A Lesson in Goodbyes

Today was James the Maintenance Man’s last day. If you don’t remember James, I mentioned him in a previous post when he dropped some serious knowledge on me. Today, with his goodbye, he managed to do so again. He always says the most beautiful things. They are simple, true, and spoken in a blues like rhythm. I’ll miss his life advice, which always seemed to find me at the perfect times.

“They said you had some pretty big shoes to fill, but you know what? Ya brought your own shoes to the party.”

“God said, ‘Stop working on everybody else! Stop tryin to change everybody. Let me change you, and then other people will see, and they’ll change too.”

“Some of the most beautiful flowers grow in the ditch.”

“I hope you can use your creative juices here. If not, they’ll get so heavy and you’ll have to go. And that’s ok.”

“When you fall in love and get married, you think you gonn wear it like a crown. Oh, you gonn have a crown, all right, but it ain’t for you. It ain’t never for you. It’s for him. And Him.”

“I got to tell these boys. You got a great woman? Serve her. Serve her and you’ll always be happy. Your the server and she’s the customer. If you start out with a bad attitude, you’re not gettin a very good tip. But if go above and beyond, see, you’ll get the reward right back.”

Shake it Off

I pull up to the traffic light and hit the brakes as quickly as possible, throwing the car in park, trying to maximize every second of the stop. “You cannot be late. You cannot be late.”

I grapple with my make up bag until I finally find the eyeliner. Two streaks and I’m done. BOOM. Now where the hell is my mascara?? Whenever I’m in a rush, my makeup carrier turns into a dysfunctional Mary Poppins bag. It’s as if suddenly whatever I use on a daily basis is nowhere to be found, but some nail polish from the fifth grade magically surfaces whenever I reach for the blush.

As I frantically rummage through the tiny bag, the lady in the lane next to me catches my attention. She has the flexibility of a fourth grade gymnast, with one leg hiked all the way up to the dashboard, her foot resting on the top of her steering wheel. She is fighting desperately to secure a very lovely stiletto strap around her ankle. The light turns green, and in an instant she and I are both throwing the shifter out of park and screeching away.

Mornings. They can either be the ultimate ass kicker or your best friend. They can either make you feel like Beyonce, ready to conquer the world in your best blow out,

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Or like Gary Busey.

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One thing that I’m learning for sure is that everyone has mornings like this. The lady in the car next to me? She looked like some sort of high ranking CEO as she tore off in her Lexus, designer shoe half fastened to her little ankle. But one off morning every now and then doesn’t mean you aren’t a super star.  

I’m learning that one trait of my personality is to paint a mosaic of myself out these rough moments. If I’m not careful, I forget the Beyonce mornings. The ones that involve getting up extra early, french press, yoga, reflection. When the stress piles up, these moments become crumpled up scraps in a trash can next to the collage I’ve painted out of the bad moments.

The trying times don’t negate where you’re headed. They are speed bumps on a road paved out in gold for you. You just have remember to put Taylor Swift on repeat, roll your windows down, hopefully swing by and pick up a girlfriend who won’t judge you for top secret T Swift mix, and floor it.

These mornings, along with a million other moments (meetings that feel more like boxing matches, your complete inability to actually create that killer portfolio, rolodex to do lists) are diesel fuel to fear. Fear of inadequacy, fear of failure, fear of judgement. It’s like every time one of these little moments happens, a naysayer buys a ticket to the Big Game, and sits in the visitor’s section of your head, booing their heart out.

I think that fear dictates more people’s lives than would ever admit to it. Last night I had a conversation with one heck of a guy, and he reminded me how important it is not to live a life where fear is crouching behind the driver’s seat. He also reminded me how incredible it feels to have a partner who supports everything you want, and everything you are capable of being. It sure makes the fear a lot less daunting.

I’ll leave you with the words of Hannah Brencher, a girl who has unknowingly become a mentor of mine.

    “The week is yours. Please don’t stay still. If you know you need to grow, please don’t stay still. Staying still– and never going to the next level inside of yourself–  is a whole different kind of failure. It is failing at the one thing that all humans are called to: change. Change that scares you out of your mind. Change you swore you never would want or need. Change that pushes you. And makes you new.
That sort of change is not to be missed. That sort of change is what guarantees that who you are today will only last for that long. Just today. Just this moment. And isn’t that beautiful? You get to be whoever the hell you want to be. And you get to kill your own comfort zone. Please don’t miss out on how lovely that could be, to finally be bigger than the broken systems of your yesterday.”

Kelsea

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Most of you think today is special because it is a Friday. If you only knew the half of it. While Fridays are fabulous, today is special for a much greater reason than that. You probably know why if you already know this girl:

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For today, is this sassy lady’s BIRTHDAY!!!!!!

I can’t tell you how happy I am that this little nugget is an integral part of my life. It started as an office romance. But before that, I was terrified of her. She was an editor, she was a ballerina, she was tall, THAT HAIR, and most of all, she was SO nice.

Then, one fateful afternoon, the Advisor to the paper decided he couldn’t go on our staff trip to LA.  He’d send the next in command, which was the then Office Manager, Kelsea McCrary. He doesn’t know this, but that was the best decision he’s ever made.

Before that, Kel and I were beginning to bond. I was going through “real life” stuff and she was totally there for me. I guess it was the life stuff that made us drop all the social politeness and get into the real business of being friends. That, and the countless hours we were spending in the office that year. (I’ve still never worked that much to this day.)

LA was like jet fuel to our friendship fire. By the time we left the sunshine state, I had a sister. It was so easy to love her, and it was just as easy to be loved by her. Somewhere between “millionaire cabbies who work for fun,” morning coffee runs, and what felt like a 12 mile walk back to our hotel after dinner (the bill was SO expensive we couldn’t afford the cab back), we clicked. So much so that we decided to be roommates once we got back to the ol boot.

A few months later we were all moved into Deborah Dr. There are so many incredible memories that I will always have from that house. Her sitting indian style in the recliner with her laptop in hand, working away while I cooked and we chatted about anything and everything through the little kitchen cut out window. Sitting on her bed while she laid on the carpet in her room, laughing about Hamilton the hammer and talking about life decisions until way past both of our bedtimes. Notes next to the coffee pots in the morning, where coffee sat, already brewed, every morning, because she’s awesome like that. My surprise graduation/bday party she threw me, even getting friends from B.R. to come up.

There are so many of them. To think on all of them at once makes my heart hurt with goodness. I’d give anything to be there today to force that Scrooge into enjoying her birthday. Maybe by the next birthday. Until then, cyber wishes will have to do. Happy Birthday McCrary, I can’t tell you how thankful I am God dropped you in my life so unexpectedly, so brilliantly.

Love you!

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American News: Showing the ISIS crisis one murder at a time.

It is 6:00, primetime, and CNN is on. A smart looking young woman in black framed glasses is addressing the ISIS violence that is sweeping parts of Iraq, making it’s way closer and closer  to the capital. The regime, (which even Al-Queda has parted ways with due to a conflict of interest and the extremism of the ISIS-and that’s saying something) has been is making it’s violence as public as possible. They gained mass media attention about five days ago, when they posted a video of an Iraqi policeman’s head being sawed off. Videos have followed of equal terror, boasting mass executions of soldiers and civilians alike. There is no body count yet, but it is surely somewhere in the hundreds.

The smart lady then opens for the following footage. There is no, “this may be disturbing for some viewers,” preface. There is no, “the following content is graphic.” There is nothing about a mature audience.  The screen blacks out slowly, and opens up to the footage. There is a man’s voiceover, deep and smooth, as he describes what is being seen. It feels somewhat like a movie preview. There is suspenseful, instrumental music. There  are dramatic pauses. Behind all the fluff runs the footage, horrifying, as a row of men, kneeling and blindfolded in front of a ditch, wait. Behind them, the armed ISIS members pace back and forth. One of the ISIS pauses behind the kneeling man who is closest to the camera. He raises his weapon, and pulls the trigger.

Freeze frame. All the music stops, the picture darkens slightly, and a nifty little graphic highlighting the bullet’s trail (about half a foot) to the back of the man’s head is highlighted in orange, ending with a little impact graphic at the contact point on the victim’s head. “The following footage is too graphic to show you,” the voiceover man finally speaks up.

“Well,” I think as I sit in my living room. “That was close, good thing you didn’t show that extra .2 seconds of video. Now that would have been disturbing. Way to know where to draw the line.”

Cut to yesterday, as I plod slowly along on the gym treadmill for a warm up. In front of me, mounted on a wall is a flat screen playing Fox News, which is also talking about the ISIS crisis. A lady in a red jacket introduces new footage, much like CNN did. I can’t hear it, but I can read the subtitles, and there is once again no warning of graphic or disturbing footage. They proceed to show video taken by ISIS of a group of terrified men, blindfolded and on their knees. They target one man and begin to question him. He is speechless with terror. I can’t convey to you how horrifying it was to watch him being badgered as he tried to find his words, knowing these were the last moments of his life. The footage shows the terrorists toying the the man, placing the barrel of their weapons along his throat.

The video cuts. Back to the woman in the red jacket. “All four men were killed. Unlike previous victims, their identities are known thanks to their families. The man shown searching for words in the video is (insert name), he has a wife and three children….(we’re taking a dramatic pause here)…one of which, is a baby girl.”

Although I had been looking down for most of the video, glancing up to see when the footage would end, I feel completely violated. Not by the situation that has happened to that poor man, but by the exploitation of the media. Between CNN and Fox News’ coverage, violated is the only word that I can think of. The footage was shown to appall me. It was shown to shock. It was shown to capture my attention in a way that doesn’t let me look away, because humans are addicted to this sort of feeling. It gives them a mini adrenaline rush that in some way signals to them that they are alive. It’s been interesting to study sales and marketing, and find so much of it in the news.

I remember when news outlets were doing the same thing with the missing Malaysia airliner. The search footage was voiced over by a man worthy of doing Hollywood previews, there were dramatic shots of helicopter blades in slow motion as a man’s feet hung out the side of the chopper. They even titled it like a movie. And of course we are drawn to this. Human’s love anything they struggle to comprehend, and the mystery of it all makes us, once again, feel somewhat alive. It’s almost impossible not to get sucked in.

I know the arguments, especially when it comes to the ISIS videos being broadcast by the news outlets. The American people need to know. They deserve to know. It opens them up to the realities of what’s going on over there. But, to an extent, I have to disagree. I understand that it takes a whole lot these days to rally Americans to more than just letting out a “that’s terrible,” and going back their warmup on the treadmill. But I argue that it’s circular; that Americans are this way because they are desensitized. Part of that is the individuals fault, but the responsibility also falls into the lap of the media.

It’s not that the footage shouldn’t be shown, it’s the manner and extent to which it is shown. CNN could very well show the footage of the captured men, but did they really need to show the shooting, and freeze frame the end of this man’s life? And then to be so delusional as to think that they shielded their audience from the violence in the video by freezing his death, instead of showing it in real time. I even argue that Fox could have shown the footage of the four men, terrified as they were. But did they really have to continue the three minute video, as ISIS lay down the man on his back and terrorized him?

We as a country need to consider why it is that these news outlets are showing this footage. After a certain point, is it about information, or ratings? Is it about knowledge, or the cheap thrill of your being conscious of your own mortality through other’s sufferings? These are questions we need to be asking. Our nation has become so obsessive about what we put into our bodies (which is great), organic, paleo, green, local, preservative free, but when will we realize that the same should go for our brains? What you take into your mind is just as important as what you take into your body. The brain is even more powerful than the body, and yet we are ignorant to the harm we do by ingesting every little bit of information that thrills us, no matter how base or disgusting.

When it comes to journalism, it is preached to always ask “why.” We need to learn that this applies not just to the journalist, but to the individual absorbing the journalism, as well.

Writing 101 Challenge: Unlock the Mind

In Writing 101’s Challenge, we are to write without anything particular on the brain, just let out a flow of consciousness. This is to “unlock the mind.”

I think the fear in this doesn’t come so much from the idea that the mind can’t be unlocked, rather that you’ll insert your key, give it a good twist and a yank only to find nothing behind the door. Just some empty room and a strange musky smell.

It was so much easier to write in college. I never would have thought writing was something that would ebb and flow that way. I always assumed that it was like a giant finish line with pink streamers and a beer booth, and once you crossed it, you crossed it. Turns out, not so. In college, when you were forced to write, there had to be something behind the door, because if there was not, could be sure that the next time you tried to open it, there would be a fat, red F sitting on the couch eating all your potato chips.
Maybe I need to hire Kathy Bates to break my ankles until I actually get something done.
(Thought: Kathy Bates —-> all your old English professors.)
How do you set a deadline for yourself? Does that really work? Does it only work for a certain kind of person? Can you be any certain kind of person you want?
How’s that for your flow of consciousness, Writing 101?