the best policy

When I am confused, I think about rockin’ people, and how I might best follow their example and rock the world around me to the appropriate degree required by a given situation. I am at a confusing and somewhat troubling stage in life right now. Luckily, there is always someone who rocks considerably that I can look to for inspiration and guidance.

Honesty RocksRegardless of where your political loyalties may have found themselves in the mid-to-late 19th century, everyone can agree that Abraham Lincoln was known for being honest. He was unafraid to call it like it was, lay his cards on the table, even though it ended up costing him his life: his honesty is his legacy.

While with a friend tonight, I confided that “I am often afraid to tell people about things that are going on with me, because I don’t want them to feel compelled to be sorry for me”. That is a loaded statement. But what I realized is that the majority of the people reading this are my friends and my family, and I owe it to you to be honest, to level about where my life is to this point.

For those of you who sincerely would like to know how I’m doing, or how ______ makes me feel, I offer you a candid explanation:

  • I am still unemployed. I have been working with a job placement program, and I have a couple of faint prospects. I have been advised to wait on them while we keep our eyes open for new things. I am wondering if the new things we find will be good things- and I am wondering how long I will have to wait.
  • I am not going back to school. My attempt to retake the GRE resulted in disappointing scores. I am writing in the morning to request that my application be removed from consideration for admission [I was told the score requirement was a necessary one to be considered].
  • I have not adequately pursued getting my writing published. This is part due to my forgetfulness, and part due to renewed focus and emphasis on searching for jobs. I really wish I could be a writer. I do not want to give up my philanthropic hopes, either. But writing is something else that makes me feel alive. I have some contacts in publishing. I really want to get those efforts back in gear.
  • I have also [unintentionally, of course] neglected other efforts, like independent grant writing.] The grant-writing was something I agreed to do for a member of my family. Preliminary searching has proved it will be an immense challenge. Not to mention my own failings, the rapid passage of time, and my other pursuits such as job hunting and managing my emotional well being, are proving more demanding of my time than I originally anticipated. It is very important for me to come through on this and to hold up my end of the bargain.
  • I am constantly wrestling with contentment about being single. Not unlike Jacob’s epic battle with the Lord, it is a seeming never-ending struggle for me to reconcile the realities of my solitude with the gratitude for what I have in my life that makes it what it is. I am nowhere near a point of arrival on this, but I am working hard to learn what life has been trying to teach me about this area over the years. Unfortunately, I am not quite objective enough to tell you how well I’m doing.
  • I have realized [the hard way] the importance of addressing my emotional health. I have chemical and emotional imbalance. Just like any physical illness, psychological challenges can be draining and can affect other areas of your life adversely, if they are not controlled. Until recently, I have not taken care of myself in this area the way I should. Luckily, my family, friends, and the professionals guiding me through things, are tireless in their efforts for me to see my bull-headedness. I am on the way to more clarity in this area, and hoping that will help with the rest.

As of a couple of days ago, barring some temporary and volunteer work, I have been unemployed for 2 full years now. I must confess, for a person whose entire life prior to that point was marked by a series of well-planned personal, intellectual achievements, this can be devastating. I feel afraid that I have lost something along the way; something vital, some spark, some bit of knowledge, that had made me the successful person I once was.

I do not know what the future will bring, and honestly I can be more frightened than hopeful at times. What I do know is this: I am deeply humbled, and nothing short of desperate for more of God’s unfailing grace and mercy with each passing day.

And one more thing. I am I am very thankful- so thankful- for the many supportive, loving, and gracious souls in my life. I know that you all are not afraid to stand next to me, even while night falls. And that means we’ll be together when the sun comes out.

Whenever that may be. . .

image not available

“Tony, Tony, look around

Something’s lost and must be found!”

–  Prayer to St. Anthony, the Patron Saint of Lost Things

 

Last night I saw Matt Costa perform at the Exit/In with a bunch of good friends. We were right up front and I, for one,  had an incredible experience at the show. Great set, lots of new songs, and almost all of my favorites. Almost. I took many amazing photos. Color, black and white, sepia, you name it. I was close enough to have been able to tell him if his shoe was untied. The stage lights and the many bodies clamoring together kept me nice and toasty, in spite of the cold November rain falling right outside the door.

By the end of the show, most of my friends had scattered to warmer, drier places. But a few of us were left milling around, with the rest of the stragglers. I was going to throw away the cups we had left on the stage, when I saw Matt walking right toward me.

“Are you cleaning up other people’s messes?” he said to me. He is one of those people that manages to smile even while he is talking to you.

“Oh, no. Just cleaning up my own mess.” I assured him.

“Well you don’t have to do that. There are other people here to do that.”

He waited for me to set the cups back down in front of the monitor, and then we made our introductions. Since this is me we’re talking about, the grinning thing was mutual.

I thanked him for a good show, and he thanked me for enjoying myself. And I made a casual observation.

“There wasn’t really a whole lot of dancing space here up front.”

“Yeah, I know. I tried to do some dancing myself but. . .” and after a pause “So you can dance in that?” [You might be surprised how often people don’t believe me when I tell them I can dance, or at how many people try to use my wheelchair as an excuse for their own awkward feelings about dancing. I’m not, but you might be.]

“Yeah,” I said, “Here, come’re, I’ll show you.”

He looked at me uncertain, but after a second, came over, and I gave him an impromptu dance lesson. We did some little back and forth dance moves, and I taught him how to spin me in my chair, the way you might twirl any dance partner. [It’s really simple, by the way. I don’t restrict my lessons to indie celebrities, and would be glad to show any of you the ropes anytime.]

He was a very good spinner, in case you’re wondering.

We took a couple of pictures with one another, I thanked him again, and he promised to spin me next time. I told him it was a deal.

All the proof I've got

Doesn't quite look like me and Matt dancing, but it will have to do.

I got home so thrilled to overlook and upload my pictures, especially the ones Matt and I had taken together. He had been so friendly and sweet that I couldn’t wait to see how well my photos had captured all my happiness. But, true to my impeccable ability to drop, forget and lose anything of real value around the exact time I need something to go right in my life, for Heaven’s sake, I discovered that the camera was nowhere to be found. With no answer at the venue and no help from the place of business we had parked in front of, I am left to fear the worst. My camera, along with the happiest moments of my Saturday, and of the rest of my autumn, is gone for good.

A picture is worth a thousand words. So, if you loose so many of them, what is left to say?

It doesn’t really seem fair to me, even in hindsight. that my happiness should be taken from me so abruptly, and after such a brief stay, but I have been fighting tooth and nail to spin this positively. After all this has been a month of loss in all its forms, with little recover, and little relief.

And  right now- though you can bet your next cup of coffee that it’s still cold comfort- this is the best I can come up with: I may forget my camera, full of pictures of that concert, and of my best childhood friend’s new baby, none of which will ever be able to be shared, but I won’t forget the experiences I tried my best to capture there.

I won’t forget how it felt to hold sweet little Gabriella in my arms, or to have Matt twirl me around the room to no music at all, with a huge smile on his face.

There are some things I simply refuse to forget; some things I will never drop, leave behind, or let get soaked in rain and ground water. And I am crossing my fingers that I make the same impression on my dance partners.

sweet dreams and flying machines

“There’s hours of time on the telephone line

To talk about things to come

Sweet dreams and flying machines

In pieces on the ground

Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain

I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end

I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend

But I always thought that I’d see you again.”- James  Taylor

Hindsight is 20/20, they say. Whoever they are. This realization is all at once brilliant and brutal. We are given the blessing to see our ups and downs with the clarity necessary to learn from them, yet we curse ourselves in the same moment for some (in)decision; we regret some risk taken or some hope left alone. It is a bit maddening to try to look back at our past experiences, in particular because we are expected to do so while that same life continues to send us hurtling forward at breakneck speed.

When I hazard a look, I cannot help but be surprised by my life and its landscape: its hills and valleys come as a surprise to me, even after moving over and through them.

I never expected to leave my parents’ house at 17- or to return to it at 23.

I never expected to dye my hair brown and opt to keep it that way.

I never expected that the person I would want to marry would never want to marry anyone, myself included.

Some things I never expected to start, others I never thought I would leave unfinished.

The irony of my life is that I cannot use past circumstances to plan for future ones, because each circumstance is itself an anomaly. The only way I could prepare myself for one outcome would be to plan for the opposite: to expect the unexpected, if you fancy a cliche.

I spoke to two friends last night- one, a girlfriend with whom I have passed many hours; the other an acquaintance, a bartender who reads Frankl. From each of these very different, fascinating people I gleaned the same lesson. I can never live up to my own expectations of what life will be like: not because I am inept. But because the only way a girl would find herself wholly satisfied and wholly within her expectations is if each and every one of the circumstances in question  lay entirely within her control.

That is not going to happen, is it, duckie?

Bleak as that may seem at first glance, worry not. This is not cause to lock yourself in your room with a bottle of Merlot and the Damien Rice catalog. What I’m getting at is this: most things are, in point of fact, beyond our control, with one exception: our own behavior. I admit that thought is a bit terrifying. But if my behavior is the only thing I can control, then I probably shouldn’t agonize as much as I do over the rest.

This whole disconnect between preparation, expectation, and the Actual has been bothering me lately; I have been weighed down. I have felt stuck, guilty, worried, afraid, frustrated, sad, annoyed, bitter, and completely unable to understand What-in-the-Ever-Loving is going on. However high my expectations may be for others, they are so much greater for myself. And when the girl with the high expectations is the same one for whom nothing goes as planned, it would appear she is marked for disarray.

But what if life isn’t about preparation for what we expect will happen? What if it is about looking at whatever does happen, and doing what we can to take something from the circumstance that we can use?

Thousands of miles away and over 40 years ago, my favorite song was written: a song about facing life and making the best of it;  about taking the raw materials and doing what we can to fashion something functional and beautiful out of them. I am starting to believe that- when everything else is stripped away- this is all I can expect of myself. And it is a high calling indeed.

the ballad of icarus

Hey all , here is a brand new poem! Who knows if WP will preserve my formatting? It rarely does! But I hope you enjoy, nonetheless.

Row, row, row your boat

Down the stream of Consciousness

Crying out like Paul Revere

Something’s coming

Find your bliss

Hold your hands out for the lemons

Life is bound to hand to you

Leave them lying at your feet

Cause you have better things to do

Like close your eyes

Close your eyes

To dream of flying

Take the pills and listen

To the things the experts have to say

Save it with your favorite songs

To use up on a rainy day

Pick the flowers from the yard

And place them there behind your ear

I want to set a whisper there

But you must do this first to hear

So close your eyes

Close your eyes

To dream of flying

Icarus fell to the earth

With ego bruised, afraid and burned

They asked him “Friend, what can you share?

What should we do? What have you learned?”

He said that life had humbled him

That was the truth, that much he knew

“When you feel that all is lost,

There’s only one thing you can do”

Just close your eyes

Close your eyes

To dream of flying

Yes, close your eyes.

Close your eyes

And dream of flying

June 6, 2010

i’ve got a city love: reflections on the flood

I haven’t written in over a week. I wrote my last entry last Thursday night, I believe: all about how I didn’t like rain. Myself and any literature fans out there would call that a cruel irony. Saturday and Sunday, torrential rain and severe storming dumped more than a foot of rain in parts of the city. Before we knew what hit us, we were flooded. The Tennessee River: flooded. The Harpeth River: flooded. The Cumberland River: flooded. And with them,  the entire city- the West, the East, the North, the South, and the beating heart of our beautiful city- choked and nearly drowning.

A friend of mine had dinner with me Saturday night. Because part of the Interstate was already submerged by that point , we encouraged her to stay with us. And she did: till Tuesday morning, when we were finally able and permitted to leave our street. In the interim, we stayed on what we quasi-affectionately now call The Island: a quarter-mile section of street, flooded on either side by the Harpeth River, which runs behind our house, and snakes through our neighborhood.

It is difficult to describe what it was like. We weren’t on the news because no one could leave us or get to us. People were kayaking from their front door to the road, or from one part of the road to the other. The kayaks and a fishing boat, going over what used to be fields and backyards- were the primary means of getting to the Publix down our street for food and necessities during those three days.

It was very surreal. One one hand, grateful to be alive. On the other, salvaging what you could and pumping feet of water out of your yard and basement. One one hand, watching your elderly neighbors try to save their decades-old keepsakes. On the other hand, having them over for a chili dinner and laughing your way through the roughest day of the storms.

Somewhere between 20 and 30 lives were lost across the state during the ordeal. However, the overwheming majority of people were able to evacuate in time, to be rescued, and to have their friends and family either near them, or accounted for.

The economy has taken a hit, a big one, to the tune of a billion dollars or so. The are months of repair ahead for Opry Mills, Opryland Hotel, and the Grand Ole Opry; not to mention Lower Broadway, the nexus of Downtown tourism.

Any one of you who knows me knows I love, love, LOVE my city. I cannot imagine my life without comfort food, Southern hospitality, and good music. I gush about the day-to-day life in my hometown the way most people do about their Caribbean cruises and European backpacking trips. I love the rich history, the thriving arts culture, the sweet and ridiculously good looking people, the good coffee, and that unmistakable twang. Living away from home certainly helps one to grow up. But there is something about being where your roots are and being happy there that helps you to grow strong and tall. I use the term “tall” loosely.

We’re a city of artists. During this tragedy and its aftermath, people have taken unforgettable photographs, written blogs, made videos, and I’m sure the songwriters have had no shortage of inspiration. But I struggled. Writing was an impossibility. I could find no words. Even this entry, over a week later, has not been an easy one to write. I’ve had to keep starting and stopping, visiting and revisiting.

I think it’s been so difficult for me to talk or write about this whole thing because the range of my emotions has been so expansive. Certainly I am heartbroken. But there were many times during the ordeal we were able to laugh, enjoy time together, and find joy [trying to play Monopoly by candlelight and making shadow puppets on the bedroom ceiling come to mind]. I am grateful to be safe, that my family and friends are safe, and that there are more and more signs of the strength of the city with every passing day. But part of me feels lost. Part of me feels angry. Part of me feels guilty to be sitting in my own room, when so many people have lost everything. And then there’s the part of me that wants to fix everything and for everyone to be happy and have what they need, and feel loved. At the moment, she feels powerless. Like a child who wants to help paint a house with her box of crayons.

I have felt everything at once. I have felt nothing at all.

As the water continues to recede, clean up has begun. And as the rubble is cleared, the resilience of our city comes into sharp focus. Family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and out-of-towners lend their hands, hearts, resources, time, and listening ears to those in desperate need. Benefit concerts continue to spring up everywhere, local businesses immediately began taking up donations for those displaced. Dingy cars, unkempt hair, and paper plates are reminders of the continuing effort to conserve water.

Although I was surprised- much like everyone else- at the lethargic national media response, I was relieved that we were not at all complacent. Everyone seems to have charged into the fray to help Nashville. And that spirit, combined with the delivering power of faith and music- which nothing can dampen- gives me hope.

And seeing the Sun. Seeing the Sun always gives me hope.

I talked to two people in particular who shaped my perspective on the flood in unexpected, unforgettable ways. And both of them lost everything- or nearly everything.

One was my neighbor a few houses to the left, who had water almost up to her front door. Standing in the street, I fumbled around for words to say to console her. With some sadness in her voice- but a smile on her face- she looked at me and  said, “They’re just things.”

The other story is that of a dear friend of mine. He lost his house, his car, everything. With just those facts, his story may not seem remarkable, and perhaps  it isn’t. But what is remarkable is this: I had to find out about his massive loss from a mutual friend- after the fact. With his own car and cabin submerged, my friend had called me to check on me and ease my worries, without saying a word about his own losses. When I called him back in shock, trying to make sense of that, he thanked me for being a good friend. I have talked to him a few times since then- and somehow- he makes sure I hang up the phone more heartened and encouraged than I had been when our conversation started.

I know we’re all heartbroken to see our home and its people in pain. But seeing evidence of countless others like my neighbor and my friend-with their kind hearts and mighty spirits- gives me cause to smile. Take a minute to read about the rescue stories and the relief efforts and you’ll notice something about Nashville: we are tough as nails. There may be pain, devastation, and loss. But rising above it all is the Spirit of  our City, sweet and steady, like an old, familiar song.

Y’all hang in there, Nashville. And keep on singing.

Please visit the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee website to donate directly to local relief efforts. If you are interested in volunteering, you can go to the Hands on Nashville website to sign up and find out where to go. Last, but certainly not least, visit Cleaning for Good to learn more about joining a cleaning co-op-  and to find help for cleanup needs in your home or neighborhood.

and i will try (to fix you)

Some people don’t like words being put in their mouths. Sometimes, it does get us into trouble. But sometimes, it is what we need. And once again, I lean on a musician to speak for me. Chris Martin (and the rest of Coldplay) get the honor this time.

Those of you who have nothing better to do than Facebook stalk me (all 3 of you) may have notice a little listlessness. A little disappointment. A little brokenness. And your astuteness serves you well.

I will have to spare a lot of details to protect the privacy and the trust of the individuals involved. But the long and short of it is that my family is experiencing pain and difficulty. Some dear friends are shouldering some heavy burdens. It seems everyone I’ve been talking to lately is grappling with significant losses and frustrations; life seems to be dealing out challenges by the handful, and no one  has gone wanting.

I haven’t come out unscathed. But I think the most difficult feeling I have had recently is the one that comes when we are faced with our own inability. Not that I focus on that all the time, of course. But what I mean is that sometimes – a lot of the times- the situations that life puts before us, or before the ones we love, are outside of our control, our capability, and even our understanding. Where do we go in these situations? What do we do?

Here’s my guess:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

At this point, for my own challenges, this is about my only working coping strategy right now. All my personal emotional resources are exhausted. In short, I must believe that the Poor in Spirit can indeed claim Heaven as their own. For that- and the One dwelling there- is my hope and my strength [if only I could remember to make that the case when things aren’t so hard].

So, to all who have been bringing me their struggles to sort through- I have not forgotten them. I have not dropped or discarded your burdens. I am just asking for your love and patience while I figure things out. I am doing my best to place everything in His hands first and hope that He can show me a way to fix it. And whatever crazy tricks He puts up my sleeve, I will give them a go. I don’t know if I can fix any broken parts, fill in any holes, or mend any tears. But I’ll try.

*

When you try your best but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse.

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And high up above earth or down below
When you’re too in love to let it go
But if you never try you’ll never know
Just what you’re worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Tears stream, down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face and I…

Tears stream, down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face and I…

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you.

on being a loser

So, today, the Internet tells me that there appears to be some connection between CP and memory loss, particularly short term memory. In addition, I learned that people dealing with chemical imbalances such as depression might also have trouble remembering things. This doesn’t surprise me for a couple reasons. One is that any time something (like a disability) affects your brain, things just go haywire up in there. You just never know what might happen when mess around with the human brain. The other reason I’m not surprised is that I’m a loser.

I lose things ALL the time. Phones, coats, check cards, mittens, gloves, scarves,  checkbooks, $50 gift cards that I never got to use, keepsakes. You name it, I’ve lost it. Sometimes multiple times. If you don’t believe me,  my folks keep a backup phone for when I lose mine. And I have had the bank send me extra stuff by mistake because I reported missing items so often.

Of course, we’re all space cadets every now and then; everyone feels a little scatterbrained when they’re rushing or stressed. A frazzled person is much more likely to leave his wallet on the train than the fellow next to him who remains cool as a cucumber during his morning commute.

What’s my point? Am I glad to have an excuse for leaving everything short of my limbs behind somewhere? Perhaps. But on the off chance that I want what I blog about to be of some intrinsic value it reminds me: I have to be nice to myself.

In one of my favorite Psalms, David says that G*d “knows how we are formed. He remembers that we are dust”. It sounds  a little grim, but it always encourages me. Because He knows I’m a mess. I’m not together. No one is. Our minds; our bodies; our wills; our spirits: they all fail us. But He is gracious. The key is that we have to extend that grace and love to ourselves, and to others.

A lot of times, we are our worst critics. I don’t know if any of you can relate to this, but sometimes, I will be sharing what I assume is a glaring fault or weakness with a close friend, and she’ll say, “I don’t see you that way at all”. It is true that I have lots of shortcomings [don’t we all?]. But talking to others helps me to gain a little perspective. Of course there is a time and place for constructive criticism, and I am always trying to do better. But my point is, things that drive us crazy about ourselves are more than likely not as big a deal to the people that love us: because they love us.

We should all write ourselves a note: BE NICE. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. I think I’ll do that. As soon as I find my pen.