war and peace

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I often start to write because I feel things swirling around in my head. Usually, a string of events that are somewhat related to one another form some sort of deeper feeling for me. I’ve had a few of those things happen recently — some of it related to war and peace.

It should be noted that I am Russian by ancestry, but I’m not getting into it that way.

Let’s start with taking out the trash.
I live in a quiet neighborhood. Well, mostly, until the guys across the street start revving and working on their old trucks that backfire and spill black exhaust into the air. That’s okay. A more wild thing unfolded yesterday when I witnessed the neighbors a couple of houses down yelling, which led to an all-out brawl. I sat the lid down on my trash can just in time to see them push one another. They rolled around on the ground, yelling, crying out. I stood by just in case I (maaaaybe) needed to call.

They finally settled down. I watched one man head back into his house, and the other make his way back into his truck. He had taken a beating. I usually think no one wins in these matters, but this guy definitely lost. Fighting has always been scary to me — it puts a knot in my stomach and stays there. I felt bad for both of them. It has to be so exhausting and emotional to fight someone. I’ve been super lucky in life not having to find out for myself.

Either way, I’m glad things didn’t get too rough. I’m sure at some point, they were friends.

Another part of my day was spent wandering around the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby just down the road a bit. Sitting out stationary in the field near the museum are the bigger machines of war. Tanks, airplanes and artillery.

I do have a soft spot for these kinds of things. I have been fascinated with war history since Jr. High and not much has changed. While I am usually drawn to weapons and other machines of war, I was led a little closer to their stories. Men and women from my home town — the places they traveled — the battles they won (and lost.)

Being so close to history always moves me, deeply. Whether I’m wondering who used to wear that Nazi officer’s coat or if these weapons actually ended the lives of people, I am moved by their weighty ghosts.

It’s hard to shake.

The business of war.
(Or fighting another man on your front lawn.)

To quote Gen. Sherman,
War is Hell.

It is easy to numb the things our walls help us block out. Then, out of nowhere, you remember that there are small (and large) things happening every day that carve out the Earth. Maybe you retreat; maybe there’s a victory. Sometimes you lose. But it is almost always hard fought, regardless.

Keep moving towards peace. That’s what I say.

The fire and noise and smoke stay with you.

Not all things that move us are kept behind glass,

and most things aren’t easily forgotten.

lost and found

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A lot of things hurt around me.

I see them all in their own little spaces — moving around somewhere between heaven and hell. I can’t quite put my finger on anything these days. I think getting older, in my experience, is showing me that everything is fluid.

Rights and wrongs used to be so much clearer and now I see more and more why we always go to war with one another.

Why is it that I always start off with this stuff? Ah, yeah.

“Write hard and clear about what hurts” — Hemingway said that, though I’ve never read anything by him or his famous friends. Whatever. What’s important to me is that I’ve settled down in the marrow. I feel what’s in my bones and for better or worse, learn a new way to move.

This life is harder in ways I could never imagine. You witness your parents getting older and softer among other things. You squeeze them and they almost disappear. You’ve had this same hug a million times before and each time it is the collision of lifetimes — of regrets and also victories.

What a thing it is to settle into yourself and feel the very cosmos itself pressing into every cell in your body.

In other ways it is hard. Learning to be kind to people. Learning how to discipline and be in charge. Imprinting on someone who is smaller and more innocent than you will ever be again. Or how does one spill your words into a friend when they’ve made you feel all sorts of ways. I think it’s okay, ya know?

I love hard questions. I want the truth and I want what you have to offer. I want to know if you think of the same things or if you’re also shitty at math and wish sex wasn’t always so damn personal.

But it is.

Everything is personal.
I know I am not alone, but this is why we feel it. Because it is all so new, regardless of what we are told to feel.

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Every life is a new force moving into something they’ve never known before. I think we deserve goodness and ice cream because that shit is hard. Maybe there are people that clock out at the end of a day and fall into their rhythm, but I am not one of those people.

What I am is a person who is selfish and stubborn and live in a lot of worlds. Not only do I live, I thrive! My only complaint is that I can’t see it all. I can’t know every feeling and that I am missing something or someone.

Most of the time, I want you. And I crave you.
That selfish part of me is the part that can’t have it.

I give thanks to the Great Mystery. For all it is that I know, I am thankful and glad.

I mourn for the things I’ve lost and I move ever forward,
heavy step after heavy step,

forever in the middle of what is lost and what is found.

 

 

thick skin

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I jokingly tell people these days that I can’t wait to be in my forties.

I tell them that I think I’m getting better with age, and that I wasn’t very good at being young. At least the parts of me that crave adventure come in different forms.
As a kid, I was not the bravest or loudest or most outgoing.

Knowing what I know now, as an adult, I was so nervous and apprehensive about the outside world. I craved affirmation and I wanted to feel good about the kind of person I was. It always felt right to be kind, and I believe that to this day. I treat people like I want to be treated, as archaic as that rule sounds, it works well for me.

And then came kitchen work.

Intense. Hot and fast with a million moving pieces.
I learn about myself in these moments. I learn about working hard and smart and humbly doing things for people they’ll never be able to repay you for.

Somehow, this works for me.

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I take a break from my keyboard to squeeze my hands open and close. Yesterday was a 14-hour day involving a wedding where I spent most of the night emptying garbage cans full of beer bottles and half eaten pieces of food. The other part of the night was spent scrubbing hotel pans and jamming leftover bits of wedding food in my face so I wouldn’t have to partake in that Whopper Jr that so taunts me on my drive home.

It is always humbling to do this work.

I guess in the states, I struggle with the mentality that this work is for people riddled in confusion and transition and poverty. Granted, we do make up a big part of that work force. But some of us want to do this with our lives because we think it’s important. To me, I see a bride and groom who appreciate empty garbage cans so they can enjoy this moment with their friends and family. (I exclude the drunk bro-crowd who laughingly threw their trash in said garbage cans as I was straining to lift them through winding crowds of beautifully dressed Southerners.)

And so, with the steam rising from the tray of dishes I just pulled through the sanitizer, I think about the shootings in France. The massacres in Nigeria. I think about my friends who have recently lost loved ones. I think about my own heart being pulled in so many directions. I feel a knot in my stomach for some reason, and I also hum along with the sound of my muffled phone playing through its “closing down the kitchen” playlist.

It makes sense that our skin gets thicker with time, and that getting older helps us fit more into that skin.

We somehow make this world work for us even with the knowledge that there will be sadness supped with joy.

Hard times, come again no more, so the song says.

We sing, but we know they will. We still find moments to say we are good and happy and content. In those moments, it is all worth it to be human. To accept the give and take.

The ebb and flow.

The changing of times,

and perhaps a good word or two.

small peace.

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Usually the process of writing starts when I see that I’ve not watered my plants enough, or when a friend drops something in my lap that says, “Here! Struggle with this alongside me!”

I wake up to it all the time.

Mostly, this bright morning sun. I am not given the option to sleep late here, because when the sun is up and bright, I feel as though I am resisting its presence.

I also wake up to a dull ache that sometimes feels like loneliness. Oh, I feel it in my bones quite often. The embrace of another warm body and someone to make breakfast for.

Then there are the wars for place and history and religion.

The senseless acts of human beings just being terrible to one another.

I know, I know. It’s too much to dive into all of that. I have always carried a weight for the world, you see?

My favorite author (read: spiritual guide) wrote a little piece this week on the things I’ve been waking up to.
She ended it by saying this,

“There are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.”

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I don’t know what to do.

And maybe that’s the best place to start.

Many mornings, I sit up and plant my feet on these wooden floors.

I can hear my ankles crack a bit, and I breathe in and out. Deep, exaggerated breaths. Like the ones I used to do in therapy when I didn’t know why or what.

There is a lot I wish I could believe. That maybe there will be a shift when things get bad enough. Or we will all be taught how to keep living in this world with all that pain and gnashing of teeth.

I believe in a truth that this world is all we have. I believe that in our journey to be perfect and to have perfect things, we have exhausted our imaginations and our resources.

It’s easy to let it overwhelm.

But you do what we all do and keep going.

It’s easier to quench the thirst of a few than a few thousand, but if enough people decide to stop burning things to the ground, then we might have a chance to build something.

I guess, this piece is a little hard for me to write. For one, I don’t like to be super opinionated. I have many opinions and it’s okay to be opinionated. I also choose safety of space more than any opinion that I have. Because to be honest, mine have changed so much over the years, so I take them as I do a good book or a song. Rich and meaningful in certain seasons, but maybe shift into something else in another.

A few days ago I bought a bird feeder and put it on the clothesline outside my apartment.

It feels good to feed the smallest of things. Especially the ones that sing their songs so loud when the sun comes up.

That makes sense to me more than anything right now.

So, I start small feeding tiny things.

And then, I see that the world keeps moving.
This is how we put out fires within ourselves.
This is how we create small kinds of peace.

‘there are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.’

 

bit by bit.

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We need helpers today.

People who can pay it forward and have an extra 10 minutes of patience with their kids, to show them a little bit extra. I can’t say for sure why I feel like this is important today.

Like you, I take a small look at the news and immediately throw my hands in the air. (In the not-at-a-club-dancing sort of way.) It is discouraging to see so much bad. Conditions getting worse in already war-torn nations, I am heavy hearted with the kids who have known nothing but conflict.

Especially those kids who feel lonely and feel the need to act out in violent ways, often times to their own bodies. Loneliness brings us to do a lot of things, just to feel or be touched. After all, if we’re looking to change the world, we better start with the kids. They keep watching us screw things up and we haven’t yet told them that they will be in charge of our messes. Our debts. Our ever-changing climate and our exhaustive food methods.

I guess I see so much hope in the human race at times. I know we want to help. I know we want to be good.

I reckon’ there is something to be said about “I get mine first and then we’ll talk about your needs.” This is something I struggle with. Especially lately as my needs have outgrown the needs of others. I shrug my head and say sorry.

I am coming back to this place that I have left for a while.
Mostly because I can only indulge myself for so long before I start to realize the need of people to be bigger and stronger and braver than ever before.

We are suckers for hero movies because they are willing to die for us. Yet we are not necessarily ready to die for our neighbors. And I’m not saying I am, either.

I suppose when things hit the fan, we are in shock. But there is a saying to “look for the helpers” — those people who are there picking up folks off the ground and sticking their fingers into main arteries to stop the bleeding.

We are all exhausted this time of year. The weather can be dreary, we are cold to our bones and the bad guys are still going to be bad. They are still going to leave you with a great weight on your shoulders. They will care about themselves and take and take and take.

I realize we do what we can to absorb some pain, and give it some space. It is how we digest most things, given that we have the time to do so.

Take it bit by bit.

Hold some pressure on a wound.

Basting Stitch

I am reading a book by Anne Lamott called “Stitches” — not only is she one of my favorite writers, but her latest book focuses on pain and taking it all in ‘stitch by stitch’. Quoting C.S. Lewis on forgiveness, it is best if we start with something easier than the Gestapo.

She drops another beautiful line, quoting an influential spiritual mentor as saying, “We’re all just trying to walk each other home..”

I just love that.

There is too much pain here. As she says.

But there is so much goodness too.
And I am not saying anything new, by any means.

Today though, I want to be better than I have to be. I’ll try doing it again tomorrow. Instead of saying something shitty behind another person’s back, I will build something a little stronger. If not with them, then with myself.

Peace starts slow, and builds upon itself even slower. We have to move this way. For the sake our future, and the future of the ones smaller, and more precious than we will ever be again.

Let us move.

bit by bit.