Sometimes Pain is Progress

…but I have worked at it.

Almost a month to the day after I turned 50, They Came in Peace will be launched; a story about a young man growing up after the world ended, after the aliens made themselves Custodians of the Earth, and the treachery and truth he uncovers.  And even then, it’s not what you think it is.

But since finishing the review of the Galley on my fucking Birthday, since realizing how much of my blood was in the book and realizing I had too much red in my own ledger, I started on another project.

Not a creative one; a personal one.  Triggered, ironically, by the unsolicited email from a former “friend,” who, shall we say, had been nothing but a hanger-on, a condescending manipulator who could only drag me down with him, since 1984.  He emailed me to tell me he still cared, and still followed me, online; I told him with no lack of colorful language just what I thought of him, and the fact that if he’d cared and followed me online, he’d have contacted me after my mother died last year, the day after my eldest turned 10.

But I realized that the past was full of loose ends…and after working up the courage, I decided it was time that I did what my former bestie could not: reach out to anyone, everyone I can find, who I may have hurt, or otherwise been a bastard to, and try to apologize for the asshole that I was…

Other than one person, I’ve been met with nothing but kindness.  Oh, one or two people never did more than read my messages asking for forgiveness, but I can understand why they may not have wished-or been able to-answer me back.

But everyone – almost – else, were sympathetic, and remembered me more fondly than I did, myself.  A couple even told me not to be so hard on myself.

…annnd then I was made privy to the commentary another former friend who DID follow me online about my Birthday Blogging Binge at the end of May.

Backstory is, I’d apologized to someone who was a mutual friend of me and the Other One, who passed me a copy of their (the Other One’s) commentary on my posts.

I can honestly say, even my ex-wife – who had actual reason to be – was not nearly as haughty, arrogant, judgmental and self-aggrandizing as the Other One was.  In fact, of all the people from my past who treat me with more kindness than I deserve, my ex wife is probably the kindest.

Now, getting back to the Other One, I’ve seen a lot of people whitewash and romanticize themselves or their past – or our shared past, if we have one – but up until the Other One, I’ve never seen someone redact the past until nothing but their own self-put-upon marble plinth remained beneath their feet, everything and everyone else just disdainful in their eyes..

Now, to all the people who insist I’m good, that I’m kind, that I’m not the villain of my own piece, let me just say I used every cruel word and bit of knowledge I had about the Other One to absolutely shred them for what they had to say about me.  Like, I made cole slaw out of their ass.

And I regret nothing.

But, as I’ve said elsewhen: I’ve lived 50 years, not all of them good.  I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and now is the time to put them right.

I’m still trying to atone for my past, with as many people as I can.  There are some people I won’t reach out to, because I think it would do more harm than good if I did.  There are others that, if I don’t at least TRY to talk to them, I’d never forgive myself.

I’ve been forgiven and told I was better than I thought by a handful of people who should remember me far less fondly; a precious few pebbles from the past – including a family member I never expected to answer me – and long-gone friends I thought would rebuke me, are bittersweet solace, as I remind myself that not everything can be tied off in a pretty bow.

Sometimes, the thread must be cut, completely.

I’m going to try and keep moving forwards; the former family and friends who have forgiven me and remember me more kindly than I do myself remind me I can try to be a better person, maybe even less of a bastard.

But the truth is, when you’ve made as many mistakes as I have, sometimes being a bastard is the only way to push through, to make that progress.

Sorry, loves; I’m not as good as you all imagine.

And if I am cruel to you…well, think of how much I hate myself, and think of how much I must therefore hate you.

Auf wiedersehen, meine schatzie.

(almost) All Apologies

I’m 50 and I’m fucked; the years ahead are far fewer than the years behind, and all I’ve accomplished is hurting a long line of people I loved or tried to love, or imagined I loved.
Throughout it all the only constant has been what a selfish, self-centered bastard I’ve been to everyone I’ve known, whether they fall into a small handful of people who deserve my hate, or the greater population who cared, and  to whom I owe my sincerest apologies.
To quote a singer from my youth, I hate myself, and want to die.

Chasing Sleep, and Reflections on Time Travel

Time is a strange thing, isn’t it?  especially our perception of it.  Five minutes can seem like an eternity, waiting for a bus or train in the wrong weather.  Several hours in good company goes by in a flash.  A day can seem like a year, and yet an entire decade passes in no time, at all.

Time was that beard was dark, with red highlights from my Scottish Gran’Da’s side of the family; back in the day, I had hair down to my kidneys, and once upon a time, not so long ago, I didn’t need to shave my head, I just did it for efficiency’s sake.  Then once upon another time, I grew it back in, and discovered how much of the field had gone fallow.

The worst is just how our perception of time gets, as we get older.  Weeks were once an eternity; a year used to be a long time…an entire decade seemed incredibly long; until the decades behind started to outnumber those ahead.

Now, time seems to grow shorter; my children growing up so goddamned fast I cry for yesterday when I was cradling them to sleep in my arms.

And I’m astonished, at their young age, how much wiser they are than I ever was – sometimes wiser than I am now – and how compassionate and passionate they already are about life.

I pray to a god I don’t believe in that nothing happens to them in their long decades ahead – especially those painful, formative early two or three – to break their spirit, to break their drive to be themselves, to be unafraid, and to be ALIVE, in the truest sense of the word that the young deserve, so that they can enter adulthood at peace and ready to change, conquer or renew their world.

God knows I spent too much time when I was young feeling sorry for myself; picked the wrong people as friends more than once, but picked the right onces more often.  But whether the best of friends or the worst of them, the times were always good, better than I remember, except for how wrapped up I was because of untreated depression, anxiety, and the ongoing physical and mental abuse my father inflicted on me.

By the time I was finally able to get a handle on myself and my life, I was almost thirty; after too many bad relationships had for the wrong reasons over too little time, I wound up meeting someone who finally made everything feel right…and in time, we were married…and we had eight, nine good years…out of a thirteen-year marriage.

And we have great kids, together; in their eyes, I see the future unbridled, and I can remember that feeling.  The sun is still rising on their future; I’m already into the early evening of mine.

How did it go by so fast?

Why didn’t I appreciate what I had more?

Why didn’t I do more to be happy, instead of resenting those around me who were?

After I finally got my shit together, how the fuck did I lose it, when I had so much to live for, so much reason to feel joy?

Who am I now?

Where am I now?

Is this it?  Is this all there is?

I swear, I’ve tried so hard for all this time…why does every happy memory I have of every person I’ve ever known have an equal number of bad memories I’ve had with, or because of either myself, or them?  Why aren’t I looking back with nostalgic romance?  Why is it all I see are the scars and craters left in my wake?

Will my children still love me when they realize I’m nothing like the man they think I am?

Will anyone ever desire me again?

Will anyone ever enjoy my company, again?

How long before I’m forgotten?  How long before I’m dead, before I truly am completely alone?

Will anything I’ve ever done, or tried to do, will anything I’ve ever said or written  be remembered by or matter to anyone?

Will my expressions of friendship, affection, love, counsel, support, and encouragement even  matter, weighed against my inflictions of disdain, venom, rage, contempt, hatred, cruelty or jealousy?

Do I have time enough to atone?  Time enough to balance out the red in my ledger?  Do I have time left to actually feel ALIVE, again, or is this constant sense of regret all that’s left to me?

How much time have I already wasted, and how much more will be added to the ledgers of times I regret?