Ch 4 – Crack In The Wall

“No, mom, that’s a crack in your face. The crack I’m talking about is different.”

“OK Ricky dear, just trying to be helpful. Love you.”

“Love you too, mom.”

My physical and mental health declined steadily. I covered up my misery in denial – reframing my personal goals. After all, I was first and foremost a dad. My job No. 1. I sure as hell wasn’t going to let that opportunity slip away because I was unfulfilled at work.

“Suck it up!” I admonished myself. “Pull your head out of your ass, dude. So many people in this world are worse off than you. Who gives a shit that you wanted to be a writer? Nobody. Nobody gives a flying fuck about your dreams either. You make money – that’s what you do. A screenwriter? Who’s kidding who? A novelist. Well, la-de fucking-da! Be happy with what you have, not what you don’t! Fucking idiot.Maybe I was a little hard on myself, but I never saw it that way. When ever I thought of leaving work, I beat myself up at every turn.

My self-loathing was well placed: a father’s job is to support his family. Duh!

So I became an actor. A damn good one too. The training rooms and the call centers were my stages. I managed my team like a theater troop, making sure my method actors (corporate trainers) were well-rehearsed. We were the best loved employees in the house because each member of my team played their part perfectly.

No one had to know how much I was suffering inside. I especially didn’t want my children to know.

A Crack In The Wall

I built a wall between me and my dream. And since I was already adept at being a wallflower, I affixed my emotions to the felt walls that surrounded me. My work cubicle was my gilded cage for 30 years. I served the company without complaint. And when I slowly slid into depression, I told no one.

I did what all veteran actors do, I looked forward to my next performance.

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Still, I kept writing. Staying up late – even on work nights. My health issues were attributed to my lack of sleep which could be explained as my problem.

My responsibility.

My workmates told me: “You’re doing it to yourself.” I listened politely to their advice: “You should get better sleep. Certainly not two or three hours a night!” But their words just sounded like the static that TV sets used to make after the local television stations signed off.

I would nod in a agreement then continue the self-abuse. There is five work nights and only two weekend nights. I kept writing like a madman all of those nights, all night long. When the sun came up I stopped to get a couple of hours sleep before rolling out of bed and into my Honda to begin my day with the front end of a three hour commute.

London Bridge Is Falling Down

Sometimes it takes a heightened sense of doom for folks to act in their own best interest. Depriving one’s soul of proper nourishment eventually takes its toll. A sudden rush of clarity, for instance, or self-awareness that may lead to making a personal change, or not. It all starts from a crack. Typically, small, at first.

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A crack in a dam may cause it to break releasing an unstoppable flood that alters everything in its path. A cracked window may hinder one’s ability to see through it, but when sunlight enters from the other side it creates a beautiful prism effect.

A crack can be a powerful force of nature or a transforming personal experience.

My corporate career had reached a quarter of a century while visiting my daughter in London. That’s when I felt the force of the London Bridge falling down. The emotional wreckage forced me to deal with a dream denied. It all started with a single crack.

One word did all the damage. A word I’m not proud of.

Regret.

Below: In this scene from Doctor Who, “prisoner zero has escaped” is heard through a crack in the wall. Sometimes we must heed the truth when the crack first forms. My corporate employee number begins with a zero.


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Ch 5 – London Broken | 1 |

On November 10, 2010 I arrived in London to visit my daughter while on her study abroad program. She had arrived earlier that day. We had planned to spend a few days seeing the sites before she returned to the University of Birmingham.

I was emerging from the Westminster Tube Station with my travel bags. Big Ben on my left was as familiar to me as the Statue of Liberty, but on my right was a sea of about 50,000 protesters. That was certainly unexpected. I pushed my way through a wall of students that were reminiscent of protest marches in the 1960s in America. They were mostly peaceful, carrying signs and shouting slogans against proposed government fee increases for higher education.

As I passed Westminster Abbey on foot I was at street level not more than a half block from a modern building at 30 Millbank constructed of glass and steel. This was the flash point of the protest. Around a thousand students were concentrated in the area, some of them began breaking windows and calling out rally cries that served to taunt a grossly outnumbered line of London police. I was astonished at the restraint shown by the police, especially the officers on horseback.

This was a reception I had not bargained for on my first day in London. The scene was surreal. I glanced back at Big Ben which appeared like a sentinel rising in the distance above the melee of thousands of young protesters – all around my daughter’s age.

The more militant students faced off against the police, pressing into their riot shields and helmets. I heard the crashing sound of windows breaking and the corresponding cheers from the crowd. Violence was in the streets of London, but the spectacle was already out of my mind later that evening when I suddenly had a breakdown in the quiet calm of my hotel room.


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Ch 6 – London Broken | 2 |

After dinner, my daughter and I returned to our room at the Thistle Westminster Hotel across the street from Buckingham Palace.

I immediately gave Lauren another helping of my unsolicited words of wisdom. Something I had done hundreds of times before. My fatherly advice often came in the form of a mini lecture on a topic I deemed was important. She was used to it. As Lauren became older I could tell she would listen politely then do whatever the hell she wanted. I get it. It’s called growing up. But this time was different.

It all started with a simple quiver in my voice. I cleared my throat. Then I just bowed my head in my hands to cover my face.

My acting job at work had extended to the times I gave my daughters lectures about pursuing their dreams and never settling. I was still doing what I told them never to do. I became an actor at work to keep my job. I pretended to care about the tedious bullshit I was engaged with, like sending emails instead of managing my team in person to please management by documenting everything for “accountability” purposes. We had become a “top down management organization” that paid lip service to the founding philosophy that associates had a voice. We were an understaffed, lean company, of puppet micromangers controlled by a foreign owned process-oriented executive management brain trust located 830 kilometers “as the crow flies” (approx. 5,500 miles) across the Pacific.

As a result, more than half of my adult life was spent within a geometrically perfect square of life-sucking space. My physical location within the office waffle iron comprised of three divider walls and an equal length opening that offered easy entrance and exit. My mental location was off grid, putting one foot before the other at work. I joined the merry chorus of other foot shufflers, smiling broadly as we passed each other in the halls and breezeways. The grunting and slurping sounds of our non-exempt staff as they tried to down there meal, check text messages, and urinate without defecating (takes too long) within the allotted 30 minutes lunch break. We were the walking dead, but preferred to think of ourselves as a merry company of The Damned. We even had our own Call Center break room called “The Happy Room.”

I must say however, that my life as a “cubicle dweller” paid well and the benefits were excellent. So, my words of advice to my daughter was: “Don’t do what I did. Use me as an example of a failure.”

I was sobbing, forcing myself just to get the words out. Tears fell from my cheeks, even when I didn’t blink. My voice was high pitched and strained. It was almost impossible to speak as I struggled to give my daughter a warning. With all my heart open and exposed, I wanted her to feel my pain. My greatest misgiving. I wanted her to hear my confession.


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