the cumulative effect

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the cumulative effect

I used to be a pretty avid kayaker until an underwater concussion knocked the interest out of me. I’d arrive at church with my boat in the back of my truck and take off for the Ocoee right after services most Sundays. At least once a year we’d go camping and paddling 2 or 3 days in a row, even in colder weather. There was always a moment of harsh reality on those trips gearing up for the 2nd or 3rd morning. The already-wet wetsuit. You’d slip it on and instantly feel your body reject it at the molecular level. Really, Kevin? Is this what we’re putting on us?

That’s how I feel every morning now. There is that moment’s hesitation when sleep-magic erases all that’s wrong in your life–you’re no longer divorced or fired or old or worried about the mortgage or whatever ails you. You’re simply aware that it’s morning and a new day. Then the door of reality bangs shut and you realize. I can feel my clothes staring at me from the chair by the bed. They aren’t smiling. The little peaks of “clean somewhere” don’t seem to have the same effect. There seems to be a cumulative effect mounting from all the tiny errors of too much/not enough soap in the right or wrong places in my clothes. They feel thin and lifeless. And I think I can smell my socks, even though I’m wearing boots. In theory, they should be my cleanest article of clothing at the moment. I have become a delight on day 15 out of 46.

But none of that matters, really. This isn’t my real life; it’s just an experience. I don’t have to try to find a job. I don’t carry the mental weight of wondering if people “can tell.” The fact that I tore the pocket on my shirt or walked into a door while I was carrying an open Sharpie (idiot) and underlined a button will just be amusing anecdotes to remember warmly. It could be worse. It could be real.

My interaction with others has become more genuine, which is nice. Most of the “hey, stinky” jokes have subsided, though I did just hear that a youth mom declined to sign up for our camping trip in April when she realized I would still be in this condition (+3 weeks). In general I’ve been having some great conversations about what it could really be like to be like this. They do usually end with “I still can’t believe you’re doing this,” but that’s fine.

Britta and I are going on a date tonight, which amuses me about six different ways.



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About Author

kevin alton

I am a UMC youth worker, worship leader, writer, husband, father and friend. I am the Tall One at the YouthWorker Circuit, a Wesleyan youth ministry resource I started with my buddy Gavin (the Short One). I enjoy finding community and conversation with other youth workers (& more) through Facebook, Twitter (@elvisfreakshow) and as a part of leadership for Youthworker Movement, a national organization of Wesleyan youth workers. I live in the Chattanooga area with my wife, Britta, and our two boys, Grey and Penner.


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