I hit a moment today when I wanted to post some kind of picture to Instagram. Because that’s what all the cool kids are doing these days. With the lockdown I haven’t been many places. My house. Writing. Coffee. I go on walks with my son. Tonight he was a little high maintenance, but he’s going back to his mom’s.

Last night I had some great ideas for the university book which humanizes it a little bit more. It becomes a comedy of sorts, rather than a rant about being discarded after 18 years in one job. This afternoon I used my machete to quarter up a large limb that had fallen in a windstorm yesterday. My hands are covered in blisters, but talk about a big difference from a few years ago. I didn’t get winded. My hands were just too soft and the handle of the machete wore through my skin pretty quickly. My arms are strong. My heart is stronger than maybe ever. I just kept chopping away until it was done.

Ten years ago, I did the same thing, only I had an axe and a saw and it took me an entire afternoon. I was lying in the yard, trying not to black out then. Overweight. Unhappy. Sick even. Today, the work was honest. My son stacked up the cut branches and I laid out the wood to dry for our next fire.

Last year right about now, I wrote two pieces on what makes you desirable to the opposite sex. It was a pair of fun, introspective pieces inspired by my blogging friend, Michelle. She is no stranger to matters of the heart herself. There are a lot of us out there–though our numbers are diminishing. Maybe we are all too stubborn or crazy to keep this up. Talking with my friend K today, we came up a list that pretty much covers everything for men and women.

  1. Listen to each other–be heard. Be seen.
  2. Respect each other–each of you is a person
  3. Be kind and show some compassion.
  4. Do what you say you are going to do
  5. Don’t be lazy

It’s just about that simple.

As I was seaching through pics to post on social media, because I figure why the hell not. Our society is coming apart at the seams. The world is turning upside down. I’ve been polishing brass on the Titanic for a while, so why not?

There is that book about Love Languages everyone tells you to read. At the top of my list is time and physical touch. At the bottom of my list is gifts. I think a big reason for this is even now I struggle with seeing a lot of gifts and the people who gave them to me are gone. The gift has outlived the relationship. So now I have a bunch of stuff around the house to remind me of what I’ve lost every single day.

I’m not a fan of gifts. I would rather have experiences. At least they get to live on in my memories, as bittersweet as those might be. Even if you crossed paths with someone who meant the world to you, you know the reality of it is you would never be able to trust them again.

In my photos, I kept running into pictures of her. I kept getting those reminders of how things were. How amazing it all was. I wondered if she even thinks of me anymore, or even considers what any of it meant. Or how bad it hurt when she left. I used to ask her where she had been all my life, and she would say, “Making sad choices.” Well, I had hoped that was all past tense. But I think she stuck with what she knew.

I might have friends who are yelling at the screen right now, “Just move on!” Well, this isn’t your grief! If you don’t like it, don’t read any further! I’m tired of writing things in hopes that people will like it or agree with it. I’m not writing for you anymore!

I don’t do happy endings. LIFE isn’t expected to, so why the hell should I?

I’m not just grieving the end of a relationship. I’m grieving the loss of myself. The end of an era. I’m not rioting or wearing facemasks and obsessively checking statistics on the CDC site in disbelief. No. I’m comfortable in my pain because it is familiar. I’m bored with it at this point. And I’m bored with trying to make anyone else happy.

When I think about the story I want to write, the words of Joe Lansdale come to mind. “Write like everyone you know is dead.” Now I know why Hemingway said writing is the loneliest profession. All your pals, all you family, lost loves…you can’t write like they are ever going to read it. Why? Because they are all dead.

I posited this question on Facebook today: I have an idea that would make for a great story. My only problem is I think it might make a lot of people hate me. Any suggestions? And if you are reading this, no it’s not about you.

The support was overwhelming. But I have to admit, that last sentence was a lie. It is about you. How could it not be? It’s about you because it’s about me and the rest of you get dragged along for the ride. Sorry about that.

I’m not writing this to give anyone else a happy ending. I write for me. If you need a happy ending, go pick up a Nicholas Sparks book. It’s pornography. If that makes me lonely and bitter, then you haven’t been paying attention for the last six years. I think all of that horseshit was prelude to this. I’m just tired. The world is falling apart, burning down, and I am lighting a cigar off the smolering wreckage–even though my doctor strongly advises against doing so. I’m tired of having to lie because it fits with the narrative everyone else bullshits themselves with, just to keep from putting a gun to their temples.

I don’t wear a mask in the grocery store, so why the hell am I wearing one when I write?!

I have been holding back a lot of pain these days because I try to fake that smile until it sticks. I have a few friends who have heard the story backwards and forwards. They’ve been there, and I appreciate them. But even I am starting to sound like a broken record. I hold back on the off chance that I don’t say the wrong thing and someone will hate me. Maybe a lost love will wake up and say, “I really miss him. What a mistake I made! Wow!” It hasn’t happened ever and it won’t. Once I’m out of someone’s life, I doubt they think of me at all. I still think about friends I had in Kindergarten, for fuck’s sake. I am cursed with a long memory and a sentimental heart. Well folks, bridges will be burned for good. But not for lack of trying on my part. Between my own kids and significant others, friends, and now my job, just let me make this perfectly fucking clear:

I didn’t leave. YOU did.

Maybe if I were more of an asshole, some of them would still be around. Because I tried…really fucking tried to use those rules. Or the one big one at least: Treat Others How You Would be Treated. Yeah, leaving somebody up shit creek isn’t my style, but I guess it was theirs. I’m tired of writing things in hopes that it will change anything. I’m tired of saying the right words so that other people will like me. Here’s two words on that matter:

I’m done.

Would you rather be rich and famous or well liked? Well, I’ve been liked and I’ve been poor and miserable. I’m not saying my writing is going to make me rich and famous, but if it did, I could at least see the difference for myself. Maybe it’s time to say fuck it and just get the words down. You see, all these years, I’ve had my ears and eyes open. Like a sponge, I’ve been taking it all in. Only it was as volatile as gasoline.

Now I’ve got a big old can full of gasoline in one hand, a lighter in the other, and a shit-load of bridges as far as the eye can see. Tomorrow, I will write with a pen dipped in hell. Tomorrow, it’s time to be fearless. Let’s see where the road leads.

Maybe the world isn’t ending, but it sure as fuck feels like mine has been. Now it’s time to write fearlessly–write like the world has ended.

Thoughts about Shawshank

Today’s thoughts have taken me to a random place: The 1994 film, The Shawshank Redemption. When this movie came out, I was 18 years old. I had just graduated high school. I was dating my first girlfriend, and just about to embark on my adult life. I didn’t see this movie for another year. At the time, I was reluctant to begin anything. I was very naive for one. The College experience was like shifting gears without using a clutch, just grinding into another place and hoping you got there. It was probably the next year that I saw it. At the time, I considered it brutal. Violent. Gratuitous.

Only later would I recognize it as the truly beautiful story it was.

Today, mulling over thoughts about work, which has been on everyone’s minds lately, and recent work emails discussing the coronavirus and possible shutdowns here at work due to quarantines, a quote from the movie just leapt into my head.

“Terrible thing to live in fear.”

This thought has been in my head so much throughout my adult life. Quite possibly, this is the thought that has been the continual thread throughout my experience for the last 20 years. Lately, I see a lot of fear. Whether it is Trump, Coronovirus, layoffs, CPS, courtroom drama, loneliness, solitude, war, illness, poverty, Alexa, or anything else that keeps adults up at night, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen what it does to adults.

I think about one catastrophe after the next. The newest big thing to be afraid of. Climate change, pandemics, mass extinctions, socialism, capitalism, carcinogens in plastic bottles, an entire Texas-sized island of carcinogenic plastic floating around the Pacific. Turn on the news and if it bleeds, it reads. Words hurt and microaggressions, hashtag metoo, hashtag meat-too, the whole things sounds like a Billy Joel song after a while.

Yes, a Billy Joel song nobody really likes any more than an REM song with the same doom and gloom lyrics.

But here’s the thing. What in the actually fresh hell does anyone think any of this fear is going to accomplish other than putting a leash and a collar around your neck for someone else to drag you around by? If we just keep our heads down and don’t draw attention to ourselves, we can get by. We will get to lead our lives of quiet desperation. But really, nobody sneaks past Death.

Sorry, folks, but if it’s your time to go…no need to even pack a bag.

Pandemics have been around for as long as there have been people and germs. Here’s what happens. Germs are passed from people to people. A lot of factors determine whether or not you will die. Your general health, blood type, immune system, etc. We are constantly riding on the crest of infection and death. Those of us who don’t ride the wave wipe out. Yes, that is being glib, but what good does wearing the masks and bleaching everything really do? At some point, you will be exposed to an airborn pathogen. Much like smallpox and how it wiped out most of the populations of the Americas in the 16th Century, there were a lot of people who did survive.

That’s all any of us is really doing.

Should we put our lives on hold? Should we be hyper-vigilant to the point that our lives stop? No. As someone who was married to a self-proclaimed germaphobe, I can attest that this is the worst thing you can do.

Go, play in the dirt. Yes, wash your hands and cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. If you are sick, stay home and try not to spread it around. Or you know, give yourself time to recover so you don’t die. Your immune system is actually pretty great. Take your vitamins to help it along. Get help if you are really sick.

This crap will run its course. More people in the 1920s died during the Spanish flu because of a miracle drug called Aspirin, which was used to relieve pain and lower fevers. Aspirin also gives women and children Reye’s Syndrome. They didn’t know much about this until sixty years later, so a lot of those deaths from the Spanish Flu were probably due to Reye’s Syndrome.

Lots of people died during that pandemic. More than World War One killed actually. But a hundred years later, the population of the world is at an all-time high. Ever.

With my job, politics, so many other things, I have learned that these things have a way of sorting themselves out. Losing my job won’t mean bread lines or a life of crime. It might just mean that I am seeing the end of an unhealthy relationship. Opportunities cannot present themselves if you are sitting around in a hole all day.

Sometimes I think that our governments want us to live in a constant state of fear because is keeps us in line. Lets be afraid of other cultures because they are our enemy. Let’s be afraid of the air and the germs floating around in it, let’s be afraid of melting ice caps.

How dare you! You have stolen my childhood!

How dare you? Propagating more fear, you little twit. You’ve encouraged more learned helplessness.

Let’s be afraid of everything instead of opening our eyes to that which we should just be getting angry at. Changes that need to be made. Institutions which have outlived their purpose. Such as racism, sexism, classism, or obsession with celebrity. Allowing academics to be experts because they have been gatekeepers of information for far too long, and now that we have all the information at the tip of our fingertips, they really don’t want to let go. Politicians, who used to represent thousands from afar used to rule because they represented the ideals of the people. Well, now the people are right here. But in spite of all the information we have, we are dumber than ever.

We need our fears to control us I guess.

Some people I know take comfort in their fear. That’s not really how I want to live, myself, if I’m gonna be honest. I would rather have hope. And if I can’t have hope, then I would rather walk away while I still can.