I’m Sorry We Don’t Have Forever

Day 31

The dresser I keep my clothes in has been with me as long as I can remember. I don’t recall even ever getting it. It’s a little rickety in the tracks sometimes but I know just how to hold those drawers when they need to be pared down for Goodwill so the overflow mixed with the bum mechanics due to age makes opening and closing wonky.

The lacquered, sturdy wood tells me it’s not Ikea but I guess I could be wrong. But for whatever reason, I think I had it as a kid, bopping from apartment to apartment, all through houses and various other living situations as an adult. Oh, and it is filled with teeth. So weird. When the tooth fairy used to come for my kids, the teeth were always deposited in my top sock drawer. But over the years I think the bottom boards in some of the drawers shift from time to time allowing tooth-sized gaps to sometimes let a few trays slip down into the workout clothes drawer, or even the two out of five shiny brown wooden ones reserved for t-shirts. 

But on this final day of March, and this year’s slicing, what got me stopped in my tracks and made me need to finish with this musing was the stickers adorning the whole thing. Various bands and tattoo shops, a name tag from when I jumped from a plane, another name tag from one of my first PDs as a teacher (and I think it was that one), a name tag that I think she wrote my name on years ago and another from a beer fest we attended on a date, “I voted” stickers, Sub Pop, most of my sports teams. For the first time in all these years living with this one piece of furniture that’s been with me this whole nomadic life, I flashed back to my early childhood. I don’t know why it held so much fascination for me as a kid, but my dad had a dresser and I know it had stickers on it. Well, I only remember just one. It said “Cherry Bomb” on it. Maybe a John Cougar thing? I just remember him listening to Mellencamp (and tons of other music) and I know that was a line in a song. Or maybe it was just that at some point he liked the fire crackers. I’m not sure, but it had to be why, definitely subconsciously, I put whatever sticker was first, on my own dresser.

The top of the dresser is always cluttered. Cups, candles, a picture my brother gifted me that I took when I went that Thanksgiving to protest the pipeline on Native American grounds in North Dakota with a great Kerouac quote he put on it for me, multiple tubes of Burt’s Bees chapstick, keys, gum, and whatever else needs a home that doesn’t have one. 

Decorative clutter. All of it. If someone sees it they’re in my bedroom which means they’re close so they know me. But I think if there’s still a mystery blank in that understanding of who I am, one look at this dresser probably fills it in. A testament to that in me which holds so much stock in the past and preserving the memoried history of what was. Holy colorful socks which have long been sort of a mismatched trademark  and the rattling teeth dislodged from my childrens’ youth. Adhesive momentos of where I’ve been and how I identify myself through the types of entertainment I fill my life with. All wrapped up in an idea I got from my dad which became the foundation for so much of what I am, and topped off by a random assortment of whatever that doesn’t have a more proper place due to the limitations that come with always searching for home. 

Someday. 

“Is it war if you fight it?

Is it love when you don’t?

There is more when you let go

Of the fear that you can’t

Darling, don’t you close your eyes

Keep listening – are you listening?”

An Open Letter To Next Year Me

Day 30

Dear me in 11 months and a day,

Back to slicing. It’s been a year. Good luck this time around. I figured I’d time capsule some advice from this vantage point. Hope you’re well. Moreover, I hope this ages well and it’s an evolved me reading this.

First off, please tell me your focus is where it’s supposed to be. You somehow still spent how much time in the last year, the last decade, sending missives of the heart via text and sat for how long, all told, waiting for a reply that would never come? And if it did, it was miles from what you expected after dousing the characters with pure heart blood and hitting send. How many hours you have spent, miles you have driven, in search of cookies or candy or some other dumb trinket you know someone likes because THAT was going to be the one shiny bauble that made it click in their headheart that you are worthy. I know in your heart it’s sweet and romantic. Grow up. Please. It comes off at best as annoying and probably mostly pathetic. You won’t get more until you truly believe you deserve more.

I know this current spat with those good friends is good by now. Why? Because they do love you. You blew it up like you do everything. Eddie, listen – you have friends and family that allow you to be imperfect. They’re ok with mistakes. They forgive and, more than that, sometimes they actually don’t even notice because the whole world isn’t Truman Showing you. Everyone isn’t your ex wife. There, I said it. In fact you have a whole army of a support system who are not going to leave you for being you. That was once. It was big, but it was once. And it’s not fair to put that fear on everyone over everything. You blow the tiniest things because you immediately assume they see you as an easily discardable monster and it’s time to stop. These people, so many, have shown the kindness of letting you make their shoulders couches for you to cry on, for years. About what? Lost love. Feeling like you’ll never deserve someone’s heart. Dude. You do this all while they are straight up giving you all of their heart. You cry about a lack of empathy into ears for the millionth time without asking how their day was or how you can help them. Brutal. Stop it. You passed the age a long time ago where the “romantic” part of hopeless romantic left the building for pretty much everyone. 

Remember. You have grown but the rebel in you needs to make a comeback pronto. The idiot kid with the weird hair who wore dresses and painted his nails. Him. He’s still in there. You have a career and kids and so yeah, be a grown up. I’m talking about the part of that kid who honestly didn’t care who liked who he was and who didn’t. You were sweet and caring to everyone, but your outward appearance weeded out those who were not those things and that was good. Stop clinging to those who don’t want you. Let them go if they want to go. 

Women don’t want you to always be the dog with the bird in your mouth at their door. Man, you have so many feathers in your canines that it’s a wonder your food don’t have giggle tickle fits when you eat. If a bird wants to fly from you, buddy, you gotta let it. If it flies back, then? Maybe? Maybe it’s love. 

You were lucky when you started work to have so many take you under their wing. Karen and Mo, for instance, always think they are putting your best interest as a man, a dad, and a teacher in the forefront when they sit you down. Remember Karen’s pies. Yes, it was that fake it til you make it type advice of which you’ve heard every iteration from every person who cares about you for years now. But, angel face, you make one piece of your pie WAY too big. You have since the 4th grade. And when that pie piece goes bad the whole pie, to you, is ruined. Equal piece sizes. Your other pieces haven’t always been great and they need you whole to deal with them. I hope you’re remembering your pie. Equal pieces. 

Ok that was a lot. Shocker. Maybe this year you inject some brevity into the slices? Lulz. Look around at how lucky you are.  Find the spark that made you you way back when. Keep growing around it. You’re going to be ok. You treat people well. You love your job and take it very seriously. That can be enough. You get better at work, and at life, every year. I hope you absolutely lept this year into what I know you can, and want to, do. 

Love always, me.

PS – Ok, it’s just us now. That thing? The main thing that you’ve made the main thing? You’re right. Your heart says, it and even though thinking that way has led you down the wrong path again and again, the person you are believes in your heart. Don’t lose that. I believe with all I’ve got that you’re right. Baby step all the way up that mountain if need be. It is a prize, and you deserve it. Be you. Love big. I’m proud of that part of you. Peace.

“You are the bearer of unconditional things

You held your breath and the door for me

Thanks for your patience

You’re the best listener that I’ve ever met

You’re my best friend”

Spring Is Here, Brrrrr

Day 29

Spring break is here! And that meant sitting outside for a baseball double header that got postponed once the kids got there, from noon to 3. To play two games. Also, too? It was freezing. The temp said low 40s but with zero sun and massive, biting winds, the temp was a liar. 

Spent the last couple days with “happy feet”, it’s something that had to be noticed for me that I never realized I did. When I am content (which if you’ve read like 2 of these ever that’s not often) my feet involuntarily…dance, for lack of a better verb. Those feet are currently icicles. Yuck. 

But spring break is a break. I have work to do but my deadline seems forever away and at this point I think I may even get it all done, despite not starting yet. Too busy chasing happiness and such. And, hey, silver lining in these silver bristly skies – the weather may force me to focus on it. 

I need to entertain the kids without the promise of cheap (free) activities spring usually provides. I want the time to be quality, for them and for me. We all deserve it. Well. It’s late. Happy feet may have taken off their dancing shoes for now. But there’s a Bulls game recorded and a kid in a thaw down shower hopefully thrilled that it’s a Tuesday where I’m not badgering him about his homework. Baby steps. One moment at a time. I got this. I can even almost feel my toes starting to come back to life. That’s somethin’. 

“No one’s on the streets

We moved it all online as of March

I’m so full of shite

I need to spend less time stood around in bars

Waffling on to strangers all about martial arts

And how much I respect them”

Math Lesson 43

Day 28

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

Psych. Nope. I can’t count the ways. 

Math isn’t a love thing

And

You’re sitting right here and

I know enough about life and

I know enough about girls and

I know enough about you to know there may not be time for counting

Instead I can count on all the fingers in history that kept ringed promises

And know in my lengthy counting experience that it wouldn’t be enough fingers

Or rings

To count my immeasurable everything I wanna say

But words are air are butterflown missives to ghosts unread

Feathers to bricks and they all weigh the same when your heart can’t listen

I don’t know what counts for what anyways anymore

I don’t know what you can’t tell me and

I don’t know the answers to all the questions I have that you can’t answer

Something doesn’t add right, I know that

But I also know that since math isn’t made of heart stuff

It’s ok that you’re an unsolvable equation 

To solve is to master and I don’t want that

The exact math is, I have right now

And we are, all of us, nothing but the sum of our choices

I know that too

And right now my soul is whole

And even if I get that for just right now?

Why concern myself with the fractions I’ve been?

So no, I’m not going to count the ways right now

But when you have a lifetime to listen 

(because you’re going to need it)

I’ll start

“City is restless, it’s ready to pounce

Here in your bedroom, ounce-for-ounce.

I’ve given you a decision to make

Things to lose, things to take.

Just as she’s about ready to cut it up:

She says, ‘Wait a minute, honey, I’m gonna add it up!’ “

I’m Here, Wherever That Is

Day 27

Played with one of those virtual reality things last night. Looking at the way the world has gone with technology since I was a kid, I’d say that VR is a natural progression of things. I also am not at all convinced that all of this isn’t some kind of simulation anyways so a meta sim within a sim reality feels like a clever joke. But it is kind of astonishing to be in a whole other reality if you have a little spare time, 300 bucks, and enough space where you don’t break something killing zombies or zero-gravity exploring the ISS. 

Back to reality today. I looked at two very different places to possibly buy. One was a condo fairly far from my kids’ friends with palm trees painted on the walls, a non-kitchen fridge, and flooring that wasn’t all the way attached to the floor. And a house much closer to our current lives. The house cost more than twice the condo. They were very different. But they were also the same in that they were what a single parent teacher can (kind of) afford. Read: junky. 

300 bucks and a VR headset. Life in a computer sim. Truman Show existence possibly controlled by some 10 year old in a reality none of us can even comprehend. Maybe it’s easier for me to confront the reality I am experiencing by thinking (hoping?) it’s not altogether what it seems. It’s in the realtor peoples’ hands now. At least in the immediate now. So I am going to go do happy things while it gets sorted. Regardless of exactly what reality is, in mine it’s spring break time. Even with 29 degree temps. And I get to escape into a bubble for a bit and smile. So that’s what I’m going to do.

“I know you’re scared
Well, I’m scared too
Oh, that every time I try to make lunch
For anyone else, in my head
I end up dreaming of you”

Everlong

Day 26

RIP Taylor Hawkins. I was shocked last night in the midst of text-hanging with a friend who is the biggest Foo Fighters fan in my life and she basically passed out on the other end so I absentmindedly checked into Instagram only to see that his band had posted about their drummer’s demise literally one minute previous, thus letting the world know the sad news. I quoted a Foo Fighters song just a couple slices ago. Sigh. 

When I heard the phenom drummer from Nirvana was fronting a band and that they’d released a single, I will always remember that my first words were, “he must have a really incredible drummer.” And he did. I wasn’t a Foos superfan but always like their music, loved the members of the band, and appreciated that they were the type of rock n roll band you don’t see much these days anymore, especially live. When I broke my almost 9 month movie theater sabbatical last week, with the Foo-loving friend I was passed out on by last night, it was to see their new horror movie. The boys played themselves and it was fun to check in with them on a campy, fun artistic endeavor and Taylor was great.

The death of a 50 year old rock star isn’t a major development in the grand scheme of the world that we currently live in. But I had a connection. He left behind, suddenly, his fans, bandmates, and a wife and children. Top of the world. He’d won. Now he’s gone. 

Got me thinking about mortality. I don’t need much of a nudge these days. I woke up to another round of properties my realtor friend had found for me. She sends upward of about 8 places a day throughout the day. It started out to be an exciting prospect. Change. Growth. But more and more I’m losing faith. The market is historically bad. Or maybe it just is this now. Technically the filters spit out houses and condos and such that are where I need to be, geographically and financially. But some calculator or hidden fee derails them all eventually. 

It’s hard not to look at these numbers and let the vice squeeze my head with the understanding that if I had someone to do this with it would be so simple. Have a solid place AND be able to save and build and grow. A temporary abode with an eye on the future. And a partner to help chart the course. But. That’s not reality for me. I’m moving forward with two showings tomorrow. It just feels like whatever I wind up choosing will be the place I scrape by in until my time is up here. No building. No growing. Just, what? Rotting? Imprisoned? 

Because one day you’re here and the next, who knows? I know I have to do something with the unknown time I have. I’ll probably never be a rock star at this point. But even rock stars aren’t immortal. Well, not in all ways. Rest in peace, Taylor. You were a monster behind a kit and seemed like a really sweet, cool guy. Thanks for the memories, and for the eye opener. May your people find peace eventually with your moving on from this world. 

“Though I know I’ll never lose affection

For people and things that went before

I know I’ll often stop and think about them

In my life I love you more”

Character Day

Day 25

Character day. Whatever we want, we’ll be whatever we want. Last day before spring break. A little escape into character. Some of the kids asked at the start of the week if I’d be Gru to their Minions. I have purchased tickets to exactly one of those movies and slept through roughly 90% of it (kid movies in theaters are generally nap time for me) but it was for the kids so why not. It’s not Halloween time so I couldn’t find anything except what could be ordered from Amazon and arrive in two days. Poor man’s Gru teaching fifth grade today.

My Minion daughter and I

It’s fun to pretend sometimes. Be someone else. Play a role. It’s another thing altogether to do it for someone else. I know people who make a life of that. Or have in the past. In high school I was a chameleon and it spit me out the other end just weird. A microcosm of all the identities I morphed into. Purplish brown swirl mash. 

Eventually, in order to find footing, we have to find ourselves again. However buried or broken. Or undiscovered. Shapeshifting lets us fit in while we try to find our place. Some kids seem to know out of the womb and some kids seem to become character actors and stick to it well past schooling. Call them defense mechanisms or paths toward seeking enlightenment, but we are who we are. Even if who we are is nebulous and/or fluid. 

Truth is always right. But for some it’s cloudy. So if you know someone who obviously feels the need to don a mask to face the world, or who gloms on to this trend or that in order to feel relevant, just know there’s a chance they’re in pursuit of something regarding their sense of self. Or maybe they’re just having fun floating until they can see, for themselves, a safe place to land.

“For someone half as smart

You’d be a work of art

You put yourself apart

And I can’t help until you start”

Wu Tang Is For The Kids

Day 24

Paperwork and meetings. I love being a teacher. I am still in awe sometimes that I wound up getting to have a career in a field I love and that I believe is noble and blah blah. I sincerely am.

But especially these days, I am starting to feel the pressure of the too much I have been hearing from pretty much all of the teachers there are. I’m generally able to just let things roll off me because, I think, I don’t have the stones to speak up about anything so I don’t really deal with how new stuff we have to do makes me feel. And paperwork and meetings have always been part of the job and I’ve never particularly liked either. But right now, especially literally right now just before break when I’m trying to cram so much in? Cram stuff in making sure it’s delivered surrounded by pillows and feathers to soften the blow to my kids so I don’t lose them to early break-itus? So much extra of so much I already don’t necessarily like. 

And I mostly belong to the camp of not complaining unless you have a solution. I understand venting for the sole purpose of blowing off steam, I’m not saying that. This is part of why I called my blog Idealiotic. My idealism borders on idiocy. I can admit it and am aware of it. It leaks into personal parts of my life too, unfortunately for those closest to me sometimes. We need order and bureaucracy and structures in the education system. And I get that if we did away with all meetings and paperwork it would basically be chaos. 

I just like teaching because I like teaching. Even on hard days and bad days I want to be with my students failing and succeeding as they fail and succeed too. Even though it’s part of the deal, when I have to stop and get a sub, or take time out from my planning for my teaching time with the kids outside of school in order to write pages of reflection for a summative, or give higher ups a deeper understanding of how I do the thing they hired and trust me to do it’s just annoying I guess. It all comes back to the kids, the meetings too. I’m not that idiotic, I can draw the lines between the purpose of all these non-teaching parts of teaching and making things best for students. But I guess today I just needed to vent. Not complaining. I’d do double if they said I had to in order to do this job. Sometimes it just feels like too much, on top of everything else. It’s not too much, it just feels like it. I’ll try and remember that. Being in front of my kids and away from paperwork and other adults should help.

“A heart that’s full up like a landfill

A job that slowly kills you

Bruises that won’t heal

You look so tired, unhappy

Bring down the government

They don’t, they don’t speak for us

I’ll take a quiet life

A handshake of carbon monoxide”

Time Tricks

Day 23

I spent a long time with a foot in the past. To be honest, lots of that time maybe like, my shadow, or the smell of my deodorant, lingered in the present while most of the entirety of me was firmly in the back then. And, while my heart would be chained to a train going fast the other way my head would be worrying about tomorrow. And even then it was never really tomorrow tomorrow I would be focused on but, like, all the tomorrows. 

I try and be here now, now. When possible. There is so much going on. Priorities and such. Maybe building sandcastles on the shores of before is a real bad way of creating a foundation from which to evolve? But of course what was learned in the past is valuable. But, then, also too? If every hope that got obliterated in the times before now forced me to go the other way, I don’t think I’d ever do anything uncalculated again. I’d be safe with my walls high and my armor pristine and impenetrable. But is that the now I want? 

It is not. And I concede that I may be big dumb for it. It’s hard not to compare yourself with others. People I’ve known forever who have what I want most, knowing for a fact that I want it more than they ever did. But they have it. They could do without just fine, and maybe even wish they had some things that I do. But my one thing. My forever one thing? Comes so easily to those who don’t care either way. 

And that’s not me looking back or forward, really. That’s in this moment right now. And maybe that fractured lens I know I rely on for clarity in the now is why the temptation to try and figure a way to mend the past or lament a future yet to come happens so easily for me.

Or, at least, why it did for so long. But now I know that, yes, some parts of that today lens is true and some are shards splintered by a tumultuous past. I can’t change the past. And it seems more and more that just by trying to be good won’t grant me the future that I want. 

It’s about owning the fracture. I can choose to ignore past lessons in the name of romanticism or adventure, but now I need to carry with me that awareness. Not full walls and armor, but at least a seatbelt. And as for being petrified of the future? Falling short of this mythical heaven I’m striving to deserve? I’ll get what I get. And I’ll keep wanting what I want. But lately I suddenly have things to look forward to. Not just stuff for my students or my kid kids, but for me. Not for 10 years from now, not for all the rest of it. But in a couple days. A couple weeks. Baby steps. Looking that far into the future and no further means my feet can stay planted in today and not be afraid to smile. 

“ ‘Cause when I look around

I think this, this is good enough

And I try to laugh

At whatever life brings

‘Cause when I look down

I just miss all the good stuff

And when I look up

I just trip over things“

You Know The Killer Doesn’t Understand

Day 22

Where I live we have this big puppy Rottweiler. Odin. I hang out in the yard with him sometimes and there’s this bird he’s obsessed with. I have no way of knowing if it’s the exact same bird each time, but it doesn’t really matter. When he’s in bird mode he will not come in when I’m done being out. If there were video of him playing peek-a-boo around the large oak tree trunk trying to escape me when I try to grab his collar to force him to come in it would be an instant classic funny dog video. There’s literally zero chance I am quick or nimble enough to get him with that huge oak between us and he knows it. If I choose to go left or right to lunge, he just sprints into the open yard. I give up. He knows I will. And then he goes back to the bird. Because unlike me in these backyard shenanigans, he doesn’t give up.

It reminds me of the mantra I came up with for myself years ago when I really needed it. Some people say spirituality or other types of hocus-pocus are silly, and I guess there are times when I am skeptical of some things. All I know is that mine worked. Really worked. I’ve sliced about it in the past. In fact, I can probably look back one day on my different Marches of slicing and tell how my life was going based on if I had to remind myself of my mantra and it leaked into my slicing. The mantra is, simply, “patience and dedication”. Like the dog with the bird.

We’re here for a blip in the grand scheme. I know. And maybe that means all is insignificant and so we should just suck the marrow of this one shot we got and fly around the halls of our one conscious existence smashing into everything fragile and sturdy alike, taking no prisoners and having zero regrets. 

But maybe we should try to get it right. Like, right for us I mean. And maybe it’s ok that we don’t always know what that looks like. Patience and dedication. It doesn’t mean waiting for the world to happen to you. Waiting for universe to unfold as you do nothing. Because dedication. Find what you love and dedicate yourself. Maybe you fall short and maybe your dedication leads you up a tree to where you really belong. 

Odin hasn’t caught that bird. But I have seen dogs with birds in their mouths. Patience and dedication. 

“You asked to walk me home

But I had to carry you

And you pushed me in

And now my feet can’t touch the bottom of you”