The Strike Out

“With the moonlight to guide you; feel the joy of being alive;

The day that you stop running, is the day that you arrive;

And the night that got you locked in was the time to decide;

Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride.”

“Enjoy the Ride,” Morcheeba (2008)

 

Today, in a preparation practice for the regular fall-ball season, my son struck me out.

First pitch, letter-high, outside corner of the plate. Velocity faster than I could track.

Strike one.

Second pitch. Same location. Same velocity.

Strike two.

The kids on his team are buzzing. Teammates are watching. Beck’s confidence brimming with the count – it’s our first equipment on, head-to-head battle ever where he’s throwing full speed.

His old man’s haplessness at the first two pitches is clear.

He steps back to the mound, smiles in at me, adjusts his cap. Winds and delivers.

I can hit this one, I think.

I commit to swing.

An off-speed breaking ball, dropping hard to the outside.

I wave the bat frantically.

Strike three.

The kid made mincemeat of me.

* * *

You often hear: age gracefully.

But age doesn’t come gracefully.

Oh, the father in me can take great pride in this kid’s recovery.

Last baseball season – this spring, just six weeks after he was out of the hospital from stint number two with Guillain-Barre, was a lesson in patience; watching his muscles and nerves try to recover from the damage.

His determination to plow through 30-minute innings, loaded with catcher’s gear behind the plate, in 100-degree temps. The constant failure to make contact with the baseball when he was at the plate. The sluggish running – from a kid that was once one of the fastest on his team – those few times he did get on base.

Six months later, it’s all guns blazing again. His commitment to recovery. His fierce determination to be one of the best on his team paying off.

It’s a combination of grit, of a child’s ability to recover, his own unique blend of mind over matter, of a maturing body pulling all the pieces together to achieve a desired status.

Beckett loves baseball.

And he’s getting damn good at it.

Makes me proud.

But not being able to hit my kid’s fastball? Getting tricked by a breaking ball in the dirt?

That’s on me? Isn’t it?

My eyes don’t pick up the ball good in the artificial practice lights; my mind is a second slower in reacting.

It’s an allegory for all the things yet to come.

Slowing down, not ramping up.

Time slipping. Chances fading.

In career, in achievement, in life.

Opportunity is a finite thing.

* * *

Recently, the Cincinnati Enquirer ran one of the most compelling pieces of journalism I’ve encountered in a long time.

They sent 30 reporters and videographers across the city and its suburbs to document the devastating effects of heroin and opiate addiction.

Vignette by vignette, they shared the people, the family members, the first responders, the caring souls on the front lines touched by this epidemic.

I read the whole thing, in one swoop, lying on the couch, with my family laying nearby – swiping on their phones, carelessly watching some sitcom on the television.

As I read it, I couldn’t help but be brought back to my own friends, my family members, racked by addiction. Couldn’t help but thinking: how do I keep my own children away from this?

I wanted to pull them in: 12 and 10 years old and say, “Read this now.” And I may still do that.

But instead, I replied on Facebook to the friend who shared it with the world – how I found out about it – and said, “Thank you for sharing this. It made me cry.”

The next morning, a very close friend wrote me about his wife; and some medical things they’re going through. Scary things. Maybe serious; though hopefully not.

I contrasted this against my own age. The people I love. The things that I so frequently worry about.

There’s so much to take in; so much unknown.

It’s no wonder fear – for so many of us – rules our lives.

And when it’s not fear, not the unknown that racks us, it’s all the ways we could do better.

It’s the rehashing.

If only I had done X instead of Y.

In a life made of days and seconds, there are so many X’s; so many what if’s.

It’s a miracle some of us find a way to move forward at all.

* * *

Though I’ve learned to control stress, I’ve not learned to contain fear.

Fear that I’m failing to reach my potential; fear that my actions are dragging me backwards; fear that I’m constantly at risk of ruining the things that matter most – my friendships, my family, my health.

And I’m so fatigued by it.

Of the fear that something is always waiting around the corner – some new disease or complication for one of my children, or one of my family members, or for myself.

Early last week, sitting at the airport bar, waiting for a flight to Denver, my coworker asked me: “Do you like camping?”

I hesitated.

“I do,” I said. Then added, “I’ve taken my son once.”

I paused.

“Once … geez he’s almost 13.”

And from there began a real-life discussion of fear. Of a need for cell signals, and a close hospital.

I don’t know if these thoughts are even rational, but they’re indicative of the way fear alters you.

* * *

My last blog post, which some of you expressed trepidation about, was mostly about fear. Though, I was trying to get at something a little tougher to discuss in public, too.

The nature of attraction, of desire not just for others, but for a whole host of temptations.

I look around me and I see so many people who are either a) so grounded or b) able to shut those parts of their minds down that would lead them into temptation … and I’m amazed.

My entire day seems like a war between my impulses and my logical mind. From the second I wake up, until the second I close my eyes, it rages.

You’re too fat. You’re no good. You don’t deserve your life (have a drink). Everyone will figure you out. You lie. You make things up (have a drink). You’re a terrible father. You should be a better husband. You’re lazy (Have a drink.)

These things aren’t (always) apparent on the outside because, well, they’re not apparent on the outside of most of us who are able to function. It’s my sense that many of us wage these battles; and so I try to write about them openly, to let others know: you ain’t the only one going through this.

But we’re not use to such raw honesty.

My problem is: I have no interest in anything but it.

How can we get better if we don’t talk about what’s really there?

* * *

That includes being attracted to other people. Having complex feelings where friendship and attraction merge.

My whole point was: these things happen. It is a part of being human.

And don’t get the wrong idea here. I feel like I betray my daughter when I spend too much time with my son; that I betray my wife when I spend too much time with my computer; that I betray my family when I run off to travel or tackle some new opportunity that on the surface seems more exciting than a day at home.

I love the people in my life. Deeply love them. I feed off of their attention. The way my actions – for better or worse impact them – deeply affect my own moods.

There are many people in our lives – many amazing, interesting people, for those of us who are fortunate. How can you not help but feel the laws of attraction at play?

That’s human nature. I fight with it every day. I know others do, too. Some take it too far. Others walk the line. Some bottle it up inside.

I simply struggle with it – sometimes opening windows, other times preparing for a hurricane. Batten down the hatches and all.

But there was a deeper theme in that last post, too.

I kept referencing logic.

The beauty of the human brain is that you can feel all these things, know all these things and share them with others.

And then act upon them the right way.

That’s the place I’m fighting for: the center. Doing the right thing. Respecting all those in my realm.

Breaking free of the selfish impulse.

It’s not about the fact that the kid struck me out.

It’s about the fact that the kid struck me out.

There’s a subtle, critical difference in how you think it. How you say it.

To yourself.

To those you care about.

To those around you.

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Dude, I Get Tempted, Too …

What if we just explore the idea of love for a second?

What if we add lust?

Where would that fall into your perfectly crafted sphere?

Get up. Lay down.

Perform all the things that belong in the middle of a normally middle-class existence.

Do this, do that. All because it’s right.

Maybe you’re better than most.

You have capacity for mom and dad, brother and sister, daughter and son – all perfectly coexistent and revolving around your id and ego.

Maybe you’re not capable.

All self-centered and calculating.

I won’t judge.

Maybe there’s no one else.

* * *

I won’t lie.

It takes work.

It’s hard to do what’s right.

My selfishness, my addictiveness, drives me towards lonely places where the only correct choice is the choice the most base level of my existence wants.

It takes logic to weigh the consequences.

Thankfully, logic delivers results that are deeply rewarding.

Results you take to bed. Results you wake up with and sometimes go, “Yeah, that made total sense.”

Results you wake up with sometimes and go, “Thank god.”

* * *

Let’s not mince words.

It’s a world of temptation; and these temptations come in so many forms.

I can’t name them all.

Pick your poison.

Drink. Drugs. Sex. Gambling. Knowledge. Power. Fear. Remorse. Regret.

Any of them can send you down a path; a path that’s hard to find the exit from.

I’ve dabbled in more than a few of those.

And I’ve only found the right way home through careful thought.

A lot of people I love will say they’ve found the way home through God. Through Jesus. Through religion.

That’s cool. I get that.

It just ain’t my path.

But I get it.

I could follow that path.

If I could find it.

If my foot would land there; and trust the ground to be stable.

* * *

The temptations are everywhere.

Flesh. Power. The promise of something more.

Is it money you want? People? Respect?

What is it you crave?

And why do you want it?

Where are you going with this endless unease; and why are you willing to throw everything you have away to get it?

You thought that question was for you?

I was asking it of myself.

* * *

I’ve held my daughter when she needs me; laid by son when he thought he was going to die; and through all of that, preserved the relationship with Heidi.

Through the normal ‘tween shit, through all the scary hospitalizations with my son, through the temptations that exist everywhere, we’ve come out on the other side.

If you had the privilege to sit in our home on a random Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., you’d have no clue what we’ve been through. The mountains we’ve climbed.

Sorry, I respect your pain, I respect your fear, but sometimes – as horrible as it sounds – screw you.

Do two stints with Guillain-Barre and tonic-clonic seizures.

Respect to all of you who’ve watched a love one suffer or watched disease and sickness rack up your children. — But to the rest of you: Man the f up.

I don’t have to apologize.

Eight years of sleeping with fear – of ripping apart my gut – means I get to be judgmental. You want to join my club? …

No. You don’t.

But here’s the crazy part.

I’m still human.

Longing for things.

For lust.

For love.

To feel alive.

And so I stray – here and there, to and fro.

In love – and in disgust – with the world, with that pretty girl, with you.

I don’t wanna’ die unfulfilled.

There’s so much to have.

Right?                                                  

Maybe.

You tell yourself that.

I’ll go to bed.

Logic, firmly in place.

 

 

 

 

 

Upside Down

“Sometimes life can taste so sweet when you slow it down / You start to see the world a little differently, when you turn it upside down.”

– “Upside Down,” Paloma Faith (2010)

The point is, you can’t know.

You can’t know when your time is called; when the massive, unpredictable nature of the world says, “This is it.”

So it is for the mom who drowned, while her three year old child clung to her. So it is for the family who, spurred by the life experience of a family matriarch, drove into the flood waters. Dad escaped; his father and his four children died.

While you perfect your life; while you obsess over your pounds and your slights at work, remember this: Nature doesn’t care about your petty insecurities, nor does the universe.

Your petty insecurities are just that:

Petty.

You have people who love you. People who need you.

People whose world revolves around you.

Get over it. Get over yourself.

Get back on track and obsess over the things that matter.

All of this is fleeting.

Nature is chaos. Politics is chaos. The world is unpredictable.

What is real is today. What is real is the people that love you.

Embrace them. Embrace yourself. Shun the sales pitch. Shun, most importantly, the idea that you’re not good enough.

Put the shamers; the marketers and media bombarding your brains with perfect body images, perfect relationships, perfect lifestyles in their place.

Reclaim it, own it.

Love yourself and move on.

Submerge yourself in the people around you and respond to that.

You’ll be better for it.

You’ll actually live, and die, having done something worth living for.

 

Cruel Summer

This heat has got right out of hand; It’s a cruel, cruel summer. Now you’re gone. You’re not the only one.”

– Bananarama, (1983)

 

I’m ashamed to say that it took a conversation with a close friend tonight to really reflect on cruelty.

Cruelty.

It’s everywhere; an inescapable component of human existence.

We’ve all been cruel – don’t deny it. To our friends, our spouses, our children. Sometimes, to people we don’t know.

It is an emotion borne out of stress, of anger, of a sense of being slighted, of a desire to fit in amid nasty, nasty group think.

For the best of us, cruelty is followed by regret, by shame. For the worst of us, it is a way of life.

It is permitted. It is tolerated. And it is hard, in the moment, to stand up to those who perpetuate it.

Hard for those of us strong enough to fight it.

Impossible for those of us constantly susceptible to it.

*  *  *

The voice I once had, the voice that once compelled me to tackle every perceived injustice has been silenced  – by position, by title, by a sense that I increasingly represent something bigger than myself.

Heading a nonprofit’s board, representing a government utility – it feels like these positions require a very measured response to everything.

My words may represent only me – in my own mind – but that’s not the way others may perceive them. And so I sit largely on the sidelines, relegated to speaking only about personal matters, to things that are truly in my domain.

My mission is to get people who need food fed, to get more people facing homelessness some sense of stability, to get them help – not let my personal political opinions, or my opinion of others, get in the way of, or jeopardize, that mission.

But I do it all the time.

I talk shit. I make offhanded remarks to people I trust. I fall prey to the same petty crap that fuels a culture of dishonesty, of trash talk, of putting others down. All in the name of “getting it off my chest” over a post-work beer.

I blow up at my kids. I say horrible crap in the moment. I react incorrectly to a child, my spouse, in the heat of the moment.

Instead of listening, I react; and rather than lift the ones I love up in the exact moment they need it, I exacerbate their problems.

And it isn’t until long after they go to bed, when I can’t sleep, when I’m alone with my thoughts, that I reflect on what I’ve done. I pledge to make it better next time … only, of course, to not make it better next time.

Because tired happens; and 5:30 p.m. and stressed kids and lots of homework and unexpected bills and a failure at (work, life, personal goals?) happens, and you’re back in the same spot.

Frustrated? Shoot off the cuff. That’ll fix it.

Yeah, that’ll fix it.

*  *  *

One of the strange perks of my job is that, from time to time, I get to sit behind a double-insulated mirrored-glass wall and listen to a collection of random people discuss my work, or my coworkers work – or what our work might be.

Focus groups, as they’re called, are a fascinating insight into humanity and the deep intelligence that all humans possess, regardless of income, title, upbringing, race, religion.

I’m convinced: You could potentially reverse – even if it’s a small percentage – racism, sexism, bigotry, by forcing people to sit behind a glass wall and observe a focus group.

Black, White, Indian, Jewish, gay, straight, fill in the blank … we’re different, but not that much so.

There’s something about putting people from all these backgrounds in a room – giving them some sort of compensation – and forcing them to all discuss something, anything: a website, a marketing campaign, a law.

When people talk, when a moderator is superb, and the group is forced to listen and think and respond in a controlled manner, it’s actually inspiring when you see the very common threads that tie humanity together.

We may not agree, but in our best place, we’re capable of hearing and thinking and being calm. The cultural differences, the insecurities that may stop these people from ever interacting in a random, real-life setting, are broken down and then, holy shit …

… whaddya’ know? We all love Fridays, or our families, or God (whatever form that takes), and pets and our friends … and we all sort of uniformly understand what corporations, and government and leaders are trying to get us to do whenever they do whatever it is they do.

Or maybe we hate all those things. But with a little conversation, or context, we understand why.

And then, maybe, just maybe, we feel less compelled to criticize others for what they think.

*  *  *

That doesn’t justify harboring hate, or being a dick.

Understanding where somebody is coming from doesn’t mean you have to agree. Or, that in some circumstances, that person’s opinion is right.

But its only through this dialogue, through understanding, that you can begin to change opinion.

I recently encountered the story of Daryl Davis, a Chicago blues musician born in 1958 who used dialogue to disarm members of the KKK.

Davis, a Black man, was known for engaging, and eventually befriending members of the KKK. In his  1998 book, “Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssesy in the Ku Klux Klan,” he tells the story of a car ride with a Klansman.

“All black people have a gene in them that makes them violent,” one of the Klansmen told Davis in the car. Rather than respond in anger, Davis challenged him to examine his belief.

He said, ‘You know, it’s a fact that all white people have within them a gene that makes them serial killers. Name me three black serial killers.’ He could not do it. I said ‘you have the gene. It’s just latent.’ He said, ‘Well that’s stupid.’ I said, ‘It’s just as stupid as what you said to me.’ He was very quiet after that and I know it was sinking in.”

Davis would go on to claim that man left the Klan several months later.

I can’t vouch for the truth of that story – it’s been told many times – but I can vouch for the gist of it.

As I peruse the many social media feeds and groups I subscribe to, I see people isolated in group think – stuck amid people who think like they do – isolated and dwelling in the anger of an “us versus them” mentality. Fomenting ideas of rage and war and disgust over ideological differences.

In these forums, we advocate conflict. We diminish those who are different. We prepare for battle before we’ve even had a chance to discuss anything with those whom we’re prepared to fight.

Led by petty men and women who seek to capitalize on this anger for their own political gain, average men and women – just trying to eek out a living and a safe place for themselves and those they love – succumb to terms of violence and cruelty.

And therein lies the problem.

We have to be bigger than them.

We have to find the way.

We have to step outside ourselves and have the tough conversations.

Even if the other side won’t do it.

Hard?

You bet it is.

But that’s where we make the difference.

By being bigger than those who would play us for their own gain.

By being bigger than those that hate us.

By swallowing our pride and for once, finally saying, today, rather than choosing hate, or cruelty,  I’ll challenge myself.

*  *  *

How does this play out in the real world?

I have no clue.

Maybe it comes back to where this whole diatribe started – talking about the way we practice cruelty even to those in our own social sphere.

We’re wildly imperfect. And that means everyone around us is, too.

It’s about slowing down. It’s about making an investment.

In people. In thought.

It’s about believing: one human at a time does make an difference.

In a world of cruelty, those of us who care actually have to care.

If we don’t, no one will.

If we don’t, we’re all accomplices in plotting an uglier future.

Carry on, tomorrow

 

“I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I’d never been
Now I’m lying on the cold hard ground
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble”

– Taylor Swift, 2012

I knew the second I parked exactly where to go. Towards the doors on the second floor. Turn left. Follow the hallway, attached as an afterthought of expansion, to the old exterior, concrete walls.

Hit the buzzer, wait for admittance, proceed past the room – doors on the left – of contraptions to stretch and pull and prod muscles back into compliance.

Find the doorway on the right, with the number that matches your destination. Brace yourself for what’s next.

What’s next is a mom – and her mom – 66 days into a hospital stay. I smile. “I’m Ed,” I say. “Oh, Ed’s here,” she says into her phone, and hangs up with the party on the other end.

We shake hands. She can shake hands, I note. That’s already better than I expected.

And so I settle into a hospital room at Barrow Neurological Institute, just a few doors down from where Beckett began his first recovery from Guillain-Barre six years ago, with a woman whose journey I’ve followed for two-plus months now, but am meeting for just the first time.

“This place brings back memories,” I say.

“You were here when you had Guillain-Barre?” she asks.

“Not me,” I say. “My son.”

“Oh, I thought you had it,” she says.

“No, my son,” I reply. “Twice.”

The conversation goes from there.

* * *

This weekend, I finished a key component of my master’s program: a three-credit hellhole of a class crammed into four weeks. It involved up to eight hours of lecture, 400 pages of reading and six exams a week.

I finished Friday morning, then proceeded to pretty much blow off most of the weekend. I took in two Diamondbacks games and not much else.

On Sunday, I woke up in the clothes I went to bed in Saturday night; and spent the rest of the day in them.

Our (read: Heidi’s) primary accomplishment, was a goal to gut Beckett’s bedroom – to clean and either trash, or donate, a couple years’ worth of collected tchotchkes, paperwork and other assorted nonsense 12-year-old’s feel compelled to store in their domain.

This included a massive assortment of gifts.

Inevitably, as I’d walk into his room, bouncing between the Sunday D-Backs game on TV and the cleaning process taking place, I’d ask, “Where did this come from?”

And Heidi would say, “Beckett got it as a gift, when he was sick.”

As in, sick, this January, just six months ago.

And without fail, I’d respond, either out loud, or to myself, “I don’t remember that.”

(“How the hell did I launch our company’s website this winter? … Or put on the bocce tournament?” I mused to Heidi.)

* * *

It’s only when you start to heal that you realize just how far you were gone. I don’t remember most of January, or February, or March.

And as I relayed these stories to this woman in the hospital room, to whom I already felt a bond, just beginning her journey to recovery, the concept of lost memories kept coming back.

Her mother would relay stories of what had gone down the last couple months, to which she would often reply, “I don’t remember that.”

And I would share some other example of things I couldn’t remember. Things I would never remember, and only know existed or happened because somebody told me they did.

Such is trauma; such is life when the only goal is survival or repair or a fight back to something better. Such is the mind in the midst of a real fight.

A fight that matters.

* * *

The older you get, I’ve come to realize, the greater the odds you go head-to-head in one of these real battles.

Some, like Beckett, fight them when they’re 6 or 12. Some fight them forever. Some fight them temporarily. Some fight them, then fight the aftermath, again and again and again.

Tonight, when relaying stories of my visit with this woman to Beckett, he told me about his time in the hospital, his dreams as the disease took hold, of being drowned, or suffocated, or sinking.

I shared with my new friend the way nothing was ever the same in the aftermath: the blood pressure, the anxiety, the way sleep terrified me – never knowing what the night would bring.

Would (will?) the exhaustion of sleep finally (please!) grab hold, or would one ear lock onto the wall connecting Heidi and I’s bedroom with Beckett’s, listening endlessly for the first sound of a seizure or of a restless kid destined (I was convinced) to come into our room and tell us his toes were tingling again.

Distance helps, for sure. But these traumas, they are manageable in the daylight, all-consuming in the night.

It’s true: it’s when you’re alone, with your thoughts, that the demons wage their war.

* * *

I would never lie about that.

I would never walk into a room, with anybody facing any frightening battle, and offer false hope. That’s petty, escape the reality bullshit.

That’s not real life.

Life – sorry to say – doesn’t give a shit about whatever fantasy you’ve been sold. The mind is relentless, an intense organism, formed and trained by everything we’ve taken in.

And it has control over everything.

It shapes our behaviors – our repetitive, destructive ones – manifesting itself in fears, and aversion and the repetitive pleas of why, why, why do I keep getting stuck here.

But it also shapes our appreciation of the simple – Lord, this day is beautiful, thank you! – and the very complex.

I will never understand the science of the deep peace I feel tucked between my wife and children on a Sunday morning, other than to know that it is shaped by my many experiences, big and small, that let me know: nothing matters more than this.

You know this, too.

You can fill in the blank about your trauma, your experiences and you know the way these things drive your behaviors, good and bad.

You know that lying is futile.

We must stare our battle in the face, do what we can to get “better” and come to accept our new reality. They teach this to addicts, and maybe to those who seek professional help for trauma.

But the rest of us either figure this out on our own or become consumed by the very thing we’re fighting.

In the aftermath of trauma, there is no return to normal.

There is the new normal. Nothing else.

It is there that what we’ve been through, what we fear, what we’ve learned, what we know, blends together into our new complex understanding of the world.

It’s different for everyone else. But for me, it’s something like this:

“The world is unbelievably, chaotically beyond my control. I can’t stop what will happen, medically, to my son, my parents, my wife, myself. But I can try to take steps to be as present in this day as possible, to have fun, to do the things that make me happy. To take a risk now and again. To tell everybody I love just how I feel about them. To do my job to the best of my ability. To try and be positive. To try to foster understanding. To try to give those who need a lift a bit of a boost.”

If I can do a little bit of that every day, that’s enough.

And, whatever I do, I tell myself, don’t let my mind tell me otherwise.

Easier said than done.

* * *

Most nights, when I write these things – no surprise – a few beers are involved.

And so, after capturing that last thought, I stepped outside onto my back patio and took a few swigs.

There was something I forgot to say, I think, something I told my new friend: “I rely on the odds, the numbers. And while there are no guarantees, the data is in your favor. It’s not that way for all people with scary diseases.

People with Guillain-Barre, for the most part, they recover. They do. Not always, but almost always.”

And then I’m back inside with my thoughts.

It’s gorgeous out there, I muse. Some random freak show of a deep Western low making it 68 degrees on a mid-June evening. By the end of this week, we’ll be flirting with 117, the weatherman says.

I pause, running out of thoughts, and think, “Where do I want to take this?”

My brain is so, so tired – thinking of my new friend and the battle she faces. Thinking of how I’m pulled this way and that, always wondering if I’m giving my wife, my kids, myself enough.

And in the end, after a long pause, I’m pulled back to where I’ve come to be – a place that feels acceptable and right, and makes it easy to end this missive: You’ve done enough.

Go to bed. Rest well. Carry on tomorrow.

All of you.

Redundancy, or maybe, acceptance

“It’s time to move on, time to get going;
What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing.
But under my feet, baby, grass is growing.
It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going.”

–      Tom Petty, “Time to Move On”

The cranes appeared tonight.

Maybe they came earlier, but tonight is the first night I saw them – a pair, dominating the nighttime sky, reaching 20 stories or higher.

They’ll be another building there, they tell me. Claiming the Tempe skyline. Parking structure three stories beneath the ground.

Progress.

Progress means closing a whole street; erecting massive fences.

Progress and $300 million – I’m estimating – lets you close a street. For as long as you need.

You and I, we can’t close a street in the name of progress.

You and I? We’re on our own.

* * *

But we make progress all the same, don’t we?

Through the up and down, up and down, up and down, we wake again; will ourselves to another day and most of the time, do it pretty damn good.

Today was United, and San Bernardino and the normal every day shit. And tonight is family or friends, and dinner, and the routine. We rest our heads and prepare for a repeat because we are insanely resilient and resistant and, damn it, it’s just what we do.

Sometimes, there’s no thought put into it at all.

There are people dependent upon us – children, parents, spouses.

Ain’t no bitching about the lot we’re given. You pick yourself up, you move on, because that’s what needs to be.

The scholars, the social analysts, they rarely delve into that. They talk in ideals. They don’t talk in the day-to-day realities of what we face. They talk about how things should be, how they could be, how they aren’t.

But they’re not us – with all of our circumstances and intricacies.

We make decisions based on what’s best for those we kiss goodnight.

Sometimes, when we’re in our best place, we make decisions based on what’s best for us, too.

* * *

A lot of my writings over the last couple months have been filled with all the dark places I’ve been. This space is a healthy outlet for that.

But it’s not entirely fair.

The real-world implication of that is uncomfortable. I write from the gut at 1 a.m., then I see a friend at 9 a.m. the following day as I drop off my kid at school, and they look at me as if I’m troubled.

Expression of the gut is a pretty complicated matter; especially when we’re sharing it publicly.

The public sphere isn’t the same as spilling things to your best friend – the one that really knows you – over a glass of wine. The written word sometimes lacks the subtlety or context that comes with knowledge.

But this whole thing is an experiment; and so onward I go, fear be damned – the good outweighs the bad. If there’s anything I’ve been given, it’s the ability to be shut off the worry about what others think. If I do a poor job explaining one day, I’ll come back and try it again the next.

I think that old saying, “Journalism is the first draft of history,” has stuck with me all these years. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time, every time.

The truth is, all in all, things have been going well these days.

I’ve washed away the anxiety by simplifying; I’ve washed away the worrying through simple mantras and focusing on what is good.

“I am here tonight in this comfortable bed. Heidi is by my side. The kids are comfortable and asleep.”

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Until I fall asleep.

* * *

So, what’s the point?

Well, sometimes there is none.

It’s all in the day-to-day.

It’s all in how we live.

Because this makes up most of it.

And we have a choice as to how we perceive it.

Sometimes we’re so damn bad ass, they close major roads to pave our way to progress.

Most of the time, they leave us alone – stranded – to find our own way.

* * *

I’m looking for the concise and cheeky way to wrap it all up; to make you ponder deeply as you read that last word. To be the bad-ass writer.

But all I really wanted to convey when I set to the keyboard tonight is that everything is okay – great, in fact.

There is no dark cloud, no deep angst.

No loss that requires some somber missive.

It’s okay. Geez, sometimes, life in all its redundancy – all the things we do to support the people we love – is just okay.

And that’s okay, too.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day.

Sometimes, we just get up and do what we have to do – road closure or not, depending on your stature.

And that’s enough.

More than enough.

The trick is to believe it.

 

 

 

 

 

Pity Party

“In the back of the woods in the dark of the night

Palest of the old moonlight

Everything just felt so incomplete

Dreaming of revelry”

       “Revelry,” Kings of Leon

 

Here’s the things about life – for every night, there is day; for every dark hour, a light one balances it; for every whiny writer who goes to bed crying, “whoa is me,” another wakes and thinks: “Beautiful sunrise.”

It really is that simple, sometimes.

One of the hardest parts of going from being a partner in a small business to going to work for a government agency – for me, anyway – was the sense that somehow you had to button it all down.

I let anyone in who’ll listen. A writer without an audience isn’t much of a writer; so nearly every Facebook friend request is approved, every blog comment answered.

And then some mornings, you realize, in a cross-departmental corporate meeting, 9 of the 20 people in the room read your last post. They know your darkest fears, your weaknesses, the mistakes you make – and all you know is they were a good project partner a year ago and have a couple kids.

So for the first couple years at my current job; I didn’t write much.

But every once in a while, the urge, the force, would be too great – and it would spill out of my hands onto the keyboard. And from there to the blog.

But what I came to realize is that the pain, the honesty, the transparency more often than not helped coworkers and others around me work their way through their own issues.

Heidi and I will often sit on the back patio and think: despite all the things we’ve dealt with, we wouldn’t want somebody’s else life, or problems. We’re grateful for our lives and experiences. All y’all out there are tough; and you cope with a lot.

So now when I’m afraid to tell the truth, to write what’s really inside, I push the fear away and go for it. I share.

And sometime that writing delves into the dark place I was last night. Not sad, not depressed. Just fed up with the universe, ready to scream, “gimme’ me a break, already.”

It’s like a first draft of history; a small glimpse into a complex mechanism.

A complex medium that woke up the next morning, threw on some music, opened all the windows, sipped a cup of tea and thought, “Man, what a beautiful day.”

* * *

And it is a beautiful day.

Spring has found its way back to the desert; an early season heat wave replaced by light breezes and 60 degree sunshine.

The windows are open, the sun is bright. Both maintenance guys scheduled today got here by 9 and were finished by 9:30. Beckett’s 11:40 doctor’s appointment got moved up to 10 a.m.

The weekend is wide open.

So today, I’m sitting in the back room, with all its big windows, working my way through another missive. Beckett is playing behind me on his Xbox, stopping every 10 minutes to tell me he loves me.

It’s his way of trying to patch the frustration he witnessed in me last night. The complaining rant I engaged in at the dinner table.

So, a little while ago, I told him to pause the game.

“What you saw last night,” I said. “That was healthy.”

“Really?” he asked.

“Yeah, a year ago, I would’ve held in it. Tried to work through it myself and it would’ve stayed bottled up and became stress and anxiety. Last night, I just let it go. I let you know, I reach my limit sometimes, too.”

“Ohhhhh …,” he said.

“You get it?”

A pause and then, “Yeah.”

It’s the way he says it, the thoughtful elongation of the vowels, that let me know he means it.

And so it is: counterbalance found in the light of day.