Sunday in the Park with Sherry

At the day job recently, I thought I had entered the Twilight Zone. After lunch, following a disturbing report from one of our retirees who had just called the police, I crept to the edge of our private park just to see if what was told to me could possibly be true. A man on a picnic bench faced the church behind our park and shouted in its direction. Was he mad at God? After a while, he put on a hoodie, pulling the hood over his head and rested on his elbows. He stared at that church, deep in conversation with himself, or something (one?) that haunted him. He would then shoot to his feet and gesticulate in a mad pattern, conversing like an impassioned composer.

Having someone terribly haunted by life is not so unusual in our park, but to have someone so dramatically unwell go seemingly unnoticed by all but one sent my mind into divergent overload. A handful of residents trickled by me, laughing at my warning. “I’m not sure if he’s a danger to others or not,” I would say, “but it’s probably a good idea to stay out of the park”. One of them chuckled and mentioned that she had seen him earlier that morning. “He’s quoting Bible verses…some kind of mental religious illness,” she said. I was caught between my own chuckle and wondering if she got her religious education from the evening news.

She promised not to go near him, but she would walk along the paths outside the park. I watched her circle the lot, then enter the park the corner farthest from me. She walked slowly past the man, paused in deep study, then went on her way.

Another man came out with his beautifully fluffy dog. I asked him the breed. “Dog,” he said. Another chuckle greeted me before he said, “You people and your need to know the breed.”
“I guess dog is all we really need to know,” I said, understanding, as I scratched her beautiful fluffy head. I then explained the possible danger in the park and he responded in his lovely British accent. “If he comes near me or my dog, I’ll pound him to the ground.” I will say he put some chipper in his step and continued into the park. Neither he nor his dog seemed to pick up any bad vibes from the guy.

An impression came over me that I was to learn something from all of this. Many times in my life, people have accused me of spacing out in mid thought when the reality is I have a very active mind that pummels me with so many avenues on how act that I have to absorb things first. In my assumed slowness, my ideas travel at lightning speed and tend to tangle into some sort of metaphorical puzzle—so much so that I could write entire novels on how certain events could go before I decide on the best path. In this moment, when I was thinking about the one resident who complained when all the others did not, I asked God for his take. Why not? He seemed to be at the crux of this issue anyway. A tree showered down a thousand leaves, turning the park into a fairyland while this man continued to shout Bible verses. It was like Disneyland attempted a takeover of the property. Ahh. I recognize this. This is not normal. This is actually the best day I’ve had at work in a loooong time because it was so delightfully weird.

I managed to warn a few ladies away who thanked me. They hung around and we watched to see what would happen. We could have used some popcorn.

It was about an hour from the initial phone call before the police arrived. The cop, very friendly, asked me if the park was ours (yes), and if I wanted him to move the guy on. How could I not hesitate? This was not a normal world that had come upon our park. It was a fantastical picture where only people who had lived a good long while and had seen a good many things knew: time will tell.

Leo Tolstoy said in War and Peace, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”

Of course, it took my own erratic paragraph of words (oh, the thoughts that piled on top of each other) to finally ask him to make the man leave—it wasn’t really a choice because it was my job to do so, but the creative human, non-minion of a corporate company wanted to be able to say, leave the man alone with his Jesus. Whether sane or only a little bit sane, I believe a person should be free to ask, and even yell at God, all the hard questions in their own way. In fact, most people yield to man, who is restricted to rules, culture and bias. Where’s the truth in that?

The man left peacefully. We shall see if he shows up again. Word has it he’s been to our park before. I hope answers are gently showered upon him.

Time is on my list for May. Let’s take closer looks, investigate, lean into the quandaries of time. Join me on IG and facebook.

Painting Your Portrait

I once knew a girl who was an accessory. This twenty-one year old memory surfaced this morning as I ran through the squishy ground near my home, swirls of hardening mud from our recent flood beneath my feet.

The contrast was startling: A storm can mix the earth together, spit it out and make it look like a newly painted canvas, but when a storm is finished with a human? The scars always find cracks to grow through.

Her dad needed to appear like a family man to one of his clients, so he brought his daughter to the theater with them—a highly anticipated movie in which to delight. But the experience wasn’t meant for the daughter to take part. It was a shiny lie. She sat in the seat, surrounded by the darkness of her father’s ambition. It was her only memory of going to the movies with her dad.

She developed emotional problems. A low self-esteem—all the symptoms for immediate family members of workaholics.

I worked at the boarding school where her parents shipped her to. A true introvert, she was stuffed into a roomful of bunk beds, and suffered almost as much from lack of space as she did being separated from the parents who didn’t take the time to raise her.

On more than one occasion, I broke the rules and let her slip into a private spot for some breathing room. I’m in the same needs-space club, I get it. Determined to finish the program and get back home, she always reappeared at the right time. But, as she attended regular counseling, strict discipline, and held to a high behavioral standard, what she didn’t understand was that her dad was an addict and the problem wasn’t hers to fix.

The American dream comes with a high cost, friends.

Workaholism is called the best-dressed addiction for a reason, luring everyone from the career-driven to supermoms. Don’t let anyone ever guilt you into biting off more than you can chew. A few quality projects is better than a hundred rushed ones. Feel free to park the mini van and give yourself some breathing room, ladies. In fact, if you don’t chill you will suffer, your spouse will suffer, and your kids will suffer as much or more than families of alcoholics.

I don’t like losing my momentum, but I can’t help but pause my run to take a few photos. My eyes open wider with the question again. How can the land look so freshly renovated after a storm tears it to bits, but a human cannot?

While the same spirit that runs through the earth runs through us, provides us with the same oxygen and infuses us with the same minerals, humans were given the ability to make decisions. We were given souls.

We aren’t just torn down and re-formed like a patch of earth is, we were given wills and internal moral codes to navigate with. Choices. And it’s never all about the individual. We all feel the responses of the ones closest to us in this beautifully ravaged landscape.

I pass a stagnant puddle. It stinks. Bad. Complacency is no good either. When I was a young child and wasn’t ready to give up swimming when late August rolled around, I swam in stagnant creek water. I developed sores all over my scalp that sent me to the dermatologist. It’s the same with humans. Keeping your talents to yourself produces rot.

Without hard work and adversity, a creek can’t grow and bring water to the thirsty. But too much and it floods homes and drowns the living.

But it’s okay to lose momentum sometimes. The bubbling of a creek is soothing and beautiful. It’s okay to slow down and make less money. I just bought my kids an armful of school clothes from discount stores. They’ll learn the gift of balance (eventually), and their peers will learn to deal. Designer labels, for us, is nothing but a siren’s song.

Rest. Enjoy your family.

Did you see those details in the landscape today?

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