Executive Dysfunction

I never anticipated that I would be here. This is not the life path I had plotted for myself all those years ago. But what did I know then? Lies. I knew lies that I told myself to blanket that creeping fear. That’s what I knew then. I knew lies. I don’t do that anymore. Now? Now, I cast off the comfort of convenient lies. I confront the ugly truths inside of me, one by one they come marching like blank-faced lemmings.

Somewhere along the way, I became brave and calloused. Somehow, I became an adult. Like, a real one, and a fairly responsible one at that. But, like all things, that transformation came with a price. Gone are the days of foolhardy certainty, hollowed out by naked speculation and spectacular indecision.

But, maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Maybe, these extraordinary expectations I’ve etched for myself are unrealistic. Fuck, I know they are, but I don’t care. I’ve survived enough to realize the strength of the mold in which I was cast. In all honesty, I weathered a storm, massive and terrible, and I suppose I expected to perish, and yet, I emerged from it better than I had any right to. So, now I reflect. I reflect on what was lost and what was gained. I’m still here. Great. Now what?

Retrospect is easy. If I knew then what I know now, well, it wouldn’t have served me well. Shit, if I knew then what I know now, I would’ve been found curled into a ball in some dark corner, sobbing without end. I’m glad I didn’t know, that knowledge would only have robbed me. No, it was better this way. It’s just, I’m not always sure what to do with the time that’s been given to me.

I’m trying to channel the best parts of me into something substantial, something lasting, something beautiful. I’m closer than ever to accomplishing that. In fact, it’s only recently that it began to seem like anything more than a distant daydream.

I spent so many years raging against the machine, a machine that was always equipped to withstand my onslaught. It wasn’t until I was exhausted that I discovered it’s secret. See, that’s the trick — sometimes the whole board can turn on your ability to simply remain still. That’s when I learned that to defeat the machine was to become part of it and turn it against itself.

When I was a kid, I used to imagine poverty as some spiteful personification. It had an appearance similar to Death, and like that darkest harbinger, Poverty too swung an exacting scythe that sliced wickedly and repeatedly. But, despite such cruelty and guile, there remained a light that refused to be extinguished. And so long as that light pulsed, whether real or imagined, literal or metaphorical, that elusive ship had a chance to come in, slim as that chance may have been.

So, now? Well, now I write the story. Now, I plunge this magnificent pen into my flesh and smile serenely as the arterial spray of ink splashes across the page in triumphant defiance.

Smile. Stab. Smile. Stab.

Stab.

Stab.

Stab.

An inkblot.

Smile.

A cipher.

Stab.

A confession.

Smile.

Smile.

Smile.

Carousel Man

I’m alone.

No amount of patience or poise or panic can alter that fact. I’m exhausted from the fight and I’ve begun to understand how life can simply grind a man down. I’m so utterly dissatisfied with the effort of those around me and often wish that I simply had ten more of myself.

I lead.

I suffer the lumps and swallow the insults. I’m the peacekeeper. I’m the guy who holds chaos at bay. I’m the god damn Rock of Gibraltar. I put that on myself, all of it. I do this because I can carry it. At least, that’s the mantra I chant to an audience of one.

My thoughts are a frenzy of ecstasy and agony, my heart a congealed mess of scar tissue and spit. I have precious little trust to give and what I can muster is routinely blotted by paranoia, insecurity and a fundamental failure of my brain to simply go silent.

No one is coming to save me — not a girl, not a dead loved one, not God. If I could only focus, if I possessed the power to halt the ticking of the clock — well, then I believe I could accomplish something worthy of ink.

The lonliness is destroying me and I can’t manufacture a problem with the mass to keep me distracted. This isn’t a test, it’s torture in slow-motion — like a glacier cleaving the Earth beneath it.

These words are useless.

Words seen by blind eyes and heard by deaf ears.

I can no longer discern between catharsis and confusion. It’s all a blur of color and lies, false promises and abuse.

Sleep, at least there’s sleep.

Blue Orchid

Luna,

I discovered long ago that writing was a catharsis, a source of reflection and renewal.  This is the form in which my thoughts reflect best the very essence of my being. If you care for me — if you love me as you say you do — then understand that the words I write are a piece of my soul and I’ve crafted these words for you alone.

I’m flawed, love. In fact, I’m broken. This is not how I had envisioned my life and I remain in the procees of reconciling my former expectations with what my reality has become. When you and I met, I was dying or perhaps I was already dead. It’s difficult to pinpoint the precise moment of such a fall — it wasn’t sudden or violent — it was a protracted slog that resulted in the accumulation of loss and sorrow, of depression and anxiety, of betrayal and self-doubt.

It was all necessary.

I had to be humbled.

I needed to burn.

It was you who breathed the spark of life back into my spirit, Luna. You provided to me compassion, patience and reassurance. You gazed at me as if I were the kindest and most precious creature you had ever known. I know that it took longer than you had anticipated but I did fall in love with you, hard. I have a chemistry and connection with you that is wholly unique to us. You have accessed parts of me that I’ve never revealed to another.

Do you know why I love you? Although you may be the world’s most striking woman, it’s not solely your physical beauty that has ensnared me. Nor is it credited simply to your intelligence, which is greater than you give yourself credit for and undoubtedly keener than you let on to others. You’re a star, Luna, and that kind of brilliance cannot easily be concealed, not from those of us who bother to search for those most luminous lights.

I love you, Luna, because inside of you is a soul permeated by goodness and innocence. Do you know what I see when I get lost in your eyes? I see the most curious thing — something caught between self-loating and serendipity, a web of hurt and hope. In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed that in exactly one other individual — I see that same signature whenever I peer into a mirror.

You and I may not be the storybook, but I will storm the castle to save you. We may never secure blessings, but I will run roughshod through hell to heal you. You and I have embarked upon an improbable journey inside of an upside down, cartoon world. I want to hold your hand as we fall deeper into the rich colors and absurd physics of this surreal landscape.

I love you, Luna, gently and fiercely.

Beware the Butterbeer Spiked with Veritaserum

I have a confession to make.

I’m a Gryffindor.

Now, with respect to your profession, you may have some thoughts on that yourself. I’ve sometimes wondered if you sort people into Houses as part of your diagnostic process. How could you not, right?

Granted, there’s a case to be made for Slytherin – that is not lost on me – and I think too that there’s even something to be said for Hufflepuff, but what I am not, my friend, is a Ravenclaw. I never quite possessed the discipline for that and as Dumbledore once suggested of Harry, I too display a certain disregard for the rules.

I’m a Gryffindor and my Patronus is a wolf, but when I first walked through those doors nearly three years ago I couldn’t summon that spell. The Dementors who stalked me – grief and anger, anxiety and depression — had drained my soul and stifled my will.

My arrival here was not a decision I made freely, it was, at least in part, made under duress. I had convinced myself of a lie and in doing so had been damned to a half-life. I think I knew that at the time, but coping with that pain seemed preferable to the journey that it would require to navigate the muck and the mire that had swamped my heart and mind. I had convinced myself, Rowena, that I had caged my demons and that would just have to be good enough.

Furthermore, I didn’t believe that anybody could tell me anything about myself that I didn’t already know. But the reality was that I had not caged my demons; I had merely chained myself to them. The unknown element in all of this was you, of course. I had no way to anticipate or expect your indomitable spirit or your relentless commitment to perspective and positivity. You’re an inspiring human being, Rowena, a genuine source of substance in my life, and I hold you in the highest regard.

On one of my very early visits here, in fact, in may’ve been the first – I saw you. This was before you were assigned as my therapist, before I’d even been made aware of your name. We weren’t introduced, we didn’t speak and it’s not something you’d likely recall. I was seated on one of those awful couches in the dreaded orange room, surrounded as I was by present company, I had begun to think that perhaps I was quite well adjusted and had grossly misjudged the severity of my issues.

Thinking back on it now, I’m amused by how closely the whole mood mirrored that scene from “Trolls” when Branch and Poppy arrived in Bergen Town to witness the downtrodden denizens perform that mournful rendition of the Gorillaz’ “Clint Eastwood.”

But then, as if you were whisked into the scene on the winds of grace, you flooded the room with your signature aura and that brilliant personality as bright as bubblegum. Poppy, in the flesh.

The sudden shift in contrast was as sharp as these things come. It was as if a vibrant, Broadway star armed with jazz hands and dressed in a sequined top hat, feathered boa and fish nets had suddenly been teleported into the smoke-filled, grimy exposition of a monochrome film noir.

As you spoke with a staff member I thought, “What is she doing here?”

The whole episode lasted just a few moments before you turned on your heel to leave, but before you did you looked in my direction and offered a brief smile. You may’ve departed as quickly as you had arrived but in your wake was left the distinct impression of warmth, comprised of equal parts goodness, light and hope.

It’s been a welcome if not unexpected journey thus far, Rowena, and I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to adequately express my gratitude but I hope that these sentiments will suffice for the time being.

Just as every student ultimately graduates from Hogwarts, I know that the day will come when our sessions together are at an end. And while I hope that day isn’t any time soon, I trust that when the moment does arrive, I’ll wield the wisdom and bear the armor necessary to become the person I was born to be.

I’m not sure where you found it or if perhaps you forged it through your own brand of alchemy, but you’ve held a skeleton key to every chest I ever locked pain inside of, to every doorway behind which I concealed gaping wounds. You made sure that I didn’t have to open them alone. And as the tragedies and heartbreaks piled on, you ensured that I understood the meaning of each and in the process taught me to transform that adversity into the very thing that would heal me. You see, that’s your magic.

It was you who reminded me, time and time again, that the pen is my wand and words, my magic. You know, I think the time has come for Hermione to relinquish a certain title because it’s you, Rowena, who’s the brightest witch of our age.

Merry Christmas, and as always, lumos, my friend.

Phoenix Blood

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but I needed to write it regardless. I love you, son. I hope with everything that I am, that you never have to endure the pain and hardship that I have. I’m not naive, I know that you will have your own cross to bear as you grow but the particular demons that have chased your father must stay with me.

I’m flawed, son. I’m flawed and scarred, and I’m not sure in what state I’ll emerge from this inferno. I’ve been burned and branded. These are hard days and long nights. I miss you. I miss your mom. She was my best friend and I lost her.

I spend much of my time alone and in so many ways the things I’ve always feared are the things that I’ve become. Still, I push myself to be better. I refuse to quit because despite this agony of loss and flirtation with self-destruction I still find beauty in this life. I still believe that it’s a life worth living and that will hold true even if I have to shoulder this burden until my dying day.

I draw courage from a lot of sources none greater than you, son. Your eyes shine with a joyful innocence and your smile is a singular ray of hope to which even the most perfect dark must bow. You’re my boy and I’m your father. And just like my dad has persevered through a whole host of ugliness, so too will I — flaws and all.

Enemies have marshaled against me. Sometimes, I catch a wisp of them out of the corner of my eye. They attack when I sleep. I’m assaulted by memories that haunt me, tormented by unanswered questions. They’re a cruel and heartless breed, son.

But just today, a friend told me that I was the brightest diamond in the dirtiest rough. To be that for somebody is powerful. Something of that nature cannot be faked or bought, it’s innate, it’s fundamental to who you are. It’s evidence of an indomitable kindness, it’s a light when all others lights have gone out. And that’s our secret weapon, son — a weapon the shadow cannot comprehend. I may burn in his fire but it’s only to rise from the ash.

We have phoenix blood, son.

We rise.

So remember, when you miss me that I am forever in your heart and you in mine. I carry you with me everywhere I go, my boy. You make me a better person. I will return to you no matter the cost, no matter the distance, no matter the time.

I adore you, son.

Always.

Always, always.

The Purpose of Ophelia

Ophelia,

I hesitate to start this letter because I fear that no words will ever substantially express the feelings in my heart. I hesitate because I know that in writing this letter it means I have let you go. I hesitate because all of this has extracted such a price from me that, at times, I wonder if I will ever truly be free of it.

I loved you.

I loved you, doll.

I have had a full year now to contemplate your betrayal, a full year to process the hurt. I still miss you. I still think of you, often. I long for the intoxicating taste of your lips. I yearn to gaze into your soft, doe eyes. I pine to hear the sound of your inimitable voice. We had a chance at something special, the moment was there. I did my utmost to impress upon you the fierce urgency of the present. You failed to listen.

You set me on fire, Ophelia, and then you left me to burn.

I wonder sometimes if it was all a cruel game or if for a fleeting, beautiful window of time your heart truly belonged to me. I would’ve treasured it, you know? I would’ve protected and honored you. I was already yours. All those dreams we shared were ours to realize. You once told me that two broken people had the power to repair each other and indeed, together, you and I were strengthened.

October was not conceived in jest or born of lust.

Not to me.

That was a piece of my soul.

I will take that to my grave.

You disappointed me, Ophelia. As a friend, as a lover but more than anything else you disappointed me as a human being. You had an opportunity to live as yourself without pretense but instead you acted out of fear, you wrapped yourself in cowardice as if it were a warm blanket. You will never know how crushing it was to witness someone so good willfully choose to be something less.

It is my hope that you one day find the courage to become the person that you were born to be. It is my desire that you come to realize that your purpose lies somewhere between the stardust in your eyes and the song in your heart. This unrequited love has tormented me but I will not allow it to tarnish who I am.  I have stories to write and adventures to chronicle, demons to slay and ghosts to lay to rest. I am worth so much more than the pain you left me with, Ophelia, and I choose to be whole.

Without Context

The following is a collection of things that people have said to me through the course of my life. Some were spoken to me by strangers I met only once while others were said by those that I love. These quotes are comical, heartfelt, whimsical, angry and odd, among other things.

As I am pulling most of these from memory I cannot guarantee a word for word recitation but I strive to preserve the imprint these sentiments left in my heart and on my soul, and I suppose in a way, there’s no more accurate recording than that, is there?

“Don’t you have a pumpkin? You gotta use your pumpkin! Your pumpkin!”

“Oh, are you one of us? A witch?”

“You can’t just keep everything inside. People who do that end up killing themselves!”

“Yeah, ah, I’m not really one of these people that can read.”

“You’re a nut job, man. It’s good having you around here.”

“Seriously, you guys could be doing something more productive than trying on women’s clothing.”

“These mother fuckers better be singing tonight…all of ’em!”

“My heart belongs to you now. Be gentle, it’s fragile.”