Mothers’ Day

I’m going to talk about the things I did today (Friday). Yesterday was hard. Another day of pointless court. So, I had a few drinks and stayed up too late. I woke up with a headache this morning at about 10. My mom invited me to lunch, and instead of going to the bowling alley in town, we drove to Laramie. My mom and I have a good relationship where we often chat about life for hours. When I was out of commission after my gallbladder surgery many summers ago, my mom helped take care of me for a few days. We might have had the TV on for a few hours and the rest of the time we just visited. I’m lucky that way. It wasn’t always that way with us. When I was married, I was made to choose. Nobody should ever have to make that decision.

We should be allowed to love all of our family, otherwise it isn’t love. Anyone who forces you to make a decision like that doesn’t love you. My mom was out of my life for five years. And her grandkids were out of her life too. They still are, as they are out of my life too. But the powers that be don’t consider things like that in their infinite wisdom. And I say that with sarcasm. Like I said, nobody who makes someone choose really loves them. Like me, my mom has a lot of love to give, and hasn’t always had the opportunity to give it. And there is no justice in a system that keeps children away from those who truly love them. If they don’t like me saying that, then maybe they should do better. Maybe they should think about what they are doing, because it is going to affect people for generations.

Today, we drove an hour to get Chinese food. I’ve been down for a little while. Lately, I had forgotten what I wanted to do and instead have been focusing on what isn’t happening in my life. It’s a struggle. I am working on getting my career going as a full-time professional writer. Some weeks are better than others with pay. This last week, I have been sending out queries to literary agents for my book. I’ve sent out 12 so far. One rejection has come back already. It made me think that the work I spent the last two years on isn’t good enough, even though I know that isn’t true. But it’s hard to not believe that sometimes.

At lunch, my mom and I ate lo mein and General Tso’s chicken. Our waitress was in her early 20s, and she hung out with us as we ate. She was telling us all about her trip to China with her university’s study abroad program. I think she was surprised that we were so interested in what she had to say. The way she lit up about the whole thing was adorable. She was continuing to learn Chinese and had a very good accent when she spoke. It reminded me of someone I knew…me. Back when I was that age and had so much enthusiasm to get out and see the world. She was fearless (even though she admitted to having social anxiety). We chatted with her about her adventures, and I mentioned some of my own. My mom talked about her growing up in Southern California. We had a new friend for about an hour and she comped us some chocolate cake from the kitchen at the end of lunch with a hand-written “Thank you!” on the lid of the box.

We got coffee and took Penny to the park to throw the tennis ball for a while until Penny ran out of steam and we headed back into the mountains. I’m lucky to have days like these with my mom. Even though times have been hard sometimes. It’s a work in progress.

I have been thinking about all sorts of things today. When I got home, I didn’t take a nap, but instead I busted out a cigar I had been saving for the first nice day of Spring. Today wasn’t it, but it was close enough, and as the sun went down, the wind died down. My fingers got cold and I held that cigar in my left hand as I wrote, nodding to passing cars and waving passengers. I rarely smoke. The scent of it helps conjure up memories, because scent is powerful when it comes to rekindling things we’ve nearly forgotten.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the past. My kids. My former girlfriend who left two years ago this week. She had her reasons, and they were valid. It was a memory heavy week. I did many of the things that reminded me of her over the last week. I got Dutch Bros. Went to Fuzzy’s tacos. Drank some Bread and Butter cab sav. And tonight, I finished off the ritual with a cigar and a coffee. Just like we used to do every Friday night.

As I smoked my cigar, I wrote in a leatherbound notebook someone else had given me a little over a year ago. I’ve nearly filled it up. I thought of her too. I thought of how Mothers Day was hard for her because she had to make a choice that nobody should have to make. But she made the right choice, even though I think it still rips her up every Mothers Day and always will. But she made the right choice, because what she went through wasn’t love. She’s trying her best to do right by her own kids.

I told a story in my notebook tonight. The words that I wrote were clean and true. I decided to stop worrying about whether or not my book is good enough for an agent. It’s good enough for me. I’ve been pushing ahead with the support of some very important people in my life. I’m not an imposter. I know this. Maybe the agents and publishers are the imposters because they don’t know a good story when they see it anymore. 😉

Unlike yesterday when I was in a dark place, today I found a lot of spots of sunshine. I was reminded that things aren’t always going to suck. That I still had passion for my dreams. That I have family who loves me and I get to spend time with them again. I have good friends who are caring and supportive and put up with my shit, even on my really dark days. And as a dad, there are other ways to be a good dad and I am doing them.

This weekend was another anniversary. In 2014, I got into an argument with my soon-to-be ex-wife. I drove three hours to spend time with my folks and just get away from a house that had no love left in it. At my folks’ house, I got snowed in. The roads were closed for three days and I couldn’t go back home and start that honeymoon phase with the wife all over again like all the other times we had fought. My mom gave me money to use to help me get the hell out of that marriage. It was all she had saved up in a secret stash. I used the last of it to file my divorce papers a few months later.

The following Monday after that Mothers Day weekend, I checked out of my hotel room in Estes Park (having spent another night away from that house I dreaded going back to). The mountains were dusted in snow still and I sang along with Nina Simone. The sun was shining that morning as I drove to work in the Thompson Canyon.

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me
It’s a new dawn it’s a new day…
And I’m feelin’ good.

My life was just beginning again. I had my mom to thank for that. My life is still beginning. Changing all the time. Sometimes it is hard to navigate. Sometimes you just feel so alone.

I got to spend the afternoon with my mom today. A lot of people don’t have that luxury anymore. I’m lucky.

Difficult to express

Today was a challenging day. The agency I find work through has been throwing some goose-eggs at me as far as clients. When I feel that crunch of writing for money versus writing for the pure joy of writing, this is always what happens. To be honest I’m a little mad at myself.

You see, when you sit down for an hour to write about concussions or estate planning or diamond cuts, the work is pretty fucking bland. It’s even worse when you get a “No thanks” on something you just wasted an hour of your life on. And if they buy it, yeah, you get money, but you never get a byline for it. I had two posts get rejected today. Hell, right now I’d take the money.

Sometimes your house expresses what your words cannot. My house was a shambles. Today, I did a week’s worth of laundry and four or five days worth of dishes. I completely ran out of forks and spoons, so there was no choice to put it off for another day. It was a day for chores and trying to produce some work that will actually let me pay child support in a month. I’m on mean rations now.

The bummer about the paid gigs versus working on the book is when you want to write something, everything else is an irritation. Yesterday I finished second draft edits on two chapters. I’m about 1/3 of the way through the first book. I’m finding the story and the voice. I’m cutting out all sorts of redundancies and superfluous elements of the story without remorse. The story is becoming. Unfortunately second drafts don’t put money in your pocket.

Then I have those moments of doubt when I think I’m doing all of this work for absolutely nothing. In this climate, nobody will want to read this story. Much less buy it. I have to get it past an editor, so to speak. It wasn’t always like this, I don’t think. Editors were people who could find that diamond in the rough. Now it feels like they are that kid who got held back a few years, playing Red Rover with the rest of us.

Another reason today was hard was because six years ago this week was the last time I saw my oldest kid. I dropped him off at school on a Monday (the 4th), and his mom never sent him over again. She claimed she couldn’t make him come back. Truth be told, he did what he had to do to find peace in his life. He couldn’t hack the retaliation and conflict he got going back and forth anymore. Believe me when I say I know what he was going through. I cut off my own parents for years because it made life easier at home.

Please don’t give me the platitudes or pep talk of “One day they will come back.” They usually don’t. I’ve done the research and that is a harsh reality of alienation.

It’s like a death, only worse. There’s a person out there walking around, living, breathing, and for whatever reason has convinced themselves they hate you and never want to see you again. Unfortunately life has a lot of that, I’m learning. Some I’ve been willing to oblige them, but others…like my kids, are something you never really get over.

I saw a TikTok the other day where a woman said that a Red Flag in dating someone was when they don’t see their kids. I guess I’m damaged goods. “Why is this?!” she asked. Oh, sweet summer child…All sorts of reasons, Caitlin. Not many of them are good. None of them are easy. Some of us tried our damnedest, but of course that’s all just an urban legend. After all, “Fathers Have Rights.” Until we don’t.

Honestly, we don’t have rights. None of us do. All it takes is one judge to make up their mind about a situation. They might have you in their courtroom for less than twenty minutes and make a decision that affects your and your children’s lives for generations. The courts did nothing to bring my son back to me. The only consolation I’ve gotten is everyone from lawyers to psychologists telling me “The System is broken.” Without a conviction, without a trial, and without the burden of proof, you can lose your kids in this country if you are a dad. All someone has to say is “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.”

So when I write, I let myself go into other places. Places that kind of fucked up reverse logic can’t fuck with my peace. The stories I tell might be better or worse than reality, but at least it has to make sense on some level. Real life rarely does. And it’s not like I can criticize any of it. There are consequences when you start making noise.

Today, I watched the Dan Harmon documentary, Harmontown, and I saw a man who has made a career out of pulling the rug out from under himself. He’s had the fortune to keep knocking at that gate and the gatekeepers keep letting him in. He’s a man who will never have enough attention, enough praise, or probably enough money. He drinks too much. He sees moments he could just be enjoying the ride and makes a sudden sharp turn, on gravel. He’s the villain in his own story. I had to stop the video a few times because I’ve seen myself in that place many times. I come from generations of that. Unfortunately, generations after me will be the same; a broken system has seen to that.

Lately, the only solace I’ve found has been in writing my story. At this point, the momentum of it feels like crossing the crest of that first incline on a rollercoaster. The rest of it is just holding on and screaming my head off. In a good way, for once.

It’s true what they say. They can kill you, but they can’t eat you.

Fixing Things

Today I’m going to let you behind the curtain and deliver some unsolicited information about men and women. Buckle up. I’m going to mansplain some stuff.

For as long as I can remember, I have heard woman complain that men are always trying to fix things. If a woman has a problem, she doesn’t want a man to come swooping in to fix things. She just wants him to listen. This seems to be a universal complaint.

I’ve read books on the subject that talk about whenever someone puts themselves into a position of being a mentor/mentee or worse–a parent/child role–eventually when the student/mentee reaches that equilibrium of having their shit together, they will do what children/trainees/etc always do. They will assert their independence and bite their teacher/parent/mentor in the ass. Or at the very least put in a boundary that told the other person to back off, we’ve got this handled.

We’ve all done it at some point.

So, here’s the problem between the sexes. And I’m going to do my best to articulate this…men aren’t the fixers. Not really. Sure, in a traditional role, men fix things around the house, they fix cars, they change tires, etc. And probably upon request. Or multiple requests. It’s usually the periferal things (unless he’s a paramedic or a doctor or nurse) such as inanimate objects too. But if I go to one of my male friends and vent my problems and fears and whatnot, 9 times out of 10, he’s just going to listen. He might say something pithy or funny or sarcastic. But he isn’t going to fix anything. Not unless I say, “What do I do?” In which case, he’ll probably just say, “I dunno, man. I wish I knew.”

If (and I have) I were to talk to a female friend, relative, therapist, etc. about my problems, 9 times out of ten they are going to tell me how I should fix things.

Kinda weird, don’t you think?

So, this begs the question, why is it women think that men just want to fix everything? Well, maybe it’s the spirit of reciprocity, because women are always there to fix our problems (as men). Behind every strong man is a good woman…that kind of thing. Women are the ones who traditionally put band-aids on our boo-boos and kiss them to make them feel better. They are the ones who bust out the map or tell us to pull over and ask for directions if we get lost. They are the ones who will see a hole in our jeans and get out the needle and thread. I’ve heard more “This is what you oughta do” from women than I’ve ever heard from men. I’ve heard them say it to each other too.

Men probably just figure that if a woman is talking about a problem, in the spirit of reciprocity, he is obligated to give a solution. It gets called “mansplaining.”

Perfect example of this is something I saw on TikTok. A woman noticed that her boyfriend had put a solitary egg on top of her egg carton in the fridge. She posited the question to some male friends and they told her that the other carton was probably empty except for that one egg, but rather than leave it in the fridge, he decided to put that egg on top so it would get used before the newer eggs.

Her mind was BLOWN. She called it “positive mainspaining.” Hold on. I already know what you are thinking. It gets better.

In the comments she got dogpiled by her viewers (99% male) that it wasn’t mansplaining. It was just a man answering a question she had asked.

So, in giving her this information in her comments (and I’m talking HUNDREDS of interations of this) that was completely obvious…guess what. They were mansplaining.

So, my friends–my male friends especially–you don’t need to correct someone, you don’t need to offer solutions or unsolicitied advice. You don’t need to fix anything (unless YOU broke it). You just need to listen. Like really listen. And maybe offer her a snack.

And ladies. Same.

Advice/assistance/etc. requires consent. Always be sure to ask if someone needs help first and then ask them what anybody in retail can already tell you the first question you should ask anyone.

“How can I help you?”

That’s not falling into gender roles and stereotypes. That’s just being a good listener. Isn’t that just what we usually all want? Unless they say “Tell me how to fix this.”

Then work together to fix it. Because even if you “fix” someone’s problem, they might wind up resenting you for it.