Bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh. Bleh and bleh, worry and fear, sad and mad, shame and guilt and regret. And yet— What if? I have the power to rewrite my story. What if? My words and thoughts have creative power to transform. What if? I think on noble things: health, wealth, and love, faith and gratitude, peace and hope and joy. What if I believe? Life is good and generous, and miracles are in motion beyond my wildest dreams. What if I say? Thank you, thank you, thank you.
June has been my least fruitful writing month in years. With bigger priorities, I didn’t care to write about bleh and couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for fluff.
Then, a week ago, I attended an online workshop led by my former student Monique Mitchell.
Monique was my student in sophomore English back in 2007. I’m not sure I realized at the time that she had moved from California to Texas to live with her aunt, but I remember her as a gifted writer. We just connected and stayed connected. I never suspected she almost failed her freshman year.
Three years ago, Monique was living in LA, working for a literary organization, freelancing, and teaching writing workshops. She invited me to lunch at the airport Marriott in Houston, where she was guest speaking at a conference. In the hotel lobby, she oozed good vibes and embraced me with love. In the hotel restaurant, she told me how a job opportunity had presented itself in Ghana. She planned on moving soon. We spoke about our wildest dreams, the power of words, and self-limiting beliefs.
As we parted ways that day, she said, “The world needs your voice,” and she told me she loved me. I said it back. Speaking of powerful words and wildest dreams, I suddenly found myself pursuing a master’s degree in creative writing.
While scrolling Instagram not long ago, I saw that Monique has returned to LA. She had created an online workshop called “Into Existence,” a beginner’s course to speaking your dream life into being. Needing inspiration for my dream life, I signed up.
Within the first six minutes of the course, Monique said so much that resonated. I wrote down these words:
“Life is a reflection of my beliefs. It’s a reflection of my language, and it’s a reflection of my choices.”Monique Mitchell
This idea isn’t new to me. My dad always said, “Crystal, you can choose your attitude.” And sometime along the way I discovered Dr. Wayne Dyer’s teaching.
For years, I’ve said, “You can choose hope or choose despair, and who would choose despair?” Then that time after a hurricane flooded my home, I settled on a formula for life:
Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope.
But for the last year or so, after watching several of my loved ones suffer, I’ve felt justified in my anger toward God. Yes, things have gone my way, but I had chosen to wallow in worry and fear and anger and sadness. At the end of the workshop, I realized the need to uproot my toxic thoughts and plant some healthy ones—like a renewed faith and gratitude and peace and hope.
A week passed and so did my father-in-law. He was the best dad and grandpa, kind and generous, an amazing golfer and a gifted joke-teller. Tommy fought the good fight and finished the race. Cancer sucks, and of course, I’m sad, especially for my family. Still, I’m thankful he no longer suffers. That feeling in my heart, the one that catches in my throat, means I loved him. And love is life, life is love, if we’re lucky.
Anyway, God, I’m sorry about being so angry for so long. Please forgive me and help me with that. And thanks for welcoming Tommy home. ❤️ P. S. Thanks also for your words in Jeremiah 29:11. “‘I have plans to prosper you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” I’m open to receiving miracles beyond my wildest imagination.
A week ago last Thursday, I awoke not to the sound of an alarm, though I am quite alarmed. I awoke to the sound of a person with intestinal issues in the bathroom down the hall, not a new sound, instead a very familiar sound that has persisted months too long unchecked. How does one insist that another adult sees a doctor when that adult is averse to seeing doctors? I suppose one could wait for another health issue to arise, like blindness.
And so that is how I finally insisted that my thirty-two-year-old son see a doctor, or at least let the doctor see him. After having chicken pox last summer and refusing medical attention then, my son has experienced hearing loss, chronic bowel issues, a fungal infection, and eyesight loss. Last Monday, I accompanied him to an appointment with a general practitioner, who referred us to five more doctors, including a psychiatrist. I was able to schedule appointments with the ophthalmologist and the dermatologist within the month of June, the gastroenterologist for July, the ENT for August, but for a psychiatrist, we are currently on a twelve-month waiting list. I literally laughed out loud on the phone when the scheduling assistant disclosed the timeline. This is just one of many problems in the US for seeking mental health help.
So, on the first day of my summer vacation, I headed to the island for fish tacos and fresh air, the sun and the sand and the sea. The waves rolled in and retreated, rolled in and retreated. And that is life. Situations come and go. We inhale and exhale. We live and die. Everything is a cycle. In four hours, I drove there and home, and I promised myself another trip tomorrow, four hours, there and home.
I didn’t really know him.
“The peacock does most of his serious strutting in the spring and summer when he has a full tail to do it with. Usually he begins shortly after breakfast, struts for several hours, desists in the heat of the day, and begins again in the late afternoon.”Flannery O’Connor, “The King of the Birds”
I spotted Pico back in March. He was one magnificent bird dressed in emerald green and royal blue, turquoise and purple. All alone in the world.
I knew nothing about him, but I wanted to. Was he a pet? Did he escape? Did he have a name? I’ll never know. Months before that first encounter, my friend and neighbor Stan had mentioned peacocks in the neighborhood. Then sure enough, I spotted him outside my bedroom window, scrambled for my shoes, and grabbed my phone for documentation.
Later at school, I told my students about our neighborhood peacock. They said Houston was known for peacock populations. Who knew? I Googled their claim, and it’s true. This one seemed to be a loner. I spotted him a second time. And a third. And a fourth. I snapped more photos, shot some videos, and admired him from afar. I was smitten. Only once did he speak. Was it a cry? I backed away.
“At night these calls take on a minor key and the air for miles around is charged with them.”Flannery O’Connor, “The King of the Birds”
Once you hear a peacock’s voice, you’ll recognize it whether you see him or not. But the calls stopped.
He was gorgeous. No reason to die.
Stan told my husband that someone ran the peacock down in cold blood. Vehicular homicide. I don’t know how Stan knew. I want to believe it’s not true. How could anyone be so cruel? So sadistic? I’ll never know.
My heart reeled at the news. He deserved better. At least, a name. So, I named him Pico. In my mind, he flew in from Puerto Rico. RIP, you handsome King of the Birds.
Once upon a time, I was detained by airport security. Later I wrote about the ecstasy of the pat down and submitted the story to a literary magazine called Airplane Reading. Click the link to read if you please and thank you! Happy April!
I can’t begin to explain this week. Right now it sounds like—and then _____ and then _____ and then _____ , but I don’t have any conclusions. Nobody wants to read a story without a conclusion.
And then, this morning started with a peacock at my house. Life is stranger than fiction.
Happy weekend, everybody!
…Should I? Shouldn’t I?
For the last however-many months, these thoughts were mine.
My last time was November 2019. The following January, I started school as a student again. I paid my tuition and embraced frugality. Then suddenly, COVID and months later COVID hair. This is my chance, I thought, to be unapologetically me. My hair grew wild—the silver ones shone.
Society sells at every turn, targets women to buy, and preys on our looks, the ones ever-so-solidly attached to our egos. Why don’t men run to the salons in throngs to cover their aging hairs? A man’s silver is distinguished. The societal discrepancy drives me nuts. I’m distinguished, too! I wanted to scream. See my silver hairs! I’ve earned them. Every. Single. One.
Finally, I graduated and earned an income once more. Suddenly, I confronted my masked face each day in the teachers’ restroom mirror and concluded the upper half of my face works best in tandem with the rest. While masked, I zeroed in on my eyes—one brow drooped, both had bags—fine lines etched my forehead…the mousy brown hairs dulled my prized silver.
Should I? Shouldn’t I? Should I? Shouldn’t I?
It was the Wednesday before Valentine’s Day when I had a dental appointment and a day off from teaching. With some extra time on my hands, I caved, dialed a stylist, and made my appointment.
I sat in a swivel chair before a large mirror and consulted with José. After some back and forth, he said, “I’m excited,” and left to mix my color. His enthusiasm contagious, I had a good feeling. Then, row by row, he brushed in highlights and lowlights and wrapped my hair in foil. There was no turning back.
And you know what? I left the salon feeling fantastic. I think that’s okay.
I wished for insight in my year-end reflection. Especially since today is my birthday. I should now have the wisdom of an official 52-year-old. Upon pondering, however, I could only take so much of 2021. In some ways, it was the best of times. A completed graduate degree, a new job I love, a trip across the border to the beach. In other ways, it was the worst of times. Nothing I care to rehash. In fact, there’s no better time than a new year or a birthday to let bygones be bygones and let it go. A gift to myself. Peace. I Believe our struggles strengthen us. I suppose that’s my 2021 takeaway. Strength. Perseverance. I made it. You did, too. As for 2022, I choose Hope. Maybe we’ll all be surprised.
First, go to an art supply store and buy yourself some Prismacolor Premier colored pencils. Truth be told, I bought some years ago for my son, and when they went unused, I decided to color. Last coloring extravaganza—2016ish. The Prismacolor Premiers haven’t aged a day.
I suppose, mindfulness was my goal. I didn’t put that much thought into pulling the coloring book and colored pencils from the drawer of my nightstand. My brain was locked and loaded, practically shot, with back to school info. and all the details of a brand new job and 200+ new names. I teach high school, and I had taken a two-year sabbatical since the last time I stepped into my own classroom. My brain is two years older. Technology is ever changing.
I started in the center of a rather intricate design, the first page of the book. Suddenly, there was no past. No future. Just picking colors. Sharpening pencils as needed. Pressing harder for effect. An occasional thought snuck in to guilt me: Shouldn’t you be going through the mail on the kitchen table? When was the last time you mopped? But there was a calm satisfaction in my attention to pattern and juxtaposition of hue.
My husband looked on. “Can I have a turn?” he said. Over the course of thirty two years, not once had we colored together. But how could I deny him my new-found peace of mind? I passed the book and the tin box of Prismacolors. And I watched as he wrestled over his choices. I bit my tongue when I would’ve chosen differently. I smiled instead. Sometimes in marriage a wife or husband must relinquish control. He colored a particular pattern and passed it all back to me. My turn. His turn. My turn. His turn. Jeep’s Blues played in the background. In this way we passed a Saturday.
And perhaps a Sunday.
And another Saturday.
And perhaps another Sunday.
Walk with me
through my new school.
Climb with me.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”Martin Luther King, Jr.