Being Alive Is The Only Way To Know You Were Dead

The chorus from the song Cardiff Giant by mewithoutYou contains a sentiment which has played through my mind a lot.

I often wonder if I’ve already died.

I keep looking back to my late twenties and wonder if I died back then. I wonder if I squandered freedom.

Subliminally, I think I died.

Superficially, I obtained multiple degrees (family cheers), I got the start of a technically skilled career (society cheers), and I even materialistically helped stimulate the economy by buying a car with said start of career (auto-makers cheer).

Prepared during my late teens and early 20’s with my arsenal of bibles, books and blogs, I knew I was entering my late 20’s (and the rest of my life?) with Jesus centered ways pinned to my chest.

I had my worn down Blue Like Jazz book. I had my copy of Irresistible Revolution. My NIV bible had my notes in the margins and underlined verses. My blog roll was a who’s who of Christian blogging at it’s finest (and worst) of the mid-2000’s. Blogging’s golden years.

I put in the work I needed to position myself to be in the world but not of it.

Vocation would eventually line up, I kept telling myself. My degrees could be justified in several ways once I started doing the tough, missional like work in my field. And I was certain I would be volunteering for key places doing incredible community development work.

But I wonder if I died somewhere before.

Which death had I died?

A death for freedom? Or a death for fear?


Cubicle sitting and eating
Desk + Fast Food

Death is cunning because it just sort of slinks in and sits back. It really doesn’t have to do much after a nudge.

I didn’t account for cubicle sitting. Sitting and sitting and sitting. I realize in college and for the previous 25 years in my life there were things like recess or the end of the 45 minute class. Or even the class of physical activity in and of itself. The desk job life was nothing I prepared for.

Sitting at work all day and doing a job would lead me to medicate at the fast food line carousel. Enabled, ironically, by the payment received for sitting at the desk and doing work.

An additional 60lbs later, the outward manifestation of my death was showing.

I also didn’t account for brain drain and video game indulgence. I played countless hours of video games after coming home from work. The last thing I wanted to do was think more, so why not mindlessly button mash? Quick dopamine surges to the brain in the form of taking the imaginary hockey team you manage to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the third year in a row. Besides, healthier more put together people my age play way more video games than I do.

Another outward expression I had died at some point, pacified by a fake digital world.

I hardly needed to be coached about not buying a new car. Used will always be the best bet, if I even need a car at all. Financially it would make sense. But by the time I was done test driving the newest model car it wasn’t even logic anymore. New car it was.

More outward expressions I had died along the way. Shane Claiborne would be mad.

And there were the denials.

When leaving work early on a Wednesday a co-worker asked where I was heading off to. Instead of answering plainly “I’m heading off to worship band practice at the church I attend,” I would say “oh, off to something I got to do.”

Not only did ‘something’ satisfy the curiosity of my colleague, but it satisfied my dying state.

When writing up a meet the staff blog post about me, one of the interview questions was “Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us?” I said that I have been playing the guitar since the age of seven.

But why, over two years into this job, would something so central to my core be a surprise to my co-workers? Why would this be something I need to hide from people?

What a weird surprise. I had slowly killed the musician in me the more I justified the pursuit of a career.

I don’t think I have to wonder too much if I had died.

Right now death is pissed off.

I came alive again. I woke up slowly inside safe, small community talking about several of the above items, while they were happening.

Only when you are alive do you know how dead you were.

All that preparation ahead of time in my life prior to my late 20’s didn’t go for not. All that digging into who Jesus really is and how I am to navigate this world was deeply embedded in me.

The problem was I didn’t allow any of it to release. I was letting death deal blows while life suffocated inside.

But now I am alive.

20170713_125520
Life + Value

I am alive because the fast food line doesn’t control me anymore. The 60lbs put on is now 80lbs I’ve lost over the past two years.

The guitar isn’t just back in my hands, it never left, but it is truly a mark of worship to the God who gave me the ability to play in the first place.

My down time isn’t spent playing video games to decompress, but to continue self educating myself with books I’ve always wanted to read.

And death hates this so much.

I often wonder if I’ve already died.

Well, I did die.

But now. Now. I am alive.


I leave you with what the singer of mewithoutYou has to say about this song, not only what I took from it. It’s a song off an album about a circus train derailing in 1878. Hence why he mentions the animals in the following interview responding to Cardiff Giant:

“That song is a dialogue between the tiger and the peacock, both of whom stayed in captivity for different reasons. The tiger was very deliberate in remaining because of his sense of internal freedom regardless of external circumstances, but the peacock just feels kind of stuck. And the first time it’s the peacock saying “I often wonder if I’ve already died,” meaning a sense of having squandered her freedom—she missed the opportunity to escape and she’s stuck in this life that has no purpose or growth. And then the tiger responds in the second chorus saying the same thing, but it means almost the exact opposite—the tiger is wondering if the ego has been annihilated, if the self has been totally surrendered, and the tiger has been taken to some new, higher level of consciousness or reality. So it’s taking the same exact sentence and flipping it on its head.

I was the peacock certainly. Death had me trapped and was convincing me I squandered my freedom. Give up. You’re dead.

But I’m the tiger now. Death got me for sure. But it never got me internally. Death can’t trap me anymore. I am surrounded by too much life, life abundant.

 

Drew Carey Is Responsible For All This

…and my grandparent’s dedication to The Price Is Right.


It’s early November 2016. Somewhere between the time of 11am and 12pm. I don’t remember the date but I’m spot on with the hour block.

The Price Is Right is on, as it should be if all is well in the world.  The channel is on CBS after all.

I wondered out loud “how did Drew Carey lose all that weight?”

This single question leads me to an inspiring article about him. The article mentions his love of Tim Ferriss, among several other inspirational, career driven authors.

This leads me to the library to check out Tim’s The 4-Hour Workweek (and Jon Acuff’s Do-Over, and a couple other career/self-improvement books based only on title or partial familiarity with the author). I find myself diving head first into an entire genre of books I cynically kept a distance from up till this point.

Which then leads me to the slow-carb diet on Tim’s blog. Before starting the slow-carb diet I already lost 30lbs in 11 months. However, I hit a weight loss plateau for the previous four months.  Implementing the slow-carb diet doesn’t just get me moving on the plateau, it pushes me down, taking off an additional 40lbs in the next four months!

I followed through with something prescribed by these gurus of self-reinvention. And it worked, big time.

Which by then leads me into my natural state of intellectual curiosity. What else works?

Subsequently I’m consuming reading material by several thought and career leaders (influencers?) to find out what else is going on here.

I’m discovering common themes. A bit of an echo chamber. Echos of advice that work and are simply out there for any of us to subscribe to and apply to our lives.

Which leads me, well, here. Writing for you.

But to be honest, writing for myself because I have to. I have always had to. Somewhere along the line I stuffed a lot of natural skills and passions of mine down, smothered them slowly, ran them over with a bulldozer, and buried them.

The resuscitation began when I simply asked a question about a game show host out loud. The answer I discovered was more than I bargained for. The actions I’ve taken since are critical pivot points of complete reinvention.


Thank you Drew for not succeeding at suicide (twice).

Thank you for not letting unworthiness continue to define you, even though at one point little Drew did: “Carey has described himself as a nerdy loner who spent his childhood feeling unworthy of happiness or success.”

Thank you for having the courage to talk about your story.

Thanks for the enthusiasm you have in carrying forward a message of change.

Never would I have imagined my grandparent’s love for The Price Is Right would lead to actual winnings for me.

This Is Not A Weight Loss Post – You Are Loved

 

I’m so glad I am wearing that orange and blue shirt again. For the past five years, I’ve tried to get back into it. It even became the shirt you have hanging outside the closet to remind you every day ‘this is why you need to drop some pounds, to get back into this shirt!’ It’s size large and represents one of the last large shirts I purchased.

As of yesterday, I just dropped below 210 for the first time in over seven years. 2016 was the year I was fed up. I’m down over 65lbs since November 2015! I want this to encourage anyone out there looking to take on a new year’s challenge. You really can do it. Whatever it is, if you dedicate yourself you can get there.


And this is where I don’t tell you how I did it, but more how I was capable of doing it at all. The guy in the picture on the left would have told you I knew God loved me, I knew I had value etc. etc. Of course I know that, the bible tells me so! Growing up Christian and as analytical as I am by default it was a fact. If I were taking a test and had to answer “Does God Love You?” I’d circle in the yes answer. It’s something we’re pretty good at in Christianity, stating values and facts and outlines and creeds. But do we believe it in our core how God loves us? In the middle of an argument with our spouse? Do we believe it when we are seeking revenge against someone who has done us wrong? Do we believe it when we have nothing (or too much of something)?

If you had gazed into my eyes three years ago and said “Jesus loves you, you know that right?” I think I’d start looking down, away from you and off into the distance.

It was inside a very close community of men doing an unusual take on the classic church men’s group where I first started to share how I’d hit fast food lines on the commute from work 4-5 times a week (in case you were wondering, there are generally five days in a workweek). As other guys would share ‘real’ struggles out loud, I always thought I was making something up, like it didn’t sound like that big of a deal. But what I know now is back then I was wounded and had no idea.

It was the consistent message in these groups about God’s view of all of us that turned the corner for me:

You are loved.
You just are.
Right now, as overweight as you are,
As drugged up as you are,
As depressed as you are,
As stressed out as you are,
As broken and wounded as you are, YOU’RE LOVED RIGHT NOW.
He actually loves you, not theoretically.

Then I changed. Then I picked up the pieces. Safe community helps flush out things you either have a perfected way of covering up or had no idea you were concealing in the first place. And your launching point, mine at least, is understanding change only happens once you know you are simply loved as you are. Knowing Christ loves me and it’s day five in the gym sustains me to day 15. It’s a great paradox: ‘you are valued the way you are, now you are free to change!


Not exactly a seven step diet and exercise plan, but it’s the only thing I know that’s true. Whatever it is you are maturing towards, whatever it is you need to breakthrough this year or this month or the rest of this weekend, just know you are valued. Burst into the new year knowing this. You are loved. You actually are.