Less like Billy, more like Jean; Pt 1.

As alluded to earlier, I want to tell you about the movie Billy Jack, a childhood favorite of mine and the film that awakened my interest in social justice at a very young age.  (Pretty sure its rated R, but my dad weighed the pros and cons of us watching it as kids and totally turned off Rugrats one night and said, ‘hey, I wanna show you kids something.’  Billy Jack quickly became the patron saint of my siblings’ and my childhood.)  I brought it to Hope House a while back and begged all my friends to watch it, and this time around noticed something; Billy isn’t the hero and never was.

Billy Jack

Obvious Spoilers ahead, and for those of you who want it, a trigger warning as well.  I don’t really know how I feel about trigger warnings because they don’t exist in the real world, but for the sake of Internet Etiquette here it is;  there is brutal sexual assault in this movie, a murdered protagonist, a miscarried baby, domestic violence, and some gnarly old western shootouts.  There’s also the bit where a horse falls off a cliff and that sucks.

This movie is, as we like to say, intense.

And wonderful.  It will give you heroes and renew your sense of social responsibility, and you’ll wish you could’ve gone to Jean’s “Freedom School”.

The 1970’s movie centers around this counterculture school, where the only rules are 1. no drugs. 2. you have to be contributing something creative.

Its all very hippie dippie and right up the Hope House folks’ alley.

The woman who runs and operates the Freedom School is Jean Roberts.  She’s a badass.

Billy Jack Jean

She’s not married, she’s childless, and she’s the hero of this movie.   She’s wise as she is compassionate, shrewd in dealings with the judgmental townsfolk and kind with her students.  She rides horses, is a pacifist, and Billy Jack is in love with her.

He never says it but he is.

Billy Jack, now, is an ex Green Beret with anger problems.

Billy Jack 2

(also potentially my first movie crush.  Hot damn, Billy Jack.)

He’s half Native American and the protector of the Freedom School, which gets a lot of fear-based flack from the conservative townspeople.  They don’t like how integrated the school is (red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in Jean’s sight) and they don’t trust the lack of traditional structure.  Billy’s trying to learn to turn the other cheek, but as we see in the iconic Ice Cream Shop Scene, injustice just makes him go berzerk.

The juxtaposition of his character and Jean’s is the underlying movement of the film and its genius as it is heartbreaking.

Billy Jack and Jean

These are the two main characters.  Jean’s the film’s narrator, and Billy the central protagonist.  You can’t help but love him.  You want to see him crack some skulls.  You can’t watch the abuse heaped upon the Native American kids in the ice cream shop scene without outrage, and relief when Billy shoes up.  He is the hand of justice and you’re furiously wanting it to come down hard against the racist assholes in town.

But he isn’t the hero.

I’ll show you why in part two.  Peace and love to all of you from Southern California in the meantime, and here’s the film’s famous theme song to listen to while I write up the how’s and why’s and Jean’s awesomeness.

*kisses*

I suck at death

chicken
What I mean is this; the first time I hurt myself intentionally since high school was a couple months ago when I woke up to find the two chickens I’d left outside all night had been killed by a neighbor’s dog. Two chickens. Three new scars.  I know.  Its like fifteen all over again only this time its more embarrassing because Adulthood. Something something mental illness.
I drove to South Mountain blurry-eyed, hitting my steering wheel and desperately hoping I could sneak back in time twelve hours to put the stupid hens back in their coop, and then fumbled my pocket knife out of my purse.  Something about guilt and self-loathing. Then I went hiking, begging God to forgive me if He was real and wondering why, fucking why, I suck so badly at death.
Right now its 1:37 am and I literally had to get out of bed and turn the lights on because I can’t stop thinking that if anything happened to my little sister I wouldn’t be able to keep moving. I kept trying to pray, like, “dear God, remember me? I used to try and hang out with you? Remember? Cool, well, long time no talk, but could you do me a favor and make me fall asleep so I can stop thinking about my sister getting hit by a car? Whadoya say?”
I’ve been in California for sixteen days. I’m mostly sitting around at my dad’s house waiting for camp to start, and doing a lot of second-guessing my entire life. Can you have a quarter-life crisis? Because I feel like you can. I feel like I’m in hiding and I don’t even really know why.  I was going to tell you about my friends back in Phoenix and how they’re the most exquisite human beings I can imagine.  I was going to tell you about the concerts and the nannying and my excitement over all the improvements at camp this year.  I was going to tell you I’m sorry for being such an arrogant jerk so often, and how I re-watched Billy Jack and realized who the real hero of that movie is.  (spoiler; its not Billy Jack.)  But I guess that’s gonna have to wait because, hello, baffled and horrified evening tossing and turning because Death is a thing.

Anyway, tonight we were invited to a neighbor’s house for a Memorial Day barbeque, and I got to talking with an amazing woman about her travel past and plans. It got me all jazzed up for those quieted South America ideas of mine, and reminiscent about those dreamlike three months I spent in Australia. I started thinking, you know what, I’ll settle down in P-town later. Right now I’m gonna focus on making enough money to take off again like I’ve wanted to for years.
And yet…its two in the morning and I’m losing my absolute shit wondering if I’d rip out my hair or drive into a tree or something if my sister died. And wondering, if I could go back in time to sixteen, with the knowledge I have now, could I save Leah Tschida?
Now Christian, with your books and theology and heartfelt prayers, do not assume I haven’t read those good books myself. I read them. I read those blogs and listen to those podcasts. I go to church and try to pray and really do still, believe it or not, believe in all this stuff.
But I cannot get a grip on death. I’m dumbfounded and offended by it. It makes me angry. Remember, I’m one who still cringes at the injustice of having been born without my consultation in the first place. Death seems to add insult to injury.
I don’t understand how you’re supposed to keep talking and walking and eating and watching movies after a loved one dies. It seems like the most absurd thing imaginable that a person can be dead. How are you supposed to reconcile loving and investing in and planning with a person, only to have that person taken? How are you supposed to keep moving?
The most comforting thing I’ve come to understand is that, according to the Judeo-Christian scripture, death is not an original part of creation. Mankind was created to live forever in harmony with God, and the only reason God killed the first animal was that after the Fall, Adam and Eve felt shame for their bodies. God apparently killed and skinned an animal and clothed them with it, a foreshadowing of Christ being slaughtered and his death covering the shame and sin of the entire world.*
It’s really a pretty idea, especially since I need something to connect with when my stomach is this tied up in knots and I can’t wrap my head around the wrongness of day-to-day life. I don’t know how to explain it. Something is wrong. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. There is an underlying wrongness in this world that I cannot come to grips with. I don’t even feel like a functional human being most of the time because this whole thing is so screwed up, I don’t know how to participate. I don’t even want to.

 

There is no greater theme or bow-wrapped lesson in this one, friends. I was just going crazy in my bed and telling you about is the healthiest form of therapy I’ve got.


 

*I know about Heaven and Hell too, and I read all the theories people way smarter than me have proposed as to what that even means, but none of those theories seem particularly helpful right now. I don’t know why.

Gracious like honeycomb

Worst Vegan Ever alert; friends, the urban garden I volunteer at (and now live at – long story) has three beehives and recently we harvested our first small batch of honey.

And it was delicious.

“Sah fresh! Sah local! So organic! Sah raw.”

bees bees 2 bees 3

Tonight, though, I was granted the opportunity to suit up and place a few more starters in our newest hive for the bees.  Unfortunately I don’t have any picture of this, but I felt like Major Tom.  It was awesome.

We puffed a bit of smoke near the entrance of the box and lifted the top to reveal more bees than I’ve ever seen in my life.  I’d be lying if I claimed my heart kept its rhythm.  We started brushing the bees off the ceiling of the lid back into their box, and a bunch flew up around our faces, landing on the netting and my gloves.

All of the sudden it hit me; these were relatively dangerous animals, and they were everywhere.  The bee suit became irrelevant. All I could think about were the bees all over the place and their tiny little suicide stingers.

I realized I was getting panicky and remembered to calm the eff down.  I am a firm believer in self-dialogue (and my asylum friends are too!! har har har) and began telling myself to be calm, that I was fine and they were fine and they didn’t want to hurt me and I didn’t want to hurt them.  I pretended I was telepathic and told the bees I was their friend, that I wanted to take care of them, that I believed in their well-being, that I respected them, that they and I were in a symbiotic relationship, etc.

It brought me back to working with horses in my early teens.  I used to volunteer at a ranch where I was the designated “baby tamer” and lesson assistant.  I used to hang out with tiny foals and get them to trust me with the assistance of sugar cubes, and then I’d ride this sixteen-hand BEAST named Shaman around during lessons with little kids.

Then a friend of mine had a couple two-year-old geldings and one mare she was breaking, and she put me in charge of them, too.  I used to longe these three horses for hours every day, one right after another.  I complain that my right bicep is disproportionate to my left one from serving, but holy crap you should’ve seen what it was like when I was hanging onto the end of a line connected to an animal that weighs a ton.  A literal ton.  Lunging big horses is the same as caressing a baby one; you stay calm, you keep your heartbeat regular, you make your face serene.

There was one time in particular where the woman I was working for asked me to longe her friend’s three-year-old stallion, this muscular palomino with an attitude problem, while she ran some errands.  I agreed, but it was terrifying.  I went to get him and this guy looked me straight in the eyes and flared his nostrils like he was already winded.  I told myself it would be ok to quit, to go back and just explain that he was too aggressive for me.

However, I was also terrified of being inept at the One Thing I was doing with my life in high school, so I forced myself to take a minute, breathe in some confidence, and step into his stall.

Out in the ring, he bolted before I even told him to, and went on this ridiculous sprint along the perimeter of the round pen like a rodeo star.  I swear to god I could feel my heart in my ears.

This is how I die, I thought.

Obviously I didn’t die.  I wrapped his lead line around my wrist (you’re not supposed to do this but I did it because I didn’t think I’d be able to hold on if I didn’t…but don’t do this) and let him run, forcing myself to breathe normally.  The expression “dig your heels into the ground” had never made sense to me until this afternoon, sweating in the round pen with the craziest horse I’d ever worked with.

And then, like with the bees just now, I started acting like a psychic and “telling” the horse he was beautiful and strong and I respected him, and that I wanted the best for him and that I cared about his well-being.  He stopped actin’ da fool and cantered for me, and I watched his shoulder muscles flow like water under his skin.  I watched the muscles in his flank stiffen and loosen with each step and all of the sudden I couldn’t think of anything besides how lovely this creature was.  This gigantic, potentially dangerous animal was the most beautiful and rhythmic creature I’d ever seen.  He could’ve killed me, yet there he was, running in circles around me and then slowing to a trot when I asked him to.

It felt like being in a trance, watching him canter around me.  All of the sudden I couldn’t stop smiling, totally enamored by this animal.  It was one of the most beatific moments I’ve ever experienced.  I felt peace, joy and awe for something bigger and more beautiful than myself or anything.

I’ll never forget my initial fear of the unknown, of what that horse could do to me.  More than that I’ll never forget how much I stood in awe of him, the reverence I had for him, and the way he cooperated and eventually licked his lips in recognition of me.

I put him away that afternoon feeling like I’d had an epiphany, like my life would never be the same.  I knew I couldn’t translate it (a tentative “horses are beautiful” is what my explanation of it sounded like) but I knew it would stick with me.

I haven’t thought about that stallion in forever, but it all came back tonight working with the bees.    I stood in awe of them, of the way they organize and devote their lives to the queen.  I had to tip my hat, to speak, to their adaptability.  The amount of work that goes into producing a single teaspoon of honey, which we consume without a second thought, is astounding.

I dunno.  I just wanted to say hey.  Bees are amazing.  Horses are amazing.  People are amazing, too.

And I feel like mutual curiosity, respect and understanding can go a long way toward forming trust and even camaraderie between two members of creation.

Also I miss riding horses.

Worth it.

I’m back! I’m back from Austin!  Hashtag South By Southwest, yeahyeahyeah!

sxsw

Really though, SXSW helped me remember an important thing about life.  The thing is this; no matter what you choose to do, you’re gonna miss out on something great.

The question you’ve got to ask yourself, then, is, “is what I’m choosing worth missing what I’m missing?”

You picking up what I’m putting down?  Cool.

Here’s what happened; It was Friday.  Or Thursday.  It could’ve been Saturday, shit, I don’t know. Whatever day it was, both Vance Joy and Matisyahu were playing at two pm, and not in some wondrous Hebrew-ukelele-hip-hop-party-on-the-beach eargasm like you’d want.  No, they were playing on separate stages on opposite ends of the city at the same friggin’ time for the same friggin’ price of zero dollars and no cents.

Kill me.

I really wrestled with this decision, friend.  On the one hand it was the bearded legend MatISYAHU OMG ARE YOU KIDDING ME and on the other it was up-and-coming and Current Music Crush Vance Joy, of the land down undaw.  I hated that I had to make a decision and that either way I was going to be at some show wondering if the other one was amazing and where I “should” have been.

In the end I chose Vance at the Spotify house party, where booze was as free as the concert and I fangirled like a…fangirl.  vance-joyvance-joy-2

And I missed out on Matisyahu.

This is a very simplified version of what I’m really talking about.

On a deeper level there’s the whole Summer Camp vs Internship soul-searcher.  And yes, this was a real dilemma, because either option is a good and life-giving enterprise.  Either way it could be a beautiful, exhausting, growing and progressive opportunity.  (also either way it could be a Watch Jess Fuck This One Up opportunity, but I digress…)   Even after making the final decision I wavered hard.  I want to do the right thing, I want to be the right person, I want to be loved and wanted and valued and all of that.  I had to check my motives, hard, against so many boards to make the Summer 2014 Decision.

(Its Summer Camp, by the way.  Still.)

And at the core level, chew on this; I am a single (read; hopelessly) twenty-three-year-old scraping by in a 300 sq feet studio apartment in downtown Phoenix.  I have not graduated college, I have never had a job that required a skill-set above asking someone if they want fries with that, and I am not the fittest and prettiest bulb in the box.

I have, as I wept the other night at my buddy’s kitchen table, nothing to show for my life.

I’ve been having a really hard time with this lately.  I’ve been realizing that I’m not some hot young thang anymore; I am a grown-ass adult.  This is real life, David.  This isn’t the youthful rebellion phase anymore (which was adorable, by the way. Look at little baby teenage me!

youth-is-wasted-on-the-young)

this is the holy shit how-did-we-get-here-and-how-do-we-move-on part of this story.

And its making me sad.  I don’t want to go out anymore; I feel like I’ve squandered All The Things, and I feel old.  I feel like a failure.  I don’t want you to see me like this.

I can’t compete with those hopeful pretty girls who’ve just started college.  I can’t compete with those educated women who’ve fought for social justice and built beautiful communities around themselves.  I don’t even know why I feel like I’ve got to compete at all.

Listen, all I’m saying is that I’m aware I don’t have the paperwork, and if there even was paperwork, I don’t have the experience you’re supposed to put on a resume anyway.  I’ve mostly spent the last five years wanting to be somewhere else and laughing at inappropriate moments.

Back to SXSW though, because what the festival showed me is that I didn’t just happen upon this lifestyle.  It’s not like I woke up after five years and was like, “uh…what’s college?  How do you human?”

Playa please.  Here’s what happened; I spent my energy on things I valued, when I valued them.

I went on road trips.  I was part of a Jr High ministry for two years.  I fell in love.   I fell out of it.  I tramped around Australia.  I worked at restaurants so I could spend my mornings and afternoons gardening and growing relationships at Hope House.  I fell in love again.  I got scared and ran away.  Again.  I spent afternoons walking and being instead of working and planning.  I valued music and spent money on concerts.  I valued relationships and spent time with friends who I’ve lost, and my heart on men I was told not to.  I wanted to believe in my life.  I didn’t want to be part of a system.  I followed my passions to their logical conclusions and then left to chase another.rei

If I’ve got nothing to show for my life, I’ve at least got a lot to feel for it.

I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, I’m just saying it didn’t happen by accident.  I knew what I was getting into when I left home, and I knew what I was trading when I booked those flights.  I think either way, it would still be the same and I’d probably still mourn the life I’m not living, but this is what I’ve got right now.  This is it.  I could’ve been a young entrepreneur and click my heels on my way to work, wishing I’d gone on at least one extended drive, but I chose to be crouching in the dust with my Garden Club kids in my nasty old Chacos, wishing I at least had a degree, instead.

You will miss out.  I’m missing out.

But, friend, is it worth it to you?   Do you look at your tiny fucking apartment and sunburned shoulders and your three-to-five friends and your stupid hand-me-down clothes and think, “yeah, this is what I wanted”?

phoenix-view

Because this is what I wanted.

This is what I forfeited that other life for, and I did it on purpose because it’s what I felt was the truest and the greatest good.  I believed in Australia over financial stability two years ago, just like I believed in being part of Hope House over South America more recently.  It was worth it.  Every last drop of it.

I wanna know, friend, what are you missing out on, and is what you’re doing worth missing it?

sxsw-life-is-short

but sweet, for certain.

hopeful little shit

Last night someone texted me “where the hell have you been?!” and I had no idea how to answer him.

I don’t know how to answer anyone, apparently. I have like sixteen unread emails, four Facebook messages and approximately six hundred texts I’ve been ignoring for exactly Three Weeks.

I’ve been staying with a friend who was hospitalized three weeks ago and finally went home this afternoon. My entire little patio garden is dead, including the snap peas this little pod is coming to fruition from.

hopeful-little-shit

“Look at this hopeful little shit,” I sneered.

But then I got quiet. I became still.

Because in these last shitty weeks of being my buddy’s suicide watch, there have been some good times. There have been good conversations, cookies baked at midnight, bikes ridden, and just the other night she told me she can’t wait to be a wise old mentor.

That hope she’s got, that as bad as it is right now and as desperately as she wishes it were all over, that it’s going to get better and she’ll live to be an old sage…that hope is all I need.

This one stupid snap pea pod growing out of this dead plant is ridiculous.  It is absurd.  It seems pointless and silly; this thing would barely whet a person’s appetite, much less quiet one’s hunger.

And amidst all these awful things, like the riots in Kiev or Venezuela and hateful bills barely being vetoed by my home state, and rejection from people we desperately love and pains resurfacing from our childhoods, there is this tiny, audacious hope my hurting friend and I have that we’ll be wise old sages in our communities someday.

This is a messy time.  This is a growing time.  We’re getting better.

“Give me five years!” I keep saying.  “I’m gonna be so good in five years!”

Here’s to the pea pods in your life and in mine.

Here’s to gardening hobbies teaching us about life, amirite?!?

Open Letter to the Haters

Oh hai.

(Forewarning; if you’re not a Christian or at least have some semblance of faith in your life, a lot of this may not make any sense.  Feel free to skip this post and read, here, about hangovers instead.)

(Also forewarning; this is me at my least gracious.  This is my Ugly.  This is my heart on Anger.)

cigarette

This, friends, is a mildly immature way I’m deciding to express myself regarding an interaction I had this week.  Back story; I used to know this one friend really well.  We didn’t get along at first, and in fact had a frank conversation once in which we told each other, “I do not like you and do not want to be your friend”.  We became buds again later, and then she got married and moved away and I did My Life sort of things around here.  We are very different people.  She has always wanted to get married and have babies and I have always wanted to road trip and travel and walk around cities at night.  Neither of us is doing life incorrectly; we’re just different.

However, this long-distance friend of mine decided it was her place to tell me she’s concerned for my lifestyle and thinks it’s in my best interest to do things different than I am (specifically, to not go to camp and instead take on this unpaid internship role here…a role I would have to Missionary-style raise support for) (There is nothing wrong with missionaries raising support, its just not something I’m comfortable with for myself at this point in my life.)   We got into a somewhat heated talk the other night where admittedly, I became more offended than I should have.

What offended me the most was when she had the audacity to tell me she wants me “to actually know Jesus”.  Actually.

~

Once upon a time I was hanging out in the forest with a few thousand hippies (as you do) and this one Charismatic Christian boy was skipping around looking at flowers and pulling demons out of people’s eyes.  I kid you not, he was putting his two fingers and thumb against people’s eyelids and pulling out invisible demons like strings.

I wouldn’t let him touch me.  I was like, ‘nah brah, I’m cool. Exorcise someone else.”

He asked if I would please help him with the demons in his own eyes, and I told him I wasn’t qualified to give him that kind of help.  He asked why not, so I went all sola scriptura on his ass and refused to play Exorcism with him.

He knelt real close to my face, squinting at each of my eyes, and then said this:

“I don’t see the Holy Spirit in you.”

A lot of my problem with the Charismatic church stems from this experience.  I shrugged off his stupidity then, but reflecting on it later, (when I noticed a friend of mine slipping into the touchy-feely uber spiritual realm that poses as Pentecost-inspired faith) I realized I was furious at the church for allowing that kind of false-prophet spirituality.  We just allow it because, hey, every family has their crazies, right? 

I digress, but yeah, let’s talk about the harmful aspects of the Charismatic church sometime. 

~

Just as that wanna-be-prophet in the forest had no right (and no true ground to stand on) in telling me I didn’t have the Holy Spirit in me, my friend the other night had no right to “speak truth into my life”, which is Christianeze for “tell you what to do”. 

She is not a part of my life.  She sees my social media posts and maybe gets a quick summary of what things are like over here.  She doesn’t have the right to say how I should be doing things; she isn’t here.

So dear Haters,

You charismatic piece of shit in the forest, and you uptight conservative, you do not have the right to speak into my life.  It is not your place.  You do not know my relationship with Christ, you do not know my faith.  You are part of a very American notion of Christianity; you with your dread locks and crystals, and you with your matching dishware.  You do not know what its like to do life down here on the ground with the artists, the undocumented immigrants, the homeless and the activists.  You don’t know how I pray.  You don’t know what I read.  Just because I’m not posting “how-to-Christian” articles on Facebook every other day, does not mean I do not fall on my knees in adoration and dependence on my savior to redeem my tiny existence and my broken heart.  I cannot hear your pro-life rant over the sound of you not adopting any of these hungry kids I see every day.  I cannot hear your admonishment that life is sacred over the sound of you supporting factory farming, which wrecks this world you believe God created for His pleasure, and destroys the creatures you believe He made up as an expression of Himself. 

You are loud.  You do not listen.  You are insecure enough to need so badly to be right that you are blind to your ignorance.  I don’t care, dreadlocked hippie in the forest, that you think you can prophesy; you didn’t help me carry that kitchen tent up the hill out of the forest when our week at Rainbow was up.  I cannot hear your profession of love for Christ when you make fun of that girl on acid who can’t find her way back to her tent.  I cannot understand you anyway, since you’ve misinterpreted the bible and think you’re actually speaking in tongues.

Hater, you do not know my life.  You do not know that on that very night we talked and you “spoke truth” about how damaging my lifestyle is, that I was hit up by three different men to go “hang out” and I chose instead to Skype with my little sister.  My lifestyle?  You do not know my lifestyle.  You have no place to say shit about my lifestyle.  You are unwelcome here.

Had you been walking with me through the last two years of my life, your words would carry more weight.  As it stands, they weigh nothing.  They do not count if you are not in the here and now with me, just like I cannot tell you how to raise your baby or how you should treat the people in your life.

I do life in a very organic way with five women who have got the “speaking truth” thing covered.  They hold me accountable.  I have friends to tell me when I’m out of line.  I have friends to tell me they love me, to go on bike rides with me, to pray with me, to drink coffee and bake cookies with me.  How about instead of taking it upon your holier-than-though self to preach at me, you ask me what I’m reading these days.  How about you ask why I love the things I love and why I hate the things I hate?  How about you ask how the grieving of my murdered best friend is going?  How about you ask how my heart is doing after that particularly awful break up?  How about you send me something funny to make me laugh, to ease past these walls, instead of trying to barge in with you bible and your super clean way of viewing the world?  Do not tell me you care about me.  If you care about it, it is an an abstract memory of a past friendship.  You do not know me now.

I know you are reading this too.  I hope my anger translates.  I hope you stop following this blog, my instagram, and get off my facebook.  I was told by one mentor to block you.  She was appalled at your completely out-of-line reprimanding and your condescending tone (“I say this out of looooooove”).

Just like that ridiculous kid in the forest, your words bare no weight, carry no truth, and have been dismissed.  I know Jesus.  I know service.  I know dependence. I know anger toward those with their loud prayers and their beautiful robes.  My faith walks and talks a little differently than yours, but it is a faith grounded in Scripture.

You want me to actually know Jesus?  Puh-lease.  Get up out of my grill, yo.

This, on repeat.

P.S. another mentor was like, “she needs grace right now! She’ll get less shitty as time goes on!” but I’m blatantly ignoring that mentor right now.  I’ll probably delete this later, gator, but right now this is just going to be a thing.

All tie-dye everything.

I just re-interviewed and was re-hired as the Ranch and Garden Coordinator at that summer camp I escaped to last year.  I AM SO EXCITED.

I almost wasn’t going to go back on account of how ridiculous everything got toward the end there, but along with all that weirdness came really beautiful moments and this letter from one of my boys;

camp-4

And as anyone who’s ever worked at a summer camp  knows (or in youth ministry, or with kids in any capacity really) there’s a kind of addictive allure to how incredibly crazy it all is.  The mental and physical exhaustion, the inability to hide anything from anyone, the affirmation from a dozen little kids thinking you’re the absolute coolest thing ever (even if they secretly think you’re also insane), etc.

I want to fast-forward the next three months (except for my Austin trip…don’t fast-forward me through that) and get back to the absurd camp-counselor lifestyle.

In lieu of this news, here’s my list of goals for camp this year.

1. Keep my room tidy.  (seriously, my bedroom was a fire hazard.)

2. Incorporate more garden-to-table cooking with my campers.

3. Make better friendship bracelets, i.e be a better friend. camp-7

4. Write a quick update/ keep you posted on ridiculous anecdotes every week.

5. Be awesome at harmonica by then and jam on that amazing dining hall porch.

6. Don’t get totally side-tracked by cute Israeli boys. camp-matan

7. Learn how to dive dive off the actual diving board.  (gulp)

8. Get up in front of all those campers during Fire Circle and lead a camp song (ohmyGOD gulp)

9. Uphold counselor traditions like the drive-less drive-in on the field, and starfish pins, etc. as well as begin a new one involving cooking and eating together without those pesky kids around.

camp-2

All tie-dye, everything.

camp-1

10. Spend time with my little California sister on the weekends.  (seriously, future Jess, LEAVE CAMP ON THE WEEKENDS.  FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, LEAVE CAMP ON THE WEEKENDS.)

(…9 and 10 seem incompatible, so sacrifices will have to be made in some areas.)

11. Get better at Finger-Jousting, Thumbs, Birdman, Darts, Ninja, Tonga, Elbows, Bones…all those campy games.

12. Most importantly, uphold the Weirdness of Ranch. camp-6

In all seriousness, I’m grateful to be wanted back at camp.  It feels validating to be asked to return, to have the camp director’s trust that I’ll do a good job and that I’m not too shabby of a person to be leading a bunch of kids.  I really do believe in all this gardening-as-healing stuff and hope to inspire compassion and a sense of camaraderie among my campers.

Also I want another letter to frame.

currently obsessed

I don’t know how to jump back into writing, so I’m just going to start with little snapshots of things I’m obsessed with lately.  It’s like a happy medium between writing and…not.

Currently obsessed with these new friends; currently-obsessed-friends

Currently obsessed with hanging around the farm; currently-obsessed-porch

with red nails, springtime and baby chicks; currently-obsessed-chick

Currently obsessed with this piece of art;

currently-obsessed-garden-girl (visit the whole gallery here)

and dancing; currently-obsessed-dancing (This was at my brother’s going away party.  Kid’s now in Chicago for school.  Its back to myself being the only one of my family still making a home out of Arizona.)

and inspiring artists who wail on the harmonica currently-obsessed-harmonica (brb trying)

(…and crying, because its so frustrating to be terrible at something you love.)

Currently obsessed with this song; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOIF5R78NnA     “…mercy me, oh god, oh ecstasy, oh yeah, right there…”

Currently obsessed with this food; yeast

and, always, green smoothies in recycled jars; currently-obsessed-smoothie

Currently unemployed, getting ready for SXSW next month, half-way through the Mindy Project, twenty-three years old and playing house the best I know how.  Happy New Year, friends.  Hope you’re rocking the universe.

 

drying out

Lately I’m reevaluating.  I’m trying to do the right thing.  I even squeeze my toothpaste from the bottom of the tube.cold

The end of the year is coming up, and two years ago I began doing Guillebeau’s year-end-review.  (Er, I did it two years ago and meant to last year, but things got weird.)

2013 has been an absolute clusterfuck of a year.  I’m not gonna write it a letter and I’m not going to pretend I’m cool with all the things that went on.  I do, however, want to pen this kind of open letter to my drinking buddies.

Not even my drinking buddies really, but my lifestyle this last little bit.

See, in the last month or so I’ve been doing this thing where I try to go out like normal with my friends, and mid-way through the night I get all claustrophobic and detached.  I start feeling hopeless, trapped, and isolated from my peers inches away from me.  This happens and I call a cab and go home.

This habit of “yeah lets go out!” and then “psyche! I’ma go home” is getting pricey and I’m sure all my friends are tired of my flakiness.  I want to explain.  It’s not you, drinking buddies, it’s me.

I’ve been half-assing two lifestyles for a while now, and it’s getting exhausting.  I’ve halfway done church and I’ve sort’ve done night life.  I’ve played with spirituality the way I’ve played with alcoholism.  I smoke cigarettes like I hear scripture; I don’t take it all in.  I don’t totally inhale every time.

I’m just tired and bored with it all lately.  I can’t handle the dissonance. I’m anxious and unhappy.

Last night at Lost Leaf I was with a friend of mine and two guys we’re buds with.  The boys were talking, doing their own thing, and my friend and I talked about how we’re over this lifestyle.  How its not healthy, how its opposed to who we want to be and what we want to do (she wants to go drive around the country, slack-line everywhere, etc. and I want to travel, invest in community, grow food, etc.).  She, like me, wants something other, and we admitted that first we want to wallow.  We just looked at each other, knowing the way we were doing things was self-destructive and not worth it.

~

I wish I could articulate what it’s like to want self-destruction.  I don’t know if it’s because we want to be rescued, or if it’s just because we don’t like ourselves, or we’re scared of moving forward.  It’s probably all of the above.  We hate the way we’re living but change is terrifying.  We know it’ll be worth it to get better, but do we even want to get better?  We’ll lose friends if we get better.

~

I don’t read the bible anymore, but I remember hearing a pastor talk about that time Jesus sees the man at the well who’d been ill his entire life.  Jesus sees this guy lying there and asks him, “Do you want to get well?”  Which seems like a dick question at first because no shit, Jesus, of course sick people want to get better.  The pastor though, emphasized that the man had been ill forever, had gotten used to it and probably wasn’t expecting much else.  And isn’t that so how you and I live sometimes?  We’re just used to being unwell, of being less than what we could be, and when presented with the opportunity to get well we’re like deer in the headlights.  “Wait…now?  You want me to get well now?  Can I sleep on it?”

That always stuck with me and I think about it whenever friends talk about hating their lifestyles and wanting to be mentally “healthy” again.  Do you really want that?  Do you really want to get well?

For me the hardest part of “getting healthy” is that I never want anyone to think I’m rejecting them. I would hate to seem exclusive.  I’m no better than anyone; I don’t deserve better.  And it’s not even necessarily “better” that I want; it’s just something different.  I can see their scoffing at this, as if I’m a sell-out.  As if I chickened out of this vampire lifestyle.

I guess I am chickening out.  Maybe I was bluffing the whole time.

I’m just so uncomfortable in my own skin.  Half-assing two lifestyles means you’re not in any group.  You don’t belong with any sub-culture and you’re just watching them, lonely.  I keep calling Lyft and leaving my drink with a friend after looking around me and realizing I don’t want this anymore.

You don’t understand, do you, that this is actually very hard for me. It’s actually heart-wrenching, because I’ve had some good times.  There has been camaraderie and support and affection.  I’ve learned some great things and loved some lovely people.  And checking out of this lifestyle really just feels like losing a friend.

I don’t handle loss well.

But I just can’t keep doing this.  It isn’t what I really want.  I don’t want the grime anymore.  There was a time I did, but I’m over it.  I can’t keep seeking their jaded approval; I can’t keep trying to show that I’m not that reprehensible clean middle class.

I wanna be ok in my skin again.  I wanna have friends who love me.  I can’t live up to my own reputation anymore.  I can’t be funny or pretty or fucked up or whatever I was trying to be before.  There is nothing romantic about living a life you’ve gotta settle for.  I don’t want to hook up with that hot guy over there; I want to be in love.  I don’t want to buy another pack of cigarettes; I want to buy a plane ticket to Peru.  I don’t want to be sad anymore.sunflower-at-hope-house

I’m so over 2013.

Why I’m glad my sister’s on Tumblr

I’m so glad my little sister is on Tumblr.

That sentence reads sarcastically, but it’s not meant to.  I’m totally genuine here.

The girl had been telling me to get on Tumblr and create a “blog” for about a year, and I resisted.  I wasn’t into it because A. that is not a blog, kiddo. B. because I waste my time all the time with other things.  I finally relented because if you’re not going to compromise for your family, who are you going to compromise for??  <insert Breaking Bad gif>

Anyway, I got on Tumblr and followed my little sister, and immediately renounced the whole thing as “the worst ever”, a waste of time and totally dumb.  She was offended at my insistence that her virtual friends were not her friends, and that all this tumblr  stuff was inferior to real life.   She whatever-ed me and carried on, and I checked in on her “blog” every couple of days.

Here’s the thing, my sister and I are totally different people.  When I was a kid my hair was straight and blonde.  Hers was curly and brunette.  When she was thirteen she was collecting Schleich pieces.  When I was fourteen I was lying about my age to a nineteen-year-old cowboy at the ranch next door.

I am a fairly morose bastard, but my baby sister takes introversion to another level.  Maybe the seven years I’ve got on her just had me in a different culture, and allowed me to express myself a little louder than she was able to.  (Our upbringing is a bit skewed in my favor, in that I had all my siblings and both parents at home, and she’s been toted around without her brothers and I since our parents split up.  The ground’s always been shifting under her.)

She’s a trip to get to know as she gets older, as she’s the most perceptive person I’ve ever met.  Nothing gets passed her.

She’s also one of the most non-judgmental, understanding people I’ve ever met, at least when it comes to her inner circle.  (I’m in that inner circle.)  I remember once crawling into bed beside her after a, erm,  pg 13 evening with a boy, and her wrapping her little arms around me.  She smiled at my alcohol breath when I whispered, “I’m sorry I’m not a good role model right now,” and then she said, “that’s ok.  You’re young.”

She’s quietly watched my family unravel.  She was playing with her toys in the corner while our mother raged at our father, while our father became a shell of the hero he’d been.  She’s watched my little brother abuse drugs, watched our older brother go haywire and hitch-hike around the country, saw me get all skeletal in high school.  She’s curled up beside me and my alcohol breath when she’s come to visit me.

Most importantly, she has her own demons.shine-on<circa 2007, AKA shittiest year of life.

These days the fifteen-year-old attends a performing arts school in downtown Los Angeles and she’s got this little Tumblr blog going.  The more I started watching what she’s reblogged, the more insight I get into the things she cares about.

You know what she’s into?  The underdog.  She loves the misunderstood, the mis-represented.  Between the fandoms and memes my baby sister reblogs suicide prevention posts.  She advocates for equal marriage rights and against rape culture.  In the virtual world, my baby sister can be vulnerable about her loneliness and her social anxiety.  She can speak up for those who’ve been shut up, and people can speak up for her when she’s too nervous to defend herself.  She’s got allies in her followers and a sense of camaraderie with those who share the same Sherlock fantasies.   Those friends are real friends.

I write a lot about seeking community, and I’m learning that everyone is grasping for it in different places and in different ways.  I shamble into Lost Leaf and she turns on her computer.  We’ve got imperfect ways of finding these communities, sure, but we’re finding them.

I admire that girl/woman for her resilience.  Kid’s been through some shit.   I’m more than proud of her; I’m learning from her.  She’s naturally compassionate and I’m naturally an asshole.

You’ll never see my sister mock someone for their beliefs, for their sadness, for their lifestyle.  She wants people to love and be loved and derive humor from our shared experience of being human.   She’s a badass.silhouette

So yeah girl.  Express yourself.  Reblog the shit out of every Supernatural gif.  Flip the bird at body-shaming, slut-shaming, gender roles and being cool.  Promote marriage equality, hilarious ANYTHING, Disney weirdness and suicide prevention.  I love seeing what you’re into.  I love learning about your heart through what you post.  You’re so friggin’ cool.

Definitely the best of all four of us.

(*brb getting emotional in a coffee shop)