Tag Archives: people

Wishes

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Everyone has wondered what on earth they’d do with a million dollars or a bottomless bank account. In fact, it’s one of the most common getting-to-know-you kind of questions. We all want to be financially secure. Few are brave enough to live without money on purpose, as some have, and most of us know what it means to have to stretch a dollar.

When we’re kids, the answer is easy and usually selfish. All the candy in the world. Buying the world so you could boss people around. Your own theme park. More generous kids would spend on a trip for their family or medical treatments for ailing grandparents.

You get older, and your dreams mellow. You want your dream car, then to put the rest in savings. You’d pay for college and a starter home. You’d pour it into a dream wedding or a startup company of your own invention. In all honesty, these dreams are the unlimited candy dreams grown a little stale.

I think of my own journey with this question. When I was small, I wanted a castle and a horse and a pet tiger. I got a little older and realized it would be smarter to buy a small house and invest the rest. I got older still and realized that I needed to give 10% of what I had back to God, so I set that amount aside in my head and played with the rest, wondering what dreams I could concoct that wouldn’t come out too greedy.

I had an encounter outside a Walmart today. There’s this corner of the parking lot right next to an exit into a side road where homeless people hang out with their signs and their battered backpacks. It’s always men with scraggled beards and sad expressions whose cardboard signs may or may not be telling the truth.

My parents taught me to be generous. Generous, but with a guarded mind. Most homeless people have legitimately met with hard circumstances and need enough to get back on their feet. Some are out for drug money. It’s not a fifty-fifty split between the two groups, but it’s hard to tell the sheep from the goats. I want to help in any way I can, but I don’t want to enable anyone, either. I usually run to a store to buy them some granola bars and a big bottle of water.

This time, there was a healthy looking man standing on the corner holding a bright green sign. The usual “homeless and jobless, please help” was followed by “I have a wife and kids.” Normally my inner skeptic would rear her bespectacled head at this claim, but not this time. I looked again, and saw that his wife and kids were with him. On the street corner. Tired. Sad. Confused.

Suddenly I knew exactly what I would do with all the money in the world.

All I could give him was five dollars and a prayer. He thanked me in a heavily accented version of English, and I couldn’t help but think he had brought his family here in the hopes of giving them a better, safer life, and everything had caved in on him. Far away from family that could take them in, far away from any familiar face. No community, no friends, nothing. Just himself, his wife, his children, and a lime green poster board.

There is not difference whatsoever between me and that man. None whatsoever. I can’t hope to explain why I have all my needs met and he has nothing. I’ve done nothing to deserve the things I have, and I’m ashamed of myself for not running back into that Walmart and buying them bags full of food or getting them a hotel room or something. Anything more than five lousy dollars.

Families should be able to spend Saturdays playing together at a park, not needing to beg on street corners.

If I were handed all the money I can imagine, I’d see no point in keeping it. I’ve got what I need. More than what I need. But there are so many people who don’t.

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One Day

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One day they will open up your books

and wonder what you were waiting for

 

They will read into your self contradicting sentences

And write out volumes of dusty literary criticism

 

They will look for patterns in your poetry

And catalogue your plosives, fricatives, dentals, bilabials, glottals.

 

They will search your diaries for imaginary passions

And friendships that went deeper than you claimed

 

They will invent exotic histories of your life

And label what must have been your diseases. 

 

They will forget that you were a person

Who made wishes on her candles every birthday. 

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I am not alone.

It may be a little hard to believe that someone like me ever feels alone. After all, I tend to be pretty upbeat (except when I’m tired and stressed) and I’m surrounded by the best family and friends a human could ask for. But an odd fish surrounded by other really cool fish, even really cool fish who love the odd fish, is still an odd fish.

Often I’m tempted to think that my struggles are unique. I tell myself I’m the only one who feels such and such a way to such and such an extreme. No one else has felt the pain I’ve felt in the way I’ve felt it. I can’t talk to anyone about, because how could anyone possibly understand?

It’s simply not true. Different kinds of pain can feel equally intense. Different struggles resonate the same way. Others may not know exactly what I’m going through, but they’ve probably faced something similar. Or something worse.

How do I know this? I put my worries on the blog (a select few, mind you, compared to everything that rattles around in my head), and people comment. “I know how you feel.” “Been there, too.” “Thanks for that—it’s good to know I’m not alone.” “Hang in there. I got through and so will you.”

Still, there are moments when I cannot find anyone else. No one who empathizes. Plenty of people care and care a lot about me, but that does not mean they can understand my dark places completely.

And in those moments—and all other moments—God knows. He knows better than I do. He’s walked that way before, in and out of the dark places. He comes and scatters light into mine. He is the Day in my night, and under His wings I am never, ever alone. 

A Message to the Wandering

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Hey, there.

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you’re the sort of person who blogs. You write to survive. You write to sort the things out that are all jumbled and muddled in your mind.

I mean, it’s possible that you write because you’re a blissfully happy person. I know some people who write from the joy in their souls not every so often, but all the time. I love reading writing by such people.

The truth is that such is not the case for all of us. Most of us write because we are trying to sort things out.

So you, fellow writer. Or you, late-night surfer of the internet. Or you, subscriber–and you too, twitter followers. All of you writing wanderers like me. I have a message for you.

Whatever it is that does not make sense at the moment will one day resolve itself in perfect clarity.

Whatever thorn you’ve got in your foot on your journey will be removed.

And one day the pain will make sense. You’ll see why. And the freedom that comes with the clarity is breathtaking.

If nothing else, learn from what has happened. Write because of it. Grow because of it.

Just wait. I can assure you, fellow wanderer, that it will all make sense.

 

In Which the North Isn’t All That Different

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It’s June and it’s only 70 degrees out here. What’s up with that? I can sit outside. Also, I can breathe. My sinuses are not at all offended with whatever happens in the spring in Wisconsin.

Grits aren’t a thing. I should have anticipated that.  

And brown dirt. Genuine brown dirt. Not the red clay I’m used to scraping off my shoes at all times of the year. Brown dirt like what they show in storybooks. It’s real.

Everything is flat. Hills are next to nonexistent. There are some gentle slopes here, but for the most part everything is just flat. Pretty. And green. But flat.

And the dialect. The dialect up here is fascinating. “Eh.” So much “eh.” And the way they say “toast” and “oats” and “soda” and “Minnesota”, doing something to that long “o” that makes it sound like they’re saying it down one end of a cardboard tube.

But some things are exactly the same. Despite what Northerners and Southerners argue about, despite the differences in dialogue and food preferences, despite the age-old aggressions, both sides have hicks. Gun-toting, deer-hunting, ball cap-donning, camo-wearing country boys.

Landscapes change. People don’t. If anything, the folks up here are a hair friendlier. But then again, I’d be friendlier too if I didn’t spend my springtime sneezing.

Obstacles

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Some weeks are smooth sailing. Others…not so much. 

It seemed that this week was nothing but a series of obstacles. A scheduled blood test that turned into a doctor’s appointment I didn’t want. Inadequate time to study for a test. Double the amount of work for a class. I waited an hour for a person who never came. I reserved a location on campus for a meeting only to discover that someone else thought they had reserved the spot only they hadn’t but it made me look bad anyway. Physical limitations and difficulties that hindered my sleep some nights. Precious quiet time interrupted by issues that needed immediate attention. 

Here I am, just trying to wrap up my undergrad degree, minding my own business, trying to accomplish things…but people keep getting in the way. 

I have to remember I’m getting more than a BA in creative writing. I’m getting an education in how to deal with people. A college is a sampling of all different kinds of people from all different walks of life. No two are the same. We’ll have to deal with people–helping them, teaching them, loving them–our whole lives. People are not obstacles. They may cause obstacles, but the fact remaiins that a person is an eternal soul.

And now is the best time to learn this truth. 

A Few Things about Introverts

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Ever since the publication of Quiet by Susan Cane, introverts have been claiming their personality type with pride instead of apology. Introverts are the quiet kids (mostly) who shrink from human interaction (sort of) and are often misunderstood (except by fellow introverts).

There is no cookie-cutter introvert. Let me start with that.

People are surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert. People assume that hilarious + opinionated + loud + lots of acquaintances = extrovert. I’m an introvert, but I don’t fit “the mold.” Honestly, who fits “a mold”?

Introverts, as a general rule:

  1. Are drained by human interaction. While extroverts gain energy from the presence of other people, human company exhausts the introvert. This doesn’t mean we hate people. We like interacting with those we like and love, but we can only do it for so long before needed to go away and recharge.
  2. Hate small talk. It establishes no deep connections and conveys no real opinions or feelings. What’s the point? For some, it’s fun, but for us it’s exhausting and awkward. And fake.
  3. Prefer quiet fun. We have fun reading, listening to music, taking walks, exercising alone, making art, drinking tea and staring out a window, or parties with close friends who share common interests. The most annoying thing you can do to an introvert is to tell them to “get out more” and “meet people” and “start living life.” We’re living quite happily, thank you, but in our own way.
  4. Adopt a “persona.” This doesn’t mean we’re fake or duplicitous. We live in a world where extrovert behavior is considered the healthy norm, and we figured out during childhood that if we’re going to get along with people, we need to act like extroverts. So we develop an extroverted version of ourselves in order to communicate.
  5. Are excellent listeners. We know you need to talk, and we know a listening ear is all you need to feel better.
  6. Keep their pain to themselves. This isn’t because we don’t trust people, necessarily. We don’t want to burden people with our problems. See point 5…we’re burdened with everyone else’s. We don’t want to add to the general tension of our friend circle, so we keep it in and put a smile on top.

 

And that’s just the surface. There’s a whole study of the differences between extroverts and introverts and it’s completely fascinating. I’ll reach the end of Quiet over the next few weeks. Who knows what else I’ll find?

Recitals

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There are few greater privileges than knowing someone for your whole life. I went to a small elementary school (and nursery school, and junior high, and high school) almost entirely populated by children whose parents were all coworkers. Most of our parents worked where they worked just so their children could have a good education. Well, we got a good education, and had the added joy of watching each other grow up.

The two that come to mind tonight were born the same month that I was. One was born 20 days before me, the other ten days before. We had adjacent cradles in nursery, sat next to each other in classes, and even ended up in the same German class in high school.

College blew us in different directions. We three ended up at the same university, but spent most of our times in different corners of campus. One lived in the speech wing of the Fine Arts building and in the many theaters on campus, honing his acting skills. Another lived in performance halls and practice studios, becoming an accomplished clarinetist. I lived in the library, various theaters, and wherever I could hide so I could write things without interruption.

Needless to say, we haven’t really kept in touch over the last four years.

The performance majors require final recitals. For one of these two, that meant a final acting performance—in his case, the most memorable role in a stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch. His performance was nothing short of masterful. It brought tears to my eyes—not just because he performed so well, but because I could easily remember him as a little boy, as a teenager, and remember all the things he struggled with and overcame. I was unbelievably proud of him.

My other friend’s recital was today. She took up clarinet at the age of ten and quickly established herself as a competent player. She excelled through high school, and excelled still more in college. Her recital was a thing of beauty. I didn’t know a clarinet could be expressive until I saw her play. She made it look easy. I knew it couldn’t be—I studied an instrument for years and I know how physically taxing it can be—but she made it look as if playing the clarinet was the most natural thing she could possibly do. I was equally proud of her.

My thoughts delved further inward as I watched her play. As a writing major, I do not have a final project. Sadly, I do not get to take the stage and recite the poems I’ve written or read the stories and essays I’ve penned in order to pass my classes. None of it will be put on display, and none of it has been published—though a bit has been performed. Very few people will know how much I’ve done over the last four years, nor how thoroughly I have been trained. I suppose I should have written a novel by now, but that certainly hasn’t happened. No, I just wrote myself silly so I could get a degree that ensures I will continue to write myself silly for the rest of my life.

But life, after all, is everyone’s final project. We work hard so we can become the best people possible—as for myself, I intend to be the best follower of Christ I can possibly be. My life is a project, continually guided and assessed by the Person who began it. At its conclusion, I hope to receive a grade of “Well done,” and am working towards that end. We shall see.

Until then, here I am. Writing. Writing about people I love doing the things that they love, observing who they choose to love and loving what they choose to do. Life is such a many-splendored thing. I and my childhood friends may graduate soon, but that doesn’t mean we’re done. No, we’ll have far to go. But it’s a journey worth taking.

I wonder where we’ll be ten years from now. 

A Word about the Blog

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Here I am at the beginning of a new year, and I feel as though I have nothing new to talk about.
Those of you who have faithfully followed this blog know full well that I usually only talk about one thing: how much work I have to do and how much I’d rather be sleeping. I complain. I complain creatively, but that doesn’t change the fact that I spend most of my writing energies on complaining.

The Risible Rambler has evolved since its beginning in 2011. It started out as a humor blog, and nothing but a humor blog. No glimpses into my angst-ridden soul, no rants, and lots of forced laughter. As I near graduation and face the inevitable existential crisis that accompanies it, the blog has gotten a lot more personal. Thanks for sticking with me anyways. The Rambler remains risible, since more than one of you has let me know how much my posts make you laugh. Even if you laugh because of a grievous typo, at least you’re laughing. I can proudly say that the blog hasn’t deviated too far off its intended course.

This year saw the beginning of the Flights of Fiction. These scribblings sprang from my ever-present burning desire to be a published author. The trouble with becoming a published author is that you have to actually write a book to get published. I knew that the only way my book would get written was if I incorporated it into the blog—hence my scattered and grievously unedited segments from The Book, published once a week (if I’m lucky).

I wrote and released a lot of poems this year. I would not have done this if it weren’t for the magical influence of the genius who blogs here, who at one point wrote a poem every week. His poems and song lyrics are brilliant, his blog is brilliant, and he’s brilliant, and some of that brilliance must have rubbed off on me because I’m cranking out haikus and sonnets and pantoums like a beatnik. I might catch up with Emily Dickinson yet

I’m afraid, however, that this year will see The Risible Rambler mutate into a tabloid of my inner turmoil. I don’t know what I want to do with myself after college anymore. I should probably figure out what I need to do or look forward to a life of living in a cardboard box and trying to sell my poems on street corners. If surviving college was this difficult, how on earth will I survive The Real World? Stay tuned, folks, it’s going to be a wild ride.

But one thing I can’t give up—one of the many things I can’t give up—is the blog. It’s habit now. I get twitchy if I think I’m going to miss posting for a day. All day I wonder about what I’ll write that night and scribble down ideas in the margins of my notes or on my hand or on little easily-lost scraps of paper. I can’t stop writing. You all, bless your saintly souls, will be here through all of my panicking. I will probably panic a lot this semester. Panicking is funny. This blog is supposed to be about funny things, so there you have it. Make ‘em laugh. Through the ups, through the downs, I’ll keep laughing—and hopefully you’ll be laughing, too.

Rejoice, Rejoice

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The stockings are empty. The tree looks a little more barren now, but no less cheerful. All the surprises have been discovered, joy has been shared, food has been eaten, hugs have been given, and all are tired.

I know I am. It’s been a joyous Christmas. A peaceful Christmas.

That’s the way it should be. After all, we’re celebrating the arrival of a good and gracious King. We’ll have to wait a little longer for His eternal reign of peace to begin. But it will come. It will come when it’s supposed to.

In the meantime, here’s to a silent night. Here’s to all being calm and bright. For we only get each December the 25th once. We only get each day once. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come. He’s come to give us the greatest gift—the gift of eternal life and unending days.

Merry Christmas to you all.

With all my love,

Risabella Rambler

The People of Walmart

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School ended later than usual this year. The late hour forced the entire Rambler family into last-minute shopping mode, which did nothing to heal the nervous twitch over my left eye.

Somehow I ended up at Walmart, people watching while waiting two hours for my one-hour photo pickup.

I have never seen so many Santa hats being worn by women who mistake leggings for pants. So many beards that could be mistaken for living things. So many deliberately hideous Christmas sweaters. So. Many. Pajamas.

Normally I’ve found that shopping at Walmart is a pleasant experience. I walk in, I find the aisle where my desired purchase is located, then I proceed to one of the two open checkout lines and buy said item. Christmas, however, seems to bring out the crazies. The normal amount of wailing children is multiplied by ten (and as a result the number of children I want to have decreases to -10). The amount of yelling adults increases by twenty, which really makes me not want to be an adult anymore. And the happiest looking person in the place was probably me and the guy out front manning the Salvation Army bucket.

Suddenly I realized why shopping at the last minute is a really, really bad idea. Especially someone with stress-related health issues. Like me.

I tried to turn myself into an island of calm in a sea of calamity. I smiled. A lot. At people. I made eye contact, which was probably dangerous business. I whistled. I tried to be as imperturbable as possible, since everyone around me seemed very likely to be easily perturbed.

I noticed I got friendlier service when I was friendlier. I noticed I was happier and less stressed out when I made an effort to not be angered. It took an effort. It took a huge effort, and a lot of deep breaths. But I made it through the day without misrepresenting the One who started Christmas.

That’s the greatest irony of  last-minute shopping. One, last-minute shopping doesn’t always result in the most thoughtful gifts. God had the advent of Christ planned before that plan was even necessary. Two, people get angry when they can’t get what they want when they want it. Christ was born into poverty, and had to wait about thirty years before the climax of His ministry arrived. He has to wait even longer for people to decide they need redemption. Three, we—and here I mean Christians—lose our tempers and our testimonies in the name of…Christmas. The irony is too much for me to handle.

I kept my cool this time. I don’t always. In fact, I rarely do. But around Christmas, I have to smile. I smile because I can’t help it. I smile because I’d rather say “Merry Christmas” than shout at someone for being in my way.

Now, if I can just keep that mentality all year long. 

Introverting

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At this point, it probably goes without saying that this has been a challenging semester.

There has been very little time to sit. To reflect. To read the news on the internet. For fifteen weeks, I have chosen extroversion. From class to my internship to officer meetings to play rehearsals, I’ve had to be an extrovert. You can’t be involved and hide in your room at the same time.

The trouble is, I am an introvert. I draw my energy from rest and peace and separation. Being around people for long periods of time wears me out. I honestly don’t know what to do in crowds, and small talk drives me crazy. I don’t know how to politely withdraw from a conversation with a stranger. Handling social interaction takes a massive amount of energy.

If I were an extrovert, I would have no problem with crowds and constant activity. I would pull my energy from the people around me. I would thrive on being involved and engaged and constantly talking to people.

But I’m not. I don’t dislike people. People are great. They’re fascinating. They’re thrilling. They’re marvelous. But talking to people all day drains me.

I’ll admit to being the kind of person who avoids acquaintances on the sidewalk just so I don’t have to make the obligatory small talk. For example:

“Hi! How are you?” (That’s the extroverted acquaintance.)

“Fine, thanks.” (That’s me.)

“Just fine?”                                                                                                                                        

“Yes, I am fine.”

“Why aren’t you feeling awesome?” [The extrovert will usually smile here. A big, purposefully cheerful smile, normally mixed with a dash of pity.]

“Because my cat did not die, neither did I win the lottery. I am in the middle. I am fine. [Cough] How are you doing?”

“I’m doing GREAT!”

“Oh, wonderful! Well, um, I’m going to dinner at the dining common.”

“Oh, you ARE? Me, too! I’ll walk with you so we can continue this stilted conversation where I’ll interrogate you about your life whether it’s my business or NOT! Hey, maybe you should join me and my crowd of extroverted friends that you don’t know so you can sit there and awkwardly eat your salad while we all laugh at our inside jokes—but that doesn’t matter because you’ll be socializing like a behaviorally healthy, normal human being!”

…okay, so the conversation doesn’t always sound like that. But sometimes it does. In my head.

When I’m well rested and recharged, I can be around people for hours. I like people. I like serving people most of all. I have a wide circle of good friends with whom I have shared enjoyable experiences. I especially like being around people I love. I could be around those people for hours, days even, and not mind a bit.

But constantly moving, constantly interacting, constantly doing wears me thin.

Tonight, I have nothing to do. Well, not nothing, but nothing that requires me to leave the comfort of my dorm room. I can sit down. I never get to sit down. I can drink stress relief tea and pumpkin flavored eggnog. I never get to do that. I can write a long blog post. You all know that I’ve not been able to do that in forever.

I’m introverting. I’m introverting so I can face the world tomorrow. I’m introverting so I can have a nice, long conversation with an extrovert and enjoy every minute of it. I’m introverting so my brain can wind down for a nice long winter’s nap.

Three sleeps until freedom.

 

Opening Night in a List

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  1. What a wonderful opening night for Little Women! I really couldn’t have asked for anything better. All throat issues subsided amongst the cast. We all hit our marks, improvised well when we didn’t, and stayed in tune and energetic. The audience was responsive and enjoyed it very much. And I didn’t fall during that one dance number.
  2. I am ashamed of myself. I’m sure you’ve noticed, my dear readers, that I’ve been freaking out the past few days. I have never had so many panic attacks in my life. I had three breakdowns on Monday. Three. That’s not healthy. Not at all. I reacted to the stress very, very poorly. And I’m sorry.
  3. Here’s why I was freaking out: I have a speech Friday and a major paper due Monday and another major paper due Tuesday. I thought I had performances of Little Women every night until next Thursday—two this Saturday—and I had no idea how I was going to manage it all.
  4. My speech is written and cited. By the grace of God and divine intervention.
  5. Turns out I don’t have a performance next Monday. That gives me the whole evening to work on my paper for Tuesday.
  6. Which frees up the weekend for writing the other research paper.
  7. Which means I might just…make it.
  8. Which means I freaked out unnecessarily.
  9. Which makes me feel very silly…and I am quite humbled by the whole affair.
  10. I am grateful for the stressful things. I am grateful beyond words for those who have gone out their way to make me feel better. I am grateful to be in a musical. I am grateful to have a voice with which to sing and praise my marvelous God.
  11. I would probably be much better off if I spent more of my breath praising God than screaming in panic.