Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Things That Should Be Better

My parents did a good job teaching me a lot of important life lessons as I was growing up. Things like: "life isn't fair"; "do unto others..."; "do or do not, there is no try" and "it sucks to be you!" (except we don't say sucks). I think one of the most important things that they taught me was in reference to being a good babysitter when I went out into the wild of Rich Realtors houses as a young teenager - "always leave things better than you found them." I took that to heart and I washed dishes, vacuumed floors and ate all of the bad junk food that would have otherwise poisoned my innocent young charges. My employers always seemed impressed, perhaps mostly with the amount of Oreos that disappeared, but also the clean house.

It's a lesson that I have tried to pass on to my kids, with varying amounts of success, partially due to less effective delivery methods and things like spared rods (you biblical literalists know exactly what I am talking about). But it's also a rule that I still try to apply to my life, whether I am having dinner at a friend's house or running a medical unit in a fire camp in the boonies. And it's become more than not leaving dirty dishes or popcorn on the carpet. It's become the question I ask myself in any conversation with people - how can I leave this heart better than I found it? Obviously I am not always successful, but... goals, right?

Several years ago my sister was involved in a horrific accident and lost her unborn child. Madelyn Jo never opened her eyes to the bright, sunlit world, but in her brief visit here she brought my family together and healed some scars that had driven us apart years before. For me in particular, a Stranger in a Strange Land, I had moved away to reset a life that had zigzagged wildly out of control. When we came flying back to Spokane after the accident, all of the Bad Things and Hard Feelings seemed so silly and insignificant when I saw my broken sister in that hospital bed, holding a tiny angel. I am an EMT, you guys. I have seen hurt people, dead people, stuff - but I couldn't even stay upright. My world went black.

Sometimes the worst things are what we need to remind us of the best things. Things like family. Things like brothers who drop everything to take care of nephews for weeks. Things like distant relatives throwing down for a zillion pizzas to feed All the People. Things like forgiveness and redefined priorities. Things like friends who become fixed forever as family members. Madelyn Jo gave us a chance to see all of that and remember. She left things better than she found them.

This life is only as good as the people that we fill it with. I have been so lucky in mine. It is my hope every day to leave the people and places that I touch better than I found them. It's when I realize that I am failing at this that I know I need to step back and reevaluate my priorities and identify which rut my wheels are spinning into an oblivion. I am forever grateful for the people who have left me better than they found me, even unintentionally. In fact, more often than not, the ones who have inflicted the most damage have done the most to make me stronger, more resilient and more useful to the world around me, and I love them for that.


Maddie Bird.

"Salvation Song"
the Avett Brothers

If you take my heart
Don't leave the smallest part
I've no need to live if you're to come up gone
An as my life turns to a song
And if and when I treat you wrong
No I never want to hurt our family

And I would give up everything
No this is not just about me
And I don't know a plainer way to say it Babe
And they may pay us off in fame
Though that is not why we came
And I know well and good that won't heal our hearts

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that's good that's how we'll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way

Now if I'm walkin' through the rain
And I hear you call my name
I will break into a run without a pause
And if your love laughs at your dreams
Well it's not as bad as it seems
Either way one of them has got to go
And if you take of my soul
You can still leave it whole
With the pieces of you own you leave behind

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that's good that's how we'll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way

And I would give up everything
And if you were to come up clean
And see you shine so bright in a world of woe
And they may pay us off in fame
But that is not why we came
And if it compromises truth then we will go

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that's good that's how we'll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way







Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Things About the Rain

A long time ago, I wrote another blog called Things About Rain, which has nothing whatsover to do with the rain that I am thinking about today and therefore feels completely fine skating dangerously close to a recirculated title. I actually had to look it up and see if I had already used it, and then I had to make sure that you knew that I knew that I had already used something very similiar, lest someone else point out my blunder and make it seems unintentional. Not that I am insecure.

Today I drove to town in the pouring rain. Like, the ugly-cry of ten thousand angels, rain. It was dark and cold and dreary. It made me feel like I was cut off from everything, like a frigid, wet chain link fence of misery between me and every other human being, every nice thought and beautiful feeling. It doesn't help that I have been nursing a nasty chest cold, but it was one of those mornings when your clothes and hair and face and EVERYTHING just don't feel right. But life goes on, and gainful employment beckons, and a list as long as my arm demanded that I leave my sweatpants in a sad, neglected pile on my bedroom floor, like a discarded lover, and go to town. I probably didn't have a good attitude. But the rain sure didn't help.

I just kept thinking that if only the sun would come out, everything else would feel ok. I even wore my sunglasses to see if I could trick myself into thinking that the outlook was brighter. But all it did was make me feel more cut off and isolated. I really don't know how George Michael did it all those years. I persevered through countless errands, and re-errands when I forgot parts or did things backwards, and non-errands when I went places and couldn't remember why. Turns out I can only fit so many things on the back of my hand with a sharpie. I went to work and I did my job with only a few select curse words. But that darn rain. It made all the good parts of the day, like a free lunch, and a reunion with a certain hound dog, and crossing All The Things off my list, seem less important than how ugly my hair was. It made everything feel expensive and endlessly demanding. It made the whole world seem broken and distant.

And then, just for a minute, the sun broke through. Barely. Just enough that you could almost remember that its March and someday we WILL have a spring. Or at least a summer. And it made everything better. So did the iced breve and the loud blaring of Ed Sheeran's new album (strongly recommend) in my car all the way to Deer Park and back. It made me ready for tackling another round of the Endless Adventure that is life. It made leftovers for dinner and running errands for friends and making appointments and trusting that it will All Work Out seem a lot easier. I am a big fan of the sunshine. And the people who bring sunshine into my soul even when the clouds try to stop them. Because the rain can't really cut me off from anybody unless I let it.

<3

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Things About Failing

"Time is precious. Fail faster." - my friend Nate.

I was already crying when I read the words, but somehow they made the tears seem more useful.

I've been doing an inordinate amount of failing lately, all culminating in the ultimate roadblock of not even being able to remember my appleID login and getting locked out of my account until Apple decides to release me from iJail. If all of the failures in my life were this trivial it would be easier to laugh it off, but this is the teeny-tiny straw that broke the proverbial camel's back on top of a load of very heavy failure bricks.

Sometimes the line between failing and giving up is so fine that it gets blurry. I don't feel like I have been giving up lately, but it could easily be construed as such when you are looking in from the outside, which I frequently try to do to myself, as if a birds-eye view of my mental and psychological condition will help me make necessary repairs. At least failing indicates effort, and a push to the limit. Giving up is an uncompleted process - jumping off the train before it wrecks beautifully and predictably as it always will. I would like to think that I usually ride that train right off the rails.

It seems useless to pretend that life is anything more than a series of failures, depending on how you want to look at things. I can say that I succeeded in raising my children without killing any of them (yet), or I can say that I failed in keeping them young and innocent and protected from the ugly world of adulting - and failure. Success indicates arrival, and Lord Only Knows that I haven't arrived anywhere. But success also indicates conclusion, because what do you do after you succeed? What is there to do?

I think the most important thing is to be ok with failing. Because not being ok with failing is just a prescription for fist-shaking talks with the universe about who's fault it is and all of the if-onlys and why-nots, and those never lead anywhere except to a lot of bitterness or drinking for all of the wrong reasons. But being ok with failing means that you have given yourself permission to keep putting the effort in and driving that train down the tracks, for whichever wreck it is next destined, and if you can manage, to enjoy the view along the way.

So maybe I cried a few tears today over the failures that I am achieving. But at least I am achieving. And I will dry my eyes and get after it again. With my stiff neck and stubborn will I will saddle the camel and pick up the first brick of the next load. Maybe my camel is getting stronger, or maybe I will just learn to pick my bricks more wisely. Obviously I read too many proverbs as a child and get much too involved in analogies. I apologize.

But time IS precious, and I am excited to get on with my next round of failures, because of all of the beautiful things I learn along the way. I don't need to give up and I don't need to drag my feet. I need to rush into the trials and capture every day as another opportunity to fail big, which I seem to be pretty damn good at.