Archive for April, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again ..

Whooo – hoo! If you didn’t hear the scream earlier today, the Honda is back on the road. OK, it could have been a little warmer (mid – 40’s), but you know what? I don’t care!

The gentleman who fixed our bike is a seventy-something Mr. Otis. He lives in a very modest little house just inside the Flint city limits. He reminds you a little of Morgan Freeman … his character in “Bruce Almighty.” He knows everything there is to know about motorcycles. He builds custom choppers and drag bikes. He keeps all his parts, labeled, crated and locked inside a couple of old semi-trailers. You probably wouldn’t look twice at the property driving by. But it’s a treasure trove of motorcycle history, creation and stories.

Anyway, Mr. Otis did a great job on the bike. B. drove it home … I was a little hesitant, to take it out on a major road. But once I followed him to work, I traded in the mini-van for the bike, and I was back in the saddle. Funny … I talk about how much I like to ride. But the truest essense of riding flooded over me again today.

Breathing … watching … loving … living. It’s all good. I’m glad summer’s on the way. And I’m glad the bike is on the road again.

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Glory Days

Took the big boy for a college visit today.  It was nice … better than I expected.  Good to find a “Christian” college that actually encouraged curiosity and questioning … and that has a social justice/ecological heart (recycling bins EVERYWHERE; schedules that allow kids to go into the city to build relationships and help)non-required chapels; an understanding that kids going to college are adults, and to legislate morality is a travesity and ill equips them for “real life”, etc.  Wow. 

The whole college search thing is tougher than I imagined.  Just yesterday, this little boy was squeaking about the world and his new discoveries … sharing his old soul with me, and teaching me more than any college class I ever took.  Now, here he is.  Making decisions that will take him into the next stage of his life and beyond.  He’s wise … so much so, beyond his years.  And I think we’ve done a good job giving him a mind of his own.  He doesn’t accept anything at face value, yet accepts everyone with an open heart.  Yeah, I know he’ll get hurt because of it.  But his indominable spirit keeps me from losing hope in his future.

On the way home, we talked deeply about my journey.  My cynacism (which he wishes I would give up on “a little”).  My brokeness … the concept of hope and how it’s really my choice whether I give it up or not.  (personal responsibility?  Wow, I wonder where’s he’s heard that his entire life …).  Crazy.  When your words begin to speak forth from the mouth of our children …

It was amazing to watch him interact with other prospective college kids.  With current college kids.  With professors and an environment of which he does not yet belong … yet how confidently and easily he “fits” where he’s never been before.  I know I have to let go … to let him stretch into this next phase.  But I tell you what … until you walk this path, looking at this amazing child that came from nothing into our lives some seventeen years ago and know he is now a man.  Don’t feed me platitudes and cliches that mean nothing to this mother’s proud — and grieving — heart. 

It was a tremendous experience, to watch this young man I call son spread his wings a little bit today.  To hear his voice as he spoke of hopes, desires, plans and dreams.  To know I had a little to do with it, but to see the person he has been from the beginning of his time grow forward.  It was a little like glimpsing the future, you know?  Seeing in his eyes the person he’s becoming … the shadows of his future children … wow.  It just blows me away.  I can’t think on it too long.

So, here’s to the beginning of glory days for the boy.  May these next few years prepare him well for the next segment of his glorious, beautiful journey.

Death Has Become Her …

\"For M\"    Wow … two in one week …

I went into work this morning (just to get a coffee), and my co-workers looked like crap.  I kidded a bit with one, until I realized the blanket that hung over them all was the sudden death last night of a co-worker.  “M” was walking last night with her boyfriend, and they were both struck by a hit-and-run driver (no one apprehended as of writing).  She was a vivacious woman of forty-some years.  Mom of three; studying to become a nurse to return to her “second” country of Jamaica to provide much needed medical help for the poorest of the poor.  Took care of her ailing grandmother full-time. 

“M” had a tough life.  Before I really got to know her, I knew of her calling to Jamaica.  I told her I was impressed with her before I met her, and she thought that was funny.  As we continued to work together, I fell in love with her ability to give “play by play” as she smiled at the customers, but give her complaints (hilarious and always just below the level of anyone else hearing her) to me as we worked the bar and drive-through together.  She was straight forward, you know?  She was a hustler when it came to closing (she would just step it up and do whatever needed to be done).  She was a hard worker, who encouraged everyone around her to do their best, too.

Perfect?  No.  But I loved working with her … listening to he life stories … meeting the “new” boyfriend that actually treated her like the lady she was (something new to her).  Wow. 

Some of us spent some time together tonight.  Not really talking about “M”, but just laughing at stupid and inappropriate things.  Living, breathing … spending time looking into the eyes of these kids that have not had that much experience with death.  Seeing their questions; not having the answers they need, but knowing they really weren’t looking for answers, either.  They were looking for someone just to come along side of them and remind them that life goes on.  That they were OK.  That it was still OK to live, even though a wonderful woman now knows what lies beyond us all.

Before, I would have probably given them a “pat” religious answer about what I believe concerning the afterlife.  Me, struggling to justify what I think with how I judged “M’s” soul to be.  We christians do that, you know.  Put everyone’s life experience against what we think is “right” and “wrong,” and somehow in our minds damn them or see them in eternal bliss.  But I kept my mouth shut, because no one asked me about the hope I have.  They all know where I stand; but tonight, no one wanted to think on the deeper things.  They wanted to grieve by living.  So I shared my grief, too, in this way.

If you’re reading, please pray for this family.  “M’s” three children are all teenagers; her relationship with the ex-husbands was strained at best, but her kids loved her greatly.  And, pray that they catch the person who snatched this lovely life from us all.  I know the true source of the anger is “M’s” death, but right now, it’s shared with the injustice of the whole situation. 

 

Uncle Nels

Today, we went to my husband’s uncle’s funeral.  Nels Chris Nelson was 80 years old.  Father of five, grandfather of 15 or so, and great-grandfather of 27.  He was a hard worker (as most of the people who spoke out their memories emphasized).  A big man, Nels had probably the biggest hands of any man I’d ever met!  He was a kidder, too.  First impressions put him as a stoic old man, stiff and reserved.  Time spent with him showed him to be something much more.

As I listened to people talk nicely about Uncle Nels today, I smiled because it was mostly just a “nice church funeral,” you know?  People talking about him “in heaven with Jesus, building stuff” or his “godly example,” things we say to bring comfort to those who have just had their hearts ripped out by a lost of someone they loved.  And it’s what we do — I mean, we as humans feel like we have to help … do something … anything.  It is our nature, plus it helps us not to think about the holes in our own heart death has caused.

Anyway, for me, the memories of Nels were different.  I didn’t know him well … but the thing I remember about him was that he was one of the few people I’ve met (especially “religious” people) who were totally, unconditionally accepting of me.  I have a tough time fitting into most places where people are expect to be responsible, mature and respectful.  I’m a little too honest — trying to do the “right” thing, usually succeeding in overstepping my boundaries (set in unspoken ways by people who live by different constraints than I do).  I’ve learned — am learning — how to keep my mouth shut in order to keep peace.

But with Nels … I didn’t have to be so guarded.  I think he even enjoyed conversing with me, seeing me be blatantly honest, especially with people who might be too “religious” for their own good.  My mother-in-law was the same way.  She would chuckle occasionally, and just tell me how she loved me.  I think that sometimes, people who spend their whole lives trying to be respectable actually enjoy a vicarious romp over the status quo sometime …

Anyway, I am one who thinks funerals don’t have to be socially acceptable, restrained events.  I sat there and openenly cried when I was touched by the memories.  I laughed freely, especially when what Nels did was somehow pontificated on by one of the “religious” types.  And I enjoyed just being with a special, special part of my husband’s family … people not afraid to “tell it like it is,” as another 80 year old friend said over dinner.

So, this is my tribute to Uncle Nels.  To his beautiful, weathered and mellowing wife, his five diverse and grieving children, and to the rest of the family, I say rejoice!  All of our lives were made richer by knowing this strong, giving, REAL man.

Struggling …

… with some of my “good Christian” acquaintances right now.  Got “confronted” via e-mail with something that is really a personal preference — no real Bible basis, but they twisted it to verify what they personally believe about a situation.

What it involves is people who are telling their kids how to think a certain way — and it’s the “only” way.  They are preparing their kids for a life of self righteousness, where the only effective life witness they will have is inside the four walls where everyone agrees that they are “right” and everyone else is “worldly” and “mislead by Satan.”  Yikes.  And I encounter people like that all the time.  And I’m sure they probably think it’s wrong of me to teach my children to think for themselves.  Oh well …

It cracks me up, because so many Christian parents will say, “Oh, we don’t want our kids simply accepting the ‘ways the world thinks’,” yet they will encourage them to accept blindly whatever a religious leader or organization puts forth.  That’s such a dangerous thing (as we see in recent news about another poligimist colony being raided). 

To top it all off, I received another e-mail from a “good Christian lady” called Barak Obama the “anti-Christ,” and saying she found it in Revelation.  Crap!  It’s so funny, because somehow they feel that, if they put enough emotion behind it, or say something over and over again, it makes it real.  This one was a “quote” from a communist that somehow agreed with her conservative, right wing stance.  Hummm … so now the liberal communist are RIGHT because they agree with what she believes?  I get so confused by all the hemming and hawing, just to make what they believe “right.”

See, I’m a dangerous person, because I really believe there is something beyond me that helps me understand things without a certain titled or degreed person telling me it’s true.  I tend to love people a little recklessly, because they don’t have to agree with me on things for me to love them.  I tend to look for the “lowest common denominator” when it comes to relationship, because I am confident enough in what I believe to know having a friend who doesn’t agree with me won’t change the way I believe. 

I just struggle with the mentality that someone “knows” they are right about things because they’ve been told something.  Why don’t they try and find out for themselves, rather than simply taking things at face value?  So many “Christians” I know (OK, even non-religious people) just swollow whatever is placed in front of them, depending on the source. 

What I want to tell them is the things I “know” from experience.  How a pastor came into my work tonight, and was upset that one of his “parishoners” had found his favorite coffee hang out, and now he had to be “on” with them there, too.  Yet he went out of his way to buy this lady a coffee, and spent an hour or more talking to her, when he really just wanted to leave.  Or, how so many good “pastors” have made promises to people who trusted them, and then for their own gain (stamping something, of course, with God’s will) went and left their flock high and dry.  Or how “good church people” think something one day, then the next it’s something 180 degrees different, because someone told them some “secret” information from the Bible, and now … ahhhhhh!

It all makes me be more careful what I say.  Because at the end of the day, I’m only responsible for what comes out of my mouth.  For my own actions.  And if I continually depend on someone else to think for me, I’ve given up a great gift from “God”: the ability to think for myself.  I continue to get beat up for being so honest.  But it “is what it is,” and I gotta tell you — many of the people who have set themselves up as “knowing” or “leaders” are not what they seem.  At least with me, you get what you see.  Raw, unkempt, questioning and honest.  I’m quick to admit my wrongness … but I’m not quick to buy someone else’s B.S.    And I think — no, I’m sure — I’d rather be standing here than there.

Back to Rumi

“Like the man courting the wealthy woman who owns large flocks   of sheep and many horses and great orchards.  He tends them.  He waters the fruit trees and look after the horses, but all the while he’s thinking of the woman.  If she were suddenly not there, his work would be distasteful and boring.  Like that, everything that happens is filled with pleasure and warmth because of the delight of the discourse [between human and divine- gl] always going on, and if it weren’t moving there, nothing would have any meaning.”

It’s interesting to hear this ancient poet’s thoughts on humanity.  Earlier in this same passage, he makes the statement: “Human beings are discourse.  The rest is blood, and bone, and nerve.”  Or, as he told Mevlana (his student and friend), “Brother, you are that thought.  Your bones and nerves are something else.”

We are the thought; the eternal discourse that goes on within and around us, all the time.  I’ve talked to people who say they can “turn their thoughts off,” and simply exist, but the more I learn, the more and more I doubt that statement.  I think people who think they can do that are either liars, or dishonest with their own souls.

We live in two existances.  The physical — for which we are responsible for what we do and don’t do.  And the spiritual — that which intertwines us with all other existance.  The two are like the ocean shore … it’s difficult sometime to see where one ends, and the other begins, and those lines change depending on the tide of time.  So often, we want to compartmentalize them and be accountable for only that which exists inside our self-created “boxes”.  But the truth of the matter is that we are interlaced with all around us.  And we are responsible to live lives that reflect this common existance.

Knowing this makes me a better person — a person truly concerned with those around me, and my environment.  Not that I think it all rises and falls on me.  But it gives me reason to stop and think about what I say and do.  True, there are certain people I’ve hardened myself against — mostly because of an unspoken fear they will continue to use, abuse and hurt me.  But even them — the unenlightened, the unwillinging, the self righteous — have a right to my kindness and consideration. 

It’s just the “bones, blood and nerves” that keep me from that right now.  I think — I hope — as I continue to learn, I will be more willingly to love without condition, and not let fear enter into my sphere of existance.  I’m a long way from that right now.  But each step is closer to the destination, right?

The Kite Runner

 Just finished this interesting book.  Not a great book, plot-wise.  I mean, it was easy to see the “big” surprises early on in the book (at least for me).  But it was a good book — a disturbing book.  It deals with Afghanistan, beginning with the traditional life, the bloodless coup of the Shah, the Russian invansion, the Taliban, and the more recent reconstruction.

The book was good, in the sense that it introduces an entirely new culture to me, from an “insider’s” viewpoint.  The author, Khaled Hosseini, was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, but has lived in the US since 1980.  Still, his understanding of culture and tradition is a wonderful read.  It focuses on relationship — between a boy and his father, a boy and his “servant” (who is his best friend, but he cannot admit that because the friend is a lower class), a boy and his culture … and how the boys grows, changes, and becomes a much better man than he was a boy.

The images bother me.  I can’t go into detail without ruining some of the book, so I won’t.  But the questions the book asks — about our own souls, our view of God, and our view of the life we lead and the “sins” that harbor in the darkness of our being — moved me the most.  I would definately recommend this book for adult readers, and it’s an “easy” read in the sense of time (it took me two days).  But be prepared for the questions it raises. 

Learning to breath again

Had an interesting day today.  Emotions ran the gamut, you know?  Had an interview for a possible “new” start as a free lance writer.  Spent some time with a friend who is searching through a tough season, then had dinner with some new friends who we know through relationship at “the structure.”

It’s interesting … this dying, living, breathing, growing and dying cycle I feel like my life is traveling through right now.  I know enough about life to “understand” the seasons.  But I don’t have to like it — even if “it is what it is,” you know?  Because the seasons remind me that, regardless of what I want to happen — or even what I expect to happen — it’s pretty much way beyond my control. 

The sad thing is, I see the same thing in the lives of friends (old and new) and I want so badly to help … to keep them from the dark seasons they are in.  But I’m as helpless to do anything for them as I am for myself.  And I can look at them, and see myself just weeks, months, years or sometimes, days ago.  It’s discouraging, but at the same time, it’s full of hope.  Why?

Because I know that the darkest times we walk through sometimes makes us stronger than the good time.  If we can hold on through the “dark night of the soul,” we can relish in the good times, when they come.  Even in the most hopeless situation, there is always hope if we keep going.  And, not to be “Pollyanna” about it all, without the darkness, we can’t really appreciate the light.

Easy to say, where I’m sitting right at this minute.  I’m learning to breath again, after a long, dark walk.  And while I’ll never, ever be the person I was, I’m kind of liking the person I’ve become.  A little more confident.  A little more spiritual.  A little more loving and free with grace.  And I’ve no disillusionment that at any moment, I could be back in the pit.  But for right now, right here … the air is clean … even if it’s for a moment.