Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"If You Want to Steer a Bike, It Has to Be Moving!"

It seemed so far down to the hard, gravelly ground as I sat there. My heart was pounding and I could feel the small droplets of sweat as they trickled down my back on the warm spring day. This wasn’t the first time I’d been here…in truth, I’d been in this same place most of the morning. But the result always seemed to be the same. As soon as I would try to lift myself up on the pedals, I would fall over. Some of the times, I would catch myself with a foot and keep the bike in an upright position. But all too often, I found myself sprawled on the ground…small bits of gravel imbedded into my raw, bruised hands. Tears would begin to build, but I would quickly wipe the sleeve my old red, hooded sweatshirt across my face to remove any tell-tale signs of the pain I was feeling or the anger that was building in me.

We didn’t have training wheels for our bikes…those were for “wus’s” and “pansies”. We just had to figure out how to make it work. Of course for my little brother Jeff (the family dare-devil), it seemed so easy. After only a few tries, he was off and riding…like a young Indian scout on his first pony. But he had something that I didn’t have…or maybe it would be better said that “I had something that he didn’t”. I was afraid of falling and he wasn’t. He just pushed the bike so it started to move and jumped on and away he went.

Eventually, I learned to ride my bike and spent countless hours and miles on it riding with Jeff. Eventually, I learned the lesson of what you need to do to actually “ride” the bike…to get it to go where you wanted it to instead of ending up on the ground with torn knees in your jeans and raw, bleeding hands. Eventually, I learned at if you want to steer a bike, it has to be moving!

I’m in the process of riding a new kind of bike these days. ..I’m starting my book. And I’m discovering that the lesson learned when I was a little boy on a hard, gravel driveway in North Idaho is still true today. I can’t know where the book is going until I start moving…until I dig into it and start to put the pieces together.

The stories are difficult to read at times…the memories they bring back still too fresh, still too painful. But I know that I need to keep moving, to keep reading…to keep processing. And like that young boy in the tattered old red sweatshirt, success will come. It will all fall into place. The wobbly handlebars will straighten out, the legs will keep moving and the momentum of the story will take over.

In truth, it is already beginning to take shape. The stories are starting to fit together…something that makes sense is beginning to unfold. I can see that there really IS something powerful here to be told. And as I continue to move forward, the pain will diminish, the falls will become less frequent and the story will steer itself as I continue to let it move forward.

Photo from Flickr

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


The tears are slowly wending their way down my cheeks as my fingers move across the keys on my keyboard. My eyes… still stinging as they release their slightly salty liquid, the monitor a bit blurry tonight. The soulful sounds of Coldplay’s “Fix You” is playing through my computer speakers as the “Youtube” video plays on my other monitor…only too appropriate tonight. I’ve spent the past hour reading some of the most painful words I may have ever read. Or the some of the most painful words I’ve ever written!

I haven’t visited these memories for a long time, not since I wrote them more than two years ago. As I prepare to begin my book, I’m taking the time to go back to read what I’ve recorded in my blog since I began this journey in September of 2007. I had NO idea…NO comprehension of the pain in those words. As I reflect I wonder how I was able to put those memories to words then and why I didn’t drown in an ocean of tears. Maybe the drowning is scheduled for tonight?

In my mind’s eye I thought this part of the process would be pretty easy. I’ve printed out all my blog entries and all I needed to do was categorize them into where it seemed they might most appropriately fit into the sections of my upcoming book. I actually looked forward to reading my words. Not for the content, but to see how my writing may have improved, or worsened, over the past thirty months. The concept that the words would break my heart in a way tonight that they didn’t when I composed them never crossed my mind. I have been totally blindsided.

Photo from Flickr

Monday, May 3, 2010

Call Me Naive!

We had stopped at the infamous Wall Drug earlier in the day and spent an hour or so wandering through the myriad of rooms…looking at the attractions and spending time in the various gift shops. The heavy odor of the rich chocolate fudge was carried on the hot, summer breeze causing my mouth to water. As we wandered through of the gift shops, we saw the head of a strange looking animal hanging on the wall near the cash register.
“What is that?” Paula asked me.

“Oh, that’s a stuffed Jackalope”, I replied. “They’re found only in this part of the country. I'm pretty sure they’re a cross between a Jack Rabbit and an Antelope.”

Paula looked at me with a little bit of trepidation, but it was time to go so we left the shop and got back on the road with Frank and Deb and the kids, starting our drive up the winding state highway that led to Mt. Rushmore. About half way up the incline, Paula leaned forward from the back seat and asked if the Jackalope was a real animal. With straight faces, both Frank and I assured her that they were the genuine thing and Frank told some story about how they were genetically engineered earlier in the 20th Century.

After a couple of minutes, I couldn’t hold my laughter in any longer and found myself giggling hysterically. Paula looked at me, and I knew in that moment that I had gone too far. Paula had trusted me that I would tell her the truth when she asked about that funny looking little animal. She had a trusting spirit, and is what we typically call “naïve” in our culture. As a general rule, being called “naïve” is not a positive trait that we aspire to as adults. It’s OK for kids to be naïve, but as we grow older, we are expected to know better.

I came across an article last week that brought the memory of the Jackalope back to my mind and caused me to re-examine naivete. The focus of the article is a concept called “second naivete” which refers to the point where we gain a more mature insight to the unquestioned beliefs that we had as children. It reminds us that the word is derived from the Latin word for “natural”, describing "one who shows absence of artificiality…or has no hidden agendas or duplicitous motives." In the words of the author, it is “the recognition that the story we continue to discover is far bigger than we know how to tell.” It allows us to “return to the unhindered sincerity of a child.”

I thought about that as I thought about my relationship with my sister and brothers. For much of my life, I was never willing to be completely honest with any of them. I would just put on my “Mark mask” and go about my business…smiling and nodding. I was who I thought they wanted me to be. I was anything but “natural”. And then things changed. I got into trouble and my attitude to my siblings changed.

I went through a season of extreme self-centeredness where I allowed my childhood love and acceptance for my family to be replaced by a judgmental attitude and a self-imposed exile away from them. Much in the same we do as we move from childhood to adulthood, my perspective of my family was tainted by a critical spirit. Because they didn’t fit my definition of what a “Christian” should be, I turned my back on those relationships. And I found myself justifying my decision by using “selective” portions of Scripture that reinforced my separation.

But thankfully, I’ve come to the place in my life where I enjoy being naïve. Not in the culturally defined sense that would describe me as being simple or credulous. Rather, in the sense that I’ve returned to the “natural” state…the state I was designed for which is to simply love, not judge.

Photo from Wall Drug