starving for substance

Wind it Down

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on December 31, 2010

As the year winds down I think it’s time this blog wound down. I’m starting to take baby steps in understanding how to focus on only a couple things and blogging here is not in the mix.

With another new year upon us, the rash of new year’s resolutions spreads and its accompanying feelings of failure until by February the gyms are once again empty. In undergrad, I actually stopped working out in January and returned to the gym mid-February because by then everyone had given up.

Instead of new year’s resolutions, we need new realizations. Namely, the realization and understanding that we are not perfect nor can we make ourselves so. Sure we love the mantra that its about progress and not perfection but if we do not realize the entire foundation is built on grace, then even this view is wrong. Resolutions have their purpose, yes, but resolutions for the sake of attaining an idealized view of oneself is simply idolatry of the self and shows a person’s version of a perfect world is a world without God.

And so, to prove that not all good things come to an end, I bid adieu to the starvingsteve era of my life.

Pain or the Hangover?

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on December 17, 2010

The tea I was drinking at 9pm is now making it hard to sleep so I started clicking around the right column to view some old posts and I came across some gems I’m particularly proud of.

This one is about eating too much fiber and what happens afterward:
https://starvingsteve.wordpress.com/2008/10/14/writers-bloc/

This rebuked me like crazy:
https://starvingsteve.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/hooray-for-nihilism/

And this is the best thing I have ever written:
https://starvingsteve.wordpress.com/2008/02/24/another-stupid-witty-title/

I would actually end up failing the class I wrote that for for other reasons. As I go over these entries and remember what was going on in life at those times, it’s saddening. I look at what I was going through, remember my internal condition, and read what I wrote and see virtually nothing different from what was then and what is now. The whole time I thought I was running and now I look down at my feet and see a rapidly spinning treadmill to only look up again and see myself visibly older but otherwise unchanged.

A wise old lady who prays a lot and sits in the back of a pan Asian campus church in Champaign once said that people look back at themselves and get discouraged because they don’t see any progress. When this happens we need to remember that as sinful people, change is slow and painstaking. Then she probably laughed at my Korean.

I honestly thought this wouldn’t be me. I thought I was smart and understood myself and could change myself quickly to become what I wanted to be instantly. Folly yes, but attainable is also what I thought.

The worst thing about pride is that when you see it, you don’t look at it because, well, you’re proud. The thing about pride is that you’re too proud to admit you’re proud so you never look at your pride because you’re too proud to admit that you’re proud and around and around you go, ignoring circumstances that should break and change you, convinced what you’re doing is right.

They say pride goes before a fall but how much pride do you have to have to fall and still be proud? Both staggering and depressing amounts. I seem to have both high and low pride and enough left over that I (naturally) want to name it after myself. Steve Pride. So much pride you’re convinced that pride is beneath you. Even to think I am a special case is indicative of the pride here.

So yes, thanks to blogs and journals, I can look back and see the years and see how little I’ve progressed. Now I can realize what I thought I was above. And the natural reaction is to run away. Avoid it and hope it goes away instead of confronting and dealing with it. Like I’ve always done before. As much as I bashed Kanye’s lyrical effort in his latest album, he had a clever line in a song: “The plan was to drink until the pain over/ But what’s worse, the pain or the hangover?” The problem with the quick fix is that the problem you’re left with in the end is often times worse than the problem you tried to run from. I guarantee you, wake up with a hangover the first thing you say is “I am never drinking again” followed quickly by “I just want to die” followed by very real thoughts that your head will explode. So what’s worse, the pain or the hangover? Facing your problems head on or skipping over them only to end up in agony later, with the problems you left behind still waiting for you.

The answer is obvious but it’s so often left undone. I have a whole laundry list of character flaws I just stopped bothering to deal with because I figured after enough time, they’d go away as I “grew through the situations I lived through.” It’s difficult to take a long look in the mirror and confront what you see, to go through the personal assessment and be brutally honest with yourself, and not become prideful in the process.

I remember moments being so broken when I realized what I was and now to think back at those times I cringe. I cringe to think that I saw myself like that because that’s clearly not how I see myself now. Before, I saw myself as broken and unable to do anything if not for the help of God. Now I see myself as capable and ready, not necessarily the best, but surely good enough. Of course God will use me, I have a “can do” attitude and a healthy disregard for societal norms. Doubt me? I’ll just prove you wrong. This is Steve 2.0, a better version. Why would I ever want to look at Steve 1.0 except to see how much better I am now. Yet the evidence is irrefutable, it’s written all over this site and indicts me with their cold fingers of reason and truth. “You are no better now, in fact you are worse.”

Yet that’s not the message of the Gospel. The Gospel message is that my pride is there but my pride can no longer condemn me. My flaws are ever present and always real but my flaws can no longer condemn me. And in the midst of my faults and flaws, no matter what I or others can say about me, the Gospel message soars over all with the message that Christ has set me free. That there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So why do I continue to condemn myself? Because it feels better that I suffer a little bit before coming to repentance. Because if I suffer, then I served my penalty and I justify myself. By condemning myself and suffering if even for a moment, I show complete disregard for the message of the cross.

So the temptation remains. Every sin the Bible illuminates I’m tempted to be discouraged, to self-flagellate, but that cheapens grace and that cheapens the Gospel. If one thing I’ve learned, I do not experientially understand what it means by true Christian freedom. How does this change the future? It means I no longer have to regret the past but that I’m free to always and constantly run towards the throne of grace with boldness.

But it does not end there. I don’t think we should confuse Salvation with Redemption. We are saved to participate in the redeeming work that is still going on in this world. I think we place far too much emphasis on our daily walk with God than on our calling as a salt and light to this world. Don’t get me wrong, a daily walk with God is important and essential and necessary. But far too often we wring our hands saying “I just want to be faithful” or “I’m afraid I’ll fall away” and so in turn we respond with constant application to do our QTs and forget about purposefully and intentionally engaging the culture. If the early church was as concerned with their personal walk with God as we are, then Christianity wouldn’t have made it out of the first century. They not only walked with God but they died for Him too.

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”

It’s late so I think this is done. I changed direction like three times in this post and probably went a little too personal. I think I’m going to go back to handwritten journaling. And so, with a blog that started out wanting to be only about poop has ended up being about anything but. On hiatus again until further notice.

Cyclical

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on December 17, 2010

Reading random blog posts from the past one to two years I’ve realized three things.

1. The quality of my writing has sharply decreased since I left school.
2. I’m basically writing the same things over again, almost verbatim in some cases.
3. I actually could write well.

It’s time for change.

Experience

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on December 13, 2010

The first time I remember going to the hospital, I was maybe four or five years old. I had the brilliance to think that jumping off a table would be a fun thing to do and so I took a breath and away I went. The next memory I had was in a hospital and I still have an “X” shaped scar under my lip as a reminder of that fun little time. Shortly after I again found myself in the hospital for stitches, this time because I got hit in the head by an automatic door (I assume there to be some scar on the back of my head from that one).

And so early on began what would become a motif: ending up in hospitals for reasons that will never ever impress women. The reasons include kicking blocks of foam (broken toe), teaching swimming lessons (dislocated shoulder), swimming across a pool after swimming lessons (another shoulder), pretending I was Sam Fisher (two broken metatarsals, subsequent surgery, and a couple months spent tripping around on crutches), sitting down to take a test (seizures and a diagnosis of epilepsy that I now lie about), playing basketball (yet another shoulder), and finally getting my shoulder fixed because I was too injury prone in the first place.

More than the actual pain of the event, what’s worse is the feeling in my head something is wrong. Don’t get me wrong, lying in a dark room in the ER for two hours hallucinating from pain because the nurses forgot to give you pain medication as your shoulder muscles spasm is not fun and definitely a “10” on the scale of pain they ask you about. However, physical pain cannot produce that gut scrunching, stomach wrenching, unease that something is wrong. Unless a needle is providing me with morphine, I hate them. It’s not because they hurt, it’s my OCD-ness overreacting that there is something in me that shouldn’t be there.

Sometimes as my mind wanders I think about torture methods they use on spies and how I would fare. I think I could go with the pulling of toenails and fingernails but if they start cutting things on my body I’m pretty sure I’d sing like a bird.

That all being said, recent painful experiences have given me a few new insights on things.

Pain Sucks
There is absolutely no other way around this. Pain is terrible. Physical, mental, or emotional pain is all terrible. You always seem to minimize how bad pain is until it comes again. That’s why every time you stub your toe, you briefly think, for at least one second, that you will die.

Pain is a Constant
Not in the scientific sense nor in the emo sense. But in this lifetime, we can always count on pain. A few months ago, my grandma died. There’s still a lot of emotional baggage I simply refuse to touch after the funeral. A few weeks ago, I accidentally kicked a wall (I was reading why laying on my stomach, my foot nailed a corner, and now I have a dumb scar on my foot). Whether we like it or not, pain is always something we can count on.

Pain is Necessary
This echoes a post I had earlier about fighters and why they do it, but pain adds a feeling of significance to life. If something hurts, we want to justify it so as to make it so our suffering is not in vain. We hype up our circumstances to prove to ourselves and to others that what we’re going through is serious and worthwhile. A popular phrase among students is “I’m gonna die.” A common phrase among soldiers in Afghanistan is “I’m gonna die.” The language is the same but in the less serious circumstances, a greater weight is attached so that we can reassure ourselves that what is happening now is serious. Personally, while guilty of this, I hate it. I hate the false weight we place on insignificant things. None of the aforementioned injuries I’ve had is life threatening in any way but I’m 87% sure I could talk about them for a good few hours. Does it increase the impact of those injuries? No, but it does blow them out of proportion. So why is pain necessary even if it constantly sucks and is something we selfishly wallow in at times?

Because pain points to a future where none of this will matter in a way that comfort cannot.

Head Straight

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on December 12, 2010

You’re not a martyr, you’re not a saint.

Your situation is only as severe as you make it sound.

The Midwest is no longer young and restless, it’s cramped and stifling.

Legs are itchy, heart is longing, the present is done, the future awaits.

Like Boom

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on December 12, 2010

Pieces click, it’s time to roll. The time for thinking is done, the time to grow some balls and throw them to the wall is here.

It’s time to fail until I get it right.

Real artists ship.

Oh Kanye

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on December 7, 2010

Long before Kanye West became an incredibly talented producer and public relations disaster, he was once a talented rapper as well. Lyrically adept and clever, he threw down some seriously great tracks in his first two albums. Here’s a good one.

I think every child of immigrants can relate to some of the lyrics in this song. Secretly, or overtly, I think we longĀ  to gather our parents around the kitchen table, plunk down a check with many zeroes in it, and just say “you don’t have to worry anymore.”

But regardless of who he is now, he captured the sentiment exactly.

And a note on Kanye…what happened? He came out in his debut album as an incredibly talented producer with some great rapping skills and as time went on those skills have went in completely opposite directions. His latest album is almost a lock for Hip-Hop album of the year on the sole reason that his beats are pushing rap to new levels. Lyrically….it’s garbage. Not garbage in that they’re profane or vulgar (which they are) but they’re just terrible.

Fueled by the Failures of Vicodin

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on December 6, 2010

I’ve had an interesting relationship with Vicodin over the years, this is the first time it’s been prescribed for me and has actually worked. Unfortunately, it’s still hit or miss which is why I find myself here. If I’m taking the Vicodin more for the sleeping benefits instead of the pain killing stuff, does that mean I’m dependent? Or does the fact that it’s not working mean it’s already too late?

It’s been said that men can in no way understand the pain women go through during labor. This may be true but I think collectively, my experiences with injuries can get me close. No, I have never tried to poop out a nine pound bowling ball but I think this freight train of pain Mr. Vicodin protects me from gets me some amount of points. Plus the other eight or so other hospital visits. So future wife, don’t complain too much.

The corollary to this is that I really don’t know anything when it comes to pain. As much as my arm has hurt in the past couple days, every jolt of agony is with the realization that I have two arms. I really can’t complain.

I think the turning point came when I watched the documentary “Restrepo”. It follows a US Army company through their tour of duty in Afghanistan. When you see a grown man break down in tears in the middle of combat when he finds out his friend has been killed, moaning about shoulder surgery seems pretty stupid. I highly recommend that documentary, by the way.

There’s definitely an appreciation that comes with absence. Currently, I can’t wait to lift weights and want to take up boxing or mountain climbing or boxing while mountain climbing or something else that’s dangerous and requires the use of two arms. But being limited in my activities for the past couple years really makes me appreciate the fact that soon I will be able to put a shirt on without fear. At least, hopefully that’s motivation enough for these next six months of recovery and rehab.

I want to do an Ironman. I do not want to train to run a marathon. Can I just wing it?

The worst side effect of the pain meds were that I couldn’t concentrate on something for longer than 10 seconds. If I tried to read something I would just get dizzy. If I watched TV I would end up dozing off. The only thing that really made sense were commercials.

I had a stack of books I wanted to get through during this time. Unfortunately, I read maybe one page of one book. Today I tried to read it again and came to the conclusion that it probably wasn’t the best book to read. Three cheers for inadvertent productivity.

If money wasn’t an option, what would you do? The answer is still “drive around and blast rap music.” Something tells me that this is not good career advice and is, in fact, only something I could do if money wasn’t an option.

At 23 years of age, I finally throw in the towel and call myself old. Popular music sounds absolutely horrendous. The saying goes “if it’s too loud you’re too old” and I think an adequate response is somewhere along the lines of “if you’re tone deaf enough to enjoy this, burn yourself in a landfill.”

My favorite stand up comedy bit is Chris Rock’s joke about bullets costing $5,000 [search “chris rock bullet control”]. Actually, my secret favorite is where he declares himself a racist, but I can’t talk about that one in polite company. Or any company.

“Despicable Me” is the funniest, cutest, makes-me-giggle-and-kick-my-feetiest movie ever created. I think I could watch it once a week for a year.

I’m gonna have to drive an hour over icy streets in my car that spins out when the ground is damp on just a couple hours of sleep and with one arm. Vicodin stinks, bring on the Propofol.