On August 28, 2017, I asked a question:
"Would you send me a video you've taken that acts as a reminder for why life is worth living?"
In the days that followed, hundreds of people submitted their memories. Their reasons. Bits and pieces of life that attest to its beauty, and each person's answer in the form of cell phone footage as captured in the moments that were worth it.
I know some of these people, but most: I don't. Most of whom don't know one another. And yet, collected in a folder like an umbrella and pieced together in a film as though each clip were absolutely integral to the next:
Every snippet a fraction of the whole whose common denominator is life. I watched every piece of its abundance in the simplest reminders for why it has been worth living:
"Dog at home."
"Friends talking at sunset."
"Brother swims after 9-month battle with cancer."
"You may kiss the bride."
"Wife holding newborn son."
I couldn't hold the tears back.
What was it, I wonder, that was so special about that particular road trip? The one where you filmed the trees passing by through a window smudged with fingerprints and morning dew?
What captured your heart during that specific walk around the neighborhood?
What was going on in your mind that made your lunch in the park so peaceful that day?
What were you laughing about with your mom?
How good was that latte in Houston this week? Was the warmth a dichotomy that filled up your heart while the rainwater filled up your home?
Watching all of these videos – piecing them together – I realized that the humblest reasons made for the most beautiful of them. I thought that it is easy for us to get caught up in comparisons and jealousies, wishing for the grandiose, despairing when the life we're living doesn't seem to measure up against the photos that stack up like taunts in our Instagram feed...
But there are no filters on these memories. Just you and the cat crawling on your face, or the sloppiest wedding kiss, or the clumsiest fall into the stream, or the sourest face undone, or the messiest hair unmade.
These unkempt pieces, arguably mundane, that have somehow made their way into our hearts as moments worth remembering.
I wonder what clips you'll capture tomorrow?
There will be more like them. This from a person who didn't believe that himself six months ago, etching anxiety into his identity like it was all he could be. But I've filmed some videos since then, and no matter what the future holds, I think I'll film some more.
So will you. That future's worth staying for. It will be painful at times and it will be bliss at times and some mornings you'll be drinking Mad Cap or Verve and other mornings you'll gulp down shit scorching your throat but it's all worth it. The morning I started writing this poem, my friend – over a godawful cup in a local diner charging specialty prices – looked at me and said, "Brother, I'm not gonna lie, the coffee here is horrible."
I've been laughing about it since.
Staying means enduring the burnt pages in these stories, too. They're all a part of it.
An expensive cup of gourmet garbage.
The conversation overshadowing it, infused with confusion and fear.
The night she left.
The night he left.
The joy of cancer in remission, and the fear that it might come back.
The fight that started halfway through the honeymoon and never quite ended, hanging over the marriage like a storm cloud.
I can't tell you why, but I can tell you that I'd love to sit with you through it all over a cup of coffee - no matter how it tastes - or over a beer, or over a damn lemon and ginger wellness shot if that's your thing. The people who have done the same for me have been miracles and hands and feet like a savior knew what he was doing when he gave us one another.
I want to stay for
my mom and
the other Chad and
the dog videos he's always retweeting and
every single face I've seen at every single show and
the tre-flip I'm still working on
and Aaron and
every name I'll feel bad for forgetting the moment this goes live and
the Christmas Tour and
my cat and
maybe some children and
maybe some of their children and
I want to learn how to roast coffee and
mix a better Old Fashioned and
see Canyon and
Ethan grow up and
my friend's and family's marriages healed and
help my wife open a CrossFit gym and
see her dreams come true and
tell you that none of us has any fathomable idea about what's coming next but it's coming and
it's worth it and
there are dark nights and
pitch black ones inside of our souls sometimes and
I don't think they will last forever but even while they do
these people are flashlights and
they've helped me see and
that's all I've been praying for for years now and
they're answers and
I pray for answers as people as flashlights in the night with a warm mug in hand for you today.
My grandfather used to pray a prayer over me: "The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."
To you, reader, I close with a thank you. I want to say thank you for being a means of blessing and grace and peace to me. Thank you for being such a necessary part of the reason that I want to stay and find what I was made for. I can't do it without you. We can't do it without one another. Each of these pieces feels integral to the next because they are.
Stay. Find what you were made for.
I wrote this poem in conjunction with To Write Love On Her Arms and National Suicide Prevention Week.
Please check it out on their website, and consider supporting TWLOHA's incredible campaign.
i just had the most godawful cup of coffee
i’ve ever had in my life.
you’ve got to try it.
i drank it at a local diner
charging specialty prices
like they didn't buy it from Costco three weeks ago
in bulk, "New 3 lb. Size!" Folger's tubs
– not cans, tubs –
plastic versions of the ones
my great-grandfather used to spit in
when I was a kid,
boasting "Mountain Grown Quality since 1850,"
his: half full of saliva and cancer
whose threats amounted to little more than
when dementia beat his gums to the punch.
look – eventually –
we're all going to have to leave.
but slow down, stay a while.
let's not force it.
gg used to shuffle down the hallway
through shag carpet that
covered the house with tentacles,
or a twelve-hundred square foot trampoline.
like jesus (the only name he never used in vain)
gliding over storms to take his friend's hand,
the old man would float around the corner and
high-five the grandkids
with a thin-lipped grin like,
"child, you have no idea what life is."
i want to find out.
we had to jump
to reach his hand,
and the smack of our skin sounded
like a pop-tab cracking
into the morning Budweiser he'd drink
as religiously as you'd sip a cup of coffee
at 7 am.
he's all beautiful and
weathered and leather-skinned like maybe
gutting so much of that dip throughout the years
finally began challenging just how much
a body can tolerate before it starts to break down.
i know you ask yourself the same question all of the time.
spit it out.
you're still here.
i'm still here.
and still may be as much of a miracle as
here ever was in the first place,
so let's not waste it.
we're still here to make a memory, today,
trying to cover up the taste
with cinnamon and mocha powder –
neither of which quite get the burn out –
but we know how that goes:
you've got enough experience with people
trying to tame solar flares with band aids to know that
onto the scars
on your arms
will not be enough to convince someone that life is beautiful,
but perhaps the wonder of another human being
actually subjecting himself to drink this
for the sake of being in your presence will.
anyway, i'll tell you all about him if you want,
but this cup of coffee:
god, it's horrible! – you've got to try it.
i want to hear about your family.
tell me about your great-grandfather
and how he got through the Great Depression
and tell me how you'll get through yours.
this moment is a part of it.
i want to high-five my son's son wearing whatever vintage is 65 years from now,
with beauty and pain and wonder and presence written into the
fault lines all over my face like,
"i have made my mistakes and
but they shape you
and the ravines created
are gorgeous places to
let the sun cast its shadows through."
we can hold one another's hand in the process.
i'll let you squeeze until mine breaks if you must,
but don't let go.
tell me about the love of your life
and what color her eyes are,
and whether the tint seems to change
depending upon what she's wearing that day.
my wife's fluctuate between
i know you need ears to hear that kind of thing and
i know that those kinds of ears are miracles.
i know it's not as simple as being committed
to either life or death
but i know that there is still breath
in both of our lungs so while there's still time
to say it:
stay for the wedding.
i swear the first glimpse of her
rounding the corner like a dream
transforms you into nothing and everything
all at the same time.
stay for the reception.
for toasts from friends
whose lives are better off with you
to subject themselves to the small deaths
that all of us experience
when we have to forego our jealousy
and let the lover in.
stay for the wedding night.
like the dichotomies you are
and always have been
stay for the fights.
they're devastating and necessary and
if you're able to temper the moment then
i will be the lightening rod you'll need to strike
over a cup of bad, overpriced diner coffee
at 4 a.m.
when the couch springs
are stabbing you in the back,
or simply stabbing you back.
i won't say a word unless you want me to.
stay for forgiveness in the morning,
after the sun has gone down on your anger,
or your sadness,
or your wanton abandon,
and mercy still finds
you when he peeks his head
over the mountains to the east.
stay for every memory
we'll embellish around the dinner table
until it becomes legend –
not quite the way it happened
but certainly not a lie –
memorialized and floral,
the way that fiction gets at truths like laughter
when we tell the stories year after year,
and they grow and we're all sure that,
"yes, as a matter of fact,
it did rain literal cats and dogs
during our darkest nights"
and we thought god was gory
but they're all grace now and life is movement
and we are healing and breaking
and making and being made
all of the time.
this coffee tastes like the bad action movies
that my dad used to love.
i imagine him –
whose absense i feel
every time DC introduces another Clark Kent
who will never quite be Christopher Reeves –
gulping this mud down
and calling it something absurd like,
had he accepted the invitation.
like the way i loved to help him
light the pilot
beneath the hot water heater
in the house we grew up in.
she needs you.
he needs you.
they need you.
we need you.
i need you.
find what you were made for.
i just had the most godawful cup of coffee
i’ve ever had in my life,
you've got to try it.
it's all worth living for.
it tastes like a morning liturgy,
and my great-grandfather's high fives.
don't forget that there are voices on the outside of your head, too,
and they sound like
carrying the love that you told me about through the front door of your first home together
camping with your friends making you to eat the worm at the bottom of some mezcal bottle that you didn't care for
hiking the Blue Trail through coastal towns in Northern Italy and stopping for bread and wine that costs less than water
tucking your daughter into bed at night the first time she moves out of your room and into her big girl bed
replacing light bulbs in the bathroom
the promotion you've been working toward
being let go
holding your friends close when they're breaking into pieces
friends holding you close when you're breaking into pieces
atrocious cups of coffee and everything that we have to tell one another about where we came from and where we want to go
all of the help needed to get there
I just drank the most godawful cup of coffee I've ever had in my life...
do you want to try it?