Category Archives: Biographical

A Mixed Message (A Wild Variety Of Me)

“Life is like looking for your phone. Most of the time, it’s in your hand.”

Today’s brooch was made from a very old badge my manager discovered last week. I wrote “252” on it. That’s how much I weighed in the picture. I’m 105 lbs. lighter now. The part that continues to remind me is the new people who come into my life. They didn’t know me as fat. A couple of them had to be convinced. That’s a strange, wonderful thought. None of them have inaccurate misconceptions of me, either, so they look at me as if I’m just X. That’s wonderful, too. It reminds me of decades ago when I changed my name; it allowed me to easily identify those who loved me for who I was without regard to my name. Not a day passes that my name doesn’t bring a question, a laugh, or a story. Having a ridiculous name saves me the trouble of needing to tell people I’m probably eccentric. (Whether I look like a professional bowler or curler is up to you to decide.)
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“I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know”
“You Say,” Lauren Daigle

All of you who can feel God’s love are fortunate. I mean that without snark. All love is housed in one’s heart. Believing that you’re loved in any form is something to strive for.

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Because of my blog, people find me and read the ridiculously long and circuitous path of my life I’ve left there. It’s told higgledy-piggledy, with huge omissions and P.S.-sidepaths; it’s just the way I like it. It is both consoling and astonishing when someone discovers it and finds something worthwhile in it or me. When you commit things to writing and especially publicly, there is no return to privacy or withdrawal. It’s both faith and lunacy. As direct as I’ve been, there are hundreds of stories that I haven’t shared, mostly because of the overlap in other people’s lives. A lot of my joy and anguish are difficult to share for that reason. It’s not that I don’t want to. I’d prefer to spill it out. I can’t imagine that I’ve experienced much that a lot of other people haven’t – that’s the joy of peeking behind curtains in life.
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“State your truth” is such a vulnerable thing to do. Or say. I’ve become so open about it that I’ve forgotten that people need camouflage. We are all so similar in our vexations and pleasures. Knowing this at 54 is almost a superpower. But I do revel when I am able to witness someone letting the wall down and just sharing, even if it astonishes them as they do so. Sunlight and revelation bring peace. So many people are carrying secrets or thoughts of a different way to live. They don’t see the options until they see no way to continue.

“Buried emotions are always buried alive,” someone smart told me once.
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“Some people are empaths. I’m a telepath; people want me as far from them as possible.” – X
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“Hey X, do you smoke marijuana?”

“No, I prefer the natural flavor.”

That one took him a minute to understand.
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I think I’ll forego a regular walk or run today and see if I can run 100 floors of stairs. That seems fair, doesn’t it? My heartbeat objects. Maybe it knows the inventory of my allotted steps in life? Either way, my heart owes me a debt for liberating it from the sheath of excess that I put on it for two decades. And I owe it an apology. I’m lucky I didn’t give up, even as I constantly failed. Until I didn’t. It’s not the path that matters so much; it’s where you end up.
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To a specific friend, if you read this post, a phlebotomist I met at my doctor’s appointment LOVED your catchphrase: “Nothing tastes as good as this feels.” His eyes went wide and then he laughed. “Exactly!” he said. “I’m going to steal that without question. It’s perfect.” He’s a bodyweight fitness nut and looks like a flattened barrel in his upper torso. He wanted to know my story and secrets – and I shared both your phrase and The Blue Dress Project’s catchphrase, “Choose Your Hard.” He couldn’t believe my transformation and I told him that between the bell going off in my head and seeing people like you do it with a lot more obstacles than me, that I knew I was supposed to succeed. He understood, having done it himself. Don’t be surprised if it ends up on social media.
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The man who taught me one-on-one how to end an altercation quickly (and violently, if necessary) recommended a browser-based productivity timer. It works crazily well. I can set it for 5-minute increments. When the alarm of my choosing sounds, it’s time to do another interval of weights and/or stairs. Because I do most of my writing sitting at the computer, it’s a great way to create thoughtless and repetitive chunks of exercise. Because of the law of increments, I can artificially get a lot of movement each hour instead of relying on my motivation. The cat hates it though, especially if he’s perched on my lap as I type.
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The Lexapro is working very well. So is therapy. And time passing. As the curtains of other people’s lives continue to open to me, I realize that my problems are real – but inconsequential compared to the complexities that other people are living. It’s great that some parts of my life are a motivation to people. It’s also okay that some parts should serve as a warning. None of us are pristine or untouched by trauma, loss, indecision, doubt, or wanting.
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My “Ask” project is working well for me. It’s failed consistently, but that failure is changing me. I can feel it and observe it as it works its way into my nature. Some of the ongoing “No” has hurt me in a way that surprised and upset me. But I’ve kept asking, feeling the wave of “No” click a meter in my head. I don’t know where the true fulcrum of some of it lies; I’ll trust my instincts when it does. Once the meter has run to zero, we have to accept the truth of whatever we’ve been asking.

Ask
Ask for what you want or desire.
If you don’t, it is a certainty you’ll never get it.
Ask of life and ask of people.
The answer, though bitter or not what you sought…
It’s at least the truth.
Everything starts from there
Ask
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I walk past the place where the deceased are kept until they are retrieved for their funerals and remembrance. I walk past a lot. I’m surrounded during the day. By love, concern, fear, hundreds of individual stories unfold. How odd it is that such finality and drama barely pierces people’s consciousness. I know we have to protect ourselves or otherwise be flooded. Sometimes, though, we need to remember the hourglass sifting sand invisibly behind us. It’s a valuable motivator to know that your day is not a promise. It’s a gift, one which many of us waste on triviality.
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Somewhere In Time

I had another life, a Lowenstein of my own.
She walks the planet, fulfilled, and not alone.
The lesson is that everyone has a tightly drawn curtain.
When they fling it open, there is beauty and assertion.
To see someone from within their own head is a joy.
It’s agony when the curtain closes again, a closure that can destroy.
Every nuance and experience in life will change us,
if not derange us.
There is no return to the before.
There is only the after and absence,
paired with infinite reenactments.
Time does not cure us; it erodes us.
To know that somewhere in time,
that your life did not branch away from you,
is a breathtaking comfort and inner chime.

Out there, somewhere in time.
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I know this is an unusual post.

And that’s okay.

Love, X

Bobby Dean

He’s been gone 28 years today. He died at 3:33 in the morning. I was awake at that time this morning and took my first drink of coffee as I watched the minute click over. Nothing noteworthy happened unless you factor in the gratitude that I felt for still being here.

He violently tried to mold me into the man he thought he was. In doing so, he achieved the opposite result. And I’m grateful. His legacy is one of addiction, fists, and one of the wildest senses of humor I’ve ever experienced. He was in prison in Pendleton, Indiana, when he was in his 20s, and accumulated countless DUIs, fights, arrests, and violent confrontations. He also found his humanity from time to time and helped other people. I remind myself of those times as often as I can because they were just as much a part of him as the times he lashed out.

I think back to his funeral, with Jimmy and Mike sitting near me. Both of them are gone now. Both of them, unfortunately, absorbed much of the Terry inclination for self-destruction. Though I couldn’t apply the realization properly, I recognized at a young age that I was susceptible to much of the same sort of demons that possessed so many of my family. I learned to dance around them.

I was Bobby Dean’s accidental namesake. Not too many years before he died, I killed off that part of me, both in name and spirit.

It probably saved my life. Walking around with the people close to me calling me X was a constant reminder that I could choose my own way. While I have stumbled with the best of them, I’ve managed to keep my sanity all these years.

But through the arc of time, I still feel stirrings of Bobby Dean inside of me. Some of that is hard steel. Some of it is limitless humor. He taught me to take hard, unexpected punches and to swallow the blood, even if I did so through tears. At 54, things look entirely different to me. I don’t judge him as harshly as I once did. Being human has taught me that although I will never eclipse the stupidity and violence of some of my dad’s actions, I have that part of Bobby Dean inside of me. It is strangely comforting, even as I strive to be his opposite.

Were he alive, I would love to sit and have a coffee with him while he smoked a camel. And to talk to him about the sister I didn’t know I had. As reprehensible as the behavior was that led to her creation, it’s hard to fault the universe for the result. She’s a kind human being and proof that Bobby Dean could contribute to the creation of a stellar human being. If we met again, I don’t know whether we would hug or trade punches. Or both. But I do know that I would be overwhelmed. I can now see him as a person apart from being my dad. There was so much I could have learned from him; he was a mechanic, electrician, tiler, carpenter, painter, welder, gunsmith, outdoorsman, and farmer. If only he had acquired the skills to be loving, his life would have been ideal.

He, of course, hasn’t changed. He made his choices and left his footprints. He had his chance and walked the Earth. My understanding of him has changed. He would laugh at me and tell me to put my boots on and go out and get the punch in the face. He would also call me his favorite curse word: _ _ _ _ s u c k e r. Then offer me one of those horrible peppermint Brach candies that he loved.

Out of all the lessons I learned from him, one he didn’t even know he was teaching, is that we all need people and love. To find a way to get past what we’ve done and who we think we are. If we’re alive, we can use the steel and even the heartache to turn away from the things that make us lesser.

To Bobby Dean. Dad. Troubled human being.

Love, X
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P.S. Below are more pictures, some of which I amateurishly colorized. All of the images used in this post were originally in black and white.

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Dad in 1963. He was about 19.

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Dad standing on a horse, of course.

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Dad with Goldie, somewhere around 1974-75. He was 31, which blows my mind to consider.

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My sister Marsha, brother Mike, me. Seeing it in color changes everything.

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Me as a toddler. The picture looks strikingly different in color!

Get To Know Me

“It must be tough to convince someone who has been struck by lightning to stop playing the lottery.”

I saw this on the internet today.

It resonates with me because I say a version of it a LOT.

A couple of wild, improbable things happened to me when I was younger.

Those events help make me who I am. And people often forget it when they see me or think about my motivation in life.

I’m not sure how I put my head back together after either event.

But don’t come at me with “THAT’S not likely to happen” arguments.

If you get struck by lightning once in life, it makes you cautious. If you get struck twice, it makes you careless.

That’s a grain of truth that might help you to understand me.

Love, X

I Brought A Knife To a Gunfight

The picture is one I struggled to colorize. The girl behind the first row of boys is my mom Carolyn. This photo looks amazingly different with color. She looks amazingly different too; no matter what happened to her later in life, you can see for that moment through her smile and radiant eyes that she was happy.

I wrote something a couple of weeks ago that someone posted anonymously. They asked me to write something personal about life. Instead, my piece was about the tendency to let time gauze over the harsh parts of our stories. While I have no children, I was allegedly once one myself and I learned all the wrong lessons. Most of them didn’t translate into adult behavior or mechanisms to a good life. Earlier this week, I was telling a friend about my chance to skip my senior year of high school and attend John Brown University. It was difficult to attempt to explain that such an opportunity was an impossibility, given my homelife.

While all my missteps and stupidities are mine to own, I do find myself understanding my parents a little more now that I’ve stumbled in lesser ways than they did. It’s harder to be quite so judgmental after recognizing that intentions and actions often don’t coincide. I was no match for them; they were both immature adults pantomiming their lives. That’s not an accusation; it’s a realization.

That my mom had it in her to be as vibrantly happy as she was in the picture softens my criticism of her as a person.

“I brought a _ to a ___fight” was the encapsulation of my childhood in that piece of writing.

Love, X

Life Doesn’t Wait

I stood in the gravel, looking toward a mixture of history and nature, my head overwhelmed with the fact that just twelve days earlier, I thought I might die. I watched the sunlight through the trees and listened to the background of insects and the bustle of distant voices. The blanket of joy at just being alive and in such a beautiful place flooded me so overwhelmingly that I could barely muster the strength to film myself talking. I stopped filming when I felt my breath catch and the certainty of tears choked me. I’ve watched the clip several times over the last few weeks; each time, I reconnect with the gratitude of such a moment. No one has seen this clip. It’s not because I’m worried about how I look or sound; rather, it’s because I know that no one would recognize how much it took to just say the words without succumbing to the emotion.

It’s 52 days since my surgery. It’s been a year of moments in the interim. But I go back to that Sunday afternoon, knowing I’d be around to figure out what in the hell I am supposed to be doing. My experience was just a blip compared to what others are struggling with. I am so grateful for that decision to visit the place in the woods, so close to so many people and history.

Nevertheless, here’s the takeaway: people are the answer. Not places. Not moments. Sharing your time with friends and loved ones.

Your surprise will come soon enough. It’s inevitable.

If you can, appreciate what you have, who you are, and who you’re with.

Love, X

P.S. I’ll put a picture I took of my surgery incision from the bed when I fully woke up in the comments. It motivates me to overcome my anxiety.

Levity & Lexapro

“It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.” Agatha Christie

I posted this picture because it is one of the best ridiculous pictures of me I have. Coffee, happiness, love, youth: a recipe for the perfect life. I still have a great life and great people in it.

No, I’m not afraid of brain-eating zombies. For some reason, every year they ignore me and increasingly so as I get older. It’s a good lesson that there are benefits to failing to apply the lessons I’ve learned. I get to use the joke every year that if brain-eating zombies do invade, I’m going to run into a conference room full of middle managers. Zombies instinctively know that there aren’t any functioning brains in such a room.

“If you can’t beat them, arrange to have them beaten.” —George Carlin

“During the day, I don’t believe in ghosts. At night, I’m a little more open-minded.” – Anonymous. The same is true for the tricks my mind plays on me when I get anxious. As the night falls and the hour grows quiet, my mind stretches and starts its gymnastics. Being creative sometimes has its drawbacks, as it allows me to take a minor concern and let it blow like those billowing air devices at car washes. Last night, I took melatonin which previously had little effect on me. It brought strange dreams, one of which brought an infinite loop of the “Kiss From a Rose – Jesus Loves Marijuana” from the tv show “Community.” I woke up still hearing the song in my head. It’s a fitting song for the last day of October.

After waiting a bit too long, I went to the doctor Friday (finally!) and started taking 1/2 doses of Lexapro. Many months ago, the clinic told me to come in if I really needed to; when I did, my doctor was at another clinic and the other doctors deferred due to it being anxiety-related rather than a medical need. That’s when I immediately reached out for counseling. It bothered me a great deal that they’d turned me away when I was honest and said I needed to be seen. So few people just come right out and say so. I’ve watched so many people fail to be honest about what’s going on in their heads and lives; most choose alternate forms of self-medication.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I have insurance. Surgeons saved my life six weeks ago. I’ve lasted 16+ years in my job and I appreciate it in a way that I didn’t up until a year ago. This last year has been five years long. I’ve had so many great experiences despite the bad ones. There are some exceptional people in my life, some of whom were hiding in plain sight. They didn’t change and suddenly become open; I did.

My doctor didn’t really hesitate to prescribe me something less powerful, especially due to the fact that I’m seeing a counselor and seem to be very aware of how my body and mind react. He might not have thought so before my crazy weight loss journey and exuberant confidence about other areas of my life. Apart from all the other issues I’ve had with the clinic, the doctor told me again he had never seen a person just SAY they were going to be thin and just do it without any structured program or surgery. He told me to remember that it is an accomplishment worthy of maintenance. And that he fully expected my anxiety to be temporary. His certainty was a welcome addition to my medical visit. I joked that since medical bills were a part of my cyclical worry, that I appreciated his pro bono treatment. He laughed. For a brief second, I thought of Leslie Nielsen in “Airplane!” when he said, “You can tell me, I’m a doctor.”

You know that the doctor thinks you’re going to live a while longer when they agree to bill you. That’s optimism in action.

Due to my cousin’s advice, I refrained from hiding behind the door to scare the doctor this time, even though it’s Halloween. I wanted to take my stylish brown sheet and ‘ghost’ him, so to speak. Instead of leaning away from the truth, I told the doctor that I thought he might not appreciate the level of my anxiety if he based it on how much I LOVE a good laugh and how I interact with his staff. He told me that he learned a long time ago that people’s internal issues rarely intersect evenly with their personalities. I told him my feedback loop theory and he nodded. To make him laugh, I told him Ronnie Shake’s hilarious quote: “My doctor gave me two weeks to live. I hope they’re in August.” To his credit, the doctor did burst out laughing.

Walgreens committed another in a long line of unexpected and hard to believe messes. I switched to CVS – late on Friday afternoon, no less. There are several stories I’m omitting here for brevity. I’m just shaking my head about it.

Note: it’s not recommended to grind up and snort this sort of medication. Not because it makes it less effective, but it leaves people with the impression that coke is making a comeback. The protein powder I sometimes eat raw directly from the canister probably already sends the wrong message when it sticks in my mustache.

I’ll let y’all know how it’s affected me when I figure it out and it’s built up in my system. If you see me pretending to ice skate while wearing banana slippers, just wave and ask me to put some pants on.

I look forward to my old optimism kicking back into full gear. That I need a serotonin boost doesn’t embarrass me in the slightest. That brain-eating zombies don’t think I’m worth the effort bothers me a bit.

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” Ferdinand Foch

If this post rambled a bit, I’m okay with that.

Love, X

Now Fondly Remembered

The fool on the far right with the fluorescent ‘X” on his jacket is me. I was the flower girl when my Mom and Dad remarried each other. They remarried exactly 29 years after their first marriage. 10,483 days have passed since this picture was taken.

My parents really were experts at drinking and driving. But for this moment, no matter how terrible the road behind them, they were happy. Dad died nine months later. Mom was not charged. (That last sentence is supposed to make you laugh.)

It is the only picture I know of where everyone was smiling. Even my brother Mike was smiling with glee. I wish I could always remember him, and Carolyn and Bobby Dean, like this.

Everyone in the picture is dead now – except for me. Dad died at 49, Mike at 54, and Mom at 67.

Fondly, remembered.

Love, X
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A History Of Violence

Plot twist/spoiler: he hit me a lot harder than he thought he was going to. That I was paying him made it hurt a little worse.

This is a personal post. It might be upsetting to some people. Fair warning. As always, I’m setting aside perfectionism or worrying about getting the content or tone exactly as I want it. I can’t control how what I write might be interpreted.

Backing up a little in this story. I have a secret. I hate secrets. I wasn’t sure I’d go through with it.

Several weeks ago, I had a Bobby Dean moment. It was one in which I realized that the only way to diffuse the potential for violence was to step in and confront the person as if I were willing to be hurt or hurt him. I’m glad I did it. As much fear as I felt, I stepped toward him to signal I was willing to find out how far I’d go. Despite his size, he wasn’t certain. I’d already told him that people misjudge me. I don’t want to say that I’m proud that the latch for violence inside of me is dormant but still present. My confession is that a little sliver of me WANTED him to make the mistake of forcing me into action.

That’s not the secret, though.

My Dad violently taught me to fight by hitting me unexpectedly. He also hated that I was non-violent and passive. But one of the lessons he taught me is that it is always a mistake to delay the pain. You have to step in and strike as hard and dirty as you can. The first punch often determines the entire outcome of the altercation. Most people spend a bit of time talking or trying to lull the person they’re threatening. If you know you’re going to be hurt, it is always better to hit them with everything you have, quickly. (If you can’t walk/run away.) Though my Mom had great dental and health insurance through Southwestern Bell, I only went to the doctor if it were a case of imminent death or blood spurting. When I was 18, I had a massive cavity that almost crippled me with pain. When the dentist examined me, he said, “How’d you crack your jaw? It’s almost aligned perfectly again.” Although I had many mishaps in my youth, I knew the break probably happened when my family lived on Piazza Road in Tontitown. Dad came home drunk to our luxurious trailer. I’d lost a lot of weight at the end of my 9th-grade year running the roads there. Dad hated that I’d gotten into shape running several miles a day, lifting my brother’s weights in the downstairs storage space, as well as doing pull-ups until my arms were dead weights. I don’t recall his exact slurred words, but he said something like “I’ll teach you to be a man!” Despite being on my guard, or so I thought, he hit me with a savage right slight uppercut. My head snapped back and I fell, hitting my head on the stone fireplace at the end of the trailer. “What did I teach you? Always expect to get hit.” For weeks, I knew something was wrong with my neck and jaw. I kept running, though. And even though it hurt to play my French horn, I still made the All-State band that year. Only the band director Ms. Ellison knew at the time that something was wrong. I’m sure she knew the cause, too, though she never said anything out loud. In time, the pain disappeared. Until the dentist mentioned it, I hadn’t thought it was anything serious. I was lucky. Not only that time, but dozens of others.

My brother Mike, who was a big, well-trained ex-military meathead and later a policeman and detective, often got exasperated at me, especially when we were younger. I still have a tooth imprint on my left index finger, though. I hit a bully so hard that I thought I killed him. His tooth hit bone when I punched him. He underestimate the anger I had toward him. That anger was honed by my brother Mike screaming at me that if I didn’t confront the bully, HE was going to punch me silly. Growing up, Mike and I had infrequent conversations about why it was that a higher power didn’t protect us. We both knew that the world didn’t work that way, but we still fantasized about someone stepping in and either beating our Dad senseless – or killing him. There is no question that Dad would have deserved a brutal death a few times. He had violent demons, ones which combined with alcohol and anger, made him capable of incredible acts of inhumanity. How he survived as long as he did still astonishes me. I do know that before he died, he realized that he had done considerable evil to us; I’ll never know how much road he would have needed to directly admit it and change his life once and for all. My optimism tells me that he would have made amends. He died at 49.

Because of that recent near-miss with violence, I decided that as contradictory as it might seem, I had to learn to hit more effectively – and to be able to turn off the switch that controls aggression. Living where I do, I don’t worry per se about getting robbed or hit. Let’s be honest, though. It’s much more likely. It turns out that the biggest threat I’ve faced so far has been extremely close to me. That’s usually the case.

The secret?

I have paid someone for 1/2 sessions to teach me the mechanics of responding harshly to being threatened.

I messaged two people, asking them if they’d teach me the harsher side of self-defense, one that would enable me to channel a version of my Dad’s loathsome philosophy about fighting. Only one person replied – and he had misgivings about distilling his method to what I wanted to learn: not to diffuse, but to hurt. He relented when I explained that I am non-violent and had no intention of being the aggressor in any situation. I went on to tell him that circumstances in my surroundings necessitated that I be prepared if I couldn’t escape the threat of harm. He understood that he couldn’t hit me in the stomach, for obvious reasons, or throw me unexpectedly.

The first time I met him, he taught me the basics. Don’t go for the chest, as it never works. Don’t try to sweep the knees as a beginner. He liked that I understood that the first few seconds are critical in avoiding getting really hurt – and to try to get away if at all possible, but if not, hit hard to dissuade the attacker from choosing you as a target. It’s not about winning, because it’s not a competition. It’s about getting away, diffusing, and if that’s not possible, hurt the attacker as brutally as you can, immediately. (And get away as soon as possible.) Any altercation that drags on is almost always going to end badly for you. Run – or end it quickly.

A couple of days ago, he walked me through strategies to hit someone in the nose with the palm or side of my hand, strike the throat, hit in the stomach, or in the groin, in that order. He further instructed me, if you know you’re going to have to hit, hit immediately, and don’t pull back one iota of everything you’ve got. Break your hand if you need to: just hit violently. If you’re defending yourself, you need to ensure your safety without needlessly hurting the aggressor. As we repeated the same moves, he moved faster. Because he told me to keep moving, I went to the right just as he tried to hit me in the neck. He didn’t hit me with full force, but the side of my face felt like I’d been whacked with a stick. “Ha!” I said as I stepped back. “Picking on a post-surgery client like that!”

He laughed but also said, “Your attacker won’t care that you’ve been in the hospital, X. If they’re out to hurt you, it might entice them. You dropped a lot of weight. You’re in great shape for 54 but not having the weight means you have to be much faster when the time comes. If they get you on the ground, your options go to near-zero very fast.”

I thought about that for a few seconds, especially about the would-be aggressor not caring about my physical condition.

He added, “Your dad wasn’t wrong. If you’re surprised by an attack, use anything nearby as a weapon. Anything. Just use it with full force when you pick it up. Don’t hesitate. The other guy is the bad guy and you have every right to protect your safety and life.”

He spent a few minutes telling me that because my hands aren’t large, it would help me to improve my grip strength and to practice punching something relatively firm. I demonstrated that I’m quick – and doubly so if I need to run, no matter ridiculous I might look doing so.

I’m not violent. Fighting is ridiculous. There’s always someone stronger, faster, and probably armed. No one wins.

But if I get into another Bobby Dean situation, please remember that I want to be cremated. After I’m dead, for those who would do otherwise.

It’s a strange juxtaposition to go to a counseling session and then thirty minutes later to be discussing the physiology of hurting someone in self-defense.

I didn’t expect to ever go to counseling. I certainly didn’t expect to be living where I’d more likely need to channel my aggression effectively. Here I am, though.

The person I had to confront several weeks ago is one of those people who seem like they aren’t violent. I know better. I shut him down by convincing him that he needed to be wary of me. I trust my instincts: it’s obvious he’s hurt a lot of people in his life and doing so didn’t bother him like it would a good human being. There are a lot of “hims” in the world. He said a lot of vile things, ones which telegraphed that he has hurt several people, including women.

Learning these basics won’t make me over-confident. I’m a terrible fighter. The truth, though? I had a premonition that I will need the skill and ability to channel Bobby Dean at some point. And if I do, I hope the aggressor realizes that I, like so many other people, have a history of seeing (and feeling) how failing to defend oneself is a greater danger than being able to let the fire flow when it is necessary.

My brother Mike died a year and seventeen days ago. He would be laughing at me. “You JUST realized this?” he would say. “What have I been telling you your entire life, dipsh*t?”

I will probably need a neck tattoo to add a little menace to my appearance. The brooches I wear probably send the wrong message.

Love, X

Evenfall’s Arrival

Though I start by talking about a movie, these words aren’t really about the movie. Most of the things that strike a chord in us are really about recognizing something magical or true in ourselves as if we’re hearing an old truth in a new way.

“Arrival” is already a thought-provoking movie about language, time, and destiny. I loved that the main character was seeing her own bitter future and lived it anyway.

Last night, I watched “Arrival” again, this time in Spanish. I intended to spend just a few minutes immersed in it. Instead, I watched a movie that initially fascinated me in its approach to language. Ingesting it in Spanish lit my curiosity zone on fire. Before I knew it, the film was over. I curled up with my bear Azon as my cat Güino laid next to my hip, an unusual place for him. Dreams hit me like an avalanche.

All of the evenfall (another word I love) and the penumbra of the night held me captive, my dreams bursting in Spanish. In one of the best parts, my Grandma Nellie and I sat in her house on Shumard Street in Brinkley, both of us speaking only Spanish. She’d scoff at the idea of her ever speaking another tongue. But our conversation was about life and love and a little bit about salt pork and bacon for breakfast. (She was one to concern herself that no one was starving in her house – or so full we could barely walk to the front door, for that matter.) Though I knew I was dreaming, my heart sang as I sat with her. She died in 2000, at 91. It’s been a while since I dreamed about her or heard her voice so expressively in my head. Though she would have never done so in life, she asked me to drive her to Monroe to see the old haunts. As we drove, my dream shifted to early morning. As we neared Rich and Monroe, I noticed that we’d moved in time, too, traveling through an odd mix of several decades. Monroe was once again a bustling place, with farmers and passersby everywhere. We stopped at the Mercantile, once a hub of life in the small community. “I’m going to get out here if you don’t mind. I need to visit. Call me when you get home!” she said, always one to insist that we let her know we’d arrived at home alive. “If I’m dead on the roadside, how will I call you?” I asked her. It was an old joke that I loved telling her.

When Grandma exited the car and shut the door, I woke up. A few tears pooled in my eyes. It was 12:15 a.m. I felt like I’d lived a year in the dream. Güino was still next to me, his body heat oddly comforting.

This morning, I wandered around the apartment, my brain still in a slight fog, listening to my internal voice whisper to me in Spanish.

Even though I did so inexpertly, I attempted to colorize a picture of her and my Aunt Betty. I love that it’s not complete; it’s an evocative mix of black and white and color. I let my imperfections have the last word. But Grandma’s face is revived, so many decades later. The picture was probably taken 60 or 70 years ago. For a moment, last night, time became a bridge, and I walked across it.

I feel like a little bit of me is still back there in the imaginary place where time and geography became fluid.

Love, X