I’m not sure there’s a way to spell, “Arghngh!”

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” 
― Allen Saunders

I was thinking about the people I know today.  All of us have these silly little plans and ideas about how to make life go.  We decide on a route for our lives, and then watch as it all falls apart around us.  So what do we do when we get to these crossroads, these moments when we can change everything?
When we started that new adventure three and a half years ago, we didn’t know where it would take us.  We still don’t.  But we had a plan.  That plan changed in a lot of ways.  I don’t know that we would have planned for it to take us to this point, but here we are.  Life happened anyway.  For the last year though, we have been stuck in limbo, unable to more forward.  Life felt like it was waiting for something to give.  We have felt so stuck.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” 
― George Bernard Shaw

The kind of stuck where nothing is moving; a bottleneck on the freeway of life.  Most of the reason that I haven’t felt inspired lately.  My brain is too full from everything else that is going on to cut out the noise and work the way I need it to.  Full of worry from not being able to find a place to live after looking and applying for 7 months.  Worry about jobs and cars and having a 2-year old and everything else that surrounds a person in our modern world.
Stuck in neutral is no way to move forward.  It makes everything seem tied up.  And the more you try to move forward, the less headway you make.  It takes more effort just to stay in the same place.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
― Albert Einstein

For far too long, I have felt that I am standing still; haven’t been able to travel, haven’t had a place to live, haven’t been able to finish the things that I want to work on.  Finally, after a three-year wait and a seven-month search, we have found a place to live.  We have two trips planned and paid for over the next 6-weeks.  I am writing again.  Life is strange and hard and crazy.  It will keep after you and keep pushing you.  You have to keep moving.
The jam is starting to clear and everything is moving again.  Things are still unknown, and life is still throwing curve balls, but finally things are happening.  And I am so excited for it.

Return

It’s been a rough month.

Not in any big way, but in a million little small ones.

I have been fighting with my depression, like spinning with a pail full of water; if I slow down my rotation, the water will come spilling out.  I have felt the pull of depression a lot the last few weeks.  Not wanting to get out of bed.  Being short tempered with friends and family.

And not writing.

When I write, I tend to look inside myself, and sometimes I just don’t feel like I will sruvive the process.  But now it is an infection, swollen and painful.  I have to dig it out, before I can start to heal.

So, after a year on this blog, I took a month off.  I let the bad parts of life win for a little while.  I allowed myself to feel bad.  It’s time to get back.  It’s time to get better.

Happy Anniversary!

Almost exactly a year ago, I posted my first story to this blog.  Since that day, I have posted 62 other posts.  I have had an outlet for story ideas, for travels, and for things I just wanted to talk about.  I have had a place to say that I feel sad, but that it’s ok.  I have had a place to talk about terror and happy times.  I have had a place to share with friends.

Thank you for being a part of that.

The next year will see a lot of changes; we are looking for home, we are planning some travels over the next few months, and I’ve still got stories I want to tell.

I don’t know what the next year holds for sure, but I know you’ll hear about it here.

#Love

Love is such a difficult emotion to put a definition to.  We love foods, or coffee.  We love places, and books, and activities.  We love individuals and groups and bands.  We love our animals, and we love movies.

Our families and friends have our love and affection.  We shower significant people with our love, or they cease to be significant in one form or another.  But try to define what that feeling is.  Butterflies in the stomach?  A nervous look?  These might be early love, but they certainly are not what relationships grow to become.  There is the love of parents, the love we have for our children, and the love we have with our siblings.  The love we have for our other halves.  But none of these are the same.

Very often, we spend so much time trying to decide what love is, we forget that it is an emotion; a temorary state of being.  That true love takes time to develop.  But what if this feeling we call love, isn’t really love at all.

Everyone has this notion that love has to be the strongest emotion.  That you can’t love someone you just met.  That love must grow or develop.  That it has to be a deeper insight into our souls.  But what if love is just that: Love.  Goodwill towards the rest of mankind.  The positive side of the coin.  What if Love is what happens when we find peace.  The peace of our family and friends.  Of our companions and our comforts.  Our favorites things and places.  What if Love, really is everywhere.

Because if you look, you will see it hiding in plain sight.

A Writer’s Predicament

The last few weeks have been fairly steady in the writing department for me.  I have been able to not only put out a regular post every Wednesday, but I have been able to post a quick blurb and recap every Sunday.  I wanted to try this kind of a format and see if it was sustainable for me, especially during a time when my schedule would allow it.  It has been wonderful to get be able to put out pieces on a fairly regular basis and the feedback from people has been positive.

However, now things are coming to a point: I am getting ready for a vacation, I am developing an idea for a novel, I am actively writing a novella, and I am helping to edit a colleague’s book.  I’m a little busy.

Believe me, this is a wonderful problem to have.  I started this blog a year ago to try and push myself to be a better writer.  To develop the ideas inside of me.  To work through problems.  To evolve my own voice.  I have been able to do that, and will continue to work at it.  I am finding ways to create content, and, more importantly, to get it out on time.  This is a very big thing for me.  Deadlines have not always been my friend.

My current predicament, however, is just the kind of problem I have always wanted; I have too many ideas.  I have struggled writing posts precisely because I have so many things to say.  Most of my creative writing efforts are going into the long forms that I’m working on, leaving me with more non-fiction works for my blog.  But even those need research, fact-checking, drafts, editing.

Last week I was getting fairly discouraged.  I did not feel that I was putting out my best work on the blog, I had stalled on my novel, and all of my writing just felt flat.  I emailed a long time collaborator, and she asked me a very simple question; why do you write?  Her answer is the same as mine.  The same for most people who write.

I do it because I have to.  I write to not go insane.  I write to get the stories out.  I write to create worlds and tell tales and to get my point across.  I write because I’ve tried not writing, and it almost killed me.

Maybe I will never finish the stories I’m working on.  Maybe I will never be on the New York Times Bestseller List.  Maybe I will never make money on my writing.  But that isn’t why I write.  I write because it is who I am.  I write to survive.

I will continue to write.  Sometimes it will be good, and sometimes it will be bad.  Sometimes I will be uninspired and struggle to put out a post saying I am having a hard time putting out a post.  But sometimes, every once in a while, I will be great.  And I will keep trying, and keep improving, because I have to.

Thank you for coming along for the ride.


I’m on vacation this week, but please stay tuned for a very special post this week from Krisann Gentry.  She has been my friend, editor, and confidant for many years, and is truly a wonderful person and friend.  And I can’t wait to see what she has to say on Wednesday.

  • Check out last week’s post, A letter to my son.
  • My friends at Nicolife have released the 5th episode.  Enjoy.
  • Found a fun data chart of The Beatles, answering many questions you never knew you had.  Give it a look here.

 

Rewind – Salmonella

This week is a post rewind.  I am working on a few other projects and prepping for a long-awaited and well-earned vacation with my family.  So this week, enjoy a story I wrote for a project called Flash Fiction Friday that my friend Krisann sponsored a couple of years back.  And speaking of Krisann, I am pleased to announce that she will be Sword & Quill’s first guest blogger.  Look for her post on March 16.


It sat before him, like an idol in some long ago temple.  The din of conversation and music was the buzzing of flies, and the sound of firecrackers no more than far off gunshots.

It was Independence Day, the middle of the hot summer.  And here he was.  While everyone else thought they were at a family bar-b-que, to him it was training for some war, not yet started; ice buckets, hot embers blown up into the air, dogs, sisters and squirt guns.  And this.  It was Agent Orange, Napalm, the Weapon of Mass Destruction they had never found: Aunt Clarice’s Egg Salad.

The red plaid table-cloth fluttered innocently in the slight breeze caused by two cousins chasing each other.  He just kept staring at it with an unblinking gaze, as if afraid that if he took his eyes off it for a second it would leap down his throat.  The picnic table was the tower built for the Trinity Bomb, and it was almost time for detonation.

He looked up to the sun.  97 degrees.  He shook his head.  Poor bastards, they’re not even going to know what hit them.  He could see them preparing plates; tri-tip, beans, salad, potatoes, fruit.  The laughter and joy mingled in his mind with thoughts of what that Egg Salad would do to these people.

Suddenly, he saw the first spoonful dip into the creamy top layer, and something snapped.  He exploded from his prone position, running full speed, as fast as his legs would take him. He zeroed in on the target, a bullseye over the glass bowl.  He hit it with the force of a rocket, and watched in fascination as it blew apart upon the ground.

He breathed a sigh of relief, a dollop of egg salad on his nose.  The threat was neutralized.  He knew there would be yelling, but he didn’t do it for the recognition.  He looked around and, for the first time, noticed that the conversation had stopped.  Everyone was looking at him.  He looked at his parents for the first time.  They looked at each other.

“There’s something not quite right with that dog…”

That Woman: Part 4 of a Story

For Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

The Woman and Mr. Williams

The moment was palpable.

I was riding the elevator down from the 32nd floor, my mind still on the meeting I had just left.  The music was irritating in a vauge way and the person behind me was standing too uncomfortably close.

I was just thinking about what i would have for dinner, and that maybe I would have a beer with it.  Maybe I would even take John and Marie up on their offer to go listen to a friend of theirs play a club downtow…the doors opened.

The moment was palpable.

Everything was right; blonde hair cascading around her face and shoulders like a retro-chic waterfall, the blue eyes that were cold as ice and as warm as a summer pool, the high cheekbones and button nose, the business suit that fit just so.

I noticed other things while we talked; her grandmother’s ring on her right index finger, the black patent leather heels that made her feel taller, the same slightly worn Coach briefcase.  But all of that took time to see.

All I could see were her eyes.


“How long did you talk to each other?”

The question brought me back.  I had gotten lost again.  I cleared my throat.  “Not long.  Maybe five minutes.”

“What did you talk about?”

I took a deep breath.  The bastard wasn’t going to like my answer.  “Nothing.”


“Linds.”  I always called her that.

“Oh my G…Jake.”

You know how sometimes movies do that effect where they’ve mounted a camera on the guy’s chest and then do a strange time state so that the image behind him moves all jerky and weird, but the character stays perfectly center in the frame?  That’s how I felt.  Like the world was crumbling around me, but I was the calm center of it.

“Hi Linds.”  The doors started to close.  We both reached to stop them, our hands almost touching.  I hadn’t even noticed everyone filing out around me.  I’m sure they shot me dirty looks.  It was hard to care at that moment.

“Umm…how are you?”

“I’m…,” how do you even begin to answer a question asked by your ex-fiancée while running into her three years later in the lobby of an office building.  I chuckled at the ridiculousness.  “I’m fine.”

“Good.”  She didn’t seem sure.  “What are you doing here?”

“A firm is wanting to do some remodeling.”

“Oh!  We are renting some space on 14 while we wait for the Newbourne Building to finish it’s facelift.  Wish they had given it to your group.  It’s taken forever.”

“Yeah.  Look Lindsey, we don’t ha…”

“I’m sorry Jake.”  I saw tears welling up in those blue pools.

“Stop.”

“No, really.  I’ve wanted to call and…”

“Stop.  Stop it.”


“And that’s how you left it?”

“Yeah.  I told her to stop.  I told her I was fine.  She was fine.  I told her that life moves on and things get better and…  I told her to stop.”

“Have you stopped Jake?  Have you taken your own advice?”

“Of course.  Only reason I called was because I missed the view out of your window.  Thought it might be nice to come poke a needle into an infected wound that’s five days fresh.”

“Have you moved on?”  He has started ignoring my smartassedness.  Not a good sign.

“Sure!  I got a new apartment.  Started a new architecture firm.  Even started going to a new bar.  I’ve totally moved on.”

“Are things better?  Are you better?”

I turned to look out the window again.  The ferry steam out into the harbor again.  I thought about my life and how it had changed.  I thought about how I would answer.  About how much I wished he would have just let me have that drink at the beginning.

“We did a lot of good work today Jake.  But that’s all the time we have.  Let’s meet again next week.”

Bastard.


I walked down the street.  The warm day was just developing an edge of coolness that spoke of evening arriving.  A breeze was coming off the bay, and I knew soon the fog would come with it.

I was lost in my thoughts; about my feelings for Linds, about the life I thought I was heading towards and in so many ways, still clinging to.  I thought about the changes I had made and why I had made them.  Why no relationship of mine had worked in the three years since Lindsey had left.

When I finally looked up I realized I was in my old neighborhood.  I had walked nearly 2 miles in the wrong direction.  I chuckled at myself, “Typical.”

I looked at the cross-streets.  There’s a pretty nice bar about a block down there, I thought to myself.  “Let’s toast to old memories.”

I pushed the door open, and sat at the bar.  It was empty and quiet inside.  The bartender sidled over.

“What’ll you have?”

“Double Jameson, on the rocks.”

“You got it.”  He busied himself with the drink.

A sign hung behind the bar, “Time flies like a arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”  I read it as he handed me my drink.  I raised my glass to it.  “I’ll drink to that.”

The liquid burned just a little before the ice cooled my tongue.  It was time to move on.

I took a deep breath, and lowered my glass.

Where did all our friends go?

I got a text message the other day from an old friend.  It was great to hear from them and we chatted back and forth for a bit before the conversation drifted off.

I began thinking about friends.  I have always had a lot of friends, people that I was close to, talked to, hung out with.  I am a friendly person, and that helped.  But I usually only had one or two people I was really close to at a time; a Best Friend.

To those of you that have filled that role for someone, thank you.  You have saved lives.  You have inspired and supported and changed people.  To those have been that for me, I love you for it.

If we have lost touch or moved apart or changed, I’m sorry.  I will always value the relationship we had, and the effect you had on my life.


 

I have some cool stuff I want to share from this week:

  • I have been writing a story.  Check out Part 3 here.
  • I travelled to Santa Barbara, CA for work a couple of weeks ago, and if you are ever there, please go check out Good Cup Downtown.  Seriously.  You owe it to yourself.
  • Some friends of mine are working on a web-series called Nicolife.  Go watch!

Hope all of you have a wonderful week!

That Woman: Part 3 of a Story

For Part 1 and Part 2.

The Sadness and Mr. Williams

I had lied.

Not about a lot, but a couple of little ones sprinkled through.  It made the story better if I left out a couple of parts.  Like not telling Barry I had already gone to Vegas for a lost weekend, and forgotton most of it.  Or like not telling the Doc that the last time I had seen her, technically, was when i had driven past her apartment accidentally on purpose one night.

Or telling the Doc that he was up to speed.  Here’s a tip, doctors don’t want to be up to speed; they want to investigate.  They want to discover.  They want to make it hurt.

They say that’s how the healing happens.

I say they’re sadistic.


“How did it feel when you saw her?”

I watched a yellow and blue sailboat pull into it’s mooring.  I repressed the urge to be a complete smart ass.  “Time stopped.  I wanted to throw up and scream and cry and all I could do was…nothing.”

“But how did you feel?”  He hadn’t looked up.

“I felt frozen.  I felt…what?”  He was shaking his head.  He finally looked up.

“Those aren’t feelings.  Those aren’t emotions.  Those are sensations and reactions.  What did you feel?”

Tricky bastard.  “Like I needed a drink?”  Smart ass had won the battle.

“And we’re back to avoidance.”

“Buildup,” I countered.

“You pay me by the hour.”

He had a point.  I breathed deeply.  “Fear.”  He wrote in his notepad.  “Anger.”  He looked up at me over the edge of his glasses without moving his head.  “And sadness.”

“How do you feel now?”

“Just the saddness.”


Once she walked away, I kept myself composed until I walked into the lobby restroom.  Then I had let go.  There were tears, vomiting, thinking I was done.  More tears.

More vomiting.

I remember making it to the bar down the street.  I remember ordering.  I vaugely remember pouring myself into a cab a couple of hours later.  I don’t remember getting home or falling into my bed.

I knew I was sleeping when I woke up, and I knew I had been dreaming about her because I was crying.  That was all I knew or cared about.  I had seen her.  I had been in front of her.


I had imagined that moment for so long.  I had thought about how it would go.  All the things I was going to say.  How I would tell her how she hurt me.  Apologize if I had hurt her.  That I was finally going to get answers.  I was going to find the truth to what had happened.

Instead, the truth I found was that of normal conversation followed by vomiting.  So pretty much every date I had been on for the last three years.


“So, what happened?”

“When?”

“How did you see her again? How did it happen?”

It was my turn.  I couldn’t keep building it up.  “Well, Doc…”

Continue to Part 4

 

 

Sometimes

Sometimes it happens without you realizing it.  All of a sudden you look up and see that you haven’t written in 2 weeks and that you have been fairly distant, and have tried to keep people at arm’s length.  That maybe, just maybe, you’re fighting some depression.

Having a bout of depression doesn’t always mean that you don’t want to get out of bed, or that you don’t have any energy, or that you start crying for no reason.  At least, not for me.  Sometimes it just means you feel raw.  Exposed.  It means tapping into feelings and emotions is not feasible that day.

Sometimes it means that I don’t have the energy to write.  Sometimes it means I can go to work.  I can survive that, help my clients, do the small talk that is expected.  I can crack jokes and laugh and do what I can to keep people just far enough away.  When it is like that, it means that I have to budget my energy.  I have to figure out what I can do, and be comfortable with that.

That doesn’t mean I stop striving for more, or to be the best i can be, but sometimes I have to accept what that means.  It also means I need to keep watching and learning what this disease looks like for me.

I travelled for work last week.  I spent a week living out of a hotel room, in a place I’m not very familiar with and with people I don’t know.  I missed my son and my wife.  I missed my dog.  I wasn’t eating how I normally do, and I wasn’t sleeping very well.  But it still took me until I got home to realize that I may have been experiencing an attack.  A minor bout, but one all the same.

I set a goal to write a four part story last month, and I didn’t.  But I am not going to let that stop me.  I am still finishing it; Part 3 will come out on Wednesday, Part 4 next Wednesday.  The rest of February will be a break from that format, but I’m going to try again in March.

Keep fighting friends.  We are all in this together.