Donny's Ramblings

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Things Are Looking Up

Since the last update (April 11th) things have taken a significant turn for the better.

After my release, I enrolled in classes. The CSU system didn’t recognize the accreditation of one of the schools I attended earlier in life, so I basically had to start all over. I’ve since obtained two degrees, and will begin an MBA program this fall. I did really well: I started at the community college level, from which I transferred with a 4.0 to the California State University (CSU) system. My grades were nearly as good at the CSU level (I had a few Bs – grrrr). One week from today, I start an 18-week continuing education program through UC Davis in a program directly related to my career field. Academics and I are really good friends and I look forward to all of this.

My desire to read the Bible has returned! Hooray! I kept begging God for that to happen, and it has. I am so excited to be able to share this. I have over 3,800 books in my Bible study library at the moment. Included in that count are numerous commentaries that I’ve never completely read. In a conversation years ago, Bill Giovannetti told me that his suggested approach to commentaries is to buy them one at a time and read them from cover-to-cover before buying the next. Like many of the things Bill has suggested to me, I didn’t do it that way. But that’s changing now. I love the Anchor-Yale Bible commentary series (which includes their own translation of the book being studied). I’ve begun with Genesis. Let’s see how long it takes me to get through all 454 pages. It’s meaty, and shouldn’t be read at the speed I’d read if doing so for pleasure.

Last week I helped my mother and step-father move to Arkansas from northern California. They drove their motor coach, pulling one of their vehicles. I followed in a pickup. The trip took 4 days in total, more than half of which was in the deserts of Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. Driving through the desert, I had long conversations with God. That was incredible. I feel spiritually refreshed.

I recently had to cut someone from my life who I love very much. The details are too painful to share. But I’ll say this: the experience has cause me to better understand why some have had to cut me out of their lives. It hasn’t been an easy thing for me to do, but it had to be done. I’m sure others feel the same way about me.

I’ve also been seeing both a counselor (which I’ve done from the beginning of my release) as well as a psychiatrist (a recent development). I’ve tried a few prescription drugs: Buspar, followed by Zoloft. I didn’t like the way Buspar made me feel. Zoloft has been fine so far. I’ve never previously been prescribed such drugs, and I’m really not sure how I feel about it yet. But I’m willing to try anything to help better myself. I’m also getting a lot of exercise. Yesterday, for example, I took a 31-mile bike ride along the shores of Lake Tahoe. Exercise is definitely good for my mental outlook.

I spend a lot of time sitting in peace and quiet in my home. It’s a sanctuary for me. I turn on classical music in the background, lightly playing, and immerse myself in work or study.

I really want a dog. My Mastiffs passed away, and my heart hasn’t been ready to replace them. I did quite a bit of dog sitting for others, but now I feel as if I’m finally ready to get another dog of my own. There’s nothing more loyal than a dog.

Not many read what I write anymore, but for those who do: I am happy to be able to give a positive update for once. Now back to Genesis…


Forever Apologizing

Last week I sent an email to a man I greatly respect, but who has really hurt my feelings. I asked him if he ever felt like a hypocrite, preaching grace while extending none to me. My feelings were hurt when he decided not to be my friend anymore. We had a conversation in which he agreed to chat from time to time, but that is a promise that has not yet materialized.

Logically, he has every reason to have made such a decision. Emotions are very powerful, however, and they don’t often care about logic. Emotions arise within me all the time.

I’ve been abandoned by so many people and face things that I wouldn’t wish upon an enemy. Most of the time, I deal with all of it in an acceptable way, and can move beyond the emotions that try to arise within. Sometimes I just don’t do so well with it, inside. Other times, emotions spill over into words I later regret having said or written.

I never stop daydreaming about a day when people decide to forgive and include me again. I really don’t think that’s ever going to happen, but I keep hoping for it. I do make efforts to look outside of myself. It’s not very difficult to see the way others must perceive me. I just don’t perceive myself the same way.

I write posts here, only to delete them because they seem so whiney. Whiners are hard to be around. I get it.

I wrote an apology to the person I emailed last week, but then didn’t send it. What is the point? In a matter of moments or days or hours I’ll likely feel the same way I felt when I wrote that email. And at this point, I don’t think he cares to hear my apology, anyway.

I don’t know how to stop this cycle. Counseling doesn’t seem to help. Praying doesn’t seem to help. I can’t pick up a Bible anymore, though I still feel close to God because He doesn’t abandon me. He has many ways of reminding me of that fact. I’m not sure why it’s not enough.

I often take things very personally, even though I know I shouldn’t, but as mentioned before, emotions are powerful, and I do so anyway. I continue to go to counseling, hoping the day will come when something clicks inside.

I don’t know how many people read what I write anymore, but if any reader has suggestions, I would love to hear them. You have no idea how nice it is to interact with other humans in a way that approaches normalcy. Most people take such things for granted. I no longer can do so. I value every “normal” conversation.

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I Didn’t Lose Friends. Friends Lost Me.

I used to speak. When I did, I’d tell people how much God loves the broken. I’d tell them how huge is the heart of the father, and how he has a special affection for those who need him most.

It was only very recently that I realized I need to tell myself this truth. I’m one of those broken he so deeply loves. I realized I was broken, long ago. But I forgot how much God loves me in my brokenness. I forgot that he’s right there to help, not to condemn. He understands me better than I can possibly understand myself. He is especially patient and incredibly loving to those who have hit rock bottom and are looking for help to stand back up.

Lately, life has been getting pretty good for me. I will always have issues. But with a little help from a few good friends, I have created for myself an environment of peace. Literally. Physically. It is in that location, my place of peace, that I’ve begun reconnecting with God. It’s not that I didn’t reach out to him before, but my mind has been distracted and I’ve been very angry with people. The anger is, of course, an expression of deep pain.

But that anger didn’t lead me away from God. I felt estranged for awhile, but I never lost faith in him or stopped speaking to him. Nor did I get angry with him. I just felt so disappointed in the people who have abandoned me that there have been times in which I felt God must also want to abandon me.

I still have a lot of disappointments. I lost Bill Giovannetti, for instance. He was a second father to me. And since there will never be anything that will ever make me turn my back on my son, it has been particularly painful that Bill has turned his back on me. I have heard his reasons. As always, Bill is quite capable when it comes to being able to express his opinions in ways that my brain can comprehend. My heart just doesn’t get it. It never will. He meant more to me than I meant to him. That’s on me. I once again put a human on a pedestal. I have a habit of doing that. Not with many people, but with some. It is in my nature to find heroes. Bill was one of them.

Bill’s not the only loss, of course. There have been many others. The road back to where I need to be has been a very lonely road. I’m not saying I’ve walked entirely alone. Yes, there are people who walk parts of it with me. They are appreciated more than ever. But this is a journey that most people cannot walk.

So many have left my life, but I have come to a realization: I didn’t lose them. They lost me. Humans are imperfect, and all of us will fall in some way. If my imperfections have led others to stop associating with me, it is truly a loss for those same people, as they won’t be around to witness the ways God can lead any person – even me – back to a state of grace and redemption. I’m heading back to where I’m intended to be, and recovery is always a beautiful thing. It moves our hearts. The Bible is full of comeback stories after miserable failures. Non-biblical literature is full of the same types of stories. Those I knew and loved could have been part of my journey. I would have welcomed the help, had it been extended. Their support would have made this recovery effort quite a bit easier. But with or without them, I’m going to continue in the right direction.

I have been. I am. I will be.

Does it hurt? Yes. Very much.

Is it tolerable. Yes, though I’d prefer not to have to tolerate it.

And what will I say if, as I rise, they return? Welcome back!

Welcome back. Thanks for returning. I’ve missed you. My brain can understand why you left, even if my heart never will. But both are joyous that you’re here again.

And if they don’t ever return? I’ll mourn the loss. I’ll miss them. I’ll wish. I’ll hope.

God loves the broken in a very special way. Realizing that, and experiencing his love in a new way, has made it all much easier.

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“That Summer” – Pure Hypocrisy

Having been raised all my life in a world of legalism, when I reached my teenage years and began critically thinking about things I’d been taught, I began to feel resentment.  I eventually followed that resentment down a path of rebellion.

I feel that same resentment now, from time to time. I won’t allow it to lead me to a loss of faith in God, however.  But I will admit I sometimes feel a loss of faith in his people. Before going on, I must say that my sins are forever in front of my face. I acknowledge them. I just feel enormously disappointed at the abandonment that has come along as one of the consequences of my actions. I want to believe in grace and redemption.  I know God offers it, but I really wish his people were also capable of the same. It sucks to be on this side of the fence.

I wish I could go back and change things.  I can’t. I want to let go of all that bad-gunky and move forward. Often times, I think I’m on the right path to do so. But then something random triggers a very negative reaction inside and I realize I still have much to work on.

The very latest trigger was a song by one of my favorite country music artists. Now I am going to ramble a bit and express how I feel inside at the moment (feelings which will undoubtedly change in a short amount of time).

Tonight on A&E a Garth Brook’s concert was aired.  As I type this, the concert continues.  As he sang the following song, the words of which I am about to share, the crowd screamed.  In the song, a teenaged boy is “taught” the ways of love by an adult female widow.  Here’s what I think about that song, which many of us have sung along with since it was first released in 1992.

I think it reveals a lot of hypocrisy.

Listeners celebrate a song in which a teenage boy is taught “the ways of love,” but those same listeners sent me to prison for a year and 11 months because a 16 year old female (whose own father said to me “I’d be proud to call you my son-in-law”) told investigators that the two of us were in a relationship.

If we resided in Nevada at the time, or in one of more than 30 other states in this country in which 16 years old is still the “age of consent,” I would not have to wear a despicable label or appear on a website that tells everyone where I live so that they can choose to seek me out in order to break my face or attempt to rape me (both of those things have happened to me). I would not have lost my entire business and livelihood.  My son would not have to be ashamed that his father is branded as a “sex offender.”

Crossing imaginary lines referred to as state boundaries somehow magically changes a person from being unable to choose who she’s in a relationship with into one who CAN make such choices. Beth was 16.  My grandmother married younger than that.  Most people personally know someone who married younger than that. So many people have said things to me such as, “Just a few decades ago nobody would have batted an eye at your situation.”

But these days we live in a world that loves to denounce people and find reasons to make others out to be horrible monsters, and once that type of judgement starts, it’s unrelenting.

“The People of the State of California” (along with many others, of course) demonized me, took my life as I knew it, nearly all of my friends abandoned me, my freedom was taken and to this day I remain painted as some monster because I loved a person with whom I spent most of my time and whom I cherished very, very much.

She exaggerated, which is common in such a situation. But let’s say you believe what was claimed.  If you are one of those who choose to believe the claim that we had a sexual relationship, please ponder this for a moment: in your own romantic relationships, what percentage of what goes on between you and the person you love is sexual in nature? In real life, doesn’t most of your relationship-reality involve non-sexual matters? Don’t you simply live life together, talk, laugh, argue, experience things, make plans and just… LIVE?

Do you think what happened between Beth and me was different than that?

It was not. We spent nearly 24 hours a day together, 7 days a week.  We talked.  We did homework.  We went places.  We ate things.  We cooked.  We drove.  We laughed.  We cried.  We acted goofy. We gave money to homeless people. We volunteered time feeding the homeless. We fostered animals.  We lived life.  We made plans.

Those of you who knew us back then knew a Beth who was happy and bubbly and full of life. She was loved.

Then one day around this same time of year I opened the browser on one of our computers and found out she was smoking marijuana with a 38 year old man, who was not me.  I found out she was going to the movies with him.  In jealous anger I said things to her that were very mean, I demeaned her, and I told her that she needed to move along.  She retaliated.  I ended up imprisoned.

I knew the laws of the State of California and am definitely not saying it was “alright” to have let down my guard as I did.  I am not saying concerns are invalid. I am not saying there should never have been a reckoning.

But I AM saying it’s hypocritical to sing along to a Garth Brooks song called “That Summer” and in the next breath say I am scum for loving an amazing, beautiful girl more than any other in my life. I am saying that the price has been paid and it’s time to let me live a normal life again. I am saying it is unnecessary to condescend to me and see me as less than human.

I’m not a danger to your daughters. Loving Beth was not a matter of an “age group” to me.  I wasn’t attracted to an age: I loved a PERSON with whom I spent a lot of time. When I wasn’t traveling or speaking, I was with her. I put a lot of time and effort and money and literal blood and sweat and tears into her life.  She was not related to me by blood but she mattered to me very, very much. I wanted to see her succeed in life beyond her wildest dreams.

I believed the lie that I was the only one who could make her life great and that I was the one who could best protect her from a dangerous world. I was wrong. I made a huge mistake.

“Friends” have abandoned me. My former-friend Bill, for example, preaches “max grace” from a pulpit but cannot find it within himself to extend grace to a “friend” who is “made an example of” by a world of changing whims, where what was okay yesterday is horrible today. I get it, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. It seems pretty darned hypocritical, from this perspective.

I find it interesting that Christians claim their life is founded on the Bible within whose pages one reads about Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was impregnated by the Holy Spirit at an age younger than Bethany.  Bethany was older than the virgin God himself chose to impregnate. The Bible is full of stories of men we think of as heroes, who married women younger than Bethany when they were older than I was.

But I’m a pariah?  I am a threat? Because “times are different now”?

I loved Beth.  I really did.  She exaggerated what happened between us and I chose not to fight what she decided to say, because she had her entire life ahead of her, and I had much less of mine remaining.  But those who choose to pretend I don’t exist because I loved her are, from my perspective, heartless and hypocritical.

A person does not have to agree with anything that happened in order to think critically and comprehend how I reached such a place. I have re-lived that time period over and over in my head, literally thousands of times. I see how the paths I took led to the place where things ended. It was not okay, but it makes sense how such a thing happened.  I had no business living as a single man raising two beautiful teenagers that had no blood relationship to me. It was an enormous mistake to spend every moment of my free time with one of them who kept telling me she was going to marry me one day.  I should have removed myself from that scenario.  But I didn’t.  At first I thought I was strong enough to resist any temptations that might arise, and then a point came where I no longer wanted to resist, but instead wished to find reasons to justify why it was okay to love a sixteen year old.

I could have made better choices in whom I chose to let my guard down and love.  I do not dispute that fact.

I could have guarded what I was given with more diligence.  Absolutely ZERO dispute.

I could have sought out help long before things went bad, to make sure my own insecurities, fed by the need to be needed, didn’t lead me to a place where I chose to fall in love with someone 24 years younger than me. No dispute.

I was wrong.  There is no disputing it.

None of that changes the hypocrisy of preaching grace, claiming to believe in grace, yet extending NO grace, largely influenced by the worry about what others would think if you did.

Here are the lyrics to Garth’s song.  Don’t tell me you’ve never sang along to it, repeatedly, as the crowds did tonight with smiles on their faces. That would likely be a lie. But when you next listen to it and sing along, realize Garth is describing a situation with many similarities to mine, and because he is a male, his listeners don’t think much was wrong with it (no matter what they might claim if directly asked). Change the genders, and the widower would be seen as a criminal and a threat to society. That is hypocrisy, my friends.

That Summer

I went to work for her that summer
A teenage kid so far from home
She was a lonely widow woman
Hell-bent to make it on her own
We were a thousand miles from nowhere
Wheat fields as far as I could see
Both needing somethin’ from each other
Not knowin’ yet what that might be

‘Til she came to me one evenin’
Hot cup of coffee and a smile
In a dress that I was certain
She hadn’t worn in quite a while
There was a difference in her laughter
There was a softness in her eyes
And on the air there was a hunger
Even a boy could recognize

She had a need to feel the thunder
To chase the lightnin’ from the sky
To watch a storm with all its wonder
Ragin’ in her lover’s eyes
She had to ride the heat of passion
Like a comet burnin’ bright
Rushin’ headlong in the wind, out where only dreams have been
Burnin’ both ends of the night

That summer wind was all around me
Nothin’ between us but the night
And when I told her that I’d never
She softly whispered, “That’s alright”
And then I watched her hands of leather
Turn to velvet in a touch
There’s never been another summer
When I have ever learned so much

We had a need to feel the thunder
To chase the lightnin’ from the sky
To watch a storm with all its wonder
Ragin’ in each others eyes
We had to ride the heat of passion
Like a comet burnin’ bright
Rushin’ headlong in the wind, out where only dreams have been
Burnin’ both ends of the night

I often think about that summer
The sweat, the moonlight and the lace
And I have rarely held another
When I haven’t seen her face
And every time I pass a wheat field
And watch it dancin’ with the wind
Although I know it isn’t real, I just can’t help but feel
Her hungry arms again

She had a need to feel the thunder
To chase the lightnin’ from the sky
To watch a storm with all its wonder
Ragin’ in her lover’s eyes
She had to ride the heat of passion
Like a comet burnin’ bright
Rushin’ headlong in the wind, out where only dreams have been
Burnin’ both ends of the night

Rushin’ headlong in the wind, out where only dreams have been
Burnin’ both ends of the night.


“You No Longer Have a Platform. You Never Will Again. You Need to Stay Small.”

Very recently, the words in the title of this post were spoken to me. They’re true. I know that. I think I’m okay with it. These days, I often hope for anonymity.

Today is supposed to be National Suicide Prevention Day.  September is supposed to be National Suicide Prevention Month.  An evangelical pastor named Jarrid Wilson, whom I never met, lost his life to suicide on Monday at age 30.  A lot of people are talking about it today.  In the hours before he took his life, a video shows him spending happy times with his young son. He also posted encouraging things to others.

In the words @levithepoet wrote on his Instagram post about Jarrid he mentioned that those of us who are dealing with depression shouldn’t feel that what we have to say can’t be stomached by others. If only he were correct.  The truth is that there are indeed areas in life that others just don’t want to hear about.

I wish those with whom I used to associate wanted to hear things from my perspective. I wish they wanted to understand how a person gets to the places to which he’s traveled.  Not to justify the bumpy road in any way, but to be understood.  Acceptance isn’t expected nor is it hoped for, but it would be nice to hear, “I see how that happened.  It was a huge mistake, but I still like you.  Come, eat at my table.”

Jarrid, I wonder if you ever felt as if all those who call themselves your friends were only there for you conditionally?  Did you wonder whether or not they’d be gone if they knew the things with which you were struggling? Did you feel unworthy of standing in front of people, being “looked up to” and yet knowing that you weren’t very well put together inside?

If so, I get it, Jarrid.

I may not have known Jarrid personally, but I now know depression and for once in my life I can understand why someone can, like him, post happy things and say nice things to people and be in video clips having a great time with his son and then, only hours later, be gone.

I know what it feels like to believe that the entire world would be glad if I left and that I’d actually be doing it a favor. I have no doubt that there are many people who agree.  Knowing that there are those who say, “I kinda wish you’d actually do that” definitely doesn’t help.

Sometimes, the only thing that has kept suicide from becoming my own reality is knowing that my son and my mother would be SO hurt and that I would let them down once again, in a totally unredeemable way. After all the other letdowns they’ve been put through by me, that which I’ve so often contemplated these days might be too much to bear, especially for my mother for whom I am her only living child. She has fought so, so hard for me.

My alienation is hers as well.

I just stay busy and envision a future in which I’m able to FEEL forgiven and redeemed and that somehow, miraculously, my friends become my friends again instead of pretending I don’t exist.  I’m really not sure why I want such “friends” back in my life: they liked me only because I stood on a stage and said things that moved them or forwarded their own agendas. Many of those same people who have abandoned me still post about unconditional love and grace. But it turns out that unconditional actually has conditions.  Psychologically, it’s probably the rejection that makes me wish to regain their acquaintance.

Jarrid, if you can hear somehow: I don’t need to know a single detail about your personal issues to tell you that I get it, man. Until I arrived at this place myself there was no way to comprehend it. Even when surrounded by the masses, there are just some really lonely places in the world where you feel everyone has abandoned you except a few.  But you don’t want to overwhelm those few who have remained, so you walk truly alone in a very busy world and don’t feel worthy to be a part of it. God doesn’t seem to be enough even though your intellect and training says he should be MORE than enough. Which, of course, makes you feel guilty for not feeling it deep inside.

I No Longer Have a Platform. I Never Will Again. I Need to Stay Small.  That’s okay.  I just wish small didn’t have to mean alone or abandoned or alienated or looked down on or living in fear for my life.  Humans seem to have a need to feel superior to others, which is often expressed through hatred and violence.  And while it has become increasingly unacceptable to discriminate against this group or that group, there exist certain groups of people our society feels are still okay to hate and treat as less-than-human.

And God’s church?  They, too think it’s okay to treat people in this group the same way the rest of the world treats people in this group.  In fact, in many ways, they’re worse.

In such a place, you can feel happy this hour and see nothing but darkness next hour. I know all about that darkness, Jarrid, and I’ll pray for your family. Maybe in some way the prayers of those who are in a similar place will have power. But Jarrid, if you’re now part of that great cloud of witnesses, could you please pray for me, too?

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Owning Difficult Things

It’s easy to judge people who wear certain labels, especially when those labels put them on publicly-accessible websites.  But sometimes choosing to do what’s easy is lazy and intellectually dishonest.  It’s easy to lump other people into a group and believe we know everything about them.  It’s easy to read a list of stereotypes and decide to apply those to an entire group, ignoring the individuality that’s inherent in all of us.

I dated a girl I should never have dated.  I believed she was capable of making that decision to date for herself.  I rationalized my decision.  I told myself that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was older than this person when she conceived the Son of God, whose father was God’s Holy Spirt.  I found many reasons why it was okay to date someone 24 years younger than me.

I was wrong to do this.  You might have very strong opinions about what I just told you.  You’d be right in having those opinions.  You might also extend grace and understanding to me.  That’s an appreciated position for you to take.

Others said I groomed her.  I rejected their opinions.  What I cannot reject, however, is her opinion.  She wanted me to listen to her perspective, so… I listened to her perspective.  She told me I groomed her.  When she gave her reasons for feeling that way, how could I possibly argue?  I could no longer do so.  My perspectives, which I’ve held for so many years, were instantly shattered.

I loved that girl.  I allowed myself to imagine a world in which we ended up married… in which we were happy and the criticisms of others didn’t overshadow that happiness.  It was an unreasonable daydream.  I didn’t mean any harm in entertaining those daydreams.  But I did overlook facts that should have mattered, which I chose to push aside.

It was a fairy tale, but reality is brutal. Reality is a world in which she felt like I’d left her no choice.  At the time, she valued my opinions, and none of the people she found interesting were “good enough” by my standards.  She felt I was her only option.  Why?  Because I said so by my actions.  So she began saying words to me that I wanted to believe were true.

Words such as, “He doesn’t compare to you…”  “I love you.”  “I want to marry you.”

And when the reckoning came, she found herself in a situation far too difficult to deal with from her place of inexperience.  She felt relief and guilt, sadness and anger.

Her guilt at sending me “on vacation” landed her on the streets.  She was raped.  She was trafficked.  She was impregnated. By whom?  She does not know.

Never in all of my life have I imagined how horrible life can be for another human.  She shared things my brain doesn’t know how to process.  Her experiences haunt me.  The wages of sin are so damned high, and those of us who owe that debt aren’t necessarily the only ones who have to pay it.

And you know what?  No matter what people say… those who want to make me feel better… I know it is




It really, truly is.  While many will deny that I could possibly have loved her, I assure you, I did love her.  I can’t stand communicating with her now, but I loved that brilliant person. That brilliant person is now an entirely different person than the one I knew just a few years ago.  The person who has taken up residence within her currently struggles from addictions she was driven to take up by my actions.  She vacillates between brilliant insightfulness and hazy incoherence.

Those on certain websites are easy to hate.  As I alluded to before, that’s a pathetic thing to do.  Humans are complicated.  It’s lazy to lump large groups of people into one category.  It’s inaccurate to say, “There is no treatment for that group of people.”  There is always treatment.  There is always a way to change.  You cannot deny this truth while proclaiming to believe Jesus died to save sinners, amongst whom I am in upper management.

I made some really stupid decisions.  Really, really stupid.  I chose not to pay attention to how many trips she’d taken around our closest star.  I saw potential and what she would become, and I believed she loved me.  I believed she had the building blocks for a life partnership the likes of which I’d never known.  I imagined how life would play out with a person I created in my head.

And you know what?






She wanted a father figure.  She did not want a romantic partner.  I knew better.  I really did.  I just convinced myself that what I knew with my intellect wasn’t as valid as what my heart wanted and what my imagination told me was possible.

My heart doesn’t want that anymore.

I’m lost.

She’s lost.

The wages of sin are way too high, and both of us have to pay my debt.  It’s my debt, and I find it seriously unfair that she’s forced to be a cosigner.

God, help us.



Psalm 51

You are a good God.  You bless me even when I don’t deserve it.  When I fail so greatly, you remain faithful.  You let me suffer for a season, and then you had mercy and ended it.  My life is so blessed, even though I don’t deserve it.  You’ve begun to restore.  You are an amazing, loving Father.  But still I pray:

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.


Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.


Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.


Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.


You’ve given me the intelligence to offer something of value.  You’ve given me much to steward, and I have taken it for granted.  You slapped me down to teach me, and for that I  really am thankful.  I never comprehended how good things were for me, and I likely don’t now.  But still you are faithful.  You discipline those you love.  That being the case, I  feel very loved right now.  I smile and laugh as I write that.  

Your discipline, however, is just.  And, God my God, you don’t leave anyone in despair.

You’ve even given grace to the few who have chosen to extend their hand to a man who doesn’t deserve it.  I don’t need many people in my life, but I do need some.  For so long I felt almost entirely abandoned.  And then, as I was about to throw in the towel, you brought others into my life to help.  You promised never to give those you love more than they can bear.  That applies to those with self-inflicted wounds.

You keep your promises.

For that I thank you, my Father.


“I Don’t Like You”

I drove up in front of her house yesterday morning.  I’d woken up a half hour before in the back seat of my car at a nearby rest area.  I’d been unsuccessfully trying to reach her for months, and decided to try apologizing again.  Maybe this time she’d let me do so.

Because she wanted to believe in me, she pushed aside the lies and rumors that swirled around me and looked through glass 49 different times at my shrinking face.  But we’d had just one telephone conversation since I last spoke to her in 2015, and that was only because she thought it might be someone else on the other end of the call she chose to accept.  Our glass-wall conversations had nevertheless been face-to-face, and I wanted to apologize to her face-to-face as well.  She has no idea how badly I feel.  I have carried the weight that is the debt I owe her for all of this time.  She’d say I owe her nothing.  I say I owe her so much more than even I can understand.

She was a very good friend to me at a time when I desperately needed one.  She went above and beyond.  She wanted to love me, and I wanted to love her, too.  I really did.  I just couldn’t.  George Strait says you can’t make a heart love somebody.  I tried to prove George Strait wrong, but George Strait is right.

My heart was taken by someone else.  It shouldn’t have been.  It wasn’t okay for it to be.  But it was, and she who owned it had broken it.  I’d pushed her into breaking it, and can’t blame her for doing so, but I wasn’t able to tell the person on the other side of the glass all of the things I wanted to tell her about the condition of my heart.  The circumstances wouldn’t allow it.  I tried to hint at it, but how could I possibly say things so that person on the other side of the glass could understand me, while those listening could not?  I didn’t see a way to do it.  Some of my hints were taken… wrong.  I was frustrated that I couldn’t express myself.  I couldn’t even write about it, because my letters had an audience that didn’t need to know the things I had to say.

Yesterday, when I saw her again, she called herself a bitch and said I wouldn’t like the person she really is…  and she tried to prove it by hurting me with her words.  I’m sure she even meant some of them, maybe all of them.  But I don’t think she understands that there’s nothing she could possibly say that would be worse than what I’ve heard from others.

She also said, “I’m a mom.  I have four girls.  I’m getting married again.  My man wouldn’t like you.  Good ol’ boys would…” she trailed off.  But “do harm to me,” was the implication.

But I’ve been down that road, too.

I mean, I guess good ol’ boys who walk free could, if they wished, do more than bash in my face and break my bones and try to sexually assault me — all things that have been done to me since I last spoke to her in person — I just doubt a free man would risk losing his freedom for such as me.

I got the point, though.

“Why aren’t you writing brilliant things?”

That was a change in tone.  I was confused by it.  It didn’t seem to be sarcastic.  I told her that I don’t write because I have nothing to say.  And if I had something to say, nobody would want to read it, anyway.  This new life… it’s a lonely world in which most won’t even return an email.  Facebook’s blocking feature gets a work out from those who used to know me.

It’s not possible to understand how I feel.  I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, but it seems I’m really good at hurting people.  And because I hurt someone I loved, I’m in a group that it’s still okay to hate, still okay to treat like pond scum.  Maybe that’s deserved.  Many would say it is indeed.  Yet I have a hard time with the way I’m esteemed.  Logically, I get it, but my heart sure doesn’t.

In my last life I spent nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with a person who became the world to me.  She needed me, desperately.  I’m drawn to that kind of need.  The docs say it’s a low-self-esteem issue at work within me.  They tell me that we got to the root of it.  I marvel that a lifetime of choices were influenced by things that seem so simple.  But humans are complicated, and the way we react to simple things isn’t always so simple.  I’ve heard it said that hurt people… hurt people.  I guess I’m a statistic to prove the saying correct.

It annoys me to write that last sentence.  It feels weak to write that last sentence.

But who am I kidding?  Nobody gives a rat’s derrière whether or not I’m annoyed at such things.

The drama machine said a lot of things I became too tired and broken to argue against.  Nobody wanted to hear the truth, and it would have been a waste of effort and words to try to share it.

But I can tell you this, dear reader, and if you want to believe something true you should believe this:

She whom I loved [still love] was the sweetest person I’ve ever met in my life.  She had so much potential.  She had lived a life in which she’d been forced to keep her pain silent or face undeserved shame, ridicule, terror…  (terror is the right word for it).  It had taken years to break that terror down into something smaller and less scary.  I’d seen someone who had been verbally and emotionally pounded into a state of timidity, and I’d helped that timid little mouse emerge into something full of hope for the future.  I played a big part in that transformation, and it moved my heart and made me feel useful.

I loved.  My love was labeled manipulation.  How can that be?  I didn’t feel like I was manipulating.  I felt like I was head-over-heels for someone I wanted to marry, and I wanted to give her “happily ever after.”  I’ve been shown tables and statistics, and the writings of smart head-doctors have been shared with me.  I’m not stupid, and I really want to accept what those smart docs say, but I just don’t feel it.  What I feel inside is much different than what the words describe.

Lots of people saw the man who stood on a stage and traveled the world and said things that moved people and was interviewed by cameras with big shiny bright lights, and they thought that guy was great.  A handful of women wanted to date that guy.  A handful of women wanted to marry that guy.  “That guy” was annoyed because he knew “that guy” was not what those women thought he was.  But she whom I loved [still love] saw the person who farted too much and ate too much and weighed too much and picked his nose almost constantly.  And yet she still said wanted to marry him.  She said so repeatedly, and I wanted very much to believe she meant what she said.  Some would say she didn’t know what she wanted, that she couldn’t know what she wanted.  I think they underestimate her.  Someone who has been through the things she’s been through has lots of issues, but it’s my opinion that when she consistently says what she wants for months and years, it just might be possible that she knows what she wants.  But just in case, I planned to give her a very long time to change her opinion:  I told her it would be eight years, to be exact, from the day when she started calling me her boyfriend until the day she could marry me if she still wanted to do so at that time.  She needed to get her degree and face the temptations of college before I’d be satisfied that she really wanted to be with me for life.

For a long time I’d placed a wall up to keep my emotions from going to where they should not go.  One conversation with her dad, in which he told me that he would be proud to call me his son-in-law, tore those walls down to rubble.  When the walls fell, in flooded a rush of complicated feelings and emotions that I’ll never be able to explain to anyone who isn’t trying very hard to understand.  A person would have to want to try to understand in order to even get close.  I’m not a stupid man.  I knew how it would look.  I decided she was worth the risk.  I am not justifying the choices I made.  My choices were wrong.  The facts of what actually happened aren’t anywhere near what was claimed by the gossip-loving circus of people who spread “fake news,” but what really happened was still wrong.  Still wrong.  Still very, very wrong.  I knew better.

To me, she whom I loved [love] wasn’t defined by the number of trips she’d made around the sun.  She was the one who had moved my heart with her tears.  She had moved my heart with the strength I witnessed beneath the layers of weakness behind which she had hidden for so long.  She had opened up to me, and none other.  I was flattered by that.  I, too, was a person in hiding:  I hid under false confidence, which covered extreme self-esteem issues.  She showed me what was under her façade and I showed her what was under mine, and we still wanted to hang out with nobody else.  I wanted to believe her when she said she was going to marry me someday.  Others try to convince me she didn’t know what she was talking about.  Sometimes they almost succeed.   Sometimes I’m not sure.  Sometimes I want to eat a bullet because it hurts to think about it all.  I never had an appetite for bullets before this happened, yet now I am much closer to understanding those who’ve consumed them.

I don’t “write brilliant things” because nobody wants to hear what I have to say.  Nobody wants to deal with what I have to say.  It’s definitely not comfortable to read what I have to say.

I see a lot of things differently now.  I wanted to explain some of those things to the one who had on 49 occasions been separated from me only by a piece of glass.

“What do you want?” she’d asked.

I spent a large amount of clock-ticks thinking about matters relating to her.  I wanted to express them to her and I wanted to try to find words that would express the apology that burns inside me.  I didn’t find those words when I finally saw her face-to-face again.  Instead, I saw a person who was so disgusted that for a brief period of our conversation she felt the need to protect herself by making sure the buttons of her shirt were done up to her neck, so that the nearby pond-scum didn’t see anything he shouldn’t see.

I understand why so many think such reactions to my presence are warranted, but you can also believe this is true:  I wouldn’t have even noticed the unfastened buttons if such an effort wasn’t made to fasten them.  I wasn’t there to look at cleavage.  I was there to express remorse and apologize.  A lot of assumptions go along with the label I now carry.  Those assumptions are disgustingly incorrect.

This new life has very little joy.  I wish I could tell others how to avoid a life like this, but the audience, like Elvis, has left the building.


“He’s so smart, Jenny. You’d be so proud of him. I am. He, uh, wrote a letter, and he says I can’t read it. I’m not supposed to, so I’ll leave it here for you. Jenny, I don’t know if Momma was right or if, if it’s Lieutenant Dan. I don’t know if we have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happenin’ at the same time.”

– Forest Gump






Still A Mess

I’ve never let go of my faith, but I’m such a mess. Life is so different now. There is very little joy in it.

I would give just about anything for the opportunity to speak in person to “B,” telling her all that is on my heart. I never meant to cause her pain. It kills me to hear what her life has become. No matter what ignorant people have to say about the matter, I love her deeply. That’s not written in “past tense” because it is still true. I am certain it would be healing for both of us to talk to each other.

God forgives, I know, but it is difficult to forgive yourself when you’ve hurt those you love. I’ve counseled people on this very thing. I’ve told men that God gives us a big, beautifully wrapped gift called forgiveness. When we can’t forgive ourselves it is like pushing his gift back at him and telling him it isn’t good enough. My mind gets that, but my heart still has problems accepting it. I have hurt many people. Most hurt was the little lady who I had made my entire world. She really was my entire world, but I wish I’d made better choices when it comes to how I expressed it. I was put in her life for a reason, but I failed to fulfill the role I was meant to fill.

I hope someday she decides to forgive me. I hope someday I can stand face to face with her again and express to her… all that needs to be expressed.

Until then, all I can do is pray and put everything in God’s hands. I do that daily.

But it’s frustrating.

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A Walk to Remember

My “Walk to Remember” was intended to be a bike ride.


As I’ve mentioned before – many times – I’ve lost quite a bit of weight, going from 300 lbs down to 170-something:

Donny Pauling - Before and After Pic

The “before” and “after” pic. I went from 300 lbs to 170-something pounds.

For the most part, I lost the weight by walking and jogging.  Today, I decided to also incorporate biking into my exercise regime.  I intended to ride my bike along a 19 mile section of the Sacramento River trail, between Caldwell Park and Shasta Dam.

The first 11.2 miles were great.  There were challenges, for sure, but I was up for them, and it made me proud to be able to climb Heartrate Hill, which is a notoriously challenging climb.

Other climbs were nearly as difficult, especially after I’d been riding for awhile.  I decided not to hurry.  I wanted to stop and enjoy the scenery, and to take photos.



Along the Sacramento Trail, between Keswick Dam and Shasta Dam

Here’s where things changed:


I took that screenshot right after my tire went flat:


I was already 11.2 miles into the ride and in the middle of nowhere. At the least, I faced a 9 mile walk to Shasta Dam, or I could go back 11.2 miles along the path I’d already traveled.

I decided I still wanted to reach Shasta Dam, even though I now had to walk and push a bike along.

The views made it all worth it.











After 9 miles, pushing a bike along the Sacramento River Trail and up the steep road to the top of Shasta Dam, I finally made it to Shasta Lake City, where I caught a bus home.


Between the Bike Ride and the walking, I put in 20.45 miles today, and burned more than 1,500 calories.