Nothing.

Enjoying a few too many cocktails recently, I was describing the following post, which had only up until that point been scribbled somewhere inside my head. To my tipsy surprise, the friend with whom I was speaking told me that I definitely needed to publish these thoughts. Understanding they may very well have been equally as tipsy as I, still, now I have.

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Please don’t ever think that you have nothing. The only nothing you have, is the nothing you refuse to let go of, ignoring all the everythings around you in your ragged pursuit of it.

Let’s put it this way: imagine you’re a child at a party. Not just any party, but your birthday party. Your party, spent slouched in a chair sobbing, holding a deflated crippled balloon flaccidly in your lap. You tried to breathe new life into it, but every desperate effort was damned as the molecules of heaving air escaped through the unseen, unforeseen gash towards the opposite end. Weepily raising your head towards the sky you bellow at No One, lamenting the fact that this balloon – this very special singularly unique balloon – is no longer thriving, no longer yours to adore.

Your caterwauling never reaches its wail-volume potential however, being muffled instead by the tens of hundreds of bright balloons surrounding you – at this very moment bouncing off against your head, neck, back, and flanks. All of them full, vibrantly alive, and desiring of your attention. Bouncing joyfully in the hopes that in catching your tear-filled eye, they might persuade your entrenched frown right side ‘round.

These balloons not only absorb your mournful yelps, they also have the power to sooth your pain, muffling the hurt similar to the way they do the dirge. At the risk of taking the analogy too far, these balloons – these hundreds of balloons that are afloat especially for you on your special day – have the power to lift you up straight up out of your misery, up even out of yourself.

More often than not, this scenario I feel finds us choosing to ignore the hundreds of joyful choices around us, focusing instead our energies in attempting to resurrect the death that lies before us, this torn past unreturnable. If you’re like me in this, I’d remind you again to please not be that way. I have learned through my own wasted exertions that the nothing that once was will never again be. For even if it does come back ‘round, it will be something different than what is was before, something familiar yet new.

Truly, the nothing you think you’re trying to hold on to is already gone. It mightn’t have been your fault, but that isn’t the point. Let it go. Let it go so that you can grab on to the everythings that are right now at your door, beckoning to you, begging to lift you up as they too soar.

So please, don’t ever believe that you have nothing. For any nothing you do have, is simply the nothing that you alone choose to keep.

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Yin/Yang, plus/minus, dark/light, or just an excuse to write two-hundred instead of one?

Call it what you will, but after writing the first of these, I thought this week may warrant a second effort, just so y’all didn’t think my writing was far too dark much too often.

Playing along with Tara’s 100 Word Challenge again, here is this week’s submission in response to the word prompt “Idea.”

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*1

The rum slugged forth from the bottle, much like suffering a urinary tract infection.
Growling in a similarly stunted sloppy fashion to no one, he cursed while watching some nectar splash helplessly past the glass’s rim, onto the perpetually crumb-filled countertop.

The idea of inspecting the bottle’s pour for possible logjams never occurred, as he relished a certain unforeseen satisfaction in failing even this simple task of drinking himself to death.

From the floor, his cat sat licking in solidarity errant drops that reached their snout. Much like their master’s, the measure was enough to numb, never enough to kill.

*2

His eyes poured over her while watching another “indie” film that would linger long after the TV dimmed, the subsequential lovemaking exhausted.

They’d avoided speaking of the idea of “love,” as both previously had been ravaged by the self-serving narcissists each entrusted theirs with. Ignoring tomorrows unguaranteed, they instead relished Todays spent together.

Gazing upon her now, he filled with joy previously unknown. A joy he wanted not just tonight, nor tomorrow, but lifetimes to come.

Her cat nestled atop them as the movie plugged along, almost hinting that here is where he too should stay. Here he’d find life anew. 100-word-challenge.jpg

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.

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…

.

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…

.

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.