Monthly Archives: April 2016

I Don’t Accept Rides from Strangers (or Anyone Else)

My second job was at a video store a little over a mile away from my house. After I worked at the video store for a year, I got a second job at a grocery store roughly a half mile from my house. I didn’t have my driver’s license at first, but even when I got my driver’s license, there wasn’t a car for me to drive. Occasionally, I could bum a ride off someone in my family, but they were my jobs and and it was my responsibility to get myself there, so often, I walked.

I walked through triple digit temperatures and humidity. I walked through rain and temperatures below freezing. I even walked in the dark a few times. And I walked through the highest concentration of sex offenders in the county.

A few months after I started working at the video store, a girl who worked next door and lived in my subdivision was picked up and sexually assaulted as she walked home from work. I was mildly terrified to walk after that, but my dad sat me down and explained that sexual predators familiarize themselves with their prey’s behaviors and patterns, and that likely, the perpetrator and the victim in this situation were at least acquainted. He told me it was as simple as never accepting a ride from anyone outside of our family, no matter how well I thought I knew them.

I kept walking. And I got offers. The first time, a hot afternoon, walking home from work, a red pickup slowed up beside me.

“Can I give you a lift?”

“No, thank you.” Always polite.

“It’s awful hot out here.”

“That’s okay. I don’t have far to go.”

“Yeah? Where do you live?”

I hated that question. Never knew how to answer.

“Just up the road.”

“Well, if you’re sure…”

“I’m sure. Thank you.” Oh, yes. Always polite.

It wasn’t always men in pickup trucks or couples in vans. Sometimes it was a regular customer. Or a male manager.

But I was always terrified, because I knew that if push came to shove, I really couldn’t defend myself. I wanted to take self-defense for my degree’s fitness requirement, but my mom thought I needed something more active to lose weight. I took jogging instead. The only protection I had was not accepting rides.

My fear intensified when a couple started hanging out in the coffee bar at the grocery store where I worked. They played Sims on their computers in the lounge all day. They were nice enough, I suppose – very chatty – but they were always trying to bum coffee off of us. One night I was dumping stale coffee, and I turned around and the man was right beside me.

“Usually, they give me some of that before they dump it.”

“I’ll happily make another pot.”

He stepped forward, breathing hot air all over my face. “Then I’ll have to pay for it.”

“How about this? I’ll pay for it.”

That seemed to satisfy him, because he backed away, though he watched me until I handed him his cup of steaming, fresh coffee.

A few days later, one of the managers said he would tell me something about this couple if I promised not to quit working the coffee bar. In his office, he showed me paperwork that said the couple were registered sex offenders. He also told me that they had followed several cashiers out to their cars at night. Corporate was aware of the situation and were deciding how to handle it. In the meantime, I just had to live with it. I had promised, after all.

It wasn’t long before the couple was asked to leave and not come back, but even then I was worried that during the hours they’d spent talking to and observing me, I may have inadvertently given something away about myself that they would exploit.

One day, as I walked up the sidewalk around the corner from my house, two neighbors were sitting on their front porch and they struck up a conversation with me. They had seen me walking a lot, they said, in my work uniform. How old was I, they wanted to know, and why did I walk? Always polite, I answered, but my past experiences made me uneasy.

I don’t know how much time passed between that incident and when I was sitting at our kitchen table alone, eating lunch and staring up out the window, thinking. Coming out of my reverie, my vision focused and I realized what I was looking at. In the upstairs window of a neighboring house was a naked man, masturbating. If I could see him, even though I wasn’t as close to the window as he was, could he see me? Had he been hoping to catch my attention? Shuddering, I closed the blinds.

A different time, at lunch with my two younger siblings, it was a naked woman in the same window. We had an “oh, my” moment and shut the blinds. I didn’t tell them what I thought was going on. Couldn’t tell them. They might think I was being dramatic. I wondered at times if I was being dramatic.

I’ve never told my parents how scared I was, walking to work; how vulnerable I felt knowing that anybody could be watching me with the intent to exploit me; how helpless I felt without any practical ways to defend myself. I’m not sure I’ve ever told anyone. Even so, I wish they would have recognized it, and worked with me a little more so I could have been safe, felt safe getting to work.

And it bothers me when my dad tells me not to drive on a certain road because it’s known to be more dangerous than others. It bothers me when he tells me to get pepper spray because the apartment complex I live in is old and looks rundown. It bothers me that for years he didn’t want me developing friendships with guys without having vetted them first. So I drive on that road every day for three years, and I don’t get pepper spray, and I form fast and loose bonds with men.

I’ve just developed a sort of recklessness in my life. I’ve called it independence, thinking I can’t be touched. I’ve called it fierce, knowing how close to the fire I can get without being burned, not even once. I’ve called it power, because even if I’m not safe, I am at least calling the shots for myself. Most days, I don’t feel afraid anymore. Most days.

Except when someone starts asking me questions about myself. Or when they want to do something for me. And the fear starts to rise. Are they looking for something about me to exploit? What do they want from me? Because even though I present myself like I don’t have a care in the world, I really, really don’t want to be seen.

And so I press on by myself. And I don’t ask for anything, so nothing can be asked from me.

People say not to let the world’s sickness infect you. I wish – I wish that was as easy as it sounds. I wish the fear hadn’t gotten to me, and now that it has, I wish I knew how to get rid of it.

Thy Will Be Done

I heard Thy Will Be Done by Hillary Scott (of Lady Antebellum) and the Scott Family for the first time yesterday.

It reminds me of that first major hurdle of my Christian life when I almost lost my faith in a good God almost four years ago (though it had been building like a storm years before even that). It still amazes me that I emerged from that experience at all, but this song resonates with that experience.

And.

I expect it will resonate with future experience.

I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t want to think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Chorus:

Thy Will be done
Thy Will be done
Thy Will be done

I know that you’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you are God
And I am not
So,

Chorus:

Thy Will be done
Thy Will be done
Thy Will be done
Like a Child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy Will be done
Thy Will be done
Thy Will be done

I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store

I know you hear me
I know you see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store
So,

Chorus:

Thy Will be done
Thy Will be done
Thy Will be done
Like a Child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy Will be done
Thy Will be done
Thy Will be done

I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord

 

Tagged , ,

Life, Form, Symbol

Today, I drew a tree. And that tree, to me, encompasses and represents all those things I’ve been thinking about life, form, and symbol.

About how all life takes form, but not all forms have life.

“The earth was without form and void,” and yet, the Pharisees were like “whitewashed tombs.” One, awaiting form, the other, awaiting life.

About how life produces life after it’s own form.

“A man reaps what he sows.” If planted, a bean seed will produce beans and more bean seeds, but will never grow up into a corn stalk.

About how symbols are intrinsically lifeless objects until they are given meaning by a lively, life-giving form.

“Son of man, can these bones live?” God asks the prophet. When the word is spoken, before the prophet’s eyes, the bones come alive, and that – that is a picture of what God will do for Israel. And that picture gives hope. But without a lively, life-giving form assigning it weight, it’s only a valley of bones.

So today, I drew a tree. Only a picture of a tree. Nothing close to the real deal, because it has no life. And yet, it holds weight because it is a product of my thoughts on life, form, and symbol – not unlike these words.

We all have our symbols – those representations of realities, literal or abstract. When we carry an object around our necks or in our skin or on our bodies, it says something about who we are and what we value. The objects with which we surround ourselves give further glimpses into who we are and what we value. Therefore, these objects, born or simply present, have weight – the weight with which we lively life-givers have infused them. That is why we become attached to them – the weight in our lives which we have created. Symbols must have life behind them.

And so we must be careful lest the symbols we carry do not represent our life – that is, our reality. If I bear a representation of life, like a tree, but I am not exhibiting signs of life, namely producing more life, the picture of a tree is just a picture of a tree. It means nothing.

If we survive the potential hypocrisy of symbols, then comes a great disconnect: what may be to one a meaningful symbol, may to another be only an object. To bridge that gap, we must learn to receive life from others, to be willing to understand why a thing is meaningful to them. We must learn to balance our desire to dismantle things we don’t understand with seeking out their weight in others. But let us not automatically dismiss what another values.

And let us not place greater weight on an object than we would on a lively, life-giving form. Or. On Life itself.

The Risk Strategy

My brothers play a board game called Risk. It’s played out over a map, usually of the earth or some other fantasy world, and the player with the most pieces on the board in the end wins. I believe the original tagline for the game included something along the lines of world domination. While parts of the game involve the luck of the draw and roll, a fair chunk of it requires strategy.

I’m not a terribly strategic person, tending to taking things as they come and coming up with things as I go, but I can hold my own in Risk when I’m invited to play. (I usually get asked to join after someone has angrily stormed out of the game when things are not going well for that person.)

My older brother, Nate, on the other hand, is a very strategic person, and by the time I join the game, he usually has a rival on the board who has the potential to take him out. Now, you might think that he and said rival would work together to push my remaining pieces off the board, but that’s not usually how it goes. My brother knows that my presence on the board can help him ultimately wipe out his rival, so he strikes a deal with me: “Let’s take him out, and then we’ll see what happens.” Of course, what happens is that once the rival threat has been neutralized, my presence on the board is often spread wide and thin, and it requires no effort for my brother to take me out.

The way I play, I know I can’t win, but I stay in the game because I know whatever player I choose to help will win, and that’s strangely satisfying.

I wonder if Ted Cruz and John Kasich have ever played Risk…

Tagged , , , , , ,

I am a writer with damage in my writing hand and wrist, and I don’t have a computer.

I am recovering from a binge-eating disorder and dealing with Type II diabetes, and I don’t have a microwave.

If I’m having a good day, it doesn’t matter. I can pour my heart out through a pen and paper. I can prepare a meal or reheat one in the oven or on the stove. If I’m having a good day, I often think it’s a good thing – having to slow down from 45 WPM, having to be sensitive enough about my body to have food ready before my blood sugar crashes.

But if I’m having a bad day, it’s a fight to sit at my desk with a pen and a notebook. It’s a fight to make or reheat food. And it’s a fight I don’t always win. In fact, most days, this season, I don’t win.

And even though one of my core values is Mother Teresa’s “Live simply, so others may simply live,” I am making it a priority to invest in these two things. To make those bad days a little easier to fight through.

I have to prioritize. I have a book I’ve been working on for twelve years. I am committed to making this year this book’s year. And my body is only going to take so much before it gives out (which is why I have Type II diabetes to begin with). I am committed to taking better care of myself.

That means, in this season, there are other things I cannot invest in. It’s not that I don’t want to. Right now, I can’t. I don’t have what I need for everything I’d like to be part of.

And that’s okay. Because God abundantly gives me everything I need for everything I need to be and do. Everything else should fall away.

 

 

 

 

Odd how as children we think our own parents have always been and will always be as they are – whoever they are, whatever they’ve done.  Our parents don’t see themselves that way, of course, and we don’t see ourselves that way when we become parents, but we continue to see them as a constant, a fixed mark. It’s security for us, well into our adulthood.

I adore history. I adore all things that help me understand why people are the way they are and why events occur the way they do, because what is has been affected by what was – deeply affected, at times.

That tells me my parents can’t always have been who they are, nor will they continue as they are. It’s not the way of nature.

Still, it has seemed to be the way for most of my life. I suppose as a child I may have been absorbed with my own growth and change and movement to notice much from my parents. Then again, it could be that growth and change and movement might be more drastic in our early years, subtler in our middle years, and then more drastic again as we age. Regardless, my parents have always been there, and I have always known how to get to them if I needed them.

After my oldest nephew was born, my mom was helping my sister can vegetables, or some such thing. I remember snapping green beans, and I must have had an attitude about it, because my mom said to me, “I didn’t have help from my mother when I had kids. I’m going to help your sister. When it’s your turn, I’ll help you, too.”

And even when my parents started talking about their retirement plans, I never thought there would be the kind of change that would render that statement improbable.

At the end of December, my mom was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Last month, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. It remains to be seen whether the two are related, but I’m losing my mom.

The reality is, she might not be there if I ever get married or have kids or any major life events.

Because this thing we call change … happens to our parents, too.

My parents are selling their house (which they bought eleven years ago) and taking off in an RV next week. I’m glad they get to travel because I know how much they love seeing history and life. Next year, they tell me they’re going to Alaska.

It’s a transition. I am coming to the understanding that I am only a part of their lives, and they are only a part of mine. A big part, undeniably, but there are and will be other parts outside of each other. Parts we will never see about each other, that we may have even wanted to share with each other. My relationship with my parents relationship is morphing from them encouraging my growth and change and movement to me encouraging their growth and change and movement, too.

So here’s a bittersweet cup raised to the unseen, unshared parts: a blessing to grow and change and move, wherever it takes us.

a806d9d4aa39c173aad631b441461482

Meet Me at the Harmonia Gardens Before The Parade Passes By

I’m back.

I left the world of personal blogging to pursue the somewhat impersonal course of branding and marketing an author platform, but after twenty-one months (give or take) in that world, I realize how much I miss expressing things without having to filter them through the lens of a brand. I miss being just me on social media.

So I’m back.

I’m back so I can say things like, “Meet me at the Harmonia Gardens before the parade passes by,” and it doesn’t matter if everybody or nobody understands it. It doesn’t matter how many to whom it’s acceptable, or how many people to whom it’s unacceptable. It doesn’t matter if people like me, hate me, or are indifferent toward me. It doesn’t matter, because people will feel about me how they feel about me, no matter what I funnel and filter out.

So I may as well live large.

Back at the Harmonia Gardens before the parade passes by.

Tagged , , , , ,