About a year ago, a friend of mine that I deeply trust recommended I read Glennon Doyle Melton’s memoir, Carry On, Warrior. As I read, it became clear that Melton has a good voice on the page, a refreshing sense of humor, and a tender eye for story. I was especially drawn to the passage that seemingly led to the book’s title. These are my words, not hers, but Melton seemed to be suggesting that in this life we are compelled to live as warriors while at the same time needing to let go of our various forms of artificial armor. I think Melton’s right: life is fuller at that paradox. It was no surprise to me that her work had caught on with a significant audience.
In this trial-and-error, leaps-of-faith, constant-need-to-make-adjustments world, what is “failure”? It’s a word we use a lot and for all kinds of somewhat-valid reasons pertaining to accountability and responsibility and promotion. I’m less sure about these things than I used to be, though. And that’s because failure all too often acts like a scarlet letter. It can become a marker or a destiny. Life isn’t a zero-sum game, but it sure can feel like one.
In the most recent Presidential debate, the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, invoked the 2012 Steven Spielberg film, Lincoln. I remember watching and enjoying the film, quite literally, in a packed theater in Northern Ireland and was glad for the opportunity to think back to what the movie taught me. It wasn’t surprising that Spielberg told part of Lincoln’s story well, exposing the man’s flaws or struggles and including Lincoln’s tenuous family relationships during the height of political tension. Dialogue played a central role in the film, which is probably as it should be with such a brilliant rhetorician as Lincoln. One of the surprises of the film was, of course, that it was Republicans who led the charge to free the slaves. It was the sort of film that gave me goosebumps, that even made me proud (and also saddened) to be an American. Good stories, if we let them, will break our hearts while giving us enough hope to carry on. Though I haven’t followed through, I left the theater that day wanting to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Bible-of-a-book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
Shea was tall, slender, and had brownish-red hair that hung down to her ass. She drank beer and shot pool with confidence. The two of us were college seniors at the time, living and interning for a semester in D.C. After she broke up with her boyfriend back home in California, she would stop by my apartment at night and sit too close to me on the couch. The mix of beauty and sadness in her green eyes paralyzed me.
Milk, as most of us know, is a pretty mediocre beverage. For starters, it comes from the internals of a cow or goat. Not exactly what most of us reach for when we’re thirsty. After it’s forced on us during infant-hood, we mostly don’t drink the stuff, except it’s a nice compliment to cereal. I’ll give it that much. When the mediocrity of milk spoils, it becomes a sour and chunky liquid, much like vomit. From the vomit, we make all kinds of questionable substances, like yogurt, sour cream, ranch dressing, and worst of all, cheese.