The Hook brings you back…

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I think expected sad news may really be the most unexpected. It is like you think you are ready, and then you wait and wait and wait and it never comes.

And then it does.

And when you get the news you sit with it a minute and think to yourself, ‘Well, I sort of expected that….’ And then you can’t get out of bed for like, an hour, and then you have to go to work, and then the rest of the world and the day and everything is just just just so fucking normal.

I am not sure there is anything sadder.

Meeting Stu was one of the best and worst things that ever happened to me all at once. But he was like that – all things all at once. So many things he couldn’t really ever keep them together. And that was his tragedy – and his gift. I remember the night I met him perfectly and the various strange, not always nice, events that followed. I can say now that those days, months, years, in which Stuart played a role  have been some of the most fundamentally significant in my life.

And it just makes it so much god damned more sad.

Stu was unable to overcome his demons in the end, it appears, though I had to smile when this morning as I spoke to a friend about it and she said, ‘He just seemed like one of those indestructible ones, you know?’

I guess there is no such thing when you really get down to it.

As I sit here, semi-catatonic, perusing photos from Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Lao, and Lamma Lamma Lamma…. I see the faces of people who knew us, who know me, who might say to me, well, it had the air of inevitability about it, this. And I think to myself, I suppose.

But we all do die, don’t we?

When I think of Stu I realize I never really had the chance to fully grieve. And as you can imagine, when one breaks off with  a person under the conditions we did – there is always unfinished business. Always. This adds to the sadness. I never really had the chance to get angry with Stu either- I was too busy managing things, myself, mostly I suppose. As I look through my email (why not poke the bruise a bit?) I see so many times he tried to reach out… and I did not (could not?) reply. I am so remorseful over that today, and while the sane mind will say it would not have changed the outcome, the sad mind can only wonder if it might have made a difference. And though we kept in touch on and off these past few years, I am so grossly disappointed in myself that the last real contact we had, digital though it was, was about me harping on him to handle his business.

How embarrassingly trivial. How devastatingly sad, to have those be the last words he heard from me. How horrible to actually experience, what can only be termed as the deepest regret, that I could not have been kinder in that last connection.

This is a regret that will not soon pass.

Stuart was a tragic character, and burnt many bridges, not surprisingly. But Stuart was much more than that. He was a kind, kind person – in spite of all that made him tragic. Stuart was good to me in spirit and in his heart – if not in more practical issues of this corporeal world. He saw me beyond the obvious, and he truly believed I was beautiful, in every way. Stuart introduced me to fascinating ideas and people and experiences that I’d never have had the chance to glean other wise.

Sitting here thinking on Stu this evening I remember his passion for life, how he loved to dance – and those beach parties! His sense of humo(u)r, how he loved our cats, and being and working in our home and our garden. I am still awed by his compassion for others regardless of their station or circumstance. I remember how much he loved Hong Kong – really and truly, and all the people I met there because of him. He used to sometimes just say, ‘Here we are on a tropical island in the South China Sea – how bad can anything be? This is superb!’ I remember how we got on about our football rivalry, my choice to support Chelsea just to vex him, and his lifelong love of the Tottenham Hotspur, and our World Cup debates. His silly taste in music… James Blunt! Robbie Williams! Dido! And I recall the person Stu really wanted to be…

People who met him – certainly all the people I introduced to him – wanted so much for him to succeed. Perhaps now in some way he can see that he did. He wanted to change the world and today I spoke to friends from Thailand to Israel to Ireland to Australia to England and of course our beloved Hong Kong who remember what a light he had inside of him and the joy he had for living… in spite of the choices he made and the circumstances he created. And I have to think that makes a difference, even if it was not enough to get him through the darkness.

In the end I sit with knowing how much we both believed in the love we had, and I mean, that is sort of a nice thing to experience with another person at some point in a lifetime, right?

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There’s not a single song I could choose that fits better right now…. it’s the first thing that’s made me smile about this whole situation.

Rest in peace Stu. And get your groove on while you’re at it….

Sometime… Can you feel de pressure does unwind
Sometime…
Sometime… Trough de day and trough de night
Sometime…
Sometime… You can make our pressure does unwind
Sometime…
Sometime… It’s for your spirit and your mind
Sometime…

 

Nostalgiasm.

For the past couple of weeks I have been deep, deep, DEEP into the archives of my past lives. Although I realize that sounds weird, going through the accumulated archives (the intentional and the accidental) of my human existence, it really does feel like a series of loosely connected but wildly divergent experiences.  I have found things from my infancy, my burgeoning adolescence, my painfully intentional embarkation into college, my initial departure for far off shores, and all things in between.

To say it has been a long strange trip would not only be plagiarized, but vastly understated.

Many of the true gems deserving of public display found themselves on my Instagram (because why shouldn’t Facebook, Inc., own my memories?) and there were heaps more beneath the carefully laid bandages I have strategically applied in order to preserve and/or to obfuscate the uncomfortable, precious, healing, and irreparable memories.

As I went through the boxes I was awed by the (embarrassing, silly, hopeful, ruined, strange, unfamiliar, heart-wrenching) notes, photos, accolades, and things… so many things. And as I sat among the things, things I would keep, give away, throw away, I thought aloud:

I miss this girl.

Now to be clear, I was a strange kid; too everything. Too tall. Too bossy. Too critical, Too worried. Too smart. Too too too. But looking back through time at all the things that were me, I suddenly missed my younger self in a way I had never really considered before. At least all those too’s were mine.

I hear all the time about people who miss their youth, but it is usually a ‘glory days’, cougar-y, broken dreams-y longing, which I have never identified with. As I looked back at my life what I missed was being the person in those pictures and notes and things, who was totally free to be herself. She was not operating from underneath the weight of a lifetime of labels assigned to her by other people. The girl I saw in all that stuff was not afraid to smile with crooked teeth, or laugh out loud, or stand up for what was right, or to speak up for herself. She was not afraid to be totally fashion/music/style challenged, she was just going for it. Not that she had a huge number of original ideas in any of those areas, but she tried them all on.

A lifetime of “you are so…” “you know how you are…” ” it is your style, way, personality…”

It dawned on me as I lugged boxes on boxes on boxes of things from here to there to gone, that the heaviest thing I was carrying around was something I haven’t put down since I picked up that first thing someone told me was mine years ago.

It is funny that I am thinking about this now, because right now I am faced with a real, conscious opportunity  to think about where I am, what I want, and to truly remember who I am. And it is hard. It is hard to ignore the constant barrage of people telling you who you are, what you are good at (and not so good at) and how you should be and what you should want, need, care about. When you think about the infinite and incessant input a person gets in this regard it is deafening.

No wonder we just quietly take it on board.

Think for a minute how many times in a day or a week you hear someone say, “You are…” I have become acutely aware of it in my present work situation because it seems to be the primary operating system there to tell people how they are, who they are, even why they are. But it started a long time ago, the first time someone pointed out something about myself to me that I picked up and put on.

They are not all bad things, mind you, (you are so smart, so athletic, so tall -?-) but they become this fabric, this tapestry, that you slowly add to over a lifetime and you wear everyday, adding to it, good parts, bad parts, strengthening parts, sad parts. I remember things people said about me when I was really young, (mostly the good things); when I was discovering adolescence (mostly the bad things); and beyond (mostly the confusing things).

And when do you take it off?

In my case, I didn’t. In all the days of adding to this technicolor dream-coat of a life, I never took it off. Sometimes I held on tighter because I liked what it said about me, other times, because I felt like I’d be lost without someone else’s understanding of where I belong in the world.

Sometimes, I keep it on to hide because it is a whole lot easier to wear all those labels than to try to really show people who you really are.

But sitting in that filthy garage among piles of life sometimes less ordinary and other times so totally ordinary, I caught a glimpse of what that little girl way back then thought of herself. The fact was she didn’t think of herself that much. She thought about the wide world out there and all the cool things to do and see and taste and try (within reason of course – she was a Virgo then as now after all.)

And it was not half bad.

I walked away from that garage and another completed project, noticeably dirtier, a little sadder, and a lot freer than I had felt in a long time.

The next time someone starts a sentence with, “You are so….” I am going to do that thing someone special taught me in Hong Kong years ago: Look just beyond their left shoulder and continue on with whatever I might be doing, politely nodding and agreeing when they are done with their most current assessment of me.

And I am gonna leave that coat right there. I have plenty of my own stuff to wear, thank you very much.

2013: you have arrived

[From our mobile desk on the 5 en route from Encinitas to Petaluma]
In the spirit of the New Year traditions, let’s review. If that is not a tradition for you, it can be now. Or not.

Things I want to remember about this year:

1. Sometimes things are as good as they seem. And sometimes they aren’t. That is not so profound, but it turns out to be true. The trick appears to be the old “wisdom to know the difference” as the serenity prayer Pollyanna-ishly tells us. I found that the most challenging thing about this was that sometimes they are both. At the same time. This is difficult for someone like me with a natural inclination to compartmentalize. Anyhow, the good was really good, and that made the bad especially aggravating. I guess that is the wisdom to appreciate the contrast.

2. All is fleeting and the temporary nature of life is vey real. If all the world’s a stage and we are merely players, as the Bard suggests, I hope someday for the most epic of curtain calls.

3. Everyone has issues. Good thing to remember in those dark moments.

4. In spite of so much there seems to be hope for humanity. Not always, but you know, enough of the time to stave off true desperation.

And in keeping with my predilection for lists and compartmentalizing, here are my greatest hits for 2012, a year so many thought would bring the end of days, or maybe they just hoped… but ultimately it just came and went. Like they all seem to do at a deceptively consistent speed.

JANUARY:
Jan12
A beautiful New Years Day spent with a surprisingly special someone.

FEBRUARY:
Feb2012
More challenging than I had anticipated – but I did not know it at the time. Does that count? At least that damn month is short. And I learned to go-kart.

MARCH:Mar2012
Categorically the longest month ever. Always. Pink slips arrive. Survival seems the most one can ask of March… But we went to the Magic Castle, and even in the rain that is always fun. Especially when you check in and they tell you they are comping the weekend for you.

APRIL: Apr2012
The Cowboy makes a permanent relocation. Mostly.
I experience one of the most tragic of losses as gun violence touches my life directly, horribly, irrevocably.

MAY: 601061_429632317070978_273802422_n
There is lots of sunshine. My first year at BHS is winding down. The Golden Gate Bridge turns 75.

JUNE: Jun2012
I deliver the commencement address for my seniors at our small school graduation. I watch my first entire Tour de France.

JULY: 552192_443546009012942_2129688312_n
I question everything because everything seems topsy-turvy. I am right about everything I suspect, but whether or not it matters in the way I think it does is confusing and unclear. I think my lack of travel contributes to much of this disequilibrium… Though I do go to Booneville for a wedding.

AUGUST:
Aug2012

Vegas with A and the girls. It is fabulous and the Beatles cirque du soleil is amazing.

SEPTEMBER: Sep2012
Usually my favorite month. But this year not so much. Plus, I mean, 42 is anticlimactic as anything. Regardless, this month challenged every expectation I had – or had tried to avoid. Faith in everything was tested. Junot Diaz articulated it all perfectly in This Is How You Lose Her, and I got to have him sign another one of my first editions.

OCTOBER: Oct2012
Bridge School Benefit concert and several opportunities to wear wigs. Can’t be bummed about that.

NOVEMBER: Nov2012
The parentals are back and Thanks are given. I am especially grateful for the election returns as the entire world watches with held breath wondering if our country could possibly be as stupid as we sometimes appear. It turns out we are not. I am relieved and Nate Silver is not surprised at all. I buy his book.

DECEMBER: Home of the Free
Alcatraz, the Nutcracker, Newtown, missed Apocalypses, Vacations, missed weddings, San Diego, Family, Birthdays, Anniversaries. In a single month, December managed to encapsulate the heartbreaking highs and lows of the entire year.

And now it is over, with all of the hope a new year brings, whether a recipe for disaster based on overly ambitious expecatations, or maybe just another day.

I think it is somewhere in between.

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.