Stinkin’ Thinkin’

When I was a teenager and my depressive cycle started, my sister would tell me,

That’s stinkin’ thinkin’, stop it

She and her husband ran a sales office and motivation was their game. Positive thinking would drive a man to enter a strange place and do something completely out of character, and after that the money was addictive.

I always tried, for her, goddamn I worshipped her. She had always seen good in me, and told me.

That’s important, that you tell people good things you see in them. Not everyone can see good in themselves.

……

So my depression isn’t a constant. I have cycles that don’t run on a clock or a schedule. Most of the time I’m just normal depressed, and I’ve learned some good coping mechanisms for that.

I write, I focus on my children and wife, I watch funny movies or I play games and try to get out of my head.

It works for me.

Then comes the darkness… I never know when it’s going to happen but once it starts I can feel it

Suddenly there’s less to say

There’s a growing weight on my eyes, my shoulders start to slump

It gets hard to laugh

My mind goes numb

and for a week or two or a month

Watching The Princess Bride doesn’t fill me with nostalgia and laughter

I have to avoid most of the songs I love because they’ll send me into uncontrollable fits of sobbing

Stray thoughts float around and if I pull the thread

I’ll find death at the other end of the line

Ol’ Grim doesn’t give up…

As patient as death, is that a thing?

……….

When it passes, it does so like an Iowa summer thunderstorm. Rip through, make a lot of noise and leave a quiet sunny day in its wake.

I’ve felt it leave often enough that now I just ride it out, hoping it goes quickly.

I can tell my wife it’s starting and she loves me a little louder. As I fall into myself she holds my hand and won’t let me fall alone.

The second day (the one I’m on as I write this) is when the numbness dissipates and the memories flood my mind.

Standing up and speaking for the dead. I remember the words coming out of other’s mouths, telling me

She’s gone

He’s dead

Or I’ll be not thinking about anything in particular and suddenly I’m reliving some awful shit from my childhood

Sneaky fingers sneaky toes

Keep the secret no-one knows

And I can’t find my grown-up strength, I can’t find my walls, my mechanisms are seized up and nothing will help

….

Until it passes

I have to be very careful with

Stinkin’ thinkin’

Because the wrong thought has almost done Ol’ Grim’s work, before

Like the night I was in the bedroom closet with my knife and my wife, my savior, my angel,

Wrestled it out of my hands and damn near cut her thumb off

And I can try to make excuses to myself but I can’t look into her eyes and say words that are less than true

So I ride the darkness

and wait for the light.

I know it’s coming.

Lasting First

In the time before the life I know

there was, basically,

everything that has ever been.

Life is long, so long it seems impossible. The first day of life is perfectly terrible and a lot of boulders roll down slopes after.

I know right here you’re expecting that I’ll tell you how short life is, that it moves too fast and you can’t get back your time and everyone you know will die before you do, maybe, if you’re lucky you might have enough time to do all you want.

But that sentiment has been shared ad infinitum and I think it’s bullshit.

Life is long, so amazingly and insanely long that there’s time to do everything. Every day is 23 hours and 56 minutes long, each of those minutes has time for me to live a minute, to torture myself for some pain I caused twenty-six years ago, to live in a memory of passionate lust and desire that went away seventeen years ago. One minute in so many days and what do I do with these minutes…

I’ve just spent three writing that paragraph. Considering the words and how I want to make my point, to cast the hook and see if I can get you to bite.

If you’re reading this sentence I’d guess that you’re interested enough to get to my point.

Life isn’t short. Even for a baby that dies on her second day, life is not immediate. Awareness creates perception which in turn creates a clock ticking, this breath and that heartbeat.

When Matt Wafer flew out of the rolling SUV and died as a nineteen year old kid, his life wasn’t short. He made it through about 7200 days full of minutes and seconds and thoughts and hopes and laughter and love.

When Ethan Eayre, great big goofy kid wrapped in the sins of his father, his mother, his older brother, died from a simple infection that became the descriptive and fun-to-remember labels “morbidly obese” when he lived and died, he still does, I’m in that moment now, telling my mother in the lobby that, yes,

She can do this.

She can say goodbye to her youngest son, she can carry herself through that moment, because he lived all of his days as a loving and confusingly decent person, a fluffy and smiling friendly-bear going around making people happy, mostly… In part. He lived a life as he could, and it is over, so, Mother, you won’t freak out

you’ll go in there and cry for him, cry for yourself, you’ll give his life the respect which is due.

The time we live is not short.

I live those days every day…and more.

That night in 2001 I walked into a room and was claimed by grey eyes that want to see me, the smile that needs to kiss me, the mind that needs my mind and my time, I’ve lived that moment a thousand times in the seventeen years and a few months since… I can still feel the first kiss,

it’s still the first kiss every time.

That moment has lasted all of these years and been added to all of the eternal and looping events I’ve seen and touched, I could try to forget what it was

but those pains and joys matter so much, I’ve lived those days with my grandmother, I’ve laughed with the boys and wrestled my brother, I’ve had parties and road trips and I’ve been to weddings and my own,

my own wedding has never ended,

she just walked out into the sun, and

my head got funny.

In a swirl of heat and love and pressure building inside a dynamite keg, she was there, looking just like the only thing that has ever been real.

I’m in that moment, right now.

And the backyard when we were kids.

I’m driving through mountains with her and the kids and we’ve pulled over to a rest stop without lights,

13,000 feet above sea level

and we can see the galaxy,

we’re watching the spin of infinite depths of time and light, in our little remote spot

I looked up as we held hands for a moment and I almost disappeared.

I’ve lived those moments,

Every day.

So don’t tell me that life is short,

because people died and you got to keep living, you get to keep living those laughs and smiles and hugs and tears, those days with calendar stars, the days that got pinned to the pages of a photo album, you get to live those every day until you go.

Life is long, incredibly and depressingly long. Life is longer than everything else.

You’ll never do anything that lasts longer than life.

The trick is making it through each moment and remembering.

F€@® & L0√£

I’m at the age where I realize, 

Nothing, actually (Sublime)
Just say the words, tell me I’ll be okay. 

You don’t have to mean it, it ain’t gotta be true, you’ll never have to be accountable for what comes or goes, 

Just say the words. 

I tell my friend, she of open heart and hospitality, tell me my parenting will get easier, tell me it gets better. 

She says, yes.

 She says, I did it, you will too. 
I tell my son, he of 13 years and internet-trolling, if it’s not true, helpful or necessary, 

Don’t fucking say it. 

He says, okay Dad. 

He says, I understand. 
I tell my wife, she of magical unicornism and poetry-inducing madness, 

I will always give what I have, I will work until I drop, to give us, I say, to give you, 

To provide for you, my girl, wife, dream, goddess, queen, 

My endless frustration

To give you home and hearth and love and food and bandwidth and hot coffee and cold air when it’s hot outside, 

I will give what I am to a job that takes all I have, to earn this place I see, this golden fantasy where you smile and we have a door with a lock, behind which we remember our youth and we expose our eternal truth

She says, wherever. She says, I got you. 

She says, be happy and I will. 

She says, we got this, love. 

We got this love, love, we have our love to rely upon, she says and she shows and sometimes she needs reassurance but,

She knows. 

Tell me, say the words. 

I will say the words. 
Even when I have trouble believing myself. 
You’re going to get through this. 

I’m going to get through this. 

We’re going to be okay. 
We got this. 

💚

A Miss Before Flying


i want to run away,

To stay,

And I can’t find the way,

No method in my mind

To leave this behind,

The traps that I find
I want to go home

Too tired to roam

I left a feeling alone

And never touched it,

But now It’s reaching me,

It’s begging and beseeching me

To return from the far away roads

To the place that I know

To where I started the show,

My heart started to grow,

My mind started to know,

All that matters
I want a ticket on a plane

Before I can’t afford it

I want a place to remain

Where all my love won’t be hoarded

In tiny boxes and bags

In finery and rags

On a throne or in the gutter

Commanding armies or

Churning butter

I want a plan for escape

With minimal red tape

And a happily-ever-after at the end

I want more than I’ve earned

But look how I’ve learned

I won’t leave any stones unturned

To find my home, to not be alone, to remove from my bones this longing and aching, to seal up the cracks in my breaking, to once again start giving more than I’m taking,
I need a vacation

And I don’t want to take me along

Madness and Other Games

I wouldn’t tell you that it was magical, no, the way she smiled and turned her head to the side, glancing sideways at me. 

My breathing didn’t change, I was forged in fires and tempered by vigilance. 

I wouldn’t say it was supernatural or otherworldly, when she asked me to light her cigarette and cupped her palms around my hand, softly brushing my knuckles with her pinky. 

She took a draw and the cherry glowed and as she pulled back she winked at me. 

“Thank you,” she breathed around the smoke and I couldn’t remember the response, decades of polite conversation guidelines gone in one second, 

but, no, I wouldn’t try to tell you it was poetic, or momentous, it was just a normal, ordinary, every day type of life-altering instance, boy meets girl, girl smiles, 

boy forgets how to do the thing, with the words and the voice, that thing. 

I couldn’t ask you to believe that love can really happen in a moment, at&first&sight. You’ve read the stories and you’ve seen real life and there’s no chance that you would take my story as something real. 

The light through the window fell only and directly on her mouth, and I had to kiss her, and I knew I loved her when she said “Hi” and I knew that she loved me when I smiled, I knew that I could have asked her to go with me, for coffee, for a beer, for a wedding, for a lifetime, after three seconds. 

I’m not asking you to believe this and hope that you’ll find that kind of connection. 

Sixteen years and ten months later she sits next to me as I write of that moment, and I’ll read this to her as soon as I am finished. 

I don’t need you to accept these words. 

She did. 

Unicorn Poop

   

When I started sharing the things I write, I had a lot to say. I would write four or seven or nine pieces a day, and at least three times a week I was discovering new parts of myself. 

I haven’t been writing as much since my sister died. 

I’ve been contemplating the balance of life. My sister was so many things to me, and so many parts of my memory are wrapped around her. In a lot of ways I worshiped her, as boys worship their mother. She was the protector, the teacher, the nurturing presence in my life. 

In a lot of ways I was angry at her, I still am. She had so much that others never get and she threw it away. She was capable of so much more than she did. She killed a lot of dreams, mostly her own. 

I saw her as a unicorn. Magical, impossible to capture, perfect. 

I was blind to the way she saw herself. 

There are lots of differing opinions about self-image. Some say that the way one perceives their self is irrelevant, some say it’s everything. 

I say that self-image can be heaven or hell, and it can change at any time. 

My sister was horribly abused and it twisted her life. My sister was wonderfully gifted and it was beautiful. 

She was a unicorn. She also had flaws. 

I married the love of my life. It was not easy, it wasn’t fated. I had to make it happen, she had to make it happen. We spent a long time apart before we were lucky enough to get it right. 

We each turned down other opportunities, we each tried other paths. We had lives apart and we have histories, separately. 

My wife is a unicorn. I am a unicorn. 

We have flaws. We have magic. We have damage. We have healing. We are devoted to our WE. We are human and we have wandering minds… We’ve both held fantasies that bring jealousy, territorialism into play. 

Balance in life doesn’t mean equality, justice, it doesn’t mean everything works out for everyone. 

Balance is the eye of the storm. All of life rages, all of life has pain or healing. All of humanity has the capability to be awful or amazing. 

I had some of the best parts of my sister. 

I saw some of the worst parts of her. 

I have most of the best parts of my wife. 

She has most of the best parts of me. 

What I have come to realize, about my sister, my wife, myself, all of the pieces of glorious magical humanity that live in my view, is that unicorns shit. 

Magical, perfect fairytale beings, out there making miracles, shitting just like other animals. 

Worship as you will, see the magic. 

Understand that flaws are present in every person. Don’t just say that you accept the flaws. Understand. Know that you have magic and you have flaws. 

My sister is dead, my wife is a person, I am a jerk sometimes. 

Balance is the eye of the storm, and remembering the wind. 

This Is What You’ll Say

I am three months and a week from my fortieth birthday and I miss my mom. 

I am the father of three crazy, beautiful, intelligent boys and I miss my grandmother. 

I am living a love story with a girl I met when I was eight years old and I miss my sister. 

I am working on being able to reconnect with my daughter and I miss my daughter. 

The other night I was talking with my wife about dying. It’s not unusual to do this, we have had rough lives and her mom died a month ago. She and I have a deep understanding of the temporary state of life and, honestly, sometimes life is rough enough for us that we each consider that it would be easier to end. 

I’m not going to kill myself. My wife isn’t going to kill herself. 

We talk. We argue. We cry together, sometimes. We care about each other, and because we each have some self-loathing we usually care more about each other than we do for ourselves. 

Sorry… I get sidetracked. 

So we’re talking, lying in bed, and I ask, 

“What will you say to the kids if I die?” 

She starts to say that she’ll tell them I loved them and they’ll get through it, and they-

“No.” I said, “What will you say to Aidan?”

Aidan is our six-year-old hurricane. He is overly emotional (like me), he is overly intellectual for his age (like I was), he is and has been over-the-top expressive and reactive to everything, all the time (like me). 

I am the only one he will listen to. I am the lifeline that pulls him in when he is flailing. I am his hope, because he knows I understand him. I am his, and he is mine and we both know that we need each other. 

So I asked my wife, “What will you tell Aidan?” 

She doesn’t know. She made me promise not to kill myself, she’s convinced that if I died she will wither up like a tomato plant in Fresno during August (it’s hot).

She doesn’t know how to get through Aidan’s maze. He doesn’t know how to interact with her. She loves him as fiercely as she can, and he loves her as insanely as any boy has loved his mother, and they clash. Two storms fighting for control, and they usually both end up very upset. 

Sorry… I digress. 

What would she say to him? 

Daddy died and now you have to figure things out yourself. All the chaotic emotion raging through your mind are now yours alone, the only one that knows the way through is gone. 

So here I am, just in case. 

Aidan, if it’s time for you to read this, then I’m not coming home. I’m sorry. 

I need you to know so many things that I didn’t get a chance to tell you. I have all of these dreams for you, so many hopes and ideas of how you will live. 

I can’t start telling you those, for two reasons. First, if I start, I’ll never stop. Second, my dreams for you aren’t big enough for you. 

You’re going to make mistakes. You will do things the wrong way. This is a necessity. Doing things the right way doesn’t teach you much, if anything at all. Don’t be afraid of being wrong. You will get stronger, smarter, better because you won’t want to do things wrong over and over. Do your best when you can. Just do… Don’t let fear of failure stop you from trying. 

I don’t regret anything I’ve done. My only regrets are things I didn’t do. Things I didn’t say. Chances I was too scared to take. Be better than that. 

Don’t let anger be your go-to reaction. Your emotions make you angry, not getting your way makes you angry, being sad or being tired or being hungry or being bored or being ignored or embarrassed or basically everything except music and candy make you angry and I’m telling you in absolute terms, this is going to hurt you. Learn to let anger slide past while your other emotions load up. If your reaction is sadness, be sad. If you’re embarrassed, smile and laugh because it makes embarrassment go away. If you’re going to be angry all of the time, you will make your life so much harder than it needs to be. 

Enjoy the little things, and chase the big things. Little joys are where happiness lives. Eat the cookie. Play the game. Laugh at the stupid joke. You can’t focus only on the big Happy. 

Set goals and work for them. You need a direction and it needs to be your choice. Find the thing that makes your heart beat faster, the thing that makes your brain feel like fire, and just do that. Act, sing, dance, create, do whatever makes you, you. Don’t get so caught up in comfortable happiness that you lose track of your path. 

Be prepared for things to hurt you but don’t worry about the hurt before it comes. You will always recover and the things that hurt deserve to hurt. 

When you love someone, all you can do is give that person your love and hope. You can’t make them into what you want them to be, you don’t get to choose who they are or how they will love you. You can decide what you will allow but you cannot make people give you what you need. 

Sleep when you’re tired, and when you wake up, get up. Don’t lay around doing nothing. It makes your mind stagnant. 

Eat when you’re hungry and when you feel you’ve had enough, stop. 

When you miss me, remember me. Think of the times we shared. Think about my smile, my laugh, my voice talking to you. Think about the way we connected. Remember the things about me that make you feel good, loved, special.

Because you are good. 

Because you are loved. 

Because you are special. 

Don’t ever, not for one moment, believe that I am gone. I am right here, thinking of you. You’re asleep and your brothers and Mom are sleeping, and it’s quiet. I’m thinking of you, and my heart is wrapped around you, and I will always be right here in this moment. 

Can you see me, son? I’m smiling, and loving you, and I will be, 

always. 

In Difference


I don’t know you. 

There’s no cheat sheet for life. We each get our own instruction manual when we’re born, but it’s written in a language we have to learn. 

I can remember a story about a boy, he grew into me. That memory is meaningless in my life, despite being the only foundation I have to define myself. 

What I know of myself today is that I am capable of things I never expected. I am talented and strong. I am expressive and openly emotional. 

Those few things don’t define me. 

I am mid-way through a life expectancy, and I have yet to figure out how I belong in my own life, beyond a very strong attachment to my current situation. 

I choose to let my emotional reactions to experiences be the prow of my ship. I cut the waters of my journey with how I feel. I direct my path by what feels right to me. 

I am secure in this choice. It suits me. 

I have been faced with opposition to my choice for as long as I have existed. Close or distant, family or friends, I have been told how wrong I am, over and over. 

I have not, I will not allow anyone else to choose my path. 

My path must be travelled by my feet. Nobody else is required to live my life. 

I don’t know you, and I don’t know how you have chosen, and with all due respect, 

I don’t give a damn what you choose. 

Your choices may impact my life. 

Mine might impact yours. 

We are not solitary islands, separated by oceans. We are interactive and interdependent in this reality. We are pieces of a global machine. 

My choices will be mine, and yours will be yours, and that is just fine with me. 

So give me your indifference, in this difference. 

We have our own lives to fuck up. 

One Poor Correspondent

Isolated is not a good way to be. 

Asking for reassurance from friends, I got some really wonderful feels. 

I matter, even if I can’t see it all the time. 

A poem is not just words, it’s the condensed emotions pressing into a mind through phrases that mean more than they say, it’s a slice of a soul given without a price and received without boundary. 

A poet is not just someone that writes poems… It takes a deeper disturbance in the mind. 

I don’t call myself a poet. 

I am disturbed. I am damaged. I am paying attention to every goddamned word and feeling and eye-flutter. I am reading tea leaves and watching the wind play with flower petals. 

I am trying to write a life, here. 

I am trying to feel everything. 

I am hurting myself on purpose, for the sake of…

Poetry? 

I am colossally fuckered up, in here. 

I appreciate how I seem to others. 

I am thankful for the love that floods my life, the tide that lifts all boats. 

I am also suffering greatly, for loving what has been lost. For losing what has been loved. For living a true life, and caring about the moments. 

I am also suffering from too little sleep and too much stress. 

I’ll be here, 

Even if I say goodbye. 

I promise.