Monday, April 30, 2012

Better Left to Chance

Tonight I mourn.

In the relationship game of life, I am batting a thousand. Yes. Yes I am.

In the World of Olivia there seem to be two constants. One is change. The other is me on the tail end of a relationship gone awry. You would think a smart girl like moi would figure it out. Get it right.

So far, I have not.


I know what love feels like. I know my heart. I know me.

I know in hindsight that I had no business even thinking about embarking on a relationship with a man, much less doing it. I was looking for fun, not serious. Did I not say that in my profile? Yes. Yes I did. And I meant it.

So how did I let myself get sidetracked? Why did I toss my wish to have fun, in favor of the 'fall in love, get married and have kids' scenario? Did I tell you that I am fifty-four, soon fifty five?

The sign was there, even in the beginning. The Stop, This Is All Wrong sign. Did I notice? Yes. Did I pay attention? No. I let myself be swept along by the possibilities, by the fleeting magic of a dream awakened. It's quite intoxicating, that dream. But, as is the way with dreams, consciousness returns upon awakening.

And life is life. And what is, is.

My heart hurts and my eyes leak tears.Yet my words seem void of emotion. How can that be?

Tonight I mourn.

For the man. For the dream.

For the dance.

The dance - garth brooks by rawestern

Thank you, JP. For the dance.

~ That Rebel, Olivia J. Herrell

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Welcome to Student Loan Hell

This blog was birthed in anger: anger at being duped by someone supposedly out to help me. It evolved in to something much more: a place where I could write and share my words, thoughts and feelings with others. My experience, strength and hope, we say in AA. It became a vehicle and evidence of my growth as a writer, as a scribe.

Today, I am angry again. Once more, That Rebel becomes a platform. Today, the lizard brain dragon is tamed, nay friended. Today, That Rebel comes out.

I am an American. I am a doctor. I owe $263,000 in student loan debt that started out as $90,000 in 1998 when I graduated from chiropractic college. At that time the interest rate was 8 1/4%. My $90,000 has been locked in at that usurious rate for the last 14 years.

Never mind the prevailing rate dropped as low as 1 1/4% during that time. I was locked in with no way out, forbidden to refinance at a lower rate. Or so the agencies told me.

Now, today, of the balance "owed" two-thirds of it is usurious interest, funny money on some banking institution's books.

There is no provision for bankrupting/forgiving student loan debt, not since before I incurred mine, anyway. I can understand taxes being unforgivable. But bank loans? Usurious interest? Why are all other loans forgivable and not these? Is that even constitutional?

It took six years in business before I made enough as a doctor to begin paying on my student loan. By then, the $90,000 had soared to $160,000 and my payments were $1200 a month.

The following year, the recession struck my town in California. My income was slashed in half, my expenses were not. I could no longer pay. My step-father died. My mother died.

The economy tanked. I lost everything and came home to Georgia to start over. To try again. That was at the end of 2009. It's now 2012 and I am almost self-supporting, almost able to pay my bills without assistance from friends or relatives. My adjusted gross income for 2011 was $1200. Yes, that is twelve hundred measly dollars for a whole year of work. But I continue in my quest to help people get better, get well.

To think of me, and people like me as stupid and irresponsible, is the same as saying it is the fault of the sixteen year-old when a twentysomething date-rapes her at a party.

I did not consent at age sixteen, and I do not consent at age fifty-five.

Am I stupid for believing in people, and in myself? For trusting? Was I stupid for believing I could make a difference in the world and pay back a ridiculously high student loan that I received no counseling for before the fact?

Maybe. But I still believe. I still trust.

Am I irresponsible? No. I have worked within the unjust, lose/lose student loan system, done everything allowable and within my power to keep my head above water, to survive. I am not in default. But I am unable to pay. Not now. Maybe, with this dreadful economy, not never.

Until then, I have a dream. I have a dream that someone will rise up and take on the system: as undemocratic, unfair, usurious, and even unconstitutional. Then the rest of us, the ones who have hovered on the fringes for too long, will regain our sense of compassion, our understanding, our truth.

We will befriend and train our dragons one by one. And we will add our voices to the fray.

Because this one matters.

It matters to me.

~ the Voice of That Rebel, Olivia J. Herrell

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Passing It On: Thanks For Your Time

My sister forwarded this to me the other day. It is another of those unsigned, anonymous messages that waft around the E-verse. I don't get them often anymore, I guess most people on my mailing list have taken to conversing on Facebook walls.

My sister is second to few in my heart and she is slow to forward things. So when she does, I pay attention.

This one had me in tears.

"Thanks for your time."

A young man learns what's most important in life from the guy next door.

Over the phone, his mother told him, "Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday." Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.

"Jack, did you hear me?"

"Oh, sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It's been so long since I thought of him. I'm sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago," Jack said...

"Well, he didn't forget you. Every time I saw him he'd ask how you were doing. He'd reminisce about the many days you spent over 'his side of the fence' as he put it," Mom told him.

"I loved that old house he lived in," Jack said.

"You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man's influence in your life," she said.

"He's the one who taught me carpentry," he said. "I wouldn't be in this business if it weren't for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important. Mom, I'll be there for the funeral," Jack said.

As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser's funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.

The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time.

Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture. Jack stopped suddenly...

"What's wrong, Jack?" his Mom asked.

"The box is gone," he said

"What box?" Mom asked.

"There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he'd ever tell me was 'the thing I value most,'" Jack said.

It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it.

"Now I'll never know what was so valuable to him," Jack said. "I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom."

It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. "Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days," the note read. Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention. "Mr. Harold Belser" it read. Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack's hands shook as he read the note inside.

"Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It's the thing I valued most in my life." A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch.

Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved:

"Jack, Thanks for your time! -Harold Belser."

"The thing he valued most was... my time"

Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. "Why?" Janet, his assistant asked.

"I need some time to spend with my son," he said.

"Oh, by the way, Janet, thanks for your time!"

Think about this. You may not realize it, but it's 100% true.

1. At least 15 people in this world love you in some way..

2 A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don't like you.

3 Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.

4.. You mean the world to someone.

5. If not for you, someone may not be living.

6. You are special and unique.

7. When you think you have no chance of getting what you want, you probably won't get it, but if you trust God to do what's best, and wait on His time, sooner or later, you will get it or something better.

8. When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good can still come from it.

9. When you think the world has turned its back on you, take a look: you most likely turned your back on the world.

10. Someone that you don't even know exists loves you.

11.. Always remember the compliments you received. Forget about the rude remarks.

12 . Always tell someone how you feel about them; you will feel much better when they know and you'll both be happy .

13. If you have a great friend, take the time to let them know that they are great.

To all of you, who walk this path with me:

Thank you for your time.

You mean more to me than you'll ever know.

~ Olivia J. Herrell

Friday, April 6, 2012

Another Blackberry Winter

Last evening on the drive home, I noticed a patch of what looked like blackberries blooming. Being in tune with that sort of thing, I reasoned that they must be wild roses. There was only the one clump, you see. No other blackberries were blooming. And we'd had no cold nights yet, either. No, what we southerners call, blackberry winter.

The sighting did prompt me to consult the forecast when I got home. Lo and behold, the next day (now today) was to be much chillier, with a high in the sixties and low in the forties.

How was it that little clump of blackberry bushes knew, a day before colder weather would arrive, that it was coming? How did it know that it was time to bloom, before all the others?

Southern Sky, April 2012
Today I woke to a cloudy, cool day, one that saw me dressed in three-quarter sleeves, rather than sleeveless, and in sneakers rather than sandals. It was a glorious day, with a sky full of plump, juicy clouds that smelled of rain and formed battle lines across the horizon in every direction I turned, punctuated here and there by slashes of robin's egg blue.

I ventured along a different stretch of highway, this time heading east, rather than north. Still within the city limits, I spied them: brambles of blackberries in full bloom. Driving for miles, they graced both sides of the road, whole fields and power lines full of rambling white mounds, these lovely flowers that only yesterday weren't blooming, and in a few months will feed the critters and the birds.

Blackberries in Bloom Along the Highway, April 2012
Such are the mysteries of life, those things that convince me there is a God. Call it Higher Power, Jehovah, God, Allah. Call it what you would. But I can't help but think that He/She Almighty has a hand in the proverbial pot.

Happy Rebirth, Olivia J. Herrell
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