the least of my brethren

friday started out well enough. work then pappadeaux’s to kill time — ericka had written a post about the eight songs to which she wanted to see skaters perform in the olympics, and i was going through my itunes library, writing down the songs i’d include in a post: boom boom by big head todd and the monsters; the devil went down to georgia by the charlie daniels band; you haven’t seen the last of me by cher; arms by christina perri; a common disaster by cowboy junkies; too late for love by def leppard. i’d intended to tackle this post at some point, and maybe i will some day because it’s just my kind of thing, but… i stopped at three because a friend was allowing me to tag along to the mercyme concert at smart financial center in sugar land that night, and i needed to go get ready. her oldest daughter wasn’t able to go; my friend’s husband suggested she give the ticket to me. wasn’t that nice?

so christian music isn’t something to which i normally listen. i have a few albums: hillsong united; audrey assad; ellie holcomb; michael w. smith. that’s about it.

i’d heard the song i can only imagine before. i hadn’t known of the sources of inspiration for that song until i’d seen the trailer a few months ago. it’s a film i’m eager to see, actually. but it still didn’t dawn on me that the song and the band were connected. that’s how in tune i am to christian music.

it was a good show. i’d recommend catching their act if you can. what i loved most about the event was when the lead singer would talk about the things that had inspired him to write songs that were more important to him, like i can only imagine. like even if.

my left leg’s been bothering me quite a bit lately. and i know i’m to blame for some of the cause: i’ve bitched about what it’s like to have cerebral palsy and major depressive disorder enough on here before, so i won’t regale you with the biological and lifestyle factors again. it hurts to walk right now. a lot.

by the end of the night i was limping. horribly. my friends had left because they were eager to get to their hotel (they were leaving early the next morning to drive to san antonio, and their younger daughters are in elementary school). it was near midnight. i was eager to get off my feet. to get home. to down some advil and rub some ben-gay all over my knee (that shit reeks, yall; i hate using it… but i didn’t give a damn about the stench just then). they were selling cds in the lobby for five bucks. i stood in line. waiting my turn to grab a few — i’d gotten lifer free for sponsoring a child through world vision (one could argue that i’ll be paying forty dollars a month for the thing because of that sponsorship, so it’s not really free, but… whatever). i fished twenty dollars out of my wallet to pay for two cds: the hurt and the healer and a best of compilation called i can only imagine.

but the song i most wanted to hear was on the lifer album: even if.

his oldest son has type one diabetes. the singer had written it after a particularly bad day.

god, when you choose to leave mountains unmovable
give me the strength to be able to sing it is well with my soul
i know you’re able, and i know you can
save through the fire with you mighty hand
but even if you don’t…

during the performance of this song that night, i wept. i wept because i thought of how difficult their son’s days might be, how difficult their days might be. i wept because i thought of all the battles my parents have fought for me. all the times they’ve had to push to get what i needed when i wasn’t strong enough or willing to push myself. of how there must certainly have been more of those times than not.

when i bought those two cds, i was so eager to hear them, so eager to get out of that crowded arena — even so close to midnight — to hobble across the parking lot to my car that i didn’t want to wait for my change. i told the man who took it to apply to the next person’s cd purchase, turned and pushed my way past the others, pushed the doors open and walked out into the night. alone, like i so often am.

thankfully, a woman saw me struggling to cross the pavement, asked if i were okay and offered to give me a ride to my car. she was driving a white van full of adolescent girls. she was eager to get the door for me, to help me inside, to help me out… it was more help than i needed, and i was grateful for it. she wondered why i didn’t have a handicapped plate.

i don’t want one yet, i said. there are too many days where i don’t look like i have a disability, and i don’t want to deal with the reactions from others who might be offended to see me park in such a place. and really, i don’t want one. i’m doing the best i can to live as normal a life as possible. that plate would only serve to encourage me to take advantage of things i don’t need or want.

i drove home with that song on repeat. i cried the whole way.

i had it on repeat saturday, too. went to pappadeaux’s to work on a bible study (one of the things the speaker had mentioned last week was that god doesn’t owe you happiness; that may not be his plan for you. i’ve been trying to come to terms with this.) i read up on an individual who’s made quite a name for himself in the publishing world because one of the professors at the local college here wants me to interview this man. it’s been quite some time since i’ve grilled people. i was good at it. this professor and a colleague of his relayed this input to my father: we both think she is the best interview journalist we have ever worked with.

it pleases me immensely that these men think so highly of my work that they would say such a thing, would ask me to conduct this interview. i feel so fortunate that i’ve been given the opportunity. but also, i’m supremely intimidated. so… sitting at deaux’s, reading up on this man, occupying two bar stools (my left leg’s elevated on one because the pain was worse saturday than it’d been the day before).

i’d sat at three different locations at the bar saturday. first in my usual spot. i’d gotten up to use the restroom, and when i returned, a gentleman had sat on the stool i’d been using to prop up my leg, so i gathered my things and relocated. i like to sit by the taps, and all those seats were occupied, so i moved again when another seat by one of them came available. i sat in that third spot for the rest of the evening.

i’ve got my leg propped on a stool in front of the tap, where people don’t normally like to sit. a woman sits to the left of that stool, then proceeds to set her gigantic and heavy bag on my leg, looks at me and asks if it’s okay that she put her purse there. i glare at her and tell her that there are hooks beneath the bar top, that i need the stool because my leg is hurt. she bitches to her spouse about me while she hunts for the hook. throughout the course of her meal and for the remainder of my time there, she throws glances at me that make me uncomfortable. i do my best to ignore them.

it gets busy. the dinner time rush starts abnormally early — before five. i wasn’t expecting it. a couple notices that the barstool to my right is empty and asks if i could scoot over one so they could sit there. i tell them that i need this barstool because of my leg. he mutters something about how they were just asking.

fifteen minutes or so go by. they’ve still not found a place to sit. one of the bartenders comes up behind me and asks if i could scoot down.

here’s the thing… all those experiences in my life where others have pushed me around, like the time my peers had said that i should go kill myself because the world would be better off without me in it or that i should go kill myself because i was taking up valuable air and space and there were more important people who needed it…

as much as i would love to brush this shit off, to bury it, i can’t. one reason i can’t is because of instances like these.

in my adolescence, i’d clung to the notion that life would be better for me once i became an adult. the reason i had this idea is because the adults in my parents’ circles were respectable, respectful people. it never occurred to me that not all adults were this way. i was convinced ugliness was a thing one outgrew. i was convinced i would outgrow it because my father’d been telling me the story of the ugly duckling and how one day i’d be a swan since i was eight. i was convinced others would outgrow it because of who my mother and father knew.

but also… for so much of my life i’ve felt like one of those electrons floating out there that never attaches to anything. useless. when people give me such wonderful feedback, such great opportunity as those two men have, as others have, it’s difficult for me to understand why so many more can’t see the good in me. when they treat me as though i’m taking up valuable air and space needed by more important people.

i’m alone. saturday, i didn’t mind this. saturday i was comfortable enough in my aloneness. that’s a really hard thing for me to be, by the way. and it’s so easy for that ease to evaporate.

the couple went to one of the bartenders and asked her to ask me to move. they are lurking nearby, waiting for me to vacate the premises.

i turn off my laptop, pack up my shit. as i’m doing so, i’m hearing that bartender talk to her coworkers about the couple who needs a place to sit. i call out that i’m leaving, they can have my spot.

moving is difficult. standing is worse. walking is excruciating. i move the barstools, stand, heft my backpack and haul it over a shoulder. the woman is standing behind me. her husband is a few feet away, leaning against a post. i glare at the woman and say sit in the meanest, coldest way i can. i hobble out. i relay these events to my mother, who says, again, that i need to put my past down.

she cleans out her garden tub, shows me the epsom salts and the lotions and says to get a glass of wine (beer, i say) and take a hot bath, to stay in there as long as i need and keep adding hot water as needed.

i cry. for a long time. i sing the words from that song over and over and over again.

i went to bed with those lyrics in mind. with the thought that as empathetic a woman as i can be, i should imagine scenarios in which people are struggling the next time i’ve to relinquish my ground: they’ve just come from the hospital and want sixty minutes of not being there, of not being in a room where his mother is hooked up to machines and not responding and they’ve just been told they may have to pull the plug… or they’ve just flown back from three days in north carolina after having to pack up a dead relative’s house… or they just lost their son a few weeks ago, and the husband was taking his wife out even though she didn’t want to go because he doesn’t want her to have to cook and clean up the mess… i can fashion some pretty damned tragic scenarios, yall. i’m good at it. i need to get in the habit of doing it without putting pen to paper.

(it dawned on me just now that i’ve probably hopped back and forth from past to present tense several times in this post. fuck it.)

i awoke with miley cyrus’ the climb in my head:

there’s always gonna be another mountain
i’m always gonna wanna make it move
always gonna be an uphill battle
sometimes i’m gonna have to lose

i slathered ben gay on my leg again. ate my breakfast at the bar with my leg propped on a bar stool, moving a bag of frozen blackeyed peas from one spot to another to another.

i wasn’t going to go to deaux’s today. i was going to spend the day doing laundry and digging in the dozens of boxes stashed in my closet for my w-2, but i found it in the first box i tried.

so i dressed, packed up my shit and headed out. somewhere between my front door and deaux’s, it dawned on me that maybe the least of my brethren doesn’t mean the ones who live under freeways or in shelters or battle mental illnesses or physical disabilities much more significant than mine. the least of my brethren could be those people i’ve encountered in my life who aren’t capable of showing others kindness or compassion. the least of my brethren could have been those peers who told me i should kill myself, that i was nothing. the ones who stand too close to me in public spaces. the ones who want to sit where i am. the ones whom i feel see me as though i am less than. those who gawk at me, who whisper to their friends or family about me as i hobble from one side of a room to the other.

i found a spot at the bar, opened up my bible to read. and caught myself staring at the number 3:12. three. twelve. the third month, the twelfth day. the day my older brother died. it’s by itself, this 3:12. so i look to the line above and see that it’s a passage from proverbs.

i’d come to deaux’s on valentine’s day, ash wednesday, to read my bible, to dig into the word. as i read those pages, i thought of all the times i’d failed in relationships with men. i flipped and flipped and flipped. the last one i’d come to was a bit from proverbs 4:23:

guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.

my bible’s one of those that has passages you can color. that day, i’d colored the words guard your heart. i cried as i did so because i’ve done a really shitty job of guarding my heart, and this is the course my life has taken. this one of anger and resentment and fear, of negligence and hopelessness and hatefulness.

and today when i flipped through it to find what i feel like my older brother, what god wanted me to see, and i saw those words again, i was sad.

and then i read proverbs 3:12:

for the lord corrects those he loves,
just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.

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