When I Made the Leap But No Net Appeared

I thought the path was concrete
But really it was water vapor

My instincts were like iron tanks
But the bridge was made with tissue paper

For someone who claims their lenses so clear
He was keeping his distance
I thought he was standing right here

Crossing that kind of gap
No smile would be wide enough
I embarrassed myself but I got him to laugh

People say, “I bet guys fall for you all the time.”
Well it’s quite the contrary

All the people I fall in love with
Turn out to be imaginary

"Like Tears In Rain" by Martin Wittfooth (2013)

“Like Tears In Rain” by Martin Wittfooth (2013)

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The Metaphor of Corrective Eyesight As Supplied by a Birthday

I recently had a birthday. It was no. 39 and therefore the “deep breath” before the plunge into 40.

In many ways, it was like an old stone by the side of the road where you stop to sit and rest a bit. Not far ahead lies a great, walled city with menacing turrets and a massive iron gate which lies open for you like a dark, foreboding mouth. Behind you, is a sun-baked road that is heavily worn and offers no comfort, save for a few good memories lost behind the distant hills where the dusk now rises. Are your best days behind you? Is the city a dark and lonely place? Or does it just appear that way due to its overly defensive presentation?

"Chmurolamacz" by Polish artist, Jacek Yerka (1994).

“Chmurolamacz” by Polish artist, Jacek Yerka (1994).

39 is definitely a totem of reflection; the last slice of limbo before middle age wraps you in its arms and carries you off into the future. Mine wasn’t as depressing as I expected, however. I always try to do something memorable on each birthday – either by traveling some place new or hosting a uniquely themed party. It is important to me to celebrate every revolution around the sun that I have survived as such benchmarks are worthy of noting. Survival on this blue rock is no easy feat, and although my life is nowhere near as difficult as those born in war-ravaged Sudan or other parts of the world, I do try (every so often) to appreciate that my path has given me wonderful opportunities. Not indulging in those opportunities is like leaving perfectly good fruit to rot in a bowl on your kitchen counter. It’s a waste, plain and simple.

This year, I went to the remanent crater of Mount St, Helens and stared into its desolate shell. This quiet volcano (fairly dormant since its 1980 eruption) reminded me that even in the face of what we perceive as certain doom and destruction, there is a promise of a peaceful after-effect. It’s been 30+ years since the side of this mountain blew out and devastated the surrounding forest. However, today, the area is teaming with life and thousands trees have regrown in shadow of the magma-filled monster. I imagined if all this fear I have of turning 40 is the equivalent of that explosion in 1980, I would be happy to know that eventually, things will take the place of ash and cinder. Life will pour into the space hollowed out by age, and something new will take root.

So stopping to rest at that rock along the road called “39”, I can see that no matter what is waiting for me in that walled city, I will be alright. And as I get closer, maybe that place won’t look like a prison, but rather a busy port with a sailing ship to new places and adventures.

My Prison Is Made of Full Spectrum Sunlight

All my life I’ve been a nocturnal creature. As I unravel my memory, I can look back and recall that I have always loved the night with its palpable silence and soft, velveteen darkness.

Rousseau

“La Bohémienne endormie (The Sleeping Gypsy)”
by Henri Rousseau. 1897.

Most of my friends were overjoyed for me when I accepted a daytime position in 2011, however I often feel as though I regret that decision. They said my dating life would improve and my social calendar would expand, but they really haven’t. I can certainly now attend more “happy hours” after work, but I often feel too tired to fully engage with people at these events, and most of the time I am watching the clock so I can get home and go to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s like subjecting myself to a government-imposed curfew – as if I live in a police state.

Although I cannot specify exactly what it is about the night that I find so alluring, I can definitely speculate…

I do know I enjoy the fact that planet feels a little bit more mine; I don’t have to share as many things like road space, grocery store lines, or internet bandwidth. I can open my windows without the constant droning of Seattle’s snarled traffic or the occasional ambulance wail. When driving, I can hit all the green lights if I time it just right. No stopping. No waiting. The quietness of each shadow is a balm and I can hear my thoughts like greedy dwarves working deep in the mines. The absence of light relaxes my tired eyes, whereas the daggers of sun feel like blasts of hot sand. After midnight, I feel like my mind is fully ripe – pregnant with mental juices and surreal visions for illustration or forging on my word anvil.

There isn’t much company, save for the moon: a friendly nightwatchman perched in the sky. Sometimes he’s wrapped in a gauze of clouds like a harmless drop of sun tucked in a cotton ball. On nights when the overcast skies of the Pacific Northwest hang like a ghostly ceiling over this city, the ambient light of the power grid echos off of it like an old electric blanket.

Yes, I miss the night. It feels like a beautiful language I once knew by heart but have now forgotten thanks to the processes of age and evaporation. Nowadays, I feel forced to sleep through its dark magnificence like a parent who has to work two full-time jobs to raise a family, and while honoring those commitments never gets to see their children grow-up into amazing human beings.

I often feel the best things in life pass us by while we are living by the rules of others.

A chain that runs from 8 to 5 can end up binding an entire life.

The Inverse Relationship Between the Gravity of Aging and The Accumulation of Knowledge

At 38, I am a far cry from being “old”, but about ten stops past “spring chicken” and I can definitely see “middle age” just over the hill. When I was in my 20’s, I never dreaded the thought of being older as I always felt like every year that passed contained some sort of life lesson that revealed a new truth or asset I could carry on my journey. More arrows for the quiver, more ammunition to fight my battles.

When I turned 35 my dad died, and a year later one of my very best friends. I know that people die every day and death really can’t be a major tragedy because it happens so frequently on this planet it’s just mechanical at this point. However, since those experiences I’ve felt like a wounded bird. The life lessons – on the whole – do not feel “enriching” anymore. Per the Hallmark psychology department, one could argue that I am “learning about loss” and that this lesson will serve a purpose later down the road. Such experiences should teach appreciation of what one has, and to a degree they do. I definitely appreciate the company of others more so now than I ever have. But since birthday #35, the aging process has felt more like someone is steadily applying coats of lead to my soul. Days seem heavier and moments of laughter have to be manufactured more frequently to sustain any wind in the sails. I often wonder if some miraculous event will take place that melts away this cumulative gravity. I certainly hope that it does. It would be wonderful to fall in love again at some point, but looking around I think the chances may be slimmer than even I realize. While there is still life in my creaky body, there must be at least a thimble of hope (and perhaps some red wine).

Despite this weighted feeling, my mind can see that there is a certain mellowing in progress and perhaps that isn’t entirely a bad thing. I’ve long been an over-reactive type. A bitter, yellow fruit that might need a few more days of harsh sun to decay into a sweeter golden brown. How many times can one freak out about the trials of life before they simply see it’s just part of a pattern that constantly cycles?

To quote that Welsh singer Jemma Griffiths:

“It’s just a ride, it’s just a ride, don’t be afraid (now dry your eyes). It may feel so real inside, but don’t forget, it’s just a ride.”

Here, let me help you with this completely useless cliché…

I’ve been complaining to my close friends a lot lately about the misery of dating in your late 30’s. I find that most people have settled down (or let’s face it, settled for less than they deserve) by this age so much of what is left on the dating scene is some severely bruised fruit. I’m in that lot, so I will admit I probably have some unattractive baggage as well. However, as they say, it’s ok to have baggage as long as you meet someone who has a set that matches yours. Admittedly, it’s certainly not fair to lump them all into that phylum, and I imagine there are some diamonds in this clogged toilet of a dating scene – I just don’t relish the idea of putting my hand in there.

Anyway, I’ve discovered that my friends (bless their hearts) have finally run out of encouraging words, or at the very least – creativity, when it comes to advice. Here are my most hated words of dating wisdom and my passive-aggressive rebuttals to them:

Friend: “It’s going to happen when you’re not looking! It always happens when you least expect it!”
Me: “Oh thank you for that. I could use that very same sentence to comfort a family whose mother was shot by a sniper hiding on the roof of a local library.”

Friend: “You should use this time to really embrace being alone. Time to yourself is truly a gift.”
Me: “You’re right. You know, I think I will start advocating that they write those very words on every single life preserver on every single sailboat. That way when people get lost at sea and are being circled by sharks, they can be grateful for that time alone.”

Friend: “God’s just making you wait for the right person because he wants you to be grateful when it finally arrives.”
Me: “If God exists, I seriously doubt he or she has time to play the part of Chuck Woolery for me on Love Connection. Have you seen the news footage from Sudan lately? I’m pretty sure any potential higher power is shitting its pants over a mass genocide…and not my dating life.”

I am mostly just kidding here. I know my friends are just trying to help make me feel better, and often times I close my eyes and try to “hear between the lines” the real advice when they say these things:

“I don’t know what to do to help you. I don’t have any answers, but I love you and I really hope you find somebody. I’m just trying to give you a gallon of gasoline that might get you another few miles down the road, and then maybe someone else can get you through a few more after that. Eventually, I hope that guy that makes you laugh so hard that your teeth explode will intersect your path and make this long knife of waiting worth it. However, I don’t know when or if that day will come. I’m just trying to get through this life as best I can, just like you.”

So, to all my friends, I appreciate your sincere (but canned) advice, but there’s no need to sugar coat with this old goat.

No man is an island…a peninsula perhaps, but not an island.

This weekend I was reminded of how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.

First, the set up: I’m a bit of a sarcastic, melancholy chap. I don’t take kindly to very many people and I think my personality sometimes resembles the more unpleasant attributes of a cactus. I am often physically tired, and as such, my temper has all the fury of a hornets’ nest struck by a wandering baseball. I am particular about who I let in to my life and I am not quick to trust. These details form the outline of a person who sometimes isolates himself in order to avoid disappointment, and let’s face it, the human race often excels in this area.

However, there are those moments – though they may be few – where your hope in people is restored. Like finding a wedding ring you are certain was lost down a drain, the feeling of gratitude you experience is both powerful and reconstructive.

This past weekend, I was coming off of an exhausting work week. I was a little depressed about being single (par for the course), and when I attempted to cook some corn bread for a fundraiser. It went badly. The result? Yellow cinder blocks. Instead of following my first reaction: “I am a failure. I quit.” I pressed myself out of that groove and into another: What is the immediate problem at hand? Cooking. Let’s break it down logically:

Do you cook/bake much?

No.

Well then, maybe you’re just inexperienced, which is different from just being a huge failure. Maybe you just need help.

So I phoned a friend who is an excellent cook, went to his house, and together we whipped up some deliciously moist corn bread. Actually, he did most the work. The exercise in asking for help was probably the hardest part of the entire process for me. However, I was also fortunate enough to have this cooking lesson turn into a wonderful evening of passion-fruit vodka martinis, a fantastic chicken dinner, and a thought-provoking political discourse with my friend’s husband. Although I did not fully understand immediately…getting out of my home, spending time with a good friend, interacting with people, and learning something new (how to bake corn bread properly)…left me on a great high note by the end of the weekend.

Now, I know this isn’t a story about someone donating a kidney to me, and people might say, “So you can’t cook corn bread. Big deal. Having your friend help you restores your faith in people?” but I often look for the simple obstacles and their solutions to solve larger ones. Bill Clinton taught me that. He once said that resolving the most complex issue starts with understanding the smallest part of it. I think he said it in that documentary about crossword puzzles. Anyway, it made a lot of sense and it stuck with me.

I think when people are depressed or feel like giving up on endeavors and get lost in that cloud of self-doubt, over-analysis and worry, they forget the first asset available to them: You are connected, by some means, to other people. I truly believe that whatever your tests in this life are…whether it is to become more patient, how to trust your instincts better, or pushing yourself to be more creative…you will not be doing it alone. Even if it feels like a solo flight, 9 times out of 10 it’s not. Collaboration is key. Find a harmonic that strengthens you.

If you don’t have awesome friends, get out there and make some. Keep digging through that pile of trash we call humanity until you find the diamonds. They ARE out there, and they’re worth trudging through the nasty smell to find.

If you have some already, get off your ass and call them. You might not realize it, but you probably have an army of optimism available to you 24/7 on speed-dial. Use it.

Revolution of a Lexicon Ninja

I never wanted to be a writer.

In fact, I never even had it in my Top 10 careers as a child. But one grows up and discovers talents in their DNA; the same way you would open an old chest in your grandparents’ attic only to discover they once led a magical life full of distant travel and swing dancing. Who knew they were such interesting people? Well who knows…someday, you might be too. Time has a way of ruthlessly stripping the layers of who you are to show you what kind of soul lies hidden in your body. Sometimes for better, maybe sometimes for worse.

I’ve been writing on and off for the better part of 12 years. Some ventures were more professional than others, but lately it’s been more informal and humor-oriented. I feel like a fisherman in my life: I wander aimless on the ocean, dragging my net through vast experiences and pulling it up every-so often to observe what the sea has brought into my fold. This blog is the deck of my ship and it’s where I will dump out all the crab pots and netting. A place to show people where I’ve been and for me to sort through those experiences both positive and negative. Maybe there will be gold, maybe there will be fresh red snapper! More often than not, there will probably be some old boots and maybe a tire or two.

But today is a great day!

A revolution in pixels and LED…thoughts transmit to you from me.