Take A Breath

breathI’m not afraid to die. I used to be frightened of the transition. But I’m not afraid to die anymore. Maybe it’s my age. I don’t know.

I had three large fears: death, failure, and being alone. Failure? Maybe that’s my age too, but one day I realized cash wasn’t the pot of the rainbow. Contentment was. So that left the fear of alone.

Well not anymore. Because I realized there is no alone. One day I realized there are other people on earth too. 7 billion of them. The people who stand beside me are here too. So I force the words past my pride and I say hello. We’ve been gathered together; synchronicity.

See I learned, once you’re emotionally unzipped, you’re free. You’re free to be truthful. You’re free to be authentic. The pressure that presses on your ribs is relieved. You can breathe with enlightened lungs. You can. Now, you’ll need to take deep breaths. But there’s a benevolence of breath. It isn’t contained by fences or borders or countries or continents. The man who walks beside you breathes alongside you. Two people standing side by side sharing the same sighs. Exhaled. Inhaled. Each taking turns. It’s as intimate as sex. Sharing body fluids. Not liquid but breezes that fluidly pass from lungs to lungs. Your breath is carried through my blood. Your hushed is in my heart. What you’ve breathed, I breathe.

Together we’re breathing Africa.

Together we’re breathing Asia.

Together we’re breathing Ireland.

Together we’re breathing Brazil.

Together we’re breathing Puerto Rico.

Together we’re breathing France.

Together we’re breathing Las Vegas.

We’re breathing hope. We’re breathing fear. We’re breathing love. We’re breathing war. We’re breathing terrorism. We’re breathing injustice.

Caught breaths and whispered worries and secondhand sorrows. Shared. We share the same aspirations; peace and love and justice and full and safe and trust and triumph. We must share those aspirations aloud. We must take a deep breath and wind those words. We’re standing here together. We’ll call it mouth-to-mouth recitation. You tell me what you’ve learned and I’ll tell you what I’ve learned. And together we’ll inspire and aspire.

A Matter of Trust

Okay look. If you lie to someone – you exploit their vulnerability. The aspect our bullying society forgets: we’re all vulnerable adults. Vulnerability is all about degrees. Some people have a higher tolerance for your pain.

So listen up: you don’t get to decide which commandments are your easiest. Probity has no degrees. You’re either honest & decent or you’re not.

Liars exploit others dignity, vulnerability, and generosity.

Predators exploit emotionally, sexually, or financially.

Predators exploit; liars exploit.  Pure & simple. 

Fucking someone’s sense of trust for your own gain is prostitution. 

Remains of Ours Days

I’m in the mood to write but I’m not in the mood to edit. So read or not. It’s all good. I feel like a celibate man who just discovered porn. I’m full and it’s time for the release. So. Blurt.

I had a wonderful weekend. I love a road trip. I haven’t done a let’s-get-in-the-car trip since, well since my brother and I took a week and traveled middle America in 1992. As I straddled the suspicious spill/leak in a men’s room at a truck stop in Stuart Iowa, I realized I’d forgotten rural America. I’d forgotten the cds of Merle Haggard on the gas station counters. I’d forgotten the abandoned farms. I’d forgotten the carcasses of cars left on the weed-filled yards.

He walked into the bar at the Magnolia Hotel in Omaha Nebraska and I hadn’t seen him since 1992. He was my best friend for a year. And then I was the first to quit our pursuit. I left the seminary in December and he left at the end of the year and like combat casualties, we avoided the battlefields: we left the friendship and we left The Church.

One awkward reunion in 1992. A supper shared of trivial conversations and avoided topics and all buffered by our dinner companion: my brother. And then silence.

But I missed him and finding out my heart was broken made it necessary to see him and say a hello and a goodbye. And so he walked into the bar at the Magnolia Hotel and I stopped the tears from skiing down my cheeks and I stood and met him. I smelled the cigarette as soon as my arms reached around him for a hug. I pulled back and said, “You sonofabitch! You started me on Camels!” I remembered. We laughed. And then I said, “I’m tempted to lick your face. I so miss nicotine!” He laughed as we walked to the stools. “Jesus Christ Trost, you haven’t changed a bit!” The ice was broken; we could be our us.

Drinks. Foods. Banter. Caught up with catching up. And then substance. “So are you still Catholic?” Real. Raw. “With a capital R,” I said. “Are you?” “A small c,” he replied. And then the kind of conversation I crave. All about honor and manhood and goodness and careless and sins and souls and God and failures. And I sat back in the chair and I started to cry. No one but God knew I cried. But, I cried.

I’ve wasted so many of my last moments having conversations about nothings and lesses and commons and chatter. Why have I become so content living without content? Why have I allowed myself to skim?

And I’m not talking about “fellowship.” I hate shit like that. People sitting around congratulating themselves on accepting their failures. “I’ve realized I’m flawed but I’ve offered it up to Jesus!” Oh Christ. Bullshit. Challenge to change & amend or shut up. Theology is not about acceptance; it’s about ascension. Baptismal water is for cleansing not floating.

I loved seeing him. He didn’t disappoint me. He reminded me. He reminded me of my theological passion. He reminded me of my uncompromising values. He reminded me that the man I was remains and the memory of who I became will be my legacy. A good weekend.

I have no ending here. Maybe there isn’t an ending. I’m seeing everything so finite now. Maybe life isn’t a noun. Maybe death is a verb. I’ll think about it and ask my friend for his opinion.

Licking The Wounds

I write my wounds. Every day.

And people ask me why I do. I don’t know. I just do. And often my words come back to bite my ass. Often I’m still the punchline. And even at this age, it hurts to get punched.

Last week I stood in my kitchen and made a grilled cheese (lent) sandwich with provolone cheese. And I thought, I used to work in a deli. All at once I wanted someone (anyone) to know I had worked in a deli. I wanted someone to be aware of that fact. I didn’t want it to be forgotten. And I know how foolish that is. Who gives a shit? But I fear I’ll be forgotten.  And I know it doesn’t matter that I worked in a deli. I knew my lack of proportion. But it’s the fact that’s disproportional; it’s not the fear. And I know that.

And I know I’m not read anymore. But sometimes it matters more it’s in words than whether or not it’s read. So. I’ll blurt without edit.

I had such a lovely weekend. I’ve had a lovely week. I thought today about 55. I’m almost 55 years old. You know what’s great about 55? I’ve learned balance. I can do balance.

Physically the weekend has sucked. The medicine doesn’t seem to be working anymore. I’m weak and I’m having trouble breathing. I’m so nauseous and I’m so lightheaded that I’m having difficulty trusting my actions. But it’s okay. I’m not afraid anymore. My foot is now bleeding from three separate ulcers. I’m using 4×4 gauze pads, gauze, & surgical tape to wrap my foot. It’s okay. I’m not afraid anymore.

I took my parents on a car ride today. I wanted to show them the potential theaters for my play. The theater I had chosen is closing May 17, so I’m searching for a space again. While driving around MPLS I saw so many bicyclists and I started to cry. I’ll never bike again. Biking was huge to me. And I’ll tell you why.

When I was a boy I rejected sports. I saw the cruelty of competition so I stopped competing. It was a very difficult moral decision. It meant I excluded myself from most male activities and consequently I wasn’t included in male friendships. I had a lonely childhood. It was easy to label me gay since I wasn’t like most boys. And homophobia was as prevalent in the 70s as pot. I began to question my masculinity. But not my sexuality. I knew I was straight; I worried I was less a man. Eventually I discovered the joy of companionship with the opposite sex and I’ve spent a huge chunk of my life enjoying the company of women. But I did miss male companionship. As I aged, I developed fruitful male friendships. But there remains a gap in every group. I have very limited knowledge and no talent of sports. So in many ways I can’t participate in the sport of masculine conversation.

Until I bicycled.

I love bicycles. I love the physical challenge and the achievement of the physical activity. And in a very real way – I felt more masculine. I felt more like a man.

So today when I saw the bicyclists, I wept.

I won’t bicycle anymore.

And then I saw my sin. My perspective is wrong. I shouldn’t lament something I can’t do. I should be grateful for something I did. And I silently bowed my head with gratitude for the moments of joy I experienced.

Yes. My foot is bleeding. But you know what? At this very moment I have 7 friendships that are direct descendants of my foot problems. I wouldn’t have met these men or formed these friendships without the trauma to my toes. Now I reject the whole Pollyanna bullshit as unrealistic and simpleminded so I’m not going to claim the friendships were worth the costs of my toes. But I am aware that life is a balance of scales.

I’ve had a great life. I have great friends. I’m grateful for the moments of joy I’ve experienced.

Love.

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I fell in love today.

I sat on an examining table and I fell in love.  She took my vitals and I fell in love with her.

I fall in love every day.

Woman.

Man.

It doesn’t matter.  It’s not sexual; it’s emotional.  It’s not biological; it’s spiritual.

I fall in love every day.

When someone shares his or her humanity with me, I fall in love.

And it’s not infatuation.  I’m no longer overwhelmed by the view.  I’m accustomed to seeing a soul. Yet the weight hasn’t lessened.  When someone shares a moment of humanity, I fall profoundly in love.

And I don’t fall in love with most people.  Most people aren’t willing to share the essence of their souls. Most people are guarded; most people are afraid; most people live closed.

I guard myself from being guarded; I fear that I’m afraid; I know I’m close to being closed.  But I take each risk.

Because when our moments of humanity and vulnerability are shared, I feel God. I feel gathered together.  I sense the synchronicity of His divinity and I fall in love.

I fall into the love of God.

And hope and love and communion are resurrected from their deaths.

I know that God has come again.