Truth Telling

Reflections after: “Wont You Be My Neighbor” the film

I always wondered if I was enough. I think I was, he just never told me. But now he has. And the validation is and always was, all within my Self.

I am a product of my experiences–to communicate the truth. I’d rather be known for telling people the truth, I said.

I know the truth because I saw my mother love. I know the truth because my father and his father discussed frankly, the politics of the world. I know the truth because my sister shares these experiences. I know the truth because my friends ensure the guidance, the propagation, the continuance of that truth.

What truth is it, that I speak?

The baby crying; inescapable from room to room and nowhere to be found.

The car that exhausts the sidewalk trees, blisters its exterior with debris.

The black woman once ignored in the conference room, speaks.

The grip of a young farmer, as he holds his mutt tight to his chest.

The raw meat sacrificed from a once live pig, earlier this week.

The bottle you discard; what if all your trash followed you throughout your lifetime?

The tragedy of death. The pierce of loss of spirit. The moment we fathom, “access denied,” to the most powerful incarnation of love we have ever known.

We press on. But not without contemplation. A gentle acknowledgement of time made flat on a singular plane.

What is this truth? This is our humanity. Our gift to the world harbored in awareness; if only we remember to turn on the light.

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Trolls. How to Spot Them. What to do.

So, you think you’ve identified an online troll. Your aunt is running for city council this fall and you’re the millennial managing her Facebook page. You keep getting calls from the family asking you what to do. Papaw knows where the troll lives and is going knock on their front door and give them a talkin’ to (this is Kentucky).

Well, what do you do?

No situation is ever the same. Media gurus at M+R created a helpful “Social Media Manager” tool guide that helps you identify and act upon a troll’s…trolling. But strangely, after I received this article from a colleague, a scenario similar to what I wrote up above actually happened. Now I have a story to tell about the advice I gave.

First, I asked to see screenshots of the trolls’ comments. They were negative, blatant lies about the candidate.

I gave the forlorn millennial a few options. You have every right to:

  1. Hide the comments on the Facebook page
  2. Change your settings to where you have to approve every comment on the page going forward (B is a bit obnoxious, but a fail proof way you won’t miss any negativity)
  3. Block the individual from the page entirely

BUT (you can see how this becomes a game of chutes and ladders) this troll was rogue, posting harmful personal statuses rather than solely on the campaign page.

What now?

I compared it to a real-world scenario. There’s always “that guy” who continues to run for office every year regardless of who the candidates are. They garner maybe 200 votes in the primary, often because of voter ignorance or prejudices. They can be outlandish. But what do people on campaigns do in the real world when paired with these candidates on the ballot?

Ignore their harmful (distracting, unintelligible, etc.) comments. Any attention you give them reinforces their illusion of power (this statement is also helpful for getting over abusive exes).

The takeaway? Let them be outlandish. The local* community will sort through the BS on their own and not be drawn to such content. Better yet, save your ship for self preservation.

e.g. Don’t be Happy – Exhibit A:

Note: Local community is key for quality control. Cannot use the same advice on a national or global scale (cough* “fake news” cough*).

A Return to Balance

If there is one thing I’ve struggled with most for about a year, it’s been balance. I take life too seriously. I imagine a goal, my goal, and I don’t dance around it—I shove myself through the portal til I ensure achievement. How unhealthy. If life worked in this particular fashion we would have only one job as a worker bee. At the end would be our sudden death, dry and crippled on a summer concrete slab.

I recently moved into a place to be on my own. How do I love the silence. To hear my own thoughts. I have been merely surviving. Unable to give myself the opportunity to sit and let my thoughts come to me and the page.

But back to balance. Society imposes a narrative upon us to be results-driven. This invades many of our thoughts throughout the day. I have now realized this narrative to be a block. Of what? To my happiness. To my creativity. To listening to my faculties to provide me insight on my life. But I refrain to access out of fear. Perhaps I am afraid of the truth. I am afraid of what I will create. What myths about myself I will debunk. When we confront our art we see, even if it’s not visibly a painting of ourselves, a self-portrait. Will I like Molly this week? Today? This moment? Will I agree with her behavior? I am afraid to know.

Last week I was home in Lexington for a series of doctors appointments. I now live in Louisville. Twice I encountered what I would consider spiritual mentors.

“Are you writing?” they ask. On one occasion, I was asked this question in Third Street Café after I spent nearly 2 hours mentoring a young writer at Transy. No, I thought. Avoids the question.

We go back to the epicenter of those who know us well. Who know us by name. Not the one our families gave us. Or society. But a tribal name of what we call ourselves. Writer.

Why so much fear around being seen? I ask myself. I think most of it has to do with not fully approving or liking what we see in the mirror. After growth, which in the natural world is change. And if change, destruction. What if our self-portrait is the avalanche of our cheek or the self-scarification of picking endlessly, lack of lovingly, at our own face? How do we confront the shame?

I retreat again to balance. It’s been a while since I sought you. And I am ready to listen again.

Pain, and the True Meaning of Christmas

I will memorialize our past. I will construct goals for my future. I will take pride in the present.

 A text from a friend of mine as we relate on feelings of lack of control and stability during the holiday season. With less than ideal circumstances for Christmas, we aspire to rewrite our holiday narratives on our own terms as we age…

Christmas morning, I woke to my sister by my bedside at the Estill farm house in May’s Lick, gifts in hand. She often wakes before I do and graces me with her presence as I open my eyes, like mom once did.

The Estill and Crain sisters deliberate quickly on which showers to use and in what order we cleanse. I bathed second and quickly readied for Catholic mass.

The youthful priest evangelically told a story to the small congregation that brought me to tears.

During his educational time in Rome he detailed that he ran into a couple while walking to class. He could tell they were American, emeritus, and lost. As he walked with them to their next destination the husband said abrasively that he didn’t want to talk about God. The priest avoided the subject of faith, as the couple spoke selfishly about the pope and asked if they could get tickets to see him.

The priest joked to the May’s Lick congregation that it was a slim possibility. Not every aspiring priest knows the pope. Luck surprisingly on the couples’ side, the priest managed to snag tickets and saw them later the next day after visiting Vatican City.

“Our tickets were in the front row!” The couple said to the priest. “We shook hands with the pope and everything!” Happy for the couple, the priest took them to lunch at the nearest pizzeria.

Husband apologized for being abrasive about not wanting to talk about God. Priest continued to be polite and asked the couple questions about themselves. They were decently wealthy due to the 30 years they dedicated to professions. Money in such bounty they didn’t know how to spend it all, other than travel. They were incredibly distanced from their family. Their children didn’t visit anymore, and they rarely saw their grandchildren.

When the husband got up to go to the restroom, the wife said to the priest, “I hated every bit of those 30 years of my life I lost to my job. I was miserable. Every day of my life. And I did it all for him! I have lost my life all because of that man.”

“Don’t you know that you’ve always had a choice!” Exclaimed the priest, standing, yelling at the woman in the pizzeria. “That this was not the life that God intended for you, your husband, or your family to have!” The husband returned and started aggressively walking to the priest.

“Stop,” she said. “It’s not him, it’s me. It’s us.”

The priest said “Check,” to get himself out of such an awkward situation…

I sat in the church in my full length red coat. Tears streaming down my face as the sun shone through stained-glass windows. I thought of my past. My parents. As if God was speaking to my mom and dad when they divorced, turned to self-annihilation and slowly—throughout mine and Lauralee’s lives—abandoned hope for the continuity of a nuclear family and positive future.

We’re only human.

Christmas annually, for me, is a reflection of discordant memories that seem to laugh atop ongoing harmonies. Many people must feel like this. Expectations in advertisements and on social media inoculate our psyches into what this time period of our lives should look like. How it should feel.

For my friend and I at the beginning of this story—realities of pandemonium invade our present. Trauma from family members lost too soon, addictions so painfully visible and which you are powerless to change.

A few nights ago, my sister, her husband and I watched The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. I find that pattern of narrative—where the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future visit to reason with Scrooge—comparable to the text my friend sent me.

I ask too, what if we memorialize our past, construct goals for our future, and take pride in the present.

Would we then begin to fully embrace and create the life God intended for us?

Within pain, I argue, is where we can find the true meaning of Christmas. Because pain leads us to compassion and understanding, we are able to be emotional enough to cry. To sob. From this source, we can move to a fuller joy, born by the complexities of life.

Like Scrooge who was hardened by his past, but peers into a window to see the mourning of Tiny Tim, we see ourselves in this humanity, and pivot from a sorrowful soul to a place of refuge, stability, and community for those around us.

To finish the story of the couple and the priest, they went home to the United States and dedicated their lives to Christ. I say this not to command that committing our lives to God be the ultimate resolve. That is too forceful from my position. But it does turn me to acknowledge the first step of alcoholics anonymous, which is to admit that we are powerless.

Once we let go of our illusion of control over the passage of time and relationships in this life, do we ironically find this life more manageable, easier to navigate and maintain continuity.

New Years Resolve: Forgiveness

While crafting social media for Kentucky Voices for Health, I came across two Huffington Post articles.

  1. 50 Healthy Resolutions that Aren’t Losing Weight

and (stay with me people)

  1. 9 Very Good Reasons to Let Go of That Grudge

I found No. 2 article embedded as the 28th resolution in the 50 list. And it struck me. Particularly the phrase: “Forgive someone: Life’s too short to not move on.”

As we take time during the holiday season to look back on the wretchedness that was 2017 we might feel as we crossed through a sandstorm, dust settled. We made it through and are all the wiser. Unfortunately this doesn’t come without pain…unless you’re a masochist who likes getting sand in your eyes.

Forgiveness is a funny thing. “You’re going to have to forgive her,” we hear. If you’ve lived life long enough—or catalyzed this notion of forgiveness by going to therapy—we know this is the ultimate resolve waiting for us. But how to get there? This takes time.

Forgiveness is actually really cool. It takes the burden or pain we were feeling about being wronged, places it on a shelf, and refocuses our attention back on reaffirming and bolstering our self-worth. Once we come to this realization, we engage in a friendship with forgiveness because the experience of being wronged taught us a lesson. We love ourselves more for having “gone through it.”

Forgiveness is also this amazing bi-conditional—or works both ways—phenomenon. Not only do you get to table your grief, but you also learn how to forgive yourself in the process for having experienced it, or allowing “it” to happen to you. Distance from the phenomenon—like being cheated on, for example—and time, gives you the notion it never had anything to do with you in the first place.

Shame is a devilish monster. When we are wronged, and sitting isolated in retrospect, we often tend to only have this conversation with ourselves on repeat:

⇒ “Why/how did you let that happen to yourself?”

I have nothing else to say other than this is nonsense. You can’t piece together the clues until after the event occurred. We must approach these types of situations with peace, and afford ourselves the grace and unconditional love necessary to live a life that’s healthy and empowered on our own terms.

Life is too short not to take matters into your own hands. Write your own narrative.

Closure; is there such a thing?

When we are waiting for a sorry, or closure that will never come…

The more I witness death, the more I realize that there is no such thing as closure. That “closure” was actually a concept created to describe a state of mind that connotes an ending or acceptance of an end.

Images of endings appear in our minds: a door closing, a meal finished–fork down, a book–last page turned. But the mind does not operate quite like the physical world in which we operate. Our thoughts are a constant rolling tape.

So I ask myself the question: How do we learn to let go of the story of the past we repeatedly play in our minds that painfully infiltrates our present?

We begin, perhaps, to alter our perspective. Because the more our focus is directed elsewhere, or rearranged, the less the former reality appears as a future possibility; or future lost.

Only in the rearrangement of our mental furniture do we see that we were never going to be well suited for the set-up, anyway. Or if the floor caved, physics was trying to tell us it was time to replace the hardwood.

Sooner or later we must operate in this acceptance because you can’t live safely in a home with a busted foundation. I suppose you can, but your feet would constantly have splinters. This scenario is not optimal.

Here we begin to understand the other mental construct that results in the phrase, “Time heals all wounds.”

Closure never really occurs.

Perspective change, rather, is the more accurate phenomenon…however a muddled time it takes us to have such an epiphany. When we no longer see the former in focus, a new reality synaptically arises concurrently as we repurpose our mental space, or living room.

August 6, 2017

I couldn’t even begin to–well I am–describe the unique sensation I have about this rain, Louisville, Sunday creativity, of connection, and feeling all at once the heartache of human existence. Of knowing somehow, that you’re in the right place and time to make the next logical jump. Oh how I love this freedom. This ache. This unknown. Basking in the sun of uncertainty and floating in the sea of life and connection. Of being in the current and enjoying the present. And to know that a life fully lived is one that doesn’t let assumptions dictate the next iteration, of you.

I saw a man attempt to put

his front bike tire

on, while balancing frame

upright, tucked in armpit

walking, I stabilized it with

my right, held

umbrella in left

my conscience suddenly swept

in recognition of

the human condition.

I smiled