Not everyone shares your values

It’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ll just take a stab at it.

A couple years ago, a friend of mine and I used to talk about how cool it would be to travel together internationally. I had been to the UK, bumping around London and other places for ten days. I had always wanted to travel internationally, ever since I was 17 and the bug got me. I was lucky enough to have been selected to take a bus trip across the US with 40 other high school kids, from Colorado to New York City and back again. That was my first taste of leaving the country. We went to Niagara Falls in Canada for a day. Come to think of it, Canada was where I got my first kiss, overlooking the falls.

There was something about being in Canada, even that close to the border. Things were different. For one, everything was clean. They used different money (though you could pay with dollars, you’d get your change back in looneys). Just little differences. I was hooked.

When I got married, I had expectations to go abroad. My wife at the time had been to Honduras on a rafting trip. Mexico a couple times. She seemed eager to see new places. Only that never happened. Our adventures were limited to what she knew and what was close. The Black Hills two or three times. Santa Fe four or five times. Honestly all those trips blur in together. There was a lot of fighting, disagreements over where to go, what to eat. An extension of the chaos of that unholy union. She still takes the kids to those two places. I can imagine they have just as much fun as we did. Cue the eyerolling.

Where was India? Where was France? What about Ireland? What happened to Greece?

Too dangerous. There’s a war going on in Europe. Terrorists. Excuses.

So, after my divorce, I dated a woman for a couple years. She had the resources to go abroad and she was a professor, so she got a lot of time off in the summer. In the time we were together, she went many places. Greece, Paris, Italy, Turkey, Croatia, Boston, Prince Edward Island, Quebec. But she went with friends I would never be introduced to. And if it wasn’t in a cluster of friends, it was with tour groups, family, or on a cruise ship. Lots of stamps in her passport, but usually as a result of a six hour shore leave from a floating casino.

I never got invited. Her excuse was “You don’t have a lot of resources right now and you’ve got your kids.” True enough that half of my paycheck each month went to child support, but looking back now, there was never going to be an invitation. One time she even told me “You always say you want to travel abroad, but I think if you really wanted to do it, you would have done it by now.”

What a kick in the teeth from someone who prided themselves on eating at every Hard Rock Cafe in every country they visited and buying the t-shirts to prove it. I had scrimped and saved what I could to get my passport in 2016. It was a lot of money considering what I had to work with.

If you’ve made it this far, just keep with me for a bit.

Eventually, I figured out a way to make it happen. I took a big chunk from a tax return a few years ago and I found incredibly cheap plane tickets to London. I went. Cold. I had never flown out of the country before. I had never booked my own flight. I booked an AirBnB for the first time in Knightsbridge. I hit the ground running at Heathrow and got on the blue line to London. And once I stepped off the tube, I immediately got lost. It took me an hour and a half to find my flat. I was so overwhelmed I took a nap for two hours. Then I went downstairs, put on my shoes, and started walking.

The next ten days changed everything. This was not the kind of trip I could rely on anyone else to do. I didn’t have an itenary. I didn’t have the money for taxis or guides. I had to figure out everything on my own, from the money to the tube to reading train timetables, ordering tickets online, figuring out where to use the bathroom, and how to just relax and absorb everything. How to let go of my ego and admit that I had no idea what I was doing. To be a piece of flotsam on the currents.

So, whenever I would talk to this friend of mine about going places, she was excited. But she didn’t have a passport. So, for her birthday, I sent her $140 so she could get one, because I knew if she had that kind of money, like me all those years ago, it would be spent on her kids. She was reluctant to accept it, and I am reluctant to mention it here, but things have changed and it’s my story to tell now.

She never got her passport. I’m pretty sure she nickel and dimed it to hang out with her friends at the bar, or do wine and painting events. It doesn’t matter really, since the gesture of the gift was to give someone something I had wanted for years, but could never “afford.”

When I gave her the money, I even said, whether or not we got to enjoy adventures together didn’t matter. For me, having a passport has unlocked the world, and I couldn’t think of a greater gift to give someone you cared about. Maybe I didn’t really expect her to get her passport. She’s gone now, and doesn’t really matter what she does. I just don’t understand why people don’t rush at the chance to get the hell out of their comfort zones and discover something new.

I try to have adventures in my life all the time. There are many places I would revisit, and many that I am greatful for getting to see. Each place has brought with it challenges. They have made me face my fears, get me out of my comfort zones. When I talk to my dad, he says he has no desire to go anywhere else. Even my former girlfriend who used to carry her unused passport in her wallet wherever she went thought we could go to Disney World instead of Scotland when we had to cancel our trip together when the pandemic started. Fucking Disney. We didn’t last the first six weeks of lockdowns. Maybe it’s for the best.

It baffles me, but like I said from the start, not everyone shares your values. I have lots of friends whose idea of a great time is to get a bunch of beer and grill chicken or steaks and consume them in the back yard. Which is great and all. But have you ever smelled the inside of a 900 year old library? Have you smelled the salty sea air off the North Atlantic? Have you abandoned all of your mundane worries you carry around with you just so you can focus on getting to the next place, through the next day, and not getting lost in the process? And knowing that there is no help coming. You have to figure this out on your own.

Maybe it’s not for everyone.

That friend was probably more suited for the hang out at a cookout crowd–I can’t begrudge her for using the money on something else. I just hoped it would be what she needed to really shine. And maybe my former gf was more of a dreamer, unsure of the expectations of her fantasy meeting reality. Or like my ex or even my dad, fine with what they have always known and always done.

I can assure you, nothing will prepare you for the moment you actually do it. It won’t be like anything you’ve expected. The world is subtle. Nuanced. Rich and mundane at the same time. My values are to see as much of this place I can before I can’t do it anymore. To meet interesting people. To share stories. To have adventures. To push my comfort zones and see exactly what I am capable of. It might sound romantic and exciting (it is) but it’s not for everyone.

If you are reading this and you feel exhilarated by the idea of such things, you are my people. I see you. I hope to meet you out there one day.

Meditations

Recently I was reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Talk about the definition of you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. He had so much stuff figured out over 1800 years ago. We’ve had these books he wrote forever and yet…

There were many passages that resonated with me. I liked the one about living in the past.

No one can lose either the past or the future – how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess? … It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if this is all he has, he cannot lose what he does not have.

–Marcus Aurelius

Yeah, I know the stoics are getting a lot of traction these days, especially with men. But I think that is because they are some wise words that are needed in some crazy times. Men aren’t taught to be men anymore. Maybe they haven’t been for a while. When I think of a man, I think more of Atticus Finch than I do some guy with truck nuts on his lifted square body Chevy. People who set about doing what needs to be done, using their brains instead of beating their chests. I grew up in a place that was very man’s man oriented. Mostly these men worked a hard job, came home, sat on the couch and told everyone not to bother them, and fell asleep in their underwear watching TV. On the weekends, they would stand around and drink Bud Light with their pals and worry about whether or not their sons were “queer.”

The women in my town also worked. Then they ran their homes. Took care of the kids. And someplace in the middle, usually one would cheat on the other and they would all pair up with somebody else at the bar. It’s a small town. You have to be civil, since you are definitely going to wind up having to be around one or several exes.

People in all sorts of places I have lived have just always found a way to fall into drama. They are always fighting with someone, screwing somebody over, hurting themselves or each other. People feel an obligation to make each other’s lives hell, and I can’t figure out why.

I can’t figure out why whenever I do something that makes me happy, like go on a trip or do something for myself, I’m expected to feel guilty about it. Like that isn’t for me. It’s for anybody else but me. I no longer subscribe to that kind of silliness.

I am the person I am. I am not the culmination of the bullshit I have endured in my life, but I have been tempered by it. These days I do what I want and honestly, I haven’t found it any harder than doing what was expected of me. I don’t have a great history with doing what was expected of me. There are so many billiion of us on the planet, with most of us subscribing to some sort of social construct. In America, you might be familiar with: Choose life…

Go to school, get good grades, get into college, get into a relationship, find a job, get married, have kids, take a vacation once every year or so, save money for retirement, spend a day a week catching up with friends (usually drinking), get divorced, go wild for a bit, experiment with alternative lifestyles/get really into church, go back to school, remarry (usually without doing anything to fix yourself), get divorced again/or just compare your first spouse with your current one forever, wear socks with sandals, wear matching jogging suits with your second spouse. Have some sort of surgery that limits your mobility. Live vicariously through your children who are doing nearly exactly what you did. Get frail. Wish you had done more when you were young. Die.

See how easy that is?

Well, I chose not to choose life. I chose something else. I chose peace.

Which sounds great, but I still have to eat. I still scramble each month to meet my financial obligations, and I still have rough days like today.

This morning started off at 7am. I got up, noticing the light outside was nice. I loaded Penny up in the car and started driving. We stopped along the road to Steamboat several times to take pictures. I’m working on building my portfolio, but the thing I keep running into is it seems like that sort of work is part of a tightly knit network of people who don’t want anybody else in the treehouse with them. I am struggling with knowing how to break into it all. Some days I think about giving up. But the work feels good. I was happy to be up this morning early to work.

The writing has stalled briefly. The paid work has overshadowed it just a little and though I just want a day to sit down and edit and work on my book, I keep wondering what the point is in all of it. I post cool stuff on social media that only a handful of people see. I write things on my blog that even fewer people read.

Who is going to read my books?

Maybe I should quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock?

But one thing I do always remind myself is a bad day of writing is better than the best day at a day job working for someone who would replace you within two weeks of your death. Within a year, nobody would even know you sat in that chair for fifteen years. Watching your life tick tick away on that clock on the wall.

No thank you.

Some days I just have to give myself a little grace and know that I’m working. Maybe my rewards are just further down the line. I can only control what is happening now, and I shouldn’t worry about the future, and I shouldn’t be saddened by the past.

Here are some shots I took today. I’d like to think my photography is getting better.

Dance me to the end of love

I went outside tonight to let the dog out and noticed the stars in the sky. The Milky Way was visible again, cutting a path from almost due south to north. Over time, the constellations take their places and creep across the night sky, until Orion is back and the Seven Sisters rise in the east again. Soon it will be Winter again. Already, the trees are beginning autumn’s first blush. The night air is chilly and in the morning, you can see your breath.

This will all happen again and again, long after I am gone. Forever.

But sometimes it feels like nothing changes. Each year is a slog and it feels like I’m getting nowhere. But I had to think tonight that things have changed. This year, there have been many, many changes. My son no longer lives with me. I lost that fight. I fought hard and spent more money than I had just to go nowhere with it. The system is broken, and not only will my children have lost out, but generations after them as well.

I have been unattached for the longest period of time so far since I was 17. Not chasing anyone. No talking stage. No situationship. Just getting my shit figured out. It has been an important thing to do. A year of working through it, in spite of my usual efforts of trying to fix things that of course were unfixable. The most recent one is engaged now; that was fast. That’s three women I have been involved with. I used to joke with her about being the foster, helping rescues find their forever homes. I found some closure in knowing it was her turn. After a lot of insomnia last night and wondering why I don’t get chosen, I realized I sounded like her for a minute. Yeah, I found out through the grapevine. It’s only fair, since she still reads my blog and knows what I am up to. I’m just over here shaking my head. I don’t need to know anything else.

I know why I don’t get “chosen.” Like so many others today, it isn’t that I’ve “Given up” it’s that I’m working on me. I’m not compromising anymore. I’m not settling for a life that is “adequate.” I used to tell people I didn’t plan on dating again unless I met someone who truly knocked my socks off. Or maybe someone who I could trust with an open heart. But now, I know what I would rather do. Unless it was someone truly spectacular, I’m going to just enjoy my own company for a while. I’m going to enjoy sunrises, and remember the chill of the air on my legs on a morning in St. Louis at dawn when I was young. Or the way someone gently sang off key in my ear as we danced to Chris De Burgh at Homecoming, my palms slick against her satin red dress. Or the loves that have come and gone from my life since. Kitchen dancing. Holding hands as we drive. Speaking in a whisper as though the moment was so fragile we could break it with our voices.

Shrill piping laughter of my kids who invented a hilarious joke or rode really fast down a hill on their skateboard.

It isn’t a fear of never finding these moments again, it’s a fear that I might forget how all those other times felt, the little details that shined through with each of them. A sparkle in an eye, the cool way someone held a clove cigarette, the silent belly laughs, the rants about out of state drivers or a big smile and a shy wave whenever I came home, or when someone was speechless when I said they were beautiful.

My biggest fear in life is forgetting. And sometimes I really have to stop to remember those beautiful moments. Even when they are shadowed in pain. I wonder if there will be another who has one of those details, like some thread connecting them all, some aspect that resonates, as though I knew another soul before there was time and like the rest of it, everything shattered and was spread across the universe in a jumble, and sometimes we recognize a part of what we loved in someone else, glimmering, standing out from all the rest.

Will there be another face to stand out of so many others in a dark room?

One of my best friends has heard my sad stories too many times. More than she would like to admit. She told me once when I was wondering what I do with all of these memories of people who are gone: My lost children. Those former loves. Family who are no longer with us. I said I wished I was like Leonard Cohen, who kept all of these people from his life in his songs and poetry. She told me I get to keep them safe in stories. She’s a wise one. So, I write my stories and I keep those memories there for now.

I’m done trying to fix anything. There is a wide, unbroken world I want to see finally. A place of beauty and laughter. Of sunbeams that hang in tattered clouds, dappled on a grey sea. I’ll try my best to remember those sweet moments, but sometimes it stings too much to look at them too often. Like someone sitting in an overstuffed chair, wasting the day looking through pictures of their youth when there is still so much more to see.

That is why.

It’s not worth playing the game anymore, because so much of that just seems to be an attempt at a do-over. Righting the things that went wrong in a bad marriage, or trying to bring back that feeling you had when you were first in love with a new face. It’s the same picture, it’s the same You, just with someone else standing in place of another.

I would rather see what happens next. I can’t fix what went wrong and I can’t replace what was lost. It will never be the same again. It is never what you planned anyway. But you can open the next door and see what else awaits. To walk into a place so unfamiliar that you could be anywhere. You could be anyone.

It doesn’t matter if I become a catch in someone’s throat when they remember the little things and for a brief moment wonder where I have gone and if I’m still sad. Of course I am. I have the heart of a poet that I wear on my sleeve. But I’m somewhere else, lost on the infinite tides on my own adventure. I’m also happy. At last. Making all new memories.