Rock bottom

I think I’m just about there.

The pieces don’t come together right and there’s a part of my brain that won’t let it go. I have been ghosted, blocked, and left wondering what the fuck I did to deserve it. The only reason I can think of is there was something I wasn’t supposed to see.

It reminds me of the last mystery I solved. The on again and off-again we-are-dating-but-I’m-not-your-girlfriend mindfuckery of 2015-2018. That girl is getting married now, and I found out she was probably dating the guy before we were officially broken up. (Gross.) Once I found that out, the loose ends were tied off and I was at peace with that.

I realized something last night.

My grandma was a nutcase, but she loved people as best as she could. She was vivacious, accepting, and had a great big heart for everyone she met. One day, her husband finally got tired of the drama, the self-sabotage, and decided to leave her. She was heartbroken. Numb. Her doctor suggested to her a glass of wine before bed to help her sleep. That glass of wine eventually became a coffee mug of wine which she only drank halfway down every day. If you keep filling it, you’ve only drunk half of it, right?

She died years later, more than likely alcoholism being the culprit. I don’t think it was alcoholism. I think that was only a symptom. She died of a broken heart. The wine was to quiet the questions in her head that kept her from falling asleep.

It sucks to feel. It really, really truly sucks. I wish I could just shut it off sometimes and pretend like nothing happened. To make it not hurt when I look back and realize that all of those sweet words and perfect moments were bullshit.

I wonder if that’s what kept my grandma awake at night. Because I know I haven’t slept right since the end of April and I think it’s killing me. My amygdala has been getting lots of overtime these days. Nothing adds up. I don’t have answers. Just excuses.

I just wish I could sleep again.

We used to say that the only way people will change is if they hit rock bottom and can see what they need to change. I’m just about there and looking up, all I can see is the silouette of sharks swimming overhead.

Revelations

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.

A post from two years ago

Today.  December 6, 2019.

For the last five years, I have been able to measure and identify a lot of the changes in my life, what I am appreciative of, what I have survived, and what I have discovered about myself.

Reading this stuff reminds me of a few things.  Sometimes I am entirely too introspective.  And when I wrote this, maybe at the time I thought that was the apex of my personality.  That I had found myself and this was Me, moving forward.

Today, as much as I agree with a lot of what was said, can honestly say that living is a work in progress.  There are no definitives, and sometimes things are pendular.  My opinions on ice cream have changed, especially after meeting someone I genuinely enjoy ice cream with.  So far, my favorite is Little Man’s gingersnap cookie dough ice cream.  My opinions on the paranormal are less rigid now, with my former disbelief being a reaction to putting up with years of people pretending to be psychic.  I’m skeptical, but no longer atheistic on the subject. Mountain-biking kinda sucks; unless you are going downhill.

Since I wrote what follows in December, 2017, I have finally gotten to travel, and if you follow my travelogue at gettingoutmore.org, you’ll see that I can’t shut up about it. It has become my favorite vice and is truly a rush to experience.  Cigars might be up there now too. Along with good scotch and tacos.

I don’t go to church anymore.  The pastor at the one where I was going quit to become a day trader.  I really liked his sermons, but his absence created an identity crisis within the church, and sitting there, by myself, I felt like an outsider.  I adhere once again to the feeling that I don’t need a building to have a relationship with God.  I’ve seen people forget to be nice people and just cling to dogma.  Being a good person and following the rules are two entirely different things.  Something a lot of people should recognize if they read their Bibles.

I have gotten better at boundaries, both with others and myself.  Along the way, I have lost some people or changed the nature of our relationship with better boundaries.  It’s a good place to be.  I no longer do things to impress someone else or to prove my value.  I do things because I want to, or because I have to.  I am a lot more honest with myself.  I get bored of using “I” sentences, but in this case this is what has to be done.

I have also realized that I have outgrown my job, and am working on taking the next step, which will no doubt scare the hell out of me.  In good ways.  In some ways I am less cocky or sure of myself, but that has been replaced with confidence that I can get through just about anything if I put my heart into it.

I’ve also learned how to let go, and put things that hurt me behind me.  To act with grace and compassion.  Be careful, but not let sad choices cloud my trust.  To recognize happy choices and celebrate those.  To not see being an unrepentant, hopeless romantic as being a weakness, but as being a strength that does eventually allow you to accept good things.

Life continues to be stressful, there are wins and losses, things change but your attitude determines whether they are for the better or the worse.  Learn to appreciate what is good and move away from what isn’t.  I try to not beat myself up as much as I used to, and that feels good too.

Anyway, without any more jabber, here’s my post on Facebook from two years ago.  A few of these have changed, except for my hope and my optimism.  If you find some nuggets of wisdom in any of this…well, that’s good.

December 6, 2017

Over the last three years, I have been on a journey of self-discovery.

When you are divorced and free from an abusive relationship, everything you thought you once knew is demolished. You have a chance to actually know what is important to yourself, reject what is not, and embrace your new life. This takes a lot of navigation and personal reflection. Some things in your life should be consistent. Work being one of them. This is perhaps the easiest to keep consistent, since it is the independent variable of your life. The work continues, you are just the one who has been doing it.

So keep work. At least for a while. This is one of the things that I did. For the most part, the people I work with were very welcoming and forgiving.

Keep your family. They are probably your closest support system. Your kids might not be. They will be fighting their own battles for a while.

Your friends will change, this is okay. Keep the ones you can, welcome new ones, bid a fond farewell to those who will leave your life.

Your things. You might not value some of your possessions as much as you once did. Many of these things will be painful reminders of good times and bad. Other things, you might not view with the same importance. This can be a moment of catharsis when you realize, it’s just Stuff. However, some things might hold sentiment that is ingrained in your personality. You might need to hang on to these things, having a new understanding of exactly what they mean to you. Gone are the album books of wedding pictures, vacation snaps, souvenirs, expensive cookware and appliances, antiques you picked out together, birthday presents, CDs you might have listened to together on that roadtrip to Santa Fe, or even the couch you bought that wound up lasting much longer than your marriage.

Instead, you might have found the importance in an old blanket your great grandmother made, a bookcase full of books you have spent your adult life working through, an old chair a friend gave you because your new place lacked furniture, old love letters from someone you haven’t seen in twenty years, which had been gathering dust in your parent’s house–which on a day when you needed to be reminded of it, you were once, and one day will be worthy of someone being crazy about you again. An old pocket knife, a leather jacket, jumper cables, a collection of baby pictures your family gathered up and gave you to replace the ones you’ll never see again. These little things will get you through some of the rough spots. In time, you will gather more stuff, and even let some of these things go as well.

Little dreams. Big dreams.Sad dreams. Dreams to remember.

One of the first things I wanted to do when I was on my own was to make up for the experiences I was missing out on for years while I was married. Travel and new experiences being at the top of the list. Like anything, you have to learn to walk before you can run, and after surviving a divorce battleground, you won’t have money to do pretty much anything for a while. It all gets eaten up by attorneys, bill collectors, and responsibilities that you will have in reestablishing your life.

Let go of your anger. It’s a shadow that will follow you everywhere. It will eat anything good you can put in your heart before you even know it’s there, unless you get rid of it. I am not angry about much anymore. Traffic is about as irritated as I try to be. Sometimes something will jump up and get my goat. It’s usually something having to do with my old life. Irrational requests from the ex-wife, frustrations that crop up. I’ve found that you can handle just about anything if you are calm. You are allowed to be angry, just not ever to let it control you. Take some time to settle down when you get that tight feeling in your stomach. Because things can get much worse, you don’t need to help it get there.

Let go of bad habits. Fear, jealousy, panic, paranoia, etc. These were probably a culprit in the destruction of your marriage, so lose as many of them as you can before they get a chance to poison someone else. Kids. Future relationships. The First and foremost, before they have any further opportunity to poison you. It isn’t just about faking being “fine” so others want to be around you. You also need to feel comfortable being with you.

Take the advice of friends with a grain of salt. Some of them are probably living out their own divorce fantasies through you. Be cautious of this. Take things slow. Rushing out and partying, sleeping around, blowing lots of money, doing things that are out of character are not the best ways to explore what this new you is. Usually because there might be long-term consequences to this.

Find your faith.

Know what you don’t like. After three years of going to clubs, parties, social events, mountain biking, hiking, long drives, bars, sporting events, etc. I realized that there were things I was missing out on when I was under marital house arrest, and things I wasn’t. I realized that I enjoy writing much more than hanging out in a club, shouting back and forth into a friend’s ear while trying to have a conversation. I realize I love a good hockey game. Baseball, not so much. I can take or leave watching football on TV. It’s easier just to follow the scores on Facebook. I prefer a quiet hike in the woods to drinking with friends. I hate casinos. I don’t get the point of lifting weights. I love sea-kayaking. I don’t like running. I like mountainbiking. Working out helps clear my head. Cooking is a chore. I like binge-watching a good series on Netflix, but loathe watching network television. I like to read, but am often bored by it. I didn’t like graduate school, fishing, or court hearings. I have outgrown things like Renaissance Festival, Halloween, and tasting different kinds of whisky or wine. I’m fairly adventurous with foods I like still, as I always have been. I love spending time with my kids. Concerts just feel like a lot of standing in a crowd and going deaf. I no longer believe in the paranormal and haven’t been frightened by a spooky place in years.

Work is often boring and tedious, but it is consistent. I still don’t like ice cream or cake. I know now that I can refuse it if someone offers it to me. I know too that I need glasses all the time to see, not just for reading anymore. I know I will probably never run a 5K because my ankle joints just can’t take it. I’m fine with that too. I know you don’t have to reciprocate every time someone is interested in you. Sometimes you can just smile and say “have a nice day.” I’ve learned that you can come into contact with germs every day and not die of some illness. I’ve learned that usually when you get sick, you’ll get better. Often, you’ll be recovering alone and without sympathy. Sometimes people will come by and keep you company, lift heavy things for you, pick up the tab at dinners, text you in the middle of the night for advice.

I am an unrepentant hopeless romantic.

I like church and the gym for the same reasons. Both are new additions to my life. I don’t like going to either place, but I do like how I feel when I go home. I feel like both are making me a better person. I hate camping. I am over it. I did it every month when I was in Boy Scouts. I like a nice, warm, comfy bed much better. I actually do like walks in the moonlight, soft music playing in another room, but I don’t like movie dates. I enjoy dancing. Trading stories. Learning more about someone. There are moments when I am capable of just walking away. Standing up for myself. Being bored at home and being fine with that. I like how I look with a beard but I hate how scratchy it gets. I’m still not comfortable with compliments. But that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them. Because I like giving them.

In three years I have not found a reason to spank any of my kids. Much less many reasons to ever raise my voice at them.

I have to base what I like or don’t only on if I truly do, not by the context. Some context is good and some is bad. Prejudice is meaningless. You have to find your own beliefs, your own convictions, and sometimes rules are fine to break. Some aren’t. Some wound you further down the line.

I like coffee, but I don’t need it. It gives me bad breath. I liked the social aspect of it. People get together and drink coffee. Ordering coffee is a conversation with someone you might have missed out on otherwise. Alcohol just makes me want to sleep. And then I miss out on conversations. I don’t need pets. I don’t miss cleaning up after them, feeding them, or taking them to the vet. Kids require enough of that, and they are more interesting. It’s okay to have opinions and not waver from them. It’s also okay to change your mind on a subject. You won’t be judged as a liar for changing your mind if you keep the right kinds of company. You aren’t a loser if you aren’t going out with friends on a Friday. If you decide to do laundry for a lazy Sunday, it might just be enough. It’s okay to be alone. It’s fine to look back, look forward, living in the moment is fine too. Moderation is key. You’ll have regrets, you’ll have ambitions, you will continue to mess up, fall on your face, but just keep getting back up again.

Sometimes I talk too much. I overthink. Then I don’t say what really needed to be said, for fear of losing anything I have gained. I have been greedy with my emotions. Needy. Isolated. Reluctant and second-guessing myself. As we tend to be when we are brand new at life.

I like to write. It got me through a shitty marriage, and it’s going to be with me for a wonderful life. It supplied these words you have just read. I still haven’t traveled, other than some introspective journeying. But now, I have the patience to understand it is my life, and it doesn’t have to happen all at once. I have time.