Notebook Entry from November 7

Each brand new notebook with its numerous blank pages gets less and less frightening. I guess exposure therapy is on to something. I can only hope each election I live through will be the same.

I waver between extreme fear and extreme faith. Fear gives me images of riots across the nation, montages of violence on the newsreels, flights cancelled, hate and ugly widespread, cancerous rhetoric unleashed that can never be put back in the box, the nation being ripped apart. Don’t get pregnant, don’t make plan, Rome is falling.

Then I laugh at myself, realizing I’ve stooped to “their” level, the fearmongerers I used to think were so silly and foolish. “They” sounded mad, separated from reality and facts. What have I become? What have I allowed this election to do to me?

And yet, despite over 200 years of peaceful elections, it’s bound to crumble one day, right? Why not now?

But then, the faith I’m supposed to have. The belonging to another country, a spiritual “patriotism” that should surpass any earthly political worries here. How do I enter into that peace fully? One foot planted here, one searching for footing in a spot I can’t yet see, that I’m not always 100% sure is there. The ground over there eludes me, sometimes feels like it’s taunting me. I’m not fully anywhere.

I can push both the fear and the faith away, through reasoning, praying, or watching a particular news source. One moment, one seems silly. The next moment, it’s the opposite. I know which one I’d hope to choose, but the other doesn’t fully release me. Or maybe I’m not strong enough to let go of it.

Even having grounded faith doesn’t make the election completely unimportant though. It’s supposed to put it in perspective, like a setback rather than a defeat. But isn’t it hard to care deeply about something while protecting yourself against caring too much? We need good people to work and fight in politics, but just don’t get too invested? The balance is tricky, doesn’t always seem possible.

It’s a beautiful, fall-leaved, mildly cool, sunny day. It’s cruel to ruin the fall perfection this way. Let’s have the election in an already shitty month. How about July (too hot) or January (cold and dreary)?

I will attempt not to let it ruin my day, difficult as it may be. I will enjoy the weather, the memory of my lunatic after-dark run last night, my novel-writing, seeing my family next week, upcoming holidays, cherished time with friends, God’s love and His glory, my newfound thankfulness in appreciating Him. This will triumph. I wish that was easier for me to fully believe.

Advertisements

Stuck in the Depressing, Discouraging News Cycle

Two more black men have died, and their stories have been highly profiled in the news this week. Both men were killed by police officers, and I consider their deaths to be further examples of systemic bias.

This shouldn’t feel so familiar. Those words could have been written about several other weeks this year.

I went back and added those words, “I consider,” because the highly charged political backlash following these events begins to affect how I speak. Somehow we can’t look at these incidents and agree: the deaths of human beings are tragedies, they happen too often, and we want to do something about preventing more of them. Instead, one group points out the character flaws of the men who have died, ignores the statistics about treatment of people of color in police custody, and irrelevantly and inconsiderately posts pro-police memes. Another group ignorantly assumes all police officers are evil racists, calls for violence, and spreads more hate. The more moderate group might say not all police are evil, but there is definite systemic racial bias which leads to excessive force. They might attempt to push people towards having conversations about reconciliation that leads to real change; however, their voices are drowned out by all the anger and insults. And then in a few days, all the voices are quieted by apathy or the newest shocking story.

And so this cycle continues, in which some good things are said, some horrible things are said, but really not much has changed. Thus, we are increasingly less shocked and surprised when these events continue to happen, but increasingly discouraged and frustrated, knowing our voices are not being heard and not knowing what we can do.

I could talk about racism and oppression, wounds that have never been fully addressed or healed in our nation. I could talk about how politicized our news is, how it grows increasingly difficult to access anything that is factual, separated from opinions and emotions. But I have, and lots of people have, and I’m tired.

Two men have died, and we know they leave behind bereaved family members and friends, grieving communities, unanswered questions, new investigations. I’m really tired of people being unwilling to set their political agendas aside for a moment to be sorrowful about these lives that are over. It makes me so sick, sad, and angry that the name-calling and the picking sides starts immediately, that most people come to each incident already knowing what they will believe about it.

I wish I could be more optimistic, to hope that we will learn from this, that it will create a dialogue helping us to learn how to decrease the violence. But I’m getting caught in the cycle of discouragement, gearing up to face the next new tragedy, the next wave of violence.

Easter Joy Through Sorrow

Last Year: Easter

It’s the middle of the night, dark and cool. I walk out of my first Easter Vigil service holding onto a swirl of conflicting emotions. Part of me is excited; I have never seen Christians get so energized and thrilled about Jesus before. It is as if I have been somehow pleasantly shocked, and I wonder why I’ve never seen Christians act like this before. I feel slightly hopeful about igniting my own spirituality for the first time in years. I am a little sad to see the joy in other Christians and to recognize it as a great exhilaration I have never tasted. I still wrap my feelings of separateness and exclusion around me, the feelings I always wear to church, watching these Christians love and enjoy each other while I stand awkwardly to the side. Even though I am lonely and skeptical, full of anger and doubt, I have seen others taste the Resurrection joy. This experience, indirect though it is, does not leave me untouched. I don’t believe in miracles, but yet, isn’t it a miracle that I am here this evening at all?

This Year: The Beginning of Lent

My husband and I observe Lent this year for the first time. I do it because I’m desperate to find something to bring me closer to God. Nothing is working, not church, not small group, definitely not my own self-will or random declarations. We get an email from the church about Lent, calling it a bright sadness, a time to be sober about our sin, to change old habits, and to look forward to the hope the Resurrection brings. I decide to go for it, secretly thinking this spiritual project will fail like all the others. I give up drinking alcohol. I agree to pray and read every day, find ways to volunteer, and skip church less.

I don’t become suddenly perfect and whole during Lent. I slip up and drink a few times. I miss the readings and prayers a few days here and there. I skip small group and church a few times as well. Other times I force myself to go but leave in tears. Some days I have intense crying sessions for the people I love who are going through so much, and for myself. Some days I hate people at church for not letting me into the inner circle.

The spiritual disciplines began to slowly work, little shoots bursting through my rocky soil, surprising me. It is beautiful to thirst after God finally and to begin feeling a small sense of the wholeness and peace people talk about. It is a bit embarrassing to see how long I’ve waited to try something that so obviously works. I guess I had been waiting for a spiritual experience, light shining down from heaven, a specific word whispered in my ear, a vision like God striking Paul blind on the road to Damascus. Not that I really want to be struck blind, but I had wanted something spectacular and tangible to happen so I could know God was real and wanted to communicate with me. I hadn’t wanted to work for it. After all, how do you work for something you’re not sure is real?

Someone at church tells me that faith is a gift, easier for some, harder for others. And because it is harder for me, I might have to be willing to praise God and trust Him, even with really big questions weighing on me. It would sometimes have to be a decision that my heart would catch up to later on. A decision to do the right thing when impulse tells you it’s OK to do the opposite. A decision to realize that “Follow your heart” is bad advice when your heart is broken and sinful. I had hoped that one day God would make it easy for me to trust Him, give me a tangible way to know He was real, but I am told it is not going to be so simple for me. And that this is not a valid excuse to live the way I want and ignore Him.

Lent was hard and imperfect and good.

This Year: Easter

On Saturday evening, the sunset sky, light orange and blueish, is visible through the gaps in trees and row houses. I walk with my parents and Josh to the Easter Vigil service, the one that kept me from giving up on God last year. I am expectant and hopeful. There’s also a tiny sliver of fear that the service will fall flat, not matching my memories. My parents will regret driving all this way. My joy will remain unkindled.

We walk up to the church and see a long line stretching down the sidewalk, like to the opening of a big movie. People are buzzing with excitement; the doors will be opening soon. Once inside and seated up in the balcony, I start to feel claustrophobic, hemmed in on both sides, not enough leg room, my knees in the back of the person in front of me. There is no polite way out; hot air is pushing on me. This is a mistake, and I need to get out.

But then the sound of bells, a magical tinkling, fills the air. The first song begins vigorously, and I sense my expectant hope for joy echoing in others around me.

The lights go out. Someone is reading about the very beginning of the earth, a familiar passage become almost tedious with repetition is made new, read aloud in the vast darkness of the church. When she says, “Let there be light,” an eerie, beautiful light shines forth. I picture the majesty for the first time, the millionth time I’ve heard about it.

The readings continue like this, being made new through lighting, the emphasis and emotion of the readers, the true drama of the Scriptures I always miss. These are interspersed with music, beautiful choir pieces or all of us calling out to God together.

I am hearing all of this as if I’ve never really understood it before. I’ve heard about hearts being made new, and this must be what that feels like. I feel tears in my eyes, I am consumed. I try to grasp these feelings tightly, calling out silently, “My God, I hope this lasts.”

There’s an intermission, an invitation to reflect and pray and cry in the darkness of the church. When we are loudly called back to the service, there are bright lights, sweet smells, people dancing, white banners, a procession, music playing loudly. Someone from the front yells, “Christ is Risen!” And we all scream back. The joy is palpable, tumultuous, infections. There are cowbells ringing loudly, keys shaking, whistling, screaming, shouting, and hundred of “Alleluias!” I can’t breathe. Everyone in the church is holding a lit candle, hundreds of tiny pinpoints of light. A beautiful, exuberant fire hazard. We sing celebratory songs, we continue to yell and ring bells, we cannot sit down or stop grinning.

As we put out our candles and finish the service, my thoughts are scattered, floating, joyful, fearful, amazed.

Afterwards we walk outside together into the courtyard, the stars and trees and cold fresh air are invigorating. We walk into the reception hall to see the wine flowing and the abundance of the feast. There are hugs, shouts, and happiness. Some people know who I am, and I begin to feel as if I belong here. I continue to be amazed, comparing last year to this year, as we party late into the night.

This Year: After Easter

I continue to be amazed. Those feelings did not immediately disappear. Of course, they faded somewhat in strength and consistency but can still be recalled. They are recalled in the champagne at brunch, in the celebration with friends, in Communion at church, in seeing a friend get baptized, in the beer and empathy at dinner. They are recalled even on Monday, in conversation with friends, in the sense of belonging a bit more than before. On Tuesday, in the caring for a child, in a friend accepting help, in wine and laughter. They are recalled Wednesday in the sunshine, the walk through the park, the budding pink and yellow flowers on the trees, in the flowing of words as I wrote. In the songs playing in my ears, in prayer to God.

And I continue to say to myself, “Oh God let this last, let this last.”

Let me always remember this Easter joy through sorrow.

By the Time You Read This – Fiction

Dear Jonathan,

This is weird for me and for you probably. I’ve never written you a letter before but I couldn’t send an email or text-you’d read it too soon. I didn’t want to throw off your workday.

By the time you read this you’ll be home from work. You’ll have set your computer bag on the coffee table, the cats will be circling it, smelling the outside smells, as if they’ve never seen the bag before. You’ll have gone into the bedroom, frowned at the pile of clothes on my side of the room, sighed at the assorted makeup and bobby pins strewn on the dresser, and finally you’ll have changed into your sweatpants, throwing your button-down and khakis into the hamper, placing your belt and shoes gently in the correct place in the closet.

Everything you do is so precise and sometimes it drives me crazy. Sometimes I want you to place something out of order just once, throw your shirt on the floor or leave your shoes in the living room. I’m not really sure why. Other times I don’t mind because I love everything about you those days, love the way you care about the small details and how you always try to do the right thing. Which says more about me than about you probably, my varying interpretations and feelings about everyday life.

Anyway you’ll have taken care of your work clothes, and you’ll have fed the cats. It’s cold today so you’ll have started the tea kettle boiling, and then you’ll turn to the fridge and find this letter taped on the front, below the picture of my sister’s three chubby, smiling kids sitting in front of the Christmas tree. Above the picture of us on our anniversary trip to Aruba (we look good in that picture). It’s all so familiar I could explode. But some days it’s so familiar that I feel comforted, like when I wear your old, time-softened hoodie, the one I wear when I’m sad or sick or just in need of something comforting.

Anyway by the time you read this you’ll be nervous, partly from the confusing disruption of routine, but mostly because you’ll expect the worst. Please don’t worry, although I know you will. I think I’ll be fine tomorrow.

I just have to drive somewhere, kind of aimlessly anywhere would have worked, but I picked a destination so I wouldn’t feel like I was wasting gas. By the time you ate lunch today, I’ll have been halfway to the beach, the one we always go to when we want to leave the city on hot summer weekends. I just needed to clear my head, get some perspective, what I really mean is that I’m restless. I need some type of spiritual experience, or catharsis, some emotional recharge to help me be able to keep living regular life well.

As you read this I’ll be walking on the beach with the autumn chill breeze blowing in my hair, engulfed in your old hoodie that smells like you (you probably already noticed I stole it from your drawer, sorry). I’ll be trying to learn how to pray again, the way we used to, to feel something bigger than my own malaise and emptiness.

Please don’t follow me, I need to do this alone. I turned my phone off too which I know you’ll hate. I’ll stay the night at Laura’s beach house (she gave me a key), and I’ll probably be back tomorrow or the next day.

Try not to take this personally, although I know it’s almost impossible. I probably would. You’re a wonderful human being, but I have some growing up to do. I know I seem tough, but I’m crumbling underneath most days. I think this will help.

I made your lunch for tomorrow, as a peace offering, probably also out of guilt. I tried to make it the way you like it.

By the time you read this I’ll be on my way towards feeling normal, towards becoming the person you think I am, and the person I’ve wanted to be. I’m nervously optimistic about this.

Love always (really I mean it).

Learning to Be an Extroverted Introvert

I just took a quiz to see whether or not I was an introvert or an extrovert and found out that I was an “ambivert.” (This quiz is associated with the book Quiet by Susan Cain which I highly recommend to EVERYONE, extrovert, introvert or ambivert.)  I had never heard this term before, and apparently neither has spellcheck.  Google tells me I am “a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features.”  So I’m deciding to call myself an extroverted introvert instead because I don’t feel particularly balanced today and associate more strongly with the introvert side of myself.

The whole extrovert vs. introvert thing can be confusing for those of us who feel like more of a mix.  People always say you’re an introvert if you gain energy by being alone and an extrovert if you gain energy from other people, but my experience is a lot more nuanced than that.  I gain energy when I’m by myself only if I’m doing something stimulating my brain, such as reading a great book, running, playing music, or writing something interesting.  I lose energy very quickly by taking naps, watching TV, feeling bored, or being alone for too long.  Likewise, I gain energy when I’m hanging out with awesome people or going to fun parties with interesting conversations.  Small talk drains the shit out of me, as does going to large events where I’m expected to meet people and make a good impression (like going to church or visiting family I don’t know well).

The worst things about being my type of extroverted introvert:

1.  While we do hate small talk and talking to people we don’t like, we’re often really great at being polite and pretending we don’t mind it.  We do usually want to make other people feel comfortable. This gets us stuck in a lot of boring and life-sucking conversations.

2.  It can take us a while to warm up to new people because we have no desire to waste energy or emotion proving ourselves in a large group of strangers.  This is probably off-putting to new people but a lot easier for us.  This also often makes people think we don’t have anything we want to say which is frustrating when we want to contribute and connect. We want to break out in song like Aaron Burr in Hamilton: “Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?”

But it’s really not all bad.  I like that I don’t enjoy small talk because it means that more of my conversations steer in the direction of things I care about and interest me.  It also means the friendships I focus on are strong.  Just like any other personality type, there are strengths and weaknesses, and as I learn how I don’t fit into the typical E or I category, it helps me know better how to use my personality strengths.

Does anyone else feel somewhere in between the two opposites?  I bet there are more of us out there than we know.

How to Adopt a Pet (As Stressfully As Possible)

1. Look at pictures online before going.

You want to adopt a pet from the local shelter and notice their website has pictures and short bios posted for all of the available animals. You might feel you should resist the urge to look, but don’t. If you stay strong, you’ll risk sticking to your plan to adopt only one cat and will miss out on falling in love with the pair of kittens that have to stay together. After looking at the pictures, use logic, telling yourself they’ll be less trouble if they have each other to play with. (This will probably turn out to be a lie.)

20160125_201521.jpg

2. Name the tiny adorable animals before you own them.

If you name the animals before you own them, you’ll be extra committed. This will make it impossible to back out when you meet them in person to take them home. Give them a pair of names that go together so you’ll definitely have to get both of them, for example, Bruce and Alfred.

20160105_161309.jpg

3. Send other people pictures of the animals

And make sure you send the cutest ones you have because then your friends will tell you that they are perfect and you have to have them. You thought you already knew this but it’s always good to have your positions corroborated. Especially send pictures to friends who have beloved pets of their own and have been instrumental in convincing you to do this in the first place.

4. Order toys and equipment for your pet before you get it.

Go online and purchase a bunch of pet supplies. Read reviews and look at people’s pictures of their pets using the items. Once the things arrive, be sure to take them out of their boxes and place them somewhere you can regularly see them. This will reinforce the idea that you really have to get the kittens soon so the things do not go to waste. Now this has become an economical necessity.IMG_20160124_153850.jpeg

5. Fall in love with the cutest pets at the shelter.

This ensures there will be competition to adopt these animals because everyone else wants the same ones as you. The woman at the shelter may say that due to a large demand she will place the names of prospective owners into a hat and whoever’s name is drawn will get to take the kittens (the ones you’ve already named and committed to emotionally) home. Your heart rate will go up, increasing the amount of calories you can burn by doing nothing. You will feel desperate and anxious to have these small creatures because of all the premature emotion you created by following the previous instructions. This will make having them in the end even more rewarding. (No information yet available on what happens if you are unsuccessful in taking the kittens home.)

6. Go out of the country the weekend after adopting your new kittens.

This helps increase your worry for your new pets and will also let you know which of your friends and neighbors are most reliable and interested in cat sitting for future trips. If you want to raise your heart rate again, run out of kitty litter a few hours before your flight leaves.

IMG_20160118_161032.jpg

If your kittens are cute enough, you will hopefully decide they were worth all the hassle.

 

Reverse Epiphany

Suddenly, sitting in the passenger seat of my family’s minivan, I realized God could not exist.

Or if He did, He was cruel and unable to be trusted. To save my sanity, I would make him fictitious.

My dad had just picked me up from work and was telling me that our church was splitting into two factions. This would mean that he, my dad, would be stepping down from his role as senior pastor. Our family would no longer be able to attend. People I knew, people who had supposedly cared about me, had done this to me, through petty conflict and an inability to maintain church unity. I hadn’t seen this coming at all, and I could not make myself understand the specifics. I could not accept this as anything other than a personal attack against me and my family.

Neither could I hear the emotion and pain that was probably in my dad’s voice. I didn’t think about the insults he must have faced, the way some of his close relationships had splintered, or the changes this would bring to his life and career. A selfish seventeen year old, I only experienced my own reaction to the news. I could only feel the breath ripped out of my lungs, feel the unsorted, unnamed emotions pouring over me, absorb the shock of the foundation cracking beneath me. Why was my dad not fighting for us to be able to stay?

As a teenager, I had no choice. It was time to make a dramatic vow. From now on I could act as if all the things I heard growing up were foolish myths, the hopes of those who couldn’t find enough purpose for themselves on their own. Now that God did not exist, I was free. I could believe in my own ability to make decisions and do what I wanted. Fuck the rules and rituals, the meaningless ways I’d wasted my time and thwarted my self-will so far. If this is how I was repaid for trying to do the right thing, I would throw it back in everyone’s faces. Apparently church leaders could act like petulant children, and I was the one who suffered for their sins. I would never trust the church again.

Although I was sitting silently in the van with my dad, unable to see farther than the bright headlights surrounded by dark, my mind transported to my potential new free life. It was time to get excited. I could be anything, do anything. If there was no God, nothing was sinful. I could hate, I could curse, I could sleep in on Sundays. I could smoke weed, have sex, anything, without feeling guilty. I was free from all the parts of Christianity that were difficult or annoying, those shackles of conformity and expectations.

Visions of other church members slipped into my daydream, and I struggled to stop the water from filling my eyes. My friends who used to get cokes out of the vending machines between classes with me, who I told about all my crushes, who shared so many inside jokes with me. The little kids I took care of and taught in Sunday school, who looked up to me and made me feel important. My mentor who prayed with me every week and cared about my spiritual growth. The older people who were encouraging and kind, giving guidance. Each person so familiar and loved. And most of all that sense of belonging, mattering, being a meaningful part of something.

I was dismayed to learn that the new freedom was laced with an aching pain, an unbearable loneliness and loss, but feeling betrayed and sad did not fit into this new persona that I was forming. It was better to be angry, better to hate God and by extension His people, than to be weak and hurt.

My story wasn’t turning out the way Sunday school had taught me to expect. David was supposed to defeat Goliath; Joseph was supposed to rule over Egypt and be reunited with his family; Esther was supposed to save her people. God had been on their side, my teachers had told me, and if you trust in Him, He’ll be on your side too. My life sucked so where was God? Clearly not on my side, if He was anywhere at all.

I suppose I was still capitalizing His pronouns because it was a hard habit to break. And also just in case this reverse epiphany turned out to be wrong.

The Thing I Wished I Had Done

People always talk about what you should do when a homeless person asks you for money. As if there’s a response that would work in every situation.

“Definitely only give food, never money.”

“Make them work for it, like have them do some yard work or something in exchange for money.”

“Just ignore them; they’re all con men anyway.”

“I give a small amount of money to every person that asks.”

“They make more money than I do. I have college loans.”

I’ve been a regrettable part of some of these conversations. They can feel like scenario-based tests. What if the person isn’t actually homeless? Would it be more helpful to help this person find a job? What if this person is actually somehow secretly rich from the money they make off the altruism of strangers? What if they just want drugs? Do they really have kids to feed? There’s never enough time in the moment to fully address all these concerns, even if there was a way to do it. You don’t have the time (and also it would be weird) to have people fill out a ten page questionnaire before giving them some spare change on your way to work. So with all these questions popping into your head, it’s easier to just throw a dollar in a cup or walk by pretending to ignore them.

In a book I was reading, there was a chapter about not closing your heart to others, about living a life full of radical love. I became inspired to serve the world and take care of my city, even in small ways. I thought I could make a difference in my community by loving each person I interacted with out of the goodness of my own heart. Pray for people on the bus. Compliment the cashier at the grocery store. Help the elderly lady cross the street. There would be music playing in the background of my life, and birds singing all around me, even in November in D.C.

But then I had a bad day.

Stupid stuff piling up. Stuff I totally had the coping skills to deal with but didn’t. An ingrown toenail in my foot, super painful. A million hours in the doctor’s waiting room. An inability to see the specialist immediately. Missed bus. Wasted day. Empty stomach.

It’s so embarrassing because I always know I am so fortunate. But when my emotions tell me I deserve to have an easy, pain-free life, I become foolishly, unnecessarily angry when things don’t meet my expectations.

Wrapped up in my petty frustration, I walked down the sidewalk. A woman called out to everyone passing by. “I’m hungry. Can I have some money for something to eat? Could I have something to eat?”

It haunts me that I walked by without helping.

We all walked by. We felt protected by the presence of each other. We felt that because we all ignored her, it was the right thing to do. We had talked about this in the comfort of our living rooms and agreed.

I walked by. I was so upset with my own first world problems that I ignored the greater problem of someone else who called out to me. Those previous conversations about the collective homeless population made it easier to do it. Because I had talked to others about “the homeless” and what was the right approach, I did not view this woman as a peer, a fellow person with hunger pains and dignity and a need to be loved. Because I allowed myself to think, “What if she’s not really hungry?” But what if she was?

I really hate that I walked by. I knew that I hated it after I had gotten on the bus and could still hear her asking for help. I wanted to yell to the driver to stop the bus so I could run back and take her to lunch. I wish so much that I had.

I get that we need to have conversations on how to solve big problems like homelessness and poverty and hunger. I understand feeding one person doesn’t change the whole world. I also know some people are enabled by acts of kindness. But I’d rather err on the side of buying a few too many lunches for those who don’t need them or giving a few bucks to someone when I shouldn’t have, then to walk by a person in need as my heart grows more callous each day.

The Bulldozer

I shrink into myself when this archetype walks into the room now.  The topics and settings may change, but the tone does not. Republicans vs. Democrats.  Does Islamophobia exist?  Acceptable eating habits.  Dogs or cats. Friends or Seinfeld.  He’s angrily bombastic about it all.  He judges harshly people in situations he’ll never experience.

I start out having a normal conversation, and then the warning signs begin.  His voice rises, he interrupts, he puts me down unnecessarily harshly.  There isn’t a way to stop it once it’s started. I’m not sure if there’s a way to prevent it before it begins. It’s as if he’s a dormant volcano, pressure always building up inside, waiting, almost wanting, to erupt. There’s no way to tell by looking until it’s too late, and the bystanders are already covered in ash, lava flowing out of his mouth burning. Especially burning me.

I’m not a pushover, not cowed easily at first. I’ve tried arguing my side. I’ve tried pointing out the places where we agree.  Even just remaining silent, shutting down. None of it stills the indignant rush of disjointed words, bits and pieces of worldviews I’ve heard other places, never focused on a single issue.

I watch him, attempting to take myself out of it, to view the spectacle dispassionately. I know it’s not an attack on me personally because I’ve seen him do this with others. Where is the anger coming from? Why does the guy who has it all care if I want to stand up for the less fortunate? How does he thinks it’s OK to belittle the accounts from my perspective?

There’s a desperation in his manner, a resistance to letting me finish my point, an inability to listen. I don’t know if it’s a fear of being caught looking foolish, an arrogant belief in his own omniscience, or confusion about his verbal skillfulness in a debate.

I’ve met a fair number of bulldozers like this throughout my life.  It’s always been hard for me to relate to a person who can’t rest in the grey areas and won’t accept the peaceful disagreement between two people with different perspectives.

The First Signs of Introvertism

I don’t know why I remember that early morning when I slipped out of the house by myself before anyone else was awake. It was years ago, and I was about eight or nine. I don’t remember why I did it, but I remember how it felt.

It was one of the few times I had been up while my younger brothers and parents were still in bed, and I felt strongly the quietness and the loneliness of it. It was the first time I remember consciously enjoying being alone, a sense of secrecy a child with siblings rarely gets to have.

I captured everything around me, noticing each detail in my familiar backyard as if it was new. Everything felt different in the morning. The pale sun shone down on me, and the wind stirred the thick grove of trees to my left. Small birds and squirrels were the only witnesses to my small act of freedom and rebellion. I had never been explicitly told I could not leave the house alone without telling anyone, but this morning it felt forbidden, something not to tell anyone about later.

My small bare feet passed through the bright green grass, prickling me yet somehow also soft. I passed through the metal rusting gate to sit on a small hill, tucking my legs underneath me. The air was slightly cold so I tucked my legs underneath my nightgown, covered in pink polka dots and strawberries and that small spot where I could never get the bubble gum out of the fabric completely.

The peaceful outside morning atmosphere, the stillness of that backyard away from the noise of traffic or people, my own world to explore and experience. I sat still for what felt like an eternity, but in the reality of an eight year old attention span was probably only a few minutes. I soaked in the feelings, the scent of the woods, the sight of the daffodils, yellow and white against the grey garage. Quietly absorbed it in, that brief moment I still remember. Then I quietly reentered the house, closing the door cautiously, tiptoeing through the laundry room, past the kitchen and the living room with its worn plaid couch, down that long empty hallway, and into my warm bed, with the memory of the outside morning freedom wrapped in my blankets.