Friday, March 16, 2012

Always Two the Least

Folks often tell me of late that I do not show signs of the man
they once know. These are well intentioned people who have
known me for decades, if not my entire life. There are fewer
and fewer of these particular kinds of friends and family around.

What they tend to actually say is something seemingly innocent
like "Where's that easy smile you used to sport?" or "You seem
so serious and dark...Lighten up!" and the message is clear.
They genuinely do have interest in my well being. They do perhaps
fear I have been swallowed by a new and less affable design which
threatens to engulf the old me.

Like grandparents bemoaning the loss of sweet little babies to
young hellions, and then again sweet young hellions' loss to abrupt
teenagers, and so on, it is the loss of innocence that we all seem
to miss. Perhaps because witnessing such transformations remind
us of the often dire and unrelenting nature of this world.

I sometimes grieve myself for the loss of  my innocence and naivete.

I sometimes sit in bed, unable to reach sleep while perplexed by
the burrowing questions, and I ache for simpler times.

I debate with my eldest friend the great hypothetical of whether
we would prefer to be ignorant and blissful, or if we are better
off for the supposed knowledge we command.

I try hard to recall the perfect, primal essence of true love, as
experienced oh so long ago for the very first time. For the years
have jaded me and sometimes I imagine I will never be able to
look past the reality of people (or the armored veil of my distrust)
in order to experience such unbounded--and unfounded--joy
and freedom in this lifetime.

So I allow my friends the openness to grieve my 'Little Boy Lost,'
for I know it is not a personal attack of what I have become.
Of what I had to become, in order to survive.

They are grieving their last vestiges of hoping someone could
maintain doe-eyed optimism. They are grieving their own simpler,
easier times, too. I know their sadness comes from a place of
having wanted more for me than this thing they wished would not
come. It is also quite likely a bittersweet acknowledgement of
the passage of time, and one of those disturbingly recurrent
reminders of our own mortality.

They say I don't smile as much as I used to, and I cannot deny
it is true.  My innocence is gone. But not my contentment, and
not my capacity to dream. Certainly not my compassion or my
wit or my humor.

I had to grow up, at least somewhat. Take a reality check,
assessing what was and was not realistic any longer. It was, to
put it deceptively mildly, a painful process. But I am not just
wounded...I'm grateful. I'm better.

For friends, who see only periodic splotches of the changes in
my darkened gaze and my strident poses, it is of course more
jarring. The change did not have the good taste to be witnessed
in steady, staccato regularity as the old was chipped away to
prepare for the new. It seems more blunt and abrasive for them.

Brutality was the only mans of dislodging the childlike credulity
I had too long maintained at the expense of hard lessons.

Sooner or later, we all lose a bit of our smile. If it helps at all,
I'm still smiling on the inside. I'm not done yet. And by the way....
Thanks for the concern! It does bring a smile to my face.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mummies, Zuembies, Vampires...and other "Shit That Won't Die"

Robin was feeling pretty content as he drove along the country highway
towards town. Fresh rains had eliminated the usual billowing cloud of dust
that typically flung up in his wake, and the air was crisp and clean.

The sun setting at dusk was his favorite time of day, and driving into the
myriad of brilliant hues was a spiritual experience for him. He tried hard
to focus on the moment and the road, ignoring all the nagging issues that
nattered at the corners of his mind.

He happened to notice a rather rag-tag vehicle vibrating along the clay
road that was attached to the main road. That sputtering monstrosity was
ambling along towards the spot where Robin was approaching, and he
thought to himself, cynically, just for a moment, "I wonder if they have
any brakes on that dilapidated old thing?"

He actually felt some concern in his heart, and perhaps a bit of seemingly
appropriate disgust for the condition of the old car. After observing it
safely stop at the end of the side road, allowing him to continue by
without incident, he reflected on something. Perhaps it came as more of a
burning recognition. A vision.

He had never been like this before Mark.

He never held view like this, contemptuous and dismissive and derisive
of other people's income level or appearance or mannerisms. He never
sized people up based on the superficial. He never looked for ways to
feel superior to others. Before Mark.

But now, almost by rote, he evaluated himself every time he left his home,
no longer casually running to town and comfortable in his own skin. He
worried over what people felt and thought when he drove into town, his
own vehicle not-so-slowly descending into junk pile territory itself. But
then, it's always different when it's you, right? Somehow the excuses
and rationalizations come fast and easily then.

He felt a bit queasy, noticing the new pattern and how unknowingly he
had gelled with it. How completely and eerily he has transformed, in
the scariest of places, his mind and heart, like some creature in a horror
movie being reworked as the unrecognizable monster.

It had been months since he had had any contact with Mark whatsoever,
and almost a year since they had ended their friendship, if in truth that's
what it ever was. (He knew, in fact, that it had been genuine. No loss
of anything fake or insignificant could have so adversely affected anyone.)
But just a few days prior to this drive, he had caught a glance of him
driving by, downtown, while running some errands.

He hadn't expected it, and it caught him off guard. He knew well enough
to avoid, consciously or otherwise, the regular hangouts and haunts, and
to steel his nerves when going in places where there was a chance or a
likelihood that their paths might cross. Robin hated giving it that much
thought or power, but as devastatingly bad as things were left, he didn't
imagine he would weather a run-in well.

It wasn't weakness or fear. He worried that he may be prone to angry
outburst, and violence was something that, although not a recurring part
of his world, was something he had a healthy respect and understanding of.
It was, by its very unpredictable nature, something to be monitored and
prepared for.

Perhaps that minor shock to the system, of unexpectedly seeing him
even in passing, had made him uncomfortable without him fully realizing it.
So much tension, so much criticism, so much discomfort had been a part
of the sick dealings, and it had seemingly been successfully put behind
them in the waning months of separateness.

The lasting imprint of the relationship was that Mark's negative and nasty
voice was ever-present in Robin's head; questioning decisions, critiquing
where none was requested or needed, having a stiff and unyielding aspiration
to an unrealistic standard of high-faluting perfectionism.

As he felt the rage and resentment and revenge pooling in his mind, then
gut, then chest, Robyn had another moment of clarity. He could devote no
more time to this. The darkness that descended on him with thoughts of
the man could no longer be allowed such a stranglehold; the embedded
affectation of his imposed misery would have to be excised.

There were rationalizations as he considered the specifics of Mark's
actions, trying to reconcile why he needed to remain cognizant and recall
the past infractions. But then it was as simply construed as nothing had
been in quite some time--he could not live in both worlds. Either the past
or the present; decide. Either anger or contentment; decide. Either
consumed by another or dedicated to self; decide.

He felt like one of the overinflated tires of his car, keenly observed and
gauged, being let out of the dangers of the pent up extra air....a hissing
sigh of relief and respite slowly passing through him.

He had known at one time how to be content within himself, not
looking to others for support or approval. Surely he could remind
himself of that and sear independence back onto his frame. Despite
the existence of the game of lies and charades, there is choice in
whether to participate or not.

He cautioned himself to again become aware of the fading, paled
sunset, noting that conscious observation does not diminish inherent
beauty. That beauty can be found in many things, if a respect for it
is cultivated. That there is only a small window of time to appreciate
all things, before they are gone.