He’s told us not to blow it, ’cause he knows it’s all worthwhile

At the time that I am starting to write this it has been two weeks and about 15 hours since my friend Tom took his final breath. I’m not sure when or if I’ll finish this, because I do not know that I will find the right words.

I have known Tom for more than half of my life and the experiences that we’ve shared run the gamut from weddings to funerals, from horseback riding in Half Moon Bay to touring the Union Pacific Steam Shop in Cheyenne. Music, food, New Year’s eves, New Year’s days, birthday parties,  bachelorettes—he was the masked, silent bartender at a bachelorette weekend on Fire Island in the summer of 2001. When I first moved back from San Francisco we went to brunch. Ten hours later we were watching exotic dancers, he in a fake mustache and me in cat ears. It was never boring, it was never mundane, there was an element of adventure to our every encounter. A flair for if not breaking the rules, then seeing how far we could bend them. There was laughter, so much laughter, and there were tears.

Today is Thanksgiving. I am grateful for many things, for many people. I am grateful for the fact that I can start to put into words some of the many lessons that I learned from Tom. Among them, to make every day matter. Tom had bad days, but I don’t think he ever had insignificant ones. He surrounded himself with amazing friends of all stripes and among the many beautiful things about him, he saw each and every one of us. He had a unique relationship with each and every one of us, a trove of shared memories and experiences and in-jokes. He made every one of us feel, on some level, invincible. He believed in us, sometimes more than we believe in ourselves.

He died surrounded by love and surrounding us with love, and I take comfort in that.

Grief is a strange and mercurial beast. Those stages don’t show up in the order you expect them to. I have had a ton of love and support in the past almost-three weeks as I’ve begun the daunting task of navigating my own, and of trying to be strong for the many, many people in my life who are grieving too. Tom had the ability to create memories with his friends of five decades and with people he met once. The second to last time I was visiting with him we sat down at a bar to have lunch. He got up to take a call and the bartender asked me who my friend was and whether he was an artist. I said yes—he said, “He looks like someone who creates really cool things.”

Indeed, he was.

To be continued. My love to you all.

 

All I have is my love of love

ImageJust breathe.

That was the advice you (nypr) gave me some years ago at a time when I couldn’t, and that’s the advice I’m giving myself now. But at this moment I can’t. I will again. I promise. However, some weeks ago I walked back into a world I’d left behind, a world that’s been waiting to implode since its genesis, and last week it did. My version of it did, anyway.

Fuck.

I grew up in a microcosm in which I always felt the outsider, school to school and town to town, and I’d finally gotten out of it a bit ago. I walked back in for what turned out to be a very noble and highly worthwhile purpose but I didn’t get out fast enough. I should (loathe that word) have quit while I was ahead, realized that I’d been gifted the best that would come of it all, but I got swept back into the familiarity and false comfort of everybody knowing my name … and my drink and my past and with that comes people assuming my present and predicting (falsely) my future, and when you’re in a world that is so much smaller than your own, where the commodity is booze and the trees obscure the forest, you can lose sight of what actually matters. I absolutely lost sight and I made huge errors in judgment and it’s not at all all my fault but I held onto the fireworks that blew up in my hands. And I feel sick about it. I’ll be fine. But right this moment and for the immediate future this is going to be a bit of a roller coaster.

Fu-huck.

I realize this is vague. I’d apologize but I have nothing left to apologize for. And this is my cross to bear. Gladly, the cross-eyed bear.

Mira mira mira – it’s all going to be better than okay. I know this. This needed to happen. I needed to shed the skin of a life that ultimately did me no favors but that was with me for many, many years. I did not, however, need to loofah said skin off quite so hard. But I did. And so I need to ride this out and fade away and strengthen all the wonderful things in my life and inure myself to the pettiness that comes from spending time in the presence of small-minded people who mistake my me-ness for something it’s not, and who care more about what others may or may not be doing than they do their own motives for being themselves. To me this all reads clearly; to you it probably doesn’t. It’s also 4:10 AM and the couple of hours of sleep I’ve just gotten aren’t quite enough.

This is what happens when I go through a phase that I think is bliss and that leads me to believe all bad is behind me. Actually, I never believed that. I just didn’t expect this.

However. I’ve just spent four (five, according to Hertz) days in the mountains with people I love who love me back. I laughed and played and walked and swam and breathed. I saw wild turkeys (blah blah blah booze joke blah) and deer and chipmunks and that elusive, elusive forest. I (we) weathered storms. This is what matters. This is the world. That nondescript neighborhood bar owned by acquaintances where schadenfreude reigns is the stuff one skims from the surface and throws away.

I got cornered and showed my feral cat side and I “lost”. And in so doing, I know, I’ve gained more wisdom and strength than I currently know what to do with. I will breathe; I just have to let the good of it all catch up to me, settle in, and take over the darkness. It will.

Across the universe

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I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being. 

This quotation is from Hafez, a 13th Century Persian poet. Timeless and resonant. There are many people in my world who struggle to see the astonishing light of their beings, and words are no quick fix for decades of self-doubt. I’ve been there before, I was there for years, but I’m beginning to figure it out – my strengths, and what I have to offer. I’m certainly aware – too aware, I think – of my weaknesses.

The friend who introduced me to Hafez wrote this to me some weeks ago:

Thank you for writing this blog. You are incredible and beautiful and somehow after 12 years of us knowing each other, but not being in touch, you helped me today. You helped me get through a staggering heartbreak that made me feel alone, confused and helpless. Thank you for writing this blog.

It’s hard to express what this means to me. This is as good a reason to keep this going as any I can imagine. That and the comment I received today: I love your mind. Makes me swoon.

Swoon, darling, swoon.

As I’ve said before I am incredibly blessed with the people in my life, friends who have stood by me in my darkest hours, even when I’ve made it really difficult to stand by me. I’ve behaved dreadfully at times, and I’ve met with great forgiveness. Apologizing is important; forgiving is necessary for the soul.

I need to start going to sleep earlier. I resist it – always have – because I don’t want to miss anything. So I wind up missing sleep, and that’s not good. I’m foggy today.

I don’t know what the future holds – obviously, and I’m bewildered by the present; it took me by surprise. But I do know this: It is so, so lovely to no longer be in a horrible excuse for a relationship, one that was built on codependency and wishful thinking. One that, when I heard the key in the door, gave me a feeling in the pit of my stomach – wasps, not butterflies. One in which I felt the need to try to convince when I should have ignored the delusional accusations. One whose mother sent me a chart on the different types of abuse in relationships. One who required a preamble before friends met him. Extenuating circumstances, I’d explain. Traumatic childhood. Non-linear thinker.

My world is so much brighter without toxicity.

 

(You Will) Set The World On Fire

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The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. -E. Roosevelt

I would like to put in an official request that this be a really, really good week, but I’m not sure who is in charge of such matters. I was under the impression that I was until last Tuesday, when circumstances and miscommunication led me back to a place of insecurity and panic that I thought I’d finally eradicated from my sense of self. I hadn’t, though I’d found some sort of tourniquet to keep them from bleeding out and affecting my everything. And as I am capable of veering toward black and white thinking, much as I try to convince others not to view the world as such, my missteps begat greater missteps and my lack of productivity one day rendered me inert for several more. It needn’t be this way. Moderation. Everything in moderation. Except cigarettes – they are never necessary. I shall repeat this every time I crave one.

A friend of mine was on set with David Bowie during the filming of Zoolander. Bowie is one of his many musical heroes – this friend is himself a musical genius who has many heroes and has played with some of them. On break they both stood by craft services and Friend tried to think of an opening line. Bowie lit up and Friend quickly said, “You still smoke?!” to which DB responded “Everything in excess, man.”

Thus far this week is shaping up to be a better one. Good. Let’s keep it this way.

I overheard these two lofty statements today. Different conversations:

“I’m mad at the world.”
“I should really do Brooklyn more. I love doing Brooklyn.”

Being mad at the world must be exhausting.

Assuming the second speaker was referring to the borough, and not the supermodel, that, too, sounds exhausting. Brooklyn takes up some 70 square miles and has a population of over 2.5 million people. I have tremendous love for Brooklyn. My father grew up there, playing stickball on the streets with guys named Lefty and Bubba. He was the secretary of his “gang” and kept such copious notes that when their clubhouse was raided (after the gang had gone on a kitchenwares stealing spree or something of that sort), names and addresses of all members were readily available. He is an honest man, and the speaker of one of my favorite quotations: “Everyday I wake up and think, today’s the day they’re going to catch on to me.” I think most of us feel that way at times, like we’re playing grownup or businessperson or parent and that through sheer luck we have managed to fool the masses into believing that we are those things. I wonder if professional con-people go through this. Probably.

Though I would love to keep up this stream of consciousness and continue to write here to make up for lost time, I must instead don my grownup-who-writes-and-edits-for-a-living costume.

It’s a good week.