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Thursday, February 4, 2010

This I Believe #3

Go ahead and post your third This I Believe essay here by noon on Friday. Also, don't forget to leave comments about other peoples wonderful essays!

10 comments:

  1. I believe I am a narcissist. I am in love with my body and myself. I am a narcissist, not in the sense that I feel grandiosity when I consider my own being, but in the sense that I never tire of learning about myself and sharing this information with others. I learned today why I am cold—not frigid and unloving; not distant and cruel—cold in the sense that the warmth of humanity does not apply to me. While the majority of my species runs at a toasty mammalian 98.6, I generally hover around a cool, crisp 96 or so; not quite reptilian, but curious to say the least.
    I have long known that I run colder than most, but today I learned why. To state it bluntly and oversimplify, I am a little bit dead inside. The nerves that feed my muscles the will and way to function simply do not do this. Simply, they don’t really do much of anything. So, I am left as a catalyst site with no biochemical reaction. No microscopic molecular explosions for me. No heat to radiate. No warmth for comfort. Often, I have joked with friends about my cold and clammy constancy—“I am a vampire. I am a zombie. I told you I died.” Luckily, my undead condition has not yet led me to cannibalize my peers. It is an odd deliberation, though, that I am a living, functioning hodgepodge of dead cells, scar tissue, and as Monty has lovingly dubbed me, “a bubbling pot of sickly girl meats,” sealed nicely in an epidermal wrapper with a poorly functioning vascular bow.
    Should I be amused or enraged by the b-class horror movie plot unfolding from my flesh? Despite the funny word play and outlandish comparisons, my muscles really are making the transition from meats to mush as healthy cells degenerate into scar tissue and the nerves continue to annihilate my physicality through “friendly fire.” It is safe to say that today’s discovery of my body’s ambivalence has only fueled my narcissism. Through witty banter and sarcastic quips, I look forward to redefining the physical contradictions that emanate from me in place of body heat.

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  2. This I Believe #3
    Paul Brown
    CETA
    I believe that families change. I first realized this tonight, but I think I have felt it coming for much longer. I am the youngest of four, the product of two caring parents who instilled in us the will to succeed, and as a result probably unbeknownst to them, the desire to do this through any means possible. My family is spread apart now. My oldest brother has been living in Japan for five years now, and has been living outside our house for close to twelve years now. My sister next in line has been gone for eight, and has been successful in raising a family on her own in our hometown. The next brother in line now lives in Houston with his fiancé, and come next fall, he will be going to train to be a chef at the Culinary Institute of America. My next oldest brother and I were the last to leave, both in the same year, to Texas and Lexington respectively. We have all travelled courageously on our own paths, towards unique futures, and because of this, we have begun to drift apart from each other and our parents.
    This idea hit me all at once tonight while speaking with my brother, the one in Texas, over the internet. He and his fiancé have been planning their wedding, which is to take place in august of this year, and he asked me if I could design their invitations.
    “of course I can”
    “thanks man, and of course we can pay you”
    This is the point where I realized that all of my relationships with my immediate family were quickly becoming less immediate. This was my brother. The brother who was there the first time I got drunk. The brother who I cooked alongside for two years at a local Greek restaurant. The brother who used to exclude me from his circle of friends, until I became old enough to be cool enough to be there alongside him. The brother who I braved the staircase in a sleeping bag with. The brother who taught me about the many types of beer, and the many types of music, and the many movies, and the many types of people with whom I should associate. And now this brother was asking for payment for a favor. I felt a little sick to my stomach. Our favors had always been mutual and free until this point. This is new, I thought. This happened because we, for the first time in our lives, were in different places, both physically and mentally.
    I haven’t decided yet the extent or meaning of this change. I don’t know if it’s good or bad or if it just is. I do know a couple of things though. I can hear something in my mother’s voice on the phone now that wasn’t there before. I can’t imagine the change in the atmosphere in the house where I grew up. That place used to echo with footsteps and conversations and noise from the kitchen. Now I can’t help but imagine the sound of just two forks clinking against plates in the dining room instead of six. I can’t imagine that house silent. I can’t imagine that house with only one car in the driveway. Of course these things make me sad. There is a part of my life that is over now. My family will never be the same. I suppose the hope for this situation lies in that every family in history has gone through it. We build walls in between the members of our family when we move away. I guess my goal is to keep those walls small.
    I know that the times my entire family will be together are now severely limited. Our relationships will continue to change, hopefully not to fade, but they will certainly change. My parents will pass on, and so will my siblings, and so will I. And our children will someday feel what I am feeling now: the uncertainty and loneliness that accompanies necessary change.

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  3. Fish and Faith
    I believe in a five-year-old. Living their first year as underground missionaries in China, my uncle, his wife , and his three children of less than seven years of age have risked their lives and given up everything for a life dedicated to the Gospel. They are not the conservative, quiet family of grace and discipline. No, not this family. They are the loud pizza party, religious watchers of Friends and The Office, and summer little league survivors. They are the typical American family.
    Upon arrival to Shanghai, each child convinced they were living their new favorite movie Kung Fu Panda, it did not take long to realize just how far east the Far East really was from the life they knew. No longer were there the smiles and Southern comforts of home.
    Their first night in Shanghai the entire family was to meet with a local official, their landlord, and a local businessmen to discuss some of the issues of their papers. The meeting was to be held over a nice dinner at the top of a large hotel in Shanghai’s nicest business district. It was to be a family affair. After a long trip, all were excited for the opportunity to try out their new chopsticks skills. However, a snack at McDonald’s would be the first stop. Dressed in formal attire my family was greeted with a bow above the urban Chinese landscape. All was well.
    Then they opened the menu. Panic. There were no eggrolls, chicken-on-a-stick, or powered doughnuts listed. It was a really formal version of the writing in the Manga comics. Not a problem. They simply decided to order the same as the Chinese men.
    The food was brought out on huge platters. Wesley stands up in his chair, pointing and shouts, “EWWWW! EYEBALLS!” The fish indeed was staring them right in the face, as were many other slimy things. Horrified, my aunt dropped her head in embarrassment and fear, tears coming to her eyes.
    “Heheheh, heheheh.” She looked up to see the entire table o f Chinese officials laughing and jabbering to one another, later interpreted as “sounds just like my little one at home!” They all laughed together and enjoyed a First Supper so much different than the Last Supper they had had in the States. Leave it to a fish and five-year-old to bridge the cultural gap and lead a family as they share the Message of Christ in the Far East.

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  4. She came to town on Tuesday and Thursday mornings inside a converted short-bus. Each time, she parked outside the firehouse where, years after her visits stopped, family members gathered to celebrate my grandmother’s eightieth birthday. The only civic building in town outside the one-room schoolhouse-museum where my father studied as a boy, the firehouse hosted many parties. Shuffleboard tournaments glided smoothly from one into the next. Because this was a volunteer fire department with rotating officers, my uncle was at times the chief and I enjoyed more tournaments than most children. After each tournament ended, I purchased soda from a talking machine outside the large garage doors.

    “Hello, I am your talking soda vendor. Please insert seventy-five cents. Please insert fifty cents. Please insert twenty-five cents. Press the button to select your soda. Thank you. Good bye.” Sometimes the machine was reset to speak in Spanish, French, or Japanese. Though the script is predictable, it was oddly difficult to purchase soda from a Japanese vendor.

    This talking soda machine replaced the one that had delivered glass bottles back when my mother would sit on the front porch of the defunct General Store while my brother and I stepped inside the converted short-bus for our weekly visits. Each week, the bus held worlds of fresh wonder and we stood long in a line of children: awaiting magic. Bobby Jorgenson was the luckiest of us all. He lived close enough to walk and found his way inside the bus every time it came to our village.

    Bobby remained lucky long after the short-bus stopped coming. Stumbling drunk along the road outside the firehouse, he didn’t pass out on the General Store’s porch that Friday night in June. Another man, also drunk, picked a fight and, head-locked, lost his life as Bobby passed out on top of him, breaking the man’s neck.

    I remember stepping off the short-bus one day in summer, lost in a new book. It was about Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James, and Billy the Kid: outlaws and gunslingers with lives converted into tall tales for children in search of adventure. Bobby Jorgensen found adventure at the bottom of a beer bottle: he killed a man and walked free from punishment. The alphabetized authors in the fiction section of the short-bus would have known his story as something too fantastic to sell.

    I believe in the bookmobile.

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  5. I unshelved my American self in a big-box store: Meijer’s #32 in Holland, Michigan, one link in a grocery chain conceived by a barber who lived the American dream. An immigrant from the first Holland, Hendrik Meijer traded his shaving blades for a grocery business after the Great Depression made weekly visits to the barber shop inexcusable luxury. He opened his first store on June 1st, 1934, employing his fourteen-year-old son as a bagger and introducing one-stop shopping. Five years later, he pioneered the use of shopping carts, too. He kept breaking new grocery ground, digging deeper into the dream.

    Sixty-two years, three months, and twenty-four days later I felt my immigrant anxiety abate as I directed one of his shopping carts down an isle padded with microwaveable popcorn. This was my second trip to Meijer. The first time I bought nothing. I tried to memorize the variety of frozen vegetables to report to my family over the phone. On my second trip, I was ready to shop. I boarded the van ferrying international students from Hope College to Meijer, ready to break new ground. I had $24.85 in my Bulgarian purse: my first paycheck earned serving warm food in the cafeteria’s hotline. Guiding my cart towards the piles of reduced-fat popcorn, I felt powerful with my newfound ability to earn. I knew, then, I would make it. I was young and bold. Like Hendrik, I was no longer afraid of America.

    Thirteen years later, I avoid Meijer’s, buying local produce at locally-owned groceries whenever I can. Thirteen years later, I dodge the fat that microwaveable popcorn conceals with reduced-fat labels (I buy Kentucky-grown sprouts instead). Thirteen years later, I am aware that Meijer’s family-friendly values disguise practices unfriendly to many. For thirteen years I have seen the American dream benefit those who are white, able-bodied, and male. I realize, too, that like Hendrik before me, I am making it: unsentimental about tradition, I fashion my own brand of the dream.

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  6. I believe in forgiveness. It gathers at your feet like netting, encompasses your heart like a caterpillar until rebirth, until wings that smell of the sea.
    It arrives during early mornings. Open windows with the sill resting on the top of my bed and breathing cool air on freckled summer cheeks. The salty pink sky and leaves blowing waves across the roof. Rising to make tea sweetened with local honey and resting against the porch. Fresh mornings after restless twilights, nestled in earth's quiet dawn.
    I am young and dissatisfied. I realize this with the sweep of night stifling my best intentions. We become wild things. Sometimes in the wildness I sing loud and kick up the snow, but sometimes tangled intentions trump my joy. Sometimes the wildness makes a mockery of us all and sleep arrives lonely.
    After this I wake early. I feel the outside like a winter of apologies and I walk around my room, trying to make the day pure again. I eat apples, drink ale 8, and take a broom to the floor of my dorm. I listen to folk music and watch the bright sun glow through yellow curtains. I remember the heartbeat of humanity. I sit and write and dream.
    I dream of days when my brothers and I all added up to less than ten. Our parents would wake us at midnight. We took our baby dolls and stuffed goats to our small grey car and fell asleep in toddler seats while pine trees waved by like storybook pictures of a forest that I still remember as magic. When we awoke at the ferry, we changed out of our pajamas and boarded a boat at 6am. The sky was always blue and the wind fierce. I would sit on the deck for less than two minutes before running inside with my dad. Ice licks the skin. I began early mornings feeling life.
    I believe these quiet awakenings were created as healing moments. The air is less dense, the dreams are more vivid, your breath comes calm. It is now we find connection, we find out we are ancient, we touch trees to watch their fibers reach out for our hands. We remember love, we remember to love ourselves. We practice resurrection.

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  7. This I Believe; Humor Has Power

    “Where do you find a one legged dog?
    Where you left it.”

    I believe the humor and the joke is the most powerful use of language. With the power of humor, we can lighten the mood of an otherwise hostile, dreary, or depressing moment. At the direst of times, a joke can still make you laugh. Sometimes the impulse to laugh is irresistible. Jokes and humor bond us together. It’s a quick way to make a connection with someone. Even a stranger can feel free to appreciate a good joke. Jokes are tools for unity.

    “As an airplane is about to crash, a female passenger jumps up frantically and announces, "If I'm going to die, I want to die feeling like a woman."
    She removes all her clothing and asks, "Is there someone on this plane who is man enough to make me feel like a woman?"
    A man stands up, removes his shirt and says, "Here, iron this!"

    “Why is it good to have a blonde passenger?
    You get to park in the handicap zone.”

    With a joke, we can demean others, often times without repercussion. Clouded by the pretense of novelty and insignificance, we tell jokes about race, sex, religion frequently without care for the damage they can do to others who hear them. Jokes are tools for division.

    "Shit may just be the most powerful word in the English language.
    You can be shit faced,
    shit out of luck,
    or have shit for brains
    With a little effort,
    you can get your shit together,
    find a place for your shit or
    decide to shit or get off the pot.
    You can smoke shit,
    buy shit,
    sell shit,
    lose shit,
    find shit,
    forget shit,
    and tell others to eat shit and die.
    Some people know their shit
    while others
    can’t tell the difference
    between
    shit and shinola.
    There are lucky shits,
    dumb shits,
    crazy shits,
    and sweet shits.
    There is bull shit,
    horse shit,
    chicken shit and
    holy shit!
    You can throw shit,
    sling shit,
    catch shit,
    or duck when shit hits the fan.
    You can give a shit
    or
    serve shit on a shingle.
    You can find yourself in deep shit
    or
    Be happier than a pig in shit.
    Some days are colder than shit,
    some days are hotter than shit,
    and some days are just plain shitty.
    Some music sounds like shit,
    things can look like shit,
    smell like shit,
    taste like shit,
    and there are times when you feel like shit.
    You can have too much shit,
    not enough shit,
    the right shit,
    the wrong shit or
    a lot of weird shit.
    You can carry shit,
    have a mountain of shit,
    or find yourself up shit creek without a paddle.
    When you stop to consider all the facts,
    it’s the basic building block of creation.
    And remember, once you know your shit,
    you don’t need to know anything else!
    Pass this along if you give a shit!!"

    With humor, we can transcend social boundaries. A joke knows no bad situation, if chosen with care. What is unacceptable at times can be uttered in the form of a joke, testing and stretching what is or should be. Jokes are tools for freedom.

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  8. I believe that I am bad at Spanish yet that belief does not stop me from loving the language and continuing to take classes for Spanish. The fluidity and the rapid speed in which Spanish is spoken amazes me and I get jealous when I think you can’t speak English that fast and expect people to understand you still. When I speak English with the same speed that Spanish is spoken, I make no sense and people often refer to it as gibberish, not English. This baffles me every time because I understand what I am saying but no one else does. I believe that the English language is an unattractive language compared to other country’s languages. The slang, the acceptance of using words that are not real words, everything about it. I have a hard time finding things about the English language that I like. Though I struggle in my Spanish classes I make no hesitations with wanting to progress my understanding of the language. Quiet often I found myself in complete confusion during classes, trying to grasp whatever is being discussed. But this confusion is what keeps me focused, what feeds my drive to be able comprehend something so different. Spanish keeps me interested and attentive in class. It keeps me intrigued and active with my education. I believe that I am bad at Spanish but that misunderstanding of Spanish keeps me curious and forces me to want to continue to improve my Spanish.

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  9. I believe in eyes.
    I believe in ears.
    I believe in noses.
    I believe in mouths.
    I believe in skin.

    I believe in seeing.
    I believe in hearing.
    I believe in smelling.
    I believe in tasting.
    I believe in feeling.

    I believe that you may see with your skin,
    taste with your nose,
    feel with your eyes,
    hear with your mouth,
    smell with your ears.

    The sight of flannel sheets and a fluffy down comforter feels like a bare body against a soft warm bed.
    The scent of homemade chicken noodle soup tastes like a chicken whose juices and aroma has combined with that of carrots, celery, and onions to create the flavor of familiarity.
    A fervent locking of eyes feels like hands liberating every inch of your flesh.
    Lips touching lips, teeth, tongue, and cheeks, sounds like flames dancing on the kindling that will turn to coals after time.
    The sound of grease popping and sizzling in a frying pan smells like fresh sausage seasoned with salt, peppercorns, and sage.

    I believe in the taste of colors,
    the sound of numbers,
    the feel of music,
    the smell of infatuation,
    the vision created by the texture of contours.

    I believe in feeling with your mouth, nose, eyes, and ears.
    I believe in tasting with your eyes, ears, nose, and hands.
    I believe in smelling with your hands, eyes, ears, and mouth.
    I believe in hearing with your mouth, hands, eyes, and nose.

    I believe in seeing with your eyes. Ears. Mouth. Nose. and Hands.

    I believe in seeing.
    I believe in hearing.
    I believe in smelling.
    I believe in tasting.
    I believe in feeling.

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  10. Kyle was three when he first came to my family. He came with his sister Stephanie who was four. He didn't know how to speak. We later found out that this was not because he was developmentally challenged as originally concluded, but rather because the family he came from did not allow him to speak. His mother having mixed her white blood with a Mexican immigrant who did not stay longer than a few weeks was enough of a sin to punish the by-product of such an alliance. As the year and half he spent with us passed we found out that his other punishments included never having a birthday celebration and never being given presents at Christmas. Stephanie had her share of abuses from the family from which they came, although very different in nature. Stephanie did not stay with us for more than a few months, needing a non-family situation in order to cope with the abuses she had faced in her four years. For Kyle, our family was exactly what he need to come out of his shell and grow.
    I still have stickers stuck to the window of my car where Kyle would place them after I picked him up from day care. I think there are still dum-dum sticks stuck in small crevices in the back of my vehicle from the same trips. Once, Kyle figured out he was allowed to talk he became chatty to the extreme. It was difficult to understand what he was saying, having never been allowed to practice the sounds he heard and understood, but whatever it was it was important and he would let us know as loud and as long as he could.
    I loved reading to Kyle and Stephanie, when she was with us, before bed time. I had to limit the number of books to three or I would get sucked into reading for hours on end. One rare free Saturday afternoon I was reading in bed when Kyle came marching into my room, wanting me to play. I told him that my room was a reading room and only people who were reading were aloud in and if he wanted to come into my room then he needed to get a book. He marched out, steam coming out his ears, but in few minutes was back with a large stack of books. For the next few hours we sat side by side in my bed, me with my novel and him with picture books. When I looked over at him these books were often upside down, but he seemed happy to be allowed into my sacred room of reading.
    I believe in fostering. I believe in providing a home to children in need. I believe that when these children act out it is not because they are bad, but because they are testing or need to know that they are worthy of attention. I believe that it does not take much to make a difference in such a child's life. I do not believe the foster care system is perfect, but I do believe that is does help on at least some level. Stephanie and Kyle are now happy with an adoptive family. Both are doing well and both are going to be ok. I believe that my family served as a transition place for them from someplace really bad to someplace good. I believe that one day I will be able to help again.

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