Comments from friends

So, I remember when the news first hit. Some of which I had to, essentially, hand deliver. Many of the comments I received were similar. It amounted to “I don’t care what the next thing is that your ex does. I care about what the next thing you do will be.”

Well, friends, now you know what that is and I’m looking for you. There are so many voices I haven’t heard from… and too many in my own head I hear from all too often. “You and anything you do doesn’t matter” reverberates every God damn day. Every minute, every hour; even if I know it isn’t true. But it sure as hell would be nice to hear it from someone outside my own head.

*sigh*

Oh well. Perhaps I ask too much of other people. Maybe that’s why I am where I am.  At least there are the pills and the bottles. Even those don’t change the fact that I love so many people and especially the one I will….

 

“In spite of everything I’ve learned
I hid my tracks”

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So who are we, really?

In the wake of deciding that I don’t really want to continue with the divorce process I’ve had time to think. A lot. Long car and bus rides, hours by myself in my apartment far away from friends, time without seeking the counsel of others but, rather, searching deep within myself for answers to questions. Questions like “who am I and what would I be like if I were able to return to them?”

I can’t say if I’m more realistic or pessimistic; more idealistic or more cynical. In running the analysis on myself I’ve had to start from step 1: “do I really want to go back?”

The answer to this keeps coming back as “yes”. That answer leads to the other questions. I have learned that I am a little stronger, at least, than I thought I was. I also now know what I always suspected; that I don’t *need* someone to hold my hand all the time to do things as simple as exploring a new habitat, taking photos, or obtaining my own SIM card for my phone. In truth, I really don’t *need* anyone else at all. I don’t think they do either.

In returning, what of this new understanding am I unwilling to waver on? I like my independence and being able to do what I like, when I like. This was never really denied me, for the most part, when we were together. I denied them to myself because of a faulty premise for what brought us together in the first place. I thought that they needed me, not that they wanted me.

If I were allowed to return, I’d know that they want me there. I have no desire to continue any patterns of white-knighting or gas-lighting. Simply put, I want to be able to love the person I loved before but this time unconditionally and, ideally, bereft of the kinds of expectations of what that love is supposed to look like. I think a lot of those expectations wrapped up in my previous understanding of “love” were pieces along the fault lines that brought us here. At least on my end.

What I would want is to see that friendship we had take root in fresh ground as we attempt to reconcile. With my newly gained perspective on the idea that I can survive damn well enough on my own, since that’s what I’ve largely had to do since we parted, I now know that it’s not about being needed by anyone other than yourself. It’s also not about needing someone outside yourself. It’s about enjoying the other person’s company enough that being without them isn’t as much of a tantalizing option.

I think my skin has grown substantially thicker, my expectations drastically tempered, and that I simply want to love and be loved by them because it’s like nothing else I’ve ever had.

I’ve certainly learned a lot about who I am but also about how this experience has changed aspects of myself. For better or worse, I want to bring myself back to them with everything I’ve learned and seen because, really, life isn’t as great without someone to share all the new discoveries and little triumphs with.

Dearest, I don’t want to “save” you because you don’t *need* saving but I do want to be with you because… well, I want to be with you. In the earliest days of our relationship that was obvious but unfortunately, I unravelled. Now that I’m starting to come together again, I feel like I could certainly be different, if not entirely better, than I was over the longer stretch of our relationship.

I love you, I miss you, I just want another chance.

/signingoff

B.

One thing I abhor…

…is giving up. And yet, that’s where I find myself these days. I feel like I’ve given up on a lot of things. The idea of love in a way that works out for me, fighting my own inner demons, and, lately, even completing this divorce.

You see, the impetus is on me to finish it. A divorce I never wanted has required me, every step of the way, to push towards its inevitable conclusion. Lately, I find myself simply not caring about it anymore. It is a vast pit for my emotions to sink themselves into in the process of further losing any sense of self I have left.

If there’s one thing I learned from the death of my grandmother not so long ago, it’s that if you find yourself doing something you don’t want to be doing then stop. Do something else. Something that brings you a sense of something better.

So, at this point, I am ready to pull the plug on the damn thing. I don’t want it anyway. It’s not fun. It doesn’t feel good. It keeps me involved in a scenario I don’t want to be involved in. Frankly, I’d feel much better about some attempt at rational conversation, about so many things I’ve already outlined here. As far as the nitpicking and legalistic bullshit, I simply don’t have the time or inclination to care anymore.

I currently am working to lift people up after a massive tragedy. It seems to me that these random, one-off, world-changing events keep finding me, especially when I am in no place whatsoever to deal with them without launching myself headfirst into them with everything that I am.

That’s what I’ve done for the last week and it has put me on the path of being a bonafide, actually published, god forbid photographer and journalist. I want very badly to be excited about this. I work diligently at it and the other necessary efforts every single day. As I write this, I know that I am losing valuable time for rest before I get up in the morning to go into yet another potentially dangerous situation where I will need all of my faculties.

And yet, as I conduct interviews, take photographs, help truck aid in and out of villages, I find myself wishing that one person was there with me to take the kinds of pictures that I still only dream of being able to produce. I feel them every time I change a setting or frame a new image of what I’m seeing. When I hold that camera it’s like touching a piece of them that only the two of us shared.

I feel like there’s magic in that lens and the mechanisms that whir and click to produce some document of what I see, what I’m living, and what might serve as my final lasting impression because, again, monsters don’t rest. They just hide waiting for you to stumble.

I haven’t stopped stumbling for almost 9 months now. One day it will catch me but not today, I think, and hopefully not tomorrow. There are people who still might be able to use me and that is one thing I do still care about.

I hate cliches, stereotypes, and tropes as much as you…

…but I have one that I find myself revisiting relatively constantly these days and this idea that there is a “monster” that lives inside my head. It’s only wish is to take me down. I have no idea why, how, or when. I can’t name it. It’s not simply depression or “mental illness”. It’s not something that can be undone with therapy, drugs, or corrective behaviors. I’ve tried.

I know, at this point, that it’s not a matter of if it will take me but when. As I’ve said before, I am trying very hard to spend what time I have left doing good for other people before my inevitable fall. I kind of feel like this is the same way that people who have been “on top of the world” also felt. Maybe that’s why the people I immediately think of who lost the race to their own monster resonates so strongly with me. I find myself fervently working, always working, here or on photos or writing or lesson plans; always something to try to keep going. If I have another deadline to meet I can’t go, right?

Those deadlines and tasks, though, don’t stop the loneliness from sinking in. No matter how much I love what I do on a daily basis it doesn’t change that I don’t have anyone to share it with in the way that I wanted. It doesn’t change that, for a minute, I *did* have that but it didn’t last. No matter how much I love family and friends, it doesn’t keep the dark clouds at bay for long. There’s always some reminder waiting around the corner to empower the monster to show me of all of my failings and why, exactly, I’m alone.

“It’s not a matter of if but when.” It’s not anyone else’s fault. It’s not even really mine. It just lives there inside me. It’s always been there. Living with that sense was something that I thought drew me and my former partner together. I thought, hoped, that maybe we could cling to one another and weather the respective storms that our monsters put us through.

One day, I will lose.

One day, the monster will catch up and overtake me. Hopefully, it gives me enough time to continue to help others. When I tell people I sense are in the same kind of danger that I am that life is worth living and that going on is rewarding, I mean it, even if I can’t square it with myself.

And that’s the thing, whether it’s Tony or Kate or Chester or Chris or someone else you know and love, sometimes there’s nothing we can do. All the 800 numbers in the world can’t stop the inevitable. Please don’t hold it against us. Please.

At the same time, as ever, I want to ask people to please, PLEASE, if you love or care about someone, let them know. There truly aren’t enough days in life to say it out loud and for someone who’s hurting, who’s battling their inner demons, it could be the shield that keeps that person here for just a little longer and, hopefully, could be the first or fifteenth or fiftieth rung on the ladder back into the light that they need.

In honor of that, Miki, I love you. I care about you. I dearly hope your monster is at bay and that you are doing better.

I wish I could say the same about myself but at least I plan to wake up tomorrow.

And here we are again…

Yet another person with whom I had a strong affinity appears to have taken his own life. RIP Anthony Bourdain. There are a lot of reasons I appreciated his work, particularly on his travel series. I found a kindred spirit there in someone who had had something of a rough past but had grown into an enthusiasm for the world through the mechanism of food to bring people together.

As he grew into what one could argue was his second career, as a travel journalist, I found myself increasingly aware of my own desires to relish joining others in very different places than I was accustomed to in order to hear stories about their lives and cultures. At the same time, I felt drawn to Bourdain because, much like he did, I found myself growing into this new world where our old patterns of behavior in a thoroughly patriarchal society came under a harsh new examination by ourselves and others.

This latter point is part of what drew me so strongly to my former partner. They challenged me in a number of ways that I am grateful for. When I couldn’t or didn’t look at the damaging ways in which I, myself, acted from ingrained, societal training, they were there to help me take a harsher look at it. There are certainly friends who helped in that, too, but when I became involved with them it become all-caps IMPORTANT to me. In my heart, I felt like I went from “ally” to something, I hope, is a little more proactive.

To this day, even though we are apart, I talk to people and take actions to, hopefully, try to be less stupid and make some headway towards something resembling equality across the board.

At any rate, my heart breaks once again knowing that someone I truly admired and yet was able to view as kind of a “big brother in spirit” has passed. Regardless of how it happened, it did, and now my world is a little darker for it. The one light I try to raise in it is to learn from his legacy and make progress on a similar path to the one he trod.

I remember late last year reading this essay by Bourdain. This part, especially in light of where things were at in my life truly stood out:

“In these current circumstances, one must pick a side. I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women. Not out of virtue, or integrity, or high moral outrage — as much as I’d like to say so — but because late in life, I met one extraordinary woman with a particularly awful story to tell…”

In my case, I had met and knew one extraordinary person in that scenario… and they changed me.

RIP Tony. Resilience is a pain in the ass, but I guess some of us have to do it.

Observational Comedy, Electronica, and the usual suspects

This is long but. Stuff. Things.

I’ve never been a huge fan of electronic music. It’s nothing against the artists, more or less, but rather the culture I’ve always perceived around it. I’ve always seen it as self-indulgent, hedonistic, and, above all else, privileged. I know DJ’s, hard-working artists, and a few wonderful people who are fans of some form of EDM or another. It’s just never seemed like something “for me” and that’s ok.

That said, in doing some research on another topic today, I ran across a story about the death of Avicii. The Swedish artist was one of a select few in the genre that I could appreciate. So much so that during one of my more trying times between 2013 and 2015 I listened to a fair bit of his work (and that of collaborator, Aloe Blacc). I found the words, such that they were, uplifting and enough to get me moving when it was once again difficult for me to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

It seems like more and more people who tried to distill hope by creating art out of their own frustrations and difficulties have found themselves at a point of late where there was none left. It leaves me, as I am in my own currently renewed existential plight, pondering what the point of all this mess is.

For a long time I’ve held the belief that we as people have some innate purpose on this dirt clod we call Earth. We may not know it but after enough time and some perspective I think it comes into a little more relief. At the same time, though, I’ve also believed that when our work is more or less complete our card gets punched. The method doesn’t really matter. It just is what is.

But this is all within the larger framework of my own self-reflection (read: indulgence; navel-gazing) as I try to control my spin out of what was a, more or less, comfortable orbit for about a decade. I’ve thought about where I am now, what I need, and where I’ve come from.

If you’ve followed along, you already know where I am but where I’m from, for me, continues to evolve which I guess proves we are never that far from the ground in which we first sprang up. I realized what may sound like an uncomfortable truth but in reality is actually kind of relieving because it has informed me a bit on why I am “me” and why I have always been this person. I hope it will help me manage that better in future.

I love my mom for everything she provided to me growing up but one thing I’ve come to understand is that I picked up some of her habits (as I see them), as you do, that came to manifest in not so great ways for me. I worry a lot about the future and sometimes forgot about “now”. I get anxious about things way beyond my control. If something seems too difficult I tend to turtle and distract myself, frittering away time as if its mere passage will solve whatever the problem is. I tend to put things off when they can be done quickly and simply. And like many people, these traits in others tend to bug me. It’s always when we see the traits we don’t like in ourselves reflected back at us that we tend to react, no?

Built out of that last trait I realized, though, that there was another piece. I avoid strife and confrontation, if at all possible. I know this is largely born out of the period when I was very young and my mom and dad’s marriage was disintegrating. I didn’t really have any handle on what was happening, just that, eventually, my dad was gone and he never came home. I hated him for a long time for that.

As I grew older, though, I came to understand that my mother and I (and him, ultimately) were better off. I am so grateful for the resilience that I saw in her as she worked to support us both. You don’t have too much time for drama when you’re focusing in on your own survival (yes, dear, if you read this I’m softly chuckling, sighing, and nodding at the “irony”).

However, I realize now that my mother didn’t have time for anyone else’s drama which included me and whatever feelings were spinning off tornadoes inside my psyche as I went from 5 to 25. I never really learned to express my feelings except through writing, reading, and music and that didn’t even truly come around until around the age of 13 which was a big year (1990-91) for me.

This was when I picked up my first guitar and started my first band. We did some things, we had some fun, but foremost, I began to express myself outside my own bedroom. I had no idea how to really relate but who does at that age? I began exploring authors and more varied music. I pushed boundaries and yadda yadda yadda. Overall, I was a moody teenager with some aptitude for these forms of expression and mired in, essentially, undiagnosed depression and existential angst.

What this meant, though, was that I didn’t have anyone I could talk to about the thoughts bouncing around in my brain. Further, I didn’t think I should. There was a shame in it, for me, that I could have, materially, everything I could need and yet an emptiness I could never resolve inside. None of this was something I could even articulate then even if I had been asked. However, if someone, anyone, had glanced through my notebooks or lyrics or collections of books and music, they’d have noticed a theme – one of dark cynicism.

I would often cover this up with a voracious appetite for knowledge and new experiences then being able to relate these things to people rather than what was “going on” with me. No one, in my opinion at the time, seemed terribly interested in *me* but they did take an interest in music or movies or verboten topics for our era and age. But I also used another common tool that the depressed use to hide: humor.

As much as I was raised by my mother, music, books, and so on, I was also “raised” by a small cadre of comedians who I would listen to or watch over and over again. George Carlin and Robin Williams became something like father figures to me. There were others but these two were central for me, the former for his inquisitive style and ability to link disparate topics in one narrative, the latter for his ability to laugh at life’s absurdities and tragedies in ways that made you forget about how dark a thing was that you were laughing about.

And so, this is where this sprawling thought train has been headed: I observed about a week ago in the classroom with my kids, that I have begun to lean on comedy; singing, dancing, clowning around, with the intent to break the ice and get them to re-focus when they become bored or distracted or whatever other condition is keeping them from what we need to accomplish on a given day. Without thinking, the first day I burst into a piece of a song from Aladdin. We all had a good laugh and settled into some riveting math homework.

A few days later I noticed my pattern of being very “up” with my students and then… well, most of what you read here when I am at home alone at night. Over the past few days I’ve been sitting with the comparison, the duality, and noticing it’s one that Robin had talked about before in interviews. It’s also there in the lyrics of Tim Bergling. An appearance of joy to try to uplift others while simultaneously trying to extinguish the inner demons with light.

Sometimes they wear sunscreen, long sleeves, and shades.

RIP Tim