Cutting Grass in the Cemetery

Who decided you were good enough to be cutting grass in the cemetery? And who decided you were bad enough to be in prison? All it really takes is the unanimous decision of twelve of the living and any one of us could be holding the weed eater. 

And what does is feel like to be in an outside that is not barb wired, but still among the dead? To labor like a free man and wake up in a locked closet? All it really takes is a bad decision, a choice, a friend who robs the Taco Bell while you sit idly in the car. 

I see your head turn as I drive by, air conditioner on, radio low. Do you see me or see through me? Can you allow yourself to think about it without diving face first into the freshly dug grave? All it really takes is one step in the wrong direction. 

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Buy Their Drinks: Notes to My Eighteen Year-Old Self

You are not terribly clever, although you may one day be. Today is not that day, so enjoy being this age.

No one cares what you think about anything, unless you agree with them, and then you are clever. 

Safety is a lie we tell ourselves to keep our blood pressure low. You are not safe and neither is anyone else. 

She is not worth your time and you are not worth hers. Work on being alone until you’re not. 

Over the next eighteen years the things you believe will fall apart, rebuild, and fall apart again. 

The sooner you become comfortable with this, the less of an asshole you’ll be. You don’t have a truth franchise. 

The list of reasons to drive off a bridge will only grow longer if that’s all you write down. 

Once you’ve lived twice as long as you already have, you’ll be glad you didn’t give up. 

If you’re lucky, a few other people will be glad you didn’t either. These people are good. Buy their drinks. 

This I (Don’t) Know

I don’t know much of anything. There are certainly some things I believe, and some things I feel, but not a whole lot that I can claim to know. Without question there are things that I experience, and when that experience is consistently observed, then that may be as good as knowing gets for me. I’m simultaneously jealous and suspicious of people who claim to know a lot of things that I think are unknowable. I think they’ve unintentionally mixed up knowledge with belief, and that’s easy to do. We use those words almost interchangeably, but they are not the same. 

Getting comfortable with not knowing much is tricky. I’m walking around with access to all of the world’s information in my pocket. And at least half the time I’m using that device to read Deadspin or browse Instagram. It’s not that those activities are necessarily stupid, but maybe it’s a little bit like asking the librarian if they have any comic books. All the information I could ask for is at my fingertips and, therefore, it’s easier to take for granted. We all do it. 

Here’s the deal, though: my monkey brain likes certainty. Believing that I know something – perhaps especially if I believe I know something that not everyone else knows – is comforting and empowering. Admitting that I don’t know almost feels like weakness. Here’s a example: what happens when I die? If you’d asked me that in the first thirty years of my life I would have known the answer. Now I don’t have a clue. Not a damn clue. I’ll either figure it out one day or I won’t. I don’t have much control over it now. I’m familiar with a lot of the constructs. I’ve heard what quite a few people think. But me? Yeah…I don’t know. And I don’t think anyone else knows either. We should all be okay with that. 

Being a parent to three inquisitive kids makes not knowing a real pain in the ass sometimes. I want to know, either for their sakes or for my own ego, but neither of those motivations is entirely helpful. I’m more inclined to think they’re better served – now and in the future – by hearing their dad confess to simply not knowing rather than feeding them a line that will eventually crumble. And by saying those words, “I don’t know,” we can start a discussion. By doing that I haven’t just dumped a bunch of my ideas on them, I’ve invited them into the conversation. And in that conversation, if we’re lucky, maybe we’ll stumble into a few things we can know. Like life can be hard sometimes. Like we belong to one another. And like right now, this moment, is all we have and it’ll be gone before we know it. 

The Hearse Graveyard

Driving by you know you have to go back. Go back on a Saturday when the people who work there are gone. 

Slip into the parking lot as casually as you can. You can always say you were lost, like a child. 

Headlights busted by rowdy youth. Rowdy youth whose great-greats rode in the back. 

Tires bald then brittle. Then brittle creeps up the doors and windows, the hood and roof. 

There was a day when they shined. They shined and carried the brittle, bald departed one last time. 

Rides of dignity with the left behind dressed in jet black. Jet black like the paint long since faded. 

But who buries the cars that buried the people? The people that built the cars are dead.

A Celtic Vow of Friendship 

I don’t know the history of this vow, when it was first spoken or written down, but it has the distinct ring of truth. Liz Gilbert recently shared some of these words while interviewing Rob Bell, and I was immediately struck by the idea of not holding on to a cherished or preferred outcome. How often do I do that? Or worse, how often do I try to influence the outcome to fit my agenda? We can imagine what letting go of that would look like, and it’s equal parts terrifying and freeing. The piece of me that’s terrified is the one that likes control way too much. The rest of me realizes that it would actually create more peace, both for me and the people I call friends. One way chokes the life and the other gives life space to breathe. Anyway, these six lines say it better than I can. Enjoy this. 

I honor your path. 

I bring an unprotected heart to our meeting place. 

I drink from your well. 

I hold no cherished outcome. 

I will not negotiate by withholding. 

I am not subject to disappointment.