Sunday, February 19, 2017

Who I Am

I've been talking to my bus driver, Connie, who runs the SouthWood Route. She's also a full-time minister who, in addition to shuttling folks from SouthWood to downtown and points in-between, gives solicited and sometimes unsolicited bits of knowledge. Her most recent "sermon" has been on Who We Are as people of God. It's been an interesting conversation which I've engaged her in on a number of recent bus trips.

As I was walking over 4 miles yesterday, I had time to clear my head and do some meditating on Who I Am, as a person. And here's what I came up with. I didn't know who I was for a very long time. I didn't really care for myself all that much until I moved back to Florida in 2011 and had a bit of a catharsis on the beach. Self discovery that started at the end of 2011 and led me to some radical changes that brought me to where I am today--back in a town that I swore off in December 2006 when I sold my house and moved back to Indiana.

In my time of reflection and meditation, as I strolled along a barren stretch of Capital Circle SE, I realized what a pivotal year 2006 was for me. It was the beginning of what I now call my decade of crisis. I was 38, then, and I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I found what I thought was real love for the first time. It led me away from my wife and ultimately down the path to divorce in 2012. It was an up-and-down rollercoaster ride from 2006 until 2016, which I blogged recently was one of the worst years of my life.

But things began to turn around near the holidays. And as 2017, emerged, I realized that I wasn't the same person that I was during that crisis and certainly not the 38 years before. This year, I've decided to take hold of the rudder of my life again and be the captain of this aging vessel. Whereas before I was willing to let the winds of change shift my direction here and there. I tried to be a,flexible reed letting the winds bend me to and fro, calling it "life's adventure" and taking things as they came to me. Really, I was being lazy and just settling for whatever came my way. I had stopped trying all that hard. I was still living, I was enjoying life, but I didn't feel like I was making choices that would get me to a desired destination.

That definitely began to change in 2012, when I decided to end my marriage. That was a definitive choice. It was a step in the process of finding out who I am and what I am made of. It was a very difficult hill to climb, but I did reach the pinnacle and come down on the other side. I survived. But I still didn't know exactly who I was. Today, I know.

I AM A GOOD FATHER

My daughters mean everything to me. And while they've always been a priority, I never had to sacrifice as much for them as I did in 2014 when I moved back to Tallahassee to be fully engaged in their lives again. It was a bittersweet move for me that I shed many tears over, but a great one nonetheless. I needed to be close to them to be able to continue sowing good seed into their young lives. That first year back in Tallahassee led me to a lot of soul searching. I took lots of cleansing walks, to talk to myself, search my heart and soul and to breathe again. Those girls are my reason for being--well the biggest part of it anyway.

I AM A SPIRITUAL PERSON

I am still a seeker of truth and justice. I try to be a giver, a pursuer of right causes, an advocate for others, an encourager and a more positive person. My journey has led me to broaden my faith to accept Truth where I find it, regardless of the label we place on it. That said, my faith is rooted in Christianity, but I find Truth is not bound by that label or any doctrine thereof. My spirituality embraces tenets of Eastern religions--Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism--and the beliefs of Western Protestant Christianity. Where the Eastern mystics promote living in the present and being fully aware and fully human, I find peace and comfort in that. When they say to sow good into the world and that it'll be returned to you (i.e. Karma), I find the same teachings in the Gospels, regarding sowing and reaping. Even in the Old Testament, Nehemiah prophesies to the builders of the walls of Jerusalem, "only the builders will be paid for their labor." These Truths aren't proprietary to one sect of religion and spiritual people find great comfort in that.

I AM MUSICAL TO MY CORE

I find rhythm in nearly everything. Even my daily routines have a rhythm to them. There's a rhythm in my quick stride to the bus stop in the mornings. It's no wonder that I am a drummer. I find comfort in the steady tempo of life, in the pulse of my heartbeat (which is the backbeat and backbone of modern music, by the way) and in the rhythm of all kinds of music--from black gospel to heavy metal. Music speaks to my soul and has from a very early age. Another great decision I made in 2012 was to join a rock-n-roll cover band. Today, I find myself in one of the best bands I have ever played for. It's because I am a musical being and I need that outlet so that my soul can shine. One day, I'll even write and record my own original music, but for now I just have to play!

I LOVE WHO I AM

It took me the longest time to get over myself and all my perceived failures. I was a constant critic and my internal voice nagged the hell out of me from my childhood, through my adolescence and into adulthood. I just couldn't seem to shake the negativity I always felt towards myself. It felt as if I'd never measure up to my own unrealistic expectations. That, too, began to change in 2012 when I found a book by Dr. Christopher Germer, "The Mindful Path To Self Compassion." I devoured that book on the beach that summer, skipping over the long chapters on meditation practices. My soul needed to hear what he had to say about self-love and affirmation. You see, Words of Affirmation, as Dr. Gary Smalley, taught me through his book, "The Five Love Languages," is my PRIMARY love language, followed by physical touch (secondary). I've found that this is pretty common for men--well, for all people, really, but especially for men. The thing is that I was seeking that love from other people when I didn't even feel it for myself. I wasn't loving myself because I didn't like myself. I didn't know who I was. I began the discovery in my first year of crisis, 2006, and found myself again in 2012, but there were still parts of me I didn't understand, so I didn't know to love them. Today, I feel like I've fully discovered myself. And while I haven't tapped into all my raw potential, I know what lies within and I really love myself completely. No more tearing myself down. If I'm going to be an encourager and a lover of people, I must start with myself. It'd be foolish and disingenuous to be any other way.

I realized yesterday that my midlife crisis lasted a decade, from 2006-2016. It spanned my life from 38 to 48 years old. That's a long time to go through a metamorphosis where I nearly hit rock bottom twice, but it's my journey and I'm telling you that's how it happened. I'm not the same guy that I was in 2006, not the same guy I was at the start of last year, even. But today, I fully love the man that is a good, no GREAT, father, a spiritualist, a musician and a man that is fully human, in touch with the full range of his emotions and excited to be alive.

There...that felt good!

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Our Indiana Roots

I started telling our story on Facebook in a closed group for our family. I'm trying to tell our family story, so that my nieces and nephews will understand the deep roots and rich history we have in the Hoosier State, especially through Grammy's family.



Through her grandmother, we trace our roots back to pioneer times, before Indiana was granted statehood in 1816. That's more than 200 years of history in that state, then still a territory!

So, I began the tale in 1968, when I was born, in the small farming town of Princeton, Indiana.

Grammy and Papaw had been high school sweethearts. They married the year of my birth. Dad, raised in an Irish Catholic home with Dutch influences, saw Mom on his paper route. Mom had been raised in the Methodist tradition. Her stepfather didn't go to church, so I think she had lost interest by high school. The Doyles were members of St. Joseph Catholic Church and Grandpa Doyle an esteemed member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal order.Grammy loved Papaw dearly and wanted her children raised in the knowledge of Christ, so she converted to Catholicism. No one asked and no one even knew that she was secretly taking classes at the church in Princeton to learn about the Catholic tradition. I was baptized into the Catholic faith at St. Joe's by Father Egloff, the priest who had married my parents. We were ardent Catholics, but that was a lifetime ago and the younger generation of Doyles don't have any idea what that was like.


When we moved to the Broad Ripple area of Indianapolis in the summer of 1974, we lived on Central Canal just a few blocks from Central Avenue. My school was at our church, Immaculate Heart of Mary at the corner of Central and 57th St. That's where I received First Communion, made confession for the first time and attended the first through fourth grades.


We were thoroughly Catholic in the tradition of the Doyle family. I thought having priests and nuns in my life was perfectly normal. They were my mentors and my teachers. I couldn't wait to become an altar boy for mass! I wore dress shirts and clip-on ties to school everyday. I thought school uniforms were just part of normal life and that every kid wore them.

My best friend, Hugh Kennerk, lived right across the street from the church.

The reason Hugh fits in this story is because his parents, Harry and Linda, were two of Grammy and Papaw's best friends. They attended Grammy's memorial service in December 2015. They are very special people...spiritual too. They were big influences on Papaw's faith. You see, he had grown uncomfortable with some of the more far-reaching beliefs of the Catholic Church, like purgatory, the saints, especially Mother Mary, etc. The Kennerks were part of a spiritual revival in the Church called the Charismatic Movement, that focused heavily on the very early Church and especially the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as described in the Book of Acts. (For more, read this article: Is Charismatic Revival Exploding Among Catholics).

This was the beginning of our family's "Holy Roller" Phase, as I like to call it. We subsequently left the Catholic Church about the time we moved in 1977 and I was entering the fifth grade. Our new parish was St. Matthew's on Indy's northeast side at 56th and Binford. We had moved to 5701 Winston Drive to have space for our growing family. Grammy must've found out she was pregnant with Ryan around June 1977 because 9 months later, he arrived.

Not knowing where to go, my parents dabbled in non-denominational churches, like the one that met in an old, one-story office building near 46th and Keystone. We sat in folding chairs in a circle while Rev. Tim-Tom (shout out to "The Middle") strummed a guitar and we all sang. It was a FAR CRY from the liturgy, iconography and aesthetics of the Catholic Mass.

Lest I forget, the hippy-fest began the same summer that we moved. We left town with the Myers family (yes, Kristy Myers-Hilligoss, was a little girl once) and headed for the mountains of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and the Jesus 77 Festival. That's where I got to see this Charismatic Movement firsthand and hear Keith Green live for the very first time. He was on the mainstage, the headliner, if you will, and the main reason we went, I think. It was all very strange and foreign to me.

Fast forward through high school--and I attended a Catholic high school, too--we were on the verge of the biggest moves of our lives. The family now complete, at seven. Keely had arrived in May 1979, and even she started school at St. Matthew's. We only attended Mass occasionally so that my parents could afford to send us to Catholic school. You see, if you paid your dues to the church, you got a break on tuition--at St. Matthew's and at Chatard H.S. But we were covertly Protestant by then. :)

We landed in the armpit of Florida in Summer 1986. Tallahassee was nothing like I had imagined it would be. There was no beach, no girls in bikinis and few palm trees! There was a crazy Pentecostal church though. By then, Grammy was fully exploring this thing called Spirit-filled Christianity. She'd dabbled in it at a mostly black church in Indy before we moved. I don't think Papaw wanted any part of it. It must have seemed superstitious and over-emotional to him. Grammy, always a lover of "black music," especially the early R&B of Motown, loved the uptempo, energetic, rhythm-centric music, influenced by black Gospel choir music. I think that's what we all liked about Christian Heritage.

After reading a book called "Walking & Leaping," Dad felt led to this church on the north end of town, near Lake Jackson, with the shiney metal dove descending down the facade of the church. That's where our family ended up in 1986 and it changed our family forever.

I begrudgingly went because this new musical experience intrigued me. Also, the youth pastor fronted a rock-n-roll-type worship band on Sunday evenings. I believe we were all "filled with the Spirit" at that church. And thus our spiritual journey took a huge left turn.

By 1989, everyone in the family, but me, had returned to the Indianapolis area. Papaw needed work and nothing was panning out in Florida, so he went back to the life he knew, working for credit unions in Indiana. They first lived in Zionsville before moving all the way across town to Beech Grove. The life that Ryan and Keely experienced was really nothing like the life Heidi and I experienced, growing up in a more affluent area in the Catholic faith. Holly was the in-betweener and I think experienced both.

The point of all of this, though, is to show how Grammy gently guided our spiritual journey after Papaw lost his enthusiasm for Catholicism. She converted when they were both very young parents. She wanted our family to have spiritual roots. And since Papaw's family was firmly rooted in the Catholic Church, she chose that path for us. Once Papaw converted, she followed suit, but began exploring more fully this charismatic movement in both the Protestant and Catholic churches. She gently nudged Papaw. And it was funny, too, because when we first went to CHC, the fully integrated, spirit-filled church in Tallahassee, Papaw refused to give into the emotional side of it. Standing there, stoicly, hands firmly pressed to his side, it seemed that he'd never raise his hands. That would be SO un-Catholic, unrefined and embarassing...to draw that kind of attention to oneself. Look at him now! :D

I hope that helps to shape your perspective of who we are as a family, a spiritual family and one that has taken a long, circuitous route to get where we all are--some of us ardent believers and spirit-filled, others of us questioning our faith (as Papaw once did), but each of us cutting our own path to spirituality. I am proud of each and every one of you for your own unique vision of God and your calling. Thanks for taking the time to read this story. Love - Uncle Chris