The title never fits when it’s the first thing you write

All these years we’ve been thinking like readers when we sit down to write. As a reader, other than the cover of a book, the first thing you know about any of it is the title. So when we make that transition from reader to writer, we might have some unrealistic ideas of what to expect from ourselves when we are writing. The title encapsulates the book, either from a line of prose that wraps up the entire theme, to something symbolic. I have news for you; the writer didn’t start off with the title. Why? Because as they were writing, it is likely they figured out what it all meant as they were chugging along.

So why is it in life, we think we are supposed to have our lives figured out so early on? I read the blog of a millennial the other day who was putting so much pressure on herself for not having everything laid out by the end of her twenties. I remember that I might have done the same. A friend of mine discussed out our careers need to be established by 27, and how she was already past her prime.

What a load of crap.

Funny how these days, kids can’t be expected to cross the street on their own, sit in the front seat of a car until they can drive it, or do half the things I was able to do on my own at their age. But they have a window of nine years now to figure out their entire lives, including four years of college, and the massive debt associated with that. Oh yeah, don’t forget to get married and start a family too in those years.

Green as the grass and twice as wet behind the ears as a fish.

Tonight I’m feeling a little melancholy. Maybe it’s from two solid days of DIY on the house and not enough writing. I re-walled one of the rooms, floor to ceiling. I threw in some insulation too. Today I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t do any work on the house. I didn’t do a lot really. Some laundry, visited my folks, slept in, and made acorn squash rissotto. Rissotto is one of those foods that sounds really fancy, and it is tasty, but when you get to brass tacks on it, it’s really just mushy rice.

I would rather have some decent BBQ. Honestly, I don’t know what the big deal with saffron is, I can’t taste it. I can’t even smell it. Never could. Maybe that’s good, because at least I don’t know what I am missing.

Tonight marks an anniversary for me. A year ago, a woman I was seeing at the time and I went on a romantic weekend trip for her birthday. Shortly after that, the whole state was on lockdown. I would only see her once more and then six weeks later, it was all over. It took me a while to get over that one. Someone who said they would always be there…then they weren’t. Something like that makes the walls go up. Since then, my life has changed quite a bit. My job of nearly 19 years ended, I moved back to my hometown because I could no longer afford to live in the Front Range, I got a dog, who at this moment is nagging me to play fetch with her. I have drifted from some people while getting closer to others. I tend to guard myself in talking about these because last year taught me to not get too comfortable sometimes.

Tonight, Facebook brought up a moment in 2018 where my youngest son and my daughter were ice skating. I watched the video and saw the smiles. The genuine smiles. At the time, I wasn’t all that healthy or happy. Bad relationship, bad work environment, a CPS courtroom process finally winding down, resulting in nothing other than a bunch of bureaucrats patting themselves on the back telling each other “Good job!” and nothing being any different.

Six months later, my daughter stopped smiling and stopped coming over to my house. My child support doubled. Work started to look really sketchy as far as job security. The bad relationship I was in finally folded at the end of that year, and it took a while to understand my worth. (She got engaged to someone else six months later–kinda sus).

A year ago tonight, I was sitting in a hot spring with someone I was in a serious relationship with, who may as well have fallen off the face of the earth a week later. I don’t expect a pity party, I just don’t think I could have come up with a title for the last year and the awful and wonderful things that have happened.

The world got crazy and since the St. Patrick’s Day that wasn’t, now everyone hates Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.

I’m far from being 27 and I know that I don’t have my life figured out. Other than there are a lot of things I wouldn’t want to repeat, and a few I wouldn’t mind going back to once in a while. In some ways I feel truly blessed, and am working every day on how to just let those blessings be good for me. To not push people away because it hurts when they get close. To just be content in the silence of a house I am lucky enough to fix up.

Tonight I’m playing fetch with the dog.

Today was Monday

It’s hard to believe that in just a month, it will be a year of lockdowns, shelter in place, and two weeks to flatten the curve.

I have been too busy lately worrying about much of that. My life these days has already been sort of a shelter in place, since I moved back up to the mountains in my hometown in Colorado, where this time of year, it is too cold to do much else besides stay inside.

I’ve been slowly getting the house in order and yesterday, when I picked my son up in the Front Range, I stopped and got a larger fridge. Right now it’s hard to find a full sized fridge, and if I could, the shipping costs up here would kill me, so I have two mini-fridges now that keep everything just cool enough. I actually like it. One fridge for veggies and leftovers and things I don’t need all the time, and another fridge for milk and meats and things I use all the time. I couldn’t put a turkey in either of them, but I don’t like turkey, so it’s fine.

It gets the job done.

I’ve got a small kitchen, which is very rustic. I am my own dishwasher now. Honestly, I don’t miss having a dishwasher all that much, but it’s usually just my son and me. We had my parents over for dinner a little over a week ago, so there were a few more plates and forks to wash, but otherwise, it doesn’t take much longer to wash a sink full of dishes by hand than it did to rinse everything, load it into the dishwasher and run a load, and likely still not have everything come clean.

There is something to be said about washing your dishes by hand, which I think people are missing out on a little bit. It forces you to take a little time. It’s very meditative.

Tonight I have been organizing, sorting, washing dishes, cleaning cabinets and the stovetop. I have everything just about how I want it with the exception of adding in some counterspace and a different water heater. There are few repairs and renovations to make, but what do you expect out of a 108 year old house?

Some might call this kitchen run down and run in fear, (the same people who are nervous about everything and like to cry about it), but seriously, in some places in Europe, this would be considered rustic, charming, old world. As I’ve said, it’s a work in progress. The way people light their hair on fire about this sort of thing, you’ve think they never saw Under the Tuscan Sun. Not every house is perfect. Not every kitchen is a dream kitchen. It used to be that people just lived and they made due with what they had. There is something to be said of that, and I know that for the last six years, I was very spoiled.

Yesterday I was able to write a little, which felt great. The day before I wrote much, much more. I feel like I’m getting back into the groove again, and maybe that has a little to do with getting settled in. My office is nearly exactly how I need it to be, complete with my Keurig, my books, and now steady wifi signal. Penny spends most of the time with me while I am writing, or bothering me to play fetch. My son does his online schooling in an environment with few distractions and good accoustics. I am hoping to get back into podcasting, but it’s hard to do this when you don’t have guests.

We keep busy, watch shows together, play fetch with Penny, and usually everyday there has been a reason for my folks to come over or for me to drop in and see them. We have lightsaber fights and walk the dog a few times a day, where she often just sniffs around in the snow until we have to go back inside. Once the weather warms up, I’ll get cracking on more renovations, but right now, the idea of having the doors and windows open to ventilate paint fumes is not putting me in my happy place.

It’s strange how the family landscape changes. We don’t watch a lot of tv. If we do watch together, it’s in the office and it’s Disney Plus or Netflix. We sit close in a little room and I don’t miss having a big TV or a couch. I think in some ways these things have divided families over the years.

Everyone needs a den!

There are some things to get used to. The altitude is one. Not really for breathing, since we’ve acclimated, but more how things cook. Heat dissipates so much more quickly, so it takes about ten minutes to boil a pot of water instead of four or five. Once dinner is ready, you eat fast if you like hot food, because it cools off very quickly. Sometimes the wind is awful, but this house has weathered through over a hundred winters, and probably has another hundred in it.

There is something nice about not having to sit through stop lights at intersections, or having to spend money for ANY kind of entertainment. In the city, boredom usually motivated us to go on the town and buy just random stuff to keep us entertained. We haven’t really felt that urge here. Trips to bigger towns are planned out, since they don’t happen very often and everything up here is expensive anyway, so you try to economize. $50 gets you a lot further in the city when it comes to groceries in the city than it does here, but jeez, to have to fight the traffic down there just to get anywhere…I’m not sure if it’s worth it sometimes.

For now, i think I like visiting the city, and I’ll stick to my mountain town for home.

A quiet night at home

Lately I haven’t been feeling like myself. My writing has been put off for over a month now, other than the occasional notes that I feel compelled to put into my phone. Those cannot be helped, since they come upon me suddenly, in traffic, watching TV, at the store. For a few days now, I have struggled to sit down and even put a single word down. This bothers me as I sit and stare at the screen, once again sucked into the triangle of social media, flipping and scrolling: Facebook, Instagram, Email.

The days go by. The things that felt so important to write over a month ago feel like they are fading. The emotions that were driving that have become almost rote. At some point, I got to the point that the things that I have let go of a lot of the things that used to cause so much anguish in my heart. They no longer bother me. And that bothers me.

I have other battles to fight now, other storms to endure on dark choppy seas. I have decided to make a major decision in my life, and unfortunately the last court hearing has taken some wind out of my sails here. One of my posts was used as an exhibit in court. I feel almost violated by this tresspassing. It has caused me to censor what I say here because someone is always watching. You would think that would eventually fade, but it doesn’t. I don’t like being stalked. I don’t like having to suppress my voice because someone can go through a million words and cherry pick what they want and pull something out of context to use against me. My own words, things that I have chosen and put down for others in a writer/reader relationship…it just leaves me feeling dirty inside.

I’m moving. After 20 years (plus another four for college) in the same town, it is time.

So that has been on my mind lately, as are the expected reprecussions of my decision to do so. There is very little holding me here, and if you are somewhere you aren’t valued, then you need to go somewhere you are. So the expense, the ensuing calamity, the timing, and all the work to be done still are weighing heavy on my mind. Am I moving forward or failing? Right now it is hard to tell. In the meantime, I need to be Dad, I need to make money, I need to hold everything together as best I can. This year has been like stress BINGO. At this point I’ve almost got Blackout. Throw in Christmas and of course COV1D, and I’m feeling the weight of things.

Tonight I was visiting with a friend. She echoed my sentiments of how heavy everything was these days. The weight of having to always be strong. Not only for her kids, but for everyone else. It is exhausting and it never stops. We weigh ourselves down with how we are supposed to be to others on the outside that her idea of a perfect day could have been taken as selfish. Just a day to herself, isolated, relaxed.

As parents we are told by other parents how we can’t have a minute to ourselves. If we do, we are judged. Probably because other parents want so desperately to just be left the hell alone for a day or three. To not have to hear “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!” or “Dad, can you drive me someplace?” or “Buy me that!”

As single parents, we get no help. We get no sympathy. Our kids get bored with us too because we are tapped out. We don’t want to play the board games, we don’t want to fix the toy. As awful as it sounds, sometimes we don’t have the energy for our friends either. The ones with the relationship problems (at least they have one that is driving them nuts), the others who are just bored and always know we are available to entertain them.

I could relate to her fantasy. Just a day for someone else to take care of her and then leave her alone. There is nothing wrong with that at all.

My fantasy was similar, but echoed one of my own experiences. I wanted a day and a night of just walking around a city I’ve never been to before. It is drizzly, like a Dashiel Hammett novel. I’m warm and dry in my wool coat. I just walk the city and observe. I feel the ideas soaking in. Filling my mental tanks again. I don’t think about moving, money, loss, the future, making meals for my son, uncertainty of the years ahead or the years long gone, sex, death or any of the things that occupy my thoughts these days. I am just taking everything in and being present in the moment. That is selfish too.

As parents, we are expected to be focused on being parents all the damn time. So many of us lose sight of who we are ourselves. I am more than Dad. She is more than Mom. Why then are we made to feel so guilty when we want something for ourselves? When will people learn that we show our children how to take care of themselves by letting them see us take care of ourselves?

When I went to London in 2019, there was a night I got on a double decker bus and just let it take me all over the city. It had been raining, and the raindrops were lit up on the glass with the blues and reds of the city at night. I got off the bus at Marylebone and walked and took the tube back home. I walked all over that city and had never felt more exhilerated, lonely, and even at peace until then. I was forced to think about only THIS moment. That night, the city was mine and everyone else around just dissolved into that damp night. I didn’t think about the relationship that had vexed me, or that I was alone in another country. Or that nobody else would ever want me again. I was nervous about venturing out, but as the night progressed, I felt comfortable in my own skin.

I miss that these days. I hate moving, but I need to. This is a move upwards, instead of just hunkering down and hoping the wrong people forget about me and finally leave me alone. Or that I am right where someone else left me so they can come calling if it suits their whim.

There is so much more to life, and I’m tired of living for other people. I’m tired of not taking chances for the same reason I didn’t for the last twenty years. I didn’t have “permission.”

It’s time to get on that bus and see where it takes us.