Posts Tagged ‘Life’

An older heavy-set woman with a slight moustache stands at the bus stop arguing out loud, with a look of sheer frustration painted on her face.   You notice that there are sweat stains dropping down beneath the open arms of her flowered print dress, clearly visible every time she waves her freckled jiggly arms in the air punctuating every point she helplessly makes.

There are two possibilities that occur to you.  She might be loop-de-loop crazy, and she’s on the losing site of an argument with a ghost in her imagination.   Maybe it’s her mother, who never told her she was smart, or pretty.  Maybe it’s her brother, now dead for fourteen years, and she’s trying to resolve their last argument about her bad money management skills.

So you look a little closer (while maintaining your distance), just to see if you can spot a little flashing blue light near her earlobes, because you’d like to know if she’s safe.  It’s hard to tell, as she’s wearing large hoop earrings, which are just slightly peeking beneath her long hair.  Maybe she’s actually talking to a real person.  Maybe a bill collector, or maybe it’s her mother who is still alive, and still causing her no end of emotional pain.

Finally you decide she’s lost her grasp of reality.  So you wonder how she got there.  How does anyone get from “A” to “coo-coo-coo cocoa puffs”.   What was the insurmountable sorrow that broke the dam of her intelligence and awareness?

Maybe you don’t want to know.   Maybe the information would be too scary.  Maybe….if it happened to her, it could happen to anyone.    Knowing this would destroy your carefully wrought sense of emotional invincibility.   Gone are the days when nothing could hurt you physically.  You now know that a fall could cause a broken bone.  At least you have your sanity.  Right?

If you ever watch little kids playing – or if you remember what it was like when you were a kid – you’ll know that they don’t worry about too much.  They have a narcissistic knowledge that everything’s okay, and that they don’t have to worry about their next meal or the fact that their mom and dad love them.   Not having those burdens gives them a freedom to explore the limits of their imagination with each other.   They play and say the craziest things almost without thought.  

You remember what it was like.  You recall standing under a hot sun on your porch, and making the determination that you – no YOU – would be the captain of the spaceship and your friend would be the alien.  Hours would go by before you finished your scene with him, and when mom said “okay boys, it’s time for dinner.  Say goodbye to your friend”, you shrugged and knocked fists with him, the make-believe game now forgotten as your nostrils inhaled the mouth-watering aroma of roast beef.

As you grow older you realize a few things – in the moment – that excite you.  You notice, as a pre-teen, that lights – physical lights –  seem to draw you out.   City streetlights, the amber glow of the sanctuary candle, as it flickers and creates red shadows which labour to reach the vaulted church ceilings.   Or the neon glow of the computerized gizmos that capture your attention.   You don’t wonder at this fascination, because for you it’s normal.    It doesn’t even occur to you that your interest is not actually usual or the norm.  It just is.

Or you read poetry or hear a song, and you get transported on the resonant notes as they draw you further and further away from the present.  You exult in the ebb and swell of the violins or accordion, completely unaware that your friend has no appreciation for your experience.   At the same time, it never occurs to your autistic friend that his fascination for data, for numbers, for the accumulation and retention of historical knowledge – is in any way unusual.   He thinks everyone is the same.

We all do.

And where we see that we’re different, our instinct tells us we need to conform.   It’s too weird to be *too* different from our peers.   Our minds rationalize the difference, and we work hard at being the same, all the while expounding on our uniqueness, our coolness.

Some of us seek the conformity of a common mindset, in whatever form that takes.   For some, it’s a clique at high school, and we make sure everyone notices that we can drink the same amount of beer as anyone else, and that we can tell dirty jokes, or that we can laugh as we throw toilet paper on the trees at the nerd’s place.

Others of us are the nerds, and we take pleasure in our supposedly superior intellect, and in our ability to play chess and pursue intellectual accomplishments as evidenced by our good grades.   

Still others jump into the conformity of the church pews, secure in our salvation.

That little girl who can’t help thinking about her desire to help the underdog never realizes how unique she is.  How beautiful her heart is.

The little boy never understands that his need to act out is really an extension of his need to entertain and build imaginary characters.  He thinks he’s the same as everyone else.  He has no awareness of the shy kid, the kid who hasn’t yet learned how to fit in with the rest.

And so we get into these clubs and groups and find that we feel safe in them.   We defend them as valid – which for us at the time, they are.

But then there are the other unique groups that are too unusual for us.   Like the old lady with the flabby arms.   Or the group of boys who wear their baseball caps a little weirdly, and talk differently and have different coloured skin.

Or (worse!), those girls who hang out together and hold hands and make out with each other in the alley.  Or the buys who laugh a little too loudly, and have sparkling alive eyes, as they joke with each other with a familiarity that is *too* familiar.

It never occurs to us that the individuals in those groups also grew up, just like we did, thinking that their hopes and dreams and desires were all normal.  They in fact didn’t realize they were ABnormal at all – until someone told them.

But this isn’t about them.  Or about the old woman.  Or the actors or painters or the autistic guy.

It’s about you.  And me.  And the realization that ultimately we don’t fit into a singular mould or group.   We are created to be unique.   Some of the things we experience aren’t “usual”.   We aren’t defined by our love of music, or our unique acting abilities, or our penchant for crunching numbers and finding the myriad ways in which math defines existence.   We – each of us – are comprised of a million different characteristics.

If we could all just *see* each other exactly was we are, we’d know that we aren’t the same.  Maybe we’d appreciate our unique views more.  I don’t know.  Maybe we’d understand that not all fingerprints are exactly the same, or each snowflake.   Maybe we would be aware that total sameness would be boring and dull.  Uninteresting and flat.

Last week when having a heated debate about gays who wanted the right to marry, I thought about those who were opposed.   It startled me how easily I was able to compartmentalize those whose ideologies and religion boxed them into an intolerance of the ideal of treating all people the same.  Though it was so very tempting to dismiss my opponents as intellectual Neanderthals, incapable of original thought, the fact is, I appreciated the need not to lump everyone together but to value and respect each person for their unique take on this and other issues.   The more I read what they had to say, the more it seemed to me that opinions are rarely arrived at in a vacuum.  Some are parroting others’ opinions, while others have given it great thought, perhaps under the influence of religious leaders, or perhaps as a result of a logical internal debate.   Whatever the case, I found I could not paint everyone with the same brush.   Finally, without surrender of my beliefs on the issue, I arrived at the following point:

I don’t like to categorize or dismiss people too easily or often because I don’t want to get ripped off.  Even if I disagree with them and think they’re short-sighted, immature or ignorant, the fact is they might say something that will get me to think differently.  They might offer new wisdom or information to which I was previously unaware.  I don’t want to miss that.

 
Occasionally my first prejudiced judgement of them proves to be in error.  Those are the best surprises.  And sometimes I’m so wrong as to feel embarrassed.  That’s a good thing too because I get to learn.
 
Curiosity is the bane of prejudice.

A month ago, a friend had challenged me to sit for an hour, just to concentrate – and maybe pray – about where I want to be, what I wanted to.   It was a goal that was fairly open-ended.   

I did.  I sat on the floor, on my yoga mat (shaddap) with a pillow behind my back.   I did this for an hour, at first in mediation, and then thinking/praying.   Just going over stuff.  

I came to a few realizations.

I’m an angry person.  Have been, ever since I was a teenager.   People generally didn’t know this, because it’s not obvious.   I am.  I’m angry.   So….this introspection….this navel-gazing, if you will…. sought to figure that out.  Why was I angry?

Years ago, my therapist suggested that anger is not a bad thing or a good thing.  It just is.  (What do you think?  Do you agree?  I’m really interested in your thoughts on that) .   Anyway – that’s the approach I took today.   I guess that anger, like pain, might be there for a reason.  It’s a messenger, a warning, that all is not right.   There’s an imbalance.  Something that needs correction.

So…..why was I angry?

I couldn’t approach it head-on as there were no answers there.  I just know that sometimes something will trigger me, and I’ll go off on a passionate rant.   Last night I ranted on a friend’s blog.   When I woke up this morning, I found myself ashamed and regretful.   I had told him the truth, but maybe it was overkill.  Maybe I didn’t need to show quite so much passion.   Truth-telling is enhanced by alcohol, in that booze relaxes your inhibitions.  The bad news is that it also inhibits your judgement – and I’m not sure my judgement was where it needed to be last night.   Anyway… spilt milk….water under the bridge.   Regrets are only good as lessons for the future.  They have zero effect on their origins.  You can’t take anything back or undo what you did.

So… Anger.   Anger happens when you find yourself limited from your potential.  Anger happens when you find yourself subject to fear – and once again, inhibited from doing what you know you should do.  

And I have been so very angry.  Sometimes it comes out as a reaction to whatever excuse will serve at the time.  I recognize its deceptiveness by virtue of its overkill – all out of proportion to its catalyst.  

I have dreams that I’ve let slide.   The time of reflection and meditation made that clear.  There’s a need to create.  To indulge some creativity.   To act.  To play music.  To write.   To – and this is kind of the crux of it all – help people.   

It’s tough, being so acutely aware of people who failingly struggle with expectations.   I see people who are bound – hogtied – to rules and restrictions that they thought were imposed on them, by their friends, their church, their friends or their workplace.  The brutal truth is that they’ve chosen to bind themselves.   Whatever the case, the end result is that they’re bound.  And they think they’re alone.  And I *need* to shine some light.

At the same time, I’ve become acutely aware of the fact that I have so many blind spots too.  So I can’t brag about any of this.  I can’t pretend I’m not deceived on occasion too.   Self-deception is the worst, isn’t’ it?  Mostly because you have no idea you’ve done it.   No clue that you’ve lied to yourself.   It doesn’t even cross your mind. 

I find that someone will say something and I’ll realize (hopefully immediately, if I’m lucky) that what they said just bumped me.   Like the universe pinched me hard on the bum.   And I realize, once again, that I’ve been fooling myself.   Damn it – I wish I could be more specific here, so that you had some idea of what I’m talking about.

That hour-long meditation is key:  especially in a world where stuff is happening all of the time, and you have no room to think.   It’s a time that you schedule, just like anything else, where you sit by yourself, quietly.   And listen.  And talk out loud too.

I don’t know how it would work for you but here’s how it worked for me:  I sat on the yoga mat and closed my eyes.   The first thing I did was concentrate on my breathing.  I slowed it down and took deep breaths, which I held for a few seconds before letting out.   As I did this, I noted the rest of my body:  where my limbs were, what they were touching, whether there was any pain or twitches or anything at all.   I didn’t judge any of it or try to make anything better.  I just accepted it.  I also noted the noises from outside of my apartment:  not in an irritated way, but just acknowledging that they were there, and accepting them.   

After a few minutes of that, once there was a rhythm going, I started deliberately thinking about all of the above.  Digging down deep into my motivations.  Figuring out what it was that caused me anger.  I don’t know why anger was the focus, but once again – I didn’t judge.  I accepted it.  It might be different for you though:  you’ll know if you try this.

Then, I decided that since anger was a signal, I needed to pay attention and figure out what it was telling me.   I found a few things:  I wasn’t creating.  I wasn’t playing piano.  I wasn’t writing as much as I needed to do.   I was resentful of my job, which takes up so much of my time.  I need money to live – and my job was the surest way to do that.  I wasn’t physically fit.

There’s an awareness of a need to reach out to people too.  That’s the main thing.  I thought of how many times I’ve been lifted up by music.  Pretty much catapulted out of a threatened depression and dropped into joy – because of music.  I’ve done the same thing when I’ve created and played music too.   The clearest example was at the death of my father:  a man that I truthfully hated for much of my life.  Yet, my emotions were ambivalent.  He wasn’t a total asshole.  He did some things right.  He likely did (as we all do) the best he could with what he had.   He was limited (as we all are) by so many things, some of which were obvious, and others of which were hidden.  At his funeral, some of these truths made themselves apparent.  It wasn’t completely conscious though.   On the eve of his funeral – for some strange reason – I decided to compose a musical eulogy to him.   There were no words – just music.   I remember setting up the electric piano at the Catholic altar of the church, and playing the piece.   It was a bittersweet number:  grounded in pain but interspersed with streaks of joy.   I couldn’t articulate it in words at all.   

The best thing:  it fit, and not just with me.

It was the first time I was conscious of the powerful effects of music.  

I need to do that again.  There’s a need to meet the mark of the joy, the potential, of music.  And of writing.  And of being in the best health possible. And of so much more.

Do you dream?  Are there things you wish you’d done?  Do you find yourself irritated for no apparent reason?  Or apathetic?   

Are you where you want to be?  Are you satisfied?   If so – how did you get there?   Did it come easy, or did you need to do a lot of introspection?  Did you have to make some deliberate choices?  How so?  How did you do it?

If not – have you accepted your “station in life” as inevitable?   If so, why?  Is there fear?  Of what?   

Or are you truly happy with your choices?

Man cave

“So why aren’t you with someone by now?”

He shrugged.  “I don’t know.”   Her arched eyebrow provoked further explanation.  “Honestly, I really don’t know.”

“You don’t seem worried about it.  Do you care?”

He felt lucky to have her as a friend.  He had a penchant for gravitating to truth-tellers.  People who would say the truth, sometimes harshly but always with affection.   They hadn’t seen each other for a few months, and had chosen the cafeteria at his workplace to catch up.

“Sure I care.  I’d like to share my life with someone.”  Even as he said it, he wondered if it was true.

He had been separated from his wife for twelve years now, and divorced for seven, with only a handful of romances to show for it.   Nothing that stuck.

“Maybe I’m too comfortable” he offered.   She smiled and sat back, looking at him.

“You know, there are some women around here who’ve been talking about you, wondering what your story is.”

That was news.  He sat forward, brown eyes piercing hers.  “Yeah?  What are they saying?”

She grinned.  “Oh you know.  The usual.  Is he gay or something?’

He laughed.   “No worries there.  I’m not.  I checked.”

“You did?”  Her eyes sparkled, teasing.  “Now how would you check something like that?”

“How do you think?  I watch the flag to see which scenery makes it flap in the breeze.”

She laughed.  “Yeah okay.   I’ve got it.   A little too much information though.”

“You asked.”

“So what’s the problem then?”

He frowned.  “Who says there’s a problem?”

“No, no.  That’s not what I meant.  You know what I’m getting at.  Why aren’t you with someone?”

As usual, he was a little uncomfortable with this train of thought.  He couldn’t deny her though – which made it worse.   They’d been friends for years.  He thought about that.  He mostly had married friends – women who were unavailable.  He knew it was a source of comfort, safety.

“I really don’t know.  Every time I think about being with someone I look first for the potential pitfalls.   That turns me off right away.”

“You know you can’t ever expect the perfect mate, right?”

He nodded.  “Of course.  I know that here.”  He pointed to his head.  “There’s a slight problem getting this to pay attention though.”  He pointed to his chest.

“So what is it? ”  She persisted.

He scrambled, knowing that it was likely that the first thing that occurred to him would probably be correct.   “Fear” he blurted.

“Good” she said, ever the pragmatist.  “Now we’re getting somewhere.”

“What are you?  My counsellor or something?”  Despite the joking tone, he was serious.   Again, they both knew it.  It was one of the reasons their friendship worked.

“It matters to me.  I don’t know why.   Seems to me you’re a caring person – such a shame to see that potential get lost.”

“Yeah”  he agreed.  “But then, potential isn’t romance is it?”

“No….”  she began.   Then the silence drifted in, pulled up a chair, and sat there, content and peaceful.

“I guess…” he began.  “After years of nothing but shouting and miscommunication… I’m probably a little gun-shy.”

“A little?”

“Okay.  A lot.”   He looked up, thinking.  She waited.

“I’ve had so many years of being by myself.  I like my apartment, and my routine.   I like being selfish.  Staying out till all hours of the night if I want.   Going where I want without having to worry about anyone else.”

“Is that why you haven’t replaced your cat?” she wondered.

“Probably.   I like the freedom.”

“Not everyone is like your ex-wife you know.”   She had been privy to his history.  There wasn’t any need to re-hash any of it.

“I know, I know.”  He said.  “I guess I can’t help thinking that they’re all like her though.”

“You realize how crazy that is right?”

“I do.   Doesn’t change much of anything though.”

She shook her head.  “My God.  You’re damaged aren’t you?”

“I hope not.  If I accepted that diagnosis, doctor, it would suggest it couldn’t be fixed.”

She laughed.  “It wouldn’t suggest any such thing.   But you know – if you start there, maybe you can figure out how to shake things up.”

He smiled again.  “So what’s your prescription?”

There was no hesitation.  “Get out there.   Swim in strange and weird waters.”

“Oh it’s that easy is it?”

“It is.”

“And how would you know this?  You’ve been married for quite a few years now.”

“I just know.  Trust me.”

He did trust her.   But he couldn’t bring himself to trust that it was that easy.

“Seems like…..I can’t explain it.”  He shook his head.

She nudged his foot with hers.   “Try.”

He sipped his coffee, thinking.  Remembering.

——–

They had met a little over two months ago, in the middle of what he thought was the worst time of his life.

One morning he had arrived at work, unaware that this day would be anything but routine.  No sooner had he sat down to his computer and opened up his email than he had seen one marked urgent.  It was from his boss, and she wanted to meet with him as soon as he read it.

There had been talk around the office for the past year.  The company was floundering on the markets, and most of his colleagues had begun to visibly age.  The laughter, the jokes had been replaced with a still, thick and uncertain peace.  A kind of quiet that pushes against the sides of your head, muffling the sounds of the screeching brakes and occasional shouts from the outside traffic.   Occasionally one of his workmates would get The Email, which was followed by The Meeting, both of which were prerequisites for the slow sad Walk To The Door, to the chorus of ambivalent reactions.  Some would shake the person’s hand, while others stood and nodded sympathetically, the pressure of unshed tears mixing with guilty fearful frowns.   It could happen to anyone.   And now, apparently, it was happening to him.

He sighed and stood up, butterflies dancing in his gut.  Maybe, he thought, this is what a pending heart attack feels like.  He knew his face was red, radiating his doom to all who watched him head to the boss’ office.

“Come in” she said, “and shut the door”.   Predictable, really.  This is always how it goes.   He noticed that it wasn’t just him and her in the office.  There was another man in there too – someone he’d around the office many times.

“This is Jeremy Crystal, from Rainbow Associates.   I’ll get to why he’s here in a moment.”

As predicted, he was being let go.  And Mr. Crystal was there to explain his options.  He could go for retraining and certainly he would offer assistance with a job search.  The name “Rainbow” seemed ridiculous.  A cosmic slap in the face.  There was no gold at the end of this particular spectrum of colours – unless a bucket of failure, and a prognosis for a diminished future could be seen as a valued treasure.

Back then, he didn’t know the half of it.   The irony was yet to be revealed.

Dazed and disbelieving, he took his place among his predecessors:  he gathered his belongings, while the two security guards waited by his desk.  As he began The Walk, it occurred to him that he had no thoughts.  Briefly, he thought about the sales orders that he still had to process, then shook his head, remembering that they weren’t his to worry about anymore.  Mental muscle memory, he supposed.  This would happen for a while.  He knew he’d wake up during the night, suddenly recalling yet another piece of unfinished company business, before relaxing back in the knowledge that the concern was for nothing.

As one guard preceded him and opened the door, he thought, for the first time, that maybe this was a good thing.

A week later, he had fallen asleep on the bus trip to the re-employment services building, and had missed his stop.  A sudden screech of the bus brakes had woken him, and he had looked around, not recognizing his neighbourhood.  The bus had narrowly missed hitting a car, and the entire vehicle had rocked to a stop. It was a good thing, or he would have still been asleep.  As it was, he knew he’d have to jump on the other bus and go back at least five, maybe six stops.  Worse, it was now starting to rain.

He covered his head with his jacket and waited until the traffic was clear before making his way across the road.  He nodded to an older gentleman.  “I guess the bus is late, huh?”

The old guy grunted.  “Your first clue was this crowd of people, son?”

He looked down the road, not seeing anything that looked remotely like a bus.  “Yeah.  Mom raised a whole bunch of us rocket scientists.”

The old guy snorted.  “Sorry.  I’ve been standing here for something like a half hour now.   I guess one of the drivers was sick or something.   Or needed to take a break or make a phone call, or get lunch or something.  I’m just a bit pissed.  They raise the rates,  but don’t improve the service.  This happens way too often, son, and I’m tired of it.”  He shook his head.  “And it’s not like I can just go out and buy a car.  It’s ridiculous.”

He shook his head in sympathy, and watched as even more people made their way to the stop.   There were so many people coming and going that there wasn’t room on the sidewalk, so some were walking fairly close to the curb.

One car darted out in front of another and picked up speed, inadvertently getting too close to the curb, where a mini-lake waited.   As luck would have it, the front tire hit the puddle perfectly, creating a wall of water that arced up to consume one unfortunate pedestrian, who let out a high-pitched shriek.

He saw her, standing there stunned and gasping, blonde hair soaked.  Her briefcase had hit the ground, opened up and the papers were making their way down the street, free of their leather prison.  He quickly ran after them and herded them back into some semblance of order, presenting them back to her.

She pulled the hair out of her eyes, and took the papers, mute and looking like she was going to cry.  He said “look, you’re having a bad morning.  Let’s go to that coffee shop over there and get you warmed up a bit.”

She had nodded and they had made their way to the inviting little café.   She had gone into the washroom, to dry off as much as she could, while he ordered them both a coffee.

Eventually, they sat and began talking.

“I…Um, thank you.  For what you did.”

He nodded.  “Not to worry.  Sh—, uh, stuff happens, I guess.”  For some reason, he didn’t want to swear.

“It’s just that…I just don’t like missing appointments.”

“Was it important?”

She sighed.  “Well, it was my entrance meeting.  I’ve just quit my job and am supposed to start up at this new place next week.”

He must have looked alarmed, because she smiled and placed her hand on his arm.  “Oh I’m not worried.  The position’s mine.  I’ve been hired to head up a branch office for them – so this meeting time was my idea, as a way of getting ahead of the stream of stuff I need to know before next week.”

“Well that’s a relief.” He sat back, then sat forward again and placed his hand out.  “By the way, my name’s Grey.”

She sat forward and shook his hand.  “Crystal.”

“Crystal, huh?  That’s different.  With an ‘i’ or ‘y’?”

She laughed.  “‘y’ of course.”

“Well you just can’t tell anymore.  Some people have the weirdest names.”

“Yeah.  The girl I was going to meet is Brandie.   With an ‘ie’.”

“Really?  Wow.  Poor girl.  Speaking of which – I guess you should probably re-schedule your meeting.”

“I already re-scheduled – called them when I was in the washroom just now.”

“Oh” he said.   “Well  that’s courageous.”

“What?”

He grinned.  “The last time someone spoke on the phone when I was in a washroom, I grunted loudly and then flushed the toilet.”

“You did?”  She laughed.  “Why would you do that?”

He shrugged.  “Don’t know.  Just seemed a little incongruous – using a cellphone in there.”

She crooked her head.  “It did?  You really think so?”

“Breaks up the harmony something fierce.   Also – it kind of makes it hard to concentrate.”

She laughed and slapped his arm.   “I wasn’t in the stall when I made the call.”

He shook his head.  “Doesn’t matter.  Maybe someone else was.”  He looked at her, frowning.  “How could you be so cruel?”

She smiled, and shook her head.

After that, they had gone out a few more times, and then he had met her friends and she his.  One of her friends – Gary – was pioneering a new technology, which he had found more than interesting.   The two had gotten together over beers, and their excitement over the sales possibilities had built quickly.  They had decided to go into business together, with Gary handling the engineering and technical aspects, and Grey working on the marketing and sales.  Both knew it would be a while before they saw any kind of profit, but had noticed that anyone they spoke to had shown more than just polite interest, so they were sure they had a winner.

——–

He looked at her, and finally answered her question.  “The best I can explain it is like this:  just when I think everything’s falling apart and nothing good can happen and we’re all alone and on own with everything, I get a glimpse of a number of seemingly coincidental occurrences that just sort of defy probability, you know? It’s like people and circumstances are often a lot more connected than we realize, or can see.”

She looked up at the clouds, as if willing them to spill their secrets.  Then looked at him.  “You know – I’ve often thought the same.”

But Why?

Posted: March 25, 2012 in Life, living, religion
Tags: , , , , ,

Why

Someone once asked me why I believe in God.   There was a slight tone of disbelief and maybe a hint of derision swirling around with the query as it sailed through the air to my ears.   Still, it was a honest curiosity from a guy who, while he didn’t believe in God, certainly believed enough in me to trust that I would answer without giving one of the usual predictable responses one usually receives:

“Because the Bible said so”

“Because none of this reality could exist without God”

I hesitated, trying to find the right imagery and logical links.

“Well I know you can’t prove His existence to anyone”.  I figured we should start out that way – it seemed important to begin where we both agree.   My daughter has taught me about the necessity of context and frankly, a by-product of my ADHD is that I often get excited when relating something, assuming that the hearer has already processed everything that I’ve done.

Anyway, he nodded.

“He has proven His existence to me.   You have to understand that what constitutes evidence to me is not easily transferable to anyone else.   I don’t even try to explain my faith to anyone else – and I certainly don’t feel the need to try and convince anyone.”  The irony of that statement waved its hands in my face, grinning with raised eyebrows, frantically trying to get my attention.  I ignored it.  Some call this obstinate ignorance.

“How so?” he asked.

I love honest questions.   Honest questions make the world go around.  Curiosity begets answers, and answers raise more questions, which feeds curiosity which in turn provokes even more questions.   This is how illumination happens.  This is how people struggle toward discussion, delight and understanding.  This is how wars end, how people eventually agree, how enemies learn to coexist.   This is how marriages are saved.

I told him.

“My sister was very little when she went into a coma.  It was spontaneous and we have no idea how it happened.  I remember my dad carrying her out to the car, limp in his arms.  She was about three years old.”

He listened, and watched as the canvas in my mind slowly brought that memory into focus.

“As the days went by, my parents talked openly about her.   They mentioned that the doctors said there was a few minutes when she had stopped breathing and so therefore she might not come out of it, and that even if she did, there was a high probability that she would have severe brain damage.  She wouldn’t be the same, they said.   I saw my parents’ eyes dim at this news.   Their worry thickened the air.”

I continued.  “I was fourteen and had recently begun attending a small church’s youth group.   My own mind reeling with worry and helplessness, I hopped on my bike and pedaled on down to a night time service.  It was the only thing I knew at the time to do. “

My mind completed the picture.  I recalled the warmth of that little church, with its wooden pews and big windows.   There was something comfortable about the place – enhanced by the handful of hanging light fixtures that sent a warm glow over the twenty or thirty people who were there.   I arrived, a little late as usual and made my way to one of the pews in the middle of the left side, and sat.

“When the spot in the service arrived where requests for prayer were invited, I stood up.   I explained her hopeless situation to them.  Their looks of sympathy almost undid me.   I asked ‘could you please pray for her?’   and the pastor smiled and said ‘let’s pray together’.  And we did.”

“I didn’t feel much different, you understand.   There were no bolts of lightening, no sudden intuition even that God heard us.   But….I did feel a warmth, like I’d done a good thing.”

I stopped, caught up in the memory.    “So what happened?” asked my friend.

“Well, it was about a day later when my parents told us that she woke up from the coma.   The hospital had called them, and so we all scrambled to get ready to head down to the hospital.   They wanted her to stay for observation for a few days.  I went up to see her every day.  We talked and I laughed and I gave her piggy-back rides on my shoulder.   It was good.”

“So….?”  he asked.

“So it turned out that she had no brain damage.   She was fine.   And today she’s holding down an intense job.  She’s one of the brightest people I know.”

He nodded.  “I respect that.  You believe in God because of that.”

I nodded.  “Yeah, but not just that.  That’s just the clearest memory I have – the one that stands out the most.   There have been so many instances in my life where it seemed glaringly evident – to me – that He exists and takes an interest in us.  In me.  One or more too many coincidences, over and over.”

“So what about those who suffer horrifically through life before dying a lonely death?  He doesn’t care for them?”

Another honest question.   “Although I believe in Him and love HIm, I can’t be His apologist.  I have no idea why such people go through such harshness.  Any attempts to offer up any kind of an explanation would be disingenuous.  It would be presumptuous to pretend that I know why He does and doesn’t do the things He does.  I can’t even say that He has His reasons, because once again that would be presuming knowledge that I don’t have.”

He liked that.   He didn’t stop being an atheist that day, and I had no expectation that he would.

But maybe, together, we shed a little light.  I like to think so.

He took a long slow slip of his Chardonnay.  It was a great night – he couldn’t think of a single thing to make it better.  Well maybe one thing.  A girl he’d been seeing.   He loved her smile, and her unpredictable thoughts.  And her long long legs.  He realized that he missed her.  Missed her laughter, her teasing.  He smiled, realizing that now, after so many years of friendship, he still felt uncertain around her.  Off of his balance.  She still intrigued him.  He wondered if his curiosity about her would ever be sated.   He doubted it.

They’d been friends for years.  She’d commiserated with him when he went through his divorce.  He in turn had been there when she’d gone through her trials.   He shook his head.  Tonight wasn’t about her, or them together.   His buddy was due to arrive shortly at their favourite bar, and he needed to be on target for him.  Darryl was going through a hard time at home, and it looked as though his marriage was in trouble.  For now, he’d have to relegate the girl to the back of his mind, knowing that she’d lurk there, ready to tease him.  God.  Could he just stop thinking about her, for even a few minutes?

A blast of cold winter air blew in, and he looked over, to see his friend standing inside, brushing the snow off of his shoulders.  He raised his glass.  “Darryl!  Over here!”

Darryl looked over.  Nodded.  Made his way through the crowded tables and patrons standing around at the bar.  Plunked himself down on the bar chair. Looked around for the bartender.   Ordered a draft.   Stared sullenly ahead.

“Hey.  What’s going on?”

“It’s over, man.  She told me she got a lawyer today.  I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

He looked at his friend.  “Yeah you do.  You have to get a lawyer too.  You need counsel buddy.”

“I know.  I know.   Look.” He sighed.  “Let’s talk about something else okay?”

He nodded, and took another sip of wine.  “Sure.”

They sat in friendly silence for a moment, watching the light dance off of the parade of bottles at the bar.   The rocky music was loud enough to hear, but not overpowering.  It was one of the reasons he liked the place.  That, and the lighting and the friendly atmosphere.  He looked over at his friend, nudged him with his elbow.

“Look – in about six months this will all be behind you.”

Darryl took a swig of his beer.  “Yeah, so?”

“So….have you thought about what you want to do?”

“What’s to think about?  I’ll just go to work, come home and probably get drunk on a regular basis.   I’m good at that.”  He flourished his bottle with false drama.  “‘s what I do”

He could hear the bitterness in his friend’s voice.

“Yes.  You could do that I guess.”   He looked forward and kept quiet.  Waiting.

Darryl lifted his head up.  “Or what?”

He shrugged.  Said nothing.

“Well what would you do?”  He hesitated.  “What did you do after your split?”

“Lots of things.”

“Like what?”

“Like improv comedy”

Darryl laughed bitterly and turned back to the bar.  “Yeah, right.”

“What?”

“Dude you know me.  I’m too ….backward.  I could never do what you do.”

“Says who?”

“Says me.  I’m not comfortable in front of people.”

“Uh huh.”

Silence again.  Except for the music.  A blues rendition of the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” was playing now.

“Say what you’re thinking.  You’re driving me nuts here.  You’re acting like my wife.”  He frowned.   “Ex-wife.”

He looked at him.   “Okay.”

He played with his napkin.  Thinking.

“I think you’re like me.  Quite a bit like me actually.”

“Doubtful”

“Hear me out.”  He paused.   “You like feeling safe don’t you?”

“Well who doesn’t?”

He nodded.  “Not many.” He sat back.  “Most people look for safety.  It’s natural.   We’re all about survival.  We like things to stay the same.  All of us.  Almost all of the time.  It’s why the end of marriage, or of a job, makes us miserable.   It’s change.  It’s not fun.   It’s like…..”  He looked at his wine. “It’s like we’re cats, and we hate having people ruffle our fur the wrong way.  It irritates us, and makes us feel like we’re in danger.”

“Yeah”   Darryl nodded.  Took another gulp of his beer.

“So…who’d be stupid enough to deliberately go and seek change, right?”  He stopped, wanting to think some more.

Darryl frowned.  “Look – are you going to preach all night?  Or are you going to get to the point?”

He grinned.  “I’m getting there.”  He sipped his wine.  “After my marriage ended, I realized there was a lot of stuff I’d never done.   Before we split, someone dared me to go skydiving once, and I remember being so relieved when the weather didn’t cooperate and we had to postpone our jump.   When the same gang decided to try again – and this was after my split – I decided to go for it.”

“Geeze”  Darryl shook his head.  “You’ve got to be crazy to jump out of a perfectly good plane.”

He laughed – it wasn’t the first time he’d heard someone say this.  “Yeah, but….I decided to do it.  I had to.  I’ve always had dreams of flying.  This wouldn’t be the same but at least it would be a step in that direction.  I was as scared as hell, and there were a few times I thought about backing out.   But I went for it anyway.”

“So how was it?”

“Terrifying.  I didn’t like it at all.”

Darryl laughed.   “Yeah.  Sounds about right.”

“But I don’t regret it.  And I’ll do it again.”

Darryl chuckled.  “That’s because you’re nuts.”

“Probably.”  He sat back and looked up at the hockey game on the flat panel TV over the bar.

“So that’s it?  I should go skydiving?”

He shook his head.  “No.  It’s like….”   He struggled for the right words.  “It’s like while I was falling from the plane, I really felt alive.   LIke I was doing something important.  And it was the same with doing improv comedy.  Only for that, it was more gradual, because I got lots of practice before ever getting up in front of an audience.”

“Okay look – I’m not you.  I’m not going to go skydiving and I’m sure as hell not doing improv comedy.  For one thing I don’t have much of a sense of humour.”

He nodded, thinking.   “Darryl, I’m not saying you should do either of those things.   It’s about……it’s about finding something that makes you live.  Maybe for you it’s…I don’t know…doing accounting”

Darryl snorted.

“Or it’s about doing something else.  I don’t know what.  Something.  Anything that gets your blood flowing.”

They said nothing for a bit, listening to Ben E. King singing “Stand by Me”.   The music was compelling.   A woman near the end of the bar was swaying in time with the tune.

Darryl spoke up.  “So what else got your blood flowing?”

“Well there was this actress who kind of got under my skin.   I met her at an actors’ dinner.  She kind of showed up on the scene a little out of the blue.  I never expected to meet her that night.”

Darryl grinned.  “Tell me about her.”

“Well, she was dark-skinned, with long dark hair and she said she was Persian.  And she was younger than me.   She kind of messed me up badly.”

Darryl nodded and grinned.  “Why?  Because you’re such a cracker?”

He laughed.   “No – it’s just…I’ve never had such a strong spark with someone.   I mean, ever.  Not when I met my wife, not when I met any other girlfriend.    And it was almost instant.  We flirted with each other on the dance floor on the night we met, and then we….well, we made out like crazy, there on the dance floor.  We just stopped while everyone else was still dancing around us, and we made out.”

“So this was a one night stand?”

“No.  Oh God no!  It was anything but that.   It was a true attraction on every level.  I’m not a one night stand kind of guy anyway – and she was the furthest from that too.  She told me she split from her last boyfriend a couple of years before then.”

“So?   What happened that night?  You obviously didn’t take her home.”

“No, I didn’t.   We walked all around Toronto for many hours.  Holding hands, and occasionally stopping on the sidewalk to make out.  I know it wasn’t just me who thought it was pretty wild, because at one point she said ‘you know, I’ve never kissed a boy like that before.’   And I said ‘yeah.  Me neither.  I’ve never kissed a boy like that either.'”

Darryl laughed.   “But she’s not with you now.”

“No she’s not.  Last I heard she had moved out west and got married to someone.”

Darryl looked closely at him.  “Yet she left an impression.”

“She left me with an addiction.”

“An addiction?”

“Well maybe she didn’t cause the addiction but she sure as hell contributed to it.”  He paused.  “I’m kind of addicted to taking chances, risks. To anything that makes my heart race.   I can’t tolerate ‘normal’ anymore.  Can’t stand the thought of being stagnant in any way.”

“Really.”  There was a curious note in Darryl’s voice.

“Yup.”   He finished his wine glass.  The bartender came over with the bottle, one eyebrow raised.  He nodded, and the bartender poured.

Darryl held his beer bottle in his hand, looking at it.  Flicked his fingernail at the edge of the label.

“So I kind of made a deal with myself.”

Darryl looked up.

“I’m always going to find a way to capture that excitement, that passion.  In romance, or in what I do for a living, or whatever else.  I have to.  It’s what keeps me alive.”

“I don’t know.- that all sounds good, but maybe a little impractical?”

He nodded.   “Really impractical.”

“So how do you plan to do it?”

“When I’ve gone through really bad times in the past, or when I’ve had to make a hard decision or put myself at risk, I’ve always asked myself ‘what’s the absolute worst that can happen?’   And generally – it’s not that bad.”

“What about when it’s really bad?  Wait…”  Darryl paused.  “What’s the worst you’ve faced?”

“Well, the finances got really bad one time.   I had creditors crawling right up my ass – and it was getting pretty damned crowded up there.”

“What did you do?”

“I worked it out.”  Darryl snorted abruptly at the unintended joke.  But he continued: “Even though it was onerous, I kept thinking ‘in a year’s time, this will be over’.  And you know what else?   I’d go to the movies to escape life for a while.  And when the previews came on, I’d note the date that the movies would show up – which in some cases was six months away or more – and I’d think ‘by the time this movie comes out, I’ll be through this’   It was pretty comforting.”

Darryl looked at him.  “You know, you’ve always struck me as a pretty staid, upstanding guy.  I can’t ever picture you doing anything out of the ordinary.”

He laughed.  “You’ve only seen me at work.   Back when I was doing improv comedy, I got in with a gang of friends and we all sparked off of each other.  Often, we’d stay at someone’s place and drink and talk all night long.  About pretty much everything.  I remember so many mornings, having to work the next day – and leaving someone’s house at  7:00 in the morning and going to work without any sleep at all.   I remember one night staying over, and we all decided to bunk down.  I got the couch.  I remember one girl coming down from her room and rummaging around for something.  I woke up and we talked for a bit – and it seemed like something amazing was going to happen but it didn’t.  But the magic of it was there, the possibility – and for me, having just gone through a divorce, it was enough.”

“You’re smiling”

He grinned.  “Yeah, I guess I am.  Back then I was in the moment, not even thinking about how great an experience it was.  So much of this became a kind of cool thing – after the fact.”

“Have you done anything else out of the ordinary?”

“You mean risky?”

“Yeah.  Risky.”

“Well I don’t know if this counts or not, but that same girl stayed over at my place one night, because we were going to an all-day multi-performer concert the next day in Toronto.”

“Oh so you did sleep with her!”

“No.  We didn’t.  She was just a friend.”

“Oh.   Right.  I forgot.  You’re dependable.”

“No, just recently divorced.   ANYWAY….” he raised his voice, determined to cut off any more jabs.  “We got on the bus to Toronto, but we found it was so packed that we couldn’t sit next to each other.  We were lucky to get seats at all.  She ended up sitting behind me.  So anyway, as the bus got going, I noticed there was an old lady behind me, sitting next to my friend.  So I turned to my friend and said ‘where’s my money, bitch?'”

“What?”

“Yeah.  We were both in improv comedy, and one of the things we’d always talked about was doing a punk-type live performance on an unsuspecting public.”

“Oh.  So what did the old lady do?”

“Well she was certainly listening.   It took my friend a moment to realize what I was doing, but she quickly started playing along.   By the time our impromptu routine was done, it turned out that she was a prostitute/dancer, and I was her boyfriend/pimp, and we had a four year old child that we left at home before waiting for the babysitter to arrive, because we wanted to go this concert so badly.”

Darryl laughed.   “So….the old lady?”

“Totally pissed.  She scrunched up her little face in such a frown.”   And with that, he mimicked the frown, pulling his mouth inward as tightly as he could, with his eyebrows pulled down.

And Darryl laughed even harder, with no trace of the marriage stress in his eyes.

Which was kind of the point.  Or at least, part of it.

—————————————

So let me ask:  is there a risky adventure that you think you’d like to do?  Something that would make your heart race, but you feel you could “never do” – because of unforeseen consequences?   Or is there something you’ve done – where you’ve deliberately thrown caution to the wind?   I’d like to hear about it.

Whirling and whirling

Posted: January 24, 2012 in ADHD, Life
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

*thinking*  “Shoot, I’m late.  Better call a cab.”

“Wait.  I’m not nearly ready and if I rush I’m going to forget something.  Better get everything together first, then when I’m about five minutes from being ready – THEN call.”

“Good.”  I nodded to myself.  “Smart thinking”

I ignored the brightly coloured fairy lights flitting around in my brain and set to work. 

Lunch?  “Don’t need it – I’m buying a sandwich when meeting with a friend today.  So… check.”

Boots?  “It’s cold out.  Got ’em right here”  *Slips boots on.*

Coat? “Right here”

Gloves? “Check”

Hat?  “Check”

Anything else?  “Wait.  iPad.  Can’t forget the love of my life.”

Laptop for work?  “Got it in the laptop bag.  I’ll put the iPad in with it.”

iPhone?  “Got it.”

Call the cab.  “Ok.  I’ll connect up with my bluetooth earpiece and talk to them while doing a last minute check around the place.”

*Calls cab.*

I go out.  Lock both locks on the door and walk down the hallway to the elevator.  An older woman smiles at me.  I nod back and say “hi there.”

I hear the elevator.  *Ding!*

The door opens.  Something twigs in my brain – so I ignore the elevator and go back to my apartment.   Unlock both locks and walk through the apartment with my boots on.  Grab the new combination lock so I can head to the gym today.  (Lost my last one on my trip to Tofino).

Re-lock the apartment and, as the elevator opens, my phone rings.  I tap the bluetooth earpiece and hear “hi there.  You called for a taxi?”

“Yup.  On my way down now.”

I jump in the cab and,  just as it leaves the on-ramp and hits the highway, I realize that I forgot my security card for work.   So I think “nevermind.   I’ll just have to find a public washroom if I need it, and make sure that I don’t leave the building after 4:30 (unless going home) because I won’t be able to get back in.”   Good.  It sucks, but at least it’s a plan.  I’m not spending the money to tell the cab to go back.

And…just as I get in the door at work I realize that my security card is safe in my laptop back.  I forgot it was there.   “Oh good.” I think.  ” Serendipity.  Thank God for small blessings.”

I get to my desk, plug in the laptop, secure it to the locking cable and turn it on.

I sit back and, after waiting for it to boot up, I finally see the login screen. 

Sort of.  It’s kind of hard to read.

Ah.  I need my glasses.   I reach into my pocket.  Earphones, iPhone….. no glasses.   “I wonder where they are?”   

They’re sitting on the counter at home.  Right where I left them.

I think “what the fuck is WRONG with me?” 

“Why is my brain such a massive blur today?

“Did I take my ADHD meds?”

I did.  It was almost the first thing I did today.

Good thing I have an doctor appointment for tomorrow – because it looks as though they’re not working anymore.

I think “well, I’ll have to buy some reading glasses from the pharmacy across the street.” 

So I do.  Bring them back and sit back down to the computer. 

Uh oh.  There’s a plastic thing securing them – I’ll have to cut it off. 

I get the scissors,  cut the tag and put them on. 

My vision is blurry. 

So I take them off, clean them, put them back on. 

Still blurry. 

Take them off and look at them.  There’s a big scratch across one of the lens.  Apparently when I cut the tag, I was way too impatient.  Pretty much madly assaulted the $35.00 glasses during my haste to use them – and now they’re worth nothing.

Put them back on and decide to use them for the rest of the day.

Later, I meet my friend for lunch.  She says about seven things in the space of a paragraph, and as she says EACH.INDIVIDUAL.THING – my brain captures a relating thought, all of which I want to say to her.  When she stops speaking, I can’t remember a single one of them.

Tomorrow can’t come soon enough.