Skits of My Past and The Road I’m On

wpid-img_20150312_2137172.jpg.jpegI don’t know if this is still a thing, but when I was in high school youth group, musical skits were all the rage. Think of a live-action music video to a popular “secular” song with a story that illustrates the Gospel, something the speaker could use as a jumping off point for the night’s talk.

I’m actually really grateful that I came across an art form like this in those tumultuous years of grieving, moving, starting over, and figuring out high school all at the same time. I don’t remember the first one I saw, but the first one that really spoke to me was a skit written by a senior named Julia Owens set to Frou Frou’s “Let Go.” This was not too long after Garden State had come out, and I already knew and loved the song. I had just started going to a new church and thought I’d check out skit practice. I got to watch them practice this one over and over again, and I loved every moment of it: A boy scribbles in a notebook, too focused on “writing his tragedy” to notice the vibrant girl in front of him who laughs at life and dances with joy. She tries to get him to “let go,” but he won’t. It starts to rain (we actually had a bubble machine, it was pretty awesome), and the girl lifts her face to the clouds but the boy grumbles and hides under cover. There’s a scene where the boy stands center stage with his notebook and passersby each rush past him in a chaotic frenzy and rip out pages of his story. The girl tries to help him, the boy keeps pushing her away… Eventually, he decides on his own to “let go” and sit in the rain, he even opens his mouth to catch it on his tongue. It was one of the most moving stories I’d ever seen, and I said to my freshman self, I can write stories like that.

I’d been making up music videos in my head ever since I was a little kid (back when MTV was actually Music Television). I loved setting story to lyric and music. I would choreograph them in my bedroom and listen to the songs over and over again. I think the first one I consciously created for the purpose of sharing Gospel hope in high school was set to Coldplay’s “Fix You,” and I based it on myself and how I felt “broken” without my mother. The skit was about people carrying around photographs that each represented something broken in their life (relationships severed by death, hearts broken, etc) and finally realizing that they couldn’t fix themselves, but instead had to let go of the darkness and walk into the Light. It’s still probably the most personal one I wrote, and I should think about it more often.

I couldn’t do anything until I was a senior, and I pushed for the storytelling skits to make a comeback. Finally, I got to do it, and I felt like I had found my niche. I did the “Fix You” skit. I redid the “Let Go” skit that had inspired me so much. My favorite skit, however, the one that I think touched the most people, and the one that still gets me today is the one I wrote to Coldplay’s “White Shadows.” Like the seeds that fall amongst the thorns/weeds in the Parable of the Sower, this skit follows a boy who starts out at home with God and his people, full of light, then the pressures of life pull him away (literally, in an assembly-line reminiscent of Across the Universe‘s “I Want You” scene). I had the help of one of my choreographer friends, and my cast executed the moves to perfection. There was also light-dark symbolism: His colorful clothing gets covered in grey and he falls in line with the robotic movements of the rest of the people living in the darkness. He’s tossed about by the crowd and tangled in grey, but when he’s finally left alone, he falls to his knees, lost. A light shines on him, and he looks up. Slowly, he rises and throws himself into the arms of Christ, the colorful people surround him in hug, the song ends and the lights fade.

I was really good at this. That’s why it’s hard for me now in the midst of my unraveling to hear a song come on my shuffle by 3 Doors Down and think about the unfinished skits in my head. You see, just like how my youth pastor had once set a musical to all Coldplay songs, I had started devising my own musical to 3 Doors Down. I think I chose them because they were the musicians behind the first ever skit I managed to get performed at my church, “Away From the Sun.” I honestly can’t remember all the details to this one, but I remember it involved a boy (I always thought that boys were a good choice because girls tended to be empathic to the skit regardless of who’s playing the lead, and boys find it easier to see themselves in another boy. This is a viewpoint that I find problematic for a number of reasons now, in my twenties, but it seemed worked okay at the time). Anyway, the boy was again dealing with peer pressure, and I used the most after-school special topic of them all: alcohol use. He was lost in the “party world,” and I remember there was a devil character who kept tying black strings around his arms and legs… I think there was a moment where the strings came off/ were cut off and the light blinded the devil, but I can’t really remember. I know though that it was another story of the pressures of life pulling someone into darkness, but at the end Light always won out.

I think my story-lines say a lot about my age at the time of writing and my worldview that encompassed only high school. I hope they were beautiful and moving, but sometimes I fear they were a bit contrived. I really was sincere when I wrote them, though, and I really believed in the power of the Light.

That’s why, again, it’s hard for me to listen to 3 Doors Down’s “The Road I’m On.” I had started making up skits to a few of the band’s songs that I had on my ipod– yes, I even had one written for “Kryptonite,” and no it didn’t involve Superman. It was great, but I could never really think of one for “The Road I’m On” except as a transitionary song between a dark skit and a light one. I thought it was an okay song, but there was no hope in it, just solidarity–what was I supposed to do with that?

I listen to it now and it hits me, hard. Those other songs were my high-school life. “The Road I’m On” is the song I’m living now, and I don’t have an ending for it. I’m not any closer to finding a good ending for it than I was six years ago.

She said life’s a lot to think about sometimes, when you’re living in between the lines … He said life’s so hard to move in sometimes, when it feels like I’m towing the line, and no one even cares to ask me why I feel this way.

Much like how I didn’t understand Bono’s “still looking” notion in high school, I didn’t understand living between the lines either. That wasn’t something that made sense to me. You either stumble in darkness or you thrive in the light; grey strangles you. I remember this was even part of the youth pastor’s Coldplay musical, a theme that the people on the fence had to choose where to belong and where to stand.

He said life’s a lot to think about sometimes, when you keep it all between the lines of everything I want and I want to find, one of these days.
What you thought was real in life has somehow steered you wrong. Now you just keep driving, trying to find out where you belong…

That’s me.

I know you feel helpless now and I know you feel alone,
That’s the same road, that same road that I am on.

That’s the song’s only comfort: Life is hard. Seeing it shatter is devastating. Grey is everywhere, and I don’t know where the road will lead, but I’m right there with you.

That’s all I can have right now. It’s not a drastic transformation, it’s not a chain-breaking, darkness fleeing, light encompassing, grey suddenly flooding with color story right now. (It’s not somebody who’s seen the light, it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.) Right now, it’s a long silver stretch of road that often leaves me feeling helpless and alone. And maybe I am driving towards the light, but it seems too far off and dim to be coming any time soon, though I hope it’s really there, I hope I’ll find it again someday.

wpid-20150415_175804.jpgRachel Held Evans writes in Searching for Sunday: “Scripture doesn’t speak of people who found God. Scripture speaks of people who walked with God. This is a keep-moving, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, who-knows-what’s-next deal, and you never exactly arrive.”

Maybe now “I’ve found myself so far down, away from the sun,” but it’s not from anything as concrete as what I used in my skit, black ropes and beer bottles… It’s something else, and the way to “fix it” isn’t as simple as I thought in my old skits. It’s powerful, yes, and divine, and hopefully possible, but certainly not quick and simple. I turn to another song:

Somewhere in this darkness, there’s a light that I can’t find.
Maybe it’s too far away, or maybe I’m just blind.
Maybe I’m just blind.
So hold me when I’m here, right me when I’m wrong
Hold me when I’m scared, and love me when I’m gone.

Hold me, Light. Love me, even when I’m gone.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

wpid-img_20140730_151118.jpgI’ve been pretty silent on the blog this summer. The one year anniversary of my dad’s death passed, along with the birthday that marks the first year of my life in which my dad had no physical presence. I’ve been silent on here about it for several reasons…

One is that I’ve started a lot of posts only to end in bitterness and confusion because I’ve been on a rocky journey lately.

Another reason is that I’ve been able to forget that bitterness and confusion because of happy and joyous things going on in my life these past couple of months, and so coming back to this blog brings me down again with feelings of both grief and guilt.I’ve probably been trying to avoid that.

I want to write about my dad, I want to write about grief, but sometimes I also just want to throw off the weight of grief and be happy.

The seasons are changing again. I thought that I couldn’t handle the smell of summer, but now the crisp fall air frightens me. I wonder if I am simply still afraid of the passage of time. I’m afraid of the marking of more days, months, years spent without my dad. Fall means I’ve done this before, it’s not the anniversary of the death but it’s the anniversary of the aftermath… It hurts because I used to love Fall. Hopefully I still can…

The other day I caught myself saying, “I’m tired of this. I’m tired of being the girl without any parents.” It was a strange emotion. It was as if I felt like turning to the sky and saying, “Okay, God, I’ve done the whole grieving thing. I think it’s gone on long enough. You can bring my dad back now.”

And I think that’s why I’ve been so silent on this blog– because after writing that sentence, I had to stop and search Facebook for ten minutes because I didn’t want to keep writing.wpid-img_20140825_163538.jpg

That happy stuff, the good stuff, the gifts that I can’t believe are coming my way in this life… that all comes with a sadness too, it comes with its own shadow. Because when I’m happy, I want my parents to know that, I want them to see it. I want them to meet the amazing new friends in my life, I want them to hear about my job, I want to tell them stories about Grey Havens YA

I don’t want to go through another Fall without them.

Title taken from “To Autumn” by John Keats.

Against my ruins

My sense of smell is intricately (and sometimes quite inconveniently) linked to my memory.

The other day I caught a whiff of new-carpet smell, and I nearly burst into tears. (My dad used to work in a carpet store. That smell clung to his being all of my childhood life.)

And yet another day, the air was warm and heavy. We opened the windows. As I walked down to my room at the end of the night, I caught the smell, that outdoorsy, windows-open, fresh air, summer smell. I can’t handle that smell, the smell of summer…

Because my last summer was so awful. Daunting. Oppressive. Dark. Suffocating.
It can’t be summer yet. It’s too soon.

T.S. Eliot says,
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

Did winter keep me warm? Winter was awful too at times. But the cold was so long and permeating that perhaps I forgot about the passage of time. And now it is April.

More Eliot,
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

I never agreed with Eliot’s description here before. Who could call ever call the breath of April cruel? But now I think I am beginning to see what he means. Yes, spring is the season of the poets, but in the joy of new life, there is also sorrow. It is this very juxtaposition of the blooming April against the decaying winter that makes it so cruel.

The world is still slow, silent, dead, when spring tries to grab hold of us and thrust us into the life.

Pablo Neruda,
How do the seasons know
they must change their shirt?

Why so slowly in winter
and later with such a rapid shudder?

What will it be like this time around? Can I handle that rapid shudder?

And how do the roots know
they must climb toward the light?

And then greet the air
with so many flowers and colors? -Neruda.

Am I climbing towards the light? I need it so desperately.
But when my dried roots reach that light, will there be any flowers to bloom?

I have lost my train of thought. Eliot: These fragments I have shored against my ruins… What does it mean? What will it bring? I need to climb towards the light. Lilacs, I want lilacs. I cling to the promise of the lilacs, of the spring rain. This dead land, this waste land, needs water to quench it and color to save it.

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock)
-Eliot.

May

It’s been a dark winter.
It was a long and lonely fall.

DPP_0002

Yesterday, the only sunny morning of the week, I took a walk outside.
I breathed in the beauty of the Creator,
And I felt refreshed.
There was a sense of something bursting forth…
Something I know not what, yet.

DPP_0004

This is the season of the poets:
Something within our bones swells with joy
When we experience this renewal of the land
When the flowers bloom and the harsh ground turns green again.
Its a rush to see the luscious forrest once more, no longer the barren wasteland.

We say, ‘Yes, all can be well again–
After winter must come spring, it must.’
We need this grace, we cherish it.
As much as we need the sun to come up each day
and the rain to fall on the sinners and the saints.

DPP_0011

Rain, what beauty, what grace!
What transformation!
The showers, the storms, the drenching,
The power that causes the blossoms–
We need that grace too.

Drink deep, little earth, little heart,
And bloom, bloom, blossom little daughter.

Ten.

I want to remember this place, but I don’t.
I am told the memories:
This is where your grandparents lived
This was your house
This is where dad worked
This is where your brother went to school
This was where mom and dad hung out
See that house? That one, there.
I don’t remember any of it.

I feel as if I’m returning to my roots.
I drive down main street Arbutus in the middle of the night
Trying to make out the shapes of the houses in the dark
This was where I became a thought, a fragment,
An ultrasound image in a frame… It all started here.
And I have no memory of this place.

And yet I live here now,
While those who hold the memories have gone on and moved away
To open spaces by the Rocky Mountains
Or mansion rooms by streets of gold.
And I am here to gather the threads of their memories…

My dad loved to be back here, I think, because he liked the good memories of his early times with my mom, before she got sick.

But I have no memories of these places. The majority of the time I had with my mom was spent in South Carolina, and I haven’t been back there in almost five years.

But here is what I do remember:
Walking along the beach with her,
That cramped feeling in my neck after hours of sharks-teeth hunting
The sun rising over the Atlantic
And setting over the Pacific (after we moved)
Laying on our backs in the parking lot of our condo complex,
Studying the sky for one of my school projects.
See that star? That one, there.
That house I remember.
And our townhouse. And the pools.
The surprise party she threw for me.

There are countless other memories I’ve made that she has no part in,
Places I can go to now that remind me of seasons long after she’d gone
Even my memories of her hometown have nothing to do with her
Because I’m making them now, with new people.
I am a new person, or at least I am older now.

I have ten years of memories without her presence.

And yet, she is always present. Evermind.

I’ve blogged about this day before in Simblemyne and White Shores Are Calling.

© Robyn and Chased by Light, 2013. Unauthorized use of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with direction to the original content.

Israel Updates.

For updates while I am in Israel, please check http://israel.adventures.org

EDIT: This blog address is no longer valid. However, I am including here now a poem that I posed to this blog while I was in Israel:

Lessons From the Desert

Here in the middle of this desert of Israel,
In this dry and thirsty land,
We long most for two things:

  • wind
  • and water.

Wind ~~ The Holy Spirit is like the wind,
It blows wherever it pleases,
With powerful force or a gentle breeze
– according to the need.
We need the wind.
It refreshes. It lifts.
It gives us strength and energy.
Sometimes it’s inconvenient,
But it’s just what we need.
I am desperate for the wind;
Without it, I could not survive my time in the desert.
The wind, the breath of God,
Breathe on me, come breathe within.

Water ~~ Jesus is the Living Water.
He gives it to us freely without limit,
And it never runs out.
Water is precious. Water gives life.
And sometimes, we have to drink it even if we don’t think we need to,
(or face the threat of dehydration)
Because we always need water. Always.

We share this need with the people of Israel.
They are thirsty and desperate,
Looking for water, looking for life.
By grace, we are wells of living water.
Let us overflow in this dry and thirsty land.
We know the way to the water of life,
Let us offer it freely as Jesus did,
And let us not take advantage of the stream within us.

I am thirsty for you, God. Fill me up to overflowing capacity.

Let the wind lead me to Your fountain.
Guide me to those who are thirsty for You.
May the Wind carry the Water of Life!
(and me along with it.)