This is how it works: heal, breathe, and use your words.

I haven’t deliberated over my life in quite some time, but leave it to the powers that be to slow me down with a broken rib.  Breathing requires such concentration that I have no choice but to focus on the only thing I can do, at the moment–think.  I wouldn’t claim to be a wordsmith, anymore.  No, that title left me months ago along with other descriptors–confident, spiritually evolved, kind, gentle, optimistic, loving, hopeful…to name a few.  Nothing in particular happened to derail me, but rather caught up to me.

As I get older and time becomes more valuable, moments of reflection get smaller and more specific.  An outlook on the world becomes too large to manage, and scaling back is the only way to not become overwhelmed, so interpretation on a case-by-case basis shapes perspective.  And, perspectives change; so much change.  It’s hard to get a good grip on change and such concepts as “using your words”–wordsmith skills– can easily slip through your fingers unless you practice,  after all practice makes perfect.  Behavior is surprising enough without throwing in an inability to communicate.

Last month I was headed to an event with two friends.  We were in a cab exchanging self-characteristic type things.  I launched into a characteristic about myself, and then paused mid-sentence. “Actually, that’s not true,” I said. “It’s one of those things I would like to think was true about me, but isn’t.”  For the life of me I can’t recall the characteristic, but it wasn’t an inherent characteristic of me and one I would likely never acquire.  It made me feel strange and uncomfortable to admit that, but it was true.  Cue Regina Spektor‘s “On The Radio”

…this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again…

I’m figuring out that, for the most part, people teach you about yourself.  Someone told me, once, that hate is equally important than love; love teaches you about others, but hate teaches you about yourself.  Entrusting another with your heart is a scary event–even more so if you don’t  have a clear perspective on who you are in the first place–but each invitation brings a new moment to practice being you.

5+1=A Story

There’s a silence in all of us that allows us to know the 5 W’s and 1 H; who, what, when, where, why, and how.  In my undergraduate studies in Journalism this was the basic investigative formula for getting the facts of any story.  At the very least, it gave you the lead to something bigger.  I’m finding, later in life, the concepts previously learned are applicable in other aspects of life not exactly academic.  In my graduate studies, Leadership specifically, the concepts can be applied in life at the very moment of conception—if you’re in the action you cannot see what’s truly happening.  Other than the age gap, the true difference lies in the person (who) you are (what) at that moment (when) in time (where) when you’re truly left alone to process “how” (why).

This is my story, at the moment…

I’ll be 34 in almost exactly five months and the overarching theme of most people in my age bracket isn’t mine.  I could have had this Cleaver-like existence, but it wasn’t me.  So WHO am I?  I’ll keep this aligned to the five-point theme and in bullets (so this may be super difficult in choice but here goes):

  1. Stubborn – This has been with me the longest of any other descriptor and perhaps the go-to word for anyone that has ever cared for me.  It’s served me both well and poorly at various stages in my life.  Being stubborn in my early twenties, paid off in ambitious endeavors as I wouldn’t take “no” for an answer and forged through impossibility to succeed.  However, there is a fine line between stubborn and pride that is painfully uncomplimentary–not knowing where this line is can create a cascading failure. While I have admitted to learning far more in my failures than successes, the irony lies in my stubbornness.
  2. Loyal – I’m fiercely loyal, which is problematic at times because anything “fierce” is intense and there are few people willing to succumb to such devoted attachment much less reciprocate.  However, loyalty comes in many levels and the duty I place upon others may very well be impossible outside of me.
  3. Creative – This gives me the ability to transcend myself, others, and discover something more meaningful.  Perhaps my only saving grace in the world.
  4. Hopeful – I’m confident that while I cannot control the events, people, or circumstances that come into my life, I believe that it’ll all work out as it should and the best for everyone.  That every exit is an entrance into somewhere else, and in the words of Mark Twain, “Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.”

The sum of the above abridged characteristics is my partial identity–the WHAT to my WHO.  This, of course, could be different from those that know me or have known me, so this potential difference gives me a separate identity from my own.  If identity is a necessity then what does that say about “me”?  That we’re more than who we are because who we are isn’t isolated to who we think we are, but rather who we are to others?  We live in half-truths until we relate to others because 1+1=2.

“Now ‘WHY a thing is itself’ is a meaningless inquiry (for — to give meaning to the question ‘why’ — the fact or the existence of the thing must already be evident’-e.g. that the moon is eclipsed-but the fact that a thing is itself is the single reason and the single cause to be given in answer to all such questions as why the man is man, or the musician musical’, unless one were to answer ‘because each thing is inseparable from itself, and its being one just meant this’ this, however, is common to all things and is a short and easy way with the question).” – Aristotle’s Law, Metaphysics Book VII, Part 17

WHEN I was a child, the identification came mostly from my family.  This is both good and bad because while the definition of you is contingent upon others–it’s also tied to them and less to you.  This helps you be grounded when you fly too far from your roots, but it’s confusing when belief systems move out of orbit from the Mothership.  This is WHERE you begin to define your own life and how it fits or doesn’t fit with others.

So, HOW do you get to where you’re going? This route is different for each of us, and in realizing this I’ll figure out my story.


Love, take it to the mattresses.

There’s a subtle shift that occurs after two people realize they’re standing in the moment of finality. It’s as if the world whispers, “Don’t blink or you’ll lose the last moment where you know who is standing in front of you.” The moment of truth, arrived, and this is what it’s like to not know each other anymore.

She slept on mattress on the floor—the same mattress I had purchased after the heartbreak before her—when I passed by the hallway packing the last of my things. I thought, “She has a place to rest her head even if she sleeps near the ground for now, but she’ll get a frame to lift it back up.” It was that same line of thinking I had after the initial shock of the I’m-going-to-leave-my-marriage realization; I’m doing the right thing for both of us in the long run even if the short run scorches our feet.

I’m sleeping on an air mattress tonight in my renovated shoebox in Alphabet City. It’s been quite some time—5 months to be exact—since I’ve been comfortable in my own space. Despite the obvious disarray from the move, I’m free to be free. Although, if I’m truly being honest, here, that uncomforted space issue started one year and five months ago. While I’m being honest, let’s face it, freedom is never free.

Shopping for mattresses is a lot like soul work; you have to know yourself well enough to know what you like, how much you’re willing to invest in your comfort, and not rush it. I was upsold on the first overpriced mattress, a firm with a pillow top, like many other things during that period in my life. Later, I was also talked into tossing it for a terribly old, piss stained, non-pillow top mattress, by a girlfriend attached to most everything except me. After she hurt me in the most despicable way possible, I was sans mattress, not that one fit into my inherited vagabond lifestyle in the first place; couch surfing required less capital and emotional investment.

Futons, the minimalist way of resting your head, was the way to Zen. Mattresses were heavy and laborious constructs of luxury that I didn’t need. No, out with the old and in with the new. I acquired a different, vibrant, soul enriching, school of thought, and the only way to happiness was through the suffering–and, let me just say this about suffering; there were some painstakingly difficult nights of sleep where my back was concerned. Futon people don’t have significant romantic relationships. They just can’t, really, because a futon person is in a transitory state of living that no one wants to catch.

With the first indication of love interest, I tossed that sucker and bought a new mattress, firm, for her back problems. Solving her problems, giving her comfort, and making certain she never woke up in pain, was how I spent the next four-or-so years. Sleeping on that firm mattress, built to sustain the strength of the spine, it occurred to me that this firm mattress was not mine. I purchased it, yes, but this was not where I was supposed to rest my head.

I left her the firm mattress, which was now on the floor with her. I had my freedom, so I marched into Macy’s listening to the divorce theme song “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + the Machine and I plopped down on that plush Euro bed mattress.

“Can I help you?”

I smiled, big. “Yes, I’m in the market for a new mattress.”

“Feel like testing out the others?”

I closed my eyes, briefly, and despite being internally sold on the one I was on I shook my head yes.

She led me to different makes and styles of mattresses, and I obliged because I had never taken my time before, until we made a full round and stood in front of the first choice; the queen plush Euro bed. “Do you know the comfort level you want?” She asked.

“I do,” I replied. “I want to sleep in a cloud.”

“So this one seems like the perfect fit.” She pointed.

“Yes.”

We made small talk as I spent an extravagant amount of money on my mattress–MY mattress.

“What’s the reason for the purchase today?” She looked up from entering my credit card information.

“I was married for four years and the trade-off was the firm mattress.” I paused and felt a tremendous amount of fulfillment. “Now that I’m teetering on the brink of divorce, I want to rest my head in the clouds.”

The cloud-like mattress arrives on Thursday, so for now I’m making do with the air mattress. I’d rather be like one with air than two on an old piss stained non-pillowtop, firm, break-my-back-for-love type of mattress. So, while we may be strangers and prefer different mattresses, I know one thing to be true about myself–I prefer plush.

 

A Sea of Broken Windows

In the intensity of people you’ll often times find a misaligned suffering in which if you’re not careful could pull you under.  An amorous disposition here would likely result in a near drowning in the immortal songs of Jeff Buckley.  You hear the warnings of lifeguards, you see the no swimming signs, and for a minute you stand with apprehension and watch the sea swell and then break upon the shore.  The velvet of the sand beneath your feet massaging from ground up and basking in the sun of contentment should be enough to keep away a vehement desire to swim in an erratic ocean.  Digging your feet into the sand, there you go, running into choppy waters.

The mightiest of all emotions, passion, overwhelms reason every single time.  I’ve told people that there was only a small but significant window of time in which your mind has a chance to save you before you fall into the abyss of love.  But, at that juncture freewill is rarely exercised so you tumble downward.  You would think, I presume, since those are my fighting words that I would be exempt from love foolery.  Alas, I am not.  I am clumsy at best and vying for a second-coming of naivety.  Despite this awareness, I break windows. I just hope the cuts heal in time to collect the sea glass.

 

Law of Attraction in a shoe size that fits

“I am that which I am, and I am pleased with it, joyful in it. And you are that which you are, and while it is different perhaps from that which I am, it is also good. …Because I am able to focus upon that which I want, even if there are those differences between us that are dramatic, I do not suffer negative emotion because I am wise enough to focus upon that which brings me discomfort. I have come to understand, as I am one who is applying the Art of Allowing, that I have not come forth into this physical world to get everyone to follow the “truth” that I think is the truth. I have not come forth to encourage conformity or sameness–for I am wise enough to understand that in sameness, in conformity, there is not diversity that stimulates creativity. In focusing upon bringing about conformity, I am pointed toward an ending rather than a continuing of creation.” —The Law of Attraction

This passage is a powerful one, and for several days I couldn’t get it out of my head so I thought it deserved a posting. I’ve been able to touch upon the first part of this passage but learning how to do it wasn’t easy.

The first time, I hurt an innocent person, it had nothing to do with him and said nothing about who he was because he was a decent man. Some people assume that hurting someone else is the easier part of hurt, but it’s not always. Sometimes hurting someone is necessary to become who we are. We make choices, this much is true but when life is fresh and self, unformed, can you be held accountable for immature choices of gratification? Probably not until you’re the one that gets hurt. It’s easy to see the goodness in someone and be comforted by that in the unsettled self, but selfishness exists in the truth that you’re living in motions that belong to someone else. It’s not easy to let go of goodness for the spiritually corrupt and when you do there exists an extraordinary demoralization, so it’s no wonder you jump into the shoes of the one you hurt in your next lesson. After all, life is both the yin and the yang.

When I was in the military, the main tactic was to break you down emotionally so that you could be rebuilt a solider. Life, in general, is about the same. It is in the rebuild that you regain a courage that you remember from your innocence. A child, taking strides to walk, toward independence. A soldier, marching into the world, armed to take it over. The child falls, cries, gets back up determined to walk. The solider falls, locked and loaded, armed to assess the surroundings with emotions in check and gets up again. It is the rising that we determine our worth.

It’s not easy, either, to be hurt by someone else. You meet someone, throw caution to the wind, give more than you have to give. There is a subtle danger and a strong beauty in loving because you’ve never been hurt. Musicals make sense when you’re on the love drug. You associate elation with childhood happiness. The world opens up and surprise there’s only two of you out of the bazillions of people in the world, and you met in this lifetime. The new car smell, I love that smell. The only problem is that after a while you get comfortable enough to start eating McDonald’s in it. Instead of a monthly tune-up, you opt instead to overlook it altogether because the oil light hasn’t lit up. You ignore the signs of maintenance. You even ignore the signs that maybe the car you bought isn’t safe, at all. The used car dealer, which in this case would be the heart, fooled that gut feeling that something just wasn’t right. The price was too high all along, but you got lured in by the speed in which the car could achieve. Not to mention, it looked sharp and the leather seats heated your ass. Have you ever left those seat heaters on, dangerously, longer than you should? It burns like a good seat heater should.

I guess what I’m alluding to is life is an easier path when you realize that there are people who just don’t walk the same as you. Some walk slower, some take the shortcut, some push others out-of-the-way, and some never begin. It doesn’t matter, at the finish line, who walked, ran, or stumbled, quicker or better. In the end, we all cross it one way or another–together or separate. We may as well cross it understanding that it’s okay to walk in your own shoes. I don’t know about you but I wear a size 8 and while on certain occasions I can get away with a 7 1/2, I have never been able to wear a 9 and if I tried I felt like a clown and forget about a size 7…all that does is hurt.

Sexy potential irony

It’s a funny concept to fall in love with potential.  It’s like a fantasy, of sorts.  You have this vision of who someone will become before they actually become that person, psychic really.  So there you are, miserable, dating potential.  Waiting…working…challenging…molding…potential.  It’s not an easy process.  It’s grueling, draining, and never works out, but you work away.  There’s nothing more tragic than loving someone who had yet to love themselves, and likely by the time they do realize they’re worthy of your love…you’ll have given it to someone else.

I’ve done it.  You’ve probably done it.  Hopefully, you didn’t do it twice.  In retrospect it’s such a stupid thing to do, isn’t it?  Maybe being friends with potential is much better than dating it…less expectations and no openings for disappointments, or at least not as many openings.  Back in my ‘but-you-don’t-know-them-the-way-I-do’ days…when all my friends realized before I did that I was in one of those dating-potential-relationships…I was convinced that I could change the person.  Convinced.  I knew better than anyone else how much potential this person had.  It was later that I realized it was a trait I have and may always have, but one that was only detrimental to the unformed me. 

Ironic, isn’t it?  Someone you spend so much energy trying to change into who they will become.  So much heartache.  So many tears.  So much of your soul you gave away to perfect another for someone else.  Someone else that experiences the reality of your fantasy.  Bittersweet, nah.  In the long run you’re better off because they were dating potential too.

Karma Racking

 

Indelicate little mind,

You’ve settled in between,

Choices of courage,

Dangled from the mistakes we knew we were making,

In taking this on autopilot,

The road less traveled I always took,

Dead ends every time,

Suffered and restructured little soul,

Too big for your britches,

Painting stories against the grain,

But few people enjoy splinters,

They’re not like you and me,

Using a needle to set it free,

Then stitching each other up,

You can only go so far,

All sewn up,

Threads unravel,

Then they shred,

Until all you have left,

Is the safety in-between,

Active re-collector,

How time has left you behind,

Tramping through the land of the blind,

At all you’ve seen,

With the entourage of your mind,

Doesn’t mean a thing,

When too much is at stake,

With time,

This time,

Karma racking.

A letter to one of my former selves…

Circa 1994 (age 16 or 17)

Dear Lisa (I didn’t go by my given and much older sounding name, Alisa, back then):

Hi, I’m who you’re going to be. The journey wasn’t easy, and I won’t candy coat it for you and tell you that the struggle ends. It doesn’t, but it gets easier every year. You’re going to come across great losses in your life from people you love, careers you nearly had, and money you couldn’t keep. But, I won’t begin there. You will experience more than most people your age and to prove this I’ll give you a sneak peak of what’s in store: skydiving, you WILL get a record deal for a band (sorry you don’t become a rockstar though), you’ll join the Army (don’t ask just get out quick), you’ll make a large amount of money all at once (do us both a favor and don’t spend it all in one place, please I beg of you to remember this when the alcohol takes over – trust me on that one), all sorts of love you will experience (try to learn from each and every one and don’t destroy anyone – save the regret for another lifetime), the written word will be your guide (I don’t mean the Bible, so when you get depressed, and you better believe you’ll battle with that an above average amount, just write it out because it will serve you in the long run), you will wind up at MTV (so don’t spend years wasting away in a depression because you live in Antlers, Oklahoma–you do get out of it and do pretty well for yourself), and you’ll get married (I’ll keep this one to myself because it won’t even make sense to you now, but you’ll end up here anyway).

I won’t alarm you with talk of death since I apparently talk about it all too much anyway. Rather, I will just tell you to look around at your family and friends because a few of them will not be around when you sit here writing this post. Enjoy them, and for crying out loud ‘listen’ to everything about someone…don’t listen to speak like you do, stubborn, narcissistic you, just get to know them, really know someone, and cherish it because it won’t last long. Another thing, time…it really DOES fly by so don’t roll your eyes at your grandmother’s sayings (you will say them too, eventually).

About your father, yes, he’s still alive. Well, as alive as he can be considering…his health is fine but his heart…well…it functions perfectly fine but it’s certainly not something you need to win. I have a feeling knowing what I know now won’t help much, in this department, but try to just understand that when someone is in survival mode and stops learning….they can’t really pass anything on to you because they’re too busy trying to just get through life. I’m sorry for this, Lisa, I am, but somewhere inside just find a way to forgive him for what he does not know about love because as you’ll learn, not everyone loves like you do.

So now let’s talk about Mom, yeah I know where you are right now. Frustrated. Don’t worry about that idiot she married, David, he won’t last so give her a break every now and then. Also know that you two are so close, so try not to take it personally when she doesn’t have enough to go around and wastes her energy on David, like I said his time ends (eventually). A couple good things to come out of their relationship..it’ll change your life…trust me on that! Remember, she never really had a ‘single’ life so let her live it up because you turn out pretty damn good anyway and in the end…she’s your best friend and #1 fan.

Your brother, Jeffrey, all I can tell you is that he’s a VERY special person and I urge you to never IGNORE him and ALWAYS be there for him because he NEEDS you. There will be times, a lot of them, that you’ll be selfish but please I beg of you…life is too short to waste on not being there for those you love…so please, Lisa, if you don’t listen to anything I say in this letter just trust that this is the most important…leave your heart open for him. Also, I’ll just say it…he’s your biggest teacher in life. So, if he calls just answer it!

It would be easy to tell you everything, but I wouldn’t change that for you because all of the heartache, and believe me it’ll shake you to your core many many times in the next 15 years, serves you well in the long run so I wouldn’t want you to change anything.

On friends, pay attention to those that care for you because in the end those are the ones still standing. Don’t put the extra effort into those that don’t put it back into you…it’s a major time suckage and trust me you’ve sucked a lot of time. Mostly, you need them even though you think you don’t. Don’t push people away, and you will do that, because no man is an island.

On college, go to class! You think GPA won’t matter, and for the most part it won’t but in one situation that could make your entire life easier it’ll be there! Speaking of college, don’t be confused with some events that happen there because it’s merely a discovery for you and everyone loves you exactly the same anyway, regardless of what you may realize about yourself during this time period! Just go with it and don’t over think it, but you’ll over think everything, I know you, so just try and enjoy the moment.

Internet, yeah I know what you’re thinking ‘what does it mean’. It’ll add up eventually. Let me just tell you when you take your first plunge into this world don’t abuse anyone – you will regret it. Oh, one more thing and don’t ask, just do it…file sharing (the process of direct or indirect data sharing on a computer network with various levels of access privilege; also, the process of direct or indirect file transfer via the Internet). Once you know what the internet is come up with ways to use file sharing..I’ll give you a few hints…music, video, pictures. You’re smart enough to do this, I assure you it will pay off.

Relationships…I know it seems you won’t have them (still continue to fantasize about romance because it’ll hopefully pay the bills one day), but you will and most of them won’t work out. Just know that each one teaches you about love. You will get your heartbroken, you will break hearts, and mostly you’ll have soulmates, so don’t spend too much time staring into the abyss…it gets dark and lonely and quite frankly you tend to forget to shower and your OCD (you’ll learn about this later) gets pretty intense.

Alcohol, it’s your arch enemy for many years so try, TRY, to never drink from its cup, shot, can, bottle, bellybutton (don’t ask), as an escape from something difficult….it’s too easy to rely on and you like to rely on nothing and no one (though you will).

Patience, start now! It’s one of your weaknesses, so start practicing it now.

A couple more things before I let you go ‘drag main’ in your new camaro….when you drive PAY ATTENTION and BUCKLE UP, don’t throw any books at Mrs. Gardner but if you have to just don’t throw the pen too (too messy), Be nice to Eron Eighmy (you’ll meet him later, he’s a nice fella) at the prom, drink water for every alcoholic drink (remember this it’s important), don’t drop out of college (like I said, and believe me, you DO get out of Oklahoma), don’t drink and drive, don’t park your car in the first place you want to when you make it to NYC (you’ll thank me later), steer clear of drinking around a fairly well-respected manager (professionally he’s great but personally he’s a slime ball that takes advantage of little girls), don’t query agents before you’re finished-completely–with manuscripts, if you meet an annoying girl named Ericka around 2006 just ignore her completely and don’t ever–let me repeat–don’t ever befriend her (she’s a nutjob, no really certifiably insane), don’t try to make things last that shouldn’t, don’t loan movies or books to people because you’ll never get them back, read like a maniac all the time and never stop, and lastly, don’t think you can climb in windows (especially drunk).

I hope this letter helps you, Lisa. You grow into a unique person that has a lot to give. Use your talents, enjoy the music, and always remember ‘in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make’ (The Beatles). Now, go in the next room and hang out with your brother…it’ll mean a lot later on.

Very truly yours,

Alisa (age 32)

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