Death. It swirls around like horse flies in a summer pasture. Death. How will I remember? I make mental memories. Ask questions I wouldn’t have raised. Topics I wouldn’t have touched.
How will I be remembered? No children. No branch.
My writings. A leaf? Maybe. I used to think I wrote well. I used to boast about my art. Not a craft. Art. I thought I was an artist. My words were art. That confidence died. Just a memory. A was. Or a was it. Doesn’t matter. A then.
I believe in the resurrection of the body. I believe in the again. So. I’m going to Frankenstein my art. Sure a blog is ass. Sure no one reads it. I think of my words as my epitaph. My tombstone. If one walks by ...
There’s a kind of peace in fear. It’s a peace one acquires with age. Dread. Sure. Well, because I know what’s inevitable. But a peace.
A confidence that I'm able to handle the unavoidable. The pit in my stomach is recognizable. It’s an echoed epicenter not an unpredicted ulcer. There’s a confidence in knowing I'm able to endure until an end. That doesn‘t mean I don't feel afraid. It just means I'm not burdened by the fear of how to handle something unknown.
No. I can’t bike anymore. And no. I can’t swim anymore. And no. I can’t walk distances anymore. So fairs and malls and parking ramps and events are no longer possible. And no I can’t smoke anymore. And no I can’t drink like I did and carbs are in my rear view mirror. And no. I’m not grateful for the crosses of my chosens. Trost is goddamned grumpy without his capital sins. Diabetes won. Its prizes were my vices and pleasures. But.
But. I can sleep (although I don’t actually sleep) without guilt. Sure. Selfishness is easier. And sure selfish/selfless both rob the soul of peace. But one thing I’ve learned: a man isn’t called to walk. He’s called to stand before men and kneel before God. One doesn’t need ten toes for that vocation.
So – going back to my post about lonely. I wrote the choice was feeling either humiliated or lonely. I considered my words last night. Yes, I stand by that. So, I’ll expand on that. And as I type my response, I want it clearly noted I’ve just chosen humiliated.
As a child I was encouraged to feel emotions – share my emotions – have opinions – and share my opinions in a respectful and thoughtful manner. As a child, my family gathered at supper time. We prayed in thanksgiving – “Bless us oh Lord for these thy gifts …” and at the conclusion of the meal, the dishes were cleared and the conversations began with earnest emotions. We discussed our days. We discussed our troubles. We discussed our joys. We discussed the news. No topic was verboten. Quick aside: a coworker told my Mother one day, “I never discuss sex or God with my children.” And my Mother replied, “If you don’t discuss sex or God with your children, you don’t talk to them.” Now this revelation isn’t meant to suggest our conversations were salacious. Absolutely not. But there wasn’t a topic we couldn’t discuss. And we did. We debated. A child’s opinion was as valued as an adult’s. No yelling. No sarcasm. Respectful.
Outside our house, emotions and opinions were not valued. Young men are not encouraged to be demonstrative of emotions. So – I quickly discovered I didn’t fit. I wasn’t traditionally “masculine.” I was taught to express myself. Very quickly I found myself on the outside of every masculine subset. So, I learned to be deceptive. To reject the declarative. I adopted a completely artificial persona until I was 23 years old. I became very closed. I’ve written about this at length so I’ll avoid the repetition. It’s sufficient to say that had I not been a Roman Catholic and felt cocooned by my family, I would have committed suicide by the age of 17. I thought of it daily. But see – I didn’t share all those emotions with my family. I felt I wasn’t “normal.” I felt I was flawed. So I felt ashamed.
When I was 23 years old, I was engaged to a woman named Julie. A very clear recollection: we were watching the film “Love Story.” Ali Mcgraw is my idea of perfection. I was smoking a cigarette. A completely pretentious and expensive brand. And I looked up from the sofa and said, “I’m so tired of people emotionally using me.” Pure bullshit. And Julie said, “You never give anything to anyone. You’re so closed.” And she was right. And I knew she was right. I lied every single time I opened my mouth. I went home and I decided I needed to change.
And I did.
It took a long time to change. I had to correct each lie. I had to plant my feet and be completely opened regardless of the ridicule. And I was (and continue to be) ridiculed. Men are uncomfortable being around raw and honest. It makes them feel uncomfortable. It makes them feel challenged. It makes them feel guilty.
But I do it anyway.
Along the way I started closing the circles and embracing solitude. I became very religious and completely driven. About this same time, I assumed the care of my nephews. Three little boys.
I watched the boys grow. I saw their emotional choices. I saw that they started to conceal their emotions to assimilate. And I knew I could stop their heartaches. So, I decided I had to be emotionally available all the time. I would encourage them to embrace their emotions and exhibit them. And each time I did, I validated their emotions with a revelation about my emotions at their ages. I didn’t want them to be hurt as I had been hurt. And I knew I could usher them into manhood if I took each emotional step first.
In December of 2001, I made a final choice: it was a cold snowy night and I was listening to Christmas music. A song came on the radio. “My Grown-up Christmas List.” Barbra Streisand. The lyric, “Every man should have a friend” made me cry. I had no friends. I had shut myself out of all social interaction. I revealed my broken heart to God. And I vowed to change.
I’m still belittled for being emotionally available. I still feel humiliated by the exposition. But I feel it’s my duty as a Roman Catholic to share. See I’m never embarrassed I’m single. I know I should have become a priest. I had that vocation. I made a bad decision when I left the seminary. I think there are people who are called to be single. To be emotionally unattached so they can serve others. If I were married now – I couldn’t provide the care I provide for my parents. Being unattached now allows me the freedom to be of service to everyone I meet. I fucked up my life. I know that now.
See that’s why it’s so important for me to take care of my parents now. It’s not as altruistic as it seems. I’d like to do one task well in my life. I’d like to be successful at something. Maybe this will be my something.
I’m not a good man. I know that feeling humiliated is a sin because it makes the situation about myself and my reaction. I know that’s immoral. I’m trying to overcome my sin of pride.
I met a young man this week. 24. He told me. We talked for a bit. You know me; I instantly shift my conversation to the intimate. Not sexual. Real. Emotionally available. When we parted, this young man grabbed me and pulled me close and hugged me. I hate hugs. Everyone knows that. No. He didn’t know that. But he hugged me. With force. No. Passion. Not sexual. Emotional. So lonely. He hugged me with longing. I know lonely.
I used to be lonely. Not anymore. Never anymore. Lonesome. Certainly. But they’re not the same thing. But I’m not anymore. Why? Because I’m open. I say what I feel. Always. I force myself. I don’t make jokes. I’m not sarcastic. I’m not a liar. I force myself to forget myself and make the us about them. The other one. Besides me. People are attracted to the warm. I’m never lonely but I’m always ashamed. Humiliated. Like a fool.
Sometimes people make fun of me. Sometimes others exploit my vulnerability. So? That’s the price I pay so that others aren’t lonely.
This post isn’t about me. It’s about people who are lonely. Be open. Lonely is a choice. The choice isn’t who you’re around. The choice is which emotion you’d rather feel: lonely or humiliated. The prize? Sometimes someone grabs you and encircles you until you’re an us.
I love spiritual direction. A couple of times a month. Less or more if needed. I meet with a priest. We were in the seminary together. A road sometimes traveled together. Sometimes not. He knows my core. Spiritual direction is like therapy (I’m assuming from film. I’ve never been) but it’s completely from a spiritual point of view. We begin with a sign of The Cross and a prayer. We discuss things like prayer and my relationship to God and sins and service and striving toward holiness. Because my buddy and I’ve known each other for so long, it’s now a dialogue. It’s nice to have someone to share such intimacies. But I also like the confines of the relationship. We occasionally associate outside that upper room but it’s rare. The distance is at my insistence. I don’t need someone to sit beside; I want someone to kneel alongside. That’s one of the aspects I truly miss about the seminary: the communal prayer. Sharing the intimacies of one’s immortal soul is a lot to give; it’s a lot to ask from someone who lacks the same thirst. I’m parched.
Two sentences he said this week that surprised me.
We talked about my spiritual journey. The arc. And he said he enjoyed “watching you become you.” At 57 I rarely consider metamorphosis.
I told him how lonely I feel not having a partner. Aside from the obvious pleasure of sex, my favorite was the post coital conversations. I miss those intimate talks about all the weighty issues. “Few couples talk like you think they do. You often idealize relationships.” I think that’s true. Maybe that’s why I write. I don’t know.
My nightly velocity wave. typed on an ipad from the center of the bed. writing because i need to say it; i don’t need to be understood. Exercises of exorcisms. Thoughts repelled. Expelled. Confession without the need of absolution.
last week i sat on a barstool in a new bar on the corner of century ave and stillwater blvd in Oakdale. I sat beside my best friend Mike and occasionally followed the cheers to a screen to see a football team score. But my mind wasn’t on the game.
I‘ve sat near this intersection countless times in my past. A distant past. 40 years ago. When deciding where to watch the game, Mike mentioned the intersection. It sounded familiar. But I couldn‘t recall why. Until we got there.
In 1978 & 1979 I sat in a car near that intersection and waited for my best friend - Roger Kachel - to get off work. He was a bag boy at a grocery store on that corner. Knowlans. The grocery store still stands; Roger does not. He died in 2006. Nearly every night I’d pick Roger up from work. We’d smoke. Sometimes pot. Mostly cigarettes. And we’d either head home to his basement or to a friend’s house. Nearly every night. Surface conversations. Too young for the tools to delve. To excavate. To divulge.
While watching the football game, I thought about Roger. Our friendship. The passages of time. Sad? Yes. But not heartbroken. Too long ago. Different men. I was different. I was shy. Uncertain. Scared. Roger was the first male friend. I was timid. So worried to lose. So worried to go back to lonely. I wondered whether Roger would like me now. He would. I haven’t changed that much. Would I like Roger now? Sure. I still like him. I loved him. He was my friend.
Last week while driving to the intersection, i felt so frustrated. So angry. So impotent. So pressured. So caught in the middle of aged. I sat down beside my best friend. Sipped my bloody Mary. Sighed my stresses aloud - remembered my first friend - and relaxed. A circle? No. A line. The continuation of me becoming - losing - maintaining - me. Us. We. Through Him. With Him. In Him. Forever and ever. Amen
One of my least favorite traits is my incessant drive to constantly examine my immortal soul. I hate self-reflection yet participate in the dissection on a minute by minute basis. I’m always facing my sins. This self-critique is quite difficult. But I can’t seem to get out of the loop.
Today I realized something about myself. I realized I hold men to a different standard than I hold women.
I’ve always prized women as my closest confidents and companions. I was raised by an extremely confident and principled woman. My Mother stands on two feet – apologizes only when she’s wrong – and compromises only when a conviction is absent. She is morally and ethically cement.
Throughout my youth, my masculinity had been questioned because I shared such an affinity with the female sex. My sexuality was questioned because I seemed more comfortable in the company of women than I seemed surrounded by men. Recently I discussed this with a childhood friend. I told him that I felt comfortable around women because my best friend was a woman. I spent my childhood at the heel of my sister Carol. Carol was – and remains – a confident and principled woman. She taught me insights into the female mind. As a teenager, I knew their basics. Women enjoyed my company because I could empathize or – and this is unique - LISTEN to their concerns and thoughts and emotions.
So, I’ve never considered myself a misogynist.
Upon self-interrogation I think I’m a misandrist.
I despise a man who lacks the courage of conviction. I hold a man who refuses to define a principle in contempt. I abhor a man who rejects a declarative sentence. I’m disgusted by men who are pliable. And for the love of God it takes self-control to keep my fists in my pockets when I watch a man slather. I feel honest to Christ disdain when I encounter a man who refuses to defend his doctrines. I fucking hate a coward. I’m honestly intolerant.
And yet I feel nothing even close to those emotions when I encounter passive or submissive women.
And I don’t know why.
Do I hold men to too high of a standard?
Do I hold women to too low of a standard?
I don't know. But I don’t judge it the same.
I’ve always thought men and women were parallels without precedence. My parents define an equitable relationship. They are a truly quintessential partnership. I’ve never considered either the “leader.”
Yet I hold men to higher standards. I expect more of us. I did not type I expect less of women.
But I require men to be more. And I don’t know why.
Oh the ipad. I‘m sprawled under the covers and tapping out my velocity wave. I rewatched Gone With The Wind. Helluva film. I‘d forgotten how exquisitely beautiful Vivien Leigh was. GWTW is the only novel that became a great film (Im looking at you Owen Meany and Bonfire of The Vanities.) I remembered tonight the first time I saw it. 1967. I know 1967 because I researched and found it was rereleased that year. I was 5. My parents took our family to Manhattan Kansas to see a matinee. We lived in Junction City so it was an event! I vividly recall the burning of Atlanta scene. And the massive movie screen. I think it was the first film I saw in a theatre.
Someone recently accused me of having mood swings. Well, he doesn’t really know me. I do not. I don’t have moods. I have emotions. I accept my emotions. I’m comfortable emotionally reacting to a kaleidoscope of situations. As a man, I’m not embarrassed to express my emotions. As a writer, I’m gifted with the ability to describe each emotion.
These last three years. They've been frightening. They've been sorrowfilled and joyful. I’ve intimately and fully experienced a vast array of emotions. Now, my health has improved; my parents have not. I am their caretaker. They're not tucked in a room or on a floor or in a facility. They're in our home. Each day we inch closer toward our endings. Each moment is jammed with heightened emotions. We’re saddened. We’re frightened. We’re worried. We’re relieved. We’re anxious. But we’re not hopeful.
It’s a privilege to be present. It’s a privilege to share, to give, to take, and to FEEL. My closest friends are leaving me. We’ve been in a relationship for 57 years.
I try to spend each moment of my life marking each aspect of it. I write my emotions because I want to mark those moments. Because it’s how I process my losses. Because it’s how I expend the sorrows.
At this juncture of my life I’m experiencing the greatest lessons and emotions possible. And I’ll be goddamned if I don’t conjugate every verb and experience every adjective.
I just had a thought I wish to tack to this end: true stress is in the adverb. Do you understand that? As a Roman Catholic, I’m trying with the depths of my immortal soul to perfect each adverb. That’s the most difficult challenge of all.