Monday, January 23, 2012

What do you do with the hole?

I was at the beach, sitting by myself along the waterline. While watching my kids play, I slowly dug a hole next to me, carefully scooping out handful after handful of sand.  Eventually, I had a deep crevice, and a giant pile of damp sand.  What to do with the hole?  I had nothing to carry water from the ocean with.  I was far too comfortable in the afternoon sun to get up and go in search of seashells.  So, eventually, with nothing else to fill it with, I just filled it back up with the sand I had taken out of it in the first place.

I was percolating yesterday on why, sometimes, it's so hard to let go of things.  We often make efforts to cut certain things out of our lives.  Sometimes, that means activities or foods or actions or even people.  Am I the only one that finds this hard at times?  It's not so much the initial cutting.  It's more having the strength and the resolve to not go back to whatever it was.

It occurs to me this morning that letting go of something is much easier to achieve if we have something else ready to go in the hole we made when we cut that something out.  If we've stopped smoking, maybe we need to find something to do with our hands.  If we've decided to cut out ice cream, maybe we need to make sure we're occupied during the time that we'd normally find ourselves eating ice cream.  If it's a dead friendship, maybe we need to make sure we're engaged in other healthier friendships so we aren't tempted to pick up that old broken one back up.  If we don't have something ready to take its place, eventually it just becomes easier to fill the hole up with whatever we took out of it to begin with.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pancakes

The fall of 1996.  I was 20 years old.  I had my first apartment. I was a junior in college. I was young and idealistic.  And I was a new wife, the ink barely dry on our marriage certificate.

To say that I was a good cook would be stretching it.  A lot.  To be honest, I knew almost nothing.  I could make fishsticks and poptarts and ramen.  But, I was determined, with a young wife's zeal (if not talent), to stretch this pitifully limited knowledge into something resembling Martha Stewart.

But, did you get that part where we were 20 years old and in college in our first apartment?  We were also dreadfully poor.  Our entertainment center was cinderblocks and 2x4's.  Our bed was first one that we borrowed out of my dad's garage, replaced later with one we pilfered from the apartment complex's garbage pile.  Our desk was brought from Joel's parents' house. Our couch had been acquired at a garage sale.

The only moderately new thing in the place was the refrigerator, and that has its own story.

The first couple months, money was pretty tight.  I had a work study job at the college, and they gave me as many hours as the financial aid allowed.  But, Joel hadn't yet found a job.  He worked temp office jobs for a bit, and then finally he landed a position at a computer warranty company.  Only trouble was, on Saturdays, he had to be there at 5am.  5am.  I wasn't any different then... 5am should not exist. Ever.

But, on his first day, I was determined to be "a good wife."  While he was in the shower that first Saturday morning, I got up.  I dragged myself into the kitchen and I decided to make him pancakes.  I'd made pancakes at home... it was one of the few things I could prepare.  But, at home, we had one of those big pancake griddles that you plug into the wall.  Here in my new apartment, I had only a skillet you put on the stove.  And our stove was gas, something I hadn't quite gotten used to cooking with yet.  I knew virtually nothing about making pancakes on the stove... like oiling the pan or... turning the burner down, I guess.

They just cooked so fast.  They didn't cook this fast at home.  It seemed they'd hardly been on the skillet before it started smoking and the bottoms turned dark brown, seemingly needing to be flipped.  But I was trying.  I wanted this breakfast to be nice for my husband, as I sent him off to work. So I made the pancakes the best I could.  And then realized we had no syrup.  You can't have pancakes without syrup.

But I was trying, see.  And I'd been trying for a few weeks.  I'd taken to frequenting the "cooking" and "frugal household maintenance" areas of the local library.  So, I had this book.  I can still see it in my head, I checked it out so much in those first few months.  Now, in this book, I had read that if you added a wee bit of water to a small bowl of jelly... and then microwaved it, it would resemble syrup.  That sounded nice, didn't it?  Strawberry syrup?  So... I followed the directions, and when Joel emerged from the shower, dressed for work, he entered the living room to the coffee table (what passed for a dining room table at the time) set for a breakfast for two.

He was so sweet.  He came in and he sat down, and he dug into those pancakes and he told me how awesome they were, as I finished the puttering around in the kitchen before I sat down on the floor with him.

And then I sat down and dug into mine.   "Dug" might be stretching it.  I took a bite... and then you know how you do when you eat something that isn't quite what it's supposed to be.  Your chewing slows down, a look of almost-horror crosses your face until it fully computes in your brain, "No one in their right mind should be eating this."

It was terrible.  Burnt on the outside.  Completely raw on the inside. And that melted jelly was anything but strawberry syrup.

To this day, Joel insists that they weren't "that bad."  I can't see how he can possibly make that claim with a straight face.  But, he knew I was trying, and maybe that's all that was needed for them to be "not that bad."

And, as my mom says, that's just one reason why I kept him.  He's not that bad, either.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Different Scales

I woke up this morning thinking about honesty and...  equality of analysis.  The differences in how we consider our own actions versus someone else's.

I had a friendship that ended some time ago.  I couldn't tell you all the reasons it did, even if I knew them. But, in part, I know that they have always been angry because they feel I was dishonest with them.  And, in the interest of full-disclosure...  I was.  In part, that was because I didn't know how to be honest about some things without betraying the trust of another.  In other part, it was just easier in some things.  (Nothing said meant to excuse... just to explain. I feel no pride in this.)  But, it's always been curious to me the way they've never seemed to notice the things they were dishonest about towards me.  That's never seemed to matter.

unequal weightsI ran across this in my notebook this morning:

"The injuries we do and those we suffer are seldom weighed on the same scales." --Aesop

and I thought, "Yes, that."

But, it's never enough for me to find a way to settle the past.  What good are our experiences if we can't learn from them, as well as settle them?  For it would be dishonest of me to sit here and tell you that I've never been guilty of these things, too.  Thinking these things over this morning impresses upon me the importance of being honest about my own actions before allowing myself to be hurt or angered over the actions of others.  What right have I to feel indignation over others' doings when they have a justifiable right to feel indignation over mine?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Like A Song

Moments and experiences and people come into your life, and they live there with a song.  Sometimes they sing for you, sometimes they sing with you, sometimes you sing for them.  But when it all fades away, and they are gone, all that remains are the notes of those songs.

birds in skyThey linger in the air and play a delicate haunting melody in your memory.  Sometimes you can't hardly even remember the song they go to, but the notes blow in the wind, tickling your senses, making you smile.

Maybe you forget the real song.  Maybe you forget the tension when the notes didn't harmonize quite right.  When the trumpeter came in on the wrong beat, and the drummer fell asleep.  Maybe all you can remember is the moments of the song that were right, the moments that had beauty.

Maybe that's okay.

Maybe it's okay to remember things for the good they were, and toss the bad into the wind to be carried across the waves of the ocean and buried at sea.

For "the song is ended, but the melody lingers on."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Island Series Part 4: A Celtic Thunder Fiction (circa 2009)


Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


"No one sticks around very long around here," George muttered as he trudged along the path. Keith, Ryan, Damian, even Zara! "About a week, my FOOT," he continued. Zara sure didn't know her distances very well. He'd been travelling for three weeks and still no bridge in sight. And it was HOT here! There had been a pool on the cruise, you know. And they had Air conditioning! And beer! The further he marched, the grumpier he got. He'd been having such a FINE time on the cruise, practicing his "stepping and leaning" for the upcoming tour. He had a bet going with Neil on who could lean the snappiest, and darn if he wasn't determined to win!

Three weeks into it, he shuffled along, kicking rocks off the mountain as he went when a sound up ahead caught his ear.

"Cheep! Cheep! Cheep!"

As he rounded a bend, he could just see the ropes of the bridge leading across a deep chasm.

"FINALLY!!!" he thought. "Now where's this scary beast I'm supposed to best?" One last hill to climb and he would arrive. As he crested the top, the "beast" came into view-- not exactly what he had been expecting.

The bridge itself was a rickety old thing, something out of Indiana Jones. It reached across the sharp crevices that lay below. Even if he managed to win against the beast, he wasn't sure he was particularly thrilled about crossing it. Guarding the entrance to the bridge were two young men, not familiar to him at all. Oddly, every once in a while, they would jump in a circle, exactly in sync. In front of the bridge was a great throne, surrounded by wee chicks. It explained the sounds he'd been hearing. Unsurprisingly, the man sitting in this thone WAS someone he knew.

"Paul!" George cried out. "I'm so glad to see you! Have you conquered the beast already?"

Paul looked up. "Who goes there?" he asked, commandingly.

"Paul, it's me, George! Let's get out of here... I've been walking for days and I'm exhausted. Umm, what's with the chickens?" he asked.

Paul was garbed in black breeches and a robe of royal purple, a crown of gold upon his brow. He stood and gestured regally to the surrounding chicks. "Welcome, George! I HAVE bested the Boyband beast! Welcome to what is now my domain! I am King Twitter and these are my royal tweeters!"

George couldn't help but laugh. "I'm sorry, what? King... TWITTER? You don't really expect me to CALL you that, do you?"

"Silence, oh commoner!... Wait... hang on..." Paul slipped an iPhone out of his pocket and quickly typed George is jealous of my awesomeness. Discuss.

Immediately, the chicks at his feet began cheeping like crazy, all pulling out THEIR iPhones and tweeting back how awesome King Twitter really was and that George clearly didn't know what he was talking about. Paul slid his phone back into his pocket and explained, "I have to appease my followers. You were saying?"

George eyed Paul warily. "Ok... umm... King Twitter. You have fun with your tweeters, I need to get home. I'm just going to cross this bridge now, thanks."

Paul laughed, "I'm sorry, that's not possible. No one crosses without a tweet on my wall."

"Paul, I mean, King Twit. I don't even know what a tweet IS. I've just barely figured out email."

"George," Paul said, pityingly. "you can do it from your iPhone."

"Does that have rotary dial? Really, I'm just going now."

"No, George. No one passes without paying a toll... it's in the Tweeterwall FAQ. Those guards back there will have to throw you over the side if you try to pass without paying the toll." Paul looked over his shoulder at the dancing boys. "Right, Stephen and Nick?"

George sighed. "Alright fine, but don't you have another option? I'm never going to figure out Twitter."

Paul settled into his throne and thought. "How about underwear? I'll trade you passage for underwear. I'm running out of the 600 pair I got on Fall Tour."

George held his hands up. "I'm really so not giving you my underwear."

Suddenly, a CLANG rang out and the boyband boys crumpled to a heap. "What the--" Paul jumped to his feet, only to have a frying pan crash against his head, and he joined the boyband pile, too.

"Carrie!!" George cried. "What are you doing here?"

"What am I doing here?" Carrie mimicked. "We've had dinner waiting on the table for 30 minutes, and here you're out playing Tom Sawyer or whatever with the boys at the park??"

George kicked his feet guiltily. "Well... we were rehearsing and... it was a really long day... and... "

"You were not rehearsing. You were PLAYING. AND taunting the boybands." Carrie started to stalk off. "Come on... dinner's ready.... all of you!" The other boys came creeping out from behind the bush they'd been crouching behind and she eyed them carefully. "Interesting.... What are you WEARING, Ryan?? Never mind, I don't want to know. Alright, all of ye home right now!"

Paul followed behind, massaging his head softly, "Geez Carrie.. you didn't have to hit so hard!"

George nudged him softly, "Shh... you got off easy!"

The End!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Island Series Part 3: A Celtic Thunder Fiction (circa 2009)

Part 1
Part 2


"Last week, on CT and the Island... "... George's ears perked up and he scrambled to this feet as the narrator's voice boomed across the island. 

"The handsome Scot, George, set off to find his own darn way off the island, seeing as Keith was no help at all..." George preened a bit at this.

"He was momentarily 'rescued' by Ryan in bizarre attire, only for Ryan to be thrown off (quite literally) by a mysterious giant plant. George awaits his fate..."

"Awaits??" George thought. "I'm no damsel in distress!" So, he decided to just go conquer the island himself.

After a liberal application of sunscreen.

As he turned to get his bearings, a handsome young man with eyes of electric blue came running up to him. "GEORGE!" he exclaimed. "THERE you are. There you are! I thought you'd run off to Vaiaku village in the Funafuti province - capital of Tuvalu!"

"Tuva-what?!"

Damian looked at George pityingly, "It's a group of islands in the South Pacific, somewhere between Hawaii and Australia."

Damian continued, as if by rote. "The South Pacific is part of the Pacific Ocean, which Ireland is not located on."  He glanced at George. "Do you think Ryan even TOOK Geography in school?"

George laughed and answered "It's doubtful, lad... maybe he just skipped that semester. Not that I would condone truancy."

"Well, come on then," Damian gestured. "I've got to get you off the island before Sharon threatens banishment or something. The capital of Uzbekistan is Tashkent!"

George looked at concern with his companion. "I guess I have little choice. Where are we going?"

"The Bridge of Dushanbe. But be careful, would you? It's guarded by a fierce beast."

"Well, THAT doesn't sound promising..." George muttered, but followed the boy anyway.

Damian led George up a narrow, rocky path that wrapped around the mountain. This couldn't possibly be the way OFF the island. "Damian, are you sure you know where you're going?"

"The capital of Laos is Vientiane!" Damian yelled.

"What is WRONG with you?? We're stuck on an island, why would I need to know that??"

"I have to keep it fresh for Fall Tour, George. Those interviewers are BRUTAL. YOU may want to brush up on your world capitals too!" He suddenly looked worried. "This isn't going on the DVD, is it?"

George opened his mouth to answer, but quickly ducked when a swooping shadow nearly took his head off. "What the--??"

George and Damian looked up to find a ferocious winged beast level with them, flapping its wings to hover mere feet away. A beautiful woman, garbed in red satin, sat astride the dragon and stared at them haughtily. "And just WHAT do you think you're doing on my mountain??"

"Zara?" George asked. "Is that you??"

"Silence!" she commanded. "Here on the Island, I am Zarataunia, Island Queen of the Volcano. And YOU are trespassing on sacred territory."

Damian rushed to appease the incensed queen. "O Great Zarataunia... we humbly apologize for the trespassing. I'm just trying to get George home to Carrie and Sarah. And we have a show in two weeks... And if I don't get him home, Sharon'll kill me! May we please beg passage through your mountain? We MUST get to the Bridge of Dushanbe! The capital of Liberia is Monrovia!"

Slightly appeased by Damian's entreaty, Zara conceded. "Alright, since you put it so kindly, you may pass."

Damian suddenly sat down and began muttering, "The capital of Hungary is Budapest. The capital of Guinea is Conakry. The capital of France is Paris. The capital of George is Tbilisi. The capital of Finland is... is... is..." He began rocking back and forth gently...

George looked at Zarataunia, with concern. "What's wrong with him??"

Zarataunia was overcome with tenderness. "Ah, it seems the dear lad has come down with Capitalitis. I was afraid that might happen."

Her beast plucked Damian from the path with surprising gentleness and set him in Zarataunia's arms. "Leave him here with me. I'll nurse him back to health and return him to you in no time. You're on your own, George. Keep on this path till you get to the bridge. Hurry if you're going to make it in time."

"Just how long of a walk is it?" George asked.

"Oh. You should be there by next Sunday."


Part 4


Monday, January 9, 2012

The Island Series Part 2: A Celtic Thunder Fiction (circa 2009)


Part 1

George watched as Keith wandered off with his Island babes. He looked around the now-empty clearing and muttered to no one in particular, "Well, now what am I going to do??"

He picked up the stick he'd been using to fend off the women... Not as a cane. Honest!!!

Before the island warriors had shown up, he'd been trying to find some drinking water. Moored on the island after his cruise ship had run into a bit of pirate trouble, he was stranded without a hope to escape.

The sight of Keith had perked him up a bit, thinking maybe he could bum a ride in whatever contraption the surfer had used to GET to the island in the first place. But, with all that sand and Sambuca and whatnot, our handsome Scot knew it would be QUITE SOME TIME before Keith would be even THINKING about leaving the newfound paradise.  So, off he set into the island foliage, determined to find some fresh water and some berries or something so he didn't starve to death while Keith was demonstrating his prowess.

On the waves.

The sun was high in the sky now and George was starting to perspire. He loosened the buttons on his collared shirt (he HAD been right in the middle of a set when the pirates showed up) and ran his hand up the back of his neck and over his shiny head to flick off the sweat.

He finally found an island stream. The water was pure and clean and tasted divine on his lips! Who knew you could work up such a sweat fending off pretty girls? He finally had the chance to look around and just enjoy the beauty of the island for a moment. If he ever got off the thing, he'd love to bring the family back to somewhere like this for some time away. It was gorgeous!

A sound caught his attention and he looked up, cocking his head to listen more intently.

What WAS that- that- well, he wasn't sure what to call it? But, it was getting closer and louder.

Suddenly, a man came CRASHING through the trees above, swinging on a vine, giving a monstrosity of a Tarzan yell. He leaped from his swing to stand widelegged in front of George, shoulders thrust back, grinning, quite pleased with himself. "Here I come to save the day!!!!" he crowed.

"Ryan! What are you, Mighty Mouse??" George exclaimed. "What the heck? Where are all you guys COMING from?? And, what are you... wearing?"

Ryan looked down at his attire and asked "What do you mean? Sharon picked this out for me special! I mean, I added a few changes, but..." Ryan pivoted to show off his new duds.

His legs, tanned from the sun and muscular from all that crazy running around, stood bare against the green of the island ferns. A mere loincloth covered what needed to be covered, and curiously, atop, he wore a black dress shirt, buttoned clear from top to bottom, his sleeves pushed so low, his hands seemed to disappear from view.

George cleared his throat and offered, "Well... I mean I get the whole Tarzan concept, Ryan. But the shirt? Really?"

Ryan kicked a pebble near his feet self-consciously and mumbled, "I have issues. Do you want off this island or not?"

George held up his hands, "Alright, alright, don't get testy. I would LOVE off this island!" Ryan began to grab onto the vine he'd swung in on, but George stopped him. "Umm... what are you doing?"

Ryan looked confused. "I thought you wanted off the island?"

George replied, "I do, I do. But, look. I don't dance. I don't swanky walk. And I DO. NOT. swing on vines."

His dark companion raised an eyebrow and muttered to himself, "And they say I have issues..." He spoke aloud "Ok, ok... we'll do it the hard way. There are many dangers that lurk on this island, though, George. So, keep your eyes open."

"I can take them!" George claimed bravely, and off the two sauntered into the underbrush. "Umm, Ryan? Where are we going, exactly? Shouldn't we be going toward the beach? You know, to get... OFF the island?"

Ryan shook his head sadly, "Oh George, you have so little faith! I am a GREAT navigator! Just don't ask me what ocean my country sits on. Stay close."

With that, Ryan turned and was snatched up by a giant ferocious plant, which flung him high in the air as it batted him across the sky. As he flew, Ryan called out "Stay on your guard!!! And watch out for....."

But whatever George was supposed to watch out for was lost in the wind. "Great!!!!" George yelled. "NOW what do I do???" He sat down on a rock to wait for what would happen next....

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Island Series Part 1: A Celtic Thunder Fiction (circa 2009)

The sun was shining brightly that day as the blond surfer paddled through the tropic island ocean and landed on the quiet beach. He dropped his surfboard to the sand and looked around, stretching lazily. The bright blue water glittered in the morning light. The breeze sifted through the palm trees as it blew his hair around his shoulders, dropping beads of water from the ocean mist to his skin.

He picked up his board, ready to catch the first wave that looked rideable when a sound caught his ear. A cry for help? An island maiden, perhaps? Intrigued, he cautiously made his way into the island foliage. He followed the sounds ahead of him until he came to a clearing. The situation he found there wasn't exactly what he had been expecting. Island warriors surrounded a lone man, who fought the warriors bravely with a large stick he had clearly picked up underfoot.

"Anybody have any bananas?" Keith asked casually as he strolled into the clearing. "What's the craic, George?"

"Thank God!" George exclaimed in relief. "I thought I was going to be a goner. These warriors are fierce!"

"Coolios, Old Man," Keith answered. "I'm just looking for some fruit... got beer?"

"What are you on about?!?!?! Can't you see I'm under attack?"

"It's all good, George. I've brought me secret weapon."

George cocked an eyebrow. "Look, kid... no offense. But you're wearing nothing but boardshorts there... what weapon??"

tropical islandKeith smiled slowly... "Have ye not noticed, George? Those island warriors.... they're all GIRLS! I've got this one." With that, Keith twirled around in practiced move and grinned seductively at the seemingly-menacing warriors advancing on the pair.

"Come now, can't we think of something better than attacking me friend here? You've got sand... surfing... anyone got any Sambuca??"

The warriors, completely taken aback by such a sudden flash of charm, dropped their weapons, their concentration completely broken. They slowly approached the surfing one, mesmerized by his locks of gold and chattering excitedly to each other. As they came within reach, one tentatively reached out a hand and yanked on his hair firmly.

She turned quickly and exclaimed, "NO WIG!"

Keith casually threw an arm around her shoulders and entreated, "Help me find my way back to the beach??"

As he walked off amid the golden-skinned women, he winked at George over his shoulder... "Thanks, Georgie... I'll catch you later... try to stay out of trouble, would ya?"


Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Freewrite-- Ashes, 20 minutes.


"Taxi!"

The yellow cab came to a stop outside the airport and I climbed into the backseat, pushing my carry-on onto the seat ahead of me.  The driver turned around to look at me and inquired, "Where to, Miss?"

"Victor City, please," I replied in a tired voice, and we were off.  I leaned my head back against the headrest, and closed my eyes.  It had felt like a long trip, even though I'd only been gone for two days.  A successful one, though.  I'd landed two major accounts, so I'd say that was a trip well-spent.  But, I was exhausted, and I just wanted to be home, climb into my own bed, and curl up for a well-deserved nap.

The trip home had been somewhat of a disaster.  The wake-up call I'd ordered at the hotel hadn't come through, they were out of coffee, I'd nearly missed my flight, and I'd forgotten my phone charger on the kitchen counter at home, so I felt virtually cut off from the world with no way to be contacted.

As we rolled into town, I gave my address to the driver and watched the morning walkers stroll down the street, so intent on going nowhere and ending right back at home where they started. I just wanted to be in bed. The driver's voice pulled me from my tired stupor.

"Oh wow," he exclaimed.  "I think someone just lost a house."

I looked through the front window of the cab to see the smoke from a put-out fire twirling into the sky.

"Oh no," I whispered.  "Oh no, oh no, oh no."  That wasn't someone's house.  That was my house.

My beautiful house with the wraparound porch.  As soon as I'd seen it five years earlier, I'd had to have it.  It was reminiscent of every childhood book I'd ever loved.  It was old and drafty, and probably more trouble than it was worth, trying to keep the pipes in repair.  But I loved it and I had spent so much time restoring it.

There were fire trucks everywhere, firemen with sooty, tired faces...  and no house.

I jumped out of the car before it even stopped and ran over to a group of them.  I recognized Peter, a guy who had gone to high school with me...  now a father of three, and coaching football at the school he'd played for.  "Peter!  What happened??" I asked, the panic rising.  "Why didn't anyone call me??"

His eyes widened, "Oh god, there you are, Jennifer.  No one knew how to get ahold of you... you didn't answer your phone and no one knew where you were staying.  I'm so sorry.  We tried to save it, we've been here all night.  But, it just went up like someone had poured lighter fluid on it, and..."  He gestured apologetically to the ruins and ashes that now sat where my home once was.

I stepped toward where my porch had been, but he put a hand on my sleeve.  "Jen, we just got it out...  It's not safe yet."  But I pushed him away and kept walking.  I couldn't just stand there.  It was dark and smoky and everything I loved was in there somewhere.  The pictures of my mother, my childhood memories, all the letters I'd saved.  It was all gone... how could it be gone?  I knelt to the ground and ran my hand through some of the ashes that had cooled.


A shrill voice cut through the morning, "Why, Jennifer...  what on EARTH happened to your BEAUTIFUL HOUSE?"  I closed my eyes and tried to shut out the noise, but I knew it was just going to keep coming.  Rachel Baxter.  High school cheerleader, daughter of the richest man in town, and first class pain-in-the-ass.  I pasted a tight smile on my face and turned around to meet the oncoming onslaught of annoyance. Rachel was dressed for the morning cool in pink and grey velvet and matching sneakers, her long blond hair perfectly styled. I felt just a little bit dowdy in my wrinkly travel clothes, my light brown hair limp and up in a ponytail. I smoothed my hands across my face, tucking my bangs behind my ears.
Douglas was behind her.

"Hello, Rachel," I said with a sigh. "Doug."

"Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer... it is just SO TERRIBLE what has happened to your HOUSE!" She spoke in capitals.  "I guess you can NEVER be too CAREFUL, can you?  I don't know WHAT I would do if anything like that happened to ME.  You just NEVER know what could HAPPEN when you turn your back for a SECOND."

"Yes. This appears to be the second time I've had to learn that lesson," I muttered drily, with a glance at Doug.  "You'd think I'd have learned it by now.” I’d once had his engagement ring on my left hand.

“WELL,” Rachel moved to head back the way she’d come.  “I suppose we’ll LEAVE you to get ON with your clean-up.  WE just wanted to come and make SURE that you were alright.”  She looked pointedly at Doug.  “Come ALONG, Douglas.”

I watched Rachel march pointedly back up the sidewalk the way she’d come.  Doug lingered behind.
I turned around and surveyed the damage again, still not quite believing what had happened while I was gone.

“Is there a reason you’re still standing here, Doug?” I asked, tiredly.

He stepped around me and looked down into my eyes.  That curl over his forehead kept falling into his eyes.  “You’ve got ashes on your cheek,” he said quietly, and he touched his thumb to my skin, slowly wiping it away.  My eyes closed of their own volition.

“DOUGLAS! We’re GOING now,” came from down the street.

I drew a breath and glared up at him.  “Doug... someday, I hope you really understand what you threw away... and for THAT.  I think you’re being paged.”  He opened his mouth to say... something, but I stopped him.  “Just go.  She’s only going to keep calling.”

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Letting Go and Moving On

"You have no power over me."

It's one of my favorite moments from the Jim Henson movie, "Labyrinth."  In the final climactic scene, Sarah finds herself running through the monologue she recited at the beginning of the movie, again getting stuck on what that final line is supposed to be.  Finally, she looks up as her memory is triggered... but it's not just memory that is in her eyes, but recognition and wisdom and triumph as she tells the Goblin King-- "You have no power over me."

You have no power over meI think that moment is powerful for us, too.  To look that and those which knock us down in the face and tell them that they have no power over us...  it's a strong moment.

I read this yesterday and it really spoke to me:

If you want to forget someone, and move on, you must give up hating them. It's impossible to forget someone you hate, because hate takes pieces of your heart - thereby keeping this person within your heart.

When we hold on to anger and hatred toward people, we give them the power to control us.  Despite what we think is our best efforts to forget them, we can't because we haven't yet let go of the venom.  And so, they remain with the power to make us guarded, self-conscious, over-self-protective, victimized, angry, whatever. It's only by letting go of the hate and anger that we can truly give them up and move on with our lives.

I think that's sometimes a lot easier said than done.  I'm not sure that it's so much that the anger is so hard to let go of...  but, especially if it's related to someone you once cared about, maybe sometimes there's a part of you that doesn't want to let go.  At least, when you're angry, there's still SOME emotion there, even if it's an unpleasant one, and you don't have to close the book. But, if you let go of that too, it means that it really is truly over.  Sometimes that's hard to accept.

But, you can't start a new chapter until you've finished the one that came before.  Sometimes you have to close the book. Sometimes you have to cut the final string and embrace the future that is waiting for you, if you can just let go of the past.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Everything has been done before."

When I read this sentiment a few weeks ago, it seemed to be given with an air of... defeat?  Sort of an "it's all been done before, so why even bother getting up and trying to do anything?"  I wasn't sure why, but it stuck in the back of my mind for occasional pondering.  I couldn't disagree with the statement, really.  There have been millions of lives that have come before mine, millions of lives and deaths and losses and dreams and failures and hopes and successes.  It's probably true that it's all been done before.  But, the feeling of defeat and hopelessness nagged at me.

It was one evening last week that the little whisper spoke in my ear.

hope"But not by you."

What?

"Not by you.  It hasn't all been done by you."

Then, it was gone and I was left to think over what the voice had left behind.

Everything has been done... but not by me.

Life has value, less by the tangible results that come out of it, than by the relationships and experiences that fill it.  Maybe it's true that everything has been done before...  every experience I have had, and will have, in my life may have been experienced by someone else in the past.  But it hasn't been experienced by me, and that makes it new and valuable and worth getting up for!

Life isn't important for what we can put in the history book, although the history has its own value and is important in teaching us about what has come before and what we can learn from it, if we only listen.  But, the cycle of life, and the experiences that fill it, are no reason to lie in the mud and mope.  There is no defeat until we can look in the mirror at the end of our lives and confidently say that everything has been done, and we have done it.  And even then, it seems that there would be too much pride in the living of such a full life for there to be much room for defeat to exist.

Monday, January 2, 2012

When It All Falls Apart

shattering wine glassAt the risk of over-generalizing, I think that it's relatively safe to say that no one (save for the most pessimistic and hopeless) ever goes into the new year thinking, "This is the year it falls apart!"  No...  we all enter our new years with hopes and dreams and plans and expectations for good things.  But, sometimes it falls apart anyway, doesn't it?  There is only so much that we can control, and sometimes hard things come into our lives that we can't do anything about.

And then what?

I've come to believe more and more that the hard things aren't hard by themselves.  The hard things are hard because we allow them to be hard. We give them substance and power over us instead of taking control over them.  I've begun to understand that the introduction of a hard thing doesn't mean that I have to accept defeat and that things are now going to pot.  When things I can't control rear their head, I can't stop them HAPPENING, necessarily.  But I can control the influence they have on me by my response to them.  I can give them power to darken the clouds in my sky.  Or I can strip them of that power and send them packing.

There are always exceptions to the global sweeping generalizations... but I've learned a lot in 2011 about taking personal responsibility.  It's easy to be a victim.  It requires nothing from you but to be the person that someone else took advantage of.  But, it takes more strength and honesty to look at those situations and understand that you had a choice. And you made it. Your martyrdom isn't a result of you being a victim, but is a result of your own choices.  It's understanding that you had a choice, and what "happened to you" is a result of that.

I think that's a powerful understanding.  It gives you the power over your situation.  Sure, it's not very fun sometimes to look at the situations you're in and have to take the responsibility on yourself.  It's a whole lot easier to blame others for the place you find yourself in.  So, it's not always comfortable.  But, I'm telling you the truth...  it's powerful to understand that YOU have the control.  That you have the power to determine what influence the things that come into your life have over your day, your week, your year.  Over YOU.

This won't be the year that everything falls apart.  Maybe I'm tempting fate with that one, but I'm going to claim it anyway.  This will be the year that I respond to the situations in my life with optimism and hope, determination and strength.

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