What If

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Starting to fully appreciate the difficulties of the long term unemployed. Living tends to do that. Add a healthy dose of residual bad habits fueled by stress. Toxic cocktail. The one tangible thing that keep me from the ranks of the others was my car. Maintenance. Gas. General wear. The perfect storm has hit. My ex and kids live close but a car is still necessary. Time I have. Get kids to appointments or help with crazy crowded schedule. All of this I have dealt with before. Not always the best but got through it. The question has been asked. What if…

What if something happened to my Ex? Could I take my kids? The answer isn’t one a parent wants the truth to. Unfortunately in my world it the only one I have. The main reason of my staying here would be moving down state with my Ex’s brother. Nice house. Both him and his wife are great people with very good jobs. And no kids. They have been in my kids life such they were born. The rock hard truth is my situation will not change overnight. Or in the next couple of years. Too many issues have come to the fore. All elements in the fundamental shift my life has taken.

The rocky bottom of which is battering me has broken any illusion of being able to fight the current. Now it’s looking for calmer waters. Wisdom comes complete with scars. Accepting my personality has been a long, at times difficult, road. The stages of grief apply best. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. And finally Acceptance. Taking off the mask is not for the faint hearted. Perception is created in the brain. That inner interpretation of who we are. Dorian Grey. It’s been said that those of us who suffer from depression see the world clearly. One scientist studied that statement. Yes we do. The way it works is by limiting choices. Many good options get removed too.

This is the core of what I’m struggling with. There are other ways available in my blind spots. The trick is realizing that. Just like an addict has to admit they have a problem before treatment works. A dedication to change. Radical change was something to avoid. I’m not sure how being homeless, broke and alone doesn’t qualify into that definition. Eight months on is a fact that I have to keep repeating to myself. Years can’t be replaced by months. The next tattoo will be simple. 500/1%/1000 and 713 9th. A reminder. A mantra. Write 500 words a day. Improve by 1% each day. A thousand hours doesn’t make you an expert. But it’s better than 80% of others in the same field. The address is of the homeless shelter will forever be a touchstone of survival.

One constant has been that those who have been there are more helpful than those that haven’t. It’s easier to be poor in a bad economy area located in a state that was a decade depressed before 2008. That Midwest attitude adapted to the new normal. It also makes rejected the old ways of doing harder. What do mean you don’t/can’t deal with the windowless metal box? Work hard. Live Harder. Somehow that isn’t the balance that’s healthy for me.  New lesson. How to hustle. But what if it won’t help?

So in the unlikely event something happens to my Ex, my kids will go live with their aunt and uncle. Their dreams and aspirations mean more to me than the long struggle of changing the state assistance I receive. Our kids first. That took all the emotional baggage out of the separation. They have been the basis of our relationship since. Technology allows me to stay in contact. There was a point in the past when a father leaving his family for the Gold Rush or any opportunity away from them was beyond comprehension. Not anymore. I am not my father. Or maybe I am. It could be a rejection of the binary solution presented. There’s always a third choice Grasshopper.

Black Socks.

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The butt of jokes or embarrassing pictures in the family album. Those collection of printed pictures before digital impermanence. There’s my father on vacation with matching shirt and shorts with black dress socks up to his knees. Casual lace ups eventually give way to tennis shoes. White. Welcome to the 70s. This where I’ve documented. Struggled to understand. Or lamented about where I find myself. One thing that hasn’t changed is my ever shrinking choice in wardrobe. My dad wore suits. It was the uniform of the businessman. Still is.

Growing up in Houston, it was jeans, boots and western shirts. It was the era of the Urban Cowboy. The type of boots revealed social class just has it does today. Sure those working on the ranches or farms had their good dress boots. Still leather. No exotic skins here. Or weird two tone colors. I admit to owning both. The toes of the leather ones were scuffed and worn, Mainly from dancing or general clumsiness. When the need arose, my dad would wear snake proof work boots. He had grown up with hard work during the Depression. Found a way out. I have worn steel toe leather boots for the past decade. Blue jeans and tshirts with the occasional collared casual management polo thrown in. Replace what wears out. My Ex was the professional of the couple. Our clothing budget went to her. A choices that really wasn’t.

The past two years of turmoil has seen subtraction but no net addition in available clothing options. Living where I do is cheaper and closer to my kids. The downside is the Goodwill type stores have the worst of bad clothing decisions from every decade. Only the most color blind Vintage lovers would discover hidden treasure here.

Work boots are hard on socks. Even work socks. Thety last longer than others. I have become my father. Or middle aged. Dark running shoes and black ankle socks. Considering that I replace athletic as they wear out, there’s only one pair. On my walks to places, I have observed that many other male walkers are in work boots. Or retirees in black work shoes. Those with women in their lives wear white sneakers with muted accents. Always can tell the woman’s touch.

These musing come from a shifting of my worldview. Walking forced me to slow down. To really see details. Try it sometime. Just look at the shoes.

Water or Rock

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There’s a quote from a book I use to explain attitudes. What last longer the wave or the rock?  Think about where you live and why. My Facebook feed had this tidbit.

http://thestir.cafemom.com/politics_views/188222/20_top_liberal_cities_in?utm_medium=sm&utm_source=facebook&utm_content=thestir_fanpage&&utm_campaign=fbpaid&Dmpg2=m_1899

Here are my take on them. Most are major population centers located on the water. That means a history of industry and unions. Trade will bring people in contact with diverse cultural ideas. Pockets of them stay for work or contacts. Everyones favorite color is green. A few are tourist destination. One is a major college town which just happens to be a state Capital. Austin. Another such oasis in a conservative state is Denver. Two share a border with Canada. Detroit and Buffalo.

What followed was the most Conservative cities.

http://thestir.cafemom.com/politics_views/188114/20_most_conservative_states_in

!8 of the 20 are landlocked. Control of land and the water to make the desert bloom are the driving forces. Another factor that can’t be discounted in any discussion is weather. 12 are in hot regions. Temperature makes people cranky. Older retirees flock here. A very conservative bunch. Four are heavily military. Two are the border with Mexico. Anaheim has Disney.

All these places are prime examples of self selection. The odd or different will find a place where they feel comfortable. In challenge of core beliefs for one. A constant challenge for another. Water or rock. Which one are you?

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Went to write in my journal only to discover it had disappeared from the computer.  168 pages. External hard drive to the rescue. Not keeping any set schedule for backing this stuff up means I lost 9 months of writing. The Gremlins or sun spot activity or my own clumsy fingers. All go answers. What it forces me to do is think about the themes that happened.

Imagined fear is worse than the reality of facing it.

Control is an illusion that feeds those fears. The What ifs.

Everyone has the same fears and dreams. Not one has seen on TV. But ones of family and friends. Belonging. Feellng the gratitude or love for being themselves.

Mistakes happen. Life doesn’t stop or care. It’s what happens next that matters.

Stuff is just stuff. Material possessions will never satisfy a life lived in a lie.

Those lies are very powerful. They’re on endless loop in our heads.

All the fears, lies and illusions can’t stand the force of being honest about who you are.

Wisdom comes complete with scars.

The distillation of lessons learned, forgotten and relearned on the most intensely complicated and troubled time in my life so far. The hardest struggle is once a person falls out Respectable society,getting back in is optional. the game is rigged. Creativity and imagination replace what we’d been told. The whole American dream is being redefined with different eyes.

It lose has reminded me life has the same randomness deletion as the electronic story.

An Artist’s Dreams

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In the early morning hours before sunrise I came to understand the artist compulsion and despair. A complex, engaging masterpiece burned nova bright in my mind. All the bits that collected in my mind’s filters found that hidden magic in which all the edges fit. A jigsaw puzzle complete with engaging dialogue. Images in fourth dimension details. An intriguing trail through ribbons of colors. Of light and dark. A gift.

Like any true gift it arrived without notice. My emotions were ones of pure joy followed despair. A crushing knowledge that any attempt will yield a pale shadow of the searing sharpness that my uniquely human brain produced so easily. God. Art. Muse. Figments of the subscious. Concepts rife with shaded meanings. The science geek side of me wishes all of this could be expressed in the simple elegance of math. One symbol, one concept. Clean. Simple. For those that understand them. Very much like art anywhere.

Much of my frustration stems from the changeable meaning of words. Those shifting cultural reference that color combinations of words or sounds. Native speakers are unaware of the how or why language sounds the way it does. Children first mimic then add their nuanced weight that follow in the wake of particular words. My affliction of curiosity has exposed that lost in translation mechanism operating beneath the surface. The lost art of storytelling.

One that my fumbling attempts are pushing up against time. A constant beyond control. Unlike my daughter, who at 15, has already embarked on. Hers is a world of instant feedback, Fanzines and a worldwide community. A Brave New World. Some of which I have waited to see. The unknown is for her to explain through stories framed by other influences. Her dreams,

Three weeks of Blah

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Old habits die hard. You think the trail is clear but still fall over an unseen root just below the surface. Losing the part time gig at the grill did more than reduce my finances to zero. What also reached zero was something more important. The people there formed a loose group that I was forced to interact with. On bad days simply having a reason to get out of bed was enough.  Knowing the stories of their lives made mine, well. There’s the open question. It reinforced certain fundamental choices on my worldview. I am a leaf on the wind. But aren’t we all in some respects.

Until very recently that caused deep anxiety. Seemed everyone else around me had a plan. The path of the normal and accepted. It gave those around them comfort in their misery or worry. Something in common to talk about. Kids, wife and all the stress surrounding providing for them. The first question a stranger asks is what do you do for a living. What they’re really ask is how do I sort you in their assigned basic categories.  Useful to my career. Interesting enough to bother with. Move on. It’s what I still do to through a different set of values. Many job searches along with early influences have resulted in me living a Jimmy Buffet songline. A Pirate Looks at Forty. Occupation hazards means your occupation’s just not around.

The faster technology is created, the more in demand jobs become ordinary. Those that choose the field based on a future salary over some other field are being left behind. Business is all about maximizing profit. Looking after Me and mine. Every job is temporary now. Some aren’t built for that level of uncertainty. Regional and/or cultural differences come to the fore. America was founded by the Hustler.  History is full of examples of where the first ones over didn’t follow the agreements with their backers in England. A very small percentage gave that word a negative shading. Immigrants risk everything to come to the US for that dream. Cracks in the Capitalist wall is what they see. Their definition of success is shaped by their experiences in another culture. One where hustle is a way of life.

Then there are the ones who never found their way. For some it’s being born with a hand full of twos and threes. Not face cards. That Great American success story hides the thousands that didn’t. What did they do? Redefined what success is. And it’s not quiet desperation. That cheapens all of us as a society. Hard working parents raised children. Built a life filled with soaring joy and the hard lessons of loss. A reflection of human history. We endure.  I endure. My chemical imbalance is controlled by modern medicine. Another improvement in the human condition. The internet has opened pockets of other ways to see the world. Beating myself up for not having the Plan has faded into the background.

Don’t get me wrong, basic needs must be paid for. That’s the reason for my long absence in posting. Sometimes a leaf came be tossed on the storms.  Thing about storms is they uncover buried treasures. My friend talked about starting an online tee shirt company.  His PTSD and other medical concerns means he needs a friend to help. Someone who understands the real meaning of having a bad day. Neither one of us desire massive success. We want to move to Lack of Panic over needs street. Small house off the grid and the freedom of working for a good boss. Us. The gut wrenching fall has moved my sightline to a different level.

I hope my sometimes brutal honesty helps someone. The journey is taken alone. Along the way we move with fellow travellers. Learning happens when we listen to others. Their struggles. Hopes and dreams. But most of all Laughter. So I am a teacher and student.  My post remind me what I need to learn or practice. They also help me to see how far I’ve come and have to go.  How that knowledge affects me is a choice.  So dear readers, Thank you for following the words thrown on the electronic wind.

A Father’s Day Thought.

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On this special day, It’s time to publicly forgive my Father for things beyond his control. To say our relationship strained is an understatement. He died from complications of Cancer treatments in 1985. I was home on leave from the Navy for the passing of his physical body. What made him a person was already gone. How does one feel when someone who holds a title so import and cultural powerful dies a stranger? It’s something I’ve struggled with until 5 years ago. An adult rewritten the hurt of the inner child and teenager with new knowledge of the how or why. I remember the moment.

It when the news of Junior Suah’s suicide brought into the light of the NFL dirty secret. I had watched him play with a reckless abandon absent in the sport at the time. It had been a fleeting dream in my childhood in the Texas football religion. But large kids become interior lineman. The anger of injustice never fueled my play. Bad coaches and bad teams. It was the bitter dregs of next time. My father played the same position in the 1940s. Which is at the heart of our uneasy relationship.

When I became the keeper of the family pictures after my mom passed, I saw them with different eyes. The bunker mentality created by my father’s unstable personality meant these captured moments have no emotional connection for me. My memories are of the times of temporary escape. The man who played the role of my father was not the boy he was. Life can do this without added conditions of brain injury. He was writer. Report for the school paper. Active in the community youth center. Officer in multiple school organization. In the ROTC. With Hollywood looks, a very popular boy in social circles. And a star football player. And that was the killer of his dreams.

My grandfather moved the family to the boomtown Houston was becoming. He was a man who worked with his hands. Whatever feed the family in the Depression and Dust Bowl years. Then his son starts having blackouts. Missing school. Painful headaches. Classic symptoms of a concession. Interior lineman in leather helmets. Medical advice of the time was a drier climate.  His lost year. During which Pearl Harbor was bombed. The former ROTC member is now 4F. The defining moment of his generation passes my father by. The last picture of this handsome young man was from Hawaii 1942. He has a DOD tag on his shirt. My Father is smiling. An expression I rarely experienced outside in the private life we shared,

This is where the mystery that was my father starts. He was married before. A life he never spoke of. It was both my parents second marriage. A barren one until my adoption in 1964. Those pictures of a smiling open dad are equally unknown to me. Compound all this was increasing depression, Bi polar was an unknown thing in the 80s. Didn’t every teenager think daily of hurting themselves or dying?  That was the reality I saw on TV. Isolation became my companion. Still is on many days. The medication helps the crazy but not long standing behaviors. Didn’t every father and son have a violent argument during their teen years? A rite of passage from childhood to something else. Those were some of my thoughts waiting for a husk of man who I should have feeling for die in the next room?

After the funeral, I returned to the Navy. An action taken to escape that man. My ship was geographically has far as I could find. Guam. Deal with the grief? Didn’t have time. Came back to Houston by default. I hadn’t planned that far ahead. All I wanted was out. Military life was a bad fit for an adopted boy who was like his father in temperament and interests of his younger self.. Writer. Loved the theatre and plays. The stages of grieving happened about the sometime my chemical imbalance went into overdrive from stress. It has taken years to except small bits of the role he played in my life. The past 3 years of concession research to understand the profound mental and physical dangers from concessions, has allowed me to put all the pieces together..

Many letters filled with hurt and anger. Now I’m at peace with a relationship never possible. Living in a community filled with fathers and sons that stay in one place for decades has helped me create a different framework to hang our difficult relationship. On this Father’s day, I very publicly forgive mine for being a man unable to be the person he desperately wanted to be. William Mathis Lipscomb was a prisoner of an inner life that trapped him in life contrary to his bass personality. He provided for his family. Played the role of respected community leader. And died wondering why someone could love him. His spirit still inhabits the world. The Jewish tradition that a person still lives so long as someone remembers their name strikes me as good guide to healing. Now you know his name. A flaw man dealing with his demons who did the best he could. That is the best lesson I learned form My Dad.

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