A Life Less Ordinary Part I: The Shadowboxer

Dim lights hang in the large gymnasium. Shadows creep in the corners of the darkened building where boxing bags and a boxing ring are the only things that occupy the space between the light and darkness. A man walks slowly through the open space and heads toward a wall. The light reveals, against the wall, a darkened figure. The individual’s dark doppelganger stands before him. The shadow faces him, waiting to mock his movements.

The man rounds out his shoulders and lifts his arms; fists clenched.

He reflects on what has been going on his life as everything around him fades.

His feet begin to shift from heel to toe as he bounces from left foot to right.

He thinks of how powerless he has felt as the winds of life sweep through his concrete platform which he builds up.

Jab.

He thinks of what was, what is, and the uncertainty of what will be.

Uppercut.

His doppelganger mocks every movement.

He thinks about the loss of the support system he had and what will come. What will come?

He dips below as his shadow throws a right cross, mirroring his.

He thinks about his own isolation as he begins to curl up in an all too familiar cocoon of solitude. The quiet depths of solitude that echo strange sounds of the living person high above. The person who calls out for the one who journeyed so deep into the canyon as not to be seen. The search exhausts him.

He begins a flurry of uppercuts at his opponent who reflects his.

He thinks of his mother as she suffers from physical and emotion pain. He hears her cries of exasperation as she regrets not doing more and seeing more. He hears her worries of the future. He hears her. It seeps into his thoughts and changes his view as it skews to where her pain flows.

Jab.

Left.

Left.

Right.

Uppercut.

Uppercut.

Left.

Left.

Right.

Left.

Right.

He lets those thoughts fade away as he comes to the realization that this is not something he can control. He realizes that there is only one way that this will all fade. It is the combination of time and faith. It is a time of waiting for movement. Waiting for the chance to live a life that is the one he shapes and not the one he is thrust into by the ever changing winds of fate. The chance to live a life less ordinary. Waiting for chance.

He stops his assault on his doppelganger as he breaths the stinging needles from his lungs and his chest rises and falls rapidly. He looks at the shadow figure and realizes that his opponent is what he always feared it was.

The inevitable.

-Chris

Among Beasts

Artist: Benjamin Thompson
Artist: Benjamin Thompson

Hey Gang!

If I have trouble finding my way to this computer to type out a story, it is usually not from writer’s block. No, rarely is that the case. Offline I probably say too much and I try not to bore you with so many of those terrible details. I also try to stay away from topics that are taboo to speak of. Those things that make us grip our knees a bit harder when someone brings the topic up. I must ask you to please begin gripping at this time.

I was walking around a store back home a few weeks ago and I remember I was just meandering through each aisle. Never really checking on anything; just observing. I truly enjoy those minutes where you are almost oblivious to your surroundings. You are just present. Well, I remember walking down the aisle and something happened that hasn’t happened to me in a long time. I saw the woman in front of me take her bag and shift it from the side of her where the bag was facing me and then to the other side of her. I saw her knuckles create a death grip around the strap as she walked sure-footedly past me at a brisk pace.

She saw me and thought, “There is a guy that is going to rip my purse from my shoulder and run through this large department store with it, making a quick getaway.”

Her irrationality was insulting. I wasn’t dressed in a manner befitting whatever stereotype she probably held. I had nothing on my head but glasses. Yet, to her, I looked as if I were going to snatch her purse.

I would like to say this hasn’t happened before but it has. The cause or why they believe that this would happen is not the issue for me. The issue is what that means to me, to us, people who have had this problem. Don’t mistake this as a simple race thing. Ask the Indian person who finds hate for being mistaken for a “terrorist”. Ask a person of middle eastern descent what they have experienced. Keep going with these. Keep asking the same questions. Then ask, “How does it feel?”

I remember when it first happened. I was 11 and at a store with my mother. A woman walked past us and gripped her purse tightly as she walked by while giving me a dirty look. I asked my mother why she did that and my mother said, ” Don’t worry. That’s her problem. Don’t make it yours.”

I suppose she was right. It happened later as well. A few friends and I would walk around a store and the LP people would follow us. Some might say I am mistaken and I will say that I can’t blame them for believing that. It makes me angry that I work so hard to be an individual and it is all for not.

Color me grey.

I want no color or identifier. If this is what comes with it; let me be grey. I think of myself as a proud person. I don’t celebrate any side of my heritage. Black, White, Shoshone; they are of little relevance to me. They are like having green eyes or blonde hair. It is a trait, not who I am. I live this way and I treat others this way. We operate on the maxim of how we wish to be treated.

In my ignorant bliss that is devoid of color, I am drawn out when things like that happen. It brings you back out of that cloud you are in. It sends this cold feeling down your spine and your cheeks turn warm. You feel disbelief. You wonder what you did that caused it to happen. You. You. You.

It seeps into you. It reminds you that no matter how hard you try, you will always be thrown into reality, or at least our culture’s reality of what you are. I can get degrees all day long but I still know what it feels like when people look at you with resentment. Not of stature but of what you represent. I am sure you may have different views and I would love to hear them but I have to say mine. I know this has happened to many people but why don’t we talk about it?

A little more than 100 years ago, my hometown had one of the largest race riots in the country. This is not a southern town, by any means. This is the capitol to one of the bigger states that were part of the union. 100 years is not a long time.

I look in the mirror and I see a semi-handsome, devastatingly charming, and funny young man (hey, my self-esteem isn’t too bad, right?). That is who is in my mirror. To the world, I am many things. I am a statistic. I am a thought that someone has conceived from watching too much Law and Order: SVU.

This problem comes from both sides. I may seem like a criminal to some but to others I am not part of that group because I don’t speak colloquially.

I let this bother me a few weeks ago and it hurt. I thought of what people did for women’s rights in the early 20th century and for civil rights in the 40s 50s and 60s. The dreams of those people . I wonder if they are embodied today?

I remember this old philosophical saying that played in my head while my hurt writhed and turned in on itself until it was anger. “He who makes a beast out of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

Isn’t that easier? To be that beast. Be the entity that is no longer at the mercy of social niceties and norms. Not sociopathy but something close. I thought that after all these years of speaking in a vernacular that showed nothing of regional dialect and of reasonable poise, years of gaining knowledge of myself and the world around me; I thought that it wouldn’t hurt as bad as when I was 11 but I was wrong. It cuts a bit deeper.

Beasts. I have met a few. They are frightening individuals but only because they enjoy being a beast. I won’t do that.

I love meeting new people and enjoying new cultures. When someone says the “n” word or speaks poorly of white people, they both cut deep. I am every bit as much white as I am black as I am Shoshone. Why is it that those traits have created a barrier of hate between me and getting to know a culture or a person?

Ambassadors. More than 40 years later and every person of color has to be an ambassador to their race. For multiracial individuals, you have to be able to represent more than that. You have to blend into the palate.

I am tired of being an ambassador or a surprise when it comes to education and the like. I love my caramel skin but to me it is a symbol more than anything.

I wish I could sit here and be more uplifting about this. I wish I could say, “but on a happy note!” There is a blurring line but it isn’t prominent. I sit here typing to you and all I think about is how much work I have done to be an individual and something as simple as a word that is said, not even about me or to me, can bring me down to a base level. It doesn’t matter who says it or what race they are. The word has meaning.

Words are powerful. Words are dangerous.

I will always strive to be the individual I want to be. I don’t want to break stereotypes because that means I was in one. I want to be outside of a stereotype. I want to keep my skin tone but cover it in grey. I want all of these things for me and for others because it is dangerous to be among beasts.

-Chris

Forget Yourself

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Hey Gang!

So, I have been bogged down with taking notes on the textbook that I will be teaching to students this year. It was a terribly dull and arduous four days of taking in-depth notes but i feel as if I could teach speech to great white sharks in a volcano! (can you imagine?)

While doing this is beneficial, it is also quite dull and sucks the creativity out of me. So, I felt uninspired to write. I did take breaks in between to play my bass. I would play around on the strings as I thumped the E string, emitting a beautiful, warm thud that dissipated. I played strings erroneously.

Then, I moved into my old default: Pixies- “Where Is My Mind”. It was the first song that I learned to play and it has always been my go-to song whenever I need to think. My hands, knowing the song all too well, move on their own. They play the opening warm melody and in my head I can hear Kim’s high, angelic voice ooo-ing.

Then I started to remember a conversation that I had via text with one of my best friends. We started talking earlier in the day about perspective. I told him that I was feeling so much better because I was back at school. I felt like I had purpose again. A place. Something was new.

He told me what I had assumed for a long while. He felt alone and was feeling unambitious as well in his austere lifestyle in the military. I couldn’t blame him.

I kept playing as I thought about that conversation and it gave me this mental picture. I usually try to think of things as analogous and metaphorical as possible. It helps me visualize a problem or an event. I guess it is just the way that I am wired.

I saw this boat drifting in the darkness. Rain poured down and the ocean swelled as wave after wave crashed upon the darkened vessel. It bowed and tilted under the stress of the ocean as it went along aimlessly in the mercy of the environment. Then, ahead of the vessel was a beacon. Bright and warm as it beckoned the vessel back to shore.

For some reason, I just started playing notes on my bass and eventually came up with a song that I entitled “Beacon”. I sent the rough recording to him and he seemed to enjoy it. I hope it made his day a bit better. Maybe he even got a bit inspired to play a bit or pick up a pencil to draw again. Either way, I hope it helped.

This got me to think of the past year and the amazing cast of characters that have stepped in and fallen out of my life in that duration. I remember talking to people and when I spoke of feeling insufficient; so much less than, they would usually have the same response but in different terms:

You need a girl.

I suppose the idea was if I were to be with someone or “be with someone” that my situation would be solved. That everything would be fine.  I see this a lot in the people I have met. Love, or the semblance of, is some sort of cure all band-aid for us. Love is the answer, the drug that satiates some sort of unexplainable hunger. Love is that part of us that needs to be filled for us to be full. To be a whole person.

I wondered for a while, during my little break between note-taking, about that idea. Should I have done that? Should I have just been with someone and let that preoccupy me?

Would I be whole?

Then I answered my own question when I thought about what I had just asked myself, should I let it preoccupy me. Thus meaning that somehow Love, with a capital L, would be a distraction from whatever was the real problem.

I feel like I talk about a lot of things on my blog when relating to relationships but I hardly ever talk about love. Maybe platonic but not romantic. Even if you read Clocks, you still only read about that closeness that I admire and would enjoy. Love is different and more complex than synchronicity.

I have never been in Love. Sounds great but just never has happened. Optimistic it will happen but what I do know about the subject is that it is not a bandage. It is an added attribute, not the prosthetic limb to “complete” me.

No, I know what I was looking for now. There are some things greater than love. They overthrow its throne, in my belief. They are what can take the ship from sea and what has been my goal all along.

The power of self-respect and self-efficacy.

These are what complete us. They complete me. That moment when you look in the mirror and know who you are is brilliant. It’s a symphony that exudes such delightful notes. It slips seamlessly from chord to chord, note to note. It plays a song unique to you.

It’s your song, now just to listen!

Once you understand yourself. Respect yourself. You can be open to the world that is truly beautiful. Let fall to the wayside those who try to break down what you have built in yourself. If you lose yourself, it is only you who can find you.

Hear your song and then, when you gain the power of self-respect and self-efficacy; when you know yourself, you can finally know how beautiful this all can be. The complexity of Love and pondering its meaning as a standalone entity and not a bandage. The revelations of just how close you can get to another when you are you. You are able to be present and live without regret because, in the end, you are doing what you know is true to you. You are true to yourself.

You finally see, with unfiltered eyes, the beauty that is life.

-Chris

 

 

I found this quote today that inspired this blog from one of my all-time favorite authors and playwrights and I hope it helps you as much as it helps me.

Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music- the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasure, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget Yourself.

– Henry Miller