Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Rocks

At the funeral for Bill today (see post "Farewell, dear Bill") I found some much needed inspiration and reassurance. As you can see, I can sometimes wander off into my own dark little mind, allowing myself to induldge in self-reflection and contemplation. Sometimes this is a good thing & other times it is not. Either way, Bill's funeral today helped me think simply again, even if for just a little while.

As I entered the doors of the outdated Southern Baptist church where the services were to be held, I noticed a table on which sat a bowl-full of polished rocks. There were purple ones, green ones, blue, brown, orange...just about every color you can imagine. In neatly printed handwriting just to the left of this bowl was a note. It read: "Bill asks that you each take one of his rocks & keep it with you as token to help you remember that when life gets rough and trying, just keep it simple & be grateful for the little things."

Tears filled my eyes, and I bit into my quivering lower lip, fighting that overwhelming urge to cry. I was somehow able to find the strength to repress it and I reached for the first rock that stood out at me. Light purple in color, it was flat and wide. I rubbed it a little with my thumb before putting it in my pocket just to cherish its smooth simplicity. Before I went in to the chapel and took my seat, I smiled and felt that warm presence of Bill as if someone put a warm blanket over my shoulders.

"Thank you," I whispered one last time, "I needed that."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Regrets of Normalcy


n 1: being within certain limits that define the range of normal functioning [syn:
normality] [ant: abnormality] 2: expectedness as a consequence of being usual or regular or common [syn: normality]
Curled up cozily on the comfy, kooshie couch, I was abruptly interrupted from my brief love affair with chips & salsa. I had to stop mid-crunch to experience probably the best commercial I have ever seen.

Soldiers & sailors flashed across the screen, lugging metal magazines and sweat-laden stares. Rappelling from blackhawks, landing silvery jets, they tugged & pulled at my mind. Just as I somewhat drifted into the back of my head, cluttered with memories I heard the words, "Just think. Somewhere, some poor guy is buying a mini-van." Images of a poorly-dressed, pasty, forty-something father-of-three were flashed before me and I realized just how dull my life had become.***

Somewhere along the lines it lost its...Luster. Somewhere between the days of driving a humvee and feeling the touch of cold metal against my fingers and...The insurance desk job. It happened & it happened suddenly but I have realized it gradually. I am actually grateful I, at least, realized it at all.

So what do I do now, you might ask? Get it back. Get it back, somehow. There are a lot of things in life that can get a person up and going in that aspect. There are extreme sports, boxing, racing, jumping from things....All of which seem to only be done by crazy people but effective, none-the-less.

Are they all just some legal form of a drug habit...Keeping that adrenaline flowing to mask our dull and monotonous lives? Because if our lives consisted of constantly defending our selves against starvation, attack or other crisis, then we would not have time to sit & think about missing out, would we? ah, Maslov's pyramid and the hierarchy of need.

***Yes, I know, marketing worked on me... Blah...

Coffee cups & poor people dying....

Well, I don't know if any of you have heard about this yet or not but I cannot keep my mouth shut about this one. I am still blinking and trying to pinch myself to check and see if it is really happening. Ok, so here it is...

Baylor University, yes, in my current state of Texas, has banned a coffee cup from the campus Starbucks. The reason that they have banned this cup is because it contains a quote from a gay novelist saying basically to live your life the way you want to & not to suppress your feelings out of fear.

I could go on and on about how this makes me feel & how depressing and enfuriating it is to know that I live in a state or even a country that worries about what two consenting, loving adults do behind their own bedroom doors, but I will refrain. I think this coffee cup ban speaks for itself about the conservative fundamentalist agenda.

I think that Baylor University needs to stop worrying about what coffee cups say and start worrying about taking a stand on what's right & wrong. Let's stop following blindly the extremist right-wing agenda & start thinking on our owns. After all, Baylor, you ARE a university, aren't you? Perhaps a Baptist one, but a university, none the less. You have a big say in things & could use it in a more positive way.

Like, for instance, perhaps questioning the actions of our current administration? There are poor 18 year-olds that couldn't afford to go to college that joined the Army instead and are now forced to fight a war that was started for the wrong reasons. (And if you disagree with me, please review my profile because I have served my country so I am not just some whiney idealist spouting empty comments. You see, I know what it's like to be sent to a middle eastern country with unanswered questions about the reason you are there & with idealists staring you down & threatening you at every turn.)

But, then again, coffee cups are really the important issue here, aren't they? I mean, why would you want to stand up for anything really important when it is so easy to hate & judge? Silly me...why am I going off on issues like dying human beings, that don't matter. So, thanks, Baylor University for reminding me of that.

Positive thoughts "shout-outs"

To my dear friend Cheryl: Be strong, stand firm, and take a deep breath. All the answers will come out naturally. You are incredibly talented & more experienced than many & they would be stupid not to hire you! I feel confident in your abilities. You are a professional & you basically just rock anyway!!!Let me know how it goes!!!!

To my dear friend and sister Stacy: You will come out of this rut in which you are stuck, my friend. It will end. Before long, you will be back to writing better than ever before & making a HUGE difference in peoples' lives. You are so talented at that. I miss you dearly.

To my friend Jennifer's mother: I wish for balance, grounding, and peace in your mind & in your heart. Your daughter Jennifer loves you very much & is worried about your health. She wants nothing more in this world than for you to be more careful & take things more slowly. You can and will make it through this.

To my friend, sister, and more ;) Shea: The little black raincloud that has been following you and your family around for the past few has to pass over eventually. It cannot continue this forever. You will make it through this. It will happen. You guys will come out stronger than before.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Farewell, dear Bill

It's ironic that I just posted "The Diner" a few days ago because last night I had a dream about a wonderful soul that means a lot to that place. In my dream I saw him sitting at a table in the diner and he was struggling to get out of his chair to leave. I saw his hands, shaking like leaves as they gripped the chair for support. I saw his face, wrinkled with wisdom and I felt a sadness and pity in my heart. He got up from the table & said good bye as he walked towards the door. That was all I remembered when I woke up this morning.

On my way to class, while sipping an overpriced starbucks, I received a call from my father. With difficulty in his voice, my father advised me that Bill had passed away yesterday. I could hear him choking back tears. Bill was a very good friend of his. My dad continued to tell me that Bill's family (ailing wife, and aging children) all came in this morning to the diner to have breakfast together in honor of Bill. They normally do not go to the diner but they knew what it and the people in it meant to him, so they decided to celebrate the end of his suffering and the beginning of his new life beyond. My father, having been a close friend, was asked to be a pallbearer and accepted with tears blurring his eyes.

I cried...A lot. You see, Bill was one of those special men with a certain glowing light in his eyes. He sat next to my dad, in the same corner of the diner, day after day, for probably close to forty years, telling jokes, telling war-stories, and sharing memories. He was a retired elementary school teacher and principal and cared passionately about the children's lives he inspired. "My children," he called them all.

I can still remember coming into the diner with my dad on Saturday mornings locked & loaded with coloring book and crayons in hand. I can still feel his firm & loving hand patting me gently on my headful of pigtails. He would always lean over and critique my coloring & tell me what a good job I did even when I didn't stay in the lines.

I knew that Bill had been ailing recently, and it saddened me to see such a wonderful person suffering. He was a great friend of my fathers and a man that truly gave all he had for the ideals in which he believed. He is a man that will, forever, remain in my heart & in the hearts of many.

So, as I pulled into the parking lot this morning, I wiped the tears from my cheeks and smiling, said my farewells to Bill, thanking him for coming to visit me one last time in my dreams last night.

Farewell, dear Bill. May you rest in beautiful peace.

P.S. I still color outside of the lines, Bill.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Ummmm, light on the ethnocentrism and fundamentalism, please…

I have been a few places in this world but that has been enough to realize that you don’t necessarily have to be a world traveler to open up your mind. It’s not difficult to open up and make an honest effort to at least respect different cultures, religions, or ideas in general. However, it seems there are a total of about 3 of us that feel that way in this place (a city of 185,000 in Texas, specifically in the Bible belt). Ok, so maybe I am exaggerating just a big, but I am not too far off on that one.

I guess I just don’t see how it is that difficult to understand that people are people and people are different. Perhaps this place is getting to me. It could be the plethora of rebel flags, spit-cups, dually trucks, and beer cans that litter the side of the “Don’t mess with Texas” highway. I feel like if I hear another racial slur or “git ‘er done”, I am going to vomit. Another lovely sight I see on a regular basis is a bumper sticker with the following statement: “A Closed Mind is a Wonderful Thing”. I see these regularly around here; enough said.

Or maybe it’s the overabundance of right-wing fundamentalist churches that incorporate politics into religion? That could be it too. After all, after a friend found out I did not vote for “W” in the last election, she was taken completely aback and could not even speak for a few moments on the phone with me (seriously). I am sure she has been praying for my soul ever since. She implied in the conversation following the awkward silence that I could not consider myself a Christian if I had voted for anyone but “W”. Hmmm...guess I missed that verse in the Bible somewhere. I’ll be sure to look that up right away. ZZZZzzzzzzz

So, I guess since there is no way I will be able to single-handedly (well, with the help of the other 3 progressive people in this town) change the attitudes of the masses. So, what is the solution, you may ask? Well, the world is changing, but it is going to take a LONG time to get these people up to speed with progressive thought. In the future, I may be seriously considering moving to a “blue” state, somewhere light on ethnocentrism & fundamentalism. Somewhere mullets are no longer a fashion accessory and somewhere that you are not behind the power curve if you have not had your third child by the age of 27 (yes, I have been told this).

I guess, in the meantime, I will just need to be prepared to handle these people around here and take them with a grain of salt.

Do You Ever Feel the Undertow?

Do you ever feel the undertow? Some people claim to never feel it.

A dark, mysterious force, it tugs at your firmly rooted feet in the water, tugging, always trying to pull you under, to take you away. But you keep fighting it by standing strong, resisting its temptations, paddling your legs and arms and staying closer to shore. At first you always try to ignore it by looking for beautiful seashells, always more and more of them. Then that loses interest after awhile and you desperately look to the sky for hope and guidance. Then, sometimes you find someone else next to you, fighting the same battle. Sometimes they don’t make it, but sometimes they do. But somehow you do. You keep fighting it; even though sometimes it takes you under for awhile, you always re-emerge, gasping for air. It just loses strength for a time or maybe you get stronger for awhile.

And then sometimes, you stop to focus on it, and you let yourself get drunk on its tab. You let it whisper its seductive, evil offers in your ear. You think about where it would take you, what it would do with you if it had its way. You allow yourself to indulge in its perversion, feeling the sand between your toes intensify as you ponder its power. You allow yourself to wander away from the shore and up to your neck in the water. You can hear the people on the beach, calling your name, calling for you to come back closer to the shore. So, you finally come to your senses & move a little closer to the shore, into shallower, safer water. You suddenly appreciate the oxygen you breath, the ocean mist against your cheek, the saltwater and sand that tangles your hair, and the seashells that pinch your toes that much more…for awhile.

As the waves roll by, you jump up and ride them back down to the sandy floor. Some of them you can handle, but some of them knock you down. But you keep going on, somehow, day after day, both fighting and playing with it. Eventually, it becomes your closest enemy but also your best friend. It’s a duality, and you tell yourself it makes you stronger the more you fight it.

You can always feel it…even if it’s ever so slight, it’s always there. You laugh, you play, and you work, always knowing you have to keep up the fight. But it is always there at your feet, tugging at them and pulling at them. You hope that one day you will be able to walk away from the undertow and stand on solid ground forever.
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