Faith Plus One

If anyone tells Jason I filmed this video without his knowledge and then spent two hours editing it into a montage while my final thesis is due – I will never forgive you.

But for real, how bout our communication skills?

 

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Eight Years

Year One

Rules:

(1) Don’t touch my face or

(2) Watch me shower or

(3) Slap my ass in public or

(4) Open pickle jars for me or

(5) Wake me up before I’m ready or

(6) Let me oversleep or

(7) Say anything about working out or

(8) Buy me flowers when you know I like plants or

(9) Open doors for me or

(10) Tell me not to cry.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? 

I don’t like tree bark or pomegranate seeds or when roots cling to plants that are already dead.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? 

I can’t think about space. DON’T MAKE ME. There are too many little parts in one picture; too many small things swirling together. Dark Matter. Gas. How did you even find me?

I DON’T UNDERSTAND.

I like birds because they are bovine. You are the only one who knows that. They are not feeble or angelic! Eight hollowed bones in each wing and they spend all day nesting. MORONS.

NO ONE ELSE UNDERSTANDS. 

Year Eight (365 days times 8 plus 2 leap years and 3 hours)

Rules:

(1) Never leave me.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? 

You are my star; my nested bird in chaos.

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Be Good if You Can

My grandmother, Corrine Cotten, is shockingly aware and vocal about her human finitude. When I visit, she writes my name on little sticky notes and attaches the yellow squares to items of hers I may want one day. If you open a closet at her house, chances are you’ll see a pile of old quilts, pillows, hand-made vases from her sister Norma, or jewelry from her “wild days” labeled with the names of my cousins, aunts and uncles on the same little yellow squares. You can even see the various family names etched in sharpie marker on the back of larger items that are still in daily use throughout the house. Like packing up for a big move, her house is always on the cusp of that final transition. It is a weird mix of death and life, past and present, memory and moment, and I am uncomfortably aware that nothing she passes on will ever feel the same without her around. The kitchen table, for instance, is only special if we are playing SkipBo together with a cup of coffee in hand, and the jewelry from her “wild days” is only fun when she wraps it around her body and shows me the best way to move my belly so that each metal string shakes and chimes. Heirlooms won’t have that same Corrine spirit when she’s gone, but I love her gifts that give insight into her past – even if they are tinged with acceptance and muddled with final farewells.

At age 16, she sent me off with a rad, 1970’s gold belt and the most beautiful blue and crystal screw back earrings because, as she said, “you never know what will happen”. Last year at Thanksgiving, Corrine was wearing an old shirt from a church revival that said “Riot ’88”. 1988 is my birth year and I’m obviously a riot, so I LOST MY SHIT. I raved about how cool it was for a solid ten minutes until Corrine snuck off into the back room, changed into a pretty blue sweater with blue heart appliqués, and handed me the “Riot ’88” shirt that was just on her back two minutes earlier. This is who Corrine is. She is selfless, but strong with a firm voice and a soft heart. She is the cliché perfect grandmother that every child reads about in YA novels.

Riot 88

Continue reading “Be Good if You Can”

One Girl’s Letter to her Dad

When I was in the 5th grade I won an essay contest for D.A.R.E.  In the essay, I had to explain my pledge to stay away from drugs.  I wrote something very cheesy and expectant for a typical elementary kid.  You know, something really thought provoking like, “drugs are bad.”

I’m pretty sure my essay would have left that “Heaven is for Real” kid in the dust though… had our sentences been juxtaposed.

The essay wasn’t life changing, but I wrote it with passion. And it wasn’t because the DARE officer showed my formative brain horror videos of drunk drivers and families abandoned by victims of drug overdoses, but because I had already witnessed that in real life. When I look back on the essay, I realize it was a pledge to you.  It was me promising I would never turn out like that, while somehow simultaneously begging you to come back. Today, I’m writing a new essay.  Not in hopes that you’ll put down your habits (I mean, I do hope that too), but in an effort to say, I get it.

Continue reading “One Girl’s Letter to her Dad”

What We Leave Behind

Lately I’ve been worried about what I will leave behind in life.  I’m not planning on going anywhere, but it seems like a lot of other people are.. and I can’t help but think about what gets stuck here when we all go.

What memories are left

What impact did we have

Will people miss our actions

I don’t mean will people mourn.  I think anyone can do that.  I mourn the loss of people I’ve never met before.

 ie:  reading my newsfeed when it is chock full of obituaries and gofundme links.

I want to know what happens when the grief and shock have past.  Is there something lingering around that still makes the world know you were here?  Something that’s not a memorial, or work of art, or an awkward shrine on a living room wall.

The only death I’ve ever known that really hurt was the loss of my friend Stephen.  I didn’t know Stephen for long, but I knew him long enough to be impacted by his creativity, free spirit, love for yahoos, and his ability to find just the right amount of risk and rebellion in life.  Stephen made people think.  He made you question everything you once had total faith in. Sometimes to a fault.  Many times in conversation, I wanted to sprint back to the easier, picturesque world Stephen had just made my mind leave for good.. but I was too entranced with his take on the world.

Six years later, I still find myself thanking Stephen for opening my mind.

He left that behind. 

It was hard to see Stephen go because I felt like he had so much left to do.  I thought more of the world needed to know him – they needed to have him impact their lives like he impacted mine.

I wish Stephen was still here fulfilling all of his passions in life, but I think of what he left behind a little differently now.  I don’t think about what he could have done anymore.  I think about what he did.

And I guess that’s the reason for this post. 

I have a horrible habit of reading and stalking all devastating drama on Facebook, CNN, and where ever else it seems to pop up.  That habit has shown a seemingly formulaic layout to how reaction and mourning to death goes.  For example, there are usually comments of friends and family sending love and prayers, comments of how great the individual was, pictures of memories, long prose form statuses filled with regret, and so on… but one in particular really gets to me.

“They had so much left to offer the world.”

This one haunts me.  I know it’s probably true in all accounts of life.  We all have more to give, more to see, more people to love, more coffee to drink, etc.  Still, I hope no matter how old or young I am when I go, no one thinks I should have done more.

I hope no one thinks I didn’t fulfill the life I had.

I want my day to day interactions with people, art and writing to be enough.  And when the inevitable happens, I hope people celebrate the life lived instead of mourning the unlived.  After all, isn’t that what living is about.  It’s the dying and the uncertainty that makes the act of living so beautiful.

– Cap

 

Let it Out

Over the past few months, I’ve read ESPN’s headline story about a track athlete taking a running jump to her death, saw updates on the thought process behind Robin Williams suicide, and I’ve even noticed one of my role models, Andrew Jenks, disclose his own struggles on twitter.

My initial response to the posts were pretty uncomfortable.

They felt invasive.  They felt way too close to home.  

Depression was pretty common in my household as a child.  My grandmother committed suicide over 37 years ago, and many of my immediate family members also deal with a similar fight.  Still, even with depression so present in our family circle – we never talk about it.  We all know it exists.  We all know we are fighting the same fight, but we go along with our day to day interactions without addressing the issues.  We’ve pushed those big elephants further and further into the corner, until they’ve become this sort of shrine that we aren’t allowed to talk about or visit.

I don’t know if this is just with me, but depression has always had such a negative connotation.  Growing up, my father believed depression wasn’t real.  He didn’t understand how it could truly overcome someone.  For some reason, that has stuck with me, no matter how hard I’ve tried to fight it.  I’ve struggled with depression for years, but I’ve never wanted to admit it.  Not even to myself.  I’ve refused to see doctors or take medications because I didn’t want to be labeled.  I didn’t want anyone to think I had anything else working against me.

Depression isn’t something I struggle with on a daily basis, but when it comes – which it always does – it really hits hard.  I go through this weird stage of feeling completely disconnected from the world around me.  Holidays, religious sanctions, and even close relationships all suddenly seem so systematic.  I know that may sound harsh, but I don’t know how else to explain it.  Life becomes more like a formula or Nintendo game, and I can’t seem to rally up the significance in it all.

The general separation from the daily world is bad enough, but feeling like you’re the only person experiencing those thoughts is even worse.  I guess that’s why I’m saying all this now.  I guess that’s why I’m happy other people are finally saying it too.  This depression thing is real.  It doesn’t have a standard, there are no prerequisites, and there’s no reason to go through it alone.

Let it out.

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Thinking for the Thoughtless

Sometimes I wonder if I see this place a little differently.  I’ll spare you all the existential questions…only because I’m too tired to relay them properly.  But the basics that you may or may not be interested in is this:

Do we get a say?

I’ve always joked that each passing day only serves as a small step, or jolt, into life as my mother.  (not that that’s a bad thing)  I’ve laughed at how I pretend listen to people and how I’ve genuinely developed a passion for silence. Oh, and gardening. Growing shit gets me #turnt.

Did I use that word properly? 

But what I’ve never really contemplated before were all of the habits in life I’d sworn off. I can’t deny that I have traits of my mother and father hiding somewhere behind all of the bits that make me – me, but I actively believe that we get to choose who we become. We aren’t subjected to nature’s plan.

I’ve seen a lot of heartache in my family.  I’ve accepted a long time ago that people cannot always be who we wish they could be.  Not everyone wants something more.  Sometimes they just want for now, and you’re not always a part of that now. I’ve become okay with that over the years.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still have my random breakdowns.

Like on a long flight from Baton Rouge to Charleston… somewhere around the 11C row.  (Hypothetically speaking, of course)

Seeing the way addiction has taken control over so many of my loved ones is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in life. Especially witnessing that addiction destroy someone I admire more than words can express.  Someone I know has something to live for.

I wish he knew he had a say.

When I see people I love struggle with addiction, I want to scream at them.  Not in anger, but in a desperate attempt to wake them.  How do they not see their life the way I see it?  I want them to know this world is beautiful at times.  I want them to see the joys in the little things.  I want them to use the bad times merely as a juxtaposition of how effing awesome the good times are.

Occasionally, I think I just got lucky in what I had a say in… but then I remember I’ve never won anything in my life.

I have to choose to be happy on a daily basis.  Sometimes I smile when I don’t want to, and laughing is harder than letting the vices of this world overcome me.  Still, every now and then, there is something that lets me know I was meant to experience all this so that I can be whole.  So that I am forced to know myself, and I’m forced to appreciate the little things and the people around me who make them not so little.

– Cap