Sweet Coffee Beans From Her

This is the first essay I’ve written for Half Past Awesome in far too long. I walked away from the concept because I’d lost my own way and direction. Writing is a passion that allows me to convey the trainwreck of words in my brain slightly more lucidly, and having ignored it, the figurative locomotives keep piling up in this muddled mind. So here’s what I’m thinking:

I’ve been shouldering guilt over my divorce for three years. That guilt was a crutch I leaned on to sustain my hobbled mind and keep justifying my low self-esteem. The other crutch was the relationship I was struggling to maintain with a passionate woman who has the same wild, creative streaks I do, and as prone to the same flights of mental gyrations that move me. This was not healthy, for either party. I was not giving her the respect a real relationship deserves, and I was driving her away, while simultaneously retreating back into my own mental prison. I was living selfishly, unknowingly letting the footsteps of my now-passed father guide my own journey.

I liken the guilt on my psyche to having your great-great grandfather slowly dying in the back room of your house. He stinks, constantly pisses the bed, makes it impossible to have a life, and generally wrecks your sense of normalcy. But? He’s family. So you take care of him all while muttering in your mind that HE JUST NEEDS TO DIE, ALREADY. Of course, you’d never say that out loud because that would mean you’re callous or uncaring, right? In much the same way, I felt I could never release myself of that guilt because that might somehow diminish my role in the ultimate failure of my nuclear family.

Then one day this past Fall, it happened. I was at the football practice of my youngest boy, playing alongside the other dads. It was a typical Midwestern fall day, sun setting on a school playground. I know nothing of football, but the boy is just so happy I’m out there with them. My ex arrives with our oldest kid, hands us some Sonic slushes, and practice breaks for the night. She loads up the boys and they head home; I then spend an hour in the parking lot bawling like a baby, because it finally hits me: my family, as it was, is no more, nor will it ever be. It was a minor miracle I didn’t get cited for depressive loitering. Three years. It took nearly three damn years for the old man in the back of my house to finally die. It was bittersweet and sad and liberating and overwhelming all at once. The burden had been lifted. For the religious, it might be considered an epiphany. For an old, broken fireman, it was an ugly-cry, heaving, eye-leaking, head-on-the-steering-wheel convulsion of relief. I could finally clean up that back room of my house, hopefully.

As the fog began to clear, and I began the delicate task of trying to establish myself on my own without guilt, I realized that that passionate woman in my world? I’d pushed her out. I pushed EVERYONE out, from my brothers in the bagpipe band to my brother who was battling cancer. I’d unintentionally headed down a path of disrespecting all of those people in my world, and there was work, much work to be done. I’ve been trying to repair those relationships, seeking forgiveness from those whom I’ve neglected or treated poorly, seeking grace from those in my world. I do believe this will be a lifelong journey, with pitfalls as they may be. But in the end, I want to uplift those around me, not be prone to that too-easy position of constant snark and surly cynicism. I want to laugh again like I used to, I want people around me to feel BETTER about themselves after we spend some time. I want to be the father, friend, brother and man my heart yearns to be, that which it truly knows how to be. So begins the long journey. Back to the gym, back to the bagpipes, back to the PTA meetings and back to finding that smile that lies within my heart. Back to writing and living, and living a life worth appreciating.

But first ? I want to find that passionate woman again, look her in the eyes with an unburdened and honest heart and see her smile back, sincerely. I want to simply say “Hi there. Been a while.”  I don’t know where her head and heart are just now. She may already be long gone, and I fear that that might be the case. But at heart I’m a bulldog, prone to fighting for the things I hold dear.  Am I a fool? Oh, yes. Of course. Without question. Majority consensus has shown that time and again.

But you gotta live with passion. You gotta laugh at yourself. And you gotta take a chance that when your heart is bursting, singing loudly, it is likely worth a listen.