Fool on a Tightrope
The Secret Life of a Fool
Worthy Book Publishers
March 11, 2012
224 pp., $9.24
Editor's note: Andrew Palau is one of international evangelist Luis Palau's four sons. After spending his youth and much of young adulthood in rebellion against his father's Christianity, and surviving a close brush with death in a Jamaican plane crash, Andrew experienced a dramatic turnaround and committed his life to God. Today, he works for his father's Palau Association, alongside two of his brothers.
After [the University of Oregon] and my European excursions, I moved to Boston to pursue a career in retail. I chose Boston for several reasons, but mainly because it was on the other side of the country. It was time for a new path. My lifestyle transitioned into a grown-up version of my junior high self. No, I didn't continue experimenting with gasoline and fire and handmade bombs. The experimentation was different, though equally flammable.
Outwardly I was doing "OK." I had my university degree and lived in one of the premier American cities working my way up the corporate ladder. I maintained my self-centeredness and self-gratifying relationships. Though I dialed the partying and drug life back a bit, I still lived as if God did not exist.
I was no longer a boy in college able to contrive excuses for my carousing. I was a man who chose to walk away from God. Far worse. Now, I was grown up, but still obstinate. I kept my life together and managed to stay out of jail and real rock bottom, for the most part … outwardly anyway.
My internal narrative read much differently.
As time passed I began to recognize the emptiness in my life. I began to feel a real sense of loneliness even though I had a great family and I had all the friends in the world. I was the ironic soul who stands surrounded by people, yet inwardly carries the burden of despair. Something was missing. What am I doing with my life? I thought.
This question vexed me. Even though I wanted everybody to think I was doing great my inward existence seemed futile and embarrassing. Working up the corporate ladder was a farfetched statement. Reality? I was trying to make my way in life, doing the best I could. But despondency sank into me like a subtle virus—it latched on and infected other areas of my life.
But was I so surprised?
I had built my life on structures of glass—gleaming and sparkly but easily shattered with a pebble. I was trapped by all the things I had done in the past. The things that started out as "fun" and exciting" now contributed to my unraveling. I could choose dozens of examples of how things began to unravel, but I'll stick with one: alcohol.
I abused it in this way. At first I drank for fun, for social reasons, but in the end it was a trap. Anxiety was one of the primary reasons I began abusing alcohol. I couldn't go to bed at night sober with my thoughts. Whenever I found myself in that position, sober, lying in my bed, in the darkness of the night, all the garbage of my life flooded my mind and my heart. I'd restlessly lay there and think about all the people I'd hurt and all the lies I told and all of my cheating and my stealing and the abusive relationships and all of my addictions, my arrogance and my pride and so much more would flood in.
I was like a prisoner caged in my thoughts, the guilt pressing in on me, overwhelming my spirit. I could not take it.
So, to avoid that situation I found people to party with every night of the week, which wasn't too hard. But sometimes I couldn't find anyone so I'd end up riding the train to the bus to my apartment and sitting alone, on my couch, drinking beers watching baseball into the wee hours of the night. On the east coast you can watch the west coast baseball games late into the night until one or two in the morning. Eventually I would pass out on the couch and the TV would "sign off for the broadcast day." No 24-hour cable TV back then. The screen would turn to fuzz. I'd wake up, turn it off, crawl into bed, hear the alarm, get up and go to work in the morning. Then out partying. On and on it went. I wondered if, at some point, I would turn to fuzz and be shut off.