Teach this lesson: how the most productive among us do not always feel their success. They are not always driven, driving forward, gaining pace in pursuit of their dream’s greatest. There is not a lot of motivation in hypotheticals. If there was, more people would make sacrifices to achieve the things they want. No, the hardest working, most inspirational people, milking minutes and hours from the day most of us don’t even know exist, are not running toward goals, so much as being chased by failure. Self-aware. Knowing all these words and thoughts and chicken scratch will be counted on for a life to match. Afraid for being all talk. Frightened of not being as enlightened as my writing. I heard my life described as if I were working the equivalent of three full time jobs. Keeping up with the money one, the sunny one and the overrunning one. But that isn’t how it feels. I am eternally unsettled. Dissatisfied. Full of angst trying to find ways to give thanks to a God who thinks and seeded a thinking universe like a songwriter puts down a verse, trusting it will inspire a chorus. And here we are. Each one of us. A left brain right brain rhyming couplet created under the cramped hand of an angsty, unsettled, dissatisfied chemical equation. A creator. And it may not have written all this to shape the perfect universe. More likely loneliness. More like an artist. Looking like it’s chasing three full time gigs just to keep up with itself. But the truth is, I’ve given up on ever finding contentment. And it honest to goodness just helps to stay busy.
What if you’re not sitting still? You’re not, even when you are. What if the energy in you, in me, typing here, is indistinguishable from all other energy? It would be safe to say that I, the real I, deep inside, have caught up to the speed of light. And consciousness could just be what happens when you brush against that barrier. And life, as we know it, might be more momentum than existence. Governed by laws of attraction more so than physics. What we call imagination in fact may be deep-seeded, primeval memory, and love, an echo rolling along our intangible souls, the leftover scraps from once being indistinguishable.
When I was young, I remember learning about the Declaration of Independence, and the constitution, and the handful of men that shaped the birth of this country. Writing words like freedom and liberty with slave owners looking down over their shoulders. It’s laughable. And I wondered, even then, what’s the requirement? What threshold did these men step over to make their average intelligence exceptional, their dry bureaucratic wisdom quote-worthy, or the dull generic details of their lives suddenly inspirational. Thomas Jefferson loved to garden, so the fuck what, it was the nineteenth century, you didn’t eat if you didn’t garden. No one even asked George Washington to stop presidenting after a few years. He just stopped on his own. Something like the first seven presidents were all Virginians. Sixty years later, Virginia secedes from the same country it seeded.
Wouldn’t it be great, I mean wouldn’t it really be something, if America meant any damn thing inherently of its own accord. Germany does, and so does England, the Land of Angles, and so does Russia and France and China. But America means nothing. It’s the last name of a dude who didn’t even actually discover America. From its inception, this has been a nation that can only be held like a pen in your hand, our myths and legends and heroes are all still being written and rewritten. We started off with thirteen stars now we’ve pushed back past fifty. Socialism saved this nation post World War II, right up until Capitalism came back crippling people and selling crutches.
Government is a fancy term for people-farming. It is not America. America is not even America. We are living in the clay country. A shapeless nation. We’re blank-page people, pen in hand, creating our own legacy. No one in America drove by a thousand year old cathedral on the commute to work. We don’t have that sense of time. Our cathedrals are organic cotton fields and deteriorating downtowns and so many headlines, like the headlines today. They mean more to us. You either ran away from home, or were stolen from your home, or had your home stolen from you, in order to be American. You’re one of those three. We all have that in common. We have conflicted relationships with home. It’s part of us. But if you think you’re going to like what it means to be an American without ever holding a pen in your hand, you’re mistaken.
Government is chicken farmers. They want you thinking you were born half a beak and clipped wings and sharing too little space with too many birds. They want you believing that when they shoot you down in the street they take something from you. But I don’t blame the breeze for collecting my last breath. I don’t blame gravity for the fall that claims me. I am not surprised by fear, or that fear wants a gun in its hands, or that fear kills people whenever given the chance. America is not its government. It is Americans. That is the way it began, and that is the way it will always be. If you look around this country and do not like what you see, you had better be busy writing.
Emotional abuse is not what happens after you get too tired to fight and the other person isn’t. Emotional abuse is not focused on theological discussions and philosophical differences. Emotional abuse is not being called a dumb ass.
It is when someone targets you inside and out in order to hurt you, to keep you in a victim state. Not often around conversations of Sunday school lessons or heated gospel interpretations or planning the day to day of farm life year to year.
It is disrespectful to every person who has ever suffered actual abuse to cry it like wolf when you only saw a rustling in the bush. It is disrespectful for you to pretend you were silent, pleasant, considerate, when you weren’t. I do not know what therapist let you get away with calling this emotional abuse, but I fervently pray you never learn the reality of such a phrase.
When truly, you got involved with an artist. Maybe you told yourself he would grow out of it. Maybe you just never believed how much he actually believes in himself. But you disrespected his ideas again and again. Not ideas learned from culture, or a head pastor, or bishop over a synod, or schoolteachers or obeying parents or laws. These ideas were conjured up out of nothing but clay mud and back pain. In the same way you can’t tell a parent they have a bad kid, you should hesitate to tell an artist he or she has a bad idea. Whether it’s using crayons on the wall, tracking clay down the hall, or dropping heirlooms like playthings, you do not tell a parent they have a bad kid.
Never once did I have the desire to hurt you. I remember a girl yelling, name calling, arguing right there with the rest of us. Just because I do it better than you does not make it emotional abuse. I’m sorry no one made you accept that you quit something, that they let you throw as many words and phrases on the heap as required to convolute the actual issue buried beneath. You own eternal immaturity and emotional weakness. You have a philosophy of enabling as long as you can and vilifying once you realize you can’t. What you call ministry, all the poor misguided people you are going to suck up into it before the end, I feel sorry for you, I feel sorry for all of them.
But maybe one day you’ll tell them all about this emotionally abusive man. And they’ll hear your stories, and form their own conclusions, not just the ones most useful to you. They will hear how I stayed in our life, fought for it, kept up with animals and responsibilities and the man you promised you would never forsake up until you did. There is a chance they’ll hunger for another take. The truer one. Not your self-soother one. About a girl who cried wolf when her eyes weren’t even open yet. With a ministry built on excuses, and things she’d rather forget.
People make mistakes. Try not to let it ruin your day. Sometimes, we even do things or make choices that in the moment don’t seem wrong. And later on, after the boon of hindsight, we careen into regret like that curve in the road we never saw coming.
But in a town housing a smaller population, word of a good, greasy, dishonest happening rivals the popularity of the evening news. Police officers discovered keeping more than what they reported, or trusted elected city officials using slanted positions to make some little money on the side. The easy, most pleasing response is to remake someone else’s life over into gossip. Entertainment. Because otherwise, the harder, far more honest choice, is to relate to them. To admit to ourselves, maybe not at the same degree or in such bold public manner, but we have been there. Felt the self-imposed burning off a judgmental stare.
Well, what about when you’re the one staring? Searching out an embarrassing detail, some jagged social key that unlocks people’s mouths into gasps of amazement or trundling laughter. Which is more of the same. An almost exact impersonation of the original agitation. A lack of consideration toward others. Our personally motivated choices often place hardship on our neighbors, family, even our humbled, well-punished selves. Out in the country, hidden along hills and the bare, frigid tree-lines that surround small towns, is an idea that people in these places are nosy. It lingers in the air like fresh fertilizer carried in slow moving wind, county to county, country home to country home.
And when publicly appointed officials or well-trained weaponized servants of laws step out, intentionally or accidentally, of a strictly drawn pattern of acceptable legal behavior, it can seem to justify some of this nosiness. A rationale for staring hard while wearing skeptical disgusted looks, nostrils flared, sniffing the air for an excuse to use someone else’s story to create a better reality for yourself. But it is not real. The only true justice that exists for any of us is found in forgiveness. A highly matured ability to let things go. To learn, always, and never fail to grow. And not dwell too long on the selfish or inconsiderate actions of our neighbors.
Being nosy, keeping an eye out for trouble, is not always bad. Just remember how it feels to have that view turned around. We all have inherited the right to own our mistakes. But forgiving and moving on, these are choices that we as a community will always be called on to make.
We are just now going into the cold season. A strong reminder of winter to wake up into. Rise from warm beds and no longer seek to produce cold air for ourselves. This side of the season we are less content to shiver. The hardest cold and last freezing ahead with summer behind, just beyond a burgeoning spring. Heat, hypothetical at this point, is still persuasive. The lingering chill draws through weary flesh into bones, preserved, maintained, no blanket wrapped over legs or swaddling shoulders. With stiff joints we walk like dragging boulders. Giant rocks found only in our heads, imagined in insulated minds. Not a nerve present enough in the brain to feel cold, or hot, just every other thought one could ever hope to consider. Such as sweaty discomfort dead ahead, fast approaching or trapped by memories growing cold and stale in the past.
Whatever is happening in the world around me, this planet is like a great forested dog, slobbering salt oceans. Digging in its back, right over a rib embracing a beating heart, I am its flea. Discussing shapes passing by, apprehensions and desires scratched off and gone, days too frozen to ever thaw back from, an abrasive sun.
The flea finds only confusion when looking only out. Carried forward and back. Watching silently toward tomorrow, or stared backward at the echoes of yesterday.
Feeling humbled, minuscule in the expansive presence of past and future.
But living like a god in the now.