Three Defining Moments

Today, I rewatched the movie “Wild” based on the non-fiction novel by Cheryl Strayed. I’ve been picking at the book again, but wanted a different perspective when experiencing the story again. It has been years since I watched the film. It’s about healing. Heatache. Redemption. It always hits hard.

In my life, there have been at least three big defining moments. At the risk of sounding selfish, I want to state early on that what you are about to read are my own moments and hopefully you don’t place judgment on me for what I am about to write. These words are not easy, but I hope that they have truth to them. No, these moments won’t include the birth of my kids or anything like that which parents are always expected to say. In retrospect, those moments were stressful and usually made miserable by a very selfish partner. I’ve blocked a lot of those memories unfortunately. Either because of exhaustion or stress or general unpleasantness. I love my kids, don’t get me wrong, but things like learning how to ride a bike or being pushed into the world are things that belong to them. Not me.

The first defining moment of my adult life was the UN Trip, in which I got on board a bus with forty other 15-17 year olds and we traveled across the country, visiting historical sites and landmarks along the way, all the way from Denver to St. Louis, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., New York City for a week, Niagara Falls, and then back home again. On this trip, it was a source of many firsts. It was the first time I was away from my parents longer than just a day or two. The first time I left the country. The first time I had Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (in the World Trade Center no less). My first kiss. And so many other moments. I have lived on those experiences throughout my tumultuous adult life. My awful marriage. All the years I have been pretty much broke. And these experiences have seasoned my mind for pretty much the rest of my life in some regard.

This trip was that moment of Awakening, like when E.M. Forster writes about the transition into adulthood. It was the summer that meant saying goodbye to how I thought as a child and learning so much about myself and other people.

My second defining moment was very much like my first. It involved a trip. I wrote a lot about it on my travelblog, but when I changed domain hosts, all of those entries evaporated. Be careful what you put on the internet, because it will be there forever…unless you stop paying your hosting service. Then they will make sure the internet is scrubbed completely. My trip to the UK was my first international solo trip and really my first solo trip of any significance. I figured out how to get around, pushed my boundaries and got blasted out of my comfort zones on a daily basis.

This trip was a lot about shedding the last fifteen years or so. From the experiences of my marriage, the divorce, my first romance which really messed my head up, and the loss of two of my three kids due to parental alienation. Getting out on this trip expanded my horizons, brought my confidence back, and helped me to heal from a relationship where I never really felt like I was good enough.

Now, I feel like I am beginning yet another journey. Only because of COVID, I can’t go anywhere to get away from the situation like I did last year. Instead, I’ve been writing a lot more. This time, the journey is within. It is sharing the stories that have built up over the last 25 years. Whenever anyone asks what I’m working on, this is what I tell them. Their response is usually something like “You’ve got a lot of ground to cover.”

Yes, I do. Which might explain why sometimes the stories just demand to be told. I will often find myself sitting up at 2 or 3am, writing things down. The ideas are insisting that they be jotted down or even fleshed out. My biggest problem now is trying to figure out how to connect all of these expanding ink blots into a cohesive narrative.

These stories are the result of needing to get over my last serious relationship, which ended during lockdown. It was amazing while it lasted, but only served to give me more questions than answers when it was over. The other thing I am getting through is the end of my job of 18 years and coming to terms with that. It’s not as easy as you might think! And the third thing is what so many of us are dealing with right now: the end of life as we used to know it. Whether that is political platforms, mass germaphobia, or possibly never being able to go to a movie or concert ever again…the world we all used to know will be changed significantly once this is all said and done. We are only seeing the beginning too.

So, I will be posting updates of my thought process as I work through the book. I hope you enjoy the posts!

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love COVID-19

We are looking at two solid months and counting of shit being weird. I sometimes feel like that Japanese soldier they tell legends about who didn’t know World War II was over until 1971 when they found out he had been killing people in the jungles of some island near the Phillipes for 25 years. For the last several weeks, while I have been on lockdown, I have seen people outside walking their dogs, riding bikes, playing tennis and basketball, hot rodding all over town with their souped up Toyotas and Subarus, and the whole while, all I hear about is “stay at home. Save a life.”

I’ve been at home. With the exception of going out to get coffee. In two months, I have been to Longmont once and Ft. Collins once. I didn’t even get out of the car in Ft. Collins, but the weird thing was that I could see that businesses were opening up. Today I drove by a Ross in my town. They were letting people in with masks and counting the numbers. Unlike Target which has never closed.

None of the goddamned rules make any sense.

Florida, once scolded for its lax attitude on quarantine is already beating the curve on recovery, while the media is still telling everyone to panic in place. Lousianna, other states as well. Recovery rates are not considered the same as infected people who didn’t need hospitalization. It doesn’t make any sense.

But this is what I have taken away from it:

Schools didn’t have to go back, but all my son’s school work could be done online in about 20 minutes. Schools are pretty much just state sanctioned babysitting because the way the economy is these days, you need a two source income to survive.

Even though there is less consumption of food, grocery stores often don’t have the items we are looking for. Instead of selling things like beef and milk for lower prices, the farmers are being encouraged to destroy their crops. Beef is now $6 per pound for hamburger. Milk is hanging steady at $2.35 per gallon.

People are really emotional about masks, pro or con.

The issue of how people respond to this virus goes right along political party lines. Nearly exactly.

The same thing that has been dividing people, social media, and causing mental illness, the possibility of suicides, bullying, school shooting, fucked up elections, and depression from keeping up with the Joneses is now our only outlet for connecting with others.

The media is so against “opening the world up again” but reports about people doing just that.

I’ve gotten to the point where if I see an open restaurant, or a store like Ross, I have little to no desire to go in. I really don’t care. I just want Ikea to deliver my fucking chair. It’s been a week.

I cut my own hair with clippers tonight and I look fine. I saved $25. I don’t want to go anywhere, don’t have friends I socialize with outside the house anymore with anyway, and I’m not going to win any Patrick Dempsey Hair contests. Fuck it. Who the hell am I trying to impress?

It’s a shame pools probably won’t open up for a while. I miss sitting around in hot bubbly water.

My landlady texts me sometimes to tell me useless information like they are mowing the grass tomorrow. I don’t care.

People go jogging in masks. I still don’t understand why. Not the masks. The goddamned jogging.

People are drinking a lot.

The opportunities to get out, meet people, make new connections is at a low point in my life, and I really am getting to be fine with that. People just let you down anyway and meeting more of these really isn’t worth my time.

I remember a summer at the day job when it was 90 degrees in the building, and they were tarring the roof. We had no AC but we couldn’t go home. They needed to sit there and watch us sweat–well, they called from their air conditioned homes as they “worked from home” to see how we were holding up about every four hours. Just enough to make sure we weren’t already home and drinking profusely.

22+ veterans die of suicide every day and nobody canceled school for this.

Eveyrday, they send people into coal mines and warzones and Flint, MI still doesn’t have clean drinking water. Nobody has to social distance when warlords in Uganda are slaughtering people.

I am paralyzed by the fear of progress in writing. I sleep in too long. Nap too much. Don’t care about a lot of things anymore–for example, I might not have brushed my teeth today. I think I might be dying a little bit inside. And I am fine with that.

I love having time to be more creative. But I’m still at a place in my life where it feels like I’m getting away with something I shouldn’t be doing.

I’m perfecting the art of getting in my own way.

The cool kids always got to go to the parties and have all the fun while I sat at home safe reading Tolkien and Robert Jordan anyway. Why should my adult life be any different?

But I worked on the book today and nearly got 1000 words in. Shouldn’t that make me happy? It doesn’t.

Anyway, I feel like that poor bastard shanking rice farmers with my bayonet and living off toads and grass and rainwater because the Emperor told me to wait for further instructions. Meanwhile, I am almost entirely confident the world will open back up while I remain at home, completely oblivious, and then pretty much apathetic about the world once I can go back to the stores or parks, or any of that bullshit I realized recently how much I don’t care enough about anyway.

This is my life now.