Transfixus Sed Non Mortuus

Here I Stand, Pierced and Transfixed

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November 12 is my birthday, and that means another year has come and gone. Looking back on this past year, I feel like I’ve grown a lot and I’ve learned quite a few things.  I’ve heard it said that you learn something new every day.  I hope that has been true for me.  As an exercise in that frame of mind, I once again put together the “Top 40” things I’ve learned this year.

This year I learned:

  • a lot about overcoming unexpected obstacles on the Ann Arbor to Chicago Bicycling Trip.
  • how it feels to be chased by zombies!
  • what it feels like when a tupperware full of soup opens in my book bag
  • what fun dancing through downtown Ann Arbor in a kilt is
  • that there are “three marvelous deeds: to forgive wrongs done, to amend everything possible, and to refrain from injustice. “
  • how good Work for Wings sounds at the Water Hill Music Fest!
  • that bike shoes and khakis don’t exactly work as an ensemble (when I forget a pair of dress shoes)
  • what African drumming at 5am sounds (and feels) like
  • that racing cyclocross is really hard, but really fun!
  • what my Top Five Strengths are and also how to develop them
  • that “Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.” ~Robert Fulghum
  • about I Draw Slow’s Goldmine
  • what an amazing and beautiful town Saugatuck is
  • that worrying is just a wanton waste of a wonderful imagination
  • what Jesse Manibusan sounds like live
  • a lot more about what I’m good for
  • how Goitse sounds live (and it is good!)
  • how to eat two twinkies during a 5k run
  • that “forgiveness begins where the hope for a better yesterday ends.”
  • that Baubau can be really annoying when she wants to be
  • that FEAR = Forgeting Everything’s All Right
  • that the heart knows its own bitterness, and in its joy no one else shares
  • how it feels to run up a mountain at The Dirty Dog Dash
  • that “life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” ~Antoine de Saint-ExuPery
  • how to find a new roommate and the perils involved with such an undertaking
  • about Korean culture at a Great Chuseok Party
  • how much fun indoor soccer is, especially when the team is made up of great friends
  • how to Let Sleeping Bears Lie
  • a few new things about planning and enjoying The Winter Sports Crawl
  • about Yak Traks
  • how to play racquetball and bowl left-handed (among many other things) due to my biking accident
  • that one should “hold on to what you believe in the light, when the darkness has robbed you of all your sight.” ~mumford and sons
  • how it feels to be at the first ever Big Chill at the Big House
  • that this life, Ca c’est bon
  • once more how cool it is to be a godfather to another nephew
  • what fun the RTH Christmas Spectacular was
  • that “though I think I am judging people, I am really just judging myself. I am either inferior or dominant, but never comfortable with who I am and where I am…”
  • how much fun a hotpot is
  • that “We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” ~Anais Nin
  • what it’s like to ride the train at night

Mountains

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When the mountains are at your feet,
and this life’s got you in too deep,
when this world’s got you feelin’ weak,
that ain’t home, that ain’t home.

When the birds, they don’t sing your song
and your words, they come out all wrong
Yeah, life, it’s been gone too long
that ain’t home, that ain’t home.

When you write a song and its true,
when you climb just to see you through,
when they try, but your smile comes through,
this is home, this is home.

When your heart, it feels way too small,
and you wait, but you get no call,
when you wonder, “Is this all?”
that ain’t home, that ain’t home.

When your days start to fade and blend
from the start, you can’t see the end,
you might break as you just can’t bend.
that ain’t home, that ain’t home.

When there’s sunshine on your back,
you’re not broke, not even a crack,
and this love’s got you right on track,
this is home, this is home.

When the stars that lit up your night,
they go out or just seem less bright,
and you wish your dark had more light,
that ain’t home, that ain’t home.

When your moon’s taking back the sky,
you can’t fall even if you try,
you remember you have a why
this is home, this home,
this is home, this is home.
~Allison Lickley

Well, today is my birthday. A lot of people say you learn something new every day. As I was contemplating that and the fact that I’m another year older, I decided that I should summarize my year with a “Top 40” list of things that I’ve learned throughout the past year. I might have had an inkling of some of the things on this list before November 12 of last year, but if something made the list, then its because I have gained a whole new respect and knowledge for it! Some are silly. Some are not so silly, but that, my friends, is just like my life.

I’ve learned (in no particular order):

  • that bikes are awesome, but dangerous.
  • that self-awareness is cheap.
  • how to better deal with birds’ droppings, and other unpleasantries in life.
  • how to fix a flat tire in five minutes (on a bike, not sure about a car :)).
  • what Arnold Schwarzenegger would sound like singing .
  • that I can have an annoying voice.
  • the difference between true humility and humiliation/debasement.
  • the joy of “racing the sun” from a bike.
  • what a Jucy Lucy is, and what it is like.
  • what it feels like to do a polar swim.
  • that I can give up a piece of me and gain a ton, if it’s the right thing to do.
  • what Tecumseh had to say about life.
  • a lot more about how much I love my family and friends.
  • the beauty and joy of “escaping to Belle Isle.”
  • that the search for happiness alone is a dead-end.
  • that it’s easy to make friends, but hard to keep them.
  • what to do when I’m lost in the forest.
  • what it’s like to hang out with the Wild Colonial Bhoys between their sets.
  • that no player learns as much from a game winning shot as from the shot that he messes up.
  • what it feels like to run on a track during a college football game.
  • that life is mist
  • that biking in a suit looks hilarious, and it’s a lot of fun!
  • how to use clip-in pedals on bicycles
  • that my little sister is a pretty good pillow fighter.
  • that “unkindness to anyone for any reason says more about us than it does about another.”
  • how to stop trying to control everything about my world.
  • what Glen Lake looks like in the light of early morning.
  • that it’s easy to stumble when the world’s on your shoulders.
  • how to find a wallet in the night.
  • how to make some sense of the world.
  • a lot more about heartache.
  • that beauty is free.
  • what the Thornapple River looks like.
  • why Andrew loves the Liffey.
  • that “a good run is better than a bad stand.”
  • the benefits of physical therapy.
  • how kind and hospitable the Waxies and Tosspints are.
  • the bitter-sweetness of the last meal before a restaurant closes for good.
  • that when on a bike, waving at cars can sometimes look like you’re doing ‘jazz hands.’
  • “in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.”

What I Almost Was

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It was my senior year
I just turned eighteen
I was a friday night hero, with division one dreams
I had an offer on the table
A four year ride
‘Til that fourth and two and twenty four dive
I left on a stretcher, wound up on a crutch
Walked on that next summer
Wound up getting cut
Flipped off that coach, left that school in the dust
For letting my dreams go bust
But I thank God I ain’t what I almost was

Yea, I moved on back home
And came awful close to being some son-in-law to some CEO
Coulda been a corner office, country club, suit and tie man
Answerin’ to no one, but her and him
I ran out on his money, ran out on her love
At four in the morning I loaded my truck
I left my home town in a big cloud of dust
I just had to follow my gut
And I thank God I ain’t what I almost was

In guitar town I bought this old Epiphone
Started stringin’ chords and words into songs
I’ve been putting in time on Sixteenth Avenue
Pouring out my heart for tips on a stool
I ain’t making a killing, but then there’s those nights
When the song comes together and hits ’em just right
The crowds on their feet cause they can’t get enough
Of this music I make and I love
And I thank God I ain’t, yea I thank God I ain’t,
Yea man I thank God I ain’t, what I almost was
~Eric Church

Accidents

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A friend of mine recently got in a car accident, and it of course it got me remembering a certain accident a few years ago. I’m sure people who are in the ambulance/emergency business can’t remember all the craziness that goes into some nights, but for me those types of nights really stand out.

It’s strange to see people right at death’s door, especially complete strangers. I find it very strange what I remember vividly, and what are mere shadows of memory. I ran to the car. I remember the driver’s head position, and what happened after we said a few words to him. His head just kind of fell from the steering wheel to the seat, and what I thought might have been him starting to talk was probably just exhaling.

I ran back as fast as I could, since I didn’t have my cell phone at the time, and called 911. It was so scary, I remember running as fast as I possibly could to the phone, and being all out of breath. I gave them the wrong cross street (a block away), and only realized it after a few minutes. So, I had to run back to the house and call again to let them know I told them the wrong address.

Once the ambulance came, things got a little better, but they had to break open the car to get to the two people inside, and I remember realizing that I had never seen the “jaws of life” before. I also remember looking down at my blood-stained jeans thinking, “These are my favorite jeans.” They were boot-cut loose-fitting levi’s, and I really liked to wear them because they fit well and were tough. I’m not sure why that came into my mind at that moment.

When they got the guys out, the emergency technicians still needed help. I had to hold one person’s head while they did a tracheotomy.

It’s strange to be so helpless, to not know what to do in some of those emergency situations. Sometimes I go into “shock” mode, and other times, I just react without thinking. It seems like I should be more prepared for situations like that, but I’m not entirely sure how to go about it.

Random Meetings

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The other day, I went to the auto parts store to get a crescent wrench and an allen wrench set for some bike repairs. As I walked through the “magic” automatically opening doors, I saw someone I met in jail looking at some oil filters or something. I looked at him in disbelief for a second, and then I wondered why I was in such disbelief. This city is not so large that I don’t randomly meet people from time to time. In fact, it happens quite often.

In this particular case, I felt an upwelling of emotions. It’s hard to describe, but it has something to do with the experience that we shared. That was an experience unlike anything I’d heretofore lived, and I realize now that a part of me wanted to compartmentalize a lot of how I felt during my stint in there. I went up to the gentleman, and we got to talking a bit about our lives and our current situations as if we were old friends who met after a long hiatus. We walked and talked as I went to the aisle where the tools I needed were, and talked some more while we walked to the register (since he already had what he needed). We separated to go to different cashiers, and as I left I put a hand on his shoulder and said that it was good seeing him, and told him to take care of himself.

What a random meeting that was. I felt both comfortable and strange around him. There was something that we shared that made us friends, but friends for only a certain time and place. The memory of those times changed both of us (I think), and we have since moved on in our lives to different things, and we seemed to leave the frienship/relationship exactly the way it was. Yet, the shared experience remains, shaping us in similar ways, and we will always have that in common.

It was actually very important for me to see him when I did before I compartmentalized that whole experience in my subconscious and blocked it far away in the back of my mind. The experiences I had throughout my life should be far more accessible, so that I might use them to better ends. Too often, I’ve experienced similar situations multiple times, but because of the way I think and hide things in my subconscious, I end up making the same mistake over again. I hope that I will eventually learn to be a little better about that. But, as GI Joe says, “Knowing is half the battle.” I know now, and hopefully will learn to not hide that experience in my subconscious.

When the world is upside down, stand on your head

I think it was Confucius who said that, but I’m not entirely sure. Irregardless of who said it, I do find a bit of wisdom in the words. My world has been turned upside down quite a few times in my life. Certain truths to which I’ve clung have come crashing down, leaving me with little of what I believed in to hold on to.

For instance, nearly three years ago, I had one of those defining moments where I could have chosen to hide from myself, and continue on a certain path that I knew was a dead end. The only other alternative I had was to face a very dark part of my personality, and start working to change it. My little world/reality that I had built in my mind was in complete turmoil and I still remember that upside down feeling.

I ended up “standing on my head” to face that dark part of my personality, and I think I’ve become better for it. That unwanted piece of me often shines through, but at least it’s not in the shadows where it can fester and grow larger. I work on it, day by day, minute by minute (when I remember to be aware of it), and I feel better because I work on it. When I don’t work on it, it rears its ugly head when I least expect it and I feel worse.

I’ve only recently remembered that a few years prior to the defining moment mentioned above, I was faced with a similar situation, and I had decided the easier and softer way for me was to get out of that situation. That proved unfavorable for me. Sure, I got through it, but by not taking the time to produce the correct composure for the situation, I got burned and hurt. I still carry around some resentment and regret from those days.

Overall, my experience can be so completely crazy that I am practically forced to stand on my head because the world is so topsy-turvy that I can’t make any sense of reality. That happened to me a few months ago, and looking back, I’m glad that I chose to “stand on my head” and do the hard things to better myself. I think I’ve grown as a person, and I’ve become a little more joyful, even if I’m less happy and optimistic. I think I carry a lot less resentment, even if I’m discovering more and more that was there before. I think I am more honest with myself and the people around me, even though I can’t always be nice too. But, all this happened because I stood on my head and saw things the way I think I was supposed to see them. And that made me want to change and improve myself.

I certainly hope I’m changing and improving myself, anyhow!