My War

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You gather your armor, beaten, somehow heavier from the years of use, and you fight the demons once more.

You fight the demons and you rage against their walls. Storming fortresses in the hopes of destroying the dungeons they mean to place you in, the tiny dark holes wherein you’ll die and be left for forgotten.

As you lash out and against, you hear a Voice continually humming in the back of your brain like a semi-automatic tattoo gun, inking onto your mind the suggestion that you should just give up, just stop already, just go to sleep.

Just go to sleep.

A distraction at first, it coyly swallows every last demon warring against you till it becomes the entirety of your war. In an effort to dismantle dark forgotten holes, it begs you to enter one of your very own construct, but only once. Once, and forever and ever amen more.

You can say no, but in so doing, understand that the demons will reappear. The goddamned demons will reappear, stronger and angrier than before.

Say no anyway.

Make no mistake, this will be a continual war. The demons need not food nor rest nor restocking. The Voice itself prattles on, dolloping constant bloody stain that’ll continue to blacken even a weary mind retired for the night. The war will rage, in starts and stops, maybe even for the remainder of your life.

Say no anyway.

The war will rage on, in starts and stops, maybe yes, even for the remainder of your life. I know it has so in mine at least. And the armor continues to become heavier every time I pick it up, but still I do.

And it’s not because I’m any sort of hero, but rather, a coward. A coward too frightened to enter into that dark forgetting hole of my own construct, but only once. A coward too afraid to admit defeat. Even after defeat upon defeat upon defeat.

A coward who’s survived.

And in the case of this war at least, being so is just enough to be a victor. Today, tomorrow, and every day after. Possibly even til the day when the demons are vanquished and the Voice silenced once and for all. Forever and ever amen.

It can happen after all, you know

I don’t know why I’m sharing this, except that maybe I have heard recently of far too many who were not cowards, far too many lost to us too soon and far too forever as a result.

And maybe I think, someone who needs these words – someone who is getting ready themselves to make the mistake this time of saying yes once and forever – someone like that might find this scribbled thought and see, and in seeing, See.

I hope so. I hope I can do at least that in my what I would call a life. I know it’s helped me to realize that others have succeeded where I sometimes fear I will fail; to know that I’m not the only one fighting, that I’m not alone. To know that I am loved by other cowards who also continue to survive.

You too, are not alone.

You too, are loved.

If by no one else, then at least by me.

Come, please, gather your beaten armor, and beside me fight another day, OK?

Love,

t

47 in 46: Alone Again (Naturally)

As this week past was National Suicide Prevention week, but next week’s post is the one dealing with that topic, out of respect to all those who suffer daily, those who have lost someone else to it, and ultimately those who have lost themselves, I will jump 1972 back one week in order to give you the following.

We will be back on track after we expunge 1971 next week, but in all honesty and as C.S. Lewis said, “perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them.” Just as long as you do.

Gilbert O’Sullivan’s 1972 hit, Alone Again (Naturally). I hope you enjoy…

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The time was only early evening in as so much as 3 PMish would normally be considered so. In fact, the gloom required had hardly even begun to rally in this North Carolinian late summer sky as our scene unfolds. How unlikely these sort of things happen, and as often as they do, rarely according to script.

Our focal character however fits the mood perfectly. Emotionally dashed, wrecked and torn, he slouches idle and grey-faced over the railing that sits atop the bridge that promises him passage over the murky water. Again, the water is not really helping matters in setting the scene, in that it is not so much murky and mired as it is gentle and serene. And the bridge even, poses no giant monolithic distance between our yet-to be determined hero and the deep, but rather a firm safety net perched rigidly a mere few dozen-to thirty feet or so above the shimmering blue.

And so, with such disaster and gloom and darkish prelude abound(less), our tale of something akin to self-deceit, defeat and unwelcome jagged visitors begins…

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Wathca doin, dumbass?

How’d you find me here?

It’s my job. And my pleasure.

So, watcha doin’?

Just thinking, maybe I should call mom, I guess. And looking. Wishing…

Of course you are. Ain’t we all? Ya know what’s the difference between the successes and the failures though, right? The successes don’t waste time thinkin’. No sir, the successes stop wishin’, and just jump already.

Huh? What are you talking about?  I don’t want to be a success…

Of course you do, idiot. You all do. It’s how you’re all built, see? It’s just a different sort of success that you want in particular, cause you’re the type that’s always gotta be difficult, is why. For some, it’s about the money, or the broads, or the power, or hell, even the fancy cars and the groveling herds of “friends” kissing their ever-loving ass. But for you though, well for you princess, it’s just about the Freedom, now ain’t it?

I suppose.

Little baby wants to be “free” he does, gotta call mommy to make things better, to get penned back up. “Why’s everyone always pickin’ on me and making me feel weird,” he sez. Mommy will lie and say something nice while she’s locking you back in the cage, but don’t ya get it? Nobody makes you feel nothin’. You ARE weird. You deserve being picked on. It’s the natural order of things, s’all. Hell, I sorta wanna kidney punch you myself right about now. You’re wrong, broken, useless. Ya see, God just makes screw-ups sometimes because maybe He’s drunk, or maybe because He wants to show normal good folk just how messed up He coulda made them if He’d wanted to. You know, so that they’ll have to start prayin’ harder to Him or something like that. “Oh, thank you mighty God, for not making me a screw up like this joker over here!” And you kid? Well you just happened to be one of the lucky short-straws in that line of divine fuckery.

That can’t be true. It’s a lie.

Really? You got any evidence in them empty pockets of yours to refute me with prissy? On accounta, I got some 19 + years of examples proving to you that I’m right! You’re worthless, plain n’ simple.

That’s a lie!

You’re a worthless piece of shit. Ain’t never gonna be good enough for no one or nothing. And even your best efforts ain’t never gonna come close to making people think otherwise ‘bout you. You know it’s true, and that’s why you’re here, “wishing.”

THAT’S A LIE!!!

C’mon now pally, don’t get all pissy with me. We’re just having a nice conversation, see? No need to get your loser panties all bunched over the simple n’ singular truth of the matter.

That can’t be the truth.

Well, it is.

It is – err – I mean, it isn’t.

No?

Well, I don’t think so.

There you go again, you with your thinking. Guess what happened to The Thinker, kid; frozen in time he is. A stupid nudie, balls all hangin’ out n’ gawked at forever. You think you hate life n’ people finger-wagging you down now? Just you try puttin’ up with that forever more. Now think about that!

The Thinker is just a statue. It never was anything more.

Listen you, it’s all allegorical, dumbass. The point is this: the point is that the successes don’t stop moving, the successes just jump.

But I’m afraid.

No shit. But if you think about, you should be more afraid of the alternative.

Why?

Because!  Because, you know, like I said before: you ain’t never gonna be good enough, no matter what you do.

But things will change. I’ll get married, I’ll have kids, and I’ll grow a family of my own. My tribe. I know it’ll happen.

Sure, sure it will. And they’ll all leave you.

No they won’t.

You asking or tellin’?

They won’t!

Why wouldn’t they? Hasn’t everyone before? People can’t be duped by love their whole lives, ya know. Sooner or later they’ll all wake up, see the real “you,” the real useless weird loser “you,” realize that they never really ever gave not even a singular fuck about you in tha first, and run hightail-like away – BAM! Running scared hell-fast, dust a-trailin’ from your slack dumb ass.

That’s not true.

It is.

They won’t.

They will.

They wouldn’t.

They WILL.

I can’t…

You can.

Please don’t make me…

Do IT.

I fucking hate you.

I know, retard.

You see, kid, I am you.

Wha?

See anyone else on this bridge with you, idiot?

But I don’t…

Yeah, yeah, I know, you “don’t understand…”

I don’t. I mean, it never even dawned on me that I was here alone.

Again, naturally. Yeah, see how stupid you are?

Actually, that sort of thing must mean that I have a pretty intense imagination, right? And that’s gotta mean I’m worth at least something.

No, it doesn’t. Ya see…

No, I do. I do see!

Listen, I agree with you. It sucks right now, real bad. And you’re right, it might suck again in the future. Hell, fine, it probably will. But that’s a future I think I want to see, to be part of, to know. I mean, it’s can’t suck all the time.

It can, and you’ll still be alone, laughed at, and shunned.

I won’t.

You will.

I might not. OK, fine, maybe I will. But I’m alone now, and none the worse for it, relatively speaking. And hey, who knows? I might be happier staying that way, instead of maybe being stuck with someone who’s constantly bringing me down but without ever lifting me up; someone who’d eventually leave me anyway like you said.

I guess maybe the freedom I’m hoping for will result from a life well-lived, instead of a life cut short.

You’re wrong, princess…

Well I won’t know unless I try.

The successes jump.

Not all of them, I’m thinking. In fact, not any of them jump. No, the successes are the ones who decide not to.

Jump.

No, sorry. Not today.

Jump!

Nah, I think I will go call my mom instead…

JUMP!!!

Thanks for the conversation though. It helped bring a lot to light, though I can’t say I hope to “see” you again anytime soon.

Oh, you will. Trust me you miserable little SOB, you will…

Our hero, still slouched as is his normal posture resulting from the deplorably heavy weight of the sack of self-loathing he’s been lugging about for 19 + years, slowly wipes away tears of both fear and joy as he turns to leave. While walking off the bridge in hopeful trepidation – a bridge which itself has steadfastly remained cheerfully devoid of fog, or any other sort of physical nuance that would have alerted the average passer-by as to the severity of our tale – the jagged visitor that was never truly there in the first slowly fades from view, smug in the knowledge that his final words were correct in that he will in fact return one day. This time armed to the teeth and in a clime and place much more hospitable towards his intent…

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47 In 46: Spinning Wheel

It’s odd that, as a huge music snob (in stature versus size) I would not have known of this before, but when my friend recommended it to me, I just had to jump on board. I don’t know what it’s called in actuality, but the idea is to post on your social media weapon of choice a song a day for as many years as you’ve been alive, with enough such days allocated as to take you up to your actual birthday. I found out about the exercise 2 days prior to my day of birth, and jammed out all 47 tracks within that time, and through more than several cocktails.

Again, maybe I was wrong in this, but I had thought that you were supposed to, for each year represented, choose a song released within that year, only it if it said something about your life in that time. And that’s what I did. It wasn’t too long after that I realized I could write a little story for each song selection here as well. And that is exactly what I am doing now.

Starting today, 1969. With Blood, Sweat and Tears.

I hope you enjoy…

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“What goes up,

Must come down…”

Story of his life, that lyric would end up being, but at that moment Teddy was far too young to know that. In fact, at that very moment, as the song lilted above the din of his mother’s prepping dinner, Teddy didn’t even know what the song’s story was about. The spinning wheel and painted pony he imagined were not connected at all, and in no way ever coagulated in his mind as the Ferris Wheel that everyone else surely would have envisioned.

He didn’t like the song for this reason. It confused him, and he loathed feeling confused, in part because it was a feeling he had far too often. He didn’t like the song, so he ignored it, opting instead to sit quietly at the kitchen table while he slowly rolled the slice of salami that served as his pre-dinner snack. The salami rolling was ritualistic, though if he ever took the time to determine what ever started it, he would have never come to an answer. It worked something like this: he would first fold each slice in half, secretly rejoicing in the grease that oozed onto his oft times dirt-stained fingers in the process. After folding thusly, he would then roll the slice into itself clockwise until it became a fattened cone shaped morsel. And, being highly anally attentive, he would then confirm that on the open end of the cone all the rolled layers of his creation were somewhat equal, without instances of too many dips or valleys between them. If the symmetry was not evenish, he would unroll disgustedly and start again. Only when it looked “just right” would he plunge his teeth greedily into the whole unholy mess, destroying his carefully crafted creation within two swift bites.

“Ride a painted pony,

Let the spinning wheel flyyyyyyyyy…”

The damned song continued on. The deep, knowing baritone of the singer making Teddy feel even more inadequate in his adolescent confusion on the subject matter. He dismissed the sound again while methodically munching on his meat, imagining instead that he was able to make himself very small. Small enough in fact as to clamber under the same baseboard as the ants he had been observing doing so industriously at that moment. Once under there he imagined he would find a new world, one safe from harm. A world where he would matter, maybe even become king of the ants, or at least find others who also were like him, others who wouldn’t hurt him.

Teddy did this a lot, running away in his imagination to places where he mattered, places where he would fit in, and not get picked on or beat up. Places where he could be a king or a hero. Years later, Teddy would meet his Rosetta Stone of such diversionary tactics in a little remembered sci-fi movie he saw, wherein a lonely boy becomes a solitary star fighter that saves the universe. The whole entire universe; even the people that used to beat on him. And then, oh boy, are they ever sorry that they ever treated him that way!

But that would be a story for another time – a sadder, post-pubescent story, long after Teddy had become – rather against his will – Ted.

“Ted. Ted? Teddy!”

His mother jolted him from his reverie while saying, “Honey, you have to go and get cleaned up. Daddy will be home soon, and you know how he wants his dinner the minute he walks in. Now come on, off with you, scoot!” She shook her head, to herself wondering what had been going on in that little head of his this time, and why his look was always so serious and far off distant.

Leaving the table without complaint while smudging it’s laminate surface with greasy dirt, Teddy noticed that while the song had changed, it was the same band, now that other one, the one wherein the singer warbled, “you make me so, very happy…” Years later, Ted would be a Sometime DJ in an All-The-Time Clubland World, and he would firmly rail against ever playing the same band twice in a night, let alone literally in an amateurish back-to-back fashion like that. It may have even been this very experience that gave him the fodder to form this belief. But again, at that moment Teddy was far too young to know that. At that very moment in fact, Teddy didn’t even know what his song’s story was to be about.

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.

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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.

*

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.

(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.

t