“Pleeeeeeeeeeease” he begged, a wide-eyed grin on his face, hands in prayer formation tucked, oh-so-cherub-like, beneath his chin.
Through clenched teeth and before even registering a sharp intake of breath, I instinctively let out a deep, drawn sigh while my mental wheels whirred.
Within seconds, my memory transported me to the last time I gave this kid a banana… and found it lying helplessly, half-eaten and quite somber, rolled into a mountainous dust pile at the back of the garage.
Still, refusing to let go of that ever-dimming glimmer of hope that my kids might just surprise me…
… (or maybe just because I’m an ultra-enabler/ pushover who sometimes simply can’t force myself to utter the word “no” and be the bad guy)…
… I dug around in my purse for the extra banana I’d packed on the slightest chance that one of my kids might eat something that’s not a graham cracker.
FAST-FORWARD 15 SECONDS…
“JOEY. GIVE ME THE BANANA, NOW.”
Sheepishly (or maybe just sad about having been caught red-handed trying to launch his sticky treat into his sister’s freshly-cleaned window), he held out the sad, limp peel.
In my very best mom voice, I began sternly scolding my barely-listening kids about how “disappointed I am that I can’t trust” them.
How they “should be more responsible” because that’s “not okay behavior” and we need to “show more respect.” It was, truly, one of my finest hot-headed speeches.
But it was aimed at only half the right audience.
I can’t trust my kids for shit, that’s for damn sure.
But, if I’m being totally honest, I’m not much of a poster-child for trustworthiness, either.
For one thing, I promised myself on Friday morning THIS would be the weekend I’d finally smoke and drink less, eat right, leave my email inbox alone, and collectively get my life together.
I’m tired of feeling tossed around by the things that happen to me and recent (minor) health issues have served as a gentle reminder that I am most certainly not 22 anymore.
My body has long been begging me to start resting it, fueling it, and otherwise treating it with the tender love and care it deserves.
Yet, by Friday night, I found myself lost in a weed-induced stupor at a local vineyard, a glass of vino in one hand as I casually scrolled my Gmail with the other…
… and about to spend the next day and a half eating little else besides grease-sodden, sugar-laden, wheat-based products which would likely leave my digestive system in turmoil until the following Tuesday.
Fuckety fuck fuckery. Somebody needs an intervention over here.
Lucky for me, on Saturday afternoon, God made an unexpected house call through one of the most unlikely of suspects.
There I was, feasting my eyeballs on The Joe Rogan Experience on YouTube while alternately feasting my body on Lay’s potato chips and spoonfuls of cherry amaretto coconut-milk ice cream, when ol’ Joe brought up something SO simple and SO profound that I literally cannot stop its rotation on my mental turntables.
It was around minute 17 of episode #1313, where Joe interviews his good pal, Duncan Trussell.
Slowly hacking away as well as two grown-ass, high AF men can in the weeds of cosmic concepts (such as the notion of people believing Jesus rose from the dead, despite science’s inability to prove it), they stumble onto the topic of health, wellness, and self-discipline.
With an eager curiosity, Trussell posits: “Are we just being driven around by some hive of strange, microscopic creatures living in our shit?!” To which Joe replies, “In some ways, yeah.”
And the two continue on briefly discussing the mysterious but clearly interconnected dynamics of our physical health, mental health, and overall wellness…
… as well as the unfortunate human ability to subtly trick ourselves into feeling okay about doing the EXACT things we know are bad for us.
It’s a theme I’ve heard on repeat as of late.
And it’s a theme the Bible knows well.
“I do not understand what I do,” writes Paul in his letter to the Romans, “for what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do.” #FML (Can’t you just see this as a super emo tweet on Paul’s feed?)
Oy, man, I feel ya.
I SAY I want to get up earlier, maybe go for a run first thing to get my mental juices flowing, set aside regular time to work on side writing projects, eat less processed wheat and sugar because I know for a fact it balances my mood.
Yet, I smoke to escape (my children and other) life stressors, which makes eating a lot of salty, sugary snacks extremely likely and getting up early the most difficult thing in the world.
And I tell myself it’s okay. Parenting is hard, man. LIFE is hard. I need my little pleasures. I’ll start being more disciplined once the kids are a liiiiiittle older and more independent.
The thing is, I’ve been saying that since my first born arrived.
He was an impossibly early riser, so I told myself I would take advantage of the day when he finally started sleeping in.
Now, the boy regularly sleeps until 7:15 or 7:30 and the girl until 8 or so.
And here I am, still saying I don’t have time… I’ll do it later… it’s worse to deprive myself of the small joys, like smoking weed and eating a Costco-sized bag of Mrs. Thinsters coconut cookies…
A lot of us have this idea, when we’re young and older folks are telling us what to do, that someday, we’ll be adults, too. Then, we’ll be able to do whatever we want because we’ll be in charge.
But the thing is, you grow up and you find out that being an adult doesn’t exactly put you in charge of anything, really.
You may have the theoretical ability to do whatever the fuck you want, but your mortgage, your marriage, your kids, and your health still chain you to a whole heckuvalot of “have to’s.”
At least, if you fancy keeping that house, marriage, kids, and health…
Before long, you realize you’re every bit as trapped between choices as you are when you were 16. And the only real freedom you have seems to come in the form of a sticky green plant or a big glass bottle.
The problem is, they’re just a charade of freedom.
You realize all too quickly that you’re trapped again. Only this time, it’s in a vicious cycle your body seems incapable of breaking, no matter how many times you promise yourself otherwise.
See what I mean? We’re untrustworthy beings by nature, always reaching for that next little vice that might offer us a glimmer of hope for the future.
Because that’s what we’re really looking for, isn’t it? Hope.
That the days ahead will be better than those that came before.
That we’ll become more developed and evolved. More capable of managing ourselves. Better in tune with our gifts and talents. More confident in our ability to make something of them.
Christian-types are always pointing to Jeremiah 29:11 in down-trodden moments: “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “Plans to give you hope and a future…”
You hear it and you think “cool! God has future plans for me! I’m gonna be RICH!”
But really, the most important and best part of that promise is often the most overlooked: the hope.
It’s something God promises to give us freely. He’s told us this repeatedly.
And yet we keep stumbling around like assholes toward what we think is an oasis in the desert…
… but, in reality, is just a sad, soppy band-aid over a mortal wound.
Maybe it’s because we’ve done such a bang-up job of convincing ourselves we aren’t as lost, fearful or hopeless as we really are.
We’ve spent so much time adding layers upon layers of duct tape and glue (and glitter for good measure) to mask the gaping hole of emptiness inside of us.
We invest hundreds, thousands, millions of dollars into quick-fixes: a new hairstyle, good whiskey, dank weed, more education.
I’m not saying these things are bad, in and of themselves. Each can have its place in a well-balanced, healthy life.
All I’m saying is this: you, me, the guy down the street shooting off fireworks at 11pm on June 23rd, Joe Rogan, Duncan Trussell – we’re all looking for hope.
Most us of are looking in all the wrong places. And, make no mistake, it’s slowly killing us.
I don’t know about you, but I truly believe I have so much more to offer the world than what I’ve given so far.
I owe the world a chance to see me as more than a stoned, lazy complainer who can’t stop talking about “all the things I might just do someday…”
It’s time to get serious, y’all. It’s time to invite a little more discipline into our lives – something that, with age, becomes a lifeline rather than a dirty word.
It’s time to find the real source of our anguish, health problems, and anxieties, then set to work fixing what we can while God takes care of the rest.
Life was always meant to be a team sport – God’s not gonna do everything for you. He could, but then every parent knows what sort of kid that kind of enabling develops…
Probably the kind that throws bananas at freshly-cleaned windows. Ouch.