250,000 Words

400 posts, and a quarter-million words.

I started this blog clear back in 2016 with no long-term goal.  The only goal at the time — if you can call it something so grandiose as a goal  — was to “live blog” the process of conceiving and writing a novel.

Now look, I’m pretty sure we all know just how successfully I stuck to that particular plan, but it at least was something I could point to when people asked me why I bothered writing something so pointless as a blog in a world dominated by Facebook and Instagram…

I gave up the pretense of “live blogging” after the first few months sitting at this bar, by the way.  I gave up the “goal”, but I didn’t give up the writing.

You never give up the writing.

It isn’t much, you know, when you boil it down to raw numbers.

Shit, 250,000 words is all of two novels.  Two novels over three-and-a-half years.  That ain’t a lot of production, not when you really get right down to it.

Hell, it kinda makes me feel guilty to have so little to show for the time and effort I’ve put into this seat at the bar.  Guilty, until I think about the fact that every single one of those words has been the purest stream-of-consciousness.  Every single one of those words has been written with no real plan, and certainly no drafting or editing.  Good and bad, every single one of those words has been me.

I’m not an easy guy to get to know.  I wrote a line once, about a protagonist of mine; about how he didn’t lay himself bare to strangers, not anymore than he laid himself bare to himself.  That line — that very concept — is about me just as much as it was about my protagonist.

For most of my life there has been far more that I won’t talk about than what I will.  For most of my life I have held the rest of the world at arm’s length.

I still do.

But not when I write.

The first novels I tried to write were conceived and written to please other people.  Oh, I believed in the plots and characters, but there was no…soul.  No personality.  No reality.  There was no…me.  To this day, when I go back and reread those words, I cringe.  The bones of something good are there, but the execution…the execution sucks donkey balls.

It was not until I let go of trying to please other people and wrote only for myself that my writing finally started to show emotion and passion.  It was not until then that the words — and the characters, and the worlds — finally started to be real.

But what about this blog?  What about these quarter-million words?

How the hell do you think I finally broke down the walls I had built around my own mind?  Around my own soul?

These quarter-million words are how I’ve learned to let go.  They’re how I’ve learned to look inside myself and…well…be fucking honest.  Be honest with you, and with me.

I’ve written here about depression and despair.  I’ve written about fear and failure.  I’ve written about suicide and death, and about life and laughter.  I’ve written about “terrorism” in Yellowstone, and attack-squirrels and drinking shit beer with college kids.  I’ve written about nonsense and emotion and advice.  I’ve written about far horizons and claustrophobia…

When you get right down to it, this entire damned thing has been about me.  And you have no idea just how much I hope that that’s not as narcissistic as it sounds!

Like most writers, words are everything to me.  For me, it’s just plain easier to pull back my personal curtain when I’m writing than ever it will be when I’m talking.  Hell, my own family has had to read this blog to truly find and (hopefully) understand the person they thought they have known for the last X* years.

*This space intentionally left blank.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.

No one, until this blog, has known of my unholy passion for Downton Abbey

No one, until this blog, has known a damned thing about my taste in music, or just how it influences my writing (and my life)…

No one, until this blog, has known just what a love-hate relationship I have with nostalgia and the past…

The suicides of friends were never a subject for words…until this blog.  Err…well…that’s not quite right.  It was not until after I wrote Oz’s suicide (the first scene I wrote, mind you, for Somewhere Peaceful) that I could I write about my own experiences with suicide, even in this blog…

God knows, no one who knows me — not even my closest friends — has ever heard me admit to suffering from depression.  Not until this blog.  Oh, some have suspected, but for me to talk/write about it?

Shit, has this whole thing been nothing more than a quarter-million words of therapy?

2834621C-7ABC-44AB-B3D8-60781079B0A4#$$%

&^%$$’

$#@!^

Okay, I’m done cussing now.  Sorry about that.

Look, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: writing is how I live.  If you want to boil that thought down as far as it goes: writing is what keeps me sane.  Without the E77972BB-4315-45E7-BABF-9F256990405Awords — the words in this blog as much as the words in my novels…and yes, the words in my flash fiction pieces, too — I would be just another statistic.  Just another drunk who gave up…

In a very real sense, these quarter-million words have saved my life.  I’ve gone through enough depressive episodes over the life of this blog that I can say with no hesitation, the words have saved me.

Hell, I’m fighting depression right now, if you really want to know.  I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to see anyone…I just want to be left alone.  The good news — and every story should end with good news, right? — is that instead of turning to a bottle of scotch to deal with this shit, I’m turning to these words…

Your Life Won’t Be Ruined

Err…okay…so I probably shouldn’t think about how long it’s been since I wrote a blog post…

No, I don’t need to think about that at all.

What I need to think about instead is what actually got me to wanting to write a post tonight in the first place…

It was a long — and kinda shitty — day at work.  All I wanted was pizza and a beer.  Or beer and a pizza.*

*Amazing, isn’t it, how changing the placement of just two tiny words can change the emphasis and imagery of a sentence…and don’t even get me started on changing one tiny word!  “My arms around her neck…” versus “My hands around her neck…”  Ahem.  Vocabulary and syntax for the writing-win, Alex!

At any rate, pizza and beer.  That’s where I was.  Yeah, that’s it…

I went music shopping tonight, while I was drinking.  Oh, it wasn’t the old-school flipping through albums and CDs that used to be such an important part of my life.  No, this time — as has become my norm — it was mousing through the electronic catalog that is Apple’s iTunes Store.

Crap, I don’t even own CDs anymore, let alone the old vinyl albums that took my music-virginity.  Gah, don’t even get me started on losing the visceral satisfaction of actually “putting on” on a new album!

Okay…crap…talk about squirrel moments…that whole 200-word attempt at an “intro” was one giant squirrel-moment!  But…well…at least it gets me started…

One of the songs I was listening to tonight had a line that resonated.  It was in fact a line that damned-well better resonate!  “You’re life won’t be ruined…” that song said.

Your life won’t be ruined…

Your life won’t be ruined if you accidentally buy the low-pulp orange juice.

Your life won’t be ruined if the Broncos lose by 24 points to the Chiefs.

Your life won’t be ruined if Britain leaves the EU…or if it fails to do so.

Your life won’t be ruined if Donald Trump is impeached, or wins the ‘20 election…or not.

Your life won’t be ruined…

Your life won’t be ruined.

As someone who has fought the twin demons of depression and despair; as someone who has questioned whether any of this shit is actually worth it; as someone who has sat on a branch with a bottle in one hand and rope around his neck; as someone who has known both highs and lows that most folks don’t get to experience, all I can say is this: your life won’t be ruined.

Part of me wants to write this post to reassure my friends and family — to reassure those who have learned, if only through this blog, of my struggles with life — that I “get it”, that I’m not quite as fucked up as they think I am.

But only part.

Most of me, however…

Most of me just wants to speak to anyone who is staring at the same forbidding terrain through which I have spent a lifetime traveling.

Your life won’t be ruined.

In spite of everything the judgmental and the superior and the vindictive can do, your life won’t be ruined.  Second chances are everything in life, and most of the world appreciates that fact.  Shit, most of the world needs that fact.  More than that, however, anyone who doesn’t believe in second chances is far more fucked up than any of the rest of us could ever be.

So go ahead and vote for whoever or whatever you like.  Win or lose, your life won’t be ruined.

Go ahead and try to write that novel or poem, or paint that picture or compose that song.  Win or lose, your life won’t be ruined.

Most importantly, however, go ahead and be YOU.  Go ahead and be honest with those who love you.  Whether they accept and embrace, or turn their backs, you will survive.  You CAN survive.  Your life doesn’t have to be ruined.

If you live in the closet and are terrified of coming out…

If death and suicide stalk your thoughts…

If failure is an everyday companion…

If everyone looks, or acts, or feels, different from you…

You can make it.  You can survive.  It might be hard…it might even be hell, but there is far more to life than now.  To quote a charity/movement I whole-heartedly support and believe in: “it gets better.”

When you get right down to it, your life won’t be ruined.

A Thank-You Note

There’s an old saying, “a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.”  

Umm…no.  Just no.

775B2F31-2E6B-4EF3-8D02-9B54ACD10D5DThat is not a saying I can get behind.  A stranger is a problem…and a talkative & friendly stranger is a danger.

Yay for cynical misanthropy….?

That being said, I do have friends.  I have very good friends.  I have friends that even the lapsed-Christian in me is willing to call a “blessing.”  I have friends without whom I would, quite honestly — and quite literally — be dead.  

As anyone who has struggled with depression can attest, there is always that quiet, demanding urge to hide away, to be “left alone.”  When things go well-and-truly downhill, that urge can see you go days, or even weeks, without contact.  You ignore the phone…you ignore the texts…you ignore the emails…

It doesn’t matter who’s trying to get hold of you, your mind tells you that any contact can only be worse…

Oh yeah.

8069D7BE-D493-4FE3-AA60-52921C6D19A8I live in the freaking mountains, well outside of any real town or civilization.  I live where I can far-too-easily hide in the backcountry, in the isolation and loneliness that that little siren in my mind so croons about…

But I’m blessed with friends who won’t let that isolation stand, won’t let me fall into that trap.  Friends who insist on contact and communication and interaction, friends who won’t leave me the fuck alone…

Friends who have, more than once, saved me.

I wrote once before about holding on, about my need for those who can and will help me in spite of me.  I’m not alone…and that means everything.  As alone as life, and problems, can make me feel…I’m not alone.

And that’s why I’m still here to type this.

This isn’t so much a blog post as it is a thank-you note, a letter to those who have helped me to hold on.  To my family, to Don and Morgan, to Jonathon and Angela, to Billy, to Matt and Bill and Jason and Brent … to all those who have helped me to hold on, who have helped me to stay rooted in this world, all I have to give are my thanks.

I owe you my life.

To everyone else, I can only say this: there is someone in your life hurting, someone desperate and afraid and alone.  Find them.  Find them and help them.  You can’t make them “better,” you can’t “fix” them, but you can help them to stay rooted…you can help them to remember that they are not alone.

Whether it be trauma or depression or some other so-called “fault,” I don’t care what is the root of their problem, they need your help, they need your support…they need YOU.

No one deserves to live without hope or love, no one deserves to sit on a branch with a rope around their neck…

Musical Addendum — I’m posting below a song I have talked about before…the reason why should speak for itself:

 

Slipping Away

I watched a BBC documentary the other day.  Now, like most BBC docs, it was a pretty good program…but that isn’t what got me to thinking about this post.  No, what got me to thinking was one specific line/thought from the show.  It was a line that has stuck with me, a line that started thoughts knocking and thumping, asking — demanding — to be written:

“My life, it’s slipping away.”

When you’re young, a year is a lifetime.  The world is a parade of faces, both new and old, met amidst adventures and experiences and days that seem to last forever.

But that doesn’t last.

Life changes as you get older.  Life changes, but still you can hold to some of that enthusiasm and adventure and zest.  Still you can remember what is was like when a day was a lifetime.

But even that fades.

One day turns to another.  One week, one month, even one year, passes and you barely notice.  It all becomes about getting through from one day to another, from one paycheck to another, one year to another.  You don’t live, you merely survive.

Survival is not life.

When we were kids, we were promised so much.  When we were kids, we dreamed…everything.  It was all there, all in our grasp, an entire universe…an entire life.

And then it all began to slip away.

Slowly, sometimes, and far too fast at other times, those dreams — those hoped-for realities — began to slip away.  As we got older, as we matured, they slipped and faded.  We slipped and faded.

The days — the weeks, the years — are no longer a lifetime.  No, they have become instead something to be endured rather than lived.  They have become a haze of time with one moment indistinguishable from another, the simple ticks and tocks of a fading beat.

Life isn’t supposed to diminish as it passes, life is supposed to be more.

Life isn’t supposed to slip away, life is supposed to be lived.

At least that’s what we were told.

I can feel it, my life slipping away.