Sunday, December 6, 2015

With This Ring

There is a ring on my finger that wasn't there before. 
It fits like my finger was made to wear it.  I was used to it the moment it slipped over my knuckle and rested there.  It encompasses more than my finger.  It’s in my bones and my heart.  It is me, and it belongs to her.  What God has brought together no man can separate. 

It is a match to another ring on another finger, and they are both worn for a purpose.  This ring brings me home.  It always points me to where I want to be, and reminds me of that day when my heartbeat quickened, and settled into a new rhythm upon sight of her.  I want this ring to be with the other ring.  I want to be where that love lives. 

This love is the greatest I’ve ever known.  It is love without walls where the flow between us is constant and replenishes what we have together. 

The words, “With this ring I thee wed…” were spoken with these specific rings in mind.  They signify the bond we have committed ourselves to.  They represent the shield that protects us from the elements of this world that seek to separate us. 

With this ring I know who satisfies me.  I have confidence that we will not be separated by time or distance.

With this ring I know where my heart belongs.

With this ring I give valor, honor, and commitment to a woman for whom I have so little to offer, yet who is worth so much, and accepts me as I am nonetheless.

With this ring the dust and ashes of the past are washed away.  My path is clear from this point forward, and my steps are sure.

With these rings the words of our vows are embodied in the touchstones of reality.

With this ring I see that all the joys, all the sorrows, and all the mistakes I’ve made have led me to this point.  I get to be the man who sees this ring on my finger, and the hand that wears the other one, and the eyes that see me in return.  The eyes that hold the greatest treasure I could hope to have.

It was all worth it.
©Dan Bode 2015

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Steps in the Right Direction

So I sold my house the other day.

I have never sold a house before, and I have to say it’s not fun.  It’s great when it’s all done for sure, but the process stinks.  There were people in my house when I wasn’t there, whom I didn’t know.   They were looking at my environment in order to judge whether it was good enough for them, and therefore judging the quality of my house.  Then I realized that as I am looking for a new house myself I am doing the same thing to others. Ugh.  I give them my sincere sympathy as I judge their living space for its suitability to my desires.  And the funny thing is that this is a completely acceptable form of hypocrisy!  Oh the joy!

The reason I am selling is because I’ve finally reached a point where I can take a step forward in the journey of my life.  There have been times in my life where blessings have poured down on me like a torrential rain that has left me breathless.  Everything comes together like it was planned that way when I did nothing but watch.  This is one of those times.  Don’t get me wrong; there have been plenty of times when I didn’t feel blessed at all, and in fact thought I was plodding through a desert eating sand.  I was carried through those times and they have made the blessings that come after that much sweeter.  I can say now looking back that the suffering is made worth it by the blessing that came after.  I didn’t feel that way then though.

This house was a good house for me.  It did what it was supposed to do: provide shelter, safety, warmth.  A lot of stuff happened there; some good, some bad.  Some dramatically bad and life changing.  I learned that a house is not necessarily a home.  A house is not defined by the events that occur within its walls.  It only becomes a home by the spirit with which you imbue it.  So the spirit of my home is completely dependent on me.

For a long time my home was not so welcoming for me.  It was a place to sleep.  Many years of my life were spent occupying space in someone else’s home, and so I didn’t have an opportunity to learn how to make a home for myself.  When I was alone I didn’t know how to “become” my home. 
And then I met a woman, and my eyes were opened.

In the process of preparing my house to be sold I needed to make some changes.  There was painting and landscaping and cleanup.  Then it had to be “staged”. 
Staging is an odd concept for me.  You have to make the house look like it’s lived in, but you can’t leave it looking like it has actually been lived in.  You have to decorate and arrange it so people can see its potential rather than its reality.  Believe me when I tell you that my life was spent hiding its potential with discarded clothes and way too much furniture.  I didn’t realize how much “stuff” I still had that crowded my life until it was gone.
Here is where this woman helped me recognize what I needed to do.

Brenda has an eye for color and decoration.  In fact I would say she is truly gifted in this area.  So when it came time to stage the house I asked her to take a look at things and see what she could do.  So she did, and it changed everything.
When she was done I found that I actually loved this house.  It felt like home again.  It was decorated to suit me and be useful.  It wasn’t just a place to take up space anymore.  When I walked in I realized that if I had understood what to do and how to express it I would have done exactly what she did. 
I told this to my friend Cliff one day and he said, “So she made your dreams come true?”
“Yes! That’s it!”
She came in and chose to know and understand me, and I her.  I chose to allow her in, and know her.
It’s ironic, though appropriate, that I got my home after she touched it, and now have to leave it behind.  
This is a good thing, because now I get to marry her. 

Now we get to make a new home.  There will be a better spirit there, a better purpose.  A better life.
We’ve both been through enough of life that we understand what we want in our home.  We started the relationship in honesty and have continued to build it that way.  So as we look for a new house we look at it in terms of how it will be suited to conform to our desires.
We will make it ours.

It’s a wonderfully odd thing for me to be able to live in a relationship without walls.  To have an opinion and have it heard and respected, and still be loved for it whether she agrees with me or not, and not lose my sense of self in the process.  We complement each other in so many ways that we are starting to finish each other’s sentences. 
It’s weird.  In a totally good way though!

Leaving the house itself is actually more difficult than I expected.  When you’ve lived in one space for long enough there are attachments both good and bad.  Buying this house turned out to be the one decision in my marriage where there was no argument or discussion necessary.  We both felt that this was the place we needed to be, and being there, for me at least, was a key to my survival.
My neighbors are also my friends (most of them anyway), and that relationship overcomes the physical distance that moving will create.  So, for a while yet, even though I don’t live there anymore, I will still automatically drive to that place because that’s what I’ve done for so long.  It’s part of me.

There is some difficulty in letting it all go.  As I went through the process of first realizing that I still had more stuff than I really wanted, and then getting rid of it, I uncovered many things I forgot I had.  I still had the pins the doctor pulled out of my hand when I broke it in high school, and my Webelo/Boy Scout badges from my childhood to name a few. 

Once I moved everything out of the house I started the cleanup.  I went from room to room vacuuming, sweeping, cleaning.  As I finished one room I backed out and closed the door.  This room was my room.  A lot of history there.  This was my daughters’ room.  I said goodnight to them there. 
Down the hall and into the living/dining area.  I spent more time here than anywhere else I think.  All the family activities occurred here.  A lot of wood went through that fireplace, and I finally got that wood burning insert that I had always wanted.

Then the kitchen.  Cleaning all the drawers, countertops and shelves for the last time, and mopping the floor.  I backed up to the door to the garage with the mop, and shut the door for the last time.  I loaded up the car with the last of everything and drove away.
I learned a great deal while I lived there.  I learned what real love is.  I learned what real commitment means.  I learned about promises and sacrifice. 

So I walked out of that house a better man than when I walked in 17 years ago.

Everything I learned there I will take with me and put it all in our new home.  It will serve as a foundation for what is to come.

Because here’s the thing: I’m not just leaving a house.  
I’m changing my destination

For 17 years every road I have traveled on has ultimately ended here at this structure.  No matter how far away I was when I got on the plane or got in the car I took the steps that led me here.  When I turned the corner this house was always there.  At the end of every day I came to this place.
I’m changing my way home.  Home will be Brenda now, and I will be Home for her.

No more baby steps. 
All big steps, and all in the right direction.

©Dan Bode 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Smoking grass - Thought I'd add some laughs from an old one...

Every kid has done something stupid growing up and I have to say I did my share.  If I made a list of Stupid Things I Have Done it would probably fill at least two large volumes; one for childhood, and one in progress for adulthood.  In the childhood volume there would be things like jumping off the roof of our house while holding a blanket over my head by the four corners to act as a parachute.  Nothing was broken, but my feet and ankles were pretty sore.  My friends kept asking me why I was walking funny, and of course they thought it was a pretty cool thing to survive a jump off the roof so I told them I jumped off the roof.  Far from thinking it was stupid they actually held me in some reverence for a while.  Every kid wonders what free fall is like, but I had actually experienced it!  The blanket didn’t slow me down, just so you know.  My parents never asked me why I was walking funny.  They assumed that if there was no blood and no significant swelling I was all right.  Besides, if I had told them I would have been banned from the roof. 

The roof was a place that I could go to enjoy the neighborhood a little more.  The view was incredible.  I could see in everyone’s backyard, and down the next street.  I would climb up on the side of the house using the gas and electric meters as a kind of ladder, and then pull myself up.  It was while I was up on the roof one day that I discovered the concept of smoking.  I looked into the backyard of the people that lived behind us.  I never knew who they were, or at least I have no clear memory of them.  My world consisted of Elm Street, San Leandro, California.  Anything beyond that was extraneous information, totally unnecessary and outside my ken.  As I pondered the questions of my young life while up on the roof this day I happened to look over into the neighbors backyard.  I saw a light smoke rising from the other side of the fence, and I heard the distinct sound of coughing.  Really bad coughing.  At first I thought it was my dog coughing up a hairball or something, but I could see him curled up in our backyard sleeping the day away.  I couldn’t see who was on the other side of the fence because they were right up against it, so I yelled, “Hey, what’cha doin’ over there?”

No answer, but the coughing stopped.

“ Is it a fire?” I yelled.

“Shut up!” came the response.

“But what’s goin’ on?”  I yelled again.  Little kids don’t have much of a sense of subtlety.

At this point two teenagers popped their heads up and looked around.  They didn’t see me at first, but my dog Grizzly saw them and started barking.  They were getting a lot more attention than they wanted to I think.  I recognized one of them.  He had tried to bully me and my friends at the park once, and my brother Mike found out about it and beat him up.  I could tell from the look on his face that he remembered me.

“What’s all the smoke from?” I yelled.

“Shut up, we’re smokin’ alright? Just quit yellin’!”

Now one of them had draped his arm over the fence with the cigarette in his hand, and this one didn’t look like the ones I saw my dad sneak out on the porch to smoke.  I don’t think my dad was aware that I knew he smoked, but I saw him out on the porch sometimes at night after I was in bed and he thought I was asleep.  He would stand out there with the cigarette and smoke one before he went back in the house.   I think it was one of those things that everyone else in the house knew about, but never talked about.  I brought it up once. 

“Why were you out on the porch smoking last night, Dad?”  I was just curious.  I didn’t mean to start anything, but my mom gave him a look that I had not seen before, but which roughly translated probably meant something like “I told you the kids would see it!”  She was not happy.

That was the only time I can recall my father looking what can best be described as flustered. 

“Don’t worry about it.” was all he would say to me about it.  He didn’t try to hide it after that though.  In fact, he started smoking a pipe in the house right after that, I think.  I enjoyed the smell of pipe tobacco though. 

Anyway, the cigarette these kids were smoking didn’t look like my dad’s.  The ends were twisted. 

“What kind of cigarette is that?” I asked loudly.

“Will you SHUT UP?!  It’s grass!  Now leave us alone!”   They ducked back down behind the fence and started coughing again so I left them to their own devices. 

Now, I didn’t know what was in cigarettes of any kind at that time and up until now it really held little interest for me.  Now my questioning mind kicked into high gear.  Why, I asked myself, would somebody spend money to buy cigarettes if all that was in them was grass?  Heck, we had yards full of the stuff!  The wheels were spinning quickly now as I climbed down off the roof, and ran over to my best friend’s house down the street.  Ronnie Bateman was a year or two younger than I was, but we had grown up together.  I have no memories of my life on Elm Street without Ronnie Bateman and Peter Schmidt being there.  I don’t know where Peter was that day, but Ronnie listened eagerly to my tale of the smokers in the backyard. 

“They were smoking cigarettes, and they said it was grass!”  I told him.

“I didn’t know they put grass in cigarettes.”  He replied.

“Me neither, but that’s what they said.”

“We could make one of our own.” Said Ronnie.

“Yeah, you want to try it?”  I asked.

“Sure!” he said eagerly.

We went out to his backyard and to the side of his house.  They stacked all their old newspapers over there.  We knew we needed paper, and we didn’t think it mattered what kind.  We didn’t want to go into the house and ask for any so we settled for the weathered, yellow newsprint, the old Oakland Tribune.  Ronnie went into his garage and found some matches while I ran to the front yard and pulled up a handful of grass from their lawn.  The front lawn was greener and thicker than the back lawn so we figured it was better grass.  We sat down and eagerly rolled the grass in a strip of newspaper that we had torn off.  There was no stopping us now.  It was easily three and a half inches long, and probably twice the width of any cigarette we had yet seen.  Since we were using Ronnie’s grass and his paper we both agreed that he should have the first puff.  I wasn’t too worried about it, after all, we had plenty of paper and a big lawn to go through.

He stuck the “cigarette” in his mouth and held the match up to the end. 

“I think you have to suck in while you’re lighting it.” I said.

So he sucked in while he was lighting it.  I suppose there is something to the physics of cigarettes that causes them to burn slowly.  It probably has something to do with the tobacco being tightly packed or something.  This grass was not tightly packed at all, and the newspaper was pretty dry.

So there were probably a lot of little pockets of air for the flame to feed off of.

These various factors probably explain what happened next.

Every time we had seen a cigarette lit, on TV or by any adult we knew, they always settled into a glowing ember on the end of the cigarette.  This, however, resembled the pictures we saw on the news of forest fires.  The flame grew immediately to at least twice the size that it had been on the end of the match, and since Ronnie was sucking in on the other end, the flame followed the air that was being sucked away right towards Ronnie’s face.  I saw his eyes grow to the size of silver dollars through the smoke and flames as the cigarette got shorter and shorter.  Ashes were falling away and floating all around us.  Just as the flame, which grew as it traveled the length of the cigarette, started to singe his eyebrows he threw it down and started coughing.   I thought he was going to throw up.  This wasn’t gonna be just a hairball either.  While he coughed I stomped out the remains of the cigarette.

When he finally quit coughing and looked up at me I saw a fine gray layer of ash on his blond eyebrows.

“So how was it?”  I asked.

“Really bad!” he said in a very raspy tone, just before he started coughing again.

“I think it burned your eyebrows!  Let me see, I’ve never seen burnt hair before!  Wow!  Hey what happened to your eyes, they’re all red!”

“I don’t know.”

“You better go to the bathroom and wash off your face and eyebrows or your mom will find out what happened.”


I went in the house with him and made sure his mom wasn’t near the bathroom.  The coast was clear and he made it without incident.  He washed up and came out again looking none the worse for wear.  I figured watching him was enough, and I decided smoking just wasn’t for me.  Ronnie figured out the same thing.  Whenever he walked into a room where someone was smoking after that he always left the room looking a little “green around the gills” as they say.

I suppose I would have to include a subsection in my “Stupid Things” book called “Stupid Things I Got My Friends to Do”.  It would be a strong argument against the concept of peer socialization, and would probably change the course of history.

©Dan Bode 1998

Friday, March 20, 2015

2014-03-08 The Man I Am Not

2014-03-08  The Man I Am Not  - Part 1

When I started this piece a little over a year ago, I was in a much different place than I am now.  Regardless of where I was then I found that a lot of what I wrote is still valuable to me in terms of my progression in this journey to become someone who can love more completely and honestly than I ever thought possible.  My life is about to change again in a wonderfully drastic way.  A year makes a big difference.  I decided to call this Part 1 because as I incorporate “new pieces” into a “new One” I will have much more to say.  So stay tuned….


Life is a process of self-discovery.

Some of these discoveries are welcome, and some not so much.  There are times, in fact, that I wish I could just not discover anything new about myself because it’s just so tiresome sometimes.  Mostly I’m discovering things I don’t like and want to fix, but frankly I’m just too lazy to make the effort.  I just don’t feel like it.  Most of the people I know think pretty highly of me, but I know that I don’t deserve their high regard.  I know my sins, and they leave me severely lacking.  I’m tired of my internal desire to live up to everyone else’s image of me.  This is all my own doing of course.  I realize that no one else really thinks about what I do very much at all.  We each have our own lives and certain close family members think of us more often, but for the most part we think of those the most who are within easy mental/emotional reach.  The ones who have a more consistent emotional and spiritual presence for us.

These are the ones we miss.  This is human nature, and that nature limits our capacity and ability to express our feelings and desires to others.  Because the reality is that no matter how many connections I have on social media I am truly only capable of being effectively present in a limited number of lives.

I discovered how much I take for granted, and how much I assume to be true.  I am being painfully truthful when I say that I most often feel the greatest impact of someone’s life on mine more by their absence than their presence.  I am so well and thoroughly loved and supported by those in my life that I have become comfortable in that place.  I would know if someone were no longer there because it would change my life.  I too often think of others in terms of how they affect me rather than the effect I have on them.  That is how I define taking someone for granted, and I have a difficult time thinking of a worse feeling regarding myself. 

But I’m also aware of just how undeserving I am of all the respect and affection I have among my family and friends, and that is how I define Grace: Love completely undeserved.  I have a difficult time thinking of a better feeling regarding myself.

I discovered that I selectively cease to question.  There are some things I simply don’t want to know.  To acknowledge the truth about something regarding myself requires me to act on it.  If I don’t it niggles at the back end of my existence until I simply can’t tolerate it anymore. 

I discovered that I, a man who knows the value and need for commitment, am actually afraid of commitment.  Oh, how I hate to admit this to myself.  The fact is that I fear it because I don’t think I will find someone who can match that commitment, and that is an extremely self-centered thought.  Who am I to judge the quality of another person’s heart?  This requires a “fore-ordained” commitment to the unknown, because you can’t get that kind of commitment until you’re willing to give it first and that takes time.  And now I’ve discovered that I actually have all the time I need.  There is no need for hurry in this.  It may actually never happen, and I think I’m surprisingly ok with that. 

I am a fool who is well and greatly, and wholly undeservedly, loved

One of my favorite quotes of all time is this:

"In your weakest moment you are powerfully loved. That love overpowers all that you are not.  It overwhelms all your inadequacy.  It empowers you to stand up on the inside.  Love makes us invincible, unbeatable.  Our heart becomes a fortress.  Only God can do that...turn a weak place into something impregnable." - Graham Cooke

So maybe what I really need to develop is a system of walls with an “open door” policy.  I will welcome you in to see my heart.  If you like it stay, if not go.  If you hurt me one or more of those doors will close behind you on the way out.  You will do the same for me, and if I make the choice to walk through your doors I will be as careful as possible with what you offer.

It’s true, I think, that most of the time in our personal relationships all we really want is to be in a place with someone where the thought is simply, “Don’t hurt me.”, but we fear to lose what relationship we may have so we don’t say, “Accept me.”, and then we lose the natural progression to a level of relationship where we find ourselves capable of saying, “Love me.”  We are afraid to acknowledge that our love is largely conditional, yet we long for the unconditional so much more.  We fear being ourselves in front of someone else.

Love requires risk, but it first requires knowing what I risk.  It requires that I understand what my needs really are as opposed to what I think they are.  It’s easy to keep my conception of my needs rooted in the physical, which are more easily satisfied in the short term, rather than the emotional and spiritual which are more difficult.  It takes time to understand the roots of my discontent, and therefore my satisfaction.  It takes time to figure out what I’m really seeking.

It requires that I dismantle myself.

I have to reduce myself to my most basic components and then rebuild according to what I want to keep rather than what I had before.  I can’t keep doing the same things just because “that’s the way it’s always been done”.  And it clearly needs to be based on what I want to keep not on what someone else feels I should keep.  If it isn’t my choice I’ll become bitter, and there will be no joy. 

What it comes down to is that I have choices.  I get to pick what stays and what goes, and I need to be honest with myself enough to make sure those choices lead up and out of the pits I dig for myself.  It's pretty easy to get comfortable wallowing in the mud.

  ©Dan Bode 2015