jimowenswrites

Reflections on Life, Leadership, Mindfulness, Change, and other Important Stuff

Month: July, 2017

Long Distance-Chapter Three: A Brief Fiction

Author’s note:  If you haven’t read chapter’s one and two, be sure to do so before reading here.  

 

Ian sat in the sterile confines of the waiting room thumbing through an old magazine.  He wasn’t really reading.  The ragged copy of National Geographic was just a prop, a barrier between himself and the others waiting their turn to see one of the doctors.  Dr. Dunn was running late, probably sorting through some genuinely dark and plaguing issue with another one of her patients.  He comforted himself with the thought that crazy people don’t worry that they’re crazy.  He was.  Ergo, he wasn’t.

 

When she finally invited him into her office, Ian’s averted his eyes from the women who was departing.  A courtesy.  People who went to counselors, at least the ones like him, didn’t want to make eye contact.  They’re greatest fear was encountering someone they knew.  But that was silly, he often thought.  Anyone who was at the counselor’s office was probably the least likely person to judge you for being there.  But still.

 

“It’s been a while, Ian.  How are you?” she asked.

 

“I’m good.  Pretty good, I mean.  The meditation stuff you gave me has helped a lot.  I still have trouble sleeping sometimes.  But that’s okay.  I’ve kind of learned to accept it—not fight it.”

 

When she asked him what he’d like to discuss during their fifty minutes together, Ian stumbled. He was genuinely afraid she would see something deep within him, some madness she hadn’t seen before.  Sharing the stuff about the panic attacks had been difficult enough.  But he had been able to rationalize that.  He worked hard.  Had a challenging job.  And the lack of sleep.  Well, the panic was just the physical manifestation of all those things. Anyone in his situation would be a little prone to panic every now and then.

 

He dodged her question a bit more.  But she cut through his bullshit like a razor through paper.  Precise, clean, and efficient.  Before he knew it, Ian had told her about the note.  How he almost thought it had followed him.  He told her about his conversation with Alethia.  She didn’t interrupt, just nodded and gave him that affirming non-judgmental look he was sure they taught in medical school.  Doctors probably gave that same practiced look to smokers who had lung cancer and obese people dying from heart disease.

 

“I know it’s crazy.  It makes no sense, Doc.”

 

“Well, I’ll admit its unusual, Ian.  But not crazy.  If it’s a comfort, I believe you.”

 

Ian refused to let himself be lulled into any real sense of relief.  He thought she was being honest with him.  But he wasn’t going to let his guard down any further.

 

“Tell me again what she said.  About Mike.  And about how she was waiting on your call.”

 

He repeated the story, giving her all the details, but no more insights to how all this made him feel.

 

“I know you’re probably going to tell me this is all some kind of transference thing.  Or that when she asked me what I need, I interpreted that to mean something different than she meant because maybe deep down inside, I need something I’m not aware of.”

 

“It’s a thought.  But that may not be the case entirely.”

 

“Look, Doc.  For $250 an hour, I need more than it’s a thought.  I need, do this, don’t do that.  I need Let it go, Ian.  You just need more sleep.”

 

“Well, you probably do need more sleep.  Are you using the prescription I gave you?”

 

“No.  Well, yeah. Sometimes, I mean.”

 

“It won’t help if you don’t use it, Ian.”

 

Ian nodded.

 

“Look, our time is almost up.  But here’s the thing.  I don’t see any harm in calling this woman.  Just talk to her. I mean, sometimes things just happen for a reason.  We have to accept them.  Learn from them.  You have to choose not to be afraid.”

 

Ian muttered something that sounded like another trucker under his breathe.  She smiled.

 

“Call her.  You have my cell.  If something really distressing happens, text me.  I’ll call you back.  But come back to see me next week and let’s talk about it when you’ve had a real conversation with Alethia.”

 

Leaving the office, Ian reached into his pocket and removed the piece of paper.  It was becoming increasingly soiled.  The sweat from his palms had smudged the ink a little, and the scrap seemed to be growing thinner.  He had programed the number into is phone.  He’d even taken a photo of it, just in case he lost it.  Ian shook his head and stuffed the note back into breast-pocket inside his navy blazer.

 

“Call her,” he mocked.  “Just see what she has to say.  Have conversation with her.”

 

He slid into the seat of his car, cranked the engine and punched at his phone a few times.  By the time he crossed West Paces on the interstate, the stereo was throbbing with AC/DCs Back in Black.  He lost himself in it and the remnants of Atlanta’s rush hour traffic.   But somewhere deep within him, he felt his resolve growing.

 

Long Distance-Chapter Two: A brief fiction

Author’s Note.  Be sure to read the previous post of Long Distance before reading Chapter Two.  

“It’s bizzare,” said Ian.  “Feels kind of like I’m in the middle of a Dali painting.”

 

When he told Mike, Ian knew he was taking a chance.  He expected his oldest friend to chastise him for calling the number, which he did.  Mike was the kind of guy who didn’t mince words.  He was aconstant friend, but he thought tough love was always was the truest form of compassion—which meant his friendships were few and often ephemeral.

 

“Just let it go, man,” said Mike.  “You found a note.  You tried to find out who it belonged to.  You couldn’t.  End of story.”

 

Ian wanted to believe Mike.  He wanted to just throw the thing away, forget about it and move on. But the thing chirped at him like a cricket in the darkness.  Every time he thought the insect had settled down, the chirping started over.

 

It had been two days since he had spoken to Alethia.  Two long, distracted, days.  Ian wondered if he was losing his mind.  Was he becoming obsessive-compulsive?  Did mental illness run in his family?  His aunt was a bit of a hoarder and sometimes she had what his Mom had called her “spells,” but other than that he didn’t know of anything he should be concerned about.

 

He decided to call her again.

 

“Hello, Ian.”  This time she picked up on the first ring.

 

“How did you know it was me?”

 

“You do know what caller ID is don’t you, Ian?” she laughed.

 

“Oh.  Yeah.  Sorry.”

 

“I’ve been waiting for your call.”

 

Her voice was gentle, imbued with a kind of understanding and kindness that made him both calm and uneasy.

 

“You have?”

 

“Of course.  What do you need?”

 

Ian laughed.  He wasn’t the needy type.  All his personality profiles told him he was a guy in control.  Diligent.  Analytical.  Can-do.  Everybody said so.

 

“I’m sorry.  Did I say something funny?” asked Alethia.

 

“No.  No.  I’m sorry.  It’s just I don’t need anything.  I’m still just trying to solve this puzzle.  For some reason, I can’t let go of this number—the note I mean.  I can’t figure out why I even bothered to pick it up.”

 

“Everybody needs something, Ian.”

 

“Well, sure.  I mean I get that—sort of.”

 

“I think maybe you were the one the note was meant for.  I think you were supposed to call me, Ian.”

 

The way she kept saying his name, he thought, it was as if she had known him all of his life.  He felt vulnerable and safe at the same time.

 

“Alethia, can I ask you a question?”

 

“Of course, Ian.  That’s what I’m here for.”

 

“Do we know each other?”

 

Athlethia paused.  For a moment, he thought she had hung up.

 

“Yes.”

 

Just yes.  That was all she said.  No backstory.  No stating of her case.  No need to prove herself. She just said it with a confidence that defied the need for explanation.  Ian wondered if he was in the middle of some elaborate hoax.  He and Mike played practical jokes on one another.  But this?   This was the apotheosis of all pranks if indeed it proved to be one.

 

“I’m gonna need a little more than that, Alethia.”

 

“Of course you do.  Let me be clear.  We haven’t met.  At least not in the sense of how you and Mike met.  But we do know one another.  We’ve known one another for a long time.  Since you were a boy.”

 

Alethia continued for a while, offering validation of their relationship.  She told him things about himself, some of which he had long since forgotten—things that made it clear she was telling the truth.  She told him about that time his sister Callie died and how he was afraid he would die too.  She told him she knew about how he still talked to Callie—which was also something that had made him worry he was crazy.  But that was something he had never told anyone. He should have been afraid.  But the more Alethia told him, the more his anxiety fell.

 

“Is there anything else you want to ask me, Ian?”

He started to ask her a question, but the train of his mind had entered the pitch of black of the tunnel and for a moment, he couldn’t think.  The train, there in the middle of the tunnel, had stopped.  No rattle of the steel wheels grinding over the rails.  No roar of the engine.  No bells of warning.  Only quiet.

 

But the engines roared to life.  The horn blew with the power and fury of the priests with Joshua at Jericho.  The train raced further into the darkness.  Not in the sense of how you and Mike met?

 

He hung up the phone without saying anything more.

Long Distance–Chapter One: A brief fiction

He was in a hurry.  Just like always.

 

Subconsciously marking off his steps, Ian marched across the parking deck.  He noticed the scrap of paper in his path laying on the freshly cured concrete laying midway between his car and the electronically secured doors into his building.  The yellow page, marred by time, exhaust and dirt almost seemed to be staring at him—a big-eyed shelter pup longing for a place its the world. But Ian’s mind was cluttered and the temptation to stop and pick it up waned quickly.

 

His mind was a tunnel into which trains of thought raced, disappearing into dark tunnels.  Some emerged, bursting into the light, after passing through the labyrinthine passages of his brain.  Others didn’t, stymied by lights on the tracks flashing red and yellow in a symphony of creativity and fatigue.  There were things that needed doing and someone else would clean up the litter.

 

When he entered his condominium Ian plopped down at his desk and exhaled.  He pulled open his laptop and found the spreadsheet.  Ian kept track of his life here—his money, his achievements, his fitness goals.  He didn’t know when he had begun this chronicling of his life successes and failures.  But this ritual brought him a kind of uneasy comfort.  Some where along the way, life had become an algebra equation and his job was to solve for all the variables.  The way he figured it, the math worked.

 

Once he had finished his daily entries, he packed his gym bag and headed back into the parking deck.  Passing through the gray steel doors, he re-entered the moist misery of evening in Atlanta. He had a date tonight, or at least he thought it was a date, and he’d need to hurry if he was going to complete a full workout.  From the corner of his eye, Ian saw the scrap of yellow paper he’d seen earlier, dancing in three of a passing sedan.  The thing was hopping around, irritating him like a fly buzzing in the darkness.

 

Late that night, after learning that his date wasn’t really a date, his mind and body weary from long week of disappointment and long days, he staggered from his Lexus.  He wondered if the demons of insomnia would haunt him tonight of if the nocturnal gods would grant him their favor tonight.  Maybe he would take an Ambien tonight.  But they made him feel weak and he could grab a nap tomorrow.

 

When the green light on the keypad appeared, he began to step forward into the cool of building.  That’s when he noticed the paper stuck to his shoe.  Damn.  He had to shake his leg twice to dislodge it.  He was exhausted and found himself more than a little pissed off at the distraction.

 

Laying in the bed that night, Ian realized the ghosts were there and that there would be no sleep.  Not tonight.  He got out of the bed and wandered to the couch.   Picking up his copy of The Times, he thought he would work the crossword puzzle.    But something was bothering him and he couldn’t concentrate.  Thoughts of that scrap of paper kept nagging at him.

 

In his stupor, Ian wandered to the exit doors and found the note that was now laying just inside building.  The damn thing was following him. He stood over it, casually glanced around, as if he were on some midnight mission for justice—an undercover detective in flannel sweats and a faded Widespread Panic t-shirt.  In the amber of neon, he squatted, picking up the tattered scrap.  Squinting, he tried to decipher its message.  Extending his arm fully, he tried to focus.  He could tell there was an 800-number and a message on the page.  And someone had gone to the trouble of writing the note with a fat-tipped Sharpie.

 

1-888-207-9911

Alethia

Call her. It’s important.

And don’t lose this number

 

For the next several days, Ian asked a few of his neighbors if they had dropped the piece of paper in the parking deck.  A couple of times he began to crumble the page and toss it into the trash.  But for some reason his concern with returning the note to its proper owner became something of a quest.  I mean, I would want somebody to return it to me, he reasoned.  The page had begun to feel like some sort of holy message and he was now it’s bearer.

 

By mid-morning that following Monday, Ian had been unable to find the owner of the note and was now toying with calling the number himself.  Maybe Alethia was waiting.  Maybe she had bad news to share.  Or perhaps she needed help.  Ian didn’t want to get involved.  She could one of those woman he had watched on television in the middle of the night—a psychic bearing a message from the dead. Worst case, she’s a whackadoodle and I can just block her number and be done with the damn thing. 

 

For reasons he didn’t understand, Ian left the building and walked to a quiet spot across from his office.  There, under the shade of a red oak, he punched the numbers into his cell.  The ring was one of those hollow sounding electronic sorts of ring that made you wonder if you were calling a bad number or if maybe you were going to hear someone say The number you have reached has been disconnected.  Please hang up and try….

 

“Hello?”

 

“Oh.  Hey.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t think anyone was gonna answer.”

 

“Can I help you?”

 

“Is this Alethia?”

 

“Who’s calling?” A cool reply.  Some indistinct European accent.

 

“Ian.  My name is Ian?”

 

“How can I help you, Ian?”

 

“I know this is strange,” he began.  He told her about the note—how he had found it and even surprisingly, that he lived in Atlanta. Alethia didn’t seem dangerous or crazy or sad.  She was calm.  Later he would say her voice was almost like a balm, a healing ointment on the scars of his soul.

 

“I’m sorry Ian.  I don’t know who wrote the note.  And I don’t know who that one is for,” she said.

 

“What do you mean, ‘that one?’  Do this happen a lot?”

 

“More than you might think.  That’s what we do here—well, it’s what I do, I mean.”

 

Whatever peace Ian had expected to find by making the call was now proving to be misplaced hope.  He felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

 

“Okay.  Well, thanks anyway, Alethia.  Sorry to bother you.”

 

He started to hang up.

 

“Ian?” she said, her voice soft, almost breathless.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Mistakes like this happen sometimes.  But sometimes—it’s rare—but sometimes the people who call like you are really supposed to be the one calling me.”

 

“Huh?” Ian felt off-balance.  Almost dizzy.  He steadied himself against the rough thick trunk of the oak.

 

“Why on earth would I need to call a toll-free number and to speak to someone I don’t know who’s probably sitting somewhere on the other side of the world?”

 

“I don’t know, Ian.  That’s the one question I can’t answer.”

Half-Way Man

Daylight breaks,

upon the shore,

the emerald seas,

are calm once more;

 

Gulls soaring

cross bluest skies,

and children playing,

a baby cries;

 

Sea and sand,

waft on the breeze,

Creation yawns

her waking ease;

 

Along the shore,

this young man walks

perhaps with his gods,

he surely talks;

 

Pondering long,

His future bright,

Or could it be,

his worldly plight?

 

Bare feet washed

by the wave,

This solitude,

his longing gaze;

 

And from behind

he hears that voice,

tender she calls,

make now, thy choice;

 

A gray man fishing

there on the shore

Casting his lines,

surf’s gentle roar;

 

No sound makes he,

this wrinkled man

his shoulders bent,

his body tan;
He turns to watch,

the passing man,

and nods his head,

Some thing in hand;

 

And watching him,

this passerby,

nods in return,

and wonders why;

 

From the east,

the sun beats down,

This universe,

ever spinning round;

 

Footprints fading,

Behind his path,

Half-way now,

he’s done the math;

 

Waters creep,

the tides they strain

The voice draws near,

her clear refrain;

 

The dolphins diving

in their seas green,

Plumbing depths,

In dreams he’s seen;

 

The gulls they screech,

all filled with pride,

Sandpipers racing,

the relentless tide;

 

The sun now risen,

nigh at it’s peak

This half-way man

can finally speak;

 

Clouds in the distance,

Not far away,

The lightening cracks,

What does it say?
This half-way man,

must still pursue,

not something different,

yet something new.

I Remember how she Whistled

I remember how she whistled

And how she baked a pie,

Never used the cup,

Just measured by the eye;

 

And how she took me fishing,

Digging worms for the can,

I remember how she loved me

And her chicken in the pan;

 

I remember how she smelled,

Or think sometimes I do,

Lavender and lilac,

Like flowers blooming new;

 

And all the shirts she sewed me

Hand-stitched roses on the back,

I remember that she loved me

And that she gave me snacks;

 

I remember how he spoke,

And how he loved his boys,

Always had a story,

That his tools were my toys;

 

I remember how he held me

When upon the rocks I fell,

That he read his Bible

And the tales he’d tell;

 

I remember that his hair

Was fine and rather red.

I wish I could remember

The things I’m sure he said;

 

I remember that he loved her,

That Chester was his name,

And that he had a mule,

Dad says he couldn’t tame;

 

I remember how she laughed

And loved to tell a joke

Never met a stranger,

The drawl with which she spoke;

 

I remember the Christmas tree

A monstrous silver thing

And that gladly she gave me,

Grand-daddy’s wedding ring;

 

Always met me at the door

Whenever I came by,

Always did my laundry,

And the noise when it dried;

 

I remember how she woke

And rose within the dark,

How she always seemed

To have a special spark.

 

I remember his kind of swagger

And how he donned a hat,

I remember that he told me

Where the whiskey bottle sat;

 

He loved to give a gift,

To all the ones he loved,

And I kind of think he bought me

My first baseball glove.

 

I remember how he parted

A crowd of angry men,

Sometimes I really wish,

I could see him once again;

 

I remember how he drove

With all the windows down,

The air conditioner blowing

As we rode around.

 

I remember all these things

Of my parents-grand

Through the hour-glass

These bits of passing sand.

 

They labored in the field

And in the blackest mines,

Cared for all their children

Endured the toughest times;

 

I’m certain there were moments

When they lost their way,

But I’m grateful for them all

Who lead me here today.

Keep to the Center

Keep to the center

where the channel is deep

and relentless waters

flow to the open sea;

 

Keep to the center,

eyes ever watchful

for the treacherous  snags

lurking in her depths

 

Keep to the center,

away from her perilous shores,

far from the rocks of delusion

and the stranded debris

washed down from storms

gone by.

 

Keep to the center,

bow pointed downstream,

forward, toward the open waters

of awakening;

 

Keep to the center,

With open eyes unclouded

by fears floating past,

away from the calving clay

and spilling sands and

where murky waters boil;

 

Keep to the center,

when the sun above

and glaring waters below

conspire to blind and

when the fog lays heavy

and the banks disappear;

 

Keep to the center,

when the confluence boils

and the ill-wind blows

when currents push and pull

and the hull moans and creaks

in dismay;

 

Keep to the center,

where the channel is deep.

Silly Boy

I want to write a poem

That rhymes so perfectly.

It’s really very difficult,

I hope that you can see.

 

Nash, Poe, and Dickson

Seemed to do it all so well.

I wonder if they ever thought

This just isn’t going well?

 

Angelou and Dylan,

The words of Kipling too,

Move me in their work,

All saying something true,

 

Wadsworth was a master,

As was surely Frost,

Did they ever think,

That they were simply lost?

 

I’d like to write a poem

That changes this big world.

Maybe just a little bit,

While in this ball I’m curled.

 

I guess I’ll have to settle

For scribing just for him,

Words that might just change

A writer they call Jim.

 

Won’t be the Laureate,

Or win a Nobel Prize

Though I’m pretty famous

In my mother’s eyes.

 

There’s so very much to say

That’s buried in my heart.

Yes, I’m surely trying,

And this is where I start.

 

With apologies to Tolkien

And to Thoreau, of course

I know that I should stop

And show some real remorse.

 

But like the addict hooked,

I just can’t seem to quit,

Tossing out these words,

Even when they do not fit.

 

So I’ll carry on

Hoping that some day

There’ll be something meaningful

In what I have to say.

 

Some of what I write

Lays my soul so bare

Some is just for fun

I wonder if you care?

 

Which have I written here?

You may wonder still,

We have that in common,

I might just need my pills.

 

It really doesn’t matter

For these word I must,

Put them on the paper

The universe I’ll trust.

 

Now I’m having a bit of trouble

Ending this silly tale.

But now I have to stop

And go check my email.

 

So bid you now I do

A day that’s filled with joy,

I know you’re glad its over

Sorry, I’m just a silly boy.

Here I Stand

Here I stand,

waiting,

waiting for the winds of inspiration

to dance across my face,

to cool my brow

and dry these tears.

 

Here I stand,

listening,

my ears straining against the deafening roar of silence,

hoping to hear the echoes of what was,

Apollo’s sweet melody,

vibrating within my belly.

 

Here I stand,

watching,

staring into the glare,

a vigilant watchman,

alert,

peering into the mirage

wiping my eyes of the grit

and dust

and sweat,

ever peering into the horizon.

 

Here I stand,

waiting,

waiting for that someday

when voice and vision,

wander from the parched desert of dismay,

when the the fire becomes but gray ash,

scattered by the breeze,

to sit once more,

upon the verdant grasses,

beside the still waters of oasis.

 

 

Here I stand.

Waiting.

 

Headshots: A True Story

Jim sat on the stool trying to keep his shoulders back, his chin down, and manage a smile that didn’t look contrived.  Then he remembered he needed to suck in his gut. Gaah! This was like trying to rub your head and pat your stomach at the same time, he thought.  He would never have made a living as a male model.  The photographer kept telling him to look natural.  But there was nothing natural about sitting there under the impossibly bright lights.

“Now, open your eyes wide”

Just take the damn picture. 

All he wanted was a few headshots for his website and some business cards.  The photographer, a friend he trusted, was really good at this.  He had seen her work before and hoped she could salvage something out of his alternately wooden, lurching and clownish attempts to look professional, trustworthy, and likeable.  Jim had given up on hot and sexy a long time ago.  But after thirty minutes of her instructions, he had begun to hope she could edit away some of his crow’s feet and that the vein in his temple wasn’t bulging so much that he looked like he was having an aneurysm.

I know I’m having one.  I just hope it doesn’t look that way. 

“Breathe, Jim.”

Breathe?  I’m having a stroke here.  You want me to breathe?

“We’re almost done.  Let me just change the lens.”

“Do you have one that will make me look like George Clooney?”

She smiled at him and let out a quick chuckle.

“Hard work being a super-model, isn’t it?”

“Just don’t ask me to look pouty.  My range of emotions is limited.  I can probably manage surly without much trouble.”

“You’re doing great.  We are gonna have some good choices to work with,” she said, snapping the new lens in place.

After fifteen more awkward minutes, she said, “Okay.  All done.”

They walked into her office where she popped a memory card into her Apple desktop.  A few taps of the keyboard and Jim’s face suddenly stared back at him.  Suppressing a gasp, he managed to mutter only a muted, “Ewww.”

After sorting through several dozen digital images, they settled on three for final editing.  They weren’t that bad, Jim thought.  But he had seen every flaw; that spot on his cheek where the dermatologist had sliced away the lesion; the not so subtle droop below just under his chin, and the lines in his forehead.  They were all there, his imperfections staring at him.

“Are my ears uneven?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean is one lower on the side of my head than it is on the other?”

If the photographer hadn’t been a good friend, he might have just dropped the whole project right there.  But he needed the photos and in her presence, he felt some comfort.

“You’re silly.  You’re gonna like the final product, I promise.”

“You have some of those filtering things don’t you?  Like those Snapchat thingies.”

“Sure.  Would you rather have a ring of flowers on your head or some purple sunglasses,” she kidded.

“Very funny.”

Jim told her goodbye, gave her a hug and headed back to his car.  Calling down to him from the stairway, she said, “I’ll have something for you to look at in a couple of days.”

Before he pulled out of the parking lot, Jim took out his phone.  He scanned Instagram and Facebook for a minute.  Flipping through photos of himself and his friends, he thought about how he looked in most of them.  Not bad.  But not great, either.  He was smiling in most of them.  But not with that kind of “running for office” kind of perfection he was afraid would show up in his headshots.  He looked kind of sweaty and tired, he thought, in a lot of them.

He had never learned how to use Photoshop.  He had fooled around with a couple of Instagram filters, but that had never been with photos of himself.  Maybe he should learn.  Everyone else looks so good in their pictures, when they used those things.

A few days later, when his friend texted to tell him she would be sending him a link to a Dropbox account where he could look at the proofs of his headshots, Jim was a little nervous.  He opened the files and began to scan through them.

Whoa.  She’s a genius!  It actually kind of looks like the way I feel. 

The scar was gone.  The crow’s feet were still there, but weren’t as obvious.  And the lines on his forehead, they were a faint memory.

Jim thought about the scar that had been erased by the magic of technology. The cut that had produced it had been painful and his first acknowledgement of mortality.  Almost ten years later I’m still here.  The crow’s feet were probably the result of years of squinting into the horizon during his countless hours of travel across the country.  Lot of good memories there.  And the lines on his forehead, no doubt, were the product of hours of worry over children he so desperately wanted to love and protect.  They turned out pretty good.  He was grateful.

When Jim finally posted the photos on his website and Facebook page, he was glad they had turned out so well.  But he had thought a lot about filters.  He remembered one of his favorite poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar, We Wear the Mask. People have been filtering what they let others see of them for generations.  Their clothes.  Their houses.  Their demeanors.  They were all a kind of a filter.  Masks of a sort.

It would be easy to blame technology and social media for people presenting their lives and image as perfect. But it was nothing new; just a different way of fitting in to whatever group they want to fit into.  Living for “likes” and “followers” wasn’t healthy, he knew.  Still, Jim was grateful for the kindness people had shown him when he uploaded his new headshots.

All those imperfections on his face, they were the markers of a life.  Fear.  Joy.  Victory.  Defeat.  Nobody escapes life without difficulties.  Jim was glad for his friend’s skill with the camera.  She actually had managed to get him to look natural.  To be natural.  Those photos showed a part of who he was too.  But he knew he would also keep posting the unfiltered shots where he looked sweaty and tired.  All of them showed a part of who he was, even if he didn’t look like George Clooney.

Popcorn Thoughts

These popcorn thoughts,

dancing on the sizzling skillet of his mind,

scattered kernels of corn, golden,

they crackle and pop, bursting into ideas, becoming words,

untold tales stopping by,

perhaps billowing into mounds of something worthwhile,

something that brings laughter,

something that teaches,

insight perhaps,

salted and buttered,

seasoned with a  bit of wisdom,

exploding from joy and sorrow,

gain and loss,

victory and even defeat.

Some confound and confuse;

some tease and amuse.

All scattered about;

some whisper, some shout.

Can there be some reason

for the thoughts that he seasons,

For these popcorn thoughts?