I haven’t even started to write and yet the post editor insists on a title.
How would I even know that?
How would I summarize or describe something that doesn’t yet exist?
It would be different if I came with intent, and I suppose it’s not unreasonable to think I might.
You probably would.
But I just showed up. I didn’t know what else to do.
I once knew someone who believed in intention, but when intention dried up and blew away, she went to live in a box.
I didn’t know I should be sad to see her go.
When she left I turned on the television…the CD player…the radio…anything to fill the silence she left behind.
But silence infected with noise often begins to take on a life of its own, and on the day I couldn’t get into my kitchen because the noise was taking up too much space, I turned them all off and slumped to the floor.
It was there I discovered that my thoughts were louder than the TV had ever been, and the volume control knob on them was broken.
They lived in technicolor and surround sound; they were relentless and merciless.
I eventually broke a window to let some of them out so my head wouldn’t explode.
Sometimes it exploded a little anyway.
You probably noticed.
I wonder if Ms. Intentionality knew this could happen, and if she would find it worth checking out of that box to explore the option.
Sometimes it’s better to break a lease than to be driven insane by four tight walls and a ceiling that’s too low and an impossible standard.
Then again, it would probably frighten her to realize I’m no longer afraid to harness the crazy and see where it runs.
I used to like that place
It had my favorite rooms
But then I got new glasses
The lenses fixed my eyes
That place I now find garish
I squint in the neon black
It’s a silent war zone
The air is way too dark
This is our arrogance
This is our indulgence
We’re blinded by the darkness
We sing victory songs from our cells
From our divided mouths
We beg peace to visit
Our words garbled by
our open switchblade tongues
We pound on the tables
We stomp on the floors
Anything to drown out
the deafening silence
Our minds are the war zone
We stare down the enemy
that taunts from the mirror
This is our insolence
This is our violence
Our altars are dripping with blood
But we’re oblivious to the sacrifice.
I had an awesome pair of dancing shoes
They were very expensive but a fine investment
They matched all my clothes perfectly
I never wanted to wear anything else
But then one day a friend asked me to try ordinary shoes
I wanted to say no
I would have said no to anyone else
But this wasn’t that kind of friend
And so I handed him my lovely shoes
He nodded his head towards a pair of faded and worn sneakers in the corner
They didn’t match and they had some holes
It was like lacing sadness onto my feet
They felt like they weighed a ton
And my feet no longer wanted to dance
They didn’t even want to walk to the mailbox
I glanced at the faces around me and then down at their feet
They were all wearing sad shoes
Ill-fitting with holes and broken laces and dangling buckles
Soles encrusted with thick dark mud
Here and there I saw a pair of shoes abandoned
My heart broke
I knew the shoes had swallowed the person who once wore them
Pulled the yes out of their heads
Sucked the breath from their lungs
A person gone for lack of dancing shoes
I turned with tears to find my friend holding out my wonderful shoes
I began to pry frantically at the old pair on my feet
They would not budge until he knelt down and gently removed them
I sobbed as he quietly cradled my feet and replaced my shoes
My feet were once again comfortable
The shoes still matched everything
But my dance was forever changed.
I watched him weave a path through the darkness
He knew all the land mines of the night
The sticky knotted webs suffocating broken prey
The blades still dripping with pain
Empty bottles and frozen screens
Brains throbbing inside of sharp-edged skulls
Red eyes squinted in the approaching light
The ground littered with lock-jawed shame.
His fingertips gently brushed the anguish as he passed
His breath suspended in the air
Fear recoiled at his reach
But what his fingers missed his breath did not
I observed him from a safe distance
Then suddenly he was before me
I was reminded there is neither safety nor distance where he is concerned
I lost my breath and could not move as his eyes locked to mine
He reached forward and put his finger on an old scar
Long ago healed and faded and dismissed from my thought
At his touch a gasp escaped my lips as the searing pain resurged
Only for a little while, he said
Only until you’ve remembered well
I realized that I did not want to remember
I did not want to feel that pain again
I wanted to be done
But as he pierced me with his gaze I knew I would never be done
Because I too know the path through the darkness
My blood is soaked into the ground there
He wears me like a glove
I carry his breath
And what his fingers miss his breath does not.
I called for an appointment for a makeover
Nothing drastic, I thought
Maybe a trim, boost in color
I thought you’d be too busy, really
And it would likely be weeks before you had an opening
But you had other ideas
I don’t know why I thought you wouldn’t
You wanted to build a house
You wanted to plant a garden
You wanted to clean out my closets
You wanted to have a bonfire
And you had ideas about what to burn
I didn’t want to tell you no
But I saw the look in your eye
I heard the tone of your voice
I knew the furniture would be too tall for me in that house
I knew there would be snakes in the garden
I didn’t want you to see my closets
It was me you wanted to burn
And here we are again
My lips are forming yes
But I can’t look you in the eye
You will see into the middle
You will see into the mess
So you peer at me through the crack in the wall
I pretend I don’t notice you noticing
But I can feel your eyes burning a hole in my heart
You remind me I gave you permission
This will warm your bones, you say
And I admit I’ve caught a chill
I never quite warmed up after winter
That’s why I wanted a makeover anyway
But of course you already knew that.
I saw what saw
and I never said I didn’t
but you didn’t see and so
you assumed I couldn’t.
I didn’t want to argue
didn’t want to scare you
didn’t want to make you
shove your fingers
in your ears
as you backed away slowly.
Even on the days
my bones catch a chill
and the colors are dull
and I begin to wonder
if the wind will ever come again,
I know there are embers
and no veil is beyond tearing.
There will be breath
and I will live
And there will be words
and I will see what
you have said
and then I cannot help
My high school classmates got together in my hometown this evening.
They were in Ohio. I’m in Florida with a schedule that didn’t allow for travel this week, and so I missed out on the gathering. I spent the evening eagerly looking forward to photos popping up on Facebook.
Who would have ever thought in 1981 that we’d one day have tiny cordless portable telephones that work as cameras and handheld computers? Who would have imagined Facebook?
We came from three K-8 elementary schools in a rural part of Ohio and consolidated into one graduating high school class of 88 people. We were our own small town, and our worlds were still small and mostly untried by life.
It was hard to be me in high school, mainly because I had no idea who me was. I was a confined and compliant restless creative who was reasonably smart, but I wasn’t pretty and I was a total train wreck at all things physical besides marching band. I wasn’t one of the cool kids. Don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t friendless; there were six of us girls who’d known each other since we were very young, and we stuck together during the high school years, too. They loved me, and I loved them. But I still felt like an outsider drowning in my own life. All I knew is that I was Different in ways I couldn’t articulate, the kind of ways that keep an insecure teenager on the Uncool-But-Not-Outcast list. I didn’t know how to be ok with that. It would be many years before I would make peace with my kind of Different, and even come to love it. But back then, it felt like a social death sentence.
Fast forward a few decades. I’ve since lived at countless addresses in seven states. I finished a degree that I never officially used. I married Mr. Sparky and raised four beautiful, brilliant, creative, and delightfully strange children, one of which has produced four beautiful, brilliant, creative, and delightfully strange Grand Sparks. I’ve picked up and abandoned dozens of creative pursuits because the world of creativity is just too huge to park in one corner of it. I found out I could do hard things. I eventually discovered who me was, and subsequently found out that I actually liked me in spite of a host of quirks, flaws, and peculiarities. I finally began to believe it was cool to not be one of the cool kids.
The truth is, I wouldn’t want to be 18 again for anything. The skin and the more slender frame might be nice, but not worth the angst.
I looked at the pictures of my beautiful classmates coming across the screen tonight. I don’t think I knew how beautiful they were when we were young, because when I looked at them all I could see was how I didn’t measure up to the invisible (and self-created) standard that loomed in my mind. But I long ago released myself from that impossible standard; I don’t care about measuring up anymore. I now look at them and I see life. And even though I wasn’t there to hug the necks and share in the stories, I look at them and instinctively know some things to be true.
Our faces are no longer unlined, but the smiles are now tried and tested by the fires of life. Joy, even in the form of a smile for a camera, is a choice, and we understand the other options because we’ve experienced pain, disappointment, and loss that we couldn’t even fathom at 18. We’ve laughed and cried harder than we ever knew possible; we’ve raged and we’ve loved. We all now know that we can do hard things, because we’ve done them. We’ve been amazed by our own strength, and devastated by our weaknesses.
We have all lived a story we couldn’t even imagine at 18.
We have said goodbye a few of our classmates, their stories over far too soon. But for the most part we still have chapters left to live.
Personally, I plan to pack mine full. I have Important Things to do for (and with) a King I love and a kingdom I long to see established on earth as it is in heaven. I have a legacy to leave. I have creative exploits I haven’t even thought of yet. The possibilities are literally endless.
The next time my classmates get together, I hope to be in their midst fully being my own introverted but not shy Different self—purple hair, warped sense of humor, and all. Until then, there’s Facebook.
It’s good to be alive in 2016.