Two Sides

It is an axiom that you have probably heard so many times it is almost meaningless. Which is unfortunate because we often overlook its truth.

Whether you're a witness to a violent crime or car accident. Whether you're an attorney prepared for a felony trial or arguing a contract dispute in mediation. Whether you are engaged in a physical altercation or a battle of wits. There are two sides to every story. His side and her side. Our side and their side. My side and your side.

A good investigator will recognize this truism and seek to find the elements of a story that matches up between opposing perspectives. However, when you're biased toward one party, it becomes a little more difficult to distinguish what really happened. When things fall apart our natural inclination is to reach a judgment as quickly as we possibly can. Truth be damned.

I am keenly aware of how separate versions of the same incident can vary so drastically - even to the point where it looks like two different tales are being told. This is a horror story but that is a comedy. Here we have historical drama, but there we have science fiction. One speaks in iambic pentameter and the other with a random stream of consciousness. And somehow both are describing the exact same course of events.

This is why I have been hesitant to share certain parts of my story. Because I know I'm biased. Because I know I would present it as if I were a documentary filmmaker and the other side was inventing mere fantasy. Because I know there is another side of the story that I am incapable of telling.

And the other side of my story has been told. Loudly and frequently. Unfortunately, most who have heard this alternate take are not interested in learning my perspective. They have accepted the other narrative as gospel and returned their verdict against me without any opportunity for defense or rebuttal. It's a kangaroo court of social interaction.

As a result, I am reticent to share certain details. As a storyteller, it is painful to bury these chapters, skipping over parts of the plot, only revealing carefully selected elements of my story that won't be disputed. In doing so, I avoid adversarial conflict.

Keep my head down. Silently bandage my wounds. Take every hit without returning fire. Suffer every false accusation in hopes that the truth will save me. Resign myself to the proposition that justice might never be served. Bite my lip. Say nothing.

Miraculously, through this experience, I have been healing. Somewhere between where I started and my life now, I have discovered something beautiful about brokenness. God's grace is most evident when we hurt; His power is displayed through our weaknesses. God uses our pain and our failures for His purposes. One person's scars can help mend another injured spirit. Your scars. My scars.

If words were weapons, my body would be marred.

I am getting better. My wounds are healing. Yet the remaining scars speak of a story that remains untold. It is there, eager to be freed. I want my failures and my road to recovery serve as a template for those who find themselves in a similar predicament. I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with other damaged heroes and give them a message of hope and solidarity.

In order to do so, I must start filling in the gaps. Fix the plot holes in the story of my life. It is time. It needs to happen. After all, there are two sides to every story.


The truth about a boring life

I had a boring childhood. At least that is what I tell people. My parents were simple folk who loved each other and have remained married for more than forty years. They created the typical church-going, conservative, two child, suburban household. My only brother was five and a half years older than me but we never developed the typical sibling rivalry. Instead, we had a great relationship that allowed us to share many mutual friends.

There was nothing special about our family. No excitement. No grand adventures. I tell people that I had a boring upbringing. But that is a lie. If I truly had a dull childhood, I would not be a writer today. If you want to hear a tale, I have an endless supply. In reality, my days of youth are a wellspring of tragic and comical anecdotes.

When I was four I pretended I was Superman. When I was fourteen I pretended to be a rock star. Then I joined the drama club and discovered myself while pretending to be someone else.

In theater, I learned sword fighting, stage craft, and how to apply makeup. I broke the Wells Fargo Wagon on the closing night of The Music Man and survived an earthquake during a performance of Neil Simon's Rumors. One sunny summer day, after performing improve sketches with a few friends, a little girl came up and asked for our autographs.

I have stood on mountain tops, climbed waterfalls, jumped off cliffs, bathed in the waters of glacial runoff, and danced with wild mountain goats along a snow covered ridge.*
*goat not pictured

I have sneaked into concerts and and paid to attend rock shows. I have had the privilege to hang out backstage and socialize people who play music for a living. I became friends with artists, authors, actors, and musicians.

I trespassed to visit an allegedly haunted graveyard in the middle of the night. I've been kicked out of the Arby's in Ellensburg Washington more times than I can count. And once a friend and I stole a five foot tall cardboard display of the Pillsbury Dough Boy from a Burger King; their security guard chased us into traffic as we drove away.

That was all before I reached the legal drinking age.

So why do I lie and say my wonder years were boring? It is because I compared my life to others and found them far more fascinating. I never went to Disneyland. I never broke any bones. I never won first place in anything. The kids that I grew up with were all from wealthier families and they were all better looking and more athletic than me.

How could I compare? Their stories were more interesting. In the false light of comparison, I felt like my life had no sparkle or shine, nothing special or of any significance.

But all stories have value. Yours. Mine. Their worth is found in one simple truth: we are unique. You did not experience the most exciting day of my life and I have not experienced yours. Even if our biggest adventure was a shared event, your perspective would be different from mine. The event would be the same but the resulting tales we tell would be wholly different.

So be brave. Tell your story. Even if you think it is wholly uninteresting. I assure you, it is not.


Blogfest 2016

This afternoon, the denizens of HBO gathered for the annual Blogfest event at Fort Ground Grill in CdA. Below are a few pictures of the crowd of strangers I've come to consider friends over the past decade.

I don't have much commentary to add other than my gratitude for the community that Dave Oliveria created and for Mayor Widmyer for hosting and feeding us.
Christian spent most of his time reading Harry Potter. Zu and JJ took turns swapping devices - either playing games or listening to music.

There were a lot of familiar faces this year, along with some new. Thank you to all that chatted with me. I look forward to another year with all y'all.