Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ralph


I'm taking a creative nonfiction class this semester. The class focuses on creating exciting essays (they're called essays if they are nonfiction), based on our own lives. It's a class that is meant to break you down. One of my friends, who took the class a few semesters ago, commented that it brings up repressed memories that you had forgotten about. The following is an essay that I wrote about my freshman year of college. It centers on the illness that I've been dealing with for 10 years, and how it affected how my life ran while at school. Throughout the piece my point of view shifts from me talking directly to my disease to me talking about it. A fair warning, I use some colorful language.

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Ralph, I've never considered you a friend. You insisted on entering my life in a way that is still undetermined, creeping through the cracks and crevices, and leaving me feeling like a helpless baby. I don’t know how you ever determined that we were friends. If we were, it was one-sided. You took from me and I was forced to go along with it.
             
There was a period of my life when I was so sick that I was often left in a heap on the floor, crying out in pain, hoping that if I yelled loud enough it would go away. I was a freshman in college. I insisted on moving up to Logan despite the resistance I received from my father. He wasn’t happy when I decided last minute that I was moving out. I found space in San Juan hall, one of a cluster of apartment buildings that USU had placed on the North East side of their campus. I thought that it was going to be an amazing year. I was na├»ve. I was hopeful that the infirmity that was coursing through my body would keep calm.
            
 Ralph, I don’t understand why you always insisted on me sleeping on the floor in the fetal position. You never listened to me when I complained about the smell or the random stains. You weren’t concerned that the floors probably hadn’t been deep cleaned in years. You wanted to be on the floor and wanted me to be as curled up as tightly as I could possibly make myself. You never liked to sleep. You and I spent many nights contemplating your existence. I’d ask you questions like “why don’t you go away?” or “why the hell are you here”, and my personal favorite “what are you?” Your responses came through jolts of intense pain that started in my abdomen and extended up my back. You always gave that response and I hated it. When I think about it today, a phantom pain forms in my gut, making me think that maybe you aren’t gone. God, I hope you’re gone.
            
 Freshman year ended up being the worst year for me. I’d wake up in the morning, a clump of blankets and body on the floor, feeling like I had just spent a wild night with Jose Cuervo.  I threw up almost every morning. My throat would become so raw and sore that more blood would protrude out of my mouth than what didn’t make it out of my stomach from dinner the previous evening. I’d finally climb into bed and hope that while I tried to sleep, I'd have some reprieve from the pain. I longed for sleep. It became such a luxury to me that I often slept in class. Biology became a chore. Mitochondria, nuclei, and cell walls all blurred into one giant conglomerate of what a cell was supposed to be made up of but I couldn’t determine the difference. When I look back on that class, I remember the 10-pound book I had to lug around with me. The green and yellow paper weight became an irritation to me. As I bent into myself as tightly as I could go, it glared at me with disgust. How was I ever going to become a doctor if I couldn’t remember what I had just read? I also remember the reproductive cycle of pine cones. It stuck out to me only because I wondered why the hell I needed to learn about it. Was learning about how two pine cones have sex really going to help me in the future?
            
My roommate started to wonder what was going on with me. He often questioned why I was spending so much time in the bathroom and why I slept on the floor. When I would be in my bed, he would see me tossing and turning like I couldn’t get comfortable. I had become a self-conscious individual, thinking that if I told someone that I was having issues that they would somehow take it as a personal attack. I longed to fit in and didn’t want something like my body trying to destroy itself to push people away. I wasn’t about to tell him what was going on but he questioned me day in and day out until I finally gave in and told him. He was worried instantly, wondering if he was going to wake up and find me dead, my stomach having chewed through my abdomen and now wiggling around the room searching for another host with whom to attach. This was the moment when the pain became a separate entity from myself. We started to joke that something sadistic was living inside me, getting off on my pain. We thought of the most perverted name we could think of to call it, and Ralph was born. Ralph became the roommate that we didn’t want but couldn’t kick out because of contract issues. He was definitely underage and often flushed his tainted fruit punch down the toilet. Fruit punch becoming the disguise word I'd use when I'd stain the toilet bowl red. 
            
 You had lived inside me for a year and a half when I finally took a poop test to confirm that you might be a parasite. Ralph, you had been leeching yourself onto me for almost two years before the doctors allowed me to have the test to determine if foreign bugs lived within me. It didn’t click with them that you might have come from The Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. When I finally took the test, I “passed” with flying colors. You were finally given a proper name, Giardia. I took every last pill they gave me, shoved them down my throat with delight. They became the most important thing I did every day. I thought that I’d finally get rid of you. When the last one was gone I hoped that it had taken you with it. Then, in the middle of the night I woke, being startled by your cackling “laugh”. It snaked through my entire body, leaving me feeling so weak that I didn’t think I was going to make it to the bathroom. When I finally made it, I sat down on the toilet, looked down at the floor and cursed your name. I cried as fruit punch dripped down my leg and onto the floor. Ralph, it was at this moment that I knew I’d never be rid of you. 

-Jer

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Love one another



 
Tonight, there are a few things on my mind. We live in a world where chaos looms around almost every corner. There are greedy people doing selfish things for a cause that they feel is right. Tonight, it being Sunday, my post focuses on my thoughts towards the Christian community. It’s addressed to those who profess to be followers of Christ. I know that not everyone who reads my blog believes in Christ. That is your prerogative. I do though, so I only ask for the respect that I would offer towards you and your beliefs while you read my post.

A Christian, by definition, is someone that is either baptized in a Christian faith, or someone who believes and follows the teachings of Christ. I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe that He lives. He sacrificed His life to save ours. I know that it is through the redemptive power of Christ that we can receive eternal life. It is through His redeeming love that we can be with our Father in Heaven again. Christ is the center of the religion that I follow. He is the figure head and His teachings are paramount to our gospel. Jesus Christ lives, and as a Christian, I have the responsibility to share with the world His message of love and peace. I try my hardest to live a Christ-centered life. I fall short at times, which makes me grateful for the forgiving power of repentance. Repentance is the process in which we realign our lives with Christ’s teachings, after something happens that causes us to drift. When we make a mistake we strive to receive forgiveness from those we have wronged, and ask for the forgiveness of our Father in Heaven. We then strive to move on from the mistake and not make it again. But, if we do fall short once more, repentance is there to help usher us up to forgiveness again. It is through repentance that I have been forgiven for the things that I have done wrong and have felt the love of God.

There are Christian people all over the world who are striving with all of their hearts to live the teachings of Christ. They yearn for every person to feel the love that they have felt. They express this love through their service and sacrifice. They help lift up the heavy burdens of others. They allow the spirit to testify the love of God through their efforts. They are examples to both the believers and those who struggle to believe. They sow a good seed and give the fruit to their neighbors. They give the shirts off of their backs and food off of their table. They give to the poor and the needy. They are a shoulder to cry on. They are the model for all of us to follow. They understand that Christ did not come here to rule over us. He came to teach us to sacrifice, to serve, and most importantly to love. There are those who understand this and work with all of the energy of their hearts to make sure people know of this love.

There are those however, who pick and choose which of Christ’s teachings that they want to follow. They warp the words of The Lord to fit their position. They seek power and gain where they should be seeking humility and love. They teach that Christ loved some but not all. They teach that if someone isn’t following the Christian path then they aren’t worth saving. When they do choose to save, they do so in such an abrupt and alarming matter that people are stunned. They use hateful language that hurts and discourages, but they think when they insert the name of Jesus, it justifies their means. They preach one thing and then do another. They spout off love and then turn around and hate. They encourage people to shun and disassociate with those who have beliefs contrary to their own. When they teach from the bible, they twist it to fit their own situation.

There are many people out in the world who are trying their hardest to do a good thing. They are trying to love as He loved us. They sacrifice their time and talents in building His kingdom here on the Earth. This however, is tainted by the individuals who seek the riches of this world. They fancy themselves in doing what others want them to do, instead of what they know is right. They preach of God’s justice and never his mercy. They spew love from their lips but only for those who follow their cause. Christ loved everyone. He didn’t just stay with His followers, walking amongst those who believed on His word. He sacrificed His is life because he preached to those who did not want to listen. He loved everyone because He saw the good, the potential, in all.   

It is my sincerest wish that those who profess to be followers of Christ will follow Him in every way. He taught us to love. He loved everyone regardless of who they were and what sort of status that they carried. He did not think one person was above another. He simply brought a message of peace. He asks us to love as He loves. His love is without judgement. It has no end. It doesn’t require us to be a certain way or do a certain thing. His love is a perfect love, and through this perfection, He helped those who didn’t even like him. He helped all and wanted nothing in return. He still helps today, even if we don’t want it.

-Jer