The last unread letter I’ll ever write you

I’ve struggled with this one. Both in committing the words to paper, and in pondering whether to even publish them at all. I only decided on the latter recently because I will this Sunday be one year past signing papers that free-fall gave me back to myself, at a very heavy cost.

This note serves both as a capstone to my final stage of grief as well as a promise to those of you going down a similar road, that it does end. And you can in fact not only survive, but grow from the experience.

As always, I hope you enjoy…

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To date I’ve learned to let go of:

Your allegiance towards your tribe over me,
And my understanding of what family truly is.

Your manipulation of my life towards meeting your individual goals,
And my complicity in this to ensure your happiness.

Your disregard over my own goals while doing so,
And my disregard of same.

Your infidelity,
And my courting temptation also to fill the hole you left.

Your persistent denial of,
And my surrogate guilt over, your perfidy.

Your continued attempts manipulating me and the circumstances, well after you’d no more use for either,
And my sense of injustice over witnessing it.

Your deception in purging me from your family and our friends once you’d wrung me dry,
And my understanding of what allegiance truly is.

Your eventual success in doing just that, even with my very own children.
All in the same fashion, one at time, over the course of time. Taking your time. Much like a form of water torture wherein the victim loves the water more than oneself.

Your every effort in having me erase my own life,
And my willingness to do so.

Your total and complete denial over all of the above,
And your narcissistic lack of regard for me throughout.

You early on joked that we’d never divorce, as you would kill me first instead. I now realize just how serious your intent was on the latter part of this jest.

I didn’t die though.

I’m still here.

And since I am, the last thing I need to let go of, the very last item I will lose through this useless and hate-filled rape of my proffered love and trust, is my anger towards you.

As such, and whilst I’ll most likely need to remind myself manifold times over the next few months (years, decades, whatever), you are forgiven.

You are forgiven.

Find peace. Get well. Treat your next love like they matter. Treat your next love better.

Or don’t. Ultimately it’s your choice alone, for it is no longer any concern of mine.

I’m still here.

And here, me I’ve freed.

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An Errant & Somewhat Ashen Thought

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Sitting at the red light one frigid early Ash Wednesday evening, my preoccupied between-jobs mind followed my drifted gaze.

I observed them as they exited the nearby church, in twos and threes, mothers and children both, freshly ashen-faced. (And just where are the fathers anyway? Do we ALL get tossed aside unneeded after our seed and wallets have been harvested?) While they trudged through the cold air determinedly to get back into their colder still cars, I noticed something.

Of these husbandless tribes, some of the children seemed typically miserable, exact-mirroring the look of the maternal unit they were trying diligently to distance themselves from, lagging behind. And then there were others who were atypically fully engaged with their mothers, animatedly eye-to-eye communicating while staying close, better to prove their “whatever their point is anyways,” as clearly and lovingly as possible.

It’s probably no surprise that I found myself jealous of this latter group, what with me being a recently reluctant member of the tossed aside dad club too. But I also noted envy towards the former group as well; similar to the way I imagine a legless man must feel about someone with a limp. “’Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all,’ is a statement clearly concocted by one who has never actually had to test the theory,” I clucked to myself in defiance to that particular cult of thought.

The light greened, and I drove off to career pt. 2 of 4, forgetting soon thereafter about the experience till just now. Life does move on after all, whether you be limbed, amputated, or merely limping along.

Bart’s Amazing Disappearing Cloak*

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Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside.

Bartimaeus was blind.

Raised in the Christian tradition, I had heard this story more often than even Mark must have told it. But it wasn’t until I was well past 40 something or another that I finally heard the words as they were originally said.

Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside.

Bartimaeus was BLIND.

As such, he had hopes few whatsoever in finding the damned thing again, should his take on this particular Jewish carpenter-turned public speaker prove to be wrong.

According to the new testament at any rate, we know that his gamble paid off. And maybe that’s where the story gets watered down for us. Winning always does look so easy in retrospect, doesn’t it?

Now my point here isn’t to address the dogmatic diatribes of who’s god-head is true, or who’s god-head is false, or even the idea that the whole lot of them might just be a case of communal wishful thinking. No, my point here is that Bartimaeus was blind. And he threw that blessed cloak away anyway.

Again, being raised in the Christian tradition, I am fairly certain that there are already camps forming for either side over a potential upcoming schism, as to whether he did so because he felt he no longer needed it, or because he felt that in a few short minutes he would be able to find it himself. Not the point here, kids. Why he did it doesn’t matter, that he did it, does.

You see, what he had was faith. True blue, potentially pie in the sky faith. In something, or in someone, or in his own good self doesn’t matter either. What matters is that he had it. Enough so that he could throw away the one thing that was guaranteed to protect him otherwise. The only thing that had proven itself to him up until that point.

And assuming that Mark wasn’t blowing total theological smoke, it carried him through to the end, this faith, making him presumably a happier guy who could now find his own cloak without any assistance, thankyouverymuch.

I don’t know why I heard it this way today, but I did.

The verse doesn’t expand on any back stories in regards to his possibly also having had a spouse who deceitfully broke all their promises to him, nor if he had had children who had also seemingly summarily dismissed him from their lives. It doesn’t even go into whether or not he was more than broken as a result of all these things.

In short, there was scant anything about him at all, sans a desperate plea for help and the fact that he and I both have cloaks – mine being woven much more with fear than fabric – that provided me with any sort of kinship with the man.

And still…

Still, I feel that as if this cat Bart could have faith – faith enough to literally toss aside the only protection a blind person of his day might have had against the elements – then I might also find this sort of power in me as well. I might also find the faith needed in some Thing, some One, hell, maybe even in some Me, someday as to be able to throw aside my personal cloak; carefully hand-woven over these past 40 something or another years. Maybe.

Bartimaeus was blind.

Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside any way.

Pray this cat someday has vision similar to do the same.

* Based on Mark 10:46 – 52.

Squandered Epiphanies

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Sunday was one of those rare days when I found myself actually awake well before I needed to be, with more than enough time to get ready for church without rushing about.

Of course, and as these things go, I squandered every damned last extra minute, and found myself still bolting through the door yelping, “wait for me Jesus!” when I realized that I was already supposed to be where I was just now heading off to.

In fact, I was in such a rush that it wasn’t until I was seated, moistened by both a late summer sweat and just a hint of former Roman Catholic guilt – and exactly at the point in the mass wherein we pray for the recently deceased – that I realized something:

Someone wasn’t here today.

Someone who had been here – to my knowledge at any rate – just yesterday.

Not “here” as in the church itself, but “here” as in at all; as the day prior I had gotten word that Someone dear to me and dearer to others still had finally come upon their great reward. It was a Someone that I loved.

Someone that I loved.

And how odd it is that only in their death was I finally able to appreciate that feeling for what it was. Understand it for what it is. Acknowledge it to be true.

Someone I love and now miss is not here today. No, not ever more.

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And, as these epiphanies tend to cluster ‘round a recently illuminated mind, it then also occurred to me in very short order that this sort of thing happens every single day, a million times over. Every single day there are others – many, many others – who simply are no longer here today. Gone. Dust. Legacy. No longer are they a curse nor a blessing . No more are they anything, but what they gave unto us, and what we gave unto them in return.

And as such I wondered, why can’t we be better?

Why can’t we stop hating, judging and fearing?

Why can’t we forgive, and mend, and build anew?

Why can’t we be, and let be?

Why can’t we – well, as one of the greatest rock songs of all time once said – be friends?

Why can’t we let go of the trash in our heads, and use that freed space for great thoughts, and inner peace, and outer love, and for the possible and final realization of the full potential of what those wonderful grey bumpy things bouncing about inside of our heads promise to be when We grow up?

Whenever the fuck we decide to finally grow up…

On a microcosmic level example I suppose, and in an effort to shed even more ever-present R.C. guilt, why can’t I – even though the pain caused by their transgressions was deep, overwhelming, intentional and still being doled out in sporadic venomous rations – forgive my ex-hole enough as to finally stop calling them that? And why can’t I take that forgiveness and apply it to the incorrectly (and sometimes justified) assigned failings of my own good self as well?

For fucks sake, I watched both my dad die miserably years ago, and the ex-hole choosing to live in a similar fashion today. How many examples does it take for me – for any of us, really – to finally learn The Lesson?

Someone I love and will now miss is not here today. No, not ever more. And I never even got to say goodbye. I never did so because in my daily blindness, I never once thought that the time was nigh.

And yeah, I did use the word “nigh” just now so that you’d think that I was some sort of educated writer, but in honesty, I would give up the impression desired if I was granted just one more kiss on Rae’s cheek before she bolted off to her Yahweh.

Honestly, I would.

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Stumbling back into my office from a quick run to her funeral service today, I was met by a private note amongst friends that two of the very best I have ever been blessed with were themselves blessed just hours before with the birth of their long-awaited twins; twins that I will forever more now call only Luke and Leia, by the way – regardless of their parents chagrin.

In reading the note, especially on the heels of the service I had just attended – one wherein a life was celebrated instead of a death being cursed – I had one last epiphany and saw that Tomorrow was once again here. Another chance to learn, grow, share, enjoy, and maybe – just maybe – build upon the efforts of those who lived yesterday to become just a little bit better tomorrow. For, just as someone isn’t here today, there are two more who have just arrived. “And the ripples of the good will continue to spread in wider circles than the ripples of the selfish, for they travel across much deeper waters.

Sounds good, right?

Someone I love and will now miss is not here today. I would like to be of a mind, and live in a world, where that is a celebration instead of a curse. A world where goodbyes are heard only through all the hellos also being made. A world to come, if We make it so. A world to come, if we decide to be friends.

Dedicated to Rachel Cohen.

In A Pickle

Obviously, the sandwich could hardly be blamed for the fact that the pickle that adorned it was homemade, and as such, Glorious.

But still, the simple fact of the matter was that it was. Homemade that is. Crisp, and hard, and green. And deliciously so.

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And this made the remainder of the sandwich – all of the contents sans one of course – very jealous indeed.

The pickle for its part simply sat there, in full knowledge of how good it was. Relishing if you will in the fact that of the entirety of “meh” contained in the remainder of the bite, it alone was the splash of “YES!” that would have the eater’s taste buds leaping up eagerly to attention.

Against the processed meats, preformed bread, packaged lettuce and pumped up and out mayo, the pickle alone was the only thing that was truly real; the only portion of the meal that was original, singular, and created with love.

And even had the pickle tasted like shit (and it indeed did most definitely NOT), that alone would have made the sandwich as a whole well worth the gastronomical adventure.

A bit convoluted in tale, the pickle stood out. Not because it fit in, but rather because it refused to. It refused to be anything other than what it was. It refused to – as pickles are oft to do – sacrifice its own unique flavor in order to be “dumbed down” by the remainder of the more bland-taste citizens that shared it’s space and existence. And the entire sandwich, processed meats, preformed bread, packaged lettuce and pumped up mayo be damned, hated it it for that very reason while at the same time being enhanced by its mere presence.

So, is all this set up of a cautionary tale simply a combination resulting from having an actual homemade pickle provided by a dear friend, plunked daringly upon an otherwise “pedestrian” handheld bite, and an overactive imagination in halftime overdrive? Or is it something more?

I for one, will never tell.

(The) Wonderful Life

When we were first starting our journey another lifetime ago, we often compered ourselves to the Baileys, George and Mary. We were the ones who “stayed behind” to support the two aging families. We were the ones who had children to carry on in the same. We were the Baileys true and true, because though we had but 2 dollars to our name (yes, called papa dollar and momma dollar respectively), we were the ones that had each other and the dream…

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It’s a Wonderful Life ends too soon you see, that’s it’s problem.

It ends just after George has his breakdown and subsequent salvation, but well before Mary has her very own mental destruction of a sort. A breakdown that couldn’t be fixed by any mere bell-ring wing hopeful; as Mary would never listen to opinions – heavenly though they may be – differing from her’s anyway. A breakdown that would eventually cause her to run off, indulging in “adventure” – replete with a newly purchased boot knife – all while pushing George from the house, from her life and from the life of his children. A breakdown that would eventually drive her to want to even kill George, if not in the flesh, then at least and more importantly in the spirit.

And George in fact, did die.

More completely than he ever realized was possible.

Not in the flesh, but at least and more importantly in the spirit.

He died very painfully, and for a very long time.

Just long enough in fact, to take root.

You see, in his death, an odd thing occurred. George became aware of something. In his death, George began to finally understand what that cross-hugging Israelite Lover of Life (the very One who took His own in celebration and protection of it) had so long ago said about not being able to truly live, until you had first tasted – and indeed drank of – the rusty cup of death. Not through his own wisdom alone surely, George was somehow able to recognize the fact that his death wasn’t so much a defeat as it was a victory – or at the very least an opportunity to achieve the victory that a long time ago he had willingly given up in order to obtain what he thought would be, if you’ll pardon the pun, the “wonderful life.”

The angels sent this time weren’t Mark Twainian flaming rum punch enthusiasts either. They were actual breathing, living, thinking, loving and bells-be-damned speaking people. OK, and possibly flaming rum punch enthusiasts as well. People who dispelled George’s self-hatred and loathing through speaking their truth of him to him. A truth he hadn’t heard for a very long time (15 + years to be exact), and a truth that through their persuasion he was finally willing to believe to be so.

A truth strong enough as to bring him back to life.

And with this belief, plus the tears that had watered and nourished him as he taken root, George was able to begin to grow again. Not even “again,” really, but rather, to grow anew.

Yes, that’s it – George began to grow anew.

It’s a Wonderful Life ends too soon you see, that’s it’s problem. Ending where it does, we don’t get to see the full story. I suppose that’s the case in almost every tale though. There will always be endings that are really just beginnings to even deeper, more meaningful tales. There will always be a moment in the story where we feel that “happy” is at a maximum, so we cut it there, afraid to carry on much further. And in so doing, we all – as C.S. Lewis once taught me while I was still a young Zuzu’s petal pocket-cramming naive father – sacrifice True Joy for mere happiness.

In the case of the Baileys and the tale we’ll never know, I pray that this George at least is never again satisfied enough with the latter, as to forego the purposed pursuit of the former. I pray that this George at least – and that all of you – are able to truly live, and enjoy moving forward towards, Wonderful Lives.

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Dreams Past

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I fell into a dream.

A dream that decided to make unto itself a nightmare for both herself and I.

But like all nightmares, it has proven to be simply an inconsequential mental exercise which simply serves to make of me a better me. A thing to learn and grow from, and to never return to afterwards.

And as all nightmares go, this one too can not last forever.

I fell into a dream, but now the daylight beckons, the nightmare is almost complete.

And I will be able to dream again, once it is finally over