Mary Beth Writes

The photo is not by Len or me, its from I Love Canada on FB. I've seen a sky like that just once. 

11/21/2022

Last week I read two books about young people who left their homes. They experienced some good and too many rough experiences and they couldn’t go back until they figured out how to not be who they used to be. Both novels knocked my socks off.

The People You Keep by Allison Larkin

April has been living mostly on her own since she was 14. Her mom ditched their family when April was little. Her dad is a nice but incredibly irresponsible guy. He gets a new girlfriend and moves in with her, leaving April at the parked motorhome in the woods outside of town. Dad comes back to check on her fairly frequently and sometimes gives her money though never enough. She takes the bus to school where she does poorly because she does not have the wherewithal to care about geometry. A former GF of the dad provides a lot of connection and stability but still, April lives on her own.

She turns 16; circumstances happen; she steals her dad’s car and drives away. She tells folks she’s 19 and gets jobs. She loves and is loved. She writes music and plays guitar in seedy, friendly bars. She knows how to fend for herself. The story feels believable.

We identify with her because we know what it’s like to be competent while also feeling alone and scared. How does April, and how did we, learn whom to trust and whom to leave?

She can’t figure out relationships until she acknowledges how crazy and toxic her life was. She needs people but she has to see that she needs the good ones, not the ones who exploit or abandon her. Being in good relationships requires the courage to reach out to and lean on true friends. Right?

The novel ends too sweetly – her friends are way too ideal - but I recommend it anyway.

Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty

This book is a series of short stories told from the POV of David, a Native kid of the Penobscot nation in Maine. Starts when he’s 4, ends at almost 30; the novel is not told in chronological order. It’s the particular story of a particular modern kid growing up in the function and dysfunction of modern native life in a racist society. There were times reading it was so tough I had to put the book down and go do something else. But the kicker is that many of us will identify with David’s struggle to survive his own life.

After I finished this book I thought about the Genesis story where God tells Moses to take off his shoes because he is standing on sacred ground. To me this book felt like this. Sacred ground.

I’m an old white person and most of my “who am I?” struggles were decades ago. It surprises me when I can still be so moved by stories about young people figuring out who they are.

Do we ever get tired of these questions? Do we ever get past our astonishment at where we started and who we became? Do we really think we are “done” now?  It still feels like we are changing, right? Still looking for the people we need to stick to. Still confronting who we get to move on from. None of this is easy.  

When I heard of the mass shooting at Q Club my first thought was simply knowing that Colorado Springs is one of the meccas (ironic Muslim word choice intended) of evangelicalism. There are more than 50 well-known and well-funded evangelical denominations and organizations headquartered there. Evangelicalism and the Air Force ARE that town.

I wonder how many of those Q Club patrons are associated with Christian groups or the military. We all know this about the military and about conservative Christianity. Who they say they are is - treacherously often - not who they are.

There’s a fight going on in our society and probably in most societies on earth right now. Is spirituality what is said - or what is lived?

April and David have to face really tough stuff as they turn away from what is easy towards what is true, just, and hard. So do we. It’s the true spiritual journey of being human.  

Happy Thanksgiving. Be kind. Look harder for justice than you do for sales.  

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The hero of Q club, Richard Fierro, who took down the killer was a military veteran of 15 years. He was at the club with his wife, daughter, her boyfriend, and friends. Here is a link to a story on his background: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/21/us/colorado-springs-shooting-club-q-hero.html The struggle to discover and be who you are is universal, but so much more difficult when acceptance and equality are not there, or easily found. My older brother, who passed away 5 years ago, struggled with coming out for half his life. When he was 22, he wrote in his journal: "Should I say yes, give in - turn it into a bigger lie than is already is, for social justification, stamp of approval - yeah it's sick, but than look at your life brother, feel the lie and weigh which hurts least." He was terrified of losing family and friends for being a "freak". Over a too long period of time, he was able to live the life he needed to live, but, like so many who are "other", still had to be cautious, and think too much about what he revealed about himself to others. What a burden and injustice. The hate rhetoric that seems somehow to have been granted permission to rear it's ugly head in recent years, I hope is being less tolerated as "free speech" and called out for the dangerous, damaging, life-threatening act that it is.
Mary Beth's picture

People hide behind their "religious" words, so they won't have to face who they are, I think. I am as sorry as we all are, that your brother had to struggle so hard to build and keep that much courage, simply to be and breathe.

How can this happen in 2022? I am not a Pollyanna but I do not understand. What does anyone else’s sexual identity have to do with me? How does this end in murder? Murder is NOT an expression of Christianity. Disclaimer: I am an Episcopalian, the head of our church here is a gay, black man and we like that just fine!
Mary Beth's picture

It just aches and later it infuriates, that people spend this much energy having opinions about who other people love.

Living a life of kindness and acceptance would seem so easy. So much easier than hate. Patricia

As a gay man of color in his 70’s I’m no longer a bar person and yet the idea that a person or persons trying to enjoy a night out have to fear for there lives is totally beyond my comprehension as a human being… The fact that some people feel the need to focus their attention on other peoples sex lives just boggles my mind… this is 2022 people, GET OVER IT… Figure out your own lives and leave the rest of us alone to deal with ours… I can’t believe I’m even having to respond to this :\

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