Simplicity and Meaning

I’ve thought a lot about what I would want in a relationship. When we start out in life, we have no idea what to look for, and then as we get older, we begin to get a good idea. We set up expectations. Sometimes we get crazy expectations which would make it nearly impossible for anyone to fit the bill.

Young men often say they want someone who is a size four or under, they have to have a certain hair color, eye color, blah blah blah. Like any good plan, everyone has one until they get punched in the mouth. To quote Iron Mike Tyson.

I’ve boiled my list down to a few mandatory things, which I’ll share here.

  • Must be a good kisser
  • Must enjoy kitchen dancing (music optional)
  • Must be kind to animals
  • Not rude to servers and waitstaff
  • Must love to laugh (especially at themselves)
  • Must have their shit together

That last one is the kicker isn’t it?

Lately I’ve been trying to get my shit together even more. Some days I’m good at it, and others not so much. I recently started reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I got halfway through it in one sitting. If you are unfamiliar with the book, it tells the story of Viktor Frankl, who was a psychotherapist in Austria during the 1930s until he was rounded up with millions of other Jews and sent to death camps during WWII.

During his time in Auschwitz and Dachau (and other camps), Frankl made observations that sometimes the healthier people who were brought into the camps–bigger, stronger, better fed, etc.–were dying, whereas he, a doctor doing hard labor, was still alive. He attributes much of it to simply having a reason to live. The attrocities he saw on a daily basis became commonplace and after awhile all empathy was robbed of them. They fell to nearly animalistic impulses. But he held onto the belief that as long as he found meaning in his life, he could continue. Sometimes he held conversations in his head with his wife, whom he had no knowledge of being alive or dead. Some found meaning in art, which some still did as they continued the slog towards starvation and disease. A big one Frankl attributed to his survival was love. Whether it was love for the outdoors and a beautiful sunset, or the thoughts of his wife, or the love of his work. The man actually wrote notes for his books on scraps of paper while he was in the camps.

When people are exposed to stress and trauma over a long period of time, they become desensitized to awful things. They become cold. I have thought about that in my own struggles recently with my children, with court. I haven’t spoken about it much here, but the papers have all been signed. The loss of common sense in the whole thing. The disregard for logic or fairness…it’s enough to drive you crazy. It’s certainly enough to make you lose hope. My children are all gone now. Lost to parental alienation, and the courts facilitated this. It isn’t right. Remember what Mike Tyson said? I’ve lived that. I can see nothing but a hard life for all of my kids.

It was Father’s Day and not a single phone call or text. That was also done to hurt me (did it? Not really. I tend to agree with the Stoics on this one). They cannot go outside of their mother’s authoritarian control. Her only purpose is to cause pain in others, because they have to pay for her own demons, which she never dealt with. Showing love or compassion for me is forbidden. Believe me when I say I’ve been there and lived through it. Sometimes it’s just easier to do what she says unless you want to get hurt.

I started reading Frankl because of that situation. Because of the guilt associated with losing all meaning in your life. As a father–really any parent–our identity is tied to being able to provide for and protect our children. When our lawmakers take that fundamental right away from us, it is dehumanizing. We run the risk of losing hope. June is Men’s Mental Health month. A huge number of divorced dads commit suicide every year because of this system. A lot of dads turn to the bottle or drugs to cope. Really to numb that feeling inside that says they are unworthy of being on this planet. I’ve seen it. Hell, I’ve dabbled in it.

I keep hearing that “One day your kids will come around.” No. They won’t. There is no rule out there saying they ever will. No crystal ball predicting this. Sometimes, people are just lost to you. That is a harsh reality. Ask any parent of a drug addict or any parent whose child walked to school and never came home. Or any parent who sat in front of a doctor and heard the words “It’s too soon to tell, but we are going to run some more tests…” Telling someone otherwise gives them false hope, and over time, according to Frankl, that “reprieve” will cut you just as deep as the trauma. So, please, don’t tell me they will come around. You don’t know that. Nobody knows that.

You come to a point where you have to admit to yourself you did everything you could.

So, I’ve decided to look for meaning in other ways. I have my Work. I have my writing. I have my memories of good people who walked with me for a while. Many of them are gone, but I still carry that piece of them with me. That piece that I loved. Like Frankl, I have conversations with these old ghosts sometimes. At least the part of them who held my hand and told me I was worthy of love. I have dreams and goals. I have the rest of my life to live and I refuse to let myself die on my feet doing meaningless, unfulfilling toil, just because I am not allowed to live for anything other than children who have been indoctrinated to hate me. But, whether their mother likes it or not, I will always be their dad.

I have the work of getting my shit together too, because the door swings both ways. I have a lot of trauma to work through. I don’t expect a partner to fix me, anymore than I would want to fix her. Getting your shit together means addressing the damage of the past and finding meaning in your life. Allowing yourself to love yourself and others. And seeking purpose. Meaning.

Today, I spent time with my dad on Father’s Day. We had good conversations. He made lunch and dinner. We aren’t very much alike, but time shared with him had meaning because these opportunities won’t last forever.

Having your shit together is a thin line on the horizon. It implies having done the work to no longer hurt yourself or others. It speaks to self-worth and boundaries. It probably means you are forgiving of yourself when you mess up and own your mistakes. And sometimes it means you can even harden your heart and walk away if you have to. It means you choose Peace over Drama. And you stop bleeding on others who didn’t cut you. It means honesty. It means allowing yourself to feel safe and asking good questions. It means tearing down walls and having better boundaries instead.

It’s also a pretty big red or green flag for those who work hard to get their shit together.

I hope I can find someone who fits this bill one day. Like many things in life, there are no guarantees. But I really do miss some great kissing and kitchen dancing. Until then, I will continue to find meaning. Fulfillment. Joy. Life goes on.

What I didn’t need

I didn’t need to be reminded how alone I was.

I didn’t need someone cheering me on from the nosebleed section.

I didn’t need to be fixed.

I didn’t need “good morning handsome” or goodnights.

I didn’t need total allegiance.

I didn’t need to be reminded of my shortcomings,

because believe me, they are always in the back of my mind.

I didn’t need to be told I was strong. Sometimes it was nice to not have to always be.

I didn’t need to be right all the time. I have a nasty knack for that.

I didn’t need someone else to consider when it came to my daydreams.

I didn’t need to be weighed on a scale with all the others.

I didn’t need to learn someone else’s middle name or their favorite color or meet the parents.

I didn’t need a reminder that nothing lasts forever.

Or those cheshire cat memories of a fading smile which are always the last to go.

I didn’t need to know what your chapstick tasted like or the sound of your hair as I brushed it with my rough hands. Everything else would always have been rough in comparison.

I didn’t need that gut ache from laughing until we cried.

I didn’t need that panic attack when I thought of life without you.

I didn’t need any of them. I wanted them. I was grateful to have shared some.

But now they are gone.

I didn’t need

Hope.

Chasing

The last couple days has been pretty rough. I can’t go into details right now, but I will say that in spite of what has been going on I was able to sit down today and finish an assignment ahead of the deadline. Much of the rest of the day has been a confusing mix of processing as well as taking the edge off with seratonin and dopamine hits you get from social media, talking with friends, and petting the dog.

Today has been a day of chasing those feel good hormones, because there are a hundred thousand reasons to feel like the world is burning down around you. Part of chasing that was to bust out the BBQ grill I picked up for free at a garage sale. I haven’t grilled much in the last several years. Usually if I was visiting someone’s cabin or hanging out at their house and we decided to have a grillout, I would get grillmaster duties. I’m a good cook, though a little rusty, and fire is my speciality.

Tonight I made chicken satay with grilled green beans. All of it cooked over actual charcoal briquettes. I didn’t have it in me to do dishes. Tomorrow I’m getting my windshield replaced so I’ll have some time at home waiting for that to be done, so I’ll probably make some phone calls and do dishes while that is going on. Gas prices have made going almost anywhere prohibitively expensive. Lucky for me I have a 360 degree view of some gorgeous mountains. Soon the good trailheads should clear up and I should be able to get some use out of the camping equipment I got for a song at the garage sale.

Something I’ve noticed lately is everyone has problems. And to each of us, for the most part, problems are an egalitarian concept. Some may consider the things I have been going through lately to be godawful, and for some reason they always apologize for venting about what is going on in their lives. Just because I probably wouldn’t consider theirs Defcon One, doesn’t mean they aren’t going through some stuff. After all, my problems aren’t Cancer. Things can always be worse. I’m grateful they aren’t, yet. “We’ll see.”

Right now I’m trying to envision a life moving forward. I wonder sometimes if this is like what happened when the cannon fire stopped on the Western Front in WWI. When the noise of war drifted off like the sound of fading thunder, I guess the men didn’t whoop and holler. They wondered what was next. How do you go home again after that? Who else can possibly understand what you’ve been through? So, today, I’ve been microdosing on social media to keep the distraction going because it’s hard to think about what happens next.

Sometimes when the path ahead of you is open to all possibilities, it doesn’t feel like liberation, it feels like you have outlived your usefulness. Did I come up here to start over or be forgotten?

Last night I wrote a scene that was good for the book. It tied some concepts together that I felt were neglected a little in the first draft. The next couple scenes I want to write are still germinating. They aren’t going to be easy, conceptually or emotionally. I have a feeling I need to start them in the afternoon so my mind isn’t running and keeping me from sleeping.

Onward.