I realize I update my artblog more than I update this. Maybe it’s because I find it easier to talk about my art than I do about my life. Perhaps because there’s a distance between myself and my art; I have an out. It doesn’t seem so personal and so vulnerable.
And then I re-examine my work.
What doesn’t seem so personal?
Anyways, I have been studying up on the Exodus story; reading through life in Egypt, the horrors. Reading through leaving Egypt, the anticipation. Reading through getting stuck in the desert, the devastation and distrust. The longing to go back to somewhere that was so horrible solely because at least there you knew what was ahead, you knew how to survive another day and you knew how to almost “control” your destiny.
Welcome to my world, Israelites.
I have dealt with so many ways of approaching control issues in my life that is isn’t even funny. I thought I was self destructive because I didn’t care about myself or value myself. Turns out I was self destructive because I wanted to be hurt on my own terms, not other people’s. I wanted to control whether I lived or died not because I didn’t care, but because I did care, alot. I valued my life so much that I wanted to hold on to it for as long as possible, and I saw through seemingly random events in my life that it wasn’t up to me whether I “stayed or went” so to speak.
Tons of people in my life have died, some at their own hands, some at the hands of “fate”, or “sin”, depending on which side of the argument you come down on. Regardless, they had died. It made me cripplingly aware of the fact that I was so vulnerable. People with families, people who were just “children”, people who were depressed, people who were sick, people who were just “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
And it made me wonder, what makes me so different?
I’m in the same position as everyone else; undeserving and needy. Broken and afraid. Ironically, all of my work stems out from this but I find it easier to discuss because I don’t have to “lay it all out there” in such an obvious way.
I can hide behind the millions of agendas I have learned about for making art.
But I don’t want to anymore.
I recently had this discussion with a friend about how getting close to people can cause anxiety and as a result, you distance yourself from people to avoid getting hurt.
Prime example, my grandfather was sick my entire life. It took til I was about 9 or 10 before I really understood the extent of his sickness, but even then I was blinded. My grandfather and my grandmother were always shining examples to me about what love looked like, even if I didn’t always know it, as cliche as it sounds. They were never very affectionate in a PDA sort of way, I never saw them kiss, hug or even hold hands, and if you know me at all you’re probably thinking to yourself “that explains a lot”.
But i always knew they loved each other, and I always knew they loved me. Not even in the naive way in which you just assume that married people do. But in the real way that you’re sure that’s what it looks like; that’s the end goal.
Well, when I was nine I started going to Kentucky to work on impoverished families’ homes. And every year, almost every Thursday of the week actually, we were called back and told that we needed to prepare ourselves for the end.
I had no idea what that meant other than that I was driving home with mom, going to the hospital, and sitting in silence until we got into the room where he laid in bed covered in tubes and hauntingly small-sized. We would hug, some would cry, and make our peace. The next day, a week later, months later, he was still alive.
I took for granted what that meant. I compared him to some superhero that would probably outlive me, who I assumed would live to be at least 80. I “saw” him at my wedding, meeting his great grand kids, the whole shebang.
And the next year I was back in that hospital reliving it all over again.
Death didn’t really mean much to me until I was 13. 8th grade year was, at the time, the end of the line for me. A couple unfortunate events including a 16 year old neighbor being killed in a car accident and a best friend’s mom dying of cancer was just the stupidest shit I had ever heard of. I mean, come on, you’re not supposed to die before your parents. And you’re not supposed to bury a parent at 13 when only a year ago she was fine.
I shut down a lot in my life during that time. And I didn’t really even start to re-surface until my junior year in high school, 4 years later. During that time, I had went to Guatemala to work in a nutrition center. During that time in Guatemala we also fed 400 people that had lived at the local garbage dump. I had heard that you could “experience God” in a place like that, whatever that meant. I went; I wondered how people experienced God surrounded by starving children; how they could even muster up the gumption to claim God even gave a shit about any one of them, that God was even there. What a joke. God—hilarious. If there was a God, He sure wasn’t there, and He sure wasn’t listening to those kids. Needless to say, I walked away sure I was never looking back; I walked away knowing I was right.
As you can guess, by this point in my life, my active church life (I went every week, I was in sunday school, youth group, missions, the whole shebang. I was that kid) had completely been diminished to one week a year of Kentucky, in which I was only going at that point to see some people I could stand to be around and so I didn’t have to answer my mom about why I never did anything anymore.
But on a whim I encountered our new pastor at church (our old one had gotten MS and left when I was in 8th grade, another reason I didn’t believe in God. I was under the impression that entire time that men of God would be taken care of; that God cared most for them and would leave them untouched by horrible things) I was under the impression at this time that everyone who went to church was just so fake. It was like high school all over again for me; tons of people dressing up to try and hide what they really were.
He came to me and told me he was glad to meet me.
Sure sure. Whatever.
Then he delivered his first sermon, in which he admitted that he had been involved with drugs; that he almost didn’t graduate. That even in seminary he had worked at a bar to pay for school. That he had been arrested before (for protests). And there were so many people in the pews at my church honestly waiting for the moment to politely leave. They were so uncomfortable with the idea of a leader being so broken.
I had never been so interested in “church people” in my entire life.
He encouraged me to take a look at who Jesus really was. Not those stupid Jesus stories from Sunday school but who He really was and what He really was about. And he told me a lot about God and His love; allowing me to see for myself that even God’s own son, who He loved more than life itself, wasn’t spared from suffering.
I could see, God, I could see.
And for the next two years I prepared for college and a life. I found myself going to church during the week to talk to him. I told him just about everything, and he did so much for me in the way of healing that I couldn’t even explain. Of course, we talked about God a lot but I didn’t know it at the time, but everything I knew about Jesus I knew in relation to Chad. It was almost as if I loved learning about God only to spend time with Chad, because i saw him as a way to get to the real God, not the fake one everyone else makes Him out to be. As if I couldn’t get to God on my own.
And when he told me in the beginning of August 2007 that he was leaving to pursue another job (one which seemed made specifically for him, by the way), instead of being overjoyed, I couldn’t see far enough past the fact that I was sure Jesus was leaving right alongside of him. But Chad wrote me something that I didn’t realize about myself until about a year ago actually.
“Everything you love about me, is really what you love about God. and He isn’t going anywhere”
He left the church at the same time I left for college. And I left for college and never looked back at the church, regardless of what he had said. He went to Guatemala, as I had before, and took up a job running missions for a church out in Delaware. So I gave cross-cultural missions another shot. I went to Honduras this time, and still found myself devastated. Ironically, I felt so at home there that the only reason I felt devastated was that I had to return to my old life.
So I came back in January of 2009 and I struggled. My grandfather was still sick. My life still felt as if something was missing. But I lived it anyway, because I had made a promise that I wasn’t going to try and take things into my own hands anymore.
June 9th, not even six months later, Chad had been found dead. He drowned with his brother after an accident, and his body wasn’t found for three days. I woke up every day not wanting to get out of bed. Because in that moment between sleeping and waking, I could still hear his voice and I could still see him and pretend he wasn’t gone. I had nightmares when I found the ability to actually fall asleep. And I couldn’t set foot in that church. I tried, once, and it was just too much. It was as if I had been living in Manchester Orchestra’s Sleeper 1972 song; I could still feel like he was there in the same place with me. And it made me friggen sick to realize that he wasn’t, and wasn’t going to be. There was a recording of his last sermon preached on this earth that I downloaded from the internet. I listened to it daily for months like some sort of sickness to the point where I had it completely memorized, word for word, breath for breath.
During that time, I had found the ability to get kind of close with someone. We had been dating for a year and a half and I was just more or less content to keep him around; to allow him to get close enough at a controlled rate (he wasn’t pushy enough to dare go further than I allowed). But I found him trying to promise me a future, and I thought that was bullshit because who can promise that? And what are you promising me? That you’ll stay forever? That’s a lie. That you won’t die? That’s a lie. I pulled back from that completely because I didn’t really believe that I had a future at all, at least not one I could promise someone. Not only that, but what was I gonna make the promise for anyway? So I could wake up some morning and turn into a devastated widow? Hell no. Didn’t want to live with that. Didn’t want to live like that.
Less than six months later, my grandpa died.
We had another scare, and went to the hospital to say goodbye in July again. Another false alarm. So imagine my surprise in October when they told us this was it.
Yeah, okay. We already know how this will end.
November 16th, he was being taken out of his home by the morgue. Two weekends before I had seen my grandparents actually hug for the first time ever out on the porch. I thought it was weird, but not really given that they were married. That is what married people do, after all. But I had seen this moment and realized only in retrospect that out of all the times we went to “say goodbye”, they had never done that. It was only now, in which it seemed my grandfather actually knew it was it for him, they were saying goodbye.
And what ticked me off with this more than anything was that while watching his body getting carried out, all I could think of was all the years in which I had said goodbye, and how much that hurt. But it was nothing in comparison with what my grandmother had to feel. Not that I didn’t love my grandfather, because I did, but I couldn’t in the way that she did. And who wanted that? If this was what love got you; complete and utter devastation, why bother?
I took both of these events in succession and reverted to my old ways. A few other events including the death of a loved on in Kentucky whose home we worked on didn’t help. I was so damn sure that I never wanted to be in love, I never wanted to care about anything or anyone too much solely because I knew I could wake up the next day to find them gone.
Feeling that vulnerable was so paralyzingly terrifying that i just didn’t even want to deal with it. So i closed myself off like some recluse, building only superficial relationships to distance myself from ever having to experience that.
Six months ago, I found a friend who I started to open up to. Barely, but it was still noticeable for me. And it scared the shit out of me but she was so damn pushy sometimes that it was easier just to give in. I didn’t notice really, but that was God starting to stir in me. While out with her, I met someone. And I immediately pushed back from him, wanting nothing to do with him. I played games and acted like a deranged schizophrenic at times just to keep him away. And for some reason, he didn’t back down the way I thought I wanted him to.
Some things happened and we ended up not talking for about a month and a half while I prepared to leave for Honduras for three weeks in December/January. During that time I was in Honduras, he started leaving comments on my facebook, which was weird considering I assumed if I waited long enough he would be gone (not ‘dead’ gone, but not ‘keeping up with my life’ present). Upon having a discussion with a friend that was ridiculous, I texted him to ask him what he thought.
We talked every once in awhile from there. Some pretty shitty things had happened in his life during that time, and my heart went out to him because I knew where he was coming from; i had been there before.
So I made him a gift in hopes of helping him to realize that amongst the shitty things in life, there can be some good. That everything really is connected and beautiful, even when it doesn’t seem like it. I had learned these lessons over and over and over again and thought that although it seemed at the time Chad hadn’t done anything but delay the inevitable, since I kept reverting back, maybe repetition was enough, and I should be there for this guy in the same way. We spent some time together, and I was finally able to tell him things that I had never told anyone.
I’m not saying that this is some damsel in distress love story. Or a love story at all. I really don’t know what the future holds for anyone. But it did teach me a lot about myself; that I was capable of opening up to someone, even at the risk of getting crushed. That I was capable of feeling things, and that these emotions were actually okay. And maybe that’s all I’m meant to learn from him, maybe not. But regardless the fact that I’ve even gotten to that point speaks wonders about who God actually is to me.
And these feelings would have scared the shit out of me before. And I don’t really think I can attribute this to one single thing, really, but I finished reading The Alchemist the other day and have never felt so at peace before in my life. God really used that story to speak through me. And for once, I actually listened. That’s probably the bigger shock.
I drew the poison from the summer’s sting
(And eased the fire out of your fevered skin)
I moved in you and stirred your soul to sing
(And if you’d let me I would move again)
I’ve danced ‘tween sunlit stands of lover’s hair
(Helped formed the final words before you death)
I pitied you and piled your sails with air
(Gave blessing when you rose upon my breath)
And after all of this, I am amazed
That I am cursed far more than I am praised