On Love, At 33

•August 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

When I was young the world was smaller. There was room for things like Fate. Destiny. Star-crossed lovers. This… ‘grand scheme’. The funny feeling I got in my stomach when I kissed Lindsey in 7th grade was the first sparks of a love for the ages. Not pre-teen fear mixed with poor diet choices and/or a healthy dose of adrenaline. This was love. Until it was Diane. She and I were the will they/won’t they couple for probably a month. She turned me down at first. It was going to make an incredible story to ceaselessly tell around cards at an old folks home together. Until it became the story of how I met the next ‘the one’, and the next. I wasn’t prolific, I was just … well, bad at it?

I used to think I was codependent, and I guess it’s probably true, but I could just never find a comfortable cruising speed, you know? Falling in love is so fast and exciting, and you hold on so tight to each other. Then bit by bit you have to let the other live their own life, handle their own shit. Inevitably I always wanted to do that too soon or too late. Too much or too little. I suppose probably everyone struggles with it. To relinquish as much control as we want to have. To give out as much slack in the rope as we’d like for ourselves. It’s easy to say, but tough to really appreciate. We’re only human. All of us. Slaves to our perception, bias, and preconceived notions. Bound most often to do only that which we’re in the mood for; big sloppy sacks of emotion.

When I let go of the last I one I told myself I was done. It wasn’t worth the hassle for people who were never sure. I was, maybe still am, tired of letting someone else put so many bricks into the foundation upon which my peace of mind stands. Heart break always wrecks me. Thoroughly. I’m almost always the last one to admit when the whole thing has died. Which, I’ve learned, instead of fixing things tends to only drag them out. You can only stretch something so far before it gets so thin you can start to see right through it. I’d fight and fight, thinking I was fighting for us, like some valiant soldier for love. When, really, we were just fighting. It didn’t so much matter why, right? Time
doesn’t really remember reasons quite so well as it remembers events.

It’s some kind of cruel irony how clearly you see your own mistakes while watching your friends make them. Knowing full well that they were once the ones sitting through the same rants about fairness and common decency as it relates to relationships in modern society. It’s especially cruel when you’ve got multiple friends on multiple sides of fences you’ve found yourself occupying, with less kids, no ring, and still the same dumbfounded question coming out of all of our mouths:”why?” I’ve accrued enough friendly ex’s to know that there’s never a real answer to that. Hell, I’ve been on enough sides of that aforementioned fence to see it for myself.

Maybe we’re not meant to do this, or maybe it’s just not for some of us, or maybe it really does have to be just the right fit. Maybe it was so damn rare and wonderful they thought up pretty proper nouns for it like Fate, or Destiny, or Love. Or maybe we’re expecting too much. Maybe love isn’t so complicated as we make it. What if by romancing it for so many generations we’ve made it too pretty? Too many of us look to our partners to help us find peace, when we have none to offer them. We look to them to help us define ourselves then get frustrated when the answers don’t satisfy us. We grow accustomed, then numb to the good things, and the bar for what we’re willing to take out on one another slides down another inch. We spend half our time thinking up what the other should or shouldn’t do and the other half frustrated when they do something completely unexpected.

That’s the real rub of the matter, isn’t it? We’re all blindfolded for the majority of this “life” thing. That’s frightening enough. But to realize that, not only are there billions of other folks trying to do the same thing, groping, falling, and stumbling around, but that whomever you pin your future on is going through the same shit, different shit, and shit you’ve never heard of. Just trying to find their way through their own version of this journey. It does make it sort of mystical when you step back and think about how much shit has to go right for it to actually work. Then again, it also makes it seem pretty damn hopeless too.

So, how do I inject some kind of hope into this garbage fire of a birthday post? I’m 33 today, and as ‘not according to plan’ as all of this has gone, I still know I’m lucky. I’ve been in love. Hard. For a few really good years. God, the beauty I’ve held. Heartache could never hope to darken all of that. I’ve got some really amazing friends and family. A pretty great job. A place downtown with a view of the skyline. Do I have every dream I wanted? No. But maybe we’re lucky to settle for the ones we discovered along the way. Maybe plans are for just for the boring, and the lucky, the rest of us build on what we break.

As for the whole love thing, I guess we all just do our best with that too. Maybe it’s a roll of the dice, or maybe there’s some diaper wearing cherub loosing arrows, but believe me when I say it’s work no matter what. If you do it even halfway right you’ll, at the very least, learn a lot about life, the world, and what it really means to wear someone else’s shoes. Remember, though, that we’re all making up mistakes as we go along, while blindly trying to do the same basic things. We should be better at forgiving, and maybe better at forgetting too, but we’re not. None of us are. We’re big sloppy bags of emotion, tumbling into a minefield with varying degrees of baggage, experience, and trust. Give as much slack as you can see yourself someday needing, and don’t give up easy. But if it all comes tumbling down, remember, you’re just as much the love that was as you are the love that fell apart. And moving on doesn’t always mean forgetting, I still carry Lindsey, Diane, and the rest, somewhere in my heart, and no matter how many others do too, it’ll never make me any less blessed for the memories we made.

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This Grudge

•April 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment

It hurt. With the sort of force brought by 2 years, give or take, of lost time. Spent into the ether. A precious two. As if they all couldn’t be classified as such. Working my way into 30. The realization carried with it a sort of nostalgia for wasted years gone by. Too many. How many do I have to waste to just break even? What pays for loving like that? What penance is born from the benefit of the doubt. Two years? Too many. It should have never been my cross to carry anyway. By all rights I should have come away clean. Cheated. I had every reason to move on to something better. Only I had spent so long believing you were the best the world had to offer, I couldn’t convince myself of anything else. It’d be romantic if it weren’t a such a curse. To have said forever, and meant it, to someone who didn’t.

An innocent mistake. This isn’t about you. None of you hold the blame for my wasted time. My prolonged grief. My disbelief. Hell, after so many you have to begin to wonder what fault really means, you know? It’s all relative to your perspective, which brings me back to this. My grudge. My wasted time. My promises and my selective forgetfulness. All of us can only paint the world with the colors we know. Maybe I settled on to small a palate when I was too young to understand the weight of what I was doing. Then again, maybe the brilliance is what blinded me. Either way, I hung my future on the potentials of us, before either of us knew what that actually was.

I always knew I’d fall in love. Since I was a teenager, it was really the only thing I cared about. People, my parents chief amongst them, must have figured it’d pass into my twenties, but it just held on. I was an idealist. Believing in some kind of
soul mates, some kind of star-crossed, meant to be, sort of lovers. I’ve been a serial monogamist. Finding redemption for love lost in the arms of another, over and over. Maybe it is true. Maybe it works for folks. It wasn’t working for me. I’ve seen the souls of women who deserve the world handed to them gently over their choice of chilled beverage whilst they recline on the sandy beaches of somewhere beautiful. I’ve been lucky. I’ve loved beautiful people, inside and out. I’ve watched time stand still, where dust caught in a morning sunbeam becomes stars sparkling above the terrain of the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And smiled when she woke and said “Good morning.” I’ve been lucky.

And maybe I’m not strong enough to be so lucky again. To hold such a beautiful possibility in my palm, to build such precarious pedestals, or to believe in someone else’s strength so much it makes me strong. To take, maybe a break, maybe a vacation, maybe a hiatus, and maybe a complete seclusion. Maybe I’ve quit romance. Either way, I’m removing the cumbersome damnable thing from my hands. I wrote her a letter the other day, after far too many beers. I told her I got it, that it made sense. What she said all those years ago, and I didn’t have the experience at the time to understand. That a grudge consumes only the hand that holds it. And that it can only ever be as strong as the years I give it. The time I spend staring at it, talking to it, trying to reason my way around it.

You were right about that. Hell, you were right about a lot. But I’ll be damned if you were right about me.

Being Honest

•February 21, 2017 • 1 Comment

If I’m being honest
I’ve been depressed.
I’ve been like this most of the life I can remember
It’s, honestly, the mood I seem most comfortable with
but I told myself a long time ago I wouldn’t let it linger in my chest
that I’d shake the crows from the lines from time to time
and try to remind myself of the miracle this mess really is
that the shadows are only as dark as the light you surround them with

but one night, this fairly level headed aquaintance of mine said to me,
Poetry is the fastest way
to end a party.
and it stuck with me
because he’s fucking right
a lot of the opening lines I write
could silence a busy room on New Years eve at midnight.
so what am I doing?
am I only taking the stage to rain shit on someone else’s parade?
to remind the world that it’s not all fun?
That somewhere, on the other side of the horizon, the light does fade
the darkness comes, and while everyone has a price, not everyone will have to pay
No, that’s not what I want to say

I stand up here because one night someone said to me
after a particularly passionate performance of a breakup poem that meant a lot to me
that her mother had needed to hear that,
she’d been afraid of the thoughts she’d had for a while
and that I had
found a catchy phrase or two she could repeat
when that’s all she could do
when she just needed to know she wasn’t alone
and remember she could surely weather that storm too.
when maybe she just needed something like that to be true

So, I promise to not go gloomy every time,
to not do my damndest to seek the darkest dredges of my life
and just excercise my demons while folks are trying to have a good time
but I’m also going to speak my mind
to use the only weapons I’ve found to fight the feeling of being alone
to offer the path I found out, and the one I’m still on
because we’ve got nothing if not the shared experience of being alive
of staring down the barrel of life and pulling the trigger time after time, after time
and maybe it hasn’t always gone so right
maybe we’ve lost a few fights
but I’m here to say that maybe that’s the most beautiful we’ll ever be
maybe breaking is what makes making it mean so damn much

we deserve the courage to fall
and if we believe we’re the first to do it, maybe we’ll never take the chance at all
maybe raking our mistakes across the coals is what makes us such relateable miracles
turning them into something someone else sees as hope, a little light in the mist
because the shadows are only as dark as the light you surround them with

sure, maybe I’m depressed,
but I guess I’ve always seen us as kind of like clouds when it comes to this
we grow heavy with the dreams, the heartbreak, the love, the loss, sodden with sorrow
but those that learn to rain,
to turn the pain into something to write, create, paint, or perform,
offer others dodging lightning reason,
those that see nothing but storms a story to believe in
They offer more to the world than just the darkness they carry
they offer hope in the form of a struggle, of a journey
of a road so emotionally wrenching it earned itself a song, a painting, or poetry
they offer proof that you’re not alone,
that someone has been the storm you’ve occasionally found yourself forming
and learned so much that they’re performing the mistake
three nights a week, despite debilitating stage fright and self-conciousness
you know,
If I’m being honest.

Molting Constellations

•February 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I caught her molting constellations on the water. Her sunburned skin, pale and stark against the moonlight. It occurred to me then, what a miracle we all are, considering how fumblingly we go in, and how seldom we get it right. Beneath a black curtain sky, shattered to life with stars, I held my breath on behalf of her, and listened to the shoring water shush the surrounding world into quiet reverence.

Something about getting older had me thinking about suicide. Maybe it wasn’t so much about death, but about leaving everything behind. Watching her silhouette move through the water, the moonlight scattering beneath the oily calm waves she pushed through, I wondered about where I’d go, who I’d be, what I’d do. All those promises I had made to myself, and how few had wound up coming true. God, help me, for a moment there, I actually wondered about You.

In the darkness, surrounded by the soundtrack of ocean silence, I stood; quietly screaming inside. I’m so angry at a stranger, who lived what feels like a lifetime ago, an existence that owes all its coincidence to facial resemblance, and after all this time, barely even feels like mine. The mirrored man I meet every morning still looks sixteen to me, still wonders somewhere when this is going to suddenly turn around, and I’ll finally figure out what the whole damn thing means. But that’s not me.

I’m thirty-two, watching the shadow of a stranger wade, shoulder deep, through constellations she makes in the waves she breaks, and wondering, like we all do, where I’m going, who I am, and what I want to do. The terrifying truth is that tomorrow is always another chance, to remain, regress, or advance; to change, to wait, or to fall back. And it’s a choice we have to make every moment until we cease to notice so much that they pass as that they have collected, into a pile of people and promises that we’re proud of.

“It’s Better To Have Loved and Lost, Than to Have Never Loved at All”

•February 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

She smiles at me over her shoulder. Rolling curls of blonde ribbon, bouncing around her shoulders, framing her smile in mischief somehow. Her dress, thin shining silver seemingly painted across her skin is open down to the smallest part of her back. She’s walking away, but her laugh is begging me to follow. For a moment I don’t. I wait. I breathe. And somewhere, all these years later, I remember being madly in love.

I remember as if it was yesterday. She could be 16, maybe 21, she could be a dream, but I see her shedding a prom dress, maybe a formal dance, or just some night out we had. But I remember being utterly breathless. I remember realizing that this is what life feels like when it’s being lived, but I suppose it’s easy enough to forget. The truth of epic train wrecks is that they had to be epic before they got wrecked, it’s all about perspective and, in  retrospect, when we’re paying attention.

We believe in disaster more, as a people. It’s what we understand. Beauty, that’s much tougher. Even beauty becomes mundane. Even miracles become old hat when they’re happening half of every day. When your perspective begins atop the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, it’s going to take Everest to impress you.

I’ve surely been higher on her smile than I’ve ever been in the beautiful state of Colorado. It’s why it hurts so damn much when she leaves. It’s why I still can’t seem to shake the dreams. But, at the same time, it’s why I kept trying, even after an age of darkness in my life that knows no equal. An almost nuclear devastation we came shambling through, only to find myself stepping back up to the line to go traipsing out onto thin limbs again.

It’s a pain that knows no relative. Is only a distant cousin to any agony that anyone else has ever seen, and, in part, it’s true. Because no one has loved like I loved you, they couldn’t have, I was busy doing it with you. And God willing, someone loves you now, just like I used to. Yes, God willing they’re scared as hell that if you leave they’ll have the same problem I still seem to. The sort of pain you’re sometimes proud that no one understands. The ache of loving someone with every day you have.

I don’t believe we’re made to only love one person. I don’t believe in soul mates, or star-crossed lovers. Though, I’ll admit I probably once did. Now, though, what I know, is that it’s much more complicated than all that. There’s no one made to fit, there’s no one with whom things will just work. I’ve seen love. Reveled as it shook me in my bones, stripped me of my breath, and left me sobbing outside a T.G.I. Friday’s. The point is that I’m skipping over the point, which is that I’m eternally blessed for what came between.

A sort of love whose absence left me devastated, and whose occasional appearance in my life has wrought meaning to a scientific sort of existence. One who never had much room for religion or superstition. One who only really believed in fate because he was lucky enough to find the “one.” Once I realized there wasn’t only one, I didn’t do a whole lot better, but I still believed. Believed in the power of a mostly insignificant little mammal to believe in the beauty, the power, the potential of another insignificant little mammal, and I still believe to this day.

To have lived days without numbers. To have laughed along with the morning. To have laid weeping in a well of sorrow. If I never love again. If I never have kids. If I never come to terms with the things that I have lost and this is the best I ever did. I’ll at least have tasted a life at its most heart stopping; at its most breathtaking. I have seen some of the best things life has to offer and, in turn, some of the darkest depths the mind finds to go when all good things feel lost, and all hope is gone. We are only mammals, blessed with the curse of knowing how small our bigness truly is. How devastatingly meaningful we are to one another, and how fragile that all really is.

Sometimes

•January 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Sometimes I wonder why I never stopped loving her. If it’s me, if it was us, or just her. Sometimes I wonder if she has the dreams too. Wakes up desperately lonely wondering what the hell I’m like at thirty-two. But then she kisses her husband and falls back asleep, because it’s not about her and, and it’s not about me, it’s about still believing in something bigger than the both of us. That thing we offered to one another before either of us were old enough to know how fragile it really was.

On Heroes

•November 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Underneath the last throw of spring rain
out of the corner of my eye, I heard her say my name
but I was preoccupied with this series of red comets she’d written across her thighs
and I know she asked me a question but I can’t seem to reply
I can tell she’s trying to get down to my level
but I mettle with dangerous metaphors
turning final corners just to find the door,
burning the last bridge down just to finally see the shore
gleaming in the distance, right where I left
before I started writing stories without heroes
scrawled across flesh in a language no one else knows
A slow but steady tally that heals, then grows
a book I pretend to close with clothes
long sleeve shirts in summer sweat
because it’s not the sort of story I’m ready to share just yet
and it occurred to me
that the words I was carving across my arms spelled ‘help me’
but maybe you misread and thought they said ‘join me’
because you turned to me when faith misplaced you
and our words were wasted, your trust defaced and
I was too busy telling stories with my hurt to face
that you’d taken up my gory way with words
but I found phrases I thought I forgot in your smile
and collected them, and it might have taken me a little while
but I believed in them, wrapped them up like your shattered trust in God and I seeded them
to grow like the mansions of faith we used to see for them
two hearts held together because we bleed for them, need for them
to turn this darkness back to the light that I see for them
dream for them, turn my back on what I know and believe in
because we see then, we’re lucky to be let down
it’s why they call it falling.
What if we’re just thunder, rolling through the rain?
Some rumbling seeking the distance, like an outbound train
what if we can never find the words to say
but can only scribble into the trembling flesh that still tingles with touch
and you blush, when you tell me, you think you finally understand
what it’s like chasing darkness with your own two hands
like cradling lightning, only to watch it disappear, again and again
but then you’re bleeding, and you’re staring back at me and
for a moment all I can see are shooting stars, written in red ink
and you whispering to me, my name, and no more,
as if the sound of it meant peace to the both of us, instead of war
and I wanted to say to you
the story I’ve been scrawling across my scars,
every bit of it is true
but where it ends, is with you,
and I’m sure I’m gonna have to find another way to tell it,
but that’s okay too
because I’m beginning to see that scars aren’t the only way to tell the truth
that sometimes words tell it better, so I’ve gather mine together here for you
and maybe baby this is the best I’ll ever do
but I’m not willing to live in the dark no more
I’m not willing to take chances with other people’s hearts
and I know I’ve hardly ever really been good for you
but maybe this is how it starts
just to stop trying to tell stories with scars
to find the words for my particular burden of truth
and carry it like a torch to help light the dark
sure, our shadows will always be waiting a step behind,
we’ll be chased by darkness all of our lives
but I’m gonna do my damnedest to make my struggle a light
whether it be in the way I live or the words I write
and I’m not always going to get it right
but I’m going to keep putting my pen to paper
again and again
to try to prove to you, to me, maybe even to them
that we’re more than the stars of our success
or the scars that we etch onto our bodies or into our chests
we are lightning, we are thunder
we are trains chasing the distance, carrying wonder
and we will be derailed, defeated, and disappointed
regaled, believed in, and anointed,
but we will never be more than what we give to one another
we will never be bigger than what we share
so maybe the point is not to lay your burdens to rest but to lay them to bare
to map the constellations of our scars and when they look,
let them stare,
because what this took, wasn’t fair
and I’m on the hook, but I don’t care
because somewhere between the scars and the stars there’s us
in clothes instead of capes,
writing stories about heroes,
and the mistakes it takes to become one

This one took me a while to write. Like, a long while. I had this experience with an ex-girlfriend. I was into the self-harm thing, and one night she decided to try it out. When she showed me the aftermath it completely rocked my world. She was a happy girl, didn’t really struggle with depression other than with mine. Sort of made me realize how much my decisions effected others.

Pieces of this one can be found in some other stuff I’ve done in the past, but pretty much everything is new. It’s one I didn’t expect to finish, honestly. I had to keep coming back to it, month after month. Little by little I chipped away at it, but I’m really proud of what it became. I really strive to not let my stuff just be a downer, I always want to leave a light at the end of the tunnel, but I’ve been struggling a lot with that lately.

Over the years, probably over a decade now, she and I lost touch almost completely, but I’ve carried that night with me ever since. Everyone wants to be the hero of their story, to save a damsel/cowboy, or to be the one that got away, but the pleasant truth is that we may never know the example of survival we leave in our wake. We may struggle all of our years only to leave an easier path for someone behind us to take.

Struggle. Because the alternative is to wait to die, and that’s not hardly a life at all. Remember, every day, that you are only the story you tell yourself, and that perspective will always determine success, no matter how you, your friends, your peers, or your family sees it. You were born to build, but you will break, and when you do, be damn sure you have the courage to share the wisdom of your mistake and the humility to accept the truth.