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stuck in a cess pool for a few days


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Okay, after a week of great emotion, spiritual centering, reading, writing, playing tennis with my best friends and taking their money at the poker table, I am in Orlando. It was quite a shock after probably the most meaningful week of my life to be stuck in a city dedicated to providing loud and ubiquitous nothingness, and charging a pretty penny for it.

But first to the meaningful part: the trip to Tallahassee was much more emotional than I had bargained for. Becky and I lived there 7 years, so it was home for 2/3 of our lives together, but because it was while she was in school, it was always transitory in our minds. Nacogdoches seems way more like home to me than Tallahassee. But I hadn't been there since we moved two years ago. So there were tons of friends and tons of built up emotions - since I hadn't seen them since Becky was diagnosed, let alone since her death. So I spent the morning visiting friends, and then retired t the beach in the afternoons to recuperate. Becky and I loved to go to the beach together, and the rhythms of the beach are so nourishing to me. As always, I have a song about that: Boatman by James Taylor:

Hearts were exploding around us

As we drifted south down the bay

The gray up above and gray down below

Left us with nothing to say

So we drifted along in silence

'Til the tickle of life trickled in

And the rhythm began in the hiss of the sand

We were catching fire again


Oh boatman, I am the river

I am the mountain and the sea

Oh boatman, taker and giver

Can you deliver me

I would forever run free

Yeah we finally caught up with legends

We were walking along side by side

We worked out a plan

To go out hand in hand

But the long trail just wasn't that wide

The water around us was freezing

We just laughed and threw ourselves in

And although we were old

The sting of that cold

Pumped up the feeling, here it is again


Oh I'm a message in a bottle

Drifting along on a deep blue sea

Waiting for some foreign shore

Ready for something to be

No longer afraid of falling

We cut the strings to the sky

We found level ground

And we put ourselves down

Amazing we all didn¹t die

We took each moment as given

By second by second they came

The ice and the sun and the thundering guns

Good God I was finally sane

And my best pal Deno sent me off with a book. Gift From the Sea by Ana Lindbergh. Written in the 1950's for housewives, it is the girliest chick book I have ever read. I mean Oprah would have barfed reading it. But it had a lot of cool things to say to me while on the beach. I was also reading the Progress Paradox by Gregg Easterbrook, and I would recommend it to anyone. Spectacular, and talks about the need for a grateful heart in order to be a happy person. Anyway, it led me to some conclusions.

I have talked a lot about how motherhood and teaching completed Becky. She was born to do them, and found such joy and peace in doing them well. And I have attributed those two things to why we were so happy during our time in Nacogdoches. But there is another thing that completed her and our relationship and made our time there so beautiful. And that is cancer. Because we couldn't be worried about the future - working to save for college and retirement, saving for a bigger house or fancier gadgets - the future was too scary to contemplate. And so we brought ourselves into the present. Enjoyed each other and each day. Lived more like the lilies of the field, so to speak.

Don't get me wrong, it was too high a price to pay. I would much rather be inane with Becky than centered without her. But in order to maximize my life going forward, in order to endow Becky's life with the meaning it needs, I have to capture the essence of today and today's blessings - the argonauta in the language of Lindbergh's book - and refuse to go back living like the oyster. Which doesn't mean being completely irresponsible -Katie's college fund is fully funded now and money will be there for retirement, but it does mean a life grateful for each day's blessings, rich in meaning and contemplation, affection and respect, tenderness and growth. And now my challenge is to take those lessons of the beach and bring them into the cess pool of Orlando and continue to make them work for me. Actually, I have just given up on Orlando. The goal is to make them work at home.

And so I am a message in a bottle, ready for something to be. What that is is to be determined. But I am ready to get back, ready for school to start up again, ready to get after it again. As long as I can get back to the beach for a time. Or at least a CD player.

To take each moment as given, by second by second they came. The ice and the sun and the thundering guns. Good God, am I finally sane?!?

Lo, the conference beckons.


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Dear Curtis,

You bring such beauty to Beckys life. I admire the way you love her and your daughter. She was a lucky Lady as well as you being a lucky man. It is not in the quantity but the quality we live our lives. She is in Heaven, yes., But she will be forever with you also.

God Bless You and Katie,


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You are a great guy. I wish you nothing but the best life has to offer. My own dad lost his wife (my mother). My mother was 30, and left behind three young children age 3-9. When I read your posts, it reminds me of my father's heartache. And I guess mine too. I hope you are able to once again find joy.

love and fortitude


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Curtis, you really are an amazing person. You are unfolding the intense pain that has been dealt you and learning the lessons within it. You're right, the lesson of living in the moment was learned so at such a great cost to you and Becky, but it is a lesson so many of us never learn and spend our lives waiting for life to happen. I admire your insight and courage.


P.S. I live on the outskirts of Orlando and have to kindly :) disagree with you all about the shallowness of Orlando. You have to look a little closer. If you only look at the mouse ears, bright lights, etc. you miss the beauty that lies all around you. We have swamps, wetlands, gators, the ocean so near and all sorts of wonderful things. And the people...they are the best! It is such a melting pot of cultures, etc. that people are very kind, open, and tolerant of differences. Hope you all get a chance to see the city closer some day. I'll be your tour guides next time.

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My problem is that I don't know my way around here at all. So as far as I can tell, there is nothing but mouse ears and opulent hotels. But one of my best friends grew up here and came out okay, so I do apologize for characterizing the whole place as a cess pool. If I am to spend time here not with friends in Tallahassee, then sign me up for Sanibel Island. Granted, they have their share of hotels, but at least you can ignore them and spend time on the best shelling beach in the state.

And coming off the deep, reflective, centering week that was last week, I would have had an unfavorable opinion of anyplace in civilization. Getting to be outside of it for a while did me great good.


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You know, sometimes city life is just too loud...both emotionally and physically.

I enjoy grabbing a blanket on a nice day and heading out to the hay field to watch the clouds and day dream...there's the sound of the bugs - bees, grasshoppers, crickets; the birds; the smell of dirt; and occassional deer, or fox, or (ick) skunk... It's relaxing, soul soothing...and FREE! :wink: (right in my price range).

I also enjoy campfires after dark, being outside in the rain, watching a big electrical storm, star gazing...all those things you can't tune into in the city...

Noise is beginning to really get to me...keeps the monsters quiet, but my nerves on edge...think I might head home this evening and nap in the back 40...

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Wow, Curtis, I feel compelled to say something, but everyone seems to have covered it all. I guess I'll just say thank you for sharing. Your insights always have a way of reaching not just out to others but inward as well...causing some good pondering. Again, thank you.

Karen M.

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