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Posts Tagged ‘life’

“Send your lifeboats out for me. Send your lifeboat out.” ~Snow Patrol

1609917.pngI’ve never been good at speaking my feelings. Writing them down, no problem, but speaking them out loud? In front of other people? Being that vulnerable? No way, unless it was absolutely impossible to do it any other way. I once broke up with a girl over email. I once broke up with a girl through a proxy (Anthony has never forgiven me for that one). I told a girl I loved her for the first time in a note, and only when she told me the feelings were reciprocated was I able to actually say it out loud.

I guess I’m just not wired that way, to be emotionally raw and accessible outside of the written word. Even now, even in this, I realize I’m doing exactly what I’m talking about, in writing down how I feel about this aspect of my being. But that’s just me, and I’ve spent years working on it, to no avail. Many people have told me they thought I was just fine until I finally broke down. Many people have been surprised when what seems like the smallest thing gets me depressed. That’s because it wasn’t the smallest thing. That’s because I let things build when I don’t talk about them.

I used to think it was good enough to write my feelings down, because at least I was getting them out. And it is definitely cathartic for me, a type of medicine that I don’t know what I would do without. But sometimes words need to be actually said. Sometimes words need to pass through my lips on their way to someone’s ears, so that they can hear me. So that they can know what I feel. So that I can bare my soul in a way that writing cannot mimic. Because there’s something to be said for human contact, for eye contact, for personal and physical CONTACT.

There have been very few people in my life who I don’t put on a mask around, but even with those people it hasn’t been easy to verbalize, to get things out without writing them down. Perhaps I’ve used my skill with writing as a crutch all these years in my personal relationships, preferring to write it out instead of to face it head on, whatever IT is. When I need to confess something, when things haven’t gone the way I wish they had, it’s tough to get it out. When I am overcome with emotion and I want to share it, it’s tough.

And it’s not just my writing that I use as a crutch. These masks I often wear, they’ve become rigid, so when I have them on I can’t even move my face, like a Botox injection that won’t wear off until I’m asleep and finally vulnerable. When I try to focus, to shuck off these masks, it’s difficult to do. But I used to feel like it was impossible, and I no longer feel that way. Sometimes I need to feel that bit of discomfort in order to get to the greater good. I learned that the hard way, time after time.

But with Heidi… it’s different. I won’t deign to say it’s easy, because it’s not. It’s the classic “It’s not you, it’s me” deal, but it really is me. Luckily for me, we’ve been together long enough that she knows when I have something on my mind. She is the one person who can see through my masks and can draw me out. I know it’s not easy, and I’m not easy, but she fights for me when I won’t fight for myself. Over the years I’ve found myself relaxing around her, being myself, which is incredibly scary. But less scary lately.

As I’ve gotten older I realize it’s more important to let the people I care about be there for me instead of trying to always be so strong. So that this emotional rawness I can allow my wife to see becomes more of a standard for me. So that these feelings I used to drown deep down inside are allowed to swim. So I can breathe, and speak, and be.

Sam

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“I’m on my way. Driving at ninety down those country lanes, singing to ‘Tiny Dancer.’ And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real. We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill.” ~Ed Sheeran

the_castle_on_the_hill_by_estruda-dalq5st

It’s no surprise that I like to sing. Check out my youTube channel I’m about to take down, and you can hear for yourself how freeform it truly is — kind of like my dancing. More often than not I’ll be singing my song of the moment, whatever song has struck my fancy that day, that week, or that month. Generally it’s a song I play a lot in my car, but sometimes it’s random enough to be maddening even to me.

Currently that song is “Castle on the Hill,” by Ed Sheeran, a soaring anthem that tugs at both the heartstrings and my legendary sense of nostalgia at the same time. I love the whole album (Divide) but something about this one song brings me back to my childhood in a way that few songs not from that era have the ability to achieve. At least for me.

Which is funny because I don’t really have a relationship to look at in the same way as he remembers one of his earliest. I was pretty much strictly friend material to girls back in middle school, even though I would pour my heart out to them in poems I never sent, in songs I never sang, and in words I never said face to face either. It was this dichotomy between the me I wanted to be — strong and determined — and the me I couldn’t help being — fragile and tentative. Like oil and water, they didn’t mix.

So I sang to myself, but my song wasn’t “Tiny Dancer.” It was more often than not “Broken Wings,” or “Get Outta My Dreams,” songs of lost love or unrealized love that resonated with the teenage me much more than anything by Prince or those other guys who sounded like Prince. I was a bit quirkier, preferring “Motown Song” over more sensitive fare.

But that’s always been me, my songs of the moment somehow connected to me in ways only I could ever figure out at the time, then moving on to the next song when my emotions have moved on. I do miss those songs when they fade from my spotlight, though, when they’ve gone back to their regular places on their own albums, when they’ve drifted from my mind like so much snow blowing across the boulevard.

So right now it’s “Castle on the Hill,” and I nearly cry when I hit the chorus. Every single time I hit the chorus. Because it’s SO me right now, and the sun is setting over the hill. I’m just still waiting for my castle.

Sam

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balloonsWhen I can’t quite describe something I tend to say it’s like trying to define the word the. Everyone uses it, and everyone knows what it means when they use it, but a sterile definition of what makes a specific article important is as useful as a screen door on a submarine. It’s in the usage that it derives its real meaning.

That happens often too, these requests for definitions. We have to define everything these days. Define our relationships. Define our likes and dislikes. Define everything that has to do with everything, and also everything that has to do with nothing. It’s the way of the world, I guess, with no one taking anything at face value anymore. Perhaps face value doesn’t exist because it’s been overwritten so many times in so many ways.

It’s what I call fatigue syndrome. It’s like experiencing gravity. We have seen its effects a million times, but if we’ve never experienced anything but gravity it loses the awesome power that it should always contain. Because gravity is an awesome thing, a dynamic construct that is enormous, but we’re so used to it that we don’t recognize it for what it truly is.

So we¬† can define it. We can talk about the enormous pull. We can do everything to understand the phenomena, but we are just scientists in a lab, not out in the wild getting our hands dirty in zero-gravity. We are simply human beings who are doing our best to give others what they want, what they request from us, but we have never defied gravity. We have never taken control of our situations and transcended them. We don’t get it.

We throw around these words like they’re salt on icy roads, but we never truly analyze them, words like love and hate and depression and want and need. Sure, we often tell people that we love them, but have we ever really broken down our feelings and emotions to uncover what that truly means? We say we hate things, but have we really thought about it in concrete terms, not just abstract concepts?

Because everything has a concrete counterpart. The word the can be clearly defined by its usage, after all. So when we say we want or need another person, or a physical thing, what do we really mean? Do we need it like gravity? Have we just said the words so long that they’ve lost all meaning? I can’t help but think it’s this reality that haunts us every day without us even knowing it. It bleeds into everything that we do and say.

So we should imagine what it would be like to defy gravity, to step out into space and not come back down to earth, to soar like we never have before, because only by doing this can we truly understand how precious what we have is, how special and unique. When we love we can love with our whole hearts instead of just because we are expected to love. When we hate we can do it for solid reasons, not just because everyone else might hate.

Only when the abstract becomes concrete can we truly define and accept it for what it can’t help being.

Sam

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@Mid-Life

“It’s the fear that you’re past your best. It’s the fear that the stuff you’ve done in the past is your best work.” ~Robbie Coltraine

I guess it’s about time I had a midlife crisis. All the signs are there, after all:

  1. I’ll be 40 next month
  2. I’ve been married for 13 years
  3. The gray hairs are taking over
  4. Fie, how my bones ache
  5. My car is red

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about age and where I fit on the scale, which makes a kind of sense, I suppose. After all, things I used to do with ease are now a bit of a challenge even though I can still do them. My memory isn’t quite as solid as it used to be. And I’m trying to grow my hair but I don’t think it will quite reach the afro heights from my heyday.

All of which would be fine if I weren’t feeling so out of sorts. Maybe things would be better if we were finally ensconced in our house instead of being boarders for over a year now. Perhaps I would feel a little more settled if I had the kind of spirituality I used to have. I drink my coffee religiously but that’s the extent of the spirit moving me lately. Maybe I need more of that in my life.

If I can live until 80 then I’m firmly at the middle of my life, and what have I done to this point? That’s what it’s all about after all, isn’t it? What have I done? I married the love of my life, had two amazing kids, and finally have a job teaching college. Add to that the fact that I’ve published three novels and I’ve done a lot of the things I wanted to do by this point in my life. But those weren’t all of my goals, which is probably why I’m feeling incomplete.

I would like to have more security. While I’m teaching again, and on the college level, I still need a second job because I’m not on tenure track yet. I need that. I need to feel necessary to the process and I’m not there yet. This house, while it is a labor of love, isn’t done yet and that makes me weary every single day. And then there’s the lack of time for the things I want and need in my life.

I want to get back to something physical. I need to fish back out my tennis racket, to dig out my golf clubs, and find people to play with me. I need to rediscover my friends, or find new ones who are good for me, who help me achieve my goals while I help them with theirs. I need a chance to breathe, to sit back and explore my own thoughts in the midst of this chaos that is life.

So I don’t need a mid-life crisis to save me from myself. I need to find myself again and help myself get better. I need to be grateful for what I have to this point but keep striving for more. Because while things may be harder than they used to be, I’m still alive, and I need to keep striving.

Sam

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Standing Still

a-man-grows-most-tired-while-standing-still-quote-1“Stand still with me.”

Someone once said that the only thing constant is change, which makes absolute sense. We are born, and from that moment we shift, we grow, we change, from day to day, from year to year, and for the rest of our lives. We encounter others who are also growing and changing, becoming their supreme selves, and then shifting some more. It’s fascinating, really, the processes that move us along through this thing called life.

And this universe we live in — it also changes. It moves at a frenetic pace, even if sometimes we seem like snails on its surface, even if at times the clock never seems to move. Somewhere, somehow, things are happening. People are born every millisecond. People die nearly as fast, dropping like flies all over the world. The job market shifts like sand, morphing into new jobs every day, phasing out old jobs that are now irrelevant.

We get older and we realize the things that are most important to us change as well. Friends come and friends go, while some stay around and change with us. Our relationships move and adapt themselves to us or they disappear. Sometimes it’s years later before we understand that anything has happened. That’s how dynamic change always is, in that it sneaks up on us, then blows by us in a whirlwind.

I heard somewhere before that if we’re not moving forward we are just standing still. But that’s not true. It’s impossible to stand still in this world, in this life. When we stand still we are really just moving backwards, perhaps infinitesimally, but true nonetheless. That doesn’t stop us from trying to stand still, from trying to make the world stop for just a second, for just us. So we can exhale.

Sam

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d0fdb7547031a98032dadc7689c43bf6Marriage is not easy, and anyone who says it is, well, they’re a liar, or at the very least delusional. I mean, imagine it. You come from two different places, with a series of experiences that have shaped you individually, with a wealth of preconceptions and idiosyncrasies that don’t just go away. Instead, you come into a marriage ready to compromise, prepared to give up or modify some of the things that won’t mesh with the other person and what they bring into the union on the other side.

I can’t stand it when people say that marriage is two halves making a whole. It’s really two wholes compromising in order to make something bigger than their individual selves, a third whole that consists of both always striving. It’s in this striving that marriage truly lives and grows, this constant growth together, like vines intertwining but never choking each other out. I love that view of marriage because it’s realistic, not this pie in the sky envisioning of everything being perfect from here on out.

Because it’s not going to be perfect. Nothing ever is. Perfection is a construct that assumes no human interference. But we are humans, which means we are not perfect, so if we can’t be perfect individually how can a union between two of us ever be perfect?

“We’re not perfect but we’re devoted.”

That’s the crux of a good, solid marriage, being devoted to each other and to what you’re building together. Marriages fall apart when we lose sight of that as a daily goal. It’s not something you look at beginning the year and say you’ll hit it by year’s end. It’s a never ending challenge that both of you need to be committed to in order to make it work, in order to make it last.

I’ve been married for 13 years, and it’s true even more now than it was back in 2003. The times when we’ve been most distant, when we’ve had the most friction, have been the times when one or both of us let things go, when we didn’t communicate, when we lost the thread that we had been sewing together for so long. It was in those times that we grew frustrated with each other, and things began to spiral. But every single time we caught ourselves before everything disintegrated. That’s the key.

We’ve learned over the years that the old adage about never going to bed angry is a good one, that talking about things, no matter how difficult, is always the best way to go about anything and everything. And today, on our 13th anniversary, I can honestly say that our relationship is stronger than it has ever been.

Not because we’re the perfect couple, but because we work hard at this relationship thing. And it pays off.

Sam

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“I, too, feel different in the world I live in. Most girls my age are married and have children. I don’t have either. It’s hard feeling you belong to a group of friends when everyone is different in that regard. I feel as though I’m the black person living in a world of white people.”

59349-Don-t-Be-Afraid-Of-Being-DifferentI spend so much time thinking about black and white that I forget there are so many other colors out there, more specifically so many different ways to feel like you’re an outsider in a world where it seems as if everyone else is inside. As a society we make it pretty plain that there are norms, and anything outside of the norm is to be ostracized. WE should feel embarrassed when we don’t fit neatly into the boxes crafted for us. WE should think less of ourselves for being “other.”

In turn WE convince ourselves that they’re right, that we should feel sorry for ourselves, that we aren’t normal. We look behind our backs at others who are whispering and we assume they must be whispering about us. And it’s not our faults that we’ve been programmed this way. After all, we’re only human. But just because we understand that we’ve been conditioned doesn’t make it any easier to live in this world.

Women are still expected to settle down at some point, to decided on a mate and have kids. In fact, even professional women are prejudiced against because they have ovaries and ticking biological clocks, getting passed over for promotions in fear that they will at one point be gone on maternity leave.

Once the kids do arrive these new mothers are expected to put everything else they love and appreciate about themselves on the back burner because the kid is supposed to completely dominate their lives now. They are mother. Hear them roar. In the opposite respect, men aren’t expected to drop their own personal identity when they become fathers. It’s this pressure (and double standard) that makes women feel inadequate in their own world, to feel deprived of their own individual selves.

And, you know, even if as a woman you don’t want that life, if you’re not interested in settling down and having kids, you’re made to feel bad about yourself for having different goals for your life. That’s when it’s time to search yourself. Do you really want all of that for you, or do you want it because you want to fit in? Do you want it so you won’t feel judged by women who are insecure with themselves and with their own place in society, who need validation by following prescribed paths for females?

It’s not black and white, either, which is the real problem. It’s not like being a black person living in a world of white people. It’s really like being a deaf person in the midst of people who are blind. We all have our insecurities. We all want to fit in with others, to have a place where we feel safe and loved for who we are. It’s just hard to figure it all out, especially when we don’t fit the norm for wherever we are, or for our society as a whole. And the baggage we carry along with us is getting heavier by the year.

Perhaps it’s time we shut our eyes and pretend we are blind. Maybe then we might be able to focus on what we really want, on what will make us whole.

Sam

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