If you know me, you know I’ve had an interesting life. If I were a superhero, my origin story is pretty solid.
Maybe you don’t know much of that story. A good place to get some info about my childhood and past would by my Thanks Series, here on this website.
I think about living in western New York with 25+ other kids, born and being raised in a nomadic cult that splintered off Scientology. I have vivid memories of walking down the streets of Manhattan as a three-year-old, hurtling on my stomach across a frozen pond near Quakertown, Pennsylvania, and lifting weights in a slowly collapsing garage in Dallas, Texas.
For seventeen years, that orphanage style of living was my life. With morning and evening rituals and weekly Sunday ‘celebrations’ (songs, scriptures, speeches, candles, incense, etc), and greeting the adults with “God bless you” in place of hi or just ignoring them– I never really got why or what the religious stuff was. I still don’t know what the cult’s main doctrine was. Through my research, I know more about its really colorful origins than I get about its tame manifestation that I lived in through most of my growing up.
That was all my world. I saw families in movies and on TV and in books. Intermittently I saw them in the world around me. I fantasized about having a family. First about being a child in a regular family of a mom and dad and siblings and later about having my own family with the woman who was my true love and kids who got to be in a loving, devoted, united family. As my naivete faded and my cynicism grew, I doubted that would be something I would ever have. I would see the crap I had to live through and know what could have been and sometimes mutter to myself, “I can’t believe this is my life.”
I also fantasized about being a published writer. I wanted to be a novelist, telling stories for a living. I wanted to be rich too. Who doesn’t? I wanted to live in a nice home with plenty of space and a good kitchen.
These things– a happy, delightful family and successful novel writing– became my two most important dreams. Dreams I thought would always be dreams.
Life evolved. I left the cult at 17. And more stuff happened, including finding faith, volunteering as a missionary in Brazil for two years, going to college, a ten year career as a teacher, meeting and marrying the coolest lady on the planet, having a bunch of kids, lots of travel, lots of business failures, and more.
And this week has been rough. Heck, the last few months have been rough. I have a very stressful job, a commute that is longer than I thought it would be and very challenging sometimes, and pressure to write a lot and write well and push my blossoming writing career into something that can actually be financially rewarding. As I get older, and maybe partly due to the stress of life today, anxieties seem to be getting worse and I am struggling to get my health and weight back under control. This new job that seemed like it would be a financial home run is not, mainly because living costs in Washington are much higher than expected. Groceries are similar to Utah, but everything else is pricier.
I spend my days alternating between full-speed ahead and blindingly fast work and emails, and staring at my screen trying to figure out the right way to frame an idea or process. All of it at a breakneck pace so I can somehow, miraculously, get out of the office at the right time to catch the right shuttle (which hopefully isn’t delayed) so I can get the right train. And if I’m off by a couple minutes, I miss the train and have to wait another 25-40 minutes for the next one.
The traffic here is terrible. The shuttle ride to the train station should take 10-15 minutes. Two evenings ago, I was on the shuttle for 45 minutes and I missed the last train. Ended up taking the bus to my car. All together, my commute was 2 hours+.
I was recently infuriated by circumstances beyond my control.
I say these things and my dear Annemarie sees or hears it and wants to fix it. But that’s the thing– it doesn’t need to be fixed. It’s not worth trying to fix. The job can be improved so that stress is reduced, and I can work on timing my commute better and working efficiently enough to get out on time.
It doesn’t need fixing. Writing full time eventually will eliminate a lot of the stress, but other stress will surely show up. But this stuff doesn’t need fixing; it needs getting through.
And I’m sick of getting through stuff without rising and finding joy. Life is about joy. So this post is to remind myself that I need to see the joy surrounding me– practically overflowing the cup of my life and days.
Joy has a name, or names really. Annemarie. Thomas. Hintze. Lily. Nathaniel. Benjamin. Wallace. The familiar warmth of my wife next to me as I fall asleep. My kids’ earnest, sweet hugs and obsessions and kindness and play and happiness.
Then there’s the fact that I have books published. Stuff I published and stuff published by a real, factual publisher. I’m writing books and stories at a blistering clip and I could be going faster. I live in a warm, spacious home full of the people I love most and full of warmth and great food and noise and peace.
So I’m looking around myself today. My wildest dream of having my own family has come true. I work at Amazon. Amazon! I write books and they get published and people read them. I speak four languages. I am a gifted teacher and I love to teach the Gospel. I am blessed, lucky, and life is overflowing.
I can’t believe this is my life.