Saturday, July 30, 2011

Roland

Roland Deschain, last Gunslinger of Gilead.

Steady, unwavering.  Skilled, of few words.

Susannah Holmes will say that he is a hard man to love. But I think I've always disagreed with her, though I've understood her heart.  I find Roland to be a hard man to like, but never a hard man to love.

He is a hard man sometimes... carrying out acts that would get him put to death in my world.  Yet I know that he doesn't commit them because he is a bad man.  He commits them because he isn't.  Because to accomplish a greater good, he has to do the hard things.  The hard things make me want to not like him, and sometimes I don't. But, Roland has taught me that you can love things and people you don't always like.  Love him, I do. And maybe it is doing the hard things when they must be done that makes Roland a great man, and one I have to respect.

Even when I want to close my eyes to the things I know he will choose... I love him.

Maybe it's just ka.  Maybe, in this way... I, too, am a part of the ka-tet, and I, too, get to participate in the adventure and the quest.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

At the Water

I watched my feet as I made my way across the rocks to the water's edge. My toes curled around the damp stones as I fought for balance.

We had come here often.  We'd bring a blanket and snuggle up underneath that little overhang.  The grooves in the rock were just big enough and the wind had carved out a loveseat, like it was a place made just for the two of us.  The water was sometimes cool and calm, the wind just tickling the hair back from my ears. Some nights, we'd come for storms, and he would laugh as I held him just a little tighter when the lightning would flash.  But I think he liked feeling strong. I liked it, too.

But this time, it is alone that I have come to our place at the water.  It is alone that I have settled into our grooves in the rock. It is alone that I've wrapped a blanket around my shoulders and looked across the water at our views.

He is gone now, leaving me alone to do all the things we once did together.

When the lightning flashed, I wept.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Disillusionment

This is going to be a long one, folks.  And to save you time, it's also going to revolve heavily around that PBS Celtic group I like.  So, if you're not interested in them, come back tomorrow and I'll have something different!  :)

To some of you, I'm just going to apologize now.  I've waited a few months to write what I'm about to say. I was never sure if there would be a right time to tell it, and I'm not really sure if now is the right time to tell it, either. I know it might make you mad at me or just sad. I know where your love lies.  And, to be honest, it makes me sad, too. This is my story.  I do not claim impartiality and I'm not asking anyone to feel the same way I do.  I'm just asking to be able to tell it, and hope that you can understand.

I've been a fan for a very very long time, part of that early set of old pubbers.  I say that not to set ourselves apart (the dichotomy between fan sets makes me just a trifle insane... you buy merchandise of any kind, you're a fan, end of story), but just to illustrate that I've had a lot of time to care. I care that George spends so much time away from his wife and daughter. I care whether Paul has a successful first solo tour or not.  I care how Damian does on The Glee Project.  I care that Keith's CD has been "about to be released" for an obscene number of moons. And I care that Ryan has apparently lost his mind.

I first saw CT in early 2008.  February, maybe?  Early March?  I know it was before St Patrick's Day, but can't remember how far ahead of the holiday. We flipped channels somewhere in the middle of Heartland, and I was enthralled by those black coats and the voices coming from them. I didn't have a favorite that day, but I was particularly taken with the theatricality of That's A Woman... so my favorites initially vacillated between Paul and Ryan. It was when I discovered the group's chatroom that I quickly picked a favorite. Ryan was just nice... He came across as just a bit naive, humble, nerdily funny, and mostly, kind.  He was someone I felt I could feel good about supporting.  And I threw myself into it.  For three years.  Why?  Talent, sure... nice guy, sure... but mostly because he told me we were friends and I wanted to see him succeed.

For me, things started feeling off a little over a year ago.  Maybe it's inevitable when you have people telling you that you walk on water every single day of your life.  But the naive and the humble seemed to be replaced by "just a bit too much cocky." I would have been better off if I had just cut ties then, but I didn't. I suppose the more time you devote to something, the harder it is to let go and negate all that investment. Instead, I kept supporting, but was just frustrated most of the time that he wasn't the person I remembered him being... that I wanted him to still be.  A summer of recording ensued, followed by his CD's release and a fall tour where he just seemed a bit off personally.

And then began The Twitter Spring.  Oh mylanta.  So many times I would open up my Twitter feed and just stare in puzzlement and disbelief.  The questions swirled through the fanbase...  are they or aren't they?  I didn't much care about the answer, but I DID care about the untruths and what he was doing to the public perception of his character. And I freely admit that I was really mad at him for destroying it.  Three years of work and he decides to take a machete to the very thing that attracts so many of his fans.

I took a break.  It was more drama than I wanted to deal with, so I gave CT up for Lent.  I don't actually celebrate Lent, to be honest.   But it seemed a convenient excuse that wouldn't be much questioned. By the time I came back, I knew I was done. There was not one quality left that resembled the Ryan I once knew. And I was done.  So I closed the fansite I ran on Facebook, put my memories away, and just watched for awhile.

A few days later, he quit CT and claimed he wanted to be out of the public eye.   Global wailing ensued, and what followed was possibly one of the funniest attempts to stay out of the public eye I've ever seen. It's hard for people to forget you when you keep popping back up, and I rather suspect that was the point. I've watched spite and cruelty, absurd levels of passive aggression. I've watched him hurt people that have loved him and have done so very much to help him along his way, and I just wonder "Who is this person who has taken over his body?"  And the thing is, I don't know.  I don't know if this is new and the result of some mysterious personality transplant... I don't know if this is who he always was, and I just was duped by a good acting job.  All of my memories are tainted with doubt, and it makes me so so very sad. I'm sad to have lost those memories to dishonesty. I'm sad to have lost the once-deep respect I had for him. I'm sad to realize that I have damaged friendships over something that was not worth it.

I know you will want to defend him... because we're superfans, and that's what we do.  I'm on my fourth year of this, so I understand it. I'm not angry anymore... Most of me isn't even hurt anymore. Mostly I'm just filled with sorrow over the way things have gone, so much sorrow.

Ryan once told me that he didn't think he could do anything to fall out with me.

I wish you had been right, sir. I truly do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Something a little different...

He paused behind the curtain and listened to the room beyond.  Dishes clinked, voices murmured in conversation.  The elevator music was simply a backdrop to the forks against ceramic, the cadence of inflection and laughter.  Some of them were here to see him.  Some were here just to hear SOMEthing. But, it was for all of them that he would perform.

He cocked an ear to backstage.  His string quartet players were making last minute changes to their instruments, his wife stepped up to his side and put her arm around his waist.  They both looked out on the stage to gaze at the lone microphone, dark under where the spotlight would soon be.  She traced a finger along his jaw and tiptoed up to kiss him gently. "You'll be wonderful," she whispered. "You always are."

He smiled against her lips and embraced her tightly. He loved this woman... always supportive, always at his side. He couldn't do it without her.  "I hope so," he murmured into her hair, and then watched her disappear into the darkness of backstage to herd everyone to where they needed to be.

It was time.  His players walked out to their places.  The house lights dimmed, but the conversations continued. As the first notes began to course through the room, the spotlight illuminated the microphone.  His microphone.  He rubbed his hands together, took a deep breath, and stepped to his place.  Eyes lifted to him.  Some returned to their companions, some stayed fixed.  But, as he opened his mouth and let the sound pour forth, forks were set down.  All eyes turned.... and they stayed.

He smiled inside. They would return home and, tomorrow, go about their lives.  But tonight, they were his to do with as he pleased.  And that was very good.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Unpacking: The Curse of Independence

To 18yo Me

(A disclaimer for my mom...  I'm afraid that what I say today will make you cry.  We've talked about this stuff before... and I know that it is something you wish you had done differently.  From a parental perspective, there is probably truth and wisdom in that.  But I don't regret the way things happened, either.  I credit much of that time period with the relationships I enjoy with Carey and Amanda...  and for that, even if we could go back in time and make things different, I would not.)

8.  Ask for help.  Accept help.  At the end of your life, you do not get a bigger trophy if you've done it all by yourself.

I have a hard time with this.  A really hard time.

I'm first in the birth order amongst my sisters, and I'm sure that placement has something to do with my need to assert my own independence.  But, I think part of that is bred, too.  When I was 8 or 9, my parents split up.  My little sisters would have been about 5 and 2, at the time. Several months of "what the heck am I going to do now?" ensued, and then my mom decided to go back to college to get her teaching degree, so that she could support us.  You ever try to go to college at 35, with three kids, and no income?  Not so easy.

There were times, especially at the end of terms, when my mom had papers to write or final exams to study for, and I would shepherd my sisters into the back bedroom and do my best to entertain them so Mom had some quiet time (or, I suppose, as quiet as it can get with three kids in the house) to get that work done.  On top of that, we had weekends with my dad.  I had it in my head that Dad was completely incapable of caring for three small children, and thus I appointed myself Mom #2 when we were gone from home.  I'm not sure this belief was entirely unfounded.  Sometime I'll tell you about the time my dad left Amanda at the park.  All in all, though, 9 years old was perhaps too young to grow up and be a mom.

These were also the lean years... motherhood and full-time student status doesn't exactly roll in the cash.  Money was tight... and I learned that if there were things I wanted to do, I was going to have to save up the money myself.  And that's not because my parents were stingy or anything... the money just didn't exist.  So, shopping, camps, etc... that's what babysitting money was for.

So between one thing or another, I just learned to be independent.  I had to be responsible... people were counting on me.  I had to go to college and I had to do well for scholarships.  I had to be an example for my sisters. Somewhere along the way, I equated independence and responsibility with... being perfect?  Somewhere along the way, my inner motto became "I can do it myself." NOT doing it by myself became my standard of failure.  No one put that on me... I did it to myself.

But it's a hard trap from which to break myself free.  Asking for help means admitting that I can't do it by myself.  And for me, that feels like failure.  It isn't failure, and I really do know that in my head.  I do.  But in my heart, I feel like I haven't measured up.

This has habitually been a problem in my marriage.  I run into problems.  Joel wants to fix them because he's a man and that's what men do for their wives.  His insistence that he needs to help runs right up against my stubborn "I CAN DO IT MYSELF I CAN DO IT MYSELF I CAN DO IT MYSELF" and oh, it's just not pretty.  I'm better at it now after almost 15 years...  but stepping back and letting him fix it is still something that's very hard for me to do.

This is a truth that I wish I could have told myself 20 years ago... before it become ingrained in my soul as the standard of success and failure.  I'm not really so sure I would have listened to myself, but if I had, I could have saved myself a lot of frustration and tears if I'd just been willing to say "I can't do this by myself.  Will you help me?"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What I didn't say

I've been in bed this morning, trying to convince myself to get up... and as I steadily convinced myself that I really didn't need to do that just yet, my mind has been lazily skimming over its thoughts.  Today, I've found myself thinking about things I didn't say.  Things I wish I had.

I often act impulsively and say things I shouldn't...  but when I'm thinking with my head, I think I sometimes take fewer risks than I should, too.  I put more stock in not rocking the boat than I do in saying what could be said.  The hindsight truth is that I could have stood to rock the boat a little more...

Long ago, I had this friend and I really liked her.  She was fun and funny and sweet, and the friendship was nice. Time marched on, circumstances changed, and her personality started changing.  Not just with me, but with everyone, and they weren't really good changes.  I did mention it... but she fired back with anger and irritation over me mentioning it, indignant that everything was the same.  So, I quickly put the subject in the "Things We Do Not Mention" box.  I didn't want to fight.  I didn't want to lose a friendship over it if she was that sensitive about it.  So I put it away.  My opinions didn't change... I just didn't mention them so our boat wouldn't be rocked.

Months later, I regretted putting it in the box.  I wasn't wrong, those changes continued, I still didn't say anything about them, but the relationship couldn't survive.  I didn't rock the boat, but I still lost.  Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I'd taken the risk and rocked it.  Would a friend saying out of concern "You have got to stop" have made any difference?  I don't really know, and no one can.  But I wouldn't have risked anything that I didn't eventually lose anyway... and I, and the rest of us who loved her, could have kept something precious.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Unpacking: Apologize.

To 18yo Me


7. Apologize. Yes, I know it sucks. Yes, I know it's embarrassing. Yes, I know it involves admitting that you were wrong. Do it anyway.

I really wish that I could say I have been better about this. I really wish I could.

I can't. But I wish I could.

If there is anything I regret in my life, it is probably that I didn't apologize more often. And actually, not so much to the people around me. I've usually understood that, in relationships I want to maintain, apologies are necessary. They smooth the wrinkles that exist within the friendships I want to keep, and they're necessary. For those, I think that I've usually been able to bite the bullet and make the apologies when they're needed and warranted. You make the sacrifices for the friendships.

But the ones I regret are the ones I didn't make to people that I didn't necessarily want to keep being in relationship with. People I'd hurt, but with whom I didn't really need to make apologies to smooth out the relationship either because there was never a relationship to begin with to smooth out or because they weren't relationships that seemed worth bothering over.

I always found those apologies harder... with friends, you know you're probably going to be forgiven. But with others? You don't really, do you? With others, it's a lot more crow. It's a lot more risk. It's harder to admit to those that you were wrong. Forgiveness is a lot less likely to come from those directions... and so apologizing is harder. And I truly do wish that I could sit here and say to you that I've learned that it's necessary to apologize because I've done it so much and everything is now all unicorns and fairies.

I can't.

I CAN tell you that I've learned how it eats at my soul to not do it... I CAN tell you that I believe it's important, even when I haven't always done it. I CAN tell you that I believe it isn't right to hurt others, and that when you do, I believe it isn't right to not-apologize for the wrongs you've done. And I CAN tell you that I wish I had followed my conscience more. I wish that I had taken the risks more. I wish I had done more to right the wrongs.

And I hope that I'm better at it in the years to come.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Best Mom Ever

There is a game we play.... one carried over from my childhood that my parents played with me, and I think it's one that was carried over from my dad's childhood that HIS dad played with him.  It goes something like this:

We drive down the freeway or the road somewhere and Mom spots a sign for a Dairy Queen up ahead.  "Anybody want some ice cream?"

An energetic chorus of "ME ME ME ME ME ME ME!" emerges from the backseat...  and as we zoom on by, Mom says "Juuuuust checking." 

Terrible, isn't it?  But, by this point, the children get used to and they learn to even participate in the farce.  They make the "ME ME ME"s as energetic as possible, and the resulting groan just as dramatic.  I have a feeling that when my great-great-great-grandfather came across the country on the wagon train, his dad probably said "Anybody want to stop for Indian ice cream??  Juuuuust checking." 

But there is something to be said for spontaneity.

Last night, I needed to head out to Fred Meyer for one last thing to add to Joel's collection of birthday presents, and Alicia opted to come with me.  At the last second, I whipped into the Albertson's parking lot.

"Where are we going?  This isn't Freddy's," Alicia asked.

"You want some pie?" as I turned to drive by Shari's.

"YES!!!!!" she exclaimed, fully expecting the typical answer.  I turned into the little parking lot by the restaurant and began to park and she confusedly asked, "Wait... are you serious?"

"Dead serious.  Let's have some pie."

"YOU ARE THE BEST MOM EVER!"

A piece of cherry pie, cups of coffee and hot cocoa later, we'd shared half an hour of Mom/Daughter time...  She asked me whether I liked my mom or my dad better, and I gave the signature response about loving people differently but the same amount... but then we talked about my parents' divorce and how I had a hard time dealing with that for a long time, and the way I viewed it as a child... barely held it together.  But it's Hormones Week, I get a pass. 

"Best mom ever" are nice words to hear... even if I had to bribe her with cherry pie to get them.  :)
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