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Thursday, March 11, 2010

This I Believe Essay #8

Post your TIB by this Friday, March 12, at noon.

9 comments:

  1. It's nearly midnight and my brain is finally settling down. For the last few weeks my subconscious has been in the process of utter breakdown. I know that if too much of this seeps in to my consciousness I will become too overwhelmed to function.

    In exactly 79 days I will be a college graduate.

    When I came to college I had a plan. I would be an international relations major. I would be the best student the political science department had ever had. I would study to be a foreign service officer. I would work for an embassy abroad and become a key player in American diplomacy.

    Instead I majored in studio art. I believe it was the right thing to do.

    In elementary school we had to make a book about ourselves. A page for our family. A page for likes and dislikes. A page for goals. My only goal was to go to college. I grew up with this goal. My mom got her bachelor's degree when I was in the fifth grade. She graduated law school a week before I graduated high school. I saw her go to college. I knew I wanted to go as well.

    I no longer have a plan. This terrifies me.

    The closer I get to graduation the more my Type A personality traits start to surface. I know that I will be ok. I know that I will survive. But, part of me believes that I will not. Part of me believes that I will fail. This belief feeds off the days and weeks that speed by. It grows from my lack of certainty and failure to produce a clear plan. It suffocates my clarity and makes me self-doubt. This debilitating belief lives in my subconscious waiting for my guard to be let down. It comes out when I lie down at night. It prevents me from sleeping and when I finally do drift off it haunts my dreams, creating nightmares.

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  2. My grandfather is dying. Fortunately he is not being consumed by those evil diseases that rob the elderly of their minds, manners, and memories. No, his death is one of slow fading, revealed only to those that know him enough to venture to look closely for the changes. His eyes now water even when the pets are out of sight, and they water especially at farewells. He is fading like a flower fades, with his petals slowly shrinking away from their former beauty, but resigning themselves to a new dignity and purpose. His hugs have become tighter, and his affection toward his wife, the only that he has ever loved, has become over the years more apparent to his children and his grandchildren. He holds his head higher to compensate for his loss in height and the wood-grain of his barrel chest has become tighter in efforts to frighten death away from him. He tells stories now with the fervor of a car salesman, laughing in his throat and chest and nasal passages for the good things and crying in his heart and mind and stomach for the bad things.
    Although my number of grandparents will probably drop soon from three to two, his stories have become a part of me, and through them he will live. Because of my grandfather, I have ejected from a fighter jet over open water, and felt the excitement and sorrow that comes with bombing foreign nations. I have raised a family of eight, and I have loved a woman for over fifty years. I have passed the crank eagerly awaiting homemade ice cream. I have felt the coldness of the world, and the warmth that so often lies just around the corner. I have walked proudly and have passed my knowledge to children and their children. I have felt tears come at goodbye. I have felt my body acting against me, and felt my joints trying to knock me down, and have felt my heart trying to cut me short. I have hopelessly worried about my grandchildren, wondering if they are still going to church, and wondering if they have yet put into use the morals that I helped to teach them.
    You don’t need to worry daddio. Your stories are safe with me, and you are irrevocably a part of me. Your past is now a part of my future, and I intend to keep it that way.
    I believe in immortality.
    “Maybe both of us have got a piece of him, maybe that’s what immortality is.”
    John Steinbeck, East of Eden.

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  3. My dad came to Lexington today for the first time since about October or November of 2008. This is significant because in December of 2008, I moved out of my dorm and into a “new” house with my boyfriend. That new house over on Bourbon Avenue and 5th St. is something my mother will never let me forget, and she shouldn’t have to because she shed many a tear over that place. It was a tiny little shotgun house with a slumlord landlord, unpleasant neighbors, and now a history of a Transy student and her lover. More than once, Mike and I fell asleep to the sound of our neighbor’s fighting only to be woken up by the sounds of gunshots in our backyard, and kept awake by the fear that a bullet would stray through the paper thin walls and strike one of us down in our own home. The walls were stained with years of nicotine, and the carpets stained with what could have been anything from blood to oil. It took two gallons of bleach, weeks of scrubbing, and a lot of all-nighters to get that place livable (because the previous tenant did not clean before she left, and the landlord felt that it wasn’t his problem once we signed the lease). It took even longer to finally be comfortable there, though I never think it truly felt like home for either of us.
    Christmas that year was difficult. My parents felt betrayed that I had left, and I felt betrayed that they would not support my first feeble attempt at independence—even if it was in a slum house in a bad part of town, with a boy I was not married to. The place was cheap; it was all we could afford. My parents don’t have the luxury of being able to pay my expenses, and nor should they have to.
    My dad never saw that house, because Mike and I moved out as soon as we were financially stable enough to afford something better; something safer. Even that wasn’t good enough—the brick house, less likely to be penetrated by bullets, now more likely to be visited upon by vagrants and solicitors; always some reason for disapproval, always some reasons more valid than others. More or less, a lot of this negativity (especially once we moved to a better neighborhood, a safer and nicer home) was a direct response to the distaste of a daughter “living in sin” with her biker boyfriend. Shaved head, pierced, tattooed. Little do most know, I have twice as many tattoos as he, but I digress.
    The significance of my father’s visit stems from the fact that he has not come to visit me since Mike and I got a place together. This significance is amplified by the fact that my dad was temporarily hospitalized and almost died last week. And this becomes even more significant when one considers that I will be moving some 800 miles away from my parents sometime in the next few months. It meant the world to me to have my dad in my home today, because more or less, my dad means the world to me (even when he does not approve of my choices). I hope things are getting better, it seems like they are.
    I believe I need to spend more time with my family.

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  4. The Perfect Cast
    Katelynn Austin

    Sitting in a pew in “Sunday best” not a day over seven or eight and trying not to get caught playing tic-tac-toe with my sister, the minister roared on and on about how perfect love casts out all fear. Other than a bright pink full-time arm accessory I neither knew nor cared what this man was saying as long as Grandma was going to have BBQ ribs on the table for lunch. That was before I became a fisherman. That was before religion and a fly rod became interchangeable, and my cast a prayer.
    Just as I was the girl with indelible traces of dirt between her toes all year round, I am in a constant yearning of the captivation and sense of oneness between myself and creation. The only thing that seems to be able to contain my wild heart, my love for life, my passions; the only thing beautiful enough to win my love, convince me of my inner beauty simply for being a part of her; and old enough, wise enough to answer all my questions is Nature. My cast becomes a prayer. Incapable of sufficient words, my prayer is a rhythm. I keep time to the water, to the birds, to my heart, back and forth back and forth, a ritual of praise and supplication. Perhaps more than anything else though, it is perfection, a musical symphony of the fly and line whizzing by my ear and the cool water rushing and bubbling by, embracing each smooth rock that is providing a still eddy of security for my quarry. Back and forth, back and forth, making sure I play my part.
    I play my part. I play my humble part as I question the heavenly instruments all around me. Water where did you come from? Where are you going? Do you ever stop? How many cycles of life, beautiful cycles of renewal have you witnessed? You run your course, just as your waters are running now. Your natural harmony becomes a natural duet as we dance to the music of my cast. We are fearless, wild souls of perfection.
    I feel the line stretch out, roll atop the water, and then it is gently delivered to the water, a soft kiss one places on a child’s head as they sleep.

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  5. One year ago I returned to my doctor, the woman who diagnosed me an idiopathic hypersomniac. Saving me from becoming ineligible for health insurance—sold by corporations and paid for by co-workers who fear I drive up their premiums—this label is a euphemism. I have narcolepsy.

    Seven years earlier, I had laid myself to sleep attached to a think umbilical cord for gathering data. Thin golden wires sprouted from sensors spread, like rows of corn, across my chest and in the furrows of my brow. A tightly lashed bundle of neurotransmitters, the wires delivered crashing waves of information about my breathing, grimacing, heartbeat, and the activity in my brain. I am supposed to fall asleep quickly, but I lay awake counting acoustical tiles in the drop-ceiling. Twenty-two hours of twenty-minute naps at each even hour and every time I lay awake, counting. Betrayed by testing and by the gilded quills of the porcupine coat I wore to bed, I was tethered to the wall. I could not find sleep quickly. I could not recall searching before this day.

    One year ago my doctor reproached me for my adolescent relationship with sleep. I was terrified of it. I dreaded it overtaking me each night and woke stiff-necked with grids on my skin: marked by the pressure of a keyboard across my face. With movements to match exactly those in my dreams, I would leap from bed and sprint circles around the room, lunging to grab the legs of a chicken. I woke from a night of sleep with a mind full of rich visions, tasting poison: my skin sticky with adhesive.

    One year ago I learned of REM Behavior Disorder (RBD): sleep—much like my own—that launches sleepers out second-story windows when dreams find them running and jumping hurdles, minds racing. Dream-state adrenaline may save their lives though not for long as RBD is an appetizer for neurodegenerative brain disorder.

    Today, after twelve-months of undoing ten-years of REM-sleep deprivation, I believe in sleep. I slide under covers without fear, curling into a comma.

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  6. When I was a senior in high school, I met a boy in a pink tie who tried to convince me that he was from London. He smiled the mouth when one watches the mirror, buttons their shirt, and feels confident in the cohesion of their genes. More spirited than usual, the beginning of understanding the freedom of my age, I laughed bullshit. Everyone here lies to sound more impressive. We sparked interest, grabbing my hand behind a bush and a beer before we understood the impact of alcohol. I kidnapped him to a movie, a rooftop, a field of a crown of daisies.

    In fear of being undeserving, I leave so much unspoken. I listened to stories of him over the summer, heard his voice over the phone, and watched a picture of him with a leaf in Canada. Later, he sent me the leaf, in an envelope that told me I had startled him. Signing it, yours. College allowed both conviction in education and excuses in action. It brought friendship and self-deprecation. He acquired reason and I spent too much energy in emotion. I saw him early in the morning, in a downpour in January, and he bought me tea. I remember mentioning greece and greeks, being uncertain. I remember him satisfied in his life.

    Letters of hope and anger and relationships and youth carry on, with long pauses and frequent, fervent ink. Sometimes we would try to name it, understand why we had continued something based on so little knowledge of each other. We have built something fragile and careful, that real connection may ruin. He came home from Canada early and my eloquence ran out. There is so much reason in his careful consideration of each person that I act as another so he can't really judge this one. I watch his face and see his beauty. I also see his body and how it overcomes his essence. We are still so dependent and so young.

    In secrets I will not share, I wonder if something so baseless continues for a reason. If there is something like fate, something like one person instead of many. More than anyone I've met, I feel myself limiting. If I reach, I will cut short the growth. I worry, perhaps with only exaggeration, we are too young to let something so rare unfold. Our inexperience and motion and passion I know we both prize, could destroy rather than create. And that might be the greatest sadness. Self-control can be a virtue.

    When I consider the beginnings to relationships, their continuation, on occasion their end, I believe none of the notes can be pre-determined. What we expect in one moment will flip and become an entirely different creature in the next. I do not predict because expectations ruin the potential. I sit quiet and attempt honesty and hope for beauty without stagnancy. I believe in expecting the unexpected.

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  7. I believe in yogurt

    My American friends don’t believe me. I tell them yogurt was invented by a tribe of wild Bulgars, nomads carrying goat milk in boar bladders. Jostled against the flanks of a horse, the milk fermented and thickened into yogurt: fortification for the bones of itinerant riders.

    Yogurt was a staple in my childhood home. Because chips, donuts, and pretzels were not known, I feasted on chunks of bread submerged in thick yogurt. On family trips—a rare treat reserved for the summer—I indulged in buffalo yogurt: hard enough to slice with a knife.

    My grandmother craved tarator—a cold yogurt-and-cucumber soup she seasoned with salt, garlic, and dill—every April. Each time we debated the amount of added water. While most of us liked to slurp tarator straight from the bowl, my grandfather preferred it thick like whipped potatoes, in need of a spoon. After he died, we learned to dilute our own portions to taste.

    My mother employed yogurt to preserve the freshness of skin. Spreading a heavy layer of yogurt on a slice of bread, she waited for the bread to soak up the extra water. Scooped from the bread and smeared on her face, the yogurt worked its magic: pure dairy goodness.

    My father brought home a plastic container of yogurt each day of the 15 years he worked at the fertilizer factory near town. Each day he took two buses and boarded a train to arrive at a plant whose products were so toxic, they were banned everywhere but China and Bulgaria. In Bulgaria at least the workers were protected. Each of them took home a jar of yogurt at the end of their factory day: the government’s antidote to poison.

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  8. Sitting here, writing this essay about my beliefs and struggling to find the words to best describe the various things that I believe or think about on a daily basis. My mind wanders to the outskirts of my brain, it begins to think of things other then what I should be doing. I wonder what the weather will be like in Florida? Am I ever going to have time after spring break to pick up my riding again? Is that lady at work really crazy? I can’t wait for summer to start. I wonder if it’s going to rain today. Various thoughts, none of them interconnected. This is when I realize that I am a scatterbrained person. My wanders in a million different directions every hour of the day, no wonder I can’t focus. This is when I realized, I believe in making lists and checking them off in order to keep my mind focused on the things I need to get done that day. I have grown fond of my check list and my list making habits have grown into writing other lists. Options for what I should do after graduation, things I want to achieve before turning 30, the list of cool things in America I want to see, my pro/con lists that help me make decisions, my list of crafts I want to finish by summer, the title of each and every book I have read since May 2009. As one can see, I enjoy making lists. They keep my mind in order and away from straying from the important things I must get done. But recently I have realized how my habit of making lists has become a distraction. I make them during class, I think of things I want to add to other lists while driving, I believe it’s becoming a problem. But even though I now believe my love for making lists is a problem I also believe that making lists is a weird quirk that I believe keeps the gears in my mind constantly turning and keeping it focused.

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  9. This I Believe; Life Happens

    I was asleep in my car again tonight, this morning. Already miffed at the party taking place in my “bedroom”, I went to bed angry. The outdoors are surprisingly quite at 12am, even in urban environments. Red lights glare in the rear window, a dull thump and a massive jarring wake me from my uncomfortable, fitful dreams. My sister, drunk to the point of being stupid, just rear-ended my car inside our parking lot. Twice. A slow motion chaos blossomed as I realized what just happened.

    I have a terrible temper, especially when awoken from my sleep unexpectedly. In a burst of anger, I storm outside my car as best as one can storm in such an awkward terrain to the sound of her party buddies arguing at her and the other girl in the car. I look at my car, glare at my sister, who unable to look me in the eye. I scream a thundering series of curses, quieting everyone in the parking lot with such an unexpected reaction. None of them have ever seen me so upset. If you find it hard believe that I ever scream, know that this is the kind of situation where I do just that.

    I began to gather my belongings, what little I still have after the year and a half of increasingly desperate choices, only to make a still more desperate move. My sister, escorted by a stranger, a drug dealer’s nephew who just got out of prison and who recently moved his belongings into our one bedroom apartment, came to me in tears. The stranger tried to convince me not to be upset, of how he’s a good guy and we all need to get along. If I could breath the fire I felt in my belly, I would have incinerated the whole building right there. As it was, I went back to sleep. I have to remain steady to finish my studies at Transy, to earn that degree that is becoming increasingly elusive as I crawl toward completion.

    The weight of the cross I bear grows every day. I’m slowly being crushed to death; the crush of fate, crashing waves of bad choices, uninformed and hasty. I am motivated by vindictive anger, a hatred for God who put me here in this place and time, and a defiance of the pressure to stay there. I will defy fate, with my own blood and pain, with the blood and pain of others if necessary. I will touch the sky, if on the wings of Grace, a mound of money or a tower of corpses.

    I believe poverty is a disease.

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