I have an old Mac laptop that seems to be running on last legs. I didn’t update the operating system like I should have (read: at all) and so this old 2005 machine is still running OSX Tiger. Knowing that it’s only a matter of time before it decides it just can’t bear to come to life even one more day, I’ve been transferring files to an external drive. In doing so, I ran across something I had posted at a blogging buddy’s place back in early 2010. I thought I had cross post it here but I can’t find it. I thought it was worth sharing again so here it is.
To give a little context, this friend had a blog where occasionally she would have blog friends contribute what she called a “click” story… a personal story where the writer had learned some grand lesson. Below is my contribution.
Leslie asked me months ago if I would write a click story for her and I quickly said yes. I feel bad for having put it off so long. Sorry Les. The thing I think that has disrupted my ability to do it is she inadvertently placed some heavy pressure on me by saying, “I’m sure you have so many stories to tell.”
Do I? Ugh. I couldn’t think of anything that would compare to the others that have been published here.
I began rifling through the mental files of stories I have where I learned a lesson… you know, trying to find one where I learned a really big lesson about myself or life but none of them seemed to be so profound as to be earth shattering.
I thought of my trip down the aisle (the first time) and how my voice cracked and my eyes welled a little as I repeated the vows the preacher told me to say… a tear came not because I was happy but because I knew!… right then and there I realized with absolute certainty…
I was making the biggest mistake of my life. I realized that we humans sometimes make poor choices, we can’t blame anyone but ourselves and we have to live with the consequences.
I thought I could tell of the time during Marine Corps boot camp when my platoon was learning how to throw hand grenades. A drill instructor and I were in a concrete bunker and he handed me a live grenade with the pin pulled. He said, “recruit! You make sure you throw it over this wall like we taught you…
and far! You understan’ me!”
I stood there with a live grenade in my hand… explosions were going off from my fellow recruits lobbing theirs down range. I looked at the grenade… my hands shaking. I stared that DI in the eyes, then looked at it again as I heard in a deep, garbled, slow-motion sort of voice, “yewwwww ohhhhkayyyy reeecrewwwwt?”. It seemed like lifetimes passed as I pondered my ability to heave that piece of metal over a seven foot wall of cinder blocks.
As I pulled my arm back just like they taught me, I was thinking my life has the potential to change or end right now. In that moment I realized some events in life are deliberate, calculated actions. Other times a completely random, unexpected bit of happenstance careens life toward other places.
I also thought maybe I could tell of a lesson I learned from the time I got fired from a retail job I couldn’t stand. While in the parking lot after leaving the store I immediately called my editor of my part-time freelance photo job. I told her what happened, I told her I was desperate and that I was available to shoot anywhere, anytime, and anything. She gave me work… lots of it. A few weeks into it, my younger brother invited me to a basketball game through company tickets with some co-workers of his. One of them asked, “so what do you do?” I got that roller coaster feeling in my stomach. I hesitated a little in my response and I almost said, “uh… I’m in between jobs” when it occurred to me, “no. I have a job.”
I said confidently, “I’m a photographer with The Houston Chronicle.”
It felt good. It felt DAMN good and I realized we make our own destiny. WE make things happen in our lives if we push ourselves towards them. And I survived working six and seven days a week until I found another job seven months later.
I could tell the story about Hurricane Ike blowing through town in 2008. I could tell you how I saw thick, heavy branches from two different trees that missed my house and my vehicle by inches and my property came away relatively unscathed; yet neighbors had fences crash through windows and roofs blown off. There was one person I met in my neighborhood who had lights on in just a few days but the house right next to him waited four weeks in the sweltering September weather of the Gulf Coast Plains of Texas.
From the hurricane, I realized sometimes shit happens that we have no control over. God didn’t get angry. Karma wasn’t reacting. The Tao wasn’t balancing things out. I didn’t come away unscathed because I said the right prayer the night before and the other guy didn’t. Just sometimes… shit happens from no fault of our own or anyone.
And I thought about telling my story of when I went to see my brother and future sister in-law get baptized at their Baptist church. Coincidentally it happened the Sunday after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center buildings. While in that church, watching what should have been a great day for my brother, I saw a preacher point his finger at his congregation and heard him yell… yes, yell at them “it’s because of you and you and YOU that this happened. Because YOU ARE A SINNER!!! America has lost favor with God and He made those planes fly into those building because of you!”
I realized that my concept of God does not fit that mold. I don’t believe in a God like that at all. My God loves me unconditionally. My God doesn’t control my actions or the actions of others. My God gave me freewill and reason. I realized I don’t believe in a devil or that a devil can make people fly planes into buildings. I realized some people are just jerks and assholes and they do evil things. And my God weeps when we do crappy things to each other. That is when I realized there must be another way of thinking about the nature of God compared to what this guy was preaching and I took my first deliberate steps ever towards spiritual awareness and where I found myself on a road towards UU-ism, Buddhism and Deism.
I’ve read most, if not all, of the click stories here at Leslie’s place and they have been amazing, beautiful, heart-wrenching, glorious stories. Wish my click story were as amazing as those.
Sorry, Les… I got nothin’.