This Christmas, the Greatest Gift I Gave Myself Was the Gift of Solitude and Rest.

I’m lying here in the den of The Last Homely House. 

I am alone.

My brothers have taken my mom to spend Christmas Day with her sister and my cousins in San Antonio. 

There are no lights on.

Only the darkening whitewashed water color grayblue of the fading light of the setting sun penetrates what windows it can and serves as the only major light source. 

Aside from that, the Christmas tree lights are on, as well as the lights around the Nativity, the scene of the Christ-child in a manger, sleeping in swaddling cloth upon a bed of straw, with his mother Mary, Joseph, the step-dad to be shepherds, sheep of the flocks they keep, the Three Wise Men, and various livestock that would live in said manger. There is also the soft glow of the candles I’ve lit.

The light is warm, cozy.

I feel safe, calm, at peace.

The TV is off. The music I had been listening to on my headphones is off. Right now, there is only the constant whishing whisper duet of the central heater unit and the overhead fan as they work together in keeping the temperature in here a nice balance of warm and slightly chilly.

My head is free of thoughts.

I’m only focusing on the sound of the AC, the fan, and the gently wavering glow of the candlelit Nativity as it flickers softly.

The family plan was to drive up to San Antonio today, stay tomorrow, and leave Wednesday further north up I35 to Pflugerville, to visit my Brother and his family at Moore Manor – what we call the Pfluggervillian post of the Moore clan –  His daughter – my baby niece – has a birthday coming up, and they were going to celebrate it Wednesday. I think by then I’ll be rested up enough to drive, spend the evening there, and then head back early Thursday morning. 

I was also less inclined to leave due to the fact that I was up late last night from going to the Catholic midnight mass at La Catedral de San Agustín downtown. I haven’t gone since I was a child. It was beautiful. And worth it, but because I normally don’t stay up so late, it really took a toll on me this morning/afternoon. My mom woke me a little after noon, and I said my goodbyes. 

Now it may sound bleak and depressing to you, maybe it sounds like a punishment even, but my depression doesn’t work that way.

To me, this is bliss.

Even though I am and can be a very social creature, who loves spending time talking and being in the company of others, it can also be exhausting – a characteristic common to both introverts and people with depression.

You see, I’m very empathic, I can sense the moods and tensions of those around me, and it physically affects me. I act like a human emotional sponge – I’ll soak up some of what you’re feeling and I’ll feel it too. It can be helpful sometimes, but others, it can be too much, so I have to pull in my sensory feelers and put up a barrier. And maintaining that requires an exhausting amount of energy. So, an empty house means a free me – no additional emotional energy to absorb or block. My shields are down. My guard is down. My sensory feelers can be fully extended and feel nothing.

All I’m feeling right now is a sleepy, relaxed state of bliss.

This is how I recover from my mental stressors: silence, calm, music, resting.

This is how I recharge, restore balance in myself.

But I’m not altogether about living the life of a monk. I began last Christmas building up my talismans, my weapons, my rituals for self-care: my skin care products, my soaps, my beard balms. I invested in that as well as my writing desk and my shelf to create my study. 

Over the summer I did a lot more decorating to my room, and now, finally, I end this year with treating myself to the last of the items I wanted off of my list that I would enjoy. I bought a great pair of wireless Sennheiser over the ear headphones. They’re an excellent brand for audiophiles and I find the gentle pressure of over the ear headphones calming. I got a great deal on a 32″ Samsung Smart Hub TV. It’s HD only – not state of the art QLEV or anything like that, but it does have all my subscriptions: Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.

I also bought myself a wireless sound bar plus a subwoofer, along with a Chrome book, but those haven’t arrived yet – also Samsung – also great deals since they were mid-range items and not top of the line. 

And I didn’t even spend a thousand on all that. I love quality, but I’m no snob and I’m not stupid. I research and find the best quality I can get for the lowest possible price. With that, I can finally, fully enjoy my time at home, when I’m not reading, writing, painting, or playing the drums.

This is self-care. This is how I take care of myself. These are not substitutions for happiness nor are they status symbols signifying that I have “arrived” at some vague and unimportant level of “success,” showing that I’ve “made it.” No. These are merely the tools I choose to use as entertainments, as diversions.

These are the tools I choose to use to keep me even.

Tools that I was lucky enough to have some money for and that were just the right price for me to afford.

Now I’m forty-two. I’m single. I have no children, and I’ve been blessed to have a pretty decent paying career for almost fourteen years now. I can afford this.

But I have friends who are starting out, in college, or just finishing college, or just beginning their lives. Just like I have friends my age who are married and have kids or who are single parents who have kids, and you’re thinking, “I don’t have that kind of money.”

That’s not the point. The point is what feels good to you: 

What recharges You? 

Your spirit? 

Your soul? 

Exercise? Quilting? Crossword puzzles? 

My point is, it could be anything – as long as it does the trick.

Take care of yourself.

 Put yourself first. 

Now that doesn’t mean you get a green light to become totally self-absorbed and narcissistic, no. That just means that you must make time for you, so that your mind, body, and soul are refreshed and sharp, so that you may be able to properly take care of others. And even if you don’t have the terrible privilege of caring for somebody, still, don’t forget to make yourself a priority.

You deserve it.

These items that I’ve been blessed to treat myself to, they are all great gifts. But the greatest gift I’ve given myself this holiday season – as someone battling Major Depression, as a teacher to twenty-three sharp and intelligent students, as the past caregiver to my father, and as the future caregiver for my mother when the inevitable eventually happens – the one truly greatest gift, and the one I’ll get the most out of, the one I will remember the most, is an opportunity for silence, for rest, and for solitude. 

You Are Not Alone: Death Rebirth Rest Change Nature Cycles Depression and the Christ child – or A Nativity Story for Non-Natives. 

“And the sleepiness kicks back in, this time more from sadness, the lethargy from my exhaustion from work is there, too. This very paragraph is where I’ve started writing, because I wanted to try and accurately describe how it feels, what I’m going through right now.

I simultaneously want to cry and fall asleep.

My eyes are closing while tears collect around the corners of my eyes.

And the feeling of falling away into the deep blue state of oblivion comes back strong.

This sucks

I have to put my phone down now eyes can’t stay open.”

I wrote this yesterday, when I was grieving after receiving the news that another dear, sweet, older coworker had passed away from a heart attack. 

Yes, another. 

About two weeks ago this evening I attended the memorial service that was held for a coworker, s kind, sweet, positive older woman, who finally succumbed to her six-year battle with cancer, leaving her husband – another coworker at our elementary school – and three children here on this plane of existence. 

It was hard going to the service. 

You see, lately I’ve been having a problem with funerals or memorial services for the deceased since my father lost his battle to liver and gall-bladder cancer. 

I’m getting drowsy again. I wonder, is this my depression, wanting me to shut down and go to sleep because it’s too much to process – especially when my body is already recovering from the physical exhaustion of working too many hours at my campus? Is it just the physical exhaustion? Or is it a combination of both?

Depression is funny that way. Even medicated, it’s hard to tell where the depression ends and you begin.

Can’t keep my eyes open anymore.

Time to sleep.

My mom woke me. 

I think ten-fifteen minutes have passed.

Right now I’m in the study/Music room in The Last Homely House, listening to a mix of modern throwback Christmas music by Pearl Jam, Sufjan Stevens, Dave Matthews and other Alternative, Indie, and singer-songwriter, along with some Beth Orton.

The study is filled with the clean gleam of gentle, natural sunlight, a sharp contrast to the midnight blue dark of my bedroom yesterday.

The grief has left for the most part, the lethargy has departed as well. Now it’s mostly a cozy church mouse sleepiness I’ve been feeling.

I got up at seven and did my Christmas shopping. I was done by 9:30 a.m. 

So, slowly but surely, my forced bed rest is helping my energy to come back. 

I live my life by the schedule of my sleep now.

Ever since I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, and I discovered that lack of sleep really does cause a lot of damage for anyone with a mental illness – especially an untreated mental illness – I get as much sleep as I possibly can. And somehow, I knew this. As I grew older, it became harder and harder for me to be fully functional on five hours or less of sleep. My ex-girlfriend saw this firsthand. I became very emotional, very negative. I would joke that being in that state would make me suicidal – but that wasn’t far from the truth. I just wanted to drop everything and go to bed. I was a person who needed eight hours – seven minimum. 

Now I’m a teacher. I have to be on campus by 7:30. My daily commute is thirty minutes. But I like getting to work early, even knocking out a kettlebell workout real quick. And I also like to make time to eat a good sit down breakfast, and watch a little CNN. So in order to do all that, I need to be up by 4. I try to be in bed by eight pm.

Regular weekend nights out no longer exist for me, even just staying up late reading, or watching TV – those are pleasures I can simply no longer indulge in.

But sleep, glorious, languid descents into the deepest, darkest caverns of Oblivion – a darkness so complete, I rarely remember my dreams – that is a pleasure I now long for daily. 

It’s funny, but I had to change the person I was to save the person I could be, the person I’m supposed to be. And there’s still more changing I need to do.

But the sedentary, junk-food-eating, unfocused night-owl is dead.

Because all that I did and was doing to myself was making me miserable physically and mentally. I was like a smoker with lung cancer, a diabetic who kept eating sugary sweets. I was doing everything that would exacerbate my depression and ADHD.

So that part of me – which seemed like such an integral part of me, like it was tied to my identity – had to die.

I had to do two things which terrified the fuck out of me:

Die and Change.

Death and Change.

I see that now, those two phases are essential to the cycle of life, to the cycle of your evolution as a human.

And it requires rest and recovery. That’s what I’m doing – that’s what I’ve been doing ever since my father and my old life died. That’s why I barely go out. That’s why I sleep. That’s why I spoil myself. A part of me knows another change, another phase of my life is about to begin, and this one involves me finally doing continuous exercise and ends with me quitting the regular drinking, until I don’t drink at all. So instinctively my body is resting. I’m like a field in the winter, laying fallow. 

We have to change, we have to die, we have to let go of all the things we make ourselves feel we need that help define our identity but are toxic to us.

We die either way at the end.

The question is how do you want to go?

As your true, whole, happy self?

Or as a sickly, angry, used shadow of yourself?

These recent deaths are terrible. They are terrible in different ways. One family saw it coming, so there was time to prepare despite hope, but a sixty-year-year-old man has lost his life partner for good, and he will have to raise his teenage girls and older son on his own. The other family lost their matriarch suddenly, quickly – and cruelly – right before Christmas. Things will never be the same.

They won’t. And it’s terrible. But there is always hope that families can get past that void.

Five years ago, my mother, myself, and my siblings could not imagine a world without our father. But living here, in the same house – even after I practically moved in with my ex-girlfriend, I knew something was going to happen. I knew something was wrong. So I set my mind to abandoning the life I had built with my ex, moving back in with my parents, and waiting for the time when he would get so sick, he’d need constant tending to. I set my mind so hard to it, I became fatalistic – And that triggered the worst depressive episode I’d gone through.

Bad judgement, lack of communication, lack of compromise – that’s what killed my relationship. Then her discovering an emotional relationship I had begun with a very unprofessional ex-assistant principal is what cut us off for good.

Our relationship died. Who we were died, but it took me killing it to see that I had mental health issues that needed diagnosing and treating.

My life has been a constant shedding of skins that I never expected to shed and that I truly thought were me.

My mother, my whole family has. We’ve had to adjust to the changes. And we move on, our lives now tinged with the memory of my father’s death. 

Death and Change. 

Nothing is permanent. 

The only thing that can be permanent is your understanding and acceptance of that one truth: nothing is permanent.

Who you are.

What you have.

The material and immaterial things that you think define you – they can, and probably will, change in an instant. We just don’t know when.

Life is change.

Life is impermanence. 

Life is a work in progress that you truly never get to complete. 

To some reading this, the news might terrify the hell out of you, but that’s not my intention. That’s not my takeaway.

The takeaway is: know this, so you can live the life you want, your way, for yourself, without having to answer to anyone. 

Life is precious.

And it’s yours, to do with what you will.

And for those who may be depressed during this season, please understand, it’s all about perspective. 

This day is not supposed to be about gifts, how many and how much.

This is day is not supposed to be about family – even when it’s good – because most of us know that’s a lie, that family are the first, and sadly sometimes, the only ones who truly hurt, abandon, and betray us.

Today, well, this evening, marks the occasion where a working-class man decided to have the back of a Woman he loved who had a child who was not his own. This couple was on the run and the only shelter they could find for themselves and this child was a poorly manger, a shelter for animals. Shepards, some Wise Men, an angel. A strange collection all, strangers all, who were all probably laughed at, but who stopped, and made their way to see a child, to see life, despite it’s cruel miseries.

The story of this occasion does not exemplify an ideal of being satisfied living in a world of material excess. Far from it – the materially rich in this story were represented by an insecure, jealous king who decided to murder all the male babies he could find in fear of the rise of this one particular child.

No. This is a story of looking down at your feet, at looking up over your head, at looking into the mirror, and seeing an imperfect survivor living an imperfect life on the run the best way you can manage – and saying, “I’m alive. This is now and I’m alive.”

So, yeah, there’s death, there’s change, but there’s also rest, and recovery. The tree drops it leaves and grays, then splays out in a thousand shades of undulating emerald a season later.

It’s about rest and seasons and time, and simply being. 

Amidst all the sexy, shiny, glossy screens telling you, showing you:

YOU NEED THIS.

YOU MUST HAVE THIS.

YOU MUST BE LIKE THIS,

You have fulfilled their purpose in this manufactured illusion of “gotta have gotta buy!” and perverted inversion of an ancient tale that taught an important lesson and you have forgotten THE most important thing:

YOU are the gift.

The Last Jedi and My Improptu Tour of Pleasures.

I drove up to San Antonio this morning to see The Last Jedi. 

I wasn’t planning on seeing it today. 

I was planning on saving it for next Saturday, the first Saturday of my two-week Christmas break, as a Beginning-of-Break treat.

I save certain science fiction/fantasy action adventure films for the IMAX 3D screen at the Santikos Palladium movie theater across I10 from Six Flags Fiesta Texas. I have to budget them out, because it’s a pricey ticket. I wasn’t a fan of 3D cinema before, but since taking my ex-girlfriend there to see Ridley Scott’s Prometheus back when it premiered, and I saw it done right on a proper screen, I was sold.

Then all the hype came out about The Last Jedi, the positive praise, the urgings to see it before all those idiots who have made spoiling surprises just so they can “Be In The Know” and hold that feeling priority over some people’s love of surprise. 

But I’ll save my thoughts and choice words on the Gotta-Know-First-And-Blurt-Spoiler-Obsessed and their ilk for another blog. But all the hype made me decide to scrounge up enough cash for the ticket.

It was, of course, fantastic, giving this life-long fan of Star Wars everything I wanted in a Star Wars film in a way I wasn’t expecting – and I loved it.

There were so many laugh out loud and cheer- or applause-worthy moments, I was surprised and a little disappointed when the rest of the crowd was silent. Such was the majestic awesomeness of Rian Johnson’s vision, that I didn’t care, and I did my own golf-clapping, laughing, and toned-down cheers.

Afterwards, already in a state of positive euphoria, I stopped at ULTA Beauty Supply to pick up my grooming and skin care products, a cologne. 

I started using men’s skin care products almost a year to day, after my friend Elsa did my make-up for my role as Egeus in a local theater production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A small part of using the products was it’s obvious benefits, but a major part of the ritual was my physically applying them to my face. 

In better times, my ex-girlfriend would often spontaneously stroke my face, the top of my head, to continual delight and pleasure. Her shows of affection made me feel so loved, so special. I had known for a while that I was a person who needed a lot of physical contact. 

Now that I’m single, I’m not ashamed to admit that I miss it terribly. So my nightly skin care regimen became an essential component of my self-care ritual, and gave me a good excuse to give myself the physical contact I craved.

So it was a nice treat to stock up on all the “essentials.”

By this time, I was starving. And I wanted to enjoy something delicious and comforting that wasn’t available back in Laredo. 

In Martin Brest’s 1992 film, Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino plays a blind war veteran who, along with Chris O’Donnell, visits New York, and embarks on a series of adventures and fine experiences. In the film he refers to it as a “tour of pleasures.”

I’ve since taken up that phrase to refer to my day trips to San Antonio or my weekend concert-goin trips to Austin.

At this point on my Tour of Pleasures, having eaten nothing but a couple of bananas and some Starbucks on the road after a two hour drive and a movie that was over two hours long, then shopping st ULTA, I was starving. I wanted to find something delicious to eat. 

Then I remembered Maggiano’s Little Italy. 

It’s a higher end chain – better than Johnny Carino’s (which I love) and Olive Garden (which I hate). But it was in the same sprawling shopping/entertainment center as the Palladium and ULTA. 

I entered, approached the lady in the front, and asked for any available table or small booth. She told me that it would be a thirty to forty-five minute wait, but if I wanted to, there was space at the bar area. I jumped at that, and I was lucky enough to find a small nook in a small, secluded corner of the bar.

There was one young girl running the area, but I really didn’t care. I sat there, reading articles off of my Flipboard app and doing some writing.

By the time I got her attention, it was a little while longer till she brought me bread and oil and a glass of water. Before she was off again, I ordered. I wanted to enjoy a glass of red, but I wanted to something different. She recommended a pinot noir (Paul Giamatti’s voice from Sideways, echoing in my mind about pinot) and brought me a sample. It was complex enough and not too dry so I went ahead and ordered the nine ounce serving along with their version of the ultimate comfort food, “Mom’s Homemade Lasagna.”

The pinot and lasagna in the warm setting of Maggiano’s was the perfect counterpoint to the forty-three degree temperature and gray, miserable rain outside; me reading articles off of my phone, writing my Daily Meditation, and just taking breaks to eat, breath, close my eyes and enjoy being right inside the moment.

Just breathing. 

Just being in the moment.

I smiled.

The whole time, walking in my winter gear, waiting and wading amidst all the pre-Christmas shopping throngs, lines, and traffic. At times, beautiful women and pretty girls would look at me and smile. I looked them right in the eye, smiled back and went on my way.

Smiled, that’s what I was doing, mostly the entire time, smiling because I was happy. 

Happy to be swimming among humanity, to be free and untethered, on my own time doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.

Just happy to be.

To be.

Purely, simply happy. 

No phantom limb pain.

I smiled, happy, content, and not caring or worrying about, not  giving a single thought to who I was or wasn’t with.

I was with me.

I was present.

I was in the moment.

Simply enjoying being.

Being me.

lost among the shifting walls of your defenses, i know there is nothing i can do.

broken dancer

Often, I wonder why.

Inside my mind, amidst the vacant, dark back alley pauses between the brick-solid building thoughts that loom up out of the fog take up more immediate concerns – like my mother, my student’s needs, the thousand deadlines I’m days late on – I look, down deep into the gloom, hoping to catch a glimpse of the whys, and the twists and turns.

The Riddle of You exhausts me.

And then the next brick-and-mortar building of a thought emerges out of the fog reminding me of something more pressing and more present that must be attended to and merely a ghost of the puzzle of you remains, only to slowly fade away, like a MISSING flyer torn loose from its stapling on a wooden post, swirling away into the dimly lit downtown nights of my subconscious.

I cannot reason out your rhythms, your ebb and flow. And all I can conclude is that you simply do not know.

Do you know?

Are you at all aware?

I’ve seen you sometimes, so lost in the shifting dune landscapes of your mind, the quick channel changing as one thought emerges, only to flee as the next thought intrudes, with no way for you to hit the pause button.

The choices you make at the times you make them formed from a lifetime that had only the decayed bones of a structure.

And you needed structure. Badly.

The choices you make and the way you make them still, I cannot understand.

There are walls to you.

Surrounding you, around you, within you and without you, all about you.

Artfully constructed with a Do Not Approach sign on the front, and a Why Won’t You Come In? question graffiti tagged on the back. Arranged in such a way, with locks and tumblers and cogs that shift and shape, some formed from pure animal instinct, out of reflex, some that you have crafted due to bitter experience. More signs that sound proudly, “I am not my illness,” while others read, “You cannot touch that, I have an illness.”

You have built a puzzle that cannot be solved, a labyrinth with no clear center or exit.

Such skillfully constructed traps of logic and sympathy and pure animal reaction. I often think you do not know, you’re not aware.

I have a mind made for studying.

Did you know that?

I didn’t either.

Not till you.

Not till after.

And two years after our world ended, two years I’ve been medicated, two years I’ve been clear.

I have studied your walls, as they shift and seal, grow and change, and I know I cannot get past them.

Some days I forget this.

On those days I am hopeful, because I see the Promise of You as you should have been, as you could be – functional and happy. And it makes me hopeful that we might still have a chance, a chance at being a couple, at forming a family again, a chance that there might be a happy ending for us.

Other days I remember.

Those days, I see the Other You. The you without rules who exists in a timeless world.

“Have you taken your meds?” I ask, and you just shrug lightly and smile like you simply forgot to add softener to the wash. And “no” is all you respond.

Your shrugs destroy me.

Maybe that is why I cannot move those days.

Maybe that’s why I cannot get out of bed.

Maybe that’s why I have disappeared.

Because now I know.

After all this time, after all this hoping, after all the attempts, all the fights to try and fit – I know. There is no life for us.

There will never be a life for us.

There is no future. Your walls are too high, now. I know I did not put them there. Those walls were raised high by the hurts other men made, other choices.

But my betrayal fortified them.

I know now that I truly cannot help you.

I cannot save you.

I cannot untie all the strands and knots, the jumbled cords.

I cannot break through those walls.

I am no longer the Mender of Broken Dolls.

I cannot pick up your pieces anymore, put them back together.

Only you can do that.

I love you, and I always will, but I must leave this gray, formless place where I’m at. My father’s death changed all that, remember? I must move forward. I must move on. I have others I need to tend to. I have places I must be. The Road calls.

I can only hope that you can fix yourself.

I hope you realize what I’ve always known – that you have the power within you to break the spell that’s holding you back. Your own spell that you yourself cast, long ago, with the magic power of child who needed protection.

But now you must reverse it, you must look deep inside, and like an archaeologist you must dig down and dig deep and unearth each relic of pain that you have buried. You must dig them out, face them, inspect them, name it for what it was, remove its power over you, then place it in a box and file it away. It won’t be easy, and it will take time, but it will be worth it. And then I hope you find the You Who Should Be. I hope you’ll start off on down the Road, journeying far behind me, but moving, healthy, happy.

Whole.

I hope that happens.

I truly do.

 

for l.

youandi on the infinite highway.

 

the infninte highway

i’ve got an idea.

let’s jump in my car.

just get in

let’s drive.

you and me.

trust me.

come along and I’ll make you this deal:

nothing fake.

no false faces.

no promises made to break,

nothing but real.

let’s discover strange, uncharted places.

i will guarantee you one thing

come with me on this ride,

and I’ll have your back

i’ll stay right by your side

for as long as you say, “drive.”

let’s forget all the lies, all the times we cried, all the people who died,

let’s remember the Road is like the sky,

endless, open, and high,

like our futures before we knew,

full of promise and shining bright,

let’s remember before we forget

that even for one moment,

for one minute,

for one good mile, the Road,

like the limitless sky,

like us,

like

you

and

i

– we can be infinite.

My Time at The Music House. 

It wasn’t just music that we were going to make, but magic. This was a ritual of reconnection. The resetting of a bond that had lain cracked and fallow in many ways for over twenty years.

5.

I drove in to Austin just to go to sleep.

I arrived exactly twelve hours after Marce’s text. It was 2:00am – just a bit later than scheduled.

I found the house fast, thanks to Google Maps and its location – South Austin, a mile or two towards West Austin, right off 35.

I had to park and do reconnaissance. I wasn’t sure of the house’s exact location, so using the walking directions, I walked until I found the correct address. Marce had texted that he had left the door unlocked.

I opened the door and entered.

The smell of old wood floors and plaster comforted my road weary body as it filled my nose.I love the smell of old homes. It reminds me of grandparents’ home in San Antonio. 

An inflatable air mattress, laid out and prepared with a pillow and blanket, greeted me in the middle of the small living room, to my direct right. On the left, amps and guitars were lined up along the wall that separated the living room from the kitchen.

I began to unload my kit in as few trips as and, as quietly as I could. I wanted to do it quickly, but my preparations for the trip had hindered my plans. I finally had completed buying carrying cases for each piece of my drum set, so I could only take in so many at time.

I didn’t want to risk doing the “Shopping Bag Thing” and carrying all of it at once, then dropping something or putting a dent either in the wall or one of my drums. So it was back and forth and back and forth, but silent and steady was going to be a problem.

Anticipating the probability of rain, I wore my chunky hiking boots. Muted – but audible thuds were the best my weary body could do after three hours on the road and all the events previous to that.

The continuous and uninterrupted sound of snoring in the next room allayed my fears of waking anyone up. Marce snores. Go figure.

I stacked my kit in the corner of the kitchen, beside the fridge where Marce had told me there’d be space. Then I brought in all my percussion gear and set it, as compactly and organized as I could beside Marce and Ryan’s amps along the wall dividing kitchen from living room.

Last, I brought in my duffle bag and my satchel that held all my writing and sketching gear.

I have this thing when I travel where I have to take out all of my gear and lay it out around and beside me just so: plug in my charger and charge my phone, lay out my keys and wallet, take out the novel I’m reading, as well as my writing journal, my sketch pad, along with pen and pencils.

Once that’s set, I feel at ease and a sense of security. Then I can take my meds and get ready for bed.

I couldn’t help but be aware that everything I had done that whole day up to this point had a sense of ritual about it – even me not rushing and going slow about all my travel preparations. But it was exactly that.

For me, even though this was a weekend jam session, it was a spiritual experience. Bob Batey’s death changed all that. I was, again, acutely aware of the Hand of the Divine at work, and I had to pay it the reverence of ritual.

It wasn’t just music that we were going to make, but magic. This was a ritual of reconnection. The resetting of a bond that had lain cracked and fallow in many ways for over twenty years.

There was the fact that I had to make amends with Marce.

I needed to make music to honor the passing of Batey.

And I needed to make music to attain a level of spirituality that I know I needed to set myself right.

But the house – the house was so cool – and not temperature-wise, it had a cool vibe. I had to look around first.

I took pictures immediately to document my journey. I posted many of them on Instagram that first night.

The living room and kitchen were both of equal proportion and both equally small – but cozy. All the furniture was late sixties/early seventies retro: wood grain speakers stacked on a an end table, a long wooden bench-style kitchen table, aluminum and red plastic diner chairs, vintage speakers and amps used as decoration, black and white pictures of Paul McCartney, Chuck Berry, Bruce Springsteen covered the walls, vintage posters of Rio de Janeiro Carnivale posters plastered on the fridge. The place was perfect.

There was magic to be made. And if there was magic to be made, this was the place to make it.


I changed, settled into bed, read a little, wrote a little, and drew a little, then before I knew it, sleep took.

I awoke to a room flush with pure bright sunlight. The sounds of Marce shuffling around in the kitchen and the bedroom as he made coffee.

There was nothing for it. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I had to get up.

It was time to see what the day had in store.
Next: Setting up. Back in the pocket. Old, good friends, old, good brothers. Reunions and Revels.

My Time at The Music House. 

​3.

Signs.

It’s always Signs and Providence.

I think I really began to notice their existence when my marriage began to disintegrate.

Chicken or egg. 

Which happened first? Did I always possess this gift? This ability to notice windows of opportunity open up, briefly, to be taken advantage of before they disappeared? Or did the constant pain of the years-long dissolution of our marriage scrub any and all illusions of a perfect life out of my eyes, washed away by years of tears and sobs, leaving me to see only what’s real?

Either way, I was left, somehow, being in tune with my gut. Pretty accurately, too.

I don’t believe in prayer as a form of action. I don’t let go and let God. Unless I’m collapsed in a heap on my bed, going through one of my heavy depressive states, I move. I move forward, and I look, and I know that when I do that, then God presents us opportunities. 

That’s how I ended up in downtown Houston, alone, by myself, for a four day weekend. 

So it was, less than a month after dad passed away, that after scrolling through my emails, I saw that Brett Dennen was going to be  playing at Warehouse Live, in Houston.

He’d be playing Austin on Wednesday, but taking off from work during the middle of the week is kind of tough.

Then I saw that he’d be playing Friday in Houston. Now, taking a Friday off is much more feasible. I did the math. I knew that I could get away with taking two days off — it’s May, we were done teaching everything. It’s just pure enrichment. So I bit the bullet. My dad just passed, my problems with my ex weren’t going away, I needed space, distance, and to have my ragged, worn-down spirit cleansed and rejuvenated. 

And that’s why seeing Brett Dennen’s gig appearing serendipitously that May weekend is another sign of a door opening up by the Divine.

I love Brett Dennen.

He’s the only singer-songwriter whose songs have ever made me feel simultaneously astronomically happy, and tear-stained ashen  heartbroken.

To me, Brett represents  purity of musicality – with his bright melodies and his ability to often juxtapose them against heartbreakingly sad, authentic lyrics, he is a real musician and a singer-songwriter of the highest caliber. 

Now it’s Monday morning, close to check out time.

I feel different refreshed. 

I feel lighter – more so than I’ve felt in a long time. Seeing Brett Dennen, singing along, crying out all the anguish, heartbreak, and joy I’d been going through. Then exploring downtown Houston, finding a great coffee shop to hang out during the day, then haunting the local Flying Saucer across the street. Making friends, chatting with strangers. 

Needless to say, I was happy.

So I truly don’t know why I decided to pick up my cell and text Marce.

I truly can’t remember – Did something come to mind. Did I text him totally out of the blue, after weeks of turning over the problem in the back of my head, what I needed to say finally crystallized and had arranged itself into perfect word order, or was I returning a text of his?

I honestly can’t remember. 

All I remember was just getting out of the shower, getting all my gear packed up and ready to roll, then I got my phone.

I texted Marce. 

Everything that I had been wanting to tell him about things that he had done – from high school to his comments on my work, to my thoughts on his work  that had been gnawing at the edges of my consciousness,  irritating me, burst forth in my machine gun texting style. 

And I didn’t care. I did not give one rat’s ass. My father died, and he made it about him. Or so I thought. It was a minute or two of frenzied texting, then nothing. 

There was silence. 

I stood before my duffle bag on the bed. For a moment, I freaked at what I had just done, then I let it go.

“That’s harsh,” was all I could remember him replying.

“The truth is harsh.” I responded.

And that was it. 

That’s how it was for a very long time. No communication. No social media. I believe I unfriended Time passed, as it tends to do.

I would get an occasional message from him, an infrequent text. Then – and to be honest with you, I cannot remember when it began – the messages and texts came with more frequency, the apologies. At some point, I apologized – not for what I said, but how I said it, and that I should have said it long ago. My tone changed. I changed. The death of my father irreparably changed me into someone much harsher. 

My father died, and a part of me died with me.

I now had no problem telling people what I thought. I wasn’t “sweet,” or “kind” – and I sure as shit wasn’t going to be “diplomatic.”

Maybe not harsher – honest.

Finally knowing myself, knowing my worth, knowing what I will and will not put up with.

Everything was changing.

Everything had changed.

And that was a good thing.

Next: an invitation, a decision, more death, a path to healing.