A Typical Sunday

We’re here today to cause a stir, gentlemen- if I may call you ‘gentle’.  You’re gentile, maybe, but tonight you sure as Hell aren’t going to be gentle.  It’s going to be rough and it’s going to hurt, but this volcano has got to blow, you understand me?  Of course you do.  You’re here.  I’m here.  And we have forty-five minutes until we start things.

You know the plan, you know the contingencies, but I need to remind you of just a few little things.  It’s the few little things that always end up making the most difference.  Napoleon lost because of them.  We’ve won previously because of them.  And now if you keep focused, we’ll succeed again because of them.  They are:

-keep moving.  No matter what you see, do not turn around, do not stop, and do not engage.  The only exception to this is fellow comrades.  If you find someone fallen or straying off of the path, get their attention and bring them along.  If they refuse to go with you, don’t stop.  Keep moving.

-watch your surroundings.  There will be traps.  When we cross that line people are going to die.  Don’t be one of those people.

-Keep your wits about you and don’t panic.  If you start losing your grip and you’re sure that you’ve gone nuts, hold onto the key that you’ve been given.  Stick to it, rotate it in your hand, rotate it in your mind.  That key is your anchor to sanity.

This is a frightening challenge, make no mistake.  It’s going to be terrifying and like I told you, we’re going to lose some of you along the way.  Don’t abandon your comrades and don’t go right or left.  We go straight!  Pound that into your heads.

Do as you’ve been told and you’ll be okay.  We will come out of this thing on top.  We’re not the first ones, and we won’t be the last, but you’re here now, and right now it’s you.  Hold onto that key.  There will be attempts to take it from you.  Once they cross that line, some even toss theirs away- crazy sons of… well, you get the point.  Remember the little things.  Keep the big picture in the back of your mind.  And may God go with you all.

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Broken Wings

I am a warrior wounded

And a poet disenchanted

In fallen state with unclean slate

And broken wings

Even lions die and eagles fall

Laid in the ground, but once stood tall

The proud in the dust, crowns of rust

And broken wings

A gift isn’t always taken at the end

A rose reclaimed, a soul to mend

The rose chose its place in another’s vase

And broken wings

Now to fly or plummet down

Silence is the only sound

To fall is to die, but I have no air to fly

And broken wings

Honor without the medal

And Courage without a badge

But I will soar forevermore

With broken wings

Another Day

birthday

Today is my 22nd birthday.  In a sense, it may be the first of the “unimportant birthdays”, but I don’t think so.  I was born 22 years ago today; I was given the magical gift of having a life to live.  I think this is worth just as much celebration, because that’s really the point of birthdays, isn’t it?  A time to celebrate and be thankful for our very breath as it’s placed in our lungs.

There are two prevailing attitudes in our culture about growing up, neither of them particularly healthy in my opinion.  The first, as I heard much of when I graduated from college, is that your life is over when you get out of school.  A lot of people have told me that college is the highlight of life, and once you’re through, the rest of your life is a perfunctory exercise in merely surviving.

Another group of people must be from Egypt, because they’re living in denial.  (Bad joke.)  A lot of people never take up the mantle that they’re supposed to drape over their shoulders as adults.  You’ve heard a lot about “man-children”, I’m sure you even know plenty of them.  These are people who think that life as an adult is simply the life of a child, but without rules and with more disposable income.

I don’t buy either of these philosophies.  I think that there’s a lot of incredible, unique aspects to every stage of life, and if I’m not thankful for my present, I think I’m going to miss it.  Every day that I add to my life, things change a little bit, but that’s a good thing.  Childhood was not the pinnacle of my life.  Neither was college.  Both were great, but I firmly believe that bigger and better things are ahead.  The amount that I’ve learned about life in only the past year has changed my perspective greatly, and I can’t wait to keep growing and learning.

It’s really easy to rest upon our haunches, thinking that the time for working hard is over.  It’s really easy to think that our time of enjoying life is over, descending into cynicism.  I don’t like either of those options.  Today is a reminder that every day is a gift.  I hope to use them well, and I’m certainly going to enjoy them as best as I can.

Forgive me for raising a glass on my own birthday, but I hope that you raise yours with me.  Here’s to change, new adventures, hard work, and bigger and better things.

Red

I remember Red.

He was a tough kid back then.  Before he was expelled, he started three fires, stole the vice principal’s car keys, fought, swore, mouthed off, and he always had his shirt hanging out, just to prove that he was above even the minor rules.  His was a war of attrition, wearing down the imposing authority figures in his life until they figured it wasn’t worth the effort to correct him.

It seemed something of an irony that he was now here in front of me, sitting on the sofa in my cozy little Psych office.  And he was beginning to wear me down.

“I don’t count days we just sit here and stare at each other, Red.” I said this confidently, as if I wasn’t going mad from all of the inactivity.  They warn you about this sort of thing in school, but they don’t prepare you for the mindless tedium of sitting through two-hour counseling sessions in which no one speaks.  You have to have an active imagination to be a therapist.

Red continued to stare impassively.

“If I tell the judge we’ve made no progress, we’ll keep meeting every week ad infinitum.”

“You knew me when we were kids,” he finally said, lifting his chin.  “Doesn’t that mean you can’t treat me?”

I adjusted my glasses, subconsciously trying to convince myself of the rationale behind seeing him.  I wasn’t certain it was a good idea.

“Our previous relationship from those two years in grade school has been disclosed as minor, which it was, and since I am a specialist in treating your… sort of challenges, the judge appointed me.”  In a softer tone, I added, “If thinking of me as the adult version of ‘Timmy’ makes you uncomfortable, just think of me as Dr. Calloway.”

He laughed then.  It was a calloused, superior sound.

“Alright, you want to know why I don’t want to talk to you, Dr. Calloway?” he said with mockery in his tone.  “Because I’m not crazy.  You’re a kook doctor and there’s no kook here.”

A ridiculous notion, of course.  As a seasoned professional, I did not allow such a vapid protest to hold ground.

“Your behavior is maladaptive, Red.  Authority issues- a lengthy arrest record supports that diagnosis, anger issues, violent responses to normal levels of pressure…  You’re not crazy, Red, but you certainly aren’t well.”

The big man sat up in his chair, defiance in his eyes.  His was a very intelligent stare, despite having failed most of his classes.

“Alright, we’ll play your game.  I know about the school books you read.  I know about the fancy reports that come out.  I know that your little notepad there probably says something about probable causes of what you call my ‘issues’- abuse, alcohol, trauma, blah, blah, blah.  Well let me ask you something, Doc.  If it was you who was beaten bloody by his mom, don’t you think you might be the one on this couch?  If your big sister made you score her drugs from the time you were four years old, don’t you think you might need to let off some steam now and again?  And if your father…” he stopped then and shook his head.  I listened intently.  He picked up his pointer finger and frowned, aiming the gesture at me.  “If you think you’re better than me because you feel like you’re watching from above and putting me into one of your little boxes… then you’ve got another thing coming.”

I immediately assured him that I thought no such thing.  It was fairly common for a patient to worry that they were, in some way, inferior to their therapist.  In my experience, anyway.  Yet the way this one had put it struck a chord with me.

We continued talking and made some progress that day, but driving home in my BMW, I pondered his question.  Did I really believe that I was different than he?  That I couldn’t have turned out the same way?

I shook my head as I drove, reassurance filling my mind.

Of course not.  I’m not like him.  Not like any of them.

A chill went up my spine paired with a thought.  I thought of my own well-adjusted family if it were to have been broken, harsh, and terrifying.  Through the eyes of a child- through anyone, even, it was a most unpleasant thought.

I shook my head again.

I’m not like him.  I’m not like any of them.