MISERY LOVES COMPANY

Misery Loves Company image courtesy photo bucket

Misery Loves Company
image courtesy photo bucket

You’ve probably heard it said that “Misery loves company”. Folks in a bad funk do seem to long to have others wallowing in the funk stew with them. Another famous adage I gravitate to is, “It’s better to laugh than to cry”. I’m not sure if it’s true, but it’s most definitely my preference.

That same perspective seems to work in a lot of settings, including scenarios on the lighter side of tears – especially if we have someone to laugh with… Lucky for me I do.

I sent a friend of mine a message steeped in satire, “I try not to toot my own horn, but occasionally find it impossible not to… this happens to be one of those times,” I chuckled, and continued with sarcasm. “I finished the post about the baseball cap… I know, around 600 words in one month. The tip of my pen has that bluish tint on it from the sheer amount of heat. I should probably get a fire extinguisher.”

My friend, the full-fledged writer, didn’t miss a beat and played along, “Wow!- When will it post?”

“I don’t know. I just wanted to share the news of setting a new record low for imagination and efficiency,” I admitted with true disdain for my writers trip through the Sahara Desert of my mind.

“Your pen has caught fire,” he acknowledged my plight.

I think anyone who’s ever tried to create something that uses their imagination understands. It helps to have company and understanding when you’re living in a drought. And all of us live through droughts. So it really comes down to, like all things in this life, our perspectives.

The things that brought frustrations and crocodile tears in our days of youth, we learn to cope with. With enough time and wisdom, we begin to realize just how powerful that gift of free will from God really is.

It doesn’t take too many disappearing decades to come to grips with the fact that “This ain’t no disco”, or the Garden of Eden.

“I’m gonna use that message I sent you about the baseball cap as material for another post,” I told my friend in person. He smiled knowingly and asked, “You mean the one I told you ‘your pen has caught fire'”?

“Yup.. Exactly, I laughed.

I’ve been stuck in days of droughts and ghost towns, creatively speaking, but like so many others, I’ve also been there in the days when the grip of melancholy around my neck makes it hard to breathe.

It’s amazing how a grasp at humor, when a smile feels like five pound weights are tied to both corners of your mouth, can begin to lighten things.

It is a gift when someone else who cares adds to the humor with the right heart and the heaviness is shared… the load gets lighter.

You don’t have to look far in our world to find someone in need of a lift, and little things mean a lot.

I guess misery isn’t the only thing that loves company.

WEARING MY HEART ON MY SLEEVE

Wearing my heart on my sleeve. Image courtesy of photo bucket

Wearing my heart on my sleeve.
Image courtesy of photo bucket

The punishing Arizona sun has taken its toll and left its mark, and I mean literally, on a lot of carcasses including my own. I’m just one of the major majority that has lived here the better part of our lives and have had to have spots burned, scraped, or cut out of this soul cage to beat the skin cancer clock.

I’ve used that fact to justify wearing long sleeved shirts, sweatshirts ninety percent of the time, even in the dead of summer, to cover up the defeated flesh.

But that’s really a partial truth… The rest of the story is that I’m hiding more than tired skin under those long sleeves.

Like a lot of us I suspect, I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve… just hiding it on the inside down by my left wrist.

We learn early in life that not if, but when, we create something, anything, we open ourselves to be judged and to critics… whether we ask for it or not. A quick jaunt down memory boulevard uncovers art projects in school, a couple of science fairs, and a host of opinions, some pleasant, some not so much.

With enough time and creations, we begin to develop thick skin. The process isn’t so different than some of the other actions that started about the same time as the original critics.

It didn’t take too long playing tetherball or even swinging on the monkey bars to realize that soft skin tears and breaks, but with enough perseverance, calluses come to the rescue… But here’s the thing; calluses aren’t bullet proof.

I was reminded just how exposed our hearts really are, even if we try to hide them on the inside of our sleeves.

I never stopped to consider the consequences of what the critics might say about a manuscript with the memoir of my family between the covers. Just like in grade school the untempered opinions began to unload like bullets from a Glock 9mm pistol.. and the Man of Steel doesn’t happen to be a distant relative.

I respect the folks that create things. It doesn’t matter if it’s building a painting, a home, a church, a reputation, or a book… or even a blog. It takes guts to put your creation out there and let the general public or even friends and family take pot shots at the creations that started in our hearts and souls… It’s not for the faint of heart, regardless of where we wear it.

The desires and gifts to create come from God above when He’s the focus of our intentions. It’s my belief that when we do the best we can do with the proper perspective, He’ll plug the holes in our hearts… and the ones on our sleeves.

When the passion to create and build ignite like a fire in our soul and belly, it doesn’t matter if we wear our hearts under our sleeves, we’re called to roll them up.

The heart, where God resides, can be hurt… but never broken…

ALONG LIFE’S MERRY WAY

"Nails on chalkboard" courtesy of Photobucket

“Nails on chalkboard” courtesy of Photobucket

The dreaded sounds of little kids screaming still strike a nerve with me that reaches the same levels on my impatience-o-meter as nails on a chalkboard. Before I had kids… well, let’s just say the meter didn’t register high enough to capture the level of my annoyance.

Living in Arizona, especially in the wintertime when the birds that can’t fly flock to town, the ones we refer to as “snowbirds”, there is no avoiding the elderly folks who are retired and not remotely close to being in a hurry. They’re easy to spot, they typically drive ten miles an hour under the speed limit, and that in the fast lane. It’s not uncommon for them to turn right from the far left-hand turn lane.

These days I just roll my eyes and shake my head in frustration, but the days of me laying on the horn or yelling out the window and telling them to “Go home!” are far behind me.

As a kid, I watched folks strive to get ahead. What bothered me the most is when I realized a good number of the people desperately striving for the good life didn’t care if they had to lie, cheat, or steal to get what it was that they believed would define them. Of course, this was long before I learned the art of justification my darn self.

It took longer than it should have for me to figure out that not everyone is cut out for or can stand up under, the strain this life seems to drop on our shoulders. Sometimes it feels like a load meant for a pack mule. The load can be physical, but far more often it’s mental or spiritual.

Not every person has a strong back as well as mind and it varies for all of us depending on the scenarios. Some loads don’t cause certain folks to miss a step physically or mentally, but that same load can cripple others.

I ponder the lack of tenderness, compassion, and sympathy that has accompanied a lot of folks including myself along life’s merry way. I’ve failed to look and remember the exasperation in the eyes of a parent over their screaming child.

It’s rare, but just last week I was cruising in my truck when a little white import car went flying around me at the speed of light and threw me a quick glance that was laced with disgust. I peeked down at the speedometer and it was a several clicks under the legal limit… never thought that would happen…

Striving could well describe my years in business and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to justifying my actions in the process, at least on occasion. From the outside, I don’t look so different than some of the folks I had disdain for as a youngster.

I’ve scoffed at the people that have revealed their physical and mental weaknesses. I’ve been disgusted with the people that worshipped their strengths, knowing finally that in the end those are really their weaknesses.

More often these days the words of George Washington Carver bounce between my ears, “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic, with the strong and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these…”

Then I remember Matthew 7:12; The Golden Rule…

That’s usually when I ponder how it could be so easy to forget… and how often I need to be reminded.

CAT ON THE HAT

It might be time for a haircut…

It might be time for a haircut…

“He dropped off some hats too,” the loader operator told me. Ordinarily I’m not overly enthused about a cap, even if it’s free, but this one was different… By “different” I mean my attitude toward one of the baseball caps with the logos on the front. Because this particular “different” one was almost identical to the very first one I’d ever bought for myself.

The years of struggle that I’ve come to cherish blew through my mind like a breath of fresh air. It took me back to the days of barely double digits to count the years I’d been stumbling around this part of the globe – the days of big dreams and desires to contrast my empty pockets.

I somehow managed to scrape together enough money to purchase the object of my longing at the blue collar central store named “Yellow Front”. They were known for selling Levi 501’s cheaper than anyone in town and had a proper selection of hats, the baseball cap kind.

The jet black cap wasn’t ideal for the Arizona sun, but there’s proof that I’ve long been guilty of choosing form before function. It wasn’t so much the deep black that I adored, it was the way the bright mustard colored logo contrasted it. It caught my eye the way a lure does a hungry fish.

I had no idea at the time what the logo meant, not that it mattered, it seemed to go hand in hand with cool… and what could be cooler than a “Cat On The Hat”?

I’d owned plenty of baseball caps with logos from the baseball teams I’d played on, but I’d never seen another cap that rivaled the first one that had the word “CAT” blazed in black letters amidst the golden rectangular patch stitched to the raven cap.

It wouldn’t be too much longer till I learned that “CAT” was the logo for “Caterpillar”; the massive public company that built excavating equipment that was used around the world to shape and form the earth’s crust for what the civilized world called “improvements”.

I had no idea as a boy that I would one day grow up to be smack in the middle of a world that was made up of machines that the old hat represented and ones like it.

I sported that old CAT hat through the years until the sun beat it like a baseball bat and turned it a weathered grey with frayed edges on the bill. But for all the luster that hat had lost, it hadn’t lost its appeal to me. Even when the boss man chided me for not knowing the proper way to turn my cap, and long before it was “cool” to wear it backwards, I wasn’t beginning to be deterred.

It still staggers my mind when I consider how much little things mean to folks that have close to nothing, they appreciate like it’s an art form.

I swim in a world of cynics but can’t point an accusing finger. It seems the more we get the more we take for granted. Occasionally the cynic gets a clinic… Mine was outdoors on a winter afternoon in the southwest desert. My guess is that it wasn’t a coincidence that it happened to be on a job site where the Caterpillar was chewing through the dirt behind me.

I reached out and took the CAT cap from his hand, “I’ll take this one,” I mumbled as I pulled it over my head… backwards… The men were a little surprised by my unfamiliar actions… but then they don’t know the story behind my CAT hat…

That goofy sideways grin that I sometimes couldn’t contain as a kid came back for a visit…

IN REMEMBRANCE

Gerry, Tamara, Diane, and myself, in California the summer before last.

Gerry, Tamara, Diane, and myself, in California the summer before last.

(This post was inked by hand in remembrance of my friend Gerry on January 17th)

My friend died last night…

When my wife answered the phone it was with apprehension, I could tell in her voice. The way she asked, “What?” gave me that feeling of a bowling ball dropping to the bottom of my gut – the type that lands so hard on the hips that your knees almost buckle.

If I had any hope that it wasn’t grim news, it melted into the kitchen floor as my wife did too… knees first.

“But I was just there, his vitals and stats were stable?” she countered the voice on the other end of airwaves back at the hospital.

My wife the nurse had literally just left there and had just walked in the door. She stayed till almost nine o’clock until she was sure Gerry was stable and improving.

We are an odd lot. Our friends live in a country club in a home I built them, that’s how our paths crossed and lives became intertwined. Gerry was a wildly successful lawyer, the kind that could talk his way in or out of anything. He could have sold heaters in the dead of summer in the middle of the desert and have folks whipped into a frenzy and bickering over the last one.

I’ve only met a couple of people in my life that could talk to folks from all walks of life and relate to all of them in a personal way. Gerry could strike a conversation with homeless folks as well as royalty. He’d been just about both at one time or another in his colorful life.

Gerry was also the charismatic person that could say things to people in pure honesty and not have them too offended… He could put together the type of words that I’d never dream of and get away with a smile, the type of words that would get me slapped or punched.

If the old adage, “Behind every good man there’s a good woman”, has merit, then Gerry’s wife, Tamara would be the epitome of that statement.

“You’ve been good to me… better than I deserve… I love you,” was one of the last things Gerry told his loving companion of forty-five years. Tamara told me that through a torrent of tears… I couldn’t help but shed some of my own. For the loss of my friend who treated my family and me like royalty… and for my friend Tamara, who is left to pick up the pieces and push on…

Gerry wasn’t perfect – he’d be the first to tell you that, but then again none of us are…

Based on a conversation Gerry had with my wife shortly before he drew his last breath, I believe I’ll be seeing Gerry again… how soon only God knows.

If we get to wear halos in heaven, you’ll be able to spot Gerry right off… he’ll be the one sporting the fanciest one…

In loving memory of my friend Gerry Sellers.