I was born to …

I found an old essay of mine written in this beautiful Harlow Solid Italic font. Probably some school or church assignment. Something that was supposed to make me think about my future, my hopes, my dreams. It’s not long at all – well, not long for me, anyway. I know if I really wanted to I could say a lot. Here’s what it says:

I was born to …

Live my life like there’s today and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow …

Fight for what’s right, and for the good of others.

Be different, be me, be somebody.

Show the truth. Guide others, light the path that they can’t remember. Complete my purpose my function, my job, my work, and my life to the fullest.

Find my purpose, myself, my path, my way, my place, my roots, my home

Find what I lost and remember what I can.

And yet, I don’t know, or do I?

Like the old Army commercial, be all that you can be, that’s what I was born to do, be all that I can be and have life to the fullest, as it is written (one of the most common and best sayings), “for you are to find life, and have life to the fullest,”, and there are other things that are written, everybody should be a disciple, everybody should give, help, do, I don’t think that the list ends, but on the other hand, there are things that I want to do, work at Mammoth for example, I’ve taken one tour, and it was alright, but there’s still so much to explore. There are places to go, things to do, people to see, and apparently not enough hours in the day. I was born to go. I think that’s it. I left from Ok, I wound up here, and I’ll go. I can’t walk slowly, I’ve got to go and get there fast. Like that one song, “I’m in a hurry to get things done, I’m rushing rushing ’til life’s no fun, all I really got to do is live and die, but I’m in a hurry and don’t know why…” Where am I going? I know that, but how do I get there, that’s the part I don’t know. I’ll find out on the way though.

Time and perspective have changed me in more ways than I can count. For one, the run-on sentences irk me. But I wonder to what degree these were things I really believed or opted to write because I was supposed to. Could I really truly know what I was born to do as a teenager?

Ten years ago, I knew that there was always tomorrow – so I put off living. I didn’t pursue the typical life experiences a young person should. Ah, the arrogance to think that I knew the “right” way for others to live and that I could light that path especially when I didn’t know what to make of my own life. I was, after all, a fledgling avoidant. Much of my time would be spent being afraid of interacting with people to any meaningful extent and hiding away from anyone, anything, and everything that threatened to interrupt my self-imposed isolation. I didn’t have as much self-confidence back then, I didn’t work, I didn’t have my license. All I had was an awesome family, a blog to write to, and a tendency to pursue spirituality. Some things just don’t change.

Suffice it to say, nothing has turned out as I thought it would. Things have really gotten interesting in the last few months. I met my first boyfriend – and this one’s definitely a keeper. I managed to finally get my license. I got a promotion to assistant manager. I’ve done an awful lot of growing up in a short amount of time. Perhaps that’s why I’m finally ready to put my childhood behind and go through boxes and boxes of my old stuff.

Back then, I knew that I wasn’t going to stay where I was. I’d always moved around and never really bothered to establish connections in a place I’d ultimately leave. I saw myself as something of a tumbleweed – not rooted to any one place. These days though, I’m not planning on going anywhere so I have a lot of learning to do about how to connect and belong to a place. That’s why I foresaw myself going from one place to another so much.

One thing that has changed – my philosophy of doing is now one of being. I used to think I had to do something or else I wasn’t good for anything. I never learned how to simply be. Now I am. You see, there’s always something to do – and you can do things until the point of exhaustion. But you can only be yourself and that’s a far trickier thing to find after spending so much time avoiding just that. I’ve discovered small delights about being me that I never gave a second thought about when I was focused on doing things to earn my keep.

I can’t say that I know what I was born to do anymore. I was born, and so I’m here – I might as well be me, after all, everyone else is taken.

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The Other Side

Wait for me, my dearest friend. I know for you it will only be a moment … the blink of an eye. But for me, it’ll be much, much longer. You don’t know what it means that you have cancer just as you don’t know that you have seizures. To you, your human is acting weird, just crying and you have to come and fix it. You could do that yesterday – and you did. But that was then and right now you’re not here. Why do I feel this so deeply?

You have had a good life, you and I are inseparable – always at my side but now you’re somewhere I can’t go and I miss you already.  Do you remember that day when you were waiting for the rest of us to come home? You laid down there in the yard and stared at the driveway, waiting and waiting – I think, that’s what I’m going to picture. You’re already at home, looking towards the driveway and waiting for me to return. For you, it’ll only be a moment and we’re both reunited and everything will be alright forever.

Waiting


 

“Many times, I’ve had friends guiltily confide to me that they grieved more over the loss of a dog than over the loss of friends or relatives. Research has confirmed that for most people, the loss of a dog is, in almost every way, comparable to the loss of a human loved one. Unfortunately, there’s little in our cultural playbook – no grief rituals, no obituary in the local newspaper, no religious service – to help us get through the loss of a pet, which can make us feel more than a bit embarrassed to show too much public grief over our dead dogs.

Perhaps if people realized just how strong and intense the bond is between people and their dogs, such grief would become more widely accepted. This would greatly help dog owners to integrate the death into their lives and help them move forward.” (Source: Why losing a dog can be harder than losing a relative or friend)


“While we all respond to loss differently, the level of grief you experience will often depend on factors such as your age and personality, the age of your pet, and the circumstances of their death. Generally, the more significant your pet was to you, the more intense the emotional pain you’ll feel. The role the animal played in your life can also have an impact. For example, if your pet was a working dog, service animal, or therapy animal, then you’ll not only be grieving the loss of a companion but also the loss of a coworker, the loss of your independence, or the loss of emotional support. If you lived alone and the pet was your only companion, coming to terms with their loss can be even harder. And if you were unable to afford expensive veterinary treatment to prolong your pet’s life, you may even feel a profound sense of guilt.”

(Source: Coping with Losing a Pet)


Things to Remember

The experience of loss is different for everyone and can present unique challenges.

The deafening silence – the silence in your home after the death of a pet may seem excruciatingly loud. While your animal companion occupies physical space in your life and your home, many times their presence is felt more with your senses. When that pet is no longer there, the lack of their presence – the silence – becomes piercing. It becomes the reality of the “presence of the absence.” Merely being aware of this stark reality will assist in preparing you for the flood of emotions.

The special bond with your pet—the relationship shared with your pet is a special and unique bond, a tie that some might find difficult to understand. There will be well-meaning friends and family members who will think that you should not mourn for your pet or who will tell you that you should not be grieving as hard as you are because “it’s just a cat” or “just a dog.”  Your grief is normal and the relationship you shared with your special friend needs to be mourned.

Grief can’t be ranked—sometimes our heads get in the way of our heart’s desire to mourn by trying to justify the depth of our emotion. Some people will then want to “rank” their grief, pitting their grief emotions with others who may be “worse.” While this is normal, your grief is your grief and deserves the care and attention of anyone who is experiencing a loss.

Questions of spirituality—during this time in your grief journey, you may find yourself questioning your beliefs regarding pets and the after-life. Many people around you will also have their own opinions. It will be important during this time for you to find the answers right for you and your individual and personal beliefs.

(Source: Coping with the loss of a pet)

God, Guns, Laws, and Social Media

It wasn’t the typical kind of conversation you’d expect in a convenience store. It started with the still raw anger and confusion over the recent school shooting elsewhere in our state. It’s not like we’re one of those states where things like that just happen every so often, so we were still processing what it means to us ordinary everyday folk. The people involved in the conversation were young and old, men and women, believers and unbelievers.

Some just couldn’t understand why anybody would need an AR-15 or bump stock.

“A kid just shouldn’t be able to squeeze a trigger and fire off dozens of rounds in an instant.”

Others felt that …

“It starts at home, you teach your kids from as early on as possible that guns are not toys.”

You lock up your guns tighter than Fort Knox; a kid just shouldn’t be able to get access to guns.”

A younger guy pointed out:

I blame social media. These kids are relentless online and there’s just no escape from it. Not like how it was in the old days where you left school at school – it didn’t haunt you day and night when you’re at home.”

But the statement that got the most agreement was:

People just don’t believe in God anymore.”

God. Guns. Laws. Social Media. How I would have loved to have everyone keep on talking about it – hash something out. Figure out what we’re going to do to make sure it never happens again. But if anything, having eavesdropped on all that – it occurs to me that there’s no shortage of confusion. You can’t make everyone believe in God. you can’t ban all young people off social media. (They’ll just create profiles with fake ages so they can participate on them anyway, just as the older millenials had done before them.) You can’t ensure every household teaches about gun safety to their kids the same way – or the right way. And it seems that laws themselves are not capable of ensuring the best outcome given the impossibility of setting them in motion in the first place because of the efforts of the lobbying groups.

Still, I was proud of my middle of nowhere town. At least for a few minutes we were really listening to each other. I know; in a week it’ll be back to the same old, same old – but for now, it made me thing that if we could do this much – then we just might be able to make a difference … but really, it does start with listening. A grandmother came across her grandson’s journal and foiled a potential school shooting because she was listening – and paying attention. Maybe if we all learned how to listen to others who are crying out for help, and learned how to stand up beside them so that they didn’t feel that they had to stand behind a gun to be heard then we could make some real change that makes a real difference and really saves lives.

 

Water Drops in a Bucket

Some days it doesn’t feel like all the effort you do amounts to anything more than a single drop in an empty bucket. You show up the next day – there’s another drop. Eventually, you have a spoonful. Then enough to fill up a shot glass. you keep at it – day after day. It’s enough to fill up a cup. Then the cup starts running over. Slowly and surely, that bucket starts to get fuller and fuller – a quarter of the way, a third, half-way, two-thirds, three quarters. Eventually you find that you filled up that bucket, a drop at a time. Hard work and persistence won’t always earn an award, you won’t always get a trophy or ribbon. But you do get a sense of personal satisfaction that you did your best. You didn’t quit when others would have thrown in the towel. You made a difference for the better. Maybe it’ll also inspire others to match your effort and contribute to filling up that bucket faster. The problem gets smaller and things get easier on everyone. Some days it doesn’t feel like all the effort you do amounts to anything more than a single drop in an empty bucket – and that’s a challenge worth tackling head-on.

Memorial

I push open these double wooden doors – they’re stained a beautiful dark rosewood. My eye is drawn to the purple carpet that marks the aisle all the way forward to a raised platform. It separates two groups of chairs. There seems to be a decidedly purple and white theme to the flower arrangements. Soon groups of people begin arriving and conversing with one another. Mostly they know each other, they all mean something to the guest of honor, and the guest of honor all mean something to them. This is a celebration.

The guest of honor is the matriarch – an older lady of average height, her short hair has a defiant red tint to it – hence her long-time nickname, “Red.” Her strong personality had developed as she conquered many obstacles in her day. As a result, her relationships could be complicated and no strangers to drama – but today is a good day and there’s no hard feelings. It’s also a miraculous day. Friends that she had long out-lived made an appearance alongside all her relatives.

Memories are being shared – some for the first time, others are being repeated much to Red’s delight. All of her favorite foods and drinks are available should anyone get hungry. I’d like to imagine laughter and delight. Everybody should be celebrated because everyone matters.

But such a celebration can never be. My grandmother has died. We found out on Christmas day that things weren’t looking so good. I asked for some time off the next day – but had to work my shift that evening. Some time in the middle of the night or the next morning – I’m not sure which, she stopped breathing. I’m not at all sure how to process it. Could I have insisted that I couldn’t work my shift so that my family could leave immediately and have a chance of meeting her while she was still alive? My only comfort is knowing that in many cases, despite hours of waiting alongside an ailing relative, they tend to like to pass away when the visiting hours are done and others aren’t around – so says the internet anyway.

I wish I knew where her obituary was – so I could read a little more about her. I wish I had bothered to actually call her every now and then just to talk a little.

For those who know my grandmother, her strong personality made for complicated relationships – it doesn’t mean that we love her any less … it’s just not always an easy kind of love. I grew up watching these kind, sweet grandmothers on TV shows – and my own grandmother was just so different. I wished in so many ways that she was like them – and I didn’t notice that she had her own charms about her. Some of the things I admire most are that fierce independence, that no-nonsense attitude, and she knew what she liked and didn’t hesitate to make it clear.

Her name meant Shining Light, Pride/Fame/Glory, and Blessed. That she most certainly was.

Stumbling Stewards

Not long ago, a lot of protected land was opened up for potential development. I shook my head in disbelief when the guy said, “You know how to take care of your land.” The whole history of pollution is a testament to how little we have take care of our land.

Centralia, PA – In May of 1962, an underground coal mine has a coal seam that catchs fire from the burning of a trash dump – it’s still burning today.

Picher, OK – a former lead and zinc mining area, lots of toxic remnants were placed in heaps in the area, which in turn has polluted the water table. One study suggested that as many as 1/3 of the children in town were suffering the effects of lead poisoning. The mines themselves also pose a danger – they could collapse and the buildings above would be taken down with them.

Cuyahoga River – perhaps the most famous example; these polluted waters once caught fire.

When pollution is a factor, what comes first? Usually it’s the bottom line, the cheaper disposal method; rather than the proper, more expensive one. When the priority is putting people to work, putting any thought into pollution control seems like you’re trying to put the brakes on progress. Never mind that putting people into pollution control is also creating jobs.

The whole history of pollution shows us that we never have known the best way to take care of our land … because we didn’t do that well, it put human lives on the brink – destroying the health and vitality of some – taking the lives of others. It may be annoying that waste chemicals can’t just be dumped into our water supply or that mine remnants can’t just be dumped in huge piles all around town – that even nuclear waste has to be sealed away in very specific conditions – but it’s far better than the alternative. We might not know how best to take care of our land, but at a very high cost we have learned how not to take care of our land. Sometimes the best thing you can do for some land is to let it be at least a little wild and to leave it alone.

Peer Pressure

“C’mon, for once in your life – just come and …” my co-worker argued, trying to get me to go to a place that is most definitely not my scene to do something I probably wouldn’t enjoy.
I’ve already been too far down that road and I know how empty it is. Let’s say, for the sake of argument – I agree. What about next time? Something else? Yes. Yes. Yes. Of course. Tell me when and where. I’m game for anything. Who do I become? Someone else I don’t even recognize.
You know, they’re never just satisfied with once. As soon as you make them happy with one thing, they’ll want something else. Ultimately, I lose any sense of self when I do what people in my life want me to do. Maybe that’s not fair, friend should enjoy doing the same sort of activities – but why do they always have to pick things that they know full well are outside of my comfort zone?
I used to never say no and whatever my friends wanted, I saw it got done. From getting drinks to casting out a member of the group – I did whatever it took to make them happy hoping that I’d never be the one on the outside. Whatever my friends liked, I absoultely adored. Whatever my friends hated, I hated with a passion. Ultimately though, that strategy didn’t keep them. It proved a failure. So I somehow or other learned to say no. Admittedly, it’s not hard when they choose things that just don’t work for you.
Now I pretty much never say yes – at least I’m a lot stronger than I used to be. Maybe it’s not too late for me to learn some balance, to throw in some yesses in there – but only if they are things that are within reason.