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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

it's what we do, and I'm glad you're here

Last Wednesday was a pretty big day for me.  It was a buy a new suit (a black skirt suit, of course), black pumps and wear the pearl necklace that my Dad gave me for my eighteenth birthday sort of big day.

I was nervous.  Not the bad sort of nervous, like the kind of nervous you get when you're going to the dentist or checking your work e-mail after a week-long vacation.  I was the sort of nervous that makes you giddy and smiley.  It makes me talk with my hands a lot.  And act kind of like a cheerleader.

Ready?  Okay!

I told my friend, who works with me at a local inn, that I was nervous about my big day.  I had a bunch of jerking, panic-filled questions for him.  They flew out of my mouth quickly like the way thread moves on a cloth through a sewing machine.

"What if I don't give off a good impression?  What if they hate me?  What if I can't engage in any sort of conversation that's interesting or intelligible?"

The worst self-defeating question being, "What if I can't 'sell' myself?"

My friend looked down at me (not because he's better or smarter, but because he is quite tall) and said plainly:

"This is what we do."

He said a bunch of other things about how we're both communicators.  And how the hospitality industry and communication industry are both nearly the same.  He reminded me that I've studied writing for six years, and if I've mastered the craft of selling $200.00 bottles of wine in a restaurant, I could surely muster the strength to say good things about my qualifications as a communicator.

It was the most simple advice.  Because this is what we do.

I realized this morning, however, that this may be what I do but I certainly haven't done it here.  On this forum.  If I were treating this blog like it were my job as a hospitality employee, I would make sure you felt welcome.  I'd usher you in, like you're a part of something when you read these words.  I'm supposed to create something lovely so that you'll want to return.

I haven't done that, yet.

So, thank you for being here.  And welcome!  Welcome back.  I'm glad you're taking time out of your day to read these words.

And I hope you'll return.

Until then, happy Tuesday!

B.
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Sunday, December 9, 2012

falling trees make noise and good unseen is good

Well, hey there!

Opening this page this morning and digging into these old posts, brushing off the dust of school deadlines and heartbreaks was kind of like unearthing a time capsule in a way.  It was like stepping into a storybook that's all your own, and having the omniscience you didn't have before.

Because you know how the story ends.  And it ends with goodness.

Have any of you all ever done good while no one is watching?  Probably.  You're all good people.  Good people do good things.  And if we apply the transitive property to all of your lives, good people are defined by their actions.

But what if suddenly, all of you, being the good people that you are, stopped doing good.  Good for you, or good for others.  Stopped for no reason other than the fact you thought no one was watching.

Why does it matter, anyway?  If no one sees it, if no one reads it, it didn't really happen, right?

It's kind of like that mind-bender riddle that asks, "If a tree falls in the forrest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?"

The answer is, of course it does.  It makes ripples in the atmosphere.  Its booms sends shockwaves and wild rumblings through the ground.

I have a friend in Virginia Beach who gave one of his kidneys to his father.  He didn't broadcast it on his Facebook, or instagram (thankfully) pictures, or build a house on the sand of social media "likes" and comments from others.

He just did good.

And I'm convinced he's the type of man who would have given up any part of himself for someone he loved.  I'm further convinced that if the doctors told him that both his father, and no one else in the world would ever know of his sacrifice, he would have done the good anyway.

But what if he hadn't?  What if the moment he was informed that he'd be the only one aware that he had one less kidney, he decided he'd just go ahead and keep them both?

What if every good person stopped doing good because no one ever saw, the world would not rumble and quake.  It would not turn or be unhinged from patterns of ugliness broken by goodness.  It would stand still and intimidating.  Like a tree in the forrest.

I'm not just talking about giving away parts of your body for the betterment of your relatives.  I'm talking about all kinds of good here.  I'm talking about big goods and little goods.  Feeding the homeless, sure. But staying up late to chit-chat with a girlfriend who's discouraged, too.  Going to church.  Having patience with an employee who doesn't learn as quickly as everyone else.

The truth is, the good (the big and little) you do while no one is watching is the most important kind of good.  It is a multitude of trees falling in a forrest.  Toppling over one another, as careless and trite as a house of cards or a winding line of dominoes.  And if no one ever watches, so much the better.  Because the impression I have about the life we live is that in the end, the things no one sees - the good and the bad - are the things we will be judged for.

So.  Audience or not, blogging is good.  I am not saying that it is any way synonymous with giving up a kidney, or giving care to homeless people.  It's not especially intelligent drivel.  It's not even that creative.  But it is still good.  And it is good that I will do, with hopes that one day the world will quake with words I've written.

Whether they are read or not.



Happy Sunday!

B.
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Saturday, January 28, 2012

curly hair, empty parking spots and other things I can't seem to control.

Control is far away.  It's like a package I know has been sent, but hasn't arrived in the mail yet.  I wake up every day thinking, "Yes!  Today is the day control will come!"

The anticipation of its arrival nearly brings me to the shoreline of tears.  My heart longs for it so badly, and my mind nearly tears itself apart.  It turns against me, asking why I can't seem to get it all together.  I run to the mailbox only to find that control is not there.

And a hollow, stinging and suffocating emptiness results in the realization that control is not coming.

There have been so many instances in my days here recently that brought the unfortunate conclusion to my attention.  I breeze through life wearing high heeled pumps and bouncing my hair thinking that I can fool the world into thinking that I have it all together.  "I can fake it to make it" I tell myself. "And everything will be just fine."

But there are some things - even the smallest inconveniences - that you can't grasp hold of.  Even with a smile, a wave, a pair of shoes and a good excuse.

For instance, the other day my boss came up behind me and tossed my hair like a tennis ball on the palm of his hand.

"Can you do something about this?"
"About what?" I asked.
"Your hair?  Can you put it in a bun?"
"Um, sure?"
"It just looks a little crazy.  I know it's probably the weather..."

Oh no he didn't.

I sighed and reluctantly clasped my hair into a tight bun at the crook of my neck.

I've learned my hair is going to do its own thing. I've battled with it for years. I may as well save the money I've used on countless taming products and put it to better use.  Like paying to get my car back.

It was a late (or early depending on how you look at things) and brisk January evening.  One that would have you power walking anywhere you went, no matter how your feet hurt after a ten hour waitressing shift.  The sky was crisp and clear, and looking at the stars was like looking through a pair of glasses rubbed newly clean.

And the spot where I had parked my little red Toyota Camry, named Georgia after my favorite Ray Charles song, was vacant.  The fact that my watch read one a.m. only sweetened the deal.

It was a combination of a thirty minute car ride, one trip to the ATM  an hour long wait and one hundred and thirty-five dollars in cash (they were very serious about their precious cash for some reason) that had to take place before I could retrieve my car.  And it didn't matter how polite I was on the phone, or how patient I was with the two gentlemen who gave me my receipt and told me to "have a good night" (oh please), I felt small and insignificant.  Like no matter what I did, I wasn't an exception to the rules.

Being kind and confident did nothing.  So since then, I've pretty much fallen into a scaredy-cat default mode.  Such a big future is ahead of me, and there are so many unanswered questions.  I feel like a fawn, struggling for balance on its own legs.  Vulnerable.  Weak.  Desperately naive and focused on the wrong things.

I was feeling still feeling this way when I got home from work last night.  I shot a text to the BF, asking if he was ready for me to swing on by his place.  About fifteen minutes later, he replied.

"Sorry, I was distracted by my loop pedal."

Sitting there listening in his spinning desk chair, I can see why.  The loop pedal kept every bit of music that escaped from the hollow depth of his guitar sustained in the air.  The layers, the rhythms, the low bass strums, and the higher-pitched etherial notes wove together.  The room turn from a dimly lit loft with big law books that lawyers read to a room filled with continuous layers of sound.

They tossed, and bounced and flew together so perfectly, so violently, I thought the room would spill over and overflow in the crux of a simple, melodic beauty.

All the while, BF was standing there, strumming along and nodding.  His head was bent over his instrument and he had this look of concentrated control over his face.  Every once and a while when a chord would come together, he'd smile slightly.

And I thought, maybe life is the same way.

The chaos of our life is woven together.  All of its different compartments rolling together, twisting apart, dissonant, and harmonic. All at once.

Things like curly hair and empty parking spaces, and even larger-than-life problems like the future and a world post-graduation are just a sprinkle of sound in the whole mix.  I do not have complete control of the melody.  But I can smile, step back and appreciate the beauty of the song as a whole.

Have a lovely Saturday!
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Saturday, January 7, 2012

wild and free

Dear FH,

(Who will have to cherish and bask in freedom along side me).

This past summer was one of the most liberating of all my life.

Ever.

I'll save you the story of the major heartbreak, the betrayal, the mistrust and emotional abuse for another, more melancholic day.  Today is a day of rejoicing, and celebrating new beginnings.  Having the courage to shed the outer layer of things in this world I clung so tightly; or rather the pain that clung so tightly to me.

This summer I walked away from those things, those heart-wringing obstacles, with my head held high and my spirit, though perhaps ever-altered, never torn.

I owe that partially to my dear friends, old and new, who flooded my apartment this summer.  Their stays and visits swept over my little home like a sudden rainstorm.  Changing me with every breakfast made together, and every bottle of wine broken into.  They left my heart full, revitalized with love and hope.

(After all, FH, this was long before I even knew who you were.  It was during a time when your presence in my life felt like a familiar but far away story, one that I had read but couldn't place.  It was frustratingly on the tip of my tongue, but not yet there.  So close, but not yet close enough).

One salty, and perfectly warm evening, my friend Babs and I whisked ourselves away to the very edge of the East Coast.  Just a twenty-five minute drive on the very straight, very fast I-64.  Her bare feet and her dog, Josephine, had made their second home on my dashboard that summer.  My car had no working radio, but we kept ourselves entertained with the lilts of our own voices.  Our conversations carrying on just like one of those good, old crackling vintage tunes.

I remember everything about that night.  My favorite turquoise sundress, and brown sandals.  My curly reddish brown hair was partially gathered with a few bobby-pins.  The rest I let fall down my back and get carried away with the salty breeze that blew through the ocean front.

Together we ate thin-crust pizza and Greek salads, with as many olives as a person can consume in one sitting.  The wine we drank was yellow and cold, banana and citrus flavored, dry, perfect.  Our favorite watering hole, Catch 31, was crowded with people much older and gaudily dressed than we.  She and I, looking quite natural and sun burned, make-up-less, heel-less, stuck out from the crowd.  Or rather, we fell into it.  Blending in with the faces of women  painted much more fiercely than our own.

We propped our sandy feet on the rim of the fire pit outside and stared into the flames.  Lost in thoughts of Wow, we really are out of place here...


We were not a part of that place, though we were in the midst of it.  We were two locals who felt like outsiders among tourists.

And that's how I feel in my every day life sometimes.  Like I'm missing something.  Like I'm not even comfortable in my own home.  I'm surrounded by friends who live very strange lives (strange in the "I'm not familiar with it" sense of the word) with husbands, and babies, and mother-in-laws.  I feel simple in their presence.  Like I'm missing something important, and I can't figure out what it is.  But it's so obvious to everyone else around me because they're on the inside.

But I'm on the outside looking in.  And I have no idea what I'm doing wrong.

This was about the same feeling that overwhelmed me powerfully as I tried to ignore the strangers around me.

"Do you want to get out of here?" I asked as I turned to Barbara.

"Yes," she said to me.  "Weird vibe here, definitely."

So we paid the bartender and peaced-out.  Leaving the decorated strangers to talk their talks and laugh their laughs.  She and I had to practice our yoga poses on the beach.

And that's just what we did.

We stretched, and reached, and bent and...fell over.  I can't even fault the wine on the last part.  I'm really bad at yoga.

She and I fell into the sand, laughing at our apparent balance problems, the dark, damp sand layering our calves and feet and elbows.  I sat in the sand a while and looked out into the black ocean for a moment.  I lost myself in the beauty of the stars, the smell of salt and foam crescendoing onto the tip of the shore and the freedom of the moment I was currently living in.  A couple of miles out into the water, I could see bright buoys blinking, signaling boats to be cautioned, something was beneath the surface.

I stuck a pin in that moment, in that very day.  Just like a buoy in the ocean of my life.  In that moment I had released the pain of just a month before, and let go.  I had forgiven enough - or forgotten enough, as the definitions of those words begin to look incredibly identical - to let go.

"You look so wild right now," Barbara said to me, breaking my thought.  I took a moment to examine the picture of myself she was referring to.   Sitting in the sand with my legs crossed, my hair falling every which way.  She was right for sure, I was not my little put-together-business-casual-graduate-school-self in that moment.  I was wild.

And I was free.

FH, I hope to still hold onto that freedom when you and I come together.  That I will never be your ball and chain, and that I will never feel boxed in or cornered.  I don't want to fall into the crowd with you, or fall into the trap of keeping up with our friends and family members many steps ahead of us in the stages of their lives.  I hope you and I will be able to recognize when it's time to leave the places we need to, to play in the sand a while.  To dismiss the people in the world who say your life has to follow the equation of x, y, and z.

Who cares?  Let's go walk in the sand a while.  Be wild and free alongside me.

Very dearly yours,

B.
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

thoughts on Christmas (finally)

Dear FH,

(Who I will spend many Christmas mornings nestled closely by).

I never want to wake up alone on Christmas morning again. 

That’s the worst part about this whole single business.  Yeah, I’ve got the freedom to figure out who I am, to write, to sit for hours in coffee shops with my girlfriends, to work, to play, to study.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m very thankful for the position that I’m in.  Quasi-steady job with a respectable income, loads of girlfriends and soul-sister discoveries, a family who loves me dearly, a civic freedom that entails my complete expression, and a pursuit of an exciting dream that is becoming a slow, but evident, reality.

But I slept on the eve of Christmas with, instead of sugar plumbs, visions of customers dancing in my head.  I of course dawned my high starched collar and bright green tie and served food to strangers on Christmas day.
For the second year in a row.

This is when the whole line of independence and loneliness begins to violently blur.  Loneliness is usually the winner.  It’s moments like these that remind me to keep that determined joy.  To swallow the emotions working their way up my throat, keeping them from exposing my inward self through the expression I am undoubtedly wearing on my face.

Because my thoughts and actions were focused on ensuring that others - the well-to-do, and sparkling strangers who will undoubtedly forget my name and my face a moment after they’ve settled their bill - have a well-to-do, sparkling Christmas.

And I’m afraid I’ll be punished, somehow, for it.

I can’t help but think about the story in the Bible about Mary and Martha.  Martha is the woman I connect with.  Christ was in her midst, but she toiled away her hours playing the part of the hostess.  She was sweeping, cleaning, making sure her guests wine goblets were full. 

I’m sure she was the Biblical equivalent of Donna Reid.  Just replace the sandals with high heeled pumps and the similarities are uncanny.

I imagine Martha scurrying around her kitchen, moving around those who have gathered.  There’s no getting in the way of a woman who’s trying to host a party.  Her guests are trying to offer their best to help, but really they’re just a nuisance.  Her hair has fallen in her face, and her cheeks are flushed with focus and aggravation. 

She’ll never ask for help.  She can do it all by herself.  With a polite and passive stubbornness, she continues to work herself to death.  Meanwhile, her co-hostess Mary,
who has done nothing she might add, is just sitting, in a quiet peaceful reverence.

“Get up off the floor!” She sharply whispers to Mary.  “We. Have. So. Much. Work. To. Do. And you’re just
sitting there!”  The desperation in her voice is sharp. 
But Mary is no more just sitting there than a woman sits on the beach looking at the ocean roll onto the shore, or a man sits on a park bench watching fiery red and orange leaves fall to the ground on a crisp autumn day.  She’s not passive in her attitude of sitting - she’s soaking in the moment.  
And the character of Christ is quick to remind Martha that she’s toiling for the finite, for the things that will be gone.  Mary’s attitude is correct.

And you know, FH, I feel like the past year and a half I’ve been toiling too.  I’ve been pushing people out of the way, I can do things all by myself.
Get out of my way, I can do it all.  Working twelve plus hour days, feeling guilty that I’m not working more, wanting to have a little free time but in the meantime still looking down on those who seem to just be sitting there.

That’s kind of how my Christmas season was spent.  Until I just couldn’t take it any more.  I couldn’t jot down one more drink order, memorize any entree specifications, deal with any more guests with special dietary needs who expected me to magically be able to accommodate within a ten minute notice.  
So I cashed in five days worth of my paid time off and headed home to dear old Mechanicsville just minutes after my shift on Christmas day.  I stopped by my apartment just long enough to untie my apron from my waist, jerk away my green neck tie and slip into sweats.  Then I sped home in a way I’m sure I should have been more aware of cops on the road.  
Because even though I woke alone Christmas morning, I didn’t want to go to bed alone Christmas night. 

My family was already gathered as I pulled into the driveway of my beautiful home.  My mom, dad, brother and sister scooped the dirty laundry and my two duffel bags out of the trunk of my car before I could barely put the car in park.  We trudged up the steps leading to my tiffany blue bedroom together, and sat talking on the floor of my cramped little space I flee to when I just can’t take it any more. 

My little haven was lit with twinkle lights and candles my father puts in the windows every Christmas.  And there I knew that for once this season, I would lay my head down and relish in the fact that my family was just a hall or closed door away.  There were people in my midst who were going to insure the fact that I, too, had a sparkling, fulfilling Christmas.

Even if it happened a few days after the fact. 

So, FH, I’ve had a few days to relish in the love of God, to spend these all-too-quickly passing days baking, reading, writing and loving.  I’ve had time to be Mary for just a little while, before the Martha within me begins to study, serve and worry once more.

And even though you’re not in my life yet, and though I’m quite by myself at times...
I’m not alone.
B. 
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