I have a surprising bit of news to share, but before I deliver it, 4 quick things.
- Jeopardy Contestant: What is… exhausted?
I was out of commission for about a week last week, thanks to a throat-throbbing and head-pounding illness that pops in on me once each winter. On day 4, I was downstairs in the kitchen by myself, brewing tea. While the water boiled and the kettle worked its way up to a high-pitched whine, I prepared a mug by rinsing it out, picked a tea bag out of a multi-pack containing 4 different flavors, and sliced a lemon-yellow lemon open. I then set the tea bag down into the bottom of the mug, squeezed fresh lemon juice on top of it, and reached for a squeezable bottle of pure, unfiltered honey. I squeezed and I squeezed and then I realized, as I watched a devastatingly tiny trickle of honey drizzle out from the nozzle, that squeezing this bottle of honey was the most tiring thing I’d done all day. It felt like the 10th mile on a Thursday night bike ride. After days of doing nothing but holing up in the house and battling illness, I was that exhausted. So I paused, setting the container down onto the counter and taking twenty seconds of stillness to power back up, and then I picked the container back up from off of the counter and continued draining honey from the bottle, the kettle now screaming at me in the background.
- “This painful reminder brought to you by multi-factor authentication.”
It happened pretty recently, but I can’t remember what I was logging into, exactly; whether I was checking on my finances, printing off updated insurance cards, or paying on a utility bill.. but while in the process of logging into whatever, I was subjected to a sort of identity verification process. “Correct password! Now, let’s move onto something a little more personal. What was the name of your childhood best friend?”
I sighed and typed in the answer I always have, and as I did so, it suddenly hit me: the answer is never going to change. This is the answer I’ve always typed in and always will.
I guess I’d never thought about how I’ll be thinking about Melissa so far off into the future — but when I’m 47, logging into my online banking, or 63, logging into BWBB, or 81 and signing into the OSEC (Outer Space Enthusiasts Club), I’ll still be thinking of her. Remembering her. Who was my childhood best friend? Melissa, of course. It will always be her. I can’t rewrite history. And while I don’t miss her the same way I used to, I still feel her vacancy. Poignantly.
- Just focus on something else.
When I was sick last week, my best friend, Charlie, was very attuned to my needs. “Need a cough drop?” “Want some more tea?” “Can I warm up some soup for you?” “Need another blanket?” He checked on me daily and, one morning, he asked for a status update: “So how’s the throat doing today?”
“Ehhhhhhhh, it’s still sore and sandpaper-y, but it’s MUCH better than yesterday,” I answered, sniffling but smiling a little.
“Well how does your left hand feel right now?”
I paused. “Ummm.. it’s fine.”
“Okay, good,” he responded quietly. “Then try to think about how your left hand isn’t hurting and it might help your throat hurt less.”
I laughed at his ridiculous optimism, but I tried it out and I’m surprised to report that it did help. Just a little. And I figure that that’s a trick you can use in other situations, too; bummed out over something? Validate that feeling of pain, anger, or disappointment, but don’t spend too much time dwelling on it; give yourself a break by refocusing your attention elsewhere and by re-channeling your energy into something more positive, productive, and uplifting.
Was going to feature this cutesy picture:
But decided that this one was way cooler:
- But isn’t that how it has to end?
Two weeks ago, I was getting dressed in my bedroom. My backpack already held all of my ‘necessary weekend items’ (laptop, phone charger, library book and wallet) and I was slipping on my Vans, bending over awkwardly while doing so, when – with my head lowered and turned to the side – a red bookcase came into view, and within that red bookcase, one book title in particular stood out to me: She’s Not There. It was the tale of a transgendered woman’s journey — transitioning with a wife and children and, as a college professor, within the public eye. As I finished tugging on one of my shoes, I asked myself: “What was the happy ending on that one?” And then I stopped.
I stood up and shook my head, realizing, for the first freaking time, that that’s what I always expect — in every movie, book, and life, even; that the ending will always be happy. Yours, mine, and ours. The truth is that it should be — endings should always be happy and peaceful, and they should only come to gather us up and whisk us away when we feel as though we’ve accomplished and experienced and produced enough — but that’s not promised to us. That’s an ideal. The end of every day, week, month and year should be happy, because who doesn’t love ending, even temporarily, on a good note, but it’s really just a roll of the dice… your dog might get hit by a car, your partner might cheat on you, you could get fired, accidentally step in something gross, or choke to death on your burrito while you’re eating dinner at home, by yourself. Hope for the best, certainly, but don’t count on it.
Now, with these 4 stories in mind, this morning, I went to church.
OMG, that sounds weird, doesn’t it? Jace walked into a church and… sounds like the opening line of a joke. It’s actually been three and a half years since I last stepped foot into a church, and after considering the idea for a few months and then discussing it with two friends yesterday afternoon, I decided to give it a shot today. One of these friends even said she’d go with me.
I woke up early this morning, took care of the dogs, showered, and then camped out in the music room, setting a 2-hour alarm on my phone so that I’d remember to leave the house in time. I wrote a new song, tabbed out the chords and lyrics, and had just begun recording the chorus vocals in Logic when the timer went off.
Shit — time to go to church, I realized, trying to taste the phrase on my tongue as I carefully placed my guitar into its case.
I hopped in the car, typed in “unitarian universalist church birmingham AL” on Google and arrived alive within twenty minutes. I felt an odd sense of anxiety bubbling up in me as I parked and then exited my car, habitually tilting my head down to ensure that the interior light bulb had switched off.
“They’re going to greet me,” I predicted. “And they’re going to smile and awkwardly touch my shoulders or hug me and.. gosh, am I going to have to pray at some point during the service?” What I’d done online, prior to showing up, was nowhere near research, but I knew this much: Unitarians didn’t discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community and they also didn’t promote a certain deity. Theirs wasn’t even a christian platform. They were a supportive bunch of progressives, of thinkers, of open-minded and kind-hearted individuals who were all on separate journeys, searching for and finding faiths that suited them, and their common bond was, from what I gathered, singular: a desire for truth.
“Doesn’t sound bad,” I’d thought, appreciating the refreshing ambiguity of the sect.
I entered through the front door and glanced down at my phone; my friend had texted that she’d just pulled up. She saw me first and ran over to hug me; we headed into the ‘sanctuary’ together, snagging seats near the back (but not the very back; moms, dads, and kids had already claimed dibs on those).
I opened up the bulletin — gosh, it had been such a long time since I’d held a bulletin in my hands, and back when I did, my name almost always appeared inside of it; me, offering prayer; me, performing special music; and, on special occasions, me, delivering the sermon.
I quickly realized, while perusing the bulletin, that this was going to be a Christmas special. My friend seemed to realize this within the same moment and groaned.
“If I had known…” she apologized, turning to me and looking distressed.
“Oh, don’t worry about it!” I reassured her. It was, at least, a soft reintroduction into the world of religion for me; live music, free smiles, and colorful, iced Christmas cookies.
Kids dominated the service, performing skits and singing songs and dancing awkwardly, without confidence or conviction, to the relaxed pacing set by the conga drum and studio piano. I did appreciate that the never-ending play featured scenes of Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t at a church, exactly… a church, yeah, but not the kind I’d grown up in and grown to disbelieve in.
The service ended, and I congratulated myself on making it through without having any weird freak out moments. My friend apologized, again, and I reassured her that there was nothing to be sorry about; I was re-acclimating to the religious world and, if nothing else, it was nice — getting to hear somebody decent play the piano and getting to sit next to a beautiful woman.
“I’ll come again in January,” I told her. “The holidays will be over by then, so hopefully I can catch an actual ‘message.'”
We grabbed lunch together at Rojo afterwards. Before placing my order (and this isn’t important to know, but it’s interesting), a young woman (seemingly my age) brushed past me and smiled at me, knowingly. “Hey girl,” she sang out. “Hey!” I smiled back at her.
Odd, I thought to myself. I don’t recognize her, but she seems really sweet.
Later on, at the end of the meal, I noticed my friend had two cinnamon rolls left on her plate. “Let me go snag a to-go box for you,” I said, stepping off of my stool and heading toward the front counter. A guy was placing an order there and he seemed to be taking a while, so I looked around, hoping to flag down another employee who could simply hand a box to me.
The same girl showed up beside me; I smiled at her: “Hey! Can you please help me find a to-go box?”
She nodded eagerly, handed me one, and then leaned in to hug me. I was, once again, extremely surprised, but hugged her back.
“It’s nice to see you,” I offered, awkwardly.
“You too! Your hair looks so GOOD today,” she exclaimed, eyeing me. “I’m so jealous. I love the angles of your face.”
I laughed at her; looking at her — dark brown eyes, long brown hair (she was Hispanic) — I wanted to say, “You are drop dead GORGEOUS,” but I couldn’t get the words to come out, so I just said: “Well you look very beautiful.”
I touched her elbow and wished her a great weekend and then returned to my friend, to-go box in hand.
“Do you know that girl?” I whispered, nodding behind me. “The one who gave me this box?”
“Hmmm.. no,” she shook her head from side to side.
“Well she just hugged me and I feel like she knows me, or like she thinks she knows me.. I don’t know. Anyways.”
We left shortly thereafter and, as I drove away, I thought to myself: Maybe I should have given that adorable girl my number. But I decided against it. Wanna know why?
Because despite the fact that I always seem to be searching, I don’t want to be in a relationship right now. I think I know, as of today, what I’m relentlessly searching for, and it’s actually two things, neither of which are a significant other. We’ll call these two things A and B.
A. Remember me going on and on about cafe girl? About how I discovered how similar we were and how that just added to the ‘heartbreak’ of her being taken? (From what I’ve gathered, we’re both short-haired vegetarians and left-handed musicians.) Well, I realized, a few weeks after meeting her, that what I liked about her was what I like about myself: my hair, my left handedness, and my love for animals and music. When I was able to translate her ‘cool features’ into my own, it was very eye-opening. Maybe we long to love and adore others because we’re afraid to love and adore ourselves. And maybe that’s what we really want in this life; to just be okay with who we are. To be okay with being in a room, in a city, in the world by ourselves. I don’t need a partner to have a purpose, and I don’t need a partner to love me when I can love myself. These are just thoughts.
B. Remember when I spent the evening crying in a hotel room in Dothan earlier this month? Oh, that’s right.. you weren’t there. Well here’s what happened.
I was reading this book called One Of Us; the gist: an evil dude develops this dream-transferring technology that enables the rich to pawn their scary or boring dreams off on lowlifes who need $$$. Eventually, one of these lowlifes (who has a remarkable dream-intake capacity) begins accepting memories from others (this is more lucrative, and dangerous, work) and, by the end of the novel, he’s finally identified a mysterious figure who’s always reappeared in his life at pivotal moments as being god. The final scene takes place at a table outside of a cafe where our main character is already seated; god walks up to him, sits down, and asks our guy to buy him a frappuccino. He does so, and when he did, I had to lay the book down and cry my eyes out.
Why is this affecting me? I asked myself, feeling absurd. And then I realized what it was: I was jealous. This fictional character was getting to sit down and drink coffee with god… and he was acting so casual about it, like it was nothing. I’d gladly chop off a leg for an opportunity to sit down and chat with the deity of the universe, but we all know that no one in 2016 will get the chance. Because… well I don’t know; that’s just the way it is, sweetheart. Instead of in-person encounters, we get faith and the written word and blah blah blah. #IJS
So I was sad, and then I was angry. If there is a deity out there, or a whole host of deities, and none of them are willing to condescend to meet with me, then why the hell should I give a shit about them?
And so on and so on.
I wouldn’t say that I’m on a faith search, or even a spiritual journey, but I am interested. I am casually looking. For girls and deities. 🙂 I don’t plan on subscribing to a particular faith or religious creed, because I don’t foresee that there will be enough ‘proof’ for me anywhere. But I think that I’ve figured it out; I’m not really longing for a romantic partner. I’m longing for a spiritual companion; somebody who knows me, somebody who’s got the answers. I don’t want a god to worship or fawn over, and I don’t want to be bossed around or micromanaged. I just want a very best friend, one I can be sure won’t leave or take advantage of me or break my heart again. I’m tired, and I’m hurt, and I’m nostalgic for the relationships that I’ve had in the past — ones where I trusted people implicitly, and invested in people fully… people whose existence and love sustained and grounded me — and I’m wanting to find healing, and companionship, in something better. I, like many others, want that kind of happy ending. Mine honestly doesn’t have to include a partner or kids or a PhD. But I’d really like to meet god. And that feels about as likely as me jumping, with nothing but conviction and my eyes closed, defying gravity, and shooting up into outer space. Aka, dream on, kid.
So, in December of 2016, my half-assed search for god began with me sitting among a smiling audience of truth-seekers as a line of small and awkward children wiggled their bodies in front of us — adorably out of time with the music and without any sense of intrinsic rhythm — and it will continue with me visiting a Unitarian Church and a Kingdom Hall in January. Know of any cool spiritual places in the ham? Shoot me a recommendation. I’m open to anything and, for the moment, committed to nothing. Commitment — now that’s a topic for another time.
I’ve referenced this meme before, but it’s worth revisiting:
On my drive over to Saturn this afternoon, I pictured myself as a chalkboard, born into this world with a bunch of shit already written and drawn onto me… other people’s beliefs, preferences, and ideals. It feels like I had to scrub all of that stuff off in order to give myself a chance to really construct and define myself. I had to wash everything away and then slowly decided to reincorporate some of the stuff I’d erased back into my life.. stuff that I realized I actually did like or identify with or believe in… and then other things that I added were entirely new, and uniquely me. It’s a fun and interesting mix. And religion is one of the things I had to scrub off. I was raised in a religious cult of davidians, the most legalistic, impractical, heartless and exclusive bunch of folks I’ve ever spent time with, and I will never, ever return to such radicalism. But I’m, intrinsically, a spiritual being, and it’s impossible for me to believe that brown eyes, three-note chords, planets, avocados, German Shepherds, laughter and kisses and 9 x 9 = 81 weren’t intelligently created, beautifully designed, or magically orchestrated.
“I like that sculpture,” my friend Ryder said yesterday as we were both walking past it.
“Huh — it’s interesting!” I commented. “It sort of looks like the person is falling apart.. disintegrating.”
“Or perhaps they’re coming together,” Ryder offered quietly.
Slowly piecing myself back together —