Things That Make Me Happy (13 of 90)

I spend too much time in my head sometimes, time that would be better spent celebrating the goodness that surrounds me. I don’t think we do enough of that.

My parents, gosh darn it, are still alive and kicking it around the country. They are currently on their annual 3-month tour of the country. My friend Kris (who I will be seeing in California shortly) and I oftentimes remark that we have hit the collective parent lottery.

My sister sent me the most heartbreaking email yesterday, which is just another reason why I think I probably hit the sister lottery too. We are not as close as we’d like, but we’re not as far apart as it seems.

I’m sitting at my desk, staring our the window at a calm, peaceful winter’s night with a blanket of beautiful white snow on the ground. Say what you will about the world: when you take a second to block out the noise, the signal is amazing.

I live in a time when Geography is not a hindrance to personal relationships.

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Words on the Page (11 of 90)

My life changed forever on May 11, 2008.

It wasn’t the first time my life had changed. It certainly wasn’t the last. And while it turned out to be for the better, the immediate change didn’t feel particularly good.

As I used to hear someone say: You think when you quit drinking that you’re life is supposed to get better; my life got worse. Fast.

It doesn’t seem like a very good incentive for change, but when you dig into the idea behind that statement it becomes the most powerful piece of advice I’ve received in my sobriety. Because life isn’t easy. It’s a series of steps, small paces that move us through space-time, methodically and slowly.

The journeys we take, the important ones, require commitment  and perseverance. The simple act of quitting something bad, while good in the long run, oftentimes comes with a whole series of immediate consequences that are bad.

It’s good to remind myself of this from time to time.

***

On Monday, weather permitting, I’m going to the Staples (or Office Depot, I can’t rightly remember which one is next to my house). I’ll purchase a wall calendar to hang in my living room (next to one of my desks), a small carrying notebook, and a whiteboard.

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The Plan (10 of 90)

I started writing today’s post, a rather in-depth treatise about my five-year plan. The first explicit plan I’ve had in my life.

When I realized something: I’m not ready to share that will you.

It’s nothing personal, I promise. Although I’ve always found that particular phrase, when applied to a relationship, trite. After all, if it’s not personal then that certainly defines the kind of relationship that you have. And who wants to have a not-personal type relationship?

In this case, though, it really isn’t anything personal. I’m simply not ready to say it aloud yet. I’m not ready to announce it, incomplete and imperfect, for everyone to see. I’m not ready to accept my own fate, to solidify my plans with words on a page.

I’ve already started discussing The Plan with a few friends. I’ve let the words slip out of their Brain Cell, touching the light of the world briefly.

I’m testing it out, like a controlled public relations leak. Let’s float the test balloon and see the reaction.

***

Students oftentimes ask me for advice on writing. Specifically, they ask me how do you make a career out of writing. What, they want to know, did I do.

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Never, Quite (8 of 90)

Off-handedly I found out that she got married. She met a guy, had a baby, got married and moved into the hill country of Marin County.

I always expected to hear that particular story. Or a version of that story. At least the end of the story.

That didn’t change the sinking feeling I felt in my heart when I heard it. You can’t prepare yourself for that feeling. Even when you know it’s coming.

Finality is funny that way.

***

We always had a strange relationship, she and I. The timing was always just a little bit off, the circumstances never quite.

Not that we didn’t try. In 1998, we would always find a reason to end up in the same place. Which wasn’t hard because the school was very small. Just a few rooms.

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Mentor (7 of 90)

I’d planned on writing this post on the plane last night, but the best laid plans and all those things.

The travel delays and obstacles, though, brought new opportunities my way. I had the chance to sit next to a young woman from Charlotte on the flight from Memphis to San Francisco. We chatted about our lives, our work, our families. The kinds of small talk strangers sometimes make when they feel safe. Or alone. Or tired.

“You give great story,” the woman said. “Everything sounds so fascinating.”

And both of those statements – if I can say this without sounding more egomaniacal than I normally do – are absolutely true. I’m a pretty good storytelling. And everything does sound fascinating.

But the two are not always related.

***

Thirteen years ago, I visited San Francisco for the first time. Although if I’m being honest, that’s not exactly true. I visited Berkeley.

I’d sent off my graduate school application, written in a flurry of alcohol and drug-induced spasm the day it was due. I was in the throws of what would become a pattern of self-destruction, but at the time it just seemed like a regular week. A regular day. A regular hour.

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Migraines (5 of 90)

I’m late on my post.

Not even a week into the challenge and I’m already late. A few years ago, this would have tied me in knots. I’d have struggled through the evening to write this before the midnight hour.

Not now. I’ve grown comfortable enough with the fluidity of life to understand that sometimes deadlines pass without accomplishment. That doesn’t mean stop moving forward. Just the opposite. It means I continue forward even when the arbitrary spacetime marker has been passed.

I’m okay with my new-found freedom. It’s taken some getting used to, but frankly much of my life has taken getting used to. If I can get used to moving through the world sober, surely I can get used to moving through the spacetime stream with some flexibility.

***

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A Life in Time (4 of 90)

The concept of spacetime combines space and time to a single abstract "space", for which a unified coordinate system is chosen. Typically three spatial dimensions (length, width, height), and one temporal dimension (time) are required.

— Wikipedia entry on Spacetime

I’m not feeling particularly deep tonight, which is okay. I suspect that I am full of less depth than I think anyhow. It’s a welcome reprieve to simply accept such truths about oneself and move along.

There is, after all, nothing to see here.

I get myself in trouble, though, when I begin to acknowledge the potential for a future. Any kind of future. But, in particular, the kind of future that imagine myself managing to wrangle out at some point. These are the times when everything falls to pieces.

The problem isn’t that things fall apart. It’s that I now expect them to fall. To break. To crumble away into nothingness. Every beginning comes with its own unplanned but inevitable end.

And I hate endings. Particularly crumbly ones.

***

When I get in modes like this, I find myself fixating on the road ahead.

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90 in 90

1.

I preach to my kids: write every day.

I should stop there and clarify that sentence. Because I don’t exactly have kids. I am a professor. I have students. But they are mine. At least for 17 weeks each semester. My job is to help them find the tools they need to go live out their dreams, at least as best that I can.

Teaching isn’t a job. It’s a calling. It’s one that, like so many jobs, doesn’t have hours or boundaries. My kids are my kids. They will always be my kids. Thirty years from now, if I’m still kicking around on the planet, I’ll worry about them. I’ll wonder if I helped them find that one critical piece that made it all come together.

But this isn’t that kind of writing. I’ve discussed teaching before. This is about writing. And what I haven’t been doing.

2.

Many years ago, I was talking with a friend of mine at a restaurant we worked. We were discussing “who” we were. The kinds of small talk strangers make as they decide whether they will be something more than casual acquaintances. Feeling each other out.

Not in any particularly interesting way. Just regular.

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Standing in the Shower…Thinking

Sometimes I float.

I couldn’t tell you exactly what brings upon these moods in my life anymore than I could tell you when I’m anchored down. Surely there are ideas, tiny thoughts that bounce around in my brain. Dissecting. Always dissecting. The eternal search for that One Thing that will make it all clear.

That will bring the Dark Magic into focus.

Like the matter of the universe, though, the ideas and tiny thoughts slip away. But always after they toy with me, hovering for those precious few milliseconds when they seem so clear. As if I could reach out and grab them, hold them, make sense of them. When I try to touch them, they vanish. Dissipating. Always dissipating.

I write this as I stare out my window at the snow-covered ground, the lights off in my townhome, the candles flickering. It is calm outside in a way that my social network is not. It is quiet in real life, noisy in cyberspace. They both sound the same. To normal ears.

But they all interrupt and inspire the Magic, a tornado swirl within my head releasing its energy whenever it pleases.

The Dark Magic.

***

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Enough

I’m stuck ass deep in a funk, the pitiful sadness where I start looking for all the reasons everyone should feel sorry for me.

Well, F That. It’s time for war on my shit-ass mood. In the end, there can be only one. Here’s what I’m taking into battle.

“Kick Out the Jams”

1.

The first movie I obsessed over, in the kind of way that can only be felt by the young, was Pump Up the Volume.

It was the summer after my freshman year at Miami University. I was sober for the first time. I was home in my parents condominium, a place they bought not to secretly because they wanted my sister and I to know that there was really no room at the Inn.

It was miserable.

Not because of my parents. I love them dearly. And they allowed me to wallow and struggle through great bouts of depression and horror without saying much. Today I know how hard that must have been on them. Back then I simply felt alone.

That’s when I found Happy Harry Hard On and Nora, the main characters from the film.

brad_skulls

I spent my mornings sleeping, my afternoons obsessively watching the movie and my nights dancing until the sun came up at The Warehouse, a club in Over-the-Rhine, before returning home to wash, rinse and repeat. Day after day. Week after week. Throughout the summer.

The film, which doesn’t stand the test of time, was the first time I realized that I had a voice. The soundtrack spoke to me. The characters were living my life. And Nora – played by Samantha Mathis – became the woman that all others were measured against.

I started carrying around a notebook during that summer. Always a notebook and a pen. Scribbling. Writing. I would sit in the darkened corners of The Warehouse writing ideas, thoughts, nuggets.

And I knew what I wanted to be.

***

2.

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Tubthumping

Years ago, I split my time between SXSW Music and Interactive. As such, I received advanced copies of CDs. Most I discarded after a few listens. I still own this one specifically for this song, which I play when I feel life needs a little reminder:

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