for Christians

I don’t often wax on (or off) about my faith on this blog–mainly because, if you’ve found your way here, you probably did so for the writing and reading and snark, not the “religion” stuff. (Note: I’m not religious. I’m a Jesus-follower. There’s a distinct difference. If you want me to wax and polish that in another post, lemme know. 😉 )

Anywho, ballyhoo.

The current social and political climate in the United States of America is bringing me way low. Still, I sit in a place of privilege because I’m white, educated, and middle-class-ish. Husband has full-time & long-term employment, gets benefits; we’d do better financially if I took at least a part-time job, but we’re not in a position that I *have* to, so I can stay at home with kiddo and stay at home and write (sometimes); we have biological family who help us out with kiddo’s schooling and with LIFE; we have an adopted community that helps with LIFE; we have a network of local connections going back 25 years; we speak English, blah blah more privileged stuff blah.

So, I can sit here fairly comfortably at my newish laptop, reading Twitter and Facebook and news sites and bemoan the state of the Union in *empathy* with the under- and non-privileged, but it’s not like I’m out there getting shot for wearing a hoodie. I know where my next meal is coming from. I can walk into a bank and immediately get service and talk to personnel in English about my needs. I don’t have to know what month Flag Day is before I’m allowed to be a citizen.

That said, my heart still breaks…my soul is crying…my spirit feels, in many ways, broken–all because I see (with my limited sight) the pain and anguish people are suffering all over the world and all over this country, and I see the leaders of this country apparently doing everything they can to increase that suffering instead of diminishing it as they swore to do.

And what rends my heart to shreds most violently is that I see humans who claim Jesus Christ cheering on these corrupt ones instead of rejecting them.

So, I have something to say to my fellow humans who claim Him as their Lord and profess to pledge their allegiance to Him alone (wording intentional, *ahem*). If you’re not one of them and don’t want to read further, I understand, and I hold no negative thoughts or emotions toward you. If you’re not one of them and you *do* read further, please don’t hesitate to ask me anything you like about what I’ve written.

I am always open to talking of these things.
They are the core of my very existence.

If you are one who claims Jesus as Lord and feel moved to converse, please also do not hesitate.
If you are one who claims Jesus as Lord and feel moved to excoriate me or anyone else who comments, check yourself or wreck yourself. I will delete inappropriate or abusive comments and block you from this blog without hesitation.

If you’re a Christian, this one’s for you.

(I have also posted a version of this on Facebook.)

“Take a good look at her. She has had five husbands. And the sixth man in her life, with whom she is presently living, is not her husband. But Jesus Christ does the unthinkable. He introduces himself to her as her new Husband–the seventh* man in her life, the heavenly suitor who will love her like no man ever has. He will turn her tragedy into purity, her ashes into beauty, her misery into joy.

“This woman is a Samaritan; she’s a half-breed–half Jew and half Gentile. In other words, she comprises both Jew and Gentile in her body. She depicts the bride of Jesus Christ, comprised of fallen, tragic humanity, Jew and Gentile, who have been re-created anew to be the masterpiece of God’s matchless grace.”

–Frank Viola,
FROM ETERNITY TO HERE
(*7 symbolizes perfection)

So. If you’re going to ally yourself with Jesus the Anointed One of God Eternal, here are a few facts about yourself you’re going to have to accept:
(Note: every following “you” is collective, not singular.)

You are a hybrid.
You are a half-breed.
You are a wayward, fallen, tragic creature.
You are hunted.
You are a foreigner.
You are a stranger.
You are despised.
You are destitute.
You are homeless.
You are a refugee.

In His glorious, immeasurable Love, God the Father has handselected you to be the Bride for his Son.
In His glorious, immeasurable Love, Jesus the Anointed One has paid the bloodprice that is your dowry.
In His glorious, immeasurable Love, the Holy Spirit has led you to the Lord Your Bridegroom.

(Again, every “you” is collective, not singular.)

You are become His Bride, one day to become His Wife.
You are adopted into His Family.
You are a Living Stone being built into His House.
You are redeemed.
You are safe.
You are a citizen under His Lordship.
You are known to Him.
You are Beloved.
You are abundantly rich.
You are home.

You are still a refugee.

You have refuge in Him.

He does not reject the poor, the homeless, the destitute, the desperate, the alien, the stranger, the foreigner. He does not reject the refugee. He gave Himself to such as these, NO MATTER THE COST TO HIMSELF. This is His courage, His strength, His obedience, and His Love.

(Again: “you” is collective.)

And He lives in you.
His fullness lives in you.
ALL OF HIM lives in you.
His love, his courage, his strength to act in compassion and grace.

Is there a risk in welcoming the stranger? Is there danger in harboring the refugee?

Maybe. Maybe not. “But that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
With the time that is given us.
With His Love that “tabernacles” inside us.
With His strength and the courage that reside in us, the Bride of the Anointed One.

The Lord has purified for Himself a Bride who shares His spiritual DNA. As Eve shared Adam’s DNA because she was made out of him, so the Bride has a nature identical to the Bridegroom’s. There is no distinction between the two of them, and when God looks at the Bride, He sees His Son.

Jesus the unique, Anointed Son of God welcomes the refugee.

So does His Bride, the church, the collective of the Called-Out, who is Herself a (formerly destitute) refugee from a fallen world.

The Bride of Christ does not reject the refugee.

And if “the Bride” does reject the refugee, then she is not of Him; she does not belong to Him; and she is not the Bride.

these are the truths

Every time I clean, I lose things. Organized chaos tells me exactly where things are.
I try not to get too philosophical about this.

Living my faith is harder for me than giving faith up.

I am more aware now of the reality of my privilegedness than I ever have been in my life.

Chocolate-flavored vodka is my jam, but I don’t put it on my bread.

I have forgotten how to blog.

Freedom means more to me than ever before, and it has not a smidgen to do with patriotism.

I am weary of holding my tongue. I wasn’t built for it. (And neither were you.)

Writing cover copy for a short story anthology is vastly different from writing cover copy for a novel. This sucks.

I have come to the conclusion that no one who cannot bear or has not borne a child should have the right to tell me when or how I should bear one.

Pinkie Pie.

I possess more materials for unbegun art projects than any one human should.

It’s okay if you end a sentence a preposition with.
I think I decided this after learning Koine Greek.

ἀγάπη is the highest, and no single English word expresses it adequately.

If I could tell my late-teens self any three things, it might be: (1) dye your hair and get a tattoo, (2) turn every moment of your life into the most glorious dance, (3) but don’t dance in front of that fireman named Michael, because he’s going to get the wrong idea and it’s gonna be really awkward later in front of your mom and his sister.

This year I have read only women authors, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Nowadays I laugh at things I used to look down my nose at.
This isn’t a bad thing.

I still love sparklies.
I don’t think that’s ever gonna change.

Yay. 🙂

15045737_10154395327853113_212867872_n

The world I want to live in

I want to live in a world where I can be unrestrained, passionate, an artist, a writer, a poet, a sci-fi/fantasy/superheroes geek, a quantum physics dabbler, a Jesus-follower, a wife, mother, a daughter, a friend, a sister, a photographer, a foodie, a singer, a collector of ridiculous junk, a lover of everything about the cramazing human body, a tinkerer, a plotpantser, an advocate of even the most difficult truths, a ray of sunshine.

I want to live in a world where it’s okay that in addition to most of those roles, I’ve also been a mentor, a counselor, a mediator of conflicts, an innkeeper, an events organizer, a language instructor, a treasurer, a dollmaker, a carpenter, a construction worker, an archivist, an historian, an editor, a vice president, a genealogist, a hair stylist, a caterer.

I want to live in a world where functioning in all of these ways does *not* mean I’m “indecisive,” “rootless,” “aimless,” “absent-minded,” “careless.”

I want to live in a world where it’s okay to be whomever the spirit leads me to be at any given time.

I want to live in a world where it’s okay to be me.

I want to live.

Obligatory First Post of the Year: Pookiebottoms Sweetmunch

“…[Y]ou have to walk through time. A clock isn’t time, it’s just numbers and springs, pay it no mind, just walk right on through!”

–The Skull
“The Last Unicorn” (film)

Happy New Year to you, my most dashing and darlingest inklings! I hope your 2014 is off to a safe and pleasant start.

As ever, I am mindful that the calender is naught but a human construct for making our lives more convenient (or less so, as it were), so in reality there’s little difference between calling today “January 1st” or calling today “Pookiebottoms Sweetmunch.” All this talk about “new year’s resolutions” and “let’s make this the best year yet!” doesn’t make much sense when you consider that there’s as much difference between December 31st and January 1st as there is between April 3rd and April 4th.

But.

There’s also this whole collective subconsciousness concept, this idea that when the majority of us humans are celebrating the new and the fresh and the forward-looking, it’s not a bad thing to get caught up in what it all really boils down to, and that is: hope.

This is a hopeful time of year, a time of new beginnings, and I would consider myself particularly jaded if I went around believing and telling everyone that their hope-filled joy is nothing but a chemical response in their brains to the continuance of a human construct. If I believed that and tried to shove it down people’s throats, I might as well stake out my spot on the porch and start yelling at everybody to get off my lawn.

So. HAPPY NEW YEAR, PEOPLE. And yes, let’s make it a good one…and a better one than last year.

Let’s make changes that are beneficial to us and to those around us.
Let’s practice kindness, compassion, and empathy.
Let’s dream big, go out, do things, and make lots of somethings.
Let’s say no to bigotry, no to oppression, and no to hate.
Let’s say no to security and yes to vulnerability.
Let’s give without expecting anything.
Let’s help people when it doesn’t make any sense to help them.
Let’s love people when it doesn’t make any sense to love them.
Let’s read things that disagree with our worldview.
Let’s make friends with people who disagree with our worldview.
Let’s watch less TV and play fewer video games.
Let’s spend more time outside and more time in face-to-face conversation.
Let’s open the windows and let the air in.
Let’s drink more water.
Let’s smile and laugh more.
Let’s say no when we mean no and yes when we mean yes.
Let’s tell the truth kindly but firmly.
Let’s be honest with ourselves.
Let’s face reality.
Let’s give ourselves a break.
Let’s enjoy the ice cream without thinking about the scale.
Let’s take that vacation.
Let’s write that book.
Let’s write that email.
Let’s write that letter.
Let’s speak those words.
Let’s paint that picture.
Let’s jump out of that plane (with a functioning parachute).
Let’s play more.
Let’s quit that job.
Let’s stop waiting.
Let’s forgive.
Let’s step out boldly.
Let’s dance.
Let’s sing in inappropriate places.
Let’s take the stairs.
Let’s revel in the sunshine.
Let’s revel in each other.

Let’s live.

Happy Pookiebottoms Sweetmunch. : )

That’s not a corset, mate. THIS is a corset.

Gone with the Wind

When I was a kid and teenager, I watched Gone with the Wind at least a couple of times a year. (I read the book for the first time at age 14 or 15.) And every time, I viewed it with an odd mixture of enjoyment, disgust, fascination, and horror.

This isn’t a post about slavery or bigotry or racism or women’s equality or war or politics, though Gone with the Wind contains plenty of fodder for each. (Not to mention a kaboodle of interesting stuff relating to the psychology of Scarlett O’Hara herself; man, did I ever get a doozy of a shock concerning her when I finally rewatched the movie as an adult! Also: Vivien Leigh? Brilliant.)

No, I’m not delving into any of that today. What I am going to talk about, though, is corsets.

scarlettmammycorset

As a kid and a teen, I watched the corset-lacing scenes with horror. How could any woman do that to herself? How could she breathe? No wonder she couldn’t eat. No wonder there was fainting all over the place. These women had to be crazy to think fashion and other people’s opinions were worth putting themselves through this kind of torture — putting themselves into this kind of torture device.

Corset. Torture device. Every bit as effective as the iron maiden, thumbscrews, and the rack, I had no doubt.

Oh, and then there was this:

Mammy (referring to Scarlett’s waist measurement): Twenty inches.

Scarlett: I’ve grown as big as Aunt Pitty! You’ve simply got to make it eighteen-and-a-half again!

Mammy: You done had a baby, Miss Scarlett, an’ you ain’ never goin’ to be no eighteen-an’-a-half inches again — never. An’ there ain’ nothin’ to do about it.

Eighteen-and-a-half inches. You know what that is? That’s the circumference of…of…well, of I don’t know what. Something very small. Like maybe the head of a small child. Or my cat. (The whole cat, not the head.) Definitely not the waist of an average-height, adult, human female.

Corsets, thought I, shaking my head in amazed disgust. Those are for crazy people. NO DOUBT.

Down with the Corset!

Now. By which I mean, give heed, dear inklings, to meanderings mine as well as in the context of this narrative, we find ourselves in present day. If you recall, I recently gave you a candid look, both in description and in photographic evidence, of my post-pregnancy body. If you recall, in that post I jokingly used the word “corset” to describe the bodysuit thingamajig my physical therapist wanted me to wear in order to help heal my separated abdominal muscles (diastasis recti).

That bodysuit corset thingamajig is this:

Ooh la la. #no #notreally

Ooh la la. #no #notreally

I didn’t like it. It pulled on my shoulders, making them sore and straining my upper back. It slid down. It rode up. Sure, it slimmed down some of the fat pockets on my back and sides, but was a slightly (SLIGHTLY) streamlined silhouette really worth the discomfort? Nay, said the horse. Not to mention the part where I have to unhook it when I want to pee, which makes me feel like I’m wearing a superlarge version of my toddler’s onesies. Great, not only am I out of shape and in pain, I’m also reduced to wearing gigantic baby clothes. I CAN’T WIN.

I wouldn’t wear this thing if I didn’t have to. But if I ever want to heal my abs, get my back into shape again, and return to exercising with any semblance of gusto, wear this gigantic toddler onesie wedgie corset-thing I must.

I had no idea what was coming next.

gwtw-intermission

Physical therapy was still progressing, at least as far as my mobility was concerned. But the pain had plateaued, meaning that it wasn’t getting worse (most days), but it certainly wasn’t improving. My physical therapist suggested placing a sheet of plywood under my mattress. The husband installed it. I also started wearing my mouthguard at night so that I wouldn’t clench/grind my teeth. (Bruxism can contribute to back pain.)

Plywood and mouthguard helped a little; the pain dropped a notch. Then it plateaued again. My therapist was at a loss. My frustration level went up. The toddler kept doing this weird thing called getting bigger, which also meant getting heavier. Soon, every morning began with numb spots on the bottoms of my feet. I couldn’t turn my head.

My mother, wise woman that she is, suggested X-rays. My general practitioner, all-around awesome that she is, agreed. The X-rays showed something that shouldn’t have surprised me but was still fairly depressing:

Mild arthritis in my neck.

Mild scoliosis in my back.

Arthritis. At 36. I know it’s not unheard-of for someone my age or even younger to be diagnosed with this, but still. I figured out a long time ago that, powerful genes considered, I’d probably develop arthritis just the way my mother and grandmother did. But I thought that would be distant future, not imminent. I mean, seriously. Arthritis? Wasn’t I supposed to be at least 55 before this party started?

And scoliosis. Is this a new thing? Did this just develop during pregnancy? Can pregnancy cause it? Or have I always had it, and nobody ever realized? Isn’t this something that crops up in childhood? With all the bajillion doctors I’ve seen during the course of my too-short-for-arthritis life, if I’ve had scoliosis the whole time, how is it possible that nobody ever noticed?

It’s been a few days since the diagnoses, and I’m very definitely still *SIGH*ing over this. And feeling way older than any of this merits.

Done with the Corset; Or: That’s not a corset, mate. THIS is a corset.

My doctor says that if I have better back support, the pain of both conditions should/will decrease and go away. In order to gain better back support, I need core strength and stability — of which I’m clearly not getting enough via my onesie-corset-bodysuit. Those separated abs are THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. To heal the abs and reestablish core strength, the doc wants me to wear a thing. It’s called a “Belly Bandit.”

bellybandit

The Belly Bandit is supposed to be THE BEST for getting one’s stretched, now oddly-proportioned, post-pregnancy belly back into shape. It flattens and compresses. It squeezes separated abs back together so they can heal. It produces whangdoodles and zippetybobs, and it will most definitely endow one with those ever-elusive vorpal unicorn morphing powers. I guess it’s called a “bandit” because it steals away one’s oversized post-pregnancy belly. I guess.

I buy one. I haul it home and pull it out of the package. It’s a ca. 3-foot-long, 1-foot-wide piece of cloth-covered elastic with front panels of what feels like industrial-strength Velcro. I suck in the belly, flex what’s left of the abs, and wrap my new belly-thieving friend around my waist. I secure the Velcro that would make the Acme Corporation proud. I relax and immediately notice two things:

1. I suddenly feel like my top half and bottom half are finally connected again.

2. Gasp and egad, I AM IN A CORSET.

PRETTY.

PRETTY.

I can’t breathe. Did I get it too tight? I can’t sit down. Oh dear, it’s bunching up in the small of my back. But the package insert says it’s supposed to do this. I can’t breathe. And later, I will pull a Scarlett and eat like a bird because my stomach is too smooshed for more than half a meal to fit into my abdomen.

I remind myself that this is a good thing. I use all the force of my fingers, hands, and arms to pull the Velcro apart and strap the thing back on a little looser. Breathing recommences. A little. I pick up the baby, and my back doesn’t scream at me. Okay, Ms. Bandit, maybe we can be friends after all.

After a lifetime of looking down my nose at those frivolous, 19th-century Southern belles, I now am not walking around in their shoes, but in their underwear. The Belly Bandit slims my waist. I ain’t never goin’ be no 18 inches (never was in the first place; nor 20, nor 25…ET CETERA), but at least the waistband of my jeans now rests comfortably on my hips instead of pinching my flesh. Sure, sitting isn’t comfortable, but the moment I strap on my torture device, I feel my posture improve and my whole body stabilize. For the first time in over a year, I don’t feel like my top half is gonna slide all janky to the right when my feet are leading my legs and hips to the left.

The best and weirdest part is that I can actually feel my abs touching under my skin. I mean, what a testament to how messed up my body is. You’re not supposed to be able to feel your abs touching. What manner of crazy is this? And yet, I do feel it, and in addition to bizarre, it also feels like hope.

Maybe I can feel normal again. Maybe I can live without pain again (because, yes, after a week of wearing the Belly Bandit, I definitely have less pain, and my next pt appointment isn’t until the end of the week). Maybe I can get my abs back.

Maybe, just maybe, I can get my body back.

Works-in-Progress Update and Getting Naked

Sci-fi novel Elevator People

First draft still in-progress. Still one to two chapters away from completion. I spend more time thinking about why I can’t finish the story than I do trying to finish the story. Which is a stupid way to spend my time. But there you have it. My theories as to what my problem is:

(a) I don’t want to kill off the character who’s probably gonna die in the last chapter.
(b) I’ve been spending too much time on social media, and it’s rotted my brain.
(c) The antagonist kicks the bucket too soon, and that’s made me lose momentum.
(d) Part of me thinks I should slog through and finish the first draft as-is, then go back and fix the problems.
(e) Part of me thinks I should fix everything I can fix and then finish the story.
(f) I keep wanting to play with sparkly new story ideas for my Legends of the Light-Walkers universe.
(g) I have ennui.
(h) ALL OF THE FREAKING ABOVE.

Dash it all.

Sci-fi short story “The Mercy and the Schadenfreude of the Soulless”

Yes. That is the actual title.

My beta readers have finished the story, and their response has been overwhelmingly, blush-elicitingly positive. Which, of course, makes me panic that these two people, whose opinions and clear views of life I generally trust, are, just in the case of my story, wholly blind to reality and deceived as to the merits of my story. Which makes me an angsty, ego-driven writer, I suppose, but then, what else is new?

Tonight’s blog post is, apparently, brought to you by Courtney’s Penchant for Commas. You’re welcome.

Anyway, edits on TMatSotS are going well, and I plan to have it done and turned in to Tony by the end of the week. BANGERANG.

Advice

Especially in the shower.

Especially in the shower.

A Candid Look at My Post-Pregnancy Body

A mad scientist kidnapped me and dumped my consciousness into someone else’s body.

That’s the only thing I can figure.

This new body of mine moves funny. It’s looser in the hips, as though my top half and my bottom half aren’t hinged together right. I feel it when I walk: Sometimes, I have to pay conscious attention to which direction I’m aiming each leg. If I don’t, my janky hips might just send one leg diagonal left, the other diagonal right, and I’ll look like a puppet that’s had a couple of strings cut. Right before I sprawl flat on my face.

This new body aches in places that have never ached before. Muscles pull tight and strain not because they’re working hard, but because they’re working wrong. They’re compensating and overcompensating, trying to do work that my joints and ligaments used to do. But the joints are too loose now, and the ligaments are too stretched. So other parts of my body are trying to take up the slack. But they weren’t designed for the jobs they’re doing, and their extra effort leaves me more exhausted than I should be.

This new body of mine is softer and rounder in certain places. I wouldn’t mind that so much, except that those softnesses and roundnesses don’t fit into my old body’s clothes. It’s as though someone took all of my old clothes and replaced them with clothing that looks the same, but it’s all a size or two small and cut funny. A woman in my former yoga class once saw my side plank pose and said I looked like a chiseled work of art. Nobody would say that about this new body of mine, even if it did fit into the jeans that used to ride low on my hips.

This new body of mine is ruthless, vicious, vindictive. It reacts differently to my former favorite foods: taste, metabolism, where it chooses to store fat, all is changed. This body’s abdominal connective tissue is stretched and thin, so it can’t hold my organs in place where they should be. Over time and with certain exercises, this is improving — but the going is slow, and this new body mocks me every step of the way.

Related to this, the new body requires clothing I never thought I’d wear. The garment is something like a corset, made to pull my abs together so they can heal. I wear T-shirts over it and men’s dress shirts so that no one will catch a glimpse of the “corset” straps. More and more, I feel like the teenager I once was, hiding inside bulky clothes and hoping no one will look at me. I look forward to cold weather so that I can cover up the straps and my now chubby arms without baking in the Oklahoma heat.

This is how I have to tape my stomach if I want to exercise at all. Even just for walking.

This is how I have to tape my stomach if I want to exercise at all. Even just for walking.

This new body also enjoys waking me in the middle of the night to tell me how uncomfortable it is in the bed my old body luxuriated in. This new body doesn’t like the soft pillow-top mattress; it demands something firmer. But I can’t provide it with a better mattress, so the new body wakes me to whisper complain scream at me via my back and my right side. There’s no position that will alleviate the pain, so I get out of bed and start my day already weary. I hope that in the evening, I’ll have time to soak in a hot tub.

I am trying to acquaint myself with this new body. I am trying to make friends with it. With her. I remind myself that she did something momentous, creating and carrying a tiny and precious life inside of her for the better part of a year. It’s no wonder she’s marked, it’s no wonder that I’ve had to trade my old body for hers. It was inevitable, and in spite of all the headache and backache and heartache, I don’t regret a moment of this transformation.

Still….

A friend once told me I seemed unusually comfortable in my own skin, as though my (old) body was but a familiar and welcome extension of who I am on the inside. And I felt those things, and I was glad that others could see so clearly my comfortableness (hard-won after years of teenage and young adult self-deprecation).

But that comfortable, extension-of-me feeling is gone. Now, no matter how I try to make friends with this new body, this other woman’s body that even after a year doesn’t feel like mine yet, ours is a grudging relationship. There’s only so much I can do when she makes it so very clear that she doesn’t like me.

Well, the feeling is mutual. I don’t like her, either. And I want my old body back.

You know what happens when you assume, right? (Hint: ass-u-me.)

This is a post about how I made an ass of myself.

And nobody knew about it but me.

So no one would ever have had to know.

Except that I’m putting it on the internet.

Which might make me an even greater ass.

The jury’s probably still out on that one.

I considered drawing a picture of the other type of ass but thought better of it. This isn't that kind of blog. I think.

I considered drawing a picture of the other type of ass but thought better of it. This isn’t that kind of blog. I think.

So, I was driving, right? And I stopped at a light on Memorial Road and May Avenue in north OKC, and there was a man with a sign that read, “HUNGRY — GOD BLESS,” and I was at the front of the line of cars, and I thought, “Great.”

He wants me to give him money.

He’ll probably use it for alcohol.

I don’t want to give someone money for alcohol if they have a drinking problem.

I don’t have cash anyway.

Who carries cash nowadays?

Wait. I do have a couple of dollars.

But that’s my emergency money.

You know. Just in case.

(Of I don’t know what. But at least I have it.)

I’m not giving him my emergency stash.

I don’t have anything to give him.

Oh, look. There’s the guilt.

Because I’m supposed to help the poor.

And what kind of awful person am I, if

A. I automatically assume he’s an alcoholic, and
B. I don’t help someone who needs help?

I suck.

*sigh*

But also, I’m a woman, and I’m by myself.

What if he’s dangerous?

(Not because he’s apparently homeless. Just because he’s male.)

Okay, I really suck.

But I’m still not giving him any money.

Screw it.

That was my train of thought in the second it took for me to pull up at the light and for the man on the corner to make eye contact with me.

Eye contact.

Shiny.

He held his sign higher. And the words “HUNGRY — GOD BLESS” might as well have been divine fire from on high emblazoned across the sky, searing my retinas. But still, my retinas perceived the man, and my mind assessed him. About my age. Longish, dark curly hair. Bright blue eyes. Clean-shaven. (Clean-shaven?) Backpack. Old clothes. Pain.

He held his sign higher, and I held up my hands and mouthed, “I’m sorry.”

He moved on past my car, but not before he said something that I couldn’t hear but that was clearly — clearly — a derogatory response to my choice.

He probably just cursed me out.

He doesn’t know if I’m just refusing to give him what I have, or if I really don’t have anything.

At least he didn’t flip me off.

Dude, I’m sorry, okay?

I need my emergency money.

And then there’s the possible addiction thing.

Oh, God, I suck.

With both hands gripping the steering wheel and my eyes on the red stoplight, I sat there and looked at myself and didn’t like what I saw. The thing is, I’ve done this assessment in the same situation and with the same results countless times. It never changes, because I never come to an answer that makes sense to me.

Memory delivers me my old neighbor, Alex, who would come to my door asking for a couple of Euros to buy bread and cheese and meat so that he and his wife could have something to eat. Never mind that a couple of Euros isn’t enough to buy bread and cheese and meat, but it is enough to buy a beer, and if enough neighbors give him a couple of Euros, he’ll have enough to buy the number of beers it takes for him to get drunk enough (again) to beat his wife instead of fixing her a sandwich.

The specter of Alex and his wife haunts me at the traffic lights and the street corners and the mouths of alleys where men in disheveled clothing ask me for money and use God as their letter of reference. I do not know what to do with these men. I cannot know their hearts, and I cannot know the source of their pain.

I look into the bright blue eyes of the man at Memorial & May, and I don’t know what I can do for him that will allow both of us to leave this corner with guilt-free, satisfied smiles on our faces.

I’m thinking all of this as the man moves on past my car and I grip the steering wheel in miserable indecision and I look down and see a Walmart Great Value brand granola bar in the car’s center console.

I grabbed the granola bar and punched the window button, and I swear I leaned halfway out of that window, waving that white-wrapped granola bar like a white flag of surrender, with the Goodness of the universe as the enemy who opposes my bitter self.

“Sir?” I screeched out the window. “Sir! Hello!”

He was three cars back, but he came running. I prayed that the light wouldn’t change and that the drivers behind me wouldn’t be too irate, because I wasn’t rolling up that window or letting go of that granola bar until I could place it in that blue-eyed man’s tan, possibly grimy, but also possibly clean, and who cares about their condition anyway? hands.

When he reached me, he was saying something about not being able to run. I met his eyes and said, “I found this.” And I offered him the granola bar, and he took it, and he asked, “Did you hear what I said?”

I swallowed. Hard. “No, I didn’t.”

He smiled. He was already turning away, moving back down the line of cars. But he locked eyes with me one more time.

“I said, ‘I love your hair.’ God bless!”

I swallowed again, harder this time. “You, too.” It was all I could manage.

And then he was gone, and the light turned green, and I drove away and thanked God that I don’t have to be a slave to my assumptions. I don’t have to be an ass. If I’m an ass, it’s by my own choice. And I always get another chance.

Sometimes, that chance is delivered via a blue-eyed homeless man who loves my hair. We both left the corner of Memorial & May with smiles on our faces, and that’s how this story can always end.

Depression and Creativity

The Depression Part

I’ve felt depressed lately.

Sad. Lethargic. Numb. Angry. Frustrated. Disinterested. Dark view of life. No hope. Blech.

I’ve blogged about depression before. And I’ve blogged about one of the main triggers of depression for me: not exercising my creativity.

When I realized that I was depressed, I said to several people who love me, “Hey, I’m depressed.” NOTE: Telling loving people that you’re depressed is helpful in starting the process of getting out of the depression.

Those several people who love me replied, “Hey, we’re not thrilled about this. Do you know why you’re depressed and/or how we can help?”

This was an excellent response for two reasons.

One, it let me know I’m not alone in this.

Two, it helped me figure out how to handle this.

You see, I had to answer them as follows: “There’s nothing that you can do, really. I have a baby whom I love dearly and deeply. I don’t resent her or begrudge her the time I spend with her. But the fact remains that when I’m taking care of her, I’m not writing. And when I do have time to write, I’m so exhausted that I fall asleep at the computer. There’s nothing anyone can do, really, to ‘fix’ this situation (which isn’t actually broken).

“However, having this conversation with you makes me focus on ways I can exercise my creativity in writing without sacrificing my daughter’s needs. So thank you for talking with me about this. That helped.”

The Creative Part, Pt. 1

And then I went and wrote a blog post, and I felt better. And then I invented a recipe for almond chicken, and while cooking doesn’t do a lot for me, it’s still a creative task, so I felt better after completing that, too. And then I reorganized two rooms and a closet, and the exercise in creativity required for that gargantuan task was a humdinger of a creative exercise, lemme tell ya. And then I made up a song about giraffes for my daughter and videoed myself singing it. After that, I was practically glowing.

So. I’ve felt depressed lately. But I’m on my way back up.

I still feel a ton of frustration that I nod off every time I sit down to continue my WIP (Elevator People). But at least I’m doing little creative things here and there. I think I just needed a reminder not to neglect that part of myself — and not to let exhaustion fool me into thinking I don’t have time for that part of myself.

After all…crippled, demented, or crushed: still, I will create.

The Creative Part, Pt. 2

And then, my friend J.T. posted the following on his Facebook status, and I thought it was utterly brilliant:

“Art is not about talent or skill. Art is about you. Spending time with you, getting to know you. Seeing parts of yourself that you love, some that you hate, but mostly parts that scare the very breath from your lungs. Art is not about technique or style. Art is learning who you are, and being brave enough to show the world. You can’t be bad at art, unless you are simply afraid to try. Art is a terrifying pursuit, because there is nothing more frightening than our own selves.”

~J.T. Hackett, artist

I’ll be blogging about J.T.’s ideas more in the near future. But for now, here’s how I’m relating his words to my depression:

I need to know who I am.

When I don’t know who I am, I get depressed.

When I am not creating, I am not spending time with me, not getting to know me.

When I am not creating, I am not seeing myself fully.

When I am not creating, I forget who I am.

When I forget who I am, I get depressed.

I could flesh this out a bit more, but I think it suffices for my current purposes. More than ever, I see the truth in my belief that I am created to create. To dig more deeply: I am created to get to know exactly who I am. If I am not doing art, I am not getting to know who I am.

If I am not doing art, I am neglecting a main purpose for which I was created.

No wonder that sets me adrift.

I am finding my anchor again.

Cures from the Past

"Castle in Her Coils" by Courtney Cantrell

“Castle in Her Coils” by Courtney Cantrell

"No More Room in Hell" by Courtney Cantrell

“No More Room in Hell” by Courtney Cantrell

"Sea Creature" by Courtney Cantrell

“Sea Creature” by Courtney Cantrell

"Redemption" by Courtney Cantrell

“Redemption” by Courtney Cantrell

Living in the Future, Singing in the Darkness

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about perception, perspective, stagnation of both, and changes in each. One image my thoughts return to is this:

“The Olympus Mons mountain on Mars is so tall and yet so gently sloped that, were you suited and supplied correctly, ascending it would allow you to walk most of the way to space. Mars has a big, puffy atmosphere, taller than ours, but there’s barely anything to it at that level. 30 Pascals of pressure, which is what we get in an industrial vacuum furnace here on Earth. You may as well be in space. Imagine that. Imagine a world where you could quite literally walk to space.”

–Warren Ellis,
How To See the Future

Walk into space. The closest I can get to imagining this is the descriptions of “the Wall” in Robert Silverberg’s Kingdoms of the Wall (a fantasy/sci-fi I highly recommend). And even those wouldn’t come close to what I’m sure must be the awesome reality of Mars’s Olympus Mons.

Unfortunately, as Ellis goes on to say, “manufactured normalcy would suggest that, if we were the Martians, we would find this completely dull within ten years and bitch about not being able to simply fart our way into space.”

There’s a lot of cynicism and snarkiness floating around nowadays. I can’t tell if it’s more intense than it used to be, or if we’re just more aware of it because we can dip into the negativity of a fellow human on the other side of the planet within 5 seconds of their posting their vitriolic rant on their blog. Ah well, at least it’s not a GeoCities page.

But with pessimism and sarcasm just a mouseclick away, I feel as though the negativity is ubiquitous. And it’s addictive. Sunshine unicorns glitter rainbows kittens cotton candy might be just as readily available for consumption as doom and gloom, but we humans tend to down the doom long before we reach for the rainbows.

I’ve written about this before, delving in to the creepy origins of the word “sarcasm.” So I won’t repeat myself here, not about that. But I’m still thinking all of those same thoughts about negativity and cynicism, and I’m thinking specifically of how they affect our perspective on the incredible world we live in today with all its amazing advances and advantages.

Just yesterday, I was reading an article on how women and men all over the world are using the internet and social media to fight back against rape culture. It’s tempting to gnash one’s teeth over the fact that rape culture ever existed and still exists. But instead of gnashing over that, what if we rejoiced at the brilliant and powerful ways in which right-minded people are combating it? If we didn’t live in such fabulous times, all of those beautiful, ringing, truth-filled voices would be silent and silenced.

In his article, Ellis points out a dozen? dozens of? advances in science and technology that most of us tend to take for granted and find boring — even though these things were beyond imagination not many years ago. Not many years ago, these things would’ve been considered “magic.” Not many years ago, the “magic” of uniting voices worldwide for a single would’ve been impossible.

Let’s open our eyes, is what I’m getting at. Let’s open our eyes and our hearts to see all the beauty and the brilliance and the boldness that awaken hope. It’s there for the seeing, and it’s there for the claiming if we want it.

My daughter is almost 9 months old. Sometimes, when we’re out somewhere, I catch her examining her feet. Her eyes are huge, and her mouth is wide open, and she gives me this look as if to say, “Mama! These feet aren’t just at home. These feet are HERE, too! Aren’t they amazing?!”

Yes, my love, they are amazing. And I am amazed to see the world with fresh, unjaded, untainted eyes, through you.

Dream. Think. Do. Marvel like a child at the intricacy and the mind-blowing beauty of this place we live in. And let your heart sing through every darkness. Other hearts will answer.

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