The Timely Death of Maurice

A couple of weeks ago I saw a mouse scurry from under my bed into my closet.

I had been out of town all weekend, I was tired and socially taxed. I walked into my room and collapsed onto the bed, that’s when I saw him.

From somewhere deep down came a reluctant groan, acceptance of a silent challenge.

“Game on my tiny friend”

I named him Maurice.

I do not enjoy killing anything, I’m definitely the sentimental type. I saw him two or three times and I tried to stop up the ways he was getting in but he was persistent.

I finally baited a trap with peanut butter late last week.

Nothing for days. I thought maybe he’d moved on, I was relieved.

I woke up today and saw his limp body underneath the overturned trap. I gathered he and the trap into a brown paper bag. Sigh.

Rewind.

Last night my  16 year old niece had a friend over to stay the night. While looking for the TV remote my sister went to look in her room and discovered the two girls with alcohol and weed. The friend was sent home, my niece’s phone and contraband confiscated.

My sister then went painfully through her daughter’s phone revealing that she’s been using drugs and alcohol, sexually active, and become a talented liar. There was heartbreak all over her face.

My niece has the emotional maturity of most kids her age, which is close to none. But, of course, that’s not the way she sees it.

Like most young people she wants the benefits of being an adult but is unaware of the great costs of such benefits or the gravity of the choices you make as you get older. It was a really sobering evening.

Getting back to Maurice…

With the brown paper bag in hand I crossed through the living room to the front door. I saw my sister and niece talking, discussing how things were going to be different.

I had told my niece about Maurice after I saw him the first time. She was against the idea of a trap and admonished me for setting it.

I stopped where they were, held up the bag and said “can you guess what I’ve got here?” I shook it so she could tell there was something inside.

Upon discovering what was inside my niece burst into tears and sobbed.

Still a kid.

Thanks Maurice.

 

 

 

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THANKSGIVING

Here in the states we’re celebrating Thanksgiving today.

While the history of this particular holiday is bloody and largely misrepresented we can still use it as an opportunity to recognize the wealth and love in our lives. To be thankful for what we have and to use it to serve on another.

I was able to drive to see my family, walk on the beach this morning, drink hot tea made with clean water, I have warm clothes against this winter weather, I will eat a feast this afternoon surrounded by people who love me. I am safe, I do not live in fear.

I am thankful.

 

BULLSHIT ARTIST

Mark Twain wrote “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything”. Words to live by. Being honest just makes our lives easier, if not right away, in the long term.

So why are we just full of shit?

I have written before that we lie to protect ourselves and each other, which I think is true. Digging deeper, I believe we lie because we don’t see our reality/life as something worth honestly sharing.

If you don’t think your life is (insert whatever adjective you’d like) enough, then I challenge you to re-frame the way you see yourself, others, and the way you interact with life.

The world is fascinating, people are incredible. There is probably more going on on your own world than you realize.

Get invested in the activities and the lives of the people around you. The more active you are in your life the more interesting it becomes. If you spend more time interested in life the more confident you become.

When you’re confident you don’t need the bullshit.

Cheers

PATTERN AND EXPECTATION

Most of us have heard the phrase “the only one holding you back is you” or some version of it.

It’s really a douchey thing to say to people. I would know, because I have said it. There could be crippling debt, depression, racism, sexism, and all number of other real obstacles blocking someone’s progress. You just don’t know.

To be fair, it’s well intentioned (usually) and mostly true. When people are in good seasons of their lives or have just finished a self help book, this phrase seems to be the go to. The weight of this statement is actually absurd and it deserves unpacking.

By the way, self help books are great and if you’re in a good place right now, well done. That said, let’s not treat this cheesey platitude like it’s going to solve all the problems of our family, friends, and other unsuspecting bystanders. It’s just rude.

Unpacking. What this phrase really boils down to is our expectations, conscious and unconscious. What we expect in life is based on our experience, history, mental health, wealth, lots of things really. Expectation is the projected outcome of our life patterns.

Our patterns. This is a really important.

We subconsciously do the same things daily, weekly, yearly and that’s okay. That’s how we build stability and consistency in our lives, which are both fantastic. What it also builds is familiarity, the seat of our expectations. The trouble is our patterns aren’t always good. They can be really damaging to us sometimes. It’s tough to recognize a destructive pattern when we can’t see any other possible outcome for the choices we make.

That’s assuming we take ownership over our choices…

It can take a lot of work and hardship to recognize where we need a change in our lives. We will endure years of punishment and toil because it is preferable to the unknown and it’s what we have learned to expect from life.

Expectation is the lie we tell ourselves, not always knowingly, so that we can stay insulated. Because truthfully, knowing you need change and discovering your experience is not universal is really painful. When we discover a damaging pattern in ourselves we feel really insecure and inadequate. Feeling like you’re doing your life wrong or “you don’t know how to human” is a really humbling experience.

It’s okay, it’s an important and healthy place to be. If you have never experienced this (which would be ridiculous) you should look at your life and behaviors a little closer.

Doing something about it, that’s some next level stuff. The patterns of our expectations rule our lives.

Is seeing our expectations as possibilities instead certainties difficult? Definitely.

Is it a quick process? No.

Does this mean that mean I can just do the same things and expect a different result? Definitely no.

It does mean you allow yourself the freedom to try new things and new ways of doing old things, because nothing is set in stone.

How people go about adjusting their lives after seeing negative patterns and false expectations is completely unique to them. You’ll have to figure that bit out for yourself, but I believe in you.

Try it, see what happens.

HOPE IS OUR BUSINESS

My family and I spent this whole weekend moving my mom to a small town on the Oregon coast. It was long, hard, hilarious, and a little sobering.

For the last 30 years or so my mom has been struggling with finding home. It’s been hard to watch the toll its taken on her. She’s been an unhappy person for as long as I can remember but I have not always been able to see why.

I don’t know that my mom has ever felt safe except for when my dad was alive. She grew up in a poor and abusive home with an absentee father and mentally ill mother. I’ve always gotten the impression that she felt like my father rescued her from that life, but she’s never said as much. I think he made her feel strong, like together they could do anything. Early in their marriage they tragically lost their third child and then a couple years later my father died.

I’ve only known her to be lonely, angry, and hurt. She’s been grieving my whole life. While I believe we are responsible for making ourselves whole and happy, it gives me pause, when is it too much? Is there a point where there is no going back?

But thoughts like that are the death of hope. We are humans after all, hope is our business.

Radical, scandalous, absurd hope.

The whole weekend I kept thinking “this is the time, this is the place. It has to be”. The only prayer I have for her is to be whole.

Yesterday as we were driving away, my brother said to me “I really hope she’s happy here”. I thought for a second, and said “I hope so too, I hope this is it, I hope this is the one”.

THE FRINGE

In the wake of this last mass shooting at UCC the debate between gun control vs. cultural reform rages on.

The question on most peoples lips is “why does this keep happening?”

In 1998 I was in the 8th grade. I vividly remember the evening news, what had happened at Thurston High School. I remember feeling confused and angry. I couldn’t understand why something like that would happen.

Over the next year or two we talked a lot about the whys and the hows. There was a lot of talk about gun control and regulation. Then there was the mental illness, that these actions were a byproduct of unstable, deranged, mentally ill people. All this talk changes nothing, it brings no consolation to those who have lost loved ones, it doesn’t bring back the dead.

As I got older and this kept happening, the conversations never changed. I’m not suggesting these are not important things to talk about but it’s not a binary issue.

We could take away the guns, we could sensor violent video games, we could dope people into docile compliance. It won’t solve the problem.

The men and boys who have perpetrated these tragedies have something else in common, social isolation. Whether self imposed or a result of social pressure, it’s a major contributor to their actions.

Let me be clear, there is no victim blaming here. These men and boys bear sole responsibility for their choices. No matter what you go through in this life, you still have a choice.

These people were and are on the fringes of our society. They are the ones we don’t give a second glance to, if we see them at all. So what can we do?

I’m challenging myself and everyone else to reach out. To do something as simple as to make another person feel known. Say hello, ask a question, smile, be genuine, get out of your comfort zone. It may not be much, it could change nothing. What if it changed everything?

Happy Saturday

Patience

Do you ever find yourself frustrated by doing the right thing? I do sometimes. It’s hard to wait for what we want, to do it right, to do it well. Especially when it’s right in front of us for the taking.

The means we use to achieve are just as loud as our accomplishments.

Aristotle wrote “Patience is bitter, but it’s fruit is sweet.” True words, however they leave an unsettling taste.

These words suggest that the only thing we gain is the object of our patients. This is false. The act itself, the discipline of patience is it’s own fruit, often richer than whatever we are waiting for.

Patience allows us time, the most coveted currency there is. Time to be better, to reevaluate, to consider, re-write, edit, time to make a different choice. How many times in your life do you wish you had taken a breath first, waited just a little longer?

Take the time. Do it right, do it well.