– Kings of Leon (2008)
I willed myself not to write. For months. I can’t tell you why – because I don’t know why. And I can’t tell you it was the right decision.
But I willed myself, I did – to sit, night after night, and think. To reflect. To understand where I’ve been, where I was going, what was happening.
I didn’t really come to any conclusions. Not any I can articulate, anyway.
Sorry to disappoint.
But one morning, I woke up, and I was ready for change.
It was that simple.
I had thought about it.
For years, maybe.
About the person I wanted to be. About the person I am.
Those two sides are still at war, by the way.
Every, single, freaking day.
* * *
There’s an old adage in life – the more you attain, the more you have to lose.
I didn’t set out to have a career.
I wanted to write. Maybe be a journalist. Travel freely. Pursue my passions. Die when it was my time.
I didn’t plan marriage, or kids, or a home. They happened – by my choice – and they are not bad things. Quite the contrary: they are the things I value most.
But they shape your choices, good and bad, in the most curious of ways.
Beckett’s descent into serious illness, not once – but twice – has had a profound impact on the way I view the world.
There is no existence without the best health insurance I can get my hands on; no thought of living more than a 15-minute drive from world class neurologists.
Those are non-starters, as they say.
And to think, the 34-year-old me didn’t even know that would ever be a thing.
I didn’t know I would end up a journalist, that I would end up helping start a successful magazine, that I would end up in charge of the communications strategy for one of the largest water and power providers in the United States.
These things happened, organically and unplanned – yet planned all the same. And they have shaped the way I talk, the way I interact with, the way I approach life.
The trapped confines of journalism returned me to the field of information technology; and information technology lead me back to communications.
My passion for the desert and the Southwest kept me here. My passion for water, the way it moves, the way we store it, the way we make it available to the masses, led me to where I sit today.
* * *
It’s been messy.
So messy, this journey.
I’m not a great parent. And yet, sometimes, I am.
I’ve been a horrible human being. And I’ve been a great one, too.
I have lived by love. And loved, many, many, many times.
I’ve made bad choices; and great ones.
But I have always loved those close to me and tried to do right. And when I have not, I have tried to fix those things that I can.
I’ve been down dark paths. And I’ve gotten lost on those paths. Really lost.
But I’ve always found my way back.
This time took me longer than most.
* * *
What to say?
Middle age is hard.
You’re not young. There’s years of work ahead.
Friends get sick. Family gets sick. Children get sick; or fuck up.
Friends lose jobs. Parents lose jobs. Spouses lose jobs.
There’s divorce, and traffic accidents and debt and cancer and middle-age weight gain.
Seriously, metabolism? On top of all this shit, you’re just going to stop working?
We get passed over for promotions, not invited to the party, not remembered on holidays, not recognized for what we’ve done.
People are dicks on the road, in the store, at the restaurant, in your office.
People are dicks, period.
And yet, they’re not.
They love you. You love them. They make the simplest, yet kindest gestures that change the course of a day, a week, a month, a lifetime.
Life can be bitter and sweet, just seconds apart.
In the darkest of moments, we find the best of friends.
There is no black and white for those who appreciate it all.
The beauty is in the complexity.
The complexity, lest we hold onto it, is what makes it all worthwhile.
* * *
A month ago, I decided to change some things.
To eat healthier. To sleep more. To drink less. Way less.
It strikes me, as I’ve ventured down this path, that the day I go the way of my father and just give up booze for good is not that far off. If it’s not that far off, shame on me.
One of the great a-ha moments in the life of a parent of a teenager is that there is no better reality than a sober reality.
We don’t wish the intoxicated interpretation of the world upon our children, so why do we willingly subject ourselves to it?
I’ve spent too many hours feeling pity for myself over a cocktail and too few enjoying one of the few meaningful gifts life bestows upon us: the ability to be in the company of those we love, free from intoxication and clouded judgement.
This afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving, I started down the road of drunk. But I took the exit ramp – the one that lead to Starbucks. I drank coffee this evening, alone.
I talked to a homeless artist, painting a beautiful scene from a printout she made from the local library of a Saudi Arabian newspaper article. It was of a group of men, carrying away a dead family member, shot by a local militia.
She was painting an exact replica, her oils delicately placed upon a coffee lid.
“How do you do this?” I asked. “Make the lines so perfect?”
It was perfect.
The light; the detail.
“You could paint,” she told me. “If your life depended on it.”