Friday, December 30, 2011

And How do You Feel About That?


The thing about traveling is that it gives one a lot of time to think. Sure, there’s scenery to look at and new foods to try and experiences to experience. Mostly, though, there are these huge chunks of time when no one needs a single thing from me, when my days are just my own, when I don’t have to answer the doorbell or feed the dogs or prep for class or sign a permission slip or pick up dinner or do the laundry or clear snow from the drive or take out the trash or help with homework or all the other million things that I might need to do in a typical twenty-four hour period. For two entire weeks, I have no real responsibilities and plenty of time to send my brain on a little cognitive romp. I like getting into my head like this. I like throwing around ideas and dreams and possibilities and questions of one sort or another. I go everywhere with these thoughts. At times, I stay light and fun and absolute fluff. I’m all boas and pearls and glittery heels. I’m pretty pink lipstick and a sparkly tiara, figuratively speaking, but who knows. I do enjoy the occasional getting into character. When I tire of the shallow end, I totally shift gears and head for the deep. I ponder death and birth and the living that happens somewhere in between. I mull over passion and purpose and ponder how to find both. I think on my thinking, on how I think so much that sometimes I don’t even really know what it is that I feel.

Imagine the stereotypical musty smelling therapist in the cardigan sweater with the black-framed glasses, sitting at his desk and tapping his fingers together in thoughtful reflection. I am lying on the nearby sofa fretting over my childhood, or at least pretending to fret because that is what I think I am supposed to do. Dr. Musty-Smelling Therapist asks, “And how do you feel about that?” Oh! This is fun!! Just like the movies! I have LOTS of ideas on how I feel about that. I feel that some of my personal history was unfair, unjust, unfortunate. Some of it was just grand, just fun, just plain darned interesting. I think that no child should ever be that sick and not able to go to the doctor until it is almost too late, not able to go because there is no insurance and no money. I think that no child should ever be hungry, should ever be hungry when there is no food. I think that no child should know cold like that, cold like that because there is no heat because there is no money, no money to pay the bills that are needed for the heat. I think those things, but I also think good things, too. I think that every child should know stomping around deep in the woods barefoot on a steamy Southern afternoon, stumbling on an abandoned old moonshine still deep in cotton country. I think that every child should know the adventure and the challenge of making something out of nothing, making food or fun or future plans when it looks as if there is absolutely zero there. I think every child should know the freedom of having no expectations placed on them as far as what they should become, what they should make of their lives. I think all these things. Then I realize that these are things I think and that thinking is loaded with ideas and that ideas aren’t really feelings. Ideas are ideas. Ideas are thoughts. And thoughts aren’t feelings, aren't feelings at all.

I suck at this. What DO I feel?

Apparently I am really great at thinking, but not so great at feeling. Feeling is hard. Feeling hurts. Sure, sometimes when I think on my childhood I feel sunshine and smiles and warm giant hugs. I feel bare feet in wild strawberries and the taste of honeysuckle straight from the bush. I feel the dizzy that comes from rolling over and over down green grassy hills, heading in late with scrawny legs red with mosquito bites. I feel all bright and glittery and sparkly, a jar full of lightning bugs caught with sisters and cousins while parents swat flies, smoke Winstons, and shoot the breeze. I feel free and fun and full of heart.

Other times, though, I feel darkness and despair and a fear like no other. I feel birth into a world of drinking and joblessness and hustling pool. I feel a statistic, a child born of a pregnant teen. I feel the race begin, but my gate stays closed. I bust through, behind, but determined to finish. I feel pain, humiliation, the looks of the normal kids. I feel wanting to be the same, but always being different. I feel that pit in the stomach that makes it hard to sleep, that pit that comes when one is hungry and there is no food. I feel a come to Jesus moment involving red marks left on the backs of legs, red marks that sting and bite and make me cry in my sleep, red marks that make me understand that being good and quiet and obedient, is, for now, better than being me. I feel alone in my world, alone with no one to tell and no one who knows.

Feeling makes me cry and hurts my heart. I don’t like it. But I’ve come to this, that what happened in my life was a gift, that what happened was an opportunity, a window of possibility. I know. I know you will disagree, but it was MY life, and it WAS a gift, and you have no right to tell me otherwise. It is like this. I believe that what happened was a gift. I believe that it was a gift because I truly do not think that I would have the depth of compassion, the understanding of life circumstance, the love for my fellow beings that I do now had I not early on experienced hardship, adversity, disdain. Maybe I would KNOW of hunger, would KNOW of poverty, would KNOW of lives filled with unfortunate circumstance, maybe I would KNOW of these things, but had I not experienced them, I doubt that I could truly FEEL hunger, FEEL poverty, FEEL a life of wanting so very much to fit in and be like others and yet never even once being given that opportunity, never once having the choice or having the chance.

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