4.10.2020

My Father's Eyes

Today is a special day to me. For some it's the day that a guy was crucified and then came back to life three days later. I'm not getting into religion or messiahs in this post. But I do want to spend a few minutes talking about a hero.

It is borderline cliche to point to your father and say that he's your hero. Or to say that he's absolutely not your hero. While I may be borderline, I try to stay away from being cliche. My Dad is not a perfect man. And the word 'hero' gets bandied about a little too much these days for my particular liking. That being said, the man that is my father, is very special to me. He is an inspiration. He is a rock in my life. And he is one of my best friends and fiercest supporters.

But that wasn't always the case. Now, before you get all huffy, I need to clarify. My dad always believed in me. He loved me with a heart that was bigger than I ever knew as a child. He sacrificed things that I have no way of ever comprehending for me. Someday I may tell you more about them. Today is not that day.

This is a picture of my dad in 'Nam.

This guy graduated high school early. He went to college at 16. He had an interest in marine biology and poetry. And then a few years later he went to war. Because, that's what the Skaggs men did. There is a stretch of highway in Kentucky that honors my papaw and his 4 brothers. Every single one of them served. My dad served. He was assigned to Americal, 23rd Infantry Division. My dad, a printer by trade, assigned to the unit with one of the highest casualty rates at the time. He wasn't my dad yet. And, he might not have been if something crazy hadn't happened. If he hadn't been talking to an officer the day before he was due to meet up with his unit, he might have still reported to the 23rd, and who knows what this tale would look like. But no, that officer learned that Dad was a printer. And he had need of a printer at the base at Long Ben. He told my dad to not get on the bus, that he would get the orders changed and get Dad reassigned. Keep in mind, this sort of thing never, and I do mean never, happened once a soldier was in-country. So, it was natural that the officer on the bus was upset that this scrawny puke from who-the-fuck-cares Kentucky was insisting that his orders were to be changed. I don't know for sure, but I suspect Dad was close to being busted for disobeying orders.

Then the transfer papers came through. I don't know who that officer was that needed a printer, or even if he's still alive. If I ever meet him, I buying him a drink. Or 7.

To say that his time in Viet Nam changed my father is the grossest understatement I can imagine. Only, I didn't know it. I never knew him before.

I can say that growing up the son of a Viet Nam vet wasn't particularly easy. And I never did look at things in a normal way as a child (I really still don't).

Growing up, my dad always seemed...gruff....short...quick to anger. He yelled a lot. Only, it wasn't yelling, because if he was yelling, I would know it. I cried a lot. Still do I guess. In the Father's Manual of the 70's and 80's there were entire chapters devoted to 'Why are you crying? I'll give you something to cry about." I'm not making any judgement about it. I was salty for a while (like pretty much my teens and twenties).  We didn't talk a lot. He didn't come to all that many of my school events, but I never felt like he didn't care. More like he was just busy running a family business and too tired to be bothered with some of those frilly things. We communicated through my teens via Star Trek, M*A*S*H, Robert Redford movies, and later through China Beach. Any time something came on about Viet Nam, I stared straight at the TV and pretended to never noticed the streaks on my dad's cheeks.

I did some stupid things in my teens that I won't really go into here. But there were legitimately a few moments where I was thankful my mom was in the room because I thought my dad would go off. Instead he just sighed, left the room and left me to my own internal punishment. My thoughts were harsher most of the time than any whipping he could give. Still are.

I got married pretty young. I don't really regret it. The best thing that came from it was my daughter. And with that came some insight into what being a father meant. Dad was still a bit gruff...but softened with the arrival of his granddaughter. Things with us were still...somewhat tense, but civil. There were certain things I didn't talk to him about, Politics being top of that list.

In my twenties I think it's safe to say that I still felt like my dad didn't truly 'get' me. But, thanks to having a child of my own, I was starting to understand him a little better.

I'm skipping a whole lot here (mostly because this really deserves a book), but somewhere along in my 30's, on a trip back from the Farm, Dad gave me some insight into the perception I had of him as a child.

It was mind blowing. And every single thing clicked. It was harder for him to tell me than it was for me to hear (which is incredible, because it was a pretty fucking intense conversation to have anyway), but him telling me was the foundation that brings us to today.

Today my dad is not my hero, but there are aspects of his life and what he went through that would render boring any origin story in the comics. He is someone who is an inspiration for me. I know unequivocally that my father has my back. That he will support me no matter what I do. And that I never have to worry about him judging me or believing in me anymore (this was a very real thing I struggled with as a child).

Dad was never big on celebrating his birthday when we were growing up. It wasn't something he had a child and I truthfully think it makes him feel awkward when people make a fuss about him (I get that). Sorry, Dad...but I'm making a fuss.

I can say, with complete honesty and sincerity, that I would be nowhere near the man I am today without my Dad.

And it kills me that I can't go see him today. That I can't hug him. That I can't through choked tears tell him how much he means to me while pretending not to see the tears well in the corners of his eyes.

All I can do is have a glass of Knob Creek, FaceTime him later, and hope that as he reads this, I've done a halfway decent job of expressing how much he means to me and how much I love him.

Happy Birthday, Day.

Love,
AT


4.05.2020

My Kingdom for a...Hug?!?

We are in some strange times. For example, if I keep going the way I am currently headed, you will get one post on this blog every month. For some I know, that's probably one post too many. That's fine. You don't have to read it. For the other 7 of you that stop by on a regular basis, all I can say is this. I'll try to do better.

In theory, I should have more time, right? Isn't that one of the things people are on about with our current pandemic-con? BTW...WORST CON EVER.

I don't know that I actually have more time to be creative.

I really don't have any idea where this post is going. At this point, it's kind of a freeramble. Or it will be as soon as I go cut my nails. Excuse me for a moment, will you?

Much better. I don't know what it is, but if my fingernails are too long, it bugs the crap out of me when I'm typing.

If you know me at all, you know that I am easily annoyed by people. You may also have picked up that I suffer from one of the seemingly garden variety of social anxiety disorders. One of the key tenants of this flavor of mismatched brain candy is that I tend to overthink the shit out of everything. And I rabbit hole things. And I have a hard time believing that even though you asked me to come some place, that you actually wanted me there in the first place, or shortly after my arrival you immediately regret your decision to invite me, but are too polite to ask me to leave.

If I have ever cancelled on you within ten minutes of the planned time you and I had to do something, please re-read that last paragraph again. You may gain some insight into what was happening.

All of these can still happen. The meds are good, but they aren't great, and my mind is like that shitty Dark Side of the Force swamp on Dagobah. The Meds are like Yoda, fiddling with his stick, telling me I don't need a blaster. And my mind is all like Luke, strapping on that gun and diving down that dark hole.

So, you'd think that something like this Shelter-In-Place/Stay-At-Home thing would be right up my alley then, right? No plans to cancel because we can't actually meet up. Normally I would say you are right, but the number of House Party invites I've bailed on at the last minute would prove us both wrong.

It turns out that while I genuinely have difficulty getting to a social event, once I'm there I usually do OK until my Introvert Low-Fuel indicator kicks in and I have to go home and do anything other than be around people.

Something else that is weird, is this. While I do have a hard time in social situations (you may not believe me, but trust me when I tell you that I do. Those inner voices are like Kylo-Ren 13 minutes before the Prom), it turns out that I actually thrive off of being around people. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I need physical contact. Hugs, man. I'm talking about hugs.

I freakin' love hugs. Hugs can run the gamut of intimate and emotional intent. But it's fair to say that regardless of the hug, I'm a fan. Being on this lockdown scenario for the last...what...18 days has just been...well....kind of depressing, if I'm being honest.

But Todd...you're quarantined with your best friend, how can that be bad? Well..normally I would agree, my bestie is pretty awesome, but you're forgetting the flip side of that--she's quarantined with me. And I'm kinda moody sometimes. And I bottle shit up. And I...seriously...did you miss the whole paragraph about being on Dagobah? No. Honestly, it's been fine. But it's not like it's all cocktails and Magic the Gathering every night.

I still have to work during the day. So, I'm working from home. Monitors and my work computer have taken over my writing desk.

Before I fall deeper into this rabbit hole, I do want to say one thing. I know that I'm incredibly fortunate to be able to do my job from home. I know a ton of people don't have that option. I don't take it for granted, and I'm not bitching about it in the way you may think.

What I do want to say about working from home is this--it blurs the work/life balance thing. Prior to this whole thing, there was a clear delineation. I got up, showered, went into the office, did my job, came home, threw on some shorts and boom. The evening begins, Todd time. Oh, gosh...not like THAT. OK...I mean...sometimes like that, but mostly just binging Netflix and sorting through Magic the Gathering cards for the evening.

That structure isn't really there now. My home space, that place I come to unwind, is now also the place where I actually have to do the things that pay the bills. There's no decompress time on the drive home.

It's just....weird.

The other thing that's weird in all of this is that I had just started to figure out what it might be like to start dating. Honestly, I can't really tell you how much I miss watching a movie, snuggled up with someone on the couch who doesn't have 4 paws and tries to lick the popcorn salt off my fingers.

But how do you get to know someone without breaking quarantine? Chatting goes so far. But until you can hear the voice, pick up on the cues, it's a mine field. Seriously. The way my brain is wired, what might seem like a little harmless comment by the sender could have me wondering what I said, and how could I be such a terrible human.

There might be some esteem issues I'm working through. It's fine. I'm not 50 until next year. Still got time to get my shit together, right?

So...I guess that's where we are. Starting this week, I will be dressing Business Casual from the waist up and SO not business casual from the waist down. Because, you know...Teams meetings with the cameras on. So...yay for that.

I don't know what it's going to be like after COVID-19 gets corralled, whenever that may be.  But, I can't wait for the day when we can actually be around people. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm probably not going to enjoy talking to them any more than I did before, but I at least would like to be in the same room. And I can't wait to hug my friends. To hug my parents. To hug my Gramps.  To hug my daughter.

I fucking miss hugs. I can't tell you, because I don't know the word that describes the indescribable depth to which I miss hugs.  But I do.

And I can't wait for awkward conversations over coffee. At least I'll know much quicker if I'm truly a dork, or just imagining it.

I hope you are all holding up OK out there. Seriously. I see a lot of people joking about this being the shit that Introverts were made for. And maybe for some it is. For others, like me, it limits the chance for me to break the cycle. If I'm starting to go inward and spiral down, I could always go somewhere...break the cycle by changing the environment. The options for that are much more limited these days, so it makes it harder for me to break that spiral when it starts.

There have been some moments. We've come too far for me to lie about any of that. So, yeah. I'm hanging on. Somedays it's with both hands as I'm pulling myself up over the edge to the good side of the cliff. Other days, I don't know, man. I just don't know.

All I can say is, we can make it through this. And by we, I mostly mean me (because there's still a part of me that only things like 4 people ever read this). But WE  can make it through this.

Just be good to yourselves. Be good to each other. Be good to the people who can't Shelter in Place right now, because they are putting themselves at greater risk on a daily basis.

And...I say this with no intent to scare you...but if we are friends...you can bet your ass that I am giving you the biggest hug I can when hugs are again legal. Count on it.

Until then...I'll try to use all this free pandemic time that we're all supposed to have and get some more of these blogs posted.

Love you my peeps.

-AT

3.12.2020

The Magic of Imposter Crab Chips

Greetings my friends. As I do so often on these posts where I have been the absentee author, I will start off with an apology. I know that you have many options out there when you are looking for something to fill the 73 seconds at the end of your Outlander binge-fest before Netflix asks you if you are still watching and then silently judges you based on how long it takes you to dust off the cheesy-poof dust before grabbing the remote to answer YES. And you chose my little corner of the web. Thanks for that. I don't know how many of you regularly still read this, but if you do, thanks. I know I don't say it often enough, but I do appreciate you.

If you know me, you know that I packed a whole lot into that seemingly innocuous title up there. Hopefully we'll be able to unpack it all here before I get annoyed that there are actually people now in the lunchroom and try to wrap it up as quickly as possible.

No. I wouldn't do that. OK. I mean, I totally would do that, but since it's been something like 3 years since I've posted anything, I'm going to try to get through some of what's been rattling around in my head.

And man...the shit rattling around in my head...Wow. The past couple months have felt like that weird Fisher-Price toy. You know the one. It's like a ball...on a stick. And there are wheels. And kids push it around...and inside the ball are other tinier balls. And as the toddler toddles, the balls just pop around in like a bloop blop bork bonk bip boop kind of thing as the little agitator causes the balls to plop around.

OK. I am going to be testing my urges to keep writing while someone is listening to TikTok videos on their phone loud enough for the rest of the room.

It's weird. I can be in a coffee shop and there's enough other people there that the people noise becomes like its own ambient sound. But when there are only a few other people in a room that was previously silent...well...yeah.

Anyway...shit floating around in my brain. Theres a lot of it. I'm not really going to unpack much of any of that right now, because, to be honest I don't know that I'm really ready to process any of it right now.

I've been playing Magic the Gathering (sorry for the abrupt segue, but if you've read any of my posts you really should be prepared for the utter randomness that is me at this point). If you don't know what Magic the Gathering is, I won't bore you with the geeky details. Google it. It's a collectible card game. You build decks and "battle" other people who have also built decks. It's just fun. I've really gotten into it. The collecting...the building of the deck. My brain just falls into a happy place when I'm opening packs and looking through cards.


So...yeah...it's fun. There's a new set coming out this week. The new set is called the Mystery Booster. It's going to have cards from 15 different Magic the Gathering sets. I'm really looking forward to drafting. Drafting is where you open a deck...pick a card...pass the rest.. This is done until the contents of 3 packs have been reviewed and passed. And you have something like 45 cards that you have to build a deck from and then...woot!! Time to Battle. I don't really ever win (unless I get the bye, which I totally count as a win, by the way). But it's fun. It's a hobby. And it sort of gets me out of the house. And it's social (demented and sad, but social none the less. Thanks, Bender).

So that's kind of the ongoing fun event that is a slow little current of activity and one of the things I look forward to in my life. 

Hey Todd, how come it's been so long since you've written anything on the bloggy blog or you know, talked about one of the three different books you've promised us by now?

I'm glad you asked. Let me clarify. I'm glad you thought of it enough to remind me about it. But, I'm sorry about the not having written anything in at least three fortnights. We've covered the magic part of the title. And thanks to your question, we're now into the imposter portion of the program. 

If you have friends who are authors or artists of some point,  you will have no doubt heard of them talking about Imposter Syndrome. Whatever your take on it is, I can tell you, it's real. It may not be an official mental illness with a full-blown entry in the DSM-5, but it's every bit as crippling. 

It's not a cry for attention, though it might seem that way from the outside. It is, at its core,


(We pause now, while your intrepid author moved from the TikTok'ing for Everyone Lunch Room and moved into another room that was, for now, empty)

the manifestation of a combination of self-doubt, sometimes low self-worth, and the belief that nobody in the world would possibly give two shits about what I write.  Add that to the fact that one of the only times I truly feel alive is when I'm writing. The other times are not necessarily PG or Family Friendly, and are the topic of an erotic blog I have yet to really fully do much with at this point. So. Yeah. 

You can see where it gets messed up with the shit ping-ponging around in my brain right? Like, I have to write...but at the same time, I feel like I'm complete shit as a writer. Thanks brain. And then any number of external factors or situations can pile on. 

I don't talk about depression much. I've been diagnosed with it in the past. I say in the past because when I was diagnosed with it, I was on anti-depressants. In addition to keeping me at an even keel (so even that at the end it feel like I was a Zombie), the meds also sapped whatever joy I took from writing. So...when I got to the point where I thought my life (and by proxy, me) was stable enough to come off of them, I worked with my Doctor and did just that. The downside was, my wife at the time had never known me off of the meds. So, as I was getting back to what I (and anyone who knew me before I was on the meds) thought was the 'real Todd,' my wife (at the time) was seeing this person manifest in her life that she had never met. As I was getting more in touch with the Todd I had lost, she was getting a stranger. I know that's not the only reason that the marriage ended. But the part of me that wants to take blame for every bad thing that happens to me or people around me, wants to believe that it was a major factor in the divorce. 

So...it's safe to say that when Imposter Syndrome is at its most fierce, I can say with a high degree of certainty that there is also some depression going on as well. It's a lovely little cocktail that has me wondering who the fuck I am and why I am even bothering. I have a good support system though. And I lean on them. Sometimes. Because...being me. I know, surmise, or can see, that they are going through their own shit. I mean. We all have it. We all go through it. It hits some of us harder than others. But when I'm going through it and I know a majority of my support system is too, I just keep it to myself. Or write shitty poems. Because to me, I don't want to bug anyone. Nobody really has time for my shit on top of theirs. Whether or not that's the reality or not, that's the facts that my brain comes up with. 

And then there's the writer brain throwing imposter syndrome into the mix. I was happy and sad to learn that some of my favorite authors also suffer from the imposter syndrome. Happy because it's good to know that I'm not alone (there's a whole series I could pen on alone vs. lonely, but that's for another time). So,  yeah. Happy to not be alone. Sad because this author (many of them) has achieved level of success I aspire to and they still got Imposter Syndrome.

What the actual fuck? I guess being a world famous best-selling author won't  solve all my problems. It's a sobering thought. But, if you don't mind, I'm still going to keep that on the dream list and let you know how it turns out, mmmkay? 

Cool. So. Yeah. 

Good news is...I have a few very close writer friends who helped me talk through what was causing this latest bout of Imposter Syndrome. And I have a plan. I have a goal. I have a mission. And as you can see I am writing again. 

And, in 9 days I will be at a writers' intensive workshop. Where 10 other people are going to critique a piece I submitted. 

I'm terrified. 

BUT.  And I like big buts...

I'm also exhilarated. Not only do I get to go on a road trip with my best friend in the whole world, but I get to work with writers who are going to give me valuable insight into how to make my story and my writing better. 

I hope.

My pits are still a bit sweaty and my palms feel like the outside of a cold can of pop on a hot summer day, but it's going to be good.

And with the imposter syndrome quelled a bit, I can focus a little on what's contributing to the depression and general malaise. lt's cool, though, I don't really need a list of supplements or essential oils or stretches to do. I mean, I probably do, but I'm not in a place where I can receive them constructively without feeling like you are trying to fix me. Because if you are trying to fix me, then I must be something you see as broken. 


See--this is why I can't have nice things. 

But I'm not going to end this on a down note. And this is a moment of growth for me. There was time in my life where I would have finished that sentence with some bit of deprecation along the lines of 'you didn't come here to see me mope about.' And that belittles one of the things this blog does for me. For me, this blog is an outlet. It's a way for me to work shit out. Some of this might help you. Some of it might not. Some of may just be a train wreck and you come with a fresh batch of popcorn to see what love I'm going to lament about this month. All of that is cool. It's honestly none of my business why you come here. 

Here's the happy note I'm going to end one. It's actually 2 pictures. The first is what I consider to be the best potato chip ever. OR at least I did. Until a friend (the same friend who turned me on to the chips in the first pic) sent me the snack in the second pic. 

It's a tough call. Really it's too close to call. 





In any event, I need to get back to work.

I'm so glad you stopped by. I really have missed talking to you. 


-AT 

2.10.2020

Painfully Cathartic



Self-discovery is a painful process. Or at least it can be. Sometimes. Look, all I'm saying is, what you're about to read is me trying to reason some shit out in my head. Some shit that's been rattling around for a while. Weeks. Months. Honestly? Decades. This is some 'A-ha--THAT'S WHY I'M SO FUCKED UP' shit that goes back to my formative years.

It's going to probably be boring to you. Or maybe helpful. Fuck. At this point, anything is possible.

If it helps you get a sense of where this might be going, the original title of this piece was going to be "Why You Should Never Date Me, And Other Lies I Tell Myself"

Yeah. It's that kind of night. Before I dive too deep into this, I will reassure some of you that might ask, yes, I am remembering to take my meds. Thanks for checking.

I have known something about myself for a while now. I just recently admitted it to a couple of people, one of whom I'm very good friends with, you might say best friends with, and one a friend I just recently met. Now, let's be clear about one thing here. As you read this, there will likely be many revelations that have you saying, "Uh...no shit, Todd. We could have told you that."  To which I say--Why the fuck didn't you?!?  Seriously. I could have used this wake-up call about 25 years ago.   Alright, seat-belts fastened? Tray tables and seat backs up and in their full upright positions? Good. Here we go.

I don't know if you know this about me, but I like to have sex. Yeah. I'm a bit of a freak. Don't worry, that's about as detailed as I'm going to get on this fairly open forum. Anyway, I am twice divorced. And I'm not currently dating anyone (we'll unpackage that nugget in a little bit). Couple those two things with that first little gem I left you with and you have an explanation into my recent foray into Tinder.

But Todd...why would you want to use the interwebs to hook up with random strangers when you could just as easily go to a bar and try to pick up someone in person? Good question. Have you met me? For reals? Do I look like the kind of dude who could pick someone up in a bar? Yeah, no. Which leads me to the first big jewel that has my anxiety kicking in as I'm typing.

I'm insecure. Not all the time. Rather, it's probably better to say, sometimes I get flooded with some very lasered beams of insecurity. Not about all things. But in the area of dating/girlfriends/wives, I am. There is something wired in my brain where I don't think I deserve that kind of storybook happy ending (not that kind of happy ending). As much as I can see myself in the When Harry Met Sally kind of role--you know, where the plucky, funny friend is always there and the other friend is like 'omg--he's totally amazing and he loves me and I can't believe I didn't see it before' and it works out in the perfect way it always does in Hollywood, but almost never does in real life. Yeah, sure. It looks good on paper.

But something about how my brain is wired up there in the olde brain bucket tends to lead me to believe that no matter what situation I find myself in, there is the underlying doubt river merrily raging between the two shores of You are totally punching above your class and there's no way she's not going to get sick of you at some point and You don't really believe that you truly deserve this kind of happiness, do you?

So, invariably, I find ways to make sure that I don't ever really truly open up to someone I'm dating. What I'm saying is, dating me is something that I wouldn't wish on anyone at this point. Oh, don't get me wrong, you may not actually see me express either of those two thoughts aloud to you, but they will be there. And somewhere along the way I will make a noble gesture. Something along the lines of saying that it's not really fair of me to hold you back. You could have so much more. There is someone out there that is way better for you than I could ever be. In short, dating me really sucks. And I don't do well with dating someone. I tend to go down the rabbit hole much more if there is a label on whatever the thing is. Let's be clear. It's not a noble gesture. It's bullshit. It's me being chicken shit and disbelieving you when you say there's nobody else you'd rather be with.

And here's the bitch of it..I will say that, and push you away even if, at that point in my life, you are the best thing in my life. Yeah. Fucked up, I know. But I have a lifetime of history to draw these conclusions from. It's a thing. It happens EVERY SINGLE FUCKING TIME. Somewhere in the dating process the doubt creeps in. I start to wonder why the person is with me. What could I possibly hope to offer them?

This doesn't just happen as I'm dating someone. There are times when this keeps me from actually starting to date, or even approaching the subject of dating. Because...my brain steps in and says, "Dude, that's cool and all, but you know it's only going to be a matter of time before you fuck it up or they wake up and wonder what they ever saw in you in the first place.

Look, I told you this was going down a dark path, shouldn't be a surprise. What's that? I didn't tell you that? Oh...shit. My bad. Yeah, my dude, this path is all covered in shadows-n-shit. Sorry about that.

Combine all the aforementioned doubt and sometimes mythic levels of self-sabotage with the fact that, after two tries at being someone's happily ever after (and the subsequent legal fees that ensued when the party ended), there is no way I really want to get married. Ever again. And not wanting to get married tends to put a damper on things at my age because many of the women in my particular end of the dating pool are looking for their last first kiss (no, that's actually a thing. You can make a drinking game out of it. Add in 'LTR' and you'll be blitzed by the 7th swipe). They want the knight in shining armor to be their soulmate-storybook ending. A lot of people my age or near my age are wanting those long term relationships, or LTR as the kids say, that will eventually lead to marriage.

And that's just not me. I don't really see myself as anyone's knight. My armor is tarnished and banged up, and to be perfectly honest hasn't really fit right since that last big dragon fight. So...there's that.

THOSE things are what led me to Tinder. Because...as I'm sure you all know from your vast interwebs experiences, Tinder is pretty much a place where consenting adults can post a work-friendly pic. If someone else likes your work-friendly pic and the words that may or may not be accompanying it, they swipe a certain direction and then you can match and eventually hookup (in pretty much all senses of that word). So...cool. I like sex. I suck at dating. I'm not looking for a wife or a long-term role as a boyfriend or whatever....so hookups it is. Seemed like a perfect solution.

Only, get this shit. Tinder somehow isn't a hookup site anymore. Somewhere along the way, it grew up. The number of 'not looking for a hookup' or 'if you're only interested in sex swipe left' comments in the profiles has led me to wonder if I'm missing something. In any event, suffice to say, there have been no Tinder hookups since I put my work-friendly pics up on there. Maybe it's because I'm honest from the get go. I figure that's kind of the point. There's a lot of 'don't want drama' and 'don't have time for games' things peppered in there, too, on the profiles I'm reading. Which--cool, me too brah. I don't want drama (see the aforementioned note of having 2 ex-wives). And I don't play those kinds of relationship games anyway. So, I'm upfront. I'm honest.

Because of that, I'm still sleeping with the laundry in my bed because when I roll over it feels like I'm sharing the bed with someone and not the big desert of solitude that it feels like when the clothes are put away. What? Don't judge me. Are you honestly telling me that you haven't left the clean laundry on half of the bed in such a way that it feels like you're asleep in the bed with someone? Oh. No? Just me? Fine, I'll be the weird one. I'm used to wearing that name tag-it's one of the few that fits me really well.

A friend I recently had brunch with asked me, "Why don't you just get one of those full length body pillows?" The answer was simple. Plausible Deniability. Dig this--if I leave my clean laundry on half of the bed, to the world, it just looks like I'm a bit of a slob and don't put my clean clothes away. But if I bought one of those pillows, I would be admitting that I needed that feeling every now and again of waking up next to someone. This hit home. It was one of the reasons, I think, that I rushed into my second marriage AND dragged my feet in ending that same marriage. So, trust when I say, that it's a thing that crossed my mind. But a pillow that broadcasts that to the world? Meh. Also I would have to actually put the clothes away. And we just can't really have either of those things, can we?

Didn't think so.

Oh--not to mention, those things are kind of expensive. So, there'e that added to the stack as well.

All of this is leading me to the place where I am really trying to take things at face value. I'm trying to be more communicative up front about things, and trusting that the other persons in my life will tell me if they have beef with me about anything. Or, I guess, conversely, if they have something good to say, that will come up too.  I'm trying to step around the doubt-bombs as I walk through this minefield...or rather mindfield, riddled with doubt a just enough self-loathing to spice things up a bit.

To recap. Am I alone? No, I know I'm not alone. My friends are amazing. Starting with the one who will readily tell you that she has a dork that lives across the hall all the way to my friends that I only see every 6 months. I know I have an amazing network of friends and I'm very blessed in that way.  But that doesn't mean that I sometimes don't feel lonely. There's a shortage of people in my life with whom I can start the convo with "hey...you like sex. I like sex. Wanna go do the sex?" Or the cuddling on the couch. Or the whatever kind of human touch and interaction releases those funky 'hey you're a human and life is totally OK right now' hormones throughout your system.

Also, while this may seem like the manifesto of someone in the midst of drowning in depression, I can assure you that it is not. I mean, think about it. A manifesto is WAY  more work than I'm willing to put into it right now. Also, I'm not entirely depressed. Sure, there are things I'm trying to work through to get me to where I think I'm supposed to be at this point in my life, but shit man, that's just life in general.

Thirdly, yes. I am currently taking my anti-anxiety meds. Trust me, if I wasn't taking them, there's no way I'd be able to put any of these words on the page without at least a full day of falling down at least a dozen rabbit holes. But no...I am. We're good there. It's the reason I can be so open. Well, that, and I know that only about 5 people are going to probably read this post anyway--so, it's all good.

The lesson I'm trying to live, and believe, and take to heart through all of this is, for fuck's sake, I need to get out of my own way. Getting cock-blocked is one thing, but doing it to myself just flies to a whole new level of ridiculous.

Look, I'm going to level with you here. There's definitely some more shit I need to work through on this, but it's stuff that's going to go in the paper journal. You can check out that journal from your local library in about 75 years. What? Are you telling me that I'm the only one that plans to have lived such an interesting life that my journals will be something that the public clamors for? Really? Fine. I mean...why else am I writing them?

Also, I mean it is almost 2 AM, and after the last two nights of not really sleeping, I need to try to get a few hours in. I've been missing time in Dreamland. Lately, there's be recurring visitors there. It's been giving me more fodder for the timetravel piece I'm still working on.

If you have made it this far, wow, thank you. I'm not sure why you kept reading, but it bodes well for when I publish things that are more intentional and not the ramblings of a lonely-dude with moderate to slightly severe anxiety disorder.

Alright my friends, I'm off to bed.

Peace Out
-AT

1.14.2020

A General Malaise

This post will likely be rushed. I’d apologize, but at this point, the quirkiness is more than likely something you have come to expect from me. 

It’s rushed for a couple of reasons. The first being that I have 28 minutes left of my lunch and feel like at 14 days into the new year and several months since my last post (it seems), this is long overdue.

The second reason it’s rushed is that I’m going to likely just do this in one sitting, no editing, no revising, no gut-checking any emotions or lack thereof that might find their way to this post. Again, I feel like it’s my MO at this point. 

Also, I’m lazy. Let’s be honest. Too many times this past year when push has come to shove and I’ve tried to impose deadlines on projects that I wanted to get done, something shiny has caught my eye and I dove into another, less productive time-suck. 

And that’s why I’m probably swimming in it now. That whole general malaise thing that’s going on. As is the case with just about any malaise (and specifically with a general malaise), I don’t have a good reason for the feelings. They are just kind of there. Like that sweater that was too itchy at first, to be avoided at all cost, it has been worn to the point where it seems comfortable, and I can’t really picture putting it back in the closet in favor for something that actually is comfortable and good for me.

Part of it is the writing. I know that. I know that when I don’t write every day, I hurt. Even these little blips on the blog help block the pain receptors and guide me back to that place where I feel like I’m doing something good with my life. 

And it’s been how long since I’ve put one of these out? Over two months. Sure, you’re right—I’ve guest blogged a few times since then, but in general, my lunchtime bloggy-blog has collected a fine layer of dust. And is giving me the side eye because I don’t take it out on the town and tell it how pretty it is anymore. 

It’s okay baby, I still love you as much as I ever did, and you are fucking gorgeous. 

That’s part of it, sure. I have to say though, I know that’s not all of it. Some of the other contributing factors are probably bordering on the edge of TMI, so I don’t care to dive too deeply into them. Suffice to say it has to do with the mounds of laundry I’ve kept on my bed these past few months. Because you know, there’s that little micro-infinity when you first start to come back from dreamland where you feel a presence in the bed, and it’s the person you were dreaming of and for that split second, the fact that you’re waking up alone feels like the dream, and not the reality. Again, I know some of that’s on me. I don’t do marriage all that well. Hell, to be honest, I’m pretty crap at dating, too. But I am a beast when it comes to snuggling, hanging out on the couch, watching movies, getting silly, and generally just hanging out.  Soooo, yeah. That was a little more of a reveal than I meant to give. Spoiler alert-I’m human. So, there’s that. 

On the plus side...I’m moving away from being on the plus side. Weight has dropped down around the 270’s.  It’s like a Freeway thing going on here. You see in Central Ohio, we have a highway called 315, and then our outer belt is called 270. I was on 315 for the longest time, and now I’m closer to being on 270. I’m not going to try to fool myself into thinking that I’ll ever be on 161 again (because that would make me look worse that Matthew McConaughey in that movie where he literally starved himself before shooting started. But yeah...I’m eating better. The bestie and I did meal prep for the week which has the trifecta of advantages: Controls spending; controls portions; and combats the lazy tendency when trying to decide what to eat to think that somehow spending money on Taco Bell is better than cooking something from the groceries we already spent money on. It’s Win-Win-Win. Plus...the soon to be routine of Sunday Meal Prep with my bestie is fun (takes care of some of that ‘feeling isolated’ thing).

I’m fighting the urge to cuss out the year. After all, it’s barely warmed up. And also,I feel like getting upset with an arbitrary construct just doesn’t do anyone any good and deflects some of the onus for me to own my shit. Although, I’m a little saddened by the passing of Neal Peart. And I’m also salty that people I love and care about seem to be getting mounds of shit dumped on their plate when all they were trying to do was finish the damn chocolate pudding that was 2019. 

And sure, work is busy. The fourth quarter of the year is our company’s busiest. I knew that going into it, but I still have the feeling on some days that I didn’t quite know how insane it was going to be. Still, even with all of that, this job is so much more of a better fit for me than probably any other job I’ve had in my life. Except for that time in High School when I was a DJ in training at a club geared for teens (Anyone remember Flamingo Isle, in Westerville?). Or the time I was a rock star for 6 days in 2008.

I’m not sure it’s going to be a better fit once I add New York Times Bestselling Author to the CV, but that’s not really going to be a problem anytime soon. I mean, in order for that to happen, I need to actually finish the books I’ve started. 

I’m working on that, too. I have a plan. I have a calendar. And I have star stickers. Each 500 words I write gets a star. If I get 50,000 words written in a month, I will celebrate with an evening of hookers and blow. And by hookers and blow, I mean a nice meal at a fancy restaurant.  Based on how I’ve started, January is safe. I might hit enough words to earn a meal at White Castle, but probably won’t earn a suit and tie meal at The Refectory. Maybe February.. We’ll see. At least I have a plan. And this little post that you’re still reading (dear god, are you still reading this?? I’m so sorry. You must be sick of baby Yoda memes if you’re still here) counts. 

I guess that’s one of the lessons that I’ve missed. Well...it’s one of the lessons that took me about thirty-seven or thirty eight years to figure out. And then I’m good for a few months. And then I forget it again for about a year or so. And then I figure it out again. It’s a vicious circle. I’d say cycle, but that implies that it can be broken at some point, and I’m beginning to realize that it can’t. Nor should it. You see, it’s usually when I get to this point of malaise that I figure enough is enough. Oh, I mean, sure, if you want to get picky about it, that point is usually when I run out of Moose Tracks and Coke Zero, but why be so hurtful?  Point is, here’s the lesson. 

Every. Word. Counts.

Yes. Some of the words are garbage. But you cannot edit a blank page. 
Besides, some of the words are not garbage. Some of the words give your best friend, who is easily one of your favorite authors on the planet, word-envy. OK, most don’t, but I’m hanging on to the compliments and motivations where I find them, you do what you need to do.

Oh—yeah. That. The thing about words. For me it’s words. Your mileage may vary. For you it might be every loop and knot in that macrame hanging flower pot you’re making. Or every measure you record on that kicking bass track in your basement. Whatever your thing is, it counts. Every single one of them counts. It is enough just to be doing the thing. 

You are enough.

Hey—Future Todd, when you read this, remember—You Are Enough. 

Have an awesomesauce day my friends!

10.30.2019

Marriage Material??

I had a friend call me today, fuming. I consider myself a good listener on most days. Considering that I was out of town on a work trip and doing absolutely nothing in my hotel room, my listening game was on-point.

She recounted the exchange that sent her off. I will spare you some of the more personal details, but the gist was, at one point, the dude-bro she was talking to flat out told her that she wasn’t marriage material.

Torn between wanting to be a supportive friend and being completely gobsmacked, I felt her frustration. No. That’s not quite right. I didn’t feel the same frustration she felt. I’m approaching what some consider middle age. I’m white. I’m primarily interested in women. Oh, and I have a penis. So...no, I can never truly feel the same frustration she was feeling. Or an anger that comes from the same place her anger came from. No matter how in touch I am witn my feminine side (whatever the fuck that actually means).

Instead, the frustration and anger I was feeling was because this complete waste of space had frustrated and angered my friend. And because he had further taken a big dump on any path of progress men could hope to have in quashing the rampant misogyny in our society.

And the phrase that stuck with me was ‘marriage material.’ Marriage fucking material.
What is marriage material?

I’m not even going to dive into the fustercluck of what a marriage is. (Love is love, leave your gender pronouns out of the definition of marriage).

So is marriage material, then,something on the list of things (both tangible and intangible) needed to make a marriage?

Last I checked, you needed 2 willing people with enough money between them to pay to file legal documents in whatever state they were “getting married” in, and the time to stand before a judge and get the official swearing of said marriage.

That’s it.  At its core, that’s really all of the material you need for a marriage. Two people and a contract.

But that’s not what this ass-clown said.

He said that my friend was not marriage material. SHE was not marriage material.

He was clearly reading a different blueprint for marriage. A person can’t be a document or the time to assert the vows.

So what was the not so subtle dig here?

That my friend was not worthy of a happily ever after? Don’t even get me started on that...because not all marriages lead to HE--at all.

Was he saying that she wasn’t good enough for him?  Bullshit. I’ve never met this dude, but if anything I know my friend is too good for him based on this conversation alone.

What frosts my nards about this kind of exchange is that the issue clearly lies with the dude. There’s some shit he’s got to work through about what he’s looking for in a partner. At its core, with or without the legal document or big fancy church wedding, a marriage is always a partnership. Period.

So, dude’s got some issues.

And he lashes out and puts the shit squarely back onto my friend.

THAT is the dick move.

Men...I’m begging you...pleading with you...kicking your ass in a drinking contest if necessary—whatever it takes to get this message through.

OWN YOUR SHIT.

Seriously. Own it.

If YOU have confusion about something--like how to effectively communicate with someone you are interested in (no matter their gender)...own it. Don’t push that off on someone. If you can’t see yourself in a lifetime partnership with someone and you want to keep it casual (or you want to break it off), then COMMUNICATE and FOLLOW THROUGH.

DO NOT put that shit onto someone else. Nobody has time to shoulder their own shit AND yours. And that goes doubly for most of the women I know. They already have to shoulder enough shit heaped onto them by countless men in their life.

Don’t pile on to that heap.

I can guarantee that there is no woman that deserves to have your insecurities piled on to their own shit in the form of thinly veiled “keeping it real” talk.

And for fuckssakes...if you ignore my previous pleas and pile it on anyway, do NOT call her a crazy bitch when she calls you on your shit. You had that shit coming.

Untitled Blog Post #17

I actually have no idea if this is actually the 17th blog post I have written without a title. It could be. Probably isn’t. Not sure that it matters.

What does matter is that I am actually writing. This is the third blog post I’ve written in as many days. One of them is going to be on my friend’s business site (and I’ll be sure to post the link when it’s up). The other was written as a reaction to a conversation I recently had a with a lady friend of mine (not like that). I let her read it and she said it was OK to post, so that one is forthcoming.

And then there is this. This post. I am sitting in a plane* at whatever thousands of feet planes fly at and I can hear the flight attendant chipping the ice. It’s very disconcerting. POUND POUND POUND POUND POUND.

On the plus side, it is drowning out the kids who are shouting and not understanding why they can’t hear each other (but somehow everyone can hear them).

In the seat next to me is a passenger who has the sniffles. Hopefully not a full on cold. I don’t need one of those. I had some spare fresh tissues and thought they would serve her better than the bathroom sandpaper she was using.

Across the aisle is...I don’t know what. A goddess? Probably not, but she is one of those women who has this kind of joie de vie that just radiates outward and makes her whole persona shine. I don’t know her name. I likely won’t know her name unless she happens to swipe right on me and what are the fucking odds of that happening? Not bloody likely, I can tell you that.  It’s ok, though. She seems to be one of those souls that you’re just supposed to experience and be the better for it. At least for a little while.

I don’t know where that came from, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Ya know? I mean, there is probably a non-creepy way I could have said that I enjoyed the laughs on the flight. The way the flight attendant scolded her for switching seats. The way she casually poo-poo’d it when I told her they sometimes had to redistribute the heavy ones like me when the flight is not quite full. She won’t know all of this. But those are the kind of people that somehow wind up in my book. There will be a character. And maybe she’ll read it and think, “Hey...that happened to me on a flight...I wonder…”

And isn’t that what’s cool about this life we are living? We never really know who we touch in our day to day interactions. She will likely think nothing of this, just another flight. But for me, I’ve just had the indelible image of a character for a book burned into the writing files that live in my head. Those are the gifts that make sitting in a planeful of cholera worth it.

Yes, it’s the time of year when people travel even when they are sick. So there is a call and response of cough, sneeze, cough, sneeze that would make the priest sitting in 27C proud.

I don’t know if I’m supposed to be comforted or worried by the priest being onboard. Faith and spirituality I’m good with, it’s religion that has become the estranged cousin in my life.

But I did have a realization as they were going through the safety demonstration. And I’m almost positive that I’ve posted something about this before. I guess this post is just a reboot, then.


There’s a point in the demonstration where they talk about the oxygen mask dropping from above you. And they say that if you are traveling with someone who needs help that you should put your mask on first, before helping others.

And that kind of hit me.

How many times do we run around in life trying to make sure everyone has their mask on and we wind up passing out because we forgot to put ours on?

Too many damn times. That’s how many.

People, in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, for fucksakes, put on your damn oxygen mask first.

You are going to be no good to anyone if your own mask isn’t on.

Read that last sentence again. It’s OK, I’ll wait.

On some level, you MUST put yourself first. You have to make yourself a priority if for no other reason than someone in your life is counting on you to help them put their mask on.

And what did Tina the amazing flight attendant (who came back to me with the 2nd half of a can of Coke Zero and a new cup of ice) tell us?  Put your mask on first BEFORE helping others.

It seems such a simple lesson. A lesson that is really just common sense when you think about it. But how many times DAILY do we all fail at this on at least some level?

17.

I’m guessing. Your number may be more, it may be less, but I can bet you that your number is not zero.

Here’s the other thing I learned. And this one is slightly more allegorical, but here goes.

In the (highly unlikely**) event of a water landing, your seat can be used as a floatation device. The takeaway from this is kinda straightforward.

Sometimes you are going to splashdown in the shit. It happens. You’re going to get wet. You’re going to fall right on your bum into the drink. But never fear, your cushion can be used as a floatation device. Meaning, we already have the equipment to float and not sink. Look, I never said I was Brenee Brown here. I’m just a dude sitting on a plane writing a blog. What you takeaway from it is entirely up to you. Much like the whole self-help genre in general. Someone writes a self-help book...but in the end, the self that is reading it is in the one who has to act on the help that is prescribed. I’m not sure where that fits into the whole flight safety demonstration, but I’m sure it’s in there somewhere between the pretzels, Stroop waffle, and Biscoff.

I sure there is more I could say with this. And I know I took some pretty pictures of the flight safety card to go along with the post, but we’re beginning our initial decent, so Tina is going to make me stow my iPad and put my tray table back up.

So, peace out for now.

-AT




















*-People always say they got ‘on the plane,’ but that’s not really accurate, is it? We actually get in the plane. Language is weird.

**-I always get a little nervous how much they emphasize that landing in the water is unlikely. It’s like, Dude...we’re flying into and out of New York, you fuckers are known for landing planes on the Hudson, mmmkay?!


My Father's Eyes

Today is a special day to me. For some it's the day that a guy was crucified and then came back to life three days later. I'm not ge...