The Time of My Life

Everything will change. It's one thing I'm sure of. When life is hard and must be endured, I'm thankful for the change that I know will come. It helps me carry on. When life is beautiful, I am caught up, captivated. It's hard to surrender those moments to the passing of time.

I remember. Laying under the Southern Cross on a hot summer night in Canberra, Australia, and the kiss that would change my life, albeit at the time I didn't know it.

I remember. Tilting my head to tickle his tummy with my hair, tiny hands pressed against my face, a squeal of laughter, my infant son.

I remember. The feel of my grandpa's hand in mine, his skin paper thin, blue veined, tremulous, the moment he sighed and died as I quietly sang to him.

I remember. My mom, body curled and ruined, but oh the brilliance of her smile, the love in it, the day I finally gave her permission to leave us. We'll be okay, I promised. It was the truth and a lie. I miss her. I miss her.

I remember. Sitting atop my father's grave, running my fingers through tufted grass, wishing things had been different, that he might have found a way to love me in a way that I could understand and feel, knowing that whatever chance we had was gone like so much dandelion fluff blown away by the wind. I wish...

I remember. The wind in my sun-bleached hair, arms tightly wrapped around my big brother, the wobble of the motorcycle when we hit gravel, a scream, a whoop of joy, a cloud of dust, flying down the trail.

I remember. The jungle, overripe and rotting, small brown hands patterned by scabies, picking head lice from the giant puff of her mother's hair, the flash of white smiles in nut brown faces. They were my friends and I always looked for them. One day I came and the little one wasn't there. It was malaria her mother said with sad eyes. I was shattered to think of her gone, that beautiful little one, and I cried so hard. Her mother touched my tears and said with wonder, do children not die in your village in America?

In a few days we'll mark a new year; hello 2010.

Everything will change and I no longer fear it. I want to feel EVERYTHING, take it all in. This life is a gift, every little bit of it. The only waste of life is a failure to really live it.

©Just Kate, 2009

Smoke & Mirrors

That person that you envy, the one that appears to have everything you want? I can assure you that they don't. It's an illusion.

Do you see that beautiful, slender girl? Don't look too close. She cuts herself where you can't see. There's pain inside of her that runs so deep she'd do anything to let it out.

That one over there, see her? Her body isn't even her own. She lets anybody and everybody in. Greedy hands and lips draw and drag against hot skin but she feels nothing at all.

He owns the basketball court. He OWNS it, but that's all he's got. He's getting older and that warranty on his right knee is about to run out and he knows it. If he's not the best, he's nothing at all.

Look at that gorgeous house. An eight car garage? Are you kidding me. His suit costs more than you make in a month, working overtime. He's got everything. But ducking into his SUV, laying his briefcase on the passenger seat, he feels a tightness in his chest. He's got enough money to comfortably retire and he's still young, but he has no identity apart from his material success, apart from his business prowess. If budget cuts cost him his job, he's got a gun that will take that pain away; he'd rather be dead than unemployed.

He's got the perfect wife. They seem so happy. They're always holding hands and talking about how much they love each other. You wonder if you'll ever find that special someone. What you don't see is the distance between them when they're not in public. You don't hear the deafening silence. You only think you want what they've got. It's all smoke and mirrors.

There will always be people who are better or worse off than we are. One doesn't have to look far to find someone that is poorer or richer, prettier or homelier.

We need to spend more time thinking about what we do have and less time thinking about what we don't have. Envy is never productive; it never leads anywhere but DOWN. Gratitude, on the other hand, can lift us up and make us better.

My mother suffered from a degenerative disease of the central nervous system that left her a prisoner in her own body. She couldn't walk or talk or even eat without a gastronomy tube but she was dancing on the inside. One need only look past the obvious physical affliction to see it; she had irrepressible joy that radiated through her smile. How easy it would have been for her to fall into self pity and envy but I never saw her do it. On the other hand, I can't imagine that anyone ever saw past her broken body to envy the beautiful heart of her, but there was much of substance to envy there. She taught me most everything I know about love and gratitude and the substance of joy.

This holiday season, let’s count our blessings then count them again. What are you grateful for, my friends?

©Just Kate, 2009

Always and Forever

I held you tight in my clenched fists until my hands ached from holding you, but I couldn't stop you seeping through my fingers like sand. Bit by bit, in gray and bright tiny pieces you fell away and were caught by the wind, until one day my eyes were opened and I unclenched my fists. I'll admit that it hurt. The motion was unfamiliar and the process slow, but I did it.

And you were born up on the wind and for a moment my face stung with the feel of your bright passing, and I felt fear. I wanted to snatch you back, but I couldn't do it. How does one reconstruct a handful of sand?

It's hard to let go of what we know, of what's familiar even when the familiar has begun to hurt or is even long past hurt and well into pain. There is comfort in holding on, and fear in letting go, but change is constant and real, and static is nothing more than an illusion.

And I wish I could stop the world and melt into one pure moment of loving you, but I can't do it. The world exceeds my grasp and continues to spin on it's axis despite my wanting to stop it, and I breathe out and I breathe in and I do it again and again and again, remembering to keep my hands loose because time is relentless and passes tick tock like the clock that murmurs it's passing.

Echos of you resound in my head, and my lips form a reflexive smile as if for a moment I'd captured you.

I can only say that I am grateful for having known the weight and shifting texture of you. I have loved the grit and softness, the way you abraded my skin even as you kissed it, and I'm glad that I held on even when it hurt, and I will hold you always and forever, even as I am blown away bit by shiny bit in flecks of darkness and light into the wind, as I run through the fingers of a different hand and follow you into the wide unknown.

©Just Kate, 2009

The Empty Church

He lowers his mouth to hers as their lips connect, and he breathes slowly out, while she breathes slowly in; the smoke burns as it travels down her throat and fills her lungs. She closes her lips, leans her forehead against his as her body goes sleepy-slow. Languid.

She feels another hand close round her chin, turning her. New lips meet hers. She breathes out, and he breathes in.

Crawling across the bed, over a tangle of limbs, she lands in Seth's lap. He opens his arms to her, welcomes her as she settles in against him.

And the room is dark and smoke filled; the music so loud she feels it running through her veins. It's Prince screaming Darling Nikki, and the words sound like sin, but she lets them in.

The smoke makes it easy. It doesn't obscure reason, it just pats it down, tucks it away, sets her inside of her skin and out of her head in the most delicious way, so that the hands that burn against her skin melt right into her and she is nothing but touch and rhythm.

And the room is full. A sea of bodies in a smokey haze. She doesn't care. The music thrums inside of her. She is the music. A naked song. Her tan skin with startling bits of white against his dark skin. Her softness against the rock hardness of him. She feels like art, like living poetry, like music born in skin.

When he presses up inside of her she gasps. A moment of wicked clarity. What am I doing? And then the music and the smoke and his warm hands wash over her and she's lost again in rhythm.

She wakes up cold, naked, unsure of where she is, a sick feeling in her stomach, a hazy memory taking shape inside her head. She feels movement, a warm hand on her back. She turns. Seth. She freezes mid-smile when she sees Audrey behind him. Fully awake she sits up. A sea of bodies in a cold room that smells of old smoke.

She can't find her clothes so she grabs a sheet and wraps it around her. She hears Seth, Baby... Audrey laughs, come back... But she's flying out the door, back down the hall to her dorm room where she pounds, waits for her roommate to open the door for her.

She stumbles past, straight into the shower where she sinks to the floor, hot water spilling over cold skin, and she prays.

Somehow she makes it to church. She hides behind her hair. Sits in the back. Searching for God, she listens to every word, sings and takes the words inside of her, wanting to feel them in her blood. She wants God to wash over her, to make her clean. She wants him to love her as she is, lost and broken and scared.

At the end of the service, the Pastor comes and gives her an awkward Christian hug, the sideways kind that has no warmth in it. Can I pray for you? She nods and bows her head.

He prays. Dear Heavenly Father...blah blah blah... In Jesus Name. Amen. She doesn't say amen. She raises her eyes to meet his and he says, just give it to Jesus, whatever it is.

But she doesn't know what it is. She certainly doesn't know how to pluck it out of herself or how to hand it over to Jesus. The words are as empty as the sanctuary in which she stands, the last person in the building.

It wont be long before she runs away from the life she's fallen into. She'll run far and fast and wrap herself in Christian words. And she'll believe, believe, believe, with all her heart and soul and mind and spirit, because it's all she has. The only home she knows. Her only chance for redemption.

And she will do some good.

But over the years, the words will ring hollow until they are nothing more than lonely echoes inside of her head. And the sideways hugs will become a thing she can no longer endure.

The past is so far in the past, it almost never was, but occasionally she remembers and does so without the gnawing fear of hell. And the church feels like a wish.

And God feels like love. Like a face-front hug. She no longer knows his name, but she still feels him.

©Just Kate, 2009

Post Script: For those who know me, remember that I'm a writer. This story is FICTION and designed to address what I see as a failing of "the church."

If Wishes Came True

I wish for everything to be linear and to MAKE SENSE. I wish to feel the right feelings in the right order and to take the right steps forward, in the right direction. That said, I'm glad that I'm only occasionally granted that wish. I think there's brilliance in the fumbling and brilliance in the mess, if only we can embrace our imperfections. It's in our mistakes that we LEARN and GROW and become better. It's in the darkness that we reach towards God - towards LIGHT - and in the reaching we connect with something so much bigger than ourselves. I love that.

If I could, I'd make it so that I never felt pain or dread or fear. I'd never misstep and, thus, never need feel guilt again. Thank God, I won’t get those wishes granted. When I look back over my life, some of the things that felt like the biggest disasters ended up being godsends and some of my biggest mistakes made fertile ground for growing in. Ask any gardener what makes his garden grow. Ha! He'll tell you it's SHIT! ;)

I wish I understood myself better. I wish I wasn't prone to bouts of outrageousness. It all seems incongruent with the "other me" that is a spiritual, thinking person - a writer and a bit of a philosopher.

Do spiritual people say "SHIT"?

The fact is that there are many different things that co-exist inside of me that would seem to be mutually exclusive but they aren't. There are many different truths contained inside of each of us. We're human fractals - infinitely complex - ordered chaos - beauty in the guise of a mess.

Let me offer a more concrete explanation of what I'm trying to say here: When I was a little girl, I used to wish that my mom didn't have Multiple Sclerosis. I wished and we prayed but God never saw fit to grant us that wish. For the longest time I didn't understand. I was angry at God. Why did he allow my mother to suffer while my uncle, who molested me, enjoyed ridiculously good health? WHY? It didn't make sense. And, why, for that matter, did God allow me to be molested?

I don't have enough time to explain this in the confines of a blog but, suffice it to say, I'm grateful for those hard things. Yeah, I'm grateful for them. My mom was not handicapped. Yes, her body was broken, but her spirit was BEAUTIFUL! Who knows what she would have been without that disease. Who knows whether it would have been better for her. Would she have been as deeply spiritual, as compassionate, as kind, as empathetic?

And what about me: from whence did my compassion, empathy, and kindness come? Ah, I learned from my mother. I have adopted abused children. Why? Because I know the pain of abuse. My compassion compels me to act. Do you understand me, friends? I thank God that my wishes remain only wishes because I would seek to avoid hard things, but the hard things have made me better.

I haven't even touched on the mistakes I've made in my life -- on my regrets. I'd really like to erase some of them and I'd like to never make another mistake as long as I live, but we know that's not going to happen. I'm human and, as such, I am incapable of perfection.

So, I wish to accept myself, and others, as we are, in the midst of our imperfections, mistakes, and messes. I wish to live a life characterized by love and compassion. Along the way, I know I'll make mistakes. I'll do the thing I wish not to do. I'll suffer self- recrimination.

In the end, however, I'm grateful that my wishes blow away on the wind. I'll take life as it comes, my friends, moment by moment, as God sees fit to grant it.

©Just Kate, 2008


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    About Me

    I love laughter, wickedness, fearlessness, irreverence, and kindness. I love road trips where I can prop my bare feet up on the dashboard. I love the feel of sunshine warm against my bare skin, the smell of the mountains and the roar of the ocean. I love to read. I love to challenge conventional thinking. I'm a huge fan of spirituality but have little tolerance for religion. I love to talk faith and philosophy. I love children. I get bored far too easily. I love debate and people who don't try too hard. I love it when people aren't afraid to disagree with me and know why they believe what they believe.


    Things that sound like music to me: rain on a tin roof, the trill of birds first thing in the morning, the coo and gurgle of happy babies, the beat of African drums, the roar of the ocean as the tide ebbs and flows, the sound of a rushing river, unrestrained laughter, the wind moving through leaves, the tick-tock of my grandma's old clock, the crash of thunder, a quiet whisper in my ear, the contented purr of a cat, the musical ting ting of wind chimes, children laughing, the sizzle sizzle sound of something yummy cooking, and the rustle of dry leaves under my feet.

    I also enjoy many musicians and bands including: Ray LaMontagne, Jason Mraz, The Black Eyed Peas, John Mayer, James Carrington, CCR, REM. My favorite genre is acoustic folk/rock.

    Favorite Quotes

    "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." —Aristotle

    "The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering." - Ben Okri

    "What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do."—John Ruskin