shiny things.

I’m always amazed by the kinds of things I remember.  Most of the time, I can’t remember the big picture – I just remember one thing that stuck in my mind.

I don’t remember reading Aesop’s Fables the whole way through with grandma, but I remember the Crow and the Fox and Swiss Cheese falling out of a tree.

I can’t remember what we were doing one day when my family walked down the Pump Station lane, but I remember a single Indian Paintbrush growing in the grass.

I remember leaving a ring on the bathroom sink somewhere in Texas, crying because I was six, and going back with mom to find someone had taken it.

I remember reading about Kaya, the Nez Perce American Girl, putting moss in her moccasins; I took a walk to the alfalfa field behind my house, stuffed my moccasins, and laid down in the field at the start of a storm because the start of rain is one of my favorite feelings.

But I’m always amazed how I can read a whole section of a textbook, an entire story, even a research paper – and only remember a silly, fun fact.  Sometimes, only a few sentences out of hundreds stick in my mind.

I still remember Stacey is the brother’s name in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, but I read the book when I was 10 and completely forget what it was about.

I remember the cover of The Giver, and of A Wrinkle in Time, and I completely forget the stories.

I remember the pictures I pained in my head of the Trolls’ cave door when Gandalf opened it, but I hardly remember the story.

I remember the moment Ned sees the one-eyed cat in the book One-Eyed Cat, and that’s all I remember.

I remember My Side of the Mountain and how badly I wanted to live with hawks or in a tree.

I can see the stallions and geldings in my head from the countless Marguerite Henry horse books, stories of Chincoteague wild horses, and other equestrian classics that I would sit under the library skylights and read during free hours in Mr. J’s library.

Okay, enough reminiscing…

The story that stands out time and time again, after all these years, I finally realize is a lesson.  I never saw it as a lesson.  At the time, I was 11, I thought this story was about how stupid raccoons are.  Instead, it’s about how stupid people can be.

The story part I remember is from the book Where the Red Ferns Grow.  That is probably the first time in my life I can remember my entire class at Valley crying together: Mrs. Koza, the assistant Mrs. Dempsey, and all 20 or so of us 5th graders, boys and girls, crying equally.  I forget who was the first one to cry, but it was like flood gates opening.  In fact, it might have been Mrs. Koza reading the part out loud when…well, I won’t give that away.  That’s near the end, when we learn where the red fern grows.

The only parts I remember of the story is the end, the section when I learned what “entrails” are and cried because of how I learned it, and the raccoon.

The boy in the story comes across a trap in the woods.  It’s a log with holes drilled in it.  Some cruel trapper put a shiny object inside, drove nails around the holes, and left it be.  It was to catch raccoons – they would want the object, then not let go to get their hands out even if the hunter was coming along to club them to death.

I thought it was about how raccoons like shiny things and are dumb.  And that’s a little true.  But it’s more about how cruel humans are, and how fickle animals and people alike can be.  How shiny things blind us.  In some ways, the passage is talking about the idea of “sin”.

So you can imagine how a 5th grader latched on to that scene playing in her head, of a raccoon struggling in a log for a cheap, worthless, shiny scrap, maybe starving for some time, and a silly hunter coming along, clubbing it, throwing out the mess and keeping the tail or the skin or something foolish, and letting it happen all over again.

Hunting for weaknesses.

Do you have shiny weaknesses in your life?

welfare and deloria.

I have always had a problem accepting that a day is only 24 hours long, and that my body legitimate needs to sleep a fair portion of those hours away.  I just don’t understand how one can seriously fit the utmost rewarding days in those many hours.  I wake up early to get a workout in for my own health, but I’m also expected to work an 8 hour work day and find time for meals the middle.  However, I hate being cooped up inside and I don’t like fast food, so I find myself craving to be outside as soon as I get home – and spending extra time getting adequate meals.  I also have a number of activities I enjoy doing like dance and sports and even just going to the beach or trying out a new place in town.  Well, how can I do all of these things and still find time to read books and write and draw and…play with my cats?  I’m thinking about starting a petition to make the days longer.

All of those things fall under the definition of welfare.  Welfare includes health, safety, happiness, and prosperity.  I looked up the definition when I finally got a minute to continue reading Custer Died for Your Sins by Vine Deloria, Jr.  He’s a humorous and rather crude writer who, in this particular chapter, takes time to blame Pilgrim society for our welfare problems and stereotypes.  Welfare, as in the government program.  And I got to thinking, wow – I can’t imagine what I would be doing with my time if I didn’t work…except, just kidding.  First of all, I’d be constantly looking for work.  Second, I never have nothing to do.  There’s always something!  Always a book to read, a movie to watch, or inspiration to draw or run or…yeah, you get the point.

But then Deloria makes a somewhat convicting point.  I definitely do think of people on welfare as being sloths.  I know I shouldn’t generalize, but when I think of welfare I just think of people trying to take advantage of the system and live reckless lives at others’ expenses.  I’m just going to share a couple paragraphs by Vine:

 

          There is basically nothing real about our economic system.  It is neither good nor bad, but neutral.  Only when we place connotations on it and use it to manipulate people does it become a thing in itself.
Our welfare system demonstrates better than anything else the means to which uncritical white economics can be used.  We have all types of welfare programs: old age, disability, aid to dependent children, orphanages, and unemployment.  There is continual controversy in the halls of Congress, state legislatures, and city halls over the welfare programs.
Conservatives insist that those receiving welfare are lazy and are getting a free ride at the expense of hard-working citizens.  Liberals insist that all citizens have a basic right to life and that it is the government’s responsibility to provide for those unable to provide for themselves.
What are we really saying?
Welfare is based upon the norm set up by the Puritans long ago.  A man is define as a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, healthy, ambitious, earnest, and honest, a man whom the Lord smiles upon by increasing the fruits of his labor.  Welfare is designed to compensate people insofar as they deviate from that norm.  Insofar as a woman has an illegitimate child, she receives compensation.  Insofar as a man is disabled, he receives compensation.  Insofar as a person is too old to work, he receives compensation.
Welfare buys that portion of a person which does not match the stereotype of the real man.  Welfare payments are never sufficient, never adequate.  This is because each person bears some relation to the norm and in proportion to their resemblance, they receive less.

 

After reading this section, it struck me that old Christian ideals are really what we use to define “welfare”.  Even the government is giving handouts based on those same ideals and expectations.  Since these ideals and our democratic society define welfare and happiness, etc., as being able to afford a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear,…  We’re expected to fit into roles and family molds, so when a piece is broken and it doesn’t quite fit anymore, the government tries to patch it up.  We’re not really given a choice on how to live.  (Maybe the one exception to that is the guy that quit ordinary life to live in a cave in Moab, but I think even he has since been shut down by some loophole the government devised.)  And it’s not surprise to me that Vine is particularly aggressive against this concept of welfare.  I mean, he’s a Sioux writer and avidly denounces any and every remnant of American efforts for Indian assimilation and termination of the reservations.  He wrote this book at the end of the Termination Era and during the Civil Rights movement for blacks, so I’d say his candidness is highly justifiable.

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A famous quote by Vine Deloria, Jr.

That candidness is what causes me to love Deloria and what causes others (especially close-minded whites) to really hate him.  He has a knack for conviction and also for pounding accusatory points home.  When the points he make align with your beliefs or the ones you get from reading what he writes, then you can hardly refrain from putting your hands up and shouting

PREACH!  th (yes, that did just happen)

But he also has a tendency to totally call you out on things, like my outlook on welfare apparently aligning with a conservative mindset and his shedding light on my subconscious acceptance of the Christian perspective of welfare and success.

Ahh…and I’ve feel like I’ve done it yet again.  I tend to do this to myself, to branch out and read convicting things that sort of knock me flat and question everything I’ve come to know.  Then that leaves me trying to sort out what’s the right way to go.  I’ve already had a sense that “ordinary” life is contrived, and I’m sure that contributes to my running around like a fool trying to live it to its best and fullest, but now…now I can question my efforts all over again, from a refreshed base.  Which won’t be as hard to do if I can convince this Puritan government to accept my petition and tack on a few more hours to this ancient 24-hour-day concept.

do everything better.

I’d heard a lot about Shauna Niequist’s book, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way.  When I tried to reserve it and had to wait weeks on OhioLink, I figured there must really be something good about it.  And it certainly proved to have a lot of simple, selfless moments of realization.  It got me thinking about how I perceive myself, amongst many other things in life.

Reading Shauna’s book, I could feel a lot of similar internal struggle buried under the obvious fact that I am not the girly, frilly, fashion-obsessed, hair-dying lady that Shauna is externally.  In some ways, this realization made me try to compare myself to her more and more as I read – the kind of comparison she accused herself of throughout the book and strove to avoid.  But, despite the moments when I felt so underachieved (I always want to DO BETTER), there were certainly a plethora more when something seemed to stream from my thoughts rather than my reading and I wanted to flip to the cover of the book and make sure I wasn’t actually the author…

I used to think that the ability to turn back time would be the greatest possible gift, so that I could undo all the things I wish I hadn’t done.  But grace is an even better gift, because it allows me to do more than just erase; it allows me to become more than I was when I did those things.  It’s forgiveness without forgetting, which is much sweeter than amnesia.

I can remember all of those times when I actually had a perfect moment and I wanted to be absorbed by it.  I would be so blinded by what was that I would forget to live in what is and instead would dream that what will could be as perfect as what has been.  It’s been hard, but I’ve been practicing taking rejection, failure, and discomfort and dwelling on them in a positive way, one that doesn’t change who I am but which opens me to my fullest capacity.  DO BETTER, but on the inside.  That doesn’t always show on the outside.

These years will pass much more quickly than you think they will.  You will go to lots of weddings, and my advice, of course, is to dance your pants off at every single one… Time will pass, and all of a sudden, things will begin to feel a little more serious.  You won’t be old, of course.  But you will want to have some things figured out, and the most important things only get figured out if you dive into them now.

And this is why I like reading and talking to people that have been there.  Why try to figure things out for yourself?  You’re given the luck to not be in the earth’s first generation of humans.  Shauna may not be “old”, just “older”, but still – there’s a reason why the elders are the respected, wise group in traditional communities.  If you want to be better, DO BETTER, you go to them.

For a while in my early twenties I felt like I woke up a different person every day, and was constantly confused about which one, if any, was the real me.  Isn’t that the truth.  Every year, you will trade a little of your perfect skin and your ability to look great without exercising for wisdom and peace and groundedness, and every year the trade will be worth it.  I promise.  Which is good to hear.  Because aren’t we so often concerned with the former and not appreciative of the latter?  Not just in ourselves but in other people as well?  What is really the goal in life?  For whom are you living it?

Now is your time.  Become, believe, try… Don’t spend time with people who make you feel like less than you are.  Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned.  Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.

So how to capture that inspiration?  How to admit what I should be doing?  I would expect Shauna’s advice to be action, but in fact it’s an act of passiveness that she suggests: Admit what you don’t do.  Because spinning your wheels only buries yourself deeper when you keep trying harder to go faster and do better.

I tended to get so tired I’d cry without knowing why, why my life sometimes felt like I was running on a hamster wheel, and why I searched the faces of calmer, more grounded women for a secret they all knew that I didn’t.  (AMEN!)

This is how I got to that fragmented, brittle, lonely place: DO EVERYTHING BETTER…a super-charged triple threat, capturing in three words the mania of modern life, the anti-spirit, anti-spiritual, soul-shriveling garbage that infects and compromises our lives…

Deciding what I wanted wasn’t that hard.  But deciding what I’m willing to give up is like yoga for…that nasty little person inside of you who exists only for what people think.

So, I who loves lists as much as Shauna will now make a new one… Despite what I WANT to do, despite what I WANT to be, here are the things that I, right now, just am NOT, some things I don’t do:

—I don’t have organization.  Disorganization stresses me out, and I have OCD tendencies, but knowing I will fail when I try to keep clean and organized just makes me feel crushed before I even start.  So, thanks, mom for suggesting it’s a reflection of an “artistic” mind.  I’ll just keep being this artsy, I guess…

—I don’t accessorize well.  It’s a lot of work.  I don’t change out my earrings, rings, and necklaces as much as I wish because I just find it a waste of time.

—I don’t keep up with fashion.  It’s just not who I am or in my interests, and I especially don’t support the direction the fashion industry is going these days.  Low-cut shirt?  No thanks.  And I prefer that my underwear stays under my clothes..  Also, my mentality is stuck in circa 1962.  And I like having it there.

—I don’t keep up with TV or movies.  It’s not important to me who an actor is or what he ate for breakfast.  I would rather read a book, stretch my mind, and go for a run.

—I don’t know how to make mixed drinks.  I have the book, the equipment, the desire, but I have neither the guests to entertain nor the money to buy the ingredients needed to mix the amazing concoctions of my dreams.

—I don’t make good rice.  I did once in my life.  It was in error, I’m sure.  I’ll make a mile-high meringue, cordon bleu that I won’t eat, hand-kneaded bread, asparagus with hollandaise, an awesome pie crust from scratch… but I will over-salt, under-water, not set the timer and completely burn every last grain of rice…then neglect to scrape the mess off for days.  And the sad part is I really like rice.

—I don’t wash my dishes in a timely manner (see above).

—I don’t get my nails done.  I hate my toes (despite hating socks and shoes as well) and I just cannot for the life of me justify manicures.  They’re expensive, they actually look really dumb, and an athletic girl simply cannot keep paint on her fingers.  Plus, I just fiddle with them and pick the paint off.

—I don’t fix my hair.  I want my hair to be nice every day, but, like my lack of willpower to organize, I give up before I start.  It’s just so daunting.

—I don’t even know how to do makeup.  I try, but I usually put on patches of bronzer or blush and give up.

—I don’t go to clubs.  And I don’t intend on starting.

These are kind of silly and maybe just make me seem lazy, but I guess that’s the point.  And seeing the things I am NOT reminds me of the things that I AM, which I like.  I’m NOT go-with-the-crowd, jump-on-the-bandwagon.  I’d rather make a riot and go against something just to know that I didn’t go along with everyone else.  I like my independence.  I kind of like NOT DOING.

So, instead of doing everything better, I think I’ll start not doing more often.

Dear Mister.

Dear Mister,

If you saw this, you would probably know who you are.

There are so many things I wanted to tell you this weekend, but I didn’t.  If I told you those things, they would sound like excuses.  If I told you how I felt, that would sound like persuasion.  No, I have to wait.  I have to wait until you ask the right questions, and then I can only hope that those answers will come as easily as they would when I withheld them previously.

Mister, there are so many things I wanted to tell you yesterday when I finished that book.  I couldn’t say them, though.  At first, I couldn’t say them because you asked and I was still a few pages away from finishing and I couldn’t possibly have gathered my thoughts by then.  Then I finished it, and you asked, but there was someone in the room and I couldn’t say the truth with him there.  And when it was all good and I was ready to tell you how, wow, a silly book has…proved me really wrong… well, you never asked.  And if I made you ask, it would seem too cunning.  I just hoped you would ask.  I really wish you would ask.  But I’m afraid to answer if you do.  I’m afraid to be that vulnerable, to have been that wrong, to say kind words and have you judge them whether deservingly or not, but I’m especially afraid of how it will change the future.  My future with those who have suppressed this kind of thing before, as well as my future relations with you, mister.  Because I don’t want to come off as ill-intentioned.

Today, mister, I had so many feelings.  So much anger.  I was so frustrated, I needed comfort, and I was still piling on hurt from yesterday and feeling sorry for myself.  There were so many things i wanted you to do, to say, to ask, to whatever…but you didn’t.  And so I now feel foolish, because I acted cruelly and you would never be so cruel but you let me be cruel anyway.  I wanted so many things, but I got nothing.  You left without saying goodbye, not in person at least.  I was hoping all week to see you after work, but I won’t have that either.  I always think, what if what if what if something goes wrong, with my road trip, with your– no, I won’t even think that.  But what if we never got to speak again?

This week I have wanted to start so many conversations.  But I think, because I know they’re the conversations that you long to hear, I am avoiding them at all costs.  Because I know they are the conversations you want, and that I want because you want, but I wanted them before you wanted them because I wanted to have what I couldn’t otherwise have.  And they never happened because I could never deceive or lie like that.  But then suddenly everything changed, like I got punched in the face in such a way that it almost felt like a caress.  And now I want to scream to you, “I understand!  I understand!  I was so wrong…I still don’t get it all, and I’m still scared, but I love this too much to let it go…” but I know you probably would rejoice to hear that, yet have skepticism that I’m doing it because I’m trying to get what I want…which is not true…but I would rather never tell you than have you believe that.

I’d rather loose everything than seem false.

Am I foolish?  I don’t know.  I’m so confused.  You’re probably the only one who could make sense of this, yet I doubt you’ll ever read this. Ever.  And so maybe an opportunity will slip by because I can’t find the courage to do this.  Maybe that’s the test.  I’ll probably fail. I usually find a way to fail…

Mister, all I want is some solid time alone with you to work this out.  Without feeling deceptive.  Without feeling confused.  But I think we also have to meet somewhere in the middle…

Love,
K.F.

Blindness and What It Is to Be Blessed

I flew from Atlanta to Raleigh yesterday across from a blind man and his seeing dog. It made me think a million thoughts a second. How does his dog help? What if he lost his dog? What if he fell in the airport and things fell from his bag and no one helped? Does he get scared by the plane suddenly landing if his wife doesn’t warn him?

He was using an iPhone by some audio feature and a tablet to listen to an audio book that scrolled visibly in front of him. He could pause and scan through it by stroking the screen in learned patterns.

Talking to my friend Minnie later, we decided that being blind isn’t necessarily a curse. In some ways, isn’t it a blessing? I mean, what is a blessing? Is it not a lesson learned from a challenge overcome? Isn’t blindness a challenge?

And yet being born blind is just being born without a sense you don’t know. Behind others in one capacity, but surely more aware in hearing and more alive in feeling. Less over-stimulated and more conscious perhaps?

Then I thought, do the stories and descriptions in a book make sense to someone who has always been blind? Have blind people written books? How do they describe their stories?

And now I want to read such a book, to really absorb the thoughts of a “challenged” person and decide for myself what blindness and other misfortunes/blessings really do to/for us.

Is This Progression?

I just got back from a long day full of work, my first dance class in a new studio, and attending Market Garden Brewery’s Brews + Prose as I always do – this time with special company.  It’s the same old routine, a few new tweaks, and yet these are the moments when I feel like my “year of discovery” hasn’t progressed me in the slightest.

I’m still in the same dull town, one year later.  I’m working a real job, but it technically doesn’t answer my calling.  I changed studios because I am not cut out to be a full-time, successful dance competitor and am settling for shows.  I went to a favorite event at a favorite place with a favorite person and felt just as ORDINARY as I did with said favorite person a year ago.  Not my intentions.

While traveling the world changed me internally, these external qualities are depressingly static.

So depressing that I can’t help but feel another wave of depression.  It’s not because it’s winter; it’s because this is life, and life strikes at inconvenient times.

I’m exhausted from a day of internal struggle.  I long for freedom and self-expression.

I also long for a second of that last pale ale because, darn, that was good.

Brick by Boring Brick.

Image

The familiar lyrics echo through my mind as I proceed through monotonous, daily chores at work, on the commute, while cleaning,…:

Keep your feet on the ground
While your head’s in the clouds

I mean, how real is that?  I’d always been a dreamer.  I was always lost in books, so out of it that sometimes people would talk for minutes before they realized I was engrossed in the pages of a Brain Jacques or Michael Shaara creation.  I was the girl who was never caught flirting with the boys on the playground; instead, I would escape the feelings of inferiority by climbing high into a spruce in my plaid skirt at recess, lying back on a branch against the trunk, and seeing if I could read a whole chapter before the bell rang.  Up here, no one could hurt me.  And in the worlds I read about, I could do anything.

But it was always important to remember, when I put the book down, that no book would save me from test scores or barn chores.  I still found a way to live in both worlds.  When my life got tough and I couldn’t sleep, I was the misbehaved child whose only misbehavior was when she sneaked out of bed at 2am, curled up under her desk, and read an entire novel by nightlight before her alarm went off the next morning.  I was determined to keep my feet on the ground and still have my heads in the clouds.

And when my world became more tragic, I did build it up with magic in my mind.  My favorite part of the day was the part when I would lay down at night with my CD player in and play out the same routine in my mind to the tracks.  In other words, I made my own music videos that enabled me to absorb the lyrics and also imagine myself doing anything I wanted.

Make sure to build your heart brick by boring brick
Or the wolf’s gonna blow it down

Paramore’s Brick by Boring Brick is just such a hit-homer.  Not only does it include these ideas and these words, but it holds a much deeper meaning.  It wasn’t until I started to really read the lyrics about princes, betrayal, loneliness, losing contact with the real world,…she’s ripping wings off of butterflies…and noting the butterfly on the cover of the Brand New Eyes album did it become clear: This song is in a way running parallels between our means of escaping the hard times as well as the psychological assault scientists have, in past times, placed on children called Monarch Programming where they build up their thoughts in imaginary lands of castles and mirrors…and so let’s bury the castle.  Don’t believe me?  Read about it here.

(After just posting about The Butterfly Circus, and now this, I think it’s funny how everything comes full-circle.  My Potawatomi Indian name is, after all, Mem’iki – or butterfly.  My grandma gave it to me not just because she once told me it’s her favorite being but because I’m her little butterfly who flits around the world incessantly.)

But, in conclusion, I will add my favorite part of Brick by Boring Brick, a section of the bridge that makes me think there is really something powerful behind what this is saying:

If it’s not real, you can’t hold it in your hand
You can’t feel it with your heart
And I won’t believe it
But if it’s true, you can see it with your eyes
Oh, even in the dark
And that’s where I want to be

Take from it what you will: psychology, religion, love,…I feel like these lyrics touch on both the physical and spiritual essence that embodies the things we cling to and why.  Look up the song.  You might really enjoy it, too.