What is there

One of the things I have always struggled with my entire life has been that need for connection. I am not a fan of birthdays and other holidays because they just feel like another day that reminds you how little other people know you.

The other day, I was in a Barnes and Noble and a woman was talking to her little kid about Father’s Day. “You know what would make your dad really happy? A Barnes and Noble gift card. Your daddy loves books!”

It was nice to hear that someone still reads, but what kinda bummed me out was how she just phoned it in with the gift card. If I buy someone a book, it’s because I’ve poked around and found out what they like, or what they might be interested in. I’m sneaky like that. I ask questions. I use subterfuge. Why is that? Because for fucking once, I’d love it if someone put in the work to get me something I wanted. It’s not hard if you listen to someone. And I love that look on their face when you have gotten them something they love.

I’m sure the dad will be happy with his $20 gift card. He’ll probably buy something he wants. But wouldn’t it have blown his socks off if they got him exactly what he wanted? It’s the connection that is the gift. Not the gift itself.

I once dated a woman who gave me a $30 gift card to King Soopers (the local Kroger franchise) for Christmas. Why $30? Hell, I’ll never know. What did I get her? An illustrated copy of The Rhime of the Ancient Mariner and the Atlas Obscura. One book was something she mentioned she used to teach and really loved, and the other was something to help her push her comfort zones. Her gift to me required almost no thought. When I asked her about it, she said, “You’re always complaining you don’t get to go anywhere. I thought you could buy gas with it.” When I filled up my tank, it cost $37. It didn’t even get me a tank of gas.

It’s always been like that.

I’ve been lucky enough to where I’ve gotten gifts that did mean things. My last serious gf spoiled the hell out of me. She would buy me Dutch Bros. tumblers, hoodies, cigars, scotch, etc.. The next woman I dated…ish, would randomly send me Dutch Bros. coffee. Birthdays, Father’s Day, or just because. It was sweet, but I never had the heart to tell her the reason I loved the DB merch so much was because of Leslie. It helped me stay close to her even though she was gone. It’s why I still try to go every month. It reminds me of happier times. One of the rare times in my life someone actually listened to what I liked. But, I think the moment that charmed me the most about that one was when she ordered my coffee and remembered that I like Americanos with three raw sugar packets and one cream.

I remembered that she loved Van Morrison, Dave Matthews, and nobody had ever bought her flowers before when they weren’t trying to make up for mistreating her. So I bought her flowers. Daisies, because they were some of her favorites. The last thing I bought her was a hard cover copy of the Princess Bride. I gave it to her on Christmas, even though I bought it as a birthday present. I knew things were ending, and I couldn’t stand having it in my house for another three months.

‘Ere the bonny boat was won as we sailed into the mystic…

I’ve walked away from friendships that just made me feel lonely because they only saw who they perceived me as, but never took the time to get to know me. I’ve had a lifetime of that. I have no desire to waste anymore time on surface connection.

Lately, if someone flirts with me, I just phone it in. I’m not there. I know how to make the words, but my heart is no longer in it. I do it just to lose myself. They don’t know me. They only know this facade that I’ve put up. This shadow of someone I used to be. He’s gone. He died a little while ago. He dies a little bit more each day. Eventually, I’ll forget where the bones were buried. He was for someone else. It’s not fair, but sometimes I have that glimmer of hope that I will be able to feel something. Anything.

There’s nothing left though.

I keep seeing TikTok videos that talk about “Where are all the good men with beards and dad bods and tattoos?” Some people blame women for screwing them over and they have given up. I think for me it’s different. I opened myself up too many times, sometimes to the person I knew wasn’t right for me, but they were better than nothing…which is almost always what I’ve had. I just don’t think I have it in me anymore. I’m tired. I am tired of learning favorite colors and middle names and all of it just for it to disappear again and for us to become strangers. I’m happier just remembering the perfect slope of someone’s nose or those smoky eyes or the adorable way they sneeze or getting lost in their kiss.

It’s lonely up here in the mountains, but I’m here for good reasons. Nobody is going to fix me. Nobody is going to carry me. I’m here to do that on my own. In opening myself up, I also know that I rely on others too much. I’m happy to let a version of myself make it look like everything is fine when it’s not. This experience is a spiritual journey to become a true version of myself who no longer wants that.

Maybe one day, someone will come into my life again who rekindles that fire in my heart to find a companion. Right now though, I’m not good for her. I know this. And what if no one ever comes again? That person who gets me and I get them? The person who matches my energy and my values? The one who isn’t afraid to be loved passionately, unconditionally? Women ask where all the good men are? Where are the women who will be vulnerable enough to be loved like that again?

Maybe in another life. When we are all young again and not calcified by all the damage we’ve hardened ourselves against.

I guess I miss those few times someone actually got me. Or cared to try. Like I say, I don’t write happy stories.

This clip comes from one of my favorite bands. In a weird way, they are hard to watch because the lead singer looks very much like my former gf’s sister. Seeing her reminds me of the first night we all met. It’s another one of those bittersweet moments that won’t mean anything to anyone one day. I miss them all. I live in the past, it’s true. The past has carried me through some of the toughest times. I trust it more than I do the future. I guess it’s just one of those nights.

Daughter, “Youth”

Unrelenting

Tonight there is a space in my heart that aches to be filled. I do even know what could be missing, because there is too much to pick from that I have lost.

Writing a couple paid assignments today was like pulling teeth, but I did get them done. I just don’t know what happened after that because I had time to work on the book but just no motivation. I made coffee at 10pm and in spite of the wake up juice, I just didn’t have any motivation to get the words down. Or even edit. I think my motivation is down on the edits because I feel like I wasted a couple years writing a book nobody will read. Those aren’t the kinds of books people want.

Some days it just feels like more and more weight is getting added to your chest. And that wouldn’t be so bad if you had someone in your life who understood what that meant. More often than not, I am reminded of how alone I am in this world. The ones who have stayed don’t really know me. They know an aspect of me I’ve let my guard down enough to share. That isn’t me. The few I’ve allowed myself to be open with are gone for the most part. And I don’t really care to let anyone in again. What is the motivation behind that when they just go away in the end? You’re left with a lot of empty place settings at the table of your life. You’re left with a lot of memories of beautiful, smiling faces.

Some days are better than others, and though this might be a bit of a down night, just remember what Leonard Cohen said, “You want it darker. We killed the flame.”

If it’s not one thing it’s another. I have a lot of plans and ambitions, but it’s hard to not think that like all the 1001 other plans you’ve had, there is no room in this world for yours.

I just keep slogging on ahead.

How I’m Living

It’s kind of weird to have someone else explain your situation to you as they have told other people. Today I had a conversation with my dad about how someone had asked what I’m up to. It was odd, and gave me pause to hear how my dad was explaining my situation to other people. There were bits of it that almost sounded apologetic for my situation.

He told them that I had been laid off from my job and couldn’t afford $1000 per month to live where I had been living before (with bills, rent, and utilities it was actually more like $2400). The truth of the matter is there was a lot more to it than a massive layoff at a job I worked for twenty years. A job that cut over 100 of us loose just before a pandemic to save money.

The truth of the matter is that I decided to follow opportunity to do a number of things I had been putting on hold for most of my life. The layoff was really just the catalyst. The opportunity was having a big empty chunk of house that has been in my family for generations up in some of the most remote country in northern Colorado. Living up here was not a result of getting my ass handed to me by life.

It was a calculated move that I gave a lot of thought to and made a lot of sacrifices for. I lived hand to mouth working for a university for terrible pay, no chance of advancement, and paying out the nose for rent for two decades. In the seven years I lived in the little rental where I landed after my divorce, I paid $89,000 for a house my landlords turned around and sold for $249,000.

I’ve been living for someone else in so many ways.

After my divorce, I got the freedom to make decisions which weren’t dictated by an abusive spouse. I wasn’t happy in the city where I was living, and though I never had any intentions of living there more than a few years, or working that job for any longer than I had to, I found myself stuck there for 20 years. Just getting by. Watching my good years dissolve and thinking my life would have a chance to start when I was 54 and the last of my kids was off child support. Then things fell into place and there was another way that I could work wherever I lived, have affordable rent, and live in a beautiful location.

I’m 46 years old. How many of us can say that they’ve had a shot at their dream? If you did, wouldn’t you go for it? Even this late in the game.

In January 2021, I moved back to my home town and began renovations on the place where I am living, while beginning my career path as a freelance writer. I write content for an agency that produces content for corporation websites, for anything from blogs and white papers to product descriptions and landing pages. When I’m not writing copy, I’m working on my book (or the other way around). Which in two years turned into three books. Though my income isn’t nearly as predictable (or high-paying) as my job at the university, it is fulfilling. I don’t have to worry about someone stabbing me in the back, and I don’t have to watch inept administrators and sychophants climb the ladder, stepping all over the rest of us anymore. I don’t have to put up with literally being yelled at by a supervisor who had absolutely no business managing other people.

I don’t wake up every day wondering when I’m going to be released from the monotony of an unlived life. Every day I wake up I get to choose what to make of my life.

I’ve been watching YouTube videos of others living a fulfilling life and I came to the realization that I was enthralled by their lives…not realizing what I was doing wasn’t much different. It’s not a conventional life, and some people might not understand it, but it is a life.

Since my rent is covered by the amount of renovation I’m doing on this house–a lot of which hasn’t been touched in decades–I get to follow my dream to write full-time. I couldn’t do it without the opportunity to live in this old house. I have an office, a big bedroom, deep old timey tub, and I am surrounded on all sides by some of the most beautiful mountains in Colorado. I don’t have a dishwasher or a clothes dryer, so I have to wash dishes by hand and hang clothes on the line. Sometimes the house is cold, but the same is true for everyone living up here. We don’t have a Walmart or a Kroger within an hour drive. The worst part of living up here is the isolation.

Which isolation for a writer…jeez, a lot of people pay good money to go on writer retreats to get a fraction of this isolation. It’s good for me. It keeps me out of Target too, which is easier on the bank account.

For the old house, I’ve put life into it that it hasn’t seen in a very, very long time. There are lots of things about this place that are very beautiful too, and over the last year, I have made so much of it my own that it’s barely recognizable as it once was. But like I’ve said, I’ve made some sacrifices which were unimaginably hard. Maybe I’ll talk about them one of these days.

But I’m writing. I’m teaching myself photography and webdesign and pitching to publications for travel articles and I am currently surviving. Sure, I’m broke as hell, but living in the city, there were months after I paid child support, bills, rent, and put gas in my car I would have $8 to get me through the rest of the month. The big difference here is I’m no longer miserable, working for someone else. A place which replaced me less than a week after I was laid off. I work for myself. My alarm clock is whenever I wake up. I work as late as I want. I don’t have traffic to fight. I don’t let myself feel guilty anymore about taking a nap or drinking too much coffee.

Does it get lonely? Sure. But I have a couple good friends I talk to regularly. I have my yellow lab. I get to help my folks out whenever they need me. And when the weather is nice, I can always get in my car and go. I am less than twenty minutes away from hundreds of thousands of acres of forests and mountains I can hike and explore in the summer too.

And I get to write.

For a very long time, I was criticized and persecuted for writing. Now I get to do it for real. For that, I have plenty of wealth in ways many people cannot imagine. I get to have peace in my soul because I’m finally doing what I love. Do I worry about my next paycheck? Yes. Don’t you? If COVID has taught any of us anything it is that life comes with no guarantees. Do I get bored or lonely? Absolutely. Don’t you?

I might not be a professor or an electrician or an account manager or a mechanic, but I get to do what I want to do. Someone I once knew told me that I didn’t have a lot to offer when it came to relationships. “Women need security” she told me. My thoughts on that are one would hope that someone wanted a partner who was content. I can be broke and a little bit panicked as to where the money is coming from, but I’m very secure in how much joy this path in my life has brought me. If nobody wants to share that, then there’s more for me, because who needs someone so shallow anyway? I’m not sure where men were told that our happiness depended on how well we could take care of someone else. Having to carry someone else my whole adulthood has not been fulfilling. Why would I care if anyone thought what I had to offer them was attractive or not? If that isn’t some Patriachial shit, I don’t know what is.

My life is taking me places right now. My only regret is that it took so long to get here. The learning curve can be steep too. And it’s sometimes hard to make anyone understand what it is I’m doing. I followed an opportunity to leave the rat race and take off in my own direction.