For those who have not experienced one of the most popular videos circulating the internet today, let's just say that a new representative of Stupidity has recently come to the forefront. Miss South Carolina, in her competition for the title of Miss Teen USA, babbled all over herself in front of thousands of viewers on national television. It's rough to watch if you're not a closeted sadist, but I'm posting it here anyway. After all, in a bizarre way, she proves the point she could not seem to verbalize.
The judge asked:
"Recent polls have shown that a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think that is?"
Miss South Carolina stumbled around the answer several times:
"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps..."
"...and I believe that our education like, uh, such as in South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like, such as..."
"...and I believe that they should... our education over here in the U.S., should help the U.S., or should help South Africa and help the Iraq and the Asian countries..."
"...so that we will be able to build up our future for our children..."
Obviously part of her training for this event included coaching her to use buzzwords like "Iraq" (or "the Iraq") and "education" and "future for our children". But her unfortunate staggering through the only speaking portion of this competition, one that has tried hard not to be conceived as a mere Beauty Contest, is living, though barely-breathing, proof of the answer to the judge's question.
Tonight I'm not feeling wise or witty. Like a sponge I've spent the day absorbing all that was spilled around me. My family's pain, the result of my brother's impending divorce, is excruciating. And I feel it daily. Even though it is not my life, I hurt.
My life, the one I'm creating with my husband, is lovely. We laugh a lot. Talk more. Kiss and hold hands and order takeout and book our weekends until they are solid.
It's something I'm proud of, this fledgling marriage we're caring for. Yet, it's hard not to feel guilty even in the midst of our success. What if someone else, someone who tried and couldn't quite pull through, is hurt by our love? Does that matter? Should I worry about flaunting it? Or should I just keep enjoying what we've been doing?
And what about thinking about this situation another way...?
Of the seven young couples I know (us included) who have been married in the last three years, three have fallen on hard times. One has ended, flat lined. My brother's is ending. Has anyone learned anything? Is there something Jon and I are supposed to be learning?
So far, and perhaps predictably, I have been the one most emotionally affected by these things. Jonathan keeps his head up and his feet on the ground, one arm around my shoulders, affectionately.
"These things," he whispers in my ear, "have nothing to do with us."
Sometimes writing feels like physical therapy. There are days when I wake up and forget that I've ever written anything. Words fall out of my mouth in some sloppy order not of my own choosing. Definitions are lost in the dark recesses of my brain. All of the tricks of the trade I've long collected are stacked away in some closet, undoubtedly covered with dust. I mumble. I stutter. Inadequacy sets in like gangrene.
Such days are usually the result of my self-inflicted writing drought. When I get lazy and eat or watch Gilmore Girls or scrapbook or email people instead of working, that's when the cramping sets in. And stretching out writing muscles is a LOT harder than stretching out regular ones.
It takes brute force. I have to pick up my pen and shake it awake; but first I stare at the pen, the foreign object resting at an odd angle in my hand. It's laughable trying to find the correct pressure from the ball of the pen on the surface of the paper. Like learning to walk or ride a bike all over again. I'm clumsy. The word "the" peppers the page. Sentences are fragmented and elementary.
And the vocabulary sucks.
He continues to be my best friend, my biggest fan, my supporter, my confidante, my defender, my lover, my playmate, my everything. Thankfully, our first 1000+ days have been filled with laughter and flirting and planning for a future we're striving to make great.
However, as is always the case, the serious things that come with growing up are forever prying into our relationship and twisting through the day-to-day like the undaunted, impervious roots of weeds in our little garden. Jobs take up 40 hours each week. Bills come in at the beginning of each month. Car trouble. Cat trouble. Scheduling conflicts. Family commitments. It isn't always easy to smile.
I suppose the way we work through it is by carrying that analogy of weeds a bit further. Every day we manage to laugh and learn and love anyway. The lessons we take to heart are packed in and around and between the roots like dirt. A real relationship is both of those things. The positive and the negative. Without dirt, no weeds can grow; but without weeds, the soil is fragile and subject to inevitable erosion and depletion.
Jonathan and I truly want to make our marriage a success. So, when something new or difficult comes along, we remember that it is relative to all that is fantastic in our life. (Sometimes it takes Jonathan literally reminding me of this...) Then, even without realizing it, the trials strengthen our bond as husband and wife. And every joy, even the littlest one, is magnified because not everything has been easy.
In this way we find that all things work for the good of God and His purpose. At the end of the day, we curl up in our bed together and, in the darkness, we can easily recall and rejuvenate our childlike faith in love and our own personal fairy tale.
I am one lucky girl.
The breeze was what moved me here,
To a wooded hillside, a forest patch,
a place soft and mild.
But then, the same wind began to wind
all around and through
The creaking cedars,
Pushing and posturing above
My small comprehension of Nature
A big idea for a little girl
Alone in a forest.
Yet in my own long fingers,
The gentle manipulation of my own joints
I can hear that same creaking,
Evidence of strong solids,
Bone and wood, and
Finding the joint, the junction,
the soft spot between the two,
I am cherishing the creak
that lets me know
Power is close.
The intangible shall inherit the earth,
For what seemed meek only yesterday
Is a hurricane of hope, a riptide of revelation.
I am in that forest finding
My own mortal limits and potential
mirrored in the groan and grunt of the cedars
Living high overhead.
-Audrey Camp, 2007-
Remember when stories were easy? Characters could be two-dimensional as long as each had a quirky, unique trait, like a label or a Hi, My Name Is... sign. You know, an obnoxious cough, steely eyes, a hunch, an odd twitch. It didn't matter, so long as it was pointed out early on and then kept up like a running joke to remind the reader who "Bernadette" was, exactly. Oh right, the curvy red-head who wants to be an actress.
When I was little, very little, long before I began to understand (or perhaps became tainted by the knowledge of) what good literature is, I appreciated a children's book called Ben Bear's Pot of Gold. Like all the faithful stand-bys in the children's lit category, Ben Bear's Pot of Gold included talking animal characters, a journey, a model of friendship and, of course, a Moral.
Synopsis (SPOILER ALERT):
Ben Bear, a curious, growing cub, sees his first rainbow. His mom tells him that rainbows are special because a pot of gold can be found at the end of each one. Ben, still curious (and maybe a tad greedy?), decides to head out in search of the gold. Along the way he meets a series of friends, each of whom he informs about the pot of gold. And to each he extends an invitation to join the party. Naturally, one by one they join, and they journey through the forest together, talking and laughing all the way. At the end of the rainbow, they are crestfallen when they don't find gold. But wait! They see one another in that clearing where the rainbow ends. Maybe the legend isn't wrong, they decide. The rainbow inspired them to seek one another out and spend time together. Maybe friendship is the pot of gold.