Saturday, January 27, 2007

If I Could Just Answer This One Question...

Do you ever wonder why you are like you are?

I had wonderful parents. Hard working. Integrity by the bucket load.

I had a wonderful childhood. Great bicycles. Great friends.

No abuse, no neglect.

Yet something in me has always felt unworthy.

You might ask, unworthy of what?

I don't even know that. It's a feeling much like guilt, or sadness that is just there. Always has been as far as I can tell.

And I often wonder how I ended up this way.

Writing on this blog has been one of the most cathartic things I have ever done. Not that I have come up with big answers to questions like this by blogging, but thinking about my life and the lives of those who have come through my life had definitely opened more and more of my memory up for review. Putting my life in perspective helps me stay level.

With me so far? Yeah. It doesn't make much sense to me either. It's one of those things where I can think of words that are close, but not perfect to what I'm trying to say. Words fail many times to adequately describe emotions and feelings.

What got me started down this slippery slope is a memory from my childhood.

I was living in Vidalia, Louisiana at the time. I was in the third or fourth grade, which puts me at either 8 or 9.

I rode the bus to school, and was leaving one morning to go out to the bus stop nearest the house.

My Dad asked me if I needed any money, reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change.

I said "no Sir," and walked past him.

He asked me again and I turned around and looked at him. And he had the strangest questioning look on his face. I can see him in my mind's eye so clearly it breaks my heart every time I think of it. I can see now that it surprised him, and made him concerned. What kid doesn't want free money? No strings attached?

Apparently, me as a kid didn't want free money.

I again said "no Sir" and turned and went on out of the house to wait for the bus. I remember thinking at the time that the look on Dad's face was that he was hurt. With an adult's mind I can realize that he was just surprised and concerned.

Ten thousand times over the years I have replayed that scene in my mind and wondered why I didn't take some money from my Dad.

I wasn't in trouble or anything. To him it was just another morning and wanted to give me some money to buy some candy or a Coke at school during recess.

But even that far back, I knew in my heart that I deserved nothing, and could not accept this simple offer of a dollar or two of change for a snack.

Sometimes I feel that, if I could just go back and relive that moment, and know today what I was thinking about at that second, and understand, that it would open up my life right now in wondrous ways. It's the same feeling as having a word you want "on the tip of your tongue" but unable to find it in the end. Only this is that feeling magnified by 100.

If I could understand today, the reason I turned away my Dad's offer of money, that many things in my life would fall into place in my understanding.

I'm sure that doesn't make any sense, and I see that this post is just a world class ramble, but that truly is one of the great questions in my life.

What is it in me that causes me to feel lower than the lowest slug on the ground? And why have I felt this way all of my life?

I'm 44. Am I always going to be like this?

Today at work, I was trying to troubleshoot a digital circuit card that is part of a very custom communication system. This card has an intermittent problem.

Intermittent problems are a nightmare. How can you find what's wrong with something when it works part of the time?

After a while, I realized that the problem seems to be heat related. For instance, I go to lunch and leave the system shut down. Come back from lunch, turn on system, and the circuit card is working, but several minutes later it fails.

I've been tracking the problem down and had narrowed it to several surface mount chips on the circuit card. I get a can of Freeze Spray and blast these parts with super cold air and cool then down. The card starts working again.

So I have a connection on a chip or something that loses contact when the card heats up during use. My worst fear is pretty much confirmed that it is a ball-grid-array on the circuit card. Aw man. Ball grid arrays are a pain to remove and replace. I'll have to send the card to one of the specialists at work that does only that, removing and replacing these parts. It's a time consuming delicate job. And I can only hope it fixes the problem.

What the heck are you talking about with this dumb circuit card?


It's an analogy I want to make. Even with the uncertainty of knowing the exact problem this circuit card has, it's something I can find and fix with tried and true methods. It's an area of life where empirical knowledge is king.

I wish I had the equivalent of a can of Freeze Spray for troubleshooting my emotional life.

Things that can be seen, smelled, tasted, felt, and heard are much easier to troubleshoot and repair than the human spirit.


Hammer said...

Very good post. I find myself doing the same kind of soul searching.

I used to do the same freeze spray trick. When I built and repaired modems.

The way I translate it in my personal life is by changing little things and see how they affect life around me.

Kim said...

I am in a continual state of self-reflection...and you're right...blogging has helped.

Travis said...

What a powerful post. And I understand it completely. I guess sometimes we might think an idyllic childhood makes us unworthy to question ourselves and our motivations as adults.

I don't agree. I think no matter our upbringing, we still have doubts throughout our lives. And the fact that you realize this, and are actively seeking understanding, is healthy.

Thanks for sharing. Now I'm convinced linking to this blog was the right thing to do.

Sheila said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I think your feelings must be very common. My childhood wasn't idyllic, but I often look back on it and find many pleasant memories. I'm ten years older than you and as each year goes by I become more comfortable with who I am. I suppose that's the bone we are thrown as we age.

I'm puzzled as to why you refrain from political posts. Do you get upset or are you concerned for a job?

Anyway, I hope to get back since I found my time here enjoyable.

JAM said...

Thanks everyone. Once again, I have proved that writing a 2am blog post when I can hardly keep my eyes open is not a good idea. Not that I didn't mean those things, it's just that after a good night's sleep, what I wrote seems embarrassingly like whining.

Sheila, I have written political posts in the past, but like this post, once I get it off my chest, I feel like I've invited everyone to throw a punch at me. I know what I believe. I'm firm in my beliefs, but I'm not one of those people who is "quick on his feet" when it comes to arguments and conflicts. Everything I do is slow and thoughtful; if I were quicker witted or a competitive type person, I'd be more willing to let it all out here and revel in the back and forth in the comments. But, I'm not. So I have carefully thought out positions on most everything, but there's always someone out there who said the same things only better.

See, I'm a political conservative, not a popular thing to be right now. I'm an engineer, and though that means nothing to anyone, it might give you some insight into the linear, logical way I tend to look at things. When I reach a decision, whether it's what to buy or prepare for supper, or my thoughts on the Wars we're in right now, it's just there; like a solid brick wall. Every brick carefully placed. Then I have a problem understanding the opposite viewpoints.

I have friends whose beliefs about the Wars and politics are 180 degrees out of phase with mine, but we are great friends with tons of respect for one another. I just find it to be extremely difficult to open up those topics on my blog. Maybe time will give me more courage to do so.

For now, I just write them and set them aside.

Emily said...

I feel exactly like you do sometimes, and of course I think a lot of people do. My idea is that maybe it's some sort of humility complex. When I was a kid, that was a big thing, to realize how low you were and how much of a sinner you were to completely appreciate God's grace and such. Which is all perfectly fine and true, but maybe sometimes we get confused as to where humility stops and unnecessary self-deprecation begins. That's the situation I sometimes find myself in, anyways. At least I think that's the

And I don't think your post sounded like whining, it was just honest pondering, thinking out loud. =)