First Draft Disclaimer: Most of this is a rough first draft. I haven’t paid much attention to crafting each sentence, spelling, grammar, etc – I’m just getting the ideas down, the polish will happen in a phase between this, and publication. Take it all with a grain of salt.
“Despite all my rage, I’m still just a rat in a cage”
– Billy Corgan
settle a dispute by mutual concession.”in the end we compromised and deferred the issue”
accept standards that are lower than is desirable.”we were not prepared to compromise on safety”weaken (a reputation or principle) by accepting standards that are lower than is desirable.”commercial pressures could compromise safety”
bring into disrepute or danger by indiscreet, foolish, or reckless behavior.”situations in which his troops could be compromised”, to cause to become vulnerable or function less effectively.”yo-yo dieting can compromise your immune system”
Dear reader, I am about to shit all over the term “compromise”. Let’s be clear – I am a believer in cooperation. Just look at the word and take it apart: Co – operation. That’s a beautiful thing.
To “accept standards that are lower than desirable”, to “cause to become vulnerable or function less effectively” is not.
Yes, this is a book about naked ladies, but really – it’s a book about compromise.
I’ve gone to painful lengths to pursue my calling. There are countless times I’ve taken pause and inventory about what’s going on in my life. The ultimate question is always:
Is love, or fear, fueling this?
It took me many years to understand how to ask the question, let alone, be aware of it’s existence.
I’ve been dogged in my pursuit of my purpose. I am well aware that some people praise me, some condemn me for it. My life is anything but black and white.
Here is a quick synopsis of the unhealthy compromises I’ve made that have led me to a place of no compromise:
- “The Grey Ghost”: when I turned 16, my Dad gave me his primer grey 1974 Ford Gran Torino. It was not pretty and I did not care. It ran well and it served me well. (Cars have never been anything other than a tool for me. If it gets the job done effectively, I’m happy. I realize that in most other areas of society, a car is a status symbol. Nowhere was that more true than in the neighborhood Mireesa lived in, the Cliffside Neighborhood – the most affluent part of town, home to upper middle class and all levels of upper class society, including all of the ideas they have about themselves, their property, and what it says about them. During our highschool days, I would spent lots of time at Mireesa’s house. The Grey Ghost would be parked on the curb of her parent’s home, neighbor to multi million dollar homes. One day I was informed that the neighbors had complained about my car and that it was decreasing their property value. I was asked to not bring it up there anymore. In other words – my worst fears had become realized – I was told that the best I could do was not good enough. My socioeconomic status, something that was dictated by my father’s handicap – was now an impediment to the thing we all want – to love, and be loved. If I was going to come visit Mireesa, I would have to ride my bicycle. The Cliffisde neighborhood was a few miles away, and sat perched atop the bench area of the valley, along with only one way to get there: a hill so long, and so steep, it was almost unthinkable to ride my bike there. Rather than protest the idea, I bowed my head and said “yes”. It was outside the realm of my imagination to take a stand for myself and / or find love in a different time, place, and person that understood and accepted me. I would arrive at her house hot, sweaty, exhausted- and in short – in no condition to be lovey-dovey-snuggly, which was the whole point of spending time together.
***** insert pic of Grey Ghost, scan print from photo album *****
- Doctor Jensen: Around age 16, while sitting in my thinking spot (the same one I described in my story about the little voice, the vision, and my engagement to Mireesa), I became very clear about one part of my life: I am here to leave a very large ripple for good in the world. I thought about the ways I could possibly accomplish it. At that point in my life, I had a couple of teachers (music and seminary) who had made a massive difference in my life. I contemplated the arithmetic of their careers – these guys had a couple of hundred students per year, and over the course of a career, they could influence thousands! Perhaps I could do likewise. (side note: it’s fascinating to think about how much things have changed. Let’s say a teacher had meaningful access to 200 students per year. Over the course of a 30 year career, that’s 6,000 students who could possibly be influenced. At the time of the writing of this book, I have over 20,000 people who follow me on various social media channels, and untold numbers who heave heard my voice via podcasting and radio broadcasts – something that was literally unthinkable to me back then – and – I’m still in the early phase of my growth curve). I felt completely in alignment and enthused with my plan to impact the world by being an educator. One day, her parents sat her down and said, “We really like Paul. He’s a nice guy. We also know you won’t be happy unless you are married to someone who is more ambitious (ie, makes more money than a teacher would. Ambition = money in their world). If you keep dating, you’ll fall more in love and get married, and some day you’ll be miserable, we think you should break up.” It’s interesting to note that her parents were in marriage therapy almost constantly. Her dad had a very well paying job in sales management – but what he really wanted was to be a high school teacher. It’s pretty easy to see the shadows of his forsaken dreams being projected out onto me. I was submissive enough, insecure enough, to just take it. To this day, I cannot figure out why I was so needy of love as a teenager. My parents loved me, they were good to me. At any rate, I was a needy motherfucker and that neediness created a fog which I could not see through. For fear of losing the girl I loved, and feared would be the only one who would ever love me – I went back to the drawing board of my life, defeated and invalidated. I poured over what career I could do that was still in alignment with my purpose and interests, that would make more money. I decided that after my mission, I would go to school for psychology and become a psychologist. ‘Ah, yes…. Doctor Jensen, that has a nice ring to it’, …. And soon I was back in the good graces of Mireesa’s family – and therefore – her (a pattern of parental permission that would never change) While I don’t view this as a detrimental “compromise”, it does set the stage for other much bigger and destructive compromises that would show up in coming years.
- Decision to get married quickly instead of hold off to gauge whether or not relationship conditions would be favorable. Fear of loss.
- Quitting the band to keep Mireesa happy. Bad, bad, bad idea. So many bads. All of the bads. I cannot emphasize enough what a terrible, self betraying, cowardly idea this was. I know some of you may want to nurse my wounds and say, “but look, it gave birth to your photography career”. No. That’s an incorrect assessment. I could have (and probably would have) taken up photography anyway as a hobby along with music.
- When we were first married, I had a good job in middle management as a trainer and quality control coach at a call center. The pay was good and we had health insurance. There was a period of time where our team was given a ton of overtime work and extra projects to get done. One of the curses of being on salary is that you just have to get the work done, no matter how long it does or doesn’t take. Time clocks aren’t a thing. One day Mireesa and I had finished up a therapy appointment. The topic was her body image issues and the trouble it was causing in our marriage. Our therapist encouraged us to buy a weight set for our home so that she could do some basic resistance training at home and get started on some meaningful lifestyle changes that would benefit everyone. She really wanted to go buy something afterward. Part of being on salary meant lunch breaks could be stretched at times. I took that liberty with her to go shopping for a weight set. Could it have waited till that night? Or the weekend? Yes, obviously. I was so anxious to appease her, I stretched some boundaries at work to shop with her. Upon returning, I found my manager rather perturbed at my extended absence. We had a tense talk about it, and I got on with life. Many months later, we had a new manager. We were still in the thick of the heavy work load. Mireesa and Makinley had been in Seattle for the week visiting her parents. We had been fighting (as usual) but had reached some kind of peaceful agreement while she was gone. When she got home, I wanted to take some time to spend with her and Makinley. That meant cutting a 12 hour work day down to a 7 hour day on a Friday. I knew it was pushing things a bit t work, but I had been working so hard and I felt that I deserved a small break. Not only that, I was super anxious to keep the peace with Mireesa. I checked in with my manager about the plan to leave at a decent hour one night. He approved it. The next day I came to work and found myself fired. He took advantage of the situation to get rid of me – and apparently the “weight shopping incident” had been documented and used against me. I’m not going to blame my managers for this – we were all doing what we thought we had to do to keep peace in our respective lives. It took a while for me to be honest and clear but I knew that taking those breaks from work was a bad idea. My spider sense knew it, and I did it anyway because the threat of another all out war with Mireesa was looming. My modus operandi was to appease her at any cost – and eventually I would understand how costly that would become. Needless to say, losing that job was a real blow to our little family. Nothing was the same after that. She compounded the situation by heaping her insecurities and fear and blame on me. The added stress from her made job searching even harder. It was another iteration of a truth about her – she had no idea how to take responsibility for her own emotions. A truth about me: I had no idea how to responsibly stay focused on my own.
- When Mireesa would get angry enough, she would threaten divorce as a way to get leverage in a disagreement. Our first marriage therapist (we had 3 of them), explained that this was emotional abuse and it would no longer be tolerate. “The next time one of you uses the “D” word (divorce), you WILL get out the yellow pages and call an attorney to get the process started. Period.” For some time, she was very good about this. Conversation never went there. At some point a few years later, in a fit of anger, she invoked the D-word. I was forced to make an awful choice: a) abide by Dr. Anderson’s instructions – call a divorce attorney and begin packing up? b) Nobody is perfect, she just slipped up, surely I don’t want to ruin our family over one little phrase used in a stressful moment. I looked at my beautiful little girls and could hardly fathom splitting up our family over a sound that came out of her in a moment of anger. Surely there must be room for forgiveness in a relationship, right? As Dr. Phil wisely observed, “You teach people how to treat you”. I “forgave” her (is that even an appropriate use of the word, given the avalanche of human destruction that it unleashed?) And soon, the D-word was making increasingly frequent appearances in our arguments. This time, the verbal abuse cut deeper.
- The final compromise: While I was in school for psychology, I began discovering a new thing that I was really good at – behavior analysis. After a very slow and painful start, I took flight in the psychology department. In a nearly unprecedented step- I accepted a position as Dr Carl Cheney’s teaching assistant as a junior. This was a position normally reserved for graduate students. I was doing graduate level research projects, I supervised the rat lab and pigeon animal research labs, I graded papers, I had office hours for students to come in for help… we were beginning the process of looking at graduate programs around the country. My mentor, Dr Cheney, was renowned in the field. I could not have asked for more fertile ground to grow in as an up and coming psychologist.[ppp_patron_only level=”5″ silent=”no”] During this time, I stumbled upon some principles of psychology / social conditioning / etc that put major fractures in my faith. **** may be worth a chapter to share those epiphanies **** I shared what I was learning and thinking about with Mireesa. “If you don’t stop asking those questions, we will get a divorce.” She held my intellectual honesty hostage with my daughters, she put me in spiritual check-mate. My questions about my faith were just that – questions – one thing I had no questions about, is that I did not want to lose my family. I took a semester off of school to do some re-evaluating of my career path and the major questions I was wrestling with. I knew that if I kept pursuing my psychology career, it would likely lead to a total loss of faith on my part. Dr Cheney could see me wrestling with the iceberg, I, only being aware of the tip of it. He was a wise old man. Nevertheless, I took a semester off. Mireesa’s family descended on me in a most condescending way, lobbing the most disgusting, passive aggressive attacks on my mind, heart, and integrity. Mireesa’s mother had the nerve to suggest that I go back to school to become a Seminary teacher. The irony of this was unspeakable. Nevertheless – I enrolled in classes at the LDS Institute of Religion. I bowed my head and said ‘yes’, submitting to a kind of soul fuckery that I’ve vowed to never tolerate again. During one of the classes, our instructor told us about the hiring process that the church used. It involved a number of interviews with the highest authorities of the church – not just me, but my wife, too. Individually and as a couple. My teacher explained: “Your job is to bring The Spirit with you to class every day. Those kids deserve that. If you have a contentious marriage and bring that energy with you to work, you will be shortchanging the kids of the opportunity to have The Spirit that day. They want to know that you’ve got a good marriage.” Even at our very best, we had a contentious marriage. Mireesa comes from a long line of argument, bitchy women. My heart sank into the lowest part of my gut as he spoke those words. I knew that I’d never be able to work for the Church Educational System. I picked up my things, left the class room, and never looked back. I didn’t even bother to withdraw from the classes. There was no way I could explain to her that SHE was the reason I could never have that career. I walked quietly – terrified, desperate, depressed, and alone, into an abyss of utter uncertainty. I had nothing left.
- Accepting a job as a photographer and upcoming partner at Mackley Designer Portraiture: Though on one hand I was honored at the opportunity, I was also existentially deflated at the thought that my working days would be played out taking dumb pictures of birthday parties and puppies for rich people – nothing that really mattered. It felt so vacuous, but I had nothing left. Thus, Plan B photography.
I share these experiences not to blame Mireesa – but to open a door on the kinds of compromises that are both the chicken and the egg of relationship failure. At each point, I had the opportunity to stand in integrity to myself and let the chips fall where they may. I was slave to my fear, and these are the results. If you have experienced anything like this before, now you know that you are not alone. And thus we see the beginning of the fulfillment of my vision – pain and suffering, the likes of which I have never known.