Forgiveness, Church TV and Red Lights

I don’t normally watch church on television. Weekends find us usually watching whatever sports may be on.

We tend to watch more sports on tv  (image via)

We’ll even watch rugby. Those guys are tough! (image via)

Last weekend though as I was flipping around looking for soccer (futbal, if you prefer), I saw a local preacher talking and decided to watch for a minute. Like I said, I don’t normally watch church on tv, but this was a little different; the preacher on tv was female. And not only was she female, but she was an African-American female.

Big whoop, Christy, right? Where have you been? The 1950’s?

No, it’s not that. See, I live in a “small” town; it’s conservative, it’s stuffy, it’s the type of town kids can’t wait to leave. It’s not a young town–the majority of people who live here are old–and it’s definitely not progressive.

(I feel compelled to say that we only moved here to take care of my husband’s mother, who, yep, was old. It was the right thing to do at the time. Of course that took me away from my own mother who was not so old and who was dying of cancer. But that’s another topic for another day, maybe. Or maybe not, since there is nothing I can do about that now. And I really am trying to embrace this whole “Letting Go” thing I took on for my 40th birthday. I guess I felt compelled because I don’t want you to think I’m old or stuffy or conservative or stuck in a small town, though I may be two of those things now. But Let it Go already, Christy, move on . . . )

Okay, so anyway, I remember when the church announced it was hiring a female to come in to minister. “Oh my goodness! They’re doing what? Oh my, oh my, oh my!” You could hear the whispers all around town.

When news got out that the preacher was also black? That was just the cherry on top. Nobody really said too much about that, but you could feel it in their tone. “Did you hear about the new preacher they hired? Did you know she’s . . . fe-male?” With eyebrows raised and layers of emphasis on the “fe-“, as if you could lump everything that is non-white-male within the confines of raised eyebrows and two little letters.

But you know what? Everyone loves her. She’s young, vibrant, relevant, funny and straight-shooting. She’s even made me consider going to church because of how well she blends real-life lessons into religion. I feel like I could even overlook the whole God thing and instead consider it a self-help course.

The first time I saw her on tv was Christmas Eve. I decided to watch because I had heard the gossip and whispers when I went in town to “The Wal-Mart” and I was curious to hear what she had to say. (Okay, maybe I was curious how others were reacting to her.) Something happened as I watched though — I was glued to the tv. She was talking to my heart, and I couldn’t not listen.

or dog shows . . . (image via)

This little guy is glued to the tv too . . . (image via)

That night she was talking about “Letting Go.” Of anger, of resentment, of anything holding you back from living the life you want to live. But it’s not just letting go, she said, it’s embracing and doing the things you need to do (not the same as want to do) to get you to that life you want to live.

She shared a story of letting go of her own anger.

I had a lot of unresolved anger in my heart then, so I listened raptly as she talked about going to the shopping mall, joining the throngs of other last-minute shoppers, and circling (and circling and circling) the parking lot looking for a spot. When she finally found one, another car swooped in like a snake and stole it away from her. She shared how her heart filled with rage and her mouth filled with profanity and she wanted to get out and give THAT OTHER PERSON a piece of her mind.

Her anger grew and grew until she felt like a smoldering volcano. This anger made her think about all the other things that had made her angry, so not only was she upset at this other driver, she was now angry at her mom, her fifth grade teacher, her first husband, and the person who had 30 items in the “10 item or less lane” at “The Wal-Mart.”

Because anger loves to incite anger, her anger spoke to my anger. And there we were, two little angry volcanoes.

But she knew that she had to let this anger go. It wasn’t helping. Instead, it was making her miserable.

So she chilled out, did her shopping, and as she was leaving the mall, she saw a lady in the parking lot having car trouble. It was dark by then and she was late for an appointment. “I don’t have time for this tonight! I am late, late, late. I know someone else will help that woman,” she thought.

So she drove away. And at the red light leading out of the mall, she realized every other person was probably saying the same things to themselves. Even though she was late and even though she really didn’t want to, she turned around at the red light to go help.

She went on to talk about compassion and some of the hardships she had encountered in life, even some of the challenges she faced moving to this small town. Honestly, I don’t remember it all, but I remember how I felt. I remember thinking this lady gets it.

People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.
Dr. Maya Angelou

So the other day when I was looking for futbal and happened to see her on tv, I stopped flipping, and I watched.

This time she was talking about forgiveness. And again, it was like she was talking directly to me. See, I’ve been harboring a resentment and waiting for an apology from a friend for something that happened years ago. My friend offered to apologize, but she wanted to apologize on her terms. Screw your terms, I thought, I’m the one hurt, you should apologize just the way I asked. It made me angry (which in turn, opened up those anger flood gates, just like the preacher in the parking lot, and there I was again, a little angry volcano). Why can’t she just do what I want her to do?! Now she needs to apologize for this too!

Volcano via BBC

Have you ever been so angry you could spit fire?
The Indonesian volcano Anak Krakatau erupts at night (credit: Getty Images/Tom Pfeiffer/VolcanoDiscovery) via BBC Earth

But this preacher . . . she talked about forgiving others, get this, even if they don’t apologize. Not only that, but even if they’re not sorry. What?! Blasphemy! I don’t want to forgive, I want to be angry. I’m justified here. Yeah, so what? In the notorious words of Dr. Phil, “And how’s that workin’ for you?”

Then she held up a book and compared it to a little annoyance. She handed the book over to someone in the congregation, and said, “Hold this out at arm’s length. Don’t let go.”

Have you ever tried this? It starts out easy. It’s just a little book, it barely weighs anything. “Piece of cake, right?” she asked.

But after a while, that little book starts feeling like War and Peace. Soon your hand starts aching. And then your arm starts shaking. And then you start sweating, and pains start traveling to your back. Then your entire body starts trembling until you can’t stand it any more. You have to drop the book.

What starts out like a little tiny annoyance will build and build and poison every inch of your body . . . if you aren’t willing to let it go.

Like most, I’ve heard the quote, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” (It’s a biggie in recovery meetings.) But I don’t think the meaning really sunk in until I saw that poor little man holding out that book with his arm shaking, ego and stubborn-pride being the only things keeping it up. And for what? Why do we let ourselves suffer so much? The person we’re angry at isn’t suffering. They’re probably not even thinking about us!

You don’t forgive to let the other person off the hook. You forgive to let yourself off the hook. Drop the book already. Forgive, move on. Let. It. Go.

While forgiveness will always be a hot button for me, I can accept that some things are in the past. They can’t be changed. So I can either continue to let myself suffer as I hold up this book that is now the size of an entire Encyclopedia series, or I can drop the book and move on, for my own health and sanity.

Forgiveness. Acceptance. Letting go. Self-care. I can call it whatever I need to call it, I just need to do it. Maybe next time I’ll be smart enough to not pick up the book in the first place.

To close, let me tell you a quick story about me and my mom:

Mom and I were on vacation a couple of years before she got sick. We were relaxing in our hotel room flipping through the channels on tv. Guess what we land upon? Church. The preacher was screaming and jumping up and down, he was sweaty and red-faced, and we were absolutely mesmerized.

“Jesus is coming!” he shouted. “Are you ready?! What are you doing?! What are you doing right now? You’re at home, watching The TV! Jesus is coming but you’re gonna miss Him because you’re at home watching tv! When your friends ask you, “Hey did you see Jesus? He was just here.” you’re gonna have to say, “Nope, I was at home . . . watching The TV.”

It became one of those things Mom and I would laugh about, especially after she got sick.

I’d call her on the phone, “Hey Mom, whatcha doin’?”

“Not much, Christy, just watching tv.”

“Just watching tv?!  Jesus is coming back, and you’re going to miss Him, Mom, because you’re at home watching The TV!”

And then we would laugh and remember better days. Even now, typing this, I have to laugh. My god wouldn’t care if I was watching tv. My god could preempt any tv show he or she wanted in order to get a message to me.

And now I have to smile and shake my head, because I just realized maybe my god has been preempting shows getting messages to me:

  • Let go of anger.
  • Help others, even when you don’t want to.
  • Accept apologies, even those you don’t receive.
  • Drop the book.
  • If you’re flipping channels, don’t be afraid to watch a little church. Sometimes that’s how important messages get to you.

And, sometimes, you can change your life at a red light. (Jonny Lang as preacher? Now there’s a church I’d never miss.)

A chance to breathe
While sitting at a red light
You look around
reflecting on your life…

“Red Light” from Jonny Lang’s album Long Time Coming

How about you? Ever watch church on tv? How do you let go of anger? Still waiting for someone to apologize to you? Why/why not?

* A special thank you to Michelle (MamaMick) for inviting me to buzz around her newest personal writing blog The Hidden Hummingbird Diaries. I’ll be posting poetry and playing with new creative projects as my alter-ego Christina’s Words. Come say hi and check out my first two pieces “Words, Unread” and “The Secret: A Golden Shovel Poetry Challenge.”

Life In Six Songs: Vol. 18 (Karen and Kristen)

In six songs, tell us about your life. 

By now most of you know the drill, but if you are a new visitor, welcome! We challenged our guests to tell us their life stories: “The project is simple, though maybe not easy: Tell us a story–your story–in six songs. And then for fun, wrap up your life in a bonus seventh song.” The series runs every Monday through September. We are currently booked to capacity–thank you!–but before the series wraps-up, we will plan a special event where everyone will be welcome to join in. Until then feel free to check out our past volumes and enjoy this week’s stories.

Our special guests this week are:

Karen from Mended Musings and Kristen from Bye-Bye BeerI fell in love with each of these beautiful, kind-hearted and talented women after I discovered them through Christy’s space. I’m so happy to have Karen and Kristen here today! Please be sure to leave them some love in the comments, and stop by their blogs to say hello. Enjoy this week’s “Life in 6 Songs” everyone!

IMG_6324

~~~

Karen (from Mended Musings)

Song #1 (and tell us why briefly):

Ziggy Stardust” by David Bowie

I discovered David Bowie when I was 12, rummaging through my dad’s record collection. It was a year before “Let’s Dance” made him a pop sensation and with his sudden popularity, I hated having to share him with the world. Throughout my teens, I made it a point to introduce every friend I had to what I considered to be his real music (essentially, anything before “Let’s Dance”). I have countless favorites but for me, Ziggy Stardust is where it all began.

Song #2:Tu Solo Tu” by Selena

In our days before having kids, my husband and I went to Mexico nearly every weekend for 2 years. Very often, we’d be on our 5th margarita, gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes while a Mariachi band played 6 inches from our table. I didn’t always understand what they were singing about but Selena is clearly singing about love – drunk and passionate only for your love. That’s still us, just not drunk!

Song #3:Stuck In A Moment” by U2

All of my bad choices were coming to a head when this came out and this song gave me the hope that I could face the consequences, survive and move on. I did and I still get teary eyed when I hear the song.

Song #4:We’re All On Our Way Somewhere” by Templeton Thompson

I had the opportunity to meet singer/songwriter Templeton Thompson 11 years ago when I took the Living Centered Program at Onsite in Tennessee. She and her husband came to perform some songs for us and I was struck by how authentic and down to earth she was. That program started my road to recovery and this song helped me see that I wasn’t the center of the universe. I listen to it whenever I need a reminder.

Song #5:I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was overcome with hormones and would cry at anything remotely sad. I even cried over a wasp’s nest that my husband removed from our porch because I felt bad that the mama wasp would be searching for her babies. I could only listen to non-offensive, cheery music and I must’ve listened to this song a thousand times. When I found out I had to have a c-section because my son was breech, I was filled with worry but as I lay on the table, I noticed that “I’m Yours” was playing in the operating room. It was one of those God nudges and I knew everything would be alright.

Song #6:Heal Over” by KT Tunstall

When I hear this song, I think of wrapping all of the women I love and cherish in my arms and holding space for all they are and are trying to be.

Bonus Song #7 (If you could wrap up your life story in ONE SONG, or if you have a personal theme song, or even a song you want played at your funeral, what would that song be and why?):

Thank You” by Alanis Morissette

Being grateful for everything – not just the good – has changed my life.

Karen’s playlist:

Karen blogs at Mended Musings. She is from Tucson, Arizona.

~~~

Kristen (from Bye-Bye Beer)

Song #1: Dancing Queen” by ABBA

My grandmother came by boat to this country when she was in her 30s, leaving behind a husband and young child and contracting a nasty case of tuberculosis that nearly killed her. I come from hardy stock, though, and she built a good life over the years by working hard and saving money and re-surrounding herself with family. When my brother and I were kids and went to visit her for the weekend, she’d take us to Sears and we’d help her pick out the latest LPs. We’d go back to her house and listen to them on a beautiful console in her living room, and she would later pack them up in a box with pairs of Levis to ship back to relatives in the old country.

I guess my grandmother grew attached to some albums and never gave them away because this was one song I remember dancing to in her living room again and again. She’d move her glass-centered coffee table to one side of the tiny room and we’d twirl around barefoot in pajamas and huge smiles.

Song #2:Shine On You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd

I’m sorry to jump from wholesome living room dancing to degenerate pot smoking, but that’s how it went for me with little fanfare. Me and my best friend got high with this guy she was seeing and he put me in charge of steering his boat while they made out in the cabin below. It took all of my concentration to keep the boat straight, though I did get distracted by the sight of two raccoons paddling by in a canoe. Later, we rode into town in the boy’s Camaro with the windows down and this song playing and I had the distinct feeling I was still on the boat. This was some good pot.

Song #3:Birthday” by The Beatles

I’m riding in a coach bus up the gold coast of Australia with 50 other exchange students from all over the world. I’m 17, skinny, shy, but I’ve discovered the magical powers of being in love. I had a huge crush on this beautiful Dutch boy everyone else loved too because he was one of those people that just made you feel included and important. The coach driver was also a good sport and let us bring up mix tapes to play over the stereo system. I turned over mine, which took a lot of guts on my part. Mix tapes have always felt too personal, like musical diaries. Inexplicably, the last song on my mine was Birthday. It came on and I held my breath and the Dutch boy acted like it was our anthem and got the entire bus to sing along.

Song #4:The Spider Bite Song” by The Flaming Lips

One night when my husband and I were newly married, we locked ourselves out of the house while we were both high as kites. My husband was shirtless and I was crippled with paranoia at the thought of knocking on our neighbor’s door to ask for our spare key. We both toyed with the idea of him wearing my shirt, but it would have been much too small and, well, pink. Reluctantly, I rang the neighbors’ bell and stooped to pet their cat to avoid eye contact while we made small talk and they fetched our key. I tried oh so hard not to think about my husband wearing my tight, pink shirt until I was safely back home.

The reason I chose this song is because we listened to the Soft Bulletin album a lot that summer. It was a childless, carefree time in our lives. The spider bite mentioned in this song was actually an abscess from a heroin needle that one of the band members tried to hide. Heroin never was my drug, but in those days I definitely romanticized addiction as something far off and floaty, like it could never touch me.

Song #5:Waiting for Superman” by Iron and Wine

This is one of those rare covers (of another Flaming Lips song) that sounds prettier than the original to me. This song always appealed because it’s about life feeling too heavy to deal with. In the several years before I got sober, everything felt too heavy. Big things, little things, everything. I kept going, but I didn’t see any hope and watched my drinking spiral out of control and it really scared me.

Song #6:Hoppipolla” by Sigur Ros

The lyrics are in a language I don’t understand, but I chose this song because it feels very hopeful and uplifting. The video has warring factions of geriatric pirates jumping in puddles and a surprisingly happy ending. I haven’t seen how the rest of my life will play out, but it’d be cool if it went something like this.

Bonus song #7:Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley

I keep getting this song stuck in my head…the line “every little thing’s gonna be all right” especially. This is my message to you.

Kristen’s Playlist: 

* Kristen blogs at Bye-Bye Beer. She lives in the USA.

~~~

Thanks again for being our guests, Karen and Kristen!

Editor’s Note: Thank you for stopping by and reading these fabulous stories by Karen and Kristen. While playing in Christy’s space, I must have knocked over a plant or two and accidentally turned off the comments. Everything is fixed now. Comment away!!

Life in 6 Songs: Vol. 17 (Hippie and Mary)

In six songs, tell us about your life. 

By now most of you know the drill, but if you are a new visitor, welcome! We challenged our guests to tell us their life stories: “The project is simple, though maybe not easy: Tell us a story–your story–in six songs. And then for fun, wrap up your life in a bonus seventh song.” The series runs every Monday through September. We are currently booked to capacity–thank you!–but before the series wraps-up, we will plan a special event where everyone will be welcome to join in. Until then feel free to check out our past volumes and enjoy this week’s stories.

Our special guests this week are:

Karen (aka Hippie) from Hippie Cahier and Mary from A Wilderness of Words. You know how some writers inspire you with the way they use words to bend and paint and create an entirely new and sparkly universe? How they make you want to be a better writer or artist? How you just feel kinda lucky to have crossed paths with them because they’re just that awesome? Well that’s how Karen and Mary make me feel. Not only can these ladies write, but I’m utterly convinced they have music in their blood. Obviously, I’m a big Karen and Mary fan. I know you will be too, so if you’re not following them, stop what you’re doing and go follow them right now. But come back! It’s easy to get lost in Karen’s Hyperbole and in Mary’s Wilderness of Words

Enjoy this week’s “Life in 6 Songs” everyone!

Peace. Love. Music. via Etsy.com

Peace. Love. Music.
via Etsy.com

~~~

Karen (from Hippie Cahier)

Like anyone who is likely to be reading this, there is too much music in my head, in my heart, in my soul, and in my various collections for this to be a simple exercise. What follows is not a list of my favorite songs or my favorite artists or my favorite genres. It’s the result of a lot of thinking, hunting, gathering, and the culling of pages and pages of handwritten thoughts to arrive at a set that describes a little of the story of my life so far.

With the exception of the first song, I tried to find official videos or at least a video of a performer and not a personal video created by a fan. That eliminated many songs by artists who don’t have much of an official YouTube presence, such as Patty Griffin, Antje Duvekot, The Subdudes, and NRBQ.

I also avoided reading other participants’ lists because when I started to look at them, I saw songs that I’d been considering. Although sometimes that was disappointing, I’m happy to know we are musical kindred spirits. Any duplication you see here of someone else’s choices is either coincidental or I decided it was significant enough to me to keep it anyway.

I’m looking forward to going back to see where my choices coincide with others’.

This was such an enjoyable project. Thank you for including me!

And now, take six:

Song #1 (and tell us why briefly):

Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies (1969)

I was in first grade when this song came out. After-school television was a big thing for my generation. We came home to snacks and, beginning in 1971, on our local UHF channel a man named Captain Chesapeake and his sea monster Mondy hosted cartoons like Speed Racer and re-runs of shows like The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island.

I chose this video of a song from a 1968 cartoon called The Archie Show, which someone put together with images of Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island. I have always been more Mary Ann than Ginger.

Song #2:

Steal My Sunshine” by Len (1999)

Technically, this song came out long after my adolescence. I didn’t even know about it until a few years ago. It’s just silly and fun, as adolescence should be, but it’s also true on a metaphorical level, especially when an energy vampire is bringing me down.

I have always loved the beach and as a teenager I dreamed of living on the beach. As a young adult I lived a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. For four fabulous years, I wore a bikini almost every day.

Two things I would change about this video: I’d include the line from the radio version where someone shouts out, “KAREN, I LOVE YOU!” and I’d get rid of that Yankees cap.

If you’re a Yankees fan, bygones. If you’re not a Yankees fan, well then, you catch my drift.

Song #3:

Coming Around Again/Itsy Bitsy Spider” Carly Simon (1989)

Chronologically re-syncing with my life, this performance was recorded at one of my favorite places (Martha’s Vineyard) at one of my favorite times of my life. I’ve worn a variety of personal and professional hats, but the thing I am most proud of is being a mom. Whenever I hear this, I remember my little ones with diapers full of sand from Uncle Seth’s pond or Lambert’s Cove Beach. Yes, I smiled wistfully as I typed that.

I’m still holding out hope that it will someday be revealed that Carly Simon is my mother or my much older sister. It would explain a lot.

Song #4:

Compass Point” by Lowen and Navarro (c. 1993)

Then a lot of stuff happened, some of it magic, some of it tragic. Even if it were worth telling, it’s been a long life so there’s lots to tell. Don’t nobody got time for that.

Look for more in the upcoming unauthorized autobiography, Hippie Cahier: The Missing Years. Be sure to check the foreword, wherein I apologize to John Prine for removing “Quit Hollerin’ At Me” from my six songs list. There was this whole thing about life as an INFJ, and I wasn’t sure that was interesting to a broad population.

Looking back I realize how different my life is than what I thought it would be, which is something most of us experience. It’s still true that “the road is never-ending (and) my compass point is bending.” That’s what makes the ride worthwhile.

Song #5:

Fighter” by Christina Aguilera (2002)

This song is a perennial in my workout playlist, usually at about the spot where push-ups come into my routine. It’s a productive reminder to be grateful for hard lessons learned and a means of channeling negative emotions into a feeling of power. I am grateful to a number of people whose behavior had a negative impact on my life, because they are now responsible for my upper body strength.

Song #6:

Best Day of My Life” by American Authors (2013)

Life has been just as good to me and just as hard for me as it has been for anyone else. The best I can do in the hard times is to keep believing that each day has the potential to be a great one, or at least better than the day before. And in the good times, I am happy to celebrate each day as the best day of my life. I think this is a good one for the (almost) finale.

Bonus Song #7 (If you could wrap up your life story in ONE SONG, or if you have a personal theme song, or even a song you want played at your funeral, what would that song be and why?):

Closer to Fine” by Indigo Girls (1989)

I have consistently maintained that I am consistently inconsistent and that I’m not even close to having answers for myself, let alone anyone else. I might also have chosen James Taylor’s “Secret Of Life” for a bonus song, because I think there’s a similar message.

In the end, I flipped a coin and the Indigo Girls won.

Karen’s playlist:

* Karen blogs at Hippie Cahier. She is from The United States.

~~~

Mary (from A Wilderness of Words)

Song #1: 

“The Swimming Song” by Loudon Wainwright (Vetiver version)  

I grew up always close to water.  When we lived in Wanakena, there was a river below the hill with a kid-friendly beach and a dock with a diving board.  When we moved to Star Lake, the lake was the epicenter of our universe.  My father taught us how to swim.  Knowing how to swim was important to him, and my siblings and I (seven of us, total) took his lessons to heart.  We swam like fish through those summer months; we almost grew fins and a tail.  The first time I heard this song, I saw the sun on the lake and felt the water slapping against my skin again.

Bonus:  The video with this version is positively gleeful to watch.  It makes me want to try my hand at longboarding.

Song #2:

Lippy Kids” by Elbow

My teen years were angsty.  I was an outlier (though I didn’t know the word, then), without a connection to place, constantly feeling like I wasn’t a part of the world I found myself living in.  I hated the smallness of the school, the town, and the people.  There was no poetry or color.  I wanted large.  I wanted more.  I was probably surly a lot.  This song makes me smile in recognition.  Looking back, I wasn’t the only one hanging out on Greco’s porch with no place to go, smoking cigarettes and cursing.

Song #3:

Mad World” by Tears for Fears (Gary Jules version)

I got the hell out of Dodge (read: Star Lake, NY) as soon as I graduated from high school.  I tried out a few places over the next few years – predominantly Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (too hot, too many retirees), and Boulder, Colorado (great place, made a few good friends, but ultimately it was too dry, too snowy, too far from water).  I was still trying to figure out who I wanted to be.  People were strange.  I was strange.  And, then, here came Tears for Fears with an anthem for exactly how I felt.  Bless their hearts.

Song #4:

Open Arms” by Elbow

In spite of trying to put distance between myself and the place I came from, there were times when my heart felt frayed, and I needed the people who knew me, if not best, at least the longest.  I have always had a complicated relationship with my parents and my siblings.  For all our differences and our grievances, my family is where I turned when I felt lost.  This song (yes, I know I have included two Elbow songs – I really like them) sums up for me why that it is.

Song #5:

This Must Be the Place” by Talking Heads (Sean Hayes version)

I have always loved summer best.  For a long time I measured my life by summers.  It was summer when I drove from Colorado back to Dodge to attend my brother’s wedding.  The evening before the wedding, I met my brother’s best man, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.  Three years later, on another summer day, we were married beneath the apple trees in a friend’s back yard.  A job brought us to Rhode Island, but I knew that the place I needed to be was with the man.  I wasn’t wrong.

Song #6:

Lullaby” by Dixie Chicks

A true thing about me:  I have one child.  A boy I have been in love with for all of time and then some.  He is the icing on the cake of my life.  He is my best job ever.  I could go on ad nauseam, but I’ll let the Dixie Chicks tell you how I feel.  They have a sweet tune and better words.

Bonus song #7:

Counting Stars” by One Republic

This is where I’ve got to.  Mostly happy, most of the time.  Persistently doing my own thing, even when it’s not the right thing or might even be the wrong thing.  It seems to be working so far.  Time will tell.

Mary’s Playlist

* Mary blogs at A Wilderness of Words. She currently lives in Rhode Island, USA.

~~~

Thanks again for being our guests, Karen and Mary!

Burning Bridges and Smashing Pumpkins (Braveheart Chronicles Vol. 4)

We spend the bulk of our lives gathering, accumulating, acquiring … things, memories, emotions. Just stuff really. There’s no bravery in hoarding though, in holding on. We hold on because we’re scared to let go.

Bravery is all in the letting go.

~~Christy; excerpt from For my 40th birthday, I’m gonna let it go….

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I don’t have a large circle of friends, but it’s tight and knotted together with intuitive deliberation. There is a loving balance of kindness and respect between my husband, children, best friend and a few other close peeps. We don’t tiptoe, hide or fake it with each other. If one poops in the other’s nest…we hear about it, we apologize and move on.

The rule? NO ENERGY SUCKERS!

My nature is to see the best in everyone–it’s a gift I’m grateful for and practice daily. Even then, I’m sensible enough to recognize a toxic person when he or she starts to spray fragrant poison my direction. Debbie-downers, negative people and tall tree sap-suckers have been systematically (but lovingly) weeded out of my life. Long story short, 95% of my relationships have been and are healthy.

It’s that other 5% that has me rocked and on a bridge burning mission.

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Do you know an individual who has a death-grip on your heart? Squeezing out and slurping up your last bit of oxygen-rich blood. Someone who takes up space in your brain and yet makes very little room for you in theirs.

Someone who is an ever-present virus. Presenting as a low-grade fever for months until a full-blown illness attacks and leaves you hugging the porcelain.

Ugh. I do. In fact, I have two of them.

If your situation is similar to mine, these relationships often start under the guise of friendship–small talk, banter and common ground. You form a connection and the bond is built before it’s too late to tie a tourniquet around the fatal hemorrhage and stop the subsequent bleed-out.

For me, I could see warning signs: co-dependency, marital problems, poor self-esteem and pent-up anger. Gentle conversations that started out happy often ended with mean-spirited words about others and even worse ones about self. With each of these friends, I experienced emotions and situations not present in my own life or part of anything I’d ever known.

Empathy lured me in and I became enthralled by poetic unfamiliarity and a desire to help. Ironically, they both came into my life about the same time and each continue to claim squatter’s rights in my brain.

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It’s not their lifestyles or circumstances that make them toxic–I’m very open-minded and slow to judge anyone at the short end of the stick. The problem has been in how they deal with these issues and treat me in response. One of these friends has such rotten self-esteem that the only way for her to feel better is to make me feel worse. The other has been deployed, kicked out of his home when he returned and thrown into jail. He has undiagnosed PTSD and as a result, is emotionally abusive to children and spouse. Each of these friends are lost, broken souls and my heart aches and longs to be “the one” who can save them.

Where’s my cape?

I’ve been running around for years thinking it was my job to reassure and make them feel better about themselves. I launched a crusade to encourage and remind them that they were/are still a good mom/dad, wife/husband/friend despite life’s cruel card deck. I know now, in the guise of being a good friend, I was actually setting the stage for an enabling, life-sucking, co-dependent relationship.

The funny thing is, we each recognized the signs of the unhealthy despair between us. In each instance, I implemented “no contact” rules and took much-needed breaks when their lives took a toll on mine. I’d find ways to put them out of my mind, keep busy and stick to the promise…until my phone beeped with a text message or phone call.

“I’m having a really bad day. Can you talk?”

Those talks made them feel better, more valuable and loved. I’d leave feeling drained, worried and used. Again.

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This situation reminds me of a pumpkin that used to grow in the middle of my pink petunia bed. One day, out of the blue, this vine popped up, its roots burrowed and life started to flourish.

My first thought was to yank it out and throw it in the compost. But it looked so healthy. Green leaves, yellows blossoms and aggressive roots–how could I throw it away?

So, I nurtured it. The leaves were expansive and thriving. Every time I watered and weeded the bed, I tended to the pumpkin, too.  Soon, it became a monster. It choked out the petunias, pilfered the fertilizer and robbed time that should have been spent in other parts of the garden.

Every morning, against my better judgment, I watered it again, fed the soil and protected it from bugs. I even put up a trellis so that I could wall off, isolate and separate the invasion from the more healthy parts of my life garden.

It thrived while everything around it grew ill and listless.

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Here’s where the bravery comes in. Those two people need to go and grow elsewhere. They don’t belong in my life and their presence/absence is wrecking me on the insides. They haven’t made room for me and I’m done making room for them.

That said, I’m terrified to toss the struck match and burn the pretty bridge. You’d think it’d be easy to turn my back, but it’s not. What if one of them needs me?

What if I need one of them?

When you’re in relationships like these, it’s easy to focus on happy memories, good feelings and better times. For me, time heals wounds and I forget even faster than I forgive.

I can’t keep answering when she calls. I can no longer feel bad about myself for her lack of good choices and the fact that she can’t love her kids or husband until she learns to love herself.

I can’t continue to respond to his text messages. Those where he asks for advice, seeks reassurance and wonders what to do or where to go when an argument erupts in their fragile home.

If I don’t walk away now, I’m going to start to believe horrible things about myself. Things I never believed until I played a part in building the vine-infested, strangled-out weedy bridge of toxic filth.

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Here’s the promise to myself. The one that I’ll carry out as soon as the “publish” button is hit. The box is open, match extracted and flint is poised to strike.

I’ll say prayers for my old friend and her family. I’ll send peaceful, happy vibes to him and his children. I wish loving kindness for them and hope that they can piece together the broken parts with understanding and support in their own homes. But I won’t answer calls, texts or e-mails when they decide that they need a Michelle feel-good fix.

And so, I’m off to burn my pretty poetic bridge and smash the pumpkin. Those friends will have to cross and climb over somebody else.

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Audience participation time: Have you had a relationship that you just couldn’t shake? If so, how did you do it? What was the final breaking point that made you walk away? What made it so difficult….or so easy?

And finally, in my favorite RoS fashion–a playlist to share!

#1 To pump me up
#2 A message to someone who will never read this
#3 Saying goodbye once and for all

A HUGE thank you to Christy for giving me this platform to share, helping me pick the last song…and lending a box of matches when I needed them the most. xo

 

Life In Six Songs: Vol. 16 (Goldfish and Rara)

In six songs, tell us about your life. 

By now most of you know the drill, but if you are a new visitor, welcome! We challenged our guests to tell us their life stories: “The project is simple, though maybe not easy: Tell us a story–your story–in six songs. And then for fun, wrap up your life in a bonus seventh song.” The series runs every Monday through September. We are currently booked to capacity–thank you!–but before the series wraps-up, we will plan a special event where everyone will be welcome to join in. Until then feel free to check out our past volumes and enjoy this week’s stories.

Our special guests this week are:

Goldfish from Fish of Gold and Rara Queen (Rarasaur) from Rarasaurboth whom I’ve had the pleasure of reading for almost as long as I’ve been WordPressing. I’m so happy to have Goldfish and Rara here today! Please be sure to leave them some love in the comments, and stop by their blogs to say hello.

Enjoy this week’s “Life in 6 Songs” everyone!

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Goldfish (from Fish of Gold)

Song #1 (and tell us why briefly):

Barracuda” by Heart

I was seven when I first heard this song. Some rather terrible things happened when I was seven years old involving child sexual abuse. “Barracuda” was one of the pedophile’s favorite songs. I couldn’t listen to this song for most of my life because it was a huge trigger. I’ve since reclaimed it because, dammit, it is a badass song and the monsters can’t keep anything from me anymore. At least the sick sadistic bastard had good taste in music.

Song #2:

Anarchy In The UK” by the Sex Pistols

I first heard the Sex Pistol’s album Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols when I was fourteen or fifteen years old. Along with several other seminal punk albums, it pretty much changed everything about me forever. It was the first time I ever heard naughty swear words, and words like anarchy and abortion in music. On discovering punk, I went from a shy girl afraid of my own shadow to a punk peacock who didn’t give a hang what anyone thought. It was totally liberating. I had a huge crush on Sid Vicious. I still wear a padlocked chain around my neck Sid-style, although now, it’s sterling silver. Sadly, my taste in men hasn’t really improved since then.

Song #3:

Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun” by The Beastie Boys

When I was eighteen, instead of trotting off to college like a good little girl, I moved to inner city Detroit. I became addicted to crack cocaine, which quickly turned me into a prostitute, because strangely, having a hardcore drug addiction seriously cuts down on job opportunities. This lifestyle eventually left me homeless in the middle of a Michigan winter. Good times were not had by all. In fact, I did actually end up looking down the barrel of a gun. However, Paul’s Boutique is still one of my favorite Beastie Boys albums. Unlike a lot of the albums on this list, it doesn’t automatically take me back to that time when I hear it, probably because I never really stopped listening to it.

Song #4:

Walking In The Great Shining Path of Monster Trucks” by Clutch

Once I recovered from being a homeless prostitute drug addict, in my early twenties I landed in an abusive relationship with a sociopath. He nearly killed me, literally and metaphorically. The good times just kept rollin’. I discovered Clutch with their first album, Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes And Undeniable Truths, and I’ve loved them ever since. This band and I grew up together, not literally, mind you, but in a way, we did. We matured together and they don’t sound much now like they did then. The sociopath hated Clutch. I got tickets to go see them at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit. We made it all the way to the show before the sociopath made me scalp the tickets so we could do something he wanted to do instead. He pocketed the money. Ever since I rid myself of the sociopath, I go see Clutch every chance I get. They’re still together and making music so I’ve seen them more than any other band. Every time I go to a Clutch show it’s a big eff you to the sociopath. Eff you, sociopath. “I got spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle”

Song #5:

Do Or Die” by the Dropkick Murphy’s

Most of my of my friends believed the sociopath’s story over mine, so I ran away and spent a few years in Boston. The Dropkick Murphys will always be a Boston band to me. Well, they’ll always be a Boston band to everyone, because that’s what they are. What I mean is that whenever I hear them, I think of Boston. No matter how old I get or where in the world I end up living, The Dropkicks will always be Boston. I spent three shows backstage with them for their yearly St. Patrick’s Day shows a few years ago. They’re the nicest guys. Cheers, fellas.

Song #6:

King Of The Road” by Fu Manchu

The final stop on our musical journey is Los Angeles, where I currently live. Much like the Dropkicks are inherently Boston, the mighty Fu Manchu are the quintessential southern California band. They just sound like Los Angeles to me, if that makes any sense. It probably doesn’t, but much like the Beach Boys decades before, The Fu is the ocean, the culture and the sound all rolled into one. These guys will always be Los Angeles to me no matter where I live. This song is made for driving down Pacific Coast Highway with your windows down, preferably in a classic muscle car, which I actually did when I still had my 1970 Buick Skylark GS.

Bonus Song #7 (If you could wrap up your life story in ONE SONG, or if you have a personal theme song, or even a song you want played at your funeral, what would that song be and why?):

Non, je ne regrette rien” by Edith Piaf

This song is a call to arms for anyone who’s been dealt a rough hand in life. Edith’s past was about as checkered as my own, and we survived. In English, some of the lyrics are:

No, I regret nothing. Not the good things that have been done to me nor the bad things, to me these are the same. It’s paid for, removed, forgotten. I don’t care about the past. With my memories, I lit the fire. Swept away for always, I start again from zero.

Goldfish’s playlist:

* Goldfish blogs at Fish of Gold. She is from Los Angeles, California.

~~~

Rara (from Rarasaur)

Song #1: 

Days Like These” by The Cat Empire

I had a pretty great childhood.  There was a lot of laughter, smiles, and grand adventures. There was head-bobbin’, grin-makin’, food-fryin’, and other bouncy times.  It was busy, and fast-paced.  If there were lyrics to my childhood, I can almost guarantee that no one besides me could make them out.

And dirty hands–
I like them see,
They make the music that we play
Sound, oh so sweet,
And my mother always made me eat broccoli
And now look at me
I’m as strong as can be!
So put some spice in my sauce
Honey in my tea
An ace up my sleeve
And a slinky plan b
And most importantly
My mad family.

Song #2:

Love You Madly” by Cake

For a while, I was obsessed with love. Finding it, keeping it, taking it to the next level– and discovering the very height of it.  Love of people.  Love of art.  Love of things.  Love of madness.

I don’t want to think about it
I don’t want to talk about it
When I kiss your lips
I want to sink down to the bottom
Of the sea.
I want to love you madly.

Song #3:

Video” by India Arie

The funny thing is, when I was obsessed with learning everything I could about love, I found a nice little groove where I really learned to love myself.  It was a happy accident.

I’m not the average girl from your video
And I ain’t built like a supermodel
But I learned to love myself unconditionally,
Because I am a queen.

Song #4:

Sleep is the Enemy” by Danko Jones

And then I just got really distracted, and really distanced from the things I knew to be true.  I started working all the time.  Life became equal parts noisy, fast, and busy.  I probably slept, but I’m pretty sure when I was sleeping, I was dreaming of stuff I had to do.

I’m ready
when I wake up.
I’ll take on everything.
I’m made of gasoline.
Relax is not a word I understand
it makes no sense to me.
Sleep is the enemy
Sleep is the enemy
I’m ready.

Song #5:

Dickhead” by Kate Nash

Then, I went through something awful and, for a long time, I would have put a myriad of other soundtracks to this period of my life.  There were long, sad ballads that represented my emotional spectrum.  There were ambushed, heavy metal songs that showcased my feelings of being under attack.  There were choppy waltzes.

But now, in hindsight, I see it all for what it really was: The actions of one man who I couldn’t possibly pretend to understand.

I wish that you were more intelligent
So you could see
that what you are doing is so shitty
to me.
Why are you being a dickhead for?
You’re just fucking up situations.

Song #6:

Mouthwash” by Kate Nash

Things are good.  Maybe I don’t believe in the possibility of a bubble lasting forever, or glitter falling from rainclouds anymore — but I’m still happy.  My sound has changed a bit… that sound of all the bad things that happened is still with me.  But, I still throw pennies in wishing wells.  I’m still me.

I still hope everything’s gonna be alright.

And, this, is my mind
And although you try to infringe
You cannot confine.
And I’m singing “oh oh” on a Friday night
And I hope everything’s gonna be alright.

Bonus song #7:

Don’t Carry It All” by The Decemberists

This song is why we love, and why we do everything we do with love — because it links us all together, and we share and bear each other’s burdens.

So raise a glass to turnings of the season
And watch it as it arcs towards the sun
And you must bear your neighbor’s burden within reason
And your labors will be borne when all is done.

Rara’s Playlist: 

* Rara blogs at RarasaurShe is from Orange County, California

Editor note: As some of you know, Rara will unfortunately be unable to personally respond to any comments on today’s post. We were lucky enough to receive her submitted answers before she was incarcerated. To learn more about her personal story you can go here or to find out how you can help or pay it forward, visit RawrLove. Rara’s husband and friends, including today’s first guest, Goldfish, will be happy to pass along your thoughts or to answer any questions you have. ~C.K.

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Thanks again for being our guests, Goldfish and Rara Queen!