Friday, August 22, 2008

P4E.084 Scapegoat

Lately, I was made to be the scapegoat. At first, I didn't understand. I was not the cause of the problems. It wasn't my fault that things had gone wrong. But, then things started becoming clearer. Someone needed to bear the responsibility. Someone needed to be reprimanded and replaced. Someone needed to publicly "take the fall." And the lot fell to me.

It was very uncomfortable. I was sad and disappointed. I wanted dearly to defend myself. To shed some light on the situation and set the record straight. It was so unfair! Where was the justice in it? Wasn't there some other way that things could be reconciled? But the answer was no...Someone had to be sacrificed to save face. Someone had to be "thrown under the bus."

The irony is that I'm still handling the same responsibilities behind the scenes. The only thing that's changed is that I'm no longer the "face" that people see. My replacement is the "face," but mine are still the hands that do the work. Everyone around me knew what was going on in the situation. There were no hard feelings and I was not really being blamed. Everyone just knew that a change needed to take place and I was the convenient link that could be cut loose.

We watched a movie the other night called "To End All Wars." Because of my situation, one line caught my ear. It had to do with the Bushido Code, which is the Code by which the Japanese Samurai and Kamikaze abide. Many of the Japanese martial arts' codes of conduct and ethics stem from the Bushido Code. The line went like this:

"In Bushido, it is an honor to be punished in place of your superior."

I wonder. If it is an honor to be punished in place of a superior, how much more of an honor is it to be punished for an equal? And then, what about a subordinate? What kind of man would take unwarranted blame on himself so that others would not suffer? Would even die so that others around him could live?

I know how he would feel. Disbelief. Fear. Wishing for a way out. Sad. Wanting to defend myself. Wanting someone to defend me. But, when it became clear that there was no other way...that it was up to me...there's a sense of resignation. A grim determination to do what needs to be done despite the discomfort. There's a sense of relief that the others won't have to suffer because I'm going to take it all. There's honor. Even love.

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."
John 15:13

Guard you heart!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

P4E.083 The sadiM Touch

I try to be transparent in these posts. When I'm good you'll know and when I'm not good, you'll know that too. This is a "mind dump." Not thought out. A stream of consciousness. Establishing where I'm at right now so that I can move from here. A pity party and a going away party. I don't want to mentally or emotionally or spiritually stay here anymore. This is where I'm at:

I hate money. I hate money because it seems to hate me. You've heard of people who have the Midas touch, where everything they touch turns to gold? I have The sadiM Touch. Everything I touch turns to, well, excrement.

I've never been good with money. I never learned how to handle money or the "value" of it as a young man. Some people have a wonderful ability to visualize how events will transpire when they do this or that with their money. Their minds are able to bend around the intricacies of interest rates and supply and demand. They have a sense of appreciation and depreciation and value and timing. I have no such vision.

Reading what I've just written, you'll find it impossible to believe that I was self-employed for over 17 years. Well, it wasn't a lucrative 17 years. Professionally, financially, emotionally and spiritually I would have been better off being employed by someone else. Finally, as part of the effort to save my marriage, I left private practice and have been employed for the last 3-1/2 years.

Becoming a Believer was, in a way, a consolation for me. Taking to heart a belief system that eschews the material world and teaches that "the love of money is the root of all evil" has been a convenient salve to my inability to handle or accumulate money. But, as with so much of life, my spiritual beliefs collide with the physical realities in a very inconvenient truth. The differences between my spiritual beliefs and my physical realities have given me opportunities to practice what I preach. I've failed miserably more often than not. I feel caught between the disdain for money and the need to make and spend and keep more. It's confusing to believe, on the one hand, that God will provide all my needs and, on the other hand, to get up every morning, shave, shower, get dressed and walk out the door to work, taking my destiny into my own hands. It's humiliating to feel so small in a world where one's importance is many times gauged by how much money one has accumulated.

I have such a bad track record with money that I cannot even discuss the subject calmly with my wife, Gwen. Every conversation finds me making Gwen feel controlled and scolded. Fear and failure and gloom hang over my spirit as I even approach the subject. Budgeting seems a completely useless exercise as there is always something I forget to budget or some unexpected expense that wreaks havoc on my budgeting efforts. I alternate between budgeting and cutting back (on all this high livin') and devising schemes to just simply make more money. I never seem to be able to offer any hope to Gwen in this area. It always seems like bad news.

My melancholy nature and "glass is half empty" attitude don't help matters much. I lack the ability to be encouraging when I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel. I vacillate between trying to be nonchalant about money matters and white knuckle controlling every nickle and dime.

One of my regrets has been not handling my finances in such a way that my sons could see a positive, balanced example of what that should look like.

I have many times compared my life to George Bailey's in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." Much of the movie revolves around money. The line in "It's a Wonderful Life" that I relate to most comes when Clarence, the angel, says "Oh, no no, we don't have money in Heaven," and George Bailey replies "Well, it comes in pretty handy down here, Bub!" Mr. Potter describes my situation pretty accurately when he says to George Bailey, "No securities, no stocks, no bonds. Nothin' but a miserable little $500 equity in a life insurance policy. You're worth more dead than alive!" The problem is, I have term life insurance, which has no equity....(See what I mean?)

Gwen says that I've always undervalued myself and my abilities. Low self-esteem and low (or mishandled) income seem to go hand in hand. I haven't had and still have no financial plan. I'm easily daunted, easily overwhelmed. Gwen would say wimpy. Weak.

There are times when I want to quit, but I know that's impossible. More often, I just try working harder or putting in more hours, which has demolished my family life.

Well, that's where I am right now. Like I said, mind dump. I don't like it. I don't want it. It feels like the Titanic slowly moving towards the iceberg. No way to change course quickly enough to avoid disaster. I won't be winning the Lottery any time soon. (You have to buy a ticket to have a chance.) I wouldn't want a lot of money if I did have a chance to win it. I've seen how unhappy people who have a lot of money can be .

It has been cathartic to write it all out this way. My goal in writing it out has been to establish a benchmark. A LOW POINT. A place from which to say, "God help me, it's all uphill from here!"

Am I just crazy or have you ever felt anything like this?

Your fellow traveler, Kim