Finish line. Yesterday I bloviated about, well, today. And other things I guess. I wanted to end things this Slice making my participation a little more authentic. In post one I challenged myself to write up a streak of positivity for the month despite my usual writing tendencies to sway the other way. For evidence see: last year, the dozens of notebooks collected in boxes and around my room filled with years of tears and words, lots of my social media from a certain era, etc.
Leading up to today, because of this restraint I’ve placed on myself, I’ve felt a slight hollowness to it all. I respect writing. A lot. It is, or should be, a temple of truth. I’m just going to cut to it. What I was trying to avoid this year was letting one specific thing tinge what I wrote everyday. It’s like a BC/AD thing on the calendar. I’m self aware enough to recognize it and it isn’t very difficult. I was blindsided in my life with a major change that eviscerated who I was when I had to get divorced a few years back. Years, yes. Some people get over thing completely in a few months or a year. Some people get over things a year or more before even telling their spouses there’s a problem because humans are not perfect machines. So it goes.
So, yeah, years but I am also self aware enough to know that because I purposely try to infuse my life with positivity on a daily basis, I get “better” with every passing year. I am not stuck or stagnant. If I’m being honest I think I used to be, in the BC part of my life. Before kids and marriage I remember telling people that contentment was akin to death. That lil idealiotic ruffian was all about “drinking life to the lees” and never stopping or feeling like anything was enough. But then I had so much. I allowed contentment to settle and fester. Then it was ripped away.
Tangents, Eddie, tangents. Ok. My point is that my ever evolving afterlife since the change began with confusion and anger and sadness and all the normal things and my vulnerable Final Slice writer person inside wants to say in the name of full disclosure that yes sometimes little remnants of those things still flutter around from time to time but those aren’t the issues that led me to decide upon this positivity challenge for this year. It has been years after all. The negativity and stuff I was staying away from had more to do with my current state of constant adjustment. Acceptance of reality despite all the stuff that never made much sense took a while but has been here long enough. It’s just that in my head I’m still family guy, dad guy, “normal” guy. I still wear my ring. It’s on my other hand out of respect for what the symbol means but I have to keep it on. I’ve taken it off twice. When I wear it on my right hand I at least feel like I’m not just single guy in the world bachelor dude. Ugh. Both times I took it off horrible, horrible things happened. It’s not symbolic of a tether to the past, it ties me to who I am right now. My identity. Who I am and want to be. Family first, always no matter what. So, yeah. I get hung up still on all the things I should be and should be able to do for my family but can’t and that is big and it is heavy and I tried this year to shield that from my writing.
So I am not going to wrap things up by going back on that self placed challenge. Instead I will honor it. It took me a long time to figure out how to do that and inject the amount of authenticity I felt I have removed from my writing this year. The following is what I came up with. I’m not sure how well it will do the job, but it’s what I got. Yes, it seems my life for the past bunch of years is split up into before and after. I can accept that. But there was a me before all of that. I very much agree that the past is not a good place to set up camp, I learned that the hard way, but I also believe it is silly to think that your past, and every moment soon becomes past anyways, doesn’t play a huge part in building who you are. The good the bad the stupid the sad. All of it. And there was a me before all of this change and turmoil and in that me was authenticity and purity and the type of honesty I believe I took from my writing this year. So, to wrap up, I’m going to list some of the stuff that has always been here, through it all, that makes me who I am. And that is one thing, actually, that no one can take away from me ever. This stuff is where many of my true emotions resonate, reside, originate, and/or vibrate most. Stuff still here, untouched by any before or after anything. All me forever.
My favorite sound – any of my kids saying “dad”. BG says daddy still some times and, be still, my heart. But whether it’s simply conversational or with pain or sadness or joy or anything – that word from those lips. The best. That’s me, in a sound, and it’s perfect.
Saddest song – I know it’s weird and raw and arty but I went down the rabbit hole of Boston bands actually starting with one of two lesser-knowns in Belly back when I was younger and they led me to the Breeders and ultimately the Pixies and these guys, the other lesser known of the quartet – Throwing Muses. From the first time I accidentally heard it I get all sweaty eyed. So good.
Favorite animal – Penguin. I heard in like 4th or 5th grade that they mate for life. It has become sort of a trite romantic trope and I’m not sure it even stands for all breeds but I grabbed it and help on with my dumb little romantic self. I wrote a series of poems in my late teens about Hazy the Penguin. His trip was he always wanted to fly. Over time it made him different from the rest of his people and they made fun of his dreams and he never stopped trying. Until he found his person. Then he knew what it was to fly. Such a little weirdo, me.
Most memorable live music experience – It was 1995 and a small group of us were all in on The Smashing Pumpkins. We had literal last row, backs to bricks, seats at Rosemont Horizon for our first Pumpkins show. The album just came out and they were, if not the biggest band in the world then right up there at this point having their moment of glory amongst the peaks that Nirvana and Pearl Jam had also been enjoying. I have gone to hundreds and hundreds of shows in my life. Back then it was our thing. Going to 3 or 4 in a week was not out of the question and it has led to some life-changing experiences (I’m looking at you, Radiohead, closing out your set on that dusty field with True Love Waits). But this is the one. By far. Like I said, their 3rd proper album had just come out. I was living in Florida but flew back just to see this show with my boys despite having tickets for the Tampa show months later. There is no video for the actual Chicago show but this one is the closest I can find. Besides the radio hit, the album was so new none of us had time to properly memorize it like we would very soon. I totally understand remembering the one time you heard that one song live with your friends that you all love but this sticks out for me because it’s the first time I remember being completely absorbed and loved and excited and spit back out changed by a song none of us even really know. I very specifically remember my goth dude skirt and eyeliner wearing freak kid self locking huge eyes with a kid who would, years later, be my best man during the area around the 3:15 mark in this video. I can still re-live that look between us in my mind – all the feelings and goosebumps and just being aware that we were out of body happy with everything within that very second because of the music our band was playing. Just before the song he was talking about how they always tell the crowds on this sold out tour that they too can achieve the impossible because they used to be just like them but how, in this specific stadium, he really means it because (as he points up to the cheap seats where we were) he actually was the kids standing exactly where we were not too long ago. And then to launch into something like this? I will never in my life forget it.
Meaningful teams – That pocket of time really formed a big part of me – the ‘84 Cubs and the ‘85 Bears. I can still name all the starters from both teams. My guys were Ryno and Wilbur Marshall though. But I loved them all. I can still feel inside exactly how I felt as a kid watching those teams. Thinking about them when they weren’t playing. Dreaming I was them in the backyard. It sparked a love and devotion in me that I know I wound up applying to many other areas of life. I remember clearly their biggest losses – for the Cubs it was just missing the World Series versus Garvey and the Padres and for the Bears it was their only loss in an otherwise perfect season blanket living room picnic Monday night against Marino and the Dolphins and my mom wept. All these years later I’ve die harded through more losses than wins. I loved the Jordan Bulls and very much lived through that and have had some epic Hawks moments as my extended family is very much a hockey family. You can call me fair weather for those teams though I guess. I just don’t have the love for those sports as I do for baseball and football as I watch anyone play those two sports and really only watch the Bulls and Hawks. And it all started with those two teams.
Most lasting inspirational scene – I was going to place a clip from the original Trainspotting “Choose Life” montage here because back when I was becoming me it really spoke to something inside and stuck. If you want to go find it and have never watched the film please do. I’m not including it for two reasons. One is that essentially all the characters in that movie are heroin addicts and the clip itself holds sentiments that really hit me but the language and visuals are meant to disturb and shake things up as much as the message and I felt uncomfy adding them here. The second reason is that they made a second Trainspotting movie where most of the characters are on to the next phase. I have never tried heroin, let alone been a junkie, but I am at an age like the characters where the timing is spot on and I am in a different phase of life from when the first movie was out as well. They knew, in filming the new one, that the Choose Life scene was iconic so they updated it for the new film and the new time. Seeing it a while back is what reminded me of how much I loved it back then and probably is why I’m including it here. So I’m going to put the updated Choose Life speech on my final post about what stirs up my emotions on a real level. Again – there are still raw sentiments and harsh language so skip if you want, obviously.
Favorite Love Movies – had to go with two and neither are conventional rom/coms but since first reading Romeo and Juliet I’ve always loved art that existed to tell stories about love. Neither of these movies are for kids or the faint at heart. They involve slut shaming, drug deals gone bad, prostitution and pimps, gross out humor, etc but at their hearts they are about love and I love them.
Biggest moral no-no – Lying. This comes from my dad. Trust is key. Not just between parents and kid but for the world world to work how it should. I do not lie. Ever. I have what I think is an impressive streak going and have yet to meet anyone worth breaking it for. It does lead to hurt feelings and other pain from time to time. There are very few people I care enough about to hide truth from if I know it will hurt them, but never lie. The only thing close to a caveat would be with my kids. Their protection is the only thing that is elevated beyond my insistence for truth in the world. A close second is entitlement. People who were always given everything so they feel they should have, or can take, anything. I learned work ethic and a sense of earning what you get from my very hard working parents. I knew from a young age that there were many people who had things easier than I had or would. I can’t and don’t begrudge people who won the birth lottery and came into the world with perks. I just can’t stand when those people don’t see it that way and condemn the rest of us to dealing with their self-serving attitudes. I don’t have much because I’m a single teacher but I do know I bust my butt to get what I do have and always will. Those who break this sort of social code I recognize and respect are, to me, the main culprits for what is wrong with the world. Don’t even get me started on entitled liars.
Happiest song – Back when I was a stay at home dad to just one kid, the Big One, and I honestly thought for close to 4 years he’d be the only one because money was going to be tight and the world is and was the world, we were inseparable. Lots of walking and lots of driving and always always music. This was the first song he used to sing along to once he started talking. The CD came with a dvd of the video and I’d put it on in our condo and he would dance and stare and sing all the words and I can still see that cheeky little face. Sometimes his 6’2 16 year old face framed by peach fuzz and usually the carefully maintained countenance that all teens carry themselves with is blasted away when he touched somewhere inside of himself pure joy and that cheeky adorable beaming beautiful smile shines through with such perfection and I know my little guy is still in there and I love him with all my heart.
Ok I got choked up bringing forward all that inner me-ness. The point in closing like this was to explore how we aren’t defined by our worst moments, regardless of how worst they are. Or our best, but we try to pile those up so they start to sway the argument. I wanted to close by bringing something real I felt was missing and realized I could stay true to my mandate while still baring my honest soul. Not because I have any delusions that anyone who might read this cares. But because this challenge was about writing and about writing about our lives. I respect writing so much and try every day to respect the preciousness of life and I couldn’t walk away from this year’s challenge worried I didn’t show the respect I believe both deserve. I think I can now. Not because I know I did something good or worthwhile, not based on any kind of success imagined or otherwise, but because I tried to honor it. All we can do, ever, is just try. In the end I just want you to know, moving forward trying is something I plan on being a constant, no filter – patience, effort, and dedication. Always.