John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise LXIX: Choose Love

(Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash)

John Michael’s column Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise ponders life and people. In “Choose Love,” he talks about driving, the holiday season, and sharing feelings. 


I just got my car out of the shop yesterday afternoon. It has been down since last Thursday when the alternator got tired and decided it wanted to rest in a junk shop somewhere. It was a nice couple of days that included some walking on my part. My body was like, My God what is this pleasant feeling? We should do this more often.

I mentioned a while ago that I was a less reactionary driver and had not resorted to a cold stare or middle finger in quite some time. Since getting the car back, the holiday traffic has kept me on my toes as a driver. I also realized I talk, out loud, to other drivers, quite a bit. “Lecture” is probably a better word than “talk.”

“Sir, you can’t drive forever like that, down the middle, you are going to have to choose a lane at some point.”

“Are you sure that’s what you want to do there, fella?”

“All right, lady, I see you are intent on taking your time here, so I’m just going to give you all the room you need.”

“Not sure it’s in your best interest to be following me that closely, I’m just going to pull over here and let you on your way.”


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I was running some pizza out to a community dinner in Lapwaii tonight. A lot of shops in town know who I am and understand how I tease. But I forget how big I am. One of the things I do is over-exaggerate being angry or disappointed when there is a slight hiccup. If I’m at Starbucks or Mystic Cafe and I say in a loud voice or over-the-top exaggerated, “Where’s my fricken coffee?” or “Can I expect a napkin anytime soon?” no one bats an eye. They may even smile and say to themselves, Oh, that crazy John Michael really does love to tease us.

Well, they didn’t know me in the pizza shop and it didn’t look like they had started bagging up the twenty-some pizzas I was there to pick up. The cashier wasn’t aware there was a large order. I can’t even remember what I said, but I think I frightened the poor girl in a profound way. I immediately let her know I was teasing and begged her forgiveness.

I felt my anxiety go up because a gym full of people were waiting on the pizza and I was going to be ten minutes late. I came out of childhood feeling like I was a disappointment. That idea about myself is mostly gone but, evidently, not fully dissipated. So, the idea that I may be a source of those folks being disappointed had me a little agitated.

I’m getting better about understanding how God communicates with me. Every once in a while, during the day, I hear the word “rest” which I often ignore. But when I do pay attention to it, I let my thoughts go and my mind drift. If you were to see me when I’m doing this, you would think I am daydreaming or staring out into space absentmindedly. Well, after a minute or so in semi-trance, I had the thought, They [people] need love.

That people need love seems like a no-brainer. But we can easily get lost in our own suffering and anxieties and go a whole day without having the slightest clue about what another person might need.

After I had that thought about love, I was able to let go of my agitation and invited some gentleness into my heart. After the pizza was in the car, I approached the manager. She was smiling, but I could also tell a little nervous. I used kind tones, tipped her some cash, and thanked her, and was using my own smile. She looked relieved. I got the pizza there a little late; no one said a word about it and were grateful for the food.


Feeling a little lonely this Christmas? Take a risk and share that feeling with someone. If that is just too scary, well, know this for certain, I love you with everything that I have and want only good things for you this Christmas and forever.


The holidays can be a lonely time for many. I was at a funeral this weekend for a cousin of mine who I knew just a little and had recently committed suicide. I remember her vaguely from family gatherings in childhood and we had connected several times on Facebook over the last few years about spiritual matters.

She was a nun, pretty and outgoing with a lovely smile, she lived in service to others. Lots of folks out there forget about caring for themselves while constantly caring for others. Then, one day, they wake up completely depressed. My cousin struggled with depression several times throughout her life, confiding it to only a few close friends.

It was a lovely mass and celebration of life, but that didn’t mean there weren’t a bunch of sad hearts wandering around putting on a brave front, because there were.

Last week, I was helping a friend with a few errands, she was living in a new neighborhood without any family and only a few friends around. I asked if she was lonely getting adjusted to the new circumstances. This produced a stream of tears that lasted several minutes and produced some sympathetic tears from me. We’re so used to putting on the brave face, when someone expresses their actual feelings it can catch us off guard, but can also provide relief by feeling understood.

People need love, indeed. Feeling a little lonely this Christmas? Take a risk and share that feeling with someone. If that is just too scary, well, know this for certain, I love you with everything that I have and want only good things for you this Christmas and forever. So does the Prince of Peace, or whatever name you call the eternal. I use Jesus while never forgetting Mary.

Happy, sad, or completely desperate, that is always a very safe and good place to turn, but we must allow Him to love us, and many people secretly won’t. I used to consciously and subconsciously block his love. Who could deserve such a beautiful thing? All of us are deserving, actually, including 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.

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