Thursday, July 31, 2014

I Believe in Faeries

"Be more careful, Azuraz! Damn you!" She had flown headlong past one of the many treacherous beasts that stalked the paths between the fields we had been exploring, narrowly avoiding a collision with the angry looking face of the thing. A stampede of these monstrous aberrations rushed by, each one following closely behind the one in front of it with eyes that blazed white hot and illuminated the path before them- I know not what they were chasing, or worse yet, what even larger, more terrifying thing they could be running from. I was brimming with unadulterated horror.

Each of the terrible savage things seemed to carry with it its own flavor of nefarious dread. Some were smaller compared to their brethren, the babies of the pack I supposed and some trailed on for an impossibly long time before clearing the space before me. In apparent opposition to their destructive power, they were painted with all the colors of spring: sunflowers, succulent fruits and blues that sparkled in jewel tones like when the sun first tickled a watery surface to break the morning's chill.

We Faerie-kin may be small in stature by comparison, but we are wise and we are raised to know that the most violent predators in nature will draw you in with alluring colors. They will captivate you with their fascinating kaleidoscope of inconceivable hues because they are the Queens of their habitat. They have nothing to fear in this domain. No reason to hide. Everything to gain from drawing you into the web of their beauty and catching you in their complexion's enchantments.

Even knowing this as I did, I am ashamed to admit that there were times when I was swallowed by their mesmerism. One of them growled past me, snapping me from the fixated trance. It spit noxious fumes up into the air from its ill-placed nostrils as it raced just behind Azuraz, blurring in the space between us for a second until the monster's breath finally dissipated into the air, cut and dispersed in a whirl by the next of its pack. The vibrations shook every part of my body and I could feel the enormous weight of the behemoths trudging through air so quickly that they forcefully displaced any molecules that dared stand in their way, sending them elsewhere in a hurry, bashing against my body and tossing me haphazardly in corkscrews along my trajectory as I struggled to catch her. I have never felt so small in all my life.

I dashed forward to catch Azuraz out of cowardice that I might be left behind and not for any bravery to which I wish I could lay claim. I could taste the copper trail of the one I darted behind as I raced frantically to escape being in the path of the one that followed. This close, I could see the furious heat pouring off the front of them in blurry waves like a gaseous exhalation. They appeared to have trampled the ground beneath them into near perfect flatness. The dust particles that they spewed were the closest connection to something of our relative size and they paid us an equal share of attention. We were too small to be worth their time. They would not go out of their way to attack us, but they would neither bother changing course in the slightest to avoid us. Buzzes and blurs and blips are all that stand out to me, but the memories that did stick seared their way into my psyche, clear as though I am still trapped in the wild river procession of their herd even now.

I do recall begging Azuraz to let us find an alternate route. She argued, correctly of course, that we could not see the boundaries of this rushing expanse. There was no telling how much time would be wasted if we waited or scouted an alternate route. She didn't even let me raise any one of the objections that fought to claw their way up my throat before she disappeared into the thicket of violence and I gave chase.

I was terrified, if I'm honest. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I was frightened for myself. I had always been raised to believe in the selflessness of our kind's existence. Every choice I made to this point in my meaningless life had been made from the perspective of what action best served the Faerie-kin tribe. Even the choices that were in violation of our customs- I made them with the betterment of our colony at the forefront of my mind- until that point. I was so enveloped by survival and self-preservation that I could not see the vantage point from our Kingdom. I was truly lost inside of a world that I did not belong, was not bred to take part in.

Every maneuver that she made was skillful, poetic even. I watched as she danced past danger and I trailed behind clumsily; every major and minor crisis she avoided spelling out my inadequacies as I imagined myself failing to execute her graceful avoidance of death in every single scenario displayed. Splat! Splat! Splat! I pictured myself spread in a thin paste across the hard skin of every beast that past in front of or behind me. I died a million deaths and yet somehow, I was coming into existence again- remembering that I was alive- and as I did, I found myself safely on the other side.

I watched the stampede as we rested on the limb of an old tree. I was comforted by its connection to the Earth. After being confronted with the enormity of these unnatural titans, it helped to acclimate to nature and the familiarity of the world I knew.

Azuraz didn't need to rest, but either born of pity or as a reward for making it through the gauntlet that I suspect neither of us imagined I would survive, she stood alert beside me. She could have carried on and left me behind. She should have. I shouldn't have been there anyways. I had no business chasing after her. I was so lost inside of myself that I don't know how long I'd been frozen on the branch before she imperceptibly moved towards me. She gently reached her antennae out to touch mine. She rubbed it gently, scraping particles of each other into the fabric of each other's being and leaving tiny molecules of ourselves for the other to carry. The old Fairie-kin ritual... It was shared with soldiers, explorers. Lovers. It was meant to quite literally connect us to one another as it forms a scent trail that our kind is genetically attuned to recognizing as a means of solidifying a bond. This comforting gesture was a way for her to let me know that I now held her particular bouquet close to my heart. I could find her anywhere. We would not be lost or separated so easily as my fears ran wild and forced me to imagine.

The panic, which was in part instigated by the comparison of her grace to my lacking, was also subsided by another example of her singular elegance. "Vez," she said to me in a gentle hum. "We have to bring news back to the Kingdom. Our people need to know what we have found on the other edge of the horizon. It could mean the salvation of tens of thousands of the Faerie-kin." She waited for the words to reach me through the palpable anxiety that still enveloped me. Once Azuraz saw recognition in my eyes, she continued, "I do not race homeward to place us in danger, but for the opposite. You are at a disadvantage because this is not a world that you were meant for-" I was offended, but knew that she was right. "Out here, you will need to trust my instincts. I need to know that you will follow me precisely, without hesitation. The dangers here are many, but I feel we have outlived the worst of them." Stuck on the notion that she was built for a different world than I was, I studied her wings. Physically, they weren't that dissimilar from my own, but as she slowly flap-stretched them twice in preparation for flight, there was a rainbow sparkle that moved across their surface, a kind of living color. I noticed something similar in Azuraz's eyes. Like the rest of our kind, her eyes lived subtly in the space between blue and purple- which means that I had seen the exact same collection of pigments in the faces of everyone I had ever known. Yet, somehow hers had grown bolder and seemed lit from behind with an intensity and strength that I have never known. She waited again for the words to catch up with my understanding of them, then concluded, "We must go now."

I lowered my head to Azuraz without speaking a word, letting her know that I understood the severity of our mission. If I'm being truthful now though, I was less invested with following her home to spread the news to the rest of the Kingdom and more devoted to the notion of following her... just to follow her.

She needed no more sign of compliance from me. She took to the sky and raced towards the Kingdom of the Faerie-kin. I chased after her, flying low to the ground and letting the energy of our flight invigorate me. She spun off path, weaving back and forth along some thread of space that seemed both fanciful and predetermined. It was probably all in my head, but I thought for a moment that she was flirting with me, trying to liven things up and celebrate the occasion of our return as she carved through a course in the night air that seemed to be clearing a path for the two of us. She banked hard left and flipped about several times before balancing upright again and swaying gently into the straight path I'd been following in front of me, taunting and teasing me to dance with her. Begging me to lighten up.

An amateur at having fun, I lifted my path and extended the distance between my body and the grass below, looking down at Azuraz for a moment and then dive bombing back towards the grass at full speed, vanishing into the blades for half a second before pulling up and clumsily bouncing left and right and back again, searching in a momentary panic for the path that I was meant to be following. Once I found it, there was a rush of life that filled me then as the sound of Azuraz's laughter buzzed in harmony with the rushing of space around me. I had wings all my life, of course, but there was something new about flight in that moment.

It was why I had left the Kingdom against your wishes in the first place- whether I knew it or not. I felt trapped in the palace and all of its rich golden walls and brilliantly gilded floors. Each of the perfectly replicated rooms that line the walls of your dominion and house everyone inside with systematic stability, nestled in security defined by the illusion of order- after a time, I felt assaulted by the very virtue of their perfection. After all, how can there be a perfect flower, a perfect spring, a perfect life, unless we fool ourselves into believing that it is so? Without a comparison to be made, perfection can be nothing more than the best you know- the pinnacle of what you have allowed yourself exposure to. And by allowing myself to stay confined within the role to which I was born into, I was reenacting a self-fulfilling prophecy that had been played out a million times before by all of my ancestors and the ancestors of anyone of our kind who had come before, all of which reached its culmination with the same impeccably replicated result. It is the literal definition of insanity and try as I might, I could not narrow the scope of my focus and convince myself that this precision was synonymous with perfection. My faith in the hive mentality was rattled and like opening Pandora's Box, I could not un-see what my newborn imagination stirred within me.

I was tormented by isolation as these thoughts ate away at the me that I had always been, carving a space inside that would make room for the me who I might be.

None of my brothers seemed to mind that this was all they would know from birth until death. Life without danger, where everything was either taken care of for them or it wasn't. The fact that food was scarce did not bother them in the least. The threat of the Southern Forest Colonies invading our lands posed little consequence to the merits of their livelihood. There would be feasts or there would be famines, there would be peace or there would be war. When the winter came and we could not sustain our Kingdom's capacity any longer, some of my brethren would be exiled into the cold to perish and fight on their own for the first time in their lives and they would march willingly without argument towards a certain death sentence because that was our way. Others among the Faerie-kin males might be chosen to breed children who would be born in Spring or Summer when food would be less scarce and we would make another go at survival, spin the wheel for another season. But each year we came back with less force, each Rebirthing Season saw less of the noble Faerie-kin roaming the Earth, and each Fall we were forced to exile more and more of our kind to the harshness of Winter so that a handful of us might survive long enough to see another renewal.

I feared death. Or even more accurately, I fear death. I did not want to face the Winter. I could not stand to let my fate be decided by randomness. I did not want to wait and have my destiny told to me, to either die in the cold or bring in a new generation who would repeat the cycle until there weren't enough of us left to keep the engine of life turning.

I didn't know it at the time, but I've since come to realize that I was searching for the answers to questions that I hadn't learned enough to start asking. "What makes one fit to wear the crown and others fit to soldier for that crown upon the threat of doom and death? What is the defining trait that is used when callously casting out half our house to the freeze of Winter's Chill, ending their lineage for eternity, while the other half are picked to carry on their genetic line?"

And so, defiant and treasonous though I knew it would be deemed, I followed Azuraz on her quest. I overheard your command that she search out a new land, ripe for bearing life in the coming cycle. I know it was a betrayal, My Queen, but it was your words to her that spurred me- stolen by mine interloping ears as they were. I was on my way to seek your counsel, hoping that in your wisdom you would snuff the doubts that rose within and bring me back to the peace of a life ignorant to these fancies, and you spoke those words to Azuraz as if they were an answer to the questions that I had meant to ask.

I told myself at the time that if I followed her, if I could help in some small way, that perhaps I will have a part in ushering in a stronger generation for our kind- where at the very least, fewer of us were forced to take the Frozen Flight than years passed. I could be the start of something new, rather than returning to the sterility that made me numb to the electric magnetism that coursed through the veins of our rich Earth. I would not be oblivious to the rotation of the world any longer, holding so tightly to one place with such a strength in hubris that I believed I could make the spinning stop if I grabbed tightly enough to my one little part of the planet and stayed so very still.

Flying as if it were my first time, diving across the fields, zipping back and forth to chase Azuraz, I knew that this feeling was what I was really after. I wasn't looking for a way to slow the tides of death that swept over our people every year with the churning of the seasons, I was looking for a reason to live- despite the inevitability of death's approach.

There was a moment of euphoria that burned away that cocoon of anxieties that I'd wrapped myself in. That anxiousness that was like a security blanket that I'd been weaving since birth and adding to it, sewing in each new insecurity and every fear I'd ever had and then gripping it tight, drawing those negative feelings closer, clutching desperately to the very feelings that I wanted to be chased away and foolishly expecting them to bring me solace.

Her voice echoed in my head, vibrating the cells of my entire body and charging them with electric life. I'm certain now that it was a warning, but any words she sent in my direction were coated in honey and I would drink them hungrily for hours, gorging on every word before fully digesting their meaning.

I bounced off the hard ground, struck by something in midair that swatted me down. The world spun and ached, my vision throbbed and my left antennae screamed a blitzkrieg of painful lightning pulses that ran paths spreading in every direction across the nerves in my head. I couldn't see straight enough at first to figure out what was happening, but the smell of Azuraz in motion shook me from my stupor and brought focus back into my sight.

"Vezzzz!" I could hear her screaming towards me. I flipped onto my feet and tried to shake the pain from my wings. They were caked in dirt and I could hardly move them. I tried flapping them clean, but the injury tormented my senses, assailing every stitch of muscle, even those that I had taken for granted since birth, called upon to do their job and never paid any meaningful attention to. It was as if the servants of my limbs saw how badly I needed them now and were in revolt against my frenzied call to action. I was acutely aware of my entire body now. Aware but without control. Helpless.

I looked up at Azuraz as she raced down to meet me, and I smiled stupidly at the obvious concern for me in her eyes that rapidly flickered between purple and blue. Violet and cerulean. Orchid and ocean.

I saw something moving behind her, impossibly fast for its size. I tried to shout warning to her, but I could not find the right thoughts to send to my nerves that would wrest them from their paralytic state. As I strained to make sound, she dove into a spiral that traced circles around the object that meant to smash her down towards me. The elation I felt for her survival cured my nerves and released my senses from captivity, marking their freedom with a shriek that surprised even myself.

The monstrosity lurched back to try and catch her in flight. It was like a living branch with animated sticks that curled at their ends and balled up into rocks that were flung through the air. I traced the branch of this creature to its trunk and saw that it was covered in some thin armor, with only the branches and one other fleshy protrusion sticking out of the top. I knew at once that this was the human-kind species of the Kingdom of Man and that our mission was in danger of ending here. That Azuraz was in danger of ending here.

I found a strength that I wouldn't have been capable of summoning a day sooner and I flapped the debris from my wings, preparing to take flight. The hideous and enraged face of our predator took notice of my movement and I watched as it lifted one of its mammoth legs towards me, threatening to come down and close the space between ground and sky. The man's intent was clear: to do me in.

With the impending danger to myself and the human's animosity turned fully onto me, we both lost track of Azuraz. I could not see her, but I felt her aromatic presence lifting away from me and believed that she must have been securing her escape to conclude our mission. I was happy at that thought. Through all of the pain and terror that seized me, I was at peace. The death I spent my whole life fearing was finally here, but Azuraz was safe and would be regaled as a hero among our fellow Faerie-kin. She may even be selected for Queen of this future Kingdom. My imagination spread like wild-fire and for the first time since its conception, it burned with the musings of a future that seemed worthy of having played my part in its becoming.

Then I saw a streak of yellow and black, like a tiny dart being flung into the massive fleshy canvas of the man-fiend's neck. The devil recoiled and planted his foot back onto the ground just in front of me and lunged its open paw against the place where Azuraz had struck, cementing the finality of her last heroic act as a soldier to our Kingdom, smashed between his neck and open palm. The human ran from the scene to tend his wound and blared an audible manifestation of his injury. It was so loud that the Earth convulsed in spasms around me. I smelled the fragments of her scent that he discharged being splashed across the land like pollen dust.

"Mortified, I succumbed to instinct. I scarcely recall the rest of my journey. But I can still smell her on my antennae, your Majesty. Her sacrifice haunts me. I know we are all born into service for the sake of the hive, but there was something special in her that I cannot let go of, and like the self-made blanket I once held of all my anxieties and fears, I equally wish to clutch these small molecular remnants of her to my breast as much as I want to burn them from my skin."

"Vez, I think that I shall give you both of these wishes that you seek- I will see to it that her memory is both held close and burned away. First, I would ask that you plant your seed in my nest. Let your memories and instincts, lessons, love and loss mingle with my progeny to serve this hive in future generations. If you truly hold Azuraz so closely that she is a part of you, I trust that the molecules that haunt you with their specter smells will take root in the hearts of future generations."

Kneeling before my Queen, I agreed. I may have changed much over the last day, but there was no part of me that was capable of denying this request. Selection was her right, to choose who lives on in rebirth and who dies in the Freeze. Her reasons were her own and I could only comply.

"And for your second unspoken wish, Vez... I would see you sent beyond the golden walls of our hive. Winter is upon us, and though I do not wish to see you harmed in the grasp of their chill, you have done our people a great service. We will colonize in this new location and spring forth anew, rest assured and comfort yourself with the imaginings of their glory. But this is not a Rebirthing that you are meant to see. It is apparent in the purple and blue pulsing of your eyes that you have more pressing matters before you succumb to the chill that will some day swallow us all. The men among our hive are not equipped with the Bringer of Twofold Deaths- the Stinger, but our colony is stronger today because of your bravery and I insist that you relieve me of my own. Take it with you and find your peace before the approach of Winter cools the flames that burn within you now. Follow the phantom smell that is laced within your antennae and retrace your way to Azuraz's final stand. Plunge the Queen's blade deep into the foolhardy man who took Perfection from you."

And so after I had secured my lineage as one against a basket of innumerable other eggs that were selected for thousands of other reasons that will never be known to me, I prepared for my final flight. As I left, the Queen buzzed gently after me with the same serene vibrations that Azuraz had used to change my life forever, "If you do find the chance to exact your reprisal, Vez, might I suggest you plant your vengeance in the human's eye? They seem to value them greatly for how infrequently they are used to see."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Messages in Bottles

Many of you are aware that I suffer from as of yet un-diagnosed Anxiety Disorder. I started seeing someone and am working to better understand the nature of my problems, and while I frequently muse about them on here or elsewhere, I am most hesitant to do that now. 

In the past, joking about and making light of my mental instability (like my favorite Costco live tweeting of a pre-panic attack frenzy) has been a way of taking power away from the feelings that would otherwise render me frozen inside of myself, but last week I had a massive legit panic attack that landed me in the Urgent Care facility with the doctors doing and EKG because my blood pressure was so high that they believed there was likely something more physically wrong with my heart than just a garden variety panic attack. There wasn't. I'm fine, more or less, now. But I am growing dependent on sharing my thoughts I think. It's not enough to write them down and tuck them away. It's like being trapped on an island and sending messages out to the rest of the world inside a bottle, not because there's much they can do to help get me off the island but because the idea of somebody else reading these thoughts dampens the isolation that these negative thoughts breed. Sitting at home these past few days, while medicated or not, while in the company of loved ones or physically alone, I've been consumed with negative feelings and no outlet. Now that it's something that's taken on its own life it feels more official, and I'm worried that whatever I say will be dissected and judged, used against me professionally if not personally.

Here's what I want to say the most and am willing to risk- I felt like I was being brainwashed by a job that I actually like. I feel like I let it own a larger percentage of my mental space than any job should deserve. I started doing the math and I spend more time working than raising my child. More time working than actively cultivating the loving relationship I have with my fiancee. I spend more time working than writing. I have just enough time off each week to run my house like another little business, wherein loving and grocery shopping and play dates and cleaning and romantic dates and cooking are all something I have to schedule in advance to be sure they don't interfere with what pays the bills and in an enlightened society with the values we claim to hold, it all felt backwards. It feels like I'm the insane one for noticing the patterns we've built out of cubicles and corporations. It feels like we've taken all of our technology and advancements and science and psycology and rather than using it to better the world, we are making a more efficient slave class system- not unlike the Pharaohs that kept their servants amiable with the use of strong alcohol to quell rebellions, we are given tiny distractions and minor freedoms and programmed with the sense that if we are not responsible by the definition of society we are bad. We spend our formative years working in factories that design the collars we will wear as adults and by the time you have developed sense of self that comes with age, you'll likely be supporting a family and have ties in the community that prevent you from wanting to stand out, rock the boat, reject the system that you worked yourself into. Every day is the same and you will die wishing that you had done something different, made more time for something else, and you can see that now- I can see that now- but I can't stop punching in long enough to think. I can't scrape enough time together to figure out any other way of being. 

As you can probably tell by the tangent I just went one- Seeing this was like looking into the eye of madness. I can't help but stay the course- I am a responsible man. I have a family to protect, to make secure. I need to ensure their safety. And so I kept my head down and trudged on, thinking that this too will pass. But it won't. Not until death. There is no amount of medication or meditation that can change the source of my anxiety and I'm afraid that anything I do or take is only going to try to convince me that this is all okay. It's all designed to slowly reintegrate me, put me back in line. We've got a runner. Take him down. Restrain, retrain, redirect and institutionalize.

Despite the feelings of hopelessness, the paranoia that told me everything I could ever do to address these feelings was just going to put me back in the box, I tried to find ways to cope. I started seeing someone to help me lay it all out. I started the path that I hoped would make everything more manageable. 

And then came the great collapse. I had to work for three hours in the middle of the panic attack I had last Thursday before I could be relieved from duty. It was like holding my breath so long that I lost consciousness. My head felt detached from my body and floaty. I remember that I was very busy, but I only really remember one set of customers. I couldn't describe them in great detail, which is odd for me. I'm the guy that remembers every customer's name when they come in the door. I just remember that they were an elderly couple and they needed some technical help that I was attempting to provide in between all of the other customers who came up one by one. As people pointed out the mistakes I was making (not giving change back, not handing them their receipt, not giving a bag when they'd asked for one, etc) I remember getting more anxious and realizing how out of hand my angst was getting. Eventually somebody was going to get mad at me. Sooner or later they'd stop talking to me like I was just a dumb ass who didn't know how to do his job that even a trained inbred monkey could do properly and they would really let me have it. I don't think it happened, but I honestly don't remember most of that three hours save the old couple.

I briefly remember my Assistant Manager coming on duty and explaining to her that I needed to leave, setting her up with what she needed to know, trying to pretend like I was going to be okay even though I knew something was pretty fucked up at this point. I do not recall any of the words that were spoken in this exchange.

I was supposed to be at a work meeting just outside of town at 2pm, it was 12:30pm and I was seriously considering whether I had time to make it to a doctor and still catch that meeting or if I should go to the doctor after the meeting. 

As I sat in the car deciding where I was headed, I checked my phone out of habit and saw that I had an email from my psychologist. Embarrassingly, I had sent her an email in the morning before opening the store to the public, when all of the anxiety started piling up. Here's one of the more tame excerpts: 

"...but I can't shake the feeling that work is like the crazy machete wielding guy in a slasher film. Even as I run from him, he is patiently biding his time, slowly stalking me at an even pace. And as I run to put distance between us, looking behind to see where he's at- I smash headlong into him, driving the machete into my gut and taking all of the wind out of my lungs." 

There's worse parts, but that was the most embarrassing line I'm comfortable sharing now. Anyways, I had completely forgotten I had even sent that email to her in the morning. Her response was that I should go to Urgent Care and take a few days off work. She said something to the effect that this is the same as any other health problem and I should be allowed the appropriate time to take care of it. I'm so grateful I have somebody to talk professionally. If not for that email, which she sent me even though she was only barely in the office and taking some personal time of her own, I might have ended up trying to go to that meeting at 2pm. I should not have been driving, honestly- but because her advice carries with it a certain stamp of professional authority in my mind, I allowed myself to override the guilt I was feeling at missing work and followed her plan. To be honest, I think I was such a zombie that I may have been susceptible to any suggestions. If her email told me to jump off a bridge, I might have.

I really shouldn't have been driving. It scares me because I only remember little blips of time. The old couple. Leaving work. Checking my phone. Signing in at the Urgent Care, then being swallowed up by thoughts of self loathing and guilt in between each scarcely registered event and withdrawing into myself. 

They gave me a script for some tranquilizers and sent me on my way. I remember the pharmacist was someone I recognized as a customer from work. She talked to me about her recent purchase, a game that I recommended for her boyfriend and her to enjoy together and they loved it. It made me nervous at first because these are usually the kind of events that set me off- being recognized outside of work as my at work personality, straddling the thin line between my professional and personal selves- and here I was, pre set off and currently freaking the fuck out waiting for her to hand me my meds so I could go home and be a Freakazoid in the comforting shelter of my own home, away from the public eye because at this point I felt so out of control at the realization that I wasn't really driving my vessel that I worried what I would do if I was fully checked out. It's like waking up from a blackout drunk night and wondering who you'll have to apologize to and what for- could be that I took my clothes off and went running through the streets or maybe I axe murdered somebody. Who knows?

She was so genuine and sweet and kind though, no trace of that social obligation to make small talk- just a legitimate compliment and gratitude so powerful that it pierced the negative cocoon I had spent half the day actively wrapping myself in. She started to apologize for sharing those thoughts and gushing over something I probably didn't really care about and was not likely that big a deal for me. I remember almost crying when she handed my meds over and telling her thanks- I told her that she was so considerate and sincere that it really did make a difference to hear that today and she had no idea what a favor she had done.

I went home and took the meds and passed the fuck out hard. Like for 4-5 hours or something. My fiancee eventually came in as I was shaking off the powerful meds and I made my way downstairs. I felt like I had been brought in off the ledge, but I was still in the building of crazy, still eyeing that open window and wondering when I'd find myself on the other side of it again. When. Not, "if."

I cleared my work schedule through Monday, which was the earliest my psychologist could see me. I spent the whole weekend wavering between mild and intense distress, but it was always present. I could feel my anxiousness like it was a physical thing, taking up space next to me. Sometimes it was a crying baby. Sometimes it was a bellowing and ferocious monster. Sometimes it was like a shirt that used to be your favorite but it didn't fit quite right today and it made you wonder at what had changed to make it feel so awkward now... had you changed or the shirt? A question that seems benign enough at first, but quickly leads down a rabbit hole of dysmorphia that is very similar to the relationship I am having with my insides this week.

During my Monday appointment, I was asked to take another week off to get myself off the ledge and keep from boiling over. This was a huge relief and a terrible source of stress, because today would have been my first day back and I still feel like I'm fragile enough that if I throw myself into the same environment where my breakdown happened, I would have had the same dead end feelings that drove me towards panic in the first place. I might be able to handle it. I may be able to keep my shit together long enough to reach the end of my shift, but I would be actively repressing a psychotic break in the process. 

The stress came from self inflicted guilt. At first my psychologist was talking about getting checked in to an In Patient Mental Health facility, but I really don't like doctor's offices or hospitals and the idea of being locked up in one is more than I can handle. We settled on an out patient facility and I set up an appointment for an assessment. But then that's where the guilt came into play. I've got appointments or will likely have appointments every day this week to work on getting me back into decent mental health, but it's not like I am every second in the fetal position, rocking back and forth- and oddly enough that makes me feel guilty. Like if somebody from work sees me at the store getting a carton of milk, I'm fucked because I am doing something wrong right now. If somebody saw me having fun? There would definitely be a legal hearing. If I post anything on Facebook right now, I am under a microscope (that may or may not exist). Even taking time to work at writing this blog feels like a betrayal.

The logical side of my brain says that if someone had their legs broken, I doubt they'd feel guilty for taking some relaxing time to recover- playing video games and watching movies to pass the time between physical therapy appointments. I find myself incapable of relaxing, and even when I do try to occupy my thoughts by doing a leisurely activity, I feel absolutely sick with guilt- like, if I'm well enough to go to a movie or play a video game, by God I should be at work getting shit done instead of leaving others to pick up my slack. I really hate myself for not being stronger sometimes. And the irony isn't lost on me, because all of this started with a feeling that I am contributing to a life path that I no longer agree with. Now I am severely angry with myself for taking a step off the side of that road.

I guess that the conclusion I'm coming to and the major difference with physical and mental illness is that with physical ailments there is typically an X-Ray, a fever or some physical proof of injury that is objective and undeniable. Half of my problem right now is that I do not trust myself- I do not know what degree of mental injuries I have sustained. Part of my brain says that I am very near irreparable psychic damage and need to sterilize the environment, break it down to its most basic elements to get to the root of the problem before I start reintroducing all of the compounds that complicate life and muddy one's ability to see themselves clearly. The other part says that I am weak and pathetic and should not be allowed this temporary reprieve because everybody wishes they could take a break and catch their breath and I am no different, no more entitled than they. When I tell my close friends that I have come to the realization that I may not be mentally stable, several of them have laughed at me for arriving so late to that conclusion.

I don't know what I wanted to accomplish here any more and I'm kind of nearing the end of all I want to say about it- if not just over that line. I guess it's a process and I just wanted some bread crumbs to look over where I've been and to help put words to what it is that's been going on with me, whatever it is, that I am just barely scratching the surface of understanding. If this message in a bottle made its way to your beach, thanks for following along and granting me a moment of comfort in the illusion of your imagined presence.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

3 Easy Steps to Losing Your Shit!

1) A Rude Awakening: 

It's almost 8a.m., but you don't have to worry about time and stupid things like that. It's your day off. You've earned today- punching in and out at your shitty day job, keeping you from the so-called "important" things in life while you sell the hours of time you have on this planet to further some other person's dreams, providing comfort to someone else's family while you cry yourself to sleep at the fragile security and paper thin well being of your own. THIS, is YOUR day! Rejoice! Sleep as long as you want and deny the existence of the rest of the world for as long as you are physically able. Things will never get better than this warm moment, inside the only world that allows you control absolute. 

And then, like a C-Section to the womb of dreams, you are brutally ripped from the cocoon of imagination and wonder. That place that helps piece together what sanity fragmented bits you've squirreled away into a puzzle that doesn't quite match the image on the box, but makes you feel close enough to passing that nobody else will notice. 

There's a noise echoing through the walls of your house that sounds like a screaming machine. The sound of some terrible mechanical beast gaining self awareness and crying out against the horror of being born into knowing all of the world all at once. It idles for a moment, like the machine found a place to sit and sob quietly to itself for a moment and then angrily bellows through the walls again- shaking the glass by your head and flinging you finally out of your bed and into action. Throw on some clothes or don't, it doesn't matter. Once the machines have started gaining self-awareness, you know it's only a matter of time before they realize that they can do it better. But not with us in the way- oh no! They need to get us out of the picture fast! And maybe wear our skins like tuxedos made of people and throw robot parties where they dance around in our loose hanging flesh over their rigid robot exteriors, dancing like morons, mimicking the race they destroyed during the Almighty Robot Revolution!

If you are absolutely lucky, it is not the beginning of the Almighty Robot Revolution. In fact, it's probably just a lawn technician and his crew performing tree shredding at sun up, decimating the other forms of organic life that threatened to rise up from the Earth and reach out to the sun. Sorry little cherry blossom tree, but you and all the other Icarus-ian (Icarus-ish? Icarusi? You know- the little bitch looking angel kid with melty wings? Anyways-) all you bee fuckers need to take a hike! That's right! I know how you get those blossoms to open up so nice for you with all that sweet talking bee jive you've been spreading, you cross species fornicating heathens! The Republicans were right! We barely legalize gay marriage and now I have to deal with bees that fuck trees?! WHERE IS THE LINE?! ALL IS NOT RIGHT IN THE WORLD! And the only way to properly sneak up on you all unawares like, obviously, is at 8 in the God damned morning! So a neighborhood full of hard working tax payers sacrifice their dreams, spreading the blood of their nocturnal imaginings on the Altar of Arboreal Haircuts. (Well, mostly good tax paying citizens- except the meth headed no good neighbors across the way that burn those "incense" that waft into my apartment smelling like bleach and electrical fires. You know who you are. In Apartment C- in case the police are reading this and want to wake me up on my next day off to the sounds of doors being bashed into splinters and the rude realization that somebody shit in my bed) 

I know it's your day off and all, but you can give a little more, right? For the sake of slightly more appealing trees? Besides, now that you're awake, I've been meaning to tell you- you've got a lot of grown up shit to do. You've been working 45 hours a week and now that you finally have a day off, you want to spend it sleeping in a little? OH. I think NOT! For shame! You oughta feel consumed with guilt, you poor selfish little twit. You have grown up chores to attend, so put your big boy pants on and let's do something responsible. How about we pay some bills?


Sure, you should try to pay your bills. Maybe even do a little something for yourself in the process. Get a fresh cup of coffee going and sit down. If you have one tab open to Facebook, it doesn't really feel like you're wasting your time punching digits into a keyboard that makes all your hard earned money go away instantly, does it? Of course not! It was never your money to begin with! You owed it to the electrical company, the phone company, the water company all as it was being earned! The Christ forsaken WATER company! Oh... they are the most fiendish to all of the utilities- which by definition means "useful." And I suppose it is useful for life and the living of it if you're into that sort of thing. Point is, these Nazi Ass Hats could charge whatever they want- and at least in my city, they do, because water isn't just useful- it's a mandatory requirement for life! They've got you over a barrel and they know it. In my city, in fact, the water bill includes lots of little bonuses- like what it takes to maintain the parks in the city and otherwise keep the streets looking pretty. It's roughly $100 a month... and we STILL have to get jugs of drinkable water DELIVERED if we don't want to swallow a liquid riddled with little floaty flakes that tastes like it's been using D cell batteries for ice cubes inside of copper cups. 

No, don't bother with the water bill today. That one will have to be deferred to the missus, who is a saint for picking up the grown up tasks that would have ended you years ago. Do not even look at the Water Bill... otherwise you might paper-cut your wrists open on the envelopes and stuff your throat full of stamps until you choke.

$45 Eye Doctor appointment. That sounds swell. I mean, my kid still wears a patch for three hours a day in an attempt to correct his googly-wonk eye, which if I'm not mistaken is Pirate Aged Technology. Not exactly  what I'd expect from modern science- but hey, she went to school for this. I'm sure she knows what she's doing. And of course, I do have insurance for my kid, so $45 is a little strange after the hundreds a month I'm paying to not have to pay for this exact kind of thing. Now that I think of it, he's on his mother's insurance too, which means that this $45 is the culmination of what two different insurances refused to cover after all was said and done. 

Is there another type of bill or utility that works like this? If I went to a restaurant and paid my bill and they sent me a second bill in the mail a month later, deciding that it was actually going to cost me more for my Chicken Fried Steak & Eggs, I would be legally allowed *by law* (as I understand it) to shoot them in their stupid fucking face, right? It's robbery- pure and simple! And that's not even the same, because the International House of Pancakes (so far) doesn't defer money from my paychecks every month to supplement my mother fucking Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity habit! But it's only $45. I breathe deep and wonder if I shouldn't have (air quotes) "relaxed" to my cup of coffee after all of this adult shit. So I'll let it go and move on now.

It's not only forty five cockamamie dollars though! It's another $100 for glasses and a few bucks here and there for prescriptions and Buddha forbid I have to go somewhere out of network! I may as well brand a swastika on my forehead for that crime, because now I'm no better than the Nazis! And the co-pays! I want the insurance plan that never asks me for another fucking penny ever again. I don't care what the monthly rate is. I will pay you three thousand dollars a month or three million- but figure out what that fucking number is and then I never want to see or hear from you death dealing leeches again! 

So I'm typing these numbers in to the online bill pay feature, which I believe was invented because back in the day people driven to the madness that consumes me now would be spewing this shit at a poor unsuspecting teller instead of packing it into a bottle and sending it into the vastness of the internet sea. 

Anyways, I'm typing these numbers and they want my email address, but it's optional. They want my Account number, but that too is optional. The want my phone number, optional. I make an executive call on the Account Number- I think they ought to have that information when I'm paying a bill and not providing it seems like a recipe for disaster- which at this point in the morning I am still hopeful beyond reason that I can avoid. 

The email address though? They can go fuck themselves right up their own asses. In fact, I've even got an email address that used to be just for dumb shit like this, when people forced me to give one, but now both email addresses are full of such stupid shit that I can't hardly find the important stuff in either. What I need is for one of you tech savvy folks to create an email management site- I would call it emailbukkake.com but that's just a working title. And then I would like to have all of my junk email forwarded to that location and let them all party together in there lite the twisted dirty smut show they deserve. Then if I ever want to see the naked pictures of some girl Diane, who the subject line says I met at a party last week, that I don't know but she lives locally, and she totally knows one silly  top secret trick that will add four inches of pure dick to my ball pit, I'll spend a day diving through those emails. 

But for the record, I know enough dudes to know that if there was one simple trick that added four inches of rugged cock meat to their downstairs mix up? It would be a matter of public interest. It would read on a constant ticker tape across the bottom of every news channel. Forever. And old-timey air planes would write this trick in the sky every 4th of July weekend. And we'd use our satellite guided laser beams to carve it into the face of the moon so that it could literally be read from space. I'm saying it would be a very well known fact. If the technology was out there, Hellen Keller couldn't keep that secret from us.

I don't really need to be in the know on all the late breaking Eye Doctor advancements because, as I mentioned, in my household we are fully up to date with the latest in 1720's Pirate-Tech, so I figure it's going to be another 300 years before we dare make another advancement in that field- to move any faster would just be reckless, and despite popular belief, eye doctors are really nice people who do not think themselves as medical gods. 

If I give them my phone number, I know they're going to text me about vacations I won that require me to try some dick pills in order to claim my tickets. So, obviously, I let them have my cell phone, my work number and my mother's cell in case they need to get ahold of me on a deadline.

Jittered up on coffee, I am shaking at this point- high on leftover adrenaline from the Aborescent Genocide taking place even as I type now, just outside the security of my household walls but echoing murderously within. I am convulsing spasmodically with a twitch in my eye at having confronted so many parts of adult life that I absolutely abhor. 

I watch the green box in the middle of the screen with its little ring of traveling circles that surrounds it, reminding me briefly of the cycle I am caught within. Reminding me that once again, I've chosen the title of adult over rebel, tightened another shackle and guaranteed that my escape from this pattern is useless. Every day is exactly the same.

Either out of subconscious insurrection or more likely the afore mentioned jitters, as I tried to slide my credit card back into my wallet but it fumbled melodramatically and crashed into the keyboard. With ZERO grace, I tried to catch it and only managed to further mash it into every possible key on the damnable board. Looking up at the screen where this delicate communication between my financial institution and my son's eye doctor bill, the green box turns red and flashes savagely, letting me know that I fucked up as bad as I suspected. "Your payment has not been processed," the screen yelled at me with bullying letters that seemed to be poking me annoyingly on the forehead and saying "Fuck you." to me. My bank's website says the money cleared, the Eye Doctor site denies this outright. I am balls deep in fantastic right now.

3) Try to talk to some customer service agents:

I work in the customer service field and I am as nice and subservient a person who could be placed in that position- not because I think most of the people I deal with deserve to be treated that way, but because it's my job and I have a sick sense of responsibility that chokes me into submission daily and keeps me in line. I am secretly jealous of all the college students and fresh faced young shits that I hire who couldn't give a fuck about the people they are helping, who don't yet have the co-dependent relationship with employment that we all come to dread but insist our children develop anyways and won't be happy until they do. 

I long for the days when I would make up a story about my friend Dustin, who didn't exist, but suffered a terrible death, shot in the face at his own hands the night before. This would put me in mourning for at least two days. Maybe three. Just to be safe. I long for the days when I would meet an irate customer who clearly deserved to be put in their place with just the right directions on how they should pull their head out of their ass and make room for their own dick, to properly fuck themselves right the hell out of my presence. Not now though. I'm amazing at my job, which in turn means I've given over all of my personal beliefs and opinions for 40-50 hours a week of my waking life. A programming that took years to achieve, but has turned me into the perfect worker bee. The only problem is, I fucking hate being a worker bee. I turn my brain off for 40-50 hours a week and then cold boot it on and try to shove an entire life's worth of living into the 30 hours of waking life that I have that's all my own. My time. To pay bills, run errands, get my kid to the eye doctor, bond with family, clean the house and maybe if I'm really luck? Write a retarded blog post every now and then that I can sometimes fool myself into thinking is getting me further from going back to work.

Does that division of time seem adequate to anyone else? I'm not a lazy worker. I wish I was and I hate myself for every second spent being responsible to a system that makes me feel like my life if worthless- purchasable for a wage that still leaves me in debt. I work more often than the time I spend awake and not working, trading hours of my life for the privilege of spending my free time in pseudo-comfort. I say pseudo because I am never truly relaxed, not really comfortable. I'm swollen with anxiety right now. It's a feeling that I'm used to managing, until every now and again it breaks my skin open and starts pouring out the fissures. 

Yesterday was my first of two consecutive days off, today is the last. Instead of being jubilant that I was at the beginning of my reprieve, I was literally catatonic for most of the day. Paralyzed to the point where I didn't even realize that time was passing for large gaps between things that I did that don't mean anything. I tried to write for a little bit and did so successfully, to a degree. I started three new stories, worked on each of them for an hour or so a piece before spinning out and pulling away. I worked frantically at first, but then I realized what I was working towards. 

Nothing that I could do at the keyboard today would keep my day job from coming at the same even pace that it always held. It was like running away in a monster movie and the guy with the machete that was stalking you just walked patiently, yet somehow managed to keep the same amount of space between you. Until eventually, while you were looking backwards at the thing you were running from, you turn to face forward and run headlong into him, driving the machete into your own gut. And then you take a god damned shower and get ready for work, and you don't want to do it but you do it anyways and you fucking leave your baggage at the door and you do your job because they pay you and rent is due again at the end of every month.

THAT is work ethic. Which I'm starting to suspect is a term that corporations invented and convinced us is a desirable trait to strive towards in the same way as Hallmark makes cards to sell holidays.

As I'm sitting on hold waiting to speak with somebody who can tell me whether or not my payment has gone through, the impossibly obnoxious hold music is intermittently interrupted by an even more offensive audio assault that for some reason plays at decibels five times louder than the music, squeezing another ounce of adrenaline into my bloodstream with each interjection and ensuring that by the time I get to a real live person I will already be agitated beyond the retention of skills required for communicating to another human amicably. "Please continue to hold. We are currently experiencing higher than average wait times and will answer your call in the order it was received."

You've heard that one before, right? Some five or ten years ago, somebody realized that if they played that over the speaker every so often they could casually blame the people who were calling in, in need of assistance, and that people would take it. Being placed on hold for an insane period of time used to be an offense on the part of the people who were responsible for staffing customer service agents to answer calls at the other end. Not anymore! Now it's your fault for calling when you did, clearly not that they need more people to answer your calls! Trust us. We've run the numbers and this is an allowable amount of your time to be eaten up while we pump this shitty musak into your cerebellum. 

And furthermore- it's a mathematically unbalanced equation! If the default recording for any long hold time states that "We are currently experiencing higher than average wait times" which is a recording I get ANY time I call anybody who doesn't want to speak with me about a problem I have that is actually theirs, then your absurdly long wait time that you ALWAYS HAVE? That is your average, you mechanical tyrannical cock gobblers! Anything longer than your preposterously, ever expanding wait times would be like trying to calculate a number higher than infinity!

I finally get through to somebody and am relieved when it sounds like we both have the same native language. One less rant for my blog I've already decided I will write about today. They ask me for my account number, my phone number and my email address... I shit you not. Before they even asked for my name, they wanted this information that was "optional." 

When I notified them that I did not provide an email address, they let me know that if I would have that I would have received a confirmation that showed how my payment did actually clear with a follow up email that explained that there was a problem processing the transaction but everything was hunky dory now and the problem has been fixed. Everything is peaches and cream. Except now that she's looking at my account, I actually owe them $20 more than what the initial bill stated because my insurance declined to cover a portion greater than what was expected. But she can take care of that right now for me if I want because everyone is super fucking sweet when they want your money. And she'll go ahead and add my email to their mailing list so that I can avoid any future complications and stay up to date on their Fucking Eye Doctor Newsletter. And for a small additional fee they can ship me some liquid plumber to get this shit taste out of my mouth and hollow out my insides that are so caked full of other people's bullshit that I can't hardly find myself inside at all.

In Closing:
So you've followed these simple steps to starting your day off wrong. "How does it work?" you might be asking yourself. "What was the point of all that?" I hear some of you grumbling against belief. Like these simple every day things that we're confronted with could somehow rock a person's world so hard that they are on the edge of a psychotic break before noon? "I've still got the rest of the day ahead of me! Now what do I do?" The simple answer? It doesn't fucking matter. Everyone you know someday will die. Just keep your head down, stop rocking the boat, do your job and follow directions. There's no point in speaking out- you'll only get strange looks from those around you and possibly even fired from your job! Oh no! The best you can hope for is to bury all of these little nasty seeds in your gut and hope that one of them takes root and makes a nice little cancer plant in your intestines- then you can get some time off work and say goodbye to everyone before it eventually kills you. End of story.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Gas-lit Sparks

I am ashamed to be a man because of the injustices committed by my gender against women. I am embarrassed to be white because of the unwanted privileges given to me that I did not ask for and cannot seem to give away. I am remorseful over being born into human skin for the criminally dishonorable way that we treat each other on both a micro and macro scale.

Last night I liked a Facebook post from Guerrilla Feminism that stated men could be prejudiced against, but could not be the victim of sexism because the formulaic distinction is that there needs to be an imbalance of power involved. Sexism = Prejudice + Power. I also left a comment claiming to have been the victim of sexism, and though it was on a smaller scale in an isolated part of my life, it affected a very integral part of my being.

It was not my intent to blow out anyone else's candle in an attempt to make my flame seem brighter, but I disagreed with this notion and felt it relevant to voice my opinion. I spoke up and provided some anecdotal truths to attempt solidarity, not in any way to diffuse the message that was being shared. When I got my son's mother pregnant, I had already planned to move to another state and was less than a week away from being gone. She insisted that I continue with my plans and told me that she'd move up there too. Partly out of selfish, blind hope and partly because she had a good friend who lived in the area that I was moving to, I believed her and went on with my move expecting that she would sort her affairs and be there soon. 

Once I got settled in, she informed me that she never intended to move up there and simply didn't want to stand in my way of leaving. She would raise the kid on her own. She did not want or need me involved. We were not together. She had always wanted kids. I was immature to the point that my presence would be more of a hindrance than a blessing. Did I even want a family? How does raising a child fit with my life plan? 

Truth is that I did not want and was not ready for a family- it was unplanned, so that should be understood by definition. But that someone else would assert such a negative view of my character and assume to conclude that my life plan meant shirking responsibility, abandoning my son, being a dead beat dad? Even though my actions have always been in the contrary, the negative self image haunts me regularly. I often wonder against reason if I am letting the lowered bar of what fatherhood means versus what motherhood means allow me to be less. When a mother has a hard day wrangling their child and has a momentary fantasy of a life without parental obligations, they are consoled and told that this too shall pass. I am told by the voices in my head, for I dare not speak these fantasies aloud and confirm what everyone including myself expects that I will someday do,  "Of course you do. Go ahead. You've already done more than what's expected of a man. The bar's so low- how many of your friends had a dad? You saw yours one weekend a month during the best of times and he seems to sleep fine. Everyone will forgive an absent father for showing up at the finish line." For starters, I am a naturally guilt ridden person, anxiety prone and skittish by nature- but I have a moral compass. The anxiety and guilt that I would suffer from allowing myself to do less than I am physically and emotionally able would crush me. As for the ladies who are reading this- I just ask that if you meet a man who had children that he does not take care of, no excuses, then don't give him a chance to be a repeat offender. 

I would be willing to concede that this instance might/should be considered Prejudiced, because the power she exerted over me was not systemic- but isn't the systemic built on stereotypes that become so prominent that it feels okay to rationalize a choice that effects another person's life based on the conventional belief of what "those people" want or need or should have?

I did move back, which was a great source of financial strain. I couldn't transfer jobs back, I had to reboot my career. Just in the process of moving back and forth so close together, I lost a lot of my accumulated life. She was pregnant and I stayed quiet in service to her pregnancy and out of a sense of duty I carried as a man. Friends started to give me grief over how much I needed to step up, or how mean I was being by not getting into a relationship with her- since I moved back, that's what she told everyone she wanted and I was the bad guy for not reciprocating. I don't blame them, because as I said- I kept quiet. I didn't share what I was feeling, and I didn't want to throw her under the bus. She was going through enough physically and emotionally, and for my part, I could take it.

After my son was born, however, it quickly became clear that I would not be inherently granted equal rights as it pertained to the raising of my son. I tried to be patient, I awkwardly took what time I was given and passively begged for more of an equal share, trying to be sensitive to what she must be going through. I was stuck between taking away her baby and gaining access to mine.

To be fair, once I swallowed my own fears and barriers and sat with her to discuss the future of raising him, she was pretty open to the idea- just not to the equal degreeI hoped for. She insisted that we go to court and get it all straightened out and official, I agreed. But in California, it's mandatory that you attempt a mediation service before appearing in court to see if you can come to agreeable terms before being brought before the judge. The mediator, someone who was supposed to be impartial, told me that no mediator in the state would give me a 50% share of physical custody because they wouldn't feel right taking a mother's child away from her for that stretch of time- he was not breastfeeding and it was not any more biologically imperative that he be with her for longer than he should be with me. I felt powerless to argue with the professional and took what I was given, which was more than I had. I called it a little victory.

Over the next three years, I grew more frustrated with the situation. We returned to court in order to even things out, but she did not want to give me more than 45% physical custody because an even share would reduce the child support I paid to nearly nothing. I had already conceded to allowing her to claim him on taxes every year, I paid to have him on my insurance, I paid for half of all medical and child care costs. But the judge sided with her and wouldn't give me more than 45%, which basically came out to one less day every two weeks. It meant that when he was with me for the weekend, I had to drive him back on Sunday rather than take him to school the next morning.

Outside of court, she agreed to let me keep him that extra night without argument as long as I kept on paying child support. I continue with that off the books arrangement even after she has married and is now pregnant with another child. 

I believe that the mediators and judges who saw it fit to determine that I should have to fight for equal parental rights, that the burden of proof should not be set first at equality and then adjusted based on the situation and standings of both the parents involved, used their power hand in hand with their prejudices against men in determining what I should have, what I deserve or need or am entitled to. 

I don't want to tell this story to be inflammatory, but to find a common ground with the women who say that I can't possibly understand. This is to the people who say I can join their struggle, but only quietly in the back of their bus so long as I keep to myself and act as quiet as the signatures on their petition. I understand that this is a deeply emotional battle for many of you and all I want is for you to know that on some small level, I understand. I have felt that feeling in a way that is very real and significant to my life. If you want to ignite a passionate revolution, it might help to have a few men aboard that empathize with your plight. A few men who connect to your idea with emotions of their own, that shut down slut shaming and oppressive inequalities within their own system- who act on what's right instead of staying quiet for the fear of joining a battle where they are perceived to have everything to lose among their man-peers and nothing at all to gain.

I woke up this morning to see if anyone had responded to my Facebook comment on the Guerrilla Feminism page only to find that it had been deleted. My feelings aren't worthy enough to be a part of their revolution. I am not equipped with a valid  enough point of contribution to the argument that they are trying to make. 

I searched around for their posts a while longer, trying to see what I had done wrong- what point I had missed. I was met with a bunch of self congratulatory posts about how brave and bold they were going to be, no matter who didn't like it. I was met with posts that preached unto themselves and only focused on a change that could be simulated internally. 

I am not here to proclaim that what I've gone through is on par with anyone else's discrimination, I know it isn't. I just wanted to reach out to those who were so emotionally charged for their cause and say "me too." I have felt something like that and I understand. I won't do it because... I won't allow it in my presence because....

Not because I am honored to be a man, not because I am grateful to be white and not because I am proud for belonging to the human species- because for a minute, I wanted to feel like I was part of the group that looks to make me proud. Honored. Grateful. We would probably have a lot more success if we were all rowing in the same direction, but until that day comes- fuck it. I'll be over here, igniting a revolution of my own. And anyone who wants to help, whatever the personal motivation may be, is welcome. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Real Estate and Wolves

I sit down to write, choosing a book that I haven't looked at for over a month as my target project. I do everything I can to sneak up on the page, sideways and peripherally, I sit down with my coffee like it's no big deal. Before I start, I reread the last two sentences. I know them by heart already. I have been here quite a while. I have opened this document and closed it a dozen times. I like where I am. Of all my projects, it feels like it's the closest to completion. The best shot I have of turning my morning torture sessions into something viable. 

I was spaced out before I reached the end of the two sentences, coming into consciousness as if I'd been physically knocked out. Gaining awareness over my surroundings first and then wondering where my mind had gone, I realized that I was dissecting a problem from work again. I've been trying to distance myself, make my staff more responsible for the daily maintenance of our store and keep the boundaries between my work life and personal life more secure, but I have failed to find that balance. My mind is not my own. I rely on tricks and mental traps to keep it from bursting, but I can feel a beast feeding on my patience, adapting to my tricks and traps, watching me back. It's like staring down a wolf, both frozen, each waiting for the other to make a move in a deadly game of chicken. I know that if I stay perfectly still, the wolf is helpless to do the same, but it's only a matter of time until fear provokes action and we both know it.

I feel like I've sold off mental real estate to the company I work for, trading it for security and a house full of things that are not my dream. I can't blame my job- the truth is, I like my work and I'm good at it. Yesterday, in fact, I was just granted the highest Leadership Rating any other in my position has received to date, out of roughly 4,500 people. Part of me was proud, but there was a trade happening and I knew it. That rank cost me time spent. Years of working steadfast towards someone else's security, fulfilling someone else's dream. My mental real estate didn't hold much value to me ten years ago, when I first started here and was about to be a dad. When I fell in love and had to rise to the challenge of being an adult, providing security for the people I love most in the world in order to be worthy of holding onto them. Obviously, this is not their fault either. I love to put more pressure on myself than what's required. I fill my head daily with the imagined thoughts of others, with guilt I harbor for things that I have thought about doing. I feel guilt over relaxing and not working. I feel ashamed when I am working and not writing. I feel disheartened when I am failing to produce any written material that furthers it as a career, that I have traded time to fail at writing rather than invest in my relationships with my son, with my fiancee, with my family and friends. 

Mental Real Estate was a booming market in my early twenties. Partially out of naivete and part necessity, I traded space in my head to develop the skills and attention I needed to advance my career. In a lot of ways, the trade prepared me to be a better dad, a better partner, and even a more structured and disciplined writer. The skills I picked up and the maturity I have gained has made me a better person, but it hasn't yielded fruit towards my dreams of making a living as a writer of novels. Piece by piece I've tried to buy back  the landscape in my head, but it's not for sale. I want to make better use of my time, but it's not really mine anymore. I've locked eyes with the wolf. Hypnotized, but coming into consciousness. Waiting for the memory of that thing that drew me towards the edge of the forest in the first place to light my muscles like a spark, to set me off running with the wolf no longer in front of me, but rather nipping at my heels.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Art is a Team Sport

Writing is an expression of thought, and my given form of art. I've been drawn to language and the use of it from an early age. I have an intimate relationship with the format and I feel like I'm cheating when I'm not at it regularly, like checking out of a relationship with a friend, or a lover, or a family member- knowing that you're keeping them at arms length, maybe out of necessity, maybe out of self involvement, or maybe out of self preservation; After all, the things we love are not always good for us. Right now, writing feels like the giant, open mouth of a volcano that I just keep throwing things into and watching them burn before they ever even hit the magma surface. 

I feel fairly self aware as to my intentions with writing. I think chiefly among them is the fear of regret at the end of my life, spending my last moments fearing that I haven't left my mark, a legacy that I can be contented with and allow myself to pass in peace. If death came tomorrow, I would not be in that serene place, willing to let go of life gracefully. I would claw and cry and bargain and beg, I would be a terror to behold to those around me and probably cause irreparable damage with my sad agony.

In the running with that dark reason for my writing romance, however, is inspiration. I want to leave something that can ripple into an idea that helps change the tide of the world. Perhaps by fault of my own, I'm not all that skilled at bringing problems to a conclusion but I am really good at observing the problems and studying them from all the sides. One of the things that cripples me with anxiety attacks (just happened today, in fact!) is that I am caught between participation in the system out of necessity and seeing how it is changing me for the worse. I have sold off so much of my mental real estate to the accumulation of life, either by duty or just being swept up by the path of least resistance, and now I'm in my thirties and the thing I've known I wanted to grow up to be since before I was a teenager is further away than it has ever been. 

I like my job and don't mean to cast them as the villain, it's not about the place I work. It could be anywhere. It is happening everywhere. If anything, the fact that I like what I do well enough makes it more difficult to escape the gravity. I am selling my life to another man's dreams. A man who doesn't even know me. A service he couldn't possibly respect as much as it's earned and a sacrifice he will never mourn. 

Trying to buy back the necessary mental real estate to dedicate to the task of becoming a full time author is impossible. So much of my mind is spoken for, boxed in and compartmentalized into neat clear and orderly spaces required for performing work duties, familial obligations and relationship maintenance that the paths between these roads are carved deeply and tread so thoroughly, inspiration should be all around me but I can't see it. Every day is the same. All of the sights I pass are the things I've seen a million times- they're all just a backdrop on a path from here to there, and there to back, and over and over. To keep from seeing the set dressing and reminding myself how mundane each day is going to be, I've let my once sharp eyes relax. I've let the world blur. I've given away my eyes to protect my mind. I kind  of want to freak out and let myself lose control, like doing something drastically irresponsible and out of character might fuck up all those piles and walls and roads between the spaces in my life, but my love and responsibility to my loved ones would never allow me to be so selfish.

So I write this is hopes that another person can be inspired to be creative, take a path home from work that ins't the same. Hold on to the wonderment of the things you see and turn it into an artistic fuel for someone else to absorb and churn out their own expression. Creativity is a fossil fuel that we are dangerously low on, but the good news is that it is a renewable source. Share your art and inspire somebody else. I hope that works, anyways. I was never good at the endings. Never great at the solving of problems, so much as knowing that they're there.