Like visiting your Home Church

I didn’t grow up Christian, but for those who did, the experience of leaving home and eventually returning to visit, including a Sunday morning spent in your home church, is probably familiar. For most everyone I know, they left home to go to college, so in theory they became more educated, and along the way they generally became less conservative, began to enjoy a different style of worship, and generally identified less and less with their home church. Returning brings a mix of emotions, from peace and security that carried over to childhood, to trepidation and anxiety about being accepted after having changed so much, and maybe some frustration or bitterness that the home church hasn’t changed. It’s a weird combination of joy and fear and nostalgia.

That’s what I felt last night listening to the Mixtapes last night at Patton Alley. That music was my safe space when I was in junior high and high school, and the alternative and punk rock of the mid-to-late 90s and early 2000s gave me permission to stop caring what other people thought, to become my own person, and choose the type of life I wanted to live. Listening to a lot of my old favourite songs last night, none of which I had heard performed live before (and the band was awesome and did a fantastic job), was my version of visiting the home church. The nostalgia brought a mix of peace and joy mixed with sadness and loss.

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Ever tried recording your thoughts?

My friend Brian loves his digital audio recorder. He has a terrible memory so he carries it with him everywhere and grabs it when something comes to mind. Throughout the day he’ll record snippets and ideas, and then sit down in the afternoon or evening to transcribe the thoughts into his journal.

I’ve done a few of these, but while I can handle the first step of recording my thoughts pretty easily, I have a lot of trouble with the second. I’ve put some audio notes into Evernote, but I never go back and listen to them. And last night I spent over thirty minutes recording some story ideas I had, but I worry I won’t actually do anything with those notes.

The act of saying the ideas out loud helps me to remember, and I don’t have too much trouble in that department to begin with. But I’m curious about your experiences: have you tried audio recording for ideas, and do you have any tips to share?

Herbert the Trillionaire – Chapter 1.03

“I think he’s lost it,” someone said anonymously from among the crowd, under their breath just loud enough for everyone to hear. Everyone was looking at Herbert now.

“Sir, have you… have you lost your memory?” the questioning man asked. “Do you know who you are?”

“I’m Herbert,” Herbert replied. “What more is there to know?”

The committee was aghast, looking left to right before back to Herbert. Their leader had gone mad right in the middle of a meeting. What was worse, he was the principle stockholder of the company.

It took only moment for the schemes to begin to form. “Perhaps we can gain power of attorney…” “Declare him insane…” “Buy his shares before he notices…” and so on. The questioning man continued to sweat, wide eyed, afraid this was all a cruel test.

Herbert, for his part, picked a blade of grass and, clutching it between his hands, strung tightly between two fingers, began to blow against it like an instrument. He had never mastered the art and now seemed like a fine time to do so.

False Dreams, False Memories

Though it wasn’t a major component of my dream last night, I knew as I slept that my ex-girlfriend had committed suicide some time in the past. The knowledge wasn’t a shock, gut-wrenching and eliciting tears, but rather the feeling was one of an old sadness. I thought of her and was sad that she had died, and by her own hand.

When I awoke, this knowledge lingered and I continued in my sadness. As sleep fell away, however, I began to examine the memory, confused by my reactions and thoughts. If she had died, why hadn’t I called her husband to offer my condolences and assistance? Why didn’t I remember writing about it, and why hadn’t I attended the funeral?

The first place I turned for answers was Facebook. Surely if she had really committed suicide there would be a long list of posts from people on her wall wishing her peace and offering prayers for her family. Of course, what I found was nothing of the sort. She had taken some sort of quiz recently, and posted some new photos.

There are dreams that strike us, that shake us with a fear and horror that refuses to dissipate upon waking. Instead, I am left with this quiet sadness, all the more poignant for all the true memories of death and suicide that likewise refuse to leave.

I don’t begrudge that sadness–I think it is an important part of being human and capable of love. I do wish it could be restrained however, and kept from spilling over where it is not needed.

Can’t Burn My Bridges


I had two dreams the other night with recurring themes. In the first, we were having a World Affairs Council reunion at our house. Except it wasn’t just WAC members, it was everyone who had impacted my life in the last seven years, crowded into and around our front yard, grilling burgers under the night sky and drinking punch beside a giant bonfire. It was a tense affair because the new WAC members felt threatened and intimidated by the old WACcers, afraid we’d come back and take over or something, while the alumni just reminisced about the good old days and how much fun we had.

The second dream was long and involved, but included a trip to my high school auditorium. While wandering up and down the rows of wooden seats, the backs of the chairs suddenly started to catch fire as if someone had smeared oil along the tops of them and tossed a match. I calmly bent down, blowing on the chairs to put the fire out, working my way along the aisles to make sure all the flames were put to rest.

If you ever do a Google search for the meaning of fire in dreams, you’ll probably find yourself as frustrated as I was because dream analysis is all a bunch of bologne. Apparently, fire can mean pretty much anything in a dream (surprised?), but there was a theme picked up by all the different articles. Though the writers observed that fire can be positive or negative, destructive or life-bringing, comforting or threatening, it was also often linked with destroying or cutting ties to one’s past. That, or an inability to do so.

I’ve had a reversal of fortunes in the last six years of college in regards to my memory. When I began college, I had very poor short-term memory, to the extent that I would often forget conversations while having them, couldn’t keep appointments, and had to write everything down to remember anything. I got lost because I couldn’t recall directions, and I had trouble with just about everything. But sometime during my freshman year, my memory drastically improved (which is a story for another time). Since then, it has continued improving, and now I remember pretty much everything. I haven’t gone to the complete opposite end of the spectrum (just like my memory was never completely non-existant), but I do remember more than most people I think.

I remember specific feelings, able to almost relive them, and I remember entire conversations, their twists and turns. I still can’t quote movies all that well, but that’s because I never try to remember movies. In general, I can now look back over the last decade and put just about everything together in my mind.

This means that I can’t let anything go, though, and while I’m much better at keeping myself from dwelling on sorrow and loss (having let it go emotionally, at least), I can’t forget any of those experiences.

But really, I don’t want to. I treasure the memories with fondness, and I am glad that I can look back and remember exactly what it was like to be somewhere or do something. It helps keep me from yearning for the past, or from putting it on a pedestal. My memory keeps me firmly grounded in reality.

No, I don’t want to burn those memories, or forget where I came from. But just because that bridge is there, that doesn’t mean I want to cross back over it either. I’m happy just to know it exists.

The Cemetery on Mother’s Day

Watching him die a little,
I wrote: a vain attempt
to catch his tears on my page.
We’d never spoken, this man
with his graying beard and wrinkles,
hands opening and closing
by his sides. I’d never ask his name
for fear I’d start caring.

I wonder if his tweed jacket smells
like pipe smoke, like my father
who would sit in our living room,
reading under cumulonimbus clouds
that never rained, and I thought
of storms from the sea and whether
they were salty like tears, like
the pathways in late May when
snow is unexpected.

I wanted to compare this man to a god
who dies a little each time
we leave, each time
we forget and fade away,
but all I could see in the slow suicide
of his mourning was myself,
was all of us who die
a little each day as we grieve
over what’s gone.

On the train to Dresden

Two summers ago, April and I were in Europe and I was leaving Switzerland, bound for Berlin. I was to arrive there a few days before her (she was touring Germany with the Missouri State choir), but as I examined the train schedule from my cushy, express seat, I realized I could hop off at an upcoming station and board a train to Dresden where she currently was. I had her itinerary and knew what hotel she was staying in, and it was only six or so hours away…

Leaving my cushy, express seat, I boarded another train and had to stand all the way to Dresden. But I grinned the entire way, read while standing, looked over a guy’s shoulder while he played Heroes IV (in German!), and was thrilled the entire time. I didn’t need a seat for the same reason I didn’t need sleep. I was going to join the woman I loved.

When answering questions for my interview with Nathan just before the wedding, I told him when I knew April was the one. In retrospect, I don’t think I gave him the right answer. It wasn’t wrong, exactly; it was an answer, and one of the many times I realized and expressed my love for April, but it wasn’t the first time I realized that April was the one. No, it was on the train to a city with no local money, where I didn’t speak the language, arriving at almost two in the morning.

The next morning was the first time we said, “I love you.”