Saturday, March 24, 2018

I'd rather play tennis than go to the dentist

Well, if blogging were tennis and the dentist were working on my thesis project.
I suppose I could use this blog entry as part of my thesis?
I am at the main UTK library (Hodges) in a grad lounge slightly reminiscent about late night projects of years past trying to achieve the impossible and synthesize countless hours of work in support of a thesis that I am only thinly able to support.
Why only thinly? Well, because I battle age-old habits that make me absolutely terrible at time management. I was ambitious in my proposals, and though I feel like I worked hard on my craft, I fell short of nearly every intention I'd set.
But hey, the good news is I'm learning. So yay. Go grad school.
I truly believe the old adage that if you want something done, give it to a busy person. But I've been so busy with production schedules and academic demands, I lost the part of myself capable of fostering good habits.
She's a wispy one...that part of myself. Or maybe he's more wily than wispy. Ephemeral. Dodgy. Scattered? It's hard to pin down.
I like that about her/him/them.
That's right...I think this part of myself is non-binary. I think maybe all of me is non-binary? But it's hard to keep up. I'm sort of all over the place.
Don't worry. Pronouns don't offend me and for most of my life I've blithely been a she/her/hers. That'll do. But if we're gonna get technical, I'd say it's a bit of a stretch to label myself cisgender, but I play a cis woman on tv. (Ha! Like the old commercial.) But I don't care to shave my body hair (unless I must for a gig), my husband is equally unattached to "roles" we "should" play in our family (though he likes to tease with an occasional faux-Southern accented, "woman!"), and I am a lesbian in my dreams like 87% of the time. A metaphysical analysis might point to my desire to be intimate with the conscious (woke) aspects of myself.
I mean, I remember learning the word "gender" from my Uncle Mike. He was the first adult family member I lost some years later, and he was a trip! He passed away pretty suddenly when I was a teenager, and I feel the loss of not getting to know him as an adult. He was a total eclectic weirdo like me. Maybe it wasn't actually the first time I'd heard the word gender, but I remember him lamenting that his students (I forget what grade he taught...freshmen maybe?) did not know what the word meant. Those same students are likely even more confused today. But confusion isn't a crime. Thank God.
Or Goddess.
I just realized my children will also have an Uncle Mike who is a teacher.
They may also be confused about gender. I mean, gender might just be all the adjectives I previously used to describe that part of myself capable of fostering good habits...trixy. Spectral. Both elusive and a bit of a lie, or at the very least a cheat. A mirage.
I could go on, but maybe you get it? If you don't, do not panic. I am the weird one, and you are probably smarter than me. Sometimes I complicate matters unnecessarily. You know, like compiling basic analytics for a thesis or simply updating a website.
I drove to Chicago this week for an audition and have been listening to Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit on audio. Definitely not my preferred method of absorption (is my ADD obvious? because it certainly is with audiobooks), but a pretty great read (listen?), nonetheless. It's helping me wrap my head around some steps I need to take to ensure my health and boost my productivity (which is dismal).
Not only did I get to go to an audition, but I was invited by an old friend to join him for the opening night of An Enemy of the People at The Goodman Theatre. Ibsen was a genius and The Goodman is legendary so I was pleased as punch for the opportunity. (thanks Greg Allen!) Of course it whet my appetite for good work and now I'm compulsively checking cheap flights to make it back up to the windy city to catch Sheila Callaghan's Women Laughing Along with Salad. And my Aunt Chris is recovering well from her deep brain surgery and let me use her car for the Chi-town adventure....which saved me a bundle as I'd planned to rent one to avoid running mine into the ground. (thanks Aunt Chris!) Needless to say, I'm a lucky duck.
This week I've been nothing if not grateful. Nothing like a little spring break to make one feel renewed in all interests. That breathing room was just enough for me to fill up with love and gratitude, and gain a little perspective on just how damn lucky I truly am. I've been acting in a short film the last couple of days and the character was a blast. Another film we worked on is finished and being entered into festivals. The horizon looks pretty chocked full of opportunity. Possibility.
I know it was read by far less folks because I posted it in the middle of the night, but I had some feelings about my last blog post. I was beginning to feel like a bit of a downer. Embittered or sore...and I had mixed feelings about sharing that with the world. But if I'm gonna be a writer y'all will have to take the bad with the good, I suppose.
Ugh, I just had to leave the library because it got late. I probably won't post this until I edit/reread it in the morning anyway, so these interruptions don't matter, but where was I...?
Gratitude? The Habit book!
Yeah, I'm definitely living below my capacity in that regard.
I have often struggled to force my unruly ducks into a row.
Hell, y'all are witnessing me chase the proverbial wild geese in this blog exercise (tired of the fowl analogies yet?).
I think this propensity for overstimulation is yet another reason I'm a luddite. My husband is constantly scoffing at how many browser windows I have open. With so many irons in the fire, I tend to struggle when I'm required to actually forge something substantial. We have more coming at us in the form on communication and information than any human beings in history. I don't take that lightly. Nor does my brain.
I hope this blog will suffice as an excuse for why my website may not be totally up to date. I feel like I should start to incorporate a little Twitter into my life, too, but honestly even thinking about it gives me a headache.
I went through and reset my security settings on all the apps on FB (as it turns out, some folks are actually quite good at compiling basic analytics). The whole Cambridge Analytica bs made me want to get off of social media all together...
But it is a tool I shall use for the time being. And I'm grateful.
It could very well be why and how you're reading this right now so I truly can't complain. Well, anymore. I mean, I will complain again someday I'm sure....but I'll try very hard to not make a practice out of it. I'm very familiar with folks who do just that...they've clearly never seen this kid share the wisdom of Prem Rawat.
But I digress (and expression I also remember being explained by Uncle Mike).
The book chats a bit about cornerstone habits, and I'd like to implement some of my own starting tomorrow. And perhaps keep up accountability through this medium of blogging? They're cornerstone habits I've had previously over the years, and I've seen how powerful they can be. I've witnessed how they transform my life and other habits. The ripple. The wave out. Now that my performance and class schedule is tapering off for the school year, I feel pretty inspired to return to these old ways.
Daily meditation and yoga. Not gonna think about any diet or exercise regimen. Just gonna practice some good ol' habits and watch the dominos of the upward spiral fall. I know from my years of practice that these habits lead to better diet and nutrition, more personal responsibility, and a more balanced emotional life. Donc, je commence.
Because we'd like to start a family, I'm looking at health and productivity through a slightly different lens. I'm sure at 36 my fertility ain't what it used to be, but I cannot see myself so desperate to procreate I would result to hormonal treatments or procedures your average Western fertility clinic would follow. I've had many cousins go that route, and I know that it's not for me. Though I am happy it worked for them...they made some awesome humans. So, I'm hoping to kickstart habits that will not only clarify my desire to have a child, but hopefully ramp up my ability to do so.
When one thinks of corners, you might envision a square room like I did. I immediately chastised myself for being so limited (why not 7?), and then swung the opposite direction and chastised myself for not starting smaller (why not 3, the tetrahedron is stronger than the pyrimid, no?). But nonetheless, I have settled on four basic cornerstone habits I will attempt practice everyday. For my health and the health of the world that I might chose to bring a child into.
I would like to create the habit of avoiding plastics. As I write, I am eating walnuts from a plastic bag because Kroger is closer to my house and cheaper than the Coop. But I'm serious about this one. Henceforth, I'll do my part. Not only are there proven endocrine disruptors associated with all plastics, this shit hurts my heart and my head, and totally makes me second guess bringing more human life into the world.
I'm also thinking about keeping wifi off unless I'm using it, and then being aware of my time and usage. Being here (I did return to edit and expand this entry this morning so I am back in a grad student carrel looking out over the Tennessee River, once again waxing nostalgic about my time here in school) reminds me of how much more productive I can be when using the internet outside my home. I think I will save on the AT&T bill and just cancel my internet service at home for the next few months. It's so slow and my computer's operating system is so outdated, I originally came to the library to work on my website/edit video with a rented labtop on with faster service, anyway. I will miss the HBO (provided generously by my mother-in-law), but I'll just come catch up on my stories here at the library.
For those agents/casting directors/writers who would chastise my decision to scale back my tv habit...chillax. I'm not that kind of actress anyway. Not to say I won't work in this powerful medium and indulge healthily...I'd just like to be more mindful when and how I do...and believe me, as far as studying and keeping up with my craft, I just dedicated 3 years of my life to it so I think we're good.
My father-in-law actually used to have a gospel group called The Cornerstone Singers. He had an incredible voice (as do his sons). Though I doubt we practice it very similarly (he was a Baptist minister of music), we both keep the faith. He would have been 60 this week. I vaguely remember meeting him in high school, and ironically one time would've likely been after a performance of Our Town (in which I played Emily and my brother-in-law was George). I wish I would've looked at him like a I really saw him. I wish I would've known how important he would one day be in my life. To my future kids. Or how quickly he'd shuffle off this mortal coil.
The Power of Habit talks about this faith. The belief we can change is the most powerful prerequisite, and practicing believing in a power greater than yourself strengthens your ability to believe. In yourself. In us.
Each day is a gift, even if some of them feel more like empty wrapped shoe boxes/prop gifts like the ones on our film set today (or yesterday). And so are all the people you encounter through said day. The ones there to challenge ya, strengthen you. Even if they're folks you didn't chose with whom you are forced to engage throughout your life (i.e. your family or your cohorts).
I've always loved school and this experience has been no different. I may not have mastered productivity, but I think I learned a thing or two about myself and that has clarified my responsibilities and renewed my passions as an artist. As I head off now to march for our lives, for peace, for a new culture where we acknowledge our fears and anger and transcend through personal responsibility, I just want to thank you. For coming along on this wild ride with me. I have been inspired throughout my life by getting to know so many incredible humans...and you're one of 'em.
The great works

Friday, March 9, 2018

Weebles Wobble, Luddites Loddle

I am supposed to be updating my website on Weebly.
Instead, I muse.
Or try and be visited by one.
Because writing doesn't feel so much like a choice anymore. It just feels like remembering something necessary, like picking up saline solution at the grocery store. Which I forgot to do this week. Yeah, so I guess that's a bad example. Well hell, at the very least I'm a better writer than I am a rememberer...
My high school AP History teacher used to reiterate "long term drug use causes short term memory loss." He was the fuggin coolest. We all loved Mr. Johnson because he treated us like adults. He didn't talk down to us, and he inspired you to want to stay up on politics and history. He made you want to continue to educate yourself. Which is the only thing a good teacher's supposed to do, right? Or the #1 thing, at least.
What was I saying? Oh yeah, just about writing and keeping up the blog. I mean, for a minute I was feelin all obligated because I made it part of my "brand" on my website. I mean, whatever the f--- that means. Screw you guys, I might just sign off forever and go live in the woods.
Threats. Hollow, empty threats.
You can't get rid of me that easily.
But I'm supposed to be engaging through the interwebs to make it as an artist. Or as a human, I guess, these days. But I might love the human I am far from technology most. Hence the retreat center longings...though even if those dreams do come true, I will likely still be reaching out to this web of mine through the internet. I mean, God willin and the creek don't rise. (And by that I literally mean if the sun don't flare or the poles don't flip.)
Tons of casting directors in LA want folks with huge instagram/twitter account followers, and I don't engage in either because my phone's too old, but f--- you and your planned obsolescence (thank GAWD for spell check), Apple (incidentally the "most eco-conscious, ethical" technology giant out there)! I just can't y'all.
When is woke really going to mean woke???
I've nearly doubled the time I spend on Facebook these days because somehow I feel threatened by the FOMO on some random opportunity. For what, I cannot tell you. Connection I'm sure.
It's hard living apart from Jake. But not harder than a lot of things by comparison. Like remembering to pick up saline solution...I mean, remembering stuff is hard. Or is it forgetting? I had another great teacher along the way reiterate "you can't unlearn things."
And yet collectively we're so good at it. Myopic from that memory-loss. Or feigned memory-loss, anyway. Short-sighted when looking into both the past and future.
And believe me, I get how funny it is that I feel overwhelmed by Facebook when most of you fools answer the beck and call of multiple social media commitments, but I didn't have Facebook for a couple of years...and it just kept right on keepin on without me so I'm sure instagram and twitter'll do just fine. I mean, I'm willing to bet most folks didn't even recognize I'd signed off. And that is ok. I ain't mad atcha, forreal. I have so many people in my family and am blessed with many close friends...I love community, but I'm a pretty tactile person. I love touch.
Here, I would like to formally apologize to folks who may know that about me and wished they didn't. I try and get a real good read and have a real tight friendship before I start bein silly and inappropriately touching people. I've got a big love tank and I got lots of good friendly folks to fill it (get your mind outta the gutter...I mean with platonic affection).
I may have inappropriately touched people before, but no one's ever been deeply offended to my knowledge. And I've never wielded any real or perceived power over these people. I think I can read the signs when folks aren't int'touching, and thankfully most theatre folks are, but I am a fallible human being. I'm not trying to be glib...I am sincerely sorry if I ever crossed a line. A line that I may not have recognized because maybe my boundary lines have always been a bit fuzzy.
Well not always. My kindergarten teacher expressed concern to my mother because I was so stressed and neurotic about coloring in the lines. I outgrew it pretty fast, but my mom noticed it pretty early on. I was a neurotic cleaner as a toddler (clearly not a trait to which I held tightly). I'm a lot like my Aunt Chris who's been on my mind all day while a doctor's been in hers (she's having DBS for Parkinson's today...if there's anyone to celebrate on international women's day, it's her badass, but that's a whole other story). She still indulges her neurotic cleaning, but I let it go. To which anyone who's ever ridden in my car can attest.
Pretty soon I was coloring all over the damn page and pushin all the boundaries. To show strength and bravery and to lighten up a bit, and not take everything quite so seriously. I found humor. And how good it felt to make people laugh. So I became a bit of a clown. Every teacher after that expressed concern for other reasons. "Emily's quite the social butterfly," they'd say through gritted smiles at conferences. She needs to focus and quit distracting her classmates with chatter. One quarter in 4th grade I had a straight A report card with D's in conduct from talking and disrupting class.
So I guess I've always had some stuff to say...
I like that the lines in society are becoming more defined around the topic of sexual harassment and misconduct so I'd like to color inside the lines on this one. My sincere apology for any misconduct or if I've ever made anyone uncomfortable in the work place.
Someone did that to me recently and it was a powerful man. And I felt like I had to report it as misconduct. I hemmed and hawed (as any good Southerner would...not to imply Southerners are indecisive, just fond of that colloquialism), and in the end, it felt like even though I did not personally feel sexually harassed, the misconduct was affectionate in nature and would have easily made someone else uncomfortable. Also the immediate reaction of his subordinates/my authorities made me feel even higher authorities should know about his behavior. I told 3 teachers about the situation. Both men acknowledged said powerful man had severe boundary issues and often made women feel uncomfortable with his speech or physicality, and expressed fear and empathy for him along the lines of "gee, I hope he doesn't f--- everything up...he's so close to retirement."And the woman was absolutely furious. Because...well, her too, of course.
I don't always have the healthiest boundaries and sometimes find myself comfortable in just accepting what the world throws at me. A yielding nature might be a super power or strength when it comes to bullets or say, in my case, asphalt, but it doesn't help in leading. I am not a leader, so to speak, so I guess I'm ok with so few followers.
Those of you new on the outskirts of my web, or reach, in this blogsphere, may not know but I was hit by a car on my bicycle from behind at nearly 40mph, and came away with a separated shoulder, a concussion, terrible road rash, survivor guilt and acute post traumatic stress. Survivor guilt because my best friend was killed in a car accident on an interstate over a decade ago, and my brother is paraplegic from a car accident in 2002, and I...had road rash?!? Without the protective layer of a car between me and the driver??
Why am I here??
It was 4 years ago, and I've spent 3 of those exploring if I'm here to act. And I believe yes. As a means to an end. An end to having to deal with social media.
Mostly I want to dig deep and connect the dots. The roots. I want to make a difference in my micro that might just reverberate out in waves to the macro. And maybe the channel for this wavelength is this internet realm for some...but for me it could just as easily be a cooperative or hostel circuit of bicyclist and climbers and eco-tourists and artists.
Who am I kidding? It's all still gonna need to be the on the net.
Luckily, there are webs that are fostered enough to withstand social media hiatuses. And you guys know who you are. I'll catch ya outside.
Writing no longer feels like a responsibility to my brand, but more like a self-care thing. I am processing so much right now. WE ALL ARE. I haven't been able to see my therapist in weeks. I am uninspired by my own broken commitments. My own failure in the face of high ambition. I am driving more than biking these days AND eating fast food. Who the f--- am I? Ughhhhh.
The shift has begun. Right? We're waking up right? I just got cold chills thinking about Samatha Bee's (all hail Sam B, and happy international woman's day) recognition in this episode.
I didn't know this "red pill" culture existed. I mean, we joked about the matrix analogy in my yoga teacher training, and I worked with fuggin Morpheus this summer. And I didn't know alt-right bastards had co-opted the red pill narrative to idolize f---sticks like Elliot Rodger?!? I had only read his manifesto to study for my role in the play I'm didn't occur to me so many others had read it and felt kinship with him and camaradarie (f--- spell check!).
And then I heard Barry Crimmin talking about his battle with AOL over childhood pornography on NPR today, and I thought THIS. THIS. This is why I'm a luddite...this is why I hate technology and the internet. Human beings are garbage.
Or as Peña laments in the strangers, "the world is fucked up."
And then I heard about the Florida legislature and saw an ad for an oncologist running for congress on a "science should lead us" platform, and heard my aunt is recovering well from surgery.
And I saw the glimmer of hope.
This week has been all about defining things that are very important to me. Drawing my own lines. I think my vices and pitfalls and weaknesses (hello sugar, hello laziness, oh hey Cook Out) have had a lovely "death throes" display of dominance because I feel like I am waking up. Remembering all the stuff I forgot I forgot. Things that I feel obligated to use this platform to discuss because they are parts of my self pushed aside to practice acting.
It may have taken three saturated years of studying acting to make me desperately miss other previously rich parts of my life, but I am feelin the ache now. My yearning for those aspects of my life currently supersedes any hot pursuit of the successful acting career. Which makes all of the work necessary for finishing up my degree especially arduous.
Sadly, I have not found a yoga teacher here in Knoxville that inspired me in the ways my NY and KY teachers did towards asana. I did go to yoga last night and did a smidge on my own today, but I also had fast food after the show tonight, and I don't even really care about my own personal health that's the overwhelming, disgusting literal garbage that this particular indulgence produces. I felt equally disgusting about left-overs from a nice restaurant the other's not only the fast part that bothers me, though I'm sure my body is less appreciative of the milkshake than the salad, but they both came in styrofoam guilt-containers.
Now, I try to be mindful of the plastic I buy (and clearly steer clear of styrofoam most days), but recycling really only helps assuage my guilt. I have to change more at the consumer level. I have mixed feelings about the efficacy of the recycling industry. Mostly because sometimes well-meaning ignorant people throw bullshit in the wrong bins because they never bother to look anything up (prolly the same people that don't fact check their facebook posts). Truly a large portion of my diet comes from produce, but I am often overwhelmed by short-term frugalities and poor white trash diet tendencies that then take over my control board.
In my defense, cooking for one is a lot harder than two (especially when your husband is a big hungry workin man and eats twice as much as you so it's really like adjusting shopping and cooking for three down to you, boo).
And the world is f---ed up and falling apart.
And human beings are...
Well, except you. You're swell! You made it this far.
To find out that if you are what you eat, I am the garbage I despise.
(I get that this self-loathing doesn't help anything, but don't worry. I needed to go here. To push off and swing back the other way. To relate. To find compassion for those people that get the wrath of my judgement. To get ahold of myself.
To remember me. And start there.)
Maybe I can be more accountable for me and that's what will ripple the wave out? Not my website. Not my instagram and twitter followers. Not my blog. Not even my facebook.
My actions. My habits. My character.
The one I am truly here to play.

Friday, March 2, 2018

This lil' light of mine

We are the wretched.
When I was nine I told my parents I wanted to be an actor. Why is there a deep part of me that wishes I had evolved past that? I mean, besides nutty buddies and science class and recess, I can't remember much else about being nine. There were babies around. Loads of babies. I suppose I was struggling for autonomy and attention. Was, haha.
But my pops drove me across town for drama classes and was a great science fair partner. I guess I was always more interested in the art aspects of the projects more than science, but they're a right little pair science and art. And he encouraged both. As a student he'd done well in science and math, but having started a family he worked on the railroad (yes, all the livelong day) instead of going to college. Whether it be an excavated dinosaur skeleton (made of excavated chicken bones of course), or a glitter volcano, or a cardboard box spaceship, he was always happy to help.
I'm feelin pretty happy.
I'm 2 glasses of sangria in, and I sit on a precipice.
A ledge I've walked a few times.
As I picked up said sangria at my local South Knoxville Kroger, I witnessed a familiar scene. A young girl in blue lipstick was walking in my direction, "Dad, what are you doing?" I turned to see behind me a fifty year old scruffy white guy was squatting on the wall outside the grocery, clearly inebriated. He mumbled something.
We are the wretched.
I saw in the young girl's face...that embarrassment, that shame, that resigned sigh I have felt all too many times. Not to say my dad would ever be squatting drunk against a public building at 10:30pm on a Thurs. I had to word that sentence slowly, and I still don't know if it's quite true. Not when I was the sensitive age of the girl anyway.
My dad prefers art to science, too (but Bud heavy to sangria). S'probably why we were such a good team. He'll take stories over science. Limited experience over universal truth.
I miss feeling like we're on the same team. I mean, it's been a while, but...
Sorry if this blog is even more scattered than usual...I've got my puppy this week (he's been leavin' town with Jake as we transition back to Louisville, but this week I begged to be bathed in's a bit much when I have a show every night, but we had Sun-Tues off so Jake somewhat reluctantly left him). And now he's a little stir crazy because we didn't get a walk in on this muddy, rainy day. He beckons me every other paragraph with his metronome-like, paint-tip tail and demands a piece of carrot.
Mythology is what he clings to most. My pops, not the pup. Mythology is one of my favorite art forms too. Theatre is mythology. His fav is the story of the fallen man (clearly because of a woman) so bad, somebody holy had to give their life to redeem 'em. He was that bad. He did the bad stuff. He sinned. The original wretched. But the savior came and redeemed us all so now we can reconcile our badness. Our natural badness. And the sincere remorse we have for it, oh yeah and then the promise to try and never do it again.
Comes from the Latin for "I bite back," or "to bite again."
What's latin for "hair of the dog"? Cause I got a feelin this sangria might bite me back tomorrow. Not that I could ever partake in that hangover cure. My hangovers are a bit...extra. I'm a delicate flower. Snowflake. One might wonder why I come back again and again to this fierce medicine so abusive to my body. I can't say. I teeter on the precipice.
The moon is full.
The pup's asleep. I finally got him to settle down. Where was I?
Latin for...well, for promise.
Promise is as old as language.
I promise I might have a point.
A former roommate used to have this book, They Have a Word for It, A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words and Phrases.
I love how language weaves us all together, but necessarily accentuates our differences. Love letters n language barriers n all that lies between.
I've come to believe the barriers between my dad's team and mine are sometimes just an accent or dialect. A football field...large enough to retreat to opposing ends, but still in the same game. But some days they feel like a battleground. Sometimes it feels like we're up against...a well-armed militia. I pray for grace. In that first drama class final recital I remember singing "Amazing Grace." I'm sure my dad came in support. Sometimes the remorse I have for the impatience and anger I have towards him makes my heart heavy as lead.
We are the wretched.
If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. ~Lincoln
My dad is a poet. A dreamer. And sometimes he's a drunk.
But I could choose different language to tell you that. I could say he's Dionysian. He does love to dance and sing. I remember being embarrassed at his gusto for hymns in church, and his antics on the dance floor are indomitable. He's pretty laissez faire...and he'll laissez les bon temps rouler.
We've got a lot in common.
His mother always calls him her diamond in the rough. Because he shines to anyone who can see past the stained, sooty coal-like exterior. But sometimes I fear the pressure that's necessary for coal to be turned into a diamond might crush him. He's often in physical pain. And he struggles. And he's addicted to (comforted by?) Fox News and right wing media. He doesn't loudly sing those hymns anymore. And part of me feels guilty for having ever been embarrassed at the beauty of it.
Actually I just had a memory from about age 9. I went to an all white Catholic school and was taking all the ritual steps of a good young parishoner. I liked it. I believed. All the white dresses and parties and ceremony wonderfully theatrical, and I reveled in it. AMEN. But it was the general consensus that singing hymns softly was "cooler" than really belting them out. This precedent was advocated by the middle school kids with whom we participated in Wednesday morning mass. One week they even went so far as to sing out only on the word "come" in all the hymns. Sister Mary Jane was surely disappointed in the restrictions on corporal punishment that morning. That's when I learned the word "innuendo."
But the memory that just surfaced was one such Wednesday mass when our priest had invited a black gospel choir leader (or perhaps a Baptist preacher?) to lead us all in some gospel songs. We sang "This little light of mine," and the heartfelt, repetitive "Amen." His beautiful, booming voice and pearly white smile encouraged us between the phrases, "Sing it over!" It may have been the first time I actually felt the Holy Spirit in church. I remember shedding the prim, cautious self-conscious mores of quietude and boredom in church and truly praising joy for the first time.
I think something in my dad never quite jived with those mores either. Once we made it through the 8th grade in parochial schools, he gave up pretending to be Catholic. But he still believed. He clung to that redemption. Perhaps because he is no stranger to remorse.
We are the wretched.
My father attempts and succeeds at righteousness on many levels. He is generous beyond his means. He is open and kind hearted and the life of any party. He feels the burden of the system that does not support him. A system that has often not allowed him to make ends meet and turns around and calls him privileged. I think we had a meaningful exchange recently where I was able to point up his privilege being not in monetary wealth or lack of work ethic, but in the way the world views him. The way a cop might not bother to pull him over or search his car (even though he might regularly be driving with a BAC above the legal limit with illegal drugs on his person).
I know my own privilege lies in his presence in my life. And that privilege is enormous beyond measure. If we had darker skin I might be receiving birthday letters from prison instead of phone calls from him and my mom singing to my voicemail. I might miss finding him snoring on the couch (Fox News blaring) anytime I arrive home to their house after 8pm. I might never have been driven across town for drama lessons, and I might never have sung "Amazing Grace" in recital, and I would most certainly be a completely different person.
Having this puppy makes me wonder how I might be a different parent.
Can't say (one of my pop's most used responses, rhyming can't with ain't). He did all the important stuff really well. I can only hope.
My mom sees two equally hard-headed, passionate people and laughs at how often we can't see our similarities. And though he never fully supported Trump's candidacy, he voted for him. It makes me angry and sick and sad. But there's hope for us yet. With grace, I suppose.
Sometimes I get a glimpse of light from that shiny diamond in the rough, but other times I just see a wretch.
Like me.