Sunday, October 23, 2011

Playing Footsie...Again

I’m in a strange place.  I guess it’s the place between abject misery and complete recovery.  For over two months, every ounce of my energy was focused on one thing: surviving.  Now, all the sudden, I feel better than I have in years…and truthfully, I still don’t really know what to do with that. I guess I expected that God and I would pick up where we left off on the journey of discovery.  But it feels more like we’re on a first date and I’m making awkward small talk and trying to make eye contact.  I am being wooed.  One way that I know this is that when it comes contemplating heaven, I’m a complete watering pot.  Wherever I am…whatever I’m doing (even in Walmart)…if I think about Home even for a moment, the tears flow.  I’m doing it right now even as I type.
It reminded me of a blog post that I wrote years ago…when I had one of my first recorded bouts of undiagnosed CVS.  It’s a story about Home.  I thought it appropriate to share it again…
Posted February 7, 2007
I suppose the only silver lining of my physical misery (other than the silver lining the pockets of the medical industry) is the amount of brainless television inflicted upon me in the last 6 days. Granted, I've been known to indulge in an interesting PBS documentary now and again...but last week, I stooped to new lows. Anyone care to know the status of the Asian Rhino population? Sleep well, my friends, white rhinos are making a hearty come back. I know this because I watched the docu-mentalpoo not once...but TWICE. There's just something uniquely fascinating about men in khaki extolling the wonder of Rhino dung. Anyway, one evening, another such show appeared...with men in ties exploring the underbelly of our homeless population. Apparently, we humans aren't doing nearly as well as the Rhinos...

As opening credits rolled, I prepared myself for public television's typical biased version of reality...girding my "informed citizen" loins for inflated statistics, political blame-games, and social agendas. And then a face appeared on my television screen...homeless for 19 years, toothless, alcoholic, mentally unstable, drug-addicted...Footsie (a name given for the miles he walks daily). There I sat in my warm blanket in my warm home...trying to find a way to blame Footsie for his circumstances...when the finger of God thumped me on the heart and said simply, "Listen."

The documentary was profiling a new radical, controversial program for our homeless population. Currently, our system is full of soup kitchens, half-way houses, food pantries, clothing donation sites, free medical clinics, job placement, temporary housing, social services, addiction rehabs, name it, someone...somewhere has developed it with the very best of intentions. But all these things have one very obvious thing in common. The souls that patronize these places are still fundamentally...homeless. And when relief is always comes with conditions. The founder of this new program claims that as a country...we are putting the horse before the cart. He says offering shelter to an alcoholic on the condition of sobriety is the perpetual hamster in the wheel mentality. So, get this...he started a program that gives unconditional, permanent housing to anyone who applies.

WHAT?! Son of a…yep. That means they can still do crack and still get drunk with absolutely no fear of their cozy new apartment being revoked. In fact, in many cases...some of the applicants have trashed their apartments and/or gotten evicted...and guess what? They find them a new place to trash. It comes with no conditions and no time limits. Case workers and therapists are provided, but with absolutely no obligation to use their services. If you're like me, I imagine you may be nurturing the mental argument of personal responsibility and social enabling. Here we are, hard-working, drug-free Americans, struggling to keep ahead of our debt...PAYING for another person's comfort while they indulge in substance abuse. It's not fair!!

About that time, I felt another Divine thump, "Sound Familiar?"

Footsie was cute in a pathetic, poor-hygiene kind of way. He had a lop-sided, toothless grin and a stilted, child-like stammer. He's suffered from seizures for years...all the paramedics and ER staff in the area know him by name. The documentary crew follows him the day he learns he has been selected for non-conditional housing. With slow, deliberate care the program director explains that he can choose a nice, cozy home to live in with no strings attached. They go on to tell him that they will provide all new furnishings and apartment accoutrement's necessary to live comfortably. All he has to do is agree to live there. There was a slow, painful moment of silence as Footsie's child-like brain chews on this radical gift...he finally smiles and says, "Well, that sounds good to me." No tears, no jumping up and down, no wild-exclamation of gratitude...just a simple acceptance of goodness.

A permanent home. A promise of comfort...bought and paid for...with no conditions. Sigh. That does sound good.
This particular documentary exposes a beautiful parallel. God has promised us a home we don't deserve. Even despite our addictions, sins, ugliness, mental instability...or poor hygiene. It will be strings attached...if we only accept His offer. Sure, the world provides a plethora of topical solutions but they always prove to be temporary.  So, in that light, maybe we could disembark from our hamster wheels and learn something from this new radical program. We look to more church, more fellowship, more spiritual self-help books to numb the pain of our homelessness...when really all we need is to truly surrender to God's goodness.

One of my favorite movie lines (and/or C.S. Lewis quotes) from all times is..."Aslan is not safe...but He is good." An interesting addendum to Footsie's story is that after hearing the good news...he ran away, got famously drunk, and hid. *Chuckle* Sound familiar?

I'm in a strange place.  It's the place where my longing for Home is on the surface of my skin.  I've never been here before, but I hope I stay here until I'm sitting at the foot of the throne.  Oh come the tears... 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Honesty 101

Can I be honest with you? 
You know…I’ve always considered that to be a really dumb question.  Asking permission to be honest?  Really?  Clearly we all prefer to be lied to.  Duh.  But then I recalled one of my early grammar lessons with one of my favorite teachers of all time…Mrs. Brumm.  Every time I’d raise my hand and ask “Can I go to the bathroom?” she’d very patiently reply…”I don’t know…can you?”  You’d think after the first 50 times I would have given in and changed my question to “MAY I go to the bathroom?”…but, no, there was a secret part of me that really enjoyed the ritual.  Heh.  Yeah, I’m totally still that girl. 
What’s my point?  Well, the word “can” denotes the ability to do something.  So, in that light is “Can I be honest with you” still a dumb question?  I don’t know…can I, Alissa Kirsten Owsley…be truly honest with you, the faithful blog reader?   Hmmmm.  Read on, friends. 
I admit that writing for the masses can be incredibly daunting.  In fact, when I first started blogging in 2007…these were my very first words:
Well, here I am. On the threshold of my very first blog...fingers poised over the keys, waiting for some cosmic sign that I should stop immediately and go about my daily business. *Listens* Hmmm. I feel like I'm dragging myself out onto the limb of public exposure...where my words and thoughts can easily fall victim to the unpredictable wind of interpretation.  Dear Lord...please grant me a stout branch and a gentle breeze.
Throwing my thoughts out into the great black hole that is the World Wide Web still isn’t my first choice of a good time.  The birth pains of blogging haven’t gotten any easier.  I almost always drag my proverbial feet ...stalling…until the Spirit nudges me enough to move my petulant hide to the keyboard.  Writing has become a creative outlet for my rambling, chaotic thoughts to find a place to land.  And since I SUCK (I just yelled ‘suck’ really loud in my head) at journaling, well…blogging has become almost therapeutic.  But, who am I kidding?  Most of us don’t leap with joy at the idea of therapy.  So, yeah…a blog is not always the easiest method of sharing my thoughts and (erroneous) opinions, but the truth is…it’s still pretty darn safe. 
 You see, I can rattle off my thoughts into the innocuous abyss without having to look any of you in the eyes.  I can shut down my computer and walk away…without having to face your questions, your disappointment or your condemnation.   And if you don’t immediately blow up the comment box with adoration…well then…I can obviously assume you just didn’t read it (heh…that made me chuckle).  And what’s worse?  I can massage my words and backspace the heck out of sentence until my prose sounds gloriously sage and clever.  I can rely on spell check and the thesaurus feature to make me appear smarter than I really am (dude, I totally just had to use spell check on the word “thesaurus”…no foolin).  So, yeah… a blog is not really the best medium for fostering genuine honesty, eh?   In a place where I can present  my preferred version of Alissa…the question remains….can I be honest with you? 
The answer is yes.  Absolutely.  I have the ability to be honest with you (I totally admitted that spell check thing remember?)   
In my mind, honesty isn’t an ability…it’s a CHOICE.  So, for the record…I think “Can I be honest with you?" is still a dumb question.   Maybe a better question is…should I use this medium to practice being honest?  Wouldn’t that be like casting my pearls onto a craps table in Las Vegas?  Does honesty lose its value if I just close my eyes and hurl it into the internet?  These are all good questions.  Questions that I don’t take lightly.  So, as the Captain of this Thought Tank, I think it’s time for a good old fashioned pledge.  I hereby proclaim my Solemn Oath  of Blogger Authenticity (and by oath I mean I’m gonna try really, really hard). 

Solemn Oath of Blogger Authenticity (SOOBA)
1.       I promise to only use words that are actually in my vocabulary.  And, yes, I know what “erroneous” and “innocuous” mean.  I can’t spell them most of the time…but I can use them in a sentence. 
2.       I promise to stick to my own vernacular.   It’d be awfully nice to write like C.S. Lewis…but, alas, there can only be one Clive Staples in the literary universe.   But, at the same time, there’s only one Alissa Owsley…and I’ve got to represent.  Woot. Woot.
3.       I promise to care more about the Spirit’s prompting and my own creative process…then your opinion of either.  Sorry, friends…I’m sincerely a HUGE fan of your opinions (good or not-so-good), but if they became my personal measuring stick…then I’d be writing for all the wrong reasons.
4.      I promise to never stop overusing ellipses.  Mrs. Brumm would not approve, but …yeah…I just…really like…using…them.  How can something that feels so right be so wrong? 
5.       I promise to never say things in this space…that I couldn’t say to your face.  I hope you notice this point is sans witticisms.  That’s how important it is to me. 
6.       I promise to never throw my pearls at the craps table in Las Vegas.  I’m a lousy gambler. 
Can I be honest with you?  Yes, I can.  Will I be honest with you?  Well, as flawed girl clinging to the limb of public exposure… I sure hope so.   I also hope that you will feel free to be honest right back.