Flying Blind

But flying all the same

Tag: adventure

Confidence or Something Else?

If you would have asked me about my confidence a year ago today, I would have told you that, though I come across as being very confident, I am really not.  I felt as though I was lost in a cloud, flying blind, a lot of the time (and still feel this way a lot).  I would make decisions and if they went poorly, I reacted very badly.  I tended to pour anger and frustration all around me because I felt as though I was not capable, or was not ready to be in the positions in which I found myself.

Ask me now about my confidence and I will tell you with great assurance that I am no longer as confident as I used to be!  I will also tell you that it is okay.

My parents, in-laws, wife, and kids can all tell you about times that things have not turned out the way I had hoped they would because of a simple mistake or oversight on my behalf, and how I feel as though I have failed at so many things.  Having come to this school, I have been placed in some very difficult positions.  The pace is so quick, the requirements so strict, the instructors so demanding, I have been forced to start pushing the envelope which contains my sense of “everything will be okay.”

Everything will in fact NOT be okay.

I am going to fail and I am going to screw stuff up.

I have been told by past leaders that I am a leader, that the bar I set for my peers is pretty high, and that I outperform those around me.  I never saw that.  I saw that other people would get worked up a lot more about the requirements, would work harder at their tasks than me, and would spend more time getting their tasks accomplished than I would.  My perspective was that they were better equipped and more motivated to succeed than I was, that they understood what was going on better than I did, yet somehow my leadership, and those working around me, started to rely on me as the “go to guy” for things that involved me.  I was so afraid of screwing up what I was working on, that I never pulled the trigger on a project or task until I was absolutely, positively, 100% sure that the task was complete and met the standard.  By the time I executed my task, I felt absolutely confident that it was right…  but I would not act until then.  This did not breed in me a sense of confidence though, it simply created a sense of focus, speed, and intensity in me that caused me to work my tasks faster than those around me.  While they were still unsure of what to do, I had finished my work and called the shot… confidence in my ability or quickness to finish because of a lack of confidence in my environment?

I would stay at work until 3 AM working on some tasks.  Think about that!  I would do almost 2 days work at night while my peers were home asleep because I was afraid I was going to miss a deadline or turn in a job that was incomplete.  My “confidence” was purely fueled by a true lack of confidence.

I do not have the time or resources to work my current tasks until they are absolutely 100% complete.  I am having to turn things in, run reports, finish tasks when I am mostly sure they are okay.  That is a long way from 100% complete and correct.  I am turning things in that meet the standard but require some correction instead of turning in perfection.

Having worked for so long in an environment where my work was pretty close to perfect, turning in things that simply meet the requirement is really hard.

It got even worse this month.  So far I have failed 1 test (made a mighty 64 on it), and have had to redo one of my tasks 7 times before it met the standard!  Talk about a death blow to my paradigm of confidence.  In the midst of the rework, I had the privilege of writing lines like I was back in middle school in order to correct one of my deficiencies.  I am faced with a Gastrointestinal lab, Head/Ears/Eyes/Nose/Throat (HEENT) lab, Cardiovascular exam, and HEENT exam all stacked up next week.

Guess what… my world did not come to an end.  I have royally screwed up several things this month now that I am having to perform on a much higher level than I have in the past and it is okay.

I don’t feel as though I have clearly communicated what I am feeling…  let me summarize like this…

I was so afraid of failing and having other people see me how I see me that I worked really REALLY hard to make sure everything I did was absolutely spot on.

Now I am in an environment where I cannot do what I used to do.

I was super afraid that I would drop the ball and the people around me would see me for the fraud that I so often feel I am.

I dropped the ball… I dropped it many times!

The people around me, family, friends, co-workers, leaders, looked at me, gave their advice/criticism, and moved on.

I had to do a lot of work because everything is not okay.

Apparently that is life…

And I really am okay!

Confidence is a thing of irony for me now.

What others may see in me and call confidence is really just me learning how to fail, recover well, and live with the grace and mercy that has been given to me.

Everything in life is not okay, but with grace, I can be.

…  So Joey, when you ask how I am doing, and I say, “I’m doing really well” and you say, “Awesome… I would like to hear why you are doing well…”… well…  this is why.

Thanks for asking!

 

Saturday Morning Adventure Club

Like the little bubbles on the bottom of a pot of water getting bigger and bigger until a full, rolling boil is present, so was the excitement washing over me.  I could hardly sleep the night before and I was finally setting out.

I know that the hands of the clock are ever moving and that there is nothing I can do to push back against them.  One of my favorite admonishments from the Bible is found in Ephesians 5.  When I spend some alone time meditating on this passage, I can almost hear Paul saying, “Mike, the days are evil, the clock ticks life away so make every moment count.”

I also know that there is a great demand upon my time (a major reason why this blog has fallen a bit to the wayside… I’m sorry y’all).  I recognize that my kids are spending a lot less time with me than they were in Washington and that, if I plan on finishing well at this school, I must put in some long hours.

I decided to guard my weekends in order to nourish the fragile relationships I have with my kids.  Most notably with my older two.  I want my kids to feel like they are a part of something that I am a part of, not just tagging along.  I want them to feel like they are wanted, chosen, sought after… like they belong.

I have belonged to some really amazing groups during my life and, though they are drastically different, they did have some things in common.  They were exclusive (some more than others), I had to do something to be a part of it (some more than others), I had to want to be there, there was a designated purpose, and it usually cost me something.  When I did the things required to be a part of these groups and demonstrated a desire to commit to their mission, helping to fulfill their purpose, I felt as though I mattered and that I belonged to the team.  This is what I want my kids to feel like when they are with me and each other on an adventure.

So I started a club.  I called it the Saturday Morning Adventure Club.  Before I went to work on Friday morning, I wrote out 8 questions on the board for the kids to answer.  I had them write down their name and birthday.  They had to list their skills.  They had to tell me what made a good adventure good and a bad adventure bad.  They had to answer the question “How awesome is your dad?”  They had to look up in a dictionary (or use other resources, like their mama) to find out what the words Koinonia and Outdoors mean, then they had to draw a picture of what they think when they hear these words.

When I got home, I called each of them into my “office” one at a time for an interview.  We went over their applications in detail.  One applicant does not care about adventure, but put on the application that they wanted to join the club because they liked the leader and wanted to be a part of whatever club he was leading.  This one’s artwork was creative and well proportioned.

You’re in.

Applicant 2 decided to answer the questions in whatever random order he so desired.  I could not follow his answers to save my life.  I gave him double points during the interview for demonstrating his ability to “draw outside of the lines.”  I admired the “I’ll answer your silly questions in my own silly way” spirit.  Though his ability to follow directions was on the low side, he listed his skills in the following order… I can run fast.   I’ll take it.

You’re in.

I made a simple little emblem for our team and am in the process of getting hats made for us.  Team emblem on the front, nickname on the back.  These kids do not come with me on Saturday mornings because they have to, or because it is just what we do, but because the team is going, and they are a part of the team.  They have to get the gear together before the trips and they carry more than their fair share of the cleanup after the trip.

And I have started building another team!

Every Saturday morning we depart from our Team Headquarters (the garage) No Later Than 0800 (though the target departure time is 0645) and we go paddling.

That first trip was like walking on lightning for me.  I love getting up early, in the calm stillness of the morning, drinking my coffee and restoring my soul before breakfast.  I woke the kids up an they got the requisite gear together for the day as I double checked the straps on the canoe (loaded the night before) and made final checks of the weather.  Breakfast was done, gear was inspected, packed, and loaded, and the kids were strapped in.  We were off.

1 hour later I had unloaded the canoe onto the beach, put the gear bags in the bottom of the boat, and left my teammates on the shore watching the gear as I drove back to a suitable parking area.  As I walked back to the rally point my mind raced.  Are we ready?  Is this actually going to be a good thing?  What if we flip the boat or get rained on?  Will my teammates, my kids, want to abandon the cause?

With great apprehension and a touch of icy fear, I pushed the canoe out into the channel…

TH SMAC

And for the next 4 hours, Team Hitefield’s Saturday Morning Adventure Club chased horse shoe crabs and herons, watched striped bass and egrets, paddled like mad and drifted inconsolably in the wind.

I have not been in a long time as proud as I am now to be a member of a team.

So if y’all are ever up in the stillness of the morning on a Saturday before the world starts humming, go for a walk, take a kid with you (if there is one available), and post comments about your adventure!

 

Here we go again…

It has been a little while but we have finally settled down after the move. Or rather, we are settling down enough that I can get back to writing and reflecting a little bit.

A little bit of admin stuff up front…

I finally got an email subscription plug-in to work with this blog. I do not plan on putting every blog post on Facebook. If you want to get a notification each time I put up another post, please enter your email address under the subscribe option at the top of the column on the right. You should get an email confirmation after you do this. If you go through the steps and find that you are not getting notified about posts, then please let me know.

We moved out of our house March 16. We slept in our own beds again May 13. Almost 2 months of living out of bags and sleeping on floors! It was quite an adventure. Please Please Please do not think that we were having a hard time. It seems as though we did not suffer at all.

One of my objectives for the trip was to spend some time together as a family and see if we could strengthen some of relationships. There are some wounds in my kids that I have caused and I wanted to see if I could spend those months trying to reconcile their little hearts to mine.

It seems to have worked well. Now that I understand the hearts of my older kids a little bit better, we were able to connect in a more deliberate manner. My oldest daughter, the introvert, would sit next to me for 6 hours at a time.  It was most comfortable for me to ride with my right arm resting across the seat-backs, and so my hand would rest on her shoulder.  We wouldn’t talk about much, but the moments we did spend talking were precious.

Sleeping on the floor wasn’t bad either.  We got to stay with family, friends, friends who are family, and family who are friends.  All in all it was such a great trip.  Spent time with a range of people like folks that my wife and kids have never met and that I have dearly missed (Thanks for the grape juice bro!), as well as family that we saw last Christmas.

And now we are here.

I have a lot of butterflies in my stomach right now.  It feels like tomorrow is the first day at a new school…  probably because it is.  I’m more excited than I am nervous or anxious.  I do wonder if I have what it takes.  I’m not so concerned about graduating, I wonder if I have what it takes to actually be the sole medical provider on a submarine.

I’m sure it will be fine.

My soul rests as I wait.

Thanks for being patient with us as we travelled.

Thanks so much too for letting us sleep on your floors!!   I cannot think of a better way to explore this great nation of ours!!

 

Until next time…

Seattle to Portland

We made it to Portland.

We got started about 6 hours later than I planned.  We had more to load into the suburban than I had planned, but all in all, things went well.

I got almost 13mpg as an average from Seattle to Portland, but I held a solid 72 for the vast majority of the trip.  I felt so proud.  I also discovered that driving around 65 will get me right at 15mpg, so I think I’ll slow down for the rest of the journey.

The trailer pulls fine as long as there is no wind and no bumps or turns.  Add any of those things, and that trailer gets unruly quick.  I’ll be looking for a different hitch set up in the morning to see if I can negate any of that.  Might look for some airbags too.

Truck and Trailer

Stopped for a supper at a place called “The Burger Claim“.  This place is outstanding!!  They buy their meat in steak form, they grind it themselves, and they make fries from actual potatoes just like 5 Guys Burgers and Fries.  They also give a 15% military discount.  Food was outstanding.  Not only are the burgers fresh and tasty, they used shotgun shell Christmas lights in the dining area.  Tacky… Check.   ‘Murica…  Check.

Shotty Lights

If any of our Washington military friends are looking for a short little family vacation, head down to the Great Wolf Lodge.  It is an indoor water park and “The Burger Claim” is right next door.  Or if y’all are driving from Seattle to Portland or vice versa, this place is pretty much dead center.

I am really worn out.  A lot of stress from today has really taken a toll on me.  That trailer getting twitch and swimming down the road took a lot to keep in my lane.  I really hope I can figure something out before we start crossing the mountains into Utah and Colorado.  I really don’t feel like killing anybody on the road in the next few days.

Thanks for reading.  If you want to get email updates when I post something new, please submit your email address on the right.

 

I Have to Tell Her

(Click here for the beginning of the story)

I just knew that I had to.

I also knew that I was a coward and that I would wait until that last minute to say anything at all.

So I committed to telling her before we left the little town she was living in.

I decided to drive from Camp Lejeune to Knoxville to go on a hay ride in the Smoky Mountains with a church group that fall.  I had been sending emails back and forth with Jessica for a couple months by this time and I was really enjoying my relationship with her.  The last time I was in Tennessee I heard about a hay ride through the mountains and Jessica asked if I was going to come back to town for that.

Of course not.  Why would I make an 8 hour drive on a random weekend, burning my vacation days, just to sit on a hay bale and ride around the mountains looking at the leaves.

“No… I don’t think I will be coming back for that.”

Her mouth said she understood but her eyes said she wanted me to be there.  My head knew it was a completely ridiculous thing to do, but my heart said I wanted to be there too.

During the month between my last trip in and the hay ride, some things started to change.  I started to feel a deep affection for this girl.  I started feeling a longing to know her and all her secrets.  The really scary thing was that I wanted her to know my secrets.

I did not know what was going on and I was afraid of making decisions that would affect the rest of my life based on silly emotions and heart flutters.  I spent some time with some friends of mine asking them a lot about relationships, affection, and the way a woman’s heart works.  By the end of my time with this couple I had a pretty good idea what I needed to do.

I took some vacation time and drove to Tennessee for a hay ride.  I know I know… But I wanted her.  In a very legitimate and honest way.  I wanted to have this girl in my life and if it cost me the last bit of cash I have in my account and some vacation time to have her then so be it.

The hay ride was awesome!

She was going to school in a little town called Cookeville.  Really pretty place.  I knew that I had to talk to her before we left her little college town or else I would have squandered the entire weekend.  I stopped by her dorm and picked her up.  I was driving an old Jeep at the time.  Big tires, big engine, loud… loud, loud, loud.  I was so intimidated by the task at hand that I stalled over and over again.  We went to a little Mexican joint to get a bite to eat, but I wasn’t hungry.  We went to a little play ground and sat on the swings.  It started to get late and I did not want to be on the road much past dark, so we started to head for the interstate.  As I was coming through the tight curve of the entrance ramp, I knew I was breaking my commitment to myself.

I looked over at Jessica and she was as peaceful as could be.  She really enjoyed riding in my Jeep.  The sun was just starting to set and the temperature was cool.  I jerked the Jeep to the side of the entrance ramp and pulled to stop in the grass.

I looked at her and then back to the front.  With one hand on the stick and my foot working the clutch, I said it.

“Jessica… I Love You.”

BAM!!  Slammed the gas pedal to the floor, dropped the clutch like a bad habbit and threw dirt and rocks all over the place as I shot down the entrance ramp and the interstate for the next 2 hours to Knoxville.  Usually the only thing I could hear on that ride was the sound of those giant knobby tires on the pavement.  This time all I could hear was my own heart pumping.  I felt so foolish.  I also felt really good.

The hay ride that weekend really was pretty amazing.  I sat next to Jessica and we had a really good time.  She was the first girl to whom I had ever spoken those words outside of my family.  While on the hay ride somebody else caught a candid picture of the two of us.  I think it captured the moment pretty well.

Hay Ride

She did not tell me she loved me on that trip.  When I dropped her off at the end of the weekend she actually took the time to make it clear to me that she could not tell me that she loved me.  I honestly did not care.  I loved her and I was convinced that she was going to be mine.

A month after this trip Jessica came to Camp Lejeune for the Marine Corps ball.  Is there anything more romantic than a room full of dress blues and choking Marines?  I think not.  After the ball we went down to the beach and went for a walk.  While listening to the gently crashing waves and holding her hand walking barefoot on Onslow beach, Jessica turned to me and said it.

“Michael… I Love You”

I do not remember what I said, but what shot through my mind was a simple, emphatic, “Of course you do…”

And that was that.  I took her back to the place she was staying, and then I went home.  I dreamed about my life and the way it was going to look in the years ahead.  I dreamed, but I did not sleep.

This is kind of the end of this part of the story.  Our entire dating relationship was a long distance relationship.  It moved pretty fast.  From the moment I saw her to the moment we were married was roughly 1 year.  We have been married for almost 10 years now.

I do not regret it a bit.

 

 

Why Did You Laugh?

(Click here for the beginning of the story)

I saw an image of Sarah standing around a corner when God told Abraham that he would be a father.

Sarah laughed.

I thought about me wearing a wedding ring and coming home to a wife after work.

I laughed.

Jessica and I had started sending emails back and forth.  It was a lot fun.  We talked about what we wanted out of the future, our plans, our dreams, and the things we enjoyed.  As time went on, we started talking about the things in our pasts, our missed opportunities, goals we let go of, and the stuff we have to do but that we really don’t like at all.

At some point she asked me about my faith and made some kind of comment about how she wished that she was more like me in that area.  That made me feel good, and instead of telling her the truth, I jumped at the opportunity to lead.

The truth was that I really was not mature in what I believed.  The truth was that the only time I really spent reading my Bible or Praying was when I was at the Bible Study on base.  The truth was that, other than the Bible Study, I spent maybe 1 day a week reading my Bible and 2 mornings praying at best.  The truth was that I was probably just as immature as she was.

The truth is she was carried away by my dashing good looks, winning personality, and could not resist a man in uniform.

The truth is…   I had no idea how to respond.

But I knew what the guys who were influencing me were doing.  They were reading a passage of the Bible with me, and then asking questions.  Easy Day!!

So in addition to our standard email traffic, Jessica and I started studying scripture from 500 miles apart.  I had no idea what I was actually teaching and had no vision for where I was leading, but it felt good, was fun, and brought me a little bit of joy.

After a couple months of this, I was sitting at my computer when I got this ridiculously crazy thought.

“Mike… It’s time for you to get married.”

I laughed about that.  Like a whirlwind I saw in my mind as though a movie were playing before me, a woman in a long white toga style dress, carrying a jug of water and a bunch of grapes, jump back behind a wall as she heard the men talking.  “What did he just say?  Did he say I was going to have a baby?  Funny…”  I guess when God communicates something, He does not particularly enjoy being discounted and then laughed at.

It felt like a glass of ice water running down my back as I contemplated the connection between that old story and what was happening in my life.  The implication was pretty overwhelming.

Did God realize to whom he was speaking?  I was a committed bachelor to the rapture.  I was not going to be slowed down by some woman.  I was going to live a wild and dangerous life, free from the burden of having to provide for and please a woman.  I just knew that my future had a lot of travel, a lot of living cheap, train hopping, hitch hiking, running from danger, eating questionable food, kind of elements in it.  Things that do not mix so well with a wife, and lets not even start talking about kids.

For me to get married would mean a complete loss, a total sacrifice of who I was and what I wanted out of life.

This all moved so fast I was left in a bit of a daze.  I left my barracks room and went for a walk.  That walk ranks among the most sobering walks I have taken.  While cruising down the jogging path along the water’s edge and between the command buildings, I presented what I believed to be a pretty iron clad reason why this was all a bunch of garbage that I had made up in my own little head.

I didn’t have a girlfriend.

I didn’t have any girl friends.

I didn’t have any girls who I felt would ever want to be my friend.

I had precious few friends…

So I said,

“If this is God telling me that it is time to get married, then who should I marry?”

Before I could really finish the thought, I immediately thought of 5 different girls.  I wanted to dismiss that too but remembered how I felt when I laughed after the first experience in this developing conversation.

This cannot be.  This is not how it works.  There is a man for a woman and a woman for a man, but not many possible matches for a woman or a man.  There is just the one out there.  I know this to be true because of my extensive background in the dogma and philosophy of Disney and chick flicks…  and the Bible… right?

Wrong.  I will not hijack my own post in order to start a treatise on the will of God, but suffice it to say that this conversation began a really great foray into that topic.

I had a lot of assumptions but no direction and no way to test any of these assumptions.  I was assuming that it was God speaking to me, that He wanted me to be married, and that He was giving me a choice between these 5 ladies.  I felt like I had nothing really at stake yet, so my bets were still safe.

“God… if this is really you speaking with me…  and this is really how this is supposed to go…  then I choose Jessica.  If you really are telling me it is time to be married and I can pick between any of these women, then I choose her.  If all that I have just said to You is true and accurate, then I ask You to affirm this decision by blessing the relationship and making it crystal clear that we are to be married.”

I figured if I was going to play a hand with God I might as well go all in.

I made my way back to my barracks room, got something to eat, and then went to hang out with the couple guys that I usually spent time with.

I told nobody about this conversation.

Nothing changed in my life.  It was like every other time that I thought I had communicated with God.  Big, exciting, encounter and then left waiting and watching… and watching…

      … and then I saw my life changing right before me.

 

(The final part of this story is here)

Road March to Groton

We hope to be wheels hot no later than 0800, 01APR2014, en route to Groton, CT.

We also hope to still be on speaking terms with each other, well rested, well fed, and excited to start the drive from one side of this great nation to the other.

And by we I am referring to my wife, my kids, and me.

I will be going to school for a little more than  year in Groton in order to become a Submarine IDC.  An IDC is an Independent Duty Corpsman.  A Corpsman is a beastly creature composed of the essential elements of power, strength, and intelligence with a side helping of awesome and gliding with a swagger which cannot be duplicated and inhabiting the nightmares of those who would do harm to the Marines and Sailors entrusted to their care.  We are a proud breed… maybe I should do a post dedicated simply to that…

Anyway, a Corpsman is a medical “jack of all trades” for the Navy and Marine Corps, most commonly filling the role of a combat medic or hospital nursing staff.  After I graduate from the school in Groton (If I graduate), I will be the sole medical provider for the crew of a Submarine.

Pumped… Yes

Intimidated… Absolutely

I am not sure if I am really mature enough to accept the responsibility of the health, the lives of so many men and women in such an austere environment.  Talk about a heavy burden of responsibility.

Sooo… between now and a little less than 2 months from now we have a lot to do and a very little amount of time to do it.  We need to get our household goods packed up, our house cleaned enough to pass a military cleanliness inspection, close up all the business like things we have going, resolve whatever local tasks are still outstanding, load up our cars, and then punch out.

We plan on Visiting family and friends in Portland, Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, Altus (Oklahoma), Dallas, Lake Charles (Louisiana), Knoxville, Jacksonville (North Carolina), Washington DC, a little town in Maryland, and then stopping in Groton.

I will try to put up a post and some pictures every couple days during the trip.

Until then…

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