Sunday, November 22, 2015

I Slipped The

I slipped the photograph into my pocket. My mother was real and her son was real. When he died she buried him. Now she is dead. Mother Courage and her children, my mother and her son. They are all stories now.

- Patti Smith, M Train

* * *

The hell of it is lives lived out in what ever fashion they are lived (third shift factory worker who bets the ponies and paints Russian Easter Eggs, suburban mom with a real estate license and a new divorce who dreams of walking the Via Dolorosa to atone for it all, refugee washed ashore - somehow alive who carries his father's worry beads in his pocket and misses his cats, bus boy at 52 working 16 hours a day at two jobs who sings fado to ease his mind, dermatologist with contact lenses that make her eyes blue in attempt to be more alluring who still turns down invitations for drinks, bus driver ignoring his wife's infidelity, soldier dying in a VA hospital from a staph infection, priest who doesn't believe in anything, cabbie, politician, homeless teenager, drug dealer, short order cook, drunken lawyer, teacher's aide, janitor, air traffic controller, hackitvist, and on and on and on and on) end too soon, not soon enough, suddenly, in slow decline, anonymously, on the world stage and all that remains at the end of each of them is a story to be told, a story to be forgotten, that will be forgotten, poorly remembered, told wrong, that will look nothing like the life lived, but endures for a bit longer in the memories and actions of those still living, of those making their way to the lullaby pile and you can exert no editorial control over those stories except while you are still here among us.

If you are here unfaithfully with us,
you're causing terrible damage.
If you've opened up your loving to God's love,
you're helping people you don't know
and have never seen.

* * * 

There are no good old days. There is no golden past. There's only here. There's only now. What you think, say, and do today matters more than you can imagine. One doesn't have to be a believer to see the truth in Rumi's words: if you are awake right now you're helping people you don't know and have never seen. How is this possible? Because like fear, good accrues in all directions once it is set in motion. Your kindness, your sacrifice, your strength, your decency, your acts are absolute goods that bloom and die. Nothing lasts, but your willingness to open yourself again and again to doing what is yours to do, by working at your work, by bringing the gifts you can bring over and over again those close beside may be encouraged, emboldened to find their voice and take action. And they don't, if their fear is greater than your kindness then so be it. You have no control over how other's might see you, only over how you choose to see yourself, your work, your very brief transit here among us.

We are ephemeral beings longing for permanence. No such thing is possible. Our love affairs end or grow stale. Our children may die before us. Political freedom is always a breath away from being rescinded. Our personal economies are boom and bust. The trick is to not get lost in these waves of unasked for change. The through line in all circumstances is you and your willingness to choose among the options before you in such a way that your life makes sense to you, a purpose emerges out of the rubble of circumstance and you know your name.

Those choices may bring your story to a close sooner than you imagined; they may make you a survivor of all you loved and have had to bury; they may cascade in joy, in grief, but they will, at the core, be yours and that is all that matters.

* * *

Did you dream of the life you have? Did it play out exactly as you imagined?


It bent and turned and came to abrupt halts and stuttering re-starts as you made your way. I did not dream my life. I chose it. I may have chosen poorly for large swaths of it, but still, it was my choice. I prioritized A over B and wound up with R. Now here, I have other choices to make and they are made day in and day out even unto the smallest detail: the brush for the blue on the Easter Egg, the fado that brings the most tears, Lucky Laraoux in the Fifth at Belmont, next time I'll say yes, I know it is in Jerusalem, I'm still going.

History, your history is made in these choices. Your story will be told out of what you leave behind. What you are to leave behind are the stories of choices and how you kept the faith with all of us, all of the people you don't know and have never seen.

We are all stories: now and ever after. 

It is time to author your days.