Category Archives: Journal

Journal:
Personal rumblings. Inner reflections. Sometimes a diary of things going on in my life, sometimes a diary of things going on inside my head. Tread lightly.

To Pam, Ever Steadfast

On Sunday, the world lost the wonder of Pam Blackmon-Bailey. After a lifelong struggle with her own body, she now rests in peace. She leaves behind her husband Craig and three teenage daughters.

Pam was one of my best friends during my time at OBU and one of the reasons I moved to Greensboro those many years ago. We met through mutual friends and over time I was moved to think of her as an amazing woman. From her steady inquisitiveness to her intuitive insights, she was always curious about other people’s lives and troubles, and when she found a solution, she insisted on helping you to find your resolution. She cared. She was inquisitive and steadfast.

I never knew a single soul who found wrong in her.

The last time I saw her was one whirlwind weekend in 1999. She was visiting her sister Stephanie in Little Rock and invited me to come up from Texarkana to hang out with her and her then-boyfriend Craig. We hung out and watched movies, went to bookstores, drank coffee, made dinner, the usual young adult stuff. I went home that Sunday not really knowing that was our last time within hugging range.

I take it for granted that most of my old friends, the ones who I cherish in memory and history, are on social media and that I keep in touch on a semi-regular basis. But I overlook the ones who aren’t there by choice until it’s too late.

You never know where life will take you. But you can know for certain who it will take you from. Don’t let them out of your sight.

Burn Fuel

It’s almost 1AM and I’m more or less feeling my oats. I have to wake up in 5 hours. It’s not surprising that I turn to the liquid pleasures to make my life feel like it’s worth it. Really, though, it burns through my reserves of serotonin so the rest of my day is an emotional flatline. That’s a good and a bad thing. But whatever.

I’m courting a change in my life, a massive change, and getting cold feet. Eventually, anger will override trepidation and I will burn hot coals to fuel my engine of self-preservation. Change is necessary.

It’s one thing to say, “What I would give for a new life,” and a totally different thing to actually give for a new life.

On the Stories Being Written

In 10th grade, I sat next to a guy in marching band named Chris. Chris watched a lot of “Doctor Who”, back when the only place to find it — in 1987 — was the odd hours on PBS. He was the only person I knew in school who openly admitted watching it; owning up to your nerdy nature meant ostracization was certain. Chris also listened to a lot of Depeche Mode and gleefully explained to me the deeper, disruptive meanings of the lyrics (this was pre-“Violator”). Chris was also working on writing a serial drama; every day, he’d tell me the gossip of what happened that day in this fictional world that he was creating (it was partially autobiographical). I tried to follow along, but couldn’t always do so because I was either a little bit bored, a little bit lost, or I was otherwise worried about the band director busting us for talking during practice. But it felt good being a trustworthy listener (several of my bandmates saw me as that someone they could just talk to). So yeah, Chris and I had a camaraderie because we were both outcasts, of a sort, in a world of misfit band nerds. The weirdos among the weird.

There was a lot going on under the hood, and my naiveté being what it was at the time, I didn’t see the struggles that Chris was going through. He was a well-established kid (had his own car in 10th grade) and was trying to make a name for himself by being a great student and a respectable guy. But some of our classmates had already sniffed him out. He wasn’t, shall we say, a straight guy. That put him into a certain class of outcasts. I, being a neophyte in the ways of society, didn’t detect that. But whatever.

Eventually, my Christian zeal of the time would grow and recast me in a different mold, and people came to know me as this kid who became a Fire For God. Eventually, people like Chris faded from my sphere. Some years later, when I had graduated high school and moved on to OBU, I had significantly loosened my straps and had learned to be more human in my faith. I learned, basically, how to stop being an asshole.

One nondescript Friday night during my second year, I rode with my roommate Stephen to Texarkana to rendezvous with his girlfriend at the rest stop, the midway point on her drive from Dallas to Arkadelphia to see him. Who, of all people, do I cross paths with while there? Chris, of course, who was there with some of his buddies. I was happy to see him again; delighted, in fact. An old friend! Unfortunately, he wore a shocked, wide-eyed stare and was incredibly uncomfortable as he shifted his eyes between me and his friends. Our conversation was stunted and I left without a smile. It was like I had missed some big social cue that things were afoot and didn’t pick up on what was happening until later.

This sort of encounter is not the first or only time this has happened, but apparently he saw me, based on his memory, as this holy light of God that came to expose him for his sins. That’s a hurtful feeling, but it really highlights the idea that people remember me for being this holy warrior in high school and that’s all they know about me. It short-sheets the idea that people can change. I later had other encounters with former classmates who either turned to God and wanted to tell me all about it as a new brother or who went on being themselves and thought I was there to cast judgment, neither knowing that I myself had walked out.

People change, and there’s nothing you can do in a five minute street encounter to convince otherwise.

So yeah, I was thinking about Chris earlier tonight for some reason. I remember liking the guy, as iconoclastic as he was. I hope he’s doing well in his adult life and has found his voice, his true voice. As I hope for us all.

Bump and Grind

Really feeling it, the existential nature of my own reality. So bedraggled. Not enough sleep, not with my need to live a worthwhile life conflicting with my need to hold down a job. This weekend, I finally caught up on my sleep and am well-rested. Unfortunately, I’m rested and awake enough to realize just how fucked I am. The truth is just too…true. Y’know?

So, I’m bored and petulant. Angry because all weekend I’m reminded of just how shitty it is living in a crowded city. Like, every turn I make is met with someone in my way. I know that’s the “bump and grind” of living in a large city, but it feels personal — like the city’s out to get me. Man, what a bullshit thought, right?

The seed of paranoia is the thought that randomness has an actual evil intent. That’s a bad conclusion to make, a wrong line between the wrong dots. That’s where paranoid people get it from. In truth, the halted steps, the road blocks, the red lights, the missed turns, the long lines — those are all due to random movements of random actors in a random playfield. I might be personally inconvenienced, but that’s all it is. I started thinking that because I’m following social protocol and yielding instead of putting myself first, I’m being trampled and held back. That might be partially true, but general public doesn’t know me from Adam, therefore, they cannot possibly have evil intent.

My love for this city is unrequited. I need an escape. A relief valve. A friend. A real friend. That fire inside.