(The) Wonderful Life

When we were first starting our journey another lifetime ago, we often compered ourselves to the Baileys, George and Mary. We were the ones who “stayed behind” to support the two aging families. We were the ones who had children to carry on in the same. We were the Baileys true and true, because though we had but 2 dollars to our name (yes, called papa dollar and momma dollar respectively), we were the ones that had each other and the dream…

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It’s a Wonderful Life ends too soon you see, that’s it’s problem.

It ends just after George has his breakdown and subsequent salvation, but well before Mary has her very own mental destruction of a sort. A breakdown that couldn’t be fixed by any mere bell-ring wing hopeful; as Mary would never listen to opinions – heavenly though they may be – differing from her’s anyway. A breakdown that would eventually cause her to run off, indulging in “adventure” – replete with a newly purchased boot knife – all while pushing George from the house, from her life and from the life of his children. A breakdown that would eventually drive her to want to even kill George, if not in the flesh, then at least and more importantly in the spirit.

And George in fact, did die.

More completely than he ever realized was possible.

Not in the flesh, but at least and more importantly in the spirit.

He died very painfully, and for a very long time.

Just long enough in fact, to take root.

You see, in his death, an odd thing occurred. George became aware of something. In his death, George began to finally understand what that cross-hugging Israelite Lover of Life (the very One who took His own in celebration and protection of it) had so long ago said about not being able to truly live, until you had first tasted – and indeed drank of – the rusty cup of death. Not through his own wisdom alone surely, George was somehow able to recognize the fact that his death wasn’t so much a defeat as it was a victory – or at the very least an opportunity to achieve the victory that a long time ago he had willingly given up in order to obtain what he thought would be, if you’ll pardon the pun, the “wonderful life.”

The angels sent this time weren’t Mark Twainian flaming rum punch enthusiasts either. They were actual breathing, living, thinking, loving and bells-be-damned speaking people. OK, and possibly flaming rum punch enthusiasts as well. People who dispelled George’s self-hatred and loathing through speaking their truth of him to him. A truth he hadn’t heard for a very long time (15 + years to be exact), and a truth that through their persuasion he was finally willing to believe to be so.

A truth strong enough as to bring him back to life.

And with this belief, plus the tears that had watered and nourished him as he taken root, George was able to begin to grow again. Not even “again,” really, but rather, to grow anew.

Yes, that’s it – George began to grow anew.

It’s a Wonderful Life ends too soon you see, that’s it’s problem. Ending where it does, we don’t get to see the full story. I suppose that’s the case in almost every tale though. There will always be endings that are really just beginnings to even deeper, more meaningful tales. There will always be a moment in the story where we feel that “happy” is at a maximum, so we cut it there, afraid to carry on much further. And in so doing, we all – as C.S. Lewis once taught me while I was still a young Zuzu’s petal pocket-cramming naive father – sacrifice True Joy for mere happiness.

In the case of the Baileys and the tale we’ll never know, I pray that this George at least is never again satisfied enough with the latter, as to forego the purposed pursuit of the former. I pray that this George at least – and that all of you – are able to truly live, and enjoy moving forward towards, Wonderful Lives.

t
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Briefly… My Last 100 Words

Is this my last post? I can’t really tell, but I do know that I couldn’t leave without visiting – at least just once more – the beautiful skies of our 100 Word Song:

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M’desk is standing-height. I wanna crawl underneath it, to hide from Him.

I wanna crawl underneath, but it’s too high, providin’ no space small enough to feel safe.

I wanna crawl underneath, despite His sayin’ that everything’s finally becoming as it shoulda always been… as it never coulda been till now.

I crave to crawl underneath, as His reassurances only cause to pain me more.

My wings’re becoming unbound. Stretchin’, flexin’, impatient to be tried. Not on m’own account, but simply cuz the time is Now.

I wanna crawl underneath. But doing so’s pointless, tain’t nothing can hamper my Flight now…

•••

The Looming Sunshine…

They sat on the porch, together.

They sat on the porch, quietly. He invested deep within his book, and she, equally so in hers. Not a word was spoken, nor a head even raised as I walked briskly by. They were each totally engrossed within their own little worlds alone, but together.

The porch they sat on was not nearly big enough for the two of them, let alone their large-format print books, nor the cat that apparently shared their life. So to make space, he at least scampered down onto the lawn just before I arrived, stalking about almost as if to imply that he too was looking for a book in order ignore the rest of the world with. 

The scene got me to thinking randomly (don’t they all?) and what I got to thinking randomly about was this:

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Have you ever been engrossed with a book?

One written expertly, with characters so alive that you could almost pinch them, and a story line so well crafted that you could swear it was divined, instead of merely written?

And then all of a sudden, smack dab deep within the goodness and glory of that book, the whole thing turns rather sour, with the Author making you read through page after page of utterly distasteful activities and scenarios.

You read on, because you know that surely the Author didn’t suddenly lose all their skill, talent and story-writing ability. You’re certain that the Author simply MUST be forcing you through this section – most usually occurring shortly after the chapter that follows the halfway mark – in order to teach you something critical about the characters in this tale.

You’re certain of it but still, with each page passed, you keep glimpsing forward anxiously, wondering when the chapter will end, hoping that the next will bring you back to the delightful yarn that you had been enjoying so much so up until this point. You’d even read a short stanza or two from the pages to follow, and you know that it’s soon enough to be true, just after you can slog through this one black sheep of a bastardly and evil, yet wholly required chapter, first.

That in a nutshell, it suddenly occurs to me friends, is where I find my life right about now. But just for exactly right about now. Having worked my way through most of the chapter I wish I could have skipped altogether, I can see the number of pages remaining continue to dwindle. And while that does cause me extreme joy, it also gnaws on me, similar to the clawing cat that knows with desperation that it’s losing its litter-encrusted grip upon you. I keep finding myself having to fight the urge to try to read faster, or skip whole pages, for I know that I can do neither anyway. I must wait patiently and read through to the very last word.

The next chapter is already looming bright, begging to greet me with open arms and sunshine. But it can not start in earnest until this one first ends.

And sadly that, word by bloody distasteful word…

•••

All Of Him?

Unbeknownst to me, my youngest took the liberty of listening to me proof-read this, and upon its completion said, “I want to be with you – I want to see what you see.”

One who already sees far deeper than I will ever be able to, I really love that kid.

With the prompt in bold, here is this week’s Write On Edge response – I hope you enjoy…

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He didn’t smell exactly bad, mind you, but he didn’t smell entirely “right” either. It might have been the damned John Legend song in that moment spewing lies overhead tainting my assessment, but to me he smelled sad. He smelled musty. He smelled – well – he smelled alone.

And at that moment at least, with the possible exception of me, he was.

But I’d the feeling that he was alone most all of the time, that his aloneness was a state constant. A permanent scent that accompanied him. A shadow that always stood immediately behind, whispering softly into his ear, “I’m here. It’s just you n’ me kid.” A constant reminder that his death would be much more a release than a burden. Much more a connection with those loved, than a separation from those lost.

As he stood swaying at my register, complete with tattered grey plaid vest, blue ball cap (emblazoned with one of the two infamous Buffalo losing teams that so many locals seem to love regardless), and worn-through red and white blotched flesh, I found myself wishing even then, that I could remember the music he was purchasing in CD format, as it somehow felt integral to this tale.

But much like his face itself, the purchases seemed to have immediately faded from memory, leaving only my recollection of those confused eyes and scattered beard.

His eyes were the dug-in sort that said so much, whilst the beard-encrusted mouth said so little. Damn it Troy! THIS is a lesson you’ve learned often, and yet – being bred apparently of the hard-knock school – one that you seemingly refuse to graduate from. If there was ever anything that the ex said true, it was that (in the hands of the devious or arrogant at least), “they’re only words.” Not that this customer could be counted amongst that ilk, all the same he was in the end, far more communicative in eye than in speech.

And those eyes spoke volumes. His babbling diction and scent screamed at me as well, but it was those eyes that made me see truly and finally – as was told to me by a friend, advice provided them by their wizened grandmother: “As you are, I once was. And as I am, you will someday be.”

Christ, don’t let me end like that – like the man I think I see standing before me. Please hear my prayer for him, and hear it please for me.

Making change, I made certain our hands touched at least once. So I could know that he who stood before me was real – not some sort of future self ghosting back in warning – so I could unite with that perceived loneliness, begging that it not remain a shadow constant to either he nor I.

As he paid in cash, I’ll never know his name – never know his story, outside of our brief disjointed engagement. But while he wobbled off, that damned John Legend song was still blaring arrogantly overhead. A song that spoke of a love I’m guessing neither he nor I truly wanted to trust in anymore. But I thought, possibly a love that we still both hoped might – in some realm or fashion – be somehow true.

•••

The Pirate’s Ballet

The Trifecta Writing Challenge is going out on a high note, and I’m now assured that I will never wear it’s coveted crown.

All that being said, I hope I am doing them justice with the following. To be sure, palindromes are no joke – and I must confess – I did cheat in finding mine. All the rest however, and as always, came from the heart.

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Longing to tell the secret things.

I have to scare her off.

‘Fore she falls.

‘Fore I fail.

I need to blow the lid off a daffodil,

‘Fore it’s too late.

‘Fore I’m pirated away.

•••

And just because I will NEVER be able to use this song – seriously – ever again without at least some sort of serious verbal or textual manipulation…

Dear me…

There is a shameful secret that I have held for many years now, and it goes a little something like this: At one point in the bible, Jesus advised that we should “love others as we love ourselves.” To me, there had always been a sense that there could be no greater insult delivered upon another of God’s creatures. To me, this was a blasphemy beyond reproach.

This week, The Blogging Lounge tasked us with writing a letter to our younger selves. What follows is that which poured from my mind to mine…

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Hey.

Do me a favor, OK?

Look into the mirror.

Yeah, that one.

Now, look into the eyes you see in that reflection.

Go ahead, look deep in. Gaze deeper than you’d like, deeper than you’ve the strength to. Deep enough to see what truly lies behind.

See the being that resides within those eyes? He’s beautiful, right?

No?

Well, then I guess our little chat here is over.

OR…

Or, you can look again. And this time, you could try it with an honest and open mind.

See?

He is beautiful. He’s beautiful, and he is YOU.

Now, I’m going to tell you something. Something that you won’t believe. Something that almost sounds insulting on the surface – partially because it is. I’m going to tell you that you will spend a large portion of your life trying to avoid this Truth, relying instead upon the retarded opinion of those around you who’ll want to deny it themselves. Those few whom you seem hellbent on assigning a credence they simply never have earned, nor even now deserve.

In fact, I am going to go so far as to tell you that you will willingly seek out those who will greedily clip your wings, simply so that they (and you, to a certain extent) can deny you your flight, use you to their own ends, and then simply discard you as they would the bone of a fatted calf, after they’d sucked its marrow dry.

And you? Well, you’ll allow it happen of course – both professionally and personally – you’ll almost hand select, and give your unwavering allegiance to, those best poised to fulfill your erroneous prophecy of self-defeat. And you’ll do so simply because flight is scary.

Because beauty is scary.

Because Truth…

Well, you get the point, I’m sure.

Hey. Do me a favor, OK?

Please, don’t let your Beauty scare you.

Don’t let Truth – your unique Truth – scare you.

Please, don’t allow your fear to corner you into simply accepting What Is, instead of What Could Be.

Take flight. Don’t stay grounded merely for “safety’s” sake, for another’s sake.

I’ll tell you something else. You will realize your dream of being a father, of being a dad.

And even though certain wing-clippers – those untrustables whom you did anyway – will try to steal even that Joy from you, your Apples will need you to be a strong tree. A tree that truly loves itself as it does others.

So look into the mirror again.

As long as you can look into the eyes reflected there and acknowledge the Beauty that truly resonates within, then those cherished Apples of yours, along with the others you love – they who already see your Truth, and love you in return – and even you yourself will come to find the perfect space.

I promise.

I promise, and I look forward to meeting you there one day, high above the fray.

Love,

t

•••

Joseph’s choice*

Joseph was given a dream.

That’s all. Just a dream.

Mary had a bloomin’ angel bust into her house to give her the news. But all Joseph received, was what could have easily been attributed to one too many glasses of smashed up fermented grapes before beddie-bye.

Joseph had to live his whole life wondering if that dream was a truth or not. If his “Son” was the result of the Lord’s plan, or just one ill-advised and possibly regretted interlude.

Mary has been honored ever since.

Given top billing right next to her Boy, in fact. Prayed to no less, by many who seem to think that J.C. made this an option, somewhere along the line within his three years of tutorials. It seems odd, given what little faith was needed on her part, especially considering the fact that she knew she hadn’t done anything, and again, there was that bloomin’ angel, standing smack-dab in the middle of her living room.

And Joseph?

Well, poor old Joe wasn’t even remembered by the Gospel writers. Nope, right after his part was played, he was unceremoniously escorted off the stage, never to be heard from again. We can assume he died – most do seem to go that way. But if he did while Jesus still breathed, we never even get to hear about his “Son’s” reaction. And if Jesus was the first to go, then Joseph’s tears and anguish were never written down for posterity.

Again, Mary rocks it within the gospels, right through to the bitter end. But Joseph is left forgotten. Ignored. And maybe even with his final breath, still wondering if the angel’s message was really just after all, only a stupid dream.

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I’ve always had an affinity for Joseph.

Not only because we share the joy of fatherhood, but because I too have quite often felt – incorrectly or not – ignored in the whole scheme of things. Forgotten. Yes, even by J.C. As a result, for many years I’ve waved the Joseph flag to anyone who asked, simply because I felt that he needed to be defended.

I was wrong in thinking that of course. Joseph needs no more defending than his “Son” does. Joseph needs no adulation, similar to that being provided Mary by her cult, either. No, I believe that Joseph is just all right with the way things went.

Joseph – whether he truly believed the dream or not – chose to tell the angel that appeared in it that he would. Joseph – even if he was in the final analysis, history’s most gullible man – voluntarily put his life at risk then, and several times afterwards. All while defending a wife and a “Son” who weren’t truly his, just for his chosen belief, which truly was.

Again, we’ve no idea what sort of lessons Joseph imparted upon Jesus, nor how much of the Son of Man’s personality was weaned from the man who chose to believe in the Son enough, as to sacrifice his life for Mary and He. But when my children offer me the mantle of “Best Dad In The World,” I’m quick to remind them that – while I am honored – I feel that it’s actually Joseph who deserves that title. The man who gave all for his charges, and was then all but forgotten by the very ones who benefitted most from his sacrifice of ensuring that the “Son” (possibly of just a man), could live long enough to become the Son of Man.

Joseph was given a dream.

And he chose to believe that dream – to believe in those who were part of it. That’s a sort of faith that is stronger than reason, and that’s the sort of man I currently struggle to be. For my sons, my daughter, my friends, and for me.

Merry Christmas.

* My gratitude and appreciation to Rev. Ellen Brauza, who’s insight and wisdom served as the inspiration that finally allowed me to put down into somewhat coherent sentences the above trail of thought.