I’m stealing a moment. Sitting by the creek and the trail. Though I love all types of weather, with the breeze on me and the sun on my head, it’s hard to imagine a better moment. I’ve had a few surprises, each of them making me wonder why I ever doubted my optimism. The beautiful vista doesn’t negate any of the valleys I have walked through ~ each of them temporarily giving me pangs of self-doubt. Were y’all sitting here with me, I would tell a stupid joke, one which would hopefully make y’all snort. We might look up at the arborcast sky and know that the moment will pass. The shadows under the trees are just that: the sun will soon turn and glancingly illuminate the previous shadows, each in their own time. Like I always do, I pause for a little bit of gratitude. Meanwhile, the breeze passes over me, a whisper of things to come.
He walked along the slippery path, the warm sun hitting his back. Around him, the blanket of snow melted lazily, and the tree limbs grew lighter as the burden of snow melted and clumped away. The air was cold and crisp, but no wind caressed him. He would have welcomed a cold wind to challenge the torrents eddying around in his head.
He learned a new lesson recently, but it was an intangible and elusive one, its tentacles tingling around the fringes of his thoughts. He couldn’t help but to indict and convict himself repeatedly.
Early in the morning, he noted her absence from his notifications. He watched as the 14,000 messages disappeared. He thought he was deleting just one because of his unfamiliarity with the app. He had saved several of the great stories written in tandem, and for that, he was thankful. It felt a little like he was emptying as he watched the unexpected progress bar work its way across his phone.
She opened up to him the shared experience of writing stories like an artful duet; it was one he hadn’t expected but also recognized immediately as innate. Even if their connection had remained at writing stories, it would have filled him. He was outmatched from the beginning. Of course, there was more than just writing, as sublime and fulfilling as that was. The ‘more’ was a welcome shock to him, full of firsts and laughter.
He wasn’t quite sure what he had done wrong, but he knew with certainty that she hadn’t been guilty of any misdeed. Which only left him accused and guilty.
Anyone who says that you can’t forge a connection over the expanse of geography is wrong. Without the obstacle of space between, they would not have misstepped as they danced. Proximity parts the clouds. In so many ways, interacting with ideas, laughter, and clarity is a much better way to get inside someone’s head. But nearness would have erased the divide that ultimately undid their overlap.
He learned that people who make such connections with warmth and laughter are rare. He had let one down. He found himself paying the price with empty moments. Instinctively, he looked at his phone again to see it blank.
He walked faster and faster, knowing he could not outpace the absence.
He continued to walk, his eyes watching his shadow lengthen. After thirty minutes, he stopped and waved, wondering whether his affirmation would travel through time and geography.
He whispered to himself as he started walking again, the sun on his back. Only the scattered pine cones beneath his feet heard him.
Youth, age, loss, love, optimism, and above all, laughter.
I always loved the song “Tiny Dancer.” In 2017, another video version came out. I missed it until recently. As with so many great songs, I hear it differently now that I’ve experienced more of the buffer that life offers. Some menu items are bitter, some sweet. But we are all standing at the same buffet. None of us experience it the same way, even when our Venn diagram overlaps. That’s the mystery of life that makes it so sublime.
Because I’m a “moment in time” writer, this video somehow captures the nuances of the full range of our obstacles and emotions. If I could write a story that captures this breadth of emotion, I’d be proud.
We are all stepping forward with our own particular obstacles, joys, and struggles. Some of us are, at this moment, feeling alive, remorse, love, laughter, anxiety, or optimism. Many of these emotions are privately experienced. They don’t have to be.
Wherever you are and whatever you make of this Sunday, remember that there are always people who love you. And more importantly, I hope you love at least a piece of yourself. There’s only one of you, after all.
The apartment was mostly empty yet filled with echoes with her every movement. It would take time to fill it with the residue of life; that she would do so wasn’t in doubt. A mattress, a chair, and a couple of bar stools comprised the inventory of her life. It was more than enough for now. The truth is that although she had a life of accumulation until now, she was a woman of few necessities: family, affection, laughter, and learning. That she had one lightbulb for all her lamps amused her.
Her new life hadn’t started in the way that she had hoped. Instinctively, she knew that it never would. A violent and uncaring outburst propelled her out and away from her accumulated comforts. It was the culmination of years of neglect. Her optimism and loyalty held her there, static and suffocating. That same optimism pivoted her focus toward the years ahead. Each day, she resisted the tentacles of her previous life as they scurried along behind her, attempting to hold her in place. People want you to be the person you’ve always been, even if that person could soar in the clouds with the proper attention. Love wants you to morph and change with time. She knew that all the people in her new life would wish for her to spread her wings.
She meandered around the apartment, listening for the sounds of her new neighbors, hearing the clicks of the ice machine as it methodically dropped fresh ice cubes in the plastic bin in her smaller fridge. Her eyes moved along the living room floor, planning where her new furniture might be placed, what colors she might choose, and what things she might want. Whatever those things might be, she would select all of them with freedom and opportunity in mind. Each choice would be hers. She loved the way that settled in her mind.
After a few minutes, she sat in her chair in the corner of the living room, pulling a throw around her for warmth. Placing her phone on the charger nearby, she picked up her book and began reading. She picked up a pretzel or a tiny bit of chocolate and nibbled every few minutes. The minutes flowed around her and enveloped her. Her mind followed the book, and she forgot herself as she read.
A faint noise from a nearby apartment roused her from her reading and thoughts. She looked up and around the apartment. How empty it seemed. Yet, for the first time in a long time, she felt like her life was her own. The echoes of emptiness would be filled, her circle of like-minded people who appreciated her would grow, and her new normal would be the life she craved.
Note: this is a different kind of post. It’s not for everyone. Literally. Wink.
We rely on human nature to protect us. We prefer to think that people are like us. Kind, compassionate and reasonable, behaving as we would. When that fails, we turn to the law to mitigate the behavior of those who are not like us. The law has many shortcomings. Its bureaucracy is flawed with delay and a disregard for the victims asking for remedy and comfort. We created a complex system to protect victims and those wrongfully accused.
Its existence does not preclude a return to the chaos of personal justice that preceded it.
The same clever code words used to avoid the consequences of actions? Those exact words can be turned and used in the same sinister way.
If someone asks for peace of mind and safety, it’s their right. Because I’m familiar with toxic and twisted psychology, I know that there’s something wrong with some people’s brain chemistry. That defect doesn’t disconnect them from the commensurate responsibility of behaving in such a way that they don’t inflict further emotional trauma on someone who’s insisted that they have the fundamental right of peace and the pursuit of happiness.
Those it’s rare, some people don’t honor other people’s right to be free and happy in their lives. Some are simply irredeemable.
We all have an instinctive urge toward fairness.
In The Green Mile, Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb leans in to the villain Percy Whitmore: “…you mind me now. We’ll also see you beaten within an inch of your life. We know people too. Are you so foolish, you don’t realize that?” Percy had been so confident of his connections and deviousness to protect him, not realizing his cohort of fellow guards subscribed to a higher level of fairness and justice. On their plane of justice, people like Percy are given leeway until they have to face the consequences of their actions. If the Percys of the world don’t listen, they face the same fate as the dog that bit the little boy earlier in the book and movie.
It’s not personal. If the equation requires that the side abusing others be minimized, so be it.
Thinking that the legal system is the only remedy to protect others? That’s foolish.
I’m liberal and kind-hearted. But I have an iron rod of my dad inside me. That rod is premised on the old school belief that if you’ve given someone leeway to stop and they don’t heed the warning, then the precepts of Southern Justice come into play. It is no sin to defend yourself or someone else.
Unlike so many other people, I’ve seen behavior turn from trivial to violent. Many people underestimate its probability. I don’t. That’s why I hypocritically subscribe to the belief that it’s better to act precipitously at times without regard to the potential consequences that might befall me simply because I subscribe to a different sort of justice.
I honor the laws to the best of my ability.
My greatest allegiance is to fairness and justice. That allegiance plays by a different set of rules, especially when the intent of laws is being perverted or subjugated by someone who has demonstrated that he or she feels empowered to victimize others.
If you’ve already violated someone and still persist in harassing, intimidating, or making that person feel unsafe, the long arm of the law will get you. There’s a longer arm at play here, one with compunction to compel you to see the light.
There’s time to reconsider the error of your ways.
Please take the route that ensures that everyone is safe.
Otherwise, you are as unnecessary and unpleasant as a fruitcake without liquor.
Every once in a while, you get a compliment that goes beyond the kind we often exchange. Today, I got more than my share: “You are sunshine on legs.” It wasn’t about my appearance. It was about the energy I radiated. Whatever energy I had prior to the kind words, it doubled.
To be called “weirdo,” in a true and opposite way. “Dork,” too.
Prank pickles, spoon brooches, hugs, laughter, and the expectation that literally anything could happen: these things comprised a good day. That it’s in the mid-50s and the sun is shining is a dash of cinnamon to make it great.
I had something to complain about, but for the life of me, I can’t imagine what it might be now. A lot of people in my life have obstacles that make any of mine seem inconsequential.
My tribe grows and apparently we speak the language of snark and laughter.
We all get a turn waiting at the bottom of the well for the bucket to be lowered, don’t we?
The way I feel right now, were I at the bottom of the well, you’d hear me whistling or singing. I’m not alone down there in the bottom of the well. None of us are if we are but capable of remembering our turn at the bottom seldom lasts.
The shadows were long across the living room floor, the early afternoon light approaching and creating diagonal tapestries across the wood. The to-do list went untouched since yesterday afternoon. None of their movies or shows in the queue had been noticed. They both put their books down simultaneously, looked at each other, and laughed.
“We should really do something today,” she said.
“Yes, there’s a lot to do,” he acknowledged.
They both shrugged and laughed again.
He stood up and placed his book on the cushion of the green sofa. She did the same.
He walked into the bedroom and pulled the comforter back and jumped into bed like an amateur gymnast. Without a word, she followed him and dived onto the bed next to him, her arms wrapping around him as she laid her head on his chest. He yanked the comforter over them both, creating a cocoon around them.
And they lay there for an hour, just letting the bed warm them and each other. Their arms adjusted as they cuddled.
For an hour, they accomplished nothing.
It was the perfect afternoon. Nothing done, yet everything they needed.