Dear Universe

Yesterday I was driving along and feeling a bit bummed out because the lunch rush wasn’t as busy as I wanted it to be. Then the song ‘Alive and Kicking’ by Simple Minds came on the radio and I cranked it up (I was in between rides so I was alone in the car). And as it got to the end, I said the following out loud:

“Dear Universe, if you’re trying to tell me something, I’m listening.”

Now I’m not a card-carrying member of any religious denomination and I’m not one to get too heavily into the inner workings of the Universal Powers-That-Be. But if asked, I am a believer in a higher power. And every so often, I think we’re given a glimpse or a look into that higher power and it feels good when it happens.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to the idea of a higher power with God as a bearded old white man sitting on a huge throne playing favorites, hurling shit onto people at random, or being impossible to please. To me, God is a force of good energy that people can tap into because I feel more at peace and free of fear and sadness when I pray for others in need. I tell God I’m fine and that I’ll always figure something out sooner or later. I ask Him instead to help out people in real need, people who are hurting and feeling sad and lonely.

I’m forever grateful that my parents didn’t raise me with a strict interpretation of religion because I think would have turned out even more messed up than I did. My mother was raised to think having an original thought was wrong and that she was never good enough. Instead, she raised me to believe having original thoughts was not wrong and that I was good enough for her.

For me, I believe in not just thinking good thoughts and doing good things all the time, but doing that in addition to reaching out to people in pain and acknowledging their pain. One of the worst things I’ve ever gone through along with millions of other people is feeling like my pain wasn’t worth acknowledging or talking about. When we bury that in silence it can fester like an untreated wound and with some people, that can result in some serious damage up to taking themselves out of the world altogether.

There is NO nobility or need for suffering. It happens but it’s not something worthy or noble, or any bullshit like that. If someone is suffering you do something about it, especially if you’re in a position of power and authority to do so. This is what pisses me off so damn much about the people still in Congress and the White House who haven’t done jack-fucking shit about people dying from COVID-19 and all those who’ve had their economic livelihoods kicked out from under them.

Whenever I begin to feel down and the Universe sends me a pick-me-up, I’m eternally grateful. And I wish those pick-me-up’s on other people who need them. Because to me, the Universe wants you know it’s okay to feel down but that you don’t have to feel down forever. Nor do you have to feel scared and alone. And you don’t have to fear some made-up image of God being a random vengeful spirit that you have to appease constantly. Because I think that’s a human invention and it’s never worked for me. Instead, I’ll tell people it’s okay to feel the way you do but realize that emotions are like the oceans that cover seventy-percent of this planet: there are tides that come and go, storms that come and go, and huge moments of stunning beauty and clarity.

I think my mother felt like her moments of joy and happiness were stolen, and that she paid for them with misery she didn’t need to feel for as long as she did. I’m forever grateful she didn’t raise me like that though even as a child I could sense her reserve when we were doing something fun or something that made her happy and calm. I promise to honor her memory by not letting moments of joy and happiness feel stolen, but are just a part of life itself along with the darker and sadder moments, too. Because one of the biggest things I learned in my life is the Universe likes balance.

So Dear Universe,

Thanks for sharing moments of clarity and joy with me, for the pick-me-up’s that come in many different ways, and for being there with me when it’s dark and cold in my heart and soul. In return, I pray for others to have these moments of joy and clarity, and comfort in the darkness.

Let the Day Begin

Yesterday, I celebrated along with millions of my fellow Americans the election win of a man who tells us we can turn grief into purpose, and a woman who said there are always possibilities. I’m talking about President-Elect Joseph Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris. Their words inspire and give me a hope I didn’t realize I’d been searching for the most over the last four years.

Four years ago, I set out to try to use writing to understand why I thought and felt the way I did, and to try to figure out how so many people could embrace the belief that suffering was justified as long as it didn’t affect them in some way. I wrote a lot, most of which never saw the light of day. I went deep inside my own mind and my memories to find the roots of my thoughts and feelings. It was a hard and difficult journey because I battled so much fear that I had lived with for so long.

Until yesterday, I couldn’t write the story of not just the last four years, but of all the years before until I knew what direction this country of ours was going in. Because that direction would determine the course of action I would need to take. I know there is a ton of work to be done now but it’s work for a better world, not more of a battle against greed, hatred, and corruption.

For so long I felt like I had no right to a life of my own, and worst of all, I felt like I had no right to my own thoughts and feelings and the ability to express them and deal with them. I felt genuine fear that I would crumble into nothing if I was told I had nothing to complain about, or talk about, and that I would be forever denied an embrace of comfort.

Now I’m sure some would ask me what have I done to reach out. Not much to be honest. But my main reason for that is fear of rejection, fear that I was truly not wanted at all, and that no matter what I did if I made one human mistake it would all be for nothing. I felt like I was not worthy of being myself, and that I had no ability to be there for someone else.

My greatest prayer now is that I will be given an opportunity some day to be there for someone in need. And that I will find someone who will embrace me, who will tell me I am worthy of friendship, and love. That I will find someone who will tell me it’s okay to feel whatever I feel, to think whatever I think, and that I don’t have to be alone anymore.

But for now, I will focus on my words. Words have been a part of me since I can remember as they’ve always been in my head and all around me. When I was ten years old, I discovered I could capture some of those words onto paper like other people had, and that I could create these marvelous things called stories and share them like others had done before.

So that’s what I’m doing now, sharing my stories both fiction and non-fiction. This blog will become my version of Morning Pages, of what I will use to corral the words that come to my mind as soon as I wake up every morning.

And in time, other stories will come. I haven’t been able to write in earnest because I needed one event to be determined and yes that event was what happened yesterday when this Election was called.

I don’t know exactly what the future will bring but then no one does, even those people who say they do know. No one knows what the day will bring and I can tell you right now sometimes it can be wonderful, and sometimes it can be hard as hell. More often than not, it can be a grind. But as my late father was quite fond of telling me: don’t the bastards grind you down.

What today has brought me so far is after six straight hours of sleep that I haven’t gotten in a very long time is clarity, and hopefully an end to the anxiety loops that have torn through my mind for far too long. This morning I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest and that I can truly breathe again like so many people said yesterday. I shed tears of joy yesterday, and yes I shed a few tears of grief, too. And I’ll let those tears come when they want to. I’ll let my thoughts of happiness and joy, and of pain and grief come to me when they want to also. And I will always say to everyone:

You have every right to your thoughts and feelings, good, bad, ugly, or anything in between. And you have every right to deal with your thoughts and feelings in whatever way you choose to.

So let the day begin now.

What It’s Like to Live Without Hope (even When You Still Feel it)

This is the first time I’ve really thought and written about something like this before. When I’ve talked about Hope it’s always been in the best possible way but today I’m going to show you another side of it.

I’ve always said up until now that no matter how bad things got, I always had hope for the better. But two times in my life, I didn’t have that feeling because all the hope and prayer and positive thoughts weren’t going to stop what was happening right before my eyes.

The last seven years of my mother’s life were just a matter of when she would die. It was a soul-deep certainty her, my father, and I knew from the day she was diagnosed yet it wasn’t something the three of us talked about. In those seven years, she was in remission for less than eighteen months. And even as the cancer kept coming back despite repeated blasts of radiation and chemotherapy, I saw her get up every day she could and go to work when she was sick and tired as hell. But on Saturday and Sunday, I’d get up with her and hang out with her on our back patio while she worked with her plants. That brought her some joy and happiness, yet as I look back on that, I felt like we had to guard it from most everyone else.

Why would I have to guard against these moments of happiness?

Because my mother heard so much that she had to be strong, brave, and think positive thoughts. But what that really means to someone is that they can’t feel their entire range of emotions both good and bad. It means that simple moments of joy could be seen as denial of the battle that has to be fought every moment of every day. Cancer isn’t a battle. It’s a disease that slowly kills a lot of people. So to try and dictate someone’s feelings about that reality is hell to live with. The worst part of that is not having hope for remission and recovery, and that every moment feels like it’s a stolen one and not meant to be cherished forever.

After my mother died and when my father moved out to the lake and I took the car (we only had one car between us), I used to go out to see him once a week to do his shopping and stuff. But I didn’t just hit-and-bounce. We took a lot of drives, sat by the dam, or I just sat and listened to him talk. We both knew he wasn’t going to get better, that his health was slowly deteriorating. And yes, there were times he told me I didn’t have to stick around and listen to the ramblings of a dying old man as he put it. I told him I did because he was saying things I needed to hear, and that one day I would become to keeper of his stories. And like before with my mother, the only hope I had was that after he was gone I would learn to live my life to the fullest. That didn’t happen then but that’s what I’m working on now.

Because I do have hope that my life will get better. I’m not sick and dying like they were all those years ago. And most of all, I don’t have to put up with anyone’s fucking shit like I did back then in a totally-wrong idea of keeping the peace.

I know how hard reality can bite you in the ass but I will say this here: if you are not dealing with death, dying, pain, and misery, you have hope for a better life. And not just for yourself, but for other people, especially people who have been hurt, oppressed, or forced to live in fear. Hope gives you the ability to be compassionate and empathetic to others. Hope gives you the ability to reject hatred, to reject fear-mongering, disinformation, and to stop the fucking spin and gaslighting. Hope keeps you going not just in the short-term, but in the long run.

When you have the ability to help others individually, or as part of something bigger like voting, that is hope in action. I’m one of millions of people who damn good and well know you can’t save everyone, but you don’t give up on saving the people you can.

Most of all, no one as the right to tell anyone how to think and feel, and that they have no right to feel happiness and joy despite pain and misery. No one should ever have to feel like their feelings of hope, joy, and happiness are wrong. And to anyone who has ever mouthed off at someone and told them not to be happy or sad, go to Hell. If you can’t handle someone’s hope, joy, happiness, or pain and grief, walk away and stay away. And to anyone who’s ever had to endure that fucking shit, know that you have every right to your feelings no matter what they are. Guard your hope like a fifty-foot dragon and breath fire if you have to. And never forget what it’s like to live without hope.

People Save Lives

Four years ago next month, after the Presidential Election of 2016 I asked myself a question:

How many people will have to die for this insanity to end?

Next week, we’ll find out. As of today, the number is 225,000 dead from covid-19.

But this cooled-rage and pain gave rise to a thought:

People save lives.

I say this because when I first moved out on my own in 2003, my father offered to buy me a gun and teach me how to use it. I turned him down because I told him I didn’t feel I had a need for it. There was another reason I couldn’t articulate at that time, and one I won’t share for a good long while yet. But even if you have a gun, if you pull the trigger and take a life even in defense of your own, you will have to live with it. You will have to live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is no cure for this.

Nuclear weapons have not prevented World War III. That has prevented by cooler heads prevailing. By President Kennedy in 1962 not doing what General Curtis LeMay wanted him to do and bomb Cuba. And by Soviet Colonel Stanislav Petrov in 1983 when he refused to call the Kremlin because he knew the computers at his base were malfunctioning and the United States was not launching a nuclear strike.

Guns and bombs don’t rescue people from natural disasters. People do. Very brave and extraordinary people we call first responders.

Guns and bombs don’t save people in hospitals. Those are healthcare workers.

Guns and bombs don’t lift people out of poverty. People do by creating jobs and educating people to help them advance in society.

Guns and bombs don’t bring about changes in laws, or overturn them. People do that by running for elected office or arguing in courts.

Guns and bombs don’t bring peace. Why?

World War II didn’t end genocide on this planet, it didn’t end war, hatred, or mass death and destruction. In fact, the end of World War II created a whole new set of problems for the world: a nuclear arms race and a Cold War fought by proxy.

Guns and bombs didn’t put men on the moon. People did that.

Guns and bombs don’t cure diseases. People do that.

Guns and bombs don’t comfort the grieving. People do that.

This is what I believe with all my heart and soul. That people, individuals and groups save lives and change the world for the better. Not guns and bombs, or hatred and cruelty. Or selfishness and greed. Or fear.

This is not a weak philosophy. This is a strong philosophy because it is faith over doubt, faith over pain, faith over grief. It is grief into purpose, as Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden says so well.

I believe we have the power to save ourselves, and each other. We may not be able to save every life, but we can try.

This is the world I want more than anything.

And for me it starts by saying:

People Save Lives

Corporate Philosophy Has To Go

A little over four years ago, I left my last nine-to-five job in corporate Hell. I worked telephone customer service, which is one of the great shit-jobs in corporate Hell because you are at the absolute bottom of the corporate hierarchy, yet you are the person customers interact with the most. I have no regrets about leaving this world but I have come to realize in the last four years we have all been living through a corporate shit-show on a scale like never before. We have a government full of corporate asshole-types who lie, cheat, and steal while trying to spin and gaslight the rest of us, or put fear into us that they’ll fuck us up big-time.

As James Carville told Bill Clinton and Al Gore to say in 1992, “It’s time for them to go.” It’s time for corporate bullshit-philosophy to go to Hell and stay there. Here’s why:

First, incompetent people need to be taken out of positions of authority and never allowed back in. We have to stop rewarding incompetent behavior and not give in to them because they can walk and talk and spin bullshit to get whatever the fuck they want and not give a shit about anyone else. It’s one thing to say ‘I don’t know but I’ll find out’. It’s a shitty thing for a leader to make someone under them feel like shit for knowing something they don’t. As I’m so fond of saying, everyone is just as full of shit as I am sometimes, but I’m not a bad person. A bad person is someone who tries to make incompetence work when it never does.

Second, loud-mouth bullies need to put in their place once and for all. They need to have their ability to hurt people taken from them and never, ever given back. Bullies need to be told to shut the fuck up until they do. And most of all, they need to be told to shut the fuck up when they try to spin and gaslight their potential victims. Bullies are not victims and I refuse to treat them as such.

Third, no one should have to ask the same question a hundred times. No one should have to ask, ‘What part of ___  don’t you understand?’ Asking the same question over and over will not change the answer. Trust me, I spent seventeen years dealing with that shit over the phones and it never worked.

Corporate philosophy is like conservative ideology to me: because something has been done a certain way for a long time it has to stay that way. It doesn’t matter if doesn’t work that well or worse, hurts people. Any attempt to make things work better or help people is wrong unless the asshole in charge decides who can be helped. To that I say this: fuck tradition, fuck the past, and fuck anyone who can’t see past the end of their nose because of all the shit on it. Because as my mother used to say, the good old days sucked.

Honesty is hard, especially when it comes to talking about hard and painful truths in our world. But it sure as hell beats incompetent and cruel bullshit that fucks things up so badly over two-hundred thousand people are dead because of it. Problems are not to be profited from, or spun into bullshit that says things aren’t what they are even though the truth is right in front of you. Most of all, sooner or later you will have to answer not only the questions, but for your own actions.

This coming election in twenty-six days is a reckoning. It’s a reckoning for the dead, for the living, and the wounded. The cities aren’t burning down and mobs aren’t running rampant on the streets, or coming to take over the suburbs. People are suffering in silence, lining up at food banks to feed their kids, and praying to a God they’re probably losing faith in. Corporate philosophy doesn’t believe in the previous sentence at all because it doesn’t believe in hope, courage, and compassion. Corporate philosophy believes in fear, ignorance, and rewards greed and incompetence. That shit brought out the dead, and that’s why it has to stop once and for all.

Corporate philosophy doesn’t just suck, it’s deadly now. So if you believe in a shit-show that kills… this isn’t for you.

But if you believe in a better world, and want the courage to stand up for what’s right and true, make it so.

Vote.

Believe.

Hope.