Monday, June 30, 2014
Sometimes we underestimate ourselves and the amazing things we can accomplish, so it’s a treasured moment when we finally face a challenge and rise above it. I know I do it all the time. While some of us can walk around with a sense of confident assurance (see my last post), there are others like me who’ve been knocked down so many times we don’t feel right unless we’re struggling to stand up, because that’s what we know – the tenacity of trying to scale those walls, but never quite able to storm our castles. We’re never over the walls long enough to know what it feels like to stand tall and victorious, so we’ve come to expect falling down. Yet, we’re also stubborn and don’t stay down – we’re always getting back up and facing the castle walls.
This weekend I jumped right into another adventure – I went paintballing with my son, Johnathan. Being thoroughly forewarned of the possible dangers, pain, and struggles I would most assuredly face in this activity, I excitedly looked forward to it, never hesitating to face those dangers head on. The only nervousness I felt was that of being late or possibly splitting my pants. Nah, I didn’t worry about the latter, just threw that in there to keep your attention.
I started out uncertain and slow, having never even held a paintball gun before, but it didn’t take long before I figured out how to shoot and receive my first stings of pain from flying balls of paint. On my first obstacle course I got hit twice - once in the arm (which I didn’t even feel and wouldn’t have known I was hit if not for the paint splatter) and once in the hip. It stung a little, but the pain was bearable. That’s all it took – that little bit of exposure - and I no longer had fear of those flying balls of paint.
The second obstacle challenge we were given an objective to reach a center target and then hold it until time was called. Instructed to move up as fast as possible, when the buzzer sounded, I took off running and headed for the farthest point closest to my target. I was almost through the whole field and at my destination when I heard the first paint ball zing by my head. I made it to cover quickly. When I turned to look behind me, I expected half my team with me. There was no one. I was alone, and the barrels I hid behind were being pelted with rapid fire like you wouldn’t believe. I hunkered down and waited for my team to catch up so they could draw some fire and I could move to the main tower. They didn’t come quick enough, and I didn’t make it to my objective. As soon as I edged the corner of my barricade I was pelted with a ton of rapid fire and my hand took a lot of damage. I was hit. Being out, I moved to the sideline to wait for my team to complete their mission. While there, another player followed soon after me and told me that I had impressed him by being fearless and running so far ahead, that he had tried to get to a place to give me some cover, but he didn’t quite make it. That made me feel really good. Especially since this was my first time ever playing this game.
The next obstacle my team was to be on the offensive and storm a compound called Black Hawk Down. Our objective was to clear the compound and shoot or have the other team members surrender and claim victory. We had 20 minutes to complete the objective. The call was sent out and we were on our way. I once again moved through the barrels and barricades quickly and proceeded to take out several members of the opposing team. I conserved my shots, taking clear aim and making them count. However, several minutes into it, I ran out of ammunition. I stayed hunkered down for a little bit before surrendering and leaving the field. Being on the offensive, I could not lay down cover fire, draw sufficient fire from my position, or take out any of the opposing team, so I yelled ‘hit’ and walked off the field.
I was proud of myself for how far I had advanced, yet disappointed I wasn’t able to help bring my team to victory. Then a young guy sat down next to me after getting hit in the mask and told me that he was able to move up as far as he did because of how well I had done on my side of the course, having eliminated several of the opposite team’s players. He said I was a great shot and was impressed how I had crouched low and made my shots count. I was impressed someone in all that chaos noticed anything I was doing. Thanks to his compliments I walked away from that challenge not wounded and proud of myself and what I have accomplished. My team won that challenge and was able to storm the castle. I can’t help but feel I helped make that possible in some way.
Yet, it was the next challenge to which I’m most proud. This time it was our team’s turn to defend the compound. When I first entered the gates most people had already chosen their spots and it didn’t leave much choice left for me. Our captain informed us that if we ran out of ammunition to hide and try to run out the clock. I found a small cove next to the tallest tower, set my gun, and hoped for the best. The buzzer sounded. I wait to fire until the other team approached really close and then chose my targets carefully. I’m very proud of myself and my efforts until I run out of ammunition. I slid down to the ground, trying to keep my head low and wondering what I was going to do until the end of the challenge. There was nine minutes left. Sitting there on the ground, I saw a small opening in the bottom of the tower. I threw my gun in and then crawled on my belly into the small space also occupied by a nest of wasps. It opened a little bit more once I got inside and I was able to roll over onto my stomach and get up onto my knees. When I did so, I found a small hole in the wall and it gave me a good view of the field. I heard two guys above me in the tower, another on my right and then two more on my left inside the van. I peeked through the hole and started shouting out positions of the opposing team, letting those around me know when they were up and when I saw movement. It didn’t take long before I heard our Captain in the field behind the tower repeating my called positions to the rest of the team. I once again found a way to become beneficial.
With the one minute warning given, complete chaos ensued. The other team stormed our compound and rapid fire erupted everywhere. All I could see from my position was feet running back and forth and loud shouts of “hit” coming from all directions. I then heard the countdown from 10 seconds… to the game being called. Then I heard shouts of victory. Believing it was safe to exit my hiding spot without getting shot, I crawled out of my hole, muddy, dirty and sweating like you wouldn’t believe.
Everyone stopped and looked at me. The official pointed at the yellow band on my arm and asked, “Are you hit?” When I said no - dozens of people all around in yellow armbands started yelling and cheering. Having listened to my Captain tell me to hide if I ran out of ammunition, helped me lead my team to victory. Two guys stepped forward and told me they were the ones in the tower above me and appreciated the help I gave them. Our Captain, covered in paintball splotches where he’d been ambushed a few moments before just smiled and shook his head. My son ran up to me and told me that when the other team stormed the compound and I hadn’t come out before that, he just knew for sure I was hurt. He had thought I was in the van and when he saw the opposing team open the door and lay rapid fire, his heart almost stopped believing I just got majorly pelted. He then got worried when I didn’t come crawling out the van with the others.
On the ride home, my son didn’t look at me the same as he did that morning. I don’t feel the same. I faced my challenges with confidence. I adapted in the face of adversity. I kept my focus on my assignment. I had fun and was unafraid. I walked off those fields exhausted, hot, dirty, sweaty, and in a lot of pain, but with my head held just a little bit higher and huge smile on my face.
There’s a lesson to be learned in here somewhere, perhaps even a few of them. I’m sure I’ll discover them over the next few days and weeks. On the ride home I thought about what motivated me more throughout the day and I have concluded that it was mostly the fact I was determined to enjoy myself, enjoy this adventure with my son, and tackle this day in a way that would make my friends most proud of me. My closest friends are/were all badass soldiers in the Army. For the first time I felt just as badass as they were. It may have just been paintball – but for me – it was a battle. In the end… I stormed the castle and now wear the crown.
Till next time,
Friday, June 27, 2014
What is it?
Confident – feeling or showing confidence in oneself; self-assured.
Assurance – a positive declaration intended to give confidence; a promise. Confidence or certainty in one’s own abilities.
Confidence – the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust. The state of feeling certain about the truth of something. A feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation from one’s own abilities or qualities.
Wow! They sound like the same thing, but they’re really not. I can’t fully explain what confident assurance is without it sounding like I’m repeating the same definitions listed above, but I can tell you I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes.
I like to watch people even when they don’t think I’m looking. I listen to them even when it appears I’m not listening. Sometimes I don’t respond right away, because I’m pondering, wondering, and allowing the ideas to roll around in my thoughts until I’m able to organize them into some semblance of understandable form. I blog about what I’m trying to understand, because in order to write it I have to organize all those wayward thoughts into some semblance of cognate reasoning.
I have a friend that would be the prime model for Confident Assurance. This characteristic emanates from his pores like pheromones as if it were an natural part of his DNA. Maybe it is because he has a brother that seems to also exude many of the same qualities. I’ve watched this man closely, I’ve listened to him speak, I’ve observed him in many different scenarios, and this one thing is constant – this confident assurance.
I’ve watched his eyes look at one thing, yet see everything. I’ve watched his body in both attention and rest, recreation and sleep, and even still it operates with the smoothness of confident assurance. It makes me wonder if it’s something taught or something learned, or perhaps a mixture of both.
There’s a sense of authority, an unspoken wisdom, a deeper knowledge like a treasure hidden in a fortified chest that covers this man and all he does. I envy and admire him and this quality, perhaps because I’m such the opposite in many ways and desire to obtain some of these qualities in myself. Yet, I like the qualities I have. I’m passionate, while he’s reserved. I’m emotional, while he’s practical. I’m a dreamer and react as if I already possess those dreams, while he is a realist and lives in the moment, rarely beyond the hour or even the day. I’m clay, while he’s steel. He inspires me and makes me want to be confidently assured. I can only hope that I inspire him in a similar way, though I highly doubt it.
My friend told me this morning, “Observations are pointless without construction.” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I sometimes don’t immediately respond or instantly fail to understand the morsel of wisdom being shared. But that doesn’t mean it’s lost on me. Those words or ideas will roll over and over in my mind until I learn to break them down, separate them, pull them apart, and then put them back together again. Sometimes I make a complete mess and the result I end up with is a tangled misunderstanding. This happens most often when things are expressed that I have trouble hearing because of the damage of my previous scars, but I’m healing. Sometimes I’m able to reconstruct, knowing every part of these wise words and how they function. The result - is confident assurance.
I love my friend just as he is and wouldn’t ever want to change him. I celebrate and admire our differences. I love me just as I am. Sure, I’d like to walk with a bit more confident assurance like he does, and I’m working on it thanks to his influence, but I wouldn’t want to lose me in the process. I’m not perfect, quite the opposite – perhaps the Queen of Imperfection, but I love, feel, experience, and speak with my whole heart. I live out loud in honesty. I’ll never be boring. Granted, sometimes I’m a complete mess and get a lot of things wrong, but I’m an honest mess. In that fact …I am confidently assured.
Till next time,
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
We all have our idea and definition of what makes a hero. For some it would require a fancy suit and epic tale, but for me it’s in the little things that are truly not so little when you add them up, that makes a hero. In this story, my hero’s suit is a U.S. Army uniform.
I have the honor and privilege to be surrounded by real heroes, though they would argue with me for calling them such a thing. One of my friends, and he knows who he is, often argues and disagrees with me for calling him a hero. But, regardless of his own definition and interpretation - he will always be a hero to me.
Who are my heroes? They’re all men and women who wouldn’t want their names to be mentioned or even referenced, yet I have the honor and privilege to call them ‘friend’. They will probably not want to read this post just because their mouths and stomachs are stuffed with humble pie. But this isn’t their blog, it’s mine. It’s made for me to express MY opinion. The admiration and love I have for these men and women sometimes brings me to tears it’s so overwhelming.
One of my heroes is a friend that currently serves as a Drill Sergeant at Fort Benning. I’ve never seen someone work so much. The hours he puts into his job brings new meaning to the phrase, “Thank you for your service.” This man is LIVING to serve. He sacrifices seeing his family. He has no time for a social life or recreation. He works so much that most of the time I’m around him, or while communicating with him, he’s falling asleep on his feet. Some women would get upset about that, but not me. I’m honored. He’s a soldier in the U.S. Army, he’s seen combat and stood against our enemies, yet finds enough comfort in my presence to let down his guard and rest. It’s the highest compliment he could ever pay me.
My Drill Sergeant friend is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen, not because he’s very handsome, but because of his dedication to what he does. He cares about his job; his mission. He cares about the impact he makes on the men he’s training. I recently got to spend some time with those young men and I listened to how they spoke about my friend, and I heard the admiration and respect they had for him. It brought me to tears while sitting in a circle of about 20 of them and one of these young men stood up and said, “I’m not afraid of what Drill Sergeant would do to me; I only fear disappointing him.” You can’t buy, instill, or force that kind of respect. It’s earned. He never has to tell me anything else about himself for me to know he’s a hero. The respect in his men’s eyes are witness enough. I hope my eyes reflect the same respect.
I’ve watched my Drill Sergeant command, I’ve observed him lead, I’ve witnessed him teach, and I’ve never admired anyone more. I appreciate him more than I could ever express. I know not everyone who wears a uniform operates at his level of excellence and dedication, but he alone has restored my faith in the majority of those who do wear the uniform. When I see the Army logo now it is his face that has become the face of that symbol. Because of his leadership I have more confidence in those he sends out to fight, to protect, and to serve, because I know they’ve been taught by the best. I love and admire him deeply.
My Drill Sergeant wouldn’t want me to mention his name, and I will respect his privacy not to do so, nor mention the names of my other Army friends who I also love and admire and think of as heroes. They know who they are … Ranger, Bestie, Major and Sergeant. But I will share with you all a picture of my hero Drill Sergeant in service.
Till next time,
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
The winding path beneath my feet is not made of yellow brick or paved asphalt, but earthen clay covered in autumn leaves. Tumultuous shadows loom behind me, and bare limbs reach out to grab me; to entangle, to ensnare. Chilled winds of uncertainty nip at me, making me shiver.
Bits of sunshine cut through the thick canopy above me, dotting the road, baptizing me in its glory and praise, but its warmth is fleeting. One step away ...once again in shadow, two ...more sun, three ...more shadow, but never sustaining, never sure.
Whispers echo through the pines, those evergreens, always in season, always the same in a forest of changing colors and varying scents. "Come, come," they call, offering a home among the woodland, the accepted majority, kings and queens of their kind. The path is narrow; the limbs push and pull, defining familiar trails.
Into the foggy haze before me, a part of the road lay hidden in the unknown, cloaked in obscurity, and masked with uncertainty, I hear a soft melody. Its rich tone entices me, pulls me, and seduces me with each pure note. My Piper sings to me, "Come, come, my Lady!" I long to obey, to fall under his spell.
The Pines, the Piper. A raging storm ensues. The Pines, the Piper. Calling, drawing, making me dizzy, and twisting me in knots. "Come, come," they implore. Spinning me round and around, entangling bits of my hair, ripping parts of clothes, slicing into my skin, till I'm nothing but a ragdoll.
I fall. "Come, come," I whisper through swollen, cracked lips. "You've taken all I have …sans my heart." Hot tears shimmer down my cheeks. "Come, come, if you dare. Who will love me?"
The Pines remain quiet, stiff in their pride, but in the distant a single, pure note weaves through the forest. My Piper comes. He appears out of the fog, followed by a gay crew of revelers. He stands before me, holds out his hand, a smile tugging on the edge of his lips, and says, "Come, come, my Lady, let's dance."
Monday, June 23, 2014
My saga into twenty-first century dating over 40 continues and let me tell you, it’s been eye-opening. I’m learning about so many new things like Catfishing and Polyamory, right along with the tried and true traditional vices like Adultery, Cheating, Hook-Ups, Herpes and Open-Relationships.
Some of those things I expected to encounter, others have really forced my eyes wide-open in suspended disbelief. But there’s something else I’ve noticed that I think is even more detrimental and destructive among this wild world of dating… and that is the truth, or lack of it. So, I thought I’d share just a little bit today.
I’m a writer. I understand fantasy, fiction, and fairy tales. But that world seems to be much more sensible, logical, and plausible than the profiles of many of the current online and offline daters.
Most online profiles read like a laundry list of fantasies and falsehoods of how some people see themselves, or what they think makes them sound good and appealing. I don’t mind those that say they love the outdoors, it seems EVERYBODY loves the outdoors. But damn… if you haven’t spent any time in the outdoors in the last couple of years, you don’t really love the outdoors. You love the idea of the outdoors. I don’t mind that you love to travel, but how many stamps are in your passport or how many adventure photos do you have? Sure, EVERYBODY loves to travel, but why waste space on your mini-bio writing something you only love the idea of and have no immediate plans to go anywhere? EVERYBODY is loving, compassionate, and loyal, except we’re all single, alone or divorced, so there’s been some trouble in one of those departments by either us or our former partners.
But, even so… those are all wonderful qualities to at least ones we should strive for in our selves and in a potential relationship. However, the profiles that KILL me… that literally have me rolling my eyes and shaking my head are the ones where the dater has absolutely NO common sense. Here are a few examples of what I mean.
· Don’t post a picture of your truck/car/motorcycle – I immediately pass over those because what that picture tells me is that you’re materialistic and you find your value and worth in the things you possess. I’m neither about to become another of your possessions, nor come second to your toys. This goes for guys who boast about how much money they make. I wish they wouldn’t even ask that question. (Yeah, I know – unfortunately there are gold diggers out there and the sugar daddy’s who like them. Pathetic really.)
· Don’t post a picture of your beer, fish, six-pointer, or your golf clubs. What this says to me is that if I’m dating you, your first love is “YOU” time, that you love spending time by yourself in the woods hunting, fishing, drinking, and golfing. There’s nothing wrong with these things in moderation, nor the fact you might love them. But this is a dating site. The smart thing would be to show me what fun things you’d want to do WITH a date or a partner… not how you’d spend your time alone.
· For God’s sake, and this if very important, take a shower, comb your hair, put on a freakin’ shirt and please, please, please …smile. You don’t know how many pictures I see where the expression on the guy’s face looks like he’s saying, “I hate my fucking life and I’m pissed at the world.” I’m thinking, “Wow, you’re a load of fun and I so want to hang out with you.” (Please understand that was said with the thickest of sarcasm.) If you can’t show me being with you will make me happy, I’m running in the other direction. I want to be happy.
· Don’t post pictures of you holding up a wad or fan of money, or shirtless poses, or other distinguishable (and not so distinguishable) parts. That’s saying, “I’m looking for a hooker. I don’t value you as a person, just a vagina. You mean nothing to me, I just want to get my kicks, use you, objectify you, and then toss you aside for the next good time.” There are other websites for that sort of ‘dating’.
· Guys, please, get someone to take your picture or get a smart phone that has the reverse photo capability. I literally laugh out loud at the dozens upon dozens of selfies make with the guy looking like a total dork holding up his camera phone in front of a mirror. Not that using the camera phone in such a way is dorkish… but it’s the expressions on your faces when taking those kind of photos. I’m looking for smart, intelligent, creative, a man who can think on his feet. If he can’t handle a simple cell phone, how will he ever be able to handle me?
· Post a photo. If you don’t post a photo, you’ll get no response from me or probably anyone else. The only ones who would respond would probably be the women who’ve broken all the above suggestions themselves and not getting any responses from anyone. I’m not just a pretty face, nor am I looking for just a pretty face. I look at the eyes, the smile to see if I see life or a spark of life in them. Not posting a photo tells us ladies that you’ve got something to hide or are ashamed of your looks. Yes, we women love our eye candy just as much as you guys do, but NO WOMAN likes a man with low self-esteem. Not any real woman.
I want a relationship just as much as the next person. I love my life and I want to share it with someone. What I look for in a man for that relationship is so much more than a hot body. Actually, if your body seems to be the thing you present most or first, I often pass you right by, no matter how good-looking you might be. I’m mostly looking for qualities in a man that will tell me he will value me, he will pay attention to me, he will care for me, and he will share his life with me. The profiles that appeal to me most are pictures of the guy smiling, having fun, showing affection to his family or his children, and showing me his accomplishments.
Nothing is more attractive to me than seeing a man beam with pride toward his children or of something he’s worked hard at and accomplished in his life. It shows me where his heart is. If I can see the love he has for them, I’ll be able to see the love he would have for me. A brilliant mind, astounds me. A passionate soul, stirs my passions. A compassionate man, melts my heart.
But, I guess my idea of ‘dating’ is so much different than the average norm. It seems sex and physical attraction is up front and center. Don’t get me wrong, I plan on having lots of wild, crazy sex, but within the confines of a relationship. My body will follow my heart, yet it seems the world seems to think that the heart will follow the body.
Yes, before I enter into a relationship, there has to be physical attraction, commonalities of interests, and differences enough to bring a unique perspective so there will be balance. Yet, I’m discouraged most often because I feel like I’m alone in this pursuit by the profiles I read day after day after day. But, I know that’s not the truth, because the truth is buried deep beneath all these layers of peacock feathers. It’s truly a treasure when I come across a profile where the guy is just being himself, being honest with himself, making him the most attractive man of the day, at least it is for this bachelorette over 40 looking for love and truth.
Till next time,
~T. L. Gray
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Okay, guys... I did it. I jumped out a perfectly good airplane and lived to tell about it. I really didn't see any reason to stay in the plane since all the good-looking guys jumped out before me... and one awesome, cool, tandem instructor strapped to my back really wanted to jump too, so... I decided... "What the hell? " and jumped!
It was the best, most thrilling thing I've ever done. I soooooooooo, sooooooo, soooooo want to do it again.
People... we've got to live out loud. We can't sit back and keep saying, 'someday' and 'tomorrow'. NOTHING ever happens when you say that. ONLY when you make up your mind to do it, does anything in this life get done. So do it... and live your life out loud.
I can't thank everyone enough at Skydive the Farm, ATL Skydiving and Agent Lead for all the encouragement they've given me to fulfill this wish on my bucket list.
Anyone interested in skydiving... CALL these guys first... and tell them T.L. sent ya!
Now watch my super-duper awesome video... and check out some of the pictures below.
And here are some awesome pictures.
Saturday, June 21, 2014
Friday, June 20, 2014
- I love to cook gourmet foods. I love the small portions, the way that different textures and flavors come together to create a party in my mouth. I love the healthy aspect surrounding the foods I cook.
- A man in a military uniform is one of my greatest weaknesses. It doesn't matter how he looks, I find every man in a military uniform quite handsome. I honor and respect them. I admire them.
- I'm an adrenaline junkie. I like activities that scare me. If it doesn't take my breath away, I'm bored. But if it does take my breath away... I can't get enough. Going skydiving in two days.
- I'm a Superhero nerd. If it wears a costume and has a supernatural or extra special ability... I'm hooked.
- When my world feels like it's caving in on me, I go out to the woods and being in nature helps relax me, helps me regain my center.
- I love to sing out loud in my car, even serenading my red light neighbors.
- I've kissed a gorgeous stranger in the grocery store once...when I was 23 and had just earned my degree. I just walked right up to him and smiled. When he went to open his mouth to ask me who I was or what I wanted, I put my finger over his lips, shook my head, and then slipped my hand behind his neck, pulling his face down to mine (I'm short he was taller than me) and I kissed him... good. I'll never forget the look on his face just before I walked away. I never saw him again, and don't know a single thing about him... but to this day, it is still the best kiss I've ever had.
- I love epic fantasies. The bigger, the better. I love tales of heroes and anti-heroes... even reluctant, prophesied, or arrogant ones.
- I love sushi. My friends tried to get me to try it for years, but it took a fifth failed attempt, an attitude, and a strawberry Mojito to get me to try it... and I fell in love with it.
- I've lost nearly 100 lbs purely through exercise and diet, yet NOT on a diet. I made a change to my eating lifestyle to a more healthy and proportionate menu... and nature has done the rest. I love to work out. I've worked hard to get where I am... and I've still got a ways to go and I won't allow a destructive influence or lifestyle come into my life that will be detriment to my success.
- I hate 11 questions. What's wrong with 10?
- What am I working on right now? I'm writing a urban fantasy based on the arch angel Michael and features an Army Drill Sergeant at Fort Benning, Georgia and a Peace Corp Teacher in Butha Buthe, Losotho, South Africa. I'm really enjoying the research... and actual Drill Sergeant and Peace Corp Teacher.
- Where do I write and why? At my home office. When I sit down to my desk, my mind goes into work mode. It's how I've trained my mind and body to respond.
- What was the first creative piece I remember writing? I grew up telling my five brothers stories. But the first piece I ever wrote where I realized I could write was in high school and I was feeling frustrated writing a creative term paper. I could do anything that was structured and involved research. Facts, details, getting things right... I felt like Nancy Drew and there was a mystery to solve. But, given a free writing term paper where I had to use my creativity... I felt lost. I don't even remember the teacher's name, but I do remember sitting in her class and she walked over to me and asked me what was wrong. When I told her I didn't understand, because there were no rules, and I couldn't narrow my focus to a single idea. I really think my problem was... there were endless possibilities... and I couldn't just pick one. She asked me to pick a word - one word. I chose cat. She then smiled and said, "Okay, tell me about this cat. Where is it from, what is it doing, why is it doing it, where is it going, who is this cat?" Voila... my imagination took off and before the end of class I had nearly written eight full pages of story and didn't want to stop because my Cat, who was an alien, had just decided it has picked the wrong species to mimic upon landing, and was finding it difficult to complete its mission in that particular form.
- Where do I find inspiration? In the people I meet and interact with in this life. People are interesting, fascinating, scary, unpredictable, evil, kind and beautiful.
- When did I decide to become a writer? I think I was born a writer... it just took me nearly 35 years before I realized it.
- The book that has most influences me as a person? I'd have to say the Bible, it's helped me pay attention to my motives, my intentions, my character... but then my morals, ideas, and open-mindedness have really been developed over the years through Nancy Drew, Jane Austen, Piers Anthony, J.K. Rowling, Patrick Rothfuss, Mark Lawrence... and all the other writers I've grown or enjoy reading now. I love a story that has something to learn.
- What book(s) most influence my writing? All of them. None of them.
- Why did I choose my genre? I didn't. It just happened to be what the story that filled my head happened to be.
- Is there a book I'd like to see on film? All my favorites. Definitely The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, The Broken Empire Series by Mark Lawrence, Blood Song by Anthony Ryan, or any of the short stories written by David Holton and Jeff Suwak. Of course.. all of my books.
- What am I currently reading? The Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence.
- Elevator pitch for my WIP? When there's a war between the General of Angels and the General of Demons on the horizon that threatens the existence of humanity, there's no room for the complexity of human emotion. But that's exactly what they have to conquer to either save or destroy the world.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
How much pain can a person truly handle before they break? A person can break, I’ve seen it, experienced it, and am not convinced once broken we can ever be whole again. But can we survive?
The hardest part of my faith for me is to trust that God will not allow more than I can handle. That is His promise. That is a promise I don’t understand. It seems simple enough, but complexity and simplicity often happen at the same time. Complicated Simplicity. What an oxymoron.
I’ve looked into the eyes of a person and saw fire - flames of life burning in them so bright they can’t help but make the world around them sparkle with hope, joy, laughter. It’s easy to believe in those moments in that promise.
I’ve also looked into a pair of eyes and witnessed such pain and depravation and literally watched the color of their irises dull and their whole countenance pale in despair. This is when we hope for that promise most of all.
I’ve also looked into a pair of eyes as their souls slipped away and death consumed them. It’s not something that can really be explained, nor is it something I would recommend. Where is the promise here?
All these experiences leave behind scars… a tendril of essence that becomes recognizable when you see it operating in all the other sets of eyes in the world. I truly do believe the eyes are the windows to a person’s soul. I want to hold onto that promise, but I doubt, and I waiver, and I fear.
When my walls are up I avoid allowing people to look into my eyes. When my walls are down I seek as much eye contact as possible. Our bodies can lie. Our mouths can lie. Our hands can lie. Our thoughts can lie. Our feelings are often the biggest liars of all. But the eyes… the eyes can’t lie. In this new technological world, it’s becoming easier to lie because we feel comfortable behind our screens. Black font replaces our attempts to conceal our eyes, mostly from ourselves. Again, another example of Complicated Simplicity.
What complicated-simple truth would my eyes say today? I’m reminded of a quote from my first published novel where Cain rolls over, away from the fire, away from the view of his new friend. Tears spill out the corner of his eyes and he whispers, “No more. I can bear no more.” Unlike my character Cain, I’m not immortal. I can break.
There was a moment when I opened my eyes this morning. A brief moment - where time stood still and the universe turned toward me, and waited for an answer. I had a choice. Live or leave. Fight or give up. All thoughts left my mind. All feeling left my body. Then I heard my spirit singing the soft echo of a song I haven’t heard in years from a group called Switchfoot …. http://youtu.be/jE-Krlqi4fk
Welcome to the planet.
Welcome to existence.
Everyone’s here. Everyone’s here.
Everybody’s watching you now.
Everybody waits for you now.
What happens next? What happens next?
I dare you to move!
I dare you to move!
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor!
I dare you to move!
I dare you to move!
Like today never happened, today never happened before.
Welcome to the fall out.
Welcome to resistance.
The tension is here. The tension is here.
Between who you are and who you could be.
Between how it is and how it should be.
I dare you to move!
I dare you to move!
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor!
I dare you to move!
I dare you to move!
Like today never happened, today never happened before.
Maybe redemption is stories to tell.
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell.
Where can you run to escape from yourself?
Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go?
Salvation is here.
I moved. I got up. I put my feet on the floor. I breathed. So complex, yet so simple. Today, I’m still broken but I’m alive. So, yesterday was not more than I could handle. I’m not saying I handled it well, just that I survived.
Till next time,
Monday, June 16, 2014
I used to think I could tell the difference, but I’m not so sure anymore. I had always thought naivety was a response out of a lack of exposure or experience, but stupidity was just a lack of common sense. But, really …what’s the difference?
I grew up among liars, thieves, cutthroats, drug addicts, prostitutes, drug dealers, pedophiles, pot heads, every kind of low-life and crook you could imagine. I survived in that world off instinct, being smart, knowing when to fight, knowing when to hide, and knowing how to read people. It was like playing chess, you had to think ten moves ahead just to survive. Naivety didn’t get you hurt, it got you killed. Getting hurt was normal. It was survival. This isn’t an exaggeration. If anything, it’s a sugarcoat of the truly deplorable and despicable things I saw and experienced.
For the last two decades, I’ve hidden myself away beneath the comfort and security of middle-class idealism. I bought the whole dream, hook, line and sinker… because I was desperate for it to be true. God was alive, love existed, and people really cared for one another. The house, career, family, and church all were symbols of safety and security. I followed in the footsteps of those who went before me, because I was naïve – a stranger to this particular lifestyle. I wanted a better life for my children. I wanted to protect them from the wolves of depravity. Yet, I always felt like a stranger, an imposter, because this lifestyle wasn’t my natural habitat.
Then I went and really fucked up and believed I had a right to dream, a right to love, a right to be loved, and ever since my heart has been stomped on, shredded, and torn. I love the unlovable, the unavailable, and the damaged. Perhaps because deep inside I thought if I could love them, damage and all, then perhaps there was a chance someone could love me.
In my native state of survival, I couldn’t get hurt, because I didn’t feel. When you’re in survival mode, you don’t have time or energy for feelings. You cover yourself in steel. You see the world in black and white… and various shades of gray. You live no further than the moment, no longer than the day. Life was war. In my naivety, I dared to believe in peace and dream in Technicolor and hope for tomorrow. I chose to see beauty in shadows, and with both hands grabbed onto every tendril of light. Have I been naïve, or just plain stupid? What’s the difference? They both will get you killed… if not physically, then emotionally or spiritually.
I’ve been called stupid a lot lately. I’ve also been through a silent hell, experiencing another of those black moments. I seem to have a target on me that tells the world it’s okay to hurt me. I kept quiet, believing I could endure and overcome it, but it knocked me down. Then, while I was down and bleeding another wolf entered and attacked. Humans are the cruelest animals of all. I keep trying to believe in them, but I keep getting made a fool.
I’ve recently had a dream about a friend of mine – with a pack of wolves. I now realize the dream wasn’t about him, it’s always been about me. To me, he’s the symbol of beauty, strength, and courage - and that’s perhaps why he was the image in the dream - yet he runs with wolves, but even the wolves are not the real danger, something even more dangerous follows, haunts, and taunts him (me). Perhaps it is stupid naivety.
I post a lot about being honest… especially with one’s self. As much as I hate lies, it turns out I’m the biggest liar of all. The pieces are aligned against me, and Check has been called. The only way I can win this game and save my king(life), is to sacrifice my queen (dreams).
Till next time,
Thursday, June 12, 2014
“There are unlimited mysteries waiting to be discovered among our stars, within our atoms, and to everything between and beyond. Yet, the biggest mysteries of all are not anything that can be learned – they must be felt.” ~ T.L. Gray
I’m a facts and figures nerd. I like to know how things work, where things come from, what are the results, reactions and consequences to every things, every choice, every action. I try to see beyond the obvious and read between the lines. Needless to say – this has led to some great discoveries, but it’s also led to some painful truths.
But, it’s those other mysteries I can’t figure out. While I may not know all the secrets to the universe, and understand that I’ve only begun to understand this vast universe to which I’m a part, there are things within and around us that I don’t think will and can ever be defined – not in its fullness or entirety.
What are these undefinable facts, truths and mysteries? Faith, Hope and Love.
All three of the these things defy logic. They are as unique to each of us, as we are to each other – meaning that their meanings change from person to person, yet they still hold to some universal understandings. The very things that make us unique, our experiences, our culture, our personalities help shape and filter the understanding we each have of these three things.
I only want to focus on one at the moment… love. We try to set rules, boundaries, reasoning and logic… yet I find case after case, example after example of exceptions. I get it WRONG… all the time! Yet my failure to identify, explain, or justify doesn’t change the fact that I feel and experience it. It is most often the source of my greatest joy and my worst pain. It doesn’t apply to the situations I want. It feels what I don’t want it to feel, for who I don’t choose, when I don’t choose it. I have no control to turn it on or off, and even sometimes I don’t realize it’s been activated until an absence reveals what my mind never acknowledged.
Love has really caused some major difficulties for me lately. It refuses to leave a place that often causes me a lot of pain, and showed up unexpectedly somewhere else. I didn’t see it, would have vehemently denied it, but now that there’s an absence… a hole… I feel the empty vacuum, as if the earth has went off balance and my thoughts are muddled… and I have to say… it really hurts. Had I seen it, recognized it, acknowledged it, perhaps I could have made different choices. Someone recently called me stupid for some of the thoughts I have on love. I think they might be right. Now, that leaves room for the other two immeasurable mysteries to play a part… Hope and Faith. But whatever you do, don’t ask me to define them. I can’t.
Till next time,
Monday, June 09, 2014
I had an existential moment this morning as I got ready for work. It was something simple, but it sent me over the edge. Perhaps it’s from exhaustion having spent all day yesterday in the hot, humid Georgia heat with a few hundred young, hot soldiers, having only gotten a few hours of sleep the night before, and just waking after only a few hours of sleep on a second night. Needless to say – my thoughts ran on autopilot. I was simply too tired to try and control them.
I was brushing my hair and putting my long bangs into a clip when I looked into my eyes. I didn’t mean to. I wasn’t thinking about anything other than getting my hair pinned, grabbing my lunch, and then leaving for work. But there she was looking me – this woman I’ve come to know over the past few years, and suddenly I’m just weeping. Not crying, not balling, but feeling this uncontrollable pressure clench the center of my stomach and push upward, squeezing my lungs, and then pushing even further, spilling tears down my cheeks.
I couldn’t understand why I was crying. It was beyond words. I wanted to hug that image in the mirror crying back at me. I wrapped my arms tight around me and squeezed as hard as I could… and then anger bubbled up and shot out at me. It’s like I heard her shouting in my heart, “THAT’s the problem right there.”
I didn’t understand what she meant. What problem?
Flashes of bits of conversations, various scenes of my life, and the glimpses of real souls behind real eyes fluttered through my mind. I saw smiles of hope yesterday in three other sets of eyes – hope for what could be – hope for the possibilities that lay ahead. Two from a young pair meeting for the first time, and one from a friend who seems to have met someone who can make him smile. In those moments – those specific quiet moments where we find ourselves reaching out in darkness – that’s when we see the truth. We see our hopes, fears, wants and needs – and the fullness or lack of their fulfillment. We also see who stands beside us or if we walk alone.
I have wonderful friends, some of the best friends in the world who encourage me, teach me, listen to me, and put up with my craziness, but all these friends who are close to me are far from me too. They can’t hug me and tell me everything is going to be okay. Often they are lines of black font floating through my life. Though they are there, they’re not there. I can’t see the excitement or pain in their eyes. I can’t hold them, nor can they hold me. I can’t SHARE my life with them, because they’re not here when I really need them. We don’t get to experience anything together – just my retelling of what I did on my own. In essence, I am all alone.
Several times yesterday, SEVERAL, I wanted to nudge my best friend and tell him, “Look, did you see that? Did you hear what they just said? Isn’t this the best? Did you see what I just did, can you believe it?” On the other hand, I had another friend standing in front of me most of the day texting all their happy moments to someone else. That used to be me on the other side of that phone, but I’ve somehow managed to push them away, and I’ve since put up my walls and closed the lid on yet another box. More than likely when I get home today, I’ll Skype my best girlfriend and tell her all about my great adventure yesterday – because she too is someone that isn’t here, that I can’t see or touch. She misses so many moments… because those moments have to wait for the ‘retelling’. I have to wait to hear what’s been going on in her life. As a best friend – I should know and I should be there experiencing them with her. I know this is my doing – surrounding myself with ‘unavailable’ people.
Severely sleep deprived, exhausted after a hot, yet exciting, day I had a long drive to face last night through a tempest storm. At one point the lightning was so bad, the wind so strong, and the rain so hard, I lost complete visibility and had to pull over (in a dark, remote area where my cell reception was shoddy) and wait it out. I could barely keep my eyes open already, so tired it hurt to breathe, and sitting and waiting only made me more tired. I was scared – scared of the storm and falling asleep behind the wheel. I needed someone to help calm those fears and to keep me awake. I never felt so alone. Ever. They were not there for me. I believe that was the moment I realized how alone I truly was, but through the exhaustion, it took until the next morning as I was brushing my hair to feel it.
The sad part to this whole tale is this – my three best friends are all very comfortable being alone. They mention it all the time about how they like being on their own, how they don’t need or want anyone else, how they like their lives just the way they have them – single, alone, content. Perhaps that’s why they’re my friends. I’ve been alone my whole life – even when I was married, I was still alone. But, I’m not like them. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t think they do either, no matter what they say, it’s just not with me they want to share their life. I want someone to love me and want to share their life with me just as much as I want to share my life with them. I’m so tired of feeling like a burden to these introverts. I’m an extrovert. They all have had love, but chose to be alone because it’s what they wanted. I’ve never had love and I didn’t choose to be alone, I chose to leave the circumstances that kept me alone. I’m tired of feeling like what I want is ‘wrong’.
I want them in my life… IN MY LIFE… not just black font and an occasional video call. But they have to want to be in my life too. I can’t keep waiting and hiding myself away with people who don’t really want someone in their lives. I’m not talking about not being their friend anymore – I love them dearly. But, I may have to change the dynamic of our friendships. I can’t survive too many mornings like this one – because no matter how tight I wrap my arms around myself, I can’t hold together a million shattered pieces. I’m a broken vessel that has been slowly putting myself together these last few years. Sometimes, I need someone to help me hold them together. I don’t like to be touched, and I don’t want to be hugged by an acquaintance. I’m talking about a real friend that I love as much as they love me.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I don’t have several men who would like to have a relationship with me, the kind of relationship I’m seeking. But, the kind of relationship I want is the kind where both parties want each other. I could love a nice guy – I did for 20 years. But, I want to love one that sets my soul on fire. I don’t need another ‘friend’. I don’t want to be the woman they confide in, share their thoughts, dreams and problems with, while they share their smiles, love, and passion with someone else. I’m foolish enough to want all of them – to share all of me.
The truly sad part – I don’t think it will ever happen. I don’t believe anymore. I’ve been told one too many times that I’m just too much, or I’m not enough, and especially… I just want to be friends.
Till next time,
P.s. – Please don’t comment on this post. I’m overflowing with relationship platitudes that may work on other people, but frankly I just don’t want to hear them anymore. This blog is for me to vent the pain that’s inside me. I’m TRULY not seeking inspiration or relationship advice. I also don’t want your sorrow or pity. I’ve received enough of those to last a lifetime.
Wednesday, June 04, 2014
I can’t wait to get back into the woods. I’m so proud of the trips I’ve made so far this past year (Olympic National Park, Mt. Rainier, Providence Canyon, Cheaha, Chattahoochie Bend, Banning Mills, McIntosh Reserve, Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail (7.5 miles), Fort Benning, Red Top Mountain, Sweetwater Creek, Sharp Creek State Park, John Tanner State Park, Lake Carroll, Walker Lake, etc ), and look forward to the trips coming up on my schedule (Cloudland Canyon, Stone Mountain, Grand Canyon, Badlands, Redwoods, Portland, Carlsbad Caverns, 43 more miles of the Appalachian Trail, . I truly can’t express what being in the woods does for me. I’ve tried to explain it and my love for it, but I find most people don’t really understand what I’m saying, or just dismiss my remarks. Do they think I just like the sound of my own voice?
Being on a dating site and meeting a bunch of new people, you’d be surprised at how little people really pay attention to what you say and how most of them don’t really know what they even want and like. I’ve made myself as clear and as plain as I possibly can, but they still don’t listen. THAT is now become the greatest quality I look for in a man… the ability to listen.
The second quality is the ability to examine themselves and what they really want and know to be the truth of it. Many times we think we want something in our lives, or even in some cases what we think we don’t want in our lives, mostly because it sounds good or we are trying to protect ourselves from getting hurt. But what we really like and what we really want … isn’t what we say or dream… but what we do. Don’t tell me you love hiking and haven’t stepped foot in the forest in nearly a decade. You’re lying to yourself. You don’t love hiking, you love the idea of hiking.
Don’t tell me you love adventure and trying something new when you’ve worked the same routine for the last decade. You’re just bored. If you truly loved adventure, your life would be filled with adventure. It might not be on the scale you hoped or dreamed… but you truly are what you do – not what you think you do. We’re a bunch of liars.
I know about lying to yourself. I’ve done it for a very long time. It made me miserable. I can’t and won’t do it anymore. I’m really looking for adventure. I’ve made so many giant leaps that I’m like Superman – able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I know how to fall too… but even more so – how to get back up.
I really am looking for love, not become an addition or trophy to your boring life. I’m not boring. I’m not compatible with boring. I’m passionate. I’m bold. I’m scared shitless (whatever the fuck that means), I take risks. If I come into your life… your life will never be boring.
So, what am I saying? Wake the fuck up and get real with yourselves, people. Life is too damned short to sleep through it. All that stuff you’re trying to accumulate because you think it will make you happy is the biggest fucking lie you tell yourself. Happiness is a state of being. If you’re not happy with nothing… nothing will ever make you happy. When I die, I want my tombstone or urn to say, “She lived… she really fucking lived.”
Till next time,
Monday, June 02, 2014
I wish I could live in those moments, you know, those moments when everything is new, when hope is burning bright, when your heart is racing at the idea of all of the possibilities, when new adventures show up in your life.
I know you know what I’m talking about.
It’s that excitement you feel when you first meet someone. You weren’t looking for them, but turn around and there they are, and your world suddenly becomes a little brighter. You didn’t even realize your life wasn’t burning so bright before, but now that a specific spot of sunshine has appeared and the adventure has begun, it’s a great feeling. You have a spring in your step, a song in your heart, a sense of peace that everything is going to be alright.
It’s when you’ve been living in the mundane, the uncertain, the rut - and then all of a sudden there’s a relief, a change that pushes you out the ditch you’ve been in – the start of a new job, the excitement of meeting new people, new processes, new utilizations of your gifts and talents. Hope and possibilities.
It’s when you’ve found a new place to explore. You plot, plan, and prepare to start the journey and your mind fills up with all the possibilities of that adventure and of what you can experience.
I wish I could live in those moments forever, because life is good there. It’s the memory, the experience, the joy that we feel in those moments that pushes and sustains us through all the other moments… the moments of heartbreak, disappointment, rejections, failure, and loss.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for the lesser moments, because without them I wouldn’t appreciate and value the exciting moments. I’m just trying to change my life so that I have more of the prime moments than the lesser ones. My heart breaks, it’s actually broken at the moment, yet I continue to desire those happier moments. I can’t stay in this heartbreak, I can’t stay in the fear, the depression, or the pain. I have to pick myself up, encourage myself to move forward, or else I’ll get stuck in another rut.
All those positive notes of inspiration that I share aren’t because I roll out of bed every morning so happy I can’t help but spread my cheer. It’s actually quite the opposite. I’m most often hurt, scared, and lost because my life is in transition (we are all always in transition). But, I CHOOSE to confront all that pain and fear with hope for a better day – today; one day at a time – one moment at a time - one decision at a time to fight and refuse to allow the other moments to consume me. I speak all this positive hope into my life – and guess what - as I grab onto it my day gets brighter, my fears abate, and a smile genuinely fills my face.
So here’s to meeting that next beautiful person in my life, the new job, the new project, the new adventure, the new friend, etc. Come. Come quickly.
Till next time,