“Write about a time you said no.”
I will preface this by letting you know that I hardly ever say no. If it’s a tough assignment I honestly believe I can do it, and I will often strain myself trying to do it despite evidence to the contrary. If it’s an invitation to karaoke night I will get out there and sing “I’m Every Woman” with the best of them. If it’s my best friend telling me I need to buy something I will buy it even if I know I don’t need it. Because I hardly ever say no.
So, yeah, this one took a while in order to figure out an answer. When was the last time I said no? Oh yes, when my wife said we should take in another cat. She said it would just be fostering, for a specific period of time, but I knew what that meant. And we had already said we were not getting any more pets. I just didn’t want to get attached, because I so easily get attached, and I just can’t handle it right now. It’s bad enough we had to have our older cat put to sleep last year. I just had to say no.
And it hurt saying no. It tore me apart bit by bit with the mere breathing out of that smallest of phrases. No. And with that no came a sense of loss, a sense of everything having built itself up just to get torn down again. It was physically painful, but I knew it was the right thing to say, the only thing to say. I hope that cat finds a loving home, though, that in some way my saying no was the catalyst for something amazing happening in that cat’s life. I hope so. Because if I find out it wasn’t I don’t think I’ll ever say no again.
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The fragments hold
Stuck like static
Hanging on tightly
Praying for peace
In a chaotic existence
An excuse to fall
To blaze a trail
Like dying stars
Delivered from heaven
In ephemeral disgrace
But still as beautiful
As a flower in bloom
Fighting to stay alive
While the world revolves
The dreams lost in ash
Left behind by a god
Who sits high and judges low
Waiting for a chance
A divine intervention
The shift in exchange
Between love and apathy
And the keen difference
Of a decimal’s breadth
A slip and a cry
Frantic for an audience
For someone to applaud
The fragments as they scatter
Into an unforgiving wind
And dust the earth below
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10 years ago today I found out I was going to be a father. I remember it like it was yesterday — the anticipation, the nerves, the hope that it was indeed going to happen, that it wasn’t a cruel joke being played on me by God. And yet it seemed like God was on board from that day on as the child continued to grow in the womb, and at each checkup things were fine. I kept praying regardless, though, because I was just so used to things going wrong at the last possible moment. I held my breath.
Then I turned blue, and I had to exhale. And then she was born, my first child, my Alexa. She was born exercising her lungs, and she hasn’t stopped since. But on that first day when we found out she was “potential” we had no idea where it was going to go from there, what she would look like, if she had even latched on, if she was even a “she.” All we knew as we drove home from the clinic was that we wanted a child more than anything in the world.
And the call didn’t come as we sat there on the couch alternating between pretending we were watching Wimbledon and pretending we weren’t watching the phone. Until it finally came in the afternoon, when we had figured they weren’t going to call that day, that we would have to wait for either the good or the bad news, hoping that it would finally be good, and fearing that it would finally be bad. We huddled together with that fear and that anticipation swirling in our brains, but we didn’t talk about it.
Then the call came, and they spoke to my wife, and I sat there frozen like a statue, ears listening attentively to the faint hush of the voice from the other end of the line. And when it happened, when she said those words — the test came back POSITIVE — I let it all out, all those fears, all that pent up energy, all the guilt I felt for so long. I was going to be a father, and there was nothing, absolutely nothing, that could damped that feeling.
And there still isn’t. This one’s for you, Alexa, and for that day 10 years ago when we knew you would be ours.
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“Everytime it rains I fall to pieces. So many memories the rain releases. I feel you. I taste you. I cannot forget. Everytime it rains… I get wet.” ~Ace of Base
It’s raining today and I don’t have an umbrella, so I’m trying to dance through the raindrops, to stay as dry as I possibly can in what at times is a torrential downpour. You probably think I’m stupid for braving this weather without an umbrella, or at the very least blindly optimistic that the atmospheric fortunes might shift into more favorable conditions, when in fact I’m neither of these things. I don’t fancy myself a meteorologist, or a strong guy who can just take the rain without a whimper. I can whimper with the best of them, but I do suck it up because I know the alternative.
You see, I’ve lost 16 umbrellas in my life. I know because I’m anal about things like that, things that I should have the ultimate control over but that still seem to happen anyway. As a perfectionist it’s difficult to see another umbrella disappear when I had it in my hands mere moments before. But it kept happening regardless, and I kept beating myself up over it. Oh yeah, and still getting wet anyway.
When it happens to me once, it’s okay. These things happen. When it happens twice, shame on me because I should have learned after the first time. When it happens 16 times it just seems like I’m cursed, that like Romeo I am indeed “fortune’s fool.” After approximately the 5th umbrella I lost I started making reminders, like color-coded rubber bands around my wrist, and bringing a bag to put the umbrella in when not in use. Yeah, I forgot I was wearing the rubber bands, and the bag also came up missing.
So I stopped buying them. I stopped carrying them around even if they were available to me some other way. I stopped caring whether or not I got wet. I figured, “At least I’m not losing any more umbrellas,” and that mantra has stood the test of time. The number will stay at 16 forever, and I guess I can live with that now. I guess I don’t still have the sense of remorse that I used to carry around like so many invisible umbrellas. I’ve made my peace with getting wet. I almost see it now as a sort of baptism, each time cleansing my soul of all the pain of loss.
But it would still be nice if it stopped raining at some point.
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There are a million possibilities out there, a million ways to do things, a million reasons for living, a million photographs that I might find fascinating, a million people I have yet to meet. If I stood for a moment and tried to process all the information coming at me every single day, all the people who might still make a difference in my life, I might go stark raving mad. The human brain just wasn’t meant to process so much information at once, or at least mine wasn’t. But that doesn’t stop me from considering the vastness of the universe, and of every single thing within it that could even marginally relate to me.
My wife says that I am a random thinker, but I’m not. I’m really a constant thinker, which means at any given moment in time I’m thinking of multiple things at once, making connections between things that others might wonder at, and creating new paradigms for my world. Last night I spent five minutes cycling through Phil Collins’ lyrics in my mind, searching for the common link between all those words that have somehow found a space to call home within my brain. But if you want a Phil Collins lyric for any occasion, I’m your man.
Being a constant thinker means I’m constantly analyzing what I’m thinking, so the entire time I was cycling through songs like Sussudio, Easy Lover, and Testify, I was also trying to figure out what it was about Phil Collins that fascinated me enough for my mind to so intensely focus on him and his creative mind. These ideas of constantly thinking about things, and then analyzing those thought processes at the same time make for strange bedfellows. In fact, I’m often up late into the night lying in bed wondering when my brain will finally let me sleep. Some nights it doesn’t happen.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I’m any smarter for all of the thinking, or at least any smarter than I’d be without all of the thinking. I think it has just become a part of me and I can’t stop doing it. It’s not like a light switch that I can flip on and off. It’s always there, like my fingers and my nose, like the fact that my skin is brown, there’s no getting around it. And believe me, I sometimes wish I could get around it. I sometimes wish I could challenge my mind to a duel and if I won it would promise to zone out every once in a while.
Yet here I still am — a constant thinker — and here’s where I will remain, because life has so many possibilities, because my brain likes to consider all of those possibilities and create connections in my mind for each and every one of them, because if thoughts can be endless I don’t want to be left behind.
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I got lost today, even though I left early enough, I thought, for that not to be an issue. I should have known better.
I had been to the campus before, albeit 12 years ago, for exactly one day, so it shouldn’t have happened. In my own mind I still have a photographic memory, but my brain betrayed me this morning as I drove onto campus hopelessly befuddled as to where the Humanities building was.
And I wasn’t about to ask someone either. It’s a point of pride, you see. And it ended up making me late. It was Freshman Orientation today, so there were about a million little cars pulling onto campus when I was, so I followed them, which was the wrong move to make.
They all ended up in a large parking area behind a massive building that seemed oddly out of place, for whatever reason. There were people all around, wearing purple, who were there to guide incoming students into the festivities, and it would have been so easy to roll my window down and ask one of them for directions. But I didn’t, instead accidentally driving right off of campus and having to resort to my phone’s GPS to find my way back.
Eventually I just gave up, parking in the nearest lot once I was back on campus, and deciding to walk around until I found Humanities. Which was funny, because after I made the decision and started walking on an actual path I found a campus directory clearly marked in front of the Business building.
And then I wasn’t lost anymore. But I was still late, so I started running.
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I have a dream too. It’s not all-encompassing, and it really serves no bigger purpose. But it’s a dream nonetheless. Everybody has a dream, I guess, and yet so many of us are still sleeping. Wake up, and experience the realization of the dream. Because the dream is nothing without the follow-up.
I need to wake up.
You know those lucid dreams, the ones where you believe you’re awake but you’re still fast asleep? We somehow convince ourselves that life has moved on, that we’re advancing when we’re in fact in some sort of stasis. I’m really good at that. I think maybe that gives me an excuse to get nowhere, running to stand still as it were. I wake long enough to realize the light is filtering in through the window, and I turn back over again.
But if I were King…
If I were King I would climb a mountain just to look over the edge and freak out at the distance to the ground. If I were King I would get dragged away because I couldn’t stop myself from caring. If I were King I would make those dreams real, standing up and making things happen. If I were King I would put on my marching shoes and lead a revolution. If I were King I would stay away from hotel balconies.
I would soar, and never come down.
Posted in Journal | Tagged dream, journal entry, Martin Luther King | Leave a Comment »