Silence is Golden

So I recently came down with a nasty bout of I-don’t-even-know-what.  The PA said I had left lower lobe pneumonia, the radiologist looking at my chest X-ray said I had bronchitis.  My guess: pneumonia is a secondary infection, so I’m assuming I got bronchitis and then I ended up getting pneumonia.  In any case, I had these nasty little coughing fits that ended up making me lose my voice completely.  Ridiculous…especially since I was sick for about two weeks and missing a voice for one.  And my voice isn’t even totally back yet.  But I digress.  Point is, I lost my voice.

Anyway, so the entire time, I focused on the “What the [expletive]?!  I don’t have time for this [expletive].  I need my [expletive]-[expletive] voice back NOW!”  (Use your imagination…it’s like a Mad-Lib).  Unfortunately, I have a very strong feeling that this was God’s way of telling me to shut up and listen…or in UCC-speak “I love you, but please be quiet.”  And rightfully so; I’ve flaked out on my weekly trips to Mount Bonnell because of “lack of time.”  In reality, it was just laziness.

In any case, I completely missed that memo, so God sent another one: the death of a friend.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure God had other things to do with Kadye and other people to communicate a message to with her death.  I’m not completely narcissistic.  But I’m sure God would take the chance to knock out two birds with one stone.  But yeah, that one shut me up good.

It definitely made me realize more fully (as I’ll probably never feel the full magnitude of it) the transient nature of life.  The words of my high school English literature teacher, Mrs. Cannariato, about this topic resonate in my mind: “First you’re here, then you’re gone.”  I understood that people live, people die, you move on.  But application to real life was far different applying this to Beowulf.  But in the mess that is life, it really is that simple.  You’re here, now you’re not.  Life must begin and must end.  And realistically, it is only really tragic for those who love the deceased.  For the dead, they’ve reached that finish line.  They’ve completed what they were meant to do here on earth, whether or not we felt as though they were ready.  Unfortunately, some of these ends are unpleasant.  But I always imagined Kadye going down in a blaze of glory…I just didn’t realize it would be so literal.  Either way, though, April 24 will always be etched in my mind.  But now, instead of a day of mourning, I can look at it as a day of celebration of a life that was full and vibrant; a day of completion and closure.  She’s done.  She made it.  The girl always seemed to work quickly, I have to give her that one.

Anyway, I’m sure God was not trying to tell me about the transient nature of life through laryngitis.  Rather, I feel like it was more along the lines of appreciation.  Appreciate what you have, who and what are around you, and, most importantly, yourself.

Recently, I’ve been feeling a little taken advantage of by a few friends.  By nature I’m what I guess you would call a beta male; I tend to subordinate myself and my needs to that of others.  But since most of the time, I feel as though if I’m close to you and I care about you and trust you, I should give you my all, I have a tendency not to set boundaries.  Which then ends up with me silently hating myself and pissed at people and blaming others for injustices against me, when, in reality, how are they supposed to know that I’m not comfortable when I never tell them?  And, after re-reading that last sentence, I realized what direction that could be taken in, and no, this has nothing to do with any form of physicality.

There’s this group of guys, my best, best, BEST friends in the world.  These guys know me inside and out (metaphorically, of course), and I would do nearly anything for these fools if they needed me to.  But one day, one of them essentially commanded me (note: not asked, but commanded) to do something.  It was in the usual way we interact, but the command was something that would end up costing me money, money that I didn’t exactly have.  At first, I was like “who is this [expletive] that he can just snap his fingers and expect me to do his bidding?!  Oh HELL no.”  I sincerely resented him for that.  But then I realized, 99% of the time, I let him manipulate me, I play along with his games, I never really let him know when he’s gone too far.

And, to be completely honest, it’s because I like the attention, as twisted as that sounds.  This is the first set of friends that I could legitimately look up to as big brothers, as role models.  I didn’t have to be the leader because they knew better than I did most of the time.  They really, for all intents and purposes, are my big brothers and I their little, and when I get attention, it really is one of those moments where I feel as though I’m finally cool enough or good enough to have earned the attention of my role model(s).

But, to an extent, that needs to stop.  Because what I always forget is that if our friendship, our brotherhood is genuine, they won’t go anywhere if I decide to start setting a boundary here and there as we explore the breadth of our relationship.  In fact, it makes it easier for us to respect each other and to understand each other if we do so.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to start setting boundaries haphazardly because I feel like it at the time.  But when a situation bothers me for days on end after the fact, then it’s time to say something.  I mean in the aforementioned situation, the guy I’m talking about may not have even realized I was completely ticked off at that situation.  I was offended and said nothing.

This problem is nothing new, but rather cyclical actually.  And each time, I end up setting a boundary, and our relationship is otherwise unaffected.  But for some reason, I always forget that holding my ground doesn’t mean I’m going to get left behind.

I feel like I’ve been rambling a lot, but in any case, my take-home message is along the lines of self-respect.  For others to truly respect you, you must learn how to respect yourself.  In some strange irony, setting boundaries helps you set your spirit free.


Rest in Peace

I hoped that this wasn’t true.

Today seemed like a relatively normal morning.  I was ridiculously productive, dusting, vacuuming, and disinfecting the bedroom, and puttering around the apartment in general trying to get things clean for my sanity.  Then, while my brother was washing things at the laundromat, I got a phone call from my brother: “Hey does Kasey Cooper have more than one sister?”  My response: “No, why?”  My brother got a text message from a friend of his from Baytown saying that Kasey Cooper lost her sister in a tragic car accident.  My heart sunk.

After calling and texting around trying to collect information as well as searching news sites for anything, all signs seemed to point to one thing: Kadye died while driving the wrong way down I-35 when she hit one vehicle head on and a second collided with her, causing her Mercury Tracer to go up in flames.  Her body was found after the fire was extinguished.  She was pronounced dead on the scene.

Kadye and I had lost touch beginning back when I essentially cut out all of the Baytown people at UT from my life when I had finally decided to move out of my room at Dobie and away from my now ex-roommate after finding out that not only were the opinions my “friends” held of me less than favorable but they also were badmouthing me behind my back.  I don’t remember if Kadye was actually one of those people.  But I didn’t so much as care; Kiley and Kayla aside, I pretty much lumped them all together.

Me, Lisa, Kadye, and Woolfie at a game

Before we lost touch though, I considered Kadye a pretty good friend of mine.  We’d been on the drumline together and had classes together, so we more or less ran in very close circles.  My most prominent memory of her though is when we first got to UT.  She had signed up to check out a swing dance organization with my then-roommate, Josh.  However, he flaked out, but she still wanted to go and didn’t want to go alone.  So she asked me if I wanted to come with, so I decided, why not?  I’d never get a chance like this outside of college probably, so may as well.

Kadye and I practicing the Charleston after one of the ASK's meetings

The first meeting went well, so we went back for a second, and third.  And next thing I knew, I was hooked.  From there the rest is history.

This memory in particular is significant to me because swing dancing is what helped give me something in common with my Lambda Lil Sister, Barbara, before I first really go to know her.  And now ballroom dance is one of my favorite hobbies, one I share with both her and my best friend.

I know it’s not exactly what one might consider a typical “life-changing” experience, but this memory sums up Kadye’s greatest gift to me: the gift of openness and growth.  At the beginning, going to these dances filled me with terror that I had to dance with random people, and I went to the first few meetings with trepidation.  But as I went more and more, I began to get more comfortable both with myself and in interacting with those I didn’t necessarily know.  Granted, from there I still had a long way to go, but she was one of those who began packing my bag for my spiritual journey through manhood without my realizing it.

It was this epiphany that led me to the realization that you may not necessarily realize the effect someone may have on you until after they’re gone, whether by the transient nature of many human relationships or by the force of death.  For the longest time, I had chalked up most of my progress along my spiritual journey as a result of my friendship and brotherhood with Saul.  What I had forgotten was that while, yes, Saul set me on my way and lit a fire under me to actually move, many others packed my bags and gave me supplies I needed to begin said journey.

But I digress.  My point is, appreciate everyone in your life.  Whether or not you realize the reason, every single person you are friends with, are related to, or even just trade pleasantries with as you walk down the hall is placed into your life at that particular moment for a very good reason.  For this, we must learn to appreciate who is around us.  They may not stay for the rest of either of your natural-born lives, but because of them, you will be changed.

Like a comet pulled from orbit
as it passes a sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder
halfway through the wood,
Who can say that I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.
For Good (From the Wicked soundtrack)

R.I.P. Kadye Cooper; you will be missed.

Kadye, thanks for all of the memories: the band trips, the every day moments in class, the swing dancing, and all of the moments in between.  You have touched my life as well as many others, and we all can consider ourselves blessed to have had you as a part of our lives.  As I met you back in high school in Spanish I, it seems fitting to end this post in Spanish.  Dios te bendiga.

And so it begins…

For the first post, I figure I should explain the title and tagline.  They’re the last two lines of the chorus of one of my all-time favorite Disney songs, Son of Man by Phil Collins from the movie Tarzan.  The lyrics are as follows:

Oh, the power to be strong
And the wisdom to be wise
All these things will
come to you in time
On this journey that you’re making
There’ll be answers that you’ll seek
And it’s you who’ll climb the mountain
It’s you who’ll reach the peak

Son of Man, look to the sky
Lift your spirit, set it free
Some day you’ll walk tall with pride
Son of Man, a man in time you’ll be

Though there’s no one there to guide you
No one to take your hand
But with faith and understanding
You will journey from boy to man

Son of Man, look to the sky
Lift your spirit, set it free
Some day you’ll walk tall with pride
Son of Man, a man in time you’ll be

In learning you will teach
And in teaching you will learn
You’ll find your place beside the
ones you love
Oh, and all the things you dreamed of
The visions that you saw
Well, the time is drawing near now
It’s yours to claim it all

Son of Man, look to the sky
Lift your spirit, set it free
Some day you’ll walk tall with pride
Son of Man, a man in time you’ll be

Son of Man
Son of Man’s a man for all to see

This song has definitely resonated with me in the recent months after a period of what I’d call spiritual exploration.  I was a speaker for Longhorn Awakening 48, a college retreat based on the Cursillo movement.  Giving the R&C (Resolution and Commitment) talk sort of forced me into sort of facing my own mess.  I mean, how can someone speak about being strong in your faith and pursuing your personal call to action from God when he himself is still weak and unsure?

Of course, this would be the perfect time for me to have heard the song and have it resonate…and of course it wasn’t when I actually heard it.  It actually came on my Pandora station a couple of weeks after the retreat.

In any case, one of the things I get grief for is that I’m, for all intents and purposes, a weak, or incompetent person.  Indecisive, “never getting laid,” “no game,” it’s always something.  And I know that half of it is just mess that I get from close friends that just poke fun at me just by the nature of our relationships, which is just fine.  But something that always sticks in the back of my mind is that there’s always some truth in jest…which definitely takes its toll on me at times.

I mean, am I incompetent as a man?  Am I really any less of a man because I never learned how to ride a bike, or never saw this movie, or have no real desire to break my morals for the sake of temporary physical pleasure.  This is where the song came in.

Oh, the power to be strong
And the wisdom to be wise
All these things will
come to you in time

This part resonated with my talk so much.  I am on my journey to becoming a man, “a man in time, [I’ll] be.”  That power to be strong is already here in me.  I just have to discover it with that wisdom that comes in time.  So I’m not conventional.  So I’m not typical.  Forget that.  I’ve never been “normal.”  But I’m ME.  I can’t be anybody else.  I’m the only one that can climb my own mountain and no one else can take my hand to do it.  And the only way I can reach the “peak” of becoming a man is setting my spirit free to do what I feel is right and what God is pulling me to do, not what anyone else wants.

That’s always been my real problem.  My problem was never that I was incompetent or that I wasn’t worthy.  My problem was that I never believed that I could do it.  One of my best friends helped me realize this during a game of racquetball.  I had a significant lead in one of the games…which NEVER happens.  And all of a sudden, I made that realization.  And then, I subsequently lost the lead and had to struggle to win that game.  Afterwards, he asked me why I started to doubt myself.  I had no idea what he was talking about.  But then he pointed out to me that I was winning by a lot until I stopped believing that I could actually do it.  He noticed something in my demeanor and the conversation that changed at that point in the game.

And that’s definitely been a problem that manifests itself in my day-to-day life.  Things go well, and instead of appreciating it, I secretly wait for something to get screwed up because, after all, why would good things happen to me?

I had a similar conversation a few years ago with another one of my best friends on a car ride back to his apartment.  I was venting about the last few weeks, and finally worked my way to my issues of self-worth.  Then he more or less called BS on that, affirming that I was more than capable, that I was trusted, and most importantly, that I was worthy of that trust.  As I wound my car through the maze of death that was his apartment complex, that affirmation helped in a sense “pack my bag” to prepare myself for this spiritual journey I’ve set out on.

In any case, I guess my goal for this point in my life is to lift my spirit and set it free from all my doubts and fears so that some day I can walk tall with pride and be a real man.  After all, “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.”