Monthly Archives: March 2010

Fortunate Son, or, "An Open Letter To My Late Father, On His Birthday"

Dear Pop,

First of all – Happy Birthday!

I know there were plenty of times in the past when your birthday rolled around, and I didn’t call or anything. I know, I was an angry asshole of a kid. I’m sorry for all of that. I find myself wishing someone would build a time machine, so I could roll on back and spend more time with you, and show more love/affection toward you – especially after everything we went through together at the end of 2005.

Secondly – I really miss you, man. Like, a lot.

Nobody busts my balls like you did. Plenty of people try, but it’s just not the same. Maybe it’s because of the shared DNA, but you always had this magically precise manner and a kind of craftsmanship that can never be replicated. Whenever I do something really stupid, I still hear your voice in my head – cracking wise, but with that tone that always said “you’re an idiot, but I love you.”

I can honestly say that there hasn’t been anyone in my life that has had as much of an influence over the kind of motherfucker that I am right now than you. You taught me so much – some of it without even realizing you’d done so, I’m sure. In a lot of ways, you taught me who I wanted to be, and who I didn’t want to be. Sometimes within a ten second span.

Remember how when you were sick you had said to me that the book you’d really love to read would be the one about all the “crazy women” I had dated?

Well, that’s not exactly the book I’ve been writing, Pop.

Instead, I’ve been working on something a little different. I’ve been working on this thing about us, and about what we went through together when you got sick. A memoir-type of thing. It’s really hard to do, to be honest – I‘m trying to balance all of these other memories with the memories of the period of time when you were sick and I was helping to take care of you. Not to mention trying to tell the story without any bitterness attached to it (which is really hard at times, but not as hard as I thought it would be, considering all of the circumstances), and trying to be as emotionally honest as I can be about the things going on inside of me during that period of time.

My friend Melissa just wrote a memoir, and in an interview she said something that really struck me deep and hard –

People don’t imagine memoirists doing much research, but that’s a misconception. I did a lot of research for this book, and some of it was internal.

That part is really fucking hard for me, Pop. The data mining in my innermost places. The stuff buried in the code in the back of my head, the stuff that only you and I really know about. There are times I find myself sitting here at this computer, and as I uncoil a sentence or a string of them, I have to get up and walk away from everything. Sometimes I have to go and lock myself in the bathroom, running the tub to hide the sounds that come out of me as I am laying curled up on the floor.

I realize that sounds dramatic, and you would probably laugh at me for it if you saw me sprawled out on the floor – it isn’t a very big bathroom to begin with – but it really hurts that you’re not around anymore.


I know that I wasn’t always The Good Son. I know that there were things that I did throughout my life that aggravated you to no end. I get that. And the same goes for you, Pop. We had many a terrible clash, didn’t we? Whenever I read something about Irish fathers and their sons, I suddenly find myself nodding my head in agreement – the constant struggle for supremacy within the household, the never-ending battle for upper hand, whether it was physical, emotional, or mental.

It was all just a part of the cycle, you know?

As I’ve gotten older, and as a lot of things about you (and myself, for that matter) have been revealed, I’ve begun to feel like the enigma I once saw you as has almost turned into my looking into a mirror at my True Self. We’re just so fucking similar in so many ways that nobody else would ever understand. Kids today like to joke around about so-and-so being their “Spirit Animal,” and things like that.

I think you’re my Spirit Animal, Pop.


I catch myself – almost daily – having some of your well-worn catch phrases rolling off of my own tongue. I find myself yelling at the television when I am watching a hockey game. Like you, I use being boisterous as a way to cover up my almost-sickening level of sensitivity. It has been pointed out to me that I intimidate people with my silence. I brood like you did. I try not to hold grudges, but when I’ve had enough and feel like someone has wronged me in a way that is unforgivable, I hold fast to banishing them from my world much like you would – even when a part of me doesn’t really want to.

But back to the monstrosity that I’m working on for a minute – the time between your death and now has been a really amazing journey. I’m not sure if I can express the right amount of gratitude and respect for you through language. Like I said – I’m trying really hard, Pop. I am. It isn’t easy to cram thirty-five years of interpersonal dynamics into a book that really only spans a period of roughly ninety days or so. Every time I start to write out something that happened in the immediate timeline of events, other buried memories that interconnect come hissing out of me like a slow leak.

There is a lot of chatter out there in the big Literary World, about how memoir isn’t “art,” or “real writing.” Some people out there prefer made-up stories to things that really happened. And you know me, Pop – I’m cool with everyone for the most part. Just dig what you dig, and love it with all your heart. A lot of people also think that writing a memoir is a selfish act, as if by doing so one is doing nothing more than cramming their ego down everyone’s throat.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this. And for me, I’m not sure that my motivation has anything to do with any of that egocentric shit. If it does, it certainly hasn’t reared up and shown itself to me in that type of light. If anything, I am writing the only story I know I can truly write. At least for right now. The story about how you and I were somehow able to forgive one another for everything without even saying a word about any of it. About how we were able to communicate with each other through our eyes and our movements.


This story burns inside of me, Pop. Our story.

For a while, I was really concerned about the effect this story would have on other, unnamed people. After speaking with some friends who have written memoirs, it became clear to me that it doesn’t matter how the story effects anyone else if I tell the truth. The only people who will be upset are the people who weren’t paying attention to what was really happening. You cannot sue someone for being honest. And if there is one thing I have learned over the years, my Truth is all I really have that belongs to me. If I tell the story as it unfolded, and hold nothing back, there is nothing to be worried about.

And that’s all I really have to say about that.

I haven’t done a very good job of staying in touch with your siblings. I’m probably going to try and call your twin brother tonight to wish him a happy birthday as well, but I’m nervous about that. I haven’t spoken to him for a couple of years now, and well, you know how I get, Pop. Sometimes it’s a little bit easier to just lurk in the shadows of someone’s mind than to actually participate in their life. Maybe that’s something I can work on, you know? Something to shoot for.

I miss you a lot. Happy Birthday. Thank you for being my father, warts and all.

Love,

Sean

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Busload Of Faith, or, "Be Careful What You Wish For, You Just Might Get It"


This is just going to be a brief little update, followed by something that I had posted on my old site, back in August of 2006. I’m posting it, because I was reminded of it today when a couple of good friends of mine revealed that they were going through some really rough shit – and it immediately caused my mind to flash back to one of the lowest and most desperate times in my own life.

I’ve been having a rough time with some things lately as well. I’m holding fast to the health thing, and working really hard to maintain the emotionally healthy ideas I set for myself for 2010. The health thing has actually been way easier than I thought it would. Once I established the patterns of eating healthier, my body now craves that healthier food. I’m still chugging down lakes of water daily, and I have yet to have a single soda or a cup of coffee since I began doing this back in January.

Physically, I feel pretty fucking good.

Emotionally, on the other hand…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my sobriety, and about the effect it has on my relationships with people.

I stopped imbibing almost three years ago. It was something I had wanted to do for a while, and had tried to do many times in the past. In the past, I was usually only able to quit for a little while, but it was very hard to suppress my innermost Hank Chinaski (also referenced in the letter posted at the end of this here Ramble) – the allure of a dimly lit speakeasy (and the cast of characters commonly found within it) coupled with the tractor beam of a well-balanced glass of whiskey was a constant niggling, pulling me into those magical and darkened corners. Most of the time that I was in the process of quitting, I was choosing which vice would get to live on – if I was going to stop drinking – I kept on smoking pot and eating bars of Xanax like candy, or if I was planning on giving up the reefer – I would start drinking more red wine and popping Valiums. I was a fucking mess.

Obviously, this wasn’t a very good pattern for me – choosing between one vice or the other.

This time it was much easier, and very different. I didn’t seek anyone else’s help, I just made a decision and stopped. Everything. No more pills, booze, reefer. I gave it all up, and have honestly never looked at the road behind me – I just keep pushing forward. I do not question, at all, my choice to no longer “get fucked up.” If anything, it was a long time coming – and not just for the reasons that would seem easy enough for anyone to suss out.

It was just time.

In the beginning stages of cleaning myself up, I was very nervous about how my friends were going to take it – most of the time that we all spent together involved me drinking brutish volumes of liquor. I was the guy that someone could call at three in the morning and meet up for a drink. I just didn’t give a fuck. And now, here I was, cutting that part right the fuck on out of me. How were my friends going to take it? Were they going to shun me? I really was kind of terrified – I had just been through a lot of really heavy shit in a short period of time (which the letter below spells out), and the few friends I had – I really wanted to keep them, and keep them close.

They actually adjusted pretty well. In fact – quite a few of them confessed that they had hoped I was going to make such a change, because they were worried that I was going to drink myself to death.

In the rightfuckingnow, I’m definitely happy with my decision to clean my life up – I would never go back to being that Sean. But, and this is serious now, at times I feel as though new people that I meet figure out or find out that I am sober (it’s not like I walk around rocking a Youth Of Today shirt and talking about the evils of poisoning oneself with drugs and hooch), and they immediately get fucking weird. Am I an alcoholic? Yeah. Am I a junkie? Yeah. I’ll always be those things – it’s not like I can just erase the memory banks completely – all I have done is change my behaviors and made a decision to no longer “get fucked up.” I appreciate being clearheaded now, and I appreciate the fact that when there is a problem, my first instinct is no longer to drown my sorrows and try to erase the problem – I deal with shit now. For real.

Much like everything else – this might all be in my head – but sometimes it feels like people have a harder time with my sobriety than I do with their imbibing. When people get that wonky look in their eye and feel the need to ask for my permission to have a drink in my presence, that’s when I start to realize that I need to step back a bit, really look at that relationship, and try to figure out how much value there is in it. Is this judgmental of me? Yeah, a little bit. But that’s unfortunately how I have to do things. I’m not concerned with me suddenly changing my mind and running to the nearest liquor store and guzzling down a bottle of Maker’s Mark outside on the sidewalk – the decision to be sober has been made, and I am more than cool with it. What I’m not cool with, is when people who I am emotionally investing in (and let’s get on motherfucking Front Street, people – a friendship is an emotional investment) treat me like a fucking leper or a lesser-than because I’m not rolling the way they roll. If you’re in my presence, and feel self-conscious about your habits, then that is something broken inside of you, not me. Believe that.

ANYWAYS…

So – that’s what has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s funny in a way – there is a lot of truth to all of the koans written about the nature of water. One ripple creates so many more.

Below is this goddamn letter I keep on referencing. I wrote it, funnily enough, in an opiate/alcohol haze back in the summer of 2006. I got clean for good almost three years to the day from today – my last drink was on March 16, 2007 – a shot of Jameson’s for my old man. Not one drop has hit these lips since.

Take care of yourselves, and be good to each other. Life is too fucking short not to.

————————

Dear Universe,

I don’t really know how we’ve ended up in this predicament, but it seems as though we’re at an impasse in our relationship. I feel really awkward writing about our relationship out here on the interweb, but I’m not sure you’ve been hearing me in my attempts at daily commiseration with you.

It feels like this cry for help could be my last shot at some kind of open dialogue/reconciliation with you.

Lately it seems as though every time I reach for your hand, you pull away from me. I’m not sure what it is that I did to offend you, but it hurts. Our relationship used to be so much stronger than this, and I feel very disconnected. This feeling of disconnection from you is leading me into a deeper well of depression, and I am starting to become concerned that the damage is not only irreparable, but also permanently scarring.

My psyche is a wee bit too fragile for this shit from you, Universe, and I honestly expected a little bit more from you than this.

Maybe you think I’ve been taking our relationship for granted, or something along those lines? It seems so cliché, but that’s not about you, it’s about me. I certainly haven’t been blaming you for all of these trials and tribulations that have been tossed my way over the last 36 months or so, have I? I felt as though I was handling things pretty well, taking responsibility for my own complicity in the events that have transpired around me. For some otherworldly reason, I’ve yet to point my finger at you out of anger for the multitude of humbling and soul-shattering moments you’ve laid at my feet.

Is that what you want me to do?

If blaming you is what you want from me, I am going to have to disappoint you some more. I’m not in the blame business, and at this point in our relationship – you should already know that I have outgrown that kind of behavior. Hell…you taught me to love, not hate. So why would you want me to blame you, for things that were/are/will be beyond my control? I can’t do that, and you know it.

Fuck it. Hold up.

Okay. Fine. You know what, Universe? I am a little bit pissed off at you, okay? Maybe I do need to scream at you a bit; to get this shit out of my chest and out into the ether.

Why, oh Grand Universe, have you decided that consistently testing my ability to keep from becoming some fucking mess of a man is so important to you? Was it necessary to take both of my fucking parents from me, before I had the chance to ever feel as though I actually made them proud of me for anything other than mundane bullshit that any mouth-breather on this rock could pull off? Was it totally necessary to take from me a friend that I felt like I had known my entire life, and was motherfucking sure I would end up knowing for the rest of my time here on terra firma? Does it continue to be necessary to have The Holy Rollers judging me and fucking stealing from me what was left for me by my grandmother (whom you also took from me much too fucking quickly, you fucking sadist, you)? Do you think it’s fucking funny that my sister can’t return my calls? Why do I have to be so fucking tested all the time? Putting obstacles in my path seems to be your sick and twisted manner of showing me affection, Universe.

Right now I am screaming the safe word at you, yet you continue to flog away.

I’m not totally sure what it is that I have done to hurt you so deeply that you would act this way, but whatever it is I am sorry. It’s also unnecessary for you to continue to fuck with my friends as well. This isn’t high school – it’s life. My friends are for the most part all goodly people, and I think whatever it is that you have out for me is more than enough. Leave them alone, okay?

The only times I even feel remotely connected to you anymore are during the smallest hours. When I am walking and wandering in the night, headphones set to stun, with the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop. There are fleeting moments during these meanderings where it feels like old times; memories flooding into my subconscious mind like the connection is wide open again. Remembering my ability to rise above and overcome. Feeling invincible, yet remaining humble within your womb. During these moments, I am almost always close to tears, because I miss the intimacy and closeness of our relationship much more than you could ever realize.

This is having a major impact on my other relationships, Universe. Because we’re so distant, I cannot seem to allow myself to get close to anyone or anything lately. Maybe it’s the usual fear of abandonment shit I drag behind me like Linus (can you fucking blame me, after all the rugs that have been yanked out from under my feet?), I don’t know for sure. But I do know that it’s becoming more and more likely that I will turn into some drier and much more celibate version of Henry Chinaski if things keep rolling this way. Nobody wants to be friends, or “intimate”(do I need to spell that out for you?) with the guy who cannot connect. Nobody wants to hang out with the guy who can’t make any kind of commitment to anything other than the unknown.

I’m not sure if or even how we’re going to be able to reconcile this mess we’re in, Universe. I know that there’s a part of me that’s hollow now; a space that you used to occupy is empty and in need of filling. I used to believe in you without the smallest shadow of doubt, yet here I am writing you an open letter on the interweb like a jilted teenager. Placing not only blame at your feet, but also my disdain. You broke my fucking heart, and you continue to do so on an almost daily basis. You’ve taken away from me almost as much as you’ve given me over the years, and you’ve done it all very quickly and methodically.

This is me, throwing up my hands and begging you to slow your roll. Begging you to give me some room to breathe and recover who I am underneath all of this rubble. This is me asking you to maybe let up a little bit and allow me to find some answers before the next Big Letdown happens, so that the next one doesn’t push me over the edge into the well of insanity that I’ve been dancing on for a while now. This is me asking you from the tiniest portions of my broken fucking heart…for a reprieve.

After all we’ve been through Universe, it’s the least that you could do for me.

Sorry if there was some anger in this letter, but I can’t hold stuff in all the time – it’ll kill me. I don’t want to be some Emergency Room casualty because I kept all of my anger in until my heart bursts at the seams (that’s just not how this story is supposed to end). I’m also sorry if I gripe too much – I’ll work on that.

I hope this letter finds a good place in you, and we can figure out some way to work through and salvage our relationship, Universe. It’ll be worth it if we can. For both of us.

Be well,

Sean

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