Tuesday, April 15, 2008

RS: Some days you should get out of bed

The car service would arrive on time at 6:00 am. It was 5:45. I hadn't packed or rinsed the stink of night from any location. I was fucked.

Things flew, curses chewed, clothes strewn, packing through. Closed the suitcase, zipped around uncertain contents. I could buy whatever I needed when I landed. On the way out the door, I reached for a book from an unsteady stack. Branding books were too close to work. Others had already lost my attention. The recommendations, the supposed-to-reads, held a weight of obligation. I was traveling light. On my bedside table I noticed Conversations With God.

By the time I settled into the car, I already regretted bringing the book. I had tried to read it before and was only able to digest about a page before I had to put it down. Too much to take in. Too much thought required. Weight of obligation, indeed.

I checked my Blackberry, both of them, then my itinerary—I have my priorities straight. Fucked again. I had ordered the car to come a good 45 minutes earlier than I needed. I reached for the book to beat myself about the head but decided to open it instead. I read 10 pages before it occurred to me I was supposed to have been overwhelmed 9 earlier. Was it just easier this time? Was the student simply ready? Was I still asleep?

Regardless, things made sense. I kept reading. As I approached the gate, still digesting, I read, "For each circumstance is a gift, and in each experience a hidden treasure." Poetic? Yes. New? No. Was this sow's ear of a day beginning to silken along with my attitude? Maybe.

The gift of the circumstance was a memory that I unwrapped as hastily as my sausage biscuit waiting at the Terminal C Food Court. I remembered how the book came into my life. It was mysterious, nearly miraculous.

Hours out of the Loony, I arrived home to take on my life. Under cover of thorazine-packing guards, I had picked myself up and dusted myself off. Without a care (or responsibility) in the world, it had been downright delightful. Until you've been propositioned by a 70 year old man wearing a crooked eczematic grin and plastic underpants, had to drag yourself away from the Nick at Night lineup in the "Entertainment Room" to search for a woman's missing upper denture while her roommate runs in circles screaming, "Daisy's teeth are gone! Daisy's teeth are gone!", or sat across from someone shaking so uncontrollably from being medicated that the pees kept flying off her fork, well, until then you may not have seen in a dark moment just how much light surrounds you, or at least how much darker it could have been—and thus found delight and comfort in a place that did little more than remind you what you were not. Trust me, I didn't want to stay a minute longer and wouldn't want to go back; but at the time, it was good medicine. On the outside, with no base of comparison, how was I to know how bright my light was shining? No offense to Nat King Cole, but this starting all over again was nothing to sing about. No offense to the song leader at Vacation Bible School, but hiding this little light of mine under a bushel wasn't my biggest challenge.

My doorman called to let me know there was a package for me. It was simply wrapped with no note. Conversations With God? I hadn't been home for more than 30 minutes. Only three people in the tri-state area even knew I was gone and two of them didn't believe in God. But I believe there are angels walking among us, doing nothing less than loving us when we feel least loveable, helping us when we don't know we need help, and shining their light to kindly show that ours has grown too dim. This was a gift from an angel. I've been lucky, I've had many of them. I mean, I am lucky, I have many of them.

This book, this reminder—why did I need to be reminded today?—melted away the pissedness into a reluctant (I am reluctant to do much of anything that early in the morning) gratitude. Now your talkin, God.

Actually, we haven't talked much at all God and me. My fault mostly. I rarely calmed down enough to listen. Didn't really know what I was listening for. And was too, something, to start the conversation. Getting on my knees to pray just felt a little foolish. Sitting quietly is not my gift. I've had conversations in my head. Problem was, I always felt I was talking to myself. And for some reason, every time something seemed important enough to elevate to a higher power, I always had the same question. . .why? I never got an answer, but mostly that is because I didn't really want to hear it. I wanted to engage in a mononag, not a dialog. But I go to church to feel connected, to hear God in the sermon or the songs.

In church this Sunday, the service was about women, the power of women, what women want. Seems March was Women's Month and that whole Jesus on the cross thing had prioritized the she out of the whole she-bang. I grew up in a place where I saw women being equals to men, doing equal work. Don't get me wrong, where I grew up, women have a place and are expected stay in it with their mouths shut—one of those places where there's nothing to say to a woman with 2 black eyes, she's already been told twice. But that place also produces some fine women who have found remarkable power in their place and vast voice in silence. There also happen to be fine men there who know they are head of the household in name only.

I grew up on a beef ranch. When there was a job to do, whoever was sitting closest to the pick up door was the one to jump out and do it. There was no time to stop and assign work based on gender. I did my level best not to end up next to the door. Besides, there wasn't a job they could throw at me that I would perform with an ounce of enthusiasm or expertise. My sister, Carla, spent most trips to the farm with her fingers twitching on the door handle, ready to go where needed. This is a girl who could catch mice in our barn on the run, while I wobbled around like a new-born foal not taking a chance at getting my hands on one of those mangey little boogers. My stepfather always said he preferred my mother to any man he ever worked with on the farm. My mother got the work done and did it smartly. More than once we had big old dopey men helping out who thought they could just man handle a herd. Took twice as long to get half as much done. And if anyone thinks the head of the household is actually in charge at my sister's, Jan, house, I'll take bets that about 10 seconds in her presence will disavow them of that notion.

I grew up among powerful women. I grew up thinking all women were Super Women. My mother got me up, ironed my clothes, fixed me a hot breakfast, packed my lunch, took me to school, went to work, went to the farm, came home, cleaned house, made dinner, did laundry, helped me study, watched the news, went to bed tired and started all over again the next morning. All Moms do that, right? I've learned over time that they don't. Moms who make the choices my mother did, don't have super powers. Every single thing on that list my mother did, she did for me and my sisters not because she had to. And because of her, my grandmother and my sisters, every day was about women, so March could be about March.

A lot of spiritual philosophies claim we choose our parents. If so, I did a pretty good job. Some of my friends, not so much. But do we get to choose those angels? Is it that we attract them into our lives based on what we need to learn? Or are they generous observers who, traveling their own journey, take the time to step off their road less traveled long enough to help us to our feet and back onto our own path? Is this the real conversation with God?

Have I been listening for a "voice" when God was already speaking in voices? I have to say, it all left me a bit curious. I wanted an answer. It left me a bit anxious. I needed an answer. It left me downright impatient. Give me an answer, Goddammit! My mind was in a spin, a virtual vomit of questions, stream of consciousness, all commas and alphabet soup.

As the plane pulled away from the gate, I leaned my head against the back of the seat. "Be still and know" I remembered. Again, not a skill of mine that being still. My head was pounding from the sheer volume and volume of the conversation. This was no way to have this plane take off, I had a fucking moment of gratitude and now it is being shot to shit because you won't talk to me, so why the hell did you give me this stupid symbolic epipha-fucking-ny at the crack of crack in the morning when you know I am tired and all I want to do is go to sleep and now you won't give me this simple little answer, why, why, why won't you just tell me something, give me a fucking clue, just tell me something, anything, just say something. . .

Then, in a still, quiet thought, I heard the words, "Shut the fuck up and go to sleep." Next thing I knew, my plane touched down in Tampa. Nice talkin to ya, God.

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