Life Goggles

Chapter 2, Verse 2: Put a Ring On It

Posted in Life, Rambling by rreynolds2186 on July 13, 2012

The best part of my day:  after I take my morning shower, I walk across the hall to the bed room and slip on my wedding ring for the first time that day. I say this with no intention of it sounding corny, but the honest truth. As the day progresses, the ring is a constant reminder that I spend my life with my best friend and there is a comfort in that.

The wedding ring is a symbol of one’s devotion to another and for me it is a privilege to wear it. My intentions here are not to say that marriage is for everyone. Marriage is hard work and for those who do work on their marriage, the rewards are satisfying. The sanctity of marriage is debated constantly in our society: on a political level, on a religious level, on a personal level, on a professional level. At the center of debate is whether two men or two women should be allowed to marry, but you all know this already.

I find that we live in a society of black and white opinions about a gray world. What I mean is that our sides to every argument are always clear cut, when the issue we are arguing over is anything but. For instance, those that believe two people of the same sex should not be married most often quote the Bible as the basis of their argument. Likewise, those that believe in same sex marriage who are faced with the argument I just mentioned would typically say that the Bible is outdated and does not apply.

For me, there is a little bit of right and wrong in each of those arguments. The Bible is a bit outdated, yes, but that does not mean there are no good rules and wisdom to apply to your life within it’s pages. Do I feel that these hard-line stances will change any time soon? No, I do not. Nor am I trying to convince anyone on either side of the debate to switch sides.

Full disclosure, I do believe that two people who love each other, regardless of their gender, should be able to marry. It is 2012. There have been science fiction movies of yesteryear made about us living and thriving in space during this time period. In reality we are still squabbling over who can and can’t be married. It’s a bit disconcerting.

However, I don’t fault those on the anti-same sex married side of the issue. Pardon me for lumping an entire group together, but for the most part, it is a Christian-based argument.  Christians are taught to believe and live according to The Word. The Bible clearly states that homosexuality is a sin and thus Christians follow that belief. My point is that I may not agree with their thoughts, but I certainly can respect where they are coming from.

You may be aware of the “Book of Mormon,” the Broadway musical based on Mormon missionaries whom travel to Uganda. There is a song from that musical called, “I Believe,” where one of the main characters recognizes that to be able to call himself a Mormon, he “cannot believe partway, I have to believe in it all.” Regardless of circumstances he might question, one has to be fully committed or else there’s no commitment at all. In short: all or none.

I note this because some of the Christians I know do have these same doubts and questions. I was raised in a Christian home and grew up thinking same sex relationships were wrong. After distancing myself from Christianity, it was easier to be more accepting of so called ‘alternative’ lifestyles. Believing in anything takes a large amount of faith, whether it’s religion or believing in yourself in your every day trials and challenges. It’s why I admire those with faith and belief in God while others laugh at them. It’s easier to mock and much harder to ‘turn the other cheek’ as the Bible instructs.

I’ve long tried to reconcile with the faith that I lost in my late teenage years. The hardest obstacle I’ve found to get past is the issue of same sex marriage. To me, it would feel like a regression to go from ‘No!’ on the issue to “Yes!” and then back to “No!” again. A bit of a deal breaker, if you will.

Bringing it back around, I just couldn’t imagine if someone told me that I couldn’t slide my wedding ring on daily, let alone marry the one I love. It’s unfair, it’s cruel, it’s heartless. If two people feel like they want to commit to each other for the rest of their days and are willing to work at it, let them! It shouldn’t matter if it’s man-woman, man-man, or woman-woman. That’s my opinion and if you disagree, you are entitled to that.

But my point remains that issues like these continue to tear us apart as a country and as people. I realize this isn’t revolutionary in any way, just something that’s been weighing on my mind during an election year that’s bound to be filled with mudslinging between contestants and voters on each side of the part lines. “We’re all in this thing together,” like Old Crow Medicine Show once sang. Disagree on issues all you want, but don’t bring hate into the equation.

Chapter 2, Verse 1: The Return

Posted in Apology, Life by rreynolds2186 on July 5, 2012

Well, Chapter 1 was short, wasn’t it?

It has been awhile and I will take ownership that it is all my fault. Almost two years to the day of my last post on this illustrious, widely praised and read blog (I still hate that word). And yes, I know this blog is neither widely praised nor widely read.

Laying in bed last night, my mind began to drift and I recalled “Life Goggles,” my wonderful pursuit at writing fame that started so promisingly and then dropped off but three posts later. I had such high hopes for it. I really didn’t care if anyone actually read it, I just wanted to have a place to write and chronicle thoughts and life events.

And then I “Studio 60”-ed it. Hot out of the gate, sputtered to the finish.

It’s a recurring theme in my life: grand visions and plans followed by an equally swift flame out. I once had a St. Louis sports-themed podcast that lasted three episodes. I’ve attempted to write many short stories that I quit working on after the first few pages. Ideas for movie scripts that never really get off the ground were always common.

Part of it is laziness, part of it is lack of motivation.

Although I did note in my first post that no promises could be made in terms of how often “Life Goggles” would be updated, my intentions were not to let this sit idle for as long as it did. But you don’t care about all of that. You came here for hard hitting journalism and that is what you are going to get. Or maybe not.

Point is, if anyone is out there currently reading this, I appreciate that you would stop by my little corner of the world and read the words that have ended up here. My sincere hope is that the continuation of “Life Goggles” will last more than two or three essays/writings/posts.

Welcome back.

Song of the moment: “Live and Die”–The Avett Brothers

Chapter 1, Verse 3: May 3, 2002

Posted in Life by rreynolds2186 on July 1, 2010

A stillness. A beat. Was I breathing? Was it real? The air is heavy; my chest rises and falls slowly accentuated by the thumping of my heart. Bump-bump. Bump-bump. Everything has changed. The phone is cold in my left hand, my eyes fixated on a tacky picture on the wall. What if I hadn’t picked up the phone? Would it have all gone away? Unbelievable.

“Adam’s dead,” I said. But the words fell flat. How do you say something like that with the proper tone and emotion? It is possible to do such a thing? Is there a right way to say those words?

“What?” my friend asked in disbelief.

“Yeah, I dunno. Dad just said that there was an accident. Adam is gone.”

And that was it. The silence was now heavy, like a humid August afternoon in the Bible Belt. Unbearable. Inescapable. My mind can’t grasp the words and phrases that I try putting together to form a cohesive sentence.

I tell my friend that I am leaving and get in my car. Do I go home? Do I drive aimlessly in circles until I run out of gas? I put a CD into the disk player; I can’t recall which one though. This is odd considering that I often recall the soundtrack to important life events. But not this time.

“Should I do it?” “No, don’t.” “Do it.” “Don’t.” “What could hurt?” “Stay away. Far, far away.”

My mind fights a battle. The debate is over whether or not I should drive up through the local park. Kyle’s house is right next to the park. All of this still hasn’t registered. What was I doing the exact moment Adam left this Earth? Taking life for granted? Enjoying my Friday evening blissfully unaware that an old friend of mine was taking his last breaths, thinking his last thoughts, belting out his last chuckles? And then….

There it was. Adam’s house. Cars lining the street, stretching for what seemed like a mile. Proof. If I was in denial previously, this was a shock to the system. This was reality screaming at me that what had happened was real and that life from this point forward would be changed. Clichés dashed through my skull.

“This can’t happen to me.”

“This doesn’t happen to a town like ours.”

“He’s too young. His whole life was ahead of him.”

“This is all just a misunderstanding. There must be something else. A birthday party? Yeah, that’s it. It’s someone’s birthday. Exactly.”

But no. Logic stupidly had to step in, like a father sternly, yet gently correcting a child. “Ryan, you know what has happened. There’s no denial here, only truth.”

Tears, screaming, yelling. Pure and guttural; it’s not pretty. I punch the steering wheel. And again. And again. And again. A left-right combo, an upper cut. There’s no outlet that can release the anger and pain that I’m feeling; that so many others in our small town were feeling. Oh God, it’s real. How? Why? Wha…questions and incomplete thoughts.

I slowly drive home, continuing through the park, up and over the hills and to the stop sign. I turn onto the main road and like a mindless zombie I stare ahead, only aware enough that I don’t veer off the road. Finally, I pull into my drive way and stare at the front door. The lights are on; life, family…it’s all behind that door and those curtains. My safe haven. But nothing feels safe anymore, not even remotely close. I’m vulnerable, my guard is down. I’m ripe for the picking.

I open the door and Mom and Dad are awaiting my arrival. They knew I was coming but what went through their mind while waiting? Their thoughts are surely as garbled as mine are. How do you council your son who has just lost a friend? You are 16 years old for crying out loud. This doesn’t, no, this shouldn’t happen to 16 year olds. This is supposed to happen to people who have lived 8, 9, 10 decades. People who have married and witnessed their children marry and have kids who have kids continuing the circle of life. But 16 year olds? All that untapped potential. All those life events that they won’t get to experience, all of those important times that their parents dreamed up for them that are now just question marks. Gone. Unfair.

I look at my parents, they look back at me. Who talks first? What can you say? At this point the mind is fuzzy. The next several minutes are a blur of light discussion and small talk. It’s more that we’re trying to keep the mood a bit light, to ease up on the heaviness of the upcoming days with the visitations and the funerals, the grieving, the mourning.

The phone rings. And rings. And rings. People calling to check on us, on me. People calling with more information about the accident and the others that were involved in the same wreck. Three were confirmed dead, one was life-lined to the hospital and in serious condition. Two others, a boyfriend and girlfriend, were hurt and in shock, but they had a chance. All were younger than 18. Some were weeks away from high school graduation. One was an exchange student thousands of miles from home.

I sat on the couch staring at the TV. I can’t tell you what’s on. It doesn’t register. It could have been something as ridiculous at “7th Heaven” but I didn’t care. It was all static. The world around me was rotating as I stayed stationary. And then like a bag of concrete being dropped on my chest, it hit. A storm, a hurricane of emotion that came crashing in waves. Sadness, followed by denial, followed by anger. I go outside, out the front door, into the garage. What can I break? What can I punch?

All I could find was a hard, plastic, yellow wiffle ball bat. Yes, a wiffle ball bat. I storm out the garage, walking quick, hard paces, seething underneath by breath. Am I deranged? Am I psychotic? I find the nearest solid object, a tree, and start whaling away with the wiffle ball bat on the trunk of the tree.

Whack! Whack! Whack! Am I disturbing the neighbors? Who cares? Seriously. Whack! Whack! Whack! I can feel the hard plastic weakening. This isn’t some sort of pansy wiffle ball bat. This is apparently the real deal. Whack! Whack! Wha–the plastic splits and shatters. The bat breaks off at the handle sending plastic shards hurtling across the yard and the barrel of the bat flying off into the darkness. I’ve been crying but I haven’t noticed until now.

In all of this chaos, I didn’t notice Dad standing nearby. He understood. It may have been ridiculous that his son took out his anger on the wiffle ball bat of all things but at least it wasn’t a window or a wall. Those repairs cost money; no one gives a crap about a wiffle ball bat.

He quietly, cautiously reminds me that it’s late and neighbors could be settling down for the evening. He was right. But it had to be done. Break bat first and ask questions later.

We walk around the front of the house and sit on the front stoop. The next day, May 4th, we were scheduled to go to a St. Louis Cardinals game.

“Do you still want to go” Dad asks.

After thinking for a second or two, I reply, “I do. I’ve gotta get my mind off of this.”

We talk more about what was going through my mind, through his mind. There’s disbelief all around.

And for the first time in my life, I question God and why He did this. I was angry at Him. It was his fault. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the beginning of a long, internal war of my faith, my spirituality, my logic.

The night of May 3, 2002 changed everything for me, for many others. It was the night I felt, rather, I knew that God abandoned me. It was the night that my naïve way of thinking was jolted from my system at the expense of a friend’s life. Everything changed.

I felt sick. I felt dizzy. I felt drowsy. I lay down in bed, staring at the ceiling. My eyes closed, but I can’t get out of my own mind. It’s a new world. As May 3rd ended, so did my life before it. What mattered before no longer did. Oh God…what do I do? I drift to sleep, not knowing what to find when I wake up the next day.