John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise LXXII: Expect Good Things

(still from The Last American Adventure documentary trailer)

John Michael’s column Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise ponders life and people. In “Expect Good Things,” he talks about managing disappointments and making change.


It takes me a while to wake up in the morning and I usually don’t feel so hot, because I process a lot of emotions while sleeping. A long, long time ago, I used to enjoy spending whole days in bed. Well, maybe I didn’t enjoy it, maybe I was a little anxious and looking for a way to avoid life. But I’m pretty content these days and a day in bed sounds heavenly.

If I have time in the morning, I reach for a cigarette. I reach for a cigarette even when I don’t have time and smoke it while I’m getting ready. But what I like to do is just sit in my chair next to the bed and meditate as I smoke. I keep getting shocked by the lovely new thoughts I have been receiving. Expect good things for yourself, I thought a couple of days ago.

It took me off guard because I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t expecting good things. I consciously try not to expect anything at all and be content with whatever comes along. No expectations, no disappointment, so to speak. But I discovered that very day what I expect in life, disappointment.

When I was living on the streets of Portland eight years ago, three young people who had just graduated from film school followed me around for a year. They filmed me and interviewed me as I went through my hobo life. We became good friends and they put together a movie trailer that was honestly very touching for me to watch. I gave them a lot of space over the years but would reach out once in a while to see how the film was coming along. A couple of year ago, they told me they were dropping the project, which was very disappointing, but they also dropped the friendship which compounded it.


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I could go on about other disappointments, but I want to say that I developed a secret sort of martyrdom around my disappointments: Look how long I have been struggling without success and yet I continue marching on. You, my friends, know little of the pain I endure, how could you?

Those things seem to be fading into the rear-view mirror as a more authentic, happier me emerges. I’ve got a self-published book I peddle on occasion and the day that I thought, expect good things, I decided to try and sell a few to an area vintage shop. The owner ended up taking three copies at eight dollars apiece, a fair price. But I was quietly expecting disappointment because I thought he was offering me eight for all three. Which I probably would have taken anyway but would have walked out with a heart full of disappointment and a head full of martyrdom. Do you know how long I have been struggling?

The years of outreach and friend-making I’ve been doing have made me tender most of the time with just about everyone I meet. In all honesty, I sometimes grumble about the outreach, claiming to myself in a very martyr sort of way, Do you see the writing and painting and outdooring I am sacrificing?


Look how long I have been struggling without success and yet I continue marching on. You, my friends, know little of the pain I endure, how could you?


I was speaking tonight at a community dinner and was going to tell the story of Peter and Christ I told here last week. But as I was thinking things over, I remember Christ struggling deeply in the garden just before he was taken away to Pilate and his crucifixion.

Man, I want to have some fun with life. And I am having fun, honestly. I have written a ton of corny jokes over the years and I’m inserting one here just so you realize how much fun I am having. A lady at the tire store, a lady at the bank, and a lady at the pharmacy all asked for my phone number yesterday. It was always for a business transaction, but still.

I had a dream the other night that I should apply for a job with a national environmental organization, which sounds exciting as I do love nature so. Which is the heart? Which is the head? Which is the martyr? Sacrifice the environment idea? Or sacrifice the community I’m living in and move across country?

These thoughts can cause me agony, not garden-sacrifice-your-entire-life agony, but a good deal of stress trying to figure out what God is asking of me. Here’s an idea, apply around a little for environmental jobs, continue working in my community, or take a break from my community building without the guilt so that I can paint more, have fun with it, and expect good things.



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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