Adventure in Haven’t I Seen You Somewhere Before?

Some sort of Science has been explained to me that you cannot dream a person that you haven’t seen in your waking life. Well, Science, explain this to me.

It started this morning, well it started last night but I’ll get to that. I came into the office and my boss asks me if I have weird dreams. It felt out of the blue, but I really do have strange dreams. I’m always pretty eager to share them. When I have a seemingly mundane or ordinary dream it usually means something. I told him my dream about giant cats on bikes and the dream about a rehearsal guarded by grenade wielding friends.

I didn’t tell him this very mundane dream though.

I’m in a house with friends, or people, but they seem to be my friends. I can’t recall who they were because I got caught up in the rest of it. We’re all talking about something unimportant when we hear a knock at the big front window. Someone pulls back the wofty, white drapes. I’m curled up in a ball in front of the couch that sits in front of the window. I peek over the top of the couch to see a tall man with red curly hair and a beard. He’s wearing a dark sweatshirt and a knit cap. I’m gripped with the intense need to yell at this man and an overwhelming sense of fear. Those around me who seem to care are insisting I not go out to see him. “It’s not worth it,” they say. Finally, I gather my strength and open the door, trembling. I walk up to him and begin to say something, and for the life of me I can’t remember what. He replies, and I collapse into his arms. The fear and the anger melt away. My head nestled on his shoulder. Honestly, in all of my life I’ve never felt so at ease, and even now thinking back on it I feel the same ease.

At lunch today I went to the Fresh Market to pick up some sushi. I walk toward the registers at the front of the store. As I near the coffee I feel compelled. It’s not a passing thing, I feel like I’m supposed to look there. Grinding coffee beans is a man. He looks up at me. We make eye contact. We make awkward, how-do-I-know-you eye contact. We both move as if we’re about to speak, but I kept walking.

I check out.

I get in my car.

I realize it was him. The guy in my dream in the same clothes.

Science, care to respond? Because I feel like I just entered the Neighborhood of Make Believe, and sooner or later I’ll see King Friday or Lady Elaine.

I thank my dear friend Dirk for bringing this relevant song to my attention. http://soundcloud.com/chairlift/met-before

Adventure in Thankfulness…I’m looking at you, Jason Segel

Good news. This is my 100th post. I’ve been strategically posting for exactly this topic. Get ready because my thankfulness this Thanksgiving comes in the form a bounty for just one man.

The last year I’ve been nervous. I’ve been anxious. I read reviews of the screenplay. I read reviews after the premiere.

Here’s the deal. I grew up around the Muppets. I grew up engrossed in the Muppets. I come from a family that watched “the Muppet Show.” When I was sick I watched “the Muppet Movie,” “the Great Muppet Caper” and “Muppets Take Manhattan.” We had a taped from television copy of “Muppet Family Christmas” on VHS. We had taped from television documentaries about Jim Henson. About the Muppets. I had John Denver and the Muppets Christmas album on vinyl. And by the time I was a kid I lived in the world of “Muppets Tonight” trying to come into fashion. I’m a purist. That said.

I knew then, I wasn’t a fan of Clifford as a host for “Muppets Tonight,” but still comprehended that doing “Manah Manah” as “Phenomena” in the seventh episode of “Muppets Tonight” was a direct nod to the first episode of the “Muppet Show.” I enjoyed “Muppet Christmas Carol” and “Muppet Treasure Island.” I like Tim Curry, but I wasn’t satisfied with them. They weren’t Muppet-centric original stories. They were someone else’s stories starring the Muppets. That didn’t satisfy my Muppet heart.

So when “Muppets from Space” came out I was jazzed. I was 12. A NEW Muppet movie about the Muppets! Not someone else’s story. It was a story about the Muppets. I was dis.a.ppoin.ted. Very. The beauty of Gonzo is that, yes, we all suspected he was an alien, but no one really knew. He didn’t really know. No one knew. But everyone loved and accepted him anyway. The moment you explain him it takes something away from him. Not to mention it shows a complete lack of creativity on the part of the writers. It was a travesty.

So over the last year or more I’ve been anxious. I’ve been worried. I knew that Jason Segel loved and valued the Muppets as much as I do. I knew, but there’s still that fear of another disappointment. I made claims like “I won’t be able to watch ‘How I Met Your Mother’ anymore if it’s awful,” and I like “How I Met Your Mother.” So as we got closer to the day I knew I’d have to see it. I knew, and I wanted to. I just didn’t want to be mad at the Muppets. I didn’t want to be mad at Jason Segel.

I asked my friend Trey. We don’t agree on Muppets. He doesn’t have my history. He liked “Muppets from Space.” We aren’t allowed to discuss them. We fight. We argue.

November 23, 2011, came. I’m nervously sitting in my seat next to Trey at the Huntington 7. We make jokes, which distracts me from my possibly impending rage. 9:25 p.m. hits and it begins. I’m laughing. I’m recognizing old characters back again. I’m enjoying recycled jokes. I’m enjoying cameos, good cameos. Not just nobodies. Somebodies. Somebodies are back with the Muppets. Songs are back. Awful puns are back. The beauty of a Family of friends working together to make something wonderful together is back. No one is wearing some stupid new shirt. No one is trying to out Muppet himself. Its genuine, beautiful Muppetainment. I didn’t leave the theater even remotely angry.

My little Muppet-loving heart even had me crying a few times. Kermit walking onto the stage hearing himself introducing Bob Hope. Kermit in his hallway looking at the portraits of his family pining for togetherness. It’s that feeling I love that Kermit brings out. “Together Again” is playing over and over again in my head. I couldn’t have been more satisfied or moved. For that, Jason Segel, I thank you.

Now that you know I love it, you’ll get to know the 2% that bothered me, because I’m a complainer and don’t know how to be satisfied.

First the thing that hurts me as a purist. On May 16, 1990, James Maury Henson died after selling over his beautiful Muppets to Disney. When Jim died it was decided that Rowlf the Dog would be silenced in memoriam of his legacy. Kermit obviously could never be quieted, and Rowlf was one of Jim’s trademark characters. And it was a beautiful thing to do. It was sad for sure. I, personally, adore Rowlf. He’s in my top 5 favorite Muppets, but I love Jim enough to understand why. Rowlf was silent for three cinematic releases, but not for any made for tv specials. So it isn’t the fault of this movie. Not at all, but to see Rowlf on a big screen talking again it hurt. I shouldn’t be so easily affected, but I am. Have him sing in big group numbers when you can pick out his voice. I’m okay with that, but not Rowlf. Not talking. For the sake of Jim. Please?

Second, more directly a movie problem. It was troublesome to have the main characters not be Kermit or Fozzie or Gonzo. At first. Because once the movie really gets going it does become about those characters we love. And I can make myself okay with it, because it is a great way to bring it all together. However, I get caught on this one thing. And that thing is Amy Adams.

Amy Adams who has been in 10 movies in the last three years. She isn’t choosy. Maybe she is, but she doesn’t feel choosy about her roles. But more than that her character was a distraction from the Muppets. If she never sang I think I wouldn’t be as bothered, but she did. Two songs. Two songs and the movie wasn’t remotely about her. She at best was a means for forcing Gary and Walter separate. That particular factor in a film does not require two songs. It can’t. She didn’t do anything Muppet-related at all, and she got two songs. It didn’t even feel cohesive. Her character didn’t blend into the movie. She was an annoying commercial break from the movie I wanted to be watching. She was a means of bringing in an audience. Of somehow giving the movie credibility. 10 movies in 3 years apparently makes someone qualified to bring about credibility. Again, if she’d be in it without having two numbers to herself. Or one number to herself and duet with Miss Piggy. I wouldn’t have been distracted by her.

Jason Segel, thank you. Thank you for restoring the Muppets to everything they ever were. Thank you for having comedian friends for cameos. Thank you for loving the Muppets enough to take care of them.

If you like the Muppets, even a little, go see it.

Adventure in NoNaNoWriMo

It’s been a while since I made myself sit down and write all those way too many words in only those 30 days. Maybe it’s lack of inspiration, but it’s probably a lot closer to laziness and a bad case of the sads. Well, my friends, inspiration has hit.

This is not what was inspired; this is where I found it.

Yesterday, I made myself go to a church. One to try. I didn’t hate the sound of their sermons. It didn’t look horrifying, but after my last experience trying to find a home I was shaken. I got up at 7:30 for the 9:30 service, not so much because I need two hours to get ready, but because I couldn’t sleep anymore. Well, 9:30 came and went, and it was clear my brain was winning a battle with my heart. Or maybe it was the other way around. It was 11, and I got in my shaky at best car to drive the 10 minutes. I was still 20 minutes early. I sat in my car listening to A Prairie Home Companion and arguing with myself. Finally, I got out of the car.

I walked into the office building converted into a worship space. I was handed a bulletin without eye contact. I walked to the opposite side of the sanctuary. I found myself a seat safe from the possibility of taking someone’s prescribed seat. A woman and four children sat two seats away from me. Not all in one seat, but you know. It was baptism service. A service of music and the beautiful experience of baptisms. And it hits me. I don’t think I’m being judgmental in being there. I think the Spirit is genuinely stirring in me, shaking in me. “Get out!” I argue I must stick it out. How can I truly get a feel for the place if I leave now? “Get out!” Everything was driven by emotions. Everything was driven by the person. I felt sick. I stayed. No one over the age of 14 was baptized, which doesn’t really mean anything. It was when the little girl said, “my dad told me it was time to accept Jesus. I didn’t know what that meant, but I did it. And now I’m ready to be baptized.” I’m shaking. I’m not okay here. And when I leave I’m glad no one spoke to me.

BUT! One girl did say one sentence that has brought an onslaught of inspiration for children’s books. I won’t go into it now, but inspiration is spinning.

Adventure in Being Bested

“They used to dance,” I hear Lucy Pevensie pleading for empathy from Trumpkin. They used to be so much more these trees. They used to be what they were meant to be.

“I used to be king,” I hear Peter Pevensie begging his siblings to remember. He used to be greater than himself

I used to bake. I used to write. I used to act. I used to sing. I used to do improv. I used to have opportunities at every turn. I didn’t take all of them, and some of them weren’t for me though I tried anyway. It wasn’t just college it was life.

I find myself breaking down. More than ever. Alone in a place I don’t like. Alone in an apartment that is haunted only by the noise from the TV or my neighbor’s constant coughing or yelling. Even in searching for them, opportunities are scarce.

It’s not that I miss theatre, even if part of me does. It’s not that I even miss acting, even if part of me does. What I miss is the learning and yearning. What I miss is the building into each other. I miss being on a stage with a tiny audience or just whoever is there for the night. I miss pushing each other beyond the limit, and probably beyond what was appropriate for a Christian university. I miss get up on a tiny stage late after rehearsal with anybody at all and just rolling with it. I miss the sound of laughter not from the audience but from each other. The I-can’t-believe-you-took-it-there laugh.

I’m not a singer, by any stretch. That doesn’t mean I didn’t sing. That I didn’t gather around a long table in the dining commons with 15 people and belt “La Vie Boheme” before we ate our Thanksgiving dinner. That doesn’t mean a roadtrip doesn’t have a strictly showtunes playlist. In the car alone on a trip home my playlist sounds a lot like NPR, because it is. Or silence.

I haven’t turned my heat on yet. I only just latched the windows. And I won’t turn my heat on until I get the sense it won’t get warmer than 40 in the day. I want to bake just for the chance to heat my house, but also to calm my nerves. To try something new. I don’t want baked good around my apartment though. My body doesn’t need that. There was always someone. Now there’s no one.

Life is defeating me with its lifeness. I’m trying to stay above water, but it’s pressing in. I spend days at a time in bed. I have nothing to get up for. I cry a lot. And what’s worse, is every day I feel myself losing any sense of who I was. And there’s nothing I can do to save her. I feel bested by my loneliness, and I must, by the grace and strength of God, pull myself free.

Adventure in Applying Pressure

I went away from Home for College. I was part of a very small percentage of my graduating high school class to do this. Every time I returned home the only question anyone had to ask me was “So, are you dating anyone?” My Friends asked me. My Family asked me. My Friends’ parents asked me. People I didn’t really know asked me, “So, are you dating anyone?” I answered “yes” to this question three times, but I didn’t really want to answer it. The question itself precludes that anything else could be important. Like my education or the espionage team I had joined or the shows I was working on.

“So, are you dating anyone?”

Now that I live away again, any time I’m home someone inevitably asks me about men in my life. I’m 24. I’ve been in three relationships, and they’ll tell you the relationships were not ideal. It made sense at the time, but in the long run it really probably just hurt our friendships. It was convenient at the time. When it grew inconvenient I gave up. These relationships unfortunately did not have a lot to do with the relationship itself or the guy involved. I’m a pretty selfish person.

This is going to get … messy?

This Spring I had a special friend removed from my previously non-functional Ovary. Apparently, removing something horrible from one’s Ovary, and forcing hormones into one’s Body until the Body produces its own causes a flood of crazy. All the discrediting I did of the weird things women blame on hormones because it didn’t happen to me, I rescind. I was wrong. That crap’s serious. I cry at everything. I wig out when my period is coming. I crave chocolate from time to time, and I don’t even like chocolate. Loneliness hits harder, and what’s worse a Biological Clock I scoffed at begins to tick.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Not so much the pining for children to rear, but the desire to be a part of something greater than myself. Some relationship beyond my own selfish murmurings. And that’s when it hits. My human, media-driven brain tells me that has to be some human relationship. That has to be me in a, for lack of a better word, “romantic” relationship. But that’s just it isn’t it? That’s where God kicks me in the head. If I’m looking to be part of something greater, if I’m feeling a pull to get beyond my selfish murmurings what’s stopping me from looking beyond myself altogether. While the damn hormones persist, I feel God constantly reminding me that that is far from the most significant calling I have. He pulls me out of myself, out of my bed, out of my head, out of my apartment to find a way to love and live beyond what is important to me. If I’m driven by what is important to Him, what’s so seemingly important to me will fade or take care of itself. Right? I hope.

Adventure in Early Insult or Early Superiority

There’s a shaky sense of superiority that comes from being truly insulted, especially at a young age when you have not really begun to think ill of people.

The first instance that I can remember being told I was not pretty I was 7 and in the third grade. It wasn’t that I wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t pretty enough. I was also 7 and in the third grade when I first became overwhelmed with a sense of superiority.

Pulled aside on the way to recess Jessica Hardy told me that I was not pretty enough to be friends with my best friend Maria Neal. Now Maria, who was adorable and still gawkish at the time, has grown up to be one of the single-most beautiful women I have ever known. I have not seen Jessie Hardy since third grade so I can’t speak to her change in character or appearance. I suspect she grew out of third grade though.

She assured me at the time Maria deserved prettier friends than the likes of me. And that if I knew what was good for me and cared about what was good for her I’d stay away. As a third-grader I did not think someone could possibly be using a situation to manipulate me. It’s probably, that I can recall, the first time that happened too. So I was in a pinch. I didn’t want to lose my friend. My best friend, but I also didn’t want to drag her down with my stick-straight then beach blonde hair. With my comparatively small hairbows.

And then the cold, unfeeling, judgmental voice in my heart cried to my head, “But you’re prettier than her!” It’s the first time that I can recall being truly judgmental. At 7 I had decided that I was prettier than Jessie, and if I’m not pretty and I’m prettier than Jessie than she shouldn’t be around Maria either. That Jessie was dragging her down too.

Looking back I can’t help but wonder how it happened. What in me became so cold and judgmental? Was it some sort of switch? Did it take one insult, one cold-hearted insult, to teach me to be judgmental? I hate this moment, because I know that it is very likely the moment that I nurtured and let grow inside of me. It’s the moment that I let poison my heart to become disgustingly judgmental. 

There are other things that help that flourish and make it hard to suppress. There’s the media. The culture of women. The need for superiority. One at a time.

Media. I’ve discussed it before. We dedicate TV specials around award shows to judge the way people are dressed. We have shows that tell people with beautiful voices their faces are no good. We laugh and laugh at the people with dreams that take the chance to pursue them when they aren’t up to our standards.

Women. It’s not without reason we’re believed to be catty or bitchy. I even believe that we’re all bitches. I’ll hash that out another time. But I don’t believe I’m unfounded in it. We make snarky, snap judgments about everything and everyone. Hair, clothes, teeth, makeup, nails, cars. And I feel guilty saying that we all do this, but I promise to tell you the day I meet a woman that doesn’t. I cautiously tell you that my mom and I do it. We speculate at the lives of other women, some times under the guise of concern, but more often than not it’s just blatant judgment. My friends do it. Pointing out how his girlfriend wears so much make up she looks more like a raccoon than most raccoons. Or relieving pains about other catty girls by showing how catty they are or what unrelenting flirts they are.

Superiority. It makes us feel better. 9 times out of 10 we watch things like “The Biggest Loser,” which I’ve seen half an episode of, not to encourage the participants or in well-wishing, but to remind us how much better we are. “Well, I can get away with this pint of ice cream, because I’m not that. You go, fatty.” We point out how monstrously flirtatious another girl is to make our friend believe that’s why the boy isn’t paying to her. “You don’t look stupid. At least you aren’t wearing that! She looks ridiculous.” Why do we need it? Why do I need to feel like I’m better than someone else? I’m not. I’m not better than you, and in case you’re wondering you’re not better than I am.

If we constantly compare ourselves we’re not going to ever make any strides forward are we? And for the sake of any possible question, no. I don’t see how to justify a judgment. And I’m not going to try. I’m only going to try to change.

Adventure in It’s Too Late

What exactly is the purpose of an apology? A genuine one was once explained to me to be a very difficult task for the person making the apology. It admits wrong-doing or offensive behavior. It admits failure. It admits stubbornness. It admits selfishness. It admits regret, remorse. It expresses empathy. It exhibits defensiveness. An apology does a great many things, but how much of an apology is for the wronged? I don’t receive a lot of apologies in my life. I make a lot of them, and it’s started me thinking.

Let me start by explaining my over-use of apologies. I apologize when I feel I’ve been talking too much or if I feel I’ve been talking too much about a particular topic that interests me. I apologize when I express a selfish desire. I apologize in sarcasm to make a passive-agressive point. I apologize when someone says anything negative that has happened to him. I spend so much of my time apologizing I have to conclude two things. One) My apologies hold no weight. Two) If so much of my time is spent apologizing, I must therefore be apologizing more for my existence and presence than my actions. Both of those make for fairly selfish apology motives.

Now, a true apology is brokenness. It’s coming to someone you’ve wronged or feel you’ve wronged to humble yourself before the other person saying “I was in the wrong.” It’s a humble action. It’s not flippant. It’s genuine and deliberate.

At which point does it switch though? I’ve seen enough apologies and I’ve made enough to know that there aren’t that many genuine ones out there. At some point these humbling statements become a release for the apologizer. To get it off her chest, so to speak. Not in every case, I know that, but in many cases. To which I question, what’s the point. If I feel I must apologize to get something off my chest, wouldn’t it be better to just love the person I’ve wronged. To love her better. To change my future actions.

It brings up a question of repentance though, in life and in Christ. A question I’m really at a loss with, and until I do feel I’ve a better handle on it I won’t touch it for your viewing.

There are things in my life though, that probably at some juncture should have been apologized for, on my behalf or on the behalf of another, but what would be the point now? And how does it keep us moving forward if we constantly dredge up the past for the sake of “relieving pains?” It seems to me that would only stir up former negative feelings.

Things happen. Things are said. Good or bad. But we must move forward, and I find all too often in a human apology one to the other it is moving backward. Caution in apologies.

Adventure in Passion (not as salacious as you’d like or expect)

One quiet evening on a visit to Huntington I was sitting at the Rusty Dog with a friend of mine. We were discussing life’s pains and the things that drive us. I knew that she had started attending dance classes in Fort Wayne. She humbly told me that she knew she wasn’t very good, but she knew that if she wasn’t dancing somehow she just wouldn’t be able to survive. I had remarked how brave I thought she was. Going up there to this class every week where she simply did not know anyone. And all I could think was, “Good for you.”

Until, I got away from the conversation and all I could think was, “what the heck drives me that way?” I enjoy theatre. I enjoy comedy. I enjoy writing. I enjoy painting. But none of them so much that my life would explode if I did not have them. I used to think it was the case with theatre, but I’m really doing quite alright without it. So what is it? I’m not really passionate about anything. I’m not really driven by anything.

I don’t adore myself enough, or pine for the approval of my words enough, to pursue any sort of stand-up comedy. Sit-down comedy maybe, but only because I’m lazy and I have little feet. I write all day for work, perhaps not the most uplifting material or what I enjoy really, but it’s enough to satisfy any slight “need.”

I thought about taking some art classes. I even looked into it briefly, before I got horrified by prices or the insistence on having a child. If you want an inexpensive, but still quite acceptable class you take it with your child, which makes it less…inviting or really probably challenging. If you want a challenging class for adults you shell out more money than one’s bank account could possibly afford. An art class would be a seemingly appropriate way to meet new people with similar, slightly douchey interests, while simultaneously challenging myself and improving my meager skill.

As it is the benefits do not outweigh the cost.

I’ve looked into getting involved in helping with area children’s theatres, but their mission statements almost always infuriate me. Some of them so blatantly suggesting that they would prefer to only foster a love of theatre in those they think most worthy of it. They’re kids; let them play.

At the end of all of it, though, there’s nothing in me that requires something so beautifully as the way my friend needed dance. And when I’m honest about it, I’m disappointed in myself for caring so little about so very much. Passionless living. I disturb even my own heart with it. It takes me to a place that feels a lot like mediocrity in many areas. An unfocused emptiness. Or perhaps better a driveless focus. A regular Jane of no trades. Settling for average, or more often, less than average quality in many areas, none of which are excelled in. It’s a little, if not entirely, shattering every time I realize how truly passionless I am.