So that was over four years ago when all of these things occurred and a very logical question proceeds, what’s happened since or what are your thoughts? The simple truth is that I spent a while wondering in the wilderness if you will, unclear as to who or what I was, sincerely believing that I had destroyed what I was born to do. Those thoughts and days are still relatively common in my life today, days where I look into the mirror and feel like I have failed faith, life, my mother and almost all the things that matter in life. Those can be dark disheartening days but they are less common.
There have been more than several occasions where I have gone to church since then. Some of those were simply because of weddings, baptisms, etc but a good half of them have been because I, sometimes, just missed it. Invariably, the reaction I have is almost identical. I don’t know what post traumatic stress disorder is like exactly but I imagine its what I go through. I’m, generally speaking, a guy of little anxiety and low stress but when I’m there it feels like my system is shutting down. It lasts a solid ten to fifteen minutes before I am able to deal with it. It’s frankly speaking, very odd. Some who I’ve talked to about it have tried to tell me that it’s the holy spirit trying to move me but it feels more like water trying to drown me. It’s the closest thing I know to have had to a panic attack and its fairly consistent when I am inside a church. Perhaps there’s a day where God and I will get back together but in those times when it’s clear that the stress is so overwhelming, I doubt it will happen. If it ever does, it will be a while because it hasn’t been long enough.
Shannon and I had our rough patches, the worst vividly described here. We are these days very happy though and well connected. In fact, I think we would both say that 2009 was the happiest year of our married years together. I hope 2010 surpasses it. We continue to chase our dream list, in fact just a few days before the writing of this we completed a marathon together and chose it because it was on Valentine’s day. We’re deeply in love and have more grown up and realistic views and choices about sex, love, marriage and life. We’ve bought a house in Austin where she came to the University to get her Master’s in social work. I have spent over 4 years now as a juvenile probation officer and despite a couple of job offers to get me back into a world that makes more money, I’ve stayed here because I believe in what I’m doing.
We have a little girl, Kiana Lys Leon, who is now 3 years old. In order to make sure she got a better name than my dog (Puppy), we had a baby naming contest. This was won by an old friend from high school, Maydi Aguilar. Many had said that maybe I could stay out of the church but once we had a child we’d want to make sure she was raised in it. One of the best and worst things about being me is that being aware of psychological and sociological typical stuff, I often consciously ignore it. Anyway, she does go to church on a semi-regular basis but that’s because her mother is paid to at the church’s daycare. She asks us questions about the Bible and we answer them as honestly as we can but also teach her that not everyone agrees. She’s asked us question as to “who is God” and “why do people die” and it has led to many fruitful conversations.
But even that has not taken me back to church or to God. This is invariably disappointing for a good chunk of those reading and arguably for the one writing it but sometimes I think of God the way I did of Natalie. It was a relationship that was intense and overwhelming and had a lot of passion but I’m not sure it was healthy and its arguable that we’re both better off without each other.
Ironically, I still try to keep many of the tenants of my faith. I still tithe 10% of my income but now it goes to charities, keep the Sabbath to such a degree my job knows about it, still follow the Adventist dietary guidelines even though I suggested when I was a regular church goer that they were no longer applicable. I still keep the alcohol, tobacco, drug and caffeine aspects. I’ve not been perfect as I’ve been drunk once in my life on 08/08/08 because my friends kept insisting on the celebration of my 08/08/80 birthday.
I do want to clear something up in this epilogue. This wasn’t an autobiography; it was a story about a very particular frame of view. If it was autobiographical, it would have been lighter, funnier, telling more of the things that I think are amusing in life. It was a journey about a boy who wanted to become something, did so and then failed at it and may never quite forgive himself for it.
The best part of this journey has been that I’ve been able to find a large percentage of the people who made the story who I had completely been out of contact with. I tried to look for the lions share of everyone who made the story and send them what I had written about them and see their response both to it and how their memory is different from it. I’ve been amused at the things that I couldn’t remember and that I’ve gotten wrong: I’ll give you a couple of examples. Alycia, who wasn’t even at my wedding, got promoted to a bridesmaid. Josie, who wasn’t there that high schoolyear, snuck into my room in the middle of the night somehow. I said in the prologue, “Is this story true? No, it’s just what I remember” and you can see now the faultiness of the human memory. I’ve gotten some remarks from feedback that may well best encapsulate what all has gone on in here. One friend said that I was a narcissistic, self centered selfish guy who was extremely honest about it and that there was something refreshing about that. Another person said they remember as someone who had a huge ego but somehow a bigger heart. One person asked that I remove their name from the story. Another was just glad that we were able to find each other. I’ve thanked my stepfather for being my true father and apologized for the fact I stopped calling him dad. I’ve realized during the middle of this just how dumb it might have been for Shannon to stay with me and how grateful I am that she did.
The other great realization during this has been a nagging question. I am not certain as to which affects which more. Does our past affect our view of the present more or does our present affect our view of the past more? There’s no way to know but I think it may be a coin toss on any given day.
But writing all this down now is done now and for the first time ever, I’m much closer to making peace with all this. Invariably, someone will note that its not a great ending; well I’m still alive so my life’s not over would be my first answer. My second would be that life is not usually all cleaned up nicely and packaged with a bow.
Still, faith and I failed each other and that is the sad reality of my life. If you’ve come this far with me, please be so kind as to write me a few notes about what you think of it all. I don’t expect the comments themselves necessarily to be kind or in agreement but I imagine that you wouldn’t allow a friend to spill their guts to you over a conversation and then sit in silence. I have let you intimately into my mind and my life; please share what you think of it all.
I’ve got nothing left to say other than that the next entrance is a list of all the songs and the artists. In my mind, this would be read with that song playing in the background. Most of the chapters have a direct quote from the song that they share a title with and they almost all tell you something else about the emotions. I don’t expect anyone to do this, of course, but if there’s a chapter that you thought was particularly significant, try it with that one. Take care and thank you for your time.