The Fraternity Paradox

They are often, as recently as this week, in the news, and it is seldom for something good.  The houses where they reside will bring any self respecting parent or, for that matter, adult, to their knees.  Reputations for partying and acting stupid macho prevail.  But I am here to tell you that there is another side to fraternities that you probably do not, but certainly should know.

This past week, our family found ourselves, yet again, in crisis.  Everyone is safe and things are more under control than a week ago, but my hashtag for the foreseeable future: #gonnabeabumpyride remains.  Our world flipped upside down, sideways and backward…and this time it has nothing to do with a certain transgender kid living in my house.

The details are not necessary and while it is not a “secret” right now the story is complicated and raw and personal.  What is, however, available for public consumption and discussion: the behavior of a group of fraternity brothers who have, quite literally, blown me away with their concern, kindness, empathy and respect.  These are young men who, to a person, I would be proud to call my own.

aepi

Yes, these boys party.  Yes, they stay up late and often, but not always, look ugly the next day.  And yes, they talk trash, swear and fart with abandon.  Their pledge names, which morph through the years, stay with them…for life.  BUT: they study hard, are philanthropic (in this case breast cancer research and Autism Speaks) and will do anything, absolutely anything, for a brother and, I have learned, his family.

I had been told of the power of the fraternal order, but, admittedly, didn’t think it could possibly be so fierce.  The maturity, compassion and life experience of a group of 18-22 year olds was, to me, underdeveloped and ultimately incapable of acting like kind, articulate and caring men.  Wrong.  And wow.

Harrison sent his brothers a beautifully raw and honest email telling his story.  At the end he gave my number for anyone who wanted to talk  (and, I might add, he said I was “super chill”, just sayin’).  Within moments of his hitting the send button, my phone blew up with texts.  And not trite, obligatory texts, either.  These were long, thoughtful notes all of which told me how much they love (yes, they used that word) Harrison and their willingness, no, desire, to do anything possible to lend support.  As the text notifications rang out I had goosebumps on my arms and tears in my eyes.  He, and we, are blessed.

In his email, Harrison referred to his favorite quote by Ernest Howard Crosby.  I neither knew the quote or of the power that its words hold for him, but I know it now.  Amazing what one can learn from a crisis.

NO one could tell me where my Soul might be.
I searched for God, but God eluded me.
I sought my Brother out, and found all three.

 

#gonnabeabumpyride

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My Snowman

Update: As predicted, I am being blown up (in a good way) by texts, emails and FB chat messages…you guys are the bomb.

One week ago today my family’s world was, yet again, turned on its ear.  As crises tend to do, it came on  with far less warning than I, for one, would have appreciated.  Out of respect for the players, the details are not necessary, although I anticipate an onslaught of backdoor messages once this has posted which is, actually, part of the “beauty” of this whole mess.  It has been among the most horrible times ever for us (and that’s me talking) but, like all the other “most horrible times ever”, already we’ve seen silver linings take shape.

snowman

Those who do know the details have shown undying support.  Seriously broken relationships have been rehabilitated and grossly deteriorated fences have been mended.  Burgeoning adults have stepped out of their comfort zones and have robustly demonstrated more empathy and compassion than one knowing them superficially would ever have presumed.  Full grown adults have put aside their own issues, concerns, responsibilities and adventures to make room for us and our needs.  And, while there is quite literally nothing any of them can do to make this all go away, they’ve rallied around us fiercely.

In the past, it has not been until a crisis is more comfortably in my rearview mirror that I have been so acutely aware of the astounding level of support not only for me, but for my family.  While I firmly stand behind my assertion that with every crisis there is always one person who disappoints you, I find that it, and that person, no longer matter.  The benevolent in my life so far outweigh the, um, assholes, that it is, in a silver lining kind of way, almost funny.

Let this serve as the first of many thank yous: to my family of origin, my new and wonderful family, friends of long standing, friends of shorter but no less loyal standing, colleagues dating back further than twenty years, professionals, friends who are professionals in this field who have been holding my hand and guiding me to the right people and places, a slew of kids who spent their high school years in the basement of my house and, with perhaps the greatest fervor:  a certain group of frat boys.

We will get through this.  We always do.  But not without our village…all of whom we love.

p.s. Don’t even try to figure out what the snowman has to do with this: it means something to us only. ❤

The Bruise

I know all about juggling lots of moving parts. In fact, some might argue that I have taken it to an art form. “Never a dull moment” is used in reference to my life so often that it is almost, but not quite, funny. I might even thrive on the chaos, but cannot make that assertion, as I simply don’t know anything else. Sounds dire and moderately hysterical, I know, but I, by some oddity, feel somewhat, kind of, in a way, on top of things.

As tantalizing as my announcement that I am living in a shitstorm may be, I am not here to elaborate on or share anything in particular. I’ve certainly got stories to tell, but out of respect for the various players, I am keeping my big mouth shut. That being said, my mind is a-racin’. My sleep is fragmented. My mood and patience are tentative. My heart is a little bit broken, in part because in every one of these situations, I am literally powerless. I can do nothing to alter, improve, destroy or dismantle the existing conditions. Ruminating and fretting: check. Obsessing and worrying: check. Eating my feelings: check.

The other night, while distracted by two or ten things, I clipped the footboard of the bed just right, resulting in an enormous bruise on my thigh, smack in the middle between my knee and hip. It was the kind of bruise that surfaced immediately and, if I am being honest, brought tears to my eyes. Over the past few days, as its colors have morphed from black to blue to yellow to green I have noticed that there appears, if you look just right, to be the outline of a person. Do you see it?

bruise

I am aware that what I am about to say sounds like proof positive that I have officially become unhinged, but… I am actually deriving a peculiar sense of comfort from the bruise. I have not named it (although the temptation is strong) but my connection to it makes me feel as though I should. Absentmindedly touching it and with the almost tender ache one has with a bruise, I feel, as the size, shape and colors change, that I am almost caressing the pain away for those I know who are in, well, shitty states of mind.

There is an odd connection between pain and pleasure, and as I touch it and mentally document the daily changes, however small, I somehow feel better. Perhaps it is the shared pain…albeit in a different flavor from that which some people I love are struggling with. Or maybe my own personal happiness feels somehow unfair and the bruise brings me back to earth. I am not sure, actually.

My bruise should be gone in about two weeks (I know because I Googled it). I hope the bruises my peeps are living with will heal as quickly.

M&Ms

I have a (large) jar of M&Ms hidden away. Not just plain ones, either. Rather, I have a perfect combination of plain, peanut and pretzel. No mint. No peanut butter. No minis. No mega. Despite full knowledge of said stash, my jar has either not been discovered by the others who reside in the house or, and perhaps more likely, it has been, but all are wise enough to abstain from touching.

m&ms

I am very disciplined when it comes to their consumption; never taking more than one palm full per visit, never more than one visit per day. When the jar is one quarter full I dutifully replenish. No sooner. No later.

I never make an impulse purchase of a single serving bag of M&Ms at the market/Target/Walmart/Staples checkout counter. When Halloween bags are dumped on the kitchen floor, I do not ever grab a bag, opting, instead, for the Sugar Babies, which are, I might add (with sadness), few and far between.

If someone I live with were to sneak a few, I would know from the distinct aroma they leave on the breath. No one has dared.

My jar of M&Ms, which I often go weeks (okay, days) without visiting, makes me feel safe. Like a good friend, they are there when I need them, bring me cheer (plain? peanut? pretzel?) and always buoy my mood. Yep, M&Ms have that power.

One of the joys of being an adult is having an M&M jar. It is up there with staying up late, not making the bed and declining an invitation simply because you just don’t want to attend, no excuses concocted in an effort to explain yourself. To me, it is akin to money in the bank, clean sheets on the bed and fresh milk in the fridge.

When we wake in the morning, we never know what lies ahead. The day could start strong and stay that way. It could, for that matter, morph into a shitstorm. Likewise, a rough morning is not always an indicator of twelve lousy hours. This morning I was laughing in my sleep so loudly, and, according to Barry, slightly hysterically, that I woke him. (Damn, I wish I could remember what was so funny!) I went on to have a great workout – complete with making a new friend – only to have things take a turn as the day progressed. I arrived home a bit worse for the wear and considered (but did not act) delving into my jar. I will admit, I went as far at to venture to the hiding spot to check my stash. I have not filled my palm, but the day is not over yet.

If you ask me, everyone should have his or her own M&M jar. What’s yours?