There is an old adage that we hear what we want to hear. I think it is a good adage. It speaks to the deep human propensity to make disturbed and muddy the clear, still waters of reality. But like much of the world, belief is a complicated force. Perhaps it is all in how we use it. Where would we be without the believers and the dreamers? I know my life would have much less meaning and fun without belief in the yet proven–in other words, faith.
When I was a child, I came across a film one day flipping through our limited selection of channels on TV: The Legend of Boggy Creek, a docuhorror about a bigfoot-like creature supposedly sited in Fouke, Arkansas throughout the 1940s and 1950s. It was both terrifying and fascinating. Perhaps it was the first horror movie I ever watched. It has long been one of my favorite genres. I was convinced that the movie was absolutely true–perhaps it was.
My voice teacher in college was a truly unique man. A New Yorker, painter, self-styled urban cowboy, French song interpreter, and gifted singer. He was particular–perhaps an acquired taste. He had a gaggle of devoted fans, mostly older women, who attended all of his recitals. He projected an air of sophistication, confidence, and elegance, unlike anyone I had met. I too was a big fan. I admired him greatly.
He taught me a word quite uncommon in Oklahoma. I had to ask what it meant. I don’t remember the exact context, but I will fill in the blank. During a lesson one day, he was describing something–a house, a hotel, a restaurant, an art gallery, someone’s fashion…can’t remember. In describing it he said, “Yes. Very chi-chi.” (also shi-shi)
I’m grateful for medicine.
Without meds to help me regulate my moods (bipolar), I’m quite certain my life would be a series of disasters. But as all people dependent on medicine know, there is often a trade-off. There are side effects and there are dangers. There is no one more compliant with psychiatric medicine than I am, and that comes with a cost.
In the fall of 2017, I needed a med change–a regular occurrence in the treatment of Bipolar Affective Disorder. My doctor increased one drug and added a new one–something brand new on the market. It’s a drug you’ve seen in commercials a dozen times and I was hopeful that it would level me out–and it did. But as a person who was already struggling with anxiety, it began to get out of control soon after starting it. I never connected the two. The doctor then put me on an anxiety medicine to help with that.
My twin brother and I shared a room from womb to thirteen-years-old. Those of you who have had a roommate know that you must develop and agree on certain rules to keep the peace. For example, we agreed that the last person to get in bed must turn off the light. Paul was notoriously and egregiously derelict in following this rule. There were several nights when, in our stubbornness, he and I would leave the light on until two or three in the morning because Paul refused to turn out the light under the terms of our agreement. Of course, I would eventually give in, huffing and fuming, and turn off the light.
July has become a natural time for me to think about Christmas. I, as do many, absolutely adore the Christmas season, and I begin to long for it in the hot month of July for so many reasons. So why not?
I’m a believer.
When there is inadequate evidence to support something I want to believe–something which enriches my life in some way–I often choose to believe it anyway. I’m good with Bigfoot, psychic powers, magic, aliens, ghosts, and God. Most adults believe in at least one of these. But what about Santa Claus?
I believe it’s accurate to say that I had a reputation for being straight-laced in high school. If I showed up at your party (rare), and you were thinking of bringing out booze or some illicit substance, you might ask your friend,
“Do you know that guy?”
“Who? Oh, that Burns twin? David?”
“Will he be cool if I bring this out?”
“David? Uhhhhh…better wait until he’s gone.”
I’ve written extensively of my memories of Lonoke, Arkansas and Norman, Oklahoma, but my memory goes further back to Texas. In fact, my first memory is around one-and-a-half years old, and it involved Batman in a small way. We lived in a trailer home somewhere near Houston. One summer evening, my mother had some friends over for coffee. My twin and I were riding down the gravel drive of the trailer on little plastic scooters. No peddles, just powered by our sandaled feet. Mine was green and it was a nominally akin to a tractor. My mother had cut the rubber head of a toy tom-tom drum into a mask just like Robin’s from Batman. I recall coming in from the humid night air to have her retie it for me a couple of times. This tells you how deep my roots with the Batman franchise grows.
I grew up at a time when the brand of your clothes you wore was a major factor in you determining social status. Polo, Izod, Gant, OP, Jams, Guess, Reebok–it didn’t matter if the off-brand clothing item was identical; without the brand, it was absolute TRASH and you were better off not even trying.
I learned this in my days of middle school in Norman. I moved from a small farm town in Arkansas where I was aware of name brands, but so many of us were poor and I think we were more forgiving about clothes. In that town, Lee jeans were the standard. You looked for that genuine cowhide patch with “Lee” branded on it. They weren’t expensive. They didn’t promise any kind of status. We just liked them. But Lee was not cool in 1984 Norman. I was set straight very soon at Whittier Middle School. In a panic, I begged my mom to buy me a couple pairs of Levis, but I had to wait.
When we marry, we bring with us our own scripts, experiences, preferences, and needs. It may take quite of few years before a couple can come to a place of sufficient understanding of each other. We may not even know our own needs at first, but marriage is a great platform for self-discovery as well. We also come into a marriage thinking the way we grew up was normal. We may learn, however, that we all grow up with some peculiarities and biases.
That brings us to the topic of throwing up. I grew up believing that throwing up was a private matter. In order to protect one another’s dignity, my family of origin left each other alone to suffer through the event–saving each other from embarrassment. There is no dignity in the way I and other members of my family upchuck. It’s like listening to an exorcism.
Once in a while, my wife and I get asked how we met. We both love to tell it. It shares themes with many love stories–politics, prestige, perseverance, admiration, and hearts that went pitter-patter.
Our story begins with music. Jennifer and I both played instruments in the band at West Mid-High in Norman, Oklahoma. She played the flute and I played the tuba. She sat on the front row and me on the back row. Ninth grade passed without any interaction that I remember. Other, she was just one of the nameless gaggle of giggly flute players on the front row.