The questions are hungry, and the answers aren’t done cooking yet.Continue reading “Hungry Questions”
I’m having a stressful go of life at the moment. But I consider this a good stress, obviously juxtaposed with experiencing lousy stress.
I’m building a business to provide a need and service to my community, specifically the youth (more on this to be revealed shortly). I recently accepted a part-time teaching position at the high school I’ve been coaching improv at for the last four years. My wife is neck-deep in clinical rotations for her third year of medical school. I’m pushing myself in my teaching, exposure, and personal growth in improv by reaching out to perform and audition with as many troupes in the area as I can. I’m resigning from the management position of Random Tangent Improv to facilitate all of these changes.
Oh, and in a month I’ll be broke unless my dreams come true.
In my own words, I do with one-hundred percent sincerity describe this as good stress. Here’s why.
I’ve spent many years putting myself out there only to feel redirected, stopped short, or sidetracked. I thank my parents and my mentors for showing me how strong and powerful I can be, and I thank God for His everlasting mercies, love, and guidance. However, when I worked so hard in the past and had no financial or professional security to show for it, I became professional depressed, stunted, upset, and close-minded.
I excelled in school, both high school and college. I won prestigious awards in college for projects I either created or worked collaboratively on with others. I’ve successfully created beautiful relationships with most of the people I’ve met. Why then have I found virtually no support at all, along with a complete lack of reciprocation regarding my efforts?
Enter in the religious side of this argument.
I’ve always struggled with what appears to me as two opposing principles. The first is found in Proverbs 3:5-6 (there are multiple references across scripture addressing this concept, but I use these verses because they appear the most succinct for the comparison I’m making) which reads, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
The second reference comes from the modern-day revelation of Joseph Smith, found in Doctrine & Covenants 58:26, which reads, “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.” (This verse is meant as if spoken from God Himself, as opposed to being the words of a man or woman.)
Talk about a catch-22.
With these two scriptures in mind, when I look at the last twelve years I see lots of my efforts and attempts at life—which support the second verse—suddenly halted, changed, or rerouted through the direction of God’s Spirit without explanation or offer of a reward for the work I’d done.
Why would God seemingly punish me for taking an active and direct interest in the success and well-being of my life? Why would I be denied the blessings that apparently come from not being commanded in all things?
Then I started sulking and decided that I would rely on God for everything—per the commandment in the first verse. If He didn’t like what I was doing, then I would wait until He decided to share that information with me. I became depressed, uncertain, hesitant, confused, bewildered, unloved, and unappreciated. It’s no easy thing to spend close to a decade doing what you love, be recognized as competent and skilled, and have absolutely nothing to show for it in the end.
The wind was blown entirely out of my sails.
However, over the years, I have come to find a third “verse” of sorts that provides more clarity to the nature and somehow symbiotic relationship of the first two. This verse, though, isn’t from a scripture. This verse happened to me in a profound experience that I’d like to share with you.
I imagine this would have been six or seven years ago. It was evening, and I was having an exquisitely rough night. I’m not sure why I was all bent out of shape, but it was enough to put me in my car driving nowhere and for no reason which is not something I do. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done this in my life.
As I was driving, I was vocalizing my frustrations and emotions to God in prayer. “God, I’m miserable! Where can I go or what can I do not to be so miserable?! Grumble grumble groan grumble.” I demanded.
Go to Daybreak Lake, the Spirit whispered immediately.
“I don’t want to go to Daybreak Lake! Rawr moan complain grumble,” I roared back.
But in the split second it took this conversation to happen I had to admit that God had responded to me incredibly fast, and He had answered my prayer. So, with that in mind, I ungratefully turned my car around and drove to the lake.
Now, this was like ten or eleven o’clock at night. It was early fall, so not too cold. As I drove up to the lake, parked, and walked down to the water, I found no one else. I preferred the solitude. I wanted to be miserable all by myself at this lake. I was glad God had sent me here because I enjoyed sitting at this lake at night. It’s a peaceful place.
I found my bench, sat down, and barked back to God, “Ok, I’m here! I’m going to sit on my bench and be miserable!”
God let me stew in my anguish for a moment when I had the impression to look over to my right, where another bench sat some twenty feet away. On this bench, sitting on the backrest, was a young woman staring off into the dark reflections on the lake looking as somber and sullen as me.
Talk to her, the Spirit commanded softly.
“Hell no! Bark groan grumble. I did what you said, and I’m here at the lake, and I’m going to sit here and be miserable!” I muttered back with venom.
Go over there and talk to her! The Spirit wasn’t relenting.
Guys, I sat on that bench and argued with God for almost thirty minutes until it felt like someone grabbed the front of my shirt, lifted me off the bench, dragged me over, and then sat me down next to this young woman.
I didn’t have a choice.
Now comes the miracle. I opened up the conversation, and surprisingly, she was happy to talk. The next two to three hours went by with the two of us—total strangers, mind you—consoling each other by listening and appreciating each other. It turns out, she was having just as difficult a time as I was. We both were hurting and needed someone to talk with.
I don’t even remember much of what we said to each other, but the Spirit stayed with me that whole encounter. I still find it incredible how willing we both were to share pretty intimate and personal details with this stranger sitting beside us.
Then just like that, we went our separate ways, both having healed a little of each other’s hearts. I got back in my car, she began the walk down the road to her apartment, and we both went to our homes.
Now comes the third verse. In the years since, I have learned that when opens oneself up to God, regardless of what it is, and God responds with a commandment or an action to take, we are given a choice. If we decline, God will take a step back and allow us to move forward as we can see. If we accept, then we are now operating on more terms than just our own. We are now on God’s time.
When I was in my car—angry and bitching and ready to light a fire somewhere else to alleviate my anguish—and I reached out to God, and then He so quickly and readily replied, by accepting his answer—didn’t matter what my emotional state was—I was now working under His direction.
This is why He literally moved me to talk to this young woman.
The principle is this. Since I have made the conscious decision to incorporate and allow God into my life, this means that I have given Him permission to work, make changes, and operate within those boundaries. All those years of not finding success in film were not unsuccessful.
It turns out He needed me to care for my mom after she was diagnosed with cancer.
Getting the commandment a few years ago to tell my stories didn’t necessarily mean to be a novelist although I have published one book.
It turns out He’s asking me for my vulnerability and sharing my heart and mind with others.
And finding myself strained by the seemingly opposite-natured scriptures (the first two verses I shared) just yesterday came to a magnificent revelation as I found myself on the heavenly throne of knowledge: The John.
I was once again feeling sorry for myself, beating myself up for making choices that I don’t believe to be following what He has shown me through my dreams, or commandments He has directed me to in scripture. Taking this job at the high school was an act of desperation. I feel more of an obligation and passion in getting this business started, and I believe there to be more of God’s will and intention to be found therein. But nothing has been started despite both sides being instigated and begun, so I have no proof that I’ve “made the wrong choice.”
For weird reasons, this is how I chose to feel yesterday. Life a failure, because that’s all my professional and financial past has shown me to be.
Then I brought to mind the vigorous courage and uproarious light that only the best things in life can bring. I said to myself, “Bryce! You are so quick to tell God you’re a failure when you haven’t even started. You’re telling Him that you’re not following His edicts and commandments when He hasn’t explicitly dictated them to you. You are still the agent of your own life, and you have nothing to lose by pursuing any of the best avenues available!
“So what if teaching at the high school isn’t the best option? Once you finish the year, you’ll know. At the moment, it can only empower you. At the moment, it can only provide you with knowledge. At the moment, it only holds positive consequences. You aren’t married to it, and you’re not tied down!
“Get that education! Get that experience! Use it for that which God intends you toward! If the year ends and you need to end with it, then by golly do so! But believe in yourself, dammit! Believe that God trusts you to live your life. Then think and draw from experience in those times He’s let you live and then lovingly redirected you to where He wants you to be because that is what you both want.
“God is responsible for Himself. He has stated that His words and will are His. It is not our job to prove God, but rather our responsibility to allow God room to prove Himself in our lives. Amazingly, God incorporates us into this display as often as He can. He will use us—and you—to show His miracles.
“So get started! Fulfill your will and follow through on the revealed part of God’s will that He has shown you. That’s it.”
I tell you guys. This was such a beautiful moment for me. I can say that all the personal, character, intimate, and self-improvement work of the last few years paid itself off if only for that moment.
The question is rarely “Why.” Most often, the question should be “What.”
“What am I going to about it?”
This. I am going to do this.
Shame. Kilari forced herself to feel it. A spirit of its own brought to life through pity, pain, and defeat, it burned her from the inside out. She always hoped that the fire would prove cleansing…a means to purge her defiled heart out of her breast, but it never did. All the shame could do was sear and multiply.
But it had yet to overrun her heart. Try as she might, something within her fought for peace, and she couldn’t understand why. She had no right to peace. The Malig had been her punishment, and rightly so. A place to rot and die. The caretakers worked hard to keep her alive; keep her afresh for the next revelation. Their efforts were in vain, though they couldn’t know it. She tortured herself more than their machinations ever could. Her emotions drowned out their pleasures. Her guilt-wracked her more forcefully than any device could.
Holding herself, and laying in a field of vibrant, exquisite Wilde-flowers, Kilari wept. The dirt beneath her soaked up her, which spread murderously and killed those flowers immediately around her head. Almost like a halo of death, if she had the will to see it.
Other creatures, mostly Drow, ambled sightlessly through the flowers. Their only purpose to walk, and to feel the horror that Joy provided. A joy fabricated for them, and carefully cultivated for their damnation. Kilari never looked at them. She barely opened her eyes.
Instead, she preferred to hold tightly to memory, rather than convolute herself. She would spend her eternity with memory, and die in pain. She could accept that fate; she wanted to.
If only her heart would allow her to let go.
Kilari took a deep breath, inhaling the scents of rich earth and healthy vegetation. They were real…the flowers. When she had the will to walk, they came up to her thighs. Beautiful colors of yellow, blue, peach, and violets…many were colors she hadn’t the intention to recognize or couldn’t for the life of her name. The fields of joy buried deep in the darkness of the Malig Fortress.
Her prison. Her fault. And her beloved sister…rotting somewhere close by but kept beyond her reach.
A burst of light illuminated beyond her eyelids, interrupting her degraded sorrow. She didn’t think much of it…the light. However, nothing like it had happened before to her knowledge. It was new. Her hand crawled up to her face, shielding her eyes away from the brightness; a momentary refuge, bringing the calm of darkness.
If it were meant for her, then the caretakers would force it to happen. Until then, it didn’t matter.
Strong hands grabbed her lapels, lifting her into the air, and Kilari opened her eyes to the light manifested right in front of her. A fire that bore a resemblance to…
She heard her name spoken in her mind. The personage in the light took a step back, and Kilari found herself flung and flying through the air. The force caught her off guard, and when she landed the earth crunched and crumpled her into a heap.
She lay, dazed, reactively bracing to try and rise when the hands grabbed her again, lifting her high into the air.
Kilari. Wake up.
Kilari tried to peer into the light, but it skimmed and shimmered, obscuring who stood within. But the voice in her head, it had sounded like Svawrij.
Before she could speak, the person once again took a step back and threw her across the field. Keeping her eyes open, Kilari watched flowers go speeding by, but instead of slowing down, she noticed that she was accelerating. Spinning around and around, faster and faster, Kilari caught sight of something dark approaching. It was a mere second she had to brace as stone doors filled her vision, and the collapse of her body against the rock shattered them both into tiny pieces.
At least, that was what happened to the door. When the door rushed towards Kilari, she figured her life was over, and somehow the caretakers had manifested Svawrij to claim it. But instead, she laid amidst the fragments of the door, surrounded by them in a hallway of sorts filled with flickering torches and walls lined with murals and crude paintings. She was positioned on her back, eyes staring up. She wasn’t dead, and somehow, she wasn’t hurt. Well, she didn’t feel hurt.
The light approached again, and Kilari scrambled to right herself and stand on her feet. The closer the blaze got, the dimmer it became, until Kilari stood and raised her eyes to see Svawrij before her, wreathed in a deep-bluish glow. Her sister was smiling.
Shame flooded her anew like a torrent. Kilari wept but refused to take her eyes from her sister. Her dear sister, whom she had missed and thought of every day. Her sister, who was here in this hell only because of her. This couldn’t be a fabrication, though…right?
Svawrij raised her arms again, and Kilari braced herself, shuddering at the thought of being thrown into something else when those arms embraced her tenderly and held her as she cried.
My dear sister…Svawrij spoke in her mind! Kilari released the hold on herself and wrapped her arms around her sister. My past is now made manifest. I forgive you.
The rumble and clangor of feet and armor sounded from down the hall. Kilari heard a gruff voice somewhere up ahead issuing orders and commands, but she didn’t release her sister.
“I have no more fight left in me, Svawrij. Once they see who escaped, they’ll kill me instead of putting me back in.”
I’m here, sister.
They pulled back from each other, and Kilari saw something in Svawrij’s eye she’d never seen before. It was mirth…an enjoyment, of sorts. Just then, a contingent of Drow soldiers burst into the hallway, followed by three snarling Trealquins. The leader turned eyes to them, but never had the chance to issue an order.
Svawrij danced light as a feather, using the shadows like a melody as her hands and feet struck with the light they held. Twenty men and three demons rushed to compose themselves, but each second saw handfuls drop in bloody, broken, and sometimes headless mounds.
Kilari held herself again, afraid, though not of the guards. The fury and joy in her sister terrified her more than anything else. Where had she learned to fight like that? How was this possible?
The soldiers were disposed of in a matter of seconds, and the demons erupted in violent fire, reducing them to oozing blobs on the floor and burning a sickly green. Svawrij motioned to Kilari, silently, gesturing them on.
So Kilari followed.
It took them two hours to make their way out of the Malig. Countless times they encountered foes—most of them Drow—and every time Svawrij would dispel them with more exceptional skill and ability. A wake of bodies and blood marked their passage out of hell, but to where Kilari couldn’t say.
The sheer will of Svawrij conflicted with everything she remembered. Condemned to the Malig could change that, but where Svawrij showed fire and passion and drive, Kilari realized she’d drowned herself in pity.
That weighed her down with shame even more.
The whole way out Svawrij never uttered another word to her. Even when they would walk, with no enemies or no puzzles to bar their way, they walked in silence. Kilari could only guess at her sister’s reticence now, but she knew her own stemmed from just not knowing what to say. One hundred and seventy-six years separated, and she couldn’t find the words to say.
A hand reached down, squeezing her own, and Kilari raised her eyes from the floor to two massive granite doors. Glancing around and behind her, Kilari could sense the isolation and loneliness. Almost like it had been reserved for just them at this moment.
“How, Svawrij? How could you do this, and forgive me all at the same time?” Kilari asked softly.
Her sister adorned a sad countenance but remained quiet as she walked towards the doors. With barely a push, the nimble Drow forced the doors open as if they weighed nothing at all. Beyond them, a glittery, vast under-dark awaited.
A sight for hope Kilari had banished from her mind years ago.
“I…I can’t, sister. I’ve carried it so long and resigned myself to worse. How can you offer this to me?” Kilari begged.
I have something for you.
Resolute in the open doorway, Svawrij held out her hand to Kilari. Minutes ticked by, but then Kilari’s foot took a step forward. And then another. And then another. Like the unknown fire in her heart, Kilari found no explanation for the reason she moved forward.
Grabbing her sister’s hand like a lifeline and they walked out of the Malig together. Hand in hand, something the two of them had never before shared, Kilari felt her posture change as she crossed the tainted threshold. Her soul breathed what seemed to be a new life, and a rejuvenation rippled within her body.
They walked for hours, in no particular hurry and not headed in any specific direction. From time to time Svawrij would squeeze Kilari’s hand, and at first, Kilari couldn’t return it. But the further they walked, the more her courage grew.
And then, Svawrij stopped. Caught under a blanket of earth and gems that sparkled from her glowing light, Svawrij held her hand and looked up.
For many years, I had repressed my mind and spirit to the point where I had forgotten. Her opal eyes found Kilari’s. I had lost all memory of you. My sweet sister.
Kilari dropped her eyes in shame, but the hand that had before tossed her aside effortlessly now lifted her chin so carefully. Kilari saw her sister.
I wish to give you all that I found. All that I gained. A family, and a purpose that will always stay with me, though I must give it back. I would give you a part of myself, and more…please say yes, Kilari. Svawrij’s words peaked in a somber plea.
“I’m sorry, Svawrij,” Kilari managed to say amidst fresh tears. “I ruined us, and ended our family. Emotionally I can’t.“
Svawrij lifted a glowing hand, wiping her tears away.
“You’re dead, aren’t you,” Kilari said more than asked.
“What is it you see in me? I don’t know how this is possible, but I can’t recognize what you see.“
Svawrij leaned in and kissed her on the forehead.
Kilari felt her shame flood and overtake her. “We were never taught compassion. How do you possess it? Why do you use it against me?”
I use it for you, sister. Svawrij stood looking down at her. Everything I have left is now for you.
“And what is it that you would give me?” Kilari asked defiantly.
Will you take it?
“What is it?”
Will you accept it?
You are answerable to me, Sister! Svawrij’s shout dropped Kilari to her knees, holding her head in pain. Then Svawrij knelt beside her, and Kilari thought she heard her sister sigh. The vast expanse of the under-dark stretched out abysmally like it laughed at their weakness. But for the first time, Kilari began to wonder…was it, in fact, weakness?
“I wish to ask for your forgiveness, but I don’t know how,” Kilari said.
“How will I know if it is enough?”
If you find the courage to ask, that will show it is enough.
Kilari shivered. “I ask it then…my dear sister, I ask it desperately.” Arms wrapped around her, enfolding her in something she’d never had before.
With all my heart, I accept. It came as a whisper, but to Kilari those could have been the words to reduce the Malig to dust.
“I accept your gift. What do you need me to do?”
Svawrij’s hands pulled her upwards, wordlessly asking her to stand. As her shoulders squared, Svawrij put her right hand over Kilari’s heart. Be patient with them. They are blind, but they are genuine. Everything that was mine is now yours. But one day, you will no longer need what I’ve given you. When that time comes, cast aside these gifts with gratitude. Fill your measure and embrace your heart.
The light started to build, shining out from within Svawrij and warming her hand. Kilari felt something stirring within her chest, and an unseen energy swirling around her. She wanted to be scared, but for some reason didn’t feel the need to.
“Who are ‘they,’ Svawrij?” Kilari asked.
Your new family.
“If I base what I do off of what I did, then I’ll never focus on what I’m doing.” – Valerie Walker.
I went on a fabulous motorcycle trip at the end of July 2019 to Sturgis, South Dakota. A week spent in bike country with dear friends–I consider them family–is always what the doctor orders.
This is a group that always goes above and beyond to care and love each other. Everyone goes out of their way to look after one another, make sure we have what we need, and ultimately have the best time possible.
I’ve known all of these people for at least a decade. We all share similar backgrounds and interests in multiple areas while maintaining incredible individuality and personality. For me, my association with them all started through the martial arts program I participate in. And while I don’t necessarily hang out with them regularly, we navigate with ease the time we are together.
Most of our group would fall into the category of “A-type” people; opinionated, strong-willed, all leaders in their respective careers and personal lives, and no strangers to overcoming hardships. A newcomer to this group would—and has on many occasion—misinterpret our association and find it difficult to understand how such domineering people can integrate and exist so naturally together without tempers flying or feelings cauterizing.
I say all this not to stand on a pedestal, or preach some “holier than thou” rhetoric, but to help support this next statement:
Whenever I am around these people, I always come away with more than I arrived with. Everyone is so eager to give and love that it’s impossible to denigrate them or find fault to brew guile or jealousy. We live to love each other and encourage the best from one another.
Now I can get into the quote at the top of the page.
On this particular trip, I came away with some incredible help and insight into some particularly troubling and worrying situations I’m currently working through. However, for this little blurb, I’m picking one small piece that acted as the icing on the cake.
Val and I were talking about golf. Especially when we’re on the green. We have before us a putt that is less than adequate, and if we screw up the first go, then we find ourselves in divergent territory.
She continued that often our second effort–the correction–prompts us to overcorrect or overanalyze. Thus promoting another attempt that ends sour. And the ball still isn’t in the hole.
I’m haven’t acquired a solid base for this thought process yet, but it intrigues me. On an extremely personal hand, I am an abuser of overanalyzing, and for me, my third try is most often the one that gets me where I want to go in my golf game. My first attempt is full of fear or overconfidence, my second usually tips the scale in the exaggerated opposite direction from the first attempt, and the third provides me comfort and confidence that I have found the happy medium.
Why can’t I just lock in at number three on the first go?
I suppose that is a (contextual) million-dollar question.
On the one hand, I find a passive success in exploring the “extremes” of reworking something I’ve already done. It provides me knowledge and experience within avenues that wouldn’t exist had I not felt the emotions I did or been curious to “see what would happen.” That last statement, I confess, is often used as a coverup with I for whatever reason can’t admit to my insecurity and want to make the effort again.
I don’t see the extra endeavors as inherently disparaging. However, I am a believer in facing and overcoming one’s self, so the fact that I still have work to do in courageously standing up to my insecurities invigorates as well as frightens me.
On the other hand, I have also noticed how any effort towards the desired outcome that doesn’t yield what we wish can negatively impact future work. It’s not that we want to keep getting it wrong, but all the subconscious personal and intimate aspects of ourselves find a way to barge out when we must yet again make the same go of what we wish could just be done already.
I want to sink this putt on the first try. I’ve been playing golf for years, in all reality, so the fact that I keep reading the greens wrong, or not giving enough “oomph” to my stroke, or giving too much “oomph” and watching my ball go sailing to the far side of the green, only serves to frustrate me as I must make shot number two.
I find a lot of wisdom in my dear friend’s words that sometimes our efforts to correct a previous egregious action may only serve to start us off a divergent course from where we began or hope to stay. Pining for a lost past, hoping that the future will be better, removes us from our present.
The now is still the now.
I do believe, though, that our mistakes provide insight towards the future. Without weaknesses, shortcomings, insecurities, or any other plethora of unsavory addendums of life, I am confident in saying we would not be nearly as well equipped to continue living. But when we use these aspects as a crutch to lean on, limping into our future, we demonstrate a severe lack of love. Would we be willing to remain in misery as opposes to facing the scary thing head-on and ending it once and for all?
Now I’m back on the golf course, my ball sitting on the green, and I have one shot in front of me. Not two, or three, or four. I have one. True, depending on how that one shot plays out, I may end up with more. But while I have the one, why do I place unnecessary emphasis on the shots that have not, or may not, ever happen?
This is the result I’ve discovered from pondering Val’s words. Our mistakes brandish powerful influence, but only if we can learn from them and then let them go. “If I base what I do off of what I did, then I’ll never focus on what I’m doing.”
We cannot live passively in the present and hope to change or move forward. Take the past, learn from it, and then refocus on the prevailing situation at hand. I may miss my first putt, but all that means is that I have another chance to drop that ball the second. The first may show me what I did wrong, but I have no desire to idolize my inadequacy. I want it to know I’m grateful for it at the moment, but anything after that is a grand overstay of a welcome.
My attention is too valuable to be always spent behind me. At some point, I need to level my eyes and take stock of where I am. “There is a saying: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present,” as quoted by the incomparable Master Oogway.
I think it’s stellar how we can grow so profoundly. I think it’s humbling how humanity finds its most significant strengths through vulnerabilities. I love my friends, and they influence and love they share with me every time I’m with them.
How cool is this?
Participating in this podcast was fascinating and wonderful. Opportunities to dive further into something that I love never cease to amaze me, and I loved engaging and interacting with Liz Christensen for this episode. “In the Telling” is a delight and a blessing to have access to.
Give it a listen.