Funny how this little town wakes up in the late afternoon. Everybody’s getting off work and turning onto these streets trying to make it home. I smell the distant scent of underbrush burning. A volunteer fireman is driving the fire engine around, just the crank it up. The loggers are heading home in the backs of their bosses F-250’s cashing their checks and getting beer.
I remember those days, after a 12-hour shift at a job site. Cashing my check at the bar, having a few Miller’s, shooting some pool, while downing a few pickled hot sausages. By the time I got home, I’d grab a shower and still have enough energy to take Sherri out on the town. Well that shit hasn’t happened in a while. Sherri's on her sixed or seventh marriage by now and I’m sitting here under a fig tree, retired from all those shenanigans of days gone by.
Old memories can either haunt you or set you free. At the moment I’m looking at this with a little of both. Wishing for the energy I had and content with the decisions I’ve made. Time either teaches you or wastes you away. But at the moment sitting under this fig tree, I’m just happy to still be able to feel the breeze. Impatiently waiting for yet another day. While dreaming of bonfires, and an ice-cold bottle of beer, while bullshitting with long lost friends just passing the time away.
Well for the first time this week I’m outside. Not that it’s been all the hot or rainy, but mostly because of the humidity. It is stifling. But the irony is I haven’t gotten settled in my lawn chair yet, before the Baptist next door decided to mow their grass. But such as it is living in the “burbs”, even in a small town.
September is right around the corner and the two main farmers almanacs can’t decide what the upcoming winter will be like. With one predicting rain and cold, while the other predicting dry and mild. I for one am just waiting on this humidity go away and just be hot.
But life offers no guarantees as the Gnats swarming around my head will agree. But the slightest breeze has picked up and my stomach’s already growling. So I guess pick this conversation back up around November.
It’s five in the morning, not exactly my golden hour. But late enough that I did get a decent night’s sleep. The world is still, the fans on high with its rhythm setting the pace. I spent yesterday processing my latest lab results from my doctor. Already compounded by fear and anxiety, the news and referrals I received did not help the situation. At times it seems like my PCP enjoys delivering bad news. But I understand she’s only looking after my overall health.
So I spent the better part of yesterday loathing and feeling sorry for myself. Unlike some, I find that accepting those emotions cleansing in a way. Instead just “whitewashing” over the strains. Acceptance gives me the ability to clean up those parts of my life that were neglected for so long. To deny yourself the chance to mourn, is to deny yourself the chance to heal. My parents are not buried together. Although they were married some 30+ years. My mother remarried and was buried not far from where I live now. My father lies with my infant younger brother at a cemetery at home in Bloomingdale, Georgia.
The separation symbolizes a division of our family unity. A division within myself, believing that in some way I am an outsider to my own name. But the acceptance of my flaws and failures gives me a chance to do over whatever disappointments life brings. That we are more than our collected history. That we all have the potential to be better. That through it all history doesn’t have to define us. Instead it gives us the ability to do better. To correct course and face whatever challenges we must face. To look truth straight in the eye and be at peace.
The old sun can’t make up its mind today rather it wants to come out today or not. But the cicadas sure have come out making a racket. It’s about mid-afternoon and I said the hell with it and come outside. I didn’t realize Mr. Brown had come by and mowed the grass. But the smell of the fresh cut lawn fills my nostrils with the pleasant scent green memories. Texting a friend, the other day brought back memories of hot summer afternoons. Sitting around kitchen tables, drinking iced tea, and listening to my parents and family jarr on about whatever thought crossed their mind.
Time wasn’t so restrictive, nobody seem to be in a hurry. You eat whatever momma or grandma had on the stove. There weren't any beers drank around our kitchen table. But more than likely, Uncle Perry had something sitting in his truck. But there was plenty of smoking, and every ashtray in the house was full, even though my parents didn’t smoke. It was a two-block walk to grandma’s house. So conversations tended to spill over between one or the other. Weekends were never really boring, because there was always someone dropping by.
There’s no real rhyme or reason for me telling you this, other than the fact that it used to happen. Before we ever got so wrapped up in ourselves and family were people you actually wanted to hang around. Spinning talk tales and telling stories of this life or the next. But in this world, all I can do is reminisce and socially distance myself. Trying not to take up too much of other people’s time. But at least the cicadas are keeping me company, while the rest of the world burns gas apparently going nowhere.
Well, let’s try this again. I’m in the backyard, a slight breeze is blowing, and it’s only 86° although it’s only 10:30 in the morning. My neighbor is having his hedges trimmed, I guess to keep up with mine (Insert smiley face). I don’t see any clouds in the sky and I don’t seem to be sticking to my clothes, so I’ll assume the humidity is down. I often wonder why anyone ever reads my shit. It usually always starts the same way. With me talking about something in the yard, while complaining about an obnoxious squirrel or a noisy neighbor. But if your glutton’s for punishment, who am I to argue.
Having to repeat things every day builds muscle memory, which is important for work and even play. It can also be important for self-discovery and self-discipline. A little while ago I realized it as getting close to lunch time. Rather you know it or not, I’ve lost 125lbs over the last five years. It was mostly due to dietary changes and some recent health issues. But the bulk of my weight loss came through breaking my food addiction. Recognizing that I was using food as a coping mechanism. Basically, I was eating my feelings.
You may ask, what does this have to do with muscle memory? Well though mindfulness, becoming aware of myself, and being honest about my feelings. I was able to embrace the pain inside me and eventually was able to let it go. I know this is a very abbreviated explanation of mindfulness. But the gist of it is, burying pain, hurt, and anger only allows those seeds to germinate and grow. By learning better habits and forgiving myself. I learned that the destructive habits I was using to cope. Can be replaced with the muscle memory of love and forgiveness. Allowing me to pursue even greater paths in life.
Staring in the mirror, I never imagined being this old. Back when I was in high school, we had a class discussion about the year 2000. About how we would live to see that new millennium, and what we thought we would be doing. I don’t remember what I had said, though I’m sure it was cynical. But the thing I do remember is that in the year 2000 I would be 38 years old. At that time in the late-1970’s, my Dad was just in his mid-40’s. Now in 2020, I’m approaching the age in which both my parents pasted away. Now, I call that irony.
My wife and kids think I am over-obsessed with these facts. But I like to think of it as a goal. To somehow break through that barrier, and then live in a wild unpredictable future. I know, I know that sounds silly as shit. That I should focused on living in the moment. While that may be true, my creative focus pushes me to keep creating, like I have a timer strapped to my back. I am haunted by the thoughts of wasted time. Time, I lost losing the person who I was. Creating this image, that I thought everyone else wanted to see.
The scares of those days are slow to heal. From the moment when I was rediscovering myself till now; I hear a distant yet familiar drumbeat of time wasting away. It scares me a little to be in this holding pattern. To watch the world turn, while I have to stay put. Discovering myself being drawn to the negative influences of world speak. Pulled away from nature to become a prisoner in my own home. Unmoved, uninspired, waiting on my greatest enemy…time.
It’s just another anticlimactic moment, in an ocean of anticlimactic moments. I had finally saved up enough money to have my eyes checked and get a new pair of glasses. I know that seems trivial, but for those of us on the low-end of the poverty line, it’s a pretty good achievement. It’s been nearly 5 years since my last exam. When optometrist asked why I simply told him, “You priced me out of the market”.
But the point here isn’t to glorify my impoverished life. The story is, once I set a goal for myself, such as this one, and then achieve it. I don’t know, I sorta feel let down. Even while I was struggling to get through college and eventually achieving that goal, I just felt empty and wasted. Like every achievement I made, led to me having to prove myself worthy time and time again.
I hope this is making sense, because I feel like I’m rambling. I mean, shouldn’t there be a certain amount of pride in achieving something? Because all I seem to feel is, “Oh well, I guess that’s that”. Over the last few years my focus has been on achieving peace of mind. I’ve learned that achieving goals is to allow growth and to do better. It’s not just a competition to prove yourself worthy. It’s not like I want to sit around the house in a paper diaper and do doing nothing. It’s just that by replacing the future with the present moment, it has given me a clearer perspective. Not only about myself, but for the things around me.
With a cup of decaf next to me, I begin my day. But it’s not necessarily the beginning of my day. It all started about two hours before when I woke up checking messages sent to me through the night. Some well-wishers, a few haters, and lots of scammers pledging their undying love to me for an account number. God knows how many bots are out there with my face on them. Shit, who I’m kidding. Anyway, after making up the bed, going poppy, and taking my daily dose of meds. Here I am sitting in front of this screen, till my ass gets numb.
I went to sleep last night listening to political newscast (yes, I know). So I woke up with a tension headache around 3am, got up and went to the bathroom. Then came back to bed, and listened to a binaural recording with subliminal massaging. I went back to sleep, but my head was full of weird vivid dreams. With messages that put on full display every flaw and fear I have. What was funny was is after waking up, I felt a certain amount of clarity. Like I just passed a test I was worried about. Rather it was meditative or therapeutic or both, it definitely cleared my head.
But then again, who am I kidding? It won’t too long before my delusions of grandeur are soon wiped away by the troubles of the day. That’s the way it goes in this ever-connected world. Where distractions pull you away from your focus. Leaving you frustrated, confused, and fearful. It’s in those moments when we need a little “me time”. If for a few seconds look outside yourself, maybe at a tree moving outside the window or look at the people walking by. Either way, your stepping away from the madness inside your head. Giving yourself a bird’s eye view of the world and stillness around you.
When light pierces darkness it is considered a relief, a refuge from the storm. But light also exposes the flaws and the cracks in our armor so everyone can see. Even I am particular of the words and images I place on social media. Thinking to myself that I don’t want to be seen in a bad light. Yet here I am, a man of many flaws and shortcomings. A man that has suffered long by my own hand, as well as, by the hand of others. I suppose with age comes some semblance of wisdom, although in my case I often wonder.
Many people run from the darkness, I on the other hand embrace it. I’ve discovered in those bleakest moments I gain the most insight into my troubled soul. Through mediation I listen to the pain, I’ve learned to deal with those flaws. To give them a voice and not to bury them even deeper in ground of my soul. There’s no great secret to mindfulness, it is awareness, it is listening, it is forgiveness.
I suppose what I’m say is to live your true self. Don’t be jealous of what others have, but to do your damnest to carve a path for yourself. For so very long I lived in such pain. Burying my emotions in food, envy, and self-pity. While any semblance of perfection is but a pipe dream. I try and I hopefully have evolved. So don’t be afraid of the dark or the light for that matter. When observed through the prism of awareness, happiness and pain become so much clearer.
I haven’t felt particularly “inspired” as of late. While I feel okay this hot weather has just taken the energy out of me. But that’s not usual, ever since 2017 when I had my little episode on the walking trail. I’ve basically been told to never go out alone, again. So I roll with the punches, trying my damnest to do what my doctors tell me. But sometimes that shit is hard, especially when your mind thinks one thing and your body tells you…No.
So I lay here in my little prison trying and come up with “Happy Thoughts”. But during the cooler months I had gotten used to spending hours outside. Enjoying nature and just people watching. As the summer drags on, all I’m left with is the hum of the AC, and breeze from the fan, and blacked out windows to control the heat. So while the garden's plowed over, I’m just waiting for cooler weather.
Stuck here like a gopher waiting for better days. I recently posted a before and after shot of my physical journey these past few years. While the change is encouraging, the damage is done. So I sit here and play the cards I dealt myself. Now while that may go against all positive motivation. For me and many others it’s a hard reality.
Listen, I’m not telling you this to discourage you or give you an excuse to just give up. Quite the contrary, use your current situation as a reason to “rise up”. Just because you’re disabled, hurting, or feeling down doesn’t give you an excuse to lay down and die. Let’s be frank, life is meant to be lived. So grab what you got by the balls, and make the most out of the inspiration.
James was a good guy, raised to be a responsible family man. He had a modest home outside the small town where he grew up. Married his childhood sweetheart and had two kids. James worked at the local mill, a jack of all trades. The work was steady and James was living a good life. But then NAFTA came along and over the next few years small factory after small factory begin to disappear. Pretty soon James’s steady mill job moved overseas. He was there the last few months it took to pack up the mill equipment to ship. In the end, James was the last worker to turn out the lights.
James took his unemployment, his severance pay, even did the job training he was required to take. He took every odd job he could find. A few days here, a couple of months there. Finally landing himself a job at another factory 35 miles away. Through it all, James didn’t get too bitter. He just listened quietly to the boys at the hardware store, raving about being the forgotten Americans. And to be honest, they were right. Cheap overseas labor and less regulation killed the working class. But created more wealth for the business class and a new gilded age.
But James and his family were surviving. They grew a few crops, least land to ranchers. His wife worked extra hours at local big box store. They were tried, but they were afloat. Then came the Great Recession. James lost his job at the factory due to cut backs. His wife had her hour cut back to part-time. The bank was sending notices, the house lost all its value. The dream James had built his life on had finally died.
It’s the dawn of yet another decade, James and his wife see nothing but darker days ahead. James is close to retirement age, but not close enough. His health has been failing over years. The few doctor visits he makes are to the free clinic in another county or the ER at a regional hospital. No preventative healthcare, just a patchwork of medications to fend off the diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic back pain. The trailer they now rent sits on the poor side of town and is falling apart. When James is able to work, he fixes trucks, tractors, and small engines. His neighbors and the community as a whole are all in the same boat. Poor, beaten, and rundown.
This is but a snapshot of literally millions across the United States and frankly around the world. People just trying to feed themselves and their families. Both sides of the political fence waste time blaming each other for this mess. If you ask me, they’re both right. James didn’t come into this world a bitter man. The world made him that way. From the political parties that seek nothing but power. To corporations that see people as nothing more than a commodity. For just a few days, I’d love to see them walk in James’s shoes. But as with most things, change only comes when you turn out the lights.
I’m sitting here trying to think of something clever to say. But between my phone blowing up with messages and these damn cats demanding my attention, it’s a wonder I can think at all. But the icing on the cake is the fact I’m having my second day of light-headedness and sinus problems. It’s funny how we like to blame any old thing for our troubles, I sure as hell know I do. But in all honesty, troubles usually start with our own attitude about life.
This story isn’t meant for those with situations beyond their control. But for most of us, troubles often start right where we are standing. Life doesn’t come with any guarantees of “happily ever after’, but what it does come with is a lifetime of sweat and troubles to get what you want. I know that in my lifetime so nothing has come easy. I worked and I worked to provide for my family, get my education, and strive to make my dreams come true. Considering how most everything has turned out, it would be easy for me to just be bitter and quit. But instead I have chosen to take life as it comes and make the best of every situation.
It's funny because the whole time I have been writing this, my phone has still been blowing up. The damn cats are still meowing for attention and my head has continued to hurt. Listen, I am not the best when it comes to overcoming the obstacles of life. I am grumpy, cantankerous, and often not particularly pleasant company (Just ask my family). Still, with the right attitude and a stubborn motivation to win. Troubles just become another challenge to overcome in the game of life.
We blame this group or that for our perceived fears. Yet we never take the time to ask, why are you so mad? We waste so much time and energy being upset and afraid, that we fail to ask any questions. I love my father-in-law dearly; he is a root, a link to a past nearly long gone. But often his fear and misguided anger drains me. The half-truths and innuendo many are often fed, alleviates all chance for open dialogue.
Look I understand the anger on both sides of the fence. But the 24-hour news cycles repeat and repeat the same formatted rhetoric. Till frankly, I have to limit my intake of “the daily news”. While I admire the goal of “fair and balanced”, how about we all stop talking in sound bites and quit looking at the world as “one-size-fits-all”. You know why, because it doesn’t.
Through social media I have conversations with people from around the world. And while do run into the occasional Nigerian prince. For the most part the performers, writers, painters, and everyday people I associate with are decent, gifted, hardworking individuals. We may pray differently, if at all. We may observe different customs. Come from various backgrounds. But we make an effort to get along.
Listen I ain’t telling you to give up your life. But how about we put aside our fear and misunderstanding. Speak to your neighbor, listen to their concerns. You may be surprised to discover the things you fear the most are one in the same. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but the bearings could use a little re-greasing.
What are we living for, what is our purpose? You know, I’d be lying if I said those thoughts never crossed my mind. When I was living in the “real world”, thoughts like that escaped me. Maybe because I was too busy supporting the world around me. But in these years of waning responsibility, that voice of purpose once again grows stronger.
I suppose the responsibilities of the real world are enough to call it purpose. But frankly for most of my life those responsibilities were done on autopilot. The rest of the time was wasted watching hours of television or just plain doing nothing. I searched for purpose in my later years. But as I have stated many times, the purpose I achieved left me hollow and wanting more.
My mindset wasn’t really changed till I started looking deep within myself. Digging deep for the purpose, the desire that truly fueled me. Once I had decided to devote myself to the passion of writing. It was then that purpose and a real sense of living came upon me. I suppose the best thing I can offer anyone is, find something you love. If it’s a thousand different things, then so be it. Rather a one-trick-pony or a jack-all-trades, life is simply too brief to languish away, having no joy.
It’s kinda funny, after a full day of paying bills, grocery shopping, and out running thunderstorms. I’m sitting here perfectly content shopping for birthdays presents for the grandkids. I mean the day did show me that I’m not invincible. While running around Wal-Jack's, I noticed all the other “old folk” like me. Getting around with their walking canes, and using portable shopping scooters. At the moment my walking cane is in the corner of my bedroom. But it wasn’t that long ago, we were attached at the hip.
The thing is after a full morning of running around and after everything was put away. I found myself needing some rest. So as optimistic as I try to stay, my limitations often catch up with me. But as time changes, so too are the things we need to stimulate us. As a young man, I required excitement, drinking, raising hell, being with my friends. Later there was a little less drinking, a lot more campfires, and good conversation. Now during this phase of my life, I do a lot more reflecting, no drinking, and piles of watching the Grandkids grow.
Yeah things change, we change, our family and friends change. But it’s all a part of life. Loved one’s come and loved one’s go. And before too long we find ourselves becoming nothing more than a fond memory is our loved one’s mind. But you know what, I’m okay with that. Physically I am but a finite machine and eventually I must go. But till that time, I plan to live, and love, and create as much as I can.