Ramblings: The Undoing; and Wearing One’s Life Close to the Surface

I used to be more creative, or so it seems. Aging, living in extreme stress, and having gallons of chemotherapy pumped through my veins may have taken their toil. My loss of creativity also could be my misconception.

I don’t jog anymore. Okay, I’ve run three times, only a mile each. But I used to run six miles each Saturday and two miles on many other days during the week. Running is hard for me. It hurts. It hurts my knees, ankles, my entire body, except my teeth. I put up with those with the hope that running would let me live a long and healthy life. I guess that didn’t work out so well. But to run, I must put myself in another state of conscientiousness. Meditation may be a better term. Denise runs on tails in the woods. I run on asphalt because I run with my eyes closed and my mind deep in thought to escape the pain. If I ran on trails I would trip over a root, fall flat on my face, and knock out my front teeth.

It was during those prolonged periods of meditation that I had my most creative thoughts. I could solve car problems. I could design goat barns. I could write interesting narratives. I could have new thoughts about God or Quantum mechanics. I either need to get back to running or learn to meditate in a chair. Now, creative thoughts are precious, like the elusive four leaf clover that you press between the pages of a book once found. I must write these creative thoughts down so I don’t forget them.

My twitching came back this week (had never left) so it is hard to sleep. I awaken at two this morning with twitching in my legs, my back, and my tongue. I’m editing and adding color for my characters in my new book Retribution. I was searching for a better word for being authentic. What came to my mind at two in the morning was “she wore her life close to the surface.” I wrote that idea down on my phone beside my bed.

I got back to sleep, awakening at eight. I tuned my cell phone to NPR for the news. They reviewed the new miniseries, The Undoing, based on the novel, You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff. It is about a man who has a dark secret life, while pretending to be the perfect father in a perfect family. The opposite of the character in my book.

The space that one puts between their true self and the self they project has always fascinated me. I recognized early in my life that there was a space between who we are and how we project ourselves to the public. For some people that space is wide. For the authentic people, that space is narrow. People under 40 are far more authentic than my generation.

My example of the extreme phony is Dennis Rader. He was a college graduate, with a degree in justice. He was in the Air Force. He was a devout Christian (Lutheran) and taught Sunday school. His church elected him as the the president of their council. He was a Boy Scout leader. He had a wife and two children. He also had a “hobby” of kidnaping women or men, raping them, putting them in bondage, torturing them, and killing them. He had ten such victims. This morbid hobby was in his secret life, that wide space between what he projected and who he really was. His arrest shocked the people in his community. Yet, during the trial it came out that he had a different personal life that even his wife didn’t know about. He had captured and tortured animals since being a child. He wore women’s underclothes. He was a peeping Tom. He hid cameras in women’s bathrooms. But his example is the extreme. But extremes are good for staking out a point.

I had an aunt, Terri, who was notorious within our family for her double life. Not as bad as Dennis Rader. For one, she was a kleptomaniac. The first time this aunt was at my mother’s house she stole my mom’s best clothes. Mom was poor at the time and it was painful.

Terry lived above her means. Her husband had a blue-collar type of job, and she lived like she was Melania Trump (not quite). She also worked very hard to project the image of the perfect Christian, Baptist to be exact. She wore perfect attendance pins from her church (given if you don’t miss church for a year). She was a conniving woman. We suspect she stole thousands of dollars from her church and seniors in her town. She “kept money” for both, “because the banks weren’t safe.” She only got caught stealing razors from a grocery store. She claimed she was framed by godless people.

Dennis Rader.jpg
Dennis Rader, the BTK (bondage, torture, killer) killer

My mother was an authentic person. Maybe that’s where I got my desire for the same. She said exactly what she thought without regard of what other people thought. For example, She told one of my girlfriends, “You’re prettier than his last girlfriend, but I can tell he liked the other one better.” We were at dinner and I kicked her shins under the table. Then she said, “Ouch, Mike’s kicking me under the table because he didn’t like what I said, but it’s the truth.”

In my book Ristretto Rain, I created a character, Jamie, who had a brain injury that left him authentic. Some would say too authentic. I based his character on a real man I know. It is fascinating being around him.

Thirty years ago, I went back and studied the unfiltered life of the historical Jesus. I grew up in the Bible belt. I had heard about Jesus for decades. But I found this historical Jesus to be quite refreshing. He was simple. He had three things on his heart and agenda, truth, love, and justice. What he disliked the most, was the phony, especially the religious phony. I like this Jesus. He seemed to live his life on the surface and he invited everyone to do the same. Where’s there an plenty of grace, there’s an invitation for transparency. Where there’s a critical attitude, it is a fertile ground to be disingenuous.

As an evangelical we thought our calling was to be godly. Godliness was defined by acting in love, showing joy, showing that we live in peace, showing patience, and kindness. Our real calling is to be authentic. The clearer we see ourselves, the better we see the world, and God. Our calling is to shower those around us with grace and mercy, so that they too would have the room to live authentically.

Published by J. Michael Jones

J. Michael Jones is a writer and PA who lives in Anacortes, Washington. He is the father of five children, who are now grown and out discovering this wonderful world on their own. He has previously focused his writing on non-fiction including medical topics and issues of the philosophy of Christian thought. With the success of his last book, Butterflies in the Belfry, Michael is now moving into fiction with his first novel, The Waters of Bimini.

5 thoughts on “Ramblings: The Undoing; and Wearing One’s Life Close to the Surface

  1. From my vantage point if you’ve lost any creativity it doesn’t show in these blog posts. Perhaps just being authentic is what’s called for here, and so being creative is a fiction requirement, but I think creative thinking/dreaming is a key for unlocking truths outside of what’s conventionally taught and lived (if you can call it that) in religion. I’m always pained to hear of your struggles, but that doesn’t diminish my desire to hear of them.
    This particular post is just what we needed today. The last paragraph sums up what we’ve encountered over and over again in “church”. We had to leave ours this month; the second time we’ve left a church, each after investing 17 years. We’re not sure if we’ll ever join another after our experiences with precisely what you’ve described. It’s a barrier to true love and discipleship that is as thick and strong as a stone wall, and it’s exhausting and very personally costly to go up against. I know for me the hope that we could be useful in breaking it down moved at some point from hope to denial.
    As for the personal journey towards authenticity, I describe it as my heart being just right under my skin. I am trying to make that barrier as thin as possible, rather than developing the thick skin it requires to live in a culture such as you’ve described so well; religious phoniness. Grace mutually exchanged truly does allow us all who are pursuing living in the freedom of who we were created to be to experience a love that is rare. Thank you for yours! Craig (and always) Beth

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    1. Sorry to hear about that change with the church. It is almost as bad as going through a divorce. I pray for healing and insight. I’ve always said that my present church is my last church. Church, for me, can’t be any better. If something happened to mine, I may not try another organized church. But who knows. I hope you find greener pastures . . . and maybe pastors too.

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  2. Mike, Dennis Rader lived in Wichita at the time we lived there. The discovery of his double life was all over the news. Genie

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