The last few weeks had been difficult. Seemed like one thing after another was just not working. But today? Today had been a good day. The sun was shining - though, to be fair, the sun is almost always shining in New Mexico - work was good. When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the place I worked, I had only two things on my mind: the weekend, and my drive home.
My drive home because there was construction by the highway and people are afraid to merge in construction in New Mexico. Though that sentence shouldn't bother me, it stays in my mind for an uncomfortably long time. It's a good day. I'm in a good mood. I don't want to fight people trying to merge, or worse, people feeling like they can zip to the front of the line and then force their way into the line. I don't want to have an accident.
On a whim, I decide to go by the volcanoes instead. It's a pretty day and no need to ruin it with traffic because people are such slaves to habit they won't leave the slopes of their home volcano even when it starts to smoke and rumble. I have to drive west for a while on old Route 66 and seeing those signs always makes me smile. I feel home here. My window is down. I'm taking the scenic route today, the weekend starting off right.
The speed limit quickly climbs to 55 because there's nothing out this way. Except, up ahead, there's a little strip mall area. The speed limit doesn't drop, but I ease off a bit. I'm in the right lane, I think, because I'm going to have to turn right up ahead a ways. While there's a bit of traffic now, it's light. Nothing like my usual route with the steady hum of traffic, the squealing of brakes and tires, the harsh changing of gears as the little sports cars shifted up and down, revving their engines loudly as they zipped around the bigger cars, jockeying for position.
And then, for a split second which did not, contrary to popular fancy, last any longer than a normal split second, there was another vehicle coming into the intersection, interrupting my perfectly green light. Someone else had already gone through the intersection. This light was not newly green. It had not turned yellow. It was green and that car, that car was not supposed—
The sounds were muffled, really. As if I were watching it on tv with the volume turned low. And it sounded like a movie, metal rending against metal, tires squealing, glass shattering. Something loud like a gunshot, both distant and immediate.
I remember that brief interlude of there's a car where there shouldn't be and then white cloth in my face and my sunglasses being torn off my face, but my regular glasses staying put, just somewhat askew. I knew there'd been a wreck and that this was no little fender bender. I tried to open my door, but it wouldn't budge. It was locked. It wouldn't unlock. How do you get out of a car if your door won't... the passenger door. Crawl over - oh hey! Look, there's smoke coming out of the vents, yeah, I didn't turn the car off yet. I sag back into my seat and turn the engine off, then start, wow, the car's kind of a mess, I really should have cleaned it out last weekend.
Standing in the bright sunlight. My sunglasses are still in the car, but I don't want to grab them. There's something I'm supposed - oh I should call 911. I think I started to do that when I was in the car, but I forgot how and then the engine and I couldn't get out. It's bright. I need to turn the contrast up and it takes me three or four tries to remember how to call 911.
The instant before the collision there was a white car where there shouldn't have been. And then I saw white. I turn around for the first time and look for the other car. It's a silver Jeep Liberty. It will be days before I realize that the split second of time merged vehicle and air bags into one scene because that faint image has a cloth seam in it. White airbags, silver Jeep Liberty, seam.
And I am talking to 911 even though someone driving by said someone else has already called 911. But you're supposed to call after a wreck and so that is what I do. I do what you're supposed to do.
And a man comes up behind me and raises up my left hand.
"You're bleeding," he says.
Oh. Huh. I didn't know. Doesn't look too bad. I twist up my arm so I can see it. Really, just a puncture. Another person driving by thrusts a wad of napkins out their passenger window. The man runs over to grab them and presses them to the puncture where blood is still dripping out onto the sidewalk. I blink at it. Someone's going to have to clean this up. It freaks people out when they see blood in public places. Ever since the 80s, people see a speck of blood and they just panic as if the HIV virus will leap through time and space and force its way down—
"Is anyone hurt?" the 911 operator is asking.
I realize I don't know which is not like me at all because I feel compelled to help people.
I look over at other car. The silver Jeep Liberty, not a white car at all. He is outside the silver Jeep Liberty and he won't look at me. But he is standing. He is walking, even with his cast on. So I guess he's hurt. No. He was hurt before. He's got a cast on, so he's better - geez, that must suck to be in a wreck when your left leg is already in a cast. Poor guy.
"I don't think so," I reply.
The nice man holding my arm above my head and pressing napkins into it so I stop bleeding all over the sidewalk and freaking everyone out says, "Tell them to send the paramedics anyway. Always tell them to send the paramedics."
"Oh. This man here says you should send them anyway."
The nice 911 operator continues talking and I'm really not sure what she's saying. I already told her where the wreck was and that this man in the silver Jeep Liberty must have turned left in front of me because I cannot think what else could have happened. It all happened so fast. Time did not slow down and come to a standstill. There was no moment of realization and then the molasses time where you know what to do and nothing is moving fast enough to avoid the inevitable and you just can't—
The police are here. The 911 operator says something and then I ask the officer if I can hang up on 911 now because they are here. I have to ask him twice and he just blinks at me and nods. "Yes. I'm here now."
He asks me something and the paramedics come up at the same time and the officer walks away before I can answer him. There are either a hundred or four paramedics and they are swarming around me like ants at a picnic. They keep asking me if I have diabetes or high blood pressure and I keep telling them no and then another one comes up and asks me the same damn thing do you have diabetes? What about high blood pressure? And I still say no and then one of them comes at me with the blood pressure cuff and the little pulse thing that goes on your finger and I wonder for a minute about why they didn't take my temperature, too.
I don't remember the exact number. It was something insane like 196 over 120, numbers I have never ever heard in my life in reference to my blood pressure. I'm not sure this paramedic, who suddenly looks like he's barely 18 has seen these numbers before because his eyes widen as if he's looking at a ghost and he blurts them out to another paramedic. The two on my left are hovering even more intensely although they don't step any closer. I think they're waiting for me to fall over.
Thank god for the older paramedic. "Do you have high blood pressure?" he asks for the 18th time.
He just looks at the young guy. "Check it again in a little bit." He meets my eyes, then looks at the boy again. Nods toward my car, the implied conversation seems to be "Look at the car, you moron. Your blood pressure would spike if you'd been in that, too." And he walks away.
Another paramedic comes over and I show her my left hand because I have just noticed it's about twice its normal size and already impressively purple. "Hey, my pinky is kind of cold."
She seems disinterested. "Do you have high blood pressure? Diabetes?"
I am bored of this question and quickly look down at my phone. I should probably call someone. But my partner is likely driving home right now and I don't want to call her when she's driving. And she'll probably freak out. It's not good to make someone freak out when they're driving. I text a coworker.
"Can u come pick me up?? Central and 98th"
"Sure. Everything ok?"
I look at my car and back to the phone. "Car totaled"
"Shit be right there. You ok?"
I suddenly realize that I haven't talked to the cops yet, really. I'm not sure if I can leave yet and I don't want my coworker to have to stand around and wait. "Mostly. Don't know if I can leave yet"
"On my way"
And I feel bad for asking her to leave work early. I look around. There's the cop. I fish around in my back pocket for my wallet. Pull out the driver's license and insurance card. What the HELL? I know the insurance is up-to-date, but the card's not. Dammit. Fuck.
I hand them to him, "I can't find the right insurance card. I know it's valid, but this is the last one, but all the information is correct and I always have the right card and I don't know why it's not in my wallet—"
He just smiles and nods and takes my information and heads over to his car.
The paramedic boy checks my blood pressure again. It's been maybe five minutes, but it's coming down. 160 over something stupid now. I officially refuse going to the hospital and have to sign the little computer saying I refused to come in. I am appalled at how crappy the signature is and wonder if the handwriting software is that bad or if the screen just isn't very sensitive. I hold out my hand. Rock steady.
I look around. The nice man who had held the napkins to my arm until the paramedics arrived walks back up and hands me his business card.
"Did you see the wreck?" I ask suddenly realizing I had no witnesses and this was not my fault.
"No. But here's my card. If the police give you any trouble, you give me a call anyway."
I thank him and he walks off.
I look at my car. Walk around to the driver's side. The tire is shredded. And the car is sagging. I bet the axle is broken. Definitely not drivable. And the driver's side door is crinkled and ... kind of pushed back. No wonder I couldn't get it open. The mirror is gone. Sitting inside the car. That's probably what hit my hand.
I look over at the silver Jeep Liberty. The wheel well is messed up on the driver's side, but it looks like it might be drivable. The driver is on the sidewalk. Staring at the ground. He won't look at me. The cop calls him over. A woman is standing next to me.
"Someone rear-ended him last week on his motorcycle," she says quietly.
"I wondered why he was in a cast. Is he okay?"
I begin getting the most important things out of my car so I'm ready when my coworker gets here. I don't want to make her wait. It's a beautiful day out now, but it was cold this morning and I hope I didn't drip any blood on my coat. It's a tan corduroy coat that I love and I'd be really pissed if there was blood on it. I drop it on the sidewalk next to my bag. I'm hoping there's still an empty bag in my trunk to get the rest of the stuff out. If the car is totaled, I need to get everything out.
There is a bag. The bag I made fun of a few months ago, a freebie from work. I shove everything from the glovebox in there. Clear out the arm rest container, the trunk. Pull out the two six-packs of Diet Pepsi I'd bought this morning. The kitty litter. I make a pile on the sidewalk and feel bad about taking up room on the sidewalk. And that I can't move my car further over. It's in the right lane, all the way through to the west side of the intersection, so at least the road is kind of clear.
"What happened?" the cop asks quietly.
"I was driving west," I said. "And then he turned left in front of me. But I had a green light. Other people had already gone through."
"Are there any witnesses?"
He shrugs and I pale. "He said the same thing."
I am incredibly relieved. What a rarity for someone to own their mistake. He still won't look at me. The top of his head seems attached to a string pulling his head down to the sidewalk. Waiting for the ground to swallow him whole.
I see my coworker and wave. I pick up some of the lighter things, my bag, the hiking sticks, my coat and she grabs the other bag, the Pepsi and the litter. I feel bad for making her carry heavy things and as I try to protest, she insists with a look at my left hand, swollen and purple.
I ask another officer if I can go. He's surprised, but amenable. He hands me the paperwork for the towing of my car. I walk away.
We pass the other driver. He cannot raise his head.
I put my arm gently on his shoulder and say softly, "I know we've both had a shitty day, but I want to thank you for telling the police the truth. That means a lot."
I walk away. I don't look back.
We put my things in my coworker's trunk. I check my arm. I don't want to bleed on her car, in her car. She's got a damn nice car. It's stopped bleeding. But I have dry blood all over my left arm. Huh. Didn't realize I bled that much. I mean there were drops on both airbags from where I climbed out and everything. And some on the sidewalk, big drops.
And the paramedics didn't even give me any gauze or anything. They didn't even just run some water over it. Huh. I thought they did that kind of thing.
We begin the drive north to the little 'burb where we live. Neither of us quite knows how to get there from this particular road, but she soon gets us back to the road we both normally take home. She drives the speed limit so carefully. She's a lot like me and knows when to talk a little and when to just let the silence sit comfortably around us. She offers me her water and even though I'm really thirsty all of a sudden, I tell her I'm fine. We talk a bit. I don't want to talk much about the wreck because I know she's had a few traumatic ones and I don't want to make her think about them. Except I can't really think of much else to talk about. There wasn't supposed to be a car there. And then there was and I'm okay. I mean, really, not all that much damage for being in a 55mph zone, if you think about it.
My poor car.
Everyone walked away, though.
At some point, I realize my partner is probably home by now and I call her. "I'm okay," I say. "But Y is bringing me home."
"I'm okay," I repeat and she interrupts with "I heard that, what happened?"
"The car is probably totaled. Someone hit me."
We eventually pull up to the last major intersection and I realize I am probably going to faint if I don't get some water. I really don't want—
"Actually, would you mind if I have a sip of water after all?" I'm pretty sure if I pass out in her car, she will freak and take me to the hospital.
"Of course, go ahead."
I take a long drink. And then another. I don't feel so much like I'm going to faint any more. It's kind of a near thing, but I'm good now. I give her plenty of warning for each turn in my twisty little neighbourhood. And then I apologize because I'm quite sure the dogs are going to be loud, obnoxious little brats. They get cranky when I get home late plus they won't be expecting company.
And they are just incredibly loud. You'd think they were German Shepherds instead of miniature dachshunds. We get everything inside, I apologize for the state of the house, for the dogs' behaviour and then she's leaving. I feel bad. Damn dogs are so obnoxious, ruining the one time she's come over. My partner scurries me into the bathroom to look at my wounds, ready with the implements of cleaning, disinfecting and bandaging.
I look in the mirror. No black eyes from the airbag. My face looks fine. It's just my left arm, I think.
The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things that you get ashamed of because words diminish them—words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size they they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it?
The bruising will come later.
The first four paragraphs each have a quote or near quote from a different book. The next-to-last paragraph is a quote from a fifth book. The quote in the first paragraph came to me out of the blue and I just went with it. Then I thought it was a kind of fun thing and kept it up for the next couple of paragraphs ... and then I got into the piece I was writing and went with the flow until the last quote also popped into my head. Sometimes life just works that way. Be shocked if anyone can guess which five books.... :)
Posted by Red Monkey at 6:01 PM
Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. |
So, Scout has used a little cat carrier for years as her kennel and loved it. But her back is not great and she was starting to balk at having to duck into it to go in. (She could stand inside, but the doorway was short.)
The real problem ... is that kennels are ugly ... and this needed to go in the living room. I've seen some kennel-tables for sale, but they seem to be $200-$300 and they really don't match our decor at ALL. So I decided to make my own. I didn't think about doing a step-by-step originally, so I don't have a ton of pictures, but several folks on Twitter asked, so I'll do my best to describe it.
First off, I snagged this kennel from Amazon. (Not an affiliate link.) So that's about $30. Then I picked up 2 packs of 4' wainscoting from Lowes and 2 square lengths of poplar.
I measured the exterior of the kennel longwise, making sure to find the longest spot. This kennel has some small protrusions and if this was going to work, I had to make sure I took that into account as well. To make sure I'd made this with enough clearance, I added another 1/4" to length. I measured the back of the kennel the same way.
I measured the height the same way as well. I wanted those poles to be a tad taller than the kennel itself. The idea is that you'll have four square poles on the inside of the structure, boards on the outside creating the wall and then a "ceiling" or tabletop that rests on top of the poles with the sideboards covering up its edge.
So, after measuring the kennel height, I cut the square poplar poles. The next step was to cut at least 4 of the long side pieces and two of the short side (the back). Don't think about the table top just yet.
If you've not worked with wood much, this next part is tricky and requires patience and probably a little help to keep things balanced as you work.
On a level surface, lay two of the poles down. Take one of the pieces of wainscoting, square it up carefully with the edge of the pole and the bottom of the pole and drill a pilot hole through wainscoting and into the pole. You MUST drill a pilot hole first or your wainscoting piece will split and crack. Then screw the wainscoting into the pole. It's probably moved now, so square it up again ... and then square up the other side with the other pole. Drill a pilot hole and screw that side into that pole.
Repeat with another long wainscoting piece and the other two poles.
Now it's tricky. Stand both of those structures up - if you have a friend who can hold them steady, that's even better. Take one of the back pieces and square it up with one of the structures. Drill a pilot hole and then screw that piece in. Do the same with the other side and the other structure. At this point, it's VERY unstable as it will pivot around those screws. The next step will stabilize things.
Now, the wainscoting I bought is tongue-in-groove which means that I slid the next piece into the first piece. Drill pilot holes (just like before, just one screw on each end) and screw that in. Do the same on the second long side and then the same on the back.
The structure is mostly stable at this point.
Now, for the third level, I did not screw in one long side and the back piece. Depending on how you cut the boards, you can slide this piece in and out, creating a "window" that can be opened or closed for ventilation (see the last picture below). Or, you can continue with the pilot holes and screwing in the wainscoting. For the fourth board on each side, I screwed those boards in.
At this point, I got a large piece of kraft paper and made a pattern of the top, paying special care to keep the back of the table as accurate as I could. Then I traced that pattern onto a piece of 1" thick plywood that I had in the garage.
Next, I placed the plywood on the structure and squared it up, drilled a pilot hole through the plywood and into the poplar pole in each corner, screwed it in, countersinking the screw. (If you're not a woodworker, that just means getting the screw's head part way down so it's not raised above the plywood.)
After that, I cut two more long sides and one back side. I slid each one into place, then took a pencil and drew a line to see where to cut. I wanted the plywood dropped down into the sides of the table rather than on top. After that was cut, again with the pilot holes and screwing those planks in.
Sand it until it's nice and smooth, fill in any gaps with a stainable wood putty and then, last up - a couple of coats of stain. And voila! Kennel table!
Scout seems quite happy with it. It cost about $60 - half of that wood and half of that the new kennel itself. The table is stained to match our decor and the wainscoting is a nice match to our style as well. (The pictures don't show it well - bad lighting, but the colour of the stain matches that bit of wood on the wall to the left - it's just got some more gloss on it than the wall and reflected light enough to make it look white instead of stained.)
The high cost of health care is sooooo in the news lately. As if this is suddenly some kind of revelation. I saw a headline and a tweet today that claims - as if this is news to anyone in the real world - an ER visit costs more than a month's rent.
No shit, Sherlock. Where have you been for the last 5-10 years (at a minimum), Captain Obvious?
And the answer I've heard repeatedly from well-intentioned, well-off folk with fancy insurance benefits is a saccharine, "Can you really put a price on your health?"
As if that is the end-all, be-all of health care. You SHOULD pay a lot because it's obviously WORTH a lot.
Yet these are the same assholes who think education is over-funded and under-performing. But can you really put a price on education?
Particularly when we are asking teachers to do more and more with less and less. When we insist they don't need much money because they love what they do and besides, they only work 9 months of the year. (They don't, by the way, only work for 9 months. They just spend 9 months with your kids.)
And with all of that free time, you know, they should take more classes so they can get better at their job. What? Well of course we shouldn't pay for that through taxes. They can pay for it. In fact, they can pay for school supplies, too. I mean, after all, it was their bright idea to need crayons and glue and paper. Ridiculous to make regular people pay for that artsy-fartsy crap.
Back to health care. Don't you know that doctors have even more debt than teachers do? I mean they go to school WAY longer and med school is even more expensive. We SHOULD pay them more so they can pay their debt off faster and then go hit the links.
And you know what else? The days of the old country doctor are over. Maybe back in the late 1800s a doctor could afford to spend some time with a client and really puzzle out what's wrong, but that's only because towns were small and those doctors didn't have good business managers to make this work the American way - show me the money, baby. Screw Grand Junction, Colorado.
No, today, you need a good business manager to make sure that the doctor doesn't spend more than 15 minutes with any one client. There's staff to pay, you know.
Not all doctors believe this, of course. Not all business managers for doctors are soulless money-grubbers, either.
But what I'm experiencing more and more is exactly those scenarios. Complete disdain for teachers from preschool through university and complete kowtowing to doctors despite their shorter office visits. And the doctors are screwed because they have to kowtow to the insurance "collectives" in their area because no one can afford to go without the health insurance.
So who is running our health care system? First, we have no "system" - we have a chaos of capitalism. Beyond that, as far as I can tell, it's the health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies. And despite noises about how much they give away or provide at a lower cost, it quite often does NOT reach the people it needs to reach.
For example, in 2001, if I had not just received health insurance the previous September, I would not have received the bone marrow transplant I needed. There was no way I could have gathered the money for the 18 day hospital stay, much less any of the treatment. I was damned lucky in 1999 when a semi-retired doctor at a "doc-in-the-box" clinic realized I was not just a little sick again. I was lucky that I was assigned to a compassionate doctor who treated me knowing damn good and well that I would not be able to pay my medical bills. If the 1999 doctor had insisted on payment up front for each treatment, I would have died. I never would have gone in for the next round of chemo. And the bone marrow transplant? They wouldn't even TALK to me at the hospital until they not only found out what insurance I had, but they had spoken with them and made sure that I was covered.
If I hadn't been incredibly lucky, I would be dead right now.
And who is running our education system?
No one. There is no system for education either. There's a loose conglomerate of state minimums which are a constantly moving target. And even that changes from school system to school system and even smaller, from school to school.
If you know the Meyers-Briggs test, I am an INTJ. I mention this because INTJs are referred to as system builders. I began puzzling out school systems, designing my own, in junior high. How can you balance what needs to happen (learning particular skills, facts or ways of thinking) with developmental stages, with shifting cultural norms, with different styles of learning ... and doing this with a minimum of 30 kids who are diverse and wildly different in an hour?
You sure can't do it through standardized testing of students or teachers. Not even standardized observation of the teacher in the classroom tells a true picture.
When I was in high school, our district had begun this classroom observation crap. What happened is that the best teachers had a "reserve" lesson plan that they practiced at home and whipped out on the day of the observation because they wanted to do well. It was a lesson plan that hit everything they were to be evaluated on.
You know what the shitty teachers did? The same bullshit they did every day except they weren't blatantly rude to us.
So it disrupted the learning process in classes with good teachers, with conscientious and diligent teachers, the ones who were creative and effective ... and did not a damn thing in the other classrooms.
You cannot actually standardize good teaching.
There are some shitty teachers out there. I can rattle off name after name in my own experience. But I can also rattle off a bunch who truly cared, who were good, who tried. Some of them I didn't mesh with, but they were still good teachers. Mrs. Scarr was a darn good government teacher, but she and I clashed more than once and quite frankly, she was a jackass to me. But her teaching was good even if her "bedside manner," so to speak, was not. Mrs. Deterly, on the other hand, was both a jackass and a horrible teacher. I know from extremely painful experience that whilst some of my students loved my class (inasmuch as they're going to love a required freshmen writing class), but some of them consider me a Mrs. Scarr or worse, a Mrs. Deterly and they never even saw the effort I put into making that class helpful, valuable and fun. (And yes, thanks for noticing. I did NOT use the Oxford comma there because I find it ridiculously unnecessary - so maybe that did make me a horrible writing teacher after all.)
And I think that much of our current attitude toward teachers comes from people remembering their worst teachers and forgetting the good ones. I think we're letting the bad experiences overshadow the good so much that as a culture, we're painting an entire profession with tar and feathers.
Despite being a system builder, I don't have all the answers to either health care or education.
But I do know that it's time to stop tearing each other apart. It's time to stop blaming doctors for being money-grubbers and teachers for being idiots.
I truly believe that if we continue to go down the path that we are on, continue to tear each other to shreds, continue to believe only "X is right and if you don't like it, you can leave" ...
if we continue to divide ourselves into smaller and smaller camps, we will implode every bit as much as the Soviet Union did.
Democracy should not be about Republican or Democrat. It should not be Tea Party extremism.
We should be working together to find the compromises that we hate the least. And the more we work together to find those compromises, the less we'll hate them.
And the more we stand our ground and insist on getting exactly what we want...
...well, the more divided we'll become.
United we stand
Divided we fall.
It really is as easy as that. Let's please, please find ways to work together. To take responsibility for things larger than our selves, to agree to take on responsibility for each other without turning everything into an us and them situation.
Let's find some middle ground again and build outward from there.
What's real here and what's not? Eric Hansen asks regarding the Manti Te'o about the hoax or scam regarding his girlfriend.
I'm not really sure why it's national news that a college football star might have manufactured a girlfriend story and then manufactured her death. Or maybe he was scammed into it.
I'm not really sure why whether or not Mark McGwire, Jose Conseco, Alex Rodriguez used steroids to achieve great things in baseball is news. Or why it's news that Lance Armstrong doped, but Armstrong's and Te'o's stories have hit at the same time and it seems that everyone is talking about it.
We are none of us perfect and yet we are often pushed hard to be perfect. And the more you are in the bright hot spotlight of celebrity in this country, the more you are expected to be perfect and the more scrutinized your life becomes.
Why would Te'o manufacture a girlfriend? Maybe because at Notre Dame it's expected that a football player has at least one girl. Maybe he wasn't ready for a girlfriend and simply started saying he had a girl back home. But then people want details. And you either keep the lie going or say you broke up. And when you're getting ready to be under more scrutiny for going into the NFL ... well, you have to end it because eventually someone is going to figure out she doesn't exist. Your grandmother just died of cancer and in the heat of an interview where you're already sad and not at your best, you blurt out that the fictitious girl also died. You've gotten out of the innocent little white lie that got you through school. It's all good now, right?
This is completely a made-up story on my part. I'm not saying this is what went through Te'o's mind or that this is what happened. I'm trying to show how something innocent turns into a trap. I'm trying to show how easily we let ourselves be trapped by caring too much what others think of us. (And having been to ND for grad school and then teaching there for 9 years, I can tell you, there is an INTENSE pressure to fit in at that school. There's not much room for people who are different in any way.)
Now. Another totally made-up story.
You're the kid of a single mom. Pretty good kid, but you've got a lot of time on your hands. You live in the 'burbs where you're looked down on because you don't have a ton of money. Damn yuppie kids always better than everyone else. You start racing your bike and doing well. Suddenly you're special. You work harder.
Grow to adulthood, now riding that bike for a living. You're good, but you're one of the pack. Your determination and hard work only takes you so far. But you have to prove yourself.
And then you get cancer. A really serious cancer with low survival rates. And as if that weren't enough, it's the kind of cancer that eats at your identity. You screw up everything you've learned about hard work and determination and NOT giving in ... and you kick that cancer squarely in the ass.
And you're determined to kick that damned race that you were all right at as well. There's got to be a way to get that licked as well. After all, you've just kicked cancer. You can do this if you work.
You just need a little help.
Again with the traps we walk ourselves into. And if you've walked into those traps because you want to prove yourself or fit in somehow ... you are so, so trapped. Because to admit that you lied or cheated or were wrong is to admit that you don't fit in. That you're not part of that group. And no matter how strongly you deny wanting to be one of the fellas ... everyone suddenly knows that's all you ever wanted.
And you're outcast.
It's no good saying, "Oh, well, I would never do that." You're not in the same position those people were with the same baggage and the same pressures.
Believe me, I'm not saying the people in my made-up scenarios made the right choices. But I'm calling the rest of us out on this public anger and shaming of people who have proven they are only human.
Who are we to be angry at someone so broken or scared that they continued lying for 10 years, building themselves a fictional life to show just how innocent and "one of the regular folk" they were?
It's a fiction we tell ourselves that we don't do the exact same damn thing. We may not take it to the same levels, length of time, but most people have some skeleton in the closet they've perpetuated.
We tell ourselves when we leave the house in the morning that our house and our stuff is secure. It's a fiction we tell ourselves because we must. But we know, at the very same time, that windows are vulnerable, doors can be kicked in ... planes can fall from the sky and open up us.
But we also cannot live in constant fear. It's a fiction we tell ourselves in order to keep moving. That's okay and in fact, I think it's necessary to live a healthy life.
These folks in my made-up stories simply took the fictions they told themselves ... and us ... to a different level.
They may have lacked integrity in our eyes. But it was a fiction they needed.
And who are we to cast stones?
They are only human. We are fallible.
Let it go.
Posted by Red Monkey at 6:47 AM
Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. |
I wrote a story once where the main character was talking about childhood heroes. Max had grown up reading those storybook American Biographies and latched onto the fictional histories.
...(well, I wanted to be like [Kit Carson] 'til I found out he was responsible for the Navajo's Long Walk, then I'se just mad), or or how I'd like to be ole Walt Disney (well, okay, bad example, but I didn't know then that he was some kind of C.I.A. or F.B.I. spy and a McCarthy-ite to boot), or Kermit the Frog (there, see, I found one that is still good and if you know somethin' 'bout him I don't, I don't even wanna hear it).
If there was something about Jim Henson, Max - and I - didn't want to know anything about it. Leave me one hero.
People are complex. We don't live in a vacuum and we aren't as clearcut as most fiction leads us to believe. We get backed into corners or sleep-deprived or we believe the webs other people weave for us and we make poor choices. We get lost in a moment and make choices we don't think we can ever back out of, ever undo. Choices, which, when brought out into bright sunlight, we can't even fathom how we would EVER make that choice.
However naive or stupid or blind or plain dumb this makes me - I don't want to know about Lance. And I still wear my Livestrong bracelet.
I grew up primarily in Arlington, Texas, but Austin was where I started school and was my heart-home for years. Arlington and Plano had a lot in common. Lots of Texas yuppies. I didn't fit in any more than Lance fit in. Mom started telling me about this kid, just about my age, who was doing all this stuff on his bike. And why wasn't I like that?
Of course, that was because I wasn't allowed to ride my bike more than a mile or so from home, but that's another discussion completely.
By college, I'd forgotten about him. And then he got cancer. And after that, he started winning. And then I got cancer. And I wound up in the same hospital he'd been in. A colleague lent me It's Not About the Bike.
Lance and I? We still kicked cancer's arse. Grew up a town over w/damn yuppies where we didn't fit in. Went to same hospital for cancer.
Anything else? I don't wanna know. I just don't. He's still the guy who worked harder than any other cyclist, practicing longer hours, faster, up higher mountains weeks before anyone else.
He worked hard. Smashed cancer. Started Livestrong.
His work ethic is something I admire.
And beyond that ... I don't wanna know what corners he felt he'd been backed into. What temptation he could no longer turn down.
So don't tell me what he's said now. I'm weaving a fiction of my own, a plot that helps me believe what I need to believe: that an underdog from Yuppieville, Texas, can, with great determination and a lot of work, ride to the top of the world and live strong, live free.
We have millions of stories about how the mighty fall, how they're "only" human.
I choose a story to inspire me instead of remind me how fallible we all are.
I will not cast stones because we all live in glass houses.
Posted by Red Monkey at 6:27 AM
Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. |