Sunday, August 22, 2010

Prepare to get Rushified!

Well On August 16th I had the pleasure of seeing the band Rush play in what many consider to be the best performance event center in North America, Red Rocks. I have always been a closet Rush fan, never wanting to admit to my metalhead friends just how much I loved the holy trinity. I am not quite sure of the reasons exactly, after all its music not a popularity contest. But as I think back on reflect on it, dont we all subscribe to some sort of label? From birth are'nt we trained to place things into nice little categories? Think about it. Humans run around this planet trying to quantify and label everything around them from day one.

As a baby we are encouraged to group things by shape and color. As toddlers, we begin to see things in terms of actual names and activities. And as teenagers we even group people. Preps, Nerds, Jocks, Band Geeks, Gamers, Skaters. Our very hobbies label us into a little slot in society. Heck, we cant even decide how to label our particular faith ,even when it comes from the same historical background. How many different sects of christianity did jesus exactly die for? As far as I can tell, I think he died for all of us, and I dont recall anything in any version of the bible saying "ok guys im hanging up here for the baptists, but you dirty catholics, Forget it! dont drink my blood its not for you!"

Even the most open minded of us still confine ourselves within some form of boundary of labels. I am a metal head, so even though I love Rush, I cant admit it, I cant enjoy a country song or a rap song, Or can I? As I was riding along with my friend last night, I began to think deeply on this. If I cant get past the stigma of a music genre, then where else am I taking things to seriously. I often jokingly refer to myself as gimp, or fatty etc. I do it to illicit a laugh out of others, because I dont really take it to heart when I say it. Or do I.

The more thought I give this, the more I start to realize that I have been labeling myself and to my own disadvantage. I am not a metalhead, I like music, period, of all types. I love metallica, the squirrel nut zippers, No fx and the eagles as well as the beetles. So what if I got extra weight, I recognize the fact I do, and I also know what I need to do about it. And it isnt make fun of myself. I have a gorgeous wife that I need to stop calling a harry potter dork. Because all these things are just parts of us, they do not make up the whole. The other day a mormon youth approached me and asked if I would attend his church for my salavation. I told him, I am in church right here, right now. He asked me what I meant by that. I said "do you think gods church is a building that man creates or the world that god created?" He looked puzzled at me and said "well god created the world but we still need fellowship!" I said " That is true we were not created to be alone, but if we cannot walk alone in our faith then are we truly walking in it when we surround ourselves with others?" He didnt answer me and instead chose to bike away. As I have come to understand it, every person has the right to believe as they choose, we were given the blessing of free thought for this very reason. Not so we could categorize ourselves away from everyone into neat little groups that meet our ideals. We should be living for our god's ideals, and in doing that we goto church to celebrate god not to find salvation, the salvation has already been had if you truly believe. You step into gods church the minute you walk outside. His pews are the ground, his walls the trees and his music the air and the sunlight around you. And no matter what man thinks he can do, he will never build anything as great as that.

I know it feels like my train has jumped the tracks here but let me rail it in. As I thought about how we categorize ourselves I had an epiphone. What if instead of labeling myself as anything, I just be a man. I dont need to be fat, a metal head, a baptist or a gamer. I just need to be Chris. Because my plan is already laid out even though I may not see it. And I should just enjoy all the blessings that are and quit trying to fit them into some box. If I spent less time trying to figure out which title I should wear and more time doing what I know in my heart to be right, I would have alot more time to enjoy these things I love. I have already determined bar none, that regardless of treatments or conditions in my health im gonna live each day to fullest and love my kids the most I possibly can. If I pass away tommorrow, it will be without regret. As the song says " I was born to believe!" Thanks Mr. Getty

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Traveling back in time

So I finally made the trek back to Indiana. Ya, I know for alot of you this would not seem like a big deal. But going home for me was closing the doors on alot of things that needed closing. It was opening some wounds that I had thought long since healed and finally realizing that the wound not healing is exactly the reason I am where I am today. It had been 10 long years since I had been home. The last time I was home, well it did not go so hot. I left feeling like I had screwed up something fierce with my parents, feeling like somewhere I had gone wrong. The thing I came to realize was, I put this on myself. My parents did not shut me out, no in fact I shut them out. They did nothing wrong to me, unless giving a child the best possible childhood is wrong, in which gee whiz I hope I end up being wrong for my kids too. Soooooo that door finally closed. I came to terms with the fact that the only real issue was the one I created.

I remember part of the reason I left Brown County, Indiana. I left because of a girl. I was dating a wonderful girl in high school named Jennifer Duncan. She was the all american girl next door. And like most young women, she was still figuring out what she wanted in life. I, on the other hand, was really clueless, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to be married, and I wanted a home like my parents. Because that was what my parents had done right out of high school. And like alot of young folks, I saw the military as a quick fix to security. So I signed up for the Air Force with little thought, because frankly, I thought it would help me skip from point A to Z, and take Jennifer with me for the ride. Of course in all this incredible planning, I never once considered her feelings. That perhaps she wasnt ready to be that serious, that perhaps she was a normal girl who just wanted to see what life had to offer and to finish her senior year. And lets be honest, Why did I want to be with her?, SECURITY. The security of having something familiar, which while normal for a graduate, is also pretty damn selfish, and the reason alot of young marriages are doomed right out of the gate. Most folks are just not mature enough to accept the responsibility a marriage requires. And I certainly was not.

Going home I had to sort through alot of my old stuff. Some of it was over 2 decades old. I found a box of our old love letters, and I spent time reading through them. For a brief moment, I was transported back to high school and I felt the pain of that final kiss Jennifer gave me when she very nicely told me she wanted to break up. I felt my heart tear in two again. I remembered my first days in the Air Force in basic training, and how in the dark, when other guys would be crying because they missed home (yes men cry, even military guys) I instead cried because I had felt my first true heart break. As this mix of emotions swept over me, I realized that another door had closed that was previously open. Freed of the spectre of heart break I instead felt the warm feelings of happiness that my young teenage love had brought me. Thank you Jennifer, I hope you look back fondly to on those days, and like myself appreciate the good memories and more importantly appreciate as I do, the great event that is first love. More importantly it taught me to start analyzing myself a bit, and I very quickly realized that in the end Jennifer was the one who was right, we were too young and had alot of life to live.

I visited the grave stones of Tim Parker and BJ Arnold while I was home. I took my son along with me for a very long walk and was quickly tore apart by the Indiana humidity. Multiple Sclerosis and humidity do not play well together. I had my cane crutches on both arms however, and Aris my son is really good about knowing that Daddy has to slow down. Aris and I paid our respects, and I said a small prayer and gave thanks to BJ and Tim for giving me the gift of friendship. I told their stones how I wished they were here but that we would be united again some day, and then I explained to my son why I said these things. We walked back home and I felt the sun on my face, heard the birds and insects, and smelled the woodsy smells I remembered from youth. For just a moment, I was gliding on my 10 speed bike, arms out like a plane, racing Tim Parker down Spearsville Road. I felt another door close softly behind me, and knew that I had found yet another reason of why my life is so good. Quite frankly its good because I have been blessed to live so much of it. Blessed to have those memories to cling too.

I watched my father and mother walking with my children. Saw my kids playing amongst the pine trees that I had planted with my parents. Saw my parents hold my kids and slept in my old bed. I must admit, there were several lumps in my throat that week. I gimped around Nashville, and ate at Harvest Moon pizza. Again I was pulled back to memories of sitting with my friends in high school eating pizza at Nonna's. My friends and I always walked the fine line between normal and social outcasts. I was so concerned about having the right pants, the right shirt with a stupid polo guy on it. I was fixated on trying to be cool, but some inner part of me thankfully still made friends that were real. I look back now and realize that for all or our flaws, those friends were some of the truest friends anyone could ever have. In all my travels around the world, only on a few occasions have I come close to making those kinds of friends again. I was fortunate enough to see my Aunt Vicki, who inspired me to read, my cousin Robert, whom I always loved and respected (yes robert its true) for having his funky sense of humor and upbeat nature and love of comic books, and John Douglas, who never fails to impress me with how much in spirit he grows each time we meet. We shared many of our good memories and some of our bad ones, but I think in the end, our time together was to short. That is how you know its a true friend. When your left regretting you dont have more time to spend with them. I know in part, the mystery of my long disappearance was explained, and in some senses a door did close, though I think that door needs to have a wedge in just to make sure it doesnt shut all the way.

In the end my visit was to short, and despite my many health issues due to my MS acting up, I would go back in a heart beat. Coincidentally, going back to Indiana helped me finish repairing the damage I did to my most important relationship, My relationship with my parents. Mom and Dad you will always be the best people I know, and I will always strive to be more like you. I hope in part, someday, maybe my children will do the same.

I was also able to close another door once I got home. I had one other great heart break, and that was with a girl named Emily Wonnacott. My revelation about my split with Jennifer made me reexamine that part of my life as well. Emily was another apple pie girl, smart and pretty, and very positive. I again tryed to smother her by clinging because I was in another uncertain place in my life. We were together almost 4 years, and I honestly realize now that her only crime was not kicking me to the curb earlier. She was driven to become a veternarian, or aquatic vet, and really make a difference in the world, but I was selfish, and the more she shot for her dreams the more I tried to force her into giving them up to be with me. I realize that alot of this was because I had cut off my connection with my parents, and needed some source of happiness because I was so very empty. We didnt split up so much as we just stopped talking, largely due to the fact that I was terrible with my money at the time, and did not take care of myself instead living in denial of my responsibilities. In short, Emily, Thank you for showing me the true meaning of compassion and patience, I now know you TRULY tried to give me a chance to be a better man, but I was to busy wallowing in self pity at the time to deserve it. I really hope whereever you are in life, that it is wonderful and that you made some of the dreams come true.

I sit behind this keyboard, a little teary eyed, a little tired, but quite frankly a little free. Finally I feel the weight of my own self inflicted guilt life off my shoulders. I kind of came up with a mantra if you will of things to tell myself on a daily basis.
1) Cant is not a option, can is the only possibility
2) Our past does not make our present
3) Every day you wake up is a day worth living
4) No matter how bad the day may seem, at some point it will always get better
5) The best part about moving forward is stopping to look behind every now and again and appreciating how far you have come
6) Sometimes, you just need to close the door

Until next time,
Keep your chin up

Monday, April 19, 2010

Oh the stars

So on Saturday I attended Starfest 2010. It is a collection of events and people that probably are lucky to have escaped their parents basements (and I am positive alot have still not made that escape), various degrees of armpit odor, outrageous costumes, and the eternal war of trekkies vs the overwhelming power of the Force. It also had in attendance one Miss Summer Glau, which had fanboys everywhere (to include myself) nervously waiting their place in line to take photos with her. I have met a few stars in my lifetime, Brad Pitt ( who was extremely cool then of course this was pre angelina days), Julia Roberts (ahem stuck up), George Clooney (stuck up) and Marina Sirtis (Chain smoker). All of them you could tell were actors and used to a certain amount of attention. Nothing could ever prepare me for Summer Glau. She was the most insanely down to earth nice actress you could ever meet. Not only that but she genuinely seemed to enjoy being around her fans.
After waiting in line for the better part of two hours, When I walked around the corner to get my picture taken, I was fully not expecting to get a huge smile, and "hey, how you doing nice to meet you. Not only that but she thanked me, yes thanked me for waiting to take a picture with her and apologized for the long wait even though she showed up an hour earlier then posted to get pictures started. Its been my experience from other years of seeing people get their photo taken the actors and actresses would let you stand near them but there was no contact. Not Summer, she just wraps her arm right around you and says "Here get closer" for the photo and smiles at you".
By the time I waited again for my autograph, She did not disappoint in the slightest, striking up conversation and taking photos again with people and their kids despite the starfest's coordinators irritation. I heard one of the staff members grumbling that she should not do that, that she should be charging for the photo, but Summer just looked at the staff member and shooed them away and went right back to taking photos with folks. She complimented me on my tattoo and even took time to give me best wishes on my fight against MS (earlier at the photo shoot one of the people had asked me to remove my cane crutch and glasses for the photo and I explained I was too unsteady and had to wear the sunglasses in order to not retain the image of the camera flash for the next 20 minutes, it wasnt to be cool it because of my MS. ) Summer had remembered me from the photo shoot and even paid attention to something that wasnt even mentioned to her directly but instead to one of the staff. Color me impressed!
In the end it made Starfest one of the best experiences of my life. I got to meet one of my favorite actresses from Firefly and Serenity fame as well as Dollhouse and Terminator:SCC, but I got to see them not as some hollywood idol but instead as just a regular human being. Despite the fact I had to leave earlier then intended due to the immense amount of body heat from everyone there making my MS fatigue flare up, I still consider it a worthwhile experience and will look back fondly on it. I realize Summer Glau will never read this, but for whats it worth I hope she never stops acting and I hope she never loses sight of what makes her so special to her fans.

And in case you didnt know
Spock sucks, may the force be with you!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The circle

I have often tryed to decide how life could be defined best. Its odd how some of us, as humans feel the need to define everything around us by placing it in neat little categories. Sometimes, I think this is due to the fact our brain is divided up in the way it processes certain things, so subconsciously we do the same thing with our observations. I ,until a few months ago, use to relate life to a long hallway with windows. I think like most folks as we age, or perhaps as we experience things (because after all experiences can age a person faster then a calendar can) we change how we percieve our own realities.
As time has gone on, I have began to amend my previous thoughts about life. I think life is a hallway that is circular in shape. Yes there are still windows. The windows on the outer ring represent our lifes as they are, once again still the good parts, the happy parts, the memories if you will. The windows on the inside represent our dreams. There are fewer windows on the inner ring, the area is much smaller. We spend our life walking around this circle perhaps because life really does repeat itself, even if it is in the smallest ways. I think as we age, we tend to look more out the windows on the outside ring and less to the windows on the inside ring. There are those among us who still can constantly focus on the inner ring, no matter how old we get (I suspect Robin Williams is one of those people) But I think by and large as we age, our heads are turned more to the outer ring because we look more to our happy memories and less to our dreams.
Never fret, this is not a bad thing. You see, I believe as we age some of those dreams become reality, and thus move from the inner ring of windows to the outer ring. I also think there are alot of things we view favorably over time that we never thought we would. In the end our "reality" or memories end up being more treasured and we stop wanting to live "what if", and start wish we could live "rememeber when". I realize I am kind of babbling so I shall provide an example.
My parents sent out 4 packages filled with some of my old stuff. One of the things that was sent out was a wooden rattle type thing with a ring around the center. My grandpa lewis made the wooden thing for me when I was very young. I dont remember why or when he made it, I know I wasnt a baby anymore, perhaps it was a birthday or christmas present. What I do remember was the wood shop in which he made it, a dark building made of cinder block, that always smelled of that wood meets metal burning smell and More cigarettes. I remember how ominous my grandfather was to me at the time. He hobbled around his workshop sort of like a wise old Indian chief, and he always seemed very serious. The wood shop was poorly lit and very cluttered with all sorts of wood and projects and tools he worked on as well as various tv parts etc. It reminded me of a mad scientist's laboratory.
As all this imagery hit me I realized I was holding the wooden toy to my nose and inhaling the slight smell that came from that wood shop. It has been probably 25 years since I set foot in his wood shop, now I know it is gone due to some unfortunate circumstances. But that memory for good or bad is ingrained (haha ingrained its a wood joke) in me. And when I look back on it I feel pretty nostalgic. When I look at the pencil holder he made me I think of his impossibly gnarled hands thick and calloused from years of hard work. I remember how he reminded me of a tree sometimes by how tough his skin was and how rough his hands would feel. Even when he got older and infirm, his grip was still like iron. It was a different sore of iron, not like the iron I felt in my fathers hugs which brought a measure of safety and respect, but instead with him it was more you could feel how tough life had made him. I got all these feelings, emotions and thoughts from a sniff of a wooden toy and seeing the words "Handcrafted by Lewis W Bishop" on the bottom of the pencil holder. Some folks would look at my memories and think it was scary, but in truth now they are in a very special place called Remember when. A place that sometimes when I am feeling down and I look out those windows, I wish I could go.
As I drive down colorado blvd here, and see all the rolling farms, the cattle ranges and the familiar smells of growing corn and soybeans, I am forced to realized that I moved here to Dacono for many reasons. Most importantly, because inside of me there is still a boy riding his ugly blue schwinn 3 speed bike as fast as he can down spearsville road at 6pm at night, smelling all the earthy smells, feeling the summer heat with the gentle breeze and waiting for the next shaded dip in the road so I can build up speed to be hit with the next batch of new smells and sounds. Its all I can do to keep from letting go of the wheel and throwing my arms out again for that brief moment of superhuman flight and invulnerability you feel at that age riding your bike along on a nice summers day. Kind of funny, but I think in the end, those windows onto my memories are in some way better then my dreams could ever possibly be.

till next time