Yes, I Will

How we went from ‘Yes. We Can’ to ‘No, you can’t’ in such a short period of time has broken my heart. Looking out for number one never went away and the ‘me generation’ still reigns supreme.

Yes, we can, was optimistic, but it was steamrolled by, no, you can’t. We see the price our society is willing to pay for that. We know what our society can be bullied into doing. No, you can’t. Right?

Look, I know this is preachy. I know in the great scheme of the universe, mine is but a photon of a thought. But that thought can’t be dimmed. I don’t want to say no, you can’t.

That is the point. No, you can’t is an accusation as much as an edict. Yes, we can, is as communal as much as an aspiration. Yet this is where we are. This is exactly what the nihilists and deists want. If we are screaming at each other, we won’t feel the water lapping our ankles.

I finished that and let out a long and sad sigh. Let me make one last pitch. Even if you don’t believe we are dangerously changing our planet, wouldn’t you want to leave it in good shape anyway? Remember, we are never alone on this third rock from the sun. What I do can affect you and vice-versa.

If we aren’t careful, there may be none of us left to affect. If you could make one little difference, would you? If your answer is no, then move aside. Stay in your shell. Tell me I can’t change things. Say, no, you can’t.

Regardless, if you know me, I will.

The great sci-fi author David Gerrold introduced an idea to me years ago in his Chtorr books. It is the question of whether you are a guest or a host.

A guest expects someone to clean their bathroom, make their bed, and generally be catered to. A host is the one doing the cleaning and catering. The guest doesn’t worry if the bed is made, because it will be.

I vow to be a host. I want there to be another millennium of tomorrows. To my mind, this isn’t a question of right and left, but it has been made one. So, for right now, I am willing to settle for, yes, I can and hope that you can too.

Grandpops and Pop-pops

I wasn’t gifted a lot of great father figures and even worse authority figures. Without having a therapy session, let’s just say that my anxiety over being a Pop, the daddy to another life, was heavy. 

I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. I learned both out of love and necessity. I remember when I held them for the first time. Each new bundle into the family. I wanted. The one Diane wanted. The one we wanted (I have a lot of weights, chains, and baggage revolving around feeling unwanted. I never, ever wanted my children to feel that way).

If I had no great father figures, it was balanced by being gifted a grandfather who adored me. He was the only paternal force in my life for three months every year. And what a force it was.

Even when he was stern, you knew he loved you. This glorious feeling was in stark contrast to what I experienced at home, particularly when I was little. His love was a reprieve from some pretty dark events in my childhood.

The most important lesson I learned from him was to be true to myself (I said learned, not practiced, and still not practiced well). Grandpop was from the “Dr, it hurts when I do this, Dr. says, then don’t do that” school of grand-parenting. 

I mean, he wasn’t going to have us roaming the hills with shotguns in some weird Lord of the Flies game in the shadow of Mt. Hood. But, he probably would have taken that into stride too, and you would feel really stupid and sad that you disappointed him. Dr. says don’t, then don’t.

I guess the point I am making is that I had a great grandpop, who loved me. It was that simple love that gave me the motivation to make I didn’t visit the drama, fireworks, accusations or recriminations from my childhood on my children(if you lived there, you know what I am talking about).

I am a Pop-pop now and have far less anxiety about the whole grandpa thing than I did becoming a dad. After all these years of thinking about how great my grandpop was that I realized why that relationship resonated.

He let me define it.

His arms were always open, regardless of how that definition changed based on the whims of childhood. It’s hard to put in words. My relationship with him was just as important to him as his with me. Does that make sense?

I want my grandchild to feel that same way.

Love for your children is a great and overwhelming force. Love for a grandchild is comforting (and to be honest, filled with happy tears. Like, all the time. I see a picture, and… there I go with the waterworks). The force is more peaceful but no less intense. 

It is being proud of the parents for taking on this act of radical hope. It is the familial bonding with a new life. Above all, it is that experience of joy, and leading to bliss. Welcome, little one (am I crying? Maybe). 

Of course, I am not there dealing with all the fun baby stuff (welcome to having awesome diaper stories, kids). But the next generation is there to care for the next generation (though being around a newborn, does recall many memories from my own days of parenting and infant). 

I see my job as my grandpop’s was. To love and nurture. To let that child be true to themselves. I can be that Pop-pop just like my grandpop.

Is it just me or is death a popular subject?

You like it when I almost die

I have had occasion to tread the edge of the abyss in my life, more than even twice (and mostly all of my own doing). These penultimate experiences are apparently interesting to readers (in the literal sense, as the lights are ready to blink out).


My two most viewed blog posts this year are about near-death (or at least feeling extremely mortal). It is easier to share the big things, the dramatic things. And of course, I understand. Those are things that interest us.

It’s never the twenty choices, stuffed feelings, and interactions. It’s never, ‘I have been psychotically depressed for the past year’ and all the attendant problems. 

In any one of those steps, I could have accepted an intervention. Of course, I ignored it. I was too busy killing myself softly and slowly with whatever was at hand. Things that hastened the end. 

I, like a lot of us, was in the fast lane and I didn’t even see the offramp until I ripped across six lanes to bail on the whole thing. 

It isn’t even that I was in the fast lane. I shouldn’t have been in the car in the first place. Still, I sped down the highway of life.

Choose Life?

It is a difficult thing, the human pre-occupation with going over the past. Which, as a learning experience? Fine. But most of us don’t do that, do we? We kick our own asses in almost every uncomfortable musing unlocked by our brain (look at it this way, your bad moment might be somebody’s cocktail party story. A little infamy ain’t so bad).

For me, the fast lane took my mind off the matter. That finding of obsessions, aggressions, regressions, and digressions (ha, he said digressions, but I digress). The world flying by is better than wallowing or so I said. In reality, it all catches up with you.

stacked skulls in BW

It wasn’t about me

I am here because of the choices I made, but just as importantly, choices others made to lend a hand. My pit was mine, but my climb out was made possible by everybody around me. None of them gave up, even though I was full shit. 

I was in the grip of Demon Opiate and would say anything to get more. No, that they didn’t throw me out was the real miracle. Yes, I accepted their hand when I was in the depths, but they pulled back. 

I wanted them to trust me again (in particular, Diane, who was the brunt of most of my dishonesty, and frankly, if anybody had reason to give up, it was her. That is one of the best miracles in my life. That she didn’t throw me away), I hope they do. I try to honor their saving some grace for me. I hope I do. I am still here.

Thank you.

The Art Of Saying Goodbye

I know some people lost interest or even slagged David Bowie post ‘Let’s Dance’ and moved on to the next thing. Actually, David was returned to his fans after being ‘the biggest thing in the musical world’ (it’s weird to think that, but David was never bigger than ‘Let’s Dance’, selling ten million copies and three million more than his previous bestselling album, ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars’). 

Bowie had some misses after a decade of dominance, but there is a lot of wheat in the chaff. To that point, David’s final two albums have become as dear to me as any (and I really love all his albums very different reasons).

They are true meditations on life, fame, and mortality. He gifted a final statement on a life that is legendary. Not all artists get to do that.

I am not saying David Bowie didn’t still have music left in him, like Tom Petty or Prince, but Bowie was able to share one last bit of insight before he left us. I feel like ‘The Next Day’ and ‘Blackstar’ are perfect codas to the symphony that was David Bowie’s life. (Neil Peart springs to mind here. He gave us a goodbye, unintentional though it may be. Listen to ‘The Garden’ of the final RUSH album, ‘Clockwork Angels’. Oof*.)

Blackstar

Famously the video and the title song, ‘Blackstar’, seem to conclude the cycle for Major Tom. People always said that Major Tom was an avatar for David. I don’t know if that is true, but even in the story of an astronaut adrift in space, we were granted one last goodbye (okay, the whole spaceman adrift in the world thing is totally David. We all know Major Tom was a junky).

It is the song ‘Lazarus’ that I find moving. It feels like David working through his diagnosis and the reality of his final days.  I feel it because, while I am not dying, I too am suspended in a space where I am not well and never will be. These words are powerful on so many levels;

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now

Everybody may not know me, but like when I was a teenager and David let me know that being a freak wasn’t a bad thing, he left a goodbye saying it was still okay. And this verse, pure emotional Bowie;

Oh I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me

David gave his fans everything until it was time to go, dying just days after Blackstar was released. It was a parting gift. A way of telling us, after all these years, that he was okay. ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ put it succinctly;

Seeing more and feeling less
Saying no but meaning yes
This is all I ever meant
That’s the message that I sent

Like all things in his life, David mastered the art of goodbye. What a piece of art it is.

Don’t believe for just one second I’m forgetting you
I’m trying to
I’m dying to
Dollar Days — David Bowie

* These verses from Neil in particular;
The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect
So hard to earn, so easily burned
In the fullness of time
A garden to nurture and protect

The future disappears into memory
With only a moment between
Forever dwells in that moment
Hope is what remains to be seen

The Garden — lyrics: Neil Peart music; Geddy Lee & Alex Lifeson

The World As We Know It

There is an ancient curse, wishing you to live in interesting times. Could the times be more interesting? It’s enough to make revelationists quiver with anticipation. Plagues, wars, and rumors of wars seem pretty biblical.

People are always crowing about the end of the world. It is easy to claim and easier to cash in on. It concerns me that it is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I guess my point is, that the world could be ending and they are coming at us in all ways, from the pious to the nihilist. In every case, they present you with the same answer.

Give up.

Either you have heavenly salvation or don’t and either way, there is nothing you can do, Why bother recycling if the world is just going to end anyway? Right? 

Why bother to fight?

I can’t stand by and watch the world burn. I just can’t. I want to have an answer for my grandchild when they ask what I did.

I tried to stand. 

There is much talk about Ukraine and whether we would be brave or how we would behave, or even what bravery is. I don’t know how I would react. And you don’t either. 

It should be easier to make choices in a slow-moving disaster, than in a missile-scarred landscape. Part of that is more work. It means understanding the issues beyond changing the color of your social media profile. It means finding places where you can fit in and make the cogs of progress turn.

Some may run for office (which, all politics are local, right? Maybe running for a local office isn’t the worse thing you could do) and they may aspire to even higher positions, or you may just write letters on behalf of a cause or maybe arrange rides to the polls. 

As I said, I can’t stand by. My children and their children will be part of the future and I want them to know, that I did what I could.

I see other people choosing to stand. I know standing in front of a tank is very different from writing a letter to a member of the Walton family or attending a march. (I maintain, that if Walmart or Kroger said, ‘we will no longer allow non-biodegradable packaging’ and set a date? You would see action on that front.)

Still, let’s all try to stand.

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