John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise XXXV: Awkwardly Stumbling Along

(Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash)

John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, writes about awkwardly stumbling along.


A couple of days ago, after a long walk along the Snake River, I decided to go for a swim at the State Park. The water was alarmingly cold at first, as the river is high for this time of year with runoff. But, as I adjusted, it became refreshing to my warm hiking body.

I noticed swallows diving into this ripple at the mouth of a creek a few yards down past the last of the beach. As I was watching, I imagined small fish rising, so I decided to drift down and take a look. Now, had I been using any common sense, I should have remembered that swallows aren’t known for eating fish, they eat bugs.

I had been cussing myself already for not having some water shoes, because the park beach is rocky as hell, even quite a ways out into the water. Well, I was double cussing when I floated down to the ripple; the swallows were a delight, but the water was moving fast. I should have just floated on to the next eddy and walked back along the edge. But that didn’t seem like a great option at the time.

So, I ended up crawling over a bunch of rocks and then swimming hard against the current for a minute until I got back to the beach. No harm, no foul, I guess. I probably would not have thought for a second about either option, except I was a little embarrassed to have the people at the beach see me awkwardly stumbling along.

My mind is mostly quiet these days. I get some strange thoughts passing through it on occasion. When I was rocking and hounding along the river earlier that afternoon, I had the thought, You just created an album. Is that how the soul works? Does it gather things while you are having a good time? I have enough lyrics written for several albums, so, it will be interesting to see when that album finds its way to the physical world.

Awkwardly Stumbling Along. That could be a good album or book title for my life.


“Awkwardly Stumbling Along.” That could be a good album or book title for my life.


Today, I decided to investigate Tammany Creek, that stream that was sending out those ripples into the grand and lovely Snake River. Where those swallows were enjoying their bug feast. It was a rougher hike than I anticipated as the creek itself was well overgrown. I stumbled once and banged my shin pretty good. I got a good walking stick out of the adventure, however.

I posted a story today about some people who were arrested for allowing drug dealers to have sex with their children in exchange for meth. You want to find your compassion because you know there is a human in there somewhere. And maybe you know a couple of people who that has happened to and you certainly have compassion for them. Anyway, when I sat at the mouth of the creek, smoking a cigarette, watching the grand and lovely Snake River roll by, I felt a ton of emotion rolling through me.

Another thought has been coming up the last year or so, I froze that night. I know it is a thought I use to judge myself a little for what happened the night I was sexually molested. It’s difficult for me to write or talk about this, but to bury what is uncomfortable in me is not comforting in the least.

At any rate, there is some good news.

As I was hiking back to the car, I felt some more emotion give way and some pain release in my hip. I used to hunch over as a kid quite a bit and took some ribbing for it as well. “Stand up straight, throw your shoulders back,” I heard that quite a bit. I still feel myself trying to hide my heart now and again. Anyway, after the pain left my hip, my shoulders kind of naturally threw themselves back, my head came up, and I was walking the trail at 6’10” instead of 6’4” and I was really enjoying the desert view.

Driving back, I said out loud to myself, “I was scared shitless that night.” For whatever reason, that helped make me okay with myself for allowing the molestation to happen. Who knows, five years from now, you may see me on some grand stage, standing 6’10” singing my songs to the masses. After all, I have nothing to be ashamed of despite what happened. And neither do you.


John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

Related posts