Saturday, May 31, 2014

Day 2

Day 2 sucks.  You wake up one morning and decide you are finally going to start running, start dieting, start bathing.  Then day 2 comes.  You're sore, hungry, and covered in rashes.  Day one has all of the enthusiasm of a well dreamed credenza and then you move into day 2 and the insecurities come.  The pain comes.  I've had a busy day and so I kept wanting to get to the pages, get to write.  The reaction wasn't what I intended the writing not what I thought it should be.  But I'm here to type.  Doesn't matter if it's crap, it's just to keep my fingers moving.  Get in the habit of creating stuff.

Yesterday was funny, all I wanted to do was keep writing.  My brain and heart were overflowing with ideas that my hands couldn't keep up with, whenever I was free, I was writing.  The morning pages yesterday tore off the scab & the scars and chased away the wolves.  But I didn't write today.   It's 10 at night and I was lying in bed hating myself for already giving up, already folding, already been the incompetent bastard that I was trying so hard to fake that I wasn't.  And I made it 1 day.  I had this sweet short story in mind for today but it isn't going to happen.  Scipio Africanus wrote a better one than I could anyway.  Prophetically accurate.  Where's the target?  What are you supposed to hate?  I mean do you hate the bike?  Do you hate yourself?

I was lying in bed grasping for something to feel guilty enough to roll over and grab this stupid machine and start moving my fingers.  What if Merlin Mann sees I already failed after 1 day?  He isn't going to read this.  What about X being disappointed?  The strange thing was that no matter how many names I populated in column X I was just too tired to feel guilty and feeling guilty, although wonderfully self destructive just doesn't have the same motivational rigger it had as a younger man.  My give a damn was irreparably shattered last year and now I'm almost reactionary to the emotion.  I am obviously still obsessed with it because I'm writing about it right now, but more out of the habit of feeling it than really feeling it.

The strange thing is I rolled over today and grabbed the computer heavy with baggage because I'm tired of feeling this way.  I'm tired about feeling this way about things I really enjoy and about myself.  I commit to both of you that I will start creating something other than self-diagnosing sob stories but today isn't the day.  Maybe I'll write tomorrow what I meant to write today.

This morning pages thing is actually quite serendipitous.  I actually started journalling again, which is basically the same as the morning pages, simply lacking the publicity, commitment, and realness that this exercise is attempting to create.  Writing those pages I remembered a story I wrote when I was in 6th grade.  I'm going to try over the next 29 days to rewrite it here as it has haunted me like nothing my mind has imagined before or since.  I have memories of living that story that are more vivid than any of my real life memories.  For 18 years this story has been bubbling away and I haven't been willing to try to write it because I don't think I can communicate it well, but at least now I need to just write pages so it may as well come out.  But the day before I decided to commit to 30 days of writing was the day I decided that I needed to rewrite that story and exercise the demon.  Last year I uncovered the original story and what felt like Pulitzer prize winning in 6th grade actually sucks and sounds like a kid wrote it.  Which is exactly what happened.  Never read anything from elementary school that you're proud of.  Not only has the story stuck with me but the experience of creating and sharing it broke something that I've been to afraid to acknowledge and fix.  That story just poured out of me, which has happened a lot since from stories to academic papers, I don't often have trouble writing and I tend to get good grades for what I write.  It was the first time, though, that I remember it happening the way it did then, though.  The story existed like Plato's perfect chair and I was simply recording it, which is a lot for a 6th grade boy to process.  Trying to fit that in the middle of a conversation about how to properly flip someone off to make the best impression is difficult even for an adult to do.  The good news is that Cory did flip off Mrs. Vogeley as she drove by quite accidentally while he was attempting to make his point and we all thought next time we went to that house there would be a .303 with our name on it, which would have very effectively solved the existential debacle I was attempting to resolve.  The story writing was a little odd.  When Mrs. Blackwell asked for volunteers to read their story I volunteered to read mine.  This is how I remember it, which is strange because I don't tend to volunteer my work to be read, which is why this is so difficult for me.  I remember reading the story and it was still difficult to read because it was so much more real than what I had put on the paper, my ability hindered the message.  I fought back tears reading the stupid thing.  Half out of the memory of the story, and the other out of sheer frustration that none of these kids would get it, there was this crazy big, uncomfortably beautiful thing, so much more real than the hormone riddled roller coaster we were all beginning to ride.  All they could see was the obese teacher's pet, floundering through a story, probably just looking for a chance to show off again.  I can still feel the tightness in my chest and the churning of my stomach staring at the page, reading what was there, looking in those words for what had been there the night before.  Why wasn't it there?  These strange graphite hieroglyphics weren't the story, they weren't what  had wrestled with and cried through the night before.  Had I written it right the room would feeling colder, the snow and wind would have made us shiver.  We could have smelled the blood and trembled from the haunting call of the pack.

When I finally lowered that insufferable page I saw Mrs. Blackwell in the back of the class with red rimmed eyes and she got it.  She knew the story was more than I could write and she had seen it, though no one else had.  And I felt a terrifying burden.  A weight of responsibility that I was in no way mature enough to handle.  I had affected this adult and it scared me.  It scared me a lot.  Now as a fat kid in elementary school I was afraid of everything, everyone.  I was afraid to ride my bike as fast as my friends.  I was afraid to fail in school.  I was afraid to do too well in school.  I was afraid of the high schoolers walking down the same side of the street as me.  I was afraid constantly.  This was different.  In a world of fear I realized that this kind of fear was different.  This new feeling, this new strange power had scared me that I ran from it. It was the first time to run from something having to do with words.  I love reading.  I love writing.  And yet this scared me.  It wasn't the last time.  I remember when we took some standardized English test in 8th grade and I had scored the highest in the school or something and my teacher asked if I wanted to go on a walk.  I heard a snicker behind me and was mortified to be alone with this big busted Black foot woman with beautiful hair.  I was afraid that I was the only boy who had a strange feeling in my stomach when around pretty much any human being with 2 X chromosomes.  And I was afraid that I had slipped.  That someone was going to expect even more of me than I felt everyone already did.  And I was afraid that someone had found my secret.  That someone was finally going to force me to start writing.  This strange horrible thing inside me was finally going to be exposed and I said, “No thanks,” and hurried back to my desk as fast as I could, my soft swinging jowls lit up red like a hooker's night stand.  I've always wondered what she was going to say, always wondered what opportunity I missed.  If only I wasn't afraid of this stupid writing thing.  If only I wasn't afraid that she might molest me like I wanted her to.  If only I wasn't afraid.

I really don't know why this is so scary and I really wish I hadn't committed to posting this on my blog, and for the first time I'm happy very few people ever read it.  But hopefully if you are scared of that thing that you know you are supposed to be doing, even just to relieve that daily cycle of hating yourself just a little bit, go ahead and do it today.  Just long enough that you can say, today I did what I'm made to do.  Today, for the first time in a long time, I'm finally myself.

Friday, May 30, 2014

A false fresh start.

He hid in his room.  The door closed, the shades drawn, the covers over his head.  The deafening beating of his heart drowned out all sound, and cold sweat trickled down his back.  His eyes were open, peering into the dark, but seeing nothing.  Ragged breaths pushed through as he clutched and clenched his hands in a well practiced dance that accomplished seemingly nothing.

Yesterday things had been better.  Yesterday was the best day.  The sun had burned away the clouds revealing the true colors of things.  Promises were made and plans set in motion.  People stepped out of the shadows and became human again.  He had vowed not to be different this time.

The park.  Green grass and sparkling water.  The dappled shade of many trees inviting and patient.  A promise of quiet reading, or leisurely strolls and pleasant conversation.  This was the life that he deserved.  The time for hiding was done.  Both feet would be planted and with a powerful and clear voice the world would know he was ready to be happy.

It had started with the new bike.  Bought months ago and assembled with impatient glee.  The sense of pride and purpose was lost when the rains started the next day.  But yesterday, things were perfect, and so was he.  Nothing could stop him.  Athletic clothes and comfortable shoes.  Lock the door.  Walk the bike to the road.  Mount it and just start peddling.

It was a bit of a rocky start, sure.  Years and decades had passed since the last time.  But, soon muscles and mechanics worked together and the world rolled by.  There were people and so many cars.  He managed to not hit anything or anyone, for which he allowed himself a smile.  A random man walking saw it and smiled back.  Yesterday had been a great day.

Arriving at the park tired and sore, but elated was almost enough.  He stopped and looked around and caught his breath while he wiped the sweat away with an equally sweaty forearm.  There were people everywhere.  There were young women sunning themselves on blankets on the hill and playing with their phones.  A group of men threw a ball back and forth in the large open area by the lake.  Attentive parents escorted children and pets with equal ease through the throng.  Others ran and swam and absorbed themselves in individual pursuits of all manner.  They were Everywhere!

His heart had started racing then.  Surrounded by them, watched by them, and now he was just staring at them.  They were going to notice.  They were going. to. notice.  He was going to be the weird guy with the bike, just starting at them.  They would know he didn't belong here. The dryness of his throat was demanding his attention.  He averted his eyes staring at anything else.  My the sky sure was interesting all of a sudden.  Wow.  Look at that tree over there. Quickly, before he drew any more attention to himself, he walked the bike back up the trail, and climbed back on it.  His smile was long gone, but he forced his lips and face to pretend it wasn't. 

What was he supposed to do now? 

Next: Part 2

Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 30: Dragons

My son loves dragons.  We started reading the Hobbit yesterday and the big hook for him was that there was a dragon.  He loves watching Wahammer 40k battle reports with me and has creative ways of converting something in the battle into something he can call a dragon.  Some people may wonder at this as there is not, nor has there probably ever been, such a thing as a dragon.  The primary impetus and cause here, I think, goes back to the fact that my son has a father that loves dragons.  I love how they lithely float through the sky, I love the shimmer of their scales, I love the terrifying eyes, I love the rampant destruction they cause.  I even have a soft spot for their non-flying cousins the drakes.  Ice dragons, swamp drakes, Imperial dragons.  I love them all.  I love the crazy, fluffy, dog faced thing on Never Ending Story (which should be converted into the most comfortable bed in existence outside of a walrus).  Japanese Dragons, Aztec Dragons, ancient alien theorist contend dragons.  My poor innocent son has not even a glimmer of an idea of the wide world of dragons that is available out there.

Now I know there are lucky dragons, and good dragons, and guardian dragons.  I know that there are good dragons besides dead dragons.  Acknowledging that 1 thing I love even more than dragons is slaying dragons.  Insanely courageous men and women who through sheer bravado, desperation, and cunning are able to out fight the greatest threat known to man.  Armored, flying, intelligent beasts of single-minded destruction.  Whether it be Beowolf, a fellowship of mixed race fantasy creatures, or a horribly written tank driving dragon savior (“We can do this the easy way, or the real easy way”) I am continually mystified by dragon fighters.

My son was trying to cover my eyest while I write so I asked him to stop, I'm writing about dragons.  “Dragons!” he whispers.  “What kind of dragons?”  He knows the way to my heart.
“All Kinds”
“Black dragons?”
“Should I write about Black dragons?”

To be honest I usually imagine my dragons a deep red, shining emerald green, or a mix of colors that blends into a mystifying brown that slowly changes and shimmers as the beast moves about its golden hoard.  The is a very specific reason that I don't think about black dragons.  They scare me the most.  Totally blending into the night sky, slithering unseen through the thick woods.  A shiny black dragon, could walk write by your house, this very minute, and you would not know.  Think about that.

Luckily as a nerd I am allowed the cultural flexibility to still think about dragons and it not be a surprise to anyone.  Most of my dragon slaying these days is through the pages of a novel, little cards on a table, or plastic and metal warriors frozen forever in the pose of defiance.  But I still vividly remember the last time I fought a dragon.  My friend Pat had a large stick.  Kurt and I had smaller ones.  If your brain works like mine then you already understand that the large stick wielding Pat was in fact a dragon.  A dragon whom Kurt and I were dutifully bringing a gory end to.  Pat was up against the steep side of a service road that was located at the bottom of a small canyon behind Kurt's house.  We darted in and out of the chaparral parrying and thrusting.  Shouting curses and commands.  Bloodying knuckles to the rattling sound of wood swords striking wooden scales.  Rat-Tat-Tat... “Go back to the Hell from which you came, Beast!”...Rat...slide...tat.tat.tat.   If you are going to fight a dragon in the middle of quintessential suburbia we were doing it in the best place possible with the brash slogans and aplumb that only come from the childhood innocence of never having fought a real dragon.

My daughter just came out to the porch wearing a bright red bandanna tied about her like a super hero's cape.  She has the freedom to be the hero, be the princess, be the dragon slayer.  She can look into the eyes of the beast and not have eyes that fill with the tears of remembered scars.  Cuts and gashes deep inside from the dragons you have already fought.  Dragons you have defeated and outwitted.  Dragons you have slayed, but just barely, and not at all like in the fairy tales.  The fairy tales don't talk about the heroes collapsing from exhaustion and blood loss next to the corpse of their defeated foe.  Just wanting to rest, unable to continue on the adventure, seemingly as dead as the freshly dispatched nightmare.  Armor still smoking, sword still hot.  The fairy tales don't talk about the fear of applying for job after job knowing that your young hot wife is working her tail off and you can't help provide for your new, fresh family.  The stories don't cover living in an apartment with holes in the roof which birds and snow enter at will because you can't afford a real apartment.  The stories don't cover how that funny story felt like utter failure and defeat when you stared up through the utility closet and saw the little money you had going up through that frigid sun lit abyss in the form of electric heat.  The stories don't show the hero curled up under his desk because he doesn’t have the answers and can't fake it anymore.  In the stories the burly bare chested barbarian sits at a table laden with suckling pig and dark ale, surrounded by equally inappropriately attired Valkyries and pagan deities.  I've never fought that dragon.  I've never been that hero.

I can tell you for me, fighting dragons does not give me the courage and confidence to go dragon hunting.  Everyone tells you, “You've been here before.  They didn't eat you.”  You should now be able to do anything because you did this already.  That is not what I feel.  I feel scars and damage.  Deep brokenness.  You may have finally in an act of utter hopelessness plunged your dirk deep into the gullet of the beast and been washed by the fiery blood, the last life force of the monster.  But that was only because you were already in its mouth and it was savoring the last moments resistance before it crushed you.  And you know it.  You know you were only saved by a monologue, a twist of fate.  But looking back at the stories most of the great heroes are too.

I may have been saved by a monologue but I can take the crazy risks again.  I can be the burn scarred and broken hermit who dwells in the mountains because he has seen the monster like no one else has.  I've done it.  Maybe you have done it too.  But when I cloister myself within a cocoon of scar tissue and hurt I'm safe, but I'm not alive.  That tomb of memories and pain leads only to self-condemning depression.  The hole only gets deeper.  The beast only grows in your broken reminiscence.

I know that sometimes the monster has leapt on me in my wanderings, unannounced; the black dragon.  Those moments are filled with confusion and doubt, fear and contagious inadequacy.    If I'm truly honest with myself, though, most of those ambushes have followed a very intentional avoidance of confronting the beast.  I've skirted the mountain with my fingers crossed.  The huts are burning around me and I've thought it a pleasant time to go for a walk.  I knew the monster was there and just had the bad luck that it finally found me.

There have been rare moments when I decided to climb the mountain simply because I saw the smoke rising from the crevices.  To hurl myself into the cave though there was nothing but darkness and stank inside.  When you choose to make the leap, when you dive into the mouth of the crypt you are no longer the victim but the hero.  And that moment is when I feel most alive.  It is terrifying to write up that cover letter for a job you are totally unqualified for.  The doubts scream at you when you see the gap you know you are too scared to jump, but why don't you jump it anyway?  Why don't you throw aside that bent and chipped sword, you've only been using it to block him anyway.  Pull out that dagger and charge her gaping maw with a sound that is far clearer than your courage and strength.  So what if you fail?  So what if she finally eats you.  At least they will write a song about it.

I think in replacing our viking sagas with real stories of burden that we have forgotten how to be heroes.  We have collectively forgotten how to fight and maybe we never have.  We are sourounded by zombies and Marvel movies because we see how our souls are being consumed and we are desperate for someone to save us.  We are the young scared boy running with Brad Pitt's family.  We are looking for an anchor and a strength.  Well, why the hell don't you stop whimpering in the corner and be the hero yourself?  You can totally kick Bear Grylls ass and you have no clue because you've never done it.  You've always ran, always hid, always just been the fleeing 8-bit villager with your hands in the air.  I know I've done it enough.

Rat-Tat-Tat, rat-tat-tat.  Maybe that dragon really is just a big stick with a menacing bend.  Maybe you just have a stick but what if you used it?  Bring a knife to a gun fight and kick the crap out of all 10 of them.  Who knows what it would feel like if you were victorious for once.  Not just because of a coin toss and a monologue but because of a leap and a snarl.

Morning Pages

Hey team,

I've been inspired by the Back to Work podcast with Merlin Mann.  I've decided to write 3 pages every morning for a month to get my fingers moving and, just because I need to stop being such a wuss, I'm going to post it here for both of you to see.


There will be a slight stop when I'm in the mountains in a few weeks but that is a sign of exuberance not failure.  I will deliver 30 days of nothing.  To that, dear reader, I commit myself.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Parental Review 2014

This last weekend my hot young wife and I got away to celebrate our 10 year marriage anniversary.  We took along with us our 4 month old but the other 2 went off to spend the night at a friend's house.  It was wonderful to sit by the pool, relax, and eat wonderful food.  What surprised me was that it gave us a chance to just talk about hard things which had not been pressing enough to resolve.  What is wonderful about having a truly remarkable wife is that most of the things she brought up were things that I had been thinking about but didn't know how to verbalize.  She was able to extract truths from me that I was nervous about or unsure of letting out into the wide world.  

One of the primary topics of discussion was how we can do our most important job better.  It has been truly wonderful to see Bumpkin and Buddy change so much over the past 6 months.  At their age 6 months allows for a massive amount of personality development.  Personalities that are so radically different to each other.  It gave us a chance to discuss the beautiful changes in our adorable children and how we needed to really change our parenting styles to fit the specific developments of each of the 2.  Bumpkin is a dancer and Buddy is a tinker and they way they react to almost anything is different.  My parenting still had some homogeneous tendencies from when they were little and those needed a radical shift in this stage in life.  My cognisant son and daughter have very different ways in which they need to receive my love and attention.  For my daughter it is playing dolls, dancing to the closing soundtrack of Frozen, having Daddy Daughter Dates.  For my son I thought it was building things.  I love building things with him but it is sometimes hard to come home and try to put Legos together in a methodical way and not steal from him his joy of tinkering by an impatient, overworked father.  He had become a little more aggressive and disobedient recently (in small ways he is still an amazingly easy kid) and my young hot wife suggested to me that I needed to spend some time wrestling with him.  I thought that would be a great way for him to just work out some of that extra energy that sometimes sprouts out as doing what I asked him not to do, which is really the basis for what he has been doing lately, he is just fidgety.  What surprised me was with what deep intensity he threw himself into Pappa wrestle time.  He dove into it like a parched man into an oasis.  Like a gasp of air and he loved it.  
On the one hand it was amazing to see a psychological need in a human being filled, especially when it was my son's need.  What really surprised me, and made me feel more than a little guilty, was how over the past few months I hadn't really wrestled with him like I used to and that lack was leading to some real uncertainty in his life.  It really re-centred me.  I have been procrastinating on a Father-Daughter date for some time now and this weekend it is happening.  Not because Bumpkin has really done anything to deserve it but because I just love the crap out of her and want to make sure that she knows she is more important than all the other garbage that I could be doing.  And today when I get home I'm going to let out a primal roar, even if it is after bed time, and wrestle my little buddy until we smash heads together or until his asthma catches up to him.  Today I'm going to be a little better father than I was yesterday.