Oh Say Can You See?
For my fellow American's, I hope you had a very happy Independence Day. Mine was spent with family and friends and letting someone much more qualified than me, set off the giant 'sparklers in the sky'. One of the reasons I love when my beloved Pirates win is the spectacular show the Zambelli's put on in Pittsburgh.
In my profession I've seen things go horribly wrong when you let a bunch of 'keg-educated' pyrotechnic 'experts' handle explosives. So, I will sit back and watch the show instead. Here are your PCT's, your Positive CJ Thoughts for the week. A little town close to us has a volunteer fire department that puts off a fantastic display. We've watched fireworks at a house right on the main drag, usually in the back yard that has a great view.
This year, we enjoyed them with our friend Kelly on her front steps and did a lot of people watching while we waited. It's one of many holidays and special occasions we will experience without Chris.
Why do we value independence so much? Our country is built on it. Low and behold, there is this whole historical document called the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE for heaven's sake. We send young men and women off to war to defend it and help others achieve it by joining forces with our allies. We encourage it when we send our grown children out in the world. We want them to be successfully independent.
When I was young, I would hear the word 'willful'. I didn't quite understand what that meant back then, but it was never used in a good connotation and frequently was proceeded by all three of my names, first, middle and last. What was worse, it would be accompanied by the proper version of my first name.
*****Sidebar- I think that's why to this day I shiver when someone calls me by my given name. Now there was ONE exception to the prickly feeling I got when I heard it. When Grandma said my name, it was okay because she called every one of us by our 'proper given name', including all six of her daughters, my mother included. When she tried to call all of us in, it took FOREVER as she went through everyone's first and middle name. Again, I was distracted by a shiny thing there, sorry. ****
Why do we see independence as a positive thing and a negative thing, in the same breath? By definition, I found that it means "free from outside control; not depending on another's authority". (Google definitions) We declared independence from Great Britain, to become a 'free country' in 1776. On July 4th, we celebrate that freedom from outside control, by doing and watching a host of things considered to be patriotic.
Back in the day, I was considered an 'independent' child, but then…the willful term would raise its ugly head. I'm positive, more than once, it held this definition "having or showing a stubborn and determined intention to do as one wants, regardless of the consequences or effects". (Google definitions) Let me tell you, sometimes those 'consequences and effects' were not pleasant at all. And yet….'she persisted'. My nephew on the other hand is such a fantastic kid with some pretty cool artistic ability.
As for me, yeah, I was a bit independent. Again, why is this bad? To me, only if you are going to hurt yourself or cause others pain, is it bad. My wife can tell you I have a stubborn streak as wide as the Ohio River but…SHHHHHH ....so does she. She's German and I'm Scot-Irish, what do you expect? Those two heritages don't shout cooperative in any language, trust me and yet, somehow, we make it work.
When I was young, I was stubborn and near belligerent about dresses, dolls and those stupid underwear with lace on the ass. Oh, and socks with lace around the bottom, I just don't get it!
Anything else I considered 'frilly', was a lost consideration when it came to me.
Lots of overalls, Wrangler jeans, shorts, T-shirts, and a pair of Dingo Harness Boots, alternating with tennis shoes, were my primary attire.
Oh, and occasionally my navy blue suede cowboy chaps, vest and hat, Lone Ranger mask and six guns at the ready.
I was a baby dyke back then without even knowing what the hell that was.
I just knew I'd be happy to have Jamie Sommers of the Bionic Woman share my peanut butter and banana sandwich. I tried to figure out how I could go to work at the Office of Scientific Investigations. Yeah…
Annnnd then I grew up and became less willfully independent as I turned into a teenage girl. And I do mean a girly girl. (When I looked like this..I had the distorted thought that I was fat. So much peer pressure to be a size two. It's all about perception.)
The expectations of trying to fit in during high school, combined with a religion that frowned on almost everything, will do that to you. I grew out my hair, wore a lot more pink and heather green and tried to find my inner fem. I never had been into make- up. Dresses…well let's just say it was a requirement for church, so I fought that a little less. I wore a dress once to school for a debate, I can still hear the cat calls and I didn't enjoy it. Now had it been from the girl I had a deep crush on, maybe. My mantra became, must conform, must conform, must conform.When graduation came, yup, you guess it, I wore a dress under my cap and gown.
I still loved and lived in my jeans. Although now they were pegged. Come on, it was the eighties! Big hair (and I do mean big), pegged pants, Def Leppard and Prince were all the rage. Yup, I was screaming Pour Some Sugar On Me just as loud as you were, even if you won't admit it. Only I was in the car, when I was by myself, miles away from my parents…it was that willful thing again. I drove my dad nuts at about age sixteen when I really got my independence streak. I had this set of feather earrings. I put a stud in one ear and hooked the two feathers together in the other. I know..a realllll rebel I was. He was livid. That particular mood of his was pretty regular. Folks, THAT was about as willful as I got at sixteen, but if you'd have asked him, I deserved to be…well, dealt with. Let's leave it at that. Positive Thoughts, Positive Thoughts, Positive Thoughts, must think Positive Thoughts.
I didn't find my true independence until I went off to college. That was where that willful streak came back out in full force and I decided I couldn't play the game I'd been forced to for so many years. I fell in love with the excitement of the emergency services.
And then…fell in love with a woman or what I thought was love at the time. In the end, she was a choice I wish I could take back for many reasons. Mostly, because she wasn’t the right one and it cost me in so many ways. Hard lessons to learn. Suddenly, I was chosing to live my life as an independent, gay woman… and doing it without the approval of the people who raised me. We've come a long way since then. We exist on a level of acceptance but not necessarily approval. My mother adores my wife, especially for her computer techno guru skills. My wife doesn't mind, she gets paid in homemade banana bread.
I'm fast approaching the half decade mark and I value my independence even more. The right and the ability to think and feel the way I want to helped me find peace with who and what I am. It also allowed me to accept the love of an exceptional woman.
I don't buy into blind faith in much. The love of my wife and God's grace. THAT last part took almost a lifetime to understand. I don't plan on turning this into a religious post, but it plays into my independence.
I grew up in a religion that didn't allow independent thought. There were expectations as to who you could and could not have friendships with, what you could and could not participate in, and a list of other things too long to even begin to delve into here. I got along with everyone. I was not considered part of the "in" crowd, nor was I part of the "out" crowd. I was that in between that got along with both the kids who were voted "most popular" in every poll, and the kids who were on lists you didn't want to get on and hanging out in the "smoking area".
(Yes, there was a time you could smoke out in the parking lot under the light tower base, long before smoking was banned from any Board of Education property. I couldn't participate in choir in high school because we sang mostly religious songs that centered around holidays…which we didn't celebrate in the religion I grew up in. Band wasn't allowed because it would put me to close to 'worldly' people for long periods of time. Sports were out because that was considered "competition", which was also frowned on. My parents relented and let me play golf for one season.
They rationalized somehow that, I was playing against myself. (Don't ask, I'm still trying to figure that out. As Coach Herm Edwards once said, "You play to win the game.) So, I got involved in journalism. I eventually became the managing editor of the yearbook and assistant editor of the newspaper.
I'd found my calling because I could write. That turned into being able to express the self-doubt and unhappiness I felt in short stories that I wrote just for myself to put down on paper how I felt. I didn't have a 'boyfriend' because THAT was definitely not allowed. No dating outside your religion you see. Eventually I "conformed" and started a relationship with someone I went to church with. Someone who had "intentions". By just sitting beside me at church, he was making a declaration that we would marry. See that sparkly thing on my left index finger in my high school picture?
That piece of bling meant I would be married at 18. EIGHTEEN FREAKING YEARS OLD!! His expectation was we would start a family….and bring them up exactly as we'd been raised. We would produce the next set of six- year old's standing on your porch wanting to talk about Jesus and sell you a magazine.
Wait…stop the presses. Imagine the sound that a phonograph needle scratching completely across a record makes- then add in the skidding tires of a tractor trailer trying not to rear end someone. Yeah, those noises that make you pull up your shoulders to your ears, shut your eyes and pray it gets stopped in time.
Whew thank the heavens above I regained my senses. Through great pain and indignation, I put a stop to all those 'intentions'. THAT plan went into the rejected pile, going once, twice, three times. For a variety of reasons, that was never to be repeated with any other suitors
from church. Remember, I said I went off to college annnnd figured out I didn't HAVE to marry a man, or wear a dress, or go to church…or believe the crap I'd had shoved down my throat from the time I left the womb. I could be, gasp, an independent thinker. DAMN WILLFUL CHILD!
Skip ahead thirty years. I'm a happily married lesbian, living an amazing life in our mountain home.
I have an entirely different view of faith and God. Now, for the first time in my life, I'm good enough for the grace so freely given. I'm still pretty willful, ask my wife who I affectionately call 'the boss of me'. I still value my independence and am still proud to be a person who can make choices based on my free thought, will and deed.
With that thought, I offer you these words that our forefathers used to become 'willful' and form The United States of America. A document signed by fifty six delegates. Delegates who were designated to make sound and independent decisions for the well being of those they were representing. These individuals changed the course of the United States of America's history by penning the following words…
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
May all of you continue to use sound independent thinking in the things you believe and in the things you do not. May you believe and continue to fight for the aforementioned words, that All are created equal, worthy of kindness, decency. That all are entitled to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness with the man OR woman of their choice. May we always fight for those who are less fortunate and unable to fight for themselves. May we stand hand in hand with other independent thinkers and make this world a better place for those who come behind us. Those who came before us certainly felt it was important enough to go against an entire nation and all its might. Continue to be willful and live the life you'd want to read about.
While you are still counting the days with me until I release my next book, you can check out my debut novel, 'frame by frame' available at all your favorite retail outlets.