Monday, November 21, 2016

Some Pre-Turkey Day Thoughts, and a Reflection on the Year

A lot has happened this year.

And as a result, there's a LOT that I've been thinking of writing about.  

But I haven't put anything down on paper yet just because. . .

I guess because it's just been too much.

I didn't know where to start.

. . . .

I turned 40 a couple of months ago.  Came as a complete surprise to me, as I never anticipated making it past the age of 16.  And yet here I am.

A mother.  A home owner.  A Room Mommy for my son's kindergarten class.  

A woman.  With all these warring ideas in me, swirling non-stop, as I try to rope them down into some semblance of a cohesive thought.

Honestly. . . I don't know if that's gonna happen.  But instead of waiting for the perfect words to come, I'm just gonna plow ahead.

I'm gonna get it down, and let it all fall out.  (As is my way.)

I find that I am (quite happily) becoming a loud, and colorful, shiny MESS.  And maybe some day in the future, some gifted and patient editor will find a way to make sense of this jumble of tangled thoughts.

2016 has been a big year.

Let's be honest:  some years don't make that big of an impression. There are highs and lows, but at the end. . . we aren't really left with much more than fuzzy recollections.

Not so with 2016.

This year has broken my heart.

Time, and time, and time again.

Oh, I'll remember you, 2016.  You took a LOT from us.

We lost a lot this year.

We lost everything from our international, and world-known musical heroes and saints, to our personal friends/musical heroes and saints.

Just so you know. . . I'm gonna be mourning Prince, Bowie, Cohen, and Haggard for a LONG time.  They were not just ordinary people.  They reached out to us, and they spoke to us. . . spoke to ME, directly to ME.  They told us we weren't alone.  They gave a voice to both our hope, and our sorrow.  They CHANGED US. They made us BETTER.  And they left a hole, where something beautiful and lovely and true once held space.

But it wasn't just famous people we lost.  The whole world will mourn them.  No. . . we also lost beautiful, lovely and true voices that we KNEW.  People we had drinks with, and meals with, and talks with.  Beautifully creative and daring artists that CONTINUE to hold real estate in my heart.

Chris Porter?  I can hardly think of you without crying.  
You were one of the GOOD ONES.  One of the BEST.  And I still can't believe you're gone.  

. . . Did I ever tell you that your music didn't just speak to me?  Did I ever tell you that it moved me?  Those days in Downtown Birmingham, back at the Metro bar when I was just meeting and getting to know the man that would become my husband.

I don't even know how many hours the two of us spent at that bar, waiting on you to play.  And I'm not even a big drinker.  . . .but it was worth it.  It was SO WORTH IT.  

I would've sat there for days on end, just to hear you sing and play. Just to see you get DOWN, and LOUD.  Just to wait for that moment in the song where your voice broke, and it was so filled with emotion that you weren't even really singing any more. . . you were screaming.  Screaming down the heavens.

You raised your voice, and we all heard it.

Did I ever tell you that you healed me??  

I'm not waxing poetic.

Somehow you always seemed to find the "secret chord," and JUST the right combination of notes and soul and emotion, that just. . . 

Healed me.

And I don't think I ever even told you.

And I'm so damned sorry for that.

But he wasn't the only flesh-and-blood-from-my-back-yard that we lost.

This year (so far) two people that I knew, personally, and cared for lost their lives to gun violence.

The young man across the street from us.  The one that was torn to pieces when his dog died, but was still trying to put on a brave face. The "kid" that I hugged in the middle of our street, because I couldn't think of a better way to express what was in my heart.

And all I can think of now is. . . I'm glad.  I'm really GLAD that I hugged you that day.  You're gone too soon.  And the tragedy and violence and SENSELESSNESS of it all is some days too much for me to take.  But I got that hug in.  I did.  And I'm grateful for it.  

More than I even know how to say.

And we lost James this year.  A homeless man, by choice, that I met in the streets of Birmingham when Mr. and I had just started dating.

For a few months there, I saw him almost every day.  And he ALWAYS had a joke, a smile, a kind word, and a request for a sandwich (if I would be so kind).  And so I made sandwiches. Every time he asked.  Fried bologna sandwiches with lots of mayo and a pile of chips.

We shared sandwiches together, sitting on the stoop.  And, I'm happy to say right now (looking back on those days), that I got to share a hug with you EVERY TIME I saw you.

James wasn't just a "homeless man". . . he was a MAN.  And a damned good one, at that.  

Never a violent man, ever.  He didn't live by the gun.  But he died by it.

. . . And I just don't KNOW how to put these facts neatly into a box, and Sharpie '2016' on the outside.

But I'm working on it.

. . .  And, as I mentioned before. . . I turned 40 this year.

I honestly don't know if it's the advancing age, or the recent election, or the being a mom. . . or WHAT it is. . . 

But I'm sitting here. . . trying to fit all these pieces from a whirlwind year together into some kind of kitten or windmill puzzle.  And the pieces just aren't fitting together. . .

So I'm not gonna force them.

But I am going to say this:
I FOUND my voice this year.

And then I used it.

I sang.  At home in my kitchen, while baking, I sang.  In a video to my husband on Christmas day (while he was at work), I sang.  To my son, before bedtime, and when he was feeling sad. . . 


Forget that my voice isn't the greatest.  Who cares??

I'm here, I have a voice, and I used it.

Am I embarrassed?  (Particularly by the video of me singing that my husband then shared on facebook?)

. . . In the past?  Yeah.  I would've been mortified.

But something has happened to me.  Some. . . change is, and has been, taking place.

I think maybe I grew up a little bit.

Because I realized that I DO have something to say.  

Forget shyness.  And screw feeling embarrassed.  

I am NOT embarrassed.  I am NOT the shy violet of the past.

I am a freaking force of nature, and I give NO ONE the power to silence me.

. . . . 

I raised my voice about issues.

I spoke my mind about violence, and inequality, and racism, and yes, even the election.

I tried to keep it respectful, even in disagreement.  I tried very hard, and I will continue to do so.

But NEVER again will I remain silent.


. . . 

Did I lose some 'friends'?  

Yes.  Yes I did.

(If you count a profile pic on facebook from someone that you haven't seen in decades as a friend.)

Am I sorry?

I am not.

I spoke my truth, THE truth.  And I would, and WILL, do it again.

Do I miss the 'friends' that are now gone?

Honestly, I have barely even noted their absence.

Do I wish these people ill?  Do I harbor resentment toward them?

I do NOT.

Happy trails, peeps.  =)

If you can't handle me speaking up when I believe something is WRONG. . . then I wish you the best.  You do you.

Because I fully intend to keep on doing ME.

I sat here this year, and sometimes I was actually AFRAID to turn on the news.

. . . Another innocent black man has been killed by the people that had sworn to protect him.

. . . Another innocent Law Enforcement officer has been killed due to backlash.

Hate, and hate, and hate, and hate. . . swirling around this place like the snow flurries we get in Alabama, when the weather everywhere else is calling for a blizzard.

And after months, and months, and months of watching all the carnage, and all the hate, and all the misunderstanding on tv and in the news, I finally realized:

I do not have the luxury of being afraid, and I do not have the luxury of turning away.

This is MY world.  Mine, and yours.

And I, for one, will be DAMNED if I will just sit here and wring my hands as I watch it burn.

So yeah.

This year did something to me.

And I think it did something to all of us.


Now, there are a lot of really inspirational quotes floating around on the internet, on pinterest, etc., but I think this one is one of my favorites:

I love it because I have lived it, and found it to be the TRUTH.

This year has changed me.

I am louder now.

This year has hurt me.

I am stronger now.

This year has shocked and saddened and amazed me.

I am more resolute now.

I will not ask for you to get on your knees and fold your hands in prayer for me.

I will ask you to get OFF your knees, and put your hands to WORK.

Because WE created this.  Us.

And we're the ones who are gonna FIX it.

I WILL make meals to feed the homeless.

I WILL give every dime I can spare to charity.

I WILL speak up for women's rights, and minorities rights, and LGBT rights.

I WILL speak UP and speak OUT.

I WILL make MORE ROOM in my heart.

And I will vow, to myself, and to the world at large, to be tireless in these efforts.


I'd like to close this piece with something positive, that I've been turning over in my mind for a while now.

A few months ago, one of my family member's homes was broken into.  Several things were stolen, sadly some of which were purely of sentimental value, but thankfully -- no one was hurt.

And so the idea of beefing up the alarm security for our home began to circulate.

And we did it.  We beefed up.  Purely for protection from those that may wish folks harm.

But I realized something.

Something WONDERFUL.

. . . There is nothing I OWN, that can be taken from me.

Let me say again:

There is NO THING THAT I POSSESS that could be stolen from me and break my heart.

My family photo albums?  A treasure to me.  But not really on any thief's To Do list.  (And also:  they're all online.)

Family scrapbooks?  Same.

My children?  My husband?  My cats?

I doubt anyone is going to come into my home to try and take them.
And if they did. . . well, they'd have to kill me first.

There is no possession on this good green earth that I cannot live without.

Not.  ONE.

MY sacred treasures are scraps of memories, bits and pieces of songs, lyrics and memories and shared laughter.  



There is nothing you can take from me.

And I still have a LOT to say.

And work that must be done.

And miles to go before I sleep.

Yes.  This year broke parts of me.

And that is how the light will get in.