Uber Tales, Advice Given (and not given), Edition

Over my five years as an Uber driver, I have been asked for advice and have been careful in giving it. And in my five years as a driver, I’ve also kept my advice to myself even when I really wanted to give it.

This past Sunday evening, I picked up this young lady from the airport and when she got in the car she proceeded to call someone like a lot of people do (people call family to let them they’re on their way home a lot). I hear her tell someone she’s landed and on her way home then she goes, “I’m not being sassy.” Then she proceeded to argue that she was just calling to tell this person (sounded like an asshole-boyfriend) she was on her way home and no, she had things to do and was going to order in dinner. All I could think was that she didn’t sound ‘sassy’ at all on the phone and why did she have to put up with this shit? I really wanted to tell her to dumb this douche-bag and save herself the hassle of dealing with an idiot who seemed to want an argument. I think douche-bag boyfriends who do this kind of shit, accuse the girl they’re with of stuff she didn’t do are probably fucking around or just trying to be controlling douche-bags.

Another time I picked up this couple from a bar one night and on the radio the song, ‘Baby One More Time’ by Brittney Spears came on. Well the chick began singing along and she had a good voice and in the rearview mirror I could also see her getting down and wanting to do lap-dance on her boyfriend (or husband, I wasn’t exactly sure what his significant-other title was). He was totally ignoring her and making snide comments about my driving just loud enough to where I could hear them (I was taking it a bit easy since the road I was driving down was bumpy as hell). All I could think was his girlfriend-wife was horny and if he played his cards right he could have gotten laid as soon as they got to their place. But because he was mouthing off at me I wanted to tell her to dump this douche-bag’s ass, or at least make sure he didn’t get laid that night.

Then another time I picked up this guy one afternoon and he got on the phone with a friend of his and proceeded to talk some serious shit about this girl they both knew. My douche-bag passenger was saying how he’d lied to this girl and said she was pretty and stuff when in reality he was calling her fat and ugly and all kinds of nasty shit. All I could think was I hope this girl kicked this guy in the nuts the next time she saw him because I was hoping that my mental yelling to her would reach her in some way.

Then another time I went to a convenience store for an early-morning pickup and there is this couple there. Chick is laying into this guy accusing him of cheating and stuff and he’s trying to tell her he’s not. He’s the one that ordered the Uber so he put his stuff in and was trying to get this chick to calm down but she wasn’t having it. Then she grabbed his phone out of his hand and started scrolling through it. At that point, he’d had enough and got in and I let him use my phone to call a buddy of his (his buddy’s apartment was his destination) to let him know he was on his way and that his psycho girlfriend had his phone. I think the chick was pretty drunk but man, she was a crazy-ass drunk. I wanted to tell the dude to cut off his phone plan, report his phone as stolen, and dump this crazy bitch.

In the above three situations, I didn’t say anything because people have to figure things out for themselves. But one time, I was asked for some advice and I carefully weighed and measured it out.

I picked up this young lady one night and as we got going she goes, “Can I ask you a question?” I go, “Sure, what is it?” She asks me if I think long-distance relationships can work. I tell her I think they can if both partners are committed to one another and work at it. Then she asks me if that applies if both people live in the same city. I go, “Huh?” and she must have heard the puzzlement in my voice because she proceeds to lay out her situation. She tells me she and this guy in question had been together off-and-on for about three years or so and had just gotten married a couple of months back. But a few days before this ride, he’d moved out to a place across town but wasn’t telling her why. She then asked me if she should try talking to him. I told her if he was willing to sit down and talk with her to just listen to him without interruption and think through what he said. Then she told me she’d just gotten out of the hospital and found out she was pregnant. Then I told her my personal take was that he might want to have his cake and eat it, too and if so, she was going to have to make some hard decisions. I wished her well but in reality, I wanted to tell her to dump the asshole and that if she kept the baby to get as much child-support as she could from him.

I like to think most people are good people, and they are. But when I encounter a shit-head or someone dealing with one, it’s hard not to lose a little faith each time. My take is why be with someone if they’re just going to shit all over you? I know a lot of these shit-heads tell their victims they can’t make it on their own. I want to tell anyone, male or female, you can do just fine on your own. You’ll be a lot happier without dealing with this kind of hot-and-cold insensitive bullshit. Because the piece of advice I’d really like to give here is this: it’s not your purpose in life to pull someone’s head out of their ass. And as my late mother used to say, people like this very rarely, if ever change so to me, there’s no reason to stay with someone who makes you feel like shit more often than not.

But this is just my advice so you can take or leave it.

Behind the Story – No Need to Prove Myself as a Writer

I used to think I had to prove myself worthy of being seen as a writer. I felt like I had to work my butt off to get respect as a writer. I felt like I wasn’t going to be taken seriously if I didn’t show how much work I was putting into my writing. And yes, for the longest time, I felt like all the work I did meant nothing because to some people I felt like I would never be good enough for them. Now I know that’s not true but it was a long, hard road to get to that realization about myself.

Where did this need to prove myself as a writer come from?

It came from my earliest beginnings as writer. My father began writing when I was about eight years old. He started out writing with pen on yellow legal pads then graduated to an electric typewriter he set up in the bedroom next to mine. I used to fall asleep to the sound of him banging away on that thing which sounds quaint and cute now but in reality it wasn’t. My father could turn anything into an obsession due to his untreated bi-polar depression and writing was probably the biggest obsession I saw him get into (he always said he’d been diagnosed but had refused treatment, something I can’t independently verify but after extensive reading on bi-polar depression… let’s just say my dad checked off all the boxes for it). And that obsession and huge effort into learning something could be so impressive that it it felt like something that towered over me. Back then, I thought it was fascinating watching my dad work and talking with him about it. But there was a dark side to that obsessive behavior or my father’s and it’s taken me many years to come to terms with that.

My dad could be a real asshole about whatever he was pursuing. He wanted unwavering, undying support for whatever he wanted to do, especially from my mother. My mother on the other hand wanted someone who would bring in enough money to pay the bills because her job really didn’t cover everything unless she got extremely creative with juggling money. Because of my dad’s mental health issues, he only stayed with something until he hit a brick wall like a layoff or lost his temper one too many times and quit, or just wrecked his health like he did in later years. He really went after my mother though when he was deep into his writing-phase because he wanted her to be the meek, submissive helpmate like his author-idols had with their wives (such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald). My mom couldn’t go along with that and she didn’t have to in any way, shape, or form. The problem with this was when I started writing: I had to walk a very fine line in order not to alienate myself from either parent.

For my father, I felt like I had to put in a ton of studying and writing in order to earn his respect as a writer like he was. He always talked about how you had to study and work at your craft in order to get good at it. He was right on studying and working at writing but because of my mother, I had to be careful not exhibit the obsessive and obnoxious behavior of my father. I never really talked about my writing with my mother and I was terrified of hurting her over me pursuing my writing. This is why I worked so hard to maintain my responsibilities in doing chores and keeping my writing to myself.

This need to prove myself was entrenched in my mind by the time I reached my twenties and joined my first in-person writers group. I was one of the youngest members and boy did I felt wet behind the ears. A lot of the group members had been writing for over a decade when I met them, some were multi-published and best-selling authors. So to say I was intimidated was putting it mildly. And with that group, I felt like I had to prove myself and show that I was working on my craft and that I was working towards my goals.

The problem with feeling you have to prove yourself to someone else is that you can’t live on that. In the end, you have to believe in yourself more than anyone else. You have to trust yourself and your skills and see them through. As a writer, you’ve got to sit down and write, and rewrite, and keep at it until you feel it come together. It has taken me decades to gain the confidence I have in my writing now. It was a long and hard-fought battle to realize I do have what it takes to be a writer because I did put in an enormous amount of time studying and writing. I know I’m a good writer when I get honest feedback from people telling me how my writing connected with them. Because of all this work, I don’t have to stop and think things through with my writing but instead I just keep at it until I feel it’s right. I trust my feelings most of all.

What made me realize I didn’t to prove myself to anyone as a writer is that I do know what I’m doing, that all my years of studying and writing mean something, and most of all, that I  have goals that I can carry out. What stopped me in the past from fulfilling those goals was a fear that if I got anywhere near achieving them, someone would come and destroy me. I had to dismantle that fear piece by piece and destroy those pieces once and for all. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone and success isn’t about winning approval from anyone either. Success is something I will have worked for and something I will allow myself to enjoy and benefit from.

Stand or Fall – Tolerance Doesn’t Equal Silence

From as far back as I can remember, I heard that you had to tolerate people and their bullshit which meant that you just had to sit and listen it without calling them out on it. I was taught that you can’t change people and that you have to let them be who they are. And for myself and way too many other people, we thought it meant we couldn’t speak out against their bullshit and actively campaign against their reign of terror.

We were wrong. Tolerance failed and officially died on January 6, 2021 in the halls of the United States Capitol Building when a mob of right-wing monsters tried to overthrow the duly elected government of the United States.

In the past, I’m sure someone would be calling me out on the above paragraph telling me not to get overwrought or that I’m exaggerating things. Fuck that shit. And fuck those assholes no matter how well meaning they might think they are, or were back then. They were wrong then just like they are wrong now.

I know I can’t pull someone’s head out of their ass for them, but I can sure as hell call them out on it. I used to think I didn’t have it in me to call someone out on their bullshit but I know I do now. Because I have taken the time not just in the last few years, but all my life really, to think things through as best as I can and try to do the right thing. And to be shit on for doing the right thing caused me some serious wounds but wounds do heal over and you can put up shields to keep people from hurting you again.

I recently saw a quote from the late rapper Tupac Shakur: “Just because you lost me as a friend doesn’t mean you gained me as an enemy. I’m bigger than that. I still want to see you eat, just not at my table.”

So in staying with Tupac’s statement here, I can say tolerance doesn’t mean letting someone sit at your table and give you and your guests shit simply because they’re different and not doing anything wrong by being different. If you want to sit at my table, you don’t talk shit to people to their face or behind their back, or with thinly-veiled well-meaning bullshit either.

I used to think I had to sit and take people’s shit simply because if I pushed back on it then I was the bad guy. That’s gaslighting because it’s like saying I’m the one doing something wrong when that’s not the case. It hurt like hell to be accused of being a hopeless idiot for believing in the good of this world and in good people instead of those who were hurting people left and right.

I can be a cynic with the best of them but practicing tolerance with silence gave shit-headed people an opportunity to try and use that against me. They tried to use that against me by amplifying cynicism instead of combating it. Being cynical is a human reaction to massive amounts of bullshit and pain but it’s not the way to live. It’s wrong to say all people are shit-heads and that everyone will eventually shit all over you, except of course the person telling you this who has shit on you yet tells you to be grateful in taking their shit.

Sorry for the excessive use of the word ‘shit’ here in all its’ forms but the word fits because that’s what lies and manipulation are. And as the great Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you what they’re truly like, believe them.”

People know what they’re truly like even if they don’t want to completely admit it and take responsibility for themselves. And only an individual person can change themselves, no one else can do it for them. Or as I like to say now, no one’s purpose in life is to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them.

Are we deadlocked here then? Never able to find a common ground? My answer to those questions is that the ball is not in your court, but in their court. I know where I want to go in life and what I want to do. I want to leave this world better than it was when I came into it. I want to lift people up from sadness and despair. I want to give people hope when they feel helpless and weak. And I want to be a defender. I want to stand in front of those who hurt others and say to them, “I’m not afraid of you anymore.” And yes, I am prepared to take their blows no matter how hard they hit, or how much of my own blood I might taste. But in reality most people who hurt or destroy are cowards, weak and scared. They’ve just taken that weakness and fear and turned it inside out-mean as my father used to say.

Tolerance doesn’t have to be silent. Tolerance means standing up for what’s right, and true, and to make the world a better place by standing up for others and defending and comforting those in need.

Breaking Radio Silence – The Silence of Unspoken Conversations

We weren’t having the conversations back then like we are now.

This phrase came to my mind a few years ago and it was in response to any questions about why write about things from the past. It’s also my response to the silence of the past, too.

When my parents were growing up, there was NO talk about what was going on other than what was considered ‘acceptable’. There was no talk of the violent alcoholic behavior of my mother’s father, or the rigid expectations in my father’s household. Thoughts and feelings weren’t talked about at all, and in my mother’s case, weren’t to be had at all because any thought or feeling that deviated from the fanatical Catholic norm would get you sent to Hell. And for my dad, men did NOT talk about their feelings at all.

For my generation, we did talk about some things but the expectation was that even if we did talk about them, things weren’t really going to change. Or better put, if you told someone they were being an asshole to you, it wouldn’t change them. But our generation was silent, too about the turmoil so many of us grew up with. Divorced or battling parents, bullies, expectations, pressure to fit in, etc. But if we kept our shit together and didn’t commit suicide, we were told we had good coping skills.

I’m glad young people today are more open to talking about their thoughts and feelings, and that more people are seeking mental health treatment. But not everyone is on this bandwagon and too many suffer in silence thinking nothing will change if they deal with their mental and emotional well-being.

To that I want to say this: you will change when you find answers to why you think and feel the way you do. And in turn, you can change the course of your life and your future. You can learn how to do things differently and do them better. I will tell you it won’t be a popular decision with some people in your life. There will be people who will not like the fact that you’re trying to change yourself. But your purpose in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. Each person has to figure out how to do that for themselves.

For the longest time, I felt like the world wanted me to be silent, to be hidden away and not have to deal with me at all. Then one day I asked: why? Why would people want me to be silent? Is it because my mere existence challenges their fragile bullshit-leaden egos? Their suck-ass version of reality? Makes them feel shame and guilt for the shit they did? If the answer to any of those questions is ‘yes’ that’s on them, not me.

I used to think that line of thinking in the above paragraph made me a cold-hearted bitch. It doesn’t. I have stayed silent and out of people’s lives because I didn’t want to burden anyone with my bullshit. I didn’t want anyone to think they had to take on my problems and try to solve them. This is what I have felt for a long time and I’m trying to figure out how to change this pattern of thinking. I’m also working on the fact that by writing and publishing my story of how I found answers to my questions that may not be welcome in some circles. I have to tell myself that’s not for me to determine and that all I can do is tell my story.

Like I’ve said before, I’m not breaking my silence as an act of revenge or any bullshit like that. I’m doing it to help other people who have been through things similar to what I have and have the emotional wreckage to work through. My work is not about trying to figure out why shitty things happened to me or why people treated me like shit when they shouldn’t have. I spent way too many years trying to figure out why people reacted to me the way they did. I know why I acted the way I did and the image I projected so I will take responsibility for that.

As I begin to write this book, a lot of things come back up. And although I’ve been through these waves before it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with them. But I have found one thing that does help me work through these shit-storms: talking about them. So I’m picking up the conversations again and pushing forth.

I’m having the conversations that should have been had before but can be had now and in the future.

Uber Tales, Roll With the Flow, Edition

A couple of days ago, I had a passenger ask me what lessons I’ve learned from being an Uber driver. It was an interesting question and one I’d never been asked before so I gave it a go.

The first thing that came to me was that I’ve learned to just roll with the flow. I’ve said the only predictable thing about this gig is its’ unpredictability and because of that, you’ve got to learn to roll with that. A good example of this is what I call a ‘doldrum period’. On average this happens at least twice a year: right after New Year’s when everyone’s worn out and broke and after Memorial Day weekend when again, everyone’s worn out and broke. I have to remind myself these times will happen and to try and be better prepared.

Another roll-with-the-flow lesson can be applied to travel times. During morning or afternoon rush every so often I’ll get stuck in a traffic jam. Luckily I’ve never had a passenger complain about this. In fact I’ve had a few apologize though I tell them traffic jams aren’t their fault (and they’re not because the route we’re on sometimes the only way into their destination). I tell them traffic jams are a part of my job and besides, I’m on the clock so I’m still getting paid.

Another roll-with-the-flow lesson is in talking to people. The vast majority of my passengers are awesome and whether or not they want to talk is entirely up to them. Now in the past I used to hate having right-wing idiots in my car because they can be a bit forceful and I used to get nervous about them flying off the handle and doing something stupid. Now I’ve learned how to counter their dumb-ass arguments so well they’re agreeing with me. For example, the shitty one about immigrants overrunning the country is one I counter by saying immigrants are probably one of the most exploited groups of people in this country and they’re not coming for anyone’s fancy white-collar job, or even blue-collar job. Instead, immigrants usually work under-the-table and behind-the-scenes and are out of sight for most people. The other right-wing dumb-ass argument I like to counter is that we’ve been taxing the wrong people and that’s not the government’s fault but Congress handing down tax breaks to the wealthy for decades.

Then there is the drunk roll-with-the-flow. And how do you know someone is drunk? The number-one indicator to me is most drunks are really repetitive, and usually repeat the dumbest stuff over and over. But I don’t call them out on it. Instead, I just go mumble and keep driving. Most drunks are okay and pretty friendly and if I get a nasty one I just keep my mouth shut and tell myself at least I don’t have to live with them and listen to them puke.

Yet another roll-with-the-flow is what to do when you ask someone how they’re doing and you get a crazy story from way out of left field. Like last night when I picked up this young lady and I asked how she was doing and she said better now that she hadn’t been ‘jumped’ today. Then I got the story behind that: the night before she’d gone out drinking with some friends and they ended up at a party at an abandoned house out in the middle of nowhere with this crazy chick and her eight brothers who all claimed to be armed with guns. Crazy chick kept telling my passenger she wanted to kick her ass and that if my passenger fought back her brothers would shoot her dead. Luckily, my passenger got out alive and without getting shot or beaten. She also said she was cutting off the friend who took her to this little gathering to begin with. When you hear a story like that you just have to roll with it though I told her I’d stick to the city if I were her.

Finally, the best take on roll-with-the-flow is that it keeps you from driving like an asshole. I deal with idiot drivers all the time and the worst driving I see is the following:

Speeding

Tailgating

Texting and Driving

DON’T DO THOSE THINGS WHEN YOU’RE IN THE CAR!!!

Speeding in and out of traffic is dangerous because there are other cars and it doesn’t make you look cool. In fact, I say it makes you look like the pencil-dick and or dried-up coochie (for the ladies who do this) asshole that you are.

Tailgating is just dumb as hell because that’s an accident waiting to happen. And if someone is boxed in there’s nowhere to go riding their bumper isn’t going to magically clear the road in front of them. And if you’re too fucking stupid to go around if you’ve got the room, then you should get out and walk.

And NO ONE is capable of texting and driving so just stop doing that shit. Also, don’t hold your phone and drive with one hand. Get a freaking mount if you want to talk and drive or just put your damn phone down and concentrate on your driving.

I think the biggest lesson with roll-with-the-flow is that you learn how to think through things and also be considerate of others. Which is the most important lesson I think anyone can learn in life.

Behind the Story – A Book In Search of a Title

Around Fall/Winter 2018 if my memory is correct, I came up with the idea of doing a ‘writing book’. At the time I thought it would be a mix of writing instruction and advice with maybe a few stories of my writing time over the years. Then this thought came to me: my relationship with writing is complicated. I thought that would be the hook to make this book stand out but in reality, that’s been a huge wall I’ve had to figure out how to get through. One way I’ve had to figure out how to work through that wall is finding a title for this project. It’s gone through at least two or three titles but ‘Behind the Story’ feels like the fit that I want for it.

But in order to get a handle on this project, I needed a title I could write to. I need titles to write to so when I’m struggling with a title then I struggle with the project itself. So the first thing you can see about writing for me is that my brain is works in weird and mysterious ways. Putting that crazy thought process into words is a challenge to say the least but it’s one I want to do.

For me, writing is largely instinctive now. I just start out with an idea in my head then sit down and start writing. I trust myself to know when something is working and when it’s not. Like this blog entry here for example has been in the works for a couple of days now with several attempts scrapped. I’m not doing this project to discourage people from writing, or showing off, but instead I’m trying to put into words a process that I don’t really think through before I dive into it.

In my teens and twenties, and even into my thirties, I devoured everything I could about writing. I read a ton of articles and books, attended workshops and conferences and studied constantly. Back then I felt like I had to earn my chops by working my ass off studying and writing. I’m glad I did that but it wasn’t a popular decision with some people in my life. In those years I felt like my writing was seen a weapon to be used against me, something to be held against me, something I felt wrong in doing sometimes. It’s taken me a long time to realize that people were wrong to think that about my writing as I NEVER let it get in the way of any responsibilities I had taken on. In those years, I was just told to keep my mouth shut and keep writing.

To anyone who has a problem with my writing, or ever did I’m going to say what I should have said a long time ago: fuck off. Take your stupid bullshit and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. I fought with everything I had to keep my passion to myself and for no damn good reason other than placate someone’s dumb-ass ego.

Like my other writing projects, I’m not writing this book as an act of revenge or any bullshit like that. In addition to trying to illuminate the creative process to help people understand it, I’m also doing it for other creative people like me who’ve taken way too much shit for being creative. I don’t believe every single person has it in them to be creative and curious. In fact, I think there are a good number of people in this world who are the total opposite of that and who sure as hell aren’t shy in expressing that to the rest of the world.

For the longest time, I used to say I just let my imagination run wild and that it was not a reflection of my own thoughts and feelings. But that’s not true and it never was, and that’s another thing I’m trying to put into words with this project. And that I believe is also another reason some people may have had problems with my writing because they somehow thought it was about them. It’s not and it never was. But that barrier had to fall in my mind for me to get to the point I’m at now with my writing, this mix of instinct and the ability to put those instincts into words.

Stand or Fall – Preaching to the Choir

One question I’ve asked myself with this project is who is this book being written for? I’ve said to left-leaning folks like me it’ll probably be like preaching to the choir and to right-leaning folks it could create some serious cognitive dissonance. But now I’m beginning to think that cognitive dissonance could also happen to my left-leaning readers and that’s because I don’t think my left-leaning readers are going to like me telling them they fucked up and fell down on the job.

I think the biggest failure of us Lefties is our stupid default setting of giving up and quitting when things get really loud and shitty. I hate hearing people talk about not voting anymore, or not voting because of one thing, and I really hate people talking about packing up their shit and leaving some place like the idiots who talked about quitting when Elon ‘Dickhead’ Musk announced he wanted to buy Twitter (the deal is on shaky ground as of this blog post). I want to say if you do this, you’re a fucking idiot and I’ll put a verbal foot up your ass and boot you out of the room if you don’t want to be in the room where it happens (with acknowledgement to the great Lin-Manuel Miranda and the ‘Hamilton’ team).  

There’s an old saying, ‘If you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.’ And that is so freaking true. And if you don’t want to be in the kitchen simply because things aren’t going your way or because you don’t get to run the show, then get the fuck out. Being a spoiled brat is being an absolute asshole no matter what side these brats lean to politically. Left-leaning ones will step out of the kitchen while right-leaning ones will stay in the kitchen mouthing off. Either way, both are wrong and both either need to get the fuck out of the way so others can do what needs to be done, or shut the fuck up, roll up their sleeves, and get to work.

It’s taken me a long time to really believe I can be in the room where it happens and that I have just as much right to be there as anyone else. Most of my life, I used to go silent whenever someone would get loud or get right up in my face. Now I know that’s just a tactic assholes use to intimidate someone into silence because that person is just trying to call them out on their bullshit. It’s why I’m working to teach myself not to back down or go silent in the face of someone getting up in my face.

No one is perfect and to insist on perfection in people is total bullshit. In 1992, I voted in my first Presidential election. I got swept up in the idealism and rock ‘n’ roll of that campaign and by the end of the decade I watched it crash and burn. I recovered some of that idealism in 2008 but watched it go down in flames in 2016. By 2020, I turned that idealism into pure dragon’s fire. Because as far as I’m concerned, we don’t have the luxury of idealism anymore. The clock’s running down fast and no one is sure if we’ve hit the point of negative return (that’s when a spacecraft launches and at a certain point they have to make orbit because cutting the engines and trying to return will get them barbequed in the atmosphere). I don’t think we’ve hit negative return yet but I think we’re close.

So to my left-leaning choir here I want to say this: don’t back down. If someone gets in your face tell them to back off and shut the fuck up. And yes, they won’t like that. They also won’t like it when you tell them not to change the subject because that’s a common tactic the average loud-mouth asshole likes to use when they know they don’t have jack-shit to stand on.

Lately, I’ve thought about just not engaging with loud-mouth assholes at all but instead, I’ll take the tactic of challenging them to listen to me like they force the world to listen to their bullshit. Most of these loud-mouth assholes don’t have the tits or balls to face someone directly or take a stand on their own (they’re real good at being good little cult members and parroting talking points handed to them). I read from a college professor online that when he asks a conservative student why they hold certain views they start off by saying, ‘well, in my family-.” And he stops them right there and goes, “No, what do YOU think?”

That’s what I want to do with my ‘Stand or Fall’ book: I want to make people think when reading it and after they’re done reading it. And honestly I don’t care what side of the political aisle my readers are on because if you can’t think for yourself and determine your own path, it doesn’t matter what side you’re on. Because I believe if you can think for yourself, then you can find the right path to go on.

I believe the appeal of authoritarianism is that it gives people the ability to let someone else do their thinking for them. It makes them feel like they’re a part of something though they don’t realize acceptance comes at a very steep price, and that price is a person’s mind, heart, and soul belonging to someone else. I’m an outsider and I always have been, and I always will be so I’ve never seen the appeal of right-wing authoritarianism because I know I wouldn’t be accepted by that side simply because I’m different and have a brain that never shuts down. I think I’d be like Captain Kirk in the movie ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’ when he asked, “Why does God need a starship?”

So let’s start asking questions until we get all the answers we can.

Breaking Radio Silence – Writing As Therapy

The topic of writing as therapy has always been a difficult one for me to address and I’ve had six years to think about it. Why? Because there is still a ton of opposition to people seeking therapy any way they can. Despite all the conversations we seem to be having about therapy and mental health along with self-care and self-help, it still takes a lot for people to pursue therapy.

I think the opposition to people pursuing therapy is two-fold: that it will reveal secrets that people don’t want spoken out loud even if they’re spoken in confidence to a therapist, and two, that people in therapy will learn how to stand up for themselves. In my experience, people who hurt others whether through insensitivity or worse, cruelty and refuse to take responsibility for their actions will do everything to keep someone silent and submissive. I know I used to believe that if I was just silent and hidden that people wouldn’t treat me like shit, or that maybe they would accept me if I was quiet and submissive to their bullshit. Neither one of those is true and no, I’m not being mean right now.

So why pursue therapy? Why work through your pain and shit when you can just bury it and become just like the people who hurt you? Because most people aren’t built like that. The vast majority of people in this world care about their fellow human beings and don’t seek to hurt them and if they do hurt someone they take responsibility for their actions and apologize and try to make amends. The people who refuse to do that are the loud-mouthed shit-heads who will cry like whiny little wimps when someone calls them out on their heartless cruelty. But like I said in a previous blog post here, no one’s purpose in life is to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. And the thing is, that’s not what therapy is about. Therapy is trying to figure out why you think and feel the way you do and learning how to do better and try to find some healing for your wounds.

Healing isn’t just about easing pain. I think it’s also about breaking free of living in pain and fear and that’s not a popular thing with the heartless assholes in this world. The constant outrage some people seem to live on creates more pain and suffering and no matter how often you call them out on that, unless they let go of that constant outrage they’re not going to change. But one thing I’ve learned in my therapy journey is that I don’t have to live in a constant state of fear and anxiety in return. I used to think if I lived like that people would leave me alone but the heartless assholes of this world don’t give a shit how you think and feel or why.

Another thing is that therapy is seen as ‘weak’. No, it takes real strength and courage to doctor your wounds and build up armor-plated scar tissue to keep from getting hurt again. And yes, this is deeply personal for me because all my life I’ve been told I’m weak and can’t handle anything ‘normal’ or ‘painful’ when in reality I was left all alone to deal with enormous responsibility and pain. So one part of my therapy was learning that I’m not weak and I’m sure that pissed someone off. But if I piss someone off for proving them wrong then that’s on them.

I always said the most courageous thing I’ve seen in my life was when my mother sought help for the depression that tried to kill her. My mother had so much bottled up she could have filled up an Amazon-sized warehouse with her stuff. Instead, she worked through as much as she could before she died. I like to think I’m taking my therapy further than she did because I have the opportunity that she didn’t get.

If a secret is kept simply to keep someone from facing the consequences of their actions and the pain they caused, then it doesn’t deserve to be kept a secret to help them. Breaking my silence over things I’ve kept to myself is very difficult because I’m not breaking my silence as an act of revenge or any bullshit like that. I’m breaking my silence in order to bleed the poison of that secret out of me and heal the wound caused by that poison, and to show other people how that’s done.

I believe you can choose how you pursue therapy, whether or not you speak about it out loud, and how you deal with any opposition. My way of pursuing therapy is writing about it, speaking out about it here, and as for any opposition that’s dealt with a simple, ‘go to hell because this isn’t about anyone else’.

I’ve called ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ my ‘therapy’ book and that’s because as I went back through my life I learned how things shaped me in how I dealt with them. And most of all, I learned that just because I dealt with someone one way didn’t mean it was the only way, or the best way. And yes, someone might not like that but like I just said, this isn’t about someone else. Therapy is about yourself and no one else.

The World Is Worth Saving

Is the World worth saving?

My answer is always yes but I’ve been thinking about why I feel that way. Because I know there are a lot of days when it’s hard to see the purpose of putting forth any real effort into doing anything other than surviving so why do more than just survive?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself for some time because I know other people, especially young people have been asking it. I know the struggle for answers in the face of very loud and ugly opposition from people who seem hellbent and determined to destroy everything if they don’t get their way. So why put up a fight against people who honestly don’t give a shit whether they live or die?

First, this is the only rock in the Universe we’ve been able to live on. We haven’t mastered interstellar travel and it’s going to be a good long while before we do. So first of all, we don’t need to burn our own house down just so we can blast off the wreckage and find another rock to do the same shit to again.

Second, this little blue ball hurtling through space is pretty awesome. It’s amazing in its’ beauty, and its’ ability to sustain and nurture life. And with a little love and care, it’ll take care of us in return.

Third, because I don’t want to die. I’ve come to terms with my mortality and I understand all too well death comes for us all. But I sure as hell don’t need to hasten it and I’m not going to let anyone shove me into the grave to satisfy their own bullshit need to be an asshole.

Most of all, I’m tired of living in a constant state of anxiety. I’m tired of feeling like I have to be on the edge all the time. That’s not a way to live and it’s not healthy either. In the darkest times of my past, I used to think the assholes of the world wanted me to be constantly on edge and that if I stepped back from that edge they’d push me over it. Now I know that’s not true because the average asshole doesn’t think about anyone or anything past the tip of their own nose.

Sometimes I feel like the world is sustained on a constant outrage machine but I know that most outrage is manufactured by assholes in order to fatten their greedy self-serving pockets, or well-intentioned people who need to learn how to tone it down and take it easy. Most change happens very slowly in this world because humans are the epitome of the term ‘slower on the upstart’. Most humans take a lot of time and effort to really change their lives and because of that, as a collective whole, humanity takes a good long while to pull its’ collective head out of its’ ass.

But I do believe despite our slowness in changing things for the better, we have to do it. And we have to keep pushing for change despite assholes saying we’re out of line for demanding changes in order to save lives or make this world a better place. We also have to keep pushing back against the assholes who say change isn’t possible or sustainable. It’s too damn easy to back off and give assholes space rather than standing up to them and telling them to shut the fuck up. Because the average asshole who is fighting change is really nothing but a bullying coward who can’t think their way out of a paper bag. And most of all, anxiety is a lying asshole most of the time.

I know it’s hard to see a bigger picture or believe in a better future when shit seems to happen constantly. I know it’s hard to see the good in this world when it seems like something’s always breaking or falling apart or some crisis blows up in our faces every time we sit down to take a breather. But guess what? Shit’s going to happen even if you’re sitting down. Unless that shit is literally coming down on you, take that breather and think things through instead of just reacting. For the longest time, I used to think I just had to deal with things as they came and without breathing. Now I know unless nuclear hellfire is raining down, I can take a step back and think before I do something.

The world is worth saving and it doesn’t require perfection or perfect solutions. To my way of thinking, you do what it takes to get it done and if it gets the job done and someone still doesn’t like that, they can go fuck themselves all to hell. Don’t be hard on yourself and don’t be hard on other people just trying to survive.

When I think my part in trying to make this world a better place and helping people if given the opportunity, I feel alive. I feel the tension inside my body ease up and my concentration sharpen. Getting wrapped up in anxiety does the exact opposite and I’m sick and tired of that shit. And as my late father used to say, the quickest way to get out of a hole is to quit digging and start climbing.

So let’s climb out of our holes and the graves we don’t need to dig for ourselves, and let’s give a damn about saving this world of ours once and for all.

The Written Road – Behind the Story: Maybe It Was Memphis

Yesterday I cross-posted a short story I wrote for the Facebook group I am a group administrator for, Writers Unite!. First, I want to thank everyone who read it and shared their kind words about the story. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Now I want to take you into the writing of the story to try and illustrate a creative process for me that’s something I don’t really think about in words too often.

The story ‘Maybe It Was Memphis’ came from a prompt. A story prompt can be anything, such as a picture, a topic, or anything chosen. In this case, the prompt was a picture of a front porch swing.

Now with prompts there’s usually other requirements to work within, mainly the length of the story. This is to help writers focus their storytelling skills in order to tell a story that doesn’t wander all over the place or doesn’t go nowhere at all. For me, this front porch swing got me thinking about a song I’d heard years ago, “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis. The song mentions a front porch swing and is about a young woman meeting a young man sitting on the front porch swing of her mother’s house as the song goes. This first meeting gave me the starting point of the song.

Most of the time, coming up with the beginning of a story isn’t hard for me. Occasionally I have a hard time finding where to start the story but in this case, the opening scene you read came to me pretty quickly and I ran with it. And as you can see, I don’t write out a plot or an outline with my fiction. My writer’s brain does not work from outlines and such because that part of my brain thinks that if I outline a story then I’ve written it and that’s it. So I start from ideas and bits and pieces of scenes and lines of dialogue then go from there.

With a short story, one big thing that kept me from writing them for many years was the issue of plot. Then I realized in a short story the plot line has to be linear. By linear I mean the plot has to function as a straight line with no off-shoots, or sub-plots as they’re also known. With this story, my plot line became how do I get these two characters together in the end when one of them is going off to war? Five years pass by in a thousand words or so and I’ve never written anything like that before.

The original mid-section actually got deleted and completely rewritten because in my first draft I had Carolyn’s brother killed in combat and John coming home and he and Carolyn bonding over that. But then I thought that’s been done before and it’s much more complicated to do therefore I deleted it and started over. Then two things brought me to the ending of the story: John realizing he saw no future for himself after the war was over, and Bryce (Carolyn’s brother) talking about a woman who referred to herself and him as ‘The River and the Highway’. Because in a way, John and Carolyn were a river and a highway in that they had their own lives halfway around the world from each other but they felt a connection with each other and Carolyn had promised to wait for John no matter what. So with that, I had the ending in place: that connection even in an uncertain future.

Another thought that came to me with the ending of this story was how soldiers have a tremendous amount of difficulty adjusting to life at home after being away at war for so long. In my story, when it came to the end of war, John just didn’t see a future other than hopefully with Carolyn. Now Carolyn understood that John would need time to adjust and figure out his path in life. Carolyn’s way of thinking is to just take things one day at a time and figure out as you go along, which is how I feel about life in general. That patience and understanding are what bring John and Carolyn together in the end.

To add here: since I didn’t kill off Carolyn’s brother Bryce I will be writing his story for this month’s prompt with my group Writer’s Unite!. It will be how he learns to understand what his lady Christie means when she describes their relationship as the river and the highway. So far all I can tell you is their story is a road-trip with an overnight stay. It’s about two people together with nothing else to do but talk things out. That’s the basic idea anyway. Now all I’ve got to do is just write it and figure out what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it, and work things out.

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