Gratitude and giving thanks, by way of a life’s perspective.

2016… man. I don’t think anyone I know would disagree that this has been a really hard year, for a lot of people, and a lot of reasons. I’m tempted to use much stronger language and get real specific, but I think John Oliver and his team pretty well covered it. And it’s not over yet. I had another post in the works as a continuation of that last one about trust and truth, but I realized this morning that I needed to interrupt the cycle of fear and despair about the state of our nation and humanity, and instead just take a moment to find some gratitude. Shine a positive light on things, even for just a moment, so as not to get completely lost in the morass.

This time last year, I left a job that, for many reasons, was not a good fit and was wearing me down and out. My first day at my current job was the week of Thanksgiving, and there isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not reminded of what it used to be like, and how fortunate I feel to work where I do. To have made that change, to brave the unknown for a chance at real fulfillment. There are hard days, certainly, but the level of support and encouragement and challenge I feel there is really special.

This time last year, I’d severed all ties to the pathological liar I’d dated, and had settled into something of a peaceful surrender to the very real possibility I might never find a real partner to spend life with. I was busy with school, had started a new job, and my life was full enough that it didn’t scare or sadden me that much; it seemed like a logical conclusion, based on past experience… and then, on February 9th of this year, everything changed when C. showed up for our first date. I think I knew, that night, but certainly after having four dates in three days, it became readily apparent there was something special to – and with – him. And now, to finally be living what I always thought love looked like but never really knew… my heart is full to overflowing, every day. He makes partnership easy; I never feel unheard, unseen, or unloved, never doubt my place in his life, and never feel like the “work” of being in a relationship is anything other than easy and worth it, because it means we’ll be closer because of it.

This time 18 years ago, I was sleeping in the parks and on the streets of San Francisco: strung out, full of shame, and tired. I remember one morning, waking up to the sound of a father and daughter walking through Buena Vista park where I’d been sleeping. I heard the daughter ask her dad why there were people sleeping in the park, and the father making some disparaging remark about us being losers and needing to get jobs, and that maybe they should bring us some coffee or something so we’d have the motivation to get up and work. They laughed and kept walking, leaving their lack of empathy and laughter at my expense behind for me to pile on top of my own already suffocating self-loathing.

A few days later, on Thanksgiving day that year, I knew my sister, her (now) husband, and several family friends were just across the Bay having dinner, and there was a place at the table for me if I wanted it. I was too ashamed, though, and felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. In all honesty, I don’t know that I was completely done with drugs, either, and going to their house would have meant giving everything up. “Everything” = no home, no money, no job, no self worth… but the escape from feeling that drugs provided was enough to convince me it was better, somehow.

So that day, instead of humbling myself to be with family, my junkie pride took me to the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park. There was a Mexican family there, serving Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless. They made the food themselves, and made enough of it to serve maybe 50 to 100 people. They didn’t speak English, but they didn’t need to; their kind faces and their actions told the story of their hearts. I remember sitting there, eating in the rain, and something about that day finally drove home the point that I could – and should – do better. That there was so much more to life, and there was a whole lot more I wanted for mine. And that it might actually be possible.

I can’t help but equate the kindness shown by that family to the light that finally started to flicker in my own heart, shining just bright enough to light the way out. And, in comparison, the denigration shown by that father and daughter serving only to drive me further into the hole I was already in. The former was in keeping with who and where I wanted to be, and it’s a torch I’ve carried with me ever since. So, every year at Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of where I’ve been, and what a gift it is to be where I am now. Especially today.

I’ve been given the gift of home, which is what I’d been looking for all along.

Trust and truth.

Who do you trust to tell you the truth? Assuming you want to know and hear the truth, I mean. How do you know the truth when you hear it? What is “truth,” anyway? I guess that’s a better place to start. You kind of have to agree on what truth is before you can have a conversation about it… so I looked it up. According to Merriam-Webster

Simple Definition of TRUTH
the truth : the real facts about something : the things that are true
: the quality or state of being true
: a statement or idea that is true or accepted as true

And then to take it one step further… one of the definitions of TRUE:

a (1) :  being in accordance with the actual state of affairs <true description> (2) :  conformable to an essential reality (3) :  fully realized or fulfilled <dreams come true>b :  ideal, essential c :  being that which is the case rather than what is manifest or assumed <the truedimension of the problem>d :  consistent <true to character>

So, for the sake of this post, when I say “the truth,” what I mean is a factual account, whether of an occurrence, that person’s feelings for you… you get the idea. What really happened, how they really think or feel about you (at that moment, since those things change and are way more fluid than an event or occurrence), stuff like that.

Oh, and (what I think is) an important reminder/clarification: Opinions are not facts, and feelings are not evidence. 

Back to the original questions. Those people you trust… why do you trust them to tell you the truth? Why do you trust them at all?

I started thinking about this after the events of the last week and a few days (ahemELECTIONahem). Temperatures are running so high, everyone is so sure they’re espousing truths and condemning the liars – you know, basically anyone who disagrees – that I had to stop and evaluate some things. Like, why do people believe what they believe?

 

I just watched a really good video about how we decide what to believe. He talks about the four things that go into testing/examining a claim being made: intuition (gut feeling); authority (relying on credibility of source); logic (systematic reasoning); and evidence (verifiable information). What’s interesting to me is that only one of those four things involves actual facts; the other three are basically dependent upon you, your brain, your feelings, and your own past experiences.

How reliable are your gut feelings? Where do they come from, and what life experience colors your perception there? Are you aware of the emotional and mental lenses in place when you’re evaluating a claim?

Why are certain sources more credible to you than others? Why does one person trust Fox News implicitly, while another person places their confidence in PBS?

Is logic inherent in human beings, or is it learned? Is what’s logical to you, also logical to everyone else? Or is that a personal thing based on experience again? I mean, I know there have been many times when something I did – a project I developed, a route I took to get somewhere, the order instilled in my closet by hanging things in a certain way – seemed completely logical to me, but it may very well make no sense to anyone else.

So, then we’re left with evidence. Verifiable information. On the surface, this seems straightforward (ZOMG FACTS), but then, I guess we have to lend credence to the fact that if there are two witnesses to the same event, what they’d each report back could very well be completely opposite from the other depending on their personal spin. So, then, does evidence mean what we see with our own eyes? How can we be sure we’re witnessing something and evaluating it without prejudice or bias?

I’m not getting too far into that here, though, because what I think happens is that most people are relying on gut feelings and what they deem to be credible sources in order to decide what they believe. Whether it’s due to information overload, a lack of time for conducting their own research, a lack of interest, a lack of ability (or desire) to do the work themselves, and instead rely on their feelings, and they rely on people who strike them as trustworthy to tell them what’s true and what’s real. People are reposting things online without verifying validity, and it’s all because of that bastard called confirmation bias. There is SO MUCH OUT THERE… how in the hell do wade through it all to find what’s real, and what’s true?

You see the problem here. And this isn’t a partisan statement, either; everyone is guilty of it, myself included. I have decided which side I’m on, I’ve decided what’s right and wrong, I’ve decided what and who I believe. And not because I’ve done a ton of research and have deemed these sources the most credible, either. I’ve decided what to believe based on my own gut feelings, based on who I’ve deemed credible sources, and based on my own logical conclusions resulting from mild to moderate critical thinking skills.

Which, by the way, isn’t a skill we’re born with; it’s something that has to be taught, and encouraged, and nurtured, and maintained. Critical thought allows you to evaluate effectively, and ideally, get your feelings out of the way to land in a justifiable and reasonable place.

I’ve been trying to make sense of the huge disparity in beliefs in our country. The division is palpable, and the difference between someone like me and someone who heartily embraces DJT and his proposed band of merry bigots feels enormous and overwhelming. I would even go so far as to say, insurmountable (and I am totally okay with that).

Everyone has ideas about why we’re divided and what would fix it, but in my opinion, there’s no fixing it. There’s managing it, there’s overcoming it, there’s governing people into acting right whether they want to or not… but the division, to me, reveals some distinct groups: people who only care about themselves; people who care about others; and people who just don’t care at all. There are people who approach life from a place of love, community, and equity; and there are people who approach life from a place of hatred, fear, and division.

These qualities, these temperaments, these personality types… they drive how you engage with the world. Who knows how we would turn out, what personality traits and world beliefs would come about without the influence of those around us? Are humans born good? Or are we born hating and then hopefully have it loved/nurtured out of us? Or, conversely, are we born loving, and have that abused out of us emotionally, mentally, physically?

I think most of this is taught. Human beings are blank slates when they’re born.  We teach them to love, to respect, to embrace the world and everyone in it… or we teach them to fear, to fight, to find fault in those around them, to compare and to be “better than” instead of “equal.” Or, to deem anyone different as an “other” and certainly “less than.”

And so I guess I’m coming out of this long, rambling train of thought with two things:

  1. A reminder to do better with my own fact-finding and evidence collection with respect to my own beliefs. I’ve got a pretty solid gut reaction, my logic could use a little work, I’m sure, and those credible sources? More of those, please.
  2. A reminder that there’s a lot that goes into what a person believes, and why they believe it, and I would do well to remember that.

It doesn’t mean I’ll ever understand, nor does it mean I won’t challenge what I believe to be wrong, but I guess I’m hoping this will help ME from inserting some of that “better than/worse than/less than” language in my head. Or, at least, keep from inserting it into conversation.

Remember, kids: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

I think my heart is ready for “My Piece of Land.”

On March 15, 2014, I heard Amanda Shires for the first time.

The day before, I’d made my way from Nashville to Chattanooga for the weekend. I was in the throes of feeling heartsick; on the outside it appeared to be about one thing, but the truth is, it was about everything. It was every failed relationship, every denial and dismissal, every “thanks, but no thanks.” I was also in the throes of growth, although I didn’t know that yet; all I knew was, I hurt.

And it was through that hurt that I first truly connected to Jason Isbell and his album, Southeastern. Every word, every note rang true through the hollows of my tender, aching heart, and it was like I’d finally found an outlet; it was just borne of someone else’s pain. It’d been a long time since I’d felt that connection to an artist of any kind; pretty much since my high school years when it felt like everything was terrible and hard, and the whole world of music seemed to get it. I hadn’t cried to an album since Jeff Buckley’s Grace.

But through my own past of addiction, through my own lifetimes of heartache, through the loss and through redemption – or at least, the hope of it – I connected to Southeastern. I dug through a lot of Isbell’s older stuff, too, like “Goddamn Lonely Love” and “Save it for Sunday,” among others, but man. Southeastern really nailed it.

And so, with my sad little heart in tow, I drove to Chattanooga for the weekend to hole up in a hotel room and attend the Isbell show at Track 29 the next night. I was already tender when I showed up, and I was (surprisingly, oddly) surrounded by a lot of rowdy cowboys and cowgirls, whoopin’ and hollerin’ and generally raising hell. I was, in all honesty, baffled. How in the hell do you get that response to Jason’s music? Why wasn’t everyone else showing up solemn and affected like me? I didn’t get it.

And so, the feeling of “apart-ness” grew.

Enter Amanda Shires. I’d never heard her music before that night, but I proceeded to stand there and cry through her entire set. With all of her charm, wit, and sweet engaging way, I was just too wide open to the music to do anything else. “If I” threw me over the edge and I gave up on coming back; I was endeared and busted, all at once. When Jason joined her on stage for a few songs, the hope and promise they represented with their own story of “overcoming” was almost more than I could bear, but it was also exactly what I knew I wanted and needed: hope. I couldn’t make it through all of Jason’s set, though, because by the time I heard the song I wanted to hear most, I was pretty well snotty and destroyed and needed a drink before heading back to my room for the night.

Since then, I’ve had Jason and Amanda on repeat, and have gone to see them perform at the Ryman for the last two years in a row. Their music carried me through some tough and interesting times, to be sure. The interesting (and potentially weird) part is that, over the last few years, I’ve probably had 15-20 dreams about the two of them, and in each dream, we are all friends. The situations change, and some are stranger than others, but in every one, we are connected.

I like to think it’s because their music and their story supported me the way a friend would, through a lot of really challenging moments. I carried their music with me and, as a result, I began to heal. (Of course, I was doing a lot of hard work, too, not to mention experiencing the very worst relationship which, I think, carved out room and willingness to now receive the very best).

So it’s almost as though the timing of Jason’s new album, Something More than Free, perfectly coincided with a shift in my own life and perspective. That album is so different from the previous, and yet so similar to the ones that came before – but better. It threw me for a bit of a loop when I first heard it, but I realized I, too, was ready to move on. Back to the person I was before, but better.

I honestly thought I was at the point where maybe I could just enjoy their music without it being so attached to the feels, because you know what? Life is good. I’ve grown and changed, and between the new job and the perfect fit of a love, it seems like the need to connect by way of some music had moved along.

That is, until I heard a new track from Amanda’s upcoming album. She played this one and another at the Ryman last fall, so I knew what I was in for, but it wasn’t til last night when it finally hit me and all sunk in that this, I think, is the record I’ve been waiting for. It’s the logical conclusion; the bow you wrap around the present. It’s the one where SHE lays it all bare, comes to terms and peace, and without even hearing the whole thing, I just kinda know it’s going to be exactly what I need.

So come September 16th, I’ll add it to the CD player in my car, along with another two of hers and three of Jason Isbell’s intertwined to tell the story, and I’ll likely sniffle my way through the album release in October. And it will be then that I can marvel at just how far I’ve come, all the while in the company of that perfect fit of a love and the friends I’ve never met but couldn’t be more grateful for.

 

The devil in nostalgia.

With the advent of my oldest nephew turning 18, I found myself thinking back on the last 18 years. As you do. Where I was in life when he was born, which is to say, on the verge of homelessness and complete physical and emotional devastation. It would be another nine months or so before I’d accept a lifeline, and things would finally change for the better. So I find myself thinking back on all that has transpired since then. The person I am today compared to the person I was 18 years ago, and all the stops in between. I think back on jobs I had, places I lived, friends I made, men I dated, and all the work going on underneath the surface to shift my own emotional landscape. All the “life” that has happened for me over the course of my nephew’s life, because he came along at such a pivotal time.

And while in the midst of all this reminiscing, I find myself battling a not-so-subtle shift from nostalgia to regret.

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing – or at least, it can be. You think back on good times, you reminisce about happy memories and events… that stuff doesn’t have to take away the present moment, it just means you can look back on your life and enjoy the highlight reels, you know? But for me, at least recently, it seems like that nostalgia can take a wrong turn and before you know it, you’re wondering where you went wrong and wishing you’d done things differently. You’re thinking things were better back then, and wishing for times gone by. You’re sometimes even forgetting the bad or not-so-awesome parts and only remembering the good parts, maybe even as being better than they were.

And I guess maybe that only happens if you’re not finding the happy with where you are right now. (Note to self: remember to keep finding the happy in where you are right now.)

Regret is one of those things I’ve always promised myself to guard against. I’ve seen how it destroys people – in particular, someone very close to me; I’ve seen how it can permeate every waking moment, and how it can tarnish even the happiest of times, turning it all into one big pile of “not enough.” I’ve seen how it can make you turn against yourself, lamenting choices made, paths taken… all of it.

And now, I know what that feels like.

(All the more reason to battle against it, then.) 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted a family of my own. Maybe it’s because mine was blown apart when I was a kid, and I’ve been trying to get that sense of security back ever since. Maybe that’s why I’ve never truly felt at home anywhere – not for very long, anyway – because it’s just been ME. But whatever the case, I have recognized in me the desire to have kids, the desire to find a partner, the desire – a need, almost – to pair up and settle down and have a life and family together. And maybe it was just the *idea* of these things – although my body was always yearning to know what it felt like to grow and carry a human – but whatever the case, that desire has always, always been there. It was never strong enough to make me willing to settle, mind you; to have a kid in less than what seemed like ideal circumstances, but it’s definitely been ever-present.

Unfortunately, I think that desire was coming from the wrong place. And I should probably put quotations around the word “wrong” because, you know, we all just do the best we can. But when you’re being driven by a desire to fill a void left behind, the results you net probably aren’t going to be what you really want, and, more importantly, what you really, actually need. Instead, it causes you to be a whole lot less selective in your race to the finish line of “happily ever after.” I spent a lot of time and effort on liars, cheaters, manipulators, addicts… you name it, all for the sake of trying to fill that void and get that happily ever after.

That’s a lot of wasted time. A lot of wasted years – if that’s how I choose to view it.

To find myself, at the age of 43, still single and without a kid or two of my own, still not having experienced a thing that, to me, is one of the greatest representations of what it means to be human and to participate in that life experience… it’s hard. To know what a solid human I am and all that I have to offer someone else, all that I would have had to offer a little human as a parent, and to have spent the last 18 years growing and changing and working towards that “better person every day” thing and to STILL have never found what I’ve wanted with someone else…

I think I might just be mourning the loss. And I think I have to be REAL careful to not fall into the trap of blaming myself somehow for all of this. Wishing I could have grown and changed faster, or gotten myself ready to receive those gifts when it was still a possible thing. You know?

Nostalgia takes me back to Minneapolis, when I dated one of the sweetest, kindest, smartest, most generous and thoughtful men I’ve ever known, until he moved back to Boston to finish school. Neither of us was prepared to navigate a long-distance thing, and I know that. We lost touch not long after, and I was left with a lot of happy memories with him, as well as the knowledge that I could, in fact, open up to someone good (after spending a lot of years falling prey to not-so-good). But that nostalgia turns into regret sometimes. Why didn’t I try harder? Why didn’t I stay in touch? Why didn’t we try again? Why couldn’t that have been the one?

Nostalgia takes me back to Portland, too. To another sweet, kind, thoughtful, emotionally-present man who was ALL IN with me… and I loved him enough to break things off when I realized I wasn’t there yet. He deserved and needed more than I could give, and it wasn’t fair to pretend any other outcome was possible then. We’ve also lost touch, and I think that was more of a protective measure for him than anything, at least in the beginning. But again, nostalgia has turned into regret there, too. Or at least a whole lot of “what if” and “why not.” Why couldn’t I have been ready? Why did I have to miss out on someone good who was all about it – and me?

And maybe it’s just that neither of these were the right time, right person, right situation, and that happens. Maybe none of it warrants regret, because sometimes things just don’t work out. I’d imagine they’re both happily with someone else by now, if that’s what they wanted, because they both had such good and willing hearts. I don’t begrudge THAT at all; if anything, I’d be happy for the women they’ve found to spend time (or their lives) with. They’d be some fortunate women.

But I see where nostalgia can go with me, at least some of the time. Nostalgia turns into lamentations of wrong turns and bad calls and all the other things that, at this point, I have no control over other than how I choose to remember them. I’ve continued to make “interesting decisions” in who I spend time with, but I’m pretty sure those days have also come to an end. I’ve finally, finally had enough; I just wonder sometimes if it’s too late.

I mean, I know. There is still plenty of time to meet someone and to have that partnership, barring some unforeseen tragedy. If all goes well, I still have another 40 years of life ahead of me, and that’s a hell of a long time; a lot can happen. And, truth be told, I’m finally in a place where I am happy on my own, too. I’ve got a job that I love again, I’m in school and learning about things that fascinate me and it’s got me on the right career trajectory, I have a roof over my head and loving family members and friends nearby… what it means to be alive is however you define it.

I think I finally get that.

So I guess I’m just making room for mourning the loss – of past loves, sure, but also the loss of hope surrounding certain things coming to pass in my life. Acceptance. And then, too, making room for appreciation of everything else that’s come to pass instead. Engaging in active gratitude, and maintaining perspective about all of it. When you regret, there’s no room for anything else; it tarnishes even the brightest and shiniest of things, and adds a whole lot of weight to the burdens we already bear, just by our very human nature. If nothing else comes to pass in the next 40 years of life, I just want to keep on shining.

And so, no more looking back with anything other than a fond thought and a small smile. Onward and upward, y’all. ❤

Real-ing in the new year, Velveteen Rabbit style.

It’s been a hell of a year. I have to say, I’m kind of relieved it’s almost over. I’m not usually one to look back and say, “Good riddance!” because I’m usually so anti-regret, and invariably there’s good to be found in every year that’s passed – even the really, really tough ones.

This has been a really, really tough one.

And not even for reasons one might think. I guess I’ve kept pretty quiet about what I’m sure appeared to be some tough and unfortunate parts, at least from the outside looking in, so it’s likely that outside perspective is a whole lot different than the reality. And yes, I’m being intentionally vague, because this isn’t at all the forum for discussing such things.

But whatever. It was still pretty rough there for a while, in a few different parts. And yet I can say, with all sincerity, that I am thankful for every single thing I went through, and every single thing I learned this year as a result. I’m supremely grateful and amazed and relieved for how it’s all worked out. Even when the packages in which the lessons came wrapped were painful (or stressful or confusing or scary or ugly or dramatic or dysfunctional or avoidant or manipulative or dishonest or or or… etc.), I don’t regret any of it – even the intentional “learning/growth experiences” for the sake of the long game. I’m coming out the other side of it all in a way better place than where I started and really, that’s all I can ask.

So… yeah. I learned a lot in school, and loved every eye-crossing second of it; I learned a lot from my family (every last one of ’em, but especially my niece); I learned a lot from other people (woof, did I learn some things); I learned a lot at the old job about what does (and definitely doesn’t) work for me; and I can already tell I’m going to learn a ton at the new job, too.

Have I mentioned how much I love to learn and grow as a human?

A few weeks ago, I read a book by Sam Harris called, “Lying.” It’s short, sweet, and touts the benefits (as well as the morality and logistics) of simply telling the truth, all the time, no matter what. It’s an interesting thing to contemplate; I’ve got a strong desire to put that into practice in my own life, and I have a whole lot more I could say about that, too, but in the meantime I will just say that it got me thinking about what it means to me to be real, and how I can incorporate that into my life in the coming year.

Real friends, real life, real connection, real talk… this is what I want for myself in the year (and life) ahead. And a small part of what that means for me is cutting out some social media accounts completely. Like, for good. I’ll keep Instagram for pictures, probably Twitter for following people who are a whole lot more interesting and smarter than I, this space… and that’s it.

What I’ve come to observe is that people might use social media (namely, Facebook) for different things – catching up, staying in touch, updating friends and family on special happenings (or day-to-day stuff too, I suppose), business or band promotion, event invitations, treating the timeline like a litter box for opinion turds, bragging, stalking, dramatic blowouts, messing with people and perception by putting up pictures that don’t accurately represent what’s really going on… but you know, gee. Not surprisingly, pretty much none of it feels real to me. It feels like a false, shallow replacement for real connection, letting everyone (including me) off the hook for maintaining actual relationships with other people. I think a lot of our problems as a community, society, and members of the human race would be alleviated, or at least lessened somewhat, if we just put the electronics down and TALKED to each other. I realize I sound like an old fart, and maybe I am, but we’re not wired for being wired; we’re wired for connection.

I’ve had enough. I want to reach out to people, and I want them to reach out to me, too. Like, for real reach out. Not just pass over a picture I posted and walk away feeling like they know how my life is going. You know? I want to have real interactions and real relationships with real people in real life. Real connection, real love and affection… all of it. And, conversely, I don’t want to keep getting or giving any false impressions about levels of connection and friendship, either.

So, come 1/1/16… no more Facebook, and a significant paring down of other social media. A whole lot of other life changes, too. I’m excited to see and experience all that the coming year has to offer, and am equally excited about all the lessons and wisdom I’m bringing with me.

“If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.” – Émile Zola

Every moment is another chance to get things right.

Every moment is another chance to get things right. Don’t ever forget that. ❤ 

Saturday Curiosities.

Lengthy and informal (and primarily rhetorical/internal) Saturday Poll:

What is your primary means of interacting with your friends? Text? Email? Phone calls? Intentional plans? Figuring you’ll run into them at a certain location and hoping for the best?

For those of you in relationships or married, do you get most of your personal interaction needs met through your partner/family? Or do you spend a fair amount of time with others outside of your relationship/marriage?

Do you see/talk to your friends in person as often as you’d like? If so, are you more of the active planner type who reaches out to effect contact and make the plans? Or do you count on/wait for others to reach out to you?

Does the internet make you feel as though you get enough interaction from people? Is it a primary means of interaction, or more of a tool to facilitate in-person interactions?

Making Scents of Memories.

Every morning on my way to work, I drive past a construction site, filling up with new homes on a charming, tree-lined street in the charming, tree-lined neighborhood in which I work. Construction itself isn’t so unusual, especially here in Nashville where, everywhere you turn, something old (and often lovely or historical) is being torn down to build something new – like terrible condos. *sigh*

But this isn’t a condemnation of Nashville’s ongoing destination/it-city status, nor on the seemingly thoughtless expansion efforts that are effectively pushing those of lower incomes out of town, thanks to the influx of outsiders coming from either coast with a whole lot more money to spend. I save that rant for in-person discussions (and am usually preaching to the choir anyway… have I mentioned that Chattanooga’s looking better every day?).

The point: that construction site reminds me of someone I used to know who was important to me. Still is, even though we haven’t spoken in almost 15 years. The memory of him is kept alive and well, thanks to the smell of sawdust and the sight of construction: Carhartts and sawdust at the end of every day, back then. I guess it’ll always be like that, and it’s a happy association, so I’m okay with it.

I’ve been thinking about what other sights, sounds, scents, and tastes remind me of times past, or people, or things or events, and what a neat, powerful thing that can be:

  • The smell of Froot Loops reminds me of my grandmother’s house; that old yellow kitchen with the sun streaming through the window. The sound of clocks chiming, all the china blue throughout the house, that gorgeous velvet sofa with the hand-carved wood. The old 50’s car that used real gasoline (ah, that smell) and had red leather seats. A glass bowl of Hershey’s Kisses, another filled with change for me to roll. She always had vanilla ice cream with a chocolate swirl and brownies waiting for us; always had Froot Loops for breakfast.
  • Jergen’s lotion reminds me of my mom.
  • Obsession for Men will always remind me of a dude I went to high school with back in Roswell. I was friends with his sister; he had flipped and styled hair, wore tight jeans and puffy shirts. Total swoon material back then.
  • The smell (and sight) of See’s candy lentils reminds me of my dad. It was such a brief experience, but must have been an important time for me, the one or two times we bought that candy together when I was growing up.
  • Wild onions remind me of growing up in Roswell, too. That empty field next to Scott L’s house; that creek that was so good for finding worms; red clay and white chalk; a time when it was fine for me to make my way home alone.
  • The smell of cut grass and the sight of warm sun as it dapples through the trees reminds me of happiness.
  • Falling leaves, too.
  • And the smell of a burning fire… It reminds me of something I can’t quite put my finger on, like a memory just out of reach, or something deeper, ingrained… eternal and otherworldly, almost. Or like something built into my bones. Never been able to figure that one out.

And then there’s the taste of things… although, only one in particular ever comes to mind: the taste of starlight mints. They remind me of riding in my step-dad’s diesel Mercedes; specifically when I’d be forced to go to church on Sundays, stuck in the car with the smell of diesel, cigarette smoke, and too much Stetson cologne.

(I won’t eat starlight mints, ever again.)

I do think I’ll write a post sometime soon listing all the songs that carry a memory with ’em, though. Even the bittersweet ones are worth remembering.