Word Wednesday 9/2/2015

Only after we've lost everything are we

Just a couple of days before Katrina hit, a friend and I were riding around Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.  On the marquee for either St. Stanislaus school or Our Lady Academy–both private religious school–was this quotation.

I took a picture of it because:

  1. I thought it strange that a religious school would be quoting Fight Club,
  2. Fight Club is one of my favorite movies, ever,
  3.  and I had a disposable camera and needed to use up the shots.  Little did I know that the shots of bridges, beaches, and some of my favorite trees would be the last I would see of them for months or years or ever.

As Doctor Horrible would say, what a crazy random happenstance.

On the Tenth Anniversary of Hope and the Firefly Messengers

(Featured Image: Free Firely Wallpaper via Google Play)

Technically, today isn’t the tenth anniversary of hope.  That came a few weeks later.  But it’s what I choose to celebrate today, August 29, 2015.

Ten years ago, I was writing in a leather journal by candlelight. We had lost power and, despite the sweltering heat and the ever-hungry mosquitoes, it was far more pleasant outside than in.

I was filled with regret, I think, that one thing left undone before Katrina hit.

We didn’t take it seriously; we on the Mississippi Gulf Coast had weathered storms before.  We knew what supplies to gather, what actions to take, what food to store up.

I was on crutches, a foot surgery that had me off of work and unable to carry my last box up the stairs. It was a box of writing: EverQuest fanfiction (ha!), some half-way decent short stories I had dabbled with, and some really bad poetry I shouldn’t have, and journals. Pages and pages of journals. I had been stuck in a stasis for the past two years, post-divorce and having no clue of who I was.

So I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

Of my love for the fishcamp, of my annoyance at my cats, of my first relationship after my marriage, in all its beautiful tumultuousness, and all the guilt and shame of years of silence.

I wrote.

I was tired and annoyed when my mother came to help me load my stuff up. Cats in carriers, important things, work clothes.  I was not as gracious as I could have been.

But that last box remained as I said, “Fuck it,” and threw my stuff and myself in the car and headed to my parents’ house. The box remained at the bottom of the stairs; I refused even my mother’s offer of carrying it up for me.

I was definitely not as gracious as I could have been.

As I wrote by candlelight, my father told me that I should stop. My mother told me I should stop. “You’re just going to rehash everything.”  They were right, of course, at least half-right: I did rehash everything. But writing is how I think. It’s how I process and refine my thoughts and beliefs.  I realize now that, at least on some level, it’s how I breathe.

I didn’t really have much of a choice.

My mother had also told me to “Cut the Polly Anna bullshit out.”

Before the night I was writing, I was okay, in that okay-sort-of-way that meant I didn’t understand a damn thing.  “We lost…” someone would say, and I would counter with something positive.  “The damage!” someone would exclaim, and say something uplifting and no doubt cliche.

Over and over and over again.

Now, in the present, I recognize it as shock, something so terrible and encompassing that my mind couldn’t process it. I saw a silver lining everywhere. All I could see were silver linings.

Until I broke, and then I didn’t anymore. Not a single silver lining.

That one thing left undone, and no way to see the consequences. Roads were flooded, blocked by debris.  There was no way to get to the fishcamp, although my dad valiantly tried until the water was too high, even for his high-sitting truck, and we had to turn back.

All I could see was darkness, All I could hear were stories of death and destruction through the radio.  The occasional “I’m okay,” text from friends when they’d go through wasn’t enough to keep my head above the proverbial water.

I was most definitely not okay.

They tried to comfort me, my parents, but I was inconsolable. I needed to be left alone with my darkness and my realization that I was not the strong person I thought I was: I was not able to maintain my okay-ness through the storm.

And I cried. Tears, fat and wet making the ink run against the page before I gave up trying to write. There was a great paradox: everything in me was exhausted, empty, and yet I was filled to the brim with fear. My cup overrunneth, and no amount of crying would stop it.

I hadn’t prayed in a very long time.  At this point, I was lost in the woods, God and faith and the core of who I was had escaped me, bounding like a rabbit just beyond the next tree.

And then I prayed.

Continue reading On the Tenth Anniversary of Hope and the Firefly Messengers

Featured Fool: Zachary Quinto the Hopebearer

I’m Zachary Quinto and I want to add to the chorus of voices rising up against the kind of hatred and ridicule that led to the senseless and heartbreaking suicides of Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Billy Lucas, Tyler Clementi and Raymond Chase in just the past few month in this country. And those are only the names that we’ve come to know.

There are countless other teens and young adults who are struggling to find a sense of identity and belonging in a chaotic and often unforgiving world. To you I say: it gets better. There is help to be found. There are places to turn, there are people who will listen.

Start there, start anywhere, but start by believing that life is worth living and you will find your way. And I’m proud to be a voice that stands to remind you of that any time you ever come close to forgetting it.

Thetrevorproject.org 1.866.4.you.trevor is a place to start. Start there, start anywhere, but start by believing that life is worth living and you will find your way.

I’ve been accused of being a bit of a voice fetishist, and, if I’m entirely honest, I can’t deny it.  I don’t have the vocabulary to describe the parts of a voice, but I know that there’s a certain tonal quality that I respond to, a voice that, with its rise and fall, my heart speeds up and slows down.

It’s a matter of resonance, I suppose.

A voice can dig down deep, deeper than my gut, to the very marrow of my bones and set me on fire, make me believe them when they say the earth is square. or everything will be all right.  Others turn my back for me, and I’m halfway around the corner before I even realize I’ve been repelled.

There is power in a voice.  And when that voice lends itself to powerful words, that power intensifies, surging beyond the realm of limits and dips its toes in the ocean of the limitless.

Zachary Quinto has such a power.  His voice, his words, his naming of the victims of suicide has power.

If I’ve watched this video 10 times, I’ve watched it 100. Some days, I’ve been just beyond the scope of that power, wanting to believe so badly it hurt,  but afraid of getting my hopes up. Does it get better?

It does. It does. It does.

I was once told that a friend holds your faith for you until you’re able to hold it yourself.

Perhaps a friend is someone who holds your hope for you as well when it’s too much to bear, too much to hold onto.  They hold it and share it and eventually your fingers and hands and heart can come together again and keep it from spilling out as you carry it.

Thank you to Zachary Quinto, and for all of those who lend their voices and their power to making the world a better place.

Thank you for being a Hopebearer.

(b&w lighthouse  by John Curley, used by creative commons  license.)

Fabulous Friday: Courage and Grace

We are not enemies, but friends. We must

There has been a lot of talk about courage since Caitlyn Jenner came out. What is “real” courage, what isn’t. Who gets to define it, who doesn’t. Who’s a good role model and who isn’t.

I like that. I like that there’s a lot of talk about it. Debate is good. What I don’t like is all of the personal insults being thrown around by both sides of the debate.

But debate is good.

I think, perhaps, that we confuse courage and grace. We often say that people who are fighting cancer have courage–which may or may not be true–when they are actually displaying grace.

One of the standard measures for courage includes brawn: a soldier, a firefighter. Not all courage, though, requires muscles, and to say that one thing is courageous does not set in stone  a single definition of courage.

Courage consists of going beyond fear. Not being unafraid, but looking it in the eye and plowing through it.  Fear is a line that divides us from where we are *here* to where we could be *there.*

It’s a big, fat, scary line, but it is just a line.  And courage merely a step that crosses over that line.

Just a step. One single step.

Very few things are black and white. In fact, even “black and white” isn’t black and white. Colors exist on a spectrum. Colors aren’t binary.  But somehow we’ve become convinced that things are absolute: either something is or it isn’t.

But because of this binary thinking, we often assume an unspoken part of a statement that may not have even been intended in the first place.

And we all know what ass-u-me does.

A perfect example is “Black lives matter.” By saying “black lives matter,” no one (to my knowledge) is implying “…and no other lives matter.” They’re saying that, despite current circumstances where black men and women are being killed at astronomically high rates, sometimes by persons of authority, black lives do, in fact, matter.

It is not diminishing “all other lives” by stating “black lives matter.” It is not saying “black lives are the only lives that matter.”

If there’s any binary there, if there’s any opposition there, it stands in opposition to the death rate, to the violence. NOT in opposition to other lives.

You may or may not think that what Jenner did was courageous, or that she deserves to be called a role model.  But in a society that has such a huge rate of bullying and suicide and violence targeted at ALL people who are different, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people in particular, publicly stepping up and identifying herself as someone who is part of that population, making herself known and possibly a target of potential violence and bullying, is, at the VERY least, just a little bit courageous.

Yes, courage is most certainly displayed when soldiers hold a front, when firefighters go into the blaze, when police officers save lives. But it’s also displayed in small, often unnoticed ways that rarely get mentioned and never, ever get fanfare.

Continue reading Fabulous Friday: Courage and Grace


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