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2016 Wrap Up

During the final hours of 2015 I was thinking about how the more I got back to what is real in my life, the more life felt like an epic dream. In 2016 the dream continued. Nothing has ever been more rewarding than focusing on what’s real, wiping away all the fuzz, slowing down, thinking positively, appreciating the small moments, living quietly and in appreciation, striving for mindfulness, trying to make actions more deliberate, and trying to see more clearly whenever possible. Marrying a bright, thoughtful ray of starlight only added to the luxury of being alive.
Our friends grew in number this year, adding several new people and families to the small but quality list of people who are there to share a laugh or help you up when you’re down. Our friends Hans and Jessie we met back in the spring time and went on to become family. Over the course of the year we met nearly weekly to cook dinner and play Catan until the wee hours of the morning. We celebrated birthdays and became Godparents to their youngest, Evyn. I think they have been one of the largest contributors to the past year.
We went to Taiwan and celebrated our marriage in a traditional reception with all my wife’s friends and family who poured in from all corners of the country to welcome me and smile and sing the praises of my wife. We celebrated our 1-year anniversary about the same time.
We had a great summer planting a little garden again. We went tubing down the James and celebrated my wife’s birthday with the most excellent dinner at Acacia. We went to the Lebanese, Greek, and Italian Food Festivals, Broad Appetit, and MakersFest at the Science Museum. I finally saw Aesop Rock, one of my favorite artists, for the first time and had the great pleasure of seeing Sharon Jones for the 3rd time before passing away a month ago. She was a woman who really affected her listeners and audience. I have no idea how some people do this but she made you feel like you knew her personally. She was accessible to her fans and there was an emotional connection between her and us. She went from corrections officer to the almighty Queen of Soul, not recording or releasing an album until much later in life but sky rocketing to the top of the genre with much love and support from her band The Dapp Kings. She battled cancer headfirst and was very open about her experience and attitude towards life all along the way. She talked to us all as an audience during her concert this summer about how she had been beaten down but was never going to let herself stay down. “I have cancer”, she’d say. “But I told Cancer – you don’t have me!” Later I read about how after she returned to the stage how it was never the same for her. Her shows were full of such soul, and impromptu acts of music. She would dance every soul and funk dance I’ve ever heard of. “Now I’mma do the wop” she’d say going dance after dance through song after song. She went through her same routines with her new and freshly short cut hair and things seemed nearly the same, but she said it took so much more energy now. It was great to see her in-person, before and especially after her battle. It hit me like a ton of bricks with NPR emailed me the headline “Sharon Jones dies of cancer.” Cancer killed her body, but it never touched her soul.
My wife had a surgery this summer that let her be relieved of pain. As tough as she actually is, it had really grown intolerable and I felt bad for her to have to live with such discomfort. Her surgery gave us a cancer scare but in the end it gave me the opportunity to take extra care of her, allowed our friends to come over and show how much they care, and it introduced us to a very good surgeon with whom we really enjoyed working but hope we don’t have to see ever again. Things slowed down for a while during her recovery but she was on her feet faster than one might expect.
We were blessed that my wife found gainful employment this year also. First was working with my sister part-time and later she came upon a part-time job working for the state of Virginia that could actually offer her full-time hours until the end of the year. She returned to work quickly after her surgery and even started interviewing for other full-time permanent positions since the one she had was contractual and time-limited. Her boss at the state ended up becoming a friend and part of the family as well. We’ve been to her house several times and she has been to ours. We’ve met her husband, had cookouts, traded gifts and food, and tried to help each other out wherever possible. We’re all quite lucky for all of this really.
This Fall we had loads of fun with Halloween. We decorated the whole house and dressed up together for the first time. We went to Howl-O-Scream at King’s Dominion, Sleepy Hollow Hayride/Woods, and the Ashland Berry Farm for our annual scare-fest with our friends. We also caught Halloween on Hanover Avenue for the second time though this year my wife officially trick-or-treated for the first time. In November we had our first weekend away with just the two of us spending 3 days and 2 nights in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains. We went to Natural Bridge and stayed at the historic Natural Bridge Hotel. We went to Lexington to have a nice walk and visited Al and Ernestine Hockaday’s separate boutiques. We saw VMI and left the next day to check in at the Peaks of Otter Lodge before heading down to Blacksburg. We walked around VA Tech for the first time and went to one of my favorite restaurants that I wish would open a location somewhere near Richmond. Peaks of Otter was a beautiful, wonderful stay. I’m sure we’ll probably repeat this weekend again over the winter of spring.
Thanksgiving was a special time because we had our friend Jessie and her children with us this year for what will be a series of endearing memories for years to come. They spent the night with us on Wednesday night, we had hotpot for dinner and watched Home Alone before going to bed and heading up to Ashland for Thanksgiving Day. We came back that night stuffed and tired but they stayed and visited for a while nonetheless. I watched The Nightmare Before Christmas with the kids while Jessie and my wife talked at the table for a while.
This December we went back to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens which was the first time with our family. I think everyone it enjoyed it and it was good to do something like that with my parents who don’t usually get out for things like that. We’re going back in another week with our friends in what I’m sure will be a really fun time. We’ve decorated our new Christmas tree and put up lights wherever we can fit them. We’ve watched Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Love Actually, and The Holiday and I’m sure we’ll get to our other favorite Christmas movies in due time before we leave for Key West with my parents later this month. Christmas and New Years in the Keys should be another great time and something to remember forever. I haven’t been to Key West in a long time and my wife and I can’t wait to go together.
There’s so many more good times and memories from this year but there’s no need to go into extreme detail. My cousin moved to Florida this year and my sister was diagnosed with, and later beat, lymphoma. I learned enough Mandarin language from my wife to say I’m officially starting to learn some Chinese. It’s mostly random things with about half the phonetic alphabet and numbers 1-10, but it’s a fun start.
We had a great year for music. De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest release their first albums in many, many years. Blackalicious had a great release after a long hiatus. Atmosphere, Common, DJ Shadow, Wax Tailor, Norah Jones and had a good year bringing new music to our ears as well. Roots Manuva’s new album transcended the definition of art it was so creative.  I listened to a lot of Morcheeba, Ozomatli, A Tribe Called Quest, and Redman especially. I made a mix and had an obsession with the vocalists from Thievery Corporation as well as Nickodemus. I also went through a major Pork Records phase, both collecting old releases and listening to them each evening. I made a contact to someone representing the label on Discogs who ended up sending me a free Tetris album after a couple communications.
My wife took a picture with Santa for the second time and many other totally really awesome things happened. My wife at Christmas time is one of my favorite things this year. We had some medical bills and all sort of things this year that enhance our ability to communicate and work as a team as well as loads of other small challenges that are good to conquer and from which to move on. Our friends have been blessed with expecting their first or second children this year and all of them are healthy and well.
Open your arms to life.
Ponder the clouds.
Feel the sea.
See the people.
Hear the notes.
Relish the food.
Smell the memories.
Find your place and balance
– and live.

I See You

I remember my dad mixing cement. Something he could do himself.

I remember him building our garage. A few times I remember some of his friends coming over to spend the day and help, but we never hired anybody to do things. My dad could do it all. Almost anything.

As a kid I didn’t realize until later that some families just call somebody and pay them to fix or build or repair.

Just like any person, it is interesting to watch your father change as they go through the ages.

When we were young he worked from the morning until the afternoon, and sometimes into the evening or night. Whatever time he was finished with work, he would come home and keep working. As was the life of having a family, and kids, and a house in the woods. Things always needed to be done. My mother and he divided and conquered.

We were a young family with a single bread-winner. He worked on the weekend. He brought home used equipment to remove the copper pipes that had cash value. He didn’t fail to make an effort. He and my mother did what they could to make money or save money.

Due to their combined efforts over the years we reached a certain prosperity, enjoyed greater comforts and sometimes even small luxuries.

I hope nowadays my father is seeing things start to slow. I hope he’s finding more time for enjoyment.

He loves his family and gives them so much. He lives his life being a good friend to friends and good family to family.

His parents were my last remaining grandparents for my adult life. My mother’s parents passed away some years ago now. It has only been a few years and a couple Christmases where we had to celebrate the memory of them instead of celebrating with them. I know at times it has been hard for him.

The more time that passes the more I want things to be easier for him. He deserves it.

A life well-lived warrants a life complete with rewards and enjoyment, especially as you move away from your youth into your later years.

He’s not old. Not by mind, not by body.

But he probably feels old sometimes. I know I do.

His family loves him. I know I do.

He has been the greatest father-in-law to my wife that I could have ever hoped. She is as lovable a person as I have ever known. She’s open and caring and I think he is always as happy to see her and she is to see and spend time with him. She loves him too.

We both think about him and talk about him when he isn’t there.

He is good.

When I look at him I see him.

A Moment in Time, Nov 2016

There’s a certain type of sadness that runs so deep that it fills every inch of space on the inside of your body. It starts in your head and then creates a lump in your chest and goes on to rush out to the tips of your toes and down your arms to the ends of your fingers. When I’m depressed or sad for myself or my own situation, more than ever those feelings feel shallow, like they’re limited in some way from reaching total infiltration and no matter how down I may be feeling for myself I know it’s not that bad. The sun will come out tomorrow and probably by the time I go to sleep tonight I’ll have found a different perspective to latch on to and brighten my soul again.

This most penetrating type of sadness though can only be felt for other people during their low moments in their life. I feel overwhelmed by friends and family who are sitting, cross-legged in the dirt drawing a circle over and over with their finger and trying to hold back tears.

More than ever do I know and have people in my life from other places and many of them are feeling crushed over the slap in the face that actually is America. It’s not a story, it’s actual lives of people who thought America was actually one of the greatest countries, because of our diversity. Because we have people from all over the world who come here and can not only be successful but be treated with respect and dignity – icons of acceptance. The American Dream was something that brought people here from all corners of the Earth.
I feel pain for the people who have changed their lives so much to come to this country to find it isn’t what they’ve been told. To learn that people here are so unknowledgeable and unable to relate to people from other cultures that they can only put them down, or make jokes about their differences, or treat them as lesser people is a hard spoon to swallow and for good reason. The people I know who have said “If we can go… we should go” breaks my heart.
America The Despicable. America The Narrow. Where white people cling for their final hopes to isolate themselves from the rest of the world and strive to inherit status and positions above everyone else – but for what reason? To what purpose, or end, should white people be allowed and supported to act in this way? To treat our neighbors like strangers and not brothers. To claim to be a Christian nation yet act nothing like it. To claim to have freedoms while encroaching on the rest of the people’s around us. The problem with minority groups, identifying them and imposing the idea that they are somehow different or lesser is a mentality that only works for the majority. Unless you are white everyone is a minority. And that doesn’t make you anything lesser. To identify as a minority is a self-defeating lesson. It’s not a competition. If there is any purpose to identify any group as being the majority then the only purpose in doing so is to assign which group should be the sole protector over those with smaller percentage of population, or representation. We should all be winning except the majority seems to be on a tangent focused on oppression. Of weakness and of fear.
The real people I know feeling they are the target of this real-world turning of the table, the turning back of time breaks my heart. Whoever thinks they won something this week have no idea what they’re losing – and that’s often the case.
As a country, if we can’t act respectful we will lose respect.
If we can’t continue to include, we will be excluded.
If we don’t continue to help, we will not be helped.
If we continue to hate, we will be hated.
If we build walls for others, people will build them for us.
If we don’t help the poor then one day we will be poor.
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If we want to boast about our greatness we must first prove that we are great. The second doesn’t come before the first. If we are going to protect ourselves it doesn’t have to be at the cost of everyone else. To be bold in every endeavor is a fool’s strategy. There is a time when water needs to be ice, and a time when it needs to be soft and flow gracefully into all things. To show you are strong at all times shows you have a great weakness in being weak. A hero can stand quietly and listen. A strong leader takes the back of the line knowing they will eat last. A leader refrains from accepting every praise and instead directs it to those who helped make it to the goal. There’s a wisdom that has escaped us at this point in time. One that isn’t only a figurative entity but something real people around me are feeling. Their concern is my worry. Their grief is my pain. Their unacceptance is my demise.
There’s a sadness that is so deeply channeled that it can only be felt for others. Humans, as we developed into sentient beings who feel love and empathy for our family creatures of our own species, born in a communal image to work with one another for an easier, better life than if we were alone and by ourselves. I was made to build a fire so when you grow the food we can both eat. I grew taller so I could reach the things you cannot. You taught yourself to be smarter so you can watch out for me when I cannot watch out for myself. We are such a connected species that it is unnatural to behave in such separatist ways. We are created so equally that it is painful to see the effort some take to try to hoist themselves above the rest.
It could be such a bright, brilliant, beautiful world if we could take the time to realize it. We create divisions where we all lose instead of creating unities where we all win. Is this naïve? Maybe a little. But this way of thinking doesn’t make people feel the way I know many are feeling right now. The actual majority of people are not white. That shouldn’t be scary to anybody. If you spend your life building bridges you’ll be happy when people come across them to join you. If you spend your life building prisons you’ll fear for your life when people escape them.
After a moment in time these feelings will subside, but I’ll remember them even after they go away. So will the people I love who are feeling at such a loss of support and feeling of oppression right now. Their pain will diminish, but knowing American can be this way is something they won’t soon forget.

Life

It’s understanding planning one step
and mastering the running
it’s refining what you’re writing til the rhapsody is stunning.
It’s practicing a skill til your hands worn withered
then it’s keeping your health balanced and your inner-self centered.
It’s to go against gravity and demand your elevation
it’s the time that duty called and didn’t have a reservation.
It’s the morning after midnight, the time you missed your calling
it’s the crying, it’s the balling, it’s digesting what’s appalling.
It’s the equal parts in balance
it’s my king that tips his chalice.
It’s healing prior damages
it’s the mission as the catalyst
it’s in every scholar’s challenge to avoid the fits of madness.
It’s practicing the action of what you’ve been saying
it’s the houses that you built while perfecting brick laying.
It’s the sedentary life that I’ve become so well accustomed
it’s the presidential candidates and reasons I don’t trust ’em.
It’s your turf and now it’s mine, it’s Nikes on the power lines
it’s how to find the brighter side and hold it during sour times.
It’s making the most of lemons and deciding how to do it
it’s turning off the TV set and breaking its influence.
It’s living life for joy and not being killed yet
it’s sharpening a blade and putting edges on your skill set.
It’s faith love and empathy surviving through the misery
it’s smiling whether or not you’ve had the services of dentistry.
It’s sweating til you’ve rid yourself of any ounce of water
then it’s filling up your cup and later working even harder.
It’s the pen and how it always knows exactly what you’re thinking
it’s the nausea on your conscious when you see that you were sleeping.
It’s the million ways to die and only one that’s going to come to us
it’s listening to nature even when the sound is thunderous.
It’s life in such variety it’s hard to pick & choose
it’s optometry diversity producing different views.
It’s life and how you shape it in the time that you were given
it’s arriving at the finish line and knowing you were driven.
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My Sorrow, My Sparrow

It makes perch upon my shoulder and digs its needles through my skin.

Sinks beneath my being silently to let it in.

Beacons to the shadows growing strong with dim light.

Scarcity of nutrient, cloaking darkness over sight.

Its gaze can see in front of me, its eyes aside my own.

It knows the past behind us. Hollow as its bones.

It walks along my stanzas unknown to ever rest.

It plays me like an instrument with reeds that know me best.

It’s silent on my arm except when pecking at my soul.

Its claws are born to ridicule and turn a body cold.

My sparrow soars through wind and flesh and digs between the seems.

It lays its eggs at night to haunt tomorrow from my dreams.

It’s light as half a drop of rain but perches like a rock.

Its pupils soak in glory stole from time, it bleeds my clock.

It holds the present captive weighed in stone and built from ice

And stands upon my body never interested in flight.

My sparrow’s healthy as a sunrise with its warmth to glow and spread

But it’s dark as night in color wound eternal is its thread.

It feeds and breathes and grows its grip and sinks its toes persistent

It leads from its tumultuous heart unknown to be repentant.

2015-01-11 14.16.12-2

 

My True Joy, My Blue Jay

It rests upon my shoulder and holds tightly to my skin. 

Sets deep into my being quietly to let it in. 

It casts away the shadows growing stronger from the light. 

Abundance of enjoyment, taking darkness from my sight. 

It flies through sun and glory and offers it to be my own. 

It’s weight beyond existence light as feathers to the bone. 

It sings along to stanzas unknown to take a breath. 

It plays me like an instrument with reeds that know me best. 

It’s welcome on my arm with songs that illuminate my soul. 

Its feet are warm and radiant that turn me from the cold. 

My blue jay soars through summer breeze and nests along the stream. 

Its eggs in morning slumber rest at night to feed my dreams. 

It’s light as half a drop of rain with veins as strong as rock. 

Its pupils show me past events hung sweetly on the clock. 

Its back as soft as cotton holding colors blue as ice

and stands upon my body while it’s resting from its flight. 

My blue jay holds a miracle that’s bound to glow and spread

with loving mercy drenched in color strung across our thread. 

It feeds and breathes and grows its grip and sinks its kiss persistent.

It leads from its abundant heart displaying life’s incentive.

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4

I got 10 digits twisted around the sum of my accomplishments

I’ve counted every mountain where the summit shows my signature

Higher than the clouds without assistance of intoxicants

I’ve mounted every doubtful outcome shown throughout the literature

I’ll never reach the peaks beyond my natural capacity

cause actually I’m boundless in my reach to grasp heights

My effort’s never bested by an ailment or a malady

higher than the ceiling feet are standing on stalactites

I’ll examine any planning in the conquest for ascension

I’ll build my own equipment if the tools are not invented

I’ll elevate the pro’se and con’text with better diction

My targets more like comets than a star in your dimension

I carry medals from lesser battles strapped in leather sacks

and add them to the weight I’m proud of having press upon my back

I shift from precipice to precipice and never rest or finish

cause what’s a precedent that doesn’t press the others to the limit

I’m an ardent rider hard survivor climbing for the atmosphere

to rest my brain amidst the rain when there aren’t any cabins here

My footsteps more like meteors that pound a crater beautifully

I question answers to the test and sentence thoughts to greater scrutiny

I warm my feet by embers from the king of the hill contenders

and all the second place performances that nobody remembers

I’ve realigned tides to rise in sequence to the weekends – see

the swells collide in time & readjust the season’s frequency

The hill’s alive from where I stand with music as my favorite thing

the bells beyond the heavens shower blessings when I make them ring

I’ll serenade the spring until I fall on summer’s innocence

and carry blossoms to the mountain in the winter of my discontent

Stand on tops so high my knees are sunken into freezing snow

above the island seas I watch the tropics in the breeze below

My looking glass is focused on the farthest planet’s coordinates

I hope its huge with mountains grown abundantly proportionate

I’m running out of anything to challenge destined escalation

It tests my patience waiting to advance the final destination

 

5

I’m running out of virtue, my patience is getting thin

and from these pages, if the word’s true – these stages is giving in

letting anyone in the ranges come to grace it’s planked construction

I’m pro-human life involvement and blind from blank consumption

Keep your water buckets handy this disease needs curing

ensuring wording going deeper and darker than your Keurig

I spit the spark that split the crystal brought the Mystics out to venture, shift

the dark and shared a light they’ve never seen because of censorship

I’m the best to press the pen against this world of cells and chemicals

and conjure up a spell creating life between the syllables

Ya wanna bet on innovation not accept the simulation

my success is not a threat it’s a pending situation

Put words into the canon like a puddle on the tide

cover carousels with clover wish you luck along the ride

I’m a house divided from the attic with academic papers

and the basement where the bass is sent through psychedelic vapors

I’m tasteless in pursuit of who’s the freshest on the avenue

cause flavor’s just a part of what I’m bringing better after you

Any star can shoot the moon and get a minute of attention

but few can steady carve a path committed to ascension

I’m a 49’er rhymer dropping nuggets out my pockets

my budget’s like the cockpit, don’t ever try and top it

I’m digging gems and dropping wisdom from my golden ground deposits

my shine’s applied to true letters while their hands are glued to goose feathers

I’ll battle the Bell Witch without the bayonets and helmets

my saber rests embellished in the blood of those who fell quick

And life won’t say I’m sorry for the hardships you’ve uncovered

that’s why your heat continues even once your fire’s smothered

So I leave ’em looking clueless standing lone and holding papers

and there’s nothing else in evidence than holes and smoking craters

My speeches show the weaknesses that makes your columns crumble

with the knowledge of the greatest minds that keep your college humble

I’m the first to burst your bubble and walk away with goals accomplished

while you’re waiting for your turn to bat I’m on another conquest

 

6
I chased truth down a rabbit hole and stole a pelt for honesty

my Wonderland beneath assumptions functions from the oddity

I thought that if I kept it there’ll be hell to pay eventually

but knew the path to happiness is built upon simplicity

I’ve never bested challengers with fire from my verbiage

but I’ve shrunken mighty fighters with some words of chosen purpose

Some think your violent furnace is accepted with a warning

turning wedding cake relations to a case of global warming

So I never break the paper wrapping presents for the morning

til the pressure’s off the rapier that the fire poker’s forming

How’s a crucifix addiction measure up to common wisdom

if mother nature naturally would go against convention

Is there life beyond existence when the seconds get to millions

is there hope for any future if you’ve second-guessed the children

There’s opinions when I think and breathe and anything my tongue hits

I’m biased when I’m done with judging other people’s judgements

The same song repeats and turns in circles as it plays on

if words are worthless than I’m giving yall the finger all the day long

And if that’s the case no feelings were ever hurt in my performance

cause my rabbit cut the chorus growing rapidly abhorrent

I’m the spokesman of my company for the times that we’re enjoying

reinvesting every earning taking care of my employee

I’m sweating from the mission, bleeding love and dripping intimacy

or is it vision vividly perceiving wicked wizardry

eclipsed with bickering literacy

and masked in sibling idiocy

No man can be an island but from the end of the peninsula, you wouldn’t know the difference

-so I know your mental image

and if it’s isolation any islander desires

don’t blame your fellow countrymen you’ve sunken through the mires

Better beg for silent mercy, bend your knees and what have you

but only once you’ve found the truth can life be truly valued

 

Born Under a Bad Sign

I came along at a bad time. Those old songs sing about being born under a bad sign. I didn’t used to think that way, like everything had been preset for me, just based on when I came along – but I’ve learned timing is everything.

I used to think I was the reason my parent’s split up. They were happy with my brother. I never did anything that bad I didn’t think, I couldn’t even spell my name back then, but again, the sign… it had set things in motion already. I rent this small room now. I work. I’m happy. People leave me alone. That’s all I ever wanted. When I’m alone I don’t get pecked.

I remember childhood, which is also a curse. I had friends. Not as many as some, and it took a stroke of luck and a little bit of effort, but the friends I had were good. The rest of it is a blur. But it comes to me in my dreams. Christmas was a good time. Some of them were magical. My birthdays were fun. But I grew up with a bully. My older brother set the pace. We played, and we fought sometimes. We would share toys and play video games, and we would start to get excited, or impatient, and we’d argue. I would yell and he would yell back. I would get mad and he would match it. But he wasn’t the bully. After an hour, or later that day my brother and I would go back to normal. We would return to equilibrium and find something else to play. My bully showed up one day and took over. When I fought with him he didn’t reset, he calmed down, but he remembered each time, and built off of it. I’ve forgotten nearly every time my brother and I fought, but I remember every time he and I did. He was a hundred times bigger than me it felt, so I wouldn’t call it a fight, but each time it felt like I had been in one. Even though I rarely had a mark to show for it I feel like I know what it’s like to be beat up. Not at school or somewhere else, but at home. People who have never fallen off a cliff still can know the feeling of falling to your death. I’m very familiar with the feeling of almost hitting the ground. It’s not the impact that kills you. That would be a release from the torment of falling. It’s that queasiness, over and over, that’s the real torture.

He would bother me. He would pick on me and tell on me to my mom. Sometimes I would be minding my own business in my room and he would come bother me. He was so big. And he could be so loud. There’s so many times where there was nothing I could do. Because sometimes I was already doing nothing. I know my mom knew, because she was there. But she didn’t do anything. Well, she showed up and kept things from going, what do people say… from going too far. As if the end point is the moment where things become bad, or dangerous, or hurtful. As if up until the final moment things are okay, they’re actually fine. “I stopped him”. Yeah, you stopped him from exploding onto me, but you didn’t stop the fuse from burning down so close it burned me. You didn’t stop the fuse from blowing sparks in my face whenever it got hot. You didn’t keep the fuse from getting shorter every time.

But I couldn’t stop you either.

I couldn’t stop you from growing short with me either. I couldn’t stop you from slowly putting him first, before me and my brother. I had to remind myself, it wasn’t me. It was my sign. It looms over me like a raven, rapping at the door to its tenant who slowly creeps into madness and can eventually do nothing but let it in. As a kid I couldn’t escape this raven.

There were times when I couldn’t sleep at night because of him. Sometimes because he would watch TV or make noise while I was trying to go to sleep, while I was supposed to be asleep. I couldn’t disturb him but he could disturb us. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep because my mind was so reeling over something that had happened that day, or the day before, or the week before. Or earlier. Most people complain about how hard it is for them to remember. That’s not my problem. I wish we could trade, and they could conjure up images of summer time, weekends, and holidays. Happy memories they think were the best times of their lives. I’d give anything to be able to forget them. There were times when I couldn’t have friends over because of him. Most of the time I didn’t want to have friends over. A lot of the time I didn’t want to be there myself. He would play tricks on me and get me in trouble. He said one time I was going to be a handful when I grew up. Not like when people say this new promotion or project at work is going to be a handful, but more like he knew I was going to be some sort of problem that they’re not going to know how to deal with, kind of handful. They told me it was okay because words are just words. But we all know that isn’t true. They told me words can’t hurt me, but what if your words are telling me you’re going to hurt me…

They said I had troubles. I didn’t have troubles. I was placed into troubles. Trouble was given to me like free samples in the food court. I stayed quiet, which meant I could hear what people said from a mile away. Walls are thin. Skin is even thinner. All things relative, having been born to another family, at another time, I would have been their prize and joy. A family who isn’t into sports but likes literature, a family who sits and plays with thoughts and ideas, one who likes to explore not just accept. I think about alternatives. I create stories in my mind and step from the path because sometimes the grass is much softer. It’s hard for me to fit into a box, and it took me a long time to figure out that I had to walk into that room, that room of boxes, and even though I could choose any one I wanted, I did have to choose one of them. There’s no box for me. The big wide box doesn’t fit me any better than the small square one. Whatever my walls are I will want to explore them. I want to see what’s on the other side, what they’re made of, how they’re made, and wonder if I can make them myself. If I can then I’ll make a better one. I’ll make it out of something else. I’ll make it in a shape I like, because the only box that fits me will be the one I make myself. I’ll leave a series of new boxes for the next kids to choose from. Some people need to do that. Some people fit perfectly into boxes, others make new ones.  The more popular the box, the better. I don’t need my box to be popular, I just need it to hold me.

My raven couldn’t understand my problem with boxes. I thought he just didn’t like kids, until I watched him bring another boy to our house. And just like the way he had shown up one day and taken over so did this kid. But we liked him. I let him have my bed sometimes. It seemed like the thing to do. Everyone liked him. So we went along with it all. We made our own jokes and laughed and played too. But he spent a lot of time with the new boy. They laughed and he invited him to come do all sorts of things with him. I didn’t understand why this other boy could bring out such a nice side of him. Why he didn’t always act angry towards him, or why when he messed up he didn’t yell at him, or get in his face, or push him around. They said he was family. Which was okay, because we liked him.

So then I thought, well maybe my raven and I, maybe we’re not family. And it made sense. He isn’t there when we do family things. My mom would take us places and he didn’t come. We’d spend the night or go away for our birthdays and he didn’t come. We’d see my grandparents, we’d go shopping, we’d go to plays or visit my greater family, or have yard sales, and he wouldn’t come. The best memories he wasn’t there for. I think that was fine, because no one was being mean to me then. It was easy to stay away from him when there was a lot of people. I could escape to my grandparent’s house. They loved to have everyone together to eat and spend time. Which usually was a good chance to get away. My raven didn’t spend time. When he wasn’t flying all he did was eat, and peck. He would show up to eat, soon before, and leave soon after. He had to get back to flying. He would come home and peck later, and it made me wonder, did he not come to the best memories or were the best memories because he wasn’t there?

My mom asked for this raven, I never did. It first flew into my house and perched, and now the whole house lives under its wing. My family, kids, old men, friends of the family, nobody was out of reach from his pecking. The shadows he made can be so dark. I had to wait for years to be able to find a light. I can’t take back the first part of my life, I can’t get over some of the things that happened, but finally I’ve been able to move on. It’s easy to sit on the words on the pages that are already written, and it’s harder to step onto that slippery clean page and write some new footing, but I’ve learned to do that. I’ve found my happiness. The final page was to break away. I had to escape it all, even my mom. That last time my raven had me in the corner, screeching and pecking at me was her last time she cast her vote for him and made me the lame duck. Since then it’s been easier. When you cut out a cancer you end up taking some good cells with it too. But it’s worth it if I’m going to live. I could say anything I wanted but there was always excuses. I didn’t get excuses, but then again, I wasn’t in charge. I wish I could have grown up to be so much bigger and taller than I did, but it isn’t in my genes. There’s that sign again. If I wasn’t so small I could have made the rules. I could have acted however I wanted and no one could have controlled me. I could have said “Hey kid, you better have some respect” and then I could have acted disrespectfully. I could have set rules for everyone else that didn’t apply to me. If I was big I would have had the physical power as well as the political power, and no one would be able to control me. I could vote against everyone else’s interests. I could horde funds in the treasury, and let the roads fall to disrepair while I buy new cars. I wouldn’t have to contribute. I wouldn’t have to act the way I’ve been taught if I was bigger. People would make excuses for me. I’ll never have that life because, well, I’m me. I was taught if I live right then I’ll go to heaven. Some other people say if I live right I’ll be reborn and come back to Earth as something better. Some people say we don’t know what happens. I wish I did know, because I hope next time around I can be born differently, at a better time.

I know it’s all not my fault. It’s because timing is everything.

 

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