Did I ever tell you about the time my Father swam in the Senior Olympics?
He competed in a few different races. I’m pretty sure he competed in the freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke but not the butterfly. He said he loved to swim the butterfly stroke but his breathing wasn’t right for competition.
The Old Man slimmed down and practiced. He trained hard. But more, this was something The Old Man did to prevent from feeling old.
Feeling old was rough for him. The idea of age was rough. I could tell when the ideas of age were creeping in on him. I could tell when The Old Man started to feel the vulnerabilities of age or better yet, I could tell when he had the fears of growing old or being incapable.
In his drive to remain valid, The Old Man refused to lay back. There were times when I’d wonder if he was able to relax and enjoy the scene. Then again, do I?
I remember the morning of a race. The sky was overcast and the morning was humid and thick. We were out of town. I’m not sure exactly where. My memories lead me to think we were somewhere in Pennsylvania.
There was a strange mist in the air. Maybe this was only me. Maybe this was a young view that has been altered by mood and memory or emotion and the distance of time. In fact, in my mind’s eye, I see this as if it were a slow motion scene in a film. Smokey in the background.
My Father was standing by the pool. The look of intensity upon his face was clear and apparent. His eyebrows folded downwards. His eyes fixed on the pool and the others around him were people of age, all seniors, competitors and about to race against him.
I don’t think my Father was racing for the same reasons as anyone else. At least it didn’t seem this way. He was racing to be valid. He was racing because to him, this meant that he could defy his age or perhaps defy the narrative in his own mind. He needed to destroy his own thinking, which looking at this in hindsight, I understand.
I get it.
I understand the idea that somehow life is slipping away. I understand the thoughts that come in search of validation. This isn’t something that can come from another person. No, validation like this can only come from production or creation. Rather than words, my Father needed visceral proof. He needed to build this and to touch it. He needed to feel the blood and guts of this creation so that he could prove to himself that this was real. Also, he needed something to focus upon. He needed to either create or prove to himself that above all things, he was still capable and able.
I’m not sure where, but somewhere there is a gold, a silver and a bronze medal for this. My Father won them; yet, I wonder if this was enough for him.
His biggest fear was to grow old or to be weak and unable to do for himself. Like I said, I could tell when these ideas were coming.
I could tell the change in his mood. I could see when the humble nature of life took hold. I might not have understood this when I was young. Besides, The Old Man died before I reached the true age of adulthood. But I understand this now. And he was right. The Old Man told me that someday I would understand when I was older.
I understand the fears and the frustrations that come with life. I understand the ideas of inadequacy or the thoughts that lead us to believe that we are somehow not pertinent or valid, or worse.
I can dig it.
I understand that at some point, we’re afraid that the window of time to pull off our trick is gone. We missed it. Either after years of searching and looking to find our place in the circle, we wake up only to realize that we wasted too much time fixing our gadgets or trimming the needs for perfection.
I think back to my cousin Robbie who was the drummer for a band called The Deltas. They were in a mid-jam session, just to play, and Freddie the guitarist was in his mid solo.
The music itself was great and the solo was phenomenal. Freddie played on with the levels of intensity that ran far too long. And Robbie stopped. He paused with the drums and shouted, “Don’t you ever just lay back and enjoy?”
What an incredible concept!
Of course, I am paraphrasing this a bit. This was all before I was born; but still, Robbie’s lesson is true and translates to this day.
Sometimes we forget to lay back. The wires are too tight and our thought machine is running too hot.
Sometimes we trip the line and we go too far. Sometimes we fall too deeply into our mindsets and we forget to lay back and enjoy.
We overlook the simple fact that here we are, alive and hopefully well. We place our needs for validation upon different people, places and things and we forget our simplest nature. We misplace the true importance of who we are and what we mean to this world.
Each and everyone of us in this world has left a mark. All of us, be it small, big or otherwise have all been a pebble tossed in the pools of life and without us, there would be no ripple effect. Without us, there would be no inspiration to others. Without you, I would have no connection and I would be absolutely alone.
Our impact on each other is enough to stir thoughts and emotion. This inspires actions and creations. Albeit small or hazy, the memory of my Father at his competition has resonated with me. This means everything comes with a reason. I can relate to the lessons I have learned about age and the feelings of being helpless or inadequate to a time when I saw my Father when he was humbled.
Hence, this gives me an understanding that most of all, I no longer hold myself responsible for his frustrations. No, this was his life.
Being part of his life and part of his circle of influence, there were times when I was undergoing problems that were beyond his control. There were times when he projected his challenges on my challenges. This was him. Not me. This was his frustration that he couldn’t fix something that was beyond his control.
There were times when I was around people or in crowds and I was searching for validation. There were times when I was defied by the deception of my perception and led astray. I was lost and frustrated. There are times in my adult life when my thoughts lead me to the need for validation and the fears that this might never come.
One of my favorite poems comes from Jim Carroll:
Little kids shoot marbles
Where the branches break the sun
Into graceful shafts of light . .
. . . I just want to be pure
And that’s it. I want to be pure. I want to be wanted. I want to be valid and included. I want to be fine the way I am without dressing myself up in the vast decorations of different lifestyles.
I want to be accepted as I am. I want to know that I made my mark.
I want to know that my love is enough. I want to know that my trick was perfect as is and without changes. I want to know that what I’ve done in my life is “Enough” and that I have been meaningful this whole time. Beyond measure.
I swear this is true. I often have to trick the circuits in the thought machine. I see people in their life. I look around and I hear people talk. I look at their families and at their homes. I look at their jobs and their positions or the stations they hold in their life.
I have found myself at points in which I was so low that I saw people who lived in the physical despair of absolutely nothing and swore to myself, “That person has more than me!”
I just want to be pure.
I want the celebrations to never end. I want to meet life and be confident, regardless of whatever comes my way. I am here with you now at the last page of this journal, which I’ve called Inside the Thought Machine.
I am an open door.
In many different ways, I am a person in recovery. I am a person who identifies as a man who lives with depression. I live with anxiety. I live with challenges that often distract me from my best pathways. I live with insecurities. I live with needs.
I have social insecurities. I have physical insecurities. I have emotional and educational ones too. I live with hopes and desires and if I have my way, if I figure out how to package my trick (also inspired by Jim Carroll) then when I hang up my special lab coat (figuratively speaking, of course) I can look back and say that I did it.
I made it through. I loved when I could. I overcame when I could. I left a mark in this world. I left my journals behind to act as a road map to my life.
I’ve touched the heart of at least one person. I’ve changed the life of at least one person. I did something that no one else in the world was ever able to do; that is, I have accomplished being me to the best of my ability.
I have lived inside the thought machine when times were good and bad. I have lost. I have fallen. I’ve had meltdowns. I’ve had people raise an eyebrow and look at me with doubt.
I’ve been put down. I’ve been followed in stores as a person of suspect. I’ve had my arms cuffed behind my back. I’ve been fired. I’ve been humiliated by my own actions. I’ve been beaten. I have a scar on the back of my head that reminds me what happens when I forget about the laws of violence.
There are times when I’ve apologized countless times when meanwhile I was only trying to rid myself from guilt.
And as for guilt, shame, blame, regret or fault, I have lived with them too. In fact, this is all part of my trick. This is it. Right here.
In spite of any fault or flaw and regardless of my secrets, sins and imperfections, up until this very day, I have managed to place my feet on the floor and get up
There was a time when my machine self-destructed. I swore, “This was it” and admittedly and regretfully, I thought it was time to close shop.
There were points in my life such as when I published my first journal, Operation Depression, when I talked about either I live or die, I had to make a choice. I had to make a run for it. I had to swing hard and fight back otherwise I would have quit.
I was wounded for a long time. I was hurt. I was a retreating soldier from battles that only went on in my own mind. But I had wounds. I have scars. I was a victim. I was a fool. I was a prisoner and held captive; yet, I was the warden and the only person in the world that could ever set me free.
This is what I mean when I talk about the thought machine.
This is me, your humble reporter and narrator.
Hopefully, this is one of the marks I leave upon this world. As well, I hope this is something that answers to my sins.
The Old Man passed without ever understanding that it was okay to lay back.
I don’t want to miss that chance. Please, no.
Besides, there’s too much to see.
There’s too much to do and there so much more that I want to say to you.
But that’s what the next journal’s for.
Know what I mean?
I hope you do.