Letters From the Eastside – Letter Three

Dear Mother Directional,

So much can happen in the span of just one day. We can wake up and find ourselves on the other side of the bed. The sun can be up and the sky is blue. We can open the door to the rest of our lives and, just as simple, we can walk right through. There’s no worries about the past. There’s no concern about the future. There’s nothing else but the freedom of the here and now. Suddenly, we’re on our way. We’re out the door and the speeches we’ve practiced or the things we’d swore we’d say on the way out are simply meaningless. Nothing holds us back anymore. No fear. No worries about money or concerns about whether we have what it takes to make it in this whole new world.

I am not sure how this works or how this happens. Then again, I’m not always sure if this happens for more than just a moment. Maybe this is only a fleeting episode and the bravery fades if we don’t take advantage. Maybe walking through the door of an opportunity is not the complicated part. That’s simple. The difficulty is within us. Always worrying. Always wondering what will happen. Always thinking too much and acting too little.

I remember a song that went, “Caught a bolt of lightning. Cursed the day he let it go.” The music is from a band that you might not be familiar with. But the feeling from this lyric is something that’s familiar to me. 

I wrote to you the other day about the ideas of regret. Perhaps Cousin Contagious is a good example of this. He woke up and looked around. He looked at the people around him and he saw what they had done or what they had accomplished. He noted the degrees on their wall and their published little successes.
Cousin is a young man. But his friends who are the same age have moved away or created better lives for themselves. All Cousin can do is look around at the nothingness of his own doing. No school. No job to speak of. No goals, except to get out of trouble or, at minimum, his main goal is to escape the endless stream of phone calls from creditors and collection agencies.

I think there are times when the wind is on our side and the sun is just right. There are times when we feel good; as if finally, all we are and all we have is “enough.” It’s times like this when we feel brave enough to step away from all the silliness. We can walk away from our insecurity. We can walk away from our special brand of excuses. We can escape ourselves or the prison we call the “mind.”

I think there are only so many opportunities to actually catch a bolt of lightning. There are only so many times we are faced with an open door. Yet, for so many people – we are too terrified to walk through. Or, if we do see the chance to catch a bolt of lightning, we’re too afraid to reach for it because what happens if we miss it? Or if we catch it, what happens if it’s not the glory that we thought it would be?
See what I mean about the process of insecurity. It’s a thief. I swear that it is.

Mother, I wonder about this. I wonder why we question ourselves as much as we do.
What is this anyway? Is this from our early moments in life? Does this come from uncomfortable times on the playground?
Maybe this comes from the first time we recognized the feelings of rejection. What I mean is maybe this is all linked to the original concepts and cognitive traps that began so long ago. Let’s face it, Mother . . . I’ll never be back in grade school again.
I’ll never experience the feeling of being bullied on the playground or being laughed at in school because I would stutter when I read out loud. No more teachers. No more books. No more teachers dirty looks and if I look honestly, I can see how this and a compilation of young experiences shape the mind to keep us safe.

Safe to say that I am old enough to understand there are no monsters in the closet or reasons to fear the dark; yet, intellectually I understand this. But emotionally, there are times when I am the same boy who had an accident in the school cafeteria. This was back in the second grade. Remember?
They had to take me to the nurse’s office to put me in a pair of “emergency” pants. And to this, all I have to say are two painful words: Purple Corduroys!
They put me in a pair of baggy little purple corduroys. Everyone knew what happened and even if they didn’t, they knew something happened because why else would I have to go to the nurse’s office for a pair of emergency pants. Why else would I wear a pair of purple corduroys?

My point isn’t the fact that I wet my pants in the lunch room and told everyone I split my milk. No, my point is these early moments of shame are the remnants of our past that teach us about fear and rejective thinking. It is complications like this or the first time we ever felt betrayed or had our feelings hurt that we find ways to harden ourselves to fend off the hard feelings – and act like we really don’t care. But we do. No matter how we pretend not to care, we still do.

It’s like choosing teams and being picked last. No one wants this but someone’s always going to be picked last. Someone is always going to be the odd man out. Maybe the bolt of lightning is a chance to get away from all of this. Maybe the bolt is a breath of freedom and we wished we felt this more – or that we could feel the jazz for just a little while longer. 

It is morning now. The sun is on its way up, which is good because the day plans to be a long one. I have a chance to step through a new door. And who knows, maybe this is another bolt of lightning. But don’t worry, Mother. I won’t let this one go.

Love Always,

Your Son


Dear Son,

I am adding this to the collection of letters you have asked me to hold in trust. And I am keeping this with my response as a side note. I do not see what you see when you look at yourself in the mirror. I see something totally different. I see the young man who I am proud to say that I know and whom I created.
I understand that we are all afraid at times. And I know why you are afraid too. Purple Corduroys and all. I know that words are not always what we want them to be and that sometimes, words can be more harmful than helpful. Sometimes, people would be more helpful if they could only listen. But it is within us to want to help those who we love. Maybe this is why we look to speak too quickly.
I do not know where these things come from or why and I do not know why bullies exist. I don’t know why people stutter or have hard times in school. And for the life of me, I can’t imagine why someone would laugh or pick on someone who struggles like this. I don’t know why the word “Stupid” was invented and trust me, this is not you. You are far more than you think. And it’s true, bullies exist. We live where there are predators and prey. But son, this is the world we live in.

I’ve told you this before . . . Nobody ever promised you a rose garden.
And all I can promise you is this: There is nothing so strong as a Mother’s love. And I love you.

Always –

By the way, don’t be afraid to smile, son.
Trust me when I say this is one of your most contagious and redeeming qualities. 

Love always,


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