The Historically Bothersome Butterfly

I don’t remember when it was, but whenever it was, I watched the movie Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The Moss was there. Must have been last year. Anyway, the movie begins with the lowdown on the crisis: A meteor is on a collision course with Earth, and this time Bruce Willis couldn’t save us. Or at least I like to imagine it was Bruce Willis. The film didn’t specify. So, the meteor is coming, and we’re doomed. Nothing can be done. There are no superheroes coming to the rescue, no amount of scientific trickery to call upon, or no word from God to pacify the internal need to know that humanity must live on. Just The End.

To my great surprise, I found myself overwhelmed by a feeling of peace. Of happiness. Of relief that, just like that, life could end. No more struggle, no more anxiety, no more stress, no more self-doubt. I could take hold of the trusty eraser and wipe the Board of Life clean.

I think, somewhere in there, the shock overtook me. I mean, obviously, this wasn’t really happening. I knew that. But I had never before had such an overwhelming joy at the thought of it all being over. To know that I could finally put down my weapons, my gear, dust myself off and breathe a hearty sigh of relief. It stunned me. I’m not sure I can recall the first thirty minutes of the movie. Then again, I’m not sure I can bring myself to watch it once more to find out. I don’t want to feel what I felt again because I liked it so much.

Allow an injection here, if you will. I’m not suicidal. Though I’ve contemplated the end many times in my life–several since that moment watching the movie in fact–I have no desire to end my life. It’s not a choice I could make, or one I am willing to make. Much like murder, I suppose. I trap insects and set them free for a reason. I say this only because I don’t want the thought or fear for my well-being to intervene in what may or may not be a casual read. I’ll die when I die. Not a day earlier. I’m fine with this. I do actually enjoy living, after all.

I spent a great deal of time internalizing that moment, trying to determine what it meant. All I can deduce is it meant I’m not at all happy with my life, or my place in it. Maybe that’s a stretch. Maybe it’s dead-on. I don’t know. However, it led me to a simple question I can’t shake. Where did it all go wrong?

I can remember a great deal from my childhood. More vividly than is ultimately helpful, it would seem. I remember this kid:

The Sonny's BBQ Padres, age 12.

The Sonny’s BBQ Padres, age 12.

I remember walking to my games. I remember playing them. I remember moments in the field, pitches I saw, the final scores. The first season I played, I fouled off exactly one pitch. One. I swung and missed at everything else. By age 12, I was clinking balls all over the field, one of the best bats on the team. Something happened between age 10 and 12 that changed everything I was as a baseball player. I think it was me. I happened. I practiced, I played all year with my cousin, I watched the Braves on TBS every day. And it clicked. I made a conscious decision to be better, and I became so. And as the years passed, I got even better. I probably could have kept going, made something of it, but in tenth grade I grew eight inches, turning me into a gangly all arms-and-legs buffoon with the coordination of butter. My skill set suffered and I quit. I could have taken the coach’s advice, worked out to get my body back in line with my growth, and likely found myself right back where I was. But I didn’t. And I’ll be damned if I can remember why. Or how I did it without feeling loss, or pain, or regret. I could have simply walked into another room for all the difference I felt.

It could very well be that writing finally found a grip where it couldn’t before, my focus on becoming a writer of substance narrowing my vision enough to allow the loss of a true passion. Yet, instead of seeing the more traditional path of the writer–in the modern sense that is–and furthering my education, building credentials through said schooling or articles or what have you’s, I chose to bypass college and travel. To see more of America than I had seen. To pour my soul into writing without the interference of an instructor’s voice. And, honestly, because I hated school. I didn’t want to endure any more years of study. Not institutional study any way. I wanted to learn. I just wanted to do it on my own terms. I made this choice without any hesitation or doubt. Into another room I went.

I met a girl when I was twenty-four. Exactly twenty-four, as it happened. At the time I was steeped in church, looking for answers to life’s myriad questions. She had just moved into town. We sat next to each other. We laughed. Emboldened by my favorite celebratory day of the year, I was exceptionally charming. So much so that, though she was away the remainder of the summer, I left a favorable impression she couldn’t shake. Several months later she surprised me at work with an invitation to her birthday party. Well, not a party so much as a dinner celebrating such in which her mother played a prominent eye-cutting presence. A few months passed and a romance blossomed. A proposal happened. A year and half later, I had a house, a wife, two dogs, a cat, and the distinct feeling that everything in my life was coming into focus. Then something happened. I think, looking back, it was me that happened. She had health concerns, sure, and they taxed me physically and emotionally (not to diminish her own suffering), and brought stress into our marriage, but it wasn’t really the cause. Religion became an issue, as I had begun to question my devotion to the church life, and to Christianity. This was a problem, but as the judge in divorce court would later say, plenty of couples of diverse faith co-exist. It could have been surmountable, I suppose. There were arguments about where things were going. Attempts to rectify what had been lost. But I admit to being horrible at articulating what bothers me at any given moment and loathe to cite minor problems when they happen in exchange for accumulating them and dropping them all at once in a twisted jumble of “what?” Which never goes over well. Then one day I just decided I was done. Just like that, it was over. I gathered what belongings I could carry and left the state. My home, my marriage, my life in that backwards, sleepy, little town, gone. Poof. And when the divorce was done, my move final, and my hands washed clean? Yeah, I just let it go. Moved on. Didn’t give one thought as to whether or not I made the right choice. Yet another room.

You know what? This happened AGAIN.

The factors were different, and the pressures of life much greater, but almost ten years from the time I met wife #1, I met wife #2. As before, there was a very brief courtship. Three months to be exact. And we were married. I can’t front the blame alone, ultimately, for the failure of this one, but end it did, and when it was over I was glad for it. I moved on. This happened near the time I lost my business. I’ve detailed it before, and there’s really no point in doing so again; but there’s definitely a parallel. I never considered the full spectrum of owning a business and what it took to run one. I just did it. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t take people down with me. Which is, perhaps, one room I didn’t blithely pass into. I don’t like bringing people pain or suffering. I don’t even like upsetting them. I just seem to somehow. By way of decision or circumstance, I have left a nice little row of destruction along the way. People I still love and care for, and I can do nothing to correct this wrong. I can do nothing to alter the choices I made.

These are mere examples, mind you. I have many more. Places in my life where I made decisions that now confound me, and leave me wondering what would have happened if I chose otherwise. I’m sure I’m not alone in this phenomena, but I only have my eyes to weigh them against. Only have my expectations. My dreams.

From that fateful day I left baseball forever, I’ve wanted to be a writer. No, a published author. No, a successfully published author. I do have two books published, which is nice. Good books. Not great, but good. Entertaining and fun. They were received well, which is something. I have a great children’s story I haven’t found a home for, and a few other stories I’m working on I believe could also be great. I’ve worked hard to become what I am as a writer. Same as I did as that kid who couldn’t hit. But there have been no breakthroughs. No a-ha moments of career-altering discovery. Instead, I place myself in the company, by work or network, with writers who have achieved my dream on their behalf. It’s infuriating. And depressing.

It may occur to you that there is no exact cohesion here. You would be correct. I’m just taking out garbage I’ve had a touch too long and hoping not to hit you over the head with the bag.

I used to be more active on Facebook and Twitter, but I’ve backed off because I don’t want to let everyone know how terribly unhappy I am with my life. I have the Moss, and she’s well worth bragging about (and an incredibly talented photographer at that), but what do I have otherwise? Just struggle and frustration, disappointment and despair. One bad decision after another, with a few good ones sprinkles in for taste. I’m not where I want to be in life, so I don’t talk about it because I don’t want everyone else to know I’m not where I want to be. I want to see the light, to feel the hope, to know that everything I’ve been through–whether by my own hand or not–will be worth it. My break is just ahead. My time.

But it hasn’t happened. Maybe that’s why I felt the way I did watching that movie. I’m tired. Losing hope. Losing faith that all the decisions I have made were made with a singular purpose in fate. And so I spend far too much time analyzing a life’s worth of decisions, wondering which of them would unravel the tapestry too much, which would incite the butterfly to flap a typhoon into my future. Then again, I can’t evade the sensation there’s a typhoon here already. What that I have would I be willing to lose in order to gain what I want but can’t seem to receive?

It’s a fruitless quest, searching for an answer like that. Regret is a pain in the ass. It will always be a pain in the ass. I remain steadfast that life has a purpose. Nothing is random. I lost a bookstore but gained a publisher and the Moss because of it. I haven’t rejoined the published world, but I’ve written in that time and improved dramatically. I don’t have what I want now, but maybe I need to have nothing in order to fully appreciate what I will have later.

I’ve never been one to prattle about me. I don’t spell out my woes to anyone other than family, or the Moss. I don’t pretend my life is great, but I don’t allow for sharing that it is not. I like to laugh. I just find it hard to do that these days.

I can’t deny that news reports of a meteor bringing about an Extinction Level Event would pacify me greatly. Not because I want all of you to die, but because knowing the end is at hand would allow me to once and for all let go of every disappointing decision I’ve ever made. Then again, maybe I can just whip out the scissors and cut loose all the rattling cans I drag behind me. More decisions.

Of course I’ll accept good news, in any form instead.

That would help.

The Little Bookstore That Couldn’t

The great thing about having a blog is I can damn well write whatever I want, and you can’t stop me. It’s glorious. If I want to talk about the redemptive quality of reanimated sidewalk-fried worms, I can. It won’t be interesting, but there you have it. I could talk endlessly about all the stupid things I’ve done in my life–and let it be known that I will–and all you can do is groan and tune it out, maybe grumble aloud about how annoying I am. But it will still exist. I can tell you that my dog is stretched over the edge of the couch right now, pining for the Moss to come home, looking like every ounce of hope has drained from her furry little frame, and no matter how that makes you feel, it’s written, done, the webbernuts will keep it forever. You can’t stop me.

And so, I get to do this:

On March 1st, 2009, Wordsmiths Books closed its doors, bringing to an end its short run, leaving behind but memories and a good bit of favorable view. Five years. It’s difficult to believe it’s been that long. Each year I’ve spent a little time on that anniversary offering thoughts, pictures, memories of the little bookstore that couldn’t. I’ve done this because I needed to. I’ve done this because, like a lost loved one, I wasn’t ready to let go. However, time has a way of mending the wound, leaving but scars as gentle reminders of what once was. And we move on.

I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to let go of all the things I might have been able to do to prevent that store from closing. From watching my bookstore family splinter and move on (with one notable exception). From haunting my dreams, nudging my guilt over those who lost money in the process, from tapping that nail ever so slightly into my heart day after day after day. Much like any endeavor in life, there is enough regret to fill a canyon. But that doesn’t change the outcome.

Which brings me to the purpose of this entry. I’m a couple days late on starting, due in part to the final grip of reluctance holding me back, so I’ll make up for it over the next couple days. What I’m going to do is post a picture, with a quick thought or two of the moment, each day until March 1st. I’m culling through the mountain of images that remain, and I apologize to any of you who may not want to be included in an image, or may not consider it the best you’ve had. These images are special to me, and, to that end, I’m not hunting for perfection. Only painful emotions attached to those memories that I can finally put to rest.

If you visited Wordsmiths, then thank you. If you did not, I’m sorry I couldn’t keep it around long enough. To those who wish, I invite you to leave your thoughts, here, on Facebook, or even Twitter (or all). I’d love to hear it.

This is me letting go, in the only way I know how to do it.

The first image is as first image as a first image can get, and requires the simplest of explanations. On June 15th, 2007, Wordsmiths Books opened its doors for the first time. I remember that day well, and I remember this moment like it just happened. I had a lot of hope then. I believed in the idea, and I believed in my staff. I had maneuvered through a great deal of political whooseywhatsit just to get to this point. Regardless of what I might have done different, it is, as my father would call it, a watermark day.

June 14th, 2007, I opened the door to the public for the first time.

June 15th, 2007, I opened the door to the public for the first time.

If You Don’t Put Music To It, It Isn’t a Song Now, Is It? (or Bueno Moss)

In a sort of follow-up-that-isn’t to my previous post regarding fear and it’s unmistakable grip over my life decisions, I felt the self-indulgent need to showcase the one, and most singular, part of my life that brings me no fear whatsoever. So, in a way, this post could simply be called, “An Ode to Katie, a.k.a The Moss, a.k.a Cricket, a.k.a Pretty Lady, a.k.a Mops, a.k.a My Fiancée and Partner in Cheese, Because She’s the Most Awesome Woman on the Face of the Planet Don’t Bother to Argue Because You Can’t Win.” Which, now that I look at it, is not a simple title at all. Still, it reflects my sentiments well, even if the title I chose reflects her better.

The Moss

The Moss, a.k.a Cricket, a.k.a Pretty Lady, a.k.a Mops, a.k.a My Fiancée and Partner in Cheese.

Writers speak often of a muse. Granted, they tend to do so in the abstract, as an ethereal entity they may speak to, but hopefully never claim to see. After all, we’re already crazy; no need to offer genuine ammunition to the case. However, the Moss is my muse. She is my inspiration. She is the storage of insanity I just didn’t have room for in my crowded head. I’m an introvert, so it’s often difficult to step out of my brain long enough to use my Big Boy Words–you know, the ones that relate to emotional states of being and how important others are to me. It isn’t that I’m only capable of expression in writing, or that I’m not obsessively thinking about my feelings at any given moment, it’s just I do a piss poor job of talking about it, and that far too much is left unsaid. So, in my continued efforts to thwart the fear of just about anything, I want to spend a few moments talking about this lovely woman and what she means to me. You see, the fact of the matter is that I’m in love with the Moss in ways I never knew possible, and the mere thought–just a hint of the idea–that she might not be there when I wake up leaves me utterly heartbroken. After nearly three years together (in one month in fact!), she’s as much a part of me as a limb.

Which is probably not the best way to describe it. So, while I think of something better, here’s a distraction! Just lookit:

Killing spiders is only acceptable if you get cookies for it.

Killing spiders is only acceptable if you get cookies for it.

If you’ve had the privilege of getting to know the Moss, you will understand what I mean when I say I was confident I knew what humor was until I met her. Her brain works in ways I cannot entirely comprehend, which I find both endearing and deeply fascinating. I mean, she’s gorgeous–let’s just get that out there so we can all nod our heads and be amazed at my good fortune–she’s an uber creative and talented photographer, she has the singing voice of a six-year-old, she’s supportive, kind and loving, and her brain comes up with things like this:

We all have our fantasies, even if they're weird.

We all have our fantasies, even if their weird.

As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve not had the best of fortunes in the relationship game. To a great degree, that history left me timid and (after the most recent one) uncertain as to whether I would ever date again. But you don’t get to know the Moss and then want to be away from her. You just don’t. I’m still baffled she was available at all. WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE NUTS? I mean, thanks and all, but wow. I had no idea, when first we started hanging out, that anything would develop. We’d already known each other for three years, which was weird enough. I’ve never been friends with a girl BEFORE dating her. Novel concept, knowing someone before getting serious.  Who knew? But I was already aware she was a special one. Perhaps that’s why I leaped at the opportunity just to meet up for coffee. Before long, I found myself taken by her quirkiness, her off beat humor, the way she leaves messages like this:

Carrot sticks up nose > bitchy customers

In case you missed it, the formula goes thusly: Carrot sticks up nose > bitchy customers

And that’s why I felt the absolute need to marry her. Not out of the need for ceremony, or importance of the legality of a notarized union, or the idea that one is simply not whole without being somebody’s husband or wife; but because she is one of the best friends a partner could know, I can’t imagine life without her, and no words can adequately state “I want to be with you forever” better than “Will you marry me?”. I have never feared her rejection, nor have I ever had to doubt her devotion. Most importantly, the first Fur Baby, Maggie, took to her as if she’s always loved her anyway, so why not? And, for those with babies–fur or unfurred–it’s vitally important they take to the new person in your life. It didn’t hurt that the Moss came with a camera. Maggie’s a bit of a camera whore, in case you didn’t know. With the blessings of a somewhat moody yet oppressively vain cat, you kind of have to ensure they stay around, right? Also, if they like to buy you presents, there’s no reason to consider a life without them.

It isn't really a problem if you don't acknowledge it, right?

It isn’t really a problem if you don’t acknowledge it, right?

No matter the motivation behind it.

I’ve heard so many sentiments on meeting the Right Person, I can’t even remember more than a few. ‘Soulmate’ comes to mind. That one’s thrown around a lot. “It’s like meeting a mirror reflection of yourself” is another I recall, and still bothers me. So I want to marry myself? Why do I need someone else? I don’t even like mirrors! What does that say about my chances? Me, however … I guess I like to think of us all as pieces of the same puzzle. Sometimes we try to force pieces together because we’re absolutely certain they match, then we have to try to pry them back apart without destroying the edges of the pretty picture of life we’re trying to piece together. Other times, you see the pieces that go together, pair them up and move them aside because, well, duh, we all knew those matched. Then you have the ones you weren’t sure about, but give you no fight, slide surprisingly easy into place, and take a visible place in your periphery because you’re quite proud of yourself for noting it. Pieces merge, then group with others, then begin to form the whole. I don’t know what the Moss and I are in the puzzle equation–I like to believe the latter–but I know I’m proud of it. Proud of her. Proud to be displayed as part of this union. I’m damn fortunate, really, and I’m well aware. If Karma is a real thing, then she’s a significant pay off for the good I’ve offered up over the years.

If that isn’t enough, there’s always this:

What? They aren't eating it.

What? They aren’t eating it.

Everyone who gets to know the Moss loves her. But I get to keep her. I get to come home to her. I get to write about her, share ideas with her, listen to her silly silly songs, and concoct awesome adventures for our future. A future that doesn’t scare me. A future that is going to be a bit crazy in that way normality can never dare to offer. A future that is easily the best thing I’ll ever have.

I love my pretty lady.