Not a challenge but a gift

Out of the blue a potential client has appeared, and all of a sudden it looks like I might win an important, big (for me) contract. The work is technically interesting, and very well-paid, and the company is nice.

Hard on the heels of elation comes anxiety and insecurity — the work will be difficult and there’ll be a lot of it: will I measure up? There’ll be younger zippier people on the team (without families to look after! Better looking!). Piles of unironed clothes and unwasked dishes surround me — and it’s my turn to cook the dinner.

Now I’m in the mood for shelter, it occurs to me that the work will involve semi-regular short periods away — long dormant demons begin to stir.

I need a way to snap myself out of this downward spiral.

What is certain? God has made this happen to me.

The thought of this client as a challenge from God gave me a bit of a boost, but ramped up the anxiety too: could I measure up to a challenge from God? Better, I thought of it as a gift.

  1. How can I think of this as a gift from God?
  2. How can I respond appropriately to this gift?

1. It will be a financial blessing certainly, and we are struggling financially at the moment. I could even say this is an answer to my prayers over money worries. The work will be interesting, in a new area I need to get to know better; it will tone up skills that have been lying fallow for a while. It will enable me to simplify my work life: I’ll be able to jettison a time-wasting client, and be more assertive with another; I shan’t have to scrabble around after contracts.

2. Say thank you: pray thank you to my Lord for this gift. Look forward to enjoying the work. Think back to similar challenges in the past that turned out to be gifts. Enjoy and give thanks during the work too.

Do you know relevant Scripture or other reading that can help with work anxiety and insecurity?

What are your favourite Thank You psalms or prayers from the Bible?

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A life of two halves

I am 51. My birthday is mixed up with Christmas and New Year so I have always taken the season personally.

In my early 40s I started to think I was middle-aged. Turning 50 and 51 I start to think I am getting old, moving into end times. These are the ready-made cultural scripts we are given.

Then I remembered that my mother-in-law is in her 90s and is physically and mentally healthy and independent. People are living longer, and more healthily and actively than ever before, and that progress is continuing. I could easily live to be over 100. The composer Elliott Carter was active at the forefont of his field right until his death in 2012 at the age of 103. No need to turn in at 50 or 60 or 70.

If I live to be 100 I am only just into the second half (if I count only my adult life, I’m still in the first half).

Half-time is a good time to be born again, and to relaunch myself. I can think of my adult life so far as a kind of second childhood or gestation. I look forward to 50 years of new life.

Born Again

“Born Again” is my theme for this year.

It feels a bit presumptuous to call myself “born again”, not least because I am still “in the closet”. It feels presumptuous to call myself “saved” or anything like that — although I know Jesus is there for me, and I am trying sincerely to be guided by His star at all times.

Having said that, “born again” is how I feel, and how I want to live from now on.

I have been concentrating hard on battling my demons.

I have not shopped for lingerie or dressed up since August 2016. I think I am out of the clutches of that demon — although I am not confident that I have escaped for the right reasons (see Resisting temptation for the wrong reasons. Does it matter?).

I was masturbating and using pornography up until late December last year, so those demons are very much still active (see Handling episodes of failure). I am determined, however, that they will not contaminate this new year.

I don’t really like the “addiction” narrative about pornography, but I remembered that I did used to smoke cigarettes (early 80s to late 90s). That was certainly an addiciton, and I certainly quit. So I now see using pornography and masturbating as habits like smoking was a habit. Like most people who quit, I “quit” smoking several times, but one last time I really quit. Well, (hopefully) I have now really quit masturbating and really quit using pornography.

I have also realised belatedly that by using pornography, I was training myself to look at women in a certain way, and that I couldn’t really defeat that demon while I was still using pornography.

So, there is no room for complacency, but I feel these demons are on the defensive. Now I want to turn to new demons, or new challenges, challenges to do with my work and, especially, to do with my wife.

I feel born again and I want to act born again. I want to draw on and use the new-found strength that knowing Jesus is giving me. Knowing Jesus is by me is a pleasure, and I want to rejoice in that pleasure and bring that light to the world around me.

What does that mean exactly? I don’t quite know. Solving problems at work, loving my wife — practically as well as adoringly.

We’ll see how it pans out, but the phrase “born again” will remind me of this ambition.

Mission

I’ve just spent a few days in the frozen wastes of the north with my father. He is getting on (in his 70s) and I stay with him every couple of months. I had this idea after his wife (my mother) died in 2013. I want to make sure he’s well, keep him company, make sure he knows I’m available if he needs help, be ready if/when anything crops up. At first he was not keen, but it seems to have grown on him.

We can be a bit of a scratchy family (I have a sister too), but nothing outside a standard deviation from the mean. However, generally, after a couple of days in his company, I have had enough.

Visits have been getting better gradually this year, but this latest visit went especially well.

What went well?

We had a couple of trips out scheduled, so I suggested I could stay an extra day. In the end he pulled out of one of the trips, but I did stay the extra day. I managed to stay the extra day without losing my temper with him or secretly pulling my hair out.

I was disappointed early on. The failed trip out. Also, I had wanted to discuss some admin/finance matters with him, but because my work has been very hectic recently I hadn’t prepared fully, so I had to drop that as well. So I felt I had nothing “to do” while I was there. A wasted trip.

Perhaps that made me feel I had plenty of time. We did very little, and just had a peaceful time together. We watched old TV comedies on DVD, played with his dog, chatted a little. I got up and went to bed early, and provided food at mealtimes (just supermarket ready meals, but quite nice ones), did a bit of cleaning.

Towards the end of my visit, Dad had more colour in his cheeks, was more cheerful, less fretful, and explicitly grateful for my company.

Why did it go well?

I think the early failures were a blessing in disguise. I didn’t have goals I wanted to achieve — which were actually distractions from the better work I could be doing.

The extra day was an extra day of food and regular sleep. It was also an extra day for me (and him) to see the benefits of my actions.

I think I attended to him very closely. Not because I was concentrating, and not entirely because I felt there was time. I was calmer, less directing or interfering. Looking back, my interventions were kind of pre-emptive: e.g. I got the food ready before we were hungry and put it out at just the right time.

With my secular hat on I would say: things have been improving over the last year, and on this visit they crossed a threshold so I noticed; I had the time to see the positive effect I was having and that gave me a boost too.

I also had the luxury of praying every morning when I woke up, and every night at bedtime. I had Mere Christianity with me (which I seem to be re-reading perpetually). I was reading scripture every day. I was writing in my diary every day. So, I was looking after myself in that sense.

I was never distracted or tempted (apart from at a train station on the way up, but that’s another story for another day).

Conclusions & next steps

I crossed another threshold during that visit. I am starting to see the benefit of accepting Jesus, and of spending so much time in His arms. On the way back home I went to a church and prayed thanks to God for His presence and the gift of the visit: on Dad and on me.

This long year — since my Total Purge last August — I have been concentrating on fighting my demons and overcoming bad habits. I’m sure those struggles will continue.

During Advent I am practicising the other side: giving thanks, adoration of God, rejoicing in and enjoying my new-found life. I hope to focus on these things here on the blog more next year.

Lust for wife

This will not come as a surprise to readers, but it was a surprise to me.

Since “putting away childish things”, I have recently been having lustful feelings about my wife!

Without really trying, I have been more physically affectionate, and perhaps even forward — a couple of times she has said (good-naturedly), “put me down”. I have caught my eye wandering over her body in a new way (or, at least, a way it hasn’t wandering for many years). A couple of times I have even found myself having sexual fantasies about her.

My wife has noticed some of this, and doesn’t seem to mind that much (“put me down”).

For my part it’s pathetically exciting and feels like strange new territory. I don’t want the moment to pass and fade; on the other hand I don’t want to fumble and drop it.

Step away from the phone

Reading a couple of nice posts on Lisa Notes (Where’s Your Phone Right Now?, Is Your Phone Changing You?) has inspired me to tone up my resistance to the time sink that is social media.

Thankfully I dislike Facebook (the software creeps me out and the UI is ugly) so there is little danger of my becoming addicted to it. I do like to follow blogs, but it’s always either a topic or a person I follow, so there’s no sprawling network of endless connections beckoning. Email is just part of my work. However, for me Twitter is like Heroin. I’m sure I could spend whole days surfing around Twitter. So for me “Social Media” really means Twitter.

I do use SM for a reason — to share information, to find things out, to “keep up to date”. How often do I need to login to fulfill those functions? Not really more than once or twice a day. Set a frequency and stick to it.

The mobile phone has become a ubiquitous general-purpose information and time-passing device, always “relevant”, designed to be pawed and fondled.

My main “don’ts”:

  • SM should not be the first reading of the day. First reading should be on actual paper (the newspaper, magazines).
  • In fact, no SM till after breakfast.
  • SM should not be an on/off ramp activity (e.g. when I arriving or winding up at work)
  • Don’t use the phone as general purpose life companion. Find ways to push againt this. For example, I have started wearing my old wristwatch — instead of using the phone as a kind of pocket watch.
  • I should not reach for the phone when bored, or in those spare, empty moments (e.g., waiting for rice to cook). We get a daily newspaper, and weekly and monthly magazines, puzzle magazines, … there are plenty of ways to while away time that do not involve the phone. I could even read a Psalm.

How can I be a good husband?

How can I be a good husband to my wife? (Not that I am a complete disaster of a husband at the moment.)

When I am with her I should listen to her, look at her. When I speak I should use her name as well as endearments.

When I am up first in the morning, I should think of her and prepare for her presence. When I am returning from work at night, I should think of her and prepare to meet her.

Every night I should pray about her. Having someone to pray about has been a good reminder to pray. I like the idea of thinking about my wife with my “prayer mind” as I fall asleep.

I should remember that she loves me, she loves me, she loves particular things about me. I should remember that she looks to me for support and love. I should take pleasure in giving her love and support.

Jesus is inside her and when she speaks to me, Jesus speaks to me. Loving and supporting my wife is loving and supporting Jesus.

I am a body. My wife is a body. We make a body together. I want to strengthen all of those bodies, so they can be vibrant and flourish.

I lust for my wife. I enjoy her, and she enjoys my attention (or she used to, …). I should train my lust on my wife. I should find good ways to show her my desire for her. I should give her all the love and support and comfort and space she wants. My lust is to find her desire, to fan her desire, and to become her desire.

New goals

This might be premature, but I feel as if I am in a new phase of my journey. I seem to have broken the bad habits that triggered this persona and this blog in 2013. At least, I feel ready to aim at some new goals, and to orient this persona and this blog around them.

I have three largish goals I’d like to aim for. They are more like states of affairs than events.

  1. Be a good husband (and father)
  2. “Come out” as Christian
  3. Have sex with my wife

The first has to be achieved before the other two I think.

I’d like to achieve the first goal this year, and then aim to achieve the other two in 2018.

By being a good husband I mean being a source of stability and strength for my wife. Also a source of good vibes and happiness of course, and a source of feelings of calm and safety. I want to establish that before demanding special treatment or “recognition” (2) or special favours (3).

I don’t quite know what I mean by “coming out” as a Christian. It might mean “declaring myself” to my wife. It probably does mean going to a church semi-regularly, and meeting other Christians In Real Life.

Another Church

At my bedtime prayer last night I felt I’d had a good day and was thankful to the Lord. I couldn’t think why the day felt so blessed, so I traced back over what I’d done. A reasonable day: ups and downs, but nothing special. A couple of points to be ashamed of. In the end I did find something.

I was in town to do some errands. I arrived at the library five minutes before it opened. Usual practice would be to go to one of my usual cafes, get a coffee, write some diary and watch the world go by (actually just the babes and milfs). The weather was exactly right. However, I dithered, I wandered, undecided without knowing it, like Buridan’s ass.

I found myself at a church. It was open but quiet. I walked around for a bit enjoying the atmosphere. I found a pew and sat down and prayed. Not for anything special. Not my bedtime prayer or my morning quiet time prayer, an extra unscheduled prayer. Sat calmly for a while. Made a donation. Left and got on with my day.

Bad Habits After Lent

I was really stimulated to embrace Lent this year. Since reading about “turn away” I have been much more mindful of where I am casting my gaze. After reading Ugochi’s two posts on masturbation (Is it sinful?, How to stop) I decided I would cut out pornography and masturbation completely. As is my wont I have monitored everything closely.

  • “Turn away” has been very effective and has even affected my mood generally
  • Pornography I haven’t missed at all. Odd how sometimes a habit will just fall away without a murmur.
  • Keeping my hands off myself was harder, and by mid-March I was seething with lust and wondering if I could last till the end of the month, let alone Easter. However, I made it!

During Lent, the duration of 40 days seemed like a target. Now I am on the other side of it (especially perhaps as Easter had that special landmark), it feels more like a door I have walked through. I have no desire to watch pornography. I am quite horny most of the time but I don’t want to masturbate, and I feel in control of that.

I used to have pornographic sexual fantasies running in my head almost all the time. Now, they rarely pop up, and when they do they are so obviously weak echoes of habitual reflexes. My horniness and lust is undirected and kind of purely sensual.

What now?

The obvious thing would be to pounce on my wife, but I think I should take that slowly.

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