“Shut Up. And Go and Change Your Armor.”
Last night I got what may be the worst downer comment in the history of blogging:
Steve, I have been following your blog for years. I feel like I know you and I like you. You are talented and interesting writer. Over the last year or so, I have become more and more alarmed as I have watched you ricochet from one project to the next, committing more and more of your psyche and your money. I have an awful feeling I am watching a potential train wreck of self-destructive behavior.
I am a retired physician (anesthesiologist), old enough to be your father. Steve, I tell you if you were my son, I would have you in the office of the best psychiatrist around as soon as possible. Please don’t be offended, I just felt I needed to say something in the hope of preventing a potentially bad outcome.
The comment by Carl Williams has encouraged me to write this note which I should have done sooner. Please listen!
I’m sure this guy means well, but that seems a tiny bit over the top to me.
I’m eccentric. No doubt about that. But I’m not crazy. Crazy people see flaming bats flying at their heads, and they do other things, like wetting their pants and claiming to be Jesus. I only have one of those three symptoms.
I’m not nuts. I’m just a pentecostal Christian who has a lot of hobbies. That may be a mental illness, but it’s not a severe one.
I’ve been to shrinks a couple of times in my life. Even given the general ineffectiveness of psychiatrists, had I been truly insane, they might conceivably have noticed.
The first time I went to college, I got very depressed because my family was driving me up the wall, and I went to a doctor who gave me pills which didn’t do anything. Even then, I wasn’t out of my mind. I was just bummed out.
I also tried shrinks for ADD treatment, which didn’t work either. It works in short spurts, but you can’t be ADD-free all day. At least I couldn’t. I got to the point where my base Ritalin dose (the amount I was ALLOWED to take, which doesn’t include cheating before physics tests) was 60 milligrams per day. This is roughly what a team of Clydesdales would require, if they had ADD. I still couldn’t get all-day relief, so I quit.
After that, I relied on coffee. You need Ritalin to study physics. For law, coffee is more than adequate. Law is just not that hard.
Lawyers hate it when I say that. Which is why I say it. Okay, maybe I need to grow up a little. Who can resist needling lawyers? What other professionals have B brains and A+ egos?
I guess I gave people the impression I was interested in advice about whether to open a pizzeria, but I’m not. I’ll either do it or I won’t. It’s nice to get advice on the little details, but the overall issue is well within my decision-making capabilities.
I’m not as excited about it as people think I am. I’m very gung-ho about helping my church sell pizza, but I’m ambivalent about opening my own place. It would be a business, not an amusement park. Running a pizza shop is not quite the same as visiting one on your kid’s birthday. Businesses take up time, and they often fail. And sometimes the proprietors get tired of them, after the businesses succeed. Then they’re stuck.
The thing is, I have this feeling that God wants me to do this, either for the church, or for myself, or both. Doors keep opening. And people are trying to discourage me, which is often a sign that the enemy is disturbed or scared by something a person is trying to do. This can be a powerful indication that God is with you. A voice that rises up inside you and tells you to stop may be from God, but random strangers making irrational, unfounded predictions of disaster are not sent by God. The predictions have to come from somewhere, however.
Remember the twelve spies. They went into Israel and looked around, and ten came back and said the Philistines were going to mash the Hebrews like bugs. Two pointed out that God is a pretty big asset to a conquering army, but by that time, God was highly annoyed, so the Israelites wandered in the desert for a generation. Without pizza, I might add.
If you had to guess, who do you think put the pessimism in the minds of the spies? My guess: the worst loser in the history of creation. The universe’s first loser.
Then, of course, there is the story of David and Goliath. “Okay, who do we have to fight the nine-foot-tall giant?” “Well, we have a skinny guy who can’t wear armor because it falls off.” “Right. And what’s his weapon? A bow? A big spear?” “Hang on, I’ll check.” Pause. “He says he’s going to use a pebble.” “You mean like an exploding pebble? A nuclear pebble? A pebble that breaks up into laser-guided cluster bombs? Are angry angels going to pop out of the pebble and smite these creeps for us?” “No, he says he found it in the creek.” “Fantastic. Is it too late to start worshiping Dagon?”
And what about the guy who buried his talent of silver in the sand instead of investing it? As I recall, his master did not give him a prize.
Last night I was thinking about this, and it came time for me to take Maynard out for his daily
bird abuse recreation. I’m not a big fan of Jentezen Franklin, but for some reason I sent a contribution to his ministry last year, and he sent me some CDs I was not really interested in hearing. Night before last, I stuck one in the DVD player, but I didn’t get around to turning it on. Last night I decided to play it while Maynard was out.
One of the first things Franklin said was, “Who has been dumping on your dream?” Man, that woke me up. He started talking about the people who discouraged Bill Gates and Martin Luther King, Jr. and other successful people. He said Dr. Seuss was rejected 43 times by publishers, only to go on and sell 210 million books. The people at Digital (remember Digital?) told Gates there was no reason for anyone to have a computer in their home.
I listened to the entire CD.
When I was a kid, my family dumped on my dreams constantly. In fact, they even dumped on my belief that I was able to accomplish ordinary things which could hardly be called dreams.
They made me feel like my gift for writing was nearly worthless; a novelty talent on a par with the ability to do card tricks. They convinced me I could not succeed in life. They told me what was wrong with me, but they never helped me improve. I even had relatives who tormented me when I talked to girls, to the point where it discouraged me from making an effort. Can you imagine that? That’s pure Eastern Kentucky. Keep your loved ones small, like stunted tomato plants, so you can control them and keep them from taking up your valuable time. Then when they end up bitter and unsuccessful, you can criticize them for that, too. This attitude is one reason Kentucky is the great success that it is today, leading the nation in toothlessness and illiteracy.
Because of the way I was raised, I was very sensitive to the importance of refraining from beating down loved ones. It seemed like every time I wanted to do anything, a voice rose up and filled me with fear and weariness, and I quit, and by my twenties, I understood how harmful misguided families could be. If you ever want to learn how to fail in spite of overwhelming ability and opportunity, move to Eastern Kentucky. We’re the best. We’ll have you failing in no time, and you’ll make your kids fail, too.
When I heard Jentezen Franklin talking about this, it all came back to me. Some of the things I’m hearing and reading now, from people I know and in comments, are no different from the garbage that was poured in my ear while I was growing up.
Funny thing; my dad thinks a pizzeria is a great idea. He has often talked about the high failure rate of restaurants, in idle conversation, so he’s not unaware of the risks. But here he is, talking about how great my pizza is and how opening a shop would be a smart move. He is literally more optimistic about it than I am.
God heals families. God heals lives. My family used to be the biggest problem I had. Now God is working on us. We’re all changing, and my dad is my best friend and a source of strength to me. As the Bible says, God can throw salt into a poisoned well and make the water sweet.
I don’t know where the pizza path will lead. I’m not worried about it. God is going to put me in the right place, now that I’ve quit insisting on running things.
And if I’m crazy, does it really matter? Remember what Dilbert’s friend Wally said when the doctors said he was nuts: “Apparently, I’m insane. But I’m one of the happy kinds!”