Bless this Saturday. I have no plans. The kids are at their mom’s.
It’s summer. I have a six pack in a cooler, lawn chair on my third story deck. Overlooking the courtyard in the apartment complex.
I can see the first, second and third floor apartments. Their sliding glass doors facing mine.
That’s not true. It’s winter. And, I don’t live in an apartment complex with a third floor deck. That doesn’t matter. I did once. In college. It was just how I explained.
It’s a beautiful sunny day. A slight breeze hovers and spreads thin over my skin.
I’m wearing my short shorts. I love these shorts. The others laugh when I wear them. Fuck em. No shoes, no shirt.
Carver was married to a writer. Her name was Tess. I’d like to be married to a writer named Tess. Someday, maybe. Once the kids have grown.
I don’t look up when I’m reading Carver. Or if I do, it’s only briefly. So I put my finger on the word, on the page, raise my eyes.
Second floor across the courtyard – Apt 201 – stands Paul smoking a cigarette. He slings weed. Small time. Just enough to smoke for free. We play backgammon at his place on mornings when he’s happy. His wife makes me coffee. Today he’s angry. So he won’t ask. Inside are his three children. He yells at wife. Everyone in this courtyard knows she should leave him. Treats her like shit. She’s been pregnant and nursing for three years. Their deck is a mess.
Back to reading Carver, a poem called This Morning, page 41.
I don’t feel the least bit guilty that I haven’t called my mom back.
My poor mom. She doesn’t remember things that well anymore. I told her to keep a notebook and calendar. She’s misplaced them. All her pens are out of ink. I don’t often answer her questions. My answers create misunderstandings. Then my sisters text me.
“What did you say?” they ask. I never clarify. Just that mom is handicapped now.
I’m reading Carver today. I’m going to read through this entire six pack.
I don’t want to think about the women I once loved. But there’s one.
She was blue eyed, model gorgeous. Dressed to the nines. Ahead of her time when she had her time. That time was our time. Her mom beat her up when she was a child. Her grief stretched far. She married up. Has six kids now.
I’ll stay here all day reading Carver. I am a picture of a man reading. Still as stone.
If I don’t put SPF on my forehead, shoulders, chest, thighs, I’m going to burn.
This beer tastes too good. I have to pee.
As I get up, birds skitter from the cherry blossoms. My phone buzzes.
There’s a romance with “love at first sight,” but I’d like to toss a coin into the fountain for each lover I could become strangers with again, and I wouldn’t be ugly to them, and they’d be looking at me, because I’d be someone they hadn’t met yet, and they’d be wondering what it’d be like to know someone like me, and after hours of thinking about it, we would kiss, then leave to a place where we haven’t ever said things to each other we can’t unsay or done things we can’t undo, and we’d only say new things, and do new things in this new place, which would replace the old things, and it’d feel like two people falling in love after years of being alone, and it’d feel like happily ever after all over again.
I want to write about my failures in relationship, in business, in money, in parenting
Like the other day I told my son to “buck up” after he started crying over something I declared “should not fuck your day.”
I, of course, want to wrap it up – each small, small piece of my life with a pretty bow of a last paragraph because I think, it’s gotta be a story of how I overcame it all.
Thing is – most things I haven’t overcome. That’s not entirely true, but I definitely slip all the time.
I want to write about the time I lost everything, and the steps (A through Z) that I took to pick myself up from the floor – but I don’t know which time I should choose.
I want to reiterate – again and again – how often I slip along the way, regress, devolve, wake up to the nightmare, then climb out because the Saber Toothed Tiger is hot on my ass.
I want to write about how I have disappointed my most important people, then felt guilty and ashamed. Then cried over the loss.
I want to write about how embarrassed I am to tell people the truth about my failures. How I FAILED yet again.
I want to write about the time the heat got shut off on my birthday, or the time I missed my daughter’s birthday because I was in jail.
I want to write about the time I was on a date and paid for her beer with a hundred dollar bill. She tried to be funny, “Whoa drug dealer!” she said. But on the inside I was embarrassed. Because indeed, I WAS selling drugs. And, that 100 dollar bill was from the check I’d cashed at Walmart. Because I shut my bank account down when the overdraft fees added up.
I want to write all the things I already know before I hear them. Because that is why I am in the world.
I don’t know where to start.
Maybe I’ll start with – how all these years of mistakes later – I often think about the dogs that got left behind – starting with Luna and Buddy, but mostly Redwood. Oh Redwood! I’m sorry, it was my fault.
Somehow through all of these things I write, I want you to know that I’m funny too, but how do I show that? It never comes through.
I want to tell you about my Junior year in high school English Comp. When I turned my rough drafts into the teacher, I had wiped boogers in the margins. She circled them with red pen and a question mark. Is that funny to you? (hilarious to me!)
I imagine an entire collection titled “Notes from a Dirty Young Man” like Bukowski’s “Notes from a Dirty Old Man.”
I want to be ironic, and tell of my season trying to “hook up,” and instead, attracting women who want relationships, but aren’t ready for them despite how ready they think they are, and absolutely missing all the fun.
I want to write all of these things with a new computer, my feet in the sand sipping a fu fu drink and the ocean as my soundtrack.
These are some of the stories I want to tell, and they have written themselves all over my life.
I want to describe how comfortable I am with the uncomfortable, the awkward. How much I cringe before clicking POST.
I want to peel back my resentment of white women who “eeny meeny miny moe” where to best focus their activist energy (as if posting it to social media is “activism”). I want to champion a project that collects all of their disavow posts for an anthology, Best White Women Disavow Posts of 2017. I will relish in Amazon reviews that call me an “…ist” word ie. misogynist, narcissist, racist, fascist, etc.
If I wrote that, I’d have to tell you about my Dad’s sense of humor too.
I want to write a memoir of all the times I have lived and died in Kalamazoo, MI.
I want to tell you about my son Ben in Florida, age 12. How he only has a vague idea of me, but I know every detail of him, and my confidence that a day near where he knows as much.
I want to tell you about the time me and mom walked around Timothy Lake. Her bunyan and broken elbow. Her stick shift Ford Tempo I learned to drive on the logging roads of Mt. Hood. Our break down in Ogden, UT. The way she would cry and how it made my skin crawl.
I want to write a manifesto persuading you to show your work, think out loud, fail on the way to succeeding, imperfect on the way toward better than good enough.
Since I want to leave behind this easily found trail of little posts and stories, I want you to do the same. Because no one is interested in resumes, THIS is the resume.
I want to tell about the time I was ahead of the curve. And how, sometimes, if you’re ahead of the curve, you’re actually just wrong because no one around you has lived into what you know you see. Because you don’t have to be “right” very many times to know being right isn’t the point.
I haven’t written about any of these things. Not yet. They are still stories that are being written. Maybe I’m not far enough away from them. I don’t know.
Right now, I’m laying flat – debating with myself whether I’m saying it grammatically correct – is it “Laying flat” or “Lying flat?”
I DON’T KNOW, BUT I DO KNOW …
… I so often have the urge to shake myself out from myself and fall onto this digital white space that we call Facebook or Instagram or my blog, because that’s how I stay connected to myself.
And, I’d know that you like me after I’d confess that I love myself, because you’d just smile, giggle, and say, “I know you do” but my stories don’t end that neatly.
Picking myself up from the floor after a home workout.
There is an easy on-ramp in my neurological pathway that I call the “highway to hell.”
Have you ever gone the wrong way down the highway and there’s no exit off for miles and miles? And dammit! you missed the turn-around, the one only for Troopers that we use anyway, doing 70 with someone on your ass. You’re running late too.
That’s my highway to hell feeling: missing out on something, traveling in the wrong direction, time running out, not enough, fear of loss…
I can feel it kick-in.
To use another metaphor, it’s like the old lizard brain makes an all-call over the PA with instructions to upgrade everything that was “important” into something “URGENT!!!!!” And due tomorrow.
Once that barn is on fire, I turn grumpy, make rash decisions and have no patience. Forget about kindness towards the people I love most. Often my children. After I see that I made them feel bad, I beat myself up about it. It’s terrible and unproductive.
That’s why I call it the highway to hell. Because it is, and it clouds my thinking. I’m not at my best when I flip the blinker toward the on-ramp to hell.
I don’t analyze it anymore.
I don’t need to talk about it endlessly. I don’t try to stop it from happening. To the contrary, I need it to happen. It’s my cue. It’s the trigger that alerts me to begin breaking the pattern.
Since it’s a habit, or a neurological pathway that has strength, I have to interrupt the pattern. Because it is strongly ingrained, and I have to completely change direction in order to avoid that perpetual escalation. This I have learned, is crucial because – it’s the same with any habit – there needs to be a new pattern of thinking, feeling, behaving that must be created, and in order to do so, I know that I must first annihilate the old pattern.
Right now, it takes me about 15 minutes to drop myself to my knees. It usually begins with burpees. Often ends with planks. A lot of squat hops in the middle. the other day, it involved a kettle bell.
To be specific, I used this exact workout. See the picture below.
#NoGymJanuary for me.
Besides a kettle bell, I’m not gonna touch a weight. I’m more interested in eating greens and proteins, getting a full night’s sleep and prioritizing 15 minutes a day, five days a week… for now, for January.
This month, I’m focused on routine, good sleeping and eating habits and body weight strength. This is my stability. If I don’t have these basics down, then I won’t hit the gym with the right frame of purpose. I’m looking at the year of body positivity, with focus on scaffolding each month.
My goal with this workout is to rip through it like a crazed pitbull. All out, no breaks, just high intensity three minutes at a time. Then adding on one calisthenic each three minute cycle until I’m doing all of them.
This is not mystical.
This is what I actually DO. This is not magic. This is how change in the world, in my life, happens. Has happened. This is how I a pattern can be broken.
My off-ramp is much stronger now (and so am I). If at first, I was with a machete in hand, finding my way off through the messy jungle. Now, it’s at least hard gravel. The road has been warn. I have rerouted some of the old neurological pathway.
At least, I can say, this is what happens to me. But maybe it can work for you too.
We all have to both drop ourselves to the floor, and then pick ourselves up from the floor – all the better for it.
December 31 is the period at the end of the sentence.
January 1 is the capital letter – new sentence.
It’s a celebrated reminder that every day is a chance to reinvent. I’m always in motion. And, if I’m awake, I decide: forward or backward. January 1 is a chance to start from scratch. There is something beautiful about starting from scratch. Because all labels I ever claimed are now just vanity. I am a zero. I don’t say I’m anything, everything starts, and I do or not do.
I’m not looking for the end of the road. I’m at the first step, and I can see the next step. That’s what the New Year means to me. By the way, any day can be your “Jan 1,” you choose.