“Return to a time when life was simple. Kindergarten is a good place to start.” Joseph Everett
This endeavor, the Chronicles Project, began with one simple question. Actually, a series of questions. Below is an excerpt from my first installment.
“Have you ever had something happen so profound, so jaw dropping, mind blowing, eye opening or gut wrenching it stops you dead in your tracks? Something which seems yanked straight from the realm of the Twilight Zone or a seemingly alternate universe–and the moment it happens–the experience instantaneously transforms your entire thinking process? Literally changes who you are?”
Those moments come in various forms, are completely interpretative, subjective, and geared solely to the individual experiencing it. At least this is what I believe. Some would say: a religious experience, or a spiritual awakening. An epiphany. A revelation. The after effects of cheating death. Bringing a new life into a chaotic world.
The second I held my newborn baby daughter, mere moments after weighing her, less than sixty seconds after cutting the cord, was a feeling that’s indescribable. Reality altering.
More feelings of purpose, love, joy and… an out of body experience. The mind races. The chest thumps. The blood rushes through the veins. A million thoughts scattered and swirling in the mind. Wanting to cry, but finding yourself giggling instead and still wiping tears. All the troubles of the day are washed away in that moment. The stuff that’s been weighing on the brain all day or all week, is vanishing and dissipating in the air around you as you stare at this brand new creation in your hands.
All the crazy hell that follows when becoming a new parent (or again for a second time. A third), is a discussion for another day. But that moment… that second… you become a changed person.
I once conquered a fear of riding a roller coaster that flipped loopy loops and went upside down at sixty five miles per hour. A coaster in which the feet dangle, with a cushioned restraint buckled across the shoulders and down the chest.
I was terrified. I’d approach, then turn around. Get close… stop, then wait outside the gate for the next go around.
Believing I was having a panic attack when I finally muscled up the courage to try.
Down the first hill, picking up speed, and before the eyes could catch a glimpse of the track and path, to make mental preparations, I was flipped upside down and tossed around.
I hooted and hollered for the whole damn thing. Both arms up in the air. No longer paying attention to the steel handles which I initially had a death grip on as the coaster climbed the first hill.
Sheer bliss. Haven’t feared the coaster again.
I changed a little that day.
But that’s not the change I’m referring to. I didn’t have an personalized epiphany when I left the roller coaster to seek out the nearest one, for another adrenaline fueled experience. I didn’t stop dead in my tracks exiting the ride’s gate, eyes wide, unblinking and bloodshot, fingers clenching into fists, a tingle traveling down my spine from the base of the neck, the corners of my mouth twitching, walking through a public place speaking in a hush only I could hear, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I refuse to believe this. That can’t be my answer. There has to be some other explanation.”
The thing about having a profound personal moment, is it’s completely subjective. In fact the really good ones, are so powerful, they’re rarely spoken about with others. Something you keep close to the chest and hope it happens to someone else organically and naturally. You don’t want to jinx it.
Just have hope.
I’m an easy going guy. Very laid back. Meat and potatoes fella. My education was high school, and a little college for a couple of different degree programs for a short period of time and I’ve worked in upwards of eleven varying places of employment. Divorced. Have two children. Live check to check and hit the road for a drive when possible. I love my community and the people in it… , but there is nothing overly complicated about me. I don’t speak elegantly. I’m fairly straight forward. I am not a complex entity. I put my pants on one leg at a time, work my forty hours and try to live the best way I know how. I am by far an expert on anything. I like to say I know enough to get by. I know a little about a lot.
So if I have an experience that can’t be explained conventionally, I typically just let the experience become a part of me, and keep it to myself. “You don’t want people thinking you’re crazy, do you?”
I’ve had a multitude of experiences throughout my life, that altered the way I live said life. Adopting my oldest. Helping birth my youngest. Some charity work I’ve involved myself in. Volunteering.
The epiphany, the revelation if you want to call it that, angered me. I wanted no part of it. It didn’t make sense, and because it didn’t make sense to my simple mind, I tried to ignore it. I fought it every step of the way.
It felt like I’d slipped straight into the Twilight Zone, and I couldn’t turn back.
Speaking of the Twilight Zone. Joseph Everett was about to let me inside the refuge again. I hated visiting him. Of all the things that didn’t make sense in my reality, he was at the tippy top of the list.
Crotchety old bastard.
The building was darkened. The wide empty space was lit up only by candles splayed across his dining table at the front of the room. Clutched tight in his left hand, Joe had a fistful of crayons.
He turned his back to me, strolled to the opposite end of the church and pulled the chair out from under the table. Joseph lowered his thin frame slow and gentle in the seat.
I looked among the shadows and expected something to jump out from the darkness. He gave me a moment to glance around before speaking.
“Everything that happened before this moment, has been in the past. Why do you live in the past?”
“I don’t believe in choice anymore. I have to use the lessons of the past, to move forward. Free will is an illusion.”
“Why do you think that?”
“I can’t live the life I wish to live. Bad things are happening.”
“Why not look at those negative experiences as a positive?”
I folded my hands on the table, “So from this point forward, look at the bad as something good?”
“Simplify.” He pulled a small knife from his right pocket and flipped open the blade. “Whittle your life down to simplicity. Think it through. Take each and every variable presented and think it all through. Good and hard.” The crayons clattered across the table and he snatched one up. With the blade extended, he shaved off thin slivers of the colored wax and I watched them flutter to the table’s surface as though they were as light as feathers. Time slowed down.
“Return to a time when life was simple. Kindergarten is a good place to start.”
“Absolutely. What do you remember of kindergarten?”
Brief flashes of memory circled me where I sat. The floating snapshots of early education moved around in the dark and I recalled play time. A teacher at a piano. Arts and crafts. Banging away on musical instruments and singing in groups. Building blocks and poster-boards. Nap time. Reading story books and life was simple back then.
Once the memories were burned into my brain I nodded my recollection and smiled.
“It was better back then, wasn’t it?” He disappeared from the chair and the kitchen door swung open and closed. He reappeared before me in his chair as if blinking into view from nothing and the door swung wide a second time. In his grip he had a box of elbow macaroni, paper, and white glue in a small squeeze bottle in his left hand. He dropped the items on the surface.
“Make a choice.” He leans across the table and brings both hands to either side of my head. He held them a moment before snapping his fingers together and the sharp sound forced me back in my chair. “You can choose between drawing a duck with crayons, or making one from macaroni and glue. But you only have two options. You have to choose one or the other.”
“I choose neither. If I get options, that’s the one I choose.” My arms crossed and I slunk low in my seat.
“You can’t leave until you choose one.”
I stood up. “So you mean to tell me I’m forced to make a choice. See? No free will.”
He nodded. “The problem is, you’re telling yourself not to participate. But what if you did?”
I dropped back down in a huff. I snatched up the crayon, slid a sheet of paper over and drew my best dream duck as possible. In fact, if memory serves, it appeared to be a small potato with a triangle for a beak. Stick legs with thin straight toes. Nothing like a traditional duck.
“Why did you choose the crayon? Why not the macaroni?”
“Seemed easier and I can get out of here quicker?”
“But it looks nothing like what I asked for. I told you to draw a duck.”
“I did my best.”
“Did you? Stop acting like a child. Do it again.” He swiped the crayons from the table. “Use the macaroni instead.”
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