The moon’s still out. High above Eddie’s place across the street. I saw it while putting cat shit in the garbage can. This morning, I don’t feel I’m missing out on—or missing—anything. Life is fine. There’s a comfortable lull of contentedness wrapping up all around me this morning. I don’t feel guilty about it, either.
We’ve come a long way. And now, it’s time to rest. Just a little while. To consider those steps that led us here and plan some steps forward. You see, I have been living all this while, but for many reasons—some yet to be discovered—I just didn’t realize it. It is about taking life one day at a time. Moment by moment, actually. And if you can get yourself to a place of less stress internally, the external world is much easier to experience.
I didn’t stray too far. Just enough to know when it was time to start coming back. And now that I’m feeling good and confident, without the cockiness that comes from insecurity, I believe we’ll go places and have experiences that we were meant to have.
Oh, the steps. Missteps. The energy poured into efforts out of fear. I can see that now. Looking back. And deep down I knew that fear was the driver back then. But life is funny. It takes time. Ups and downs. The right combination to get you to a place like this. Standing at the window, sipping coffee, looking at the road, the sky, and wondering—where to next?
Some mornings I want to wake slowly. Watch myself in the mirror as I brush my teeth and give myself the benefit of the doubt. Some forgiveness.
Overall, we’ve done well. We’re not finished by any means. There’s still so much more living to do. But there are days—like this Summer Sunday morning, feeling closer to Autumn than Spring—that we’re thankful, calm. Peaceful and happy because we’re just fine with the being we’ve become.
Learning hasn’t been easy. For years, I forced myself into the hardest path. Rarely taking advice. Choosing to find my own way, rather than take directions from someone claiming to know what was going to happen. Sure, they got here too—to their mornings of silent recognition. Satisfaction. A willingness to let the day fall where it may. Do nothing. Do something. Do everything. It’s hard to tell, right now. Too early in the morning and the coffee hasn’t hit the bloodstream.
In any case, I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t chosen my path. I do regret bad decisions. The parts I played that negatively affected others. But I’m learning to accept those decisions, realize they are part of me, and I’m getting better at not getting hung up on regret. People that don’t rise, that never really reach their potential, spend too much time beating themselves up for moments that have passed. There’s always a way toward salvation. A way to accept yourself. To live with your demons. But you have to cut yourself some slack.
We have skeletons in our closets. Secrets we’ll take to the grave. We shape our story each day with every moment. Action. Non-action. Love. Hate. Fun. Boredom. Generosity. Greed. Acts of kindness. Fights. The key is to focus on the good. Look for the light.
Like a fuzzy caterpillar on the sidewalk as you enjoy a sunshine morning stroll with your wife. A tiny thing of intricacy. Doing whatever it does. Thirty feet from the big lake. In a moment of time and space. Sharing existence and energy on this—our big trip—round and round the sun.
I wrote A Prayer in 2004. I was a different person, but I wasn’t. There’s immaturity in that writing. That’s natural. As artists, we grow—if we dedicate time to the craft. What was best though. was seeing that I’d grown as a person. I don’t even recognize some of the stories. I get the meaning. I know what I was trying to do. I like the finished product. But I have evolved. My thoughts on love, family, life in general, have all changed for the better. But that passion! And some of the topics I wrote about? Abuse, alcoholism, marriage! I knew more than I thought back then. Not fully, but in parts. Glimpses.
That’s what writing has always been about for me. The glimpses. Little scenes. Blips of feeling. I get so caught up in the day-to-day now, that I forget to write about the blips. I neglect to acknowledge their importance. That’s unfortunate. But now that I’m recognizing it, I can fix it. I can remember them. Document them. Share them. And maybe they will make a difference.
Like this morning.
That younger version of me put down on paper what he thought was important. What was moving. And he was right. Sure, the presentation may not have been refined. One would never suspect he actually studied writing and wrote nearly every day. But he captured moments as best he could, like a kid at the kitchen table drawing his family with big, thick crayons. And today, I found that picture. And it made me smile. And I am inspired.
You know how you wake up with a song in your head and it sticks there while? What if you put on the headphones and played that song? And what if you did it every time you woke with a song in your brain?
Would it change the course of your day?
I think the name of the song in my mind is Save Your Tears by The Weekend. I’m not a pop music guy, but I don’t turn off a decent tune when I hear one. This one is catchy. It must be. It’s been in the background all morning.
I’d certainly like to run away sometimes. Just long enough to regroup. Center. Appreciate—really appreciate coming home.
My restlessness has changed. It no longer propels me into bouts of self-destruction. I don’t need to tear apart the world, break it down and find the pieces that matter. I’ve done that enough times and have enough pieces. It’s time I examine them. Explore where they came from—the moments, what they might mean—and begin piecing them together.
All that destruction.
It’s amazing what we’ll do to escape the simple truths of life.
You know, like the fact that it hurts like hell some days. And other days, you’re animally happy. Blissful, even.
The breaking down is important though. It helped me distill, over time, what matters most. There’s plenty that does, by the way. And those pieces can all be glued together by one power, premise, energy, theme, if you will.
As corny, Hallmarky, or diary-like it may sound, love is the key. It’s the key, the lock, the door, the house, the block, the neighborhood, the town, the county, the state, the country, the region, the hemisphere, the world.
Funny. The song is still in my head. I’ll give it a listen in a bit. It might be a good release. A couple minutes of escape from expectations so I can revel in the now. Just being. A person able to think and feel and share and reach.
And I continue to do it the only way I know how. From the inside to the outside. Distilling this reality. Fingers to the keys.
Drinking stops, but thinking does not. As you learn to live all over again—taking baby steps—the world around you continues.
Thirty years of steady alcohol intake trains the body and brain. You don’t notice the aches. The pain. When you’re frustrated, you drink. If you’re tired, you drink. Happy, you drink. Sad, you drink.
Drinking goes with everything.
“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.”
When it stops, much of what you were pushing down comes up. At first, this makes it harder to cope. You can’t turn toward your old friend—The Little Monster—for help. And so, you’re more frustrated than ever. You’ve never gone to anyone before. You haven’t had to think through the process of feeling.
Relearning the art of reason is a bitch.
Your kids don’t get it. Your wife doesn’t get it. If they do, their understanding and any leeway they give you is only for the first few weeks of your sobriety. And that’s fine, what else can you ask of them? They’ve already put up with enough of your shit. Life keeps moving and sure as hell doesn’t wait for you to get better, think clearly, and be happy. So, you suffer in silence. Take your licks. Realize that this return to the world you left so long ago is providing regular doses of punishment that you have earned. The selfishness, bad decisions, and years of pissing away time are all in line, waiting. Day after day, for as long as it takes, to hammer and shape you. To knock you down. Over and over and over again.
Do your best every day to get up, stay up, and reason through the day. You’re going to make poor decisions. That’s part of being human. You still have wants and needs. Probably more now than you did when you were drinking. The thing is, many of those wants will be left unfulfilled. Your needs will go unmet. You can’t focus on the disappointments. Simply recognize them and move on. Celebrate the small moments that feel so big.
Like boiling water for coffee after a morning walk with your wife. One that was shorter than usual and filled with forced silence because even after a dozen years of marriage, you’re new to this. Knowing what to say. What to do. Trying to stop yourself from wanting what you want. So, to fulfill your part of compromise, you shut up. Focus on the ants building homes in sidewalk cracks. Kick pine cones. Wonder why there are so many older men out alone so early in the morning. Walking. Biking. Driving. And you keep one dog moving forward while the other one nudges your calf, softly. Pushing you along. Encouraging you to keep putting one foot in front of the other. When you realize this, you bend over. Pet her. And the nudging stops.
You knew you could pull out of it. That the anxiety and unknown would pass. You’d make it home. Grind coffee while water boiled. Take your I LOVE MY DAD mug out of the cupboard. Then stand and stare at the walls of the big old house around you, considering all the living yet to be done in the undetermined number of days you have left.
The pot hisses. Nearly screams, as you remove it from the heat to mix liquid with grounds in the glass decanter. You push the plunger. Take a deep breath. Sigh.
Four minutes later. At your writing desk. You pour coffee. Lift to drink. And quietly celebrate that you’ve made it this far.
Caring less about what others think, but still caring about their thoughts. Opinions, unless expressed in an interesting way, are useless. Just words. Humans have learned to express themselves more throughout evolution. Tapping into that inner monologue. Letting it rip. From cave walls and stone tablets to papyrus. Newspapers. The internet. Now that there’s so much information, we have to learn to discern.
There’s always been good and bad writing. There have always been people willing to say whatever they can to sway the populace. Get their way. Win. And most of the time, it’s by pointing out how others will lose. In that aspect, I like to take the high road. I don’t like putting down other people. I have opinions too, many of them as stupid as everyone else’s, but I tend not to put those out into the world. When you let stupidity out to live and breathe, it grows, and makes a life of its own.
This learning process is individual, but collective, as well. And the hard part is when one is doing all they can to make good, while others—ignorantly, most of the time—are busy making bad. It’s fascinating how selfish humans are. We innately strive to survive. To protect ourselves and our own. I get it. I do the same. But I also try to remember that we share a space. A planet. The air. A consciousness. There’s deep-rooted connectivity flashing under our surface, but we get so busy with the day-to-day that we neglect the connections. It’s easier to move away than to pull together.
All it takes is one step. Wave to someone as you pass them on the sidewalk. Make eye contact with the cashier. Listen to your kids, your wife, your friends. Really listen to them. Sift through the words, reach into the tone, their facial expressions, the letters they use to create their narrative, and try to understand.
Rain. The puddles. A grackle at the feeder. These are important today. It isn’t the buzz of the headlines. News twisted to push agendas. Keep them rich. Keep them poor. Sick, sick, sick. Buy, buy, buy. It’s the yellow-eyed black bird holding its long tail in a “V” as it scatters seed onto the porch.
There’s a church bench out there. A twelve-footer. Weathered by snow, wind, rain. The ups and downs of temperature. Waiting for anyone to take a seat. Though it was used only on Sundays, holidays, and special occasions in the past, it saw more action then. Now mostly, we walk past it. Coming and going as families do.
My daughter sits there most. Sometimes on her phone. Other times with a book. But I’ve looked out the window and seen her many times sitting quietly, watching birds, talking to clouds, petting or feeding stray cats. Lately, a spunky black one named Obsidian. She loves it like it’s her own.
I see more these days than I have in the past. Life has slowed. I pick and choose what will consume my energy, use up my time. I don’t waste efforts on what others want me to think because I have my own list of simplicities to explore.
Awfully tired. But that’s par for the course. Not worthy of mentioning. But I do it anyway because it’s on my mind. The tired feeling has hold of me. I rely now, on coffee. Once I drink the morning sauce and it moves into my bloodstream, I’ll feel awake. Thoughts connect. I move on.
Today. Nothing planned, that I’m aware of. A day to mow the lawn. Deposit recyclables Donate cans. Feels like a day to decompress.
More feelings. That’s interesting.
Fishing will come too. One day. Not feeling it at this moment. But maybe the next.
I can’t get the song BED HEAD out of my head.
“…you and I are panoramic…”
Astro chews on rawhide. I put on headphones. Listen to brown noise. The sound of life is a dog chewing rawhide, but I can’t stand it. It’s agitating. Over it all, in my head, is that song. I’ll have to play it.
We’ll shake the tireds. Push into another day. Be mindful, careful, adventurous. Happy. We’ll get there. Wherever there is.
“You and I are holy fire.”
It isn’t anything one can understand while they are in it. Unless, that is. You get a glimpse. Could be you have been recreated from memories. Pieced together. That would explain déjà vu. Falling into familiar dreams. Remembering things you’ve never done. That you know of.
All of this could be simulation. I doubt it. I think maybe that’s the next trick. Chalk it all up to something that’s been designed, set forth, instead of us being in the middle of mystery. Instead of us having to be responsible, thoughtful, helpful. As I age, I recognize that people often choose the easy way out.
Get in on whatever you can. Give it some gas. Do what makes you feel good.
Recently, I stepped back from teaching college. That, coupled with sobriety, has helped me reach levels of productivity and relaxation that I haven’t experienced in many years.
I have improved my office space in the basement. Having a comfortable space with meaning facilitates good vibes.
I’ve been working on a shorty story collection and a poetry book, as well as journaling most days. And, of course, there is this. The blogging. Mostly, I think I do this to help clear my head. Regain focus. Get the garbage out so I can keep moving forward.
I’ve been stretching. Sounds weird, I know. It’s not yoga. It’s not intense, nor is there a particular routine that I adhere to. All I know is that stretching in the morning and at intervals throughout the day relieves tension, gets the blood pumping, and is a great way to quickly feel refreshed. Fascinating how something so simple can make a positive impact.
That’s what it’s about though. The simple things. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to enjoy the simple things. I thought I was enjoying them, but it wasn’t until I got right with myself that I realized there is an abundance of beautiful simplicity throughout any given day.
Playing soccer with the dog. Listening to my kids talk about whatever it is they are willing to talk about. Watching my wife do anything—eat, sleep, brush teeth, walk alongside me in the store, down the sidewalk, on a trail. The pile of sunflower seed shells that sits beneath the fat black squirrel that’s always perched on the feeder. Shimmering snowflakes. Chickadees and doves. The creaks of this old house. Tasting an orange. Crunching into a crisp apple. Warm coffee…always, warm coffee.
And this. Whatever it is. The channeling of thought and feeling from heart and gut to head and then to fingers. It’s always been my way of learning, seeing, and relating. I doubt that will ever change. And it’s exciting. Especially now, when so much of the world—this life—has opened, and is ripe for the taking.