Ch 7 – London Broken | 3 |

Irepeated the words, “I failed” several times. “I’ve been acting at work like I give a damn, every day for that last quarter century.”

I smiled, realizing, that’s exactly what I was – a paid actor. I searched for a silver lining. Something that would lighten the mood. I shook my head, “My acting job pays $100,000 a year with benefits. No bad, right?”

My emotions were raw. Dare I say, fragile?

I was in Europe for the first time. There were iconic historical sites everywhere, on every city block it seemed. Yet I was crying. And couldn’t stop. I begged my daughter to follow her passions. “Go after what is in your heart. Don’t take the safe path, and…” Deep breath, more tears. “…be willing to suffer for it if you have to. Don’t do what I did. Don’t play it safe. Don’t settle.”

I quickly apologized for my un-dad-like behavior, telling her, “I’m sorry for coming all this way to just fall apart like this. This should be a celebration of your success.”

She had never seen me like that. I was a mess.

I’m not quite sure why I had that breakdown shortly after arriving at the hotel. I had managed to conceal my feelings for decades. Maybe it was the protesters that sparked a wistful feeling that lead to a bout of honest self reflection. Youth in action. I still felt that angst in my own life, bottled up for decades. I made damn sure it remained that way. Contained. After all, I chose my work path shortly after college and for the last two decades I was in parent mode.  I had a family to support. Entertaining my own selfish thoughts of my dream denied was never in the cards. I reshuffled my emotions every time, placing that pesky Joker back in the deck whenever it came up. Even now, honestly, I wouldn’t trade being a father for anything.

In London, though, on a visit to spend some quality time with my daughter, I sat in judgment of myself. The choices I made. The professional life I should have pursued.

Go easy. You did the best you could. That kind of self talk, well, it wasn’t happening. The reckoning of my profound regret was 30 years in the making and ridiculously past due.

When I did finally settled down, I told my daughter how proud I was of her. For being a good friend to her friends, a talented musician and artist, and a wonderful daughter. “All I want is your happiness,” I said. “Just don’t make a career out of doing something you’re not passionate about. I failed to be your role model.”

My daughter hugged me like calming a child who was waking up from a bad dream. “You didn’t fail me, dad. You are the best father any daughter could have.”

My regret had become a signpost in her life, warning her to never settle. She listened with her heart wide open.


Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 6.54.26 PM

There is comfort in knowing the seed took root using the right amount of parenting topsoil, and small town sunshine. The instant I knew that for certain, was the day of my breakdown in London.

I will remember it as the best day of my life.


GO TO: Chapter 8 - Death Becomes Us

BACK


Ch 8 – Death Becomes Us

Alifetime, in human terms, is rarely a linear progression. It is more like an odd concept. Something we weather, delight in, and survive. One thing it’s not: a straight path taking you to a place or destination against your will.

Any one or more of the following factors can dramatically affect the trajectory of our life’s journey. Health, wealth, skill, talent, education, planning, goals, friendships, career connections, race, age, gender, citizenship, community, family, economy, personality, disease, addiction, privilege, poverty, and luck. Life itself, for you and I, is never 100% certain. At some level, it’s a crapshoot, and more often than not, it’s like the Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland.

The duration and quality of our lives also depends on the generational and historical setting, and the progression of our species. In other words, birth and death timelines differ depending on who we are and where we live relative to other life forms on other planets in space and time.

FUCK ALL THAT!

Welcome to my world…

I’m 56. If I live to the ripe old age of 100, my life is more than half over. My mortality is an inescapable reality. In fact I would count myself lucky if I live another 25 years.

My life is a ticking time bomb, same as you. And no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to find the mother fucking digital display for the countdown, or the crackling fuse I can easily douse in a bucket of water.

We are born. The timer is set. At some point we go KA-BOOM!

We have that in common.

We are brothers and sisters of life heading in the same direction of death. Of course God, in His or Her infinite wisdom, has created us with one unfortunate defect causing a massive recall every year where 55 million people to lose their lives. The good lord simply manufacturers another 100 million more every year to replace the dearly departed. I know, it’s unfair to blame The Almighty for overpopulation and poor resource management on our planet. We must accept some responsibility. Then again, it’s such an awesome feeling to fuck or be fucked. It’s hard to just say no.

Reality Check

The amount of time we have is limited and is a uniquely personal experience. No one lives forever, or is born again to be judged for past deeds.

Mortality is not a comfortable subject for most of us. People rarely give it much thought until we experience health problems ourselves or someone close to us dies.

Nobody wants to dwell on the particulars of their date with the mute man dressed in a grossly oversized smock who is clutching a wooden pole with a gnarly super-sharp blade attached. That’s exhausting. So much better to concern ourselves with the tangibles such as circling the parking lot like a shark searching for a killer space that brings us 15 steps closer to the mall entrance.

We all demand more than what we have, and we want it yesterday. In the end, there is always a price to pay. And the price for admission to ride the train called life is its eventual derailment somewhere down the line.


GO TO: Chapter 9 - Coming To Terms

BACK


Ch 9 – Coming to Terms

Only one person can experience your thoughts. The one who occupies your skin, brain, and the underwear you will likely soil when your life terms out.

We are born into this world with a lifetime to discover the purpose of our own existence. We only understand ourselves by challenging ourselves. Usually that means doing what we fear most.

– R.R. Thomas

 

My grandmother lived to 98. She experienced 42 years more life than my friend Amanda who passed away six months after she retired at age 56. They both died this year. Their lives were vastly different, precisely because of the way they chose to live.

Imagine for a moment that a giant asteroid struck our planet exterminating the human species. And we all perished together at the same place, Earth, at the same time, like, NOW!

After the planet’s slate is wiped clean, another 25,000 years passes before evidence of our existence is rediscovered. They huddle around the evidence with their octi-legs scratching their bellies equipped with double poop shoots. Imagine that, two assholes. One for fucking. The other for evacuation. Both tight.

Their big eyes lock on to a strange object. They ponder the significance of the ancient artifact that has washed ashore like the Statute of Liberty in the movie Planet of The Apes. A miraculous ancient machine: A Harley-Davidson knucklehead V-Twin motorcycle. And just offshore an archeological dig site reveals a concrete bunker beneath Jay Leno’s warehouse that was home to his classic automobile and motorcycle collection. An authentic baddass machine unearthed on the site of present-day Burbank in the year 2707. The motor starts with one kicka miracle!

*   *   *

Yes, we die at different times according to our own individual timelines. It is the strength of our species. Death gives us time to reflect and reminds us of the fragility of our own existence. It forces us to mourn and celebrate, together. And for awhile, it consumes our every waking moment. Then we do what all living things must do. We carry on.

Facing Life Dead On

It was time to make a change. But first I was forced to forgive myself for how I chose to live.

I consider myself a failure because I did not pursue my life-long passion. Instead of making a career as a writer, I played it safe and made a career in mid-level management.  Instead of writing every day in a coffee shop with a window seat, I sent emails from my cubicle every morning and stewed like a turd in a cesspool of cubicles. Most afternoons I sat at a big table of engaged actors (office minion) trying to conceal their clenched assholes backed up with gas and bladders about to burst. By the end of our meetings we all agreed to be more productive just to bring a merciful end to another brain-numbing day.

Time spent in corporate America for me felt like doing hard time.

Making more; spending more. Days, years, and eventually a lifetime nearly vanished before my eyes. While my eyes sunk deeper into a puddle of radiating age lines and weird growths that needed to be burnt off with a dermatologist’s laser. Eyes, that sit behind corrective lenses, and eventually see nothing unless I get cataract surgery.

You get the idea. The body marches ever closer to its inevitable meltdown point. That’s about the time we are finally handed the key that opens the door to the Sunset Room where you will spend the remaining years doing what ever the hell you always wanted to do.

I stole the key, entering that phase of my life ten years early.

Still, I needed to forgive myself for not doing it sooner. And for doing it at all. I supposed to be a reliable employee, well-regarded community leader, and responsible family man for forty years, not thirty.

Before I left the corporate world, most people would say my consistency and congenial nature were enviable traits. I knew better. Being mired in mediocrity for decades simply beat me down. What I hate the most about myself is that I had the power to change.

Complacency. Rationalization. Wishful thinking. These were the sign posts that passed me by. I chose to ignore them remain safely adrift in corporate America, another year closer to a better retirement with fewer days to enjoy it.

Now I see my corporate tenure as moving downstream in a wine barrel. It was just a matter of time before I went over the falls. I have heard that some people actually survive the plummet. They are pretty fucked up when they do.

My new rules for a better way of life are as follows:

  • I interact in the world that surrounds me and only have control over myself.
  • I can only live in the moment and that moment just passed. Yet, this is my place in time. I own it. No one can make that claim or take that away.

Someday I will need to forgive the average man I became.


GOT TO: Chapter 10 - Life In Between

BACK