Saturday, August 22, 2015

Brandon's Eulogy



Good Morning. I was asked to speak today by Brandon’s mother and father, they both seemed to be pretty sure that I am the person for the job. But I am no Andrew Wiggins. Not even a standard issue Speaker for the Dead, I’m just his Aunt Bonnie.

I really wish I was a Speaker for the Dead. I wish that I could stand up here and explain the life of Brandon Christopher Butler in a way that would help you understand him, or help you heal or even just explain how we got here today.

But I can’t. Probably because this isn’t fiction. His life wasn’t neat and tidy, and the mysteries of Brandon’ life eluded not just those that loved him, but they baffled him as well. To talk about Brandon, I need to talk about the opposites and contradictions that he was made of. While I guess that most of us humans are made up of these contradictions… it has to be said that Brandons were right there in your face. He wasn’t able to hide much. To his credit and as a testament to his humility he rarely tried to hide even the harder stuff much.

He had natural gifts and trials both. Brandon was handsome man with a strong, well made physique. He was tall and broad shouldered. He suffered hyperhydrosis, the excessive sweating of hands and feet that made him feel freakish. He was always aware of it, and it bothered him.

He was a talented swimmer and athlete, but he was uninterested in the culture of competition, and as a teen, when swimming no longer was fun he was done. He was a healthy guy who loved the outdoors. Camping, hiking, long boarding, mountain biking. He was also the guy who would turn around and use hard drugs.

Of his drug use he said the following in a letter to his parents; 
“I could touch heaven, and I can delve in to hell, but I cannot return with a piece of it. I could only ever return with less and less of myself.”

He was a happy go lucky guy, well…except for when he wasn’t. From a very young age he has suffered through bouts of depression, making it difficult to keep up with his life. Of his depression he said this:

“But a feeling of languor has crept into my bones. And it is but a shadow of the demon of depression and indifference that I now sense I must face soon. I remember thinking then, marveling at how it is I ever came to be so weak. I, whose passion and life was like a great fire, consuming and lighting the way, now my soul is but a small flame on the wick, sputtering, flickering in the violent winds my life has aroused. I am proud of my many aspects but these past couple months, hell past couple years I just can’t summon up the will to follow through. It is all I can do to get by, my life is shrouded in fear.”

Brandon had all the makings of a really cool guy, He was blessed with humor and charisma and was confident in his ability to forge his own paths. All of that cool, and hIs sister will tell you that he was still a dork. He was a complete nerd-pants. He was the guy who regaled the neighbors with loud and elaborate “poop scooping raps” as he cleaned up after the family dog in the back yard. The guy who would make up and belt at the top of his voice, operatic narration of whatever he was doing at the time. He was the guy who would skip through a parking lot on the way to Walmart, with great galumphing skips, wearing shorts in a snowstorm, all by himself and he wouldn’t care if you saw. And I’m betting that’s part of why you loved him. If you are here, there is a very good chance that you are a part of that tribe as well, just sayin’. You know who you are.

Brandon was a friendly guy. He would look you in the eye and smile his infectious smile. Sometimes he could come off as cocky or even intimidating in his confidence and his barrage of ideas and questions when you first met him, but the fact was, he loved people and ideas and he wanted to understand others and really connect with them. So as briefly off putting as he could be at first meeting he really just loved people and that shone through. His lack of guile won him friends time after time.

He had no use for authority, and he really hated it when Authority, with a capital “A,” “Authority,” was used to control him, or even try to control him. But he had principles that he lived by. Sometimes he lived by them in a way that caused him problems for no good reason.

Like the time when in the 11th grade he interviewed for a job at a pizza restaurant and the interviewer asked him if he saw a co-worker stealing from the company if he would say something. He told them that he probably wouldn’t.
Then, the interviewer asked if he, Brandon, would ever steal from the company and Brandon told them that he might. If they were terrorists. Then he would steal their guns.
I guess they probably had to ask all the questions because the person doing the interview continued on, like there was ANY possibility of Brandon getting hired at that point! That there was a period of training that lasted 4-6 weeks, and would Brandon have any problem with that? Brandon answers with appalling honesty, that he really intended to head off to Snow college in two months, so yeah, he could probably fit the training in.

Brandon had a strong intellect, he loved logic, science and words. He had a huge vocabulary and had an easy way with speaking and writing. His conversation would range seamlessly between philosophy, quantum particles, world religions and ancient civilization. He loved ideas and he understood complex concepts and histories and could hold forth with the best conversationalists, but he also struggled with ADD, which scattered his thoughts and energies, but it did make for some fascinating conversation. Unless he was high, then he’d still talk, it just wasn’t nearly as much fun to listen to.

He was amazingly intelligent… and yet, he could be frustrating to deal with in an academic situation. That might have had something to do with his “Authority” thing. Or possibly his “ADD” thing or sometimes the “depression” thing would shut him down mid-semester, but even when he would GO to the class and DO the work. He just couldn’t seem to make it back to the teacher WITH the homework. Take the test? Please! He did it and he learned it, why would he have to prove it now? It even made him kinda mad that people expected him to toe that sort of a line.

Show up to class with a pencil and paper?!? Who do you think he is? Back to the authority thing!

He never stole from his family or friends. He would suffer through detoxing and withdrawals and intense personal discomfort rather than steal. He had a couple of times been accused of stealing from a friend or doing them dirty, and it just devastated him that others would think him capable of it. He treated women with respect and kindness and he was a wonderful big brother.

Oh. How that man loved Breanne and Ethan. He loved his friends and family and he really never left it up to chance whether you knew that. You could tell by his hugs, by his words and many other tendernesses. And I think that’s all I am going to be able to say about that.

In conclusion, Brandon has not always believed in life after death, but after losing a good friend in his early twenties he revisited his beliefs. He sought a spiritual experience, something beyond mere logic, something to hold onto. He writes of his experiences, and this is how I’d like to close my remarks to you, in Brandon’s own words,

“As I lay in bed that night, and this has been the goal of my writing, to reach this night, I was sure we are not alone in death. Thinking of you, Father, of you Mother. Though your days may eventually reach an end here, I know you will be with me, giving some logic to the ever present feeling I have always had that I am being watched. I believe you will get to see everything that I have done, everywhere I have been! Though your mortal temperaments may not now approve, I know your eternal perspective will see me true, and have always been very proud of me. All my wandering days. I am so incredibly glad that all lost to time is not truly lost! I cannot begin to express the relief that has gripped me. It comes in a great rush of euphoria!… I know it will be hard to keep my rapacious mind at bay, but I will try to always believe, that we are forever. Amen.”

Monday, July 06, 2015

Burn

I'd always thought 

I handled stress well.  

Had a picture of myself

in my head 

of a woman who 

could walk through fire… 

till I took a stroll once or twice 

in the furnace.

Abednigo, I am not.

Now.

I am well fired clay.

Strong but brittle.

Not scorched, 

but damaged 

in that I can

never be made into

something other 

than the form I was

when I entered the kiln.

Fragile


I’d envisioned getting older 
as a toughening process.
I believed that when I was matured, 
when my grey hairs had arrived,
my heart would be mighty.
That each beat and each thud
would be audible to those
who claimed a bit of my love.
Instead I find I'm brittle and worn through, 
that those things which did not kill me
most assuredly did NOT make me stronger.
I suspect I 'm doing it wrong.

That Hole


It feels like you wish 
that I was different,
perhaps, 
more perfectly suited 
to help you feel better. 
I don't think the person 
you wish I was 
exists anywhere. 
The hole you are trying 
to make me fit in 
is not 
a person shaped hole.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Grief

I’ll admit, the voices in my interior Committees have some pretty brutal things to say to me.  But, let’s be clear, they don’t say anything that has not been said by someone before.


My Committee Members are not creative… they just parrot back the most unkind assessments and judgements that I have ever heard or read in RL or on the Internets- and they direct them at me.  They do it in a way that there will be no one to defend me… but myself, and I have a lousy track record of self-defence.


...and my Committees are currently in session.



I am a woman of unseemly sorrows.  I grieve for the loss of my helpmeets and friends; my long lost love of coffee, my daily, hourly, prayer of nicotine.  

That is where the lament starts, but it goes on to the aching loss of alcohol and last, but certainly not least, crystal meth.

It is grotesque but inevitable for me to grieve for these killers and distorters.  I think it may be something like the anguish that a mother of a mass murderer might feel when her sweet boy is dealt the death penalty.  Certainly, I don’t talk about missing these poisons with the sweet ladies of my church congregation; many of whom have never so much as touched a Dr. Pepper let alone a wine cooler.

I have only ever met one other active member of the LDS church who cops to having ever loved Crystal.  Other mourners may be out there, but they aren’t talking- just wearing their black armbands in private like I do.

Yet today, it’s autumn time and as the trees burn and blush, I will say out loud how I am swallowed up with grief and shame in equal measure.  Shame for who I was and also for what I have become.  

My body.

I love most of who I am, and what I do…. but my body…

People look at me and see an undisciplined woman.  A fat-ass.   A lazy cow.  Perhaps someone who could use a little bit of education on nutrition.  A girl who could stand to put down the spoon, already.  Go for a walk around the block.

Maybe you don’t see that, but some do.  I can read.  I have ears.

Undisciplined.  Lack of Willpower.  Lazy. Unorganized. Disgusting.

You have no idea, whatsoever, of who I am and where I come from, what I battle or what I have lost… but my Committees do.  

- and they think I'm a lazy fat-ass too.

I feel the shame, but strangely... not much regret.

I know I shouldn't post this, but right now I need... something. I think I need to be heard.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

When I Used to Blog

So much has changed since the time in my life when  I blogged regularly.

For one, my folks moved from New Mexico, to a town just an hour or so away from us... so that doused one of the flames that used to be part of the proverbial fire under my butt to blog.

For two:  My kids are growing up.  My Birdie has a real-and-for-actual gmail account that we let her get to keep in touch with her friends from our old town.  The girl turns twelve in one week.  This drives home the fact that I what I am blogging is not just my own story, but the stories of people who may object to being players here some day.

The Bird has not actually found this blog and trolled the archives.   Yet.  

I know this, because if she had?  The questions would not end.  Not sure how I feel about that.... wait, yes I do!  Freaks me right the #@$% out!

For three:  I have known for a while that I apparently have only a certain amount of writing in me.  I turned my writing time toward a novel.  I am now on my first re-write.   Go ME!

No.  You can't read it.  Seriously.  You don't want to.  Not yet, and maybe not ever.

For four (yeah, I know... this pretend-bullet point thing is not funny or clever, but I'm gonna just go with it,   LOOK!  First-draft-I-don't-care!): I had gotten a pretty big calling working with children in my church congregation, and for better or for worse, it shut me down in many ways for two and a half years while I poured energy into serving.  Plus, I felt awkward being real, or real-ish here on the blog, and having children find it and read it.  Or parents of children reading it.  Enough people in my ward knew about the blog and that was... too weird.

Then we moved, and that shut me down in some other ways.

I had some health things that scared the hell out of me, and stole some of my vitality and a year and an half of my life.  I haven't really bounced back physically OR emotionally from the surgeries and subsequent recoveries.  I just haven't.  Can't pretend like I have.  I look older, feel older... I am older.

Probably in the same way that I only have a certain amount of writing in me (it has gotten better with regular practice) I appear to have only a certain amount of social energy.  I am not the same gregarious woman I was three or four years ago.  

I'm... 

I 'm just not.  I have lost some of my resiliency.  

I feel like I should apologize to someone for that.

At the same time, however... while I am no longer as ebullient, neither am I as heedless.  Guess all I am saying is, I am unsure as to whether it was a fair trade; but, fair or cheat, I am trying to get a handle on what kind of a woman is left of me.

Some of what is left:  Yesterday I got a big order from Amazon that still has my brains reeling and my face goggle-eyed from the pure... awesomeness?  I actually don't KNOW what word encompasses the deliciousness of the three books I got.  I cannot decide which book to devour first!

At least my brain still works!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Enough

Spoiler Alert:  Birdie has been working on a Christmas album as gifts for the relatives this year.  

She can do this because shortly after we moved here (uhhhhh.... we moved to a town about 20-30 miles north of where we had been living) I found her a voice coach.  I like this "coach" because her approach is purely practical.  First she finds out what the student is interested in learning or wants help with, and then she jumps right in and coaches from that angle. 

Yes, she assigns vocal conditioning a scales and the like... but the serious focus is the style and songs that the student is interested in developing.  In late summer we attended a recital of her students and while at least half of her kids tend toward the Taylor Swift, Katy Perry or Sara Bariellas thing ... a goodly chunk of the rest had a range from spiritual to Broadway musical.

Along with preparing her students to perform, she has a little recording booth/closet in her studio, and this lady wields Garageband like a boss.

So... she has sent me three of the four songs Birdie has cut so far... and when I listen to the tracks when no one else can see me, I weep.  

It is so beautiful. 

It amazes me. 

I am stunned.

Not by her voice exactly.  Her voice is amazing, and she has really worked hard to get the skills and abilities she has developed...but  her voice is also simple at it's very heart.  Her voice is very similar to mine.

Confession: I have always admired the amazing singers... the Aretha's, the Alicia Keys' and the women with powerful and stunning voices that make the walls shake and blow my mind.  I have grieved the fact that I do not have such a voice and no matter how much effort or training, could never have such a voice.  Seriously.  Grieved.

I weep when I hear my daughter's voice because I now understand so much better, the love that our Father has for us.  There is nothing small or deficient about her voice, which sounds, in it's simplified version, so much like my own.  The sound that comes out of her mouth is glorious and captivating and touching.

I have misunderstood.  I have always been enough.

We are enough.

If I am cool, I will post the Christmas songs after she is all done.... but here is this one.




Wednesday, February 06, 2013

15 Again

What do you say on your abandoned blog, when you finally realize that you are falling to the bits and the pieces because you feel like you have no voice.  No voice, and you have abandoned one of the few places that helped you feel like you were not voiceless.  Hi!  Bloggy!

Don't know, but I think I'll begin with a nice...
"Y'all, I am as angsty as a teenager these days."  

...and more than a little OCD.  Well.  Maybe it's not exactly OCD, but it's not exactly not OCD.  I don't know what it is, a syndrome of some sort I suppose, but I don't dare go googling around on the Internet for the accurate name for it.

Because google is the delivery system for my insanity.  The viral packaging that my personal brand of freakout gets delivered in.  That,  and the old FecesBook.  I just want to go see who is doing what, and check any messages or events, but then I run up against  this, that or the other political whats-it, and BAM!  I am sucked into a link festival of horror.  

Like the fact that....  Whups!  almost left you a link to the kind of crap that is eating my joy.  News about Executive orders and statistics and civil rights and oohhhh....  Done.  No more.

I will do you the kindness I cannot seem to do for myself, and refrain from exposing you to information that will make your brain bleed and keep you up at night.  And yes, I vet the heck out of everything, so it's the real deal info, and not the crack pot crap.  But that also means that I wade through a ton of alarmist crap and nut-job BS.... and that does not help to take the edge off.  The fact I end up with stuff that is straight up hard news that still sounds like whack-job conspiracy theory crap makes it worse.

Let's just say that the older I get, the more Libertarian I lean.  A stymied and ineffectual Congress is a good Congress in my book.  Less legislation equals public good.

It does not help that it is a generally held belief by most sane people, that as an American Citizen of the voting age, I should be well informed.  I am coming to the conclusion that my mental health would be improved if I spent more time trolling Netflix for rom/coms, or seeking out the best the internet has to offer in terms of grumpy cat memes.

Or... y'know, walking away from the computer.

I had been doing better for almost two weeks, and then I relapsed yesterday.  I won't get into the details, not that I don't think you, if you are an American who can vote, shouldn't know, but it will send me back into the spiral of link-and-find which leads inevitably to quiet panic.  

...and the last thing I can afford to do it get into some sort of "discussion" in the comments of this post.






Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Tinder




I prayed for rain
But
I burn on
Uncontained

He hears my prayers
Yet
Allows me to burn
Undone, unrestrained

Cheat-grass, sage
And juniper heart
Consumed as
I burn