Thursday, October 31, 2019

Reflections on Halloween 2019

So another Halloween has come and gone. 

Once again, The Great Pumpkin never came to visit me, and I wasn't bestowed with gifts and treats. 

This Halloween was different this year.  I'm not talking about the weather or the four inches of snow we got.  I'm not talking about the cold and the lack of leaves on the ground. 

This October, the whole month leading up to Halloween, was different.  It felt like stores put out Halloween items later, and put out less, than in previous years.  The selection wasn't as good and honestly the things I wanted just weren't available. 

I wanted Halloween dishes.  I wanted brightly colored bowls and plates with Halloween drawings on them for my ice cream channel.  I found them online but not in any of the stores around here. 

Also, the movie selection this year was terrible.  Hocus Pocus was re-played almost nightly.  The Halloween franchise seemed to have been run and re-run all week.  None of the classic black and white films were on.  Even the channel line-up for TCM left much to be desired.  In fact, I was going to get a one-month subscription just for October but after seeing what they had, changed my mind. 

Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy. 

There were hundreds of classic horror films made in the 30's, 40's, and 50's and it used to be we could watch them at night all through October.  Hell, those movies used to be on during the week all throughout the year, too.  It used to be a thing to watch old horror movies on a Friday night. 

But not one of the classics were aired. 

Sure, I understand that the original Friday the 13th and Halloween were from the 70's and are now 40 years old.  I get that.  But they aren't the classics often associated with Halloween. 

Worse, it seems like these movies have been tucked away, never to be seen again.  Just a few years ago, DVDs could be bought with dozens of these old forgotten movies on them. 

This year?  I wasn't able to find a single one. 

To add to the destruction of Halloween were the various news stories of schools cancelling any Halloween celebrations because they weren't "inclusive" or some gibberish like that.  There have been some great essays written about why this is bullshit.  People who are far better at writing than myself and who are much better at battling the PC horseshit that seems to be infiltrating our culture. 

The bottom line here is this--we're going to have to fight for our Halloween.  We're going to have to work to save it. 

Remember when Fox news was posting those fake stories about how Christmas was under attack?  Yeah, we're going to have to fight for our Halloween, on our fight is real. 

How do we do this? 

By celebrating it, of course!  By decorating and making as big of a deal as we can.  By working hard to keep our horror movies and Halloween programming.  By demanding our Halloweens never fade away. 

I'm not sure who is behind this but they're evil.  Soulless, even. 

I've been seeing Christmas movies being played for the last month.  How horrible is that?  Christmas movies in October and we can't even get Dracula at least once! 

A part of me things it's time we come together.  It's time we, as Americans, who want to preserve our holiday, come together so our voices can be combined into one booming, defiant roar that says "We will fight to protect and defend our holiday and we will not let you take it from us!" 

We have to fight, people.  We have to fight to defend our holiday.  Halloween is too precious for us.  It's the one holiday of the year when those of us who are maybe a bit dark, who don't find the canned happiness of the other holidays sincere or fulfilling, who love the shadows can look forward to that one night when we are able to celebrate with our own kind. 

We can't let the soulless and the generic take this from us.  It's time to fight!    

Monday, May 27, 2019

The War on Fat People

I'm not going to lie and say that I'm somehow getting any healthier.  I'm not.  I gained all of the weight back that I lost a year or so ago and then some.  My legs look terrible from the adema.  But at least right now I don't have any open sores oozing fluid.  Those have all healed for now. 

Getting back on the horse has been incredibly hard. 

My weight is complicated.  People look at me and they think I'm fat just because I'm lazy and I sit around drinking Mt. Dew and eating fast food all day.  I wish that was how I got like this. 

When I went to the clinic to get a check-up, after friends held an intervention for me, I met somebody who treated me with kindness and sympathy.  It was the first time anybody in the medical field had done so.  He told me a story that needs to be repeated. 

He told me about a doctor who realized just about all of his morbidly obese patients had experienced childhood trauma.  Some were physically abused, some were sexually abuse, while others were mentally and emotionally abused as children.  He realized he was onto something important so he gave a paper on the subject. 

He was laughed at by his colleagues. 

Fifteen years later, we're in a national epidemic of obesity, and people are approaching him and asking about this paper he delivered. 

My guy at the clinic gave me a nine-question survey.  Did you experience physical abuse as a child?  Did you see violence as a child?  Were any of your parents alcoholics or drug addicts? 

A score of two is considered high.  A score a three was a danger level and counseling was included as part of the treatment for obesity. 

I scored an eight. 

Being fat is a lot of different things for me. 

It's revenge and belligerence towards my dad, who was savage in his abuse, the details of which I cannot list here.  Sometimes, I feel like eating food that's bad for me is my way of telling him to fuck off and leave me alone.  It's the final Fuck You to a man I often describe as a middle-class Hannibal Lecter because he was a master at head games and getting inside a person's mind.  I grew up being broken down repeatedly and stripped of self. 

So there are times when I'll grab a snack at the gas station and in my mind I'm giving the finger to a fucker who has been dead for 23 years. 

And losing weight feels like I'm proving him right.  All the terrible things he said about me were true and I really was the horrible human being he repeatedly forced me to admit to being. 

Being fat is my armor.  It keeps me from being too close to people and it allows me to hide inside my apartment alone.  It keeps the women away, too, so I'm safe.  Women aren't into guys like me and that keeps me secure and safe.  But that's another blog post when I'm ready. 

A number of years ago, I gave up.  I decided I was going to either eat myself to death or die from an overdose.  And I was okay with it.  I ate more bacon than is humanly reasonable, baked cakes and pies just for myself, and churned tubs of ice cream I never shared with anybody. 

But then my friends had an intervention and I made the choice to give this life bullshit another chance.  I dropped weight and started to move better.  My clothes got looser and I was able to go for walks without hip pain holding me back. 

And then the blood flow improved to my extremities--all of them.  Hands, feet, and you know the rest. 

That caused nightmares.  Horrific ones centered around that certain awakened area and about the past. 

Then, I lost my job, and the depression got bad, so I stopped my keto diet and the weight came back. 

 I keep telling myself I'm going to do it again.  I'm going to get back on the horse and make another run at it.  Just make good choices today--that's all.  Just for today I'll make good choices. 

But that usually falls apart at some point. 

I refuse to have anything to do with the medical community but for my one person at the clinic.  If I break my arm, I'll set it myself.  If I have a heart attack, so be it.  If I OD, then I got what I was aiming at, and nobody better call an ambulance or shoot that shit up my nose. 

I cannot go back to the medical community.  If somebody like me ends up in an ER with a gunshot wound to the head, we're told that it's because of our weight, and we should go home and lose some of it.  Then, we'll get a lecture about our weight, as if we don't know we're fat.  Or worse, we don't know how to not be fat. 

"But what about this bullet in my head?" 

"Fine.  I'll write a script for ibuprofen.  Now go be fat someplace else." 

It is dehumanizing and humiliating to go to a doctor when you're fat.  Many of us would rather die than subject ourselves to it more than once. 

Doctors treat me as if being fat is the worst thing in the world you can be.  They rarely hide the disgust from their expressions. 

Losing weight means more to me than just a healthier life or better mobility.  It means I'm banking on life itself.  It means I'm admitting there is more to life than this shit and that there is a reason for me to be here. 

Losing weight is saying there is a potential for a better tomorrow.  And that is the hardest thing in the world for me to say. 

Some of you know I keep a loaded pistol on my desk, next to my mouse.  I look at it several times a day and tell myself that I choose to be here, and I can leave any time I feel like it. 

I've got a lot of friends and acquaintances who have dropped huge amounts of weight in recent years.  They all brag about how great they feel.  For some reason, I don't trust them, like it'll be different for me somehow.  Being less heavy and still miserable isn't worth it to me. 

I feel like the ground is rushing up to me and I need to pull out of this tailspin fast or I'm going to get a dirt overdose.  And that means making those healthy choices I cringe over. 

Dealing with my weight means going back into life and dealing with all of the bullshit that will come up as I do.  And it's complicated. 

I never thought I'd end up like this but here I am.  A few years ago, I lost a friend to this shit, and he didn't go to doctors, either.  I'm willing to bet it was for the same reasons, too.  Derek was a good guy and he died in his 20's.  I'm in my late forties and somehow I'm still here.  People younger than myself are dropping dead of strokes and heart attacks all over the place and somehow I'm still here. 

Maybe the universe has a plan for us all.  Apparently, the plan for me isn't to die alone in my apartment and not be found until the stench is so bad that neighbors complain a few weeks later. 

But then again, I've been wrong before. 


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Something Wonderful, Something Special, Something Spiritual

There were a few bright moments from my childhood.  Moments I cling to because they remind me that it wasn't all bad. 

When I was a kid, my mom sent me to a summer camp full of rich kids, where I stayed for four weeks.  It was in the far reaches of Northern Wisconsin in some of the most beautiful land this country has to offer. 

It didn't matter that I was the poorest kid there.  And while I was at camp, I didn't have to worry about all the horrific crap that was waiting for me back home. 

Instead of drunken adults telling me I was worthless, lazy, and stupid, I had some of the prettiest lakes and streams outside my cabin. 

Instead of adults crossing lines no adult should ever cross with a child, I was a kid among kids, doing kid things like I was a normal kid. 

I can remember the days when the depression crept into my life back then.  I can remember having no self-esteem and knowing that I was worthless, and there were people there who countered that with words of kindness and support.  I was a troubled kid and there were people who noticed and helped me see there was something else about me that was good. 

One of the counselors, the basketball coach, took me under his wing.  He pumped me up and let me know I was a good kid with a future and potential.  I wasn't some worthless idiot like I had been told over and over by my dad. 

That guy planted a seed that wouldn't die and carried me through a lot of bad days. 

It is the nature of childhood trauma, be it sexual abuse, physical, mental, or emotional, to make that child feel they are somehow less than the people around them but at this summer camp, Camp Golden Eagle, I wasn't less than the others.  I was just like the others.  Nobody was better than me and I wasn't better or worse than anybody else. 

This was an important time in my childhood. 

My family was poor but they always got me there.  My grandmother paid for it once, my aunt paid for it one year as well, and I saved up my money from my paper route.  I spent three summers up there and even now, forty years later, I find myself clinging to some of those memories because they had such a powerful meaning for me. 

One of the reasons Mom always insisted I go is because we had some bad kids in our neighborhood who were always getting into trouble.  She was certain that it was only a matter of time before I got dragged into it with them.  One time, the police came to the house looking for me, because they were told I was fingered for some kind of hooliganism or another. 

Mom laughed and said, "He's in Northern Wisconsin, about eight hours away.  I can give you the phone number if you'd like."  The cop just shook his head and left. 

The summer camp was on Lake Minocqua in Woodruff, Wisconsin.  Gorgeous area, stunningly beautiful water, with some of the cleanest air you'll ever breathe.  There were houses up and down the lake with boat houses.  At night, we would watch retirees with their wooden boats lit up like Christmas trees cruise around the lake.  These boats were exquisite and reminded me of bedroom furniture with their stained wood and immaculate maintenance. 

We used to go on canoe trips into various parts of that region.  The younger kids went to smaller waterways, while the oldest were allowed to go on The Canadian, which I believe was in the Boundary Waters area.  I was in the middle, age-wise, so we went on a couple different trips. 

One was on the St. Germain River. 

This trip was magical for me.  I went on it twice and each time, there was something about that area that touched me on a deep and profound level.  I connected with something powerful, kind, and loving.  That area had a spiritual energy that I connected with in my own childish way. 

As I've said before, I was a deeply troubled kid, and I was rapidly approaching the age when what was left of my childhood was going to be stripped away by a host of people who made bad choices.  The spirit of that area, be it of the waterways, or the land itself, or even one that simply passed through and found me, connected with me and taught me something. 

On that trip I learned one of those lessons you just can't quantify with words and pictures.  I learned, through that connection, that there was something out there greater than myself, and that it wasn't bad.  It didn't judge me or tell me I was going to hell, nor did it reject me because I was worthless, stupid, and lazy. 

On that trip, while connecting with that spiritual energy, I was accepted for who I was.  It didn't care about those awful memories of lines being crossed I had begun to block out.  It didn't make me accountable for anything.  It just accepted me for being me. 

I often refer to that area as my Happy Place.  I often go back in day dreams.  But I've wanted to go back there in person for a long time and I couldn't find it on any map.  I had hoped to see it again before I died. 

Today, I found it, thanks to the help of some folks who were on those canoe trips with me, because the wonders of social media never cease.  I'm fairly certain now that I can actually go there again. 

I mean, once I lose enough weight to be mobile.  The weight struggles continue, unfortunately, but I'm trying.  And I'm ready to make another concerted effort with the help of friends, my medical guy, and my therapist.  Demons be damned, I'm gonna drop this weight, and I'm gonna go find my Happy Place again.  I'm going to visit it again and I'm going to connect with that place just as I did as a child. 

I had always hoped to see Dave the basketball coach again just to thank him for what he did for me.  Maybe I will, maybe it will be another missed opportunity.  But it's my hope I can just so he knows he made a positive impact in this world for at least one kid who badly needed it. 

I have a goal now to help me with my weight loss.  I know where to find a place I've been looking for off and on for years.  And today, I am able to say that there were bright moments in my childhood, and those moment carried me much further than I expect anybody ever intended or realized was possible. 

I don't remember the song from Camp Golden Eagle.  We never sang it much.  But I'll always remember the people because their kindness and acceptance of a troubled kid made all the difference.    

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Another Valentine's Day

I haven't updated this blog for a while because nothing has changed.  At least, I haven't been able to make anything change.  I feel like I'm slogging through the same mud as always. 

But there is something that has changed.  I'm not madly in love with somebody who doesn't love me back.  Instead, I'm just here.  I don' t feel that deep, painful unrequited love that I normally feel.  I'm not burning because I madly want to be with somebody who either A) Doesn't realize it, B) Knows it but doesn't care or C) Ted Who? 

And honestly, even if I did feel something for another woman, I wouldn't say anything to her just because I know there's nothing I could do about it.  I'm too broke to take her out, too anxious to go out with her, and too depressed to be much fun.  So it's better that I just keep my mouth shut and say nothing about how badly I want to be with them. 

It used to be on Valentine's Day, I felt like everybody was in an exclusive club, and I wasn't invited to be a member.  But now, I don't even want to be around those people, and their little club is all bullshit anyways. 

One thing I've noticed is a lot of women I know are jaded about Valentine's Day.  They've been treated like crap for far too long by a whole list of men.  They think Valentine's Day is bullshit, too, but because they've been disappointed so many times. 


Often I've wished I could be there for them.  I wished I could be the one who treated them right and was there for them.  But I've come to realize that I'm way too codependent for that kind of thing.  I'm high-maintenance and I need constant re-assuring that I'm somebody special to them.  In the absence of communication, my mind fills in the blanks with all kinds of thoughts about them leaving me, or talking to some other guy they prefer over me, and how in the silence they are planning to leave me. 

I've done this with friendships, too.  Ruined them in the process just like any other relationship.  And since I've got severe abandonment issues, I freak out, and totally lose my shit.  What's left in the end is me despondent and heartbroken with the knowledge that once again I destroyed something I badly needed and hurt somebody I cared for deeply.

This is why, even when I do find myself attracted to someone, I keep my mouth shut.  I have come to realize women I care about are better off without me because all I'll do is implode and self-destruct, hurting them in the process. 

I'm sure I could say, at the beginning of things, "look, I'm codependent and high-maintenance so you'll need to constantly reassure me that you're not planning to leave me and you're not cheating on me."  But why ruin the surprise? 

Hollywood says guys like me with mental illness are sweet and cute and the partner is supposed to ignore all of the dysfunction so they can fall in love with me.  After all, suicidal depression in the middle of the night is just adorable, right? 

I still think of Anthony Bourdain often and what goes through my mind is how he had everything I could ever want yet he wasn't happy.  So what chance does somebody like me have?  This is another reason why I don't want to get too close to a woman right now.  I'll just drag them down and if I don't make it, it's a cruel thing to do to them.  I've been on the other side of suicide before and I know what happens.  I can't imagine doing that to somebody who cares about me like that. 

Unless, of course, I put that in the disclosures up front as well.  "Oh, and I'm prone to bouts of dark depression and I'm suicidal sometimes so understand now you can't save me.  So, if I don't make it, understand now it's not your fault, okay?" 

I'm fairly certain Hollywood could make that charming, too.  Hollywood does wonders for making somebody like me seem worth the pain and suffering one would experience when being close to me. 

In other news, I've been writing and submitting short stories again.  It feels good but something is missing in what I submitted.  It's like the stories were missing something and seemed monotone.  Because I no longer have my beta readers after chasing them away, I'm left to my own devices, which is to say the echo chamber my head has turned into. 

But now that I'm off my meds, I feel like my writing has improved once again, and I'm more like my old self.  Hollywood says that's charming, too.  People like me get their cheeks pinched and a hug before we're left behind.  In a romantic comedy, we're the guys who die in the third act, and the MC realizes something about life, and goes back to their love interest to proclaim their feelings. 

Cue the music and oh shit, I have something in my eye. 


Monday, November 12, 2018

Thank You, Stan Lee

Today we learned that Stan Lee passed on to the next phase of existence.  At the age of 95, he was more than just some comic book creator, and the web is full of writers, creators, and artists mourning his loss. 

Instead of being sad right now, I find myself being grateful for all he gave us, and thinking back to all of those times he was there for me.  Most people don't realize just how present Stan Lee was in our childhoods. 

My first introduction to Stan Lee's work, and Marvel Comics, was when I was just a small child.  The mornings were for cartoons before school at the babysitter's house.  Jeanie.  That was her name and she half-raised me.  Mom worked in a factory and would drop me off at about 6:30AM every morning. 

Jeanie would give me a bowl of cereal and we would watch Ray Rayner on WGN Channel 9 until Bozo's Circus started.  Ray Rayner was weird.  In the summer, during heat waves, he would get the weather report for the week on Mondays and as he wrote down triple digits he would say, "Oh beautiful!" and "lovely!" 

Triple digits.  That's freaking hot and he loved it. 

Ray Rayner would have cartoons, of course.  He had a lot of Flash Gordon with Buster Crabb.  He even had Buster Crabb on the show once and I remember thinking how miserable and unhappy Crabb seemed.  It was like he was pissed off he had to answer questions about this series he did back in the 30's. 

Sometimes, Ray Rayner showed Spider-Man, which would be divided into three segments.  So on Monday, you would see Act I, where the commercial break would normally be, and have to wait until Tuesday for Act II.  By Wednesday, you just wanted to get it over with because you know Spider-Man was going to win but you just didn't know how. 

Us kids would talk about it, of course, and debate the finer points of how Spider-Man was going to win.  All the while, singing the iconic song we've all come to know, from back in the 1960's. 

You know the song.  Sing it with me...

Spider-Man, Spider-Man
Does whatever a spider can.  
Spins a web, any size,
Can't you see, just like flies.  
Look out!  Here comes the Spider-Man! 

But Spider-Man wasn't the only cartoon I remember. 

We had Thor.  Most folks don't know about that but it's true.  It wasn't really a cartoon, though.  Not exactly.  It was a comic book in pictures, with zooming angles on various panels from that issue.  Even the titles were pictures of the cover of that issue.  The Thor of the comic book is very different from the Thor in the films.  Grim, humorless, uptight, stiff, and with a stick up his ass. 

In that cartoon, there were a number of Avengers who made cameo appearances, like Iron Man, Ant Man, and Captain America.  Iron Man back in the 60's was a stiff, nerdy guy who looked a lot like his dad in the movies. 

By the time I was in the Fifth Grade, a comic book store opened in my small home town and everything changed.  Everything. 

It was called Knight Hobby and it had every comic book printed back then, or so I thought, as well as gaming stuff.  Weird dice I'd never imagined, boxes with dragons the outside, figures from various fantasy realms.  It was just incredible. 

My favorite Marvel comic was Daredevil.  My best friend back then, a kid named Pat Pember, was totally into Moon Knight.  There was something about Daredevil that appealed to me.  I think it was the troubled childhood since I was such a troubled kid myself. 

Daredevil, Matt Murdock, felt like "my guy."  I think that's how it goes with comic book heroes.  We find one who has a backstory in which we see ourselves, and we become fans. 

I think that's why I read so many Sgt. Rock comics.  One thing I've come to find is how so many children associate their childhood with war and they see how war vets survived so they adopt those coping skills. 

Brothers and Sister in PTSD, I guess. 

But Stan Lee created intensely rich storylines that crossed over into other comics.  He blended characters and titles so the readers would be exposed to other heroes and villains. 

For about a year or so, the pattern for me was to take my paper route money on Saturday, and ride my bike downtown.  There, I would hang out at Knight Hobby, and and shoot the shit with the older guys who were there.  Kenny Feldman, who was the son of the building's owner, who in turn rented out the storefront to Jim Hay, who owned Knight Hobby. 

I had little to offer the conversations.  They were all just out of high school and I was in the Fifth Grade, but that didn't matter, because I would just stand there laughing at all the jokes they made. 

Kenny had read just about everything and he gave me the best education about comics.  Jim knew I was a kid with a paper route and would make me deals.  It was because of those two I had the first dozen issues of Judge Dredd's American titles, along with a number of independent titles nobody had ever heard of, or would even remember. 

I would spend my money and ride my bike home regardless of the weather.  Once home, dad would be drunk, so I would go up to my room to avoid being seen.  That was my mutant ability--invisibility.   If dad saw me, he would tear into me, and hurl a long string of insults.  Or put me to work doing any number of chores he wouldn't do himself.  Dad had a habit of sitting around, going through a case of Old Milwaukee, and stewing as he looked around the house. 

So, not being seen was imperative.  If he saw you, there was going to be trouble, so I became nobody.  I became a ghost.  I was invisible. 

Once up in my room in that drafty old house, I was able to relax, but I still had to be quiet.  So, I read.  I read books and on Saturdays and Sundays, I read all the comic books I could afford to buy. 

Those comic books fueled my imagination.  They were fodder for my daydreams so I could imagine a world that wasn't the one I was stuck in.  A world where bad guys got what they had coming and was somehow just.  A world where good guys like me go the girl because we were good guys. 

Eventually, things got worse.  They always did back then.  Jim had to close down Knight Hobby and nobody else in town carried the comic books I read.  It was too young to drive anywhere to buy them in other towns. 

But I hung on to my comic books.  As I got older, I bought more, and got into new titles, like Spawn and Cerebus.  Most of the independent artists back then got their start at Marvel or were fans of Marvel.  Stan Lee was the father of so many visions. 

Stan Lee gave us flawed people with difficult lives who rose up above their own misery to be somebody who stood up for other people.  He understood what it was like to come from complicated childhoods and violence.  He understood what it was like to be somebody who carried darkness with them and preferred the shadows but didn't take that pain out on others. 

Stan Lee didn't invent the anti-hero but he certainly contributed to our modern interpretation of it.  Lee's heroes weren't upright, perfect people.  They were flawed and maybe a bit weird but they still saved the person from peril and got the girl.  Or the boy.  He gave us a wide variety of heroes to choose from and identify with. 

Stan Lee gave us something special.  He gave us characters we could see ourselves in and then he had those characters stop the bad guys, meaning we could, too.  Often, those bad guys were our own demons, and that was the War to End All Wars. 

I'm going to miss Stan Lee but he gave us so much that it would take a person years to get through it all.  He lived to be 95 years old so it's not like he was tragically taken from us before his time.  He gave us more than we could rightly expect from a man, which in a way is a superpower itself, and a great lead for other writers to follow. 

Even as just a man, he was a hero, and a role model. 

So thank you, Stan Lee.  I will never forget your voice in my youth starting cartoons off with, "This is Stan Lee..." and I will never forget what it was like to read issue after magical issue on those rainy Saturdays. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Adieu, Dear Friend. Adieu.

We need to talk.

I'm not mad at you.  Quite the contrary.  In truth, this is killing me to say.  This hurts more than anything I've had to do.  It's harder than that day I got on the bus to go to the airport in Seoul while my wife walked away sobbing.

But this has to be said.  It just has to be.

I'm not mad at you.  You were there for me when nobody else was.  You were there for me when I couldn't function.  You made life livable.

It was over ten years ago when we met.  My life had completely fallen apart for what I count as the fifth time in as many years.  Once again, I'd lost everything, everybody, and I was left on my own.

And I gave up.

I decided I was done with this shit.  I was going to eat myself to death and just let whatever happened unfold around me.  I'd lost all semblance of hope.  It was suicide by indifference. 

And then I got an idea.  The Army talks about The Good Idea Fairy and how it visits soldiers, giving them horrible ideas that fuck up everything.  Which could easily explain what happened.

I had an idea.  I'm too smart for my own good sometimes and I figured out how to meet you.

That first meeting was magic.  I was thrilled with myself for the first time in months because I solved a problem.  Your warmth poured over me and you relieved me of things nothing else could.  The burden I was carrying became tolerable.

So we danced.

We played.  We sang.  We traveled.

We survived.

And the years passed.

It started once every other week, maybe once a week.  And then I got smart again.  I had another great idea.  I found ways to meet with you more and more.

And then it became daily.  I'm not sure how quickly that happened but we went from being friends to something much closer.

Maybe we became one.  At some place in our journey, it was a symbiotic relationship.  But it wasn't toxic.  Not in the least.

Because of you, I was able to work a soul-crushing job.

Because of you, I was able to accept that I was alone.

Because of you, I could deal with those buried memories suddenly popping up into the present after being triggered.

Because of you, I was perfectly fine eating myself to death.

And then I needed you more.  We needed to be closer.  I needed more and more.  I experimented with different delivery systems and sources.  I studied and applied my intelligence.

We became as close as we could.  You were my refuge.

You were my shield and armor.

And then I OD'd.

It wasn't too serious of an overdose.  I fought to keep from passing out, telling myself over and over, to just keep breathing.

But the hours leading up to that overdose were glorious.  So incredibly glorious!  I felt nothing.  My head was unplugged and I wasn't a wreck.  I didn't want to eat my pistol.  I didn't want to walk in front of a train.  I didn't want to scream until my throat bled.  And on that night, as I drifted into sweet oblivion, I will admit that if I had not woken up the next morning I would have been okay with it.

Even now, I can say that.  You could have taken me into death and I would not have been upset about it.

But that wasn't any kind of warning to me.  I was so happy to know you and I could be so close.  And to have that kind of numbness was a blessing.  I loved you even more.

But cracks began to form in our relationship.  It wasn't all rosey.  You caused health problems that at times were incredibly painful.  You tore me up in ways that might never heal.  I have all kinds of issues because of you.

I didn't care for years about that, either, because you and I worked well together.  Plus, I honestly thought I would be dead, before it became too serious of an issue. 

And then I got worse.  The depression and despair.  Everything.  I kept eating myself to death and it was working.  I crossed some kind of point that wasn't quite The Point of No Return but it was a signpost telling me I was close.

My legs were covered in oozing sores.  They were more than double their normal size.  I lived on sweets and drank tons of soda pop.  I was having issues with my blood pressure, sleep, and a long list of other problems.  I was clearly on my way out and I didn't care.

And then something weird happened.  Friends began telling me how important I was to them and how they didn't want to lose me.  They said I had more to offer and I was somebody they would miss if I were gone.  A couple of them cried as they told me this.  That penetrated. 

So I began to pull away from you.  I didn't want to but I knew I had to.  Life changed and I couldn't afford you anyways.  I had to back off.

But your grip on me was tight.  And you had dug deep into my bones.  Just a little distance from you made me sick.  Withdrawals.

I would wake up throwing up, soaked in sweat, shaking.  Then, we'd dance, and I'd level out.

My doctor said I needed to slowly back away from you because to suddenly go cold turkey would probably put me in the hospital.  The human body can only take so much and you had gotten into every single cell in my body.

So, I slowly backed off.  I tapered.  And for the last year I have been sick almost every single morning.  Not a day has passed where I didn't deal with some kind of withdrawal symptom or a health problem caused by you.

But for a year, I pulled back bit by bit from you, until now.   Right now, our daily contact is just a small fraction of what it used to be.  A tiny amount.  And I need to make the leap and sever this chain.

You need to let me go.

I'm sorry.  You were good to me.  But it's a half-life now and I cannot live like this anymore.

I had to make a choice.  Do I live or do I die?  I am giving life another chance and that cannot happen when you and I are together.

You need to let me go.  Please.

It's time.  It's long past time, really, but we've been taking it slow.  But we're almost done and it's time for us to walk away from each other.

You need to loosen your grip on me and let me go.  You're not killing me but with you I cannot live.  Just the act of moving away from you has caused all kinds of horrible side effects.  My emotions are everywhere.  I'm constantly breaking down over little things.  I can't think straight and I hardly ever leave my apartment anymore because of anxiety. 

If I survive breaking away from you, it will be a monumental achievement in my life.  I deserve another shot at life.  I deserve another shot at being happy.  I deserve to be able to go through life without having to numb myself up just so I can function. 

I deserve a chance to live without being chained to you.  I'm sorry but that's just how it is.  I deserve better than this shit.  I have never been able to say that until just recently.  I have never in my life, ever, said "I deserve something good." 

Now I can.  And that changes everything. 

It's time for you to loosen your grip on me and let me grow into the person I was always meant to be. 

Thank you and Goodbye. 


Sunday, August 5, 2018

Our Main Characters are Teachers

I have a number of short stories, novellas, and novels in various states of completion.  My hard drive is full of them.  Some are good projects that need attention while others were half-baked ideas that never really amounted to anything. 

I always imagine my main characters (MC's) just standing around when I'm not working on their story, smoking cigarettes, and looking cool, while chatting with each other.  I wonder if they get lonely and worry if I'll come back.  Do they feel abandoned?

I have horrible abandonment issues.  I freak out when people leave me.  Knowing I'm doing that to another person, even fictional ones, bothers me.  But then I have to remember not everybody is like me.  I'm broken.

Do my MC's think of me as a burden?  Do they think of me as a chore they have to deal with in their routine?

"Let's see--I've got to do the laundry, feed the dog, and aw, shit!  I need to be in Ted's story."

Lately I've become very much aware of just how people see me in their lives.  What role do I play?  Do they think of me when I'm not around?  Am I the butt of their jokes?  When they see me, do they think, "Aw shit!  Here comes this asshole.  God, I hate this guy!   He's so weird!"

I'd rather know people are using me for free ice cream than to think I'm a seen as a chore on their list of things to do.  Is there anything more heartbreaking than to know the only reason somebody keeps you in their lives is because they feel a sense of duty or obligation?   Not so much that they owe you but they're a kind person with a good heart and they don't want to be mean, so they are kind to you while scrambling for a way to get away from you.

It's embarrassing and humiliating.  Knowing you are a chore or a duty to somebody shatters your heart.  It's worse than pity, in my opinion, because pity comes from a place of care and empathy. 

Is that how my MC's see me?

Or do they see the nose-dive I'm in, and how despite my efforts the monkeys on my back make pulling up and out of it almost impossible, and think to themselves how they'll be free of me soon?  It's a ghoulish thought, I know, but my MC's are human (mostly) and without me demanding things from them or constantly needing interaction from them, they would truly be free.  No Ted to drag them down or take up their time.

Or is it the other way?  Do they get mad on those bad nights when I'm on the edge and I'm writing letters to nobody in particular while looking at my pistol every few minutes?  Do they say things like, "Don't you die on me, fucker.  I need you to finish this story so my destiny will be complete.  I need you to finish my fate so I can live happily ever after."

I should note at this time that none of my characters ever live happily ever after.  I figure if that's impossible for me, then it's impossible for them.  They're going to die alone just like me.

But I've lied to a bunch of them and told them it's possible.  My MC's totally believe the Happily Ever After ending is possible and if they just do as I say and jump through the hoops I've laid out for them, then they'll be able to ride off into the sunset with somebody who actually wants to be with them and isn't thinking how it's a chore to hang around.

Every once in a while, I'll get an MC who develops faster and in more detail than the others, and they begin to call audibles.  Instead of going to visit their friend the gun dealer, they go to visit a priest, and ask for absolution.  Instead of listening to good music in their cars, they listen to Taylor Swift, and sing along with the radio.  Instead of being a foodie, they're a picky eater who lives on fast food and cheap beer.

These small ripples turn into tsunamis later on.  Subtle changes in an MC in the first chapter create destiny by the fourth act.  That means the whole thing needs to get re-written and switched around.  And most MC's will be defiant about it. 

"Hey!  Look, I'm a real person!  And I honestly think having me tell the story would be better than somebody else."  

Bob looked up with defiance, his arms crossed over his chest, and chin jutting out.  

"Defiance?  I'm helping you!   I'm just trying to help you write something good instead of that schlocky bullshit you usually shovel."  

Bob whined like a little toddler who wanted a cookie or needed a nap.  

"I'm not whining, you asshole!"  

Bob threw his nookie down on the ground and began screaming as he threw a tantrum.

"Oh.  My.  God.  You can't be serious!  I'm not throwing a tantrum.  I'm saying that I can tell a story better than you can and you don't like it."  

But what Bob didn't know was that he was standing on top of a nest of hornets.  

"Hey, man!  No need for that kind of stuff.  We're just talking here, okay?"  

And these weren't just ordinary hornets.  These were Japanese hornets, known for their painful and sometimes deadly stings.  

"Okay, maybe I was a bit rude back there, and maybe I said some things I shouldn't have.  I'll admit that sometimes I can get a bit emotional."  

The hornets were asleep for now but Bob's whining was beginning to stir them and any more sound would be enough to wake them into a fury as they defended their nest from an intruder.  

"I'm sorry!  I just wanted some closure is all."  

Bob looked around at his options, wondering what's next, and if there was going to be a future.  

"It's just that you don't do closure for your characters, and I could really use some.  That's all."  

What Bob didn't realize was closure is for television shows and novels.  Bob, the poor, unfortunate bastard, was in a short story connected to a series of novels.  There would be no closure.  Not for him, anyways.  

"But the people in my life..."

Bob thought about his life, and the people in it, and he realized he wanted them to be happy more than he wanted to be right.  Or find peace.  

"I don't get any closure, do I?"  

Bob slowly walked away while fishing in his pockets.  There, he kept a couple of pills tucked away.  Three, to be exact, and he knew they would make this moment less painful.  He swallowed all three at once, and washed them down with some Mt. Dew.  He doesn't curse, he doesn't cry, he doesn't say a word.  He thinks about tomorrow, and how it doesn't look much better, but really all he wants is today to just disappear.  

Sometimes, our characters get out of hand, and you need to wrangle them back under control.  Some people talk about how our characters belong to us so we may torment them.  I don't believe in that.  I hate tormenting people.  Contrary to what you might think, I'm a very kind man, and never want to make anybody feel worse than what I've been through.  Even if they are fictional. 

My characters work through stuff.  They endure.  They survive up until the end when they die because that's what we all do, eventually, and I want them to go up until their Fate. 

I think they hate me.  On some level, I think they really hate me.  None of them ever get laid, they're alone, and usually I take everything away from them that they've ever had.  But we write what we know, right? 

I've tried being nice to my MC's.  I really did.  And let me tell you, they were happy bastards when they found out.  They were cracking jokes and making even me laugh.  They were the life of the party. 

And then it came time to actually put them through their paces of being happy.  It was time for them to find love, to enjoy life, and all of that happy shit.  And I just couldn't do it. 

I tried.  I really did.  But in the end I just couldn't do it.  I became jealous and started to look at my own life, and the things I've done, and want to do, and it just became a mess.  I became too depressed to continue and those stories all languish unfinished on my hard drive. 

Unless I decide to drag them into my world and unleash monsters, demons, meth addicts, crackheads, and voodoo priests.  If they're miserable, I'm comfortable.  I don't say that in a sadistic sort of way, even though it sounds like that, but I just haven't grasped what it's like to write characters who are happier than myself. 

And that's why I think they hate me. 

I'm working on new story.  A deeply flawed character and I'm not so sure what I'm going to do with him.  The more I write him, the more he becomes me, and that means I need to develop him.  It means I need to do for him what I need to do for myself.  And that's a shitty, shitty road. 

Plus, I'm obstinate, and I don't change very easily.  I wish change was easy for me because it would make things much better in my life. 

So this is why my MC's are always a certain way.  I have a very hard time writing characters who aren't deeply flawed, depressed, and static.  It makes for a very difficult character ARC to write.  It's like pounding steel or sculpting water. 

This character I'm writing currently is going to realize he belongs where he is and that's his home despite how badly he hates it.  He will remain deeply flawed.  He has much farther to go before he reaches bottom and that might prove to be just as difficult to write as making him out to be happy.  As for right now, he isn't going to get a Happily Ever After.  I just can't bring myself to write those. 

I mean, if I don't get one, why should anybody else?