Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Almost Rapture

I was nine years old when my grandmother told me that Jesus was going to be coming back on Christmas Eve.

My grandmother always seemed to have insider evangelical information, mainly stuff discovered from years of theological studies, but from time to time, bits of prophesy acquired from late night infomercials as well.

Either way, I recall thinking 'who in their right mind proceeds to tell a nine year old something of this nature?' As if I would be elated, having already lived a good long life, sowed my wild oats, and come to the conclusion that I wanted the Lord to hurry up and take me out of this God forsaken place already...yeah, not so much. My days consisted mostly of tea parties and amusement parks, so the last thing I was looking forward to was being "raptured."

It was a few days before Christmas Eve, and in the same way misery loves company, evidently, so does sheer panic and anxiety. There was no way I could keep this big, horrifying secret to myself, so I decided to break the news to my seven year old brother as well.

Needless to say our holiday vacation didn't have that carefree air about it that it used to. When Christmas Eve finally arrived I remember my brother and I were on our best behavior, not wanting to bicker or fight, or use the restroom much for that matter...I mean who wants to be taken up mid-tinkle, right?

The day proceeded to go by as usual- cooking, eating, cleaning, cooking again....but still no second coming. By this point the anticipation had consumed our every thought. We saw little purpose in leaving cookies out for Santa, nor wasting our time dreaming of sugarplums or the gifts that would never be opened.

Cruelly enough, our mother decided to put us to sleep at around eight o'clock, so that Santa could get an early jump on things. To her curiosity I passed up a night in my own cozy bed, instead choosing to roll out a sleeping bag on my brother's floor. I figured this way when IT happened I would know immediately, rather than risk being left behind, and not discovering said chilling fact until the next morning when I woke up to a tinsel covered ghost town.

Needless to say, those were the longest four hours of our entire lives. My brother and I were both glued to the clock, watching as final minute, after final minute ticked by. At which point I'll acknowledge that yes, it was a given Christ worked according to Central Standard Time. We were small children and didn't realize He had any other options.

And then, finally, the moment came. The clock read 11:59. It was J.C.'s last chance, and man, had he really drug this whole debacle out...but who can blame him, you only get to orchestrate a second coming once, right?

I don't think either of us took in one ounce of oxygen for that entire minute. When the clock finally struck twelve, the blue started to leave our little faces. I remember wondering how my grandmother must be feeling right at that moment. Was she embarrassed by her miscalculation? Was she up pacing and feverishly writing evangelical hate mail? Or had she perhaps simply shrugged it off and headed back to bed thinking "oh well, maybe next year?" Did she even realize that she had completely robbed her two precious grandchildren of the joy of Christmas that year?

All I know is we never told our mother, in fear that she would never let us go back over to grandma's house again- so obviously her positives outweighed her negatives in our eyes.

By the way, that Christmas she gave me a bike and $200 dollars, which goes to show you she had somewhat thought ahead and couldn't have been all that invested in this whole "rapture on Christmas Eve" premonition.

Years later when I asked my grandmother about this landmark moment in my childhood, she simply laughed and told me she'd just gone to sleep that night, same as any other...just as I had suspected.

misery loves company

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Taylor Swift - Mean [lyrics & download]

wyclef jean "if i was president"

The Mortal

Occasionally there’s a science fiction plot which involves an artificial intelligence, or sentient robot that goes around questioning its purpose, its reason for existence. I think as an audience we respond to this fictional existentialism with a form of pity. In these instances, the robots, androids or what have you, usually express a subtle envy or jealousy of our humanity.

In the original Tron, I found inspiration in a line from the movie. If you’re unfamiliar, the premise of Tron is that there is another world inside or a computer system or network and the programs perform their functions, much as we go to work or school. All the while they believe in the existence of “users”, mythical creators and benefactors that employ them to do their will and care about their well-being. At one point in the film, the main character, a human, sucked into the digital world or grid, confesses that he is in fact, a user. The titular program then says, “If you are a user, then everything you've done has been according to a plan.”

Ha, you wish.

In both these instances god-like attributes are given to us mere mortals and we feel better about ourselves, responsible for being an example to these wayward entities and desire to live up to our reputation. The alternative, and usually the rest of the plot, revolves around the revelation that we’re no more perfect or self-aware than our artificial counter-parts. Then the remarkable part happens, it doesn't matter. As with most things revered, it is nearly impossible to fall from the pedestal.

Now if you haven’t figured it out, in these stories we are somehow superior to these, less than human, characters and yet we aren't made of metal and plastic or have super strength or intelligence, we’re just human. Again, this doesn't matter, simply because we are human. Is it lonely at the top? In our arrogance do we have to contrive stories that, although cast a spotlight on our weaknesses and faults, still portray us as some sort of god? Maybe it’s not arrogance; maybe it’s self-consciousness that inspires stories like these.

After all, if one day a god-like entity is revealed to us as less than perfect and our own existence is discovered to be a happy accident, where would we fit into the story? How would this make us question our own existence any more than we already do? And so it is, that just like the characters in these stories we walk this Earth in constant search of purpose, a reason to rationalize and justify our existence.

I can say this. Some of the most interesting people in our lives have no idea what their purpose is. It is the pursuit to find that answer that inspires the rest of us. We are entertained, amused, distracted from our lives by the fruits of their labor and the beauty of their lives. In the seeming lack of purpose and the insatiable desire to find a solution to life’s questions, their purpose becomes them. Personally, even though I am unemployed I am not without purpose. I believe that somewhere out there just might be a creator that is not only proud of me, but encourages my own musings and loves me all the more for it and at the risk of sounding pretentious, perhaps I can be an inspiration to others.

End of program. . .

I can be an inspiration to others

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Beauty and Her Boy

My mother married the man I call dad when I was just a year old. We never really had the best relationship, I was treated much differently than his own children; “the red headed step child” is what he always called me with a laugh. Mom used to say he was just fooling around but I knew better than that. He might as well have called me the “nigger” baby. He used the term on rare occasions, usually during a drunken rant.

I love him though, he is my dad. Isn’t that crazy this man who used to make me stand in the corner with a diaper on and soap in my mouth while the other kids played. I slept in the bath tub with sewer roaches because “my sister” peed in the bed. I ate oatmeal that I had vomited in. I was blamed for everything that went wrong. My mother never would say much and my grandparents tried to stand up for me but it only seemed to make things worse.

I know now that it’s the way he was raised, in a racist home with a mother and stepfather who used to beat him. Of course, he would think it was okay to treat me that way, after all he was taught that was okay. I forgave him and love him any way.

At sixteen I moved out and was living from house to house and at seventeen I settled in with my boyfriend of a year. He was a few years older than I was and for a brief while my life seemed almost perfect.

Four months in, his drinking and constant drug use became too much for me to handle. It made me think of all the reasons why my biological father wasn’t in my life, and I began to resent him. A month later I decided to leave but he didn’t take that too well. I don’t think I have ever felt pain like that before. I had been beat but this was so different, I have no idea how I survived. For a year and a half I walked on egg shells around this man, nothing made him happy and I dreaded the moments he picked up a drink. There was always hell to pay for one thing or another.

I left one evening while he was working. I walked 25 miles into town and was able to catch a ride to my parent’s house an hour away. One week later I was on a bus to Texas. I felt such relief at that point; I was free, free from my past and able to start anew.

A new start meant a new role… MOM. Shortly after moving to Texas I became pregnant. Nine months later my beautiful baby boy was born, four months after that I became a wife. Me a wife, it’s crazy I didn’t even know the meaning of the word. There I was a new mom and wife and like before my life seemed almost perfect.

The new husband seemed jealous of our son. All the time that I had previously focused on him had now been dedicated to our son.

We didn’t know how to deal with that. We started to fight all the time and he chose to stay out with his friends and not come home until four o’clock in the morning. I then became resentful of him. He said he purposefully got me pregnant and then he wanted to act like a bachelor. Who does that? He had so many other things going on that I didn’t know the half of it until later years. We stayed married for four years until I moved out in December of 2008 and filed for divorce in April of 2009. My divorce became finalized in October of 2009 and I am now a single mother.

Now I need to raise my son to be a good man. How on Earth will I do that? I’ve asked myself this a hundred times. All my examples have been less than what I want for my son. They have however shown me all the things I will teach my son not to be. I am in no way saying that they are bad men I just know I wouldn’t mold “my little man” after them. They all have good qualities.

I will never let all the bad in this life outweigh all the great and wonderful things the LORD has blessed me with. I've learned a lesson from everything I've gone through and find something positive in it- from being beat and made to feel worthless to now knowing the greatest joy in life,

I know that all that I have gone through was to make me stronger and bring me closer to GOD. My son will be just fine! The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

free from my past and able to start anew

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Plan III

I finally moved out of my parents’ house. Since I wasn’t able to take anymore classes, I could finally work full time and get an apartment. I was aching for my own living space, so I didn’t waste too much time.

I found a roommate and a place in a location that I liked, and we moved in the summer of 2007. It was a modest place, not something that would impress a girl, but at least I had my own place and a friend to live with, giving me company and help with the rent and bills.

Still my life was nowhere close to where I wanted it to be. I was working 30 hours a week and involved in the grievance process, which wasn’t finalized until the spring of 2008. I wasted much of my free time sleeping in, spending unproductive time on the computer, and just going out at night. My life was definitely in a rut. I had no girls in my life nor any goals or ambitions to speak of. I spent too much time indoors with my blinds always shut, not because I was a hermit, but because I was hiding from life. Maybe this was because I felt embarrassed and ashamed. My apartment was a safe haven; a place where I could hide from the world, which had been cruel to me.

I didn’t even feel low or depressed during this time, but I wasn’t happy either. I was simply in a rut and floundering around. My job was comfortable and flexible. I had lots of free time, and other than the grievance process, my life was stress-free and easy-going. So instead of making productive use of all the time I had in my life, I wasted it by sleeping in and lying around all the time essentially doing nothing when I wasn’t working or eating. The only thing I looked forward to was Friday and Saturday nights when I’d be out partying and meeting girls. When I got phone numbers, I either never called them or if I did, waited too long,

I didn’t feel like any girl would want to date me or be a part of my life. When a girl did actually express interest in me, I had nothing to offer her. It was the summer of 2008, and I ran into her at a neighborhood bar. I had already gotten her number about a month before, but I never called her. We talked a bit at the bar and did some karaoke. At closing time, some of her friends proposed the idea of going for a swim in the apartments across the street where one of the guys lived.

We brought some wine and beer out to the pool and went for a dip. We had a nice relaxing time that summer night, but then came the question. I’ll never forget the question. We were having a romantic moment, when suddenly she asked me, “What are you worth to me?” And she wasn’t referring to money. I just told her that I didn’t know. I honestly had no good answer, and I could see the disappointment in her face. When she drove me back to my car, she now seemed distant and uninterested.

I remember one day deciding to visit the apartment fitness room, and this was a sign that the flame within me, while faint and diminished, was still lit. I looked at myself in the mirrors lining the wall of the fitness room and couldn’t believe how unhealthy and out of shape I looked. I was skinny, pale, and underweight, with atrophied muscles. I don’t think I had been in a gym or even exercised since living away at college. That was four years ago! How did I get like this?

My roommate was involved in community theater, not only acting in plays, but serving on the board of directors, and attending events and parties within that social circle too. At home, he spent time screening plays for future shows and rehearsing his lines, and after work, he’d be at rehearsals or the actual performances. He was doing something with his life and with his time. Why wasn’t I?

I needed something to shake things up and take me out of this rut. In September of 2008, that thing arrived in the form of a hurricane. It came without any hype or panic, and it came directly through Houston! I stayed over at my parents’ place during the storm, and as the hurricane was approaching, I walked around outside drinking a beer and enjoying the wind, and I could just feel that something was about to change!

The wind was starting to strengthen, causing the transformers on power lines to light up the sky. I went inside, and made a bed for myself in my mother’s closet, because I was so afraid to be near windows! It was a tough night to get much sleep. I could hear the winds howling outside with the pitch of the sound rising whenever there was a gust.

When it was all over the next morning, we had no power and no air conditioning, and the air outside felt dirty, humid, and tropical. That night we used radios and flashlights, and shared a neighbor’s generator for power. It felt like camping, but we were at home. It wasn’t easy to sleep that night either, but this time because of the humidity and mugginess that the hurricane had left over Houston. We had no a/c to cool us off! Thankfully, an early season cool front came through the next morning and pushed all the hurricane air out.

Much of the city remained without power for days, and for some even weeks. I was able to return to my apartment right away, because we shared an electric grid with a hospital, and they were first priority to get powered back up. Driving back home, I felt like I was in some desolate rural place, not the 4th largest city. Everything was completely dark!

A couple days later, I received a call from my manager that our office had water damage from the hurricane and that we would be closed for a week, but they were sending a number of us up to Omaha, Nebraska to work until our office was ready. All I had to do was say yes, and I would be out of town and in another state the next day… my first ever business trip!

It was the first time in over a year that I felt any kind of excitement, and just the reality shake-up that I needed. While I was in Omaha working, I felt alive again. I was having a great time, and experiencing life instead of hiding from it. I returned to Houston with a new frame of mind, happy and hopeful. I wanted to open the blinds on my windows. I wanted to sit outside on my patio. I wanted to go to the pool at my apartment and tan in the sun. I wanted to work 40 hours a week instead of just 30. About a month after the Omaha trip, our company moved into a new office right around the corner from my place. It was fresh and clean, and it had a very professional look to it. My company’s office upgrade paralleled my own personal change. Just prior to the office relocation, a co-worker who sat at the desk next to mine showed me an article in a magazine about attracting women. It really had me curious. I knew that I had a lot of potential, and I spent the past few years doing nothing to reach it.

Little did I know at the time, this article would spark an insatiable appetite for learning new social and attraction skills and an insatiable thirst for self improvement.

It was late 2008, and my lease was ending soon. My roommate had already made new arrangements, so I started talking to a co-worker about the idea of moving in with me, and we’d just extend the lease. He was interested. But something about that just didn’t feel right. I was looking forward now, no longer stagnating. I went out looking at some new apartments a couple miles north that had captured my eye. I got some information, took and tour, and fell in love with the place. I approached my co-worker about it at work, and told him that instead of taking over for my other roommate, how about we start over fresh and get a brand new place that has never been lived in before. He was still interested. It was meant to be. He was the kind of positive and motivational person I needed to get my life back on track, re-focused, and restored.

We moved in that December of 2008. The place was simply awesome! It had that fresh new smell, because everything was completely new and clean! It was the perfect bachelor pad for a couple guys in their late 20s and early 30s. It was a place that guests, and especially girls, wanted to visit.

Everything was looking up. I wasn’t putting the pieces of my life back together, I was building a life! I was gaining identity, purpose, and most importantly, control. I had an open attitude, much like when I moved away to college, only this time I was wiser,and had a new positive attitude unlike anything I had ever felt before! I could just feel my life going in a positive direction with no end in sight! I was never going back to the way things were. The year 2009 was a socially active year for me. I cultivated new social circles and had lots going on with family and old friends too.

There were several weddings and several funerals that year. There was a high school reunion. There were live music shows, since my new roommate was a local performing artist. We had guests or family over from time to time. There was always something going on.

My new roommate even had an electric keyboard piano, and I could write songs again! I was feeling perpetually inspired, and coming up with songs faster than I was able to put them together. It was like 2001 again, only this time my songs had a more positive tone, and more of a pop structure with lots of vocals. I dreamt of performing live music for a crowd either alone or with other musicians. We had a lot of good times that year. It was a great one.

We had only signed a year lease, and it eventually came time to discuss the future. I wanted both of us to stay and keep the good times rolling, but my roommate had a desire to move into the inner city where he spent a lot of his leisure time, and he was not planning to continue through another lease. This left me feeling disappointed, but I knew that I needed to be adaptable if I was going to keep things moving forward. I decided to stay and move into a one bedroom in the same apartment community. I loved it here too much to leave.

The year 2010 was phase two. I would now be living completely on my own, and I had a self-improvement plan that I was ready to implement, because I still needed a lot of work. My roommate had a positive and restorative influence on me in 2009, but now it was time to do this alone. It was time to put all this positive energy toward building a life, improving myself, reaching my full potential, and converting my passions and talents into real plans of action.

I felt a sense of power upon moving into the one bedroom apartment on New Year’s Eve. It was spacious and overlooked the resort-style swimming pool. I began what I called my TSI (Total Self-Improvement) Plan right away when I awoke the next day on New Year’s Day of 2010. There was so much I wanted to do.

I started waking up earlier, jogging and going to the gym, eating healthy foods, reading health and wellness magazines, reading self-improvement books, and investing hours each week into songwriting. I worked on my tan, improved my hygiene in every way I could possibly think of, and started gradually improving my wardrobe. I helped my musician roommate from 2009 with his music promotion business, and it gave me a feeling of professionalism. I was meeting girls, actually calling them now, and dating them. I had options, and it felt great. I was living on my terms now. I was enjoying life pro-actively. I spent time that year thinking about my career goals, as my talents and interests began to come clearly into focus. I thought about how my biggest passions were people, health and wellness, life coaching/inspiring others, and writing music. I was ready to “jump in” now, because I finally had some sense of who I was.

I am now 30 years old, and the great person I always knew I was on the inside is finally shining through on the outside. I just hiked 3 miles this past Sunday on some nature trails. Hiking is one of my newest hobbies, and I plan to add a few more. I’m participating in life, not hiding from it. I thank God, who is always in control of things, for helping me to take control of my life and to be the man He created me to be. Maybe it took me a long time, but it’s all part of God’s plan. I know I have a purpose, and I’m excited about what the future holds!

so much to look forward to