Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I Am the Biggest Fool

I am fool. I am a fool because I care and love those who are even bigger fools than myself. I’ve always heard a phrase that God watches over fools and idiots. He must have a league of angels watching over me.

I’m not unintelligent. I’m not naïve. I see what’s around me. The world is an ugly mess. People are an ugly mess. I try so hard to be something beautiful in this gray world, but sometimes I get tired of carrying that light.  Yet, I’m a strong person because I’ve been forced to shine that light for myself, find my way out, and put up my guards and shields all my life. Yet, poison still gets in. I open the door to danger. I invite in chaos. Why?  Because of love.

Not because of others loving me, or that I’ve fallen into that crazy, wild love and can’t see what’s around me, or that I’m refusing to see the truth. No, I see the truth and walk in it anyway. THAT’s why I’m a fool.  I’m in love with what can and will never be in love with me, who chooses the company of vampires and leeches over me.

But I deserve better than this.  What about me?

I remember another God moment, where I was on my face, nose in the carpet, pouring my heart out and praying for my kids, my ex-husband, my church, my friends, my job, etc. 

When I was done unloading all that worry, I heard a whisper calmly ask me a simple question.  “If you knew one of your children were starving, hungry, and in pain, what would you do for them?”

I answered, “Anything, well, anything that would help them, even if it was hard for them, hard for me, or misunderstood.”

The whisper replied, “If they were in danger, would you risk your own life to save them?”
Without hesitation, I answered, “Yes. Always.”

There was a long silence. Whisper said to me, “You are my child, and you’ve neglected yourself trying to take care of everyone else.  You’ve ignored your needs, buried your wants, and your soul is starving for the love it needs.  You’ve abused my child long enough. I won’t tolerate it anymore.”

I felt so ashamed, because I had ignored myself. I’ve always done whatever to survive, to meet what everyone else needed, because I was in need. I knew what it felt like to be hungry, so I spent more than 17 years feeding the poor.  I knew what it felt like to be unloved as a child by your parents, so my heart reached out to any unloved kids that crossed my path – I still do. I knew what it was like to be pregnant and alone, so I opened my home to a pregnant stranger. I knew what it was like to not have a friend in the whole world, have someone to help me in a time of need, so I became the kind of friend I needed.  But, it doesn’t come without a cost.

A friend posted a meme on their Facebook wall the other day that said, “I want someone to look at me and say, ‘Damn, that’s mine!’ and just be proud to have me.”  I responded with a simple, “It’ll never happen.” A complete stranger sent me a message that had me crying in the middle of my shift at work. I hid the tears as much as I could, but I couldn’t help feel the pain, a pain that I’ve been stuffing down and trying to ignore.  This stranger messaged me, “…you’re a very attractive woman. So, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not even this year, but you’ll find someone who’s proud to call you theirs.”

What this stranger doesn’t realize is that I have MANY people in my life who love me, even more that respect me, and I’m not in want for friends. Remember, I’ve spent my life being a good friend. But, no one has EVER claimed me as theirs – not my parents, not my family, not my ex-husband, not any of ex-boyfriend’s – who are still my friends because they love me as a person.  I’m great to love – as a friend, to depend on, to respect, to turn to, to be there when no one else will, but… to love me – the woman?  I’m turning 46 years old next week, and I’ve only ever felt truly loved once in my life… for just a very brief moment and then he died.  Loved …for ME.  In love …WITH me.  I’ve been in love 4 times, but only deeply, madly, crazy in love once. But, they didn’t want me.  They love me, but not how I love them. They choose their chaos over me.

I’ve been neglecting myself again, putting myself on the back burner to focus on others and their needs. There’s always a reason. There’s always a need.  All the reasons are good, but it doesn’t mean they’re not interfering. When do I matter? When does what I need and want matter? Life is shit. Life is chaos. There will ALWAYS be something – but WHEN do I put me first again?  I have needs too.  I’m such a fool. I’m not naïve. I know the reality of my situation. I know that I’m loved, but unloved.  I’m not blind. I see more than I let them know I see. I’m not stupid, either. Just because I don’t expose what I know is in the dark, doesn’t mean I’m unaware. I just choose to be a light, something positive, and spread a message of hope instead of judgment. I choose to focus on what’s important.  I love because I need love. I help because I need help.  I’m friendly because I’m lonely. I give, because I’m empty.  I go without so others won’t. I have to believe it’s not for nothing. I’m not stupid. I know I will not be chosen. I will be left behind for the vampire, for the leech, for the lotus flower, for the opportunity, for the drug, for the convenience, for the addiction, for the easy way, for the simpler path …. I always have been, especially by those who claim to love me most. It’s hard to love me. 

My whisper, my God, my love watches over me. They have to, because I’m the biggest fool. 

“Someday when my crying’s done, I’m gonna wear a smile and walk in the sun. I may be a fool, but darlin’ you’ll never see me complain, ‘cause I’ll do my cryin’ in the rain.” ~Jaime Ellis

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray - The Story - My Story - Meeting God

Everyone has their own journey, their own experiences, and their own meeting God moments.  As a human being, there comes a time in our lives when we face our mortality and understand that our time and presence is limited on this rotating rock.  We finally see how small we are compared to the vastness of the universe. Or we finally understand the physics that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Yet “our” worlds do revolve around us, we are at the center of it, and everything that happens to us or comes from us, stems from the center of our being.  We don’t experience what’s going on across the universe – only what is within our scope, our reach, and our influence.  Some of us have a very limited reach, while others have a vast one, but we all have one, even if it’s only within ourselves.

I’ve heard the name of God my whole life. Most often in a damning expression when something went wrong or someone was angry, or when danger was present, which was during most of my childhood.  God was damned about every four to five words that escaped the cigarette or joint-ridden mouths of my parents. The concept that while God gave life to all things, my parents were ultimately responsible for my birth, and they alone had the right to take that life from me should they choose. I do believe the words were, “I brought you into this world, and if I damned-well please, I’ll take you out of it.” Have you really thought about the phrase ‘damned-well’?  That’s an oxymoron.  Nothing damned is well.

I’ve had a few meeting God moments, but one stands out in particular.  It wasn’t when I died after being attacked by a Doberman Pincher at age 5, or when I rode on top of a car through a barbed-wire fence, or when I fell off the back of a pick-up and got ran over, or any of those life-threatening moments. No, Meeting God moment that sticks out to me was a happy moment, a peaceful moment, a vision of beauty and grace, surrounded by nature and probably one of the first instances of human love.

I was about five years old. From my life time-line, this was some time after the burned-down house, the place where my little yellow canopy bed was destroyed and where I was attacked by the dog following my fifth birthday, and some time before we moved to Texas where I started Kindergarten, so sometime before my 6th birthday.  We lived on what my parents refer to as ‘the farm’.  I’m not sure what the farm really looked like because my memories are brittle pieces. I do remember some scenes, such as a log shack with a fold up cot me and my brothers would play in, until we got bed bugs.  This is the place I learned about chiggers, muddy wells, horses, and how to hoe a vegetable garden, and the first time I heard the name William Smith.  I’m still not sure who he was, only that he was on the farm with my family, had dark-curly hair, and couldn’t ride a horse. 

Next door lived an old black couple. I wish I could remember their names, but I can’t.  I do, however, remember their hands, and their smiles, and their chickens, and their red-painted barn.  I remember happiness riding on the back of an old Chevy pick-up truck, (my father hated Fords – so it isn’t ironic that I grew up loving them) through bumpy, dusty, red clay dirt roads and mazes of corn. To this day I still love riding down winding dirt roads among corn fields. Our old neighbors had a bunch of chickens that ran around the yard. I loved chasing them, feeding them, picking their eggs, and then running from them as they chased me back.  It was carefree fun. It was a moment I got to just be kid. I didn’t have many of those moments, but that was one of them.  The old lady, who I will call Henrietta, told me stories about the farm, about her animals, about love, and about God.  I remember her telling me that God was watching me, and watching over me, and sending angels down to protect me. It as a nice thought because I always felt danger. 

I remember my Meeting God moment.  I was lying in the deep green grass next to Fred and Henrietta’s red barn.  A tin pail sat beneath a water spigot that dripped crystal drops in a constant rhythm, creating a harmony with the universe, with the birdsong, with the wind that swayed the tops of trees.  It was like the universe in that moment was singing a universal song and they had allowed me to hear them, to see them worshiping in harmony with the sun, the grass, the wind, the trees, the air, the animals, all of life and all of nature, and even with a little five-year old girl lying in the grass, touching their cool with the tips of her little fingers.  I turned my head to the side and watched a tiny ant meander through the forest of blades and wondered if he knew he was being watched, if he realized how small he was to the world I knew? Wondered if this was how God watched over me? 

I looked into the sky above me, realized how small I was in the universe, and tried to imagine the world beyond the clouds, beyond space, beyond everything – not in distance, but in reality, beyond deeper than what we could see, and wondered if that’s where God lived and if he could see me on this side of the veil, to see little ol’ me lying in the grass. I can still feel the warm tears slide out the corners of my eyes and trickle down the side of my face as I yearned to know THAT God.  Not the god of my father, not the god that damned everything, not the god that people were killing for, but the God that all the universe was apart, the God that watched over me and sent his angels to protect me. I wanted to know him with all of my being, all of my heart, and all of my hope. I believe I met God in that moment. I believe that He heard me, and He touched me, and He smiled because He loved his creation, and his creation loved him back.

After that moment there would be many angry times, hurt times, and lots and lots of doubting. There still are because life is hard, it is complicated, and it’s formed with many different levels and layers. But, anytime I stray too far from my faith, I’m always drawn back to that moment, back to that Meeting of God, and I’m reminded of that experience and my faith is restored. I still have lots of doubts. I still believe with my whole heart that we’ve got it all wrong, for the most part, when it comes to God. I hate religion.  I hate the things men do in the name of God. I hate the way humanity treats one another.  But, sometimes I get a glimpse of the beauty of nature, of the universe, and even of humanity and am reminded that God is love – and love (not the world’s version of love, but pure love) is not of this world, is not of nature, but it is something more, something beyond the veil, something I can’t really describe because it must be experienced to understand.  I’m never afraid to meet God, but of man I am terrified.

The Farm was a brief happy moment in my life.  I always think of it with a smile every time I smell burning wood, or see a corn field, or a red barn, or chickens, or a tin pail, or a water spigot, or a horse.  Many nightmares follow the Farm, but that’s another part of this story. This is where I met God.

This is the story. This is my story.  This is my life.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray ©2017

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray - The Story - My Story - My Play Time

While my childhood is riddled with lots of darkness, it’s also filled with lots of adventure and play time.  My imagination may be the cause of my greatest pains, but it’s also the source of my greatest joys.  Despite the realities of my situation, when left alone, I was a happy kid.  My happiest memories are playing in the woods across the street from my house in New Caney, Texas. 

I lived at the end of Idlewild Road on a half-acre lot in what started as a two room shack with no running water or indoor plumbing.  A man named Greg from Wisconsin lived next door and the Janosek’s lived on the other side, the Stowe’s lived across the street.  Greg was a novelty, having come from a place that made me think of stinky cheese and maple syrup.  Listening to him talk about how his family harvested the sap from maple trees shed a positive light to a name I had been given and would come to hate.  The Janosek’s were everything I wanted and hated because they had what I didn’t have - two parents that worked ‘real’ jobs and a little girl that played with Barbie dolls, wore pretty little dresses, and had birthday parties, a beautiful yard of green manicured grass, and a vegetable garden.  The Stowe's had about dozen dirty little children with elderly parents that often ran wild and free. We had a dozen pit bulls and a yard full of broken-down cars, and a long list of Mexicans and Rednecks coming in and out on a regular basis as my dad started working his way up the ranks with the cartel.

Though I could see the reality of my situation, I also dreamed of escape.  That house of danger became my playground.  The top of the outhouse became my castle’s keep, the fence my city walls, the driveway my drawbridge. The ditch, filled with tadpoles and crawfish when it rained, became my moat teaming with monsters.  The roads were to the paths to other kingdoms, and the woods, oh, the woods became my refuge, a place I got lost for hours, where I could run among the animals, swing from the, and build  places of safety and solitude where I could escape, where I could hide.  In my woods I wasn’t Sap, the drug-dealer’s daughter. I was a warrior, a king.  I never played a princess, because I didn’t believe in being rescued.  I was Robin Hood, I was Lancelot, I was Elliot, I was Luke Skywalker, I was Wonder Woman, I was Evel Knievel, I was MacGyver, I was Magnum P.I., I was Remington Steele, I was  Three-Eyed Willie, and the Three Musketeer’s, and then I was all the characters I began to create.  I ventured to the Island of the Magic Apple Tree, Magic Island.  This is where Lemuria and Montes Lunae and my Necromancers - Gabriel, Azrael, and Sybil Claire were born.  These were the beginnings of my stories, and the expressions my imagination. 

My play time was my freedom; freedom from chores, freedom from responsibilities, freedom from pain, from abuse, from smoke-filled back rooms and mid-night visits.  I fell in love with Superman, wanting more than anything for him to come out of the sky and fly me away.  No one could hurt him. No one could force him to do what he wanted. He had no parents. He had no siblings. He had amazing powers and strength.  I loved him and Jesus, because I needed to be saved.  Neither saved me; I learned how to save myself.

This is the story. This is my story.  This is my play time. This is my life.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray ©2017

Thursday, July 06, 2017

The Messes We Make by the Choices We Choose

We all have our own story, our own epic tale, and our own journey of discovery. We have a beginning, several inciting scenes, character development, a plot line, plot twists, climaxes, and a resolution, and some of us even have a prologue. But, very few of us have an epilogue. That’s something I hope to gain. Just like the vast array of books in a library or bookstore, there are many, many, many stories, and they’re all original. While some may be similar to others, each is individual and unique in their character and plot. Some of us have short tales, while others have many chapters.

Who is the author of our tale? As a writer, I often feel that my characters write the story and I am merely a scribe. Other times, I feel I’m the architect and creator, set the scene, and construct the plot. 

Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle. That’s the same as with our lives.  While we make our choices, Fate, God, and Karma set their traps and move us across our chess boards. We decide what moves to make, which pieces to act, but they decide how those pieces work, their rules, what spaces are available, and the size of the board.

Oh, the messes we make by the choices we choose. Hey, that’d make a good meme. I think I’ll also make that the title of this blog post.

How much of my story is mine? How much of it is the by-product of another’s story? How much is the mess of my making? How much more do I have? How much more do I want?

Some days I’m tired of my story and want it to end. Other days, there’s not enough pages to hold the tales I want to create, the epic I want to write, or the adventure I want chronicled. Is it a romance, a tragedy, a comedy, a thriller, a horror, a flop, or a hero’s journey? Can I change my course or is my plot set? Will I be saved, or will I save myself? Am I the hero or the villain?

I don’t know. Perhaps I’m just a shitty writer. Oh, the messes I’ve made by the choices I’ve chosen.   

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Faith, Hope and Love

Life is hard.  One of the sad realities is that we are often lonely souls, even when we are surrounded by other people.  We are born alone, unless we are a twin, or a triplet, or a quadruplet.  We also die alone, unless we are part of a multiple catastrophe like a plane crash, natural disaster, etc., that takes a lot of people at the same time.   But, you get the point. We are individuals.  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes… I’ve heard all this bullshit before.  What I’ve learned in my nearly 46 years on this rotating ball of iron is that we are social beings and we need interaction with other humans, with other souls, and no matter what we achieve in this life, gain or lose, it’s our faith, hope and love that matter most.  The rest are the non-essential details.

Sex, money, fame, success, the American dream, etc., all of it is bullshit if we don’t have faith, hope, and love.  Sex alone is fucking boring (pun intended). Sex with someone without love, is even worse, it’s empty and does nothing to abate the loneliness inside the soul and attacks the love we have for ourselves.  Money and all the things it can buy is powerless because it can’t buy love, respect, or faith.  I love having money, for the purpose that I can spend it making the people I love happy, or providing what they need, or being there for them if they need me. If there’s no one to spend my money on, it has no value.  Yes, I need a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and clothes on my body to keep me warm or covered.  Basic essentials are important and it takes money to supply those needs.  But, possessing those things isn’t living, it’s surviving.  Surviving is natural, and some of us do it better than others. Some of us are lazy, stupid, and immature and surviving becomes a major importance in life – but what do we strive to survive for?  I’m not living so that I have somewhere to sleep, food to eat, or somewhere to lay my head.  I don’t want to eat to live, I want live to eat.  I want to see the world, but I want to see it with someone who will enjoy all the places we go.  Like Whitney said, I want to dance – with somebody. I want to laugh – with somebody.  I want to cry – with somebody.  I want to dream – with somebody.  I want be someone’s cheerleader and share in their successes.  I want to be a shoulder they can cry on when their world starts closing in on them and squeezing their hope.  I want to have someone I can come home to and share all the exciting or boring things that happened that day.  Life is meant to be shared.  Love is meant to be shared.

I have been hungry, homeless, and in need, but I’ve never been helpless, or lazy, and I know how to survive.  I have loved with my whole heart, and it’s been broken so many times.  I have many people who love me and care about me, but I’m lonely, my faith is weak, and my hope dies a little more every day.  I have to encourage myself. I often feel unnecessary, lost, and unwanted by this world, most often forgotten.  At times I don’t want to be here anymore because I’ve lost purpose, direction.  I’m not wanted or needed and I know the world would keep turning without me in it.  But inside, deep inside, there is a soul that clings tightly to her faith.  Oh, I get angry and feel betrayed by that faith, but don’t you see – those are all evidence that it’s still there. You don’t get angry at what you don’t believe.  It’s because I believe so deeply that I get so angry.  There’s a soul that holds tightly to hope, a hope for a better tomorrow, a hope for peace, a hope for love, a hope for purpose.   And that same little soul is wrapped in love; love for a hateful and selfish world, love for a beautiful  and kind world, love for those who’ve already gone, those who are right in front of her, and even for those she’s yet to meet.

Sometimes I lose focus and allow that loneliness to consume me, the pain of it to engulf me, and I make bad decisions, do rash things, put myself in harm’s way, and fight the thoughts of giving in and giving up.  I want to, but I fight back.  I put on my smile - my armor, my shield, my sword.  I focus on the positive. I give thanks for the souls that are in my life and who take their time to listen, to let me know they care.

Yes, one day I will die and leave this place behind.  The ONLY things that will matter when I’m gone is the love I left behind.  That’s it.  NOTHING ELSE matters.  When James died, all he left me was love, and it’s gotten me through so many years, so many tears, so many times.  Just a little bit of love. I’ve done some AMAZING things with that little bit of love.  Imagine what I could do with a little bit more, fired by my faith, and infused with my hope?

Take all the sex, money, fame and success and all those materialistic and vain things people kill, betray, and abuse themselves and each other to obtain… and shove them up the world’s proverbial ass.  Give me faith – faith in myself, faith in God, and faith in my friends.  Give me hope – something to chase, something to strive for, something of value to achieve. And give me love – the binder of all things.  With these three things I will conquer the world and myself, and the devils that whisper in my ear that I’m unnecessary, unwanted, unneeded, and unloved.

Faith, Hope and Love.  1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, and I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray