Resistance

“That voice in our heads is not us. It is Resistance.”          

                                                        –Steven Pressfield

shutterstock_407496973Blind faith in my creative process gets me through the rough patches. Sometimes my fingers feel like anvils, and each attempt at a keystroke is mentally excruciating. I look at the words on the page, my characters, the story, and I hate it. A not so quiet voice in my head tells me its crap, it’ll take too long, I won’t succeed, blah, blah. It’s noise — a construction zone of chaos in my dome, looking for excuses to stop working, get angry and quit.

I’m too persistent. I don’t know how to quit. If this were easy I wouldn’t be doing it, so I relax, step back and see the big picture.

To say a novel is difficult to write is silly because, to me, it’s seemingly impossible. If the novel were a mountain and the process were the climb, then I’ve been climbing for years without seeing the top. I just have to believe the top is there. It’s that simple and that difficult. I might be nuts, yeah, I know.  But, so what. We are all nuts in some way. If you think you aren’t nuts then you are probably crazier than most, and that’s okay too.

In times like this, I tell myself to settle down, take a step back and appreciate other things. Family, the sun, the ocean.  Awareness of the simple things helps me reset. I like to look at life in the present and let the good soak in, but it ain’t easy.

 

A monster.

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It’s organized chaos. These days, we live by the calendar. I don’t know what’s happening from one moment to the next unless I’m fully engaged, looking at or talking about the schedule in the calendar.

youthI don’t remember it being this way when I was young. Life didn’t seem so scheduled back then. I did what I was told and had fun not paying attention to much else but the world in front of me. The simplicity of youth. Now it’s complicated. Kids’ schedule, my schedule, my wife’s schedule, my damn dog has a schedule sometimes. The gerbil might even come up on the calendar now and then. It’s ridiculous. And necessary, right?

What if it wasn’t? Oh glory. Another name for vacation could be Calendar Free Week, unless of course one schedules while on vacation. I refuse. No scheduling on vacation. It ruins the relaxation — I don’t want to have to do anything. I want to choose to do something, spur of the moment is my favorite.

Our family needs the calendar. There’s too much going on not to have it; but someday, when my wife and I are old and gray, I’d like tooldCouple think that we will pay attention to nothing but the day ahead. The moments will unfold before us like life’s little surprises. we’ll walk a dirt path to a river, pond, a lake or the ocean. We’ll relax among the bugs and birds while the sun shines on our smiling, schedule-free faces. A utopian idea, I know, but what the hell, it’s fun to think about when I’m in between scheduling.

A persistent villain.

shutterstock_337825361When it comes to writing, I’ve been called a grinder. Talent lurks in the shadows, but mainly I work my ass off. I’m persistent, I take criticism on the chin and push forward. I’m teachable and determined to succeed. This hasn’t come easy. I’m not known for self-discipline.

I learned late in life that I can’t just snowboard, surf, party, go to work and all will be right with the world. I didn’t party so much, but man did I get good at surfing and snowboarding. To this day I stave off the adolescent who wants to stay up late, eat cheesecake, binge watch an awesome show, leave my dishes in the sink and still have life be awesome. It’s sad but true. Now, I self-parent.

I work from home. No one is putting me on a deadline, telling me what to do or checking in on my progress. It’s all me. I’m getting better at it, but I know I can get good at it. When I keep that in mind, I persist. Small accompliments, like publishing a short story, are victories — a positive feedback loop telling my subconscious that the discipline I have self inflicted is working.

Waking up every day to grind out a story, not knowing where it will lead, is Sisyphean. Although Sisyphus’s chore was a punishment from The Gods, it fits in the metaphor of what I do every day. Wake up, feed kids, get kids to school, come home, write, exercise (sometimes), pick up from school, make dinner, go to bed, repeat. At the end of the day I can say that life is pretty good, discipline is just a part of it.

 

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Death

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My father died on March 18, 2014.

His friends created a book of poems and tributes for him.

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The following is a forward I wrote for the book.

A Restless Farewell

March 13, 2014, 6:00pm

It’s quite possibly happening, the death of my father. I’ve thought of this many times. I’ve been close with him and the dance of death more than once. It never changes, this feeling of fear for the finite fact of life.

March 16, 2014, 10:00pm

Audio hallucinations started last night. He’s dying. Slowly. Respiratory failure. Those of us on the outside equate it to drowning. Lungs fill with fluid, inflammation causes interstitial tissue damage and  his body can’t fight it much longer. With the help of morphine his brain will not think it’s lacking oxygen. He will hallucinate much like the climbers of K2. The high-flow oxygen that’s gently forcing his airway to stay open keeps him alive.

I was the one who had to explain this to him earlier in the day.

“Your lungs are filling with scar tissue. The oxygen… The amount of oxygen you need to stay alive is only available in the hospital.”

He stared at me, I could see confusion behind his thick glasses. He said, “Right. I can stay here forever. Unless it’s money. If it’s money, I won’t stay alive. I won’t bankrupt you two.”

My sister, stoic with a patience perfect and elegant, nodded and smiled. She had done so much already. It was my turn to put on a face.

“When the steroid treatment is over then we will know,” I said.

“But if they don’t work, I stay here. Like I said. In the hospital. I like this room. I’m comfortable.”

My sister started to cry.

Memories of our trips to Mexico and Canada flashed before me as the words, “The doctors aren’t hopeful”, passed across my lips. He might have cried at that moment.

March 18, 2014, Sunrise.

The waiting room looks out over the city of San Francisco. A Heron cuts the skyline as the sun rises. The tragic beauty of this moment gives me the courage to face a decision every son who loves his father fears most.

My two sisters, my cousin and I held hands in a circle around his bed when the oxygen was turned off. We cried over him while he took his last breaths. I can’t remember who closed his eyes for him.

I read once that a son truly becomes a man only when he loses his father. Maybe. I feel different, more alone in the world but not more manly.

At the time of death there is no fault. All of us will cross that threshold one way or another.  I held his hand, told him he was not alone and that I loved him.  For that I’m grateful.

The day a loved one dies — especially one who was close — is heart wrenching. We must come to terms with death at some point in our lives. Thinking that my father is somewhere other than where I am at this moment provides comfort. However, in the words of Iris DeMent, I think I’ll just let the mystery be.

It sneaks up on you.rendered

As a writer, being alone at a desk and putting words on a page is what must happen. I can’t be in meetings, having a conversation or multitasking when I write. The world I write about is in my head. Alone. Weird but true.

renderedWhen I’m on day five of not going outside, not shaving, wearing the same sweat pants and I stink, I need to get out. No big deal. I shower, shave, put new clothes on and walk the dog, go to a coffee shop or just stand outside for a while. I’m still alone, but I look better. If I look better, I feel better. What I’m missing in these moments is someone to tell me to get my shit together, get outside and talk to an adult. It’s a positive feedback loop that involves another person. This person is usually my wife, but sometimes she just shakes her head and is thankful the kids are fed.

When I don’t have solitude, I crave it. When I have too much, I force myself to interact. There’s a balance and I’m still trying to find it.

Story

I’m in the Gutter.

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I finally got a story published. It’s short. Real short. In less than one thousand words, I tell a story about a Marshal with a heart condition and a gambling problem who shows up to collect on an Arabian horse he won in a card game. Unfortunately for him, the horse resides on the property of a villain.

Have a read. If you like it,comment on it and share it. This really helps with readership and my future success as a crime fiction writer. If you don’t like it, comment on it and share it —  all of it still helps!  Above all, enjoy it.

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Pain

A villain we all know.

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I’ve been in regular physical therapy sessions for about two years and I still get debilitating back spasms. Three weeks ago, I had to use a cane to get my kids to school. They thought it was cool. It’s not.

One doctor told me a bone spur in my neck was the cause. Another told me it was a twisted 4th Lumbar Vertebrae pulling at my ribs. I’ve been to chiropractors, General Practitioners, Naturopaths, Acupuncturists, Massage Therapists and Surgeons. It boils down to pain management and discipline. I do the exercises and stretches and someday I’ll be strong again.

I hate waiting for it to be “fixed.” I hate the exercises and the stretches.  I want to be lazy, forget about my body and do other stuff — that won’t work. My son wants to wrestle, but “daddy has back pain.” My daughter wants to race, roller skate, play lacrosse, but “daddy has back pain.” I’m determined to beat the pain, win the battle and be the father my kids want and need.

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My friend, Joe Clifford has this shirt. I love it!

It’s not easy. Self-reflection, discipline; I must rest, eat right, exercise with proper form, fix the household items that are safe to fix. I stay off ladders — for the most part — I don’t do my gutters anymore and I’m careful when I lift heavy shit. I’m not going to be the perfect father, the guy who fixes everything with a smile, can lift fifty bags of concrete and still wrestle, but I can try.

 

Many of us live with pain. Maybe our sedentary desk jobs caused the problem, maybe an old injury from our youth — most of my injuries are due to snowboarding, surfing, working as an EMT or landscaping. I was never nice to my back and it’s pissed. I know people who are living with pain from trampoline accidents, motorcycle accidents, car accidents, pool accidents, and stress. With age comes pain, at least in my world.