life. There are the ones centered around home. I often fear what people think about the fact that I’m a stay-at-home dad. I fear that I’m not a good enough parent or husband. I fear being a bother to pretty much anyone.

I have fears centered around church and faith. I fear a lack of acceptance. My views tend to be a left (to use that imperfect way of putting it anyhow) of a decent number of conservative Christians, but a right of the more liberal or progressive strains of Christianity. I fear there will never be a place that I can fit in. Not that I mind disagreement, but have often found that most people do. Sometimes it even feels like fear shouldn’t be such an issue if my faith was strong enough.

I also feel fear about this little blog. I fear I’ll never impact much of anyone with my writing here. I fear that I’m wasting my time, that my thoughts mean nothing. However, I also fear success. I fear the negative attention that comes with popularity. I fear not being myself in order to chase success and popularity. I fear both irrelevance and relevance, it maybe sounds strange but I do.

To be honest I wish I knew what to do with all of these fears. No matter how hard I try to shake them off, they seem to cling on with their tiny little claws and endure. I’m fairly confident that I’m not the only one that struggles with these little, or not so little, fears that seem to pop up at every turn.

I know that fears will always persist and so I don’t have some sort of dream of never having fears. What I wish I did better with was pushing past the fears and moving forward. That’s something I don’t always feel I do a good job on. Sometimes it’s because of the fact that there are fears on both sides of an issue. Other times it is simply not knowing what move to make to push past the fear in question.

I even think that lacking any kind of fear can lead to recklessness. It reminds me of the idea of not being able to feel pain. It may not feel like it is hurting or affecting you, but you may be doing harm to yourself even if you don’t directly feel it. Fear and pain may not be enjoyable feelings, but I think they do serve some purpose. I don’t want to be paralyzed by fear, but I don’t think wishing it all away or brushing it aside is a healthy option either.

I don’t want fear to have control over me. As I said at the start of this post, fear is a terrible reason and motivation for doing something. Fear is something I think everyone faces in some way or another. Know that you are not alone in that. Maybe like me you don’t really know what to do about it, but at least take some solace that you aren’t alone in your fears.

We might be surprised how many people around us are fearful of something. That could be the reason they put on the show on the outside. It could be a show that pretends everything is wonderful, or it could be a show that pushes people away with harsh words and bad attitudes. We can often think we’re the only one afraid, but the truth is that fear may be at every turn for each person. It may look different from person to person in both what the fears are and the way the fears are handled, but they are still there.

Some people probably handle fear better than others. I want to face the fears I have and trust in the grace of God while doing so, knowing I’ll probably fail in it more than I’d like. Does that sound good to anyone?

Reviewing the Goals of the Year

For some reason something has been on my mind lately. I’ve been thinking about the goals that I posted at the beginning of the year. It’s over half way through the year and I was wondering how I’ve been doing on those goals. I figured since I put the goals out there at the beginning of the year I’d toss out how we’ve been doing on those goals.

1. Get used to staying home with 2 kids. As I said this one had to happen regardless of how well it went. Honestly, though it has been going pretty well. Some days go better than others of course, but we’ve been managing pretty well.

2. Update my blog a little more. Largely I’d say this one has been a success. It was maybe a bit rough the first few months of the year, but I think I’m more consistent than I was. I at least post once a week and do my little weekend wrap up type thing. I’d maybe like to do a couple times a week more often, but being busy on weekends and kids make it a little tougher to do that. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep it up.

3. Pay off our 2nd car loan and one of our smaller school loans. This has already been accomplished and has actually been accomplished for a few months. Of course we still have debt and are trying to save up for a house, but you know at least we removed a couple sources of debt.

4. Get active in ministry or volunteering or something. This one is largely unfulfilled. We became members of our church, helped with our church’s Vacation Bible School, I’ve preached once, and am on the rotation for reading Scripture during the service, but it still really feels like we haven’t really been all that active yet or at least consistently active.

5. Make some local friends. This one has pretty much been a failure. We’ve developed some relationships with people from church, but hardly to friend level yet. We haven’t really connected much with people locally and honestly not sure really how to get started. Some exception may be said for people that we knew from our hometown that we’ve connected a little with since we’ve moved back, but even that has been very minimal.

Overall, I’d say that I’ve actually done fairly decent on my goals so far. We’ll see if I can keep up the blogging, but I seem to have at least achieved some rhythm in posting. The loans aren’t going to come back, so those are done. I could stand to get more involved in doing things with church or locally, but it’s not that we’re not invovled at all either. Friends, well this is where we really need to work, not just because it is a goal, but we could just use some good friends. Maybe we’ll take a look at the end of the year to see how I’ve done with all these at that point and try to lay out some goals for next year too.

“You Can Do That?”

“You can do that?”

This is the kind of question you connect with shock and awe. The kind of question where you can’t believe what you just saw or heard. I was on the receiving end of this question a couple months ago. What was this amazing act that I did?

Did I paint a masterpiece?

Finish an impressive home improvement project?

Perform a wonderful piece of music?

Display some amazing speaking skills?

No, this question was about me changing my daughter’s diaper. To be honest when I was asked that question I didn’t really know how to respond. My sarcastic side totally wanted to make some kind of witty comment, but since I didn’t know the woman who asked the question, I refrained. I was simply polite and said yes to the question. To which came the reply “Good for you.” That certainly wasn’t helping the desire to become sarcastic, but with that interaction complete I was able to go about my own business and didn’t continue the conversation.

However, even leaving that conversation behind I was bothered. I wasn’t really mad at the woman who asked me that question. It was clear that she was well meaning, and really was happy to know that I was able to change a diaper, or probably more accurately that I was willing to change a diaper. I also understood that she was probably speaking from personal experience of what was normal, but that didn’t rid me from being a little irritated about it.

What was probably bothering me the most was my latent insecurity about being a stay-at-home Dad whenever the subject comes up or touches upon that reality. When I run into questions like this it makes me feel that I’m not living up to expectations. That somehow staying home with your kids isn’t fulfilling your duty as a man or just isn’t very masculine (i.e. you’re Mr. Mom rather than just Dad). So when I get asked what I do, or some kind of question about what I can or can’t do with my kids I get a little insecure and defensive. It’s not that I dislike staying home with my kids, that’s not it at all. It is really only when people ask about it, particularly when you know they aren’t expecting the answer you’re about to give.

It also bothers me though because there are just so many assumptions behind interactions like this. The assumption that I’m working somewhere doesn’t bother me, because honestly today you just never know if both parents are working or not. It’s more the assumption that men don’t and even shouldn’t have knowledge on how to take care of their kids. I’ve seen it on TV where the dad is clueless on how to play with their kids, get them dressed, or change a diaper. I’ve heard it from guys who subtly or not so subtly imply that their wives are the one who take care of everything to do with the kids, and I’ve heard it in questions like this.

Now don’t get me wrong, I laugh at the clueless dad stereotype and don’t want that removed entirely, but should that be how we view any dad that we happen to come across? I don’t think so. That’s really all I’m asking for, don’t assume every dad has nothing to do with their kids, but also don’t assume that every guy is a stay at home dad. I think we can encourage dads who are involved in raising their kids without coming off as surprised about it. I also think we should kick dads in the butt who think that it’s only a woman’s job, but that’s another topic all together. But anyhow, get to know what role the dad has in raising his kids, don’t run on assumptions as much as possible even if it is just a brief encounter.

Now the other thing that bothers me, but in a more lighthearted way, is why diaper changing is such a big thing. Honestly, changing diapers is pretty easy. I’m guessing that it’s more difficult if you use the cloth type, but we don’t. Also it can be challenging when your kid is wiggling and squirming around and you’re trying to clean poop off their butt without decorating the floor, walls, clothes, or yourself with it, but it isn’t the hardest thing. There are loads of things more difficult in my opinion. Potty training, sick kids, dealing with cases of whine-itis, getting stubborn kids to sleep, figuring out how to get them to try new foods, and the list could probably go on. So why is it that diaper changing is one that is often focused on? Maybe it’s because it’s easy to get visual comedy out of it for television or movies. Then that usage settles in people’s minds. I’m not really sure, but it really isn’t that difficult.

So yes, I can change diapers. Maybe I should be glad that someone finds that surprising? I’m not sure. I’ve changed a lot of diapers these past three years, and I’m sure there are many more to come. As of right now though, I wish it wasn’t that surprising of a thing.

I think I’d rather get asked “You can do that?” about something just a bit more spectacular.


What Would You Do If Money Wasn’t an Issue?

One of my friends put this question up on Facebook awhile ago. It’s a question that I’ve heard before and never really had it affect me before. This time though the question has attached to me. It may leave my thoughts for a bit, but it always returns. What would I do if money wasn’t an issue? The troubling answer is I don’t have any clue.

Sure you could answer the question like it’s about having limitless money. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the intention of the question. It wasn’t play make believe with imaginary money. It was deeper than that, it was about not letting fear stop you from chasing your passions and dreams. It sounds like a question that I should have an answer for.

Yet it is a question I don’t have a firm answer for. Even a few years ago I would have answered that it was becoming a pastor. After all I spent 6 1/2 years of my education with that goal in mind. However, for a number of reasons that answer doesn’t come as fast as it once did.  It is still probably the best idea that I have, but it is also an answer that I have a fair number of reservations about. So while it is a potential answer, it doesn’t feel like the answer to this question.

The problem is I don’t really have any other good potential answers. Right now I stay home with our kids, but I’ll be honest this isn’t necessarily what I have envisioned for long term. I think it is important for one of us to be home with our kids, but at the same time I feel like I want more than just being a stay-at-home father. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a knock on those who do stay at home, but more that I want to be able to use my gifts and education beyond staying at home with my kids. The way this looks may be that I stay home with my kids more than I do something else, it is just the desire to be able to do something else in addition.

Of course, that gets me back to the problem with my question. I just don’t know what I want to do. My faith is very important to me and I love thinking about and discussing issues of the faith, church, and culture so I can’t imagine that what I would like to do wouldn’t have something to do with this, but I’m just not certain if it will look like being a pastor. If it doesn’t I’m not sure what it will look like.

I’ve been enjoying writing this blog, but I’ll be honest, I don’t think my blog will ever take off or be super popular. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong with time, but to be honest I have mixed feelings about it being popular too. This is a place to work out my own thoughts more than it is thinking that others want to or need to know what I think about an issue, a book, or whatever else.

I wouldn’t be against writing a book at some point in my life, but I’ve got reservations about that too. I’m not sure what I would want to write about, I don’t want to just write a book so I can say I’ve been published, and well I guess I feel that I need to live a bit more to really have something worth writing about. It could simply be that these reservations are excuses, but I’m not losing sleep on that.

In all this I can’t figure out if I just lack passion or I lack the imagination and insight to transform my passions into something tangible. I’m not entirely sure, and maybe I’m not supposed to know the answer right now. That’s a frustrating proposition, but maybe the answer will come in time. Honestly, it seems like I’m thinking more about this question than was intended, but I guess I can’t help it. I don’t have a good answer to that question. Do you? What passion would you follow if money was an issue? I’m not sure I know, but do you?