The Importance of Dreams

A couple of years ago I had a dream. Yes, I’m going to tell you about my dream, but first I’m going to tell you why that dream was important. Most of us don’t remember our dreams, some of us don’t remember that we did dream. I generally fall into the latter category. Most mornings I wake up assuming that I didn’t have any dreams the night before (even though I probably did), and even when I do wake up in the middle of a dream, within five minutes I can’t actually remember what the dream was about. However, the particular dream that I’m thinking of I can still remember specific details two years later. When I awoke from this dream, I was completely confident that it was important, and I knew what some of the aspects of the dream symbolized. It was the kind of dream that you pay attention to.

So, what was my dream? Well, to start off, it was extremely nerdy. In the dream I was a student at a school for wizards (not like Hogwarts, more like one of the Arcane Academies in Tethyr from the  Forgotten Realms D&D setting… except, you know… not evil…). Anyway, I was a student studying in this academy and I was doing well, but one day I decided to leave the school to explore the world. I wanted to see the town nearby, to visit the fighter’s guild, and to practice what I’d learned. So, I left the academy, which appeared as a huge tower sandwiched between a small lake and a swampy plain, and went to the town. I explored for a while, and then returned to the academy, but I couldn’t find it. The tower had disappeared and in it’s place was a small stone slab with writing on it that I couldn’t read. I was confused, hurt, and frustrated, and I did everything I could think of, but nothing made the tower reappear. Denied access to the place I was supposed to be, I returned to the town and joined the fighter’s guild for wont of a better option.

At this point the dream jumps forward an indeterminate amount of time. I knew that I’ve been in the fighters guild for sometime, but I wasn’t sure how long. I found myself in a party at the fighter’s guild, but I wasn’t particularly enjoying the party. I was bored, lonely, and I didn’t particularly want to talk to anyone, so I left the brightly lit guild building (I remember that it had large doors set in a massive wooden doorframe. The frame itself was wider than my hand. In the courtyard there was a fountain depicting some ancient hero of the guild, and on the fountain sat a beautiful woman. She was obviously a member of the guild, but I’d never met her before. I sat down and started a conversation with the woman, and though I’ve never been able to remember what we talked about, we fell in love. I told the woman about my time in the wizard school, and I wanted to show her the spot where it had disappeared. So, I took her by the hand and led her to the stone slab with the writing I couldn’t read, but she could read it (though I couldn’t understand what she said), and when she did the tower reappeared and we went in. I found myself back where I belonged with a beautiful woman whom I loved, and that’s where the dream ended.

When I first awoke from the dream I knew that the wizard’s school symbolized grad school. I believed at the time, and see no reason not to think, that the beautiful woman represented a romantic relationship, and I think that the fighter’s guild represents life in general. Honestly, I had almost forgotten about this dream (it has been a matter of years, not days), but I’ve recently started talking to a young woman on eHarmony who is not only awesome, but also related to one of the deans at a school that I would very much like to attend. Honestly, I don’t know if this is likely to go anywhere. It’s entirely possible that nothing will happen, but emailing with her brought this dream back to the forefront of my mind.

Fear of Girls

If you haven’t ever seen Fear of Girls you should look it up on youtube. All three videos are hilarious, and they get progressively less disturbing, which is definitely a good thing. That being said, I find myself in this place right now. Karategirl is back in the picture. If you don’t remember, about five or six months ago there was a woman who’d joined the karate school that I help teach at. She’s a lovely woman who I found myself attracted to right off the bat. I asked a friend at the school to introduce us, and asked her out, and she promptly turned me down. Admittedly, she turned me down because, in her own words she ‘wasn’t dating right now’, which I’ve been given no reason to doubt in the past five months. I’ve tried to get to know her, and generally failed. We’ve had a number of superficial discussions that ended very quickly. However, a few days ago I messaged her on facebook (there was a good reason… I’m not going to share it) and we had a very good conversation. I think this was mostly just because she was hurting at the time and wanted someone to talk to, but I honestly felt like it was the first conversation that I’d had with the actual Karategirl, instead of with the mask that she wears, and I rather liked what I saw.

So, I’m planning on asking her out again the next time I see her (probably sometime end of this week or next week). However, I’m a little bit terrified. Am I scared that she’ll turn me down again? Well, this is certainly a possibility. Honestly, I think it might be a probability. However, it’s not something I’m particularly scared of. I’ve been shot down plenty of times. It’s no fun, but it’s not really a big deal either. If she turns me down then I’ll wait a while, try to get to know her a little better, and then try again.

Honestly, what I’m really afraid of is that I’m making the same mistake again. I’m afraid that she won’t turn me down, that she’ll say yes, go out with me, really enjoy the way I treat her, but in a month or three decide that I’m a great guy, but not really what she’s looking for. It’s been about a year since Peaches (yes there’s a reason for the name… no, I never called her that… shutup) decided that I just wasn’t right for her. In her words I was ‘everything she was looking for’, but she was too scared to do anything about it. Admittedly, Peaches was not the right girl for me. Still, it’s been a pattern with me for a long time, and I’m scared that I’m just repeating that pattern. The thing is, I think that I’d be scared of repeating the pattern no matter who the woman was. Peaches was 19 and going through some serious emotional trauma. She wasn’t ready for a relationship, and probably didn’t need me pushing for one. If I’d been a better man I would have been her friend and dated someone else. Instead, I fell for her and waited for her to be ready, even though I said I wouldn’t. She never was.

Karategirl is not 19, and to my knowledge has not had any significant relationship traumas. She has some problems, yes (we all do), but they don’t seem to have anything to do with romance or dating. I also know that she’s been single and apparently healthy for at least five+ months, which is definitely a good thing (well… from my perspective at least). Nonetheless, I’m utterly and completely terrified. I’m terrified that I’m being an idiot. I’m terrified that I’m going to make the same mistakes over again no matter what I do. I’m scared that I’m going to get hurt again in the same way. I’m scare that I haven’t grown at all, haven’t changed at all… I guess I’m scared that the past year has been wasted, and that I’m about to prove that.

Ultimately, Karategirl is not Peaches. I am fully cognizant of that fact. However, I need to not be the same person that I was a year ago for anything to happen, and I think I’m afraid that’s the problem.

Honestly… I just hope that she winds up being the woman that will find a reason to be with me, instead of finding a reason to walk away.

Wisdom Part 2

Age gives the opportunity for wisdom, but does not guarantee it. Yesterday I said that I really don’t know how to become wise. However, I do have a couple of ideas. First of all, I think we can clearly says that knowledge does not bring wisdom. I briefly explained the difference between knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Clearly, simply learning something does not make one wise. Some degree of knowledge is certainly required for wisdom, but knowledge doesn’t bring wisdom with it (though we often like to act like it does). However, age doesn’t bring wisdom either. Ultimately, I think that wisdom comes through a combination of knowledge, experience, and character. Proverbs tells us that you can beat a fool a thousand times and he will learn nothing (I often think this describes me better), but a wise man will learn simply from watching others.

I think that without experience there can be no actual advance in wisdom. However, we all know people who simply refuse to learn. They fail in the same ways over and over (maybe I’m describing you… all too often I’m describing me), and despite their experiences, they do not grow in wisdom. So, experience does not simply bring wisdom. This is where character comes in. Our character determines how we respond to our experiences. Do I do the same thing over again, even though it ended badly last time, or do I learn from my mistakes? In many ways pride is the enemy of wisdom. If my pride keeps me from learning from my experiences, then it keeps me from developing wisdom.

Similarly, hope can sometimes be the enemy of wisdom. As I said yesterday, wisdom answers the why questions. Why should I do this, or why shouldn’t I do this? Hope, especially foolish hope, often presents unrealistic reasons that wisdom should pierce. For instance, I’ve mentioned before that in the past I’ve had a bad habit of dating young, emotionally traumatized women. Let us say that I meet a young woman who’s just come out of an abusive relationship. Wisdom should tell me that pursuing her is a bad idea. It is unlikely that she will be ready for or willing to enter the kind of relationship that I’m looking for, and I will probably get hurt if I try. However, hope whispers in my ear: ‘maybe this time will be different’.

This hope is not realistic, nor is it wise. It is, in many ways, prideful and it focuses on me and what I want, rather than focusing on God and seeking to do his will. So, I wind up following a hope that pridefully puts my own selfishness before my devotion to God. This is, of course, obviously not a wise thing to do. So, pride and prideful hope can both be enemies of wisdom, and either might result in keeping me from wisdom no matter how old I get.

Waiting, Still

I hope that you caught the play on words in the title of this post. I finally told flowergirl that I have feelings for her. This wasn’t a romantic confession and I didn’t ask her out, it was just something that came up in a conversation. We had a nice little chat about the fact that she thinks I’m really great, but just not what she’s looking for, which wasn’t in any way a surprise. I have to admit that, even though I’ve know this for a while and generally come to terms with it, I’m still a little disappointed. Nonetheless, I am still striving to reach a place in which I can simultaneously strive for those things that I desire, and those desires that I believe God has put on my heart, and trust in him for their timing. I’m generally good at doing one or the other, but I’m really not good at doing both.

That being said, flowergirl said something to me that I’ve heard all too often. Something that I find is very common in women, and increasingly common in men. When I asked her what she was looking for her response was: ‘I don’t know, a feeling I guess’. She didn’t elaborate much, and I didn’t ask her to. However, I’m guessing that I know what that feeling is, even though she doesn’t. American culture has built a view of ‘love’ that is focused entirely on romance, or on feelings of passion. I hear people commonly say that ‘you know you love someone when you get those butterflies in your stomach’ or ‘I want to just be swept away by love’. Here’s the problem with these ideas: while they are commonly portrayed in the media, and while ‘love at first sight’ is a real thing (I can say this from experience) it is also incredibly stupid. I’m not saying that it’s stupid to believe in love at first sight, or that its stupid to follow those feelings (though I will argue that it generally is), but that this form of love is, in and of itself, stupid. To be swept away by feelings of passion for someone is a good thing… when that someone is a person who you can be confident cares for you, values you, respects you, and will put your best interests first. To be swept away by feelings of passion for someone you’ve known for five and a half minutes is a very bad idea. ‘Love at first sight’ is based entirely on an initial feeling of passion that cannot take into account the kind of person the passion is focused on. It can’t take this into account because it can’t know the person in any real or meaningful way.

The thing that the movies repeatedly leave out is that healthy passion is something that you build in a relationship. It comes from time invested with the person. It comes from repeatedly seeing that person actively care for you and put you first. To follow passion is an act of absolute trust in the person towards who that passion is directed, and to be healthy that trust must be both given freely and given carefully. If this following of passion is forced on you by another person, whether through emotional manipulation, charismatic charm, etc, it is not freely given and extremely unhealthy. Similarly, if this following of passion is not given carefully, then it is unhealthy because it cannot take into account the nature and personality of the other person. This passion is similar to handing over everything you own to a stranger. He might be a philanthropist, but he might also be a thief. You have no way of knowing.

Similarly, healthy passion is something that you create and something that you control. By choosing to repeatedly to act towards another in love, you create that passion for them in your own heart. Love is, first and foremost, something that you choose to do towards others, not something that you feel. Honestly, I think that many of use know quite well how to say this, but have no actual concept concerning how to do it. Something that flowergirl told me yesterday, and that I’ve heard before, is that I work harder to love others than anyone she’s ever met. This didn’t used to be true, but it is something that I have put a lot of effort into developing. God loved me through some very difficult times, and now I try to always choose to love others, even when it is difficult. Sometimes I have to work hard not to be swept away with passion for the people (well… the women) that I work hard to love because I know that they do not love me in return. However, this is how I know that repeatedly choosing to love someone creates a passion for that person.

What I am trying to say here is that chasing after passion as the foundation of a relationship is similar to buying a bachelors degree and assuming that you’ll do the work to build a necessary knowledge base later. 1) You haven’t done anything to earn it, 2) since you already have it, you aren’t going to bother putting in the effort to earn it, and 3) just like the bought degree, this passion is meaningless and fickle. As soon as any real pressure is put upon it the passion will fall apart, and shortly after the relationship will also fall apart. There was a young woman several years ago who broke my heart (gave me a heart attack actually). I’ve mentioned this before. While I am not seeking after a romantic relationship with her (primarily because of some things that she did during the years when she wasn’t speaking to me), I still love her with all of my heart. My love for her was not built on a feeling, it was built on a series of choices, and the passion with which I feel that love may have changed its focus, but it has not dimmed in any way. This is what we should be looking for, but I’m afraid that the majority of us have forgotten that.

Feeling Down

Sometimes you don’t even have words to explain how you feel. There are times when this is due to the extremity of the emotion. It is certainly possible to feel love, joy, pain, fear, or despair to such an extreme degree that all words fail. To the point where you actually do simply stop trying to explain how you feel. I can say this because I’ve been at that point for each of these emotions. I can’t explain how terrifying it was to be chased through the woods with someone trying to shoot me. I can’t describe how much I loved a certain young woman who broke my heart several years ago (I’ve written about this before). I think this is probably true for any emotion. We are capable of feeling things that we simply can’t describe in any meaningful way, and this is not surprising. Much as we revere them, words are really an incredibly weak medium. However, sometimes it isn’t the extremity or intensity of an emotion that makes it difficult to explain. Sometimes it is the sheer complexity and variety of interacting emotions that become difficult to parse.

Lately I’ve been feeling rather unwanted and unappreciated. Some of this has to do with a difficult class that I’ve just finished. Some of it has to do with deciding to give up on flowergirl. Some of it has to do with being continually turned down by women in general. Some of it has to do with my spiritual life, which has been rather dry lately. Some of it has to do with the simple day to day drudgery of my life. Ultimately, I’m feeling joyful, depressed, stoic, sad, frustrated, excited, fearful, relieved, and hopeless all at the same time. A while back I started talking to a lady over eHarmony (I mentioned that I paid for a year long account this summer). Today she and I decided that, while we both liked the other, there wasn’t anything more than friendship in our future. This is one of the few times that I’ve had this actually be a mutual decision. She and I were both honestly relieved and we both look forward to talking again. I also asked another lady… let’s call her Paula… for her number today… well, yesterday technically. That is, I asked for her number yesterday, put her name into my phone, and then tried to text her with a name only and no number. I ran into her again today and got her number. However, I’m not really one to wait… that’s not entirely true. Perhaps its better to say that I’m interested in this woman and I don’t particularly want to play games, so I texted her earlier tonight. So far, there’s been no response.

I don’t know that I’m honestly surprised about this, and it is certainly a part of the ‘unwanted, unappreciated’ feeling that I mentioned above. However, it certainly isn’t the entirety of it. In general, I talk to people. I reach out. I call. I text. I walk over to say hello. It’s relatively rare for someone to reach out to me, and the past few months it’s been even rarer than normal. Honestly, I rather feel like I could disappear off of the face of the earth and no one would be significantly affected. This feeling is generally exacerbated by the kind of tacit rejections that are all to common in my life. Personally, I much prefer it when a woman tells me, ‘I think you’re a really great person, but I’m just not interested’. This is significantly better than the tacit, silent rejections that seem to be the norm among… well, women in general. Honestly, what makes it harder is to then watch these women find someone that they are interested in, and again I get left behind.

In a lot of ways I feel like the cliche little boy, standing cold and alone in the dark and snow with his face pressed against some families window, watching everyone else enjoy what he can never have. At the same time, I honestly am happy for my friends and acquaintances who have found love and who are doing well in life. Sometimes I just want to cry, but then I haven’t been able to express pain through tears for… well, longer than I can remember. Even when that young lady gave me a heart attack I couldn’t cry. I tried, and I almost did. I could feels the tears, but I couldn’t manage to coax them out.

I care about people. I do my best to show this, and I don’t want to ask for things in return. Like with Flowergirl, I try to do for others without thinking about myself. I want to do for others without thinking about myself. I want to be able to love God first and to love others completely and not worry about myself. To be honest though, I’m a little pansy wimp. Much as I want to be strong and take care of others… I think I need some people in my life who are interested in taking care of me. Problem is… I’m pretty sure everyone forgets that I exist when I’m not actually there in front of them.

Safety in Love

Sometimes we fall into sin. It’s not necessarily that we want to, or that we go looking for it (though there are times that we do), but sometimes we just fall into it. St. Teresa of Avilla referred to sin as ‘snakes and lizards’ or ‘the little lizards’ in her book Interior Castles, and she makes the point throughout that text that they are present at each stage of the Christian journey. Hopefully as we mature certain sins are left behind, those old struggles simply make way for new ones that we don’t realize were a problem… until God makes it clear to us.

However, when we fall into sin God always gives us a way to walk out. Sometimes that way is hard to see and hard to take. Sometimes it means making a herculean effort just to get up and walk away. Sometimes that way out is shockingly easy, like when my teenage niece messages me for advice on boys just as I start looking for something to watch that involves lots of naked people and sex. I think it would be downright impossible to talk to my niece about the guy she likes and watch porn at the same time. The two are simply antithetical to one another. This was the way out that God provided me today in a very weak moment, and I can’t explain how thankful I am for it.

The phrase ‘love conquers all things’ is often used to describe the frustrations, pains, and fears that romantic love brings with it. However, this isn’t the only apt reference for this particular phrase. True love is not confined to romance. True love hopefully exists between romantic partners, but it also exists between parent and child, siblings, close friends, and in many other kinds of relationships. True love, in fact, is all around us. It is in the way I talk to the barista at my favorite coffee shop. It is in the way I listen to my friends work problems. It is in the way I stop to help the homeless man on the side of the road. And it is in the way I walk away from sin to help my niece.

When I allow the love of God to flow through me into others it takes me away from sin. Thus, just as the love of Christ conquered the grave, that love in me conquers sin that will lead me into a grave of my own. On the other hand, when I step out of that love, death finds a welcome home in my heart and sin comes all too easily. My sin is conquered by his love and this is something that I need to hold onto. It’s something that I need to remember when I am weak, and when I think that I am strong. This is what I must run to when I am tempted.

Rain

I was going to write another entry on my thoughts about manhood today, but it’s just not coming to me right now. Today has been a rainy day. Unlike the short, sudden downpours that we’ve been having all summer (the ones that I can only describe as God pissing on Lynchburg), today has been wet, dreary, and rainy all day long. Yet this somehow seems appropriate. Water is cleansing, and at the moment my mind and heart could certainly use a cleansing. I made dinner for flowergirl and her roommates last night, and I think it went fairly well. We all ate, and everyone enjoyed the meal, and then one roommate left for a concert and the other went to bed, leaving flowergirl and I alone. We cleaned up and talked for about two hours. I think it was a wonderful conversation about philosophy, politics, and life… I have no idea if she would agree with me. Much as I think the dinner went well, I am now more convinced than ever that she has absolutely no romantic interest in me. Still, God hasn’t told me to date her, or to romance her, or to pursue a relationship with her. He’s told me to love her well, and to expect nothing in return. This, I think, is thoroughly annoying.

I am left with the feeling that no woman will ever truly love me. I don’t honestly believe that this is true, and yet at the same time I do. As much as God has grown me this summer, as much as he’s taught me about joy and satisfaction in him, the idea that a woman would ever put my needs and desires before her own seems anathema to me. Yet, now more than ever, I know that the most significant thing that I am looking for in a romantic partner (among an array of desires) is a woman who will make me a high priority in her life. Actually, I’m looking for a woman who will make me the second priority in her life, right after her relationship with God. I think that this is personal growth, at least growth of a sort. In the past I’ve always pursued women who needed me or women who would let me love them, and I’ve always been hurt.

Earlier this week (…I might have written this down, not sure) a friend of mine, in an off-hand comment, told me that I should be picky. I honestly don’t know what he intended when he said that (though, given the context of the conversation is was clearly about my dating life), but the comment has stayed with me, and it’s meant a lot to me. Honestly, I’ve always felt like the bottom of the barrel romantically. A part of me wants to say that I’ve always been made to feel like the bottom of the barrel, and I’m not entirely sure that statement would be untrue, but it feels like a lack of responsibility. Regardless of how others treat me, I decide how I see myself. That being said, I have generally been treated like the bottom of the romantic barrel by the majority of the women in my life. However, the key here is that I’ve always felt like the bottom of the barrel.

Regardless of how people have treated me, I’ve looked at myself and seen someone that no woman would want. I’ve seen someone who’s place is to give love, but not receive it. I’m not completely sure that I’m past this. I still look at myself and can’t imagine a woman ever wanting to love me. I still see someone who is fundamentally undesirable in some indefinable way, and at the moment I’m still not sure how to change this. However, I think actively looking for someone who is willing to love me as much as I love her, instead of looking for someone who simply needs love but won’t give it. I also realized a couple of weeks ago (and I’m pretty sure I did mention this) that it actually wouldn’t matter to me if flower-girl wasn’t a virgin. This is the first time I’ve been attracted to a woman and not truly and deeply worried about this.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly hope she is, even if only for her sake. I also still hope that I wind up marrying a virgin. However, in the past I have been afraid that I’d wind up with a woman who wasn’t a virgin. I’ve been afraid of being judged, or of not measuring up, or of… whatever. Of something going horribly wrong and my new wife, whoever she may be, finding herself completely sexually dissatisfied with me. I have not had this issue with flowergirl. It really just hasn’t been an issue. At the moment I’m not entirely sure whether to attribute this to some personal growth in myself (conceivably possible) or to something about her (…also possible…) or to something particular about my feelings for her (also possible… perhaps the most likely, not sure though).

Ultimately, I think I still have some growing to do. Probably a lot of growing to do. Its entirely possible that I’ll spend my life alone, and I think that’s something that I’m still afraid of. However, I also think that this summer has brought a lot of spiritual and personal growth in me, and that is most definitely a good thing.