Five Years in a Flash – 02 Liver

(ICYM the first part – click here)

Not only have I fallen in love but we’ve stayed in love. That’s an important difference. And when someone you love mentions something no matter how small it should be heard and considered. In the autumn of 2012, I was well into the idea of writing a small collection of poetry to release as an ebook. But I needed something, a reason that these poems would exist together. I didn’t realize it would come together the way it did.

From the moment I entered my 20’s, I expected and was waiting for a moment that resonated and made me feel like a man. I was resistant to the idea that it just happened. There’d have to be a catalyst. Like love, man isn’t a word to just throw around—when speaking of manhood, that is.

Towards the end of 2012, two albums came out that greatly influenced my book of poems called My Enveloping Reflection.  Not only that, they influenced and inspired me. Since we’re talking about throwing words around—inspire is another one.

To clarify: inspiration is nonexistent if you do nothing. You can’t say something is inspiring. That would be like dipping your toe in the tub and saying you went swimming. If the inspiration was real you’d do something with it.

The aforementioned two albums are House of Gold and Bones Part 1 by Stone Sour, which features heavily on the idea of manhood and what it means to be/grow into a man, and Spreading my Wings by World Fire Brigade which is Sean Danielson of Smile Empty Soul and Brett Scallions of Fuel singing their fucking asses off. It’s brilliant.  Buy it now.

These things were in my ears heavily (along with the new Taproot) towards the end of the year when around November, Aleks asked about my drinking. I told her, and I really believed it too, that I needed it. I was drinking to fall asleep every day, which can be helpful to an extent and I think it was when I first did it to fall asleep during the day. I work at night so I sleep during the day. But a couple beers quickly advanced to more and more and more until I was at the point that I’d sleep 5 hours and wake up still buzzed (that may be an understatement) and drive an hour to work.

I forget what her exact words were but they were enough to stick into my head and get me to really think about it. Do I need it? The doubt was enough to make me curious if it was all in my head. So December 31st, 2012 I had one beer left in the fridge. I told myself that that was it until I DESPERATELY needed more.

At that point I had already written a few of the poems that would make it into my poetry collection but when January turned I felt a new question burning inside of me. The question of–am I going to quit? Is this it? So I wrote about it. And that poem is in the collection too.

In hindsight, I think drinking was an attempt to stir up some manhood because from an outsider it looks like that’s a requirement. And it was never about getting drunk, I never liked that. I think that the source of my substance abuse is not linked just to drugs or alcohol. But an urge to get away. That’s the only way I describe the feeling I feel when drinking. It’s not about getting drunk and sloppy. It’s about where the bottle can take me. Take me away, take me wherever you want. I just want to go.

I’ve come to this thought over the past week. I’ve been sober since the start of 2013 but last month when I was in Macedonia for Aleks’s birthday I had a couple beers with her. Mostly I was curious if I was “cured” or whatever. But the same urges remain. And the urge to get away is there still. But it’s not a symptom of hating my life because I don’t. It’s similar to wanting to be swept away by a good book. Let me just get away for a second and feel like somebody else. Maybe it’s a screwed up sort of empathy like Will Graham from Red Dragon experiences. I don’t know. I just know the away thing seems the most right of anything I can think of.

I do know and understand that drinking isn’t for me. And instead of pushing my luck, I’m going to stick to that.

I actually prefer being sober, which I found to be immediately surprising since I spent so much of my younger years the opposite. For most of my life I felt out of control of everything which could be a symptom of all the drugs and so when I let sobriety sink in I was floored by how in control I felt.

I’m not giving that away.

Five Years in a Flash – 01 Heart

Time flies. You know it and I know it.

For a couple weeks now, I’ve been thinking about how this month is the 5th anniversary of Taproot’s latest album—The Episodes. Five years. Whoa.

Immediately, I found myself recounting everything that has happened in my life since that day and since I’ve found some success being open and honest online in the past (yes, over the past 5 years) I figured I’d write this and really put all my thoughts together. There’s really a lot.

Five years ago, I was a different person and I can define that person with one sentence. It’s something I made a habit of saying especially when asked about when I would quit smoking.

“I don’t want to prolong this suffering called life.”

I absolutely believed that. I didn’t feel capable of anything of real value and merely existing is exhausting. It was around this time I came into contact with a few people that began to show me what I didn’t want from life. Like really really show me. Which was very important because it all prepared me and let me see, really see, what I wanted.

My girlfriend and I consider September 2012 our anniversary but it was before that. It was the summer that I knew she was different, rather what we were building was different. I had made note of her difference long before the summer broke in.

For most of my life, I was entranced by the idea of love. Everyone is so quick to use that word like it will make something out of nothing (Protip: It doesn’t). I think what I was feeling over those summer months was the arrival of love, real love. But to jump into using that word would have put me in the category of people I never want to be lopped in with.

I’ll never forget saying it for the first time. It just came out. There were moments that week that I had thought about saying it but… overthinking is a plague, man. When the words did touch my lips there were unexpected to both of us. It was September 2014, and I went to visit her. You see, we live on opposite sides of the world.  And yes we’re still a couple. Yes, we are going on five years. FIVE YEARS.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking.

There are marriages that don’t last that long. How can a long distance relationship last that long? An across the world relationship last that long? And I have a theory about that. It’s one word. But it’s a big one, I hope you’re sitting down.

COMMITMENT.

I know. I know. It’s scary and all that. At least you’re in good company, Chandler Bing was scared of commitment too.

So many people see love as the end-all. Like OMG I’M GONNA FALL IN LOVE AND… DONE! But no, it’s not that way. Just because you put a ring on the finger don’t mean its set in stone. Fingers get messy. All kinds of different ways.

To say: ‘I love you’ is a promise. It’s a statement too. But it’s nothing if you don’t put the period at the end of the sentence. If you’re ending it with a question mark, I guess you can’t be faulted for not committing. But in most cases, you put the period at the end, right? That’s the commitment part. The period. To place a period at the end of a statement is to say: ‘I commit to this sentence.’ Without a period, it’s just a really poor collage of words. How is it meant to be taken? Are we alive or just breathing?

Ashaway

The corner of a building
like the corner of a page meant to be turned
Quickly,
Please follow me back in time
Into a cloud of smoke
So much to burn
So much to learn

We said, we agreed, that freedom is ours
Strange how definitions change
Stranger how they don’t
I set my mind free, truly
and I think, I think now you’ve finally escaped
You see we didn’t know it then
but separate storms were coming to take us apart

There’s a Fort that keeps those days preserved
Everlasting, for always
Because they can’t take the music away
Nothing can take it away
It’s stronger than we are, a frozen moment

Is it possible to mourn something that can’t be taken away?
Because the gift was in your eyes
We barely knew each other then but you saw, you heard
and you believed me
and that was more than anyone else was capable of
That moment changed me
but I couldn’t reach you the way you reached me
Maybe I wasn’t meant to

One way streets are suffocating
Thank you for letting me breathe

Inner Beauty

The loudest of lions
He is the king, even behind bars
and you looked so beautiful
The way you held my hand, I’ve never felt so complete

Interlock with mine
If only we could stop time
Tell me we’ll be fine
When can we speed up time?

Are the loudest lying?
We have our own brand of quiet romance
and I’ve learned so much
The way you care, it’s like I’m finally breathing fresh air

Crawling out of the mine
Your beauty isn’t my only find
Standing with my straightened spine
With you I don’t feel so confined

Impatient/I’m patient

It’s quiet.  The calm during the storm, in this case.  The wind can be heard blowing through the trees and disrupting whatever it can shake loose, like the recycle bin I have to chase every week.  I’m not a fan of how loud things can get unless we’re talking about music because music is meant to be loud.  Just about everything else shouldn’t be so loud, it’s a strain and that’s not good.  Sure some strain is necessary for growth but as far as I can see it should be minimal.

I think most people strain themselves and at the end of the day what do they have to show for it?  One step closer to the edge?  One more dollar in the bank account?  Worth is absolutely relative.  One man would break his back bending over to pick up a dropped dollar and another would walk right by it because those few seconds are too much to trade.  I am an odd creature, I’d rather spend 20 or so hours watching a lackluster season of television than gamble 2-3 hours on a movie that could be unsatisfying.  Yes I am aware that is an awkward statement.  I think the story telling potential is greater within the frame of a television show versus a movie.  2 hours are not enough to tell a truly compelling story on the level I want.  Movies have to be quick and there’s not enough time to feel the emotions that are being hopped over.  It’s about patience.  And today there’s no room for such a thing.

I’ve thought of myself as a patient person for quite a few years but I never treated myself with that same sort of patience.  Then I quit drinking and I was forced to learn how to really let myself off the hook.  There are trees that will be blown around and some will break under the pressure of this incoming blizzard.  A strong tree is only strong because of the years spent growing and like a tree I’ve developed branches I didn’t have years ago.  Patience isn’t something anyone is born with, it is learned behavior.

This patience of mine was really tested over the past few months.  I quit smoking and I wrote a book.  The two are connected in a way.  I never thought I’d be able to quit smoking because it was always used as an idea booster while writing.  Hit a road block?  Okay smoke break.  There were times I smoked more cigarettes than I wrote words in a singular hour spent writing a poem.  And to clarify, this book is not a novel but a novella.  We’re talking about 100-150 pages if printed in typical book manner.  The actual act of writing wasn’t exactly a difficult test of my patience, it’s this post-writing period that is.

I desperately want to talk about the story I’ve written and just share it all over the place but it is not finished.  Far from it.  I desperately want to finish it but I know it’s best for me to take a nice large step back from it.  It’s been about a month since I finished that first draft and I think I could get back into it and work on the second draft.  But a decent sized part of me knows it’s better to wait a little longer.  I know myself and I know that I don’t need to put pressure on myself.  Everyone else can rush around.  I’m happy with how things went last year.  I’m happy with what I wrote and I have plenty of exciting unwritten ideas bouncing around my head.

And I am happy you read this.  Thank you.  And if you’re interested, I have a short story you can read: DESERVE.  You can find it (PDF) under the Short Stories tab up top or in the recent posts to the left.

Hanging On

There’s a desire for a clean slate
because the scars
Scream words we wish they wouldn’t
Instead of showing how far
We have travelled over the years
No I won’t drown in these tears
My mouth is firmly closed
Is there safety from the blows?
How can one, or even two, know?

Yesterday is right here, hanging on
Tomorrow seems like a distant myth
Today, somehow, runs and slows
It’s like speed pleads the fifth
and I truly just want to understand
How can life be both beautiful and bland?
Remember when it seemed impossible to survive?
Remember when it seemed pointless to even try?
I never thought I’d be living beyond twenty-five

Memory is a beached whale, eroding
Sometimes it just can’t be saved
Sometimes it is meant to be
Sometimes the taste of regret
is too much, it’s too much to forget
Sometimes the words hit like waves
Sometimes life is learning how to enjoy the daze

Paul, Please Pick Up: The full story

Today I sat down with my coffee to write and see what my mind decided on.  The past couple days have been rough, partially due to not sleeping right or enough.  I think the other part of that was feeling a little burned out from Duelity and all the thinking of where that whole story spiraled out of.  Let’s just say it is a collage of a lot of things that have gone on in my life as well as various feelings that I’ve felt.  Fiction has to come from a real place or else it’s weightless.

My brain began to really hone in on something I’ve been thinking about since I returned from my wonderful little getaway and then my phone rang.  It was a number I didn’t recognize so I just let it ring, I was onto something with the writing and that was more important.  A few minutes go by and I notice that I have a new voicemail message.  It’s something that doesn’t happen often so I was curious as to who it was that had called.  My first thought was “ugh it’s probably work related.”  Then I listened to the message.

A woman named Teresa was on the other end, I don’t know anyone by that name, but I recognized the distraught desperation that her words were fighting on their way out.  The signature sound of a nervous speaker which I immediately related to.  I couldn’t make out every word but I could feel what she was feeling.  I’ve been there.  “I don’t have friends.  I can’t find any and I can’t make any.  I miss you.  I love you.”  I quickly felt like I shouldn’t be listening to this stranger pouring her heart out but I couldn’t stop myself.  She said all these words for someone to hear and since they didn’t reach who they were meant for, I might as well listen.

There were moments that she caught herself and stopped from saying certain things, she didn’t feel safe where she was.  There was a small child screaming in the background, I assume the child was hers but I can’t be sure.  Whoever this Paul is that she thought she was talking to was/is a friend that had to move away.  Towards the end of the message she said “It’s not fair how the best people in life come along and then leave just as quick.  They can’t stay as long you want.”  The message cut out after she said: “That’s who you are.”  An abrupt ending.  I wonder how she felt after she put the phone down.

When the message ended I was left wondering if I should let this person know that she didn’t reach who she meant to reach.  I didn’t have to think about it much, I sent one of the most polite texts I’ve ever sent and quickly she replied.  I got the feeling she was embarrassed or maybe worried that I was bothered by it all.  I sent her another text wishing her a lovely day and I hope she understood that I just wanted her to reach the right person.  I really hope Paul picks up when she tries to call.  She definitely needs to talk to someone and clearly he is vital to her.

I don’t usually like explaining a lot of the poetry I write but this was a different experience and it seems worth sharing in greater detail.  I did run with some things in the poem just to flesh it out and ride the feelings.  It is an interpretation of the voicemail and I believe it works.  I know there are a lot of overwhelmed mothers out there.  I can’t even imagine what being a mother is like and all the conflicting emotions that must bring out.  It’s strange, part of me is glad Teresa made this mistake today because it really inspired me but I am also quite shaken up over it.  I want her to find her way into better days.  I sincerely hope Paul picks up that phone.

 

Thank you for reading.

The Stigma Affects Us All

beltEvery morning after work the first I do, before getting into the car to head home, is take my belt off.  It’s a strange thing, I know, but the belt isn’t necessary and I don’t like feeling constricted.  Perhaps this is part of the reason I don’t like driving.  Over the past couple weeks I’ve been looking at it as I drop it on the passenger seat and I wonder how a person could use their belt to end their life.  It sounds like an especially awful way to die.

The thought doesn’t stay with me long but the unfathomable nature of the action does.  I know that thoughts of suicide have bounced around my head rather often and I’m sure most people, if they were to be honest, would say the same.  There’s a certain kind of comfort having the power to end one’s own life.  Or maybe it’s just human to be attracted to that sort of power that it makes it feel comfortable.  But the actual act, actually doing it is a whole other thing and it’s not something that I fully understand.  I don’t think anyone really can unless they find themselves in that position where it makes absolute sense.

Over the past year, there have been more than a few people connected to my life in one or another that have committed suicide.  I didn’t know any of them personally but it still struck me in a prickly sense.  Especially the way the living speak of suicide, the idea of it being the “easy way out” is incredibly offensive.  In what way does suicide sound easy?  I’d really like an answer to that.

This is rather difficult to write because a large part of me wants to be preachy.  But I know that I can’t do that because that would make me a hypocrite.  There’s nothing worse than someone pointing out that I should live and live well.  I get the “Smoking is bad for you” speech quite often, like I don’t know.  I want to be preachy because it really gets to me how so many are struggling with thoughts of suicide and other symptoms of depression when there are many resources available today.

My Uncle Brian killed himself towards the end of 1981 and that was a very different time.  He spent some time in a mental institution after the Vietnam War and back then there was so little known about mental illness.  The answer was imprisonment and a dose of lithium.  It is painful for me, the knowledge that there are people out there right now that are struggling and won’t seek the help they could benefit from, the help that wasn’t available to my Uncle.  But at the same time I know if it was me (there was a time that it was me) I wouldn’t seek help either because why should I?  Therapists are not helpful in my experience, I shouldn’t have to pay someone to want to help me or talk to me.  But there are people who are absolutely eager to help, there are quite a few non-profit organizations giving a voice to those who are trapped behind the stigma surrounding mental illness.  I want to live in a world where suicide and mental illness can be discussed openly and received in a way similar to how my sobriety is.

I think it’s possible within my lifetime.  There has been significant progress; look at Dead Poet’s Society, there is not a single instance in that film where the word suicide is uttered.  Not one.  Fast forward some twenty years and you have the band The Color Morale with not only a song called “Suicide; Stigma” but an entire album written around the struggles of self-sabotage.  Sure one isn’t as prevalent as the other in terms of popularity or success but that’s not the point.  The point is progress.  There are people being honest and trying to change things.

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re struggling with this very topic, there’s many things I can think of to say but the most important one is: What do you want from life?  Close your eyes and let that question slide along your eyelids, what do you see?  For me, I’ve always been drawn to writing, it’s the only thing that has really made sense to me throughout the majority of my life.

Your life matters.  It took me a long time to see it but it is true.  My life matters, sure it doesn’t really seem to matter to the ones that it I believe it should but my life matters to me.  That’s enough.  That’s not selfish.  Not a single person, not now or ever before, can live without being selfish in some way.  As long as you’re not hurting anyone, including you, then you’re not doing anything wrong.

Thank you for reading.

 

If the music isn’t your cup of tea, just mute it and read the words. 😉

 

 

This Heart Is A Gunshot Wound

The last time I stood there,
The rain was falling like my own tears
This is the closest I’ll ever be to you
This is the closest that I will ever be to you
After a few minutes I couldn’t tell my tears from raindrops
The tears shed for our common hurt
The raindrops fell for us that day
and that was the first time in months my mind was quiet
All the questions stopped spinning around my head
Though today they still remain
and I know they will always be there
It’s a result of the choice you made over three decades ago
and like that windshield my mind will never be cleaned

After the war, the one the history books remember,
We both know there were other wars that you fought
You didn’t come back the same
No, nothing was ever the same
When the guns and cannons ceased fire, others began firing
I wonder if they said it to your face
The way similar people said it mine
Did you believe what they had to say?
All I know is they took you and locked you away
I hope it wasn’t the way I imagine it to be
and I wish I could save you from that place
The way I was saved from a similar place
I hate the thought of them feeding you pills
Keeping that beautiful mind frozen in place
I wish I knew how you got out of there…

They say that birds of a feather flock together
Are you the reason I always thought I’d die at 25?
I’ve read the words that you wrote
and I’ve read the ones that Grandma Bea wrote
I wish I could travel back in time
and show you what she wrote about you, shortly before…
She wanted to hear from you, she loved talking to you on the phone
What were you doing those last few years?
Did you buy the gun specifically to end everything?
Was your sister’s wedding too much to bear
because of the girl you wrote about?
How long did you contemplate the choice before you pulled the trigger?

I am the nephew you probably never thought you’d have
and I’m already older than you allowed yourself to be
Your middle name is my first name
and I’m sure that I’m the only one who has visited you in years
Your brother and sisters continue to call you crazy
and I think it makes it easier for them
I’m sure you felt unloved but trust me that isn’t true
In our family, it’s frowned upon to be honest and show any real emotion
Which is probably why we both turned to writing it all down

I love you Uncle Brian but you stole from me
You are but you really could have been my favorite uncle
and you threw away the chance to find the joy that was waiting for you
I can’t begin to describe how my niece’s beautiful blue eyes make me feel
and she’s beginning to fumble around with my name
You missed out on all of that with me
You missed out on all of me
and I missed out on all of you
My mother still gets uneasy around Thanksgiving
Your mother didn’t cook the year you killed yourself
My mother tried to and I think that’s why she doesn’t like to cook
Over 30 years later and the hurt remains
I’m sorry it had to be this way
I’d give just about anything to talk to you and get to know you
You’re the reason I don’t completely curse this blood in my veins
If there is one person that I would get along with
and actually want to be around, it would be you

Years ago when I was much younger, your mother lit up when I asked about you
Even with all the hurt you caused her, she chose to remember you fondly
The choice you made, that bullet, it was a mistake
and no matter how much anyone wants to, it can’t be taken back
I do hope you found peace
but at the same time I want you to know the hurt you left behind
That bullet didn’t just put a hole in your head
It tore through every single person that cared for you
You put it in yourself and now it’s lodged in all of us
and it can’t be removed, it will always be inside of us

There are multiple holes here
I just want the complete story
I just want to know you
Like the way it feels that you know me
Are you really watching over me?

Recognition: A little idea that could change a lot

I don’t know about anyone else but it does seem that things are getting out of control.  What am I thinking about, you ask?  Let me ask you a question first; What is the quickest and most certain way of attaining worldwide fame and recognition?

We find ourselves in a peculiar time, the digital age, where anything and everything is just a click away.  Legal or otherwise.  Then there’s that little thing known as Social Media, which has such an immediately noticeable draw.  Connectivity.  No matter what you are into there’s someone just a click away to talk to.  Which seems all well and good but there’s a fine line.

It appears that the only connections most know of is the one that enables them to plug-in and broadcast whatever it may be that they wish to broadcast.  There are people everywhere suffering and they find it so easy to share that hurt but it doesn’t seem to be in a constructive way.  There’s too much passive aggressive sharing inside of this tool that is awkwardly titled Social Media.  For every person out there trying to do something creative or constructive there are 20 more using it all as a way to vent at and abuse people.  I don’t understand how we can view this digital connectivity as something it is not.  We are all connected.  Digitally and physically.

Now to answer my own question from earlier: the easiest way to be recognized in this world is to become a villain.  I don’t know about anyone else but I am incredibly sick of seeing murderers plastered all over the place.  Someone unloads a gun upon innocent bystanders and turns the gun on themselves and voila!  Instant fame and this sick sort of praise.  I realize it is not meant to be praise but look around.  IT IS PRAISE.  Okay we all love to hate the villain, I mean Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight is something worth talking about again and again.  But that is fiction.  I think the line between reality and fantasy is blurring more by the hour.

I’m not saying that news outlets shouldn’t report on these tragedies.  They absolutely should but I don’t think it should be plastered on the front page of every newspaper or at the top of every news website.  I believe the way we speak of these incidents and allow “journalists” display them is encouraging more tragedies.  And it always seems that they leave out or overlook the good in these stories.  The people that sacrifice themselves for another person in the face of the terror.  Those people aren’t recognized or even mentioned.  If my life was directly impacted by one of these such events I know I wouldn’t want to see the face of the person that took a loved one’s life all over the news.  How does this sort of thing go on without anyone raising their voice?

I think it would be far better for everyone if we encouraged people to look on the brighter side of things.  Could we focus on the stories of the heroes that jumped in front of a person with a gun to save someone else’s life instead of the person behind the gun?  Why do you think depression is such a common thing?  Turn the TV on and there’s always some story about something horrible happening.  We all need hope and there’s stories that could and would boost people’s faith in humanity but instead we always focus on the villain, on the people not worthy of the attention.  We should focus on the people raising money to build 26 playgrounds across the state of Connecticut in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.  If all we see is the bad in people then it’s not all that shocking that so many find it easy to open fire on their fellow man.

I know I would find it incredibly beneficial to walk by a newsstand and see hopeful stories on the front page and I think you would too.  I am well aware that this post probably won’t reach the people I wish it would but that’s not the point here.  I wrote this because I felt I had to, I can’t keep it inside anymore and as I tap these last few keys on this keyboard I absolutely feel relieved.  If you read every word I wrote here, I hope you realize that I am glad you did.  Thank you.  And if you live in the US, I hope you have a happy Memorial Day.  Remember something good today.

Though the road will be difficult, I believe I can sew the seams of my hopes and dreams

My mind is always focused on a distant land
It’s both a metaphoric escape from the bland
and an actual place on this planet
I wish I there was a way to plan it
but the truth is it is all uncertain
I wish it could be a blanket instead of a curtain

It’s not about what is deserved
So many lines are always getting blurred
I dream of a life that could be earned
and on this path I find there’s much to be learned
I’m such a fragile person and oh so lazy
and I know most would just call me crazy
but that word is used when understanding is lost
Because it takes effort and it’s too steep of a cost
For most of the talking heads I see around me
but it’s not difficult to see what has found me
She’d disagree but she is incredible
and I intend to make it all more than a fable
because it absolutely is more than that
I swear I am learning from the times I’ve fallen flat

Often I find my head in the clouds
Sometimes the voices ring out so loud
and they turn things dark and dreary
When I know I can focus on thinking clearly
The truth is I let too much inside
and every time I feel like I die
A little bit more than the last
but it brightens just as fast
There is strength that is all mine
but often it is hard to find
Difficult to realize the truth of it all
Someone tell me why is it so easy to fall?
I’ve spent so much of my life chasing the easy way
but lately I find myself working towards a better day

The other distant land is this right here
The words you’re reading, the ones I fear
that will never reach the point I want them to
but I’m not sure there’s any other things I could do
I want to make a big splash and earn this dream
but my current life dims the light I want to beam
It’s not so easy balancing everything I want to balance
I get lost in my head, drowning in my own trance
Dealing can be difficult and draining
Too many people are extremely straining
The way I approach things needs to be rectified
and changed so I can bring out what is inside