Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed

Those little thoughts right when you close your eyes, and the world just feels so heavy, are enough to drag you right out of the promise of sleep. I have those a lot. I haven’t slept right for a long time, and my cardiologist (yes, I have cardiologist–now that I am a man of a certain age) tells me in a very off-handed way that problems like heart arrythmia, high cholesterol, etc. can all be tied to people not getting enough sleep.

Those thoughts that come into my head just as I am about to drift off are cruel. They are those stupid moments that I could have thought about all day long, and at the very least done something about. Why they come to bother me just at that threshold of waking and dreaming, I don’t know. I hate it. So, I take the pills prescribed to me to sleep. Pills that have warnings on them about kidney, liver, and ironically enough, heart damage as potential side-effects.

The most peace I get is when I am productive. When I sit down and I write my story, but there are even nights when the story is still wanting to be told and I can’t sleep. Tonight is a little like that. It’s late. I should be in bed, asleep, but I know I will just lie there and hear my own heart beating, those little whispers will climb into my head and I won’t be able to sleep. My dog will put her head on my chest until I am still or roll over on my side, and she will go to the foot of the bed. Sometimes she will start snoring, but I’m not asleep. I will roll back and forth a few times until she comes back up to soothe me again with her head on my chest.

Tomorrow I have more podcasts I want to record, but I usually only do this at night, when the streets are quiet. During the day, my same loving companion barks like an idiot at any noise she hears. And in the day, there are the doubts that don’t affect me at night. The doubts of “What are you doing?” Somehow, in the quiet of the night, I feel like anything is possible. During the day, like today, I only see what I am getting behind on. Today, it was dishes.

I am a firm believer that the state of your home is a reflection of your mental health. For the last few days, I have neglected my chores. The dishes have piled up and even though I haven’t been cooking much or eating much, somehow there was a sink and counter full of dishes that took nearly three hours to wash. I also cleaned my kitchen, vacuumed my floors, and hung laundry outside on a rare, sunny November day.

Sometimes it’s like that joke. If you want a job done, it can be good, cheap, or done quickly. But you can only pick two. In my case, I can keep the house clean, eat right and exercise, or write. Pick two.

Days like today, I could no longer ignore my dishes.

I have my nights too where I feel lonely, but not in a way that makes me want to compromise my peace anymore. My peace, my values, any of it. After all that housework today, my hips were aching from being on my feet all day, so I took a nap. I watched some TV, and I wrote a little bit. Yesterday was a big writing day. Even with a sink full of funky dishes, I scripted out three more podcast episodes. I took a bath to relax and wrote the last one in the tub using the Notes app on my phone. I’m running each one at about 1500 words. Total was around 4500 words for the day. And editing on the book.

Some of the episodes are going to be about what I know about writing and publishing, some are going to be about my life up here in the mountains, and some are going to be about my travels. Right now I’m working on a series about Ireland, which will post intermittently. My podcast is called Sixty Miles from Anywhere if you are interested. You can find it on Spotify, Amazon Music, and other places you find podcasts.

It has been a lot of fun to script these episodes and record them in my office. I can’t believe the accoustics in my new office as opposed to the house where I was living two years ago. Jeez…two years went by so quickly. I was just thinking about my last international trip. My first solo international trip to the UK. That was three years ago already. 2019. How things have changed in the last few years. I don’t want to make a habit of traveling so infrequently. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, since I was seventeen, and unfortunately, due to a shitty marriage, I had to put those dreams on hold for a while. My visit to Ireland was amazing. Different than the UK in a lot of ways. Easier in some ways because I had the experience from my last trip, but also more challenging in other ways. I couldn’t pick a favorite trip between the two. I only wish I had more time in both places.

I was watching a video yesterday about how people think they have time to go back to places, when in fact they really only have a limited number of times they will ever see something in their lifetime. They might watch only twenty-two more full moon rises in their lifetime before the end. But they take for granted how many they could see, when really it isn’t that many. I don’t know if I will ever get to Ireland or the UK again, but I know I want to go back. There are so many other things I didn’t get to see, and a few things I would love to see again.

These are also things that keep me up at night.

How many more times will you get to spend time with your parents before they are gone? How many times will you get to play ball with your dog? How many times…but we act as though there is no limit, just waiting for the next time, forever. When the reality of it is we have a limited number of days on this planet, in these bodies that wear out, in a chaotic world that could kill us any day.

Tonight I watched a movie, missing someone to watch that movie with. They’ve been gone for a while. I still think about them. I still miss them. Who knew that the last time I saw them…there would be no more times after that? We made plans. Doesn’t that count for something?

No. It really doesn’t. Everybody knows the war is over. Everybody knows the good guys lost.

That’s enough for tonight.

Why I do this

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a “Why do I do this?” post. Sometimes I need reminding. Why would anyone write anything if the fear of writing was that others might see it. I think that might be the difference between people who have the compulsion to put their thoughts into print and those who would never want to express what they feel on paper, much less risk someone else reading it. A lot of people do write, and they hope that no one ever sees it. So what compels some of us to put such personal thoughts out for just anybody? Like that dusty bowl of ribbon candy at your grandparents’ house.

There have been many times in my life that I have felt alone in how I feel, and nobody else seemed to feel that way either. So, that moment when you read something that echoes how you are feeling, you find a connection with someone else, either separated by miles or even years. In some cases centuries. The truth is the people a thousand years ago are going through much the same things that we are now. With a few minor differences (more like complications) thrown in by technology.

I’m sure there was a second century farmer out there who thought that the young kids of today had it so good because they had some kind of iron bit at the end of a stick instead of just wood. We just used wood in those days, and it was good enough for us!

Today I stumbled across one of my older blog posts. It is one of my favorites. At the time I wrote it, I was feeling really raw, but I was also healing. The me from three and a half years ago is different than the me I am today. Back then, he couldn’t have known the challenges he would have faced, and maybe it would have been too much for him to bear. But he did see the natural progression of some things. Not so much a self-fulfilling prophesy, but more like just being able to read the road.

I’ve been through a lot of bullshit since then, but I have also had amazing moments, sprinkled in here and there. There will probably be more of that to come–good and bad–but I do see a break in the clouds. I see opportunity. Adventure. Contentment. Peace. My life isn’t over yet. I have only just started really living. When pathways are taken away from you, rather than sit there and stew and whine about it, you have to push ahead and find something else to live for and new pathways to make for yourself. It isn’t easy. There are days that is the last thing I want to do. Like hiking up the side of a mountain, you can stop where you are and say, “I just need to catch my breath.”

Some people just pitch their tent right there and never go any further. They are too afraid to see what is on the other side of the mountain. It’s easier just to stand on the side of a steep incline all day, because that is what they are used to doing.

I have this ringing in my ears. It comes from years of abusing my hearing with loud music, playing the drums, heavy equipment, you name it. In a quiet room, I can sit here and hear that neeeeeeeeeee just ringing in my ears. That’s the way it is sometimes. We live in a world of chaos where there is always drama or conflict or people shouting and acting bonkers. They don’t feel safe without the familiarity of so much chaos happening around them. It would be like sitting in a quiet room and just putting up with the ringing in your ears without it. So, they metaphorically crank up the stereo, vacuum the floors, turn the TV up to full blast…just so they don’t have to hear that ringing they can’t stop.

The ringing in my ears is annoying, but it isn’t hurting anyone. Not even me. It’s just a sound. It just means I have damaged my hearing and made some mistakes in my life. I can still hear. I can still feel. I can still walk and climb and drive and sing. I might not be able to hear as well as I used to, but I can still hear. And even if I couldn’t, there is a lot more to life. Focusing on the one thing that doesn’t work that well and making it your personality is exhausting.

After a while, you don’t even notice the ringing in your ears. And if you want to play loud music, play it. But only because you enjoy it, not because you are hiding from the ringing in your ears.

So, back to the original question. If you are reading this and it spoke to you, if it made sense or captured what you couldn’t put into words, I’m glad I wrote it. I do this because we are wired to communicate and this is just one more way we can do it. As people, we are flung all across the planet. Sometimes our tribe isn’t the people we are neighbors with. Sometimes they are halfway around the globe. I write because that’s how my brain has found its happy place. The peace it needs. Most nights I can’t even sleep unless I write. The noise in my head becomes too much then. Writing is like turning off something one by one until all you are left with is the quiet. Sometimes it even turns off that incessant ringing.

And since nature abhors a vacuum, that emptiness, that quiet lets good things back in. Instead of ringing, I hear music. Instead of all that weight, I feel strength. And instead of fear, I feel brave enough to keep walking ahead to see what is on the other side of the ridge.

Let’s start a new tradition

I was reading another blog and the writer was talking about her upcoming wedding and asking for suggestions on what to put on their wedding registry. The question got me to thinking. I offered my suggestions in a way that was hopefully as sincere as I could manage. Just because my luck in being married wasn’t ideal, doesn’t mean I don’t wish other people happiness. You miss 100% of every shot you don’t take, as the Great One says.

Looking back, my wedding registry was ridiculous. Lots of towels, expensive kitchen stuff like matching slotted spoons and soup ladles. Pizza stones. Small appliances. We just went OFF with the scanner gun at the Aurora Target. Most of it didn’t last long. The towels wore out. The appliances broke. And of course we wound up fighting over a large chunk of what was left over, paying lawyers $300 an hour to bicker over a set of dishes that were missing most of the coffee cups.

The other day, my mom and I were at a thrift store and we were amazed at the number of complete china sets they had for sale. China has gone out of fashion when it comes to presentation and bringing family together. Whole sets were selling for like $75. Originally, they were probably over $500. Like the families who donated the china, I didn’t need any of it. I’m sure those china sets were on someone’s Registry stretching back to the 40s and all the way up until the 90s. I remember one of the patterns was a set that I had looked at with my ex wife back in the day.

It got me to thinking. Why don’t they have a divorce registry? They should be doing a lot of what is involved with divorce differently. It could be an excuse to have a decent party, sorta like a wedding, or a funeral.

For example, when someone dies, they are inundated with casarole dishes because grieving people usually have to force themselves to eat, or at least cook. The same is true of divorced people. And most of the good stuff they used to have in the kitchen to help them cook has been divided in half (best case scenario), or destroyed by a vengeful ex. So, why not unload your favorite hot dish on your divorced friend? Or better yet…you might see where I’m going with this.

Have a Registry! And a party!

They can scan all the crap they are going to need to put their household back together. Even if it’s just a couple chairs and a couch from Ikea (which would be the perfect place to register: mattresses, furniture, housewares, towels, etc). You’re going to need forks, knives, and spoons. Blenders. Mixers. Nothing will replace the bowl that has been in your family for generations that your ex decided to hang onto (or smash in the driveway), but maybe you can add some decent stainless steel mixing bowls onto the list of stuff you will need.

When I got divorced, many of the people I found coming back into my life were very generous. They gave me gently-used couches, TV stands, kitchen tables and chairs, and stuff for the kitchen. I appreciated all of it. I only wish I could have had a nice big grill out for everyone. A celebration of starting over in life. Maybe a big pit-cooked pig like at a luau. An open bar.

I’ll likely never get married again, but if I could have done things differently, other than choosing a different bride, I wouldn’t have registered at Target. I would have registered with an airline or airbnb. You can pick up just about anything you would need for home at a thrift store or an Ikea. It won’t last anyway, and if it does, there’s the chance it could outlast your marriage. Who needs to be reminded of that?

I say give the gift of experiences. Go somewhere. Do something. Enjoy yourself, because nobody can ever take that away from you. The memory might be soured, but some blood sucking lawyer isn’t going to be counting up their billable hours when your ex wants your memories of paragliding to keep for themselves.

If I had the money, I would give a couple starting out the chance to have a trip they would enjoy.

Bill Murray once said:

“If you have someone that you think is The One, don’t just think in your ordinary mind, ‘Okay, let’s make a date, let’s plan this and make a party and get married.’ Take that person and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world, and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And if when you land at JFK and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.”
–Bill Murray, Men’s Health, 2014

I know my ex and I did not travel well together. Every excursion was a chore or a carbon copy of some childhood vacation she had been on with her family, replicated right down to the endless bickering and fighting. We probably should have known. We should have called it at the honeymoon.

If you have a recently divorced friend, you and your friends should all chip in and send them on a trip. There’s a couple reasons for this. Their finances are going to be bullshit. They are soaking their money into attorney’s fees, they are focusing on their kids and essentially bribing them to continue loving them, and they are working on starting their lives over again. They are NOT going to spend valuable resources on going on a vacation. Even though that is probably the one thing they could really use right now. Don’t make it an option either, because if they have cash on hand, their ex or their lawyer is going to grab it.

Remember Eat, Pray, Love? Remember How Stella Got Her Groove Back? Remember Under the Tuscan Sun? Getting the hell out of town is sometimes exactly what someone needs to find themselves again. I know I would have loved that. Instead I dated someone who went to Asia and Europe without me and would send me pictures of all the places she was and I wasn’t.

And no, the goal shouldn’t be finding someone to sleep with. Hell, you can do that at a bar. The goal should be self-realization. Self-exploration. Creating new memories with the one person you should have been investing your love and affection into this whole time: yourself. Because the best way to be happy is to enjoy your own company and shake the codependency that got you fucked up in the first place.