It’s not the pain you’re afraid of.
It’s not the tragedies.
It’s not the outcomes either.
All of them are predictable.
After a while, the pain makes sense. Throughout time, you become comfortable in your discomforts because at least these things make sense.
So you breathe . . .
. . . you breathe because breathing
is the one thing
no one can stop you from doing
You breathe because
your breath is your proof
It’s the one thing that says,
“You’re still alive. Now go”
Your breath is your proof
This means you haven’t stopped
This means you have life in you
no matter what is said or done— just breathe
because your breath is the one thing
no one can steal
I received a call on a Monday night from a nurse about my Mother. I was at work at the time. I was on an overtime shift. I was tired in every sense of the word. My mind was tired. My body was tired and so was my soul. I had life things going on. I had responsibilities that needed my attention and list of bills that needed to be paid. Work was busy and life was busy. Everything was busy at the time.
I was at the tail end of a crazy night.
All of the powder was nearly gone and my usual running partner was missing for some reason. This had altered my usual routine. Instead of commiserating with my partner, I found myself home alone with a substantially large amount of cocaine that was either shoved up my nose or cooked and smoked in a glass-tube pipe. This was early summer, 1989.
June if I’m not mistaken.
There are two branches of government here. The first branch is anxiety and the second is Panic. The two interact.
They create a sensory overload and mental chaos. The chest tightens, and it’s hard to breathe.
The heart races like a thousand angry horses, charging fast, and you can’t escape. You can’t get away.
Suddenly, it’s like the whole goddamned world is closing in on you, which becomes more frightening because you are vulnerable; you scream or you cry, and more than anything, you just want to jump out of your own skin. More than anything, you want everything to stop so you can calm down. The only problem is the harder you try to recover, the worse the symptoms become.
The hardest thing was to sit in a classroom and see everyone with their eyes on their paper, pencil swirling around from the tops of their hands as the other students wrote their answers—but me, even the so-called simple problems were far from simple.
Nothing was simple to me. I could never grasp the lessons. I had no understanding of what I was doing. I needed help but I never knew how to ask.
Besides, kids that needed help were seen as “Kids that needed help.” And me, I didn’t want to be that kid. I never wanted to be that kid. I never wanted to be pointed out because I was “Special,” or taken to a different classroom and segregated because I had a learning disability.
I have been walking around the city for decades now. I see different people from different places doing different things. I see the changes we’ve made as a society and the changes I’ve made within me. I see the Kamikaze taxis weave down the avenues and watch the mindless tourists along 42nd. St with their eyes wide open, looking up, and totally amazed by the tall building and the lights from Times Square.
The depth of
my commitment equals the level of my success. I know I have said this before.
And I say this again because it is true. Success and achievement are always
equal to our level of dedication. There is no compromise or easy way out.
If you want
something then you have to go all the way. There is no halfway or half
throttle. There is only forward. No reverse.
There was a time that seems so long ago.We were young and we used to do things outside. We were free to live and free to be kids. More importantly, we were free to explore. We were free to play, which above all was our best freedom ever.
There has to be a way to overcome.
There has to be a way to get away from the thought process.
There has to be a way to feel better.
There just has to be a way but you just can’t find it—
and since you can’t find it, you can’t believe it.
There I was
. . .
lost in a field of tall grass
I was out of my head
and drifted in a field that stretched
beyond anything I could ever imagine
So with nowhere else to go,
I sat for a while
and slipped into the warm cocoon
of an afternoon rush
A man threw a stone inside his glass house yesterday.
He stood around for hours, wondering where the draft came from.
But me . . .
I applauded his abilities to make matters worse.
I laugh because we live in a world of pots and kettles. Everyone points. Everyone wants someone to blame.
And why not blame someone else, right?
I mean, why be accountable (If you can void it) am I right?
Did I ever tell you why I like the rain?
The reason comes from a memory I have from when I was a small boy. The Old Man was in the backyard trying to build a shed. It was the kind of day when I could tell The Old Man had something on his mind. He was quiet in times like this. His eyebrows crunched downward and his head pushed forward.
I was somewhere around 19 when I landed my first the first suit and tie job. I was an entry-level salesman in the garment business. And when I say entry-level, I mean the I was at the lowest of the low of the industry.
I sold identification items, which, in less-than-fancy terms are the little labels sewn in the collar that irritate the back of your neck. This was my first real job. Although the item was necessary, it was still at the bottom of the priority list. I pitched the production managers garment manufacturers to sell them and create a new relationship, which was tough at best.
There are things I believe in life and I believe them, not because I was told to but because I have found them to be true. I believe music is essential. I think at one point, everyone needs to dance or at least drive a long drive with the windows down and the volume to a favorite song turned all the way up. I think we need to scream the lyrics in our best out-of-tune pitch.
Back as a kid, The Old Man used to have a Ford, Mustang fastback. He told us sometimes, you just have to open up the gas and let her rip. I feel this way too. Sometimes, we just need to open up and belt out a scream. Sometimes, we need to know we’re alive.
It all begins now—
It starts right now, as if today is the first day of the rest of your life.
In a short
while, I am going to bundle up and put on sweats, a hat, pull up my head, and
then I will step out into the January air and walk the hills in my town. I will
look at the scene around me and take in the first fresh breath of the year. And
then it all begins . . .
It was a year later and The Old Man was gone. Mom decided to take us all on a trip to Beaver Creek, Colorado for ten days. This was before Dave and Lisa were married.
I was only home for a few months. I was back from the farm in late September and still re-acclimating to the regular world. There rules from the farm were a thing of the past. I was free to listen to music or go out or eat whenever I chose. I was free to do several things; however, I was still adjusting to the change in my surrounding.
On the way
in, I never knew what to expect. Each trip was different and nothing was ever guaranteed.
But this was part of the ritual. This was part of the rush and part of getting
high. There was the act itself and then there was the ritual that goes along
with it. This is the romantic part everyone relates to, which is the crazy
because the romance is not only poisonous —it’s also contagious.
Every so often, I go on a website that calculates days between then and now. For example, the other day, I was trying to figure out how many times I’ve experienced the sunrise in my life.
The answer today would be 16,901. This means I’ve been around for that many mornings. That’s 2414 weeks and 3 days, or 46 years, 3 months, and 9 days to be exact, which is strange because the numbers seem odd to me.
The dream takes place in one of my previous homes. It is early morning and at the birth of sunrise. I am standing at the front door on stoop of my old home at a place called Rowehl Drive.
Looking across from me is an old tree that stands in the section of grass that runs between the street and the sidewalk.
The tree is old, mainly empty of leaves, and partially dead but partially alive as well.
I used to see this old tree on a daily basis. I admired the tree. I depended upon it to be there, to stand there, and to remain there regardless to people and their opinions, and to endure there, regardless to the storms that came our way.
The problem isn’t the thought; the problem comes when thinking overwhelms the mind. Suddenly, the outside influences penetrate the mind. They seep in and infect the system. Next the defense mechanisms kick in. The fear takes hold and the survival machine moves into position.
The problem is not the thought. The problem is the outside has seeped inside. The problem is the uncontrollable sources of people places and things have taken hold. The problem is the uncontrollable has become in control and then the mind loses control.
I know you don’t know me very well, but I needed to at least try and get this message to you.
Somewhere, way up beyond your stars and past all the planets and all the galaxies is a place where I think about.
I dream of this place. It is someplace where all my lost toys are found. This is where my first dog lives.
Her name was Tammy. She died when I was only 7. Somewhere up there is a farm where my dog Sheba runs around. She was a big black lab. She plays in the field because she has so much room to run around and be free. I know this because when I was a little boy, Mom told me this is where Sheba went after she couldn’t live with us anymore.
to be a graffiti sprayed on a construction partition over on 46th
Street near Madison Avenue that said, “This moment is more precious than you
think.” I used to see this when I would drive in on Saturday mornings, earlier
than the sunrise, and I always noticed the words which hit home.
I swear we
take too much for granted. Take this day for example. Today is Christmas Eve.
Today marks the evening of a great day. This is a day of giving. This is a day
of family. This is a time when all are gathered together and trust me; this
moment is more precious than you think.
There is a
very real and very tough thing that happens when we think too much. Suddenly,
the world closes in and everyone can see or “Everyone knows,” those inner
secrets, everyone can see the pains, which are only apparent to us, and the
weakness is obvious, the thoughts are like poison, or more like cancerous, and
then the anxiety machine in our head spins into overdrive.
Just about an hour or so before sunrise and the rainfall has not let up. Safe to say that I am only on an hour of sleep. It is also safe to say that with the hour being what it is, it doesn’t look like I will sleep at all. But such is life, I guess.
The days are moving closer now and soon enough, the day will be here. Christmas Day. And now is the time for the last minute dashes to the stores. The lines are long and the shopping is certainly intense.
I once told you that sound is something that gives depth to our memory. Even the tiny memories from our youngest mind can be triggered by the sound of something familiar.
For example, I was too young to remember much, but my Grandmother had a bungalow somewhere upstate when I was very small.
I have tiny pictures of this in my head that I can only link to little fragments of memory, —but if ever I hear a small single engine airplane flying in the sky, somehow, I go back to this memory I have from that time in a large field with tall grass, the grass almost golden tan in color, topped with thistles, and half-bent and moving in the direction of the wind.
I associate this with the sound and feels of summer.
I associate this with warmth and although most of the details from that time are only fragments—the sound from a small plane reminds me of then. And I’m not sure why. I’m not sure what the significance is. I suppose this is what I heard at the time. I suppose that without the sound, this memory would only be two-dimensional. But add sound and the memory has a third dimension.
There is this thing we do to each other. And I’ve never been quite sure why. Maybe it’s just a thing. Maybe it’s just something we do, like a mental crutch, and we use this because we either lack the things to say or the ability to say them. But meanwhile, beneath the crutch are feelings and thoughts that remain trapped.
It was argued to me the other night that I was too young to claim that I know what it was like to have a tough time and I was too young and too inexperienced to understand what comes with real addiction. Maybe I didn’t lose enough or as much or lose the same way others did.
I ever tell you about the time I was used as a patsy?
There are things that we do as kids that go down in the record book as the craziest thing of all times.
There are things that happen during our young lives that we swear we wonder how we got away with it. In the same regard, there are things that happened, which our parents never found out about —and this was a good thing.
God bless him as he rests, The Old Man never knew the story I am about to tell you. In fact, he went to his grave believing that what I’m about to tell you went differently. So going forward, the details of what I am about to tell you will have to be kept between you and me.
I was never one to be able to describe my understanding of God, least of all, I never had that yearning to understand a man behind the pulpit, preaching The Word, and meanwhile, with religion being what it is and creating different forms of righteousness; I never felt a strong association with any religion.
If for no other reason, do it for yourself.
If for no other reason, stand up now while there’s time to make a change. Take a step forward.
Do it now before the excuses come.
Think about this . . .
If there was a way you could start your entire life over, what would be the first thing you would do?
What would you get rid of?
What would you keep and what would you leave exactly as it is?
I had just come down with a case of the flu. I felt the aches and pains in my legs and at the bottom of my back. Earlier, it was clear that I was not feeling well but I had no idea what was on its way.
In any case, I was out and about before the sickness took hold. We were a day away from Christmas and I headed out to hear my friend’s band play for a few hours.
After my visit home to see The Old Man at the hospital, I went back up to the farm and back to my routine. It was strange for me to be home again. It was strange because I was able to see what I was and able to see the remnants of what I had done. All around my rooms were tiny fragments of proof. It was uncomfortable to see my bedroom and realize the secrets, which I tried to keep. It was strange to feel regretful of me and my youth and strange to realize that yes, this was not a dream. It was all real. It was strange to see my mother and my brother.More than anything, it was strange to see The Old Man in the coronary care unit. I felt a switch in me— it was as though something was turned off or shut down.
There were two glass buildings that were twin-like and tall at the border of town between Hempstead Turnpike and Merrick on Earle Ovington Boulevard. These were the two tallest buildings in our town, except for the hospital and the other glass building on Earle Ovington. But come Christmas, the two glass buildings put up a huge Christmas tree right in the courtyard. There was also a small ice skating rink but I have no real memories of the skating rink. I remember the tree though. I remember wild teenage nights when we in the rebellious crowd took to the grounds around it, screaming out loud, and running around like the local maniacs we were.
We are moving towards a very special time of year with all the lights and all the holiday events. The songs play on the radio and the good ones that come on, which take me back to the days when I was young, are still the songs that take me back to different memories. I find them beautiful although in my age and though the time between then and now is distant, there is a sting with these memories, beautiful as they are, and painful in some way because these times will never be so again.
At the day job, I sometimes get projects that call for a parts list to be sure that I have what I need. And sometimes, I add extra parts, just in case I added short or I come across an unexpected turn.Either way, the idea of a parts list is to be sure that all items are covered.I collect what I need and compare this to my list and one by one, I check them off.
I had my share is what I thought to myself and then packed up my things and closed the door behind me. This was my last day, I thought to myself. This is the last time I would ever find myself at a place like this. It was enough for me to feel determined. I had finally found it within myself to move on. It was clear tome, however, that my fears would lurk behind me like a strange impending ghost,which I would always attribute to the tales of my insecurity and the wreckage of my past. I was young in most ways but too old in others. It was a fine time to be me, I suppose, although in fairness, I found the promise of my future and the benefit of my new beginning to be intimidating. There was no one around answer to. There was no more rules which I would be made to follow and no more counselors, no more reasons for meetings, no more trips to the hospital in an ambulance and no more suicide watches, no more doctors in white coats with clipboards and questions, and no more dish crews or sub par meals, cooked in a kitchen of an institution. No more bad coffee. No more room checks in the middle of the night and no more walks to the pond just down below the hill at the back of the property.
Back in the days when we used to live at 277 Merrick Avenue and whenever The Old Man felt old or whenever he felt the effects of his age, if he felt out of date or out of shape, The Old Man would take on big project in the house to prove to himself that he was still young and capable.
If he felt the outside world was unfair or whenever something emotionally painful happened, whenever something made him question himself as a man, like say, whether it was a family thing, a work thing, or anything that The Old man couldn’t fix, he would take on huge projects to prove to himself that he was still valid.
It was only a few minutes after they sat me down on a hard wooden bench when the realization set in. This was me. I was back in a place I never wanted to revisit.
I was handcuffed to a metal pie which ran beneath the bench and sat between two different types of drunks. To my right was a tall, thin, and lanky black man, feminine as could be and drunk, and complaining on a frequent basis that his handcuffs were on too tight. To my left was another man, heavyset and equally feminine, often echoing his co-defendants plea about his handcuffs being too tight. I was between them and when a brief pause of silence came to the scene, I quickly became aware of what I had done.
I was heading south down A1A with the moon-roof open, the windows down, the sea to my left and the land to my right. The town of Melbourne was behind me and Vero Beach was ahead. I was thinking of the world I knew and how much it had change.
I thought about the vastness of the sea and how I hoped that one day, I would find myself ocean bound, heading outwards into the mystic of turquoise blue with the warm sun above me, the canopy of a blue sky overhead, no clouds, no distraction, no emotion, except of course for the joy of my stillness, which is a sensation of warm content like the first touch of a summer breeze.
Going forward,I fully realize that resisting resistance with more resistance is not only draining,this is a losing battle.
And there is this thing,
this inescapable thing about her,
this thing she does,
which I cannot completely define or describe.
There isn’t much left out there now. There are no surprises anymore. More accurately, the secret, which the client thought was well-kept, was nothing less than obvious to the rest of the world. In times like this there are no places left to hide and all one can do is face the consequences of their actions.
Late at night and the rain is falling outside. I can tell this by the sound of the spattering droplets that crash against the skylight and stream down my rooftop.It is at times like this when I lay awake in the dark and think of how insomnia has struck again.
After the winter when the ground began to thaw, I felt a certain indescribable feeling, which came over me as the sun grew warmer. Finally, our side of the world moved closer towards the sun. It was springtime and there was a feeling that came over me, which was more like a sensation than anything else. The ground had thawed and the trees were turning green. The sky was blue with patches of white, pillowy clouds, and at last, the air was warm enough to shed the coats and jackets.
Although we never really spoke or met the way people usually meet or speak, and though you are not real or better yet, although you are me, or more accurately, you are the young me, you are the unresolved me and the emotions which revolve within me, I am writing this to relieve you of some things, which you gripped too tightly and held for too long.
The way to achieve is to work towards your goal. And this won’t always be easy. You have to step in all the way. Day in and day out, you train each day to be better.This is how you learn to overcome obstacles. Nothing of true value comes easy. Not at all, in fact, real dreams take effort; they take time and dedication as well as pain and sweat.
I was sitting in a break room the first time I learned that one of my stories was about to be published. I was several hours deep into my midweek grind, tired and dirty, and making my way through my blue collar life. I made a choice to dedicate a special moment each day and every day to this thing I call my art. And every day, I would sit and write about one thing or another. I would never write about the same thing twice because as an exercise, I made sure to switch my topics, which was challenging at times because the mind is naturally swayed by compliments. Therefore, I had to remove myself from the comment section and the messages I received on my blog.
I understand there are rules in place. I understand there are reasons for this. There are laws in our society and laws of nature. There are laws set upon us by government and other personal laws, which we follow because we are taught them. I know that laws are put into pace to prevent chaos and mayhem.
Every so often, I think it is necessary to have the letter of the law rest for a moment. This is not to live lawless or to be defiant of the rules in place, but more, every so often the spirit should be allowed a moment of reprieve. Every so often, the soul needs a chance to scream and shout and run and play, like children do . . . remember?
In my briefest way, I tell you this
The best sounds are quiet sounds. Like the sound of a baby’s breathing while sleeping on her father’s shoulder as he hold his child. Or maybe the best is the sound of your loved one sleeping next to you, which is virtually soundless, but yet in your heart, you can literally hear everything in the world.
The best sounds are the sounds of your loved one’s laugh because I swear this beats any antidepressant. This beats any drug because when she laughs, suddenly; all the world suspends for a minute and nothing else exists. Others may look and stare,but who cares because when she laughs (I swear) there is nothing else in the world quite like it