Submarines.

I’m just tired; I’ve got some work to do; I’m fine; I don’t know what you’re talking about.

He went with, “I’m just a little tired,” because it was the most convenient half-truth to tell at the time.  It felt like he could do nothing right that day.  And he knew – he had been told, really – that it was all just an overreaction to a single negative situation, and his programed response to it was to catastrophize.  Nevertheless, he didn’t care to fight back tonight.  He joked about physical exams earlier, realizing too late that she was anxious from her latest checkup.  The doctors were taking an uncommonly long time to return the results to her; in fact, self-diagnosing led her down a dark corridor with the walls closing in on all sides, stopping with just enough room for her to tuck her knees into her chin and hope beyond grace that it was all just catastrophizing.  He hadn’t meant to lead her by the hand back to the corridor.

How selfish he was, letting his regret show on his face, putting her in a place of regretting her openness about her very real issue while fighting to steady the darkness from encroaching upon the rest of her night.  And the way he left, making a big show of just how much he regretted making the joke, all the while leaving her ashamed and thinking – wrongly – that maybe she was being a burden on other people.  Maybe he was putting prison bars where freedom walked, giving in to the whispers of doubt about just how good of a friend he actually was, and none of this was happening at all.  He wanted to feel guilty about what had happened – he deserved to bear the responsibility for his mistake because he was supposed to be a good friend.  It was the most convenient half-truth to accept at that time.

The retreat inwards began, but he didn’t notice.  He just needed to get through to the end, and he would be home free – free from ruining anymore of his relationships, free to be silent, free to not live underneath the expectations that others had come to own.  He would just run from it all because after all, he was just a coward who couldn’t face his reflection when it surrounded him.  All he did was lie, sell himself as better than he really was, believe in his own lies, and continue manufacturing selves.  Positivity was his most polished mask, and his heart had accumulated enough of his half-truths to believe it owned a single, reliable shard of honesty.  At the end of the day, he was weak.  He wanted to be strong; he wanted to be reliable; he wanted to be honest; he wanted to be kind; he wanted to be free to know who he was and where he stood without the ground collapsing at the slightest nervous shift in weight from right to left, plunging him into the frigid and lonesome below.  He was catastrophizing.

Another mistimed joke, and he found himself lost.  Why was he? Had he not realized that he could have tried not belittling people around him for once, just so that his own crudeness could find a measure of stability?  Was it impossible for him to understand that who he was just didn’t fit who he thought he was?  He was pitiful.  He’d go home and paint something – painting would do the trick, what with the silence and the focus on making something really intricate so that he would just forget seeing his own face stapled onto his friend’s disappointment.  He knew that it had been a rough week for him, but he let his own charm poison the vial even more.  What a wreck.  He really didn’t know who he was at all.  All this time, he had the ridiculous idea that he had been doing him a favor when he himself was the burden.  Is it only now occurring?  He probably thought he was an idiot for even trying to show him in the most explicit way that he wasn’t the friend he thought he was, and here he was, thinking that he was saving him from the shadows.  There wasn’t a thing right about him.

He dove into the dark of the ocean, colliding with the side of the boat on the way down.  Abrasions didn’t matter anymore at this point; he wasn’t even sure he felt the slick, dull, trauma anymore.  I can’t do anything right. I’ve heard that one already.  Why are you wasting your time? Be honest about your mistakes.  You’re the reason we’re here.  Are you still here? Haven’t you grown up yet? Jeez. Get a grip. Move on. Stop worrying so much.  Time will tell.  Why didn’t you say anything? You disappoint me.  Where is the surface?  Don’t be a baby.  Where are you going?  You don’t understand.  Why am I here? You’ll be fine.  I can’t feel anything anymore.  Who’s fault is that?  You made this mess, you fix it.

His heart pounded and every beat felt heavier and heavier and slower and slower he felt it in his head and in his eyes until he was realizing that he was trying to breathe in deeply he was trying to breathe in but his lungs weren’t enough for him and he saw that it was dark except for a single moon far away though far from him and who he was and where he needed to be so he breathed less hoping to reflect on things more and realize that it was just catastrophizing it was just in his head it wasn’t going to be that bad it couldn’t be that bad what was going on he hadn’t felt this way in a long time but he couldn’t find his way out except to talk to no one about it because that’s who understood him best.

I can’t breathe.  Just let me wake up.

Please.

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Falling Branches.

 

A branch fell down today, carried off by

the wind?

Or was it the weight of life

bearing downwards a moment too long,

breaking its ability to hold on?

It fell slowly but loudly whispered,

demanding my attention, and so I paid.

The leaves fluttered, excited

to meet the ground.

The grass! Their unknown, distant cousins embraced

some of them, yet some of them

were still born aloft by the natural way of

the branches.

They had to wait their turn.  Warmth found them all

as the sun shadowed them with light;

they wait until night to begin life anew.

The thoughts of the natural world are –

or aren’t they?

Perhaps I’ve been staring outside for too long.

Highway to Hip.

Ethiopian beans are ground,

so filled with vibrant life.

A lovely smell my nose has found –

awake the after-life.

The brown remains are soon poured out

into the chamber’s heart

as boiling water is whored out

to heat the inner part.

The tamped-down grounds are introduced

to scalding, steaming rain;

I lick my lips as it’s reduced

to heal the waking pain.

The shot is pulled, and life is formed

within a humble cup.

I take a sip, my soul is warmed –

espresso’s just enough.

See You Next Fall.

The contents of the following narrative come from within the confines of my imagination; no elderly people were harmed in the process.

“I get it, the drought’s over.” I donned my “leopard yellow” – it was really more of a canary yellow, if you ask me – North Face raincoat and stepped outside in some old, oversized, navy-blue Crocs.  Yes, they were the ones with the holes on top, but I figured the odds of the raindrops falling precisely into those little perforations were even (thanks, Olan), so I confidently stepped out in them.  Stuffing the aging ‘U S A # 1’ lanyard into my right pocket, I thought about what kind of mail would be waiting for me in the cluster mailbox unit.  Bills and credit card pre-approvals, most likely.

Having gotten used to the black, non-slip Crocs I wear at Heritage Cafe, I realized that not all Crocs were made equal in regards to slip resistance.  Some panels of sidewalk were gritty enough to provide the traction that my clogs lacked, but other panels were waiting to put me on a gag reel.  I tread on a red carpet of fallen leaves, resigned to the fact that the only signs of fall were to be found during a Californian winter.  This slippery sidewalk is going to be a sign of fall too, if I’m not careful.

After looping around the gated swimming pool in the center of the housing community, I began to hear a faint hum, like the buzz bees make behind you when you’re running as far from your mistake as possible.  That’s odd – what would bees be doing out in this rain, and where are they so I don’t scream when I see too many of them?  As I carefully rounded the corner bush facing the entrance to the swimming pool, the source of the low commotion hit me like a train.  The elderly were strewn about the rest of the way to the mailboxes, moaning in soggy unison as their old age coupled with the ruthlessly slick rectangles of concrete mingled in a momentous occasion.  There wasn’t enough Life Alert in the world to help all of my elderly neighbors as they lay dripping, groaning.  What am I gonna do?  How long had they been laying here, felled by the long overdue precipitation?  The scene was too much for me, so I plod on, taking care to step in the patches in between cardigans and knit sweaters, reaching my destination after what seemed like a mile of meek footwork.  I got the mail – sure enough, it was bills and credit card pre-approvals – and headed home, wondering what it would be like if some of my elderly neighbors were to slip and fall out here in the drifting rain.

A Friend of the Mist.

He walked through the haze of memorial pain,

seeing the scars, the wounds.

He thought of each glimpse of once-certain gain,

knowing his soul it’d consume.

Onwards, he marched, until silence reigned –

solemn, severe, surrender.

He laid down his arms before stifled pain

beckoned him to remember

the spectres of his friends; they drifted

as mist upon his weary legs.

They bore him up, his spirits lifted

the bottle ’til the bitter dregs.

I Mean.

It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for heartfelt messages and thoughtful gestures, and I think my friends have picked up on that over the years.  Then again, who isn’t?  I have been blessed with amazing friends over the years, and I’m constantly amazed that I ever have an impact on anyone.  More often than not, I think deeply about how the things I do have little to no impact on the lives of others, and why should they?  Talk is cheap, and indeed, that seems to be all I’m good at.  Nevertheless, I’m occasionally reminded as I am on this day, the day my daughter is to be married (whoops, wrong movie – go watch the Godfather!), that somehow, I’ve meandered far enough into people’s hearts to find myself meaning something.

Perhaps it’s ego-stroking, but perhaps it’s waking up from a dream of false identity.  Most likely, it’s a mix of the two.  Growing up in a culture of perseverance begetting further expectation, verbal expression of appreciation was nigh unheard of.  Passing through the valleys of depression led to a lack of weightiness to this life; the side effect was believing myself to be barely existing, just a breeze that was pleasant enough to take note of but for a moment.  And so, when I’m met with so much appreciation and shows of kindness, it becomes rather confusing to sift through.  On one hand, I ought not enjoy it so much because I’ve really done nothing worthy of the attention that I’m receiving, but on the other hand, it’s nice to find reason not to listen to the silent acceptance of meaning very little.

As it rains outside and as my eyelids begin to wage war against my wide-open consciousness, gratitude sinks heavy in my heart.  I am nobody, but Christ in me is more than enough to find an identity in.  Thank you all for seeing past the shortcomings and pointing me to where Christ has redeemed my wretched life.  As we usher in the new year, I hope some of us can continue to encourage one another on this crazy journey of life to understand just how deeply Christ is involved in shaping and sanctifying who we are.  You all didn’t have to remind me of the memories that we made together, but I’m really glad that you did.  It’s been a humbling day just thinking about all of you and seeing that I have no reason to continue on in insecurity about my friendships, which has been a bit of a struggle for me from time to time. If I have any boast in this world, it’s that God has granted me the most precious of friendships with all of you and with Himself, and that means more than enough to me.  I mean something, but that’s founded on God and God alone.

Sunshine Mail.

Today, I read a piece of “sunshine mail” from one of my best friends, and it moistened my eyes.  Insert obligatory “It’s a terrible day for rain” reference.  Sunshine mail, or encouragement notes, are funny things, really.  Sometimes the notes we write intending to encourage other people do just that at the time, but read the same note at another point in life afterwards, and it may just do the opposite.  When we read notes from the past, so much of how our worlds are now is magnified in comparison to our past lives.  We may find that some of our relationships never quite hit the stride we thought they would, or relationships that seemed forced actually blossomed.  The phantoms of past friendships that linger in our exchanged letters may revive conversation once more, or they will spread a veil of melancholy over the present.  Perhaps they’ll even lead to indifference because the relationships haven’t changed – for better or for worse.

Now that the unfeeling mask of finals rigor (and mental exhaustion) has been lifted and I’m allowing myself to indulge in the warmth of fond memories, I’d just like to take a moment and say thank you to all of the friends I’ve made, in the past and in the present.  It was always a little difficult for me to make friends just by being me, and so, if reading your letter was humbling to me, it probably means you’ve borne with the reality of who I truly am and still stuck around.  It’s often difficult to gauge how invested people want to be in the friendships that we make, and one of my worries is that I, as the youths say, “do the most” in my friendships.  I look back on my behavior in some friendships and realize that I was suffocating my friends with my unspoken insecurity; at the same time, I read notes and realize there are true friends who I have unfairly neglected.  It’s a mirror on the wall kind of situation, and I never know what version of myself to expect. Nevertheless, I suppose I’d rather try to err on the side of trying too hard in my friendships than playing it cool and secretly not knowing where I stand in the friendship because I’m not the type of person who can make friends wherever he goes, and I’d be the only one really getting hurt should the friendship turn out contrary to my expectations.  I was the kid who would ask other kids if they wanted to be my friend because I just couldn’t tell if we were friends or not just by walking around with them.

Friendship is a beautiful vessel for our hearts, containing the memories and uncertainties that pour out of separate souls.  Sunshine mail directs rays into those vessels.  What thoughts may come when we gaze into those vessels? Will we still find ourselves, or will the contents seem almost foreign, like discarded childhood toys? Perhaps, we’ll have only memories to spread beneath us; may we tread softly on those memories and walk on.

Hangover.

After the end of a long,

longer than usual day,

I closed the garage and climbed

up the stairs.

There was some shuffling.

Dad.

Hi, Dad!

Hello! You’re back?

Yeah, I am –

finally.

Even as the weight of our

collective society bore down on me

all day, there was beauty in just

saying hello.

And it was good –

And it was enough.

Election Day 2016.

I was fairly certain that I was going to write a post when (and I say “when” because I had an odd gut feeling that Trump was going to win) Trump won, so here it is.  I’m hoping to keep it as short and as accessible as possible to spare an already grieving public the grief of sifting through something barely intelligible.

Brothers and sisters, I hope we’re all awake now that Trump is our incoming President.  The thought should terrify us – some of us, at least – but it should also be something we invite into our lives.  As I’ve said before, this election has exposed how far away many of us have fallen from full reliance on God.  How can we be gracious when the result is so obviously disappointing to many of us?  There’s a challenge here for all of us.

For those who proudly supported Trump, I must gently request that you re-examine that pride in the light of Christ.  For those who supported Trump believing he was the lesser of two evils, do not be arrogant, and rejoice not in the rulers of this age. Do not be boastful except in Jesus Christ, who is your Lord.  Now that the election is over, be reconciled to your brothers and sisters.  I have seen many examples of unsavory language from both camps, and so now more than ever, we as the Body of Christ ought to let love reign in our hearts.  I don’t know enough about Trump to assume anything about what will come from his term as President, but I do know that we have not been called to revile one another, boast in the policies of a temporary government, and increase division in His church, so may we be faithful to attend to loving deeply and radically as Jesus did.

For those who proudly supported Hillary, I also humbly suggest that you re-examine the grounds of that pride in light of Christ.  For those who supported Hillary believing she was the lesser of two evils, do not be self-righteous in your decision.  Do not allow yourself to be tempted to keep an account of the sins of another.  Do not continue to rail against your brothers and sisters who voted in opposition to you.  Righteousness is not on account of man’s works; if a man had indeed worked for his righteousness, should it not be his rightful wages?  However, we must believe that it is the gift that comes from an undeserved sacrifice.  We may believe that we voted for Hillary because we voted in the name of love, and yet I say to all of us that God alone is love.  To stand in the shadow of the Cross alone is to realize the eternal manifestation of love.  Let us love our brothers and sisters who voted for Trump because they are not any less deserving of salvation that we are; are we capable of dying to self in view of God’s infinite, unconditional mercy?  We must.

If there is any activism to participate in, it is only on our knees in faithful prayer.  Pray not in judgment that others would see the light of Christ; may we pray instead for our own hearts to joyfully submit to the sovereign will of God, recognizing these times as times in which His glory and love may boldly and richly be displayed in our lives.  I understand that the heart and the mind are inclined towards arguing for morality on both sides of this election, and yet will we continue to stifle the Spirit within us that calls us into deeper fellowship with Himself and one another?  In disappointment, call on Jesus’s name.  In sorrow, call on Jesus’s name.  In triumph, call on Jesus’s name.  Regardless of where we stand, may we find the grace to kneel before the throne of God and ask to be consecrated again unto Himself.  May God have mercy on us all not because the times seem bleak, but because we all lack the strength and the faith to serve His Kingdom in all aspects of our lives.

“Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.”