Killing Myself Redux, Or What It Takes To Love (41 of 90)

A few years ago, my world was crashing.

I’d met a girl. A fabulous girl. We shared the same interests, the same passions in life. We were Type As who liked the home when we weren’t working. And we liked to drink. And write.

Of course we hit it off instantly and found ourselves in a relationship. Fast. Too fast as it turns out. She was fresh out of a very long relationship and I was just returned from 12 years on the road. Before we knew what happened, we were living together.

It ended. Rapidly. Badly.

And I left. The minute summer came, I climbed in my Pontiac Vibe and set out across the country, determined to change my life (The Year of Action, it was dubbed). I spent the summer exercising, trying to curtail my drinking, attempting to quit smoking.

Mostly, though, I spent the summer calling all my friends and my ex-girlfriends. Asking them for frank assessments of me as a human.

No judgments. No arguments. I actively encouraged them to tell me the things that I was unable to see myself. The resulting three-month trip across the country turned into the Killing Me blog (on MySpace). I wrote about the conversations, the mistakes, the women, the friends. 75,000 words worth.

It was a journey into my head. This helped prepare me for what was coming, although not in the ways I expected. It did help me, when I returned, to realize how much I had loved – still love – that girl. Enough that I was able to let her go. So that she could find her happiness.

A happiness she was able to return to me just a few months later, when my drinking nearly took my life.

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“My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”

Driving through the California desert and into the vast emptiness of Arizona after seven days digging through my family’s past, I’ve had this song in my head all day. And I wonder how I have ended up where I am. Sometimes I think I took a wrong turn:

To Live With Great Intensity (40 of 90)

I’ve never been much help to my students when they’ve asked me for advice on becoming a writer.

It’s not because I don’t want to be helpful. I remember their angst and confusion and loneliness, trying to contemplate a life where I get paid to simply put words on a page. It seemed, to steal from Richard Dawkins, like climbing Mount Improbable.

There’s nothing I would like more than to tell them the path they need to follow to become writers. Instead I find myself sending them to the major “media job” websites, helping them research interesting companies and editing their cover letters.

This feels wholly inadequate to me.


This post started out as a treatise on dating before it took a turn into something bigger. But it’s important to look at the roots to understand the larger point. I think.

I was talking with my friend last night, lamenting (actually joking) about single life. Here’s my thesis conclusion, which I hope isn’t simply retconned into some truth that I’ve learned to live with: I’d rather be lonely and single the rest of my life than not lonely and somebody’s fall-back position or second choice.

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Stop Thinking About It (39 of 90)

I’ve stopped and started this post several times today, which is ironic considering the idea behind it. These things happen, though, and I’ve made my peace with such contradictions in my life.

Enough with the trying to say it perfectly. I’m just going to let it rip:

I do not understand people who refuse to have a good time with life.


“If you think you can’t, you’re right.”

I love that saying because it encapsulates everything that you need to know about how the world operates, how people will respond to you and how you should go about living your life.

I repeat it to my students oftentimes throughout the semester. I impart it any time someone comes to me for advice on a problem in their life. I share it in casual conversation each day more times than I know what to do with.


“Yes, and”

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Because Sometimes Endings (34 of 90)

I’ve never been very good with goodbyes.

Actually, it’s endings I disliked. The sense of loss, the incomplete-ness of it. A closed door that is never quite shut but inevitably locked. Always knowing there are things – some unknow-able things – that are happening on the other side.

For years, I fought against endings. And in some cases, this is good. There are some things we most certainly must fight to retain and maintain.

These things are few and far between, though, and they come with no flashing sign: “Fight For This Here!”

Instead, we’re left to constantly struggle between fighting and letting go.

My mind has been tuned, though my alcoholism, to cling desperately to the things around me. To keep, control and hold tight anything that resembles a light. A life preserver in the chaos.

Then a funny thing happened…


Almost one year ago, I had a conversation with someone who at one time had been more than a little important in my life. A relationship that was continually almost one, but never quite one.

I couldn’t tell you why. We just never did. And so it wasn’t.

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I’m reminded daily that my perception of the world is oftentimes not the reality of the world. I can’t make people want to be in my life. I can’t make events happen. When I start to get depressed about this, it’s good to remember it’s all about perspective.

Nesting (32 of 90)

By all accounts, this weekend was a social disaster.

The kind of weekend that would make me want to scamper back to school, back amongst the living, back to see and touch humanity to make sure that I hadn’t committed any felonious act that was about to end my career.

It’s funny to type that now, but for years I awoke each day Tabula Rasa, wondering if today was the day the demons would finally catch up to me.

Because of that, there’s only ever been one place I felt at home: Austin. Every place else I’ve ever lived was temporary, a stepping stone on my way to the next place. The next start-over. The next re-set.

Until now.

I won’t say Muncie is my home. That will always be Austin. But I feel at home here. And that’s something.


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Search (31 of 90)

It’s 1230 am. Sunday.

The night is slowly coming to a close, although I don’t want it to. This is the kind of night that, would all things be equal, would have me sitting at a bar, slamming Jack and Coke, smoking Camel Lights, telling stories way too loudly, and talking with the wrong kind of woman.

All things are not equal, though.

Instead, I am in my apartment. I finally turned Hank Moody off my television. I’ve now spent the last 3o minutes pacing the house, ready to go out but sure that leaving is a very bad idea. I’d surely make a wrong turn somewhere and end up where I can’t be.

I desperately miss those days. Particularly late in the evening. When I am home, writing. Or trying to write. Staring at the screen remembering the days I wrote. Often.

I must – daily – remind myself that life is better today than it was back then. That what I remember is only a fictionalized version of the non-fiction. I’ve stripped away the remnants of the lost mornings that followed the lost evenings. The sinking horrors of memory flash that blinked, strobe-like, throughout my life. Recalling just the emotion. The horror. The emptiness.

I must remind myself because this way of thinking about that is not native. And won’t ever be.


It’s 3 am. Sunday.

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“I Hear the Bells”, Mike Doughty

This is the best description of my weekend. Despite the canceled trip to Cleveland (to be made up ASAP), my heart is light. For reasons that are unknown.

That’s okay, though. I’m going with it. Here’s what it sounds like inside my insides:

The Year of Friends: Cleveland Fail (29 of 90)

I’m not supposed to be writing this. It’s 10 pm on Friday night and I’m sitting in Muncie, watching The I.T. Crowd, sending intermittent and flirtatious texts to a girl, and writing.

But I’m supposed to be in Cleveland. In a big, Greek household. With my friend, her husband, their kids and her family.

Until the snow came.

The snow that mucked up our visit. One we planned months ago. Because that’s what you have to do when you get older. You plan trips months in advance.

They will move into a new house that’s being built sometime in the late Spring. Now, they are living with her parents. Which makes scheduling a bit tough.

And that doesn’t even begin to touch on my life. The next weekend I have free – or roughly free – is mid-April. Even then, I will have to find a WiFi hotzone on the Friday I drive to Cleveland so that I can deliver a lecture at Berkeley by way of UStream or Skype.

These are the events of our lives, the pull that has somehow kept us from seeing each other since 1994. Sixteen years since I’ve seen one of my best friends from college.

We are grown up now. She with a family; me slowly re-assembling my life in sobriety. Our lives are happily complicated. But it wasn’t always so.

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I’m Just Playin’ (27 of 90)

On Monday, I gave someone a piece of advice that I rarely follow myself: “It’s all just a big cosmic joke so remember, every once in awhile, put down your work and just have a good time. After all, we’re just grown-up versions of little apes. Sometimes we have to throw some poo.”

Not, mind you, that I’m advocating The Great Poo Toss of 2010. But you get the idea.

I take life way too seriously. Way too often. I find it difficult to cut myself some slack, put the work down for a bit and just go waste time.

When that happens, I find the rest of the world becomes increasingly serious. Grandma-in-the-house serious. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to that in a bit. Rest assured, it is bad).

And when everything becomes life or death, the world gets particularly scary. A conversation, a grade, a kiss, a handshake, an argument. These all become something more than they are.

It wasn’t always like that for me.


Years ago, my father and I were talking. About what I couldn’t tell you, but as we’re wont to do, it had something to do with Human Nature. Or more probably, the nature of humans. There’s a difference. We’re more concerned with the second. Or I am. Which means he is when we are talking.

He told me a story about what can happen if we erect barriers around us. If our world shrinks down.

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