I seem to always have a backlog of blog posts on my desktop. Typically, I'll have some thought that I feel needs to be expounded upon and then sent out into the online abyss, some little message in a bottle that I hope at the very least becomes a smallish good thing in someone's day or week or year or life or whatever. But after plowing through 500 words or so, I'm usually convinced that whatever I'm writing is meaningless, that all the post would accomplish would a portrait of a guy who isn't aware of the fact that he's only writing 500 words to himself. Maybe so.
At any rate, I came across this one from this summer, and after reading through it, I thought maybe it wasn't the worst thing ever written. My wife says that we have the same conversation all the time, and while I think she's completely offbase, we've probably had this one (or one very similar) enough times to provide some very convincing evidence should that question ever go to court.
So here's a bunch of words... enjoy!
This evening, someone asked me what I'd been up to; this is a question I dread for a multiple reasons. For one, I never developed the social skill to know whether I'm supposed to actually answer this question (and thus recount the various things I've experienced recently) or shrug and say something like, "Oh, nothing much. You?" After initially going with the the former, over the years I've been groomed to choose the latter for my own emotional safety. But secondly, even if someone genuinely wants to know about my specific comings and goings, I actually have to figure out how to distill all of the little bits and pieces of life into a quick, one-breath answer.And even on the occasions I have boiled it all down to a sentence or two, I'm never satisfied with my answer.What have I been up to, you ask?This morning I hung out with my kids. Before I could even take my first sip of coffee, my daughter began filling me in on my activities for the next few hours. She used phrases like "playing restaurant in the sunroom," "see, I've already got the table set," and "you have to be the teacher when we play school because the teacher needs to be a grown-up."Later, I dropped the kids off at the Young Life office with their lovely mom, and I went to work at one of my jobs. Today is Monday, so that means I went to Bel-Jean, a locally owned and operated copy shop downtown. I am a typesetter, which means I lay out various things - invitations, business cards, graduation announcements, menus, etc. - but I prefer the term "visual problem solver." It's a more accurate descriptor. After work, I went home, changed clothes, loaded the rest of the Harwells into the car, and drove to my parents' home a couple of towns over. We left the kids there while Jana and I went to a wonderful engagement party for some wonderful people. I got to see my parents for a second, but that second never seems long enough.And right now I'm sitting on my living room couch typing this and occasionally glancing up at the preseason football game on television.Now you see why I hate the "what have you been up to?" question. So much of what I do now is completely ordinary and mundane. But it's not ordinary and mundane. Being a father and spending time with my kids is one of the most exciting things I've ever done. I literally have no idea what will come out of my daughter's mouth at any given moment, but there is at least an 85% chance that it will be absolutely hilarious or mind-blowing.And while I hope that my typesetting days will one day give way to some work that I find a bit more meaningful, I have absolutely no idea what waits for me when I walk through those Bel-Jean doors. For example, the other day I was asked to add a man to his church's membership directory. This man was listed as "deceased." I added a dead man's contact info to a church directory. A few days later I was asked to remove him from the same directory. I can't even begin to understand this.Furthermore, in between all of the highlights are all the random thoughts I have about God, music, art, culture, people, love, pride, hope, failure, hopelessness, inadequacy, frustration, and joy. I wonder sometimes why my plans haven't worked out, and I wonder all the more when I consider that in those defeats and shortfalls I have become a much clearer picture of the man I was intended to be. In my three-block walk from Bel-Jean to my car, I often flip-flop seven or eight times on my feelings about the importance of art in culture, art as a cultural influencer, the role of art in the church, and whether or not any of it ever adds up to anything more than chasing the wind. I think about friends of mine who are trying to have children but can't. I think about friends who are trying to adopt children. I think about one particular friend with cancer and whether he and his wife will get to be parents. I also wonder if the Dawgs have a shot at Florida this year, why Superdrag didn't have more commercial success, and whether or not I would pay to see Weezer play the Blue Album & Pinkerton without Matt playing bass. What have I been up to? Nothing. And also everything at all. And you?