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.

 

 

 

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Time slip

No matter what the worlds trying to take from you;

No matter what the world’s trying make you prove;

No matter what the world’s trying say to you;

You gotta’ write your way through”

–          “Arthur’s Song,” Atmosphere

 

What does it mean to be a writer?

To have the gift of words?

To be goaded and prodded to do something bigger, when all you want to do is come home every night of the week and be calm?

Watch TV, fall asleep, be a dad. Not be a lonely, nobody-cares, maybe-if-you-really-tried-you-could-be-a-somebody-writer who feels – no, HAS TO – put thoughts to words every so often?

It feels like this.

It feels like most of us.

The same lie-in-bed, drink-a-beer-on-the-patio thoughts.

Except sometimes, I can’t sleep until I barf them out.

In public.

Maybe it’s a blessing, because they’re recorded and I live in digital sphere bigger than myself.

Maybe it’s a curse, because they consume me until I obey.

Maybe I should stop thinking so grandiose, or being so self-absorbed.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Fuck it if I know.

* * *

Lately, I’m obsessed over time.

My daughter turns 10 next week and damn if I know where I’ve been.

The whole cliché? The blink of eye and their childhood is gone?

It’s true.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember her past 10 years. I’ve spent so much mental power trying to will my neurological disaster of a 12-year-old son to a normal childhood that my memory of my kids’ childhood Is consumed with battle scars – and the memories – from trauma, and not a whole lot else.

I feel like a parent’s memory of childhood is supposed to have camping and coaching baseball and throwing parties and pools and hot dogs.

There was probably lots of that.

But I remember hospitals.

And worry.

Lots and lots of worry.

And always trying to make it up to my daughter.

And always falling short.

But it’s worse than that.

Because she is more gracious than me.

We lie in bed in night. I tuck her in.

“Brody, I wish I could be a better dad.”

“Oh, daddy, stop saying that. You’re the best daddy.”

Stab my broken heart now.

* * *

The best daddy doesn’t drink away his anger; the best daddy doesn’t bail at 8 p.m. and go on a 6-mile walk to try to make sense of the broken feelings he can’t fix.

The best daddy stays firm and holds his kids up.

This is what I tell myself, anyway.

But I’m all kinds of broken, and confused, and unsure. I’m selfish and needy. And sometimes, when I come home from work, I can’t put 2 + 2 together.

I snap in the safe place – come home and complain – and leave my kids to try and navigate the confusing emotional space kids have been having to navigate for eons: why are mom and/or dad so fucking unpredictable at 6 p.m.?

My only saving grace: as I come down, I try to explain to them what’s going on.

* * *

Some background: Beck is sick right now, again.

Normal course of this version of the flu hitting the Phoenix area: kid gets sick, gets knocked down for a couple days – cough, sore throat, blah, blah, blah – starts making improvement in 3-4 days.

Beckett’s is going on 10 days.

Started with allergy-like symptoms, progressed to chest, sore throat, never ending headache, only curbed by drugs.

But there’s no end in sight. Opening day of baseball season is approaching – so he’s bummed, because he wants to be on the field – but so is my daughter’s 10th birthday.

We should be planning her big day – and we are – but not with the focus necessary.

Every Beck disaster starts with a stupid reaction to the common cold, and so we are held hostage by the fear.

Oh, the fear.

Oh, the god damn fucking fear.

* * *

She wants “Woodland Animals” to be the theme.

So “Woodland Animals” it is.

I have a whole idea: Animal Olympics.

Things like leap frog and duck walk – physical events (just like they sound) – and mental events such as eagle eye (spot the differences in the pictures), to create a balance for her guests.

But I can’t plan them appropriately.

Can’t give her the attention she deserves, because the other one is coughing, again and again and again.

Oh, can the coughing please stop? Please.

But it doesn’t stop.

Until he goes to bed.

And I pray, and I wish: tomorrow, please make it be over.

* * *

This is what we’re reduced to: throwing requests to the sky, so we can try to have a “heart rate, blood pressure normal” kind of day.

There’s no guarantee of that.

So we’re back to square one. Me, nearing sleep, asking for normality. Her, passing out invitations around school for the party-to-be.

Her: normal 10-year-old.

Heidi and I: Trying to balance our chronically sick son’s existence, all while making our daughter aware she is, literally, the light we ride upon.

It weighs. It weighs.

God damn it, it weighs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s all I’ve got

“You took the words right out of my mouth.

When you knew that I would need them.

What am I supposed to do now;

Without you.”

–         “Michigan”, Milk Carton Kids

 

Maybe now, if I just sit here and type, there will be words.

At least that’s the hope.

When I’m alone, late at night, and the kids, and Heidi, have gone to bed, and I’m tired, too tired, to type, I think of things I want to say.

They’re so eloquent, those lonely beer-fueled words. All alone in my head. All alone with no one to say them to.

I am powerful and eloquent; and I know how to explain away the sickness, the loneliness, the fear.

And then I fall asleep, and get up, and don the workpants and report to the terminal.

Punch this key, punch that key.

And then I come home and the cycle repeats.

Late at night, I am smart.

First thing in the morning, I report to where I need to be and the cycle starts all over again.

There has to be something more, I think

And then the bills come.

And I have to pay them.

And I have to submerge myself back into the cycle.

For one more day.

For one more year.

Somewhere there’s a payoff.

*  *  *

Truth is, three nights ago, I had an epiphany.

I stood alone; cool February desert air blowing across my skin, and realized I was happy.

Not just happy, but happy, happy.

If you think about the last year – well, if you think about the last year and you’re me – that’s no small feat.

There were two nervous breakdowns and the strange, long recovery from that. To summarize, it takes as long to recover from an anxiety disorder as it takes to make it.

And then maybe a few months more to erase the memories of how easy it is for your mind to destroy your physicality.

Then there was Guillain-Barre, version 2.0.

On one hand, the trip down Anxiety Avenue prepared me for being in the moment as Beckett slipped back into paralysis and dysfunction.

On the other, I wasn’t mentally ready – ever – to live that again.

The lifecycle of his disease was short (stupid short, we would later learn), but the recovery from that was (is?) disjointed and complicated.

Nothing can prepare you for watching your child’s use of his body disintegrate; nothing can prepare you for the legs failing, the fingers not moving, the ability to do something as simple as holding a phone becoming so complicated it slips away in 24 hours.

Forget that.

Throw in the tests, the needles, the spinal tap, the MRI, the tears. The doctors who don’t believe you when you swear your child is 1 in a million and can you please give him the $20,000 drug.

Layer it all on top of a positive, “I just wanna’ do my homework” boy (man?) in a 12-year-old body; all the while worrying about a 9-year-old girl who needs her brother, but can’t see him because of a hospital policy.

Then do it day, after day, after day.

Stare the doctors in the face when they want to send your boy home because they don’t have an answer, but it ain’t Guillain-Barre because “that only happens once.”

Feel the rage when you finally lay into those doctors, when you tell them, “I’m done listening to you. Now you listen to me.”

Feel the joy when that $20,000 drug works; the smug satisfaction when the doctors grovel either in awe that you were right, or in relief that this sweet, sweet boy is getting better. The sober me knows it’s both.

The trajectory of recovery didn’t make it any better.

I dove into dark alleys; leaned way too heavy on the bottle; but somehow, some way, came out on the flipside in a better place than I’ve been in years.

I still haven’t made complete sense of it.

I’m just going to roll with it.

Because that’s what you do.

Accept now. Ask questions later.

* * *

So, back to that happiness.

We’re rolling in true raw reporting right now.

I’m not checking my emotions at the door. What you see is what you get.

It seems the only way.

So here’s what I know. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Today: It sucks.

But it’s also beautiful.

And it’s also the only fucking thing you have.

So you pick yourself up and do the things you’re supposed to do.

Exercise. Eat vegetables. Take the people closest to you, and hold them. Tell them you love them. Make it a point to make sure they know.

Some of them are squeamish.

Fuck them.

Tell those people three times you love them.

There’s no room for their inability to embrace it. They’ll thank you on their death bed.

Do the things you want to do.

Do them now, rather than later.

God, I’ve wasted so much time doing the things I thought I was supposed to do.

I’m fucking 40! How did I get caught it that trap?

* * *

But, yeah, here it is.

I wish I had more eloquent words; a better story. Something more “show” less “tell”.

But, nope.

It’s all pedestrian tonight.

I got to happiness by spending every second in the second.

Erase your mistakes.

Forget who you plan to be.

Now.

That’s all there is.