Be strong, be brave, be a badass

Boston-StrongWe’ve been in Virginia for seven years, but when Patriot’s Day rolls around, I really miss  Boston. We lived in Lexington, the cradle of the revolution, where relatively sane people get up at the crack of dawn to watch the reenactment of the first skirmish on the battle green. It’s over by 6:00 a.m. Then everyone leaves to eat pancakes.

Over and over again, the Dude and vowed to get up in time to see it. When 5:00 a.m. rolled around, my husband would go to work and the Dude and I would go back to sleep. We’d make pancakes at a more reasonable hour and say “next year.” Next year never came. We moved.

Virginia doesn’t recognize Patriot’s Day as a holiday. Most of the United States doesn’t recognize Patriot’s Day. I do in my own way, by watching the Red Sox game. The Dude sometimes gets home from school to see the end. Last year he got home in time to see all hell break loose.

Boston owns its position at the center of the revolution story with pride. The city does not capitulate and it does not forget. Just say the name “Bucky Dent” in a Boston bar and you’ll see what I mean.  It only makes sense that one of the world’s most grueling, challenging tests of human endurance takes place  in Boston. The Marathon has always been one of the city’s hallmark events, but now it’s sacred.

It’s so easy to sleepwalk through our days, lulled by routine and repetition. Then something happens to remind us that life is not endless and time is finite. We say “someday” or “next year” or “tomorrow” knowing that, of course, we will. Right?

You can’t finish the race if you don’t start. Do something defiant today. Something audacious and exhilarating and maybe even a little crazy. Because next year is 365 days away and there’s no good reason to wait. Because in 1775 people in Boston said “now.” Because today 35,000 people will run 26 miles because they can. Because there will always be people who say you can’t, or you shouldn’t, or you won’t be able to in ways both dramatic and mundane. Because sometimes that person is you.

Do it. Be strong. Be Boston Strong.

What badass thing will you do today?

 

Throw out 50 Thoughts #22 – I let my opportunity pass me by

3656751897_093f5abef2_bI’ve been working on a novel, like…forever. I’ve been through multiple iterations, restructuring, honing characters, doing everything in my power to get it right. It’s not even the elusive Great American Novel ©. Then I’d have cause for my lack of progress.

My goal was to finish it in February and get it out to beta readers. It would be eligible for a contest in May which would get it in front of a set of editors and agents. That isn’t going to happen. It’s April 7th, and I’m still working on the first 20,000 words.

I was really disappointed. This was my shot, and even if I work night and day until May 1st, it won’t be where I want it to be. On top of that, saying I’ll work night and day on anything is a recipe for disaster, since the only thing I get night and day are interruptions. Every time I hear “We need to,” my timeline slips another day.

True to form, I was working away on another set of edits when the Dude threw himself on the floor of my office. His test score wasn’t as strong as he wanted it to be. It would effect his semester grade, which would effect his final grade, which would effect where he went to college. All was lost.

I wanted to say, “in case you’re wondering, this is what work looks like when you’re a writer. I hit the keys and words come out.” Instead, I told him that one test score cannot determine the course of his entire life and offered to make some popcorn.

Face, meet palm.

The truth is who the heck knows?

Certainly I will miss an opportunity. I don’t think I’ve missed THE opportunity. Otherwise, I have to consider all of the opportunities I’ve missed that I didn’t even know about, thus ruining my life before I ever had a chance to ruin it.

I lived in Chicago for many years, and the one lesson I learned is that if I’m waiting for the LaSalle bus, at least two full ones will pass by without stopping, and sometimes three or four. The bus, however, does come. And sometimes it’s the State Street bus and that’s okay too. I’ll just get to Starbucks a little later, because let’s face it, there is always enough time for Starbucks.

So, I won’t kick myself over  something I can’t change. Instead, I will think about it this way. A fixed opportunity, like a contest, or a deadline, or a meeting, is like a concentration of hope. I can use it as a point on which to focus my energy and effort, to keep moving forward towards the eventual destination. But the point, the real point, is to keep moving.

If I finish by the deadline, good for me. If I don’t, I will not say “If I’d only.” I will bundle up my excess hope and find a new home for it somewhere in the future where I know we’ll meet again, and this time, I’ll be ready?

What thought are you throwing out today?

Photograph “Dang it… I missed my bus” by Nathan Rupert © 2009 Creative Commons License

I say what I mean, and I mean what I say

In a logical world, no parent would ever bury a child. In a fair world, we’d accept ourselves and others as flawed with love and in equal measure. In a kind world, we would see those flaws as beautiful.

I’m taking care of my mother, many states and miles and hours away from the Dude. Living in my old room, in my parent’s house, is strange and wonderful and nostalgic and messy. I’m confronted by old ghosts, but with the context and perspective of an adult. As parents, we say “what are you thinking?” but as a teen, I often ached with the same question.

So Dude, let me make it clear.

When I say, “I love you exactly the way you are,” I mean exactly that, even though you hear “but you could be better.”

When I say, “I know you’re doing the best that you can,” I mean that too.  I’m not saying “but you could do better.”

When I say, “You can be anything you want to be,” I’m saying that I believe in you, not “so could you work on being that, okay?”

When I was young, so often I felt inadequate and alone. Now, I understand that my parents feel the same fierce love for me that I hold for you, and they always have, even if I couldn’t see it at the time.

Sometimes we say things we don’t mean. Sometimes we say things we do, but aren’t taken at face value.

So know this my Dude, my not-so-little man. I love you exactly the way you are. I know you’re doing the best you can. You can be anything you want to be. You are the marshmallows in the Lucky Charms that is my life. I can only write humor because you bring me such joy, and others find humor in my work because our experience is universal. You are perfectly imperfect, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, and when it seems like the world can’t deal with that, know for a fact that at least two people can’t deal without it, and we’ve got your back.

So put down your phone and get back to your homework. Just kidding. Sort of.

 

 

 

Note to Self

A yellow tag on my mirrorIMG_0476

      Pick up the dry cleaning

      Floss

      Stand up straight

       Call your mother

A paper scrap by the coffee machine

        Pay the phone bill

        Mind your p’s and q’s

        Don’t worry so much

        Buy more coffee

On the refrigerator, stuck under a magnet

          Don’t eat that

          Eat this instead

          Eat what you want

          Drink more water

An email on my computer

            Get off Email

            Close down Facebook

            Write

            Okay, maybe five minutes of Facebook

Scribbled on the palm of my hand

              Sing loud

             Laugh louder

             Love more

             Forgive, forget

             Remember the rest

             I left you a note

Dance more – lessons from Nelson Mandela

danceSometimes I don’t give the Dude enough credit. He’s smart, he’s funny and he’s kind. He’s also a teen, and like many teens, his world view tends to be a fairly small universe of which he is the unwavering center. This is the very definition of being a teen, so I don’t fault him for it. I just stand to the side and judge him from my position of mature superiority. That is the very definition of being a parent, at least from a teen’s point of view.

He came home from school unhappy. This is his general state of late. Junior year is kicking his butt. Above average is the new below average and he’s feeling overwhelmed by the intensity of competition and the amount of work school piles on his plate. It is also the height of contract negotiations for the MLB, a.k.a. the mercenary sock hop. The Dude believes that one should stay with your team forever, unless you suck, or play for someone other than the Red Sox.

He dumped his backpack on the floor like a sack of rocks, then slumped onto the couch, one arm dramatically thrown over his head. This is my cue that I am allowed to approach.

“Today was the worst.” I am wise enough to refrain from asking if it is truly worse than yesterday’s worst day ever. “I have two test tomorrow, Jacoby Ellsbury is going to the Yankees, and Nelson Mandela died.”

Back up. How did Nelson Mandela get tossed in there? The anti-apartheid movement was the backdrop of my college years. What did the Dude know of Madiba? “It is a sad day,” I said. “It’s amazing what one human can accomplish, and endure, within one lifetime.”

“Yeah,” the Dude agreed. “He was super chill.”

I couldn’t help but snicker a little. “Super chill?” I’d heard Mandela called many things. Super chill was a new one. When I graduated from college,  I took my world politics very seriously. Tiananmen, the Polish Revolution, the fall of the Wall, Live Aid–the 80’s and early 90’s were good for the politically idealistic. We didn’t say Lech Walesa was totes awesome.

“I saw this video where he was dancing. Just dancing. Like, I’m the greatest dude in the universe, and I’ve been in jail and everything, but right now I’m with all of these people and I’m gonna dance.” He might have even said “Imma dance.”

And I realized that even with all of my factual knowledge, the memory of events, and the ghost of youthful arrogance, the Dude grasped something elemental about the man.  Great men speak out, they move mountains and carve words of wisdom on our souls. But when the time comes, they also dance. After all, what is freedom if we don’t allow ourselves to be free?

I am lucky. I have never had to fight for basic rights. I can come to this blog each day and joke about how my husband doesn’t know how to put his dishes in the dishwasher. I have a dishwasher. Heck, I have dirty dishes. So today, I won’t complain.

Imma dance.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph “Dance” by Sameer Walzade © 2013 Creative Commons

 

Making a map to badassland

directionLast night I went to a party with a group of incredible women–intelligent, funny, warm and lovely all wrapped up with a big bow. After sharing books and cookies and numerous glasses of champagne, and before we said goodnight, our hostess asked us to share one word to set our intentions for the upcoming year.

There was a lot of calm and peace and joy and embracing life. Simplify, excite, adventure, exceed. All great words.

First thoughts are often our truest expressions. Inarticulate, perhaps, but unfiltered and unburdened by our concerns about expectations or perception or appropriateness.

My first thought was badass.

The book that I took home from the exchange was about facing our personal Goliath. I’m not a religious person, but I do think from time to time the universe gives us messages when we most need to hear them. This past year, I’ve been sort of an anti-badass, letting the giants stand in my way.

Some of them might have moved, had I asked them to. Some of them probably aren’t as big or as strong as I assume they are. Some of them are enormous and mean-tempered and eat writers for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If I hope to be the David of my own life, I’m just going to have to get over it, pick up a rock and let it fly.

There is no map from here to badass. There are no concrete goals, or steps or landmarks. I can only ask myself “what would a badass do?” and take it from there. It is a journey that I’ll have to make one action at a time, to decide not to cower, or avoid, or defer, but to stand up and tell the world to bring it on, because dammit, I’m a badass.

You might want to duck.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph “Our Direction” by Brian Talbot © 2006 Creative Commons