Post 28: The 'good fight'


There is no foolishness too complete—

—to be improved upon by doubling down.

It’s been kind of a slapstick week here in Lake World-be-gone, my new home. I am actually writing this post on Thursday afternoon this week, and I had expected the Lake World-be-gone portion of it to be pretty brief. Nothing all that notable happened—except yet another two-day trip to America for yet another colonoscopy, and it wasn’t even mine this time. It was my wife’s. Otherwise, I’ve just been spending my time getting the next episode of TWICE ready to ship, while it rained, and rained, and rained. Fortunately, I got that all finished yesterday (Wednesday), because we have house guests arriving for the weekend this evening (Thursday )—living in paradise as we do—so this is really my only chance to write this week’s post before Sunday.

Unfortunately, that all changed this morning when I tried to slice my left index finger off in the name of a little extra cheese on a mushroom and spinach omelet. (My recent posts here may have mentioned my intense devotion to food. :])

Being the creative sort who eschews mundane conventions, I did not do it with a knife or a shard of glass, like ‘normal’ people do. I did it with a cheese grater.

For clarity, I did not just stubbornly grate my way to seven stitches. Even I am more attentive than that. The cheese grater I was using fell apart as I was using it, and, wanting to get the rest of that cheese grated while the omelet was still warm enough to make it melt, I just tried to keep on grating anyway, unaware that the edges of the broken part I was holding were surgically sharp. Then the cheese grabbed the broken grater piece and pulled it through my fingers, slicing two fingers and my palm in a millisecond. The bloody omelet was the least part of the resulting mess. Never a single f-ing dull moment around here, folks. It was like one of those gross ‘spatter-gore’ scenes from Monty Python’s ‘Meaning of Life.’

Happily, our little island clinic is only five minutes away, and my wife, Shannon, is a born ambulance driver. There are likely a few tourists out there still muttering up about that ‘local asshole passing everyone at twice the speed limit’—but, hey, I was bleeding all over the car. Nonetheless, it was my left hand, I still have both thumbs, this stylish black sling isn’t all that uncomfortable, and Windows 10 has…well, adequate voice dictation software. I only have to type every fifth word—one-handed—and delete a few of the AI’s more colorful alternative choices. :]

So, with all that explained, maybe we should just get back to those woods—before I slice my head off making fresh-squeezed orange juice, or something. Hmmm? :]

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So, last week I appalled you all with the revelation that all this suspense I’ve been cultivating for weeks was just about a little developmental peccadillo common to virtually all teenagers. Then I assured you, once again, that there was more to it than that—which, as always, I would get to ‘next time.’ …Anybody still reading? …Hello? …Anyone?

If you are still hanging in there, somehow, let me assure you that I do understand. At this point, I’m pretty much committed to seeing this inadvertent ‘memoir’ through to the end for my own sake, if for no one else’s. If I end up doing so alone here…perhaps that’s just as well. :]

So, on with the rest of that ‘wobbling, arm-waving, desperate pursuit of recovery’ I referred to last week. Got those eye-rollers warmed up?

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As I absorbed the shock of recognizing my carnal treachery, the first thing I did was go straight to confession. As any good Catholic boy knows, repentance ain’t never real until it happens in ‘the box.’ (We didn’t have Facebook back then.) As I told the darkened screen in front of me what I’d done, I’m pretty sure I heard a weary sigh from the priest hidden beyond it. But he confirmed that this was, in fact, a sin, which really mustn’t happen again. Being a thorough lad, I asked if it was still a sin to dream about it. In shocked tones, he assured me that God would never hold anyone responsible for things they have no control of.

That seemed kind of him, but I had spent too much time learning to face the truth—especially about myself—not to recognize well-intentioned soft-pedaling when I heard it. After years of therapy, I didn’t really believe much of anything that went on inside us was really beyond our control. (I was still quite young, remember. Failures still just seemed evidence of nothing but inexperience or lack of practice then. Most of us don’t credit the idea of actual limitations until later in life.) At the end of our little session, the priest assured me, as always, that I was forgiven. But, being who I was, I left the box quite clear about the need to prove—to God and to myself—that I would never choose pleasure over devotion again—awake or asleep. Half measures never got you anything but deeper in. I had erred in ignorance until now, but the next time would be knowing and willful. I wasn’t about to trade my entire inheritance for a meal, no matter how delicious that meal might seem in the moment.

The struggle was titanic, and as you will surely be unsurprised to hear, for all my fierce determination, I failed again and again, knowingly and willfully. But I did not give up. I’d quickly come to see that this was not a battle, but a war—and I understood that many battles were required to win a war. But, in the end, if you won, all was forgiven, was it not?

Sound insane? It was. If there is a God, I am quite sure It doesn’t give a fig what part of my body I might be touching at any given moment. It’s got bigger fish to fry. I know that as well as you do—now. But I didn’t know it then. All that fifteen-year-old hobbit-in-training understood was the simplistic question, “Are you with me—seriously—or not?” I knew even then that the God/Gandalf I believed in would forgive me if I failed to win that fight with my body. My God: the mentor, parent, and friend I had always believed in, was unambiguously a God of love and mercy. I didn’t think he would dislike me for my weakness, much less punish me—now or later. But if I couldn’t put him—and our quest—before a little physical pleasure, I had no illusions about continuing to be fit for the ‘A team.’ My core sense of identity and purpose would wither and fade—because of me, not because of him: good seeds sewn on shallow, rocky soil. So I doggedly continued fighting my own body as spring became summer, and summer fall—enduring the fits of agonized shame and melodramatic repentance I plunged into every time I gave in to its siren song, gradually training myself to keep my hands where they belonged, and even to wake up the instant any dream got steamy. Because that kind priest had been wrong. You can learn to control even dreams. I got frighteningly good at it in time. But that’s a story for later in this tale.

Sadly, in time…I ‘won.’

By the middle of my sophomore year, I had managed to build walls—awake and sleeping—around all that urgent temptation, to flee nature’s single most insistent mandate, again and again, more and more consistently, until I had put my own development as a male human being stably and sustainabley into a full coma, if not all the way to death. While everyone around me was blooming, I slept suspended in my hobbit-ish dream of loyal devotion and service to God. I was a fixer, after all. Had I not spent my entire life fixing so much else of what was wrong in me? Had it not always been my job to correct the broken profile I’d been born with—for the sake of others as well as myself? Was that not why I’d spent all those years in therapy, and in church, and at school for that matter? It seemed to me that what made Frodo great, what made the kings of Middle Earth bow down to him at Aragorn’s coronation, was that he—among so many others fallen along the way—had managed to remain single-minded and faithfully devoted to his perilous task all the way to Mordor. He’d been dreadfully tempted too. But in the end, he’d given up a finger, and proven his true allegiance.

It had taken me half a year, but I had managed, in the end, to beat my own body. So, I still had a chance. That’s how I saw it then.

Believe me or not, but for the next several years—right through the middle of what I assume would otherwise have been the most fevered pitch of my sexual development—I ‘touched’ nothing, nor thought about sex, nor even dreamed about it without waking immediately to lie clench-fisted in the dark until my body set its ill-advised ideas down again. Give God your sexuality—really and completely—and he’d give it back even better than good-as-new, ‘when the time was right.’ That’s what I’d been told—at church.

So, having subdued my body’s very development, was I content at last to let this rampage through my developmental china shop rest there? Oh no. I have never been a ‘half-measures’ kind of guy. (Just look what I can do with a mere cheese grater!) There were so many other ways to amplify the damage I was manufacturing here, and I meant to leave no stone un-turned.

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Ah, but I’m showing so little consideration here for those poor, weary eye-rolling muscles of yours! They must be nearly cross-eyed with exertion by now. Perhaps we should give them a rest, and continue this lurid exposé next week—with a gymnastic ‘cognitive dissonance back-flip’ that may strain your eye-rolling muscles to their very farthest capacity.

Yup. My most impressive maneuver was still to come.

For now, though, cyber-pals, have a peaceful and productive week, and be sure to approach even modest kitchen implements with respect and extreme caution!

Mark Ferrari1 Comment