It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day…

This morning I woke up to something that I haven’t felt in a long time. I wasn’t sure what time it was and was surprised to find that it was just after 8am. I had gotten to bed at around 1:30 or 2am, after a lot of writing. I was very productive. I woke up to a sense of peace, which is something I haven’t had in a very long time. It was the exact opposite to how I felt on Monday. Mondays are hard, as I have established in the past more than a few times.

This sense of peace was more a matter of the heart. The last four months has been especially difficult, what with the end of a great relationship and the end of an abusive one. The strange thing is that both have occupied similar real estate in my brain. I have been grieving the sudden departure of someone I was romantically involved with, and grieving the loss of a job that I had held for the last 18+ years. Today, I will have been broken up with someone I was quite serious about nearly half as long as we were together. Two nights ago, I was taking it hard. Today, I woke up and felt at peace with it. I don’t know if I am finally letting go or what, but I have learned some things that I wanted to share in the hopes that my experience resonates with anyone reading this.

A couple days ago, I was taking it hard. The grief of the end of a great romance ebbs and flows like any grief. I was missing someone intensely. I visited with a few friends and talked about it. One friend wanted to fix things and the other just listened. The one who wanted to fix things gave me the usual “You’ve got to get back out there! You aren’t pushing yourself to find anyone!” speech. Which didn’t make things any better.

The other friend just listened and because they had been through a similar situation, they told it to me straight. I didn’t need to go out there and find someone else. It felt good to be seen like that. The first friend really just proved what a problem I have had my entire life has been: nobody fucking knows me. I dislike my birthday and Christmas for a big reason: it just proves how nobody gets me or even attempts to make the effort. Ever since I was a kid, this was the case. I have spent nearly 45 years smiling and thanking people for stuff that I don’t even like. It’s not that I’m all that hard to shop for either, but if you talk enough about something you would think that those people closest to you in your life might eventually catch on to what your interests are. The first friend was telling me what they wanted, seen through a lens of how they would have reacted to my situation.

The other friend was sympathetic, knowing me pretty well, and knowing that filling that crack in my heart with someone else wasn’t going to fix anything. So, I guess I should say that I have an elite crew of people who do know me pretty well in some regards. I think that was the hardest thing about this breakup. I had found someone who saw me, someone who accepted me, and really got me. I thought I got her too. I don’t think anyone can possibly understand how rare that has been in my life.

I tend to hold on to people like that, or try to at least. Maybe I need deeper connections, instead of attachments. I thought I had both in this case, and that has been very hard to come to terms with. Combine that with the usual cursory band-aid answer of “There’s plenty of fish in the sea!” and you’ll have a full on riot on your hands.

First of all, there aren’t plenty of fish in the sea. Whoever believes that is an idiot. It’s hard out there. And it gets harder the older you get. It might be the case when you are in your 20s and impressionable and willing to tolerate a bunch of horseshit, but when you are an adult and have actually experienced life, you are less willing to deal with it. This means that your options become significantly limited. Also, the older you get, the less governed by your hormones you become, which further removes a layer of rosey tint from those glasses. In fact, you start looking at some people and wonder how they function in life due to their trainwrecky nature.

Here are my options for dating in my 40s. (These are the normal options too).

  1. Join a club. Full of other people my age, who have joined a club because they have run out of options, either because of themselves or the shit they have experienced. Either way, this club is the Island of Misfit Toys.
  2. Go to a bar. Yes, because all good decisions orbit around the dispersal of alcohol and dim lighting. No thanks.
  3. Join a church. No. I’ve been to church and nowhere will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villany. Church is for people who NEED Jesus. I’m good.
    3a. Plus I don’t need to sit by myself being reminded at the pathetic nature of my own singleness by young people in their 30s who haven’t been divorced yet
    3b. or broken down people who have been utterly destroyed by it.
  4. Get set up by friends. Most of my friends couldn’t pick out a birthday present for me (as I have mentioned above). How do you think they are going to do when it comes to finding someone I would be compatible with…especially given that many of them have even more limited social circles than I do?
  5. Settle. NO.
  6. Online dating. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!! That is the most genuine hysterical laughter of my life! IT’S REAL!
  7. In COVIDworld? Your odds of meeting anyone, much less seeing their face, are exponentially more difficult. Impossible. Plus, I’m just not interested.
  8. I’m not pushing myself, because I miss the person, not the role they played in my life. There’s no replacing that.

But there is another option.

I woke up this morning and this is what I chose: I can’t replace what I have lost. So I’m just going to be fine with it.

I got up. I drove to Ft. Collins. I took a 12 mile bike ride. Then I came home and read. Tonight, I will work on my book. I’m going to live out the rest of my days being grateful for the opportunity I had (even so brief as it was) of being seen for who I am. I’m going to thank God for those moments. I’m going to let those carry me forward.

Honestly, I’m done. I know who I am, and I’m not in the mood to compromise that anymore. I don’t need someone to complete me. I did the chasing thing already and realize how much I hate it. I’m too old to deal with drama, at a point in my life where I’m not going to raise any more kids other than the one who is with me, and I really don’t want to be with someone who does TikTok or talks about summervibes or any of that bullshit. I’m not interested in psychoanalizing a potential partner, worrying if I make enough money to be good enough for them (I don’t), and frankly my odds are entirely shot if I do meet someone and they turn out to be vegan, celiac, a drug addict, into Magic the Gathering, swinging, or have cats.

I rolled the dice. I met someone who was compatible, someone who was as crazy about me as I was them, and it still didn’t work out. I’m thinking the odds of finding “the One” are pretty much Zero.

So, I’m just going to get on with my life. I’m going to write my stories, see places, and yes, I will feel lonely sometimes, but I will do my best to just get over it and enjoy the life I’ve got left.

As for mourning my job, that is a whole other kettle of fish. Mostly because of how toxic it was, and how relieved I am to be done with that place. Fuck those assholes. I hope the earth opens up and swallows the entire place whole.

To the one I loved, and lost, I wish her nothing but happiness and a long life. Thank you for sharing some time with me.

I’m going to spend some time now with the person I’m stuck with for the rest of my life: me. Might as well get to know him while I still can.

The New Normal

I wrote this two months ago, shortly after receiving some bad news. I decided then not to publish it. The pain was still too raw. Today I’m publishing it because I liked the writing and the voice.

I shaved my face again today. It had been a couple months since the last time. Every time I do this, I drag the razor across my face, filling the sink with the clumps of beard hair that fall. A proud salt and pepper beard, this time more salt than pepper. It gets whiter each time. A little while back, I saw a picture of myself with two of my kids at a swimming pool. How long ago was that? Three, four summers past?

Tonight is the kind of night that reflects my mood. It’s the second day of May, 2020, and much of the world is still on lockdown. A reflection of the hysteria that hasn’t happened since the days of mutually assured nuclear annihilation. Very little has changed in the last several weeks except people can’t eat at restaurants anymore. All around town, you see people walking, riding their bikes, roaming the neighborhoods with their dogs or kids, wearing surgical masks. The masks don’t do much, so they are mandatory. I’m going to go more with “suggested” since I don’t wear one, and so far, nobody has hauled me off to Coronavirus prison for breach of social contract. The small businesses were hit hard by the lockdown, but people who have their hearts in the right place are reminding us to stay at home to save a life. No mention of the lives of the people who rely on those small businesses to live. No mention of these masks everyone is supposed to wear being more of an annoyance.

The barrista adjusts the mask on her face no fewer than nine times when I roll up to the drive thru window. I recognize her by her eyes. My thoughts take me to fundamentalist Islamic countries. I think about how beautiful eyes must become when that is all you see. You notice little differences. A small freckle in the iris of her left eye. I take my coffee, I answer a few questions about my day. Chit chat.

I was never good at chit chat.

She comps my coffee, even though I already paid. The news is bad enough to get me a free Americano. For that sixty second window, she takes on my pain. She’s saddened by the news. I thank her and decide to tip double the next time to make up for it. It was my bad news. I figure the going rate for a sad story is $3.50. Good for an Americano, hot, three sugars and one cream.

I spend the day trying to think through the sludge of my thoughts. This go around I haven’t been playing and replaying my mistakes like some feel-good Disney sports movie so the coach can figure out how to win the big game. Everything was perfect. It would be like watching a highlight reel of an undefeated season. But here we are. Gathering up things and putting them in a box.

My thoughts are more on the way things had been playing out in my head for the last ten months. The moments that hadn’t happened yet. Snippets of conversation. Jokes. That special way she would look at me and even her eyes were smiling.

Today with my mood reflected in the grey skies and thunder that you can feel in your chest.

The why of it is understood. And I agreed. It was the best thing to do considering the situation. How much easier it had been if there had ever been mind games, arguments, fundamental disagreements. We never even got to have our first fight. I never knew it could be this good.

For the last several years, I have put in the work. I have survived a divorce, a non-committal relationship of convenience, a few dating experiences which bordered on the absurd, a friend who thought we were much more than that, and now this. Tonight I’m not in agony. I’m not blaming her, I’m not even blaming myself. I just…hurt.

When you try to fine tune yourself, you start to recognize all the ways that you are messing up your own life. It’s like we are hard-wired to do it. You recognize the drama and missteps and self-destruction in those around you. You get cocky. You start to feel immune to it. That is something that happens to other people.

When you feel yourself grow, you begin to feel what therapists used to call “well-adjusted.” You respond instead of react. You breathe through a problem instead of feeling that punch of adrenaline in your gut. Until you don’t. Until you are lying awake by yourself one night with your mind running non-stop and you decide to have a drink to slow the hamster wheel from spinning and spinning. Something has changed. You blame it on the lockdown. You blame it on the layoff. The weather. Instead what has happened is when you set out to make good boundaries in a relationship, those boundaries apply to yourself too. You get to stop and ask yourself questions instead of rushing headlong into a burning building over and over like you have seen on TV. Or you have seen with your parents. Or you have seen with your friends and family, brothers and sisters, or anyone else who dared to navigate this world with someone else.

It’s not as easy as it looks. Those adorable old couples celebrating their 60th, only to pass away within hours of each other in a hospital room with one propped up in a chair with the book they were reading aloud open in their lap. Those boundaries you both set up to protect yourselves and each other are important. Throw the brakes before the train runs off the tracks. Being emotionally healthy can also keep you very single. It’s not bad company if you try it.

I’ve always had a flair for the overdramatic. I shaved my beard as a sign of mourning. I watched the man I was underneath emerge. No longer was that sharp-toothed smile a flash of light in that mess of black and white. A younger man came forward. Smooth-faced. A smaller chin than I remember. Sadness in his eyes. This mask is off and I can no longer hide.

I think about this phrase that I’ve heard lately about the quarantine. “The New Normal.” This isn’t normal. That’s a euphemism to gaslight people. It’s telling people something might look, feel, smell, taste, and just be wrong, but calling it a different variety of “normal” makes it okay. I can’t watch the news anymore, and I sure as hell can’t read it online. Contradictory reports, very few facts, emotional manipulation, bias, fear mongering, obtuse rules. Wear the mask, don’t wear it, flatten the curve, shelter in place, stay home, unless it is to get outside, wash your groceries, don’t talk to others, stay with your family. Wait for the pyroclastic flow to engulf you like those citizens of Herculaneum who became statues overnight. You would have thought Medusa herself was walking the streets

The new normal might save our lives, but it’s killing our spirits. In my estimation, our monkey brains haven’t evolved yet to handle the information we are given. Remember than not long ago, a Library at Alexandria, Egypt was burned many times over the course of 1,000 years. With it was lost the wisdom of the ancients. Physics, art and drama, philosophy, astronomy. People have never been able to handle their liquor or their knowledge.

In the last 25 years, we have connected the dots on all the libraries of the world. We have allowed anyone with a smartphone to walk around with the known expanse of human knowledge in their pocket. Like a first year medical student, we learned too much too quickly. We stood in our own echo chambers and became enamored by the sounds of our own voices. FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, Porn, and emails, each of us feeding the constant dopamine drip of instant gratification to our brains with likes and smileys and sexting pics and little chirps and chimes and pings to alert us that we aren’t alone. Constant connection. Constant information. Affirmation. Addiction.

How many first year med students wash out because of their first semester of studying infectious diseases? Some become hypochondriacs. They get too much information. Their brains can’t handle it. The have to fight or run. The press told us to do both. They made us aware of something that would have followed its course pretty much the same without the widespread panic. Yes, people would have died. Just like they do every day. Smoking, car accidents, malaria, bad drinking water, alcoholism, and opioids all kill more people than Coronovirus. But we killed the patient to save the patient.

The world we wake up to once the delirium of shelter in place leaves us and we just say “fuck it” is not the place we once knew. It’s a place where we lost ourselves along the way. The world is not the “new normal.” It has changed. A little bit of the magic we once knew before is gone. Like the end of the 1930s when the world entered into a war between good and evil. These are the end times. The end of what used to be. When you could still meet someone and chat them up for an evening, fall in love, and then just get to sit there in our own thoughts, or worse, stewing our brains gradually with spirits to numb the solitude. The plans we once made canceled, no longer a possiblility.

It was nice that it rained today.

The air feels clean. The birds still sing, oblivious to the torment we are all putting ourselves through. A bird’s life is frightening, and very short. But they still sing. I got to sing with someone for nearly a year. Now that voice is silent.

Tonight I said goodbye to my best friend, and other than already missing her and feeling the pain of it all, glacial, carving channels and valleys and gorges into my heart, I’m fine. She had clear reasons. We chatted and laughed and loved until the very end when we said goodnight.

In the end, it was not either of us, but a no-win situation. A disease that has plagued me for most of my adult life, which has hurt my children, caused me immeasurable suffering. And at this crossroads, it was the last moment we could decide whether or not it was going to cause suffering onto yet another innocent bystander.

It was her choice to make. Either pretend the conflict didn’t bother her and wear a mask and let it eat her up, or leave before things got bad and we lost sight of each other.

So many emotions right now, but this end was for good reasons. The right reasons. A hard decision. Tonight I’m mourning the loss of possibilities. So many perfect moments, and many yet to come we had both hoped. We parted as people perfect for each other in a situation that would have eventually destroyed us.

Part of me thinks that this is a continuation of my past keeping me from finding happiness. How do I process this without giving those sad choices the satisfaction? How do I not fall into bitterness because “nice guys don’t finish last?” That would be making it about me. Making me a victim.

I’m not. I was a participant in this, and though I am in mourning over the loss of what was possible, I also know that this was one of those things that was all for the best too.

I get to work on myself, my upcoming career, and my son.

We are alive, but we aren’t living

Tonight I’m going to get up in your face over this horseshit we’ve all been living through for the last three months. No real end in sight either, since the Press continues to stir up the fear.

Yesterday was the first day I hung out with people who weren’t my immediate family since March 13. Just sitting around people in the back yard, enjoying conversations, eating together. Petting dogs. It was wonderful.

It wasn’t this bullshit ZOOM meeting that just makes me want to put my fist through the screen either. A few days I sat in a restaurant by myself while the waitress in her facemask attempted to do her job in “these unprecedented times.”

Fuck you.

These times are totally precedented. I lived through this bullshit for three years when I was married. I’ve spent the last six recovering from it. My ex wife went completely bonkers about germs, being afraid to leave the house, eat a meal that (I) didn’t cook at home. Microwaving the mail. Bleaching everything. Wearing protective gear and gloves. ETC. I’ve lived through this bullshit, and I want to let the rest of you know that we all have a thing called an immune system. For the last 100,000 years, people have relied on this. Yes, we have died of the Black Death and Spanish Flu and all sorts of other plagues. This isn’t the Black Death. Wake the hell up. It still hasn’t killed as many people as the normal flu season. Though I appreciate keeping people safe, at this point, it’s just like me when I would strip down as soon as I got home to be decontaminated.

I knew it then, but I still participated. It’s all about control. And Fear.

These precautions really don’t do much.

They are killing a lot of us though. One of the best relationships of my life ended in these unprecedented times. Had COVID not sent everyone into a tailspin, I would probably still be with her. I wouldn’t have been spending the last three months feeling like my mind was deteriorating from the isolation. You see, there are some of us who live alone. Other than my son coming over every other week, I don’t have many opportunities to spend time with other people.

I don’t have close family nearby. I don’t have a girlfriend. I don’t even have a job now where I see annoying co-workers everyday. I feel like a shut in. The most human interaction I get is visiting the kids at Dutch Bros. for a coffee every day. That’s $2.50 plus a tip that is keeping me somewhat sane every day.

Today, I went people watching in Fort Collins. I noticed something peculiar: The masks.

The primary function of the masks now is to look stylish. Many of them were wearing masks that matched their outfits. And I’m not talking about N95 masks either. These are just cloth masks that really don’t do shit. Other than match a nice off the shoulder dress or maybe a shirt or pair of shorts. The secondary function of the mask is to show people that you are supportive of keeping people safe from COVID-19. Even though even the CDC keeps changing their story on the use of masks. If you don’t wear a mask, you might as well shave your head into a mohawk and wear an Anarchy t-shirt and shout “FUCK THE QUEEN!” like punkers in the 1980s. You are THAT antisocial.

The third reason for wearing a mask is to you know, like, maybe flatten the curve and stuff. Because Black Lives Matter. Hashtag, I’m doing something to help. Hashtag. Masks are the new awareness ribbons of this generation. Disingeniune codswallop about a lot of people who usually don’t care getting to look like they do.

People were out on dates, basically breaking the rules for social distancing. Sure, they wear their masks. Until they meet at a table. And I guess a frosty glass of wine or a beer will give you immunity to the plague of the 21st Century as long as you are at your table, with a stranger, and your dress/pants match your mask. These are the people who just like anything else in their lives bend or break the rules and everything turns out just fine for them in the end. I couldn’t help but wonder if they hook up, do they keep the masks on or what?

“Flatten the curve.” You know, by completely ignoring millions of years of biological programming. Picking sides and politicizing a virus. it goes beyond that.

People are hard-wired for connection, and right now, the biggest virus I have seen sweeping the globe has been this fear storm that tells people that the lost, lonely, and isolated can be forgotten as long as everyone else gets to have a Brady Bunch moment on a Zoom meeting or we can continue to tell people that our immune systems can’t beat this thing. So, we can lose our jobs, lose connection with our support systems, start to slowly go crazy, drink a lot more, and feel unloved until we turn into dust and blow away.

Six weeks in, I had my first fist-bump with someone. Other than hugs from my son, it was the first human contact I had had. Three months later, I hugged my mom and dad. Two weeks after that, I ate dinner with some friends. Phone calls. ZOOM meetings. Shouting incoherently through cotton masks and plexiglass aren’t the same. Not even close.

We are alive, but we aren’t living. What kind of life is this anyway if we can’t get connection with others? Privilege is those people who break the rules and go about life out of force of habit because they can still be social with a few minor differences. A cute mask (that does nothing). A protest. Beer pong with friends. Walks out in crowded outdoors spaces and parks where people hardly visited before. But they wore a mask! Over their chin. Or put it on the table when they ate.

Time’s up.

Some of us are not doing so great because we don’t have the luxury others do of playing along with this horseshit. The elderly. The poor. Introverts. Isolated people. Marginalized people. People with mental illness such as anxiety or depression. People who have spent a lot of years trying to overcome OCD or germaphobia, hypochondria, etc. The curve will keep rising as people are tested more and more. That is basic math.

Some of us are dying inside, and not from a virus. From solitude.

I’m at the point where I have even stopped caring what happens next. I’ve always been on the outside looking in. I’m sure I’ll be several weeks behind everyone else who gets the memo that we can return to the “new normal.” And it will be just another way that I get to feel like I don’t belong at this party. Maybe those who survive that don’t require touch are just the next logical step in evolution? Human connection will become obsolete. After all, this just finishes what social media, dating apps, and wide-spread narcissism started already.

Remember when Meals on Wheels used to show those old people and shut-ins who were weeping because some college kid brought them a brown bagged sack lunch? That’s 90% of us now. If this all turns out to be a cruel hoax, I hope the people responsible are dismembered publicly for their crimes against humanity.