Life: A series of phases

I was in my 20s when, in the middle of an introduction to a friend of a friend, this random guy chuckled and proclaimed in an overly-emphatic, dorky fashion , “OH, So, YOU’RE a PK!,” while bobbing his head for far too long after his comment and still chuckling a good 30 seconds after THAT. I recall not being very entertained by dude and my grimaced expression betrayed my thoughts. ” A…What?” -with some exasperation, I was already sorry I’d asked. “A PKaaayyy!!!” As if saying it louder and longer would suddenly give it definition. “A Preacher’s Kid! You can’t get any worse than a PK!” And, he nudged me with his elbow, way too hard and one time too many.  I left him hanging for a high five, rolled my eyes and walked off. His laugh trailed off, for some reason. I speak of my dad often, and for those who don’t know, he was my John Wayne, my rock, my safe spot when the world was scary. He died  on October 31st, 2015. Yes, October is a difficult month. My dad would tell you he had to give his heart to God after the “son of a gun” he’d been in his younger years. He was a gambler. A fighter. And, I’m talking in the literal sense. He’d play pool, poker or even fight a guy for money. My uncles told me many stories of my dad being the badass he was, but my dad? He’d walk in the room and his eye contact with his brothers told them it was time to change the topic. I suppose he wanted me to think of him only as I’d always known him, but I secretly loved knowing my dad never lost a fight or a poker game and that the boys around town didn’t mess with him. Have mercy on the guys passing through, none the wiser. They gave him their money and left town with less dignity than they’d arrived.   But, yes, for as long as I can remember, I was a preacher’s kid. It entailed strict curfews and nonnegotiable boundaries. I broke them all. My mom would say on her most frustrated days, “You’re just like your dad!” (Little did she know the level of  internal smugness and the clenched fist I’d pump in a show of victory as I walked out of the room. I don’t want to think about how much MORE trouble I’d gotten into if I grew up in the age of cell phones. Instead, I spent the night at Angie’s the same night she’d spent the night with me. I busted curfew RARELY, however. It was much easier to stay out all night than to sneak past my parents at one in the morning. Growing up in a small town, it always elicited a level of panic when my mom crossed paths with any of my friends’ moms running errands. A stop at the post office could ruin my entire week. And, the longer an errand took, the greater the chance that I was going home with SOME consequence that I’d left home without. I can almost feel the knots in my stomach, just thinking about the effort my friends and I put in to keeping our parents apart at ALL COSTS. Sometimes, the WORST imaginable scenario happened, and, I’d get busted staying out all night, partying, going to concerts 2 hours away, driving without a license, and the list goes on. The teenage me and the me in my 40s certainly have different concerns. I also recall, in those days, how much I worried about my perceived troubles. I remember the older generation telling me, “These are the best days of your life.” That thought was totally depressing. For whatever reason, we are all prone to being plagued with the thoughts of “the good old days.” I believe that reason has everything to do with a.) realizing the things we considered problems, weren’t and, b.) we glorify the past and awfulize the present. I’ll go out on a limb and say people with more life experience would agree…that the things that kept them up in their 40s are laughable in their 60s. If we know this to be the case, why can’t we just do the obvious and accept that it’s all gonna work out just fine? Is it that it can’t possibly be that simple? Is it irresponsible not to show adequate stress over stuff adults have to deal with, no matter what? What would we do with all that extra time and mental clarity if we weren’t losing our shit over deadlines and traffic court dates or the inbound company coming for Thanksgiving? THANKSGIVING?! UGH. All the cleaning, the shopping, the cooking, the baking, the crowds, the late nights and early mornings. DAYS of preparation. And, everyone knows, any food cooked while under stress just doesn’t taste as good. I’ve kind of given up on Thanksgiving because that was the holiday when we all flew home. Now that dad’s gone, we haven’t celebrated a single Thanksgiving. Not in the traditional way. No turkey. No ham. No pumpkin pie. Maybe one day. But, for now, we are not ready for that void at the table. It’s another day. And, since I don’t like the idea of saving up my gratitude for one day a year, I’m not really missing out on that, either. What’s the point, you say? I’m glad to tell you I arrived at one while writing this piece. Life is one long series of phases. Bad to the bone turns into a spiritual awakening, a calling to ministry, or a practice that celebrates your beliefs, no matter what they may be. Worrying about the consequences of youth makes for some incredible gut laughs and precious memories when you’re older. Sweating the phase between overly carefree and overly careful is still just that…a phase. It seems when we hit middle age, there’s this weird vacillation between “life’s going by so fast,” and “will this phase EVER end…” We’re all working. Nobody owns their house yet. We still have student loans. The kids are old enough to both move out and back in. We’re in the purgatory of life. It’s not CHANGING. It can feel like Groundhog Day. (Side note: If that’s the case, CHANGE EVERYTHING. Time is going faster than our age would have us believe.) There will always be upsets- curveballs that blindside us and leave us breathless, in the worst way. I’m not talking about those troubles. I’m talking about the things that won’t matter in a year, or less. Enjoy life more. Think of something that you were worried about in March. Did it happen? Is it over? Or, has it happened everyday for the past seven months…I didn’t think so. Am I minimizing our woes? Yes. Yes, I am. Very few things deserve the head space we freely give. So, tell stories, laugh, reminisce, and realize that ten years from today, a lot will have changed. We won’t have all the people in our lives we have this minute…convert some of that stress into asking for stories about the people you avoid thinking of losing. But, know that, even then, when the worst does happen, you will make it. I am making it. I will be struggling to remain upbeat and positive in the coming weeks, but, as I vowed…authentic ramblings. Every single time. So, when I show up down-trodden, maybe shoot me a story about when we were kids, or, if we’ve never met, about when you were a kid, and help me understand that I, too, am in a phase…one of a series that, too soon, will end. Now, put on some tunes and dance. I think we could all use it after that… Stress less. Dance more. Peace, Warriors.

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