Moving, again…

In typical “Keith” fashion, I’m sitting down to write a thousand words instead of packing the night before moving out. To everyone helping me move tomorrow: You’re welcome for all of the shit still left to do! At least you’re getting something fun to read out of it. Oh, and Jimmy’s Pizza! There’s that!


This is the second time I’ve moved on my own accord. The first was eight years ago, when Dorena and I were newlyweds setting out on our own.

Eight years is a long time, but I have friends that have lived three times that long in the same house. When I describe what it was like moving every few years, and how it numbed me to the process, they have a difficult time relating. I got used to the idea of changing locations not because I wanted to, but because I had to. Why bother getting attached to a house when I had no idea how long I’d be there? The idea of consistent household was a concept foreign to our family, as money struggles led to evictions pretty frequently. It’s a shitty thing.

When I think about how I should feel when moving, it’s a lot of sorrow, almost like experiencing a death. I should grieve for losing a close friend; something that was near and dear to my heart; something that literally sheltered me; something that was as much me, as it was its own entity. I don’t feel that way leaving here.

This house has become a physical representation of my failing relationship. The juxtaposition of our spaces is as clear as the difference in our own drive and motivation. The physical isolation from each other is starting to match the emotional distance I’ve felt for the last eight months. I want out of these feelings, and I want out of this fucking space.

I’m compelled to better my own situation, but I feel like a complete shithead doing it. I feel like I’m abandoning Dorena, and I guess in a lot of ways I am. I’m running away from one of the very few people in this world that I should stand by regardless of the circumstances.

‘Til death do we part, right? 

Actually, in my personal vows, I closed with something along the lines of: It’s you and me against the world, kid, and we’re going to fight together ’til the end.

At the time, I presumed the end would be my end. Men usually die younger than women, so I figured I’d bite the dust, and that’s when we’d split. I figured that we’d just adapt and grow together as we had to the point of our marriage, and everything would work itself out.

Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize what work things out means. I have to cave on a position I’ve taken, or I don’t follow through with holding her accountable to my expectations on how to resolve a raised grievance. I stop caring about what I did before, and not because it really wasn’t important, I just accepted that it wasn’t going to change.

I don’t want to go into the big one, but it was a large concession, and it was difficult for me to accept my new stance. What did I get in return? More of the same.

I guess that’s part of the problem too. We both turn 34 in a couple months, and this year will mark half of our lives spent in a committed relationship with each other. We’ve just started to learn how to communicate with each other this fucking week.

A lot of my frustration stems from the fact that, in my view, my final straw was what actually stimulated the attempt to change. I made empty threat after empty threat, but never followed through. I get that me moving out is a deviation from what I’ve done to this point. I also know that there were attempts to improve our relationship before this, but this is a discernible change. There’s a sense of urgency that was unheard of days, or months, or years ago.

Fight or flight is a funny thing. You’re either gonna fold like a cheap suit, or you’re gonna get filled with vim and vigor and demand exactly what it is that you need to survive. Because it took so long to see that fight in her, it’s having the opposite effect on me. Instead of alleviating my doubts about our future, it’s creating more uncertainty.

Her renewed — I don’t know if it’s new or renewed — sense of motivation to heal herself (and us) is pushing me away more than it’s pulling me in. I guess it’s resentment? That’s a harsh word, but I don’t use it lightly. I’ve felt an uneven level of sacrifice for a long time, and I’m fed up with it, and so many other things.

I’m not blind to the amount she gave up to support me through my depression, but that’s another sore subject now. It’s being held over my head like it’s a life-debt. I suppose that when you’re married you’re already life-debted. Instead of doing what the hard thing would have been: pushing me through my depression with exposure to reality, she enabled me by shielding me from what I was forcing her to do to keep things going. It took me so much longer to recover than it should have because of it.

Obviously I don’t hold her accountable for my depression. I don’t even hold her accountable for my recovery. The depression was my own deficiency, and the recovery process was a responsibility of mine alone. But I cannot deny that I am bothered that the lowest point in my life is being used against me as a way to ensure a longer relationship with each other.

I’m bothered that after seventeen years we still bicker and argue like seventeen-year-olds. I’m bothered that this could work, but the onus is again on me to be more patient. I’m bothered that I’ve asked myself how much time is enough so many times that I’ve lost track.

I’m bothered, but I don’t want to be like this.

It’s often held against me that things need to be my way or the highway, but the amount of concessions I’ve made form a pretty solid track record of compromise. I’m done compromising on my own solitude. I want things to be on my terms for real this time. I want the chance to be truly selfish and indulge in only expending emotional energy on myself for a bit.

Through the last month and a half, there have been glimmers of the qualities with which I fell in love so long ago: optimism, cheerfulness, feistiness, compassion, empathy, and unconditional support. Those glimmers have been few and far between, but they remind of what I held onto for this long. It gives me a hint of hope that things might work out eventually.

This internal conflict is tiring. Do I want to get back to a healthy place with Dorena? Frankly, our ideal future isn’t that dissimilar. I still want the house, the white picket fence, and the two and two-thirds children. That statistic is horribly dated, and I wonder if it still lines up, but I’m taking too long on this as it is. I’m not looking that shit up.

To get there with Dorena would be easier. I could suck it up and get past this, as I have so many other times, and we could try having a kid, and we can start looking for houses. I don’t want that right now. Not with her. Is this bitterness? Is this being at the end of my rope of patience and understanding? Is this just the natural dissolution of a relationship that’s unfulfilling? Is it unstimulating because we’ve grown so emotionally distant? Chicken or the egg?

I don’t know.

Well, I have a pretty solid rationalization of which came first in the chick/egg scenario, but that’s for another post. I really don’t know about us, though.

I thought I knew for sure so many times, but I keep waffling. Those glimmers of hope sure are enticing, but so is the idea of new opportunities and challenges. Dorena’s been pushing me to commit to dating her, with frequent conversations and regular nights out together. I’m not ready for that yet. I’m unsure if I will be. For whatever reason — I’m starting to believe that I’m a masochist, of the emotional variety — I’m still receptive to trying.

That’s the hardest part right now. I’m on this ledge between ending it all and starting over slowly. Both have short and long term benefits, but there’s a shit ton of baggage that can be stirred up at moment’s notice when things turn south. That’s been the methodology employed to this point in arguments, and I’ve grown weary of that.

I know that I want more. Where that more comes from right now is sorta up in the air. I suppose it could work with Dorena, but that’s feeling like a Sisyphean task at this point. I want to be with someone that would understand what that means without me needing to explain it.

I’ve thought about this topic in almost every waking moment since Christmas. I’m closer to a decision now than ever before, but I have so much uncertainty. I’ve moved so much in my life, I guess that’s what I should do again.

Just keep swimming moving. Forward. Upward. Onward. Move or be left behind, but don’t be brash. I need to be careful, precise, and logical about the steps I take. My judgment is sound, and I need to start trusting myself as much as those around me do.

It’s time to figure this shit out.

Short Fiction — Modern American Boy

Today’s creative writing lab was heavily influenced by Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl, which I highly recommend. The imperative style is really neat, and I had fun with this one.

I’d like to revisit this at a later date and flesh it out more. It hits a little too on the nose for my taste, and I’d like to imply more with contextual clues instead of spelling out this father’s advice.


Modern American Boy

Boy, take your time and absorb what is around you. Your impulses will get you in trouble. You can be a few minutes late to work, you don’t need to speed. Make up for it by leaving a few minutes earlier tomorrow. Be early. Respect the system, be on time, work hard, earn your keep. Don’t rush. Mind your manners; be strong; be in touch with your emotions but don’t share them. Don’t stare at girls too long; don’t put girls down; don’t objectify them; appreciate their form, their figure, their mind, but don’t make crass remarks. Girls will be there later, tomorrow, and the next day. Focus on what you need for the future, not what makes you feel good right now. Pay attention to instructions; follow the rules; be patient; be a good student, be a good worker, be a good son, be a good spouse, and be a good man. Be mindful of your impulses and don’t jump in feet first. Don’t start fights; finish them. Stand up for what is right; pick and choose when to act. Don’t jump in feet first if you can’t see the bottom. I heard you. Don’t misbehave in class; don’t smoke in bathrooms; don’t go out drinking when you have a test in the morning; don’t arrange dates with two women on the same day; don’t date two women with different names at the same time; don’t fall for the grass being greener; don’t ruin marriages, don’t ruin families, don’t ruin your son. I am not ruined. Be there for those that need you. Be strong.

 

Short Fiction – Avoidance

As work drew to a close, he thought about the awkward encounter awaiting him at home. For the last week and a half, he and his wife had grown distant. They slept on the far edges of their side of the bed, and recoiled when their skin grazed one another’s. Their conversations were short, close-ended exchanges of one or two word answers. There was no compassion, there was no attraction, there was just empty space. And that’s what he wanted. He’d grown tired of the incessant attempts his wife made to rekindle the passion. “I can’t stand her dumb questions about my day,” he mumbled to himself as he slowed his work pace. “If I’m a half hour late, so be it. It’s another half hour of not dealing with that bullshit.”

She sat at home, anxious. Unfortunately, her thoughts were spiraling again. She couldn’t pin exactly when her anxiety became so unmanageable, but it reared its ugly head all too often. Her only distraction at this point was seeing that the clock was nearing 9:00 pm, and he would be home soon. Asking him about his day was her way of trying to escape the reality of how little she accomplished battling her anxiety. It was her escape, and often, it was her only contact with the world outside the house.

At 10:45, His phone rang. He lost himself in paperwork that didn’t need to be finished, and lost track of time. “Of course it’s her. She just can’t do anything on her own.” He sent the call to voicemail. “I’ll go home when I’m good and ready.”

“I wonder why he’s not picking up. He must be with another woman. One that isn’t crazy. One that doesn’t drive him nuts with her fidgeting and panic.” The phone call kicked to voicemail. “It has to be it. He can’t bother to answer the phone, and he’s an hour late. Of course he’s with another woman.” She had memorized the voicemail at this point, as every call she made to him went unanswered. Her message, too, had become rehearsed. “Hey, it’s me,” she tepidly began, “I guess you’re stuck at work again… Give me a call… Please.

Turning Point

When looking into the potentialities of change, the immediate gratification you seek can make looking at the present difficult. When things are bad, you’ll focus on them, because negativity is infectious. It rewires your mind and turns the world dark.

Things suck because they have to.

Why do things have to suck?

Your attempts at change and reconciliation have gone nowhere.

I want to keep trying. Things were great once, they can be great again.

If there’s no indication of a possibility of improvement, why bother repeating yourself?

Because maybe this time it’ll sink in and progress will be made.

The little things can’t be fixed. How do you expect to change the big issues?

By starting small. If I can have a picture of where I want to end up, I can decipher the smaller steps required to reach that point.

There’s way too much to take on. Think of all the shit you need to tackle just to take your first step.

But I want more.

Do you?

Yes.

Then what are you waiting for?

First steps are dangerous. This is where your love of baseball comes into play. The all-time greats fail seven out of ten times. They keep stepping into the batter’s box. You can handle setbacks, your life has been littered with them, right? Yeah, that’s true.

Disappointments flood your mind and it’s easy to only focus on the times you’ve faltered. Especially since your most recent history has been nothing but let-downs. It’s easy to lose focus on the accomplishments you’ve made.

You lost two full years to depression. You were worthless and she carried you.

I wasn’t worthless. I was just a little off.

A little?

Okay, a lot. But relationships ebb and flow. Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down. Thankfully, it’s been one of us at a time so we can support each other.

What support did she give you?

I had a place to live, and she let me figure things out, no matter how long it took.

Wouldn’t it have been nice to get a push?

Emotional support is a tricky subject. There’s things you want to hear, and things that you need to hear. When you’re in a committed relationship, you need to hear the difficult things. You need to be reminded of what made you great, and how you’re far from it. That isn’t demeaning or insulting; it’s a jump-start to your reservoir of achievements and positivity.

With enough reflection, that reservoir stops being a stagnant pool of the past. It becomes a flowing river of motivation, trying to get you back to the point of being able to tackle any challenge in front of you.

You sat there for two years and did nothing.

Yeah, but before that I made a career out of web-design, on nothing more than my own will to make it.

You faked it enough to get by. You were never successful at it.

I had clients as big as the NFL and Casio.

You got lucky with contacts in the industry.

That wasn’t luck. That was a testament to the quality work I produced.

So start over. Get to that point again.

When reflecting on what you’ve always wanted to do, you’re reminded of the complacency that manifested itself in the field in which you became passionless. You can do it again, because you did it before. But do you want to do that?

You’ve always wanted to help people. Why not do that?

Because all I’ve got is a decade of mediocre web design work. No one will hire me to work with people.

Your sister got that job with the Center with no experience.

Yeah, but she wants to be a nurse. You’re an out-of-work web guy. Can you imagine doing all the things she does? You can’t even clean up a hairball without retching.

Right, but she sounds so happy. Even through dressing MRSA wounds, and people dying, she still raves about how great it is. There’s got to be something to it.

I can’t help myself, how can I possibly help someone else?

By trying.

Success builds upon itself. You’ve long mocked the PMA (positive mental attitude) sub-culture in hardcore. Yeah, right, like thinking positively is all you need to do. As you put effort into an application, set up an interview three hours later, and visit a house the next day, your anxiety is through the roof.

How can I do well on this interview? I haven’t had an interview in over a year and a half…

You ran your own business, negotiated deals, managed sub-contractors. You can handle an entry-level position in a new field.

But it’s scary. I don’t want to fail and wind up where I was.

You won’t.

Of course, you get the job. Your charisma carries you through the interview, and your quick wit lets you come up with acceptable answers to questions meant to throw you off guard. No one even gives you a funny look about the old-man blazer you bought for your grandmother’s funeral at a discount store in Florida.

You clean up shit for the first time, and get through it. Now, a year later, it’s no different than scooping soggy food out of the strainer in the sink. Remember when you couldn’t do that without a glove and gagging? 

You’ve been promoted, since your work ethic translates across fields. Your experience cross-pollinates, and you regain your full confidence. You’re sassy again. Your sarcasm is piercing. Your humor returns and you find things funny that you mocked bitterly while depressed.  Passions rekindle anew, your recreational hobbies are interesting again, and you’re looking forward to the challenge of learning new skills.

If you’re enjoying helping the people at work, imagine how many lives you could touch if you pursued psychology.

That was just a kid’s dream because you picked up on what your therapist said to you as a preteen.

You absorbed it because it’s awesome. You’re logical, reasoned, and observant. Those are good qualities for a mental-health professional.

I sucked at school, and I’m in my 30’s.

Right. So after you graduate, you’ll still have 30+ years to practice and make people better.

You hem and haw past the point of no-return for the fall semester. The deadline for the following spring approaches, and you decide to procrastinate no longer. You enroll in school, and remember just how much you like the environment. You like sharing your strong opinions, and you revel in the opportunity to have them challenged and changed. You like showing the kids in your class up. You’re smart, say what you think, and absorb the information like you always do.

Why are you okay with being grumpy all the time?

I’m not grumpy all the time.

You sure seem it.

Nah, it’s only at home, but I’m giving her time to work on things.

How much is enough time?

The epiphany cuts like a knife. You talk to your best friend, and he reminds you of being at the point of wanting to end your marriage nearly five years ago.

How much longer does she need?

I needed time, so does she.

Right, but you’ve given her time. You’ve recovered, and this is the last vestige of depravity in your life. It’s the last thing to fix.

You feel guilty, selfish. You think that you’re focusing on yourself too much. What’s the line between selfish, and self-care? How can you live without being happy in all aspects of your life? What needs to change?

You make connections with new people. With someone in particular, you relate on a multitude of topics. Your conversations are salient, and the for the first time in a long time you hear a phrase that cements your thought process.

Keith, you deserve to be happy.

The new and exciting is incredibly enticing. Conversations last for hours, and even at your darkest moments of the day, an ascii smile in its own text brightens your day. It’s the little things you realize that were missing. Appreciation. Gratitude. Encouragement.

The feelings have been missing for so long that you become instantly enamored by this person. You spend waking moments fixating on them and hoping for their happiness. You drift off to sleep thinking about them, and you wake up to their name on your brain.

It’s enticing because it’s new, and we’re only seeing the best we have to offer each other.

Yeah, but what if your connection is so strong that it just brings the best out of each other? It’s worth exploring.

It will be months, maybe years before you find out for sure if it was just the perfect storm of emotional connection that led to these feelings, but you’re patient now. You’ve been through a lot, and the energy you’ve invested in the other parts of your life has returned in spades. There is something here, and you’re willing to wait to find out what it is.

It doesn’t matter as much where any of these paths lead. School, work, dating. You’re in it for the experience. You want to risk again. It’s not scary to fail. It’s a turning point to try harder next time.

You’ll be fine. You have been before, you are now, and you will continue to be.

Short Fiction – The DMV

One of my classes this semester is an English course focused on short story fiction. Each week, we spend an hour in a computer lab writing drafts, and I’m pretty happy with how a couple have turned out already. I’ll be sharing the ones I like and my goal is to flesh out these short drafts into full treatments.

First up, is my venture into writing in second person point of view, about a trip to the DMV. After years of personal story telling on my blogs, the creative license that fiction adds is really enticing.


It’s Thursday, and you’ve got two hours between class and work. You got stuck at work late last night and only got three hours of sleep, so the day’s off to a great start. It’s pretty typical lately, burning the candle at both ends, trying to divert energy equally to all of your obligations, and that’s where you fucked up. Today’s the last day your car is registered; gone is the easy option of mailing in the card they sent out four months ago, and there’s some archaic restriction on the web site that won’t let you renew online if it’s on or after the day it expires. Your ability to drive is paramount to keeping your job, and paying out-of-pocket for school is your only option, so you make this renewal a priority because so much hinges on having a car to drive.

You’re distracted through your three hours of class, anticipating the worst. The DMV is known for taking forever, with long lines, and apathetic tellers that are less than helpful. You could be like your father, and let the registration lapse. Which, in turn, invalidates your insurance. Which, in turn, suspends your license. Which, in turn, leads to your car loan being invalidated. Which, in turn, leads you to parking the car around the corner in a buddy’s garage to keep your car from being repossessed. He drove a car like that for four years before he got caught and played ignorant to it all. Remember that time your car was uninspected for three days and you got a ticket over it? Let’s not risk your job and school over a half-hour visit to the DMV.

You get through class, get out of the parking lot, and make it to the DMV. It’s on a one-way street that doesn’t have enough parking, so you start to worry about your two-hour window. It took twenty minutes to get there from school, and of course, there’s no parking. You need to circle the block another ten minutes to snag a space. It doesn’t have blue lines, but it feels like a handicap space. More stress. Imagine your car gets towed as you’re trying to renew the registration!

You notice how the door always sticks as you go inside. How old is this damn building? After the foyer, your nose scrunches at the musty, moldy smell. Your eyes squint at the dated manila paint job, and flickering fluorescent lighting. The sign says there’s an unemployment office upstairs, and the DMV is to the right.

Your eyes widen as you round the corner to the DMV’s hallway. There’s a line out the door. Of course there’s a fucking line out the door.