happy

Random Childhood Memories #1 (of about 10,000)

My Uncle Willie was the best storyteller I’ve ever known.  He was nothing more than an alcoholic country boy with Jesus in his back pocket, but when he  started in on his stories, there was no tearing yourself away.   The best memories of growing up are of the summers spent at the lake house with my uncle and my grandmother in the little town of Cisco, TX.
I was the “caboose” of all the grandchildren (as my grandmother always called me), and wherever my uncle and grandma were, I could be found. I have no doubt some would look those summers and shake their heads at the things I was exposed to, but the bonds of love and family were never stronger than those days at the lake house.
Perhaps it was the magnitude of their personalities, but even in my earliest memories, I recall preferring the company of my grandmother and her siblings over kids my own age, even to my cousins.

I owe any sense of adventure I have to my Uncle.  Not because he was particularly adventurous or even a daring sort of man, but because he always had a story to tell and no matter how dull it might have been in real life, he added just the right amount of garnish and you could visualize every moment in a sort of glittery shimmer.

His best known tale was the story of “The Old Man”, a sort-of swamp creature with one, big, yellow eye above his nose that lived at the bottom of the lake and ate raw fish and only talked to Uncle Willie. Any fish or animal bones found near the shore were just the remains of the Old Man’s meals. Nights when the coyotes were silent were nights you stayed inside because the silence meant he was roaming around looking for something to eat.
If you did go outside, you didn’t dare go without Uncle Willie because the Old Man wasn’t only ugly, he was mean and wouldn’t hesitate to make a meal out of you.

In the mornings, my uncle and grandmother would sit on the screened-in porch drinking their coffee and smoking cigarettes until everyone else woke up.  I was usually the first awake and I’d sit with them at the table and listen to whatever memories they were suddenly struck by.
Nearly every morning at the lake house, my uncle would tell me I fell asleep right before the Old Man came to visit him.
He’d brief me on their conversation and said he’d told the Old Man I was back (or still) in town. He always said he’d introduce me to the him one day and thought the Old Man might like me, but he probably wouldn’t like anyone else.  So, every night I’d sit up waiting to meet him with my uncle and grandma on the porch, listening to them talk until I eventually fell asleep.

Somewhere in the early 90’s Uncle Cliff married in the family through my aunt (my mom’s sister).  Cliff is 6’7 and 400 pounds of stupid but also 400 pounds of heart.  The first 10 or so years, my grandmother wasn’t very fond of him (she preferred my aunt’s ex-husband) and being blood, that meant Uncle Willie didn’t much care for him either.
Cliff was extremely gullible which made him the butt-end of countless jokes when he dared go to the lake house with the rest of the family.  Maybe he was too stupid to realize they were picking on him, but either way, he was always good sport about it.
Even in my single-digit years, I had my doubts about the existence of the Old Man but at 35, it wasn’t hard to make Cliff scared of the water.  I’m not sure he actually believed Uncle Willie, but he was still uncomfortable being out alone in the dark, nonetheless.

However it came about, one night he was dared to sleep on the fishing dock alone.  He talked big, but somehow my aunt ended up with sleeping bags on the dock with him.
At some point in the middle of the night, Cliff came bounding up to the house from the dock soaking wet, swearing the old man was after him.  To this day, no one is sure who scared him, but his delinquent stepsons weren’t his biggest fans.
Family legend has it that he couldn’t shut his eyes at all that night and heard branches cracking and something moving in the water.  In attempting to try to wake my aunt up, he swore someone grabbed his arm which scared him absolutely shitless, causing him to roll over and fall off of the dock and into the lake.  My aunt laughed at him that night and she still laughs at him this day.
Cliff has been dubbed the “titty-baby” of the family since that night.

Even when I was older and saw less and less of Uncle Willie, when I did see him, he’d always ask if I’d seen the Old Man lately.  For whatever reason, I always envisioned sitting at a picnic table under a tree by the lake house (even though there was no picnic table) and eating burgers with him and my uncle in the dark.  I remember thinking I wouldn’t act like I was afraid of him even if I was, espeically if Uncle Willie was with me.
Every time I watch To Kill a Mockingbird and Scout sees Boo Radley behind the door, I always think of the Old Man.  He is my Boo Radley, I just never stayed up late enough to meet him.  Uncle Willie died about 10 years ago and as I’ve gotten older and feel the sting of things I can never have again, I think the largest hole is reserved for summers spent in that shitty shack of a lake house in Cisco.

milestone

There are no words for the emotional maturity that has blossomed inside of me.  For as long as my mind stretches into the past, I have struggled to balance my emotions, thoughts and reality.   Like the moon pulls the tides, I have struggled to resist the pull of my emotions, but I have finally learned how to maintain my balance in the trough of the waves.
I have, of course, been assisted by many great minds through the years; Nietzsche, Whitman, Rilke, Dickinson, Harper Lee and most recently — Dickens.  All of these great writers and thinkers (and so many more) have comforted me when I was held captive by my emotional turmoil and held a flame for both warmth and light in the velvet darkness.
Of course, music and friends/family have served as a lifeboat as well, but there is something about books — how you can wrap yourself in the world of someone else and escape your own while somehow pressing the two worlds together.  I’m not really sure I’m capable of fully expressing the love and appreciation I have for reading and the gracious impact the words have had on me, but I will never stop trying.
It is only within the past couple of months that I have noticed the deep, solid change that has taken place inside of me.  Not like the spurts of positivity that I have been showered with and then disappointed by.  This is a deep rooted change that has put me in control of how I let circumstances affect me.   I have not grown cold, but focused.  I have stopped trying to change what I do not like and simply accepted that it is alright to be recognizably flawed.  In fact, I enjoy my flaws, I no longer feel ashamed about my desire to be introverted, but I enjoy it almost to the point of overzealousness.  I no longer feel guilty or wounded by sudden changes in behavior of someone I considered myself to be on good-terms with (obviously an isolated incident).  In fact, I quit caring about so many small things because I started accepting myself ENTIRELY, not piece by piece, and I started believing more in the good-natured part of myself and believed that no matter what, the good in me would prevail.
I still consider myself in the threshold of this change, but this is concrete.  This is the milestone I’ve been struggling to reach for the past 5 years and it has greeted my life with incredible warmth and sincerity.
Normally this is where I would say something along the lines of, “I hope this feeling lasts forever” but for the first time in as long as I can remember, I know this is one of the building blocks to the person I’m growing up to be and I really, really love and respect her.

Pep Talk

There is a curse in being intuitive when it comes to other people.   It’s amazing to be able to pick up on a personality within minutes of meeting someone, but it’s a horribly lopsided ability.  It’s mentally awkward when a person you have no qualms with subtly stops being polite to you and/or doesn’t acknowledging your presence unless you say something.  Granted I’m no stranger to this behavior, but I’ve never suddenly “turned” on someone I considered an acquaintance without a good reason.
This sort of thing has been happening to me my entire life; I will form a friendship with someone when suddenly I’m being shunned with no explanation.  I’m generally pretty good at pinpointing the problem, but nothing has happened and yet, here I am in the arctic breezes of the cold-shoulder again.

Although I’ve formed a pretty thick shell and buried any physical signs of hurt feelings, it still stings like hell and it still makes me feel kind of shitty.  It doesn’t do any deep, internal damage anymore because I’ve grown to the point where I actually respect the person I’m growing in to and in light of that, I quit blaming myself for other people being total assholes.  For the past five or so years, I’ve been working really hard on my unpleasant qualities and molding myself in to what I believe is a good, stable person.  And as far as I’m concerned, I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself and those who have always supported me.
Every time this happens though, I dig deep through the pain of it and work to better myself.  The ability to do that is an actual gift – to take something from a bad situation and create something beautiful from it’s debris without letting the negativity affect you negatively.

Even my best friend, who is mad at me and hardly speaks to me (completely my fault) will always be my best friend because despite my major fuck-up during my 10th tour of best-friend duty, she still knows I’m a good person beneath my mistakes – no matter how big or small.  Even if she doesn’t know how much she doesn’t hate me right now, I know she opens every message I send her even if she doesn’t respond.
In fact, I don’t even know why I felt the need to write this, I’m irritated at a co-worker whom I actually liked among a sea of co-workers I don’t like, but fuck it; I have dinosaurs on my desk next to pictures of my mother.  I have my iPod with me filled with over 100 GB of music from the past 4 years (lots of emotional healing there) and even though my best friend won’t talk to me (which I really hate), I still annoy the hell out of her with text messages and pictures because I’m annoying and that’s okay because it comes from a good place and she knows I mean it.

I suppose I wrote this because I needed to remind myself that I’m a decent person capable of becoming a really good person.  And even though I’m far behind where I want to be in life, I truly do not worry about not becoming the person I want to or not doing the things I want to in life.  I have no idea how I know, but I know that I will be fine in every aspect of my future, and even though these little emotional mosquito bites itch like crazy, they’re only small happenings that help sharpen the image of the bigger picture.
It’s not even a lemonade thing, it’s just realizing that you’re in complete control of how you let life change you.

“Accept Yourself”

I think my favorite thing about breaking myself free of childish judgments are the benefits of the music.  The moment I was able to differentiate talented artists and studio artists, I become a music snob and for a long time considered 95% of mainstream artists talentless hacks.  Somewhere after twenty-four though, that novelty wore off I realized that seeking obscurity was the real crime.  I was denying myself of so many great songs filled with emotional carnage and despair.  It also made me a total asshole.
Somewhere after they hit twenty, all of the punk rockers from my generation started this bearded, skinny-jean-plaid-shirt-wearing  revolution of hipster shitheads and flooded the music scene with concept albums and ironic acoustic sets of mainstream pop songs.
The last house show I went to (probably the last ever too), was to see a local band with the sort of following that requires a bicycle parking section.  After their set, my friend talked to the guitarist of the band that had invited her.  Throughout their conversation, I was informed that my job of printing labels for (organic) chemicals was bad because “Chemicals are bad”.
Just moments after that statement, this conversation took place with someone who walked up to say hello to him:

Stranger: Hey man! What’s going on?

Band-Dipshit: Hey man, I haven’t seen you in a while, how’s it been?

S: Good, I saw you at that party a couple of weeks ago!

BD: Which one?

S: The one at asdf’s!

BD: Oh man, I don’t remember… I was probably coked out of my mind.

End significant part of scene.

I counted at least three mentions of coke in the five minutes he stood talking to my friend and even more mentions of being too drunk to remember anything.  But, of course, he couldn’t tend to his other guests until he was able to ask my friend if she wanted to help paint the planet costumes for the band’s upcoming show debuting their new (concept) album.
If you ever find yourself curious about what’s going on in the local indie scene in Phoenix, Arizona – there you go.
But, back to growing up and becoming less judgmental of music: that band (a 7 piece including a tambourine player) couldn’t have sounded any better under the influence of twelve shots of tequila.  Sadly, just as little as three years ago, I probably would have been slightly jealous of them and wasted money on an album feeling like I was missing something fantastic that all other thirty people saw.
The point I’m trying to make here is that when you bypass music because a lot of shitty people who don’t know dick about music listen to it, you’re sometimes left listening to mediocre music that shitty people who don’t know anything about music make.
Just recently I started listening to The Smith’s.  A band I’d always ignored because… exactly.  There’s this whole anti-Morrissey thing going on, but I don’t know a damn thing about the guy.  What I do know is that “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” and “I Want The One I Can’t Have” are incredible fucking songs.
But because a buck-toothed (very) ex-friend of mine worshiped them (and Tori Amos – who I still don’t like), I hated them because for me, they were associated with someone who didn’t know what “quality” music was, also the fact that their following exceeded 5,000.  So I missed all those years of licking my wounds with great songs because I thought having “high standards” was part of loving music.Anyway, due to my previous arrogance, the past few years have been spent going back and listening to music I’d accused of being talentless and superficial or “too mainstream” (I was that dick for a while, yes),  and it has been wonderful.
People will always be idiots, but growing up and gaining perspective has taught me that people that listen to music but don’t know much about it, are no different from me liking pieces of art even though I don’t know anything about art outside of mainstream artists like Salvador Dali and Vladimir Kush.
I see something, I like it or I don’t. Art isn’t emotional for me just as music isn’t emotional for some people.  It’s like this in every aspect of life.   I’m sure there is an account somewhere that truly loves accounting, or a landscaper that really enjoys cutting grass.
There is a point when passion crosses a boundary and you just become a total piece of shit.  It took a very long time, but I have finally crossed the threshold of acceptance to a very sensitive part of my life.
I don’t know that I’ll ever have an appreciation for Lady Gaga or Katy Perry or any pop artists of that nature, but I certainly won’t be bitching about them anymore and it certainly doesn’t bother me that other people like them anymore either.
Whoever said growing up was boring must not have had a passion, because this is like falling in love with music all over again.

How I’m Going to Avoid Being a Loser for the Rest of My Life

I am a frustrated twenty-seven-year-old failure.  I am a slave to the chronic ritual of a Monday-Friday job that leaves me felling empty and pointless.  In fact, falling in sync with the ritual is a reoccurring thing within itself.  The most time I’ve spent at one job was the 2.5 years I gave to Starbucks.  I don’t even think I made it to the .5, maybe the .2.
It’s around the first year mark that I begin to get jittery and cynical.  I truly do feel something is fucked about bestowing our loyalties to the company we work for, yet fear losing our job when passion or desire meet occupational priority, but that’s a different story and I’m choosing a different path this time.
The problem here is that it’s not just my job, it’s everything in my life.  I’ve been playing by the same rules that have set me back since before they started setting me back.  Take this blog, for example.  It’s full of random accounts of a life that even I’m not interested in hearing about.  Full of bitter “truths” and failed “revelations”.
I spend hours thinking about life and what I think is wrong with other people, what’s wrong with me, and what philosophy best suits my life.  The thing is, I have no life to suit a philosophy to.  And though I have no qualms when it comes to being honest with myself, it’s a pointless ability if you don’t enforce the necessary change that such a knowledge requires.
My problem is, I have no goals to live up to in my family.  I have one brother who, by honest comparison, I’m actually doing better than.   With that “hovering”, I have absolutely no motivation.   I have nothing to look at and say “wow, what the fuck am I doing?”.
It’s a comfortable backdrop for personal excuses and it’s gone on too long.  I’m almost thirty. Thirty.  T H I R T Y.
There is no excuse good enough anymore.
I’m tired of the self-loathing that constantly consumes me, tired of feeling like shit about the beige outlook I have – I’m just tired.  It’s much harder to make excuses than to actually get off of my ass and do something about my “plight”.

So, I reapplied with FAFSA, purchased the study guide for the placement test and researched the necessary requirements for Nursing.  Nursing, right?  Not journalism, I know.  However, I’m not copping out on my dreams, I’m actually making them easier to achieve.  For someone who strives for independence, applying for financial aid and spending money going to school for a career that’s oversaturated and filled with competition for positions that pay little and don’t even interest me, that actually puts a worse feeling in my stomach than not going to school at all.
Firstly, there is always a demand for nurses – it’s a field of work that assures a job.  Secondly, it gives me the freedom to move just about anywhere I please.  Thirdly, my cousin, who is an RN (and only two years older than me),  just bought a house.  Not even thirty and bought a house.
And to anyone who wants to tell me that I have no idea what I’m in for, I know.  Trust me, I know.  My best friend was a CNA for about 2 years and showered me with all of the gory details of what nursing entails.  But that’s okay.  Cleaning someone’s shit off the sheets has nothing on feeling like a piece of shit every day. Nothing.
It’s also important to consider that my patience and rationality are at best when someone is genuinely in need of care or patience.  And anything that makes me feel like I’m good person actually makes me a better person.  When I feel like a good person, I take better care of myself, and when I take better care of myself, I’m happy and when I’m happy… well, I don’t know because I can’t say that I’ve ever been truly happy long enough to know what my potential is capable of.  And that’s not a self-served pity statement, it’s the truth.

So, how is this not copping out on my dream to write?  Because I don’t need anything on paper to freelance.  I will have to bedazzle the fuck out of someone with actual writing (not this blog shit), but I’m willing to accept that challenge.   I don’t want a job that requires a desk, a computer and editing skills.  I don’t want a job that doesn’t give me creative room. If I rely entirely on a journalism degree, I know that’s the sort of job I’m looking at.  However, I still plan on getting a degree in journalism to make my dream of writing easier to attain, the only difference is, I’m not resting my entire future on that particular piece of paper.  I don’t have to be a journalist to write a book or research something and write about it.   The way I see it, Nursing is a respectable career that pays well and can provide me with plenty of opportunity.  Opportunity to pursue whatever I please.  For obvious reasons, it also gives me something to write about.

Even if it’s not what I really want to do with my life, it’s not a desk job, or retail or a food industry job.  It’s not boring, repetitive and habit-forming.  I would actually have to remain alert and focused and aware of what I was doing.  That can only have a positive affect on everything else I suck at.  Despite the fact that I’ll have to experience death and immeasurable sadness (I am extremely susceptible to the emotions of those around me); I’ve built so much of my philosophy of life on emotional happenings and emotional survival, that it can only strengthen my character while simultaneously bringing me to my knees.  And the idea that all of that pain could actually find it’s way to my pen… I just…. well, I feel terrible for saying that but it personally confirms that this “career decision” is a positive move.  I haven’t even come close to taking a step in the right direction since… I don’t know when.

I honestly haven’t felt this motivated EVER.  And regardless of the many things you’ve read on here about “I’m going to do this” or “I’m going to change this time” or whatever the fuck I felt like writing that day, this is something I’ve never felt in my entire life.  I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that getting a CNA doesn’t require a degree, it’s a program and it’s something I can do.  I know that the real “financial support” lies in becoming an RN, but I have no problem building my way up to that.  Especially if it gets me out of whatever the fuck I’ve been doing with my life the past ten years.

Anyhow, there is a point to all of this.  I am giving in to the path less traveled.  I am tired of saying I’m going to do something with no intention of actually doing it.  I am tired of how I feel about myself and how I feel about other people.  I am saying goodbye to the person I am and becoming someone entirely new.  I would like to have respect for myself and feel free from personal burden.
But most of all, I would like to lay down at night and welcome positive thoughts to my pillow rather than feeling like a piece of shit failure, because I am not one.

2013, ain’t it a beaut?

Today, I filled out my FAFSA application for Financial Aid.  Today, I also decided I should really start working on that whole “aspiring alcoholic” thing.  This was before the FAFSA business.  So now, in a tingly, merry state of mind, I can hold my head up.  Should I be ashamed?  Probably.  Am I?  No, not really.  I figure, I’m a failure in every other aspect of life, why not give my nagging blood the thing it craves and succumb to my heredity?   My family is full of failed dreams and alcoholism.  And hey, at least I’ll really have something to write about, right?
I already make myself miserable by trapping any happiness in thoughts of doubts and insecurities, so why not weaken such a cruel structure with some liquor?  Hell, at least then I’ll have an excuse other than sheer laziness for my lack of accomplishments.  And my family will look at these days, here, as the days when I really could have been something.
It’s like giving in to my destiny.
You see, after my grandmother died (the smoking alcoholic she was — to give you an idea), my mother found a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey hidden in a drawer in the kitchen.   My grandmother, Nanny, fought cancer for about 11 years and claimed she’d quit drinking after her first visit to the hospital in those 11 years prior to her death.  She battled with smoking and had weened herself to the point of being able to not smoke in front of other people, but we all knew she still smoked.  I told my mother to let Nanny live her life in a way that was comfortable for her, but my mother nagged her about it anyway because well, daughters need mothers.  The same cravings course through my mother that course through me, and we both inherited our “desires” from  my grandmother and grandfather.   My  mother had successfully fought off the demons until she lost both parents last year and now she spends her weekends in a drunken stupor from wine.  Last week, I flew home for Christmas and stayed 7 days, 5 of which were spent drunk with my mother.  How wonderful it felt to rest in the bottoms of bottles 1,700 miles away from my problems.
And now, with flushed cheeks that greet saddened cheekbones, I have continued my grandmother’s legacy.  Only, she was brave and stubborn and confident and she died living up to  the bold letters of her name.
Sure, she was sad but I’ve come to accept that we’re all sad, we’re also all happy.  We’re a mess of every emotion tangled in to a single, conscious vessel, obligated to ignoring certain things because, well, we have to if we want to be happy.  I simply have problems with putting on my blinders.  It’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it takes it’s toll.  And tonight, I drink to all of those thoughts and problems and to my grandmother who was certainly brave, honest and genuine until the day she died.
I’ll get through my problems but it will never be below me to drink some of them away.