I have a potty mouth. It’s been like that for close to 25 years or more. Sometimes it is worse than others. Some tell me it is in full glory when I am out with my brothers, which is most likely true. I have favorite curses, some that I get a bit too much joy from uttering.
I won’t list them here.
When I was younger, I liked the shock value of certain words and phrases. I found a distorted sense of power in making others uncomfortable. Lucky for those around me, it was a short lived phase. I was rebelling against people and things I felt controlled me through my teens and early 20’s. I wanted to escape from oppressive, pseudo-authority figures who I increasingly felt did not respect me. These were religious, government, educational authorities, some of whom I previously respected. I was not very rebellious in my teens, and took it upon myself to stretch my boundaries a bit. Most of these people did not deserve my derision, but that was irrelevant.
I don’t look back on that time with regret. I actually liked who I was then and how that person evolved into who I am now. Mistakes always teach us more than successes.
During the time I served a mission, I was very similar to many 19 and 20 year old boys. I was brash, loud, childish and foolish. I had good qualities as well, but these particular things stood out. After a particularly loud exhibition by me during a missionary conference, the mission president took me aside (he did this with every missionary at the meeting) and we talked. Without talking down at me (that came months later), he began to explain some things. The measure of maturity, he said, was knowing what to say and when to say it.
Of course I thought that was total crap. Sometimes you just have to say what you have to say, regardless of whether it upsets someone, or causes harm.
Maybe it is age, though I like to attribute it to life experience, but I feel differently now. These words make sense and I try to remember them. I fail from time to time-sometimes monstrously, but I learn. I go on, do better. I see it in my children when they speak without thinking, when they act without understanding or caring about consequence. Growing up is hard and learning what to say, and what not to say takes time and practice. Eventually, most of us learn to control ourselves, though some never do. Others understand the concept, but disagree, refusing to allow the perceptions and reactions of others to dictate their lives. It doesn’t matter who is right.
They key for me is not condemning others for not seeing the world the same way I do. I still get annoyed at some of the discomfort people allow themselves to feel at certain words or phrases, but I understand where it comes from. So few things in life are ever black and white and I am glad for that. So many beautiful shades of gray keep things interesting.
P.S. I still question all authority. No one should get a free pass.
Sheryl and I married nineteen years ago, today. The two of us, so very young and so very sure of ourselves, jumped in with both feet, completely unprepared for what was ahead.
I look at this picture of us, our wedding announcement, and it is very easy to find myself back in that frame of mind. I understand the choices I am about to make and the reasons for them. I see confidence, and foolishness. I know how much I love the woman next to me, but also see the rationalizations I make when it comes to stuff I am unsure about. I can look back at those things and see how I have grown from them, how together we have accomplished a great deal.
It is hard to not focus on the foolishness that is soon to follow this moment. The bad financial decisions I had already made, and would continue making (on the best day of our marriage, Sheryl took over the finances), the ridiculous things that would consume my thoughts and dictate the course of our early years. It is a wonder anyone ever survives the first few years of marriage. Yet, those things impact who we have become and I cannot be upset about things and events that have allowed me to be where I am now.
I can’t express how grateful I am to my in-laws for their kindness to us during our first two years of marriage. Letting us live in their Provo house for 150 a month (I think we paid rent twice, maybe three times) allowed Sheryl to finish school and us to find our footing in this world.
I am surprised at how much hair there is in that photo. Such a pretty couple.
As we approach 21 years together, a few things stand out. Our interconnected nature is not unexpected, but sometimes, the extent of it surprises me. All of my thoughts involve Sheryl on some level. When I imagine myself without her influence, I see a person drastically and fundamentally different. My life before us is still caught up in her. All my stories and memories that come before her are preamble.
Because of her I am calmer, more in control of myself. I was all emotion before we met, reactionary and volatile. With her influence, I make better choices, I see things more clearly. I don’t rush into things as frequently. Not to say I don’t still make horrendous mistakes, or that I am somehow a complete person. The cumulative effect of our life together is still unfolding. There is so much to learn and so much to do. How wonderful it is to have someone like Sheryl along for the ride.
“I have secrets,” you say, a sternum perspiration trail pooling in your navel. So much heat and the shade swelters. We press into it, thin blanket (an off brown-perfect-for-picnic color) beneath us, elm canopy overhead. The condensation from plastic bottles dripping off our fingers. Nothing cool enough to quench us, cotton mouthed and sugar-saline starved, I take another long drink, forceful swallows, enough to hurt.
“Who doesn’t.” You hear a question.
“The dead keep them, but no longer have them,” which makes no sense.
Children run by. Saturday in the park and the promise of swimming pools and water-slides driving them ahead of parents who shout useless ‘wait’s’ from behind.
Your skirt is summer short, short. Fabric clinging to thighs, revealing too much, too late. I would have been weaker weeks ago, would have sat closer, fingers pulling grass, wondering.
“If I tell you, part of me is gone forever. It is our secrets, our hidden stories that make us who we are.”
I see myself tongue tracing you. A hotel bedroom somewhere neither of us has ever been. Bad carpet and worse wall art (you would steal some, hang it in the cubicle where you work). Your skin, a salty ocean of opportunity. Stubble on my chin and cheeks leaving abrasions on your stomach and neck.
“When they get too big, take up too much space, I write them on stretched wonton dough in thick red hot sauce. Folded and mixed with herbs and meats, I bake them.”
Pot sticker secret eater.
“I wonder if they lose potency?”
I love the Olympics, both summer and winter. Something about so many interesting and amazing athletes gathering in one place, makes my heart glad. I enjoy every aspect of the games, from the opening ceremonies (even the eternal parade of athletes), each event (even the ones I don’t quite understand), to the final moments. When the winter games were in Salt Lake during 2002, I was unable to attend any events, but I did spend a great deal of time out and about town. The city was bustling with so many people, so many languages. A happy, energetic feeling permeated everything. For two and a half weeks, my city was alive in a way it had never been before. What a sensational experience.
So many sports. It’s the drama of competition that gets me going. The battle for those top three spots is entrancing. Few things in sport are as compelling as a favorite finishing second, or an underdog coming from out of no where and claiming third. The contrast in reaction, the frustration of a perceived failure for one and an unexpected victory for the other, the gambit of emotion, I always enjoy it.
Not to say I don’t get a comparable thrill from watching a top tier athlete performing at the highest level, rising above the field and winning an event. Watching Usain Bolt once again dominate the speed events was a marvelous thing to behold. Power-grace-determination.
Talking about the greatest competing at a high level, one commentator (during the women’s beach volleyball final) said, “The greatest play best under the bright lights.”
Perhaps, but not always.
I like this thought better-The bright lights bring out greatness. Sometimes in those we least expect. This is the beauty of sport, of life.
Competition is not always the most important thing, however. My favorite moment of almost every Olympic games comes during the closing ceremony when the athletes enter, not by country but in one large mass. Sure, many still enter with friends or coaches, but the sight of every competitor walking in together, highlights what makes the Olympics great. Certainly they are about winning, about representing your country, but they are also about building human relationships, unity, mutual understanding. These thing transcend ridiculously arbitrary things like where we are from, what ideology we may believe. The photo of Hope Solo, posing with members of the Japanese soccer team she had just helped to defeat, is my favorite image of these games. The respect, the admiration, it does not carry over into every sport, every event, but when it does, the world of sport and the world itself become better places.
Large bodies of water scare and intrigue me. I don’t swim well. Totally my own fault. I can float on my back for a good while, paddle myself out of some dangerous situations, but were I to fall in the ocean, I would go under, drown in very little time.
Water is powerful.
Because I fear it, I respect it. Because I know its power, the danger it possesses, I never treat it with carelessness.
More irony. I really enjoy most boating. I love being on larger motor boats, racing on the surface of a lake. I have kayaked down smaller rivers and rafted larger ones. I often experience a near paralyzing fear just before any of these events. It is an act of will to calm myself, insist on participating.
The first time I kayaked, I fell in the water at least 20 times. I used a boat similar to the one pictured. Turning the boat downstream was difficult for me at first and whenever I would try to enter an eddy, I would turn the boat too late, water would come over the edge and I would go over. Also, any abrupt turn would cast me off as well. At first, each fall was horrifying as I was certain I would be swept away to my death. After realizing this river was not going to kill me, I really enjoyed the experience. Still, every time it was suggested I go again, I was fearful.
This week, I took the boys to Alpine, Wyoming to do some rafting on the Snake River. Sheryl’s family was going and though Sheryl could not attend, I thought it would be fantastic fun for the boys. Plus, rafting always seems less dangerous in my head. We arrived on Sunday afternoon and set up camp. Hotdogs were roasted, smores were made and bad sleep was had (old man Carty has a bad lower back). I really like Sheryl’s family. Having known them for over 20 years, I consider them to be my family as well. Her siblings are my siblings and those that are married have picked exceptional spouses that fit in with the rest of us. They accept me, strangeness and all. It was very pleasant and wonderful to spend a few days with them
On Monday morning we started prepping the raft. Lots of pumping and laughing and being insanely silly. My boys were very excited, asking question after question, to the point that everyone was getting a bit annoyed. They have a hard time being patient. They are twelve after all. The wait was long for them.
Dar (brother in law, pictured inserting the tube into the boat), is a fantastic river guide. He is also very good and instructing the rest of us on what we need to do and expect on the river. Our safety is his prime concern. After that, he just wants everyone to enjoy their experience.
When we got to the river, we were given our boat assignments. Destry, Dylan and I were to be in front. We were tube punchers, responsible for making sure the bow of the boat went into the wave making it harder for us to tip over. You can imagine the increase in my apprehension. I would be required to tackle this river head on, lowering my body and throwing my face right into the water. The boys were thrilled at the concept.
As usual, my fear lessens after the first fast water. We successfully punched through the first wave, I was soaked, boys were thrilled and I was fine. Dar let Dylan exit the boat and swim along side the raft in calmer places. Dylan commented on the speed of the water, saying he was surprised by the current.
We had so much fun. Each rapid becoming more thrilling, larger and more powerful. Some soaking us, others just impressing us with their raw power.
At one point we pulled the boat to shore and Dar, my boys and Mark (Sherly’s youngest brother) walked upstream to swim a rapid where an underwater waterfall causes water to bubble to the surface. Champagne, it is called. It was frightening to watch my boys swim out into the river, then be sucked down through a rocky rapid, then swim fast towards the eddy line. Even after he was remotely safe, Destry looked panicked as the current of the eddy took him past the boat. Dylan climbed out of the river, removing his life jacket so he could breathe again. They were never in too much danger, but both of them were first hand witnesses to the power of water. I think their attitude changed from that moment. They looked at the river differently.
As soon as we finished our run, the boys wanted to go again. I on the other hand, was ready for some food and a nap.