Ketchup Residue

Every time I think about writing this one, I talk myself out of it because I know just writing again, just posting this to a blog another version of me wrote on, just coming out and saying something again after so long not — I know none of that actually changes anything. 

I used to be so certain that my words and my willingness to share them would change things. That Johnny Finkle would make people laugh, that I could share my hard-earned wisdom through Dolores, that the blogs I wrote about Jesus would resonate, that the features I wrote would honor, that somehow this thing I started doing with gel pens in the second grade could help someone somewhere.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ketchup residue lately. 

And by lately, I mean every night right before I fall asleep since quarantine started. My mind wanders to that little bit of ketchup that stays on the rim of the bottle and hardens if you don’t clean it up.

I hate ketchup residue. 

It is one of the small things my OCD-riddled mind has to constantly find a way to stop concerning itself with, especially right before I fall asleep. I know the residue is there, I know one more day not dealing with it will mean one more day worrying about it, but I also know it’s not really the ketchup residue I’m super concerned about. 

It’s all this. I mean, surely, you’ve noticed all this, right? I want all this to be as in my control as the ketchup residue is and it isn’t. ‘Cause if it was you better believe I’d get up and clean that fucking ketchup bottle. 

In three months I’ve lost three loved ones to some form of suicide. One was a years-long process of giving up on life, one was an oft-resisted urge caused by mental illness, and one was, as far as I can tell, a tragically-followed, spontaneous impulse. Three people who I had known and loved throughout most of my life decided — in different ways and with different sets of circumstances and with different time elapsed between decision and action — it was too much. And they decided to go.

Anyone grieving suicide, I have to imagine, has that same guttural instinct right out of the gate that there was something they could have done. I had forgotten to text her this Mother’s Day like I usually do. I definitely could have kept up more after I moved out. I can’t actually remember if I sent a thank you card or not. 

The guilt feels noble enough, I s’pose, but it’s actually more this thing that we do in lots of areas of life. Grasping for some semblance of control. Or, I don’t know, it is for me at least.

Because if it was something I actually did wrong, I can make sure I never ever do it again. If it was my fault, I can take the blame and the rest of you can move along. If it was on me, I can make the adjustment and you’ll want me around again, right? If it was my mere existence that caused this, my absence would surely fix it, so, I’ll leave you all be. I gotta believe if I had done things differently, this would have gone differently, so I will always always always make sure I do things differently. 

I’ll do all the right precautions and then no one I know will get sick. I’ll listen to all the right podcasts, read the right books, sign the right petitions, attend the right rallies — c’mon, I can stop this injustice, I know I can. Put me in, coach. 

On the day of the third suicide, before I’d known it happened, I was training to make phone calls with an organization that fights for gun control. Mere hours after someone I loved took their life with a gun. 

I don’t really have a point for that one, I suppose it’s just something I’m attempting to find meaning in.

I crave control. If I am in control, so my mind thinks, we might all just end up OK, so I better do these little tasks and get that glorious hit of feeling in control.

I am absolutely addicted to cleaning the ketchup bottle and, as of yet, doing so isn’t fixing a single damn thing. 

So. Here’s what I have a feeling may be true and what I will do my best to believe as I fall asleep tonight. 

My sphere of control is incredibly, ridiculously small. And that is very good news. For me, for you, for him, for her, for them. I couldn’t have stopped those suicides. I cannot end this pandemic (though, I did wish for it every time I blew out candles last week). Things are so ludicrously out of my control and that is so freeing I quite literally just felt my shoulders relax. 

For some of you, this is far from brand new information. And to you I’d say congratulations on being born with logic. I hope you enjoy the money you save on therapy and prescribed medication.

I, however, just learned a year ago that I don’t cause national tragedies with my mind. Magical thinking is a hell of a thing and logic very rarely comes easily to me.

Here’s what is in my itty bitty sphere of control. My own willingness to wear a mask, my ability to hire Black writers, my time calling voters, my time voting, my overly verbose words of encouragement when I think someone could use them, my healthy decision-making, my presence, my empathy, my turns-of-phrase, my ins-on-the-jokes, my words, my love, my hope, my understanding, my celebrating. I can do all those. And I’d like to.

Perhaps my little sphere of control has an even more minuscule sphere of influence. I’m not sure. But on the off-chance something that is in my control can make even one single part of all this just a little bit lighter for literally one someone else?

Yeah, I’m gonna clean the ketchup bottle. I know there’s more residue coming, but, for now, maybe a clean ketchup bottle is just what we need to have something to be grateful for before sleep.

Repulsive

I sat in my car for about 20 minutes and tried to think of all the best excuses I could. And all of the ones that I thought up would’ve worked really well on everyone involved except for me and I knew it and I knew that’s why I would suck it up and do it. Because if there’s one thing that’s gonna drive me somewhere I really don’t want to go, it’s the voice in my head saying “You really can’t hack this? You’re really that fragile?” Continue reading →

On Overcoming

 

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A few months ago, I posted the above picture of Stephen King’s book “On Writing” resting on my new West Elm comforter. The caption implied that I was taking my lunch break to “brush up on the basics” by crawling back in bed and reading. Now. I did crawl back in bed that day and read. But I was actually reading a book that I wasn’t sure I liked yet and that had a dumb cover that I knew I didn’t like. So I popped in my library and grabbed a book I hadn’t even read yet that I thought people would see and think, “gosh she’s cool. And that West Elm comforter rules too. She’s the best.” and I posted something that was kinda true, but kinda not.

I did this because of, what I like to believe is, a semi-healthy blend of millennial-status and an all-too-near history of pathological lying. To put it plainly—sometimes I just can’t convince myself that the truth is as important as how people perceive me.

Let’s put a pin in this for a second, ‘cause we’re getting uncomfortably close to honesty and I’m getting a little jittery. We’ll come back to here. I promise, and with all I can muster, I mean that promise.


Continue reading →

What I’d Tell Her If She Heard


You would hate the sounds of the sirens and helicopters. Don’t worry about it though- I don’t like them much either.

You would absolutely freak if you heard that noise that sounded just like a gun going off in the corner of the office today- a little faint, sure and probably a Nerf gun if I had to guess. But you would definitely run to the bathroom as fast as you could and shake with anxiety and without stopping because you were never great at convincing yourself that it wasn’t your greatest nightmare. Don’t stress it- I did the same thing.

You definitely will want to avoid big groups after you hear the news, so you’ll probably go ahead and skip the school dance. That’s okay- I’m already thinking of ways to avoid my next trip to the grocery store.

You’d hear Orlando, Florida and think to yourself “I just can’t believe it’s getting closer to home.” You have no idea that someday you’ll think of Orlando, Florida as home.

You wouldn’t do well this week. I hate to tell you that- I know you want to hear that you’re doing better, but you still have a lot of counseling up ahead. I think a lot of us do. Continue reading →

Shoulder-to-Shoulder Community

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Over the past few months, I’ve been in the beginning stages of putting together a magazine centered around the idea of community. In this span of time, I’ve had meetings about community, sent countless emails about community, I’ve asked questions about the value in community, I’ve brainstormed around the one thing we oughta all know about community, I’ve sought awe-inspiring stories about community, I’ve tried to redefine community without lowering the bar of what community can be, I’ve talked about what Jesus intended with community, I’ve typed the word community so many times that I’ve questioned if I’m spelling it right anymore, and I’ve said the word community so many times that it has honestly started to lose all meaning.

And in all of that, I have tried my absolute hardest to just keep it at arm’s length. Coordinate, edit, and write other people’s stories. Don’t internalize any of this. You got a job to do, Schmidt. Continue reading →