Squandered Epiphanies

*

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.

Wish-you-were-here_grande

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.

*

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.

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Today…

hawaiiIt’s Easter. And everything starts anew today. Though in actuality, it’s tomorrow when that will occur.

But that’s another story.

The day is belligerently bucking the usual tradition of Buffalo NY cold and wet, for that of sun, warmth, and cloud-free endless blue sky. I am enjoying this change of pace with a change of pace as I mosey along for a Sunday stroll, wrestling into knotted position around my waist, the sweater that I initially felt I needed – until the very moment that I was too far away from my starting point, as to actually return it.

As I cinch the sleeves into the hug they’ll embrace me with throughout the duration of my walk, I first spy them. A family. Another multi-generational, happy and utterly complete family. Gayly smiling and playing all on the front yard. Almost as if to say, “yeah, where’s yours?” Hell, they might have even been carrying around their own personal white picket fences, as they were so perfectly Rockwellian in their nature. And as I passed them, I once again felt plainly the epiphany that I have felt so many times over these past several months: Your father is dead. Your marriage, equally so. One due to his inability to quit smoking, and the other, due to her inability to ever stop looking for the next “big thing.” Combined both with your inability to ever give either a good enough reason to just stop.

Stupid people making stupid choices. Stupid choices that hurt others, and stupid choices that hurt you. Stupid choices that you couldn’t altar. Stupid choices that you at times even emulated, because you yourself are stupid.

Withholding a preemptive mood-ruining hiss, I passed the family without harming them via the daggers being launched at that moment from my jealous eyes. But as I did, these thoughts came to mind:

• I can’t bring dad back. But I can learn from him, both in his victories and in his defeats. So that his life will live on in me, and in the lives of my children, and – should trees prove to drop apples once-to multiple times more – in the lives of my grandchildren and great as well.

• I don’t want to bring the marriage back. No, not anymore. For I have already learned that I will know love one day, and it will be a love that is bound not by a contract, but by Love itself. It will be a love that ends, if it ends, not because of foreign men with interesting names, nor because of my fear of me standing up for me.

As I continued on my walk, I saw another family. Again, multi-generational, again happy. But this time I thought: maybe both members of that couple aren’t the birth parents. Maybe their love was a love first realized only after failed earlier attempts elsewhere. Maybe the people before me were happy in earnest, only because they had known times when happy was woefully absent before. Maybe these people decided upon celebrating Easter long before Easter came. And maybe – just maybe – my life can be like that as well.

It’s Easter. And though in actuality, it’s tomorrow when this will occur, everything starts anew Today.

•••

706 Words Plus A Sentence

Parallax, parallax, parallax.

Say it three times, and it’s yours. Write it three times and, well, I suppose you’ve wrote it three times.

A new word learned, but of my Master Class and Inspiration Monday mash-up (as always, the prompts are in bold), this is only my second go – and fittingly enough – a response of sorts to my previous effort.

vw-inmonpromo

storch-badgeI do hope that this second entry helps to explain Carl at least a touch bit further to those readers who were ready to take up Lou’s defense unabashedly (myself included), and as always, I hope that you enjoy…

I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. Up until everything went to hell that is, I thought as I smiled at him. One last time, same as I always had.

But as had become the norm, Lou’s response was not at all as it had once been. No, I could feel that – much like his idle stare – his love was gone, somehow vacant. His desire, gone, somehow removed. His trust in me was gone… Just gone.

The accident had changed Lou, making him not only untrusting or me, but untrusting of every man.

I’m sure his ex had some sort of subversive say in this. The bitch always did, after all. He relied too heavily upon her opinion, even though while he lay there in the hospital, she came only once, and even then just to bully him in regards to the “maintenance” he found himself unable to pay, due to his latest misfortune.

And to himself, I suppose he felt he was just that. A misfortune. An unintentional misery.

But to me, he was beautiful. Scars and all, pain and questions be damned, to me – at one point – he was Beautiful. To me, he had shown through it all. His children were great kids, and a testament to the man he was. True, they’d always had an inkling – but none of them, not even the daughter – gave up on him when he eventually came out, unlike their mother, who had so readily done so well before.

Her loss was most definitely my gain, and I gladly caught him when first she gave him the boot. While I was younger and more experienced, that didn’t matter to me, as he was the one so much more well versed as to life in general. True, I tried in vain to create of my young career a caricature of an older persona believable, all while he partied much too hard, trying to reconnect with a youth that was stole years prior. But we still truly knew each other, and I marveled at his wisdom, while enjoying the lovemaking that we shared resulting from his years of tutelage – his years of understanding, appreciating, and loving the human heart.

But then, as he became so mindful to tell people, the accident occurred. He was hammered at the time, and sadly, since we had a third party designated, I found myself none too sober either. As such, I watched him fall. Watching him try in vain to avoid flakes that would’ve never hurt him regardless, I screamed as he fell hard and fast to the ground. I screamed knowing that I couldn’t catch him this time.

I remembered being in tears, chasing his ghost down the stairwells as I prayed for his safety to a God that I hadn’t believed in in years. Praying, until I met his battered and wobbly flesh convulsing on the ground floor pavement.

Battered, but not dead. Wobbly, but not defeated.

But over time I found that sometimes death comes slowly, and his came painfully so at that. The grey cloak of mistrust covered first his face, eventually boring deep into his eyes.

He began insisting that there were others more important to me.

There weren’t, though there were dear friends who supported me.

He insisted that I found peace in another.

There wasn’t, though I did eventually take his advise unwittingly.

He insisted that I would leave him,

I wouldn’t, but eventually – and once I realized that he had already done the same to me – I did.

A strange parallax our relationship had become, one wherein he had thrust his own traits, his own desires, instead upon me – almost as if to justify himself feeling as he did. It was a relationship made all the sadder because that was exactly what his ex had previously done to him.

I loved him. I loved us. But he was sadly incapable of either, and now we are both alone.

So what’s so “extraordinary” about this tale, you ask? Well it’s just that. That no matter un-extraordinary it was, nor how painful it eventually became, I still consider myself blessed by a God I might yet one day believe in, that at one point in time it was mine to share in, mine to behold.

•••

792 Words Plus A Sentence, Plus Another Sentence

As honored as I always am to be the one chosen worthy to pick a prompt, I very rarely ever provide just one, as I feel that the challenge host may also want a say in the matter. And this week Prof. SAM did just that, deciding to offer the Master Class 2014 students (2) of the (3) I provided as options (please click the link above to learn more about the prompts, and to play along).

We were told we could use either one or both, so you know that I just had to try for the latter. I also decided to take the Prof.’s lead and jump on board with the Inspiration Monday prompt (using “epilogue”) as well. I hope it all worked well in the end, and I do hope that you enjoy…

storch-badge vw-inmonpromo

Unruffled, Carl smiled at me one last time, as he’d always done.

That smile, the very one that originally attracted me to him long before it ever turned into such a nuisance. The smile that used to arouse every last inch of even my soul, had since then become almost a standard bore to his condescension. His condescension not just to all men, but especially towards me. When first I realized that I could no longer look pretty for him, and attempted to become more learned in order to somehow compensate – to have more to offer – I read somewhere something to the effect of, “There are some people you like immediately, some whom you think you might learn to like in the fullness of time, and some that you simply want to push away from you with a sharp stick.”

Now what the somewhat naive author of this particular ideology didn’t realize, was that of these three options, the worst type – the very worst – was that of the unmentioned fourth kind, primarily those like Carl. Those who presented themselves initially as the former type, when in fact and over the course of time, proved to be truly those of the latter.

Carl was my first you see. And right from there, I should’ve realized the epilogue of this story. He was younger than I, but more experienced, and much more comfortable in his own skin. Partially as a result of his being a lifelong “team player,” he had no children to explain things to (as did I) and he had absolutely no qualms about publicly bantering his freak flag about, (as I sometimes – well, most oft-times – was fearful to do.)

Ultimately, he wasn’t really the one who called me out. But he, him and that damned smile, was the first one there, waiting to catch me when it happened. His scruffy beard, disheveled wardrobe and bookish knowledge, all played well into the role of the professor that he was trying valiantly to project early on in his career. And when he placed it all “just so” – again with that damned smile to wrap up the whole package – I found myself beyond smitten, finally ready to embrace and experience a truth about me left for years in the dark closet of my being.

We enjoyed a love together longer than I thought possible. Longer (and more passionately I might add) than I previously had experienced with any woman I had ever swore my allegiance to. It was a sort of heaven really, and I’m almost certain that ours might have even been a case of “happily ever-after,” had the accident not occurred.

I won’t tell you too much about it, as it is still painfully embarrassing to this day. Suffice to say, there was a lot of alcohol, a blustery night, one last joint, a menacing snowflake or two, and a 3rd floor patio with unreliable rails involved. My chances of survival were almost guaranteed at that height (though mom swore that my continued breath upon this plain was “simply miraculous,” and a sure sign from Jesus that all my recent “impure love” foolishness had to stop to prevent further punishment), but the visual quality of my upper body and face were seriously in doubt, as in the game of rock/paper/scissors, it turns out that hardened cold concrete always beats aged bone and drunken wobbly flesh. Carl wasn’t the one to blame for the fall, but this time he wasn’t able to catch me either.

The time spent in the hospital was lonely, although he did visit more often than most others would have, or did. But when he wasn’t there, the clock came to a standstill. And that sense of oppressive timelessness and stale air one day interrupted our latest visit, as I noticed that even when he was there, the second-hand ticks increased by only a fraction, the dust motes dragging but painfully slow against the windowed sunshine. I started to notice, that even when he was there the room was still empty, sans my self-loathing, his damned smile, and me. I started to notice, even when he was there, he continued to not catch me.

I suppose I’ll never know if his heart had simply given up and moved on, or if in my anguish I’d inadvertently pushed him out in some form or fashion. Regardless, I do know that by the end, his smile – that damned smile – the very one that had once wooed me into a near-frenzy, only now served to turn my previously astute soul into obtuse stone.

So I survived, much less attractive than before, and now far more alone. Deciding to live on in the knowledge that regardless the gender, lovers will only use you until they’ve taken their fill, before moving on. And regardless of what mom may say to the contrary, I will now forever feel that while I’m still technically alive, my ”miraculous survival” will not change my opinion that Heaven is an idea constructed by man to help him cope with the fact that life on earth is both brutally short, and paradoxically, far too long.

•••

Resulting from dawdling red orbs & angry white flakes

Judas Priest’s “Hell Bent For Leather” slammed through the tiny car speakers, at a volume much louder than forty-two year old ears were normally in agreement with, while long-overdue snow, February-fattened by the still-unfrozen lake, came barreling down and forward kamikaze-style towards my windshield. Combined, they helped to create an experience unlike any I have ever felt before, one that made my 60 mph feel much more like a warp speed 9. One that took me out of the driver seat of my little Versa and into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. The icy road gave nowhere for my tiny tires to latch on to, thus lending to the experience a feeling even more transcendent and dreamlike.

Jumping from lane to lane in a effort to tunnel past the dawdling red orbs of those other drivers who were moving much slower than I, it still felt as if my car was standing perfectly still, if not actually losing ground. The feeling made me queazy and uneasy, but a touch excited at the same time. Somewhere in the back of my skull, a little mother screamed at me to slow down, but I couldn’t. It was too much of an experience to embrace, especially when in consideration that not once in the forty-two years my ears have been alive, have I ever felt anything even close to the same. It didn’t end until my exit jumped up to greet me, and I was reduced to once again traveling at speeds more legal, on roads more treacherous though signaled.

Now, I don’t want to say that what occurred was one of those “life flashing before your eyes” type of moments, but only because it was exactly not that. I suppose that I mention the feeling however, because what I did undergo could best be understood if it were envisioned as sitting across from that type of experience, playing checkers and getting on quite famously together. And the feeling was this: while pummeling down the road, braving an army of fat snow flakes and bobbing red orbs, it dawned on me just how pointless the whole thing was. Is. All of it. But not in a bad way. Not in a “slamming me to a halt” sort of way, but rather, a “lifting me above it all” sensation. That little mother in the back of my head had nothing to fear, as nothing bad could really ever happen. It may have seemed scary to her, but I actually was in control. Of course, I had nothing to fear either. Even as I blindly rushed towards school, fretting about the fact that I would be late to take an Ecology test that I had forgotten to study for (why Ecology????).

It dawned on me, this rushing about and studying and sometimes failing are all manmade things. Things that have no purpose or reason in the real world, other than to make us feel good about ourselves. And I don’t mean our “real world”, but rather the world’s real world. Life’s real world. So, in those few moments spent racing head-on into Mother Nature’s fat white army, I felt not my life, but the world flash before my eyes. And I was liberated as a result. I needn’t fear. The world would continue on, even if I was late to class. Even if I did poorly or in fact failed the test I had forgotten to study for (why Ecology????). The world would even carry on if I allowed at least one set of those little red orbs to hold me back from achieving – what under those conditions – was to be considered breakneck speed. And from there, I was pulled into even wider things. The world would carry on pretty much regardless of anything that might happen. If I never get out of my dead-end job, the planet won’t care. If I somehow happen to find or create a new future, career-wise, the world will be similarly nonplussed. Should I lose C even, the world will still turn. When I lose my dad later this year, it will continue to as well. And should I somehow damage relationships along the way with any of my Three, or others that I love – or the others that I don’t love – nothing will change. That damned planet is just going to keep on spinning. I am just one tiny prick (pun intended) on the stipple of Life. And free as a result.

And if matters as important as this are – in the grand scheme of things – of no real importance at all, then how much less important still must the vein search for cash, cars, glory and girls be? How wasteful of our time can the pursuit of power, fame and position be? And why do we find ourselves rushing about on snow-blind nights, searching these things out, instead of simply enjoying our freedom from them?

Now, I know none of this is exactly “news” to you, and assuming you haven’t fallen asleep by this point, I wanted to let you know that I already knew it as well. But there was something within this particular moment, this one nugget of unforeseen time, that allowed me gleam the whole blessed wreck from God’s viewpoint instead of my own. Or in other words, for a brief moment I was able to see the “whole” of it instead just the “now”. And in so doing, I realized that the now of it was all that truly mattered. Some of you who dig through my mental rubbish on a weekly basis might now be thinking, “so could this be the long-overdue response from J.C. you were in search of a few weeks back?” I’d like to think it was. But even if it wasn’t, I was glad of the experience. I was glad to be reminded that most – if not all – of the things we as humans chase after, have nothing at all to do with our humanity. And all the things that do, are right there at our finger tips the whole time, free for the taking. All we need to do is stop running into the world, and reach out to it instead.

•••••

The song included in today’s post was the one that I was listening to as I ended my journey (both spiritually and physically) while pulling into the campus parking lot. And yes, it is actually on the same disc as the first song mentioned today. Don’t ask, my mixes can get pretty nasty. Anywho, I’m including it here, because it felt like such a fitting way to end my “ride”, bringing into even greater focus the nonsense with which we surround ourselves. Of course, I’m also including it because it’s damned good. The brainchild of Ben Folds, Henry Rollins and one Mr. William Shatner, I fear too few people know of it’s existence. An error I hope to remedy somewhat today.

And yes, I’m using the Avatar version. Because Avatar is way cool.