reflection from a bathroom stall

Today I had to go to the restroom. Unfortunately, it was not in the comfort of my own house, with my own toilet to grace my bare feet on a carpet rug, or my personal choice of Charman ultra soft toilet paper. It was one of those public bathrooms, where everything is… well, more public. I opened the swinging door with the stick figure with no dress on the front…. signifying where my gender is welcomed. There were two stalls, one occupied, door closed – and the other, vacant. I opened the swinging door, locked it, enclosing me in the safety of four walls, which of course are marked with the occasional writings, slurs, and gang signs.  After I assumed the position, I noticed beneath the stall to my left, a tapping shoe, laces dangling, jeans puddled around the ankle, and the belt buckle inches from the ground. As I began to push out the first brown lump, which was followed by the protective puff of gas that was holding the crap from coming out minutes before – I begin to smell the odor.

This time, however, I question – is this oder me …or him? Our crapping and plopping of water, grunts, sniffs, shuffles, and occasional juicy gas, joined in a harmony that any outsider couldn’t differentiate its individual musician – and the gas – who knows whose odor was whose, and the combination of the two linger into one dense fester – 2 become one – and the nostrils must filter to protect from its intensity. This unwanted intimacy with the side-stall stranger made me question “why is it so hard for men to be vulnerable and open with the crap in each other’s lives?”  We guard ourselves with four walls in everyday life – but yet find it so natural to sit a foot ½ away from a complete stranger, pants down, and trying our God-knows best to get out yesterday’s chili.  If we can deal with each other’s crap, its smell, and trust that the swinging door isn’t going to open wide and reveal us in the vulnerable position of excreting our crap – why can’t we do that with the person we call friend, brother, father, or wife? We need to tear down the walls, drop our droors, take a dump, and show the crap and darkness of our souls, smell it together, and flush it so we can start getting on with our lives.

So, I zip up my skinny jeans, snug my ass back in my pants, and walk out of the stall leaving my stinky stranger behind. Unlike other public craps, this time I leave knowing an intimacy with my fellow stranger and the intense crapy conversation that we shared. I am sad that he will never know what we shared, or rather what he shared with me.  As I depart from the bathroom, I take a grip on the door handle a little bit harder this time around, hoping that the next grasp will feel mine in an existential hand shake, sensing me – bright eyed, teeth in a grin, saying “I know we’ve never met, but it’s a pleasure.”

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love, fear, and risk…

When writing a reflection on the film, “Once,” I am forced to think about love, relationships, and the risks that are involved.  I am forced to dive deep into what love is, what it means to me, and why that is so.  As a twenty–one year old, my life experiences have led me to the love concept that I know today.  My journey has taken me through divorced parents, a sudden death of a close friend to asthma, fear, childhood anxiety (and if I am honest, I still deal with it time to time), confusion, and loneliness.  These things have left scars and made it difficult for me to understand what love is.  But something has occurred while traveling down this road.  My scars have been revisited and reopened.  The deep wounds that have inhibited the fulfillment of life have been soaked and healed by the understanding, receiving, and giving of love.  Mostly, this has been from the love of God.  But as my broken concept of love has been healed and mended by God, I am finding myself engaging in relationships with others where there is no fear.  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).  I have learned that love is a very complex and an endless process of understanding.  Thus, love will never be perfectly practiced or fully comprehendible.  However, I will share what I believe love to be at this moment of time and how I have taken those beliefs and chosen to live my life.

                Love can be taken from many angles, so I will choose to define from the point of view of romantic relationships.  Love involves absolutely nothing logical or rational.  It is floating, uncomfortable, indefinable, and dangerous.  There is no safety, no security, no limit, and no boundaries.  Loving one another is fleshing out one’s heart, mind, and soul.  There are no secrets, no fears, and no inhibitions.  When two think that they have reached the epitome of love and capped what they can experience, a new door is revealed with another room to discover and learn about.  Love is an endless journey that provides little rest, but constant fulfillment.  It is the scariest emotion to feel, but the one that pierces to the depths of the soul.

                When experiencing a love so deep and so vast, it puts me in a position of crazy thoughts and emotions.  I am willing to risk all, take all, experience all, and share all.  I am putting my heart out on a cutting board.  Vulnerability, vulnerability, vulnerability – it ultimately leads again to fear and risk, and then continues in this cycle of vulnerability.  Love is willing to get hurt and experience the greatest pain known to man: loss, rejection, and heartbreak.  However, without this risk, there is no taste of the richness of love.  With the fear and doubt often lingering behind the scenes, I have to decide to love despite those hurdles.  When falling in love, I want to turn around and run.  The love captivates me, entangles me, smothers me, and makes me feel like I am going to suffocate.  But the very thing that makes me want to run is the same thing that draws me deeper and deeper into this mystery.  I can’t turn back.  I am too involved, too committed, and to lose it would cost too much.  But all the same it would be easy to leave and be free from love.  But yet it is in love that the greatest feeling of freedom is experienced.  This is because it is a risky adventure that leaves one experiencing a great joy on earth, and the closest thing to heaven.

                I believe that it is greater to take risks, take chances, and have endless faith and trust in someone.  Love is worth the risk.  It is worth everything!  If the end result is pain, love is worth it.  If love results in loss and death – love is worth it.  If love results in marriage, again it is worth it.  Often people think that unless the relationship is going to lead to marriage, risks can’t be taken.  I believe this is foolish.  Being too safe strangles the very essence of what it means to find true love and to fall helplessly and emotionally for someone.  If people try to guard their hearts, be wise, think cognitively, make plans, set up boundaries, and put together a formula, they have robbed love and made it into something fake and partial.  Love has no limits and has no safety.  A person can’t wrap their head around love or put it to words.  It is an all consuming mysterious cloud.

                I will end with an experience of sky diving.  It was a life dream to fall out of a plane and free fall above the earth.  Crazy I know.  But I did it.  This summer I jumped 8,000 feet above the ground.  I remember riding that plane.  Looking down at the small squares of land, the grid of roads, and then thinking I am not landing with this plane.  I am jumping.  I had never felt more scared in my life.  I had someone strapped to me.  We walked down the plane and then jumped out the door.  I had never felt more fear, excitement, or freedom at any other time of life.  Now compare love to sky diving.  It is the scariest thing going into it.  But sometimes you just have to jump and know that God is riding tandem with you.  You may experience the greatest thing in life if you actually trust God.  You will fly in the air.  You will see the whole world from a different perspective.  You will be able to scream at the top of your lungs, breath in clouds, and fall.  How free it is to fall.  There was no safety in falling from that plane.  I was lucky to have a parachute that opened.  I landed on the ground and then life returned to normal.  However, I am searching for that love and that experience that will make me feel like I am falling for the rest of my life.  I may fall to my death or I may fall in love, but either way I get to fly.  So I wait for the time when I will stand at the open door of the unknown.  Fear will not stop me from jumping.  And when I fall, I will feel free – and that is a risk that is worth even my life.

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