Current mood: contemplative
I kinda wish I could go back to Alaska this summer. I was going through the pictures from Alaska yesterday, and the memory kinda crept up on me again. The memory of what it was like up there. The memory of not feeling like I had to prove anything to anyone. Like I was somehow good enough. Like my Aunt and Uncle loved and cared about me unconditionally. Like I couldn’t possibly let them down. Like I could do not wrong.
I remember that feeling so well. Looking back on the pictures, I don’t see any shame in my eyes at all. I don’t see any distrust. I remember… being alive. I sent Kara a couple of emails while we were up there, and I was reading over them, and… wow. In one of the emails, I wrote “My Uncle John’s like a breath of fresh air. He doesn’t talk much, but when he does, it’s positive and somewhat significant. I’ve seen a lot up here…” I had no idea what it was like to see a couple married for so long still so in love. Maybe that was part of why I felt so safe up there. I’ve said it before, and probably will again.. it was just like breathing mountain air suddenly after spending your whole life living in diesel exhaust. There’s just.. no way to describe it.
I felt like I could be myself, completely. Like I didn’t have to hide anything – and like I had nothing to hide. Like I was… safe. I remember sitting in the livingroom, laying on the carpet, listening to the music and seeing Joanna, alive for one of the few times in her life, completely without shame, and wondering who I’d be today if I’d been raised in this environment by these two loving people. I realized then that I could’ve been anything I wanted to be. I felt like I could do anything. Like nothing would be impossible.
Then I started reading over the emails from before then. I found stuff I sent her about Andrew, my brother. Not negative, either. I moved on to an email about the one time he prayed for me… and I told him I loved him, and he said “me too.”
There’s a phrase people who are in love use sometimes, “I love who I get to be when I’m with you.” Well… last summer, Kara was that person. I loved the person I got to be when I was with her. The same would go for my Uncle John and Aunt Linda. It still does. I loved who I got to be when I was with them. It was as if I could do no wrong. And.. I didn’t want to, but it wasn’t effort spent on not doing wrong. I just was too busy having a wonderful time and loving people to actually have time to do wrong.
I’m telling you… that security isn’t something that any amount of cameras or guard dogs or guards can give you. It’s a security inside of yourself. And that time up in Alaska, for me, was a time of huge growth. A time when my heart, weak and hurt as it was, was starting to heal, and starting to grow strong. Even if it was only a few days, I knew. It was like oxygen to a man who’s only known what it is to breath diesel exhaust.
Then I came back to Pennsylvania and my fears met me when I got home from the airport. Kara was worrying, I was worrying for her, about her, about her dad… The safety zone was gone. The real world was back alive in full force. I was unemployed, I looked inconsistent to the father of the girl I loved, and I was afraid again.
Then my Uncle came down from Alaska. I guess I hadn’t realized the extent to which Mr. Eichelberger wanted “Anybody but David Schell” for Kara, and felt like everything I was doing was wrong. Like we talked too much. It was strange. That was one of the things in my email at the time; that everyone teased me, good-naturedly, about Kara, and told me I loved her… and there, so far away from anyone who would hurt me, I loved it. I lived it up. No one tried to make me feel guilty for loving her, for wanting to spend all the time I could with her, for chatting with her, for emailing her at odd hours of the night… Sorry, that was off a little… I hadn’t realized the extent to which he thought I was wrong for Kara. I apparently hadn’t told Uncle John that, either. I thought that this was a reasonable man.
And he thought I was a foolish boy who had no ambition, no future, and no nothing. A loser kid who loved his daughter.
And so desperate was I to gain his approval, I chose to agree with him. I accepted his assessment of me and set to work trying to change myself. I wasn’t spiritual enough. I wasn’t good enough. Because of love, I walked away from oxygen and chose to breathe the diesel exhaust again. I listened to someone who didn’t like me tell me about myself. Someone who didn’t think I was good enough, that I didn’t measure up, that I didn’t meet the mark, I allowed to speak into my life.
Now, don’t get me wrong.. I believe he had the best of intentions. But he went about it in entirely the wrong way. Kara was much better at reforming me. She believed in me, and told me who she thought I was… and when I was around her, I was that person. When I was around her dad, I was the person that he told me that I was. Not good enough. Not a strong enough Christian. I wanted so badly to prove him wrong… and in the end, I managed to prove only that I was exactly who he thought I was.
But I still wonder… where I would be today, had I listened to my Uncle John, who told me that I WAS good enough – not in so many words, but I knew it. Who made me believe that I could do absolutely anything I set my mind to. That what I believed wasn’t wrong. That the music that I loved wasn’t sinful – they listened to and enjoyed the likes of Matthew West and Bebo Norman. Joanna was so alive during those days… Who would I be today if I had listened to the people who shook their heads when I told them who I thought I was? Those people who loved me and allowed me to know it?
That was a time of life. And if I could get a retrogression, that’s where I’d go to. I used to say that if I could go back to any time in my life again… I wouldn’t.
I was wrong.
If I could go back to any time in my life, I’d go back to May 12th, in Alaska. Because I loved the man I got to be there.
I want oxygen again. I want God with me.
I want to believe in myself again. I want to feel safe feeling the way I feel; like it’s normal. Like it’s not wrong… but like it’s to be encouraged.
I love Uncle John and Aunt Linda. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a long-distance phone call to make.
By Bebo Norman
Release date: 2004-08-24