It’s rare to open the garage first thing in the morning and walk right into a sign that says, “It’s okay to leave the house today.” And yet there I was, face to face with this surprise rainbow. Perfect timing. I needed a rainbow this week.
I’ve never understood normal men, let alone the broken ones. Let’s get that out of the way up front.
Maybe it’s because I read the right books and lucked into the right role models. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a sufficiently damaged home life. Maybe I’m lucky that my father wasn’t an active part of my life. Maybe it’s a good thing I never kept too many macho friends for long, or belonged to any particularly masculine cliques. Maybe it’s because I figured out a way for logic and empathy to share harmonic coexistence in my brain. I’m funny that way, maybe.
My first date wasn’t till age 19. My age at the time of you-know-what was years beyond that. In junior high and high school, I never bothered asking any girls out. I knew my odds were slim for a variety of reasons, some but not all of them related to appearance. I wasn’t happy with it. I had my bouts of depression and crushed self-esteem. Eighth grade in particular remains a mental and emotional nadir in my life. I couldn’t figure a way out of it on my own, other than to hope that “This, too, shall pass” would apply to my situation someday before I died.
And yet…for all my dissatisfaction with my lot in life back then, for all my innocuous interactions with the ladies in my young-stupid-male years, none of the following sentences ever popped into my head:
* “That girl was nice to me. I expect sex from her now.”
* “The world owes me a chick.”
* “I know I’m perfect, so it’s clearly not my fault.”
* “Top-40 songs about love and sex are most wise.”
* “Maybe if I insult all women a lot, one will step forward and claim me.”
* “The world owes me a hot chick.”
* “Without sex I’m nothing.”
* “Women love a guy who’s bitter and snarling.”
* “Killing will solve anything.”
…and I’m grateful to the Lord every day that I never adopted anything from this list as my personal catchphrase.
Pictured above: the centerpiece from our table at my employer’s 2013 holiday party. This year’s shindig was held at a different venue than last year’s and consequently had different decor. Longtime MCC readers may recall last year my wife and I passed the time while waiting for door prize drawings by taking still life photos using any and all objects within reach.
I spent a lot of time this year staring into that centerpiece while life and partying went on around me.
A childhood in which I was raised to “find my own path” (read: wander blindly through life’s shadowy forests without a tour guide or even a working flashlight) left me with very few tools for suffering the worst trials and shouldering the heaviest burdens, too many of which I brought on myself. By age thirty a series of improbable coincidences and extensive rethinking sessions had led me at long last to an illuminated trail that’s taken me toward much more reliable means and sources of support and encouragement than I ever had during my extended, two-time college-dropout phase.
Before I walked that way, all I had was music.
Of all the hundreds of songs that have caught my attention throughout my life, five in particular stand out as rare instances in which I was moved by music, moments of lyrical lucidity and emotional truth that resonated deep down in that mushy core whose existence the common guy denies, moments I returned to again and again for comfort, advice, consolation, deep thoughts, and/or a boost of spirit. These were five solid shots struck at the foundation of the oddly designed structure that passes for my life.
Just got back from attending my first concert in years…I have multiple reasons for rarely indulging in live music, but in those extremely rare situations when bands I actually, truly like (or liked at one time) come to town, this old man has been known to grant exceptions.
For the record, as with many of my past concert experiences, I attended alone. My wife and I share many important qualities and beliefs, but we differ on some of the unimportant stuff, including but not limited to musical preferences. That’s hardly a recipe for disaster, but if I want to catch one of my favorite musicians live, it means I’m on my own. The only acquaintances who share my musical tastes all live in different states. When I was younger, it was a bit more soul-crushing to find myself alone in a crowd full of happy couples and cliques. The older I get, the less it damages me.
When I have the opportunity to check out something interesting beyond our four walls, it’s not an automatic assumption that someone must be there to hold my hand. My wife and I find plenty of opportunities for quality time, but sometimes I’ll heed the call of a potentially rewarding solo adventure. How do I keep my spirits up without whining about loneliness or making sad puppy-dog eyes at other people and wishing really hard that they were my BFFs? What follows is a partial list of some of the personal guidelines that served me well on this particular jaunt.
While we eavesdropped on the cast’s interplay during their distant grand entrance, the ambiance of their stage-setting was slightly disrupted by the sounds of the peckish viewers seated around me, rustling plastic wrappers and scarfing whatever snacks they couldn’t be bothered to finish during the preceding 25-minute trailer marathon. This sort of aural dissonance isn’t an issue when you’re watching the average summer action blockbuster that kicks off with a twenty-minute 200-decibel set piece that eradicates all sound and vibration in its path.
I’ve shunned Twitter’s outbreak of Man of Steel discussion groups. I’ve refused to read any reviews, whether they carry a courtesy spoiler alert or not. I’m even temporarily resisting the urge to read what I understand from several sources (while held at arm’s length, mind you) is a fascinating dissection of the movie by Superman: Birthright writer Mark Waid, a generally awesome comics creator who’s also one of the universe’s most devout Superman fans. Someday I’d love to read his thoughts, but it won’t be this moment.
This poor ball was abandoned on our lawn at the beginning of the week. On day one, I left it alone, certain that its young, anonymous owner would come fetch it once its absence was discovered. Even partly deflated, surely it’s known its share of good times. At the very least, it’s good to know we have at least one school-age neighbor who’s not allergic to physical activity or the outdoors.
Days two and three were made of distractions that obscured it from my notice. During those exhausting weeks that consist of a dense work-write-sleep-repeat hamster-wheel cycle, an unconscious tunnel vision sometimes kicks in and limits my sensory input for the sake of simplifying my thought processes, streamlining my day, and conserving personal energy in general. Overlooking becomes a defense mechanism of sorts.
I realized on day four it was still loitering out front and decided to offer it shelter from our erratic March weather. My family gave me the strangest looks. My son thinks it’s contaminating our environs. Our dog attacked it on first sight, then let it be because he prefers his prey stuffed and fuzzy. It doesn’t need to be cluttering my lawn, but I decided to hold on to it for a few more days in hopes that someone would come claim it as their own.