“Vicki call 9-1-1.” she said.
“I can’t feel my arms.”
They came…quickly…they put her in the ambulance…and she was gone.
She died on the way to the hospital.
This is the part where I am supposed to tell you what an amazing mother she was, but she struggled with this role.
She was an abused child and like most abused children the gaping wounds left from childhood oozed all over everything she tried to love.
That is something she and I had in common.
I remember her telling me that she wished I had been a girl.
“When I found out you were a boy, I tried to leave you at the hospital, but they didn’t want you either.”
I was five the first time she told me that.
When I was four, I awoke to a party she was having.
I sleepily stumbled out to the living room where she put a joint up to my lips and told me to “breathe in”.
I did and all the adults laughed.
I don’t remember anything after that.
In her defense, it WAS the 70s.
I have a million stories like this, but I am not angry with her.
I love her.
I used to be angry with her, but years of therapy guided me down those dark corridors and I realize that she never meant to hurt me.
And even though some people would say that she never loved me, I know that she did…the best that she knew how.
The men she brought into my life.
The men who would beat me and beat her…
She didn’t do this because she didn’t love me.
She did it because she wanted to be loved.
These predators could sense her desperation and they would come in, all smiles and kindness and then hit her and make fun of her weight problem.
They sensed that her loyalty to me was weak so they abused me with abandon.
I was an easy target.
A tiny, malnourished child with an abyss where my self-esteem should have been.
I used to lie under my bed, covered in blood from the latest beating, by the latest boyfriend, waiting for her to come and pull me out and hold me and tell me that she loved me and would protect me.
And I waited…and waited…and my heart grew hard and my veins filled with rage.
I became a force.
I would see one of her boyfriend’s hitting her and I would run full speed with whatever I could get my hands on, scale their backs and attack.
I was tiny and it didn’t take long for the men to knock me unconscious, but at least they stopped hitting her.
The men would leave, denouncing us both as crazy and she would tell me that my attack had cost her the man who loved her.
“If I have to choose between him and you, I choose him.” she would always say.
By the time I was a teenager I not only hated her, I hated anything that looked like her or where we came from.
I hated trailer parks and alcohol.
I hated poor people and obesity.
I hated the ignorant, stupid people I ran into everywhere I went, because they reminded me of what I had escaped from.
So why am I crying now?
Why do I wish things would have turned out differently?
Why do I wish I could have been with her to hold her as she passed?
Why do I wish I could have given her the tenderness those other men didn’t have the courage to give?
Because she was a good woman and she was doing her best.
She left me with people who molested me, but I know she wished she hadn’t.
She let me sleep in cars and on park benches and go days at a time without eating, but I know she wished she hadn’t.
I know she would have done better if she wasn’t so broken by her own childhood.
All she ever wanted was a man to love her.
A man who thought she was pretty.
She, like me, wanted someone to pull her bloodied body out from under the bed and take care of her.
And because no one ever did, she spent her life compromising her values, praying that someone would.
I realized all this about her when I was 19 in a therapy session.
It hit me suddenly and with great force.
And gradually the anger started to slip away.
I am not “healed”.
Overcoming abuse is something we never finish.
It is with me every day and I have been told by many therapists that the trauma will always be part of me.
Once my anger subsided I went to visit her, after years of being estranged.
She was suddenly very old and non threatening.
Her health problems all seemed to catch her at once.
She was mellow…and she had found a decent man.
She was happy.
My therapist advised me to get closure by talking with her about the abuse.
She said it never happened.
She said my father and her boyfriend’s had beaten me, but she never had.
She said she would have defended me, had she known they were doing it.
She denied all responsibility.
She denied saying all the horrible things that ripped out my heart and echoed in my mind for years.
As a consequence, I felt disconnected from her.
Like she was some strange old lady who I had just met.
Why wouldn’t she just admit it, so we could talk about it?
A few times as a parent I caught myself saying something jagged to one of my kids and I would stop and say “I’m sorry. I don’t mean that.”
Then a year ago, my son Dravin and I were arguing and I said something really awful to him.
I immediately teared up and said “I’m so sorry.” and he walked away and closed his door.
I followed him into his room.
“What I said had NOTHING to do with you. It’s a shadow of something else.”
The phone rang.
It was my mom.
I usually didn’t answer when she called but I picked up the phone crying.
“What’s wrong is I just treated my son the way you treated me?! I have spent my entire life trying to be better than that!! And I fucking hate myself right now! But I can’t hate myself!! Because if I do it will just lead to more compromises!! I know you didn’t abuse me mom!! I know you don’t believe that you did, but YOU DID and I deal with it everyday and it makes me afraid of people and it makes me not able to sleep at night and it shows up in my most important relationships and wrecks them and now it just caused me to be mean to my son and I can’t let THAT happen!! I won’t..”
“Hey.” she said softly “I’m sorry.”
I paused for a long time.
“Sorry for what?” I asked.
“For how I treated you. And how I let others treat you. Believe it or not, I didn’t know any better.”
“I know you didn’t, Mom. I figured that out a long time ago.”
When we hung up Dravin said “What did she say?”
“She said she was sorry.” I said “And I’m sorry, Dravin.”
And we hugged for a very long time.
A few weeks ago I changed my relationship status on Facebook and for some reason it sent an alert out to hundreds of people.
This doesn’t happen.
Facebook doesn’t send updates for changed relationship statuses.
And aren’t we all grateful for that.
We all have that one person on our list whose relationship status changes every other Tuesday or sometimes three times in the same day.
So the fact that Facebook decided to send out an alert to the world about my new relationship showed that this was indeed MOMENTOUS.
Let me first point out that I have been single for three years.
I tend to STAY single.
No one really “gets” me.
I don’t go around looking for love.
I am a very happy person.
I like my friends, my kids and my guitars.
And I won’t settle.
And I won’t lie to girls.
I NEVER lead anyone on.
That’s how I sleep at night.
“Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” – Basil King
So why the relationship status change?
Before I answer that I want to talk to you about faith, gratitude and how the universe works (check out the ego on this guy!)
Before I begin, I want to say that I do not think that you have to believe in a god, in any traditional sense in order to use the powerful forces that lie within each and every one of us.
I do not follow any new age religions or burn candles or hold crystals, but I DO pray.
In fact I pray a lot.
In fact I find myself praying pretty much ALL THE TIME. (this is relevant to my story so indulge me, okay?)
I am a man of science and it has been shown that directing thought energy is important to goal attainment.
But there is something more to it.
Every time I set a goal and take steps to achieve it’s attainment, amazing things begin to happen.
You can dismiss this as confirmation bias if you want.
I have no proof on either side.
Nor do I have an agenda.
But what I do know is that there is a magic formula for life that basically consists of
1) Declare what you want
2) Have faith that you will receive it
3) Work like crazy for it’s attainment
4) Watch for the door(s) that will open for you and step through them (shortcuts to attainment)
A lot of new age literature skips steps 3 and 4, and without hard work and paying attention, faith means nothing.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT WHAT FAITH ACTUALLY MEANS
Let’s talk about faith for minute. (for those of you who have had your attention span destroyed by social media please feel free to skip to the next section)
Faith is one of those words that has been watered down by religion.
Let’s reclaim it as our own, because it is a powerful word and I can’t find a suitable word to replace it.
Faith is powerful.
It is the antithesis of fear.
It means, to have absolute certainty about an outcome.
It is not like hope.
Hope is weak. Hope wants.
It is not the same as wishing.
Wishing is wishy washy.
It is weak.
Wishing and hoping are for little kids.
If you want to be big-time then you gotta have faith, a faith, a faith. You gotta have faith.
When one has faith in something, the faith should immediately be joined with gratitude.
Because if you believe 100% that you will attain the goal, then it is only a matter of work multiplied by time until the goal is attained.
Therefore in a sense you already have the outcome you seek.
It is right up there ahead of you, waiting to be claimed.
So declare your goal, start working and be grateful.
OKAY, ENOUGH WITH THE SERMON ALREADY. SO WHY DID YOU CHANGE YOUR RELATIONSHIP STATUS?!
Because I met a girl…
I met a girl who rocked my world.
I met her at a party.
She left the party with me and we connected in a huge way.
In a way I have never connected with another human being.
She kept saying that I was “Amazing!!” and that she “Was so glad that she met me.”
I felt the exact same way about her.
Cats and dogs living together.
Black holes colliding forming super-massive black holes.
Time to reevaluate what I thought I knew.
Two days later I was praying about it.
I always say something like “If it is meant to be, than please help me to do the right things to make it occur.”, but as I was praying this I was struck with an epiphany!
The revelation that came to me was “It IS meant to be if you WILL it to be. You know you are the best person for her. You know you can love her in ways that no other can. You know you can support her goals and dreams and be positive for her. So YOU decide if it is meant to be.”
It was very clear and very powerful.
So I asked her out and as I had 100% faith in my ability to be the best possible man for her, I changed my relationship status, because I knew that I wanted to be focused completely on her.
I had been given this amazing opportunity and I didn’t want anything to distract me.
A girl at my work who I was about to ask out, I decided not to ask out.
The women in my life who I had been “seeing”, I told them about her.
I wanted to burn my bridges, not hedge my bets.
I wanted to act out of faith and I wanted to do something I hate to do.
I wanted to be vulnerable.
She was worth gambling on.
She was worth any pain that I may open myself up to.
AND THEN WE WENT OUT…
There is no way I can convey how magical it was.
It was absolutely the greatest date of my life.
I didn’t stop smiling for six hours.
She said repeatedly that she couldn’t believe how lucky she was to meet me.
I thought how one day I would tell her that I was actually in love with her from the moment we met, but I couldn’t say that now (I may be crazy, but I recognize crazy talk when it tries to escape my mouth)
Six hours later when I dropped her off she invited me up.
I did not want to have sex with her…not yet.
I just wanted to hold her.
So I said “I’m just going to hug you and make sure you get into your apartment okay.”
As the hug ended, she said “I am so glad we’re friends.”
I was confused…
As I drove away, I thought how I never can figure out life.
How I think I know who I am and what I want and how life can just be turned upside down by the miracle that is this one amazing person.
I looked forward to the opportunity of being this ROCK in her life.
I imagined being her safe place.
I imagined being the one person who she could trust and depend on.
I knew I was worthy to earn that place in her life.
I imagined saying to her “You made me want things that I never wanted before, because until I met you, I didn’t know those things were possible. I want to play music with you (she is a musician also) and I want to be your best friend for as long as you will let me be and if you will be my girlfriend, I promise to never introduce you as my girlfriend, because I know you hate that and I totally understand why you hate that and you will always be way, way, way, way more than that.”
I imagined us breaking all the rules about mixing love and work and being on tour together.
My best friend, my girlfriend and my drummer all in one.
I guess I dream big, huh?
MUSICAL DEATH aka RAGING AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT
So days go by and she is not responding to my texts.
I asked her out again with no reply.
Finally I receive a text from her that says “I do want to see you again. I am just having trouble with my phone.”
The grapevine confirms that she is not playing games.
She really IS having trouble with her phone.
She is sending messages and people aren’t receiving them.
I think of other ways I can communicate with her.
I do something crazy.
I send flowers to her work.
A few hours later a mutual friend is on my porch.
I said “I know why you are here and I know this is hard for you so I’ll just say the words so you don’t have to. She doesn’t like me the way I like her. You are here to tell me to back off.”
I have seen enough eighties movies that I really expected him to say “No. She is crazy about you. But she is also scared and doesn’t know what to do…”
But he didn’t say that…
He said “Yeah. She thinks you are awesome, but she doesn’t like you THAT way.”
Heart shatters into a million tiny pieces.
I was totally cool with the ache in my chest.
I know how life works.
I know that heartache is fuel for art and empathy.
It was refreshing to know that I could feel that way, because honestly I didn’t think I could like anyone THAT way.
So now as I pick up the pieces and fit them into songs here and there, I am overwhelmed with gratitude because my heart shattered from being stretched past it’s breaking point.
And I will piece it back together.
And it will be stronger than ever.
And I am just grateful to know that this amazing person is out there and she is so strong that I don’t have to worry about her, like I worry about so many of my female friends.
My consolation prize is the same as always.
Women who are kind enough to let me stay in their beds until real love comes along for them and I can write a million more songs about rage and heartache.
The metallic taste of irony in my mouth, as I think of all the amazing women, that I couldn’t fall in love with, no matter how much I wished I could and the one who I actually did, who couldn’t feel that way about me.
It’s ironic…dontcha think?
When you are stoned…
Someone knocking on the door is an INTENSE experience.
I am not saying that I have ever smoked pot in the privacy of my own home.
I’m not some kind of crazy outlaw!!
But I did deliver pizza to stoners for many years and I would knock intentionally hard just to freak them out.
There would always be a discussion on the other side of the door…
if you listened close you would hear..
“Hey! Someone’s at the door…”
Each word descending in volume as the speakers drug addled mind went from being startled to completely mortified, to the point where he thought hiding and being completely silent was the best way to deal with THE THING AT THE DOOR.
Then after a long pause the second voice would whisper-yell
“Did you invite someone over?!”
At which point I would revel in knocking a second time, this one more ominous and harder than before and then innocently step back into the shadows.
On the other side of the door, all parties entertain the most forbidden thoughts.
One person fears it is the police.
Another person fears it is their parents!
And another person fears it is actually a MONSTER!!
After some very quiet discussion involving several voices, they all come to the door together, open it cautiously and see nothing…
I step out of the shadows with a huge smile on my face.
There is fear.
Followed by recognition.
The pizza man..
Deliverer of dreams.
Not the cops.
Not your father.
Not a monster!
An angel bringing pizza!!
I would bathe in their adulation and say things like “Your total is twenty-six dollars and twenty-SATAN cents.”
The key was to say everything at the same volume and rhythm, to where the subliminal word you insert sounds completely natural.
This would cause each of them to look at one another wondering if anyone else had heard the word SATAN from the pizza man and then eventually dismiss the thought as insane or to hold onto it tightly, thinking that perhaps Satan was communicating with them and only them.
They would give me $40 and tell me to “Just keep it.”
“It is better to over-tip, just in case the pizza-man actually IS Satan.” they collectively think.
I would say “Thank you. POLICE RAID you fellas have a nice night.”
Occasionally one of them would say “Hey. Did you say POLICE RAID?”
I would say “No. I said BE SAFE. But funny you bring that up. Did you hear about all the police raids going on in this area?”
“No.” the head-stoner would answer.
Then in a tone that became more ominous as I spoke I would say.
“Oh yeah. They come in the middle of the night. They kick in doors. They use concussion and flash grenades. It’s all part of the governors new program to eliminate marijuana usage in our city. And the crazy thing is. They are not taking the people to jail. No one knows where they are taking them. People are just disappearing.”
Then switching to my most festive voice I would say
“Well. ALIENS talkin’ to you. I gotta go! Have a GRAVE night.”
And with that, I would drive away into the night, smiling, knowing that I had made an impact on these young men.
Knowing that they would have amazing conversations about sounds they heard outside and that the tv would be muted and things would be hidden and that when they woke up in the morning, they would appreciate the beautiful fact that they were alive and had not yet disappeared.
When I was five years old I lived inside a lion’s mouth for a few days.
My mom and dad would stand in front of our house and watch me walk to the opposite end of the block where my school was.
I stood in front of the gigantic school and felt sick and tiny.
The twin stone lions on either side of the door horrified me.
But what was on the other side of the double doors, whatever it was, was far scarier than lions, or even my parents.
So I would walk up and stand behind one of the lions and pretend to tie my shoe (something I didn’t actually know how to do).
And when no one was looking, I would scurry up the lion’s back and climb into the lion’s mouth, where no one could see me, as long as I was lying down.
I would stay there until I heard the kids leaving and then I would climb out and walk back towards my house, where my parents would be standing, waiting for me to come home.
Eventually they caught me.
They wanted me to see a therapist.
They asked me what I was afraid of and I told them honestly.
“Everything” I said.
I have been very lucky.
Throughout my life I have had a series of therapists who have been able to work through the immense damage that came from what I now realize was an abusive childhood.
Usually it was just a school therapist who spoke with me, but I was forced into therapy at the age of 12, a result of my mother getting a court order against me.
I was arrested, taken to a juvenile detention center, forced to see a probation officer monthly and had to attend counseling each week as part of my probation.
The charge against me was something called incorrigibility.
In other words, I was a bad kid.
“Girl, I know I’m fine! I’ve got five different restraining orders against five different guys!”
I continued separating whites from colors, feeling like a laundry racist.
I scanned the place inconspicuously to find the source of the comment.
A girl, perhaps 19, (honestly I can’t tell anymore) along with her friend, approximately the same age (I guess) were folding laundry at the next bank of machines.
Her friend replied “You shouldn’t have gotten that restraining order against Carlos. Girl, he is fine!”
“It don’t matter. He still comes over. He hit me up last night and I was like ‘You better leave me alone of I’ll get you locked up again.”
“Girl, you crazy. I thought you was with Jamal last night.”
With this she bent over to pick up a runaway sock.
Her shirt rode up, revealing her tan lower back and tattoo, made up of indecipherable writing
I weighed the pros and cons of becoming restraining order number six.
“I was with Jamal last night! That’s why I told Carlos to fuck off!”
“Girl, your love life sure is complicated.”
“Duh! That’s why I need so many restraining orders! Without them, I be havin mothuhfuckuhs comin by all day and night. Remember when DeShawn came by and Andre was over? Andre got locked up for three months for that shit. Violated his probation and everything. Then he got out and just came by. I didn’t even know he was out. He and Reggie got into a fight and he went right back to jail. Girl, I miss Andre. Sometimes I think he is the one.”
I dumped detergent into the washer, inserted six quarters and pretended to read.
“Andre is the one for a lot of people.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?!”
“Just that I know a girl, who said her sister is Andre’s baby mama and I know another girl who says the same thing.”
“Of course he got a lot of kids! Haven’t you ever seen any nature shows, girl?!”
“What do nature shows have to do with you and Andre?”
“Girl, people are just like lions. He is the dominant male and I am the dominant female. That’s why he got so many baby mamas and I got so many restraining orders.”
“Oh, I never thought of it that way.”
“Girl, it’s a good thing you pretty, because you sure is dumb. Let’s get outta here. I gotta get ready.”
“Whatchu think?! I got a date!”
“Girl, where you been? Malik and I broke up last week. You haven’t met this one yet. His name is Reggie and he is rich!”
“What he do?”
“I don’t know, but I think he might be the one.”
“What about Andre?”
“What about Andre?! Andre gone!”
“Girl, your love life sure is complicated.”
So often I have heard people speak abusively to their children in public.
I have always become enraged.
Usually I just glare at the parent.
On occasion I have even said something to the parent, which has always lead to an escalation of their anger.
I could lie to myself and say that I was trying to help, but really I was just angry and trying to make the parent feel bad.
Really, I was just lashing out from my own childhood wounds.
I have had moments, as a parent, where I was later appalled to think what others must have thought of me.
I stopped speaking to publicly abusive parents several years ago, when I realized that nothing I could say was going to make the situation better.
Why would I want to make an angry person angrier?
Wouldn’t they just take it out on their kid?
Still I always left these situations feeling defeated.
I always left feeling like I should have done something.
Saturday, while thrift-store shopping with my daughter and a friend, I heard a baby crying.
As it continued to cry, I heard a woman say to it “SHUT THE FUCK UP OR I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT!!”.
I moved closer to access the situation.
There were two young girls, approximately 20 years old, one was holding the crying baby, while the other, the angry one, had a cart with four little babies in it.
They all seemed very stressed.
Then she said “I will fucking shoot a motherfucker. I have a gun in my purse.”
I watched as the customers around her tensed.
Everyone was afraid.
For a moment I contemplated dialing 9-1-1, but I realized this was an aggressive response based out of my anger at the situation.
I breathed out.
I let the anger go.
It was cliche.
It was an old feeling.
It was just a habit and it had never gotten me anywhere.
Peace took over in the vacuum and I saw this woman clearly and I had love and empathy for her.
I saw this poor little girl, who had undoubtedly never been taught any better.
I saw that she had been duped into becoming a baby machine somehow and he she was, still a child herself and she had all these children and no ability to deal with them.
I quickly walked back to the toy aisle and grabbed several stuffed animals.
I did not grab just any stuffed animals.
I spoke to them.
I said “Hey guys. I need a few volunteers to help me with a very important job.”
A few very special stuffed helpers practically jumped into my arms.
I went back to the front of the store and approached the lady.
“Having a rough day?”
She raised her hand defensively and said “Get the FUCK away from me!”
Speaking very softly I said “I’m sorry. It just seemed like you could use a little help.”
“I swear to god you best get the fuck outta my face, before I go off.”
“I’m sorry. I know you have everything under control. It’s just that I’m a parent and sometimes I could use a little help, so I thought maybe you were struggling like I do sometimes.”
“It’s not the kids. It’s the people.” she said.
“Oh yeah. I know what you mean. I was just telling my friend about how at another thrift store, someone shoved my little girl out of the way so they could get a toy she was looking at. So I know exactly what you mean.”
“It’s ridiculous.” she said.
“It bullshit. And honestly, I got really angry and I wanted to hurt them, so I totally get it. We want to protect our kids. I can tell you are a good mom, but assholes like that aren’t worth setting a bad example in front of our kids over. I can tell you already know that and I watched you exercise control over yourself, so I know you have it all together and I’m sorry to bother you. You just reminded me so much of myself that I felt compelled to help. Sorry to bother you.”
“No. You’re cool.” she said, and her face and voice softened so much that she looked like a completely different person “I’m sorry I was mean to you.”
“You weren’t mean. You were just like this little guy here.” I smiled to the baby who had stopped crying. “You were just overwhelmed.”
“You’re cool.” she reiterated.
“Yeah. It was really nice to meet you two. Just remember, assholes aren’t worth flipping your shit over. Just walk away, breathe and realize that if they keep acting like that, someone else will beat them up, so you don’t even have to.”
I smiled when I said this, because I was kind of joking.
A half hour late we were in a different thrift store and the same girl came up to me and said “Hey. It’s you!”
She was so bright and happy.
I could truly see her as a little girl when she smiled.
“Are you stalking me?!” I said.
She replied by showing me this beautiful dress she was about to pay for.
I complimented the dress and we went our separate ways.
And for once in my life I felt like I had beaten fear with love.
This morning, at the gym, I exchanged heated words with another member.
I had just had an intense discussion with my son as I dropped him off to school and was in the middle of working out some of the stress from that.
The man’s comment took me off guard and I shut him down quickly and rudely.
When he started to say something else I said
“I am really not interested in your commentary.” very forcefully and he walked away and left me alone.
As I continued to work out, I thought about his words and realized I had completely misunderstood his intentions.
It gradually dawned on me that I was rude to him without real provocation.
I was wrong.
And sugarcoating it would only cheat me of a valuable lesson.
As I finished my workout, I noticed that he had went into the locker room.
I had this awful dilemma.
I could leave and then it would be awkward when and if I ever saw him again.
As I usually do not attend the gym at that time, the chances were good that I would never see him again.
I wondered how it would affect him.
I wondered if it would affect him at all.
I wondered if my rudeness contributed to a view he had of the world that people were awful.
I wondered what else he might have going on in his life and if my rudeness had somehow made those other things even more challenging.
He was an older gentleman, approximately 55, and I could tell he knew everyone there, as everyone who works out at that hour is around his age.
I thought about the possibility that I would never see him again and how I would wonder if he had died.
I know how I am.
I know how my mind works.
I was afraid to approach him and I was afraid to apologize.
I was afraid that he would reject my apology and I was afraid that he had told the other members what an ass I had been and they might gang up on me.
I considered walking out the door and driving away and pretending that the whole incident never occurred.
I know that I am not very good at doing that and I know that I do not want to become good at this.
I walked into the locker room and approached him.
“I’m sorry for what I said earlier. I was wrong. I thought you were insulting me, but as I thought more about it, I understood the true meaning of your words. I am very sorry for my rudeness.”
He was a very large man.
He squinted at me.
Then he swung his arm at me hard and fast.
It landed squarely on my shoulder, open handed.
“It takes a big man to walk in here and say that.” he said “We’re square.”
He slapped me hard on the back several times.
I loved the feeling of his open palm striking me.
It felt like love, acceptance and forgiveness.
It felt like we were both good men.