Posts Tagged ‘Life’

It’s late on a Thursday night, and I should have known better. Too late. A generous amount of Ravenswood Chardonnay has completed its magic, and my head is doing that bob-bobbing thing it likes to do, as the bus trundles along on its merry way home.

I allow one foot to precariously follow the other as I weave my half-snapped way to an empty seat. There’s an attractive woman there, and she’s thoughtfully moved closer to the window, all the better to help me avoid having to climb over her to the only vacant spot left.

I plunk myself down in relief and prepare to slumber my way toward the final few miles to my home bus stop.

Only…. My nose twitches. And twitches again. Something is seriously amiss.

I look over at the woman next to me, who at this point is now obstinately staring face-forward. Desperate. Afraid. Anxious.

No. It can’t be.

But it is.

A more heinous ambience can’t be imagined.

This veritable tulip, this rose of the fairer sex has emitted a soulful and delicate silent backfire, no doubt hoping against hope for the gain of anonymity.

Yet it was not to be. For I, the seeker of lost passions and artifacts of renown, have found her out. She is but a ghost to most, but is to me she is as the stop sign to eternity’s perfume.

Still, gallant man that I am, I labour to keep her dread secret, if only to preserve my status as gentleman and appreciator of all that is good and right in the world. My nose has other ideas. My nose is offended.

I open my drunken mouth, and hesitate.

Then, “ew.”

oops_sorry

“What?”

He looked over at her. She frowned and hugged herself. He reached over and turned up the heater.

Her question filled the silence between them. He watched the streetlights flicker by, separating the moments of darkness. Light, dark, light, dark, light…. Not for the first time he wished he wasn’t driving.

He repeated himself. “I’m looking for magic.”

“Well what do you mean? What magic?” Despite her shivering, she had to know.

They were returning from a group coaching session, the first one he’d ever attended. They had done several group exercises, all designed to help everyone figure out exactly what they wanted out of life. The session had been illuminating, particularly for him. He’d been so restless for such a long time, not knowing why. The coaching exercises had helped.

“I’m not sure I can put it into words,” he began.

“Try.”

He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, staring out at the salt-stained roads, thinking.

“Ever have one of those moments when there’s sudden brightness? You can be looking at a light display in a busy downtown section. Or you notice the way the sun hits a particular tree in the spring…..You get this feeling, this sense of a world beyond this world, one where anything’s possible. There’s a mountain of treasure, a kind of…..” He thought hard. “Kind of like a never-ending orgasm, just out of reach.”

She snorted abruptly. “WHAT?”

They both laughed.

“I don’t know” he grinned. “I’m having a hard time trying to explain this…”

“Yeah, no kidding.”

“I’m pretty sure that when we were kids, we had a sense of wonder about the world, and about all of the possibilities. Long before we got taught about responsibilities, and our duty to the systems of employment, payments, mortgages, cars, gifts and taxes.”

“As we got older, and we took on all these burdens, that wonder got snuffed out. We forgot what it meant to explore.”

She stared straight ahead. He could tell she was processing.

He waited, silent.

After a while she looked back at him. “So tell me, what do you see when you envision this magic? As an adult, I mean.”

“I-”

“Wait. Is this what you were talking about tonight? California? Being around creative people?”

He smiled. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s part of it. I mean, I know I can get there and do everything I talked about: writing, performing improv comedy and maybe acting. But I know there are people who do that, who don’t connect to the magic. That’s the risk, I guess.”

She shook her head. “I don’t get you. I thought you wanted these things….”

“Oh I do, I do. And I’m going after them. No doubt about it. I just don’t want to fool myself into thinking any of it’s going to bring that elusive magic.”

He was grateful for the mostly empty street. It really was a beautiful night, despite the cold and the wind. The streetlights played over the road in a way that hinted at the sparkling existence of the magic for which he longed.

He had always had a love affair with light. As a kid, he recalled having a plastic game figure that lit up with a soft red glow. He remembered being mesmerized by it, as he played out on the street with it, in the twilight of a summer evening.

Later, he recalled taking his first trip to Toronto from Oshawa, and marvelling at the city skyline, with the thousands of building lights all creating their unique dance. Each one was so different, and each seemed to invite him.

“I’m not sure there’s a single point where I’ll say ‘this is it’. I think this magic requires me to keep moving, keep exploring.” He was onto something, he was sure of it.

“I need to keep creating. Keep experiencing. Whether it’s writing, or acting, or playing piano or whatever it is….I won’t be able to stop. I can’t stop. When I stop, I’m pretty sure the magic will be hidden again.”

She nodded.

“I know how cliché it sounds…”

“Don’t” she said. “Don’t apologize for this. For any of it.” She hesitated. “I mean, I can’t pretend to understand everything you said, but I get that it’s important to you.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. I haven’t heard you talk like this for a while. It’s definitely a good thing, this whatever it is you’re after. Not sure I’d call it magic but….it’s definitely something. How long have you been thinking about it?”

He scratched his head. Sighed. “For a long long time.” He eased the car to the stoplight. “I think it’s why I haven’t been able to feel settled in my apartment. Or for that matter, my job.”

The light turned green. He gave it some gas. “What’s worse, I could feel myself starting to stagnate. It was starting to feel like hell. Like a living hell.”

“Yeah, I noticed you weren’t laughing as much. You seemed so serious all the time. Even when we went to comedy shows, you sat there just watching the stage, like you were lost in thought.”

He nodded.

“So what changed?”

“Well for one thing, I think I’ve recaptured some momentum. I’m signing up for improv comedy classes again. Just need to get my foot back in the door again, hang around creative types.”

He smiled, mostly to himself. “And then there was the coaching thing tonight. It really helped open my eyes. I was in danger of forgetting so much.”

He didn’t mention that he didn’t think he was out of danger, just yet. It’s one thing to talk about it, but he knew he had to act or would it all go away again.

He would get old. He would lose out to complacency, comfort, and rot.

No way. No fucking way. No.

Blue-City-Skyline-At-Night

The realization came so slowly.   Like a particularly vivid LSD trip, the awareness of the truth threatened to overwhelm him.  A visual so all-encompassing he couldn’t see the sides of it.

As a small child, he was aware of his limits.  Though he wasn’t conscious of it,  those limits made him feel safe.  He would always have food, always have a place to sleep.  He had parents who saw to his every need.  He expected them to look after him.  It was his right.  He knew nothing else.  That’s just the way it was.

About ten years later, he began to realize how precarious his existence was.  His mother, filled with fear and foreboding, simply had to tell someone, so she told him.  Their home might be repossessed.  They had received a Sheriff’s letter, stating as much.

In the week dark hours of the late night/early morning, his mother had stared out of their large living room window, frowning.  He had been there to see the worry.  The glowing golden ember at the end of her cigarette provided the only illumination in the living room, as she confessed her fears.

They would lose the house.  Maybe their large family would have to be split up.  She didn’t know where they would get the money, as her husband (his dad) had squandered it all away on booze and the racetrack.

Somehow, a few months later, he learned that they had retreated from their fiscal cliff, somehow.  Maybe an angel had intervened, he didn’t know.

He just knew that somehow, despite his bad credit, his father had secured a second mortgage.  They would have to move, this time to an older house.  The difference in equity would bring a small measure of relief.

A number of years later, the boy had finally grown up.   He found a girl, got engaged, got a job at  a factory, and had finally moved out of his fear-ridden home.

The pursuit of that elusive safety he craved looked like it was coming to an end.  The factory paid well, and he could afford to get a modest apartment with his young bride.

He remembered a hand-drawn sign he had seen during the first week of his job at the factory. It read “ya wanna eat, ya gotta work”.

That thought had stayed with him during his years working at the factory.  Its truth was depressing, mostly because of how he interpreted it:  “you have to live in hell, if you want to live at all.”    At the time, he had no awareness that work could be something about which he could feel passion.  No one gets passionate about working at a factory.  Especially not a factory that was as oppressive, demanding and as soul-killing as this one.

The search for safety took on a different hue.  Years of marriage to someone with whom he could not relate began to poison him.  Toward the end of that relationship, he had begun researching methods for committing suicide.  He didn’t think he could go through with it for the same reason he couldn’t separate from his wife:  his religion forbade it.  He knew that tension would end somewhere: it was impossible to keep pulling at both sides without something popping.

One night, on a dark road, he drove towards his home.  The small highway was empty, with nothing on either side of the road to see except trees.  For just a moment, he had a visual of turning the steering wheel abruptly and crashing into one of them.  Everything would be over.  It could happen so fast, and he’d find relief.  He thought “I could do it.  I could just do it now.”   The thought was so compelling he found himself frightened.  He knew he really could do it.

The next day he saw his doctor and told her about it.  After first checking him to see if the impulse was still there, she referred him to another GP – one who specialized in cognitive therapy.

Talking really helped.  He was always cheerful with his therapy doctor, seemingly bright and unconcerned about anything.  She wasn’t fooled though.  She kept asking leading questions.

One day he arrived at her office, anything but cheerful.  This was the moment she had waited for.  He finally opened up, revealing the torturous angst he had harboured for so long.

“What’s it like when you arrive home from work?” she asked.

“It’s like a living hell” he replied, honestly.

“So” she said, “you realize what you’re doing, right?”

He looked at her.  “What?”

“Every time you go home to that living hell, you’re making a choice to go home to a living hell.”

At first, he was confused, then slightly offended.  Then he realized the truth about what she said.

She was right.  There was no safety at home.  There was only hell.  And no one was holding a gun to his head.  That hell wasn’t being enforced on him.  He was making a choice to go into it, every day.

He turned that truth over in his head, several times.  He looked at all angles of it, tested it for accuracy.  It was deadly accurate, and his ignorance of it had almost killed him.

It took a while but then he decided that he need to start making other, better decisions.

So he did.  They did.  His wife agreed that they shouldn’t be together anymore.

When he picked up the keys to his bachelor apartment, he felt a measure of excitement.   Then, when he opened the door and looked around the small one-bedroom place with the shag carpeting, he breathed in the peace of it.

He was surprised by his own tears.

(end of part 1) (part 2 is here at Swimming in the Uncertain Ocean – Part 2)

The hospital room had low summer lighting.  I think that’s what they call it, anyway.  Summer lighting.  It meant that the lighting wasn’t harsh or hard on the eyes.  “Muted yellow lighting” would have been more descriptive.

Anyway, it was calm.

Much like the patient in the bed.  He was calm, too.  Peaceful. Apologetic.

In the last few months, he had made an effort to talk with everyone.  His kids, his brothers, me.

In each case, he had offered up an offer of peace.  His way of saying he was sorry.  Sorry for the way he had treated us.  Sorry for the angst and anger he had vented on us.  Sorry for the hurt.  Sorry for the pain and the worry and the overwhelming fear he had provoked.

He told each of us that he loved us.  It seemed important to him for some reason.

I vaguely recall the time he told me that too.  I accepted what he said, politely.  That’s what you do, when someone says they love you.  Especially when that someone has been a vision of horror for such a large portion of your life.  You smile and you say “me too”.

Whether you mean it or not is another thing entirely.

I didn’t.  I couldn’t.

I damned well did not love him.

When he breathed his last breath under that summer lighting in that hospital bed, I breathed a sigh of relief.  And I felt marginally guilty for doing so.

melody

I went home that night.  My daughter was in the kitchen, doing something.  I don’t recall exactly what.  Probably doing dishes.

Leaving the lights off, I sat down at the piano, and started to play.  I didn’t have a song in mind, so I created one.  Arpeggios came to mind, and I followed through.  Minor keys, major keys.  A rhythm.  It coalesced into…..something.

It was at once stark, painful and hopeful. It was peaceful, and sad.  I decided to make it a song about my dad.  I called it “Hope of Glory”.

When the time came and we had the Catholic mass for him, I sat at the front of the church and I played that song.

Interspersed with the melody were the vibrations of memory.

My father, drunk and angry.  Wrapping a chain around his fist.  My mother yelling at him.  He had been pulled over by a cop earlier that week and by God he was going to go hunt for the cop and repay him.  My mother threatening to call the police the moment he left the house.

My fingers caressed the keys, plinking away at the foundation of the song.

My dad, drunk once again, looking for a fight.  Hearing me say something at the top of the cellar stairs.  I don’t recall what it was, but I had made the mistake of disagreeing with him.  “ARE YOU CALLING ME A LIAR?”

“But..” I started to say “that’s not what——”   Then I heard him running to the bottom of the stairs.  I turned, opened the door and bolted outside.

His 350 pound lumbering gait was no match for my lithe 140 pound sprint.  I could at least outrun him.   He roared in frustration at the door.  “DON’T COME BACK”

My fingers picked up the melody, to counterbalance the bass line.  The rhythm began.

My dad, raising his voice.  The first sign of a rage that would be repeated each weekend, and eventually every other weekday for years.

A series of thumps and scrambling and grunts.  My mom, crying out.  My grandmother yelling at him to stop.

My fingers played eloquently on the keys, calmly following through on the variation.   The silence of the church.

My dad, now sober, unable to relate to me.  We’re sitting in the living room, a show on TV.  He says something.  I say something in response, politely.  Awkward silence.

The song I play now building in volume and depth.  Searching…searching….

My father, laughing now with his brothers at a picnic.  Relating to them, and to a few of my siblings.  But not to me.  My mother, close-lipped and patient.  Me, just wanting to get away.

The song now slows, and I bring it to an end.  Finally.

—————–

On the night I first play the song, my daughter comes to my side.  Puts her hand around my shoulder.   “What’s that, dad?  It’s beautiful.”

“It’s just a song I made up, sweetheart.  It’s for my dad.”  She squeezes my shoulder.  My head is bowed, and my tears drop quietly.

—————–

He’s been dead for at least a decade now.  A little while ago I had a dream.  It was about him.  We were talking and laughing and I think we played some baseball or something.  I regret not writing it down when I woke up.

The only thing I know is: it was good.  And, apparently after making a concerted effort time and again over the years to forgive him for his drunken violent rages, I’ve finally made peace with him.

Hope of glory.

Penny

Posted: March 23, 2014 in humor, humour, living, show business
Tags: , , , , , ,

She died a few weeks ago and was laid to rest the following Saturday.

While it’s a shame when any friend or family member passes on, the fact is she left us while she was still young.  She had many more years of sowing oats ahead of her.  I think (but am not sure) that she was in her early thirties at most.

Penny* was a hard nut to crack.  I first saw her in my improv comedy class some years ago. She was a tiny thing who tended not to say much.

I couldn’t get a read on her: maybe she was just naturally introverted; maybe she disliked me; maybe she didn’t like men in general.  I wasn’t sure.  Funny how that works: how quiet people are often misinterpreted as anti-social.  I’d seen that happen a few times before with other shy people, so was loathe to make assumptions about her.  She remained, for me, somewhat of a question mark.

Another friend, Lisa* (who was married at the time), invited me into their small gang.  All of them were in the same improv class as I was, and all of them were hilarious and friendly.  Penny was part of the group too.

Maybe back then I had a natural need to make people warm up to me.  I was usually successful too:  all it took was reading them to find out what makes them tick, and then finding something in common.  Often, humour worked for me.  For some reason, it just never worked with Penny. It bugged me a little bit – but only because I wasn’t sure if she hated me, or just tolerated me or what.  I had to try and stop guessing and stop trying to figure her out.

The main reason I enjoyed being in our little improv gang, actually, was that I couldn’t read any of them.  Not at all.  This usually meant they were self-aware, typically self-confident, and curious as hell about the world.  That described the gang perfectly.

The corporate training man in our group, who had the same name as me – Wolf* – was friendly, gregarious and welcoming.  He could switch on a dime though. I was certain of that.

I remember going with the gang to his huge condo in Toronto after improv class one night. We were joking and having a good time, and, needing to say something I blurted out something about pot.

“Well we have some” someone said.

“What?  Pot?”

“Yeah, maybe we should smoke up.”

I looked around at them, thinking.  Finally:  “I’ve never done it”

Everyone’s eyes widened with disbelief.  Including Penny’s.

Wolf said “you haven’t?  Wow.  Really?  Not once in all your life?”

“Never” I said.  “I grew up as a religious guy all during my teens.  Didn’t even drink back then.”

“Well we need to get you going then.  Do you want to try it?”

I did, and said so.  I could tell they were pleased.

Someone lit up a joint, and we passed it all around.  I coughed.

Lisa said “that’s good.  That means it’s working.”

The only sensation I got was a sore throat.

“It’s not working” I said.  “I feel the same”

Wolf replied “well that often happens with the first toke.”

I nodded.

Penny said “next time you puff, trying holding it in longer”

I nodded, happy that she was talking to me.

Wolf blurted “oh my God!  We have to get you some munchies!”

And with that, he jumped up and opened up his cupboards, looking for some snacks.

“Here.  Try some Doritos”.

I took a chip, obedient to the core.  I wasn’t actually hungry but didn’t want to destroy any illusions.

Penny laughed.  I grinned.

Ever afterward, I joined them after improv class, and we went on some typical late night adventures.

Once, we went to a Vietnamese restaurant at 3:00 in the morning to have some soup. None of the servers seemed to speak English, so we ordered off the menu according to the number assigned to each dish.

Another time, we all went to a strip club.  Wolf bought a VIP lap dance for Lisa.  After she went to the VIP lounge, Wolf said “let’s go watch!”  And so we did.  I can’t recall if Penny was there.  It seems likely that she was.

I recall the bunch of us going up to the roof of Wolf’s condo late one night after improv class, and looking up at the stars. This was the first time that pot had a negative effect.  I looked at the edge of roof and had the sudden thought that they could so easily push me over it, if they wanted.  My paranoid brain thought “why wouldn’t they?  It’d be a perfect crime.  No one knows I’m here.”   I got nervous, and couldn’t wait to go back to his condo apartment.

In later weeks, I only recall Penny and I doing an improv routine together just once.  We were playing a couple of friends who were riding the subway while standing. Subways tend to shake a bit, so we had to shake to create the illusion.  Penny looked at me and said “nice tits”.

This was so unexpected that I broke character.  Near as I could tell, though overweight I had yet to develop man-breasts.  She had triggered my Achilles Heel.  I looked down.  I forget what I said, but just remember that it was lame.  What I should have said was “I just had them done.  You like?”   And then I should have put one of her hands on my chest.  “Here. Feel.”

Penny invited a few of us over to her place after class. I knew I was finally on her approved list when she said to me “listen, I know you commute into Toronto every day. How would you like to room here with us instead?”   I was honestly taken aback and so grateful that she asked.

“Um, thank you!” I said. “I’ll have to think it through, figure it out.  How are you guys with cats?  I have two of them”

“Oh” she said, looking at her roommate. “That might not work.  Jake* is allergic.”

“Well, thanks so much for the offer!” I said.  I was truly grateful and touched that she even asked.

“What are your cats’ names?” she asked.

I smirked.  “Um, well one’s named Princess”.

We all laughed.

“You’re not going to believe the name of the second one” I said, through my tears.

“Tell me!”

“Muffin”

They roared.

Wiping her eyes, Penny asked “so who named them?  Your wife?”

“No……” I began. “Uh.”

“Not you” she said, incredulous.

“Yeah.  Me.”

The laughter increased once again.  I have no idea why it was so funny, even though I smile now, remembering it.

Once, when I moved into my small apartment in Oshawa after separating from my wife, I invited the gang in for a house-warming party.  Wolf brought his girlfriend, and Lisa and Penny came too.

While waiting on the pizza delivery, Penny checked out the books on my bookshelf.  I was a little embarrassed, as some of them were swords and sorcery novels.  I noticed her smiling.

We plowed into the pizza and got some beer going.  All night long we laughed and talked about everything.  I don’t know what it was: there were no egos involved, no holding back on anything.  We were free with each other.   That little group of ours was magic to me.  I’ve never grown quite so close to a group of people as I did to them.

The improv classes ended, and we all drifted apart, as friends sometimes do.

I heard that Penny had changed her name and had gone into standup.

Lisa did some standup too, right before she traipsed on down to California to break into the acting world there.  She eventually came back to Canada and we became Facebook friends.

I was shocked when Lisa messaged me one day a few years later and said “Penny died yesterday”.

It was a death through illness.  And it was a ripoff to the world.

Damn it. It should not have happened.

*all names have been changed, as per usual

“You are so cold”

I was thus informed, at the end of a heated discussion.   The topic wasn’t worth remembering, which is why I can’t tell you what it was. 

What she meant though was “you’re not taking my side; you’re not offering me comfort.”

Also: “you’re not willing to spend your time listening to me complain without offering suggestions.  I don’t want your suggestions, I want you to listen.  And I’m quite okay with staying miserable – I’ve been this way for months.  Why can’t you understand that?”

For all of our wealth, it seems our society is filled with pockets of the pity-people: folk who are miserable, and have no intention of doing anything about it.

Part of the problem, for some, comes from their mental illness: there is absolutely zero to be gained by telling a clinically depressed person to cheer up.  It’s like asking a banana to peel itself. 

Or like telling a diver, in mid-dive “please don’t get wet”.

Shit’s gon’ get wet, yo.

I think everyone handles such unfortunate people differently.  My preference – and this is not a perfected process yet – is to mention some ideas they should consider so that they won’t be miserable anymore, and then vacate the area.

I’m not talking about the person who just lost his job, or the woman whose husband just left her.  Offering helpful “next steps” to either – especially immediately after the moment of crisis – borders on insane, not to mention cruel.  I truly think that you need to feel the pain and the hurt before you can carry on.  Before you should carry on, in most cases.

And to be fair, the “I just want you to listen” complaint mentioned above is often fair.   It seems to be a male-female thing.  A lot of women seem to want us guys to listen without offering suggestions.  Many of us guys just see a problem that needs fixing.  This issue isn’t about that.

The bedraggled person I’m talking about has been miserable for months, and seems unable or unwilling to extricate himself from his pain.  My experience – based upon years of trying to help various people – is:  he or she needs professional help.

I’m not equipped.  I haven’t had the training.  Even if I did, I would imagine that being close to such a person (related or friend) would preclude my ability to provide any kind of effective help. 

doctor

If one is a warm, inviting person, one becomes a target for the marginalized and hurting person.  This is acceptable.  What’s not okay is the person who wants to bend one’s ear, for days and weeks on end, about the same topic, and with the same result.  Which is: nothing.  Stasis.

It’s a hard thing, saying “no” to such a person.  I’ve employed a technique similar to the ones used on me, when being rejected as a date companion. 

“I like you, just not in the way you like me.”
“We can certainly meet.  I’ll get back to you when I can figure out a date that’ll work.”
“Sorry.  I’m at work right now. Can we talk later?”
“Listen, it’s been great chatting, but I’m late for an appointment/work/washing my hair.”
“Can I get back to you on that?”

(Just kidding about the first one)

Coming right out and saying “I agree that what happened to you was unfair and wrong, but you need to get help”, might be the right answer, but I’ve never known it to work. The minute you say something like that, you get:

“So…you think I’m crazy!”
“No, I don’t think you’re crazy.  I—”
“Only crazy people need counselling!”
“Um, I’ve gone for counselling.  Am I crazy?  Also – did I say you were crazy?”

I’m frankly amazed that there’s still such a stigma about mental illness.  Some people are honestly in need of help, and would benefit so greatly from it – whether that helps comes in the form of chemical balancing (drugs) or cognitive therapy. 

Have you noticed – there are still some adults walking around who have no idea who they are.  Some are quite okay and are functioning well in their ignorance.  Some may go their graves that way, and that’s fine. 

Others will experience just one thing going wonky in their carefully constructed utopia, and their world will crash.  They have no idea what happened, or what to do, or why they became such a target for pain.  They just know something isn’t right, and that someone else should pay.  And, not seeing that person/company receive justice, they become embittered and enraged and inconsolable.

And they want to talk about it.  At high volume.

They have no idea they’re broadcasting at such a high volume, and so when you decide you’ve heard enough, and you want to help them, what they see is you coming along, offering a Pollyanna answer, sure that what you’ve told them will bring sunlight and butterflies to their miserable existence.  How dare you. 

In effect, offering such a response means you’ve become their mortal enemy.  Just like the company/person whose offended them, you are against them.

They’ll continue to vent to you (if you let them) but they will watch you with a now jaundiced eye, expecting you to continue offering advice – because it’ll prove to them that you’re still against them.  This time they’re ready, and they will lash out.

You’ve now got a toxic friend.

The only thing left – at least when I face such a person – is to cut him off.  Regretfully.

It’s necessary to do so, I think, if you want to maintain your own sanity. 

I wish I had hope for such people, but I frankly don’t.  I get the sense that many of these folk will go their graves, still toxic.  Their gravestones will read “I died alone, you bastards.”

I still see a lot of people dealing with toxic folk by continuing to be their sounding board, day after day, year after year.  You can see the lines of stress on their face, as they’re sure they’re not doing enough for their friend.  How could they be, since their friend is still miserable?

I wonder at these long-suffering and patient friends.  On occasion I’ve asked them “what’s the point?”

They shrug, resignedly.  There is no point.  Not really.  They’re building after-life credits, I suppose.  They prefer to see themselves as helpful and kind, and are worried that others will see them as cruel if they’re not there for their friend.

What they are not doing, from where I stand, is living.

I could be wrong though.

Sometimes you just have to speak up.

The oldest social rule is:  “never talk about politics or religion”.

There’s a reason, obviously.  Both topics tend to bring out the ogres in so many of us.

Never has that been more evident than in the recent American election.  Liberals and conservatives were both guilty of demonizing each other.  I don’t mean mild condemnation either.  I mean full-out balls-to-the-wall judgement and condemnation.

The bright spot in all of it was the number of undecideds who adamantly refused to be pigeon-holed into one mindset or the other.

I suppose at one point I was just as prone to demonizing those who disagreed with me as anyone else.  So it’s not like I can claim purity here.

Eventually you get to realize that the world maybe isn’t as black and white as you thought.  Kind of scary, isn’t it?  Undependable.  You want your villains to wear black hats, and your good guys to wear white.   You detest those guys with the multi-coloured hats (what?  You expected grey?  Grey is muddled and muddy and undefined.  Rainbow – besides being indicative of gay – is a little more invigorating and alive)

Recently someone close to me has introduced a thinker named Miguel Ruiz – in a book entitled “The Mastery of Love”.   He talks about the fact that we are subject to a hell of a lot of guilt.  Unnecessary guilt.  It comes from so many sources too.  Religion is a big one:  both Catholic and Jewish children are subject to it.   Fundamentalist Christians (Baptists, some Pentecostalists) believe that we are born depraved and icky and pretty stinking awful and that it’s only through the grace of a benevolent being that we have any worth at all.  And those who don’t believe in that benevolent being are utterly lost and depraved forever.

It doesn’t matter if they hold love in their hearts for others.  Or if they indulge in charity or look out for strangers.   They’re lost and depraved and so very very icky.  Probably beat up their cats too.

The dichotomy of atheists’ loving attitudes and what we were taught about unbelievers always bugged me on a subliminal level.  I learned not to question it though:  my mind decided that a lot of deception was involved and so I likely wasn’t seeing them as they truly were.

My mind was right:  there *was* deception.  It was an innocent one though, and one based upon a lot of wrong assumptions.

Assumption #1:  that any one man or religion has all of the answers.

So not true.  I think the universe, or God or whatever you want to call it, has indeed created a force for curiosity.  It’s how we grow at all.  It’s how we progress in the sciences.  Curiosity – the nemesis of the complacent and rigidly correct intelligentsia.

I think that a true appreciation of reality will result in a humble realization that it’s not possible to know everything.  Such paucity of assuredness fertilizes the ground of curiosity and questing.   When your feet sink deep into the sod of uncertainty there’s a heightened expectation of wonder.  A “what’s next?” that keeps your heart racing.

Assumption #2:  that those who think differently have a devilish agenda.

This assumption is born from a belief – not a fact – that one’s experience is normal, usual.  And so anyone who’s had the same experience as us necessarily must have evolved the same way.  It’s that core.  It seems to be visceral to a great number of people.

What if you met someone who didn’t have any of those preconceptions?  What if you met someone who had joy and not a whit of judgement toward anyone else?  Someone who was excited and joyfully apprehensive, looking for something great to happen?  What if that person infected you with his or her excitement?

You wouldn’t judge him or her.  Neither would I.

In fact, you’ve met such a person.  I’m positive that you have.  I know I have too.  At the time I didn’t know whether to believe she was real.  Maybe there was a screw loose.  Who goes around so happy all the time?   But then I realized she was real.  He was real.  He was curious, so he asked questions.   And he/she invited me to the party.

I remember sitting with such people, late at night, in a condo, with the music playing quietly as we drank and talked.  It’s so clear in my mind:  the moment was magical.  It felt like anything could happen.  There were zero prejudgments about anything.  Judgement wasn’t even on the radar.  We were, in effect:  People of the Moment.

That’s certainly my desired end state, for all time.  I have no tolerance for intolerance.  *grin*

I think it’s a worthy goal.   What do you think?

An older heavy-set woman with a slight moustache stands at the bus stop arguing out loud, with a look of sheer frustration painted on her face.   You notice that there are sweat stains dropping down beneath the open arms of her flowered print dress, clearly visible every time she waves her freckled jiggly arms in the air punctuating every point she helplessly makes.

There are two possibilities that occur to you.  She might be loop-de-loop crazy, and she’s on the losing site of an argument with a ghost in her imagination.   Maybe it’s her mother, who never told her she was smart, or pretty.  Maybe it’s her brother, now dead for fourteen years, and she’s trying to resolve their last argument about her bad money management skills.

So you look a little closer (while maintaining your distance), just to see if you can spot a little flashing blue light near her earlobes, because you’d like to know if she’s safe.  It’s hard to tell, as she’s wearing large hoop earrings, which are just slightly peeking beneath her long hair.  Maybe she’s actually talking to a real person.  Maybe a bill collector, or maybe it’s her mother who is still alive, and still causing her no end of emotional pain.

Finally you decide she’s lost her grasp of reality.  So you wonder how she got there.  How does anyone get from “A” to “coo-coo-coo cocoa puffs”.   What was the insurmountable sorrow that broke the dam of her intelligence and awareness?

Maybe you don’t want to know.   Maybe the information would be too scary.  Maybe….if it happened to her, it could happen to anyone.    Knowing this would destroy your carefully wrought sense of emotional invincibility.   Gone are the days when nothing could hurt you physically.  You now know that a fall could cause a broken bone.  At least you have your sanity.  Right?

If you ever watch little kids playing – or if you remember what it was like when you were a kid – you’ll know that they don’t worry about too much.  They have a narcissistic knowledge that everything’s okay, and that they don’t have to worry about their next meal or the fact that their mom and dad love them.   Not having those burdens gives them a freedom to explore the limits of their imagination with each other.   They play and say the craziest things almost without thought.  

You remember what it was like.  You recall standing under a hot sun on your porch, and making the determination that you – no YOU – would be the captain of the spaceship and your friend would be the alien.  Hours would go by before you finished your scene with him, and when mom said “okay boys, it’s time for dinner.  Say goodbye to your friend”, you shrugged and knocked fists with him, the make-believe game now forgotten as your nostrils inhaled the mouth-watering aroma of roast beef.

As you grow older you realize a few things – in the moment – that excite you.  You notice, as a pre-teen, that lights – physical lights –  seem to draw you out.   City streetlights, the amber glow of the sanctuary candle, as it flickers and creates red shadows which labour to reach the vaulted church ceilings.   Or the neon glow of the computerized gizmos that capture your attention.   You don’t wonder at this fascination, because for you it’s normal.    It doesn’t even occur to you that your interest is not actually usual or the norm.  It just is.

Or you read poetry or hear a song, and you get transported on the resonant notes as they draw you further and further away from the present.  You exult in the ebb and swell of the violins or accordion, completely unaware that your friend has no appreciation for your experience.   At the same time, it never occurs to your autistic friend that his fascination for data, for numbers, for the accumulation and retention of historical knowledge – is in any way unusual.   He thinks everyone is the same.

We all do.

And where we see that we’re different, our instinct tells us we need to conform.   It’s too weird to be *too* different from our peers.   Our minds rationalize the difference, and we work hard at being the same, all the while expounding on our uniqueness, our coolness.

Some of us seek the conformity of a common mindset, in whatever form that takes.   For some, it’s a clique at high school, and we make sure everyone notices that we can drink the same amount of beer as anyone else, and that we can tell dirty jokes, or that we can laugh as we throw toilet paper on the trees at the nerd’s place.

Others of us are the nerds, and we take pleasure in our supposedly superior intellect, and in our ability to play chess and pursue intellectual accomplishments as evidenced by our good grades.   

Still others jump into the conformity of the church pews, secure in our salvation.

That little girl who can’t help thinking about her desire to help the underdog never realizes how unique she is.  How beautiful her heart is.

The little boy never understands that his need to act out is really an extension of his need to entertain and build imaginary characters.  He thinks he’s the same as everyone else.  He has no awareness of the shy kid, the kid who hasn’t yet learned how to fit in with the rest.

And so we get into these clubs and groups and find that we feel safe in them.   We defend them as valid – which for us at the time, they are.

But then there are the other unique groups that are too unusual for us.   Like the old lady with the flabby arms.   Or the group of boys who wear their baseball caps a little weirdly, and talk differently and have different coloured skin.

Or (worse!), those girls who hang out together and hold hands and make out with each other in the alley.  Or the buys who laugh a little too loudly, and have sparkling alive eyes, as they joke with each other with a familiarity that is *too* familiar.

It never occurs to us that the individuals in those groups also grew up, just like we did, thinking that their hopes and dreams and desires were all normal.  They in fact didn’t realize they were ABnormal at all – until someone told them.

But this isn’t about them.  Or about the old woman.  Or the actors or painters or the autistic guy.

It’s about you.  And me.  And the realization that ultimately we don’t fit into a singular mould or group.   We are created to be unique.   Some of the things we experience aren’t “usual”.   We aren’t defined by our love of music, or our unique acting abilities, or our penchant for crunching numbers and finding the myriad ways in which math defines existence.   We – each of us – are comprised of a million different characteristics.

If we could all just *see* each other exactly was we are, we’d know that we aren’t the same.  Maybe we’d appreciate our unique views more.  I don’t know.  Maybe we’d understand that not all fingerprints are exactly the same, or each snowflake.   Maybe we would be aware that total sameness would be boring and dull.  Uninteresting and flat.

Last week when having a heated debate about gays who wanted the right to marry, I thought about those who were opposed.   It startled me how easily I was able to compartmentalize those whose ideologies and religion boxed them into an intolerance of the ideal of treating all people the same.  Though it was so very tempting to dismiss my opponents as intellectual Neanderthals, incapable of original thought, the fact is, I appreciated the need not to lump everyone together but to value and respect each person for their unique take on this and other issues.   The more I read what they had to say, the more it seemed to me that opinions are rarely arrived at in a vacuum.  Some are parroting others’ opinions, while others have given it great thought, perhaps under the influence of religious leaders, or perhaps as a result of a logical internal debate.   Whatever the case, I found I could not paint everyone with the same brush.   Finally, without surrender of my beliefs on the issue, I arrived at the following point:

I don’t like to categorize or dismiss people too easily or often because I don’t want to get ripped off.  Even if I disagree with them and think they’re short-sighted, immature or ignorant, the fact is they might say something that will get me to think differently.  They might offer new wisdom or information to which I was previously unaware.  I don’t want to miss that.

 
Occasionally my first prejudiced judgement of them proves to be in error.  Those are the best surprises.  And sometimes I’m so wrong as to feel embarrassed.  That’s a good thing too because I get to learn.
 
Curiosity is the bane of prejudice.

A month ago, a friend had challenged me to sit for an hour, just to concentrate – and maybe pray – about where I want to be, what I wanted to.   It was a goal that was fairly open-ended.   

I did.  I sat on the floor, on my yoga mat (shaddap) with a pillow behind my back.   I did this for an hour, at first in mediation, and then thinking/praying.   Just going over stuff.  

I came to a few realizations.

I’m an angry person.  Have been, ever since I was a teenager.   People generally didn’t know this, because it’s not obvious.   I am.  I’m angry.   So….this introspection….this navel-gazing, if you will…. sought to figure that out.  Why was I angry?

Years ago, my therapist suggested that anger is not a bad thing or a good thing.  It just is.  (What do you think?  Do you agree?  I’m really interested in your thoughts on that) .   Anyway – that’s the approach I took today.   I guess that anger, like pain, might be there for a reason.  It’s a messenger, a warning, that all is not right.   There’s an imbalance.  Something that needs correction.

So…..why was I angry?

I couldn’t approach it head-on as there were no answers there.  I just know that sometimes something will trigger me, and I’ll go off on a passionate rant.   Last night I ranted on a friend’s blog.   When I woke up this morning, I found myself ashamed and regretful.   I had told him the truth, but maybe it was overkill.  Maybe I didn’t need to show quite so much passion.   Truth-telling is enhanced by alcohol, in that booze relaxes your inhibitions.  The bad news is that it also inhibits your judgement – and I’m not sure my judgement was where it needed to be last night.   Anyway… spilt milk….water under the bridge.   Regrets are only good as lessons for the future.  They have zero effect on their origins.  You can’t take anything back or undo what you did.

So… Anger.   Anger happens when you find yourself limited from your potential.  Anger happens when you find yourself subject to fear – and once again, inhibited from doing what you know you should do.  

And I have been so very angry.  Sometimes it comes out as a reaction to whatever excuse will serve at the time.  I recognize its deceptiveness by virtue of its overkill – all out of proportion to its catalyst.  

I have dreams that I’ve let slide.   The time of reflection and meditation made that clear.  There’s a need to create.  To indulge some creativity.   To act.  To play music.  To write.   To – and this is kind of the crux of it all – help people.   

It’s tough, being so acutely aware of people who failingly struggle with expectations.   I see people who are bound – hogtied – to rules and restrictions that they thought were imposed on them, by their friends, their church, their friends or their workplace.  The brutal truth is that they’ve chosen to bind themselves.   Whatever the case, the end result is that they’re bound.  And they think they’re alone.  And I *need* to shine some light.

At the same time, I’ve become acutely aware of the fact that I have so many blind spots too.  So I can’t brag about any of this.  I can’t pretend I’m not deceived on occasion too.   Self-deception is the worst, isn’t’ it?  Mostly because you have no idea you’ve done it.   No clue that you’ve lied to yourself.   It doesn’t even cross your mind. 

I find that someone will say something and I’ll realize (hopefully immediately, if I’m lucky) that what they said just bumped me.   Like the universe pinched me hard on the bum.   And I realize, once again, that I’ve been fooling myself.   Damn it – I wish I could be more specific here, so that you had some idea of what I’m talking about.

That hour-long meditation is key:  especially in a world where stuff is happening all of the time, and you have no room to think.   It’s a time that you schedule, just like anything else, where you sit by yourself, quietly.   And listen.  And talk out loud too.

I don’t know how it would work for you but here’s how it worked for me:  I sat on the yoga mat and closed my eyes.   The first thing I did was concentrate on my breathing.  I slowed it down and took deep breaths, which I held for a few seconds before letting out.   As I did this, I noted the rest of my body:  where my limbs were, what they were touching, whether there was any pain or twitches or anything at all.   I didn’t judge any of it or try to make anything better.  I just accepted it.  I also noted the noises from outside of my apartment:  not in an irritated way, but just acknowledging that they were there, and accepting them.   

After a few minutes of that, once there was a rhythm going, I started deliberately thinking about all of the above.  Digging down deep into my motivations.  Figuring out what it was that caused me anger.  I don’t know why anger was the focus, but once again – I didn’t judge.  I accepted it.  It might be different for you though:  you’ll know if you try this.

Then, I decided that since anger was a signal, I needed to pay attention and figure out what it was telling me.   I found a few things:  I wasn’t creating.  I wasn’t playing piano.  I wasn’t writing as much as I needed to do.   I was resentful of my job, which takes up so much of my time.  I need money to live – and my job was the surest way to do that.  I wasn’t physically fit.

There’s an awareness of a need to reach out to people too.  That’s the main thing.  I thought of how many times I’ve been lifted up by music.  Pretty much catapulted out of a threatened depression and dropped into joy – because of music.  I’ve done the same thing when I’ve created and played music too.   The clearest example was at the death of my father:  a man that I truthfully hated for much of my life.  Yet, my emotions were ambivalent.  He wasn’t a total asshole.  He did some things right.  He likely did (as we all do) the best he could with what he had.   He was limited (as we all are) by so many things, some of which were obvious, and others of which were hidden.  At his funeral, some of these truths made themselves apparent.  It wasn’t completely conscious though.   On the eve of his funeral – for some strange reason – I decided to compose a musical eulogy to him.   There were no words – just music.   I remember setting up the electric piano at the Catholic altar of the church, and playing the piece.   It was a bittersweet number:  grounded in pain but interspersed with streaks of joy.   I couldn’t articulate it in words at all.   

The best thing:  it fit, and not just with me.

It was the first time I was conscious of the powerful effects of music.  

I need to do that again.  There’s a need to meet the mark of the joy, the potential, of music.  And of writing.  And of being in the best health possible. And of so much more.

Do you dream?  Are there things you wish you’d done?  Do you find yourself irritated for no apparent reason?  Or apathetic?   

Are you where you want to be?  Are you satisfied?   If so – how did you get there?   Did it come easy, or did you need to do a lot of introspection?  Did you have to make some deliberate choices?  How so?  How did you do it?

If not – have you accepted your “station in life” as inevitable?   If so, why?  Is there fear?  Of what?   

Or are you truly happy with your choices?

Man cave

“So why aren’t you with someone by now?”

He shrugged.  “I don’t know.”   Her arched eyebrow provoked further explanation.  “Honestly, I really don’t know.”

“You don’t seem worried about it.  Do you care?”

He felt lucky to have her as a friend.  He had a penchant for gravitating to truth-tellers.  People who would say the truth, sometimes harshly but always with affection.   They hadn’t seen each other for a few months, and had chosen the cafeteria at his workplace to catch up.

“Sure I care.  I’d like to share my life with someone.”  Even as he said it, he wondered if it was true.

He had been separated from his wife for twelve years now, and divorced for seven, with only a handful of romances to show for it.   Nothing that stuck.

“Maybe I’m too comfortable” he offered.   She smiled and sat back, looking at him.

“You know, there are some women around here who’ve been talking about you, wondering what your story is.”

That was news.  He sat forward, brown eyes piercing hers.  “Yeah?  What are they saying?”

She grinned.  “Oh you know.  The usual.  Is he gay or something?’

He laughed.   “No worries there.  I’m not.  I checked.”

“You did?”  Her eyes sparkled, teasing.  “Now how would you check something like that?”

“How do you think?  I watch the flag to see which scenery makes it flap in the breeze.”

She laughed.  “Yeah okay.   I’ve got it.   A little too much information though.”

“You asked.”

“So what’s the problem then?”

He frowned.  “Who says there’s a problem?”

“No, no.  That’s not what I meant.  You know what I’m getting at.  Why aren’t you with someone?”

As usual, he was a little uncomfortable with this train of thought.  He couldn’t deny her though – which made it worse.   They’d been friends for years.  He thought about that.  He mostly had married friends – women who were unavailable.  He knew it was a source of comfort, safety.

“I really don’t know.  Every time I think about being with someone I look first for the potential pitfalls.   That turns me off right away.”

“You know you can’t ever expect the perfect mate, right?”

He nodded.  “Of course.  I know that here.”  He pointed to his head.  “There’s a slight problem getting this to pay attention though.”  He pointed to his chest.

“So what is it? ”  She persisted.

He scrambled, knowing that it was likely that the first thing that occurred to him would probably be correct.   “Fear” he blurted.

“Good” she said, ever the pragmatist.  “Now we’re getting somewhere.”

“What are you?  My counsellor or something?”  Despite the joking tone, he was serious.   Again, they both knew it.  It was one of the reasons their friendship worked.

“It matters to me.  I don’t know why.   Seems to me you’re a caring person – such a shame to see that potential get lost.”

“Yeah”  he agreed.  “But then, potential isn’t romance is it?”

“No….”  she began.   Then the silence drifted in, pulled up a chair, and sat there, content and peaceful.

“I guess…” he began.  “After years of nothing but shouting and miscommunication… I’m probably a little gun-shy.”

“A little?”

“Okay.  A lot.”   He looked up, thinking.  She waited.

“I’ve had so many years of being by myself.  I like my apartment, and my routine.   I like being selfish.  Staying out till all hours of the night if I want.   Going where I want without having to worry about anyone else.”

“Is that why you haven’t replaced your cat?” she wondered.

“Probably.   I like the freedom.”

“Not everyone is like your ex-wife you know.”   She had been privy to his history.  There wasn’t any need to re-hash any of it.

“I know, I know.”  He said.  “I guess I can’t help thinking that they’re all like her though.”

“You realize how crazy that is right?”

“I do.   Doesn’t change much of anything though.”

She shook her head.  “My God.  You’re damaged aren’t you?”

“I hope not.  If I accepted that diagnosis, doctor, it would suggest it couldn’t be fixed.”

She laughed.  “It wouldn’t suggest any such thing.   But you know – if you start there, maybe you can figure out how to shake things up.”

He smiled again.  “So what’s your prescription?”

There was no hesitation.  “Get out there.   Swim in strange and weird waters.”

“Oh it’s that easy is it?”

“It is.”

“And how would you know this?  You’ve been married for quite a few years now.”

“I just know.  Trust me.”

He did trust her.   But he couldn’t bring himself to trust that it was that easy.

“Seems like…..I can’t explain it.”  He shook his head.

She nudged his foot with hers.   “Try.”

He sipped his coffee, thinking.  Remembering.

——–

They had met a little over two months ago, in the middle of what he thought was the worst time of his life.

One morning he had arrived at work, unaware that this day would be anything but routine.  No sooner had he sat down to his computer and opened up his email than he had seen one marked urgent.  It was from his boss, and she wanted to meet with him as soon as he read it.

There had been talk around the office for the past year.  The company was floundering on the markets, and most of his colleagues had begun to visibly age.  The laughter, the jokes had been replaced with a still, thick and uncertain peace.  A kind of quiet that pushes against the sides of your head, muffling the sounds of the screeching brakes and occasional shouts from the outside traffic.   Occasionally one of his workmates would get The Email, which was followed by The Meeting, both of which were prerequisites for the slow sad Walk To The Door, to the chorus of ambivalent reactions.  Some would shake the person’s hand, while others stood and nodded sympathetically, the pressure of unshed tears mixing with guilty fearful frowns.   It could happen to anyone.   And now, apparently, it was happening to him.

He sighed and stood up, butterflies dancing in his gut.  Maybe, he thought, this is what a pending heart attack feels like.  He knew his face was red, radiating his doom to all who watched him head to the boss’ office.

“Come in” she said, “and shut the door”.   Predictable, really.  This is always how it goes.   He noticed that it wasn’t just him and her in the office.  There was another man in there too – someone he’d around the office many times.

“This is Jeremy Crystal, from Rainbow Associates.   I’ll get to why he’s here in a moment.”

As predicted, he was being let go.  And Mr. Crystal was there to explain his options.  He could go for retraining and certainly he would offer assistance with a job search.  The name “Rainbow” seemed ridiculous.  A cosmic slap in the face.  There was no gold at the end of this particular spectrum of colours – unless a bucket of failure, and a prognosis for a diminished future could be seen as a valued treasure.

Back then, he didn’t know the half of it.   The irony was yet to be revealed.

Dazed and disbelieving, he took his place among his predecessors:  he gathered his belongings, while the two security guards waited by his desk.  As he began The Walk, it occurred to him that he had no thoughts.  Briefly, he thought about the sales orders that he still had to process, then shook his head, remembering that they weren’t his to worry about anymore.  Mental muscle memory, he supposed.  This would happen for a while.  He knew he’d wake up during the night, suddenly recalling yet another piece of unfinished company business, before relaxing back in the knowledge that the concern was for nothing.

As one guard preceded him and opened the door, he thought, for the first time, that maybe this was a good thing.

A week later, he had fallen asleep on the bus trip to the re-employment services building, and had missed his stop.  A sudden screech of the bus brakes had woken him, and he had looked around, not recognizing his neighbourhood.  The bus had narrowly missed hitting a car, and the entire vehicle had rocked to a stop. It was a good thing, or he would have still been asleep.  As it was, he knew he’d have to jump on the other bus and go back at least five, maybe six stops.  Worse, it was now starting to rain.

He covered his head with his jacket and waited until the traffic was clear before making his way across the road.  He nodded to an older gentleman.  “I guess the bus is late, huh?”

The old guy grunted.  “Your first clue was this crowd of people, son?”

He looked down the road, not seeing anything that looked remotely like a bus.  “Yeah.  Mom raised a whole bunch of us rocket scientists.”

The old guy snorted.  “Sorry.  I’ve been standing here for something like a half hour now.   I guess one of the drivers was sick or something.   Or needed to take a break or make a phone call, or get lunch or something.  I’m just a bit pissed.  They raise the rates,  but don’t improve the service.  This happens way too often, son, and I’m tired of it.”  He shook his head.  “And it’s not like I can just go out and buy a car.  It’s ridiculous.”

He shook his head in sympathy, and watched as even more people made their way to the stop.   There were so many people coming and going that there wasn’t room on the sidewalk, so some were walking fairly close to the curb.

One car darted out in front of another and picked up speed, inadvertently getting too close to the curb, where a mini-lake waited.   As luck would have it, the front tire hit the puddle perfectly, creating a wall of water that arced up to consume one unfortunate pedestrian, who let out a high-pitched shriek.

He saw her, standing there stunned and gasping, blonde hair soaked.  Her briefcase had hit the ground, opened up and the papers were making their way down the street, free of their leather prison.  He quickly ran after them and herded them back into some semblance of order, presenting them back to her.

She pulled the hair out of her eyes, and took the papers, mute and looking like she was going to cry.  He said “look, you’re having a bad morning.  Let’s go to that coffee shop over there and get you warmed up a bit.”

She had nodded and they had made their way to the inviting little café.   She had gone into the washroom, to dry off as much as she could, while he ordered them both a coffee.

Eventually, they sat and began talking.

“I…Um, thank you.  For what you did.”

He nodded.  “Not to worry.  Sh—, uh, stuff happens, I guess.”  For some reason, he didn’t want to swear.

“It’s just that…I just don’t like missing appointments.”

“Was it important?”

She sighed.  “Well, it was my entrance meeting.  I’ve just quit my job and am supposed to start up at this new place next week.”

He must have looked alarmed, because she smiled and placed her hand on his arm.  “Oh I’m not worried.  The position’s mine.  I’ve been hired to head up a branch office for them – so this meeting time was my idea, as a way of getting ahead of the stream of stuff I need to know before next week.”

“Well that’s a relief.” He sat back, then sat forward again and placed his hand out.  “By the way, my name’s Grey.”

She sat forward and shook his hand.  “Crystal.”

“Crystal, huh?  That’s different.  With an ‘i’ or ‘y’?”

She laughed.  “‘y’ of course.”

“Well you just can’t tell anymore.  Some people have the weirdest names.”

“Yeah.  The girl I was going to meet is Brandie.   With an ‘ie’.”

“Really?  Wow.  Poor girl.  Speaking of which – I guess you should probably re-schedule your meeting.”

“I already re-scheduled – called them when I was in the washroom just now.”

“Oh” he said.   “Well  that’s courageous.”

“What?”

He grinned.  “The last time someone spoke on the phone when I was in a washroom, I grunted loudly and then flushed the toilet.”

“You did?”  She laughed.  “Why would you do that?”

He shrugged.  “Don’t know.  Just seemed a little incongruous – using a cellphone in there.”

She crooked her head.  “It did?  You really think so?”

“Breaks up the harmony something fierce.   Also – it kind of makes it hard to concentrate.”

She laughed and slapped his arm.   “I wasn’t in the stall when I made the call.”

He shook his head.  “Doesn’t matter.  Maybe someone else was.”  He looked at her, frowning.  “How could you be so cruel?”

She smiled, and shook her head.

After that, they had gone out a few more times, and then he had met her friends and she his.  One of her friends – Gary – was pioneering a new technology, which he had found more than interesting.   The two had gotten together over beers, and their excitement over the sales possibilities had built quickly.  They had decided to go into business together, with Gary handling the engineering and technical aspects, and Grey working on the marketing and sales.  Both knew it would be a while before they saw any kind of profit, but had noticed that anyone they spoke to had shown more than just polite interest, so they were sure they had a winner.

——–

He looked at her, and finally answered her question.  “The best I can explain it is like this:  just when I think everything’s falling apart and nothing good can happen and we’re all alone and on own with everything, I get a glimpse of a number of seemingly coincidental occurrences that just sort of defy probability, you know? It’s like people and circumstances are often a lot more connected than we realize, or can see.”

She looked up at the clouds, as if willing them to spill their secrets.  Then looked at him.  “You know – I’ve often thought the same.”

But Why?

Posted: March 25, 2012 in Life, living, religion
Tags: , , , , ,

Why

Someone once asked me why I believe in God.   There was a slight tone of disbelief and maybe a hint of derision swirling around with the query as it sailed through the air to my ears.   Still, it was a honest curiosity from a guy who, while he didn’t believe in God, certainly believed enough in me to trust that I would answer without giving one of the usual predictable responses one usually receives:

“Because the Bible said so”

“Because none of this reality could exist without God”

I hesitated, trying to find the right imagery and logical links.

“Well I know you can’t prove His existence to anyone”.  I figured we should start out that way – it seemed important to begin where we both agree.   My daughter has taught me about the necessity of context and frankly, a by-product of my ADHD is that I often get excited when relating something, assuming that the hearer has already processed everything that I’ve done.

Anyway, he nodded.

“He has proven His existence to me.   You have to understand that what constitutes evidence to me is not easily transferable to anyone else.   I don’t even try to explain my faith to anyone else – and I certainly don’t feel the need to try and convince anyone.”  The irony of that statement waved its hands in my face, grinning with raised eyebrows, frantically trying to get my attention.  I ignored it.  Some call this obstinate ignorance.

“How so?” he asked.

I love honest questions.   Honest questions make the world go around.  Curiosity begets answers, and answers raise more questions, which feeds curiosity which in turn provokes even more questions.   This is how illumination happens.  This is how people struggle toward discussion, delight and understanding.  This is how wars end, how people eventually agree, how enemies learn to coexist.   This is how marriages are saved.

I told him.

“My sister was very little when she went into a coma.  It was spontaneous and we have no idea how it happened.  I remember my dad carrying her out to the car, limp in his arms.  She was about three years old.”

He listened, and watched as the canvas in my mind slowly brought that memory into focus.

“As the days went by, my parents talked openly about her.   They mentioned that the doctors said there was a few minutes when she had stopped breathing and so therefore she might not come out of it, and that even if she did, there was a high probability that she would have severe brain damage.  She wouldn’t be the same, they said.   I saw my parents’ eyes dim at this news.   Their worry thickened the air.”

I continued.  “I was fourteen and had recently begun attending a small church’s youth group.   My own mind reeling with worry and helplessness, I hopped on my bike and pedaled on down to a night time service.  It was the only thing I knew at the time to do. “

My mind completed the picture.  I recalled the warmth of that little church, with its wooden pews and big windows.   There was something comfortable about the place – enhanced by the handful of hanging light fixtures that sent a warm glow over the twenty or thirty people who were there.   I arrived, a little late as usual and made my way to one of the pews in the middle of the left side, and sat.

“When the spot in the service arrived where requests for prayer were invited, I stood up.   I explained her hopeless situation to them.  Their looks of sympathy almost undid me.   I asked ‘could you please pray for her?’   and the pastor smiled and said ‘let’s pray together’.  And we did.”

“I didn’t feel much different, you understand.   There were no bolts of lightening, no sudden intuition even that God heard us.   But….I did feel a warmth, like I’d done a good thing.”

I stopped, caught up in the memory.    “So what happened?” asked my friend.

“Well, it was about a day later when my parents told us that she woke up from the coma.   The hospital had called them, and so we all scrambled to get ready to head down to the hospital.   They wanted her to stay for observation for a few days.  I went up to see her every day.  We talked and I laughed and I gave her piggy-back rides on my shoulder.   It was good.”

“So….?”  he asked.

“So it turned out that she had no brain damage.   She was fine.   And today she’s holding down an intense job.  She’s one of the brightest people I know.”

He nodded.  “I respect that.  You believe in God because of that.”

I nodded.  “Yeah, but not just that.  That’s just the clearest memory I have – the one that stands out the most.   There have been so many instances in my life where it seemed glaringly evident – to me – that He exists and takes an interest in us.  In me.  One or more too many coincidences, over and over.”

“So what about those who suffer horrifically through life before dying a lonely death?  He doesn’t care for them?”

Another honest question.   “Although I believe in Him and love HIm, I can’t be His apologist.  I have no idea why such people go through such harshness.  Any attempts to offer up any kind of an explanation would be disingenuous.  It would be presumptuous to pretend that I know why He does and doesn’t do the things He does.  I can’t even say that He has His reasons, because once again that would be presuming knowledge that I don’t have.”

He liked that.   He didn’t stop being an atheist that day, and I had no expectation that he would.

But maybe, together, we shed a little light.  I like to think so.

He took a long slow slip of his Chardonnay.  It was a great night – he couldn’t think of a single thing to make it better.  Well maybe one thing.  A girl he’d been seeing.   He loved her smile, and her unpredictable thoughts.  And her long long legs.  He realized that he missed her.  Missed her laughter, her teasing.  He smiled, realizing that now, after so many years of friendship, he still felt uncertain around her.  Off of his balance.  She still intrigued him.  He wondered if his curiosity about her would ever be sated.   He doubted it.

They’d been friends for years.  She’d commiserated with him when he went through his divorce.  He in turn had been there when she’d gone through her trials.   He shook his head.  Tonight wasn’t about her, or them together.   His buddy was due to arrive shortly at their favourite bar, and he needed to be on target for him.  Darryl was going through a hard time at home, and it looked as though his marriage was in trouble.  For now, he’d have to relegate the girl to the back of his mind, knowing that she’d lurk there, ready to tease him.  God.  Could he just stop thinking about her, for even a few minutes?

A blast of cold winter air blew in, and he looked over, to see his friend standing inside, brushing the snow off of his shoulders.  He raised his glass.  “Darryl!  Over here!”

Darryl looked over.  Nodded.  Made his way through the crowded tables and patrons standing around at the bar.  Plunked himself down on the bar chair. Looked around for the bartender.   Ordered a draft.   Stared sullenly ahead.

“Hey.  What’s going on?”

“It’s over, man.  She told me she got a lawyer today.  I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

He looked at his friend.  “Yeah you do.  You have to get a lawyer too.  You need counsel buddy.”

“I know.  I know.   Look.” He sighed.  “Let’s talk about something else okay?”

He nodded, and took another sip of wine.  “Sure.”

They sat in friendly silence for a moment, watching the light dance off of the parade of bottles at the bar.   The rocky music was loud enough to hear, but not overpowering.  It was one of the reasons he liked the place.  That, and the lighting and the friendly atmosphere.  He looked over at his friend, nudged him with his elbow.

“Look – in about six months this will all be behind you.”

Darryl took a swig of his beer.  “Yeah, so?”

“So….have you thought about what you want to do?”

“What’s to think about?  I’ll just go to work, come home and probably get drunk on a regular basis.   I’m good at that.”  He flourished his bottle with false drama.  “‘s what I do”

He could hear the bitterness in his friend’s voice.

“Yes.  You could do that I guess.”   He looked forward and kept quiet.  Waiting.

Darryl lifted his head up.  “Or what?”

He shrugged.  Said nothing.

“Well what would you do?”  He hesitated.  “What did you do after your split?”

“Lots of things.”

“Like what?”

“Like improv comedy”

Darryl laughed bitterly and turned back to the bar.  “Yeah, right.”

“What?”

“Dude you know me.  I’m too ….backward.  I could never do what you do.”

“Says who?”

“Says me.  I’m not comfortable in front of people.”

“Uh huh.”

Silence again.  Except for the music.  A blues rendition of the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” was playing now.

“Say what you’re thinking.  You’re driving me nuts here.  You’re acting like my wife.”  He frowned.   “Ex-wife.”

He looked at him.   “Okay.”

He played with his napkin.  Thinking.

“I think you’re like me.  Quite a bit like me actually.”

“Doubtful”

“Hear me out.”  He paused.   “You like feeling safe don’t you?”

“Well who doesn’t?”

He nodded.  “Not many.” He sat back.  “Most people look for safety.  It’s natural.   We’re all about survival.  We like things to stay the same.  All of us.  Almost all of the time.  It’s why the end of marriage, or of a job, makes us miserable.   It’s change.  It’s not fun.   It’s like…..”  He looked at his wine. “It’s like we’re cats, and we hate having people ruffle our fur the wrong way.  It irritates us, and makes us feel like we’re in danger.”

“Yeah”   Darryl nodded.  Took another gulp of his beer.

“So…who’d be stupid enough to deliberately go and seek change, right?”  He stopped, wanting to think some more.

Darryl frowned.  “Look – are you going to preach all night?  Or are you going to get to the point?”

He grinned.  “I’m getting there.”  He sipped his wine.  “After my marriage ended, I realized there was a lot of stuff I’d never done.   Before we split, someone dared me to go skydiving once, and I remember being so relieved when the weather didn’t cooperate and we had to postpone our jump.   When the same gang decided to try again – and this was after my split – I decided to go for it.”

“Geeze”  Darryl shook his head.  “You’ve got to be crazy to jump out of a perfectly good plane.”

He laughed – it wasn’t the first time he’d heard someone say this.  “Yeah, but….I decided to do it.  I had to.  I’ve always had dreams of flying.  This wouldn’t be the same but at least it would be a step in that direction.  I was as scared as hell, and there were a few times I thought about backing out.   But I went for it anyway.”

“So how was it?”

“Terrifying.  I didn’t like it at all.”

Darryl laughed.   “Yeah.  Sounds about right.”

“But I don’t regret it.  And I’ll do it again.”

Darryl chuckled.  “That’s because you’re nuts.”

“Probably.”  He sat back and looked up at the hockey game on the flat panel TV over the bar.

“So that’s it?  I should go skydiving?”

He shook his head.  “No.  It’s like….”   He struggled for the right words.  “It’s like while I was falling from the plane, I really felt alive.   LIke I was doing something important.  And it was the same with doing improv comedy.  Only for that, it was more gradual, because I got lots of practice before ever getting up in front of an audience.”

“Okay look – I’m not you.  I’m not going to go skydiving and I’m sure as hell not doing improv comedy.  For one thing I don’t have much of a sense of humour.”

He nodded, thinking.   “Darryl, I’m not saying you should do either of those things.   It’s about……it’s about finding something that makes you live.  Maybe for you it’s…I don’t know…doing accounting”

Darryl snorted.

“Or it’s about doing something else.  I don’t know what.  Something.  Anything that gets your blood flowing.”

They said nothing for a bit, listening to Ben E. King singing “Stand by Me”.   The music was compelling.   A woman near the end of the bar was swaying in time with the tune.

Darryl spoke up.  “So what else got your blood flowing?”

“Well there was this actress who kind of got under my skin.   I met her at an actors’ dinner.  She kind of showed up on the scene a little out of the blue.  I never expected to meet her that night.”

Darryl grinned.  “Tell me about her.”

“Well, she was dark-skinned, with long dark hair and she said she was Persian.  And she was younger than me.   She kind of messed me up badly.”

Darryl nodded and grinned.  “Why?  Because you’re such a cracker?”

He laughed.   “No – it’s just…I’ve never had such a strong spark with someone.   I mean, ever.  Not when I met my wife, not when I met any other girlfriend.    And it was almost instant.  We flirted with each other on the dance floor on the night we met, and then we….well, we made out like crazy, there on the dance floor.  We just stopped while everyone else was still dancing around us, and we made out.”

“So this was a one night stand?”

“No.  Oh God no!  It was anything but that.   It was a true attraction on every level.  I’m not a one night stand kind of guy anyway – and she was the furthest from that too.  She told me she split from her last boyfriend a couple of years before then.”

“So?   What happened that night?  You obviously didn’t take her home.”

“No, I didn’t.   We walked all around Toronto for many hours.  Holding hands, and occasionally stopping on the sidewalk to make out.  I know it wasn’t just me who thought it was pretty wild, because at one point she said ‘you know, I’ve never kissed a boy like that before.’   And I said ‘yeah.  Me neither.  I’ve never kissed a boy like that either.'”

Darryl laughed.   “But she’s not with you now.”

“No she’s not.  Last I heard she had moved out west and got married to someone.”

Darryl looked closely at him.  “Yet she left an impression.”

“She left me with an addiction.”

“An addiction?”

“Well maybe she didn’t cause the addiction but she sure as hell contributed to it.”  He paused.  “I’m kind of addicted to taking chances, risks. To anything that makes my heart race.   I can’t tolerate ‘normal’ anymore.  Can’t stand the thought of being stagnant in any way.”

“Really.”  There was a curious note in Darryl’s voice.

“Yup.”   He finished his wine glass.  The bartender came over with the bottle, one eyebrow raised.  He nodded, and the bartender poured.

Darryl held his beer bottle in his hand, looking at it.  Flicked his fingernail at the edge of the label.

“So I kind of made a deal with myself.”

Darryl looked up.

“I’m always going to find a way to capture that excitement, that passion.  In romance, or in what I do for a living, or whatever else.  I have to.  It’s what keeps me alive.”

“I don’t know.- that all sounds good, but maybe a little impractical?”

He nodded.   “Really impractical.”

“So how do you plan to do it?”

“When I’ve gone through really bad times in the past, or when I’ve had to make a hard decision or put myself at risk, I’ve always asked myself ‘what’s the absolute worst that can happen?’   And generally – it’s not that bad.”

“What about when it’s really bad?  Wait…”  Darryl paused.  “What’s the worst you’ve faced?”

“Well, the finances got really bad one time.   I had creditors crawling right up my ass – and it was getting pretty damned crowded up there.”

“What did you do?”

“I worked it out.”  Darryl snorted abruptly at the unintended joke.  But he continued: “Even though it was onerous, I kept thinking ‘in a year’s time, this will be over’.  And you know what else?   I’d go to the movies to escape life for a while.  And when the previews came on, I’d note the date that the movies would show up – which in some cases was six months away or more – and I’d think ‘by the time this movie comes out, I’ll be through this’   It was pretty comforting.”

Darryl looked at him.  “You know, you’ve always struck me as a pretty staid, upstanding guy.  I can’t ever picture you doing anything out of the ordinary.”

He laughed.  “You’ve only seen me at work.   Back when I was doing improv comedy, I got in with a gang of friends and we all sparked off of each other.  Often, we’d stay at someone’s place and drink and talk all night long.  About pretty much everything.  I remember so many mornings, having to work the next day – and leaving someone’s house at  7:00 in the morning and going to work without any sleep at all.   I remember one night staying over, and we all decided to bunk down.  I got the couch.  I remember one girl coming down from her room and rummaging around for something.  I woke up and we talked for a bit – and it seemed like something amazing was going to happen but it didn’t.  But the magic of it was there, the possibility – and for me, having just gone through a divorce, it was enough.”

“You’re smiling”

He grinned.  “Yeah, I guess I am.  Back then I was in the moment, not even thinking about how great an experience it was.  So much of this became a kind of cool thing – after the fact.”

“Have you done anything else out of the ordinary?”

“You mean risky?”

“Yeah.  Risky.”

“Well I don’t know if this counts or not, but that same girl stayed over at my place one night, because we were going to an all-day multi-performer concert the next day in Toronto.”

“Oh so you did sleep with her!”

“No.  We didn’t.  She was just a friend.”

“Oh.   Right.  I forgot.  You’re dependable.”

“No, just recently divorced.   ANYWAY….” he raised his voice, determined to cut off any more jabs.  “We got on the bus to Toronto, but we found it was so packed that we couldn’t sit next to each other.  We were lucky to get seats at all.  She ended up sitting behind me.  So anyway, as the bus got going, I noticed there was an old lady behind me, sitting next to my friend.  So I turned to my friend and said ‘where’s my money, bitch?'”

“What?”

“Yeah.  We were both in improv comedy, and one of the things we’d always talked about was doing a punk-type live performance on an unsuspecting public.”

“Oh.  So what did the old lady do?”

“Well she was certainly listening.   It took my friend a moment to realize what I was doing, but she quickly started playing along.   By the time our impromptu routine was done, it turned out that she was a prostitute/dancer, and I was her boyfriend/pimp, and we had a four year old child that we left at home before waiting for the babysitter to arrive, because we wanted to go this concert so badly.”

Darryl laughed.   “So….the old lady?”

“Totally pissed.  She scrunched up her little face in such a frown.”   And with that, he mimicked the frown, pulling his mouth inward as tightly as he could, with his eyebrows pulled down.

And Darryl laughed even harder, with no trace of the marriage stress in his eyes.

Which was kind of the point.  Or at least, part of it.

—————————————

So let me ask:  is there a risky adventure that you think you’d like to do?  Something that would make your heart race, but you feel you could “never do” – because of unforeseen consequences?   Or is there something you’ve done – where you’ve deliberately thrown caution to the wind?   I’d like to hear about it.

Whirling and whirling

Posted: January 24, 2012 in ADHD, Life
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

*thinking*  “Shoot, I’m late.  Better call a cab.”

“Wait.  I’m not nearly ready and if I rush I’m going to forget something.  Better get everything together first, then when I’m about five minutes from being ready – THEN call.”

“Good.”  I nodded to myself.  “Smart thinking”

I ignored the brightly coloured fairy lights flitting around in my brain and set to work. 

Lunch?  “Don’t need it – I’m buying a sandwich when meeting with a friend today.  So… check.”

Boots?  “It’s cold out.  Got ’em right here”  *Slips boots on.*

Coat? “Right here”

Gloves? “Check”

Hat?  “Check”

Anything else?  “Wait.  iPad.  Can’t forget the love of my life.”

Laptop for work?  “Got it in the laptop bag.  I’ll put the iPad in with it.”

iPhone?  “Got it.”

Call the cab.  “Ok.  I’ll connect up with my bluetooth earpiece and talk to them while doing a last minute check around the place.”

*Calls cab.*

I go out.  Lock both locks on the door and walk down the hallway to the elevator.  An older woman smiles at me.  I nod back and say “hi there.”

I hear the elevator.  *Ding!*

The door opens.  Something twigs in my brain – so I ignore the elevator and go back to my apartment.   Unlock both locks and walk through the apartment with my boots on.  Grab the new combination lock so I can head to the gym today.  (Lost my last one on my trip to Tofino).

Re-lock the apartment and, as the elevator opens, my phone rings.  I tap the bluetooth earpiece and hear “hi there.  You called for a taxi?”

“Yup.  On my way down now.”

I jump in the cab and,  just as it leaves the on-ramp and hits the highway, I realize that I forgot my security card for work.   So I think “nevermind.   I’ll just have to find a public washroom if I need it, and make sure that I don’t leave the building after 4:30 (unless going home) because I won’t be able to get back in.”   Good.  It sucks, but at least it’s a plan.  I’m not spending the money to tell the cab to go back.

And…just as I get in the door at work I realize that my security card is safe in my laptop back.  I forgot it was there.   “Oh good.” I think.  ” Serendipity.  Thank God for small blessings.”

I get to my desk, plug in the laptop, secure it to the locking cable and turn it on.

I sit back and, after waiting for it to boot up, I finally see the login screen. 

Sort of.  It’s kind of hard to read.

Ah.  I need my glasses.   I reach into my pocket.  Earphones, iPhone….. no glasses.   “I wonder where they are?”   

They’re sitting on the counter at home.  Right where I left them.

I think “what the fuck is WRONG with me?” 

“Why is my brain such a massive blur today?

“Did I take my ADHD meds?”

I did.  It was almost the first thing I did today.

Good thing I have an doctor appointment for tomorrow – because it looks as though they’re not working anymore.

I think “well, I’ll have to buy some reading glasses from the pharmacy across the street.” 

So I do.  Bring them back and sit back down to the computer. 

Uh oh.  There’s a plastic thing securing them – I’ll have to cut it off. 

I get the scissors,  cut the tag and put them on. 

My vision is blurry. 

So I take them off, clean them, put them back on. 

Still blurry. 

Take them off and look at them.  There’s a big scratch across one of the lens.  Apparently when I cut the tag, I was way too impatient.  Pretty much madly assaulted the $35.00 glasses during my haste to use them – and now they’re worth nothing.

Put them back on and decide to use them for the rest of the day.

Later, I meet my friend for lunch.  She says about seven things in the space of a paragraph, and as she says EACH.INDIVIDUAL.THING – my brain captures a relating thought, all of which I want to say to her.  When she stops speaking, I can’t remember a single one of them.

Tomorrow can’t come soon enough.

Demand

Posted: December 11, 2011 in Life
Tags:

Sometimes the privilege come your way and you don’t even realize it until the moment’s gone.

That serendipitous moment that leaves you stunned and staring in disbelief.  You don’t even want to move, because you might blink and in blinking you might miss a crucial half second of this moment.  So you just stand there, drinking it in.

In the same moment that you consider grabbing your camera you dismiss the thought, knowing that there is no capturing this moment.  This is one for the ages, a fleeting instant to be recalled only in your memory.  One day, you may sit in stupefaction, unable to express a thought, just staring blankly at the wall, and you know that even though you can’t speak, and no one can hold a conversation with you, this is one of the memories that will remain.  Along with thoughts of that first kiss, that first dance, or the time you saw the brown dust blanketing your consciousness as your car turned over and over on the hot highway on that bright sunny day.

This shining gift is yours to keep.  You can’t give it away because the nature of it won’t allow it.  It fills the landscape of your mind, an incredible vista of darkness and shining stars.  Music cascades through the leaves of your mind’s trees, disturbing the air, shaking out sweetness with the sour, inviting your taste.  Taste, tactile brightness, a mystery hidden – you’re intrigued and curious.  Is there a rabbit hole in your future?   You don’t know and you can’t ask anyone.  This is your adventure, and yours to explore.

Sometimes this memory teases you as you toss and turn, dreaming.  Morning comes, and with it, blurriness and harsh light.  The disappointment is palpable and you struggle to retain those last notes which wink out even as you reach for them.   You walk to your computer and tap tap the keys to bring it to life.  Hair on precarious end, you close your eyes and type without looking, hoping the remainder of …something…will occur.   You type, not knowing exactly what you want to say, and miraculously, a new thought shows up on the screen – not the dream, but…perhaps a child to the dream.  A new thing.  In excitement, your fingers fly faster, building, dancing, creating.  You smile in your tiredness, knowing the beauty of this moment.  This moment.  This new time, this new gift.  Music infuses your consciousness – new notes, a new tide, a new rhythm.  Instinctively, you know this gift somehow relates to last night’s slumber, though you don’t know how.  It doesn’t matter – this sentient thought has its own agenda.  You delight in the pure creativity of this thing, aware that you can’t understand whether you control it, or it controls you.   It seems to thrive on its own, driven to life.

You despair the lack of a piano with which to dress this thought.  Words alone won’t suffice – it is too demanding.  The cry of a baby demanding mother’s milk has nothing on this.   Feed it, clothe it, give it purpose and vocabulary.  Give it music, give it dance, give it…give it….give it.

No matter – this wailing needful purpose will find its way, dragging you with it.  It laughs at the notion of beauty – enticement is in its DNA.  This is a given.  To mention it is redundant and yesterday.  We’re interested in the moment and the future of the next moment only. This thought looks around, searching for scraps of experience and creativity with which to cloth itself.  Fine, there’s no piano, there’s no guitar, but that’s not the end of the story, is it?   This thing will live.  It needs to exist.   You only thought you had a choice, and maybe that was true at the beginning.   Somewhere along the way, between thought, and dreaming, it became alive in a way you never realized.   It has reason, and necessity – and strangely enough, although narcissistic at the start, it now sees a world purpose quite beyond its borders.   It is now empathic, and so very curious, almost frightening in its intensity.  It feels the pain of the void of others – and it knows it has the ability to heal and bring life.

The creation now wants to create.  It wants to bring its own life into the present.

The clock ticks and you look up, realizing so much time has walked by, ignored and forgotten.

You scratch your head, and push yourself away from the computer.

And like before, you realize, only after you get up and saunter down the hall to take your shower that once again….

You have experienced a privilege.   You didn’t know it until now.

How much electronic pain must be suffered at the delighted hands of masochistic fairy muses, who flit about teasing the writer with half-formed ideas?   All day long this one has been continually dive-bombed by brilliant sparkling thoughts, only to see them fade away as soon as the mental hand reaches out to grasp.

At the heart of the exercise is the certainty that such grasping is not in vain.  The hope stretches beyond wishing, to the point of clarity:  gems are meant to be mined, not left in the walls of rock, forever ignored, forgotten.

The analogy searches beyond the immediate:  while the gem is the goal, it goes beyond just writing, or just ideas.  The gem reflects the natural light of value, inherent in those lights who have perceived it.  The woman whose flashing eyes reveal far more spirit turmoil and joy than most in her company.  Hidden to most, she is accessible to the seeker who somehow just can’t stop perceiving.   Like the ephemeral muse, her quick quirks of dangerous laughter upsets the apple cart of decency and “the norm”.  The writer understands and yet knows that he doesn’t get it all.   His self-awareness understands the depths of his own ignorance, and the intrigue tickles his mental taste buds.  A flavour, filling the mouth with ambiguous fire.

It’s not often this happens – this departure from every day mundane musings, and when it does, it’s certainly welcome.  I was reading “Jitterbug Perfume” (once again, probably for the tenth time, but who knows – and more importantly who’s counting?), when a new pre-ordered book slipped into the e-bookshelf of my iPad Kindle application.   The dangerous world of espionage had always intrigued me, and so I flipped over from “Jitterbug” to read the first chapter.   In normal mundane times, I would start such a book but wouldn’t stop until it was finished.  My appetite for reading has always been like that:  voracious and hungry, and unable to stop until full.  I’ve missed meetings and have been late for doctors’ appointments because of it.  There’s no shame there, really.  I revel in the fact that brilliant ideas, written painstakingly by good authors are so greatly appreciated on this side of the internet.

Yet, this time, I only made it to the first couple of paragraphs before the compulsion to jump back to “Jitterbug” irritated me mercilessly.  I knew why, too.   Robbins’ writing – at least in this work – does not lend itself to distraction.   Literary vortexes are like that.   This one is anyway.  It tends to consume concentration, with the promise of reward.  His dark maelström of lightening beneath bitter clouds floods the consciousness with meaning and soulish rapture.  It instigates and enables so many epiphanic ideas and thoughts.   I suppose it’s why I read the book so many times.   There’s an old commercial about the snack food “Bits and Bites” – where the cartoon narrator reaches into a box and pulls out some content while saying “something different in every handful”.   “Jitterbug Perfume” is just like that, with every reading.

It’s an unceasing drill sergeant too, demanding, obstinate and blunt.   The bright thoughts demand action and reaction, and doesn’t seem to know what “tolerate” means.  I suppose the contrast becomes too apparent:   the world “Machine” wants everyone to take a seat and settle down.  We are cajoled and advised to be content, to watch our favourite TV programs, to eat our fatty foods and be quiet.  To be precise:  the Machine would rather we shut the fuck up, sit the fuck down, and don’t stir up any shit.

Following that advise is what gets you old.  It’s an intricate preparation for disease and death.  Many of us are cool with that, and plan accordingly.   When we question that direction, and ask why it is, the only response is “well it’s complicated”.   Truth-speak for “not only wouldn’t you understand – we don’t want you to get it.”

The Machine keeps stepping on my chi, and I’m pretty sure I’ve had enough of it.  The best defence is a good offence, and the best offence is to be offensive.  Challenging my own direction is scary and a little invigorating.  It pleases me to be displeasing to conventional wisdom.

One has to suppose that the grown adult’s self-imposed rut comes from a lifetime of digging and creating a nest.  Even the most creative of us gets used to the idea of comfort wherever we can find it, or create it.  Stability is the goal, and at least for me, stagnation is the result.  So there’s a trade-off isn’t there?   If you want security, be prepared to be bored.   If you want excitement, know that your life won’t be all that stable, and it certainly won’t be predictable.

Deep in historical awareness – the same awareness that exists within our DNA – is the exhilarating knowledge that steps into uncertainty and risk have their own reward.  Joy, excitement, and even a measure of a type of security.  It knows that the plush fruit of its acts will shine attractively to those who don’t yet have it.

Ever wonder about the state of the economy and where it will all end?  I have.   Some things seem certain:  those who invest themselves in artistic directions always have willing buyers.  People who – like me for so long in my life – have become art voyeurs, the Hansel and Gretel of life’s forest, excited by the new trail, but lulled to a certain undignified grave.

The choice becomes simple.  On one hand, we can concentrate on consuming (and become consumed), and on the other we can concentrate on creating, bringing new life and enlarging our perceived horizon, constantly growing and finding room for more growth.

Voyeur or voyager.

If you could write a letter to yourself when you were sixteen, what would you say?

Joseph Galliano, an editor, has compiled a list of letters from people many of us know, and has created a book from that collection, entitled “Dear Me.  A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self”.

So…..

What would I say?

It would go something like this:

—————————–

Hi there.  There’s some stuff you should know.

First off:  trust your instincts.  Remember how troubled you felt when that guy came to pick up your sister for a date?  Remember how normal he seemed, and yet you couldn’t shake off a feeling of danger?  Well, sadly, you were right.  Your sis was OK and everything, but it got pretty dicey for a while there.  The man was dangerous and you were right to be afraid for her.   You have an instinct that borders on ESP.  Don’t worry that it sounds all airy-fairy – just go with it.  Trust yourself.  It doesn’t mean you should quickly judge everyone.  You’ll get older and wiser and soon you’ll be able to differentiate between prejudice and empathy.   You have the empathic spark though – don’t forget it.

Oh, and to help you along:  here’s one indicator of the difference.  Empathic awareness is insistent and relentless and often has no bearing on perceived logic at the time.   Prejudice on the other hand, isn’t nearly as urgent, and it tends to rationalize – usually based upon someone else’s opinion, presented as fact.  It’s almost a form of laziness.  You’ll understand.  It’s just a matter of time and unending curiosity.

Which brings me to another point.  Remember how your dad criticized you for thinking all the time?  Remember how weird that seemed?  Well he was wrong.  This is actually one of your best qualities, and it will serve you well.  Though you’re not great at school (and by the way, forget about trying to memorize names and dates – I’ll tell you why in a minute), your curiosity will take you through life in an amazing way.  You’ll learn so much, just because you thought to question.  And you know what else?   This is a side benefit of your curiosity:  people love to talk.  Especially about themselves.  So ask them, and just enjoy their experience.  It’s sort of what makes you tick.

Which brings me to another point.   If you’re curious enough, and ask the right people, you can probably avoid a lot of years of spinning your wheels in frustration.  Start slowly, but work on it constantly.  Ask questions from people who don’t share your religious beliefs.  Get to know what life is like for people who don’t go to your church. It’s important.  Read some of the great philosophers (if you can – I know how hard it is to get into intricately detailed books.  There’s a reason for that.  More later.).

There is such a great value and such pleasure available to you when you learn to open your mind up a bit.

Oh, and something else:  remember how you sought out the advice of a school counsellor during those times when your father was creating a living hell on earth at home?  Remember how you sat in her office and told her about how he would get so drunk and so angry, and everyone was afraid – and about how you called the cops on him?

Well that was a good starting point for you, but it wasn’t the end.   In between all of that crap you sort of got lost.  You thought your identity was with the church, because people there were really nice, and they welcomed you so gladly.  Their hearts were real, and they really did like you, but you made a tiny little mistake:  you thought you had to be like them.  I mean, exactly like them.  You mimicked them so closely that you really had no idea who you were.  Oh, I know you think you did, but trust me, you didn’t.  You tried so hard to be the social chameleon out of habit:  you knew that in order to survive in that hellish house, you had to figure out what The Beast wanted at any given time, and manoeuvre yourself accordingly.  You learned how to placate and accommodate, as this is what your eight year old self figured out, to survive.  You knew if you did this, maybe The Beast wouldn’t hurt anyone.  You had no idea back then, that what you did didn’t really matter.   He was looking for an excuse to lash out.

I think you should take the time to see a doctor and get yourself sorted out.   You lack one major thing right now – self awareness.  Once you have that, you’ll be on your way.

When you’re talking with the doc, also share with him about how much you hate school projects, and why.  Tell him too about all of your clumsiness and accidents.  It’s important.  Tell him about how you daydream all the time, and forget so many things.  Tell  him about those comments in your report cards, where the teacher says “could do better if he applied himself”.  About how you’re always late, and always always ALWAYS have to run to school every morning to get to band class, because you’re just not able to ever leave on time.   What you’re going through is not normal – and hopefully the doc will pick up on that.

Pay attention to what you like in school, and what you don’t like.  Indulge your love of music and dramatic arts.   It’s part of who you are.  Find ways to get more involved.  Forget about what others tell you that you *should* do, relative to class courses.  Take up the drama class, and join the drama club too.  There’s a brilliant teacher there – get to know him, even though he’s a little frightening, because he’s abrupt and cold, and because he’s really big, like your dad.

Even though your history teacher is amazing – because he brings history to life so well, – you’re going to find yourself hating it in Grade 13.   The new teacher will want the class to memorize names and dates for everything – and you’d rather get into a fight with a school bully than do that.  The daydreaming at this point will be your downfall and you’ll want to give up.  And maybe you should.  But not for long.   Being a kid, you think that you should be able to do everything, or nothing.  You’re kind of black and white like that.  It won’t occur to you (which is why I’m telling you now) that everyone has strengths in certain things, while they suck at others.  You’re never going to be an academic – you’re intelligent enough, but it’s just not who you are.   You won’t work in the trades either.  You don’t know it, but your strength is in people, and in entertainment, and in the arts.  This is not a bad thing.  These are the things that excite you, and get your heart racing.

There are other things to tell you but they should be a surprise.  You’re going to go through some heavy stuff, but if you follow all of the above advice, you’ll at least establish a firm and trustworthy foundation for dealing with them.  Some of the harsh stuff will bring some interesting surprises that you’ll love.

One last thought: some of the best plans never work out.  What is true for you today might not be true tomorrow.    Trust yourself, and trust your instincts.  The one seed for your tree of life never changes:  you must live.  Not just survive, and not just tolerate.  You probably have no idea what I mean by this, so search out a book, called “Jitterbug Perfume”.  Read it one time so that you satisfy your curiosity about the plot.  And when it’s done, read it again.

—————————–

So.  What would you write to yourself?  Better yet – if you feel like it, write a blog, and provide a link to it in the comments here.

He dug his hands deeper in his pockets.   It was getting to that ridiculous time of the year, and just like the last time this particular month nodded at him, he grumbled about it.  Inwardly, to himself, of course because there were so many others who looked forward to the holiday season.  And the snow.  And the cold.  And skiing.  And eggnog.

Frowning, he trudged on, neck bent in a vain attempt to reduce exposure to the north wind.   It didn’t matter though.  The capricious breeze danced and teased him, sneaking up against him, in brittle busses at his ear lobes and at the back of his neck.  Even one of his ankles got in on the action.   This was a slutty draft, willing to get busy with any and all comers, turning white skin to red.  A city bus would have been a good idea, he thought.  Or a taxi.  A taxi would have gotten him there by now.

And like that his fickle mind switched gears.  It couldn’t b helped.  A bluesy electric guitar solo had begun to warble in his mind and a grin escaped before he could catch it.  The warmth of the bar, the laughter of friends, and soothing wine all glowed in his memory and his footsteps picked up in anticipation.  The distance didn’t exactly fly by, but it seemed to glide a little easier at least.  Not for the first time he acknowledged that if he suddenly lost all of his senses and became immobile, he knew he’d be okay.  He would have his music, deep in his soul, to keep him entertained and alive.

Soon enough (though not soon enough) he saw the glowing sign of the bar.  A different draft greeted him as soon as opened the huge wooden door and stepped inside.  A woodsy rich warmth enveloped in before he could get his coat off.  Inwardly, he sighed.

Looking around, he realized none of his friends were there yet.  He was early.   There was a set of four thick velour-covered armchairs that were mostly empty, waiting to make him comfortable.  The only occupied chair contained a gentle-faced bearded man, who was reading a newspaper.   He noted that the guy’s stomach overflowed the arms of the chair, precariously pushing the boundaries of his heavily stained white shirt.

After sitting down, he heard a voice.  It was the Beard.

“Excuse me.”

He looked at him.

The Beard’s voice was gentle.  “Hope you don’t mind.  I’m waiting for my students to join me.”

He stood up.  “Oh sorry.  I should have asked.”

The Beard smiled.  “No problem.  I’m using a wheelchair, and they’re …..”  His voice was lost.  Either that or in his haste to find another spot for him and his friends, he had stopped paying much attention to whatever The Beard was saying.

“No problem. I’ll just sit over here.”

“Sorry about disturbing you.”

Disturbing.  That was an odd choice of word.   “No problem” he said again, nodding.

Just as he was sitting down to a table, his friends arrived, laughing and joking.  “Over here!” he said, and they made their way over.

The discussion was just as bright as he anticipated.  Except of course for their cheerful thoughts about the coming winter.  With the exception of one wayward remark “you know – I frigging HATE winter.  So shut up about it already” he mostly kept his opinion to himself.  They would only laugh anyway.   Saying more about it would be redundant.

The wine and beer flowed, and the laughter got a little raucous.   The owner of the place enjoyed a variety of music, which provided a pleasant backdrop to their conversations.  This, he knew, was what set this place against others.  Here, you could talk and expect to be heard.

As the night wore on, he looked over and noticed that The Beards’ students hadn’t joined him.

As he came back from one of his many bathroom visits, The Beard said something to him.

He turned back and looked at him.  “Sorry?”

“I wonder if you could do me a huge favour?” he asked.

“Sure.”

The Beard’s hand dove into his deep pants pocket, and after a lot of grunting and shifting, he eventually wrestled out a tangle of keys.

“Would you mind going out to my white SUV – just outside the door –  and getting me my asthma inhaler?  It’s in the glove compartment.  I’d do it myself but I’m in a wheelchair…”

He glanced around and couldn’t for the life of him see the wheelchair.  The Beard was large enough to need one though so he let it go.

The Beard continued.  “And I’ll pay you for your troubles.”

He shook his head.  “No problem.  And no need to pay me.”   He took the keys.   “The white SUV, right?”

The Beard smiled.  “Right.   Oh, and you’ll have to go in the driver’s door, because the passenger side is broken.”

He took the keys and went out to the parking lot.  He saw the SUV immediately.   As soon as he opened the door,  a soul-destroying fragrance assaulted him.  His ever-lingering entomophobia raised its ugly head.  The presence of this stink must warrant a party of bugs, he just knew it.   Of course, the glove compartment was nowhere within reaching distance, so he knew he’d have to climb into the driver’s seat.  The stinky, probably bug-filled driver’s seat.

Right away he noticed the piles of newspapers, and all of the unopened packages of meat.  There was a lot of them, all with their store stickers still attached.  He wondered how old they were.  Hopefully The Beard had just purchased them.  If not, this could be the source of the horrendous stench.  It could just as easily be body odour though.  Or bugs.  Millions of bugs.

After finally locating the inhaler, he couldn’t get out of the SUV fast enough.  His skin rebelled as if trying to crawl off of his frame.  He knew his first job after the bar was to jump in the shower.  Maybe his clothes needed to be burned.  He wasn’t sure yet.

As he handed the inhaler to him, The Beard said “oh, thank you.  I’ll pay you.  How much do you want?”

Why was this guy talking about paying him?  Where did that come from?   “No, it’s OK. No pay required.”  He gave The Beard a sick smile.

The Beard smiled back.  “Thanks.   Oh, and would you do me one more favour?”

He looked at him.

“Would you ask the waitress for a pen?  I’m going to do a crossword.”

That was easy.  “OK.  Sure.”

He got the pen and gave it to him.

The Beard said “thanks.  And would you mind asking the waitress to…”

He interrupted him.  “Sorry – I have to get going.”

“Oh” The Beard said.  “Well ok.  Thanks again.”

“No problem.”

His friends were curious.   Jim said “what was that about?”

“Oh nothing.  Guy just needed something from his SUV.”

He didn’t’ mention the stench, or the packages of meat and the newspapers.   He was still trying to process it all.   Something was seriously amiss with this guy.  Evidently he had money, and a big appetite.  And maybe a hoarding problem.  He didn’t know whether to pity him or continue to just be horrified, as he was just then.

“Listen guys.  I have to cut the night short.  It’s been fun.  Catch you later, OK?”

Peter nodded.  “See you later.  You driving?”

“No.  I’ll catch a bus.”

He left, puzzled and anxious to get home to that hot shower.

Rocky Romances

Posted: August 19, 2011 in dating, humor, Life
Tags: , , , , , ,

Look, Monday.  You can’t keep showing up on my doorstep.  Every time you do, you say the same thing.

“We can make it work.” And, “I promise you, this time I won’t mess you up.  I’ll set the alarm this time.  Make you some coffee.”

Every time, I let you in, and every time – every SINGLE time – I end up regretting it.  The alarm doesn’t go off.  Coffee isn’t there, I’m late for work and I end up in a bad mood.   When you’re around, things always seem to go wrong.  My boss decides he wants that three-day job done right now.  Then he only gives me four hours to do it.  And then, what’s worse is – he looks at you.  And then he smiles.   The bastard.   You’ve been seeing him behind my back, haven’t you?  Come on.  I even saw you holding hands with him.

No more.  Monday I don’t want you around here.  Don’t call, don’t show up, don’t send emails to me.  Nothing.  I don’t want your promises.  They mean nothing.   In fact, I’m going to put a restraining order on you.  Do you hear me?

Are you even listening?

Dear Tuesday,

Honey I’m glad you came into my life.  But I have something to tell you, as gently as I can.  You’re not for me.  No, no, there’s nothing wrong with you.  You’re great, really.  And no, you’re nothing like Monday.   You’re far more gentle.  Far more forgiving.  You’re good-natured.  It kills me to have to break up with you, but really, it’s not fair to you that we keep seeing each other.

No, I’m not seeing anyone else right now.  It’s just that….well….you caught my eye on the rebound, after the horror of being with Monday.   Sometimes that happens.

I know.  It’s shitty, and I’m sorry.  I have to go on though.   So should you.  Find someone more worthy of you than me.   Can we be friends?

Hi Wednesday.

You know, I don’t know what we saw in each other.  Do you?  No, I didn’t think so.  I guess I should have known it wouldn’t work when I first heard the ringer on your Blackberry.   I thought you knew that I hate Nickleback.   But isn’t it great we can end this now, mutually, without either of us feeling messed up?   Oh, you’ve gotta go?  Sure, sure.  I understand.  That Blackberry isn’t going to answer itself, is it?  See you around.

Well well well.  Thursday, you sure do have beautiful legs, don’t you?   Man, you put me in a good mood.  How about we take a little drive?  Go somewhere?  In fact I…

*gulp*  Oh.  My. God.   And what’s your name, gorgeous?   Friday?

(Uh, Thursday?  Listen, I’ll give you a call sometime OK?  Gotta go.  Something just came up)

Sorry Friday.  What was that?  You want to go bungee jumping?  Well I’ve never tried it, but..OK!  Let’s do it.   Man, you’re wild.  What’s that?  You want to get a tattoo?   I don’t believe in…I mean, sure.  Let’s go get one.   What’s mine say?   It’s Japanese for “Monday’s a bitch”.   Who’s Monday?  That’s a long story.

So, what did you get for a tattoo?  Oh it’s your new name?   When did you decide that?  Just now?  Wow.  You’re a little unbelievable.  Can’t believe anyone moves as fast as you. So anyway,  what’s your new name?  Saturday?  Cool!  That’s great!  It kind of fits you, you know?  I look at you with your long brown hair, and your mischievous eyes and…there’s no better name for you than Saturday.

Ok how many drinks have we had so far?  You lost count too?   Hahahaha.  No, I don’t care.   We can still dance.   Wow you feel so good in my arms. Man, I like you.  In fact…I probably shouldn’t say this so soon but…what the heck?  We can blame it on the fact that I’m drunk, so I’ll just say it.  I think I’m falling in love with you.

Hang on.  I’d better sit down for a minute.  My head’s spinning….

What?  You what?  I can’t hear you over the music.   Why don’t we go outside for some fresh air?  *coughs*  Wow, that’s some strong-smelling weed.  No, but thanks – I’ll pass.  I’ve had too much to drink, and that stuff will just mess me up.

*blinks*

You want to what?   I thought we had a good thing going.   Don’t give me the “it’s not you, it’s me” thing.  What’s going on?   We’ve only been together for 40 hours, non-stop, and you’re already seeing someone?   Shit.  I can’t believe it.  I mean i knew you were wild but…….

Fine.  I’ll see you later.   No, we can’t be friends.  I don’t want to be “just friends”.  Not with you.  You were the best thing that ever happened to me.   Never mind.  I’ll get over you.  Somehow.  Not sure how.    Hey, can you give me back my jacket?   I know you’re cold.  Maybe your new boyfriend can give you his.  He’s not here?  Well give him a call.  Oh all right.   I’ll give you a ride home.  But that’s it.  No more favours.

We’re here.  Can you manage?   Holy mother of God.  How much did you drink?  Yeah sure.  I’ll help you up to your door.  What’s that?  You have to puke?  All right.  I’ll hold your hair back.  There.  Feel better?

Ok we’re at the door.  Where’s your key?  Never mind.  You’re too drunk.  I’ll just ring the bell.  Maybe your roommate can let you in. Take you the rest of the way.

Oh hi there.  Sorry to wake you up.   Frida- I mean Saturday here had a little too much to drink tonight.  You’ll take her?  That’s great.   No, no problem.  Happy to help.  By the way – what’s your name?

Well hi Sunday.  Pleased to meet you.

There’s a certain senseless joy that comes unexpectedly sometimes.  A sense that everything is ridiculously OK.  Better than OK.  Good.

Better than good – but precise words escape you.

Recently, this happened during what would have been an otherwise stressful time.

Mind you, part of the catalyst for this was planned.

Years ago, when I first moved from my parents place to an apartment for my bride and I, we didn’t deviate from the norm for youngsters who think they’re striking out on their own.  We called our friends, and someone had a truck, and between the lot of us, we moved our junk into the new place.

At that time, we didn’t have much, so it was pretty easy to do.  I remember the cardboard side table.  We didn’t have a coffee table – just this stupid wobbly table that had cardboard tabs that you stuck together.

I remember going down to Bell Canada to get a phone.  We opted for the most ostentatious piece of pretentious telephones in existence.  It was an enclosed within a wooden case.  And we so we brought it home and stuck it on the cardboard side table.  The ridiculous poor man’s placeholder.  A diamond carefully place on a platform of smelly dung.

Fortunately, the irony wasn’t lost on us, and we looked at it, sitting there in all its Miss Piggy glamour, and we laughed.

Years went by and we moved at least two more times.  Each time we prevailed on our friends, and each time they accommodated us, though with less and less fervour.  The last time was a nightmare, as a few who had promised to show up, didn’t.  Maybe the reward wasn’t all that great.  Being ultra-religious, we did not believe in The Drink.  Alcohol was Satan’s elixir, and so we eschewed it, as all Good Christians should.

Too bad.  Some of that elixir might have twisted our friends’ alcoholic arms.

When it came time to divorce, I was a pauper.  Even Gandhi would have shaken his head in horrified sympathy.  Yet, I had learned from history.  So, after weighing the options, between eating a good meal and moving, I chose to leave the steak uneaten.  Instead, the money was spent on movers.

In the midst of that agonizing time, the beauty of having someone paid to haul the junk was a pleasure that was too immoral to miss.  I watched them haul that crap up a long flight of stairs (being poor again meant that there was no elevator in my little apartment above the storefront).   I paid them gladly, and dreamt of peanut butter sandwiches.

A few years later, circumstances changed in my favour, and it came time to move to a proper apartment.  There was no question of calling on friends. I scouted around at a few grocery stores and accumulated a collection of empty boxes.  After filling them, I once again employed some movers to cart it 30 miles to my new place.

It was a wonderfully large, bright airy place.   I paid them gladly.  With thankfulness.

Sadly, the building management elected to relax some rules, and slowly some of the tenants to choose to tax the plumbing system beyond its designed capacity.  They brought in dishwashers and washing machines.  This served to suck the hot water away from my morning shower.  And then shoot it back again.  The evidence was a daily ritual of torture, where a five-minute shower turned into a 20 minute ordeal, with variations of extremely cold water trading places with scalding hot, all within 30 seconds, back and forth.  Entirely unpredictable.  Add to that the variance of the water pressure, from normal to elderly incontinent flows, and you have the seeds of madness.

Every single morning, I tried out new swear words.

Every single morning.

So, despite the beauty and spaciousness of the place (along with several impotent complaints to the uncaring superintendent), I realized it was time once again to move.

Past experience once again provoked some thought.  This time, it seemed a good idea to shoot for the least stress possible.

What would it take?

How about this?  How about – instead of trolling around town for cardboard storage boxes…..someone else was employed to do it?  And instead of just getting boxes, why not get them to also pack it all?  And hey – why not get them to move it all afterward AND unpack it?  How cool would that be?

Several months later, I can tell you, it’s *very* cool.  It fucking rocks, to be frank.

They came, they packed, they moved, they unpacked.

My stress involved watching them do it, and resisting the urge to lift a finger.

They were great.  I tipped them accordingly.

“So” you’re thinking ” this is why you’re joyful?”

That’s part of the picture, for sure.  Not all of it though.

As I was moving in, an elderly lady showed up at my open door, and timidly knocked.

“Hi – hope you don’t mind my being a nosy neighbour, but I thought i’d drop by and introduce myself.  My name is Pearl.”

Pearl.

Oh man.  How awesome is that?

I smiled and quickly crossed the living room.

“Pearl, I’m so glad you dropped by.  So good to meet you.”  And I shook her hand.

After a few pleasantries, the white-haired woman with the stooped shoulders shuffled slowly away.

I looked out the floor to ceiling living room windows at the trees outside, and basked in the climate controlled flow of air, and took a deep breath.

And realized that this – this was good.