10.30.2013

A Box Of Socks For Christmas (Or, "The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year... Eventually")



Ahh, the holidays. So magical.

There's the first crinkle as you step on your first fallen leaf… Oh, and the smell of the first fireplace being lit and the first smoke pouring out of a chimney! And the first slice as you carve the turkey, and the first note of Christmas songs, and the first lit-up house as you drive around, and the first snowflake hitting your cheek and opening that first present on Christmas morning… All that magic and splendor and cozy warm whatever.

Fuck that shit.

And you know what? I used to think of this time of year and it has always been my very favorite. Now I am filled with dread. And the sad part is that it's for the exact same reasons I used to love it.

But that's fucked up, right? I mean, who in their right mind fears the smell of pumpkin spice and the sound of Christmas carols?

Well, me. Because I'm coming off a year of lasts and entering a year of firsts. My last turkey carved with my wife last year, and my first turkey carved at a friends' house as I celebrate my first holiday pity invite. My last Christmas tree decorated with 14 years of ornaments we collected together and my first year decorating an Akira tree just so I have one I can call my own.

She get the exciting privilege of making new memories with her new whatever-you-two-are-calling-yourselves because this is their first Thanksgiving and first Christmas and first snowfall and first mistletoe together…

I MUST make new memories because if I don't, I will go fucking insane thinking about how it's your first Thanksgiving and Christmas and snowfall and mistletoe together…

It's gotten so stupid that I even fear silly Christmas hats for dogs. Antlers and Santa hats with poofballs on the tip and elf ears. When people see dogs wearing these things they laugh and laugh and laugh because oh man, those dogs look so goofy and so cute…

That's what I thought too when she bought a pair for Haggis a few years ago. The first time she put reindeer antlers on my dog, I shook my head and tried not to laugh because I knew if I laughed, I would lose the war on costumes for animals forever. And I did.

And now I shop at Kroger for my shaving cream and toothpaste because Target decided to put an end cap of silly holiday dog hats in their cosmetics department.

Is that pathetic? If so, then I'm pathetic. But it's how it is.

Yes, this holiday season is going to be somewhat less than terrific. I'm literally afraid of it. Afraid of the most wonderful time of the year, because it's the first one I get to go through thinking how we both loved that one U2 Christmas song and how we always shared a cookie when we made our one and only trip per year to a mall the day after thanksgiving just to be a part of the holiday bustle. I don't have a home for a tree or presents or roasting a turkey. I don't really even have a home.

But there is always a silver lining, and this one is the present I'm giving myself: perspective.

There's years and years of great memories and times to process, yes. But I'm going to get through that, and I'm going to get through this. And I'm going to do it untethered to someone who ultimately was anything but good for me. And while it may feel a lot like opening up a box full of socks on Christmas morning, in years to come, those socks are going to keep me warm and comfortable and free from blisters as a walk farther and farther down this new path.

I'll be okay. I always am. Somehow, I believe I always will be.

Right now, though... No. I'm not okay. But I'm pointed in okay's direction and I'm walking that way.

10.27.2013

Spoken Word - "The Worst STD"

Every Sunday I'm home, I do spoken word / slam / whatever poetry stuff at Java Monkey. It's always a great time, and people seem to like what I do.

I wrote this piece a while ago. I finally performed it tonight. I hope you enjoy it.





The piece:


She's kinda cute. And she's looking at me. I can get behind that.

...NO. No I can not.

It didn't go so well last time.
It probably won't go well this time.
...It probably could go well this time.
Okay, it could go well this time.
It's been a while. It's been a week, or two weeks, or a month... Or three months.
Fine. Why not.

..."How YOU doing?"

THE NEXT MORNING...

...God dammit.
The burning.
That old familiar sting.
I just got treated for that
But goddammit, I went and caught feelings again.
Next to babies, feelings are the worst sexually transmitted disease, and now I've got to deal with that shit again.

...I should text her.
NO NO NO, it was just the one night and it's okay, it's cool, there's no need to text her. No need to call her. I should call her. I should call her. I should text her.

I should sit the fuck down.

...I'm going to text her.
No answer.

I knew there would be no answer.
I knew it was just the one night.
I don't even know... Well, no, I know her name.
I have her number. I texted her.
I should call her.
I'm not going to call her.
I'm going to let this go.
I'm going to chill out. Watch a little football. I'm going to chill out.

I'm going to call her.
No answer.

It's been a day.
It's been a whole day, and no response.
But that's ok, because that's what that was, it's totally cool. Because that's what that was. And I know that's what that was, because that's what it was last time and OH MY GOD why won't she just fucking call?
She has to be busy or something, but she can't be busy, because I'M not busy, so she can't be busy.

It's been three days. And no response, and that's ok, because that's what that was supposed to be, because that's what that was because that's what it was last time. And that's totally fine.
Except I'm not okay with that.
Because I do not understand the one night stand.

I understand skin on skin.
I understand compassion.
I understand cuddling.
I understand talking and sharing moment after moment after moment before THAT moment.
And I understand sharing moment after moment after moment AFTER that moment.
And I understand 14 years of relationship,
And I understand 10 years of marriage,
And I understand I am a single man who never lived through his twenties as a single man.
So I don't understand this game, and I don't understand the rules.
So I need to stay off the field of play.

It's been a month... It's been two months... It's been three months.
I'm tired of the routine.
I'm tired of working on myself.
I'm tired of the gym. I'm tired of working. I'm tired of coming home.
I need to go somewhere that does not involve San Andreas.
I need to go out tonight.
I'm going to have a drink.
I'm gong to have a good time.
I just need a change of scenery.

This is nice.
This is great.
I like the game that's on TV and hey... She's kinda cute.
NO NO NO...
Another, bartender.
And another.

...It's just a conversation.
If she didn't want a conversation, she wouldn't be looking at me right now.
What the hell.

"...How YOU doin'?"




10.25.2013

"Dear Joe: How Did You Beat Depression?"



It was never on any of the aptitude and vocational tests I took in high school, but apparently I have the qualities of an advice columnist. Because I get a LOT of email asking about a LOT of things. One of those things, especially over the last few months, is depression. 

Most of the time, I just respond. I tell the truth about my experiences and I wish them well. This email this evening, however...

I just... I don't know how to say it. I cried. I cried and I cried and I cried:

Dear Joe: 
How did you beat depression? I need help learning how because if I can't, I'm afraid of what the rest of my life will look like. I'm 14 years old and every day I wake up sad. I think I want to die sometimes. I feel like no one will listen to me when I tell them what I am feeling. I Googled "How to beat depression" and found your articles on depression and I am hoping you can tell me, because I read a lot of articles and none of them actually explain how you beat it. You seem like you have. Can you help me? 
-- [Name Withheld]

Fourteen. I remember being fourteen and sad all the time. Sad and lonely and scared. I put on a brave face at school, because what was the point? I wasn't going to let the kids who already had no idea how to handle me know that I had weak parts. I wasn't about to make things ten times worse for myself.

I remember being sixteen and thinking the only way out was to die. I wasn't very serious about it... But I scared myself enough to not want to screw around with that particular solution again. Not until a few years ago. I'm not really in a place to discuss that topic in depth just yet... Maybe someday. But not right now.

Maybe it's because of this person's age, or because of how they wrote the email, but it struck a chord within me. Both because it reminded me of being young and scared and ignorant, and because I still can feel that way right now. Tonight, in fact. I just felt I had to share it, as well as my response:

[Name Withheld],
First, it means a lot to me that you wrote me. Not because you chose me. I'm not that egotistical (well, maybe I am, but not about this). Like you said, you Googled "Depression" and my name came up in the lottery.
It's because you had the courage to ask in the first place. And you may not realize it right now, but that courage to ask -- the spark that lights the fire of inquiry -- is exactly the kind of bravery that is going to get you out of this moment, and every other moment just like it. 
To me, depression is like climbing a muddy hill... Sometimes you slip. Hell, sometimes you slip a LOT. In fact, it's practically guaranteed you're doing to slip and slide and get really filthy in the process. You may fall. You may hit bottom a few times.
And if you want out of it, once you're done crying from frustration and fatigue and exhaustion, you lace up your cleats and you stab your fingers into that mud and you start climbing again, all the while saying - nay, screaming - "I will get out of this."
And again.
And again.
At some point you want to give up. Not just tell yourself you should... You actually truly seriously want to give up. You're done. You're finished. This is the end. 
Right then -- that very moment -- you get a choice. Quit or go again. If you quit, we all cry and tell stories about you over lemonade and beer at the wake and that's certainly very sad. But if you don't... That's the exact moment you gain power. Your faith in yourself overtakes you. You choose YOU.
Something magical happens. The mere act of trying and not giving up seems to solidify the ground and gives you something to hold on to. It's like a super power. And the more you believe and the more you try, the more your power seems to radiate until the mud is grass and you're at the peak looking down wondering why the hell you thought that was so hard. 
That's why you can't stop. Ever. Because you never beat it. You just learn better where the slippery parts are and, if you hit them, how to stop sliding so far so fast. 
And if you do hit bottom again, at least you've got your cleats and the proof that you did this once before... You can do it again.
The fact that you asked me for help shows you have what it takes to WANT to get free from this moment of feeling sadness and fear and despair. The thing is, I can't pull you from it. Just like literally climbing a muddy hill, I can throw you a rope (in the form of this email and my perspective). I can cheer you on. But you've got to do the climbing.
I don't know what else is going on in your life. I don't know if there's external enemies out there making your life miserable, or if you're doing poorly in school, or if there's other stuff involved. What I WILL tell you is that, if you really think about it, there aren't really any external enemies. There are only people you give permission to make you feel like crap.
Take that permission away. Instead, give yourself permission to feel great. I think you'll find that climbing that emotional muddy hill will teach you that you're the only one who can do either of those things, and the second you do, you will fly up that son of a bitch with deft skill and lightning speed. 
Good luck to you, and keep in touch.
Joe Peacock

10.24.2013

You Are Who You Fight



I've been overwhelmed the past few days... Weeks... Months.

I've been struggling. I have been working as hard as I am capable to keep up with even the bare minimal goals I put before myself. But I work, and I achieve as many as I can for the most part. 

It's slow going. But I'm making progress. You get to read some of that progress here, on this blog. Or, sometimes on Facebook and Twitter. You get to read some of it in the foreword of my latest book. You get to take in as much as I put out there, and you do, and I thank you for it. 

There's a lot more behind the scenes, as anyone can deduce who has been through hard times. And the other day, a complete asshole posited a question which threw me into a complete downward spiral. He said, "I don't understand -- you're going through what so many other guys including myself have been through. I know divorce is tough, but why can't you just get over it?"

I unloaded. And I shouldn't have. A few of you on Facebook saw it. It was raw, deep and revealed the other 70% of the stuff I've been facing that I haven't made public. It delved into details behind my divorce I shouldn't have gone into. And I'm sorry for that. Not that it hurt you in any way. Of course, you guys are mega supportive, and the folks who did read some of what I wrote emailed me directly to express support. And for that, I thank you again. 

But it's not for you. It's not for public consumption. That was a mistake, and I shouldn't have done it. 

My pain is my pain. I express what I do here and elsewhere when I do because it is therapeutic. But it's never for attention. I write what I write, how I write it, because it is my sincerest hope that those reading it will take something from it, whether it be an answer to a question they've been asking themselves, or advice that I've fought through the muck and the mire to be able to give, or simply a feeling of not being so goddamn alone in their struggle. 

To burden people with raw pain is unfair. I never want to simply unload onto anyone else's shoulders. When I write, I try my very best to keep from "whining." I share. There's a difference. The other night, however, I whined. More than that, I decided to challenge an asshole to a duel of "Whose pain is greater?" 

We both lost. Him, because he's just a fucking asshole. Me, because I lowered myself to a fucking asshole's level. 

You are who you fight. So be careful what fights you decide to participate in. You don't have to attend every argument you're invited to. 

All of that said, I really genuinely thank you all for your support. 

10.22.2013

That One Story




Note: For some reason, Tuesdays were "Poetry Days" on my blog for a while. I'm gonna resurrect that. Today, instead of a bunch of poems, I'm going to go with a longer free verse thing I wrote and read this weekend. It seemed to go over well. Hope you like it. 

I love a good story, especially when I get to live through it. So tell me any story you want. Tell me fairy tales and lullabies.

Just don't tell me that one story.

You can tell me the one where you're here to save me. I mean, don't get me wrong: I don't need saving. But it's sweet that you try. It's entertaining and even educational to see how you go about it. Motivational talks from any number of books you've read. Psychology 101 class-level breakdowns of why I feel the way I feel and act the way I act. And you'll be the princess that will flip the script and slay the dragons for a change. My heroine. My savior. Rescue me from the dungeons I already have the keys to.

Or tell me the story about how you'll fix me. You're here to help. You've got it all figured out. You can get me on a schedule and promote and produce all my stuff, all while healing pains caused a year, five years, ten years… Even thirty years before you even knew my name. You are a carpenter and a welder and a doctor. You've got the cure for what ails me. Man... I love that story. That's a good one.

Or how about the one where you're going to challenge me? You're my match. You've got my number. You've read my Wikipedia page and my blog and my articles and man, do you have me figured out. If I'm a player in the game of debate, you're the coach. You're going to be the lady that made the strong-willed controversial guy grind his teeth and clinch his fists and find you so irresistible. But you'll take it easy on me. And I'd thank you for that if I wasn't already bored, since I've literally written the book on everything you'd challenge me on and am on to nreBut it is fun to go back and visit old territory. So yes, let's hear that story!

Or the one where you're a pop culture junkie like me, or the one where you're an athlete like me, or the one where you love anime like I do, or any number of stories I've heard before. Or maybe you have a new one I haven't yet. Regale me with your tales! Entertain me with your epics! I love them all and can't wait to hear them. Again.

Just… Don't tell me the story where you're simply here to be here. Don't tell me the one where you accept me for who I am. Don't tell me you're content and happy. Tell me you love me all you want… But don't tell me you actually understand me.

I'll buy whatever line you want to sell me. I'll play whatever part you want me to. I'll listen to your story and I'll tut the page when I hear the bell and I'll clap and cry and cheer and yell all when you want me to.

But I cannot listen to that one story. Because while I Iove fairy tales and lullabies, I refuse to listen to lies.

10.21.2013

"What one man (ME) really thinks about 'Fit Mom'"




My post for today is over on CNN's HLNTV.com -- it's about the "FitMom" debate and debacle, and how men (and especially athletes) feel about women, beauty and body types. Go read it will you?


10.18.2013

Putting Down Self-Published Things In 2013 Makes You Look Stupid


Without Their Permission by Alexis Ohanian
Hi, person.

I love you. And by that, I mean that I love you as a human being, living and breathing on this Earth, full of potential to do amazing stuff with that potentially amazing brain and body of yours. To that end, I don't want you to look or sound stupid. I really don't.

So I'm going to do you a favor and educate you a bit on the times, the technology, the business of making art and, in general, just being a decent person. But first, a question:

Have you ever made anything? Anything at all? A finger painting in Kindergarten? A bird house in woodshop class in middle school? A science fair project in high school?

No? Well, right there we've diagnosed your problem. You're a useless idiot that contributes nothing to the world. Thanks for breathing our air, eating our food and otherwise wasting space.

But I'm guessing most of you have at least made something at some point in your life. So, when you made your thing, whatever it was, did you take pride in it? Did it matter to you? Did the hours you spent building something out of nothing fill you with a sense of accomplishment?

Did you go on to make something bigger that wasn't for a grade or a paycheck? Restore a car, perhaps? Build a beehive? Sew a quilt? Make some jewelry? How about an album? A comic? Open your own store? Start your own business? Make your own video game? Shoot your own movie?

How about one close to my heart: ever write a book?

Have you ever written hundreds of pages of text? That all by itself is enough to break a person. It's not easy. It's actually the opposite of easy. And I'm not even talking about sitting at a keyboard and typing out hundreds of pages of words. You have to make them all make sense.

After you wrote those hundreds of pages of text, did you go back through them dozens of times to make sure that there was cohesion between plot points, or proper formatting of chapter headings, or that the page count was right? Did you then go through word by word looking for misspellings and grammatical errors?

Did you then decide to try to put that thing out yourself? Did you research the various services for printing? Did you do price estimates and cost analysis? Did you scratch your head for a few days wondering exactly what trim size to pick? Did you try to figure out the actual difference between 5.5" x 8.5" and 6" x 9" besides “One's a little bigger?”

Did you sweat bullets when you couldn't make heads or tails of a cover design because you didn't quite know the spine width as calculated by the page count and the paper type? Did you agonize over how to get an ISBN for your book? Did you research distribution methods, price discounts, shelf availability, Kindle formatting vs. Nook formatting vs. ePub formatting? Did you submit multiple final PDFs because the trim and bleed were just a little bit off and the proofs were rejected?

No?

Well, I'm not your dad or your psychologist, but I can tell you that you obviously aren't thinking through much of any of that when you look at someone's book and say “Oh, it's self-published…” with that note of disdain, as if a publisher in 2013 is the mark of quality that determines if something's worth reading or not.

For someone like me, it just rolls off my back these days. I chose to go back to self-publishing after having my 2nd book published by Penguin Books – who, I might add, chased ME for the rights. It wasn't just about numbers. I sold far more copies under Penguin than I did of my first book, which I self-published. But I made far less money overall, and the process was far slower. So I opted to take back control over my books, my process and my future. When you attempt to insult or categorically dismiss my work because I make and distribute it all myself, you are throwing darts at a steel wall.

But for the dozens of authors and potential authors who seek out advice from me, or ask me to their book signings, or lament their struggles to me, I can tell you, that one hyphenated word, said in italics, can crush them. And the same goes for comic illustrators, painters, game developers, artists, musicians, clothing makers, and anyone else who takes control of their own distribution and, thus, their future with their work.

Because when you look down your nose at a piece of work made 100% by a person, and you categorically dismiss it as lesser-than simply because they did it all themselves, you're saying “not only will I not read this thing you struggled to produce, I will also dismiss it BECAUSE you struggled to produce it.” And you sound stupid.

It's 2013, people. The era of needing the blessing of a gatekeeper (i.e. a publisher, record label, comic book publisher, clothing label, or anyone else) to make something you want to make has been over for nearly ten years. The era of having a gatekeeper's blessing translate to "quality" have been over for nearly as long.

You can walk into any Apple store and buy a device starting at $99 that you can shoot (camera), edit (iMovie) and distribute (YouTube) your own movies with. If you hate typing on an iPod or iPhone screen, for another $69 bucks, you can get a bluetooth keyboard that enables you to write (notes or Pages or Evernote or about 200 other word processing apps), publish (CreateSpace by Amazon, LightningSource, LuLu, CafePress) and sell your own books (again, through all of those providers). You can even make the cover with SketchBook Pro. You can record your own albums with GarageBand. You can make your own comic books with Sketch, SketchBook Pro, DipTic, or any other graphics app.

Remember the movie Clerks? Funny, well written, well executed. All on a budget. Kevin Smith claims he made Clerks for $27,575 and I can believe it. That was in 1994. Did you know you could make the exact same film with the exact same quality today for less than $500 bucks? And Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi was made for $5,000 in 1992. Ani DiFranco started recording albums with a four track, a guitar, borrowed space and $300 bucks to make her first wax pressing in 1993.

Today, all of that great material can be made with your phone. Literally. You could. And people are. And it's not just films and albums. What's even more amazing is that entire movies are being made by directors like Luc Besson and Stephen Sodherberg on equipment that costs less than a single camera cost just ten years ago. And they're putting them out on their own. Because they simply don't need anyone else to do it for them.

Look, It's your right to read or not read (or listen or watch or wear) anything you want. It's also your right to think and say whatever you want, based on how something was made. I'm probably not going to stop you. I mean, I want to, because again, I don't want you to look stupid. But I can't reach into your brain and take those thoughts out. I'm simply saying, you should probably consider just exactly what you're saying when you say “self-published” with that note of disdain, because you not only hurt people, you look and sound like an uninformed idiot when you do it.

It is 2013. Creative people the world over have been empowered to be creative. Quit judging them for taking the chance to do so without the big companies' permission (link goes to the co-founder of Reddit Alexis Ohanian's new book, which you should read now).

10.17.2013

iCracked.com Sent Me A Replacement Phone. I Love Them And I Love You.

Holy. Crap.

On Sunday, my phone was stolen during a poetry performance. Someone walked by my table and nicked it while I was talking. That in itself is somewhat poetic, isn't it? A tragedy or something. I dunno. What I do know is that, on top of losing everything else this year, losing my phone felt like icing on a shit cake.

I blogged about it because I blog things. It's become my therapy. I write; I feel better. Something about the act of orchestrating words puts things into order for me and allows me to at least attempt to gain perspective on situations. I didn't write about it with the intention of getting any sort of reaction, other than from myself. I wanted desperately to let go of the pain, anger and frustration of feeling violated, so I worked through it, posted it, and sighed a heavy sigh of relief.

The reaction was incredible and unexpected.

Dozens of people on Facebook, Twitter and via Email offered their support in the form of loaner phones, offers for donations and consolation. It was humbling to say the least. It's astounding to feel lower than low, look around, and realize you're actually in a place most people envy. You're supported and cared for. It means the world.

Fortunately, my friend and roommate Mike had an old iPhone 3G that was sitting around. Now, this thing is, in a word, special. The battery is so bad, it literally lasted a minute. One. Almost exactly 60 seconds. And that's only if I wasn't actively on a call. If I were, the time dropped to seconds. How many, exactly, I'm not sure, but it wasn't enough to even get past the words "Oh, Shit!"

It had to stay plugged into a power source in order to be used. Thankfully, I own a battery backup, so I could actually carry it around. Needless to say, it was quite humorous to reach out and answer a the phone or reply to a text and have a brick leashed to the bottom of the phone. And God forbid I accidentally unplug it while on a call, because that call would drop in seconds.

More than that, the backlight was dim, even on the highest brightness setting, so it was utterly useless in sunlight. But it worked, and it was available, and it helped more than words can say. I was very grateful. I didn't even complain once. Me, the tech snob who for years has been on the cusp of the latest technology trends, has let go of that crap to the point where even a dim iPhone 3G with 60 seconds of battery life was just fine.

So the offers of peoples' used iPhone 4, 4s and 5 models were extremely appreciated. But I'm not one who can accept help all that easily. I'm trying to learn. And this past year has taught me how to in ways I never thought I could. Once Mike came through with the loaner, I was content to just live with that until I could afford to replace it.

Then, I got a comment on my blog post that made my jaw drop:

Joe, the team over here at iCracked.com would be more than happy to donate you a new iPhone if you need it! We take a lot of pride in never having purchased any lost/stolen devices through our trade-in program, and actually have some pretty awesome, industry-changing methods in place that make this possible. Either way, we would love to place one of our devices in your hands as I can guarantee everybody that works here knows exactly how you feel. Email me personally at Paul at [redacted] and we will get you squared away!

Wow.

I emailed Paul. Within seconds he called my busted ass 3G, and within 24 hours I had a replacement iPhone 5. It was a 32gb white model, where my stolen version was a 64gb, but still -- it was free. And it was extremely kind of them to provide it to me simply because I was in need. They even included a case with a built-in bottle opener!




What's amazing is that two months ago, I used iCracked to replace a cracked screen on the stolen phone. They were much cheaper than other alternatives, they met me at a Starbucks, and the work was top-notch. I was EXTREMELY pleased with the experience. I had a great conversation with the tech. He even told me that while he was working on my handset, he noticed an issue with the power button and he corrected it. And it did work way better for a while, until eventually it degraded to its former crappy ways -- but my handset came back to me in a better condition than I handed it off.

I highly recommend iCracked. Their service is great, the quality of work is fantastic, they meet you where you need them, and they genuinely care about their customers.

And to all of you, I very much appreciate your help, offers and support. You have no idea how much, and I sincerely hope you never have to find out how much this could mean to you. I don't want any of you to go through even one thing I've been through this year, much less all of it. But if you do, know you have a friend in your corner, cause I pay my debts.

10.14.2013

To The Person Who Stole My Phone Last Night



Dear Sir Or Madam,

I won't lie -- I was angry when I realized you had stolen my phone.

I didn't want to believe it was theft when I returned to my seat after giving a poetry reading... I wanted to believe it had fallen under my table. But it hadn't. I wanted to believe I left it in a cargo pocket or maybe a back pocket in my pants; some little pouch I rarely check. But I hadn't. I wanted to believe someone maybe picked it up by mistake, despite having an incredibly unique purple Element Case bumper and 100% unique Akira-themed background. But they didn't.

I was hopeful that you would answer the phone when I called from a friend's mobile. Or again, when I called from the venue's phone. I hoped you'd reply when I texted my own number with my email, a friend's phone number, and a message that said the phone that you had contained photos and text for two articles due today, and that is my livelihood (and believe me, I desperately need the money). But you didn't.

I will admit, I kept the faith that somehow, someway, this was all one big mistake and I'd end up getting it back. It took a while for Find My iPhone to register where you were, because you were smart. You turned off the phone when you picked it up. I'm pretty sure you were annoyed to find it took forever to turn off, because the power button is mostly broken. I usually had to push it HARD against a table edge or wall corner just to get it to register. It seems you figured that trick out as well. And when you turned it back on again, and I got a message saying it had been located nearly 50 miles away, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you stole it.

Now, here's the part you probably knew was coming. Here's where I tell you what I hope for you. And I'm certain you're getting ready to brush off hopes from a stranger whose phone you pilfered that you end up with AIDS-laced cancer and during treatment, some horrific sadist of a hospice nurse tortures you for weeks before you finally burn in hell. Or, at the very least, that I run into you one day and I hit you. Hard.

A few years ago, yes. Once I realized that you stole from me, the chants would have begun in earnest at the top of my voice that the heavens destroy you with one thousand plagues, but not before I got the chance to beat the living crap out of you.

Today, that's not at all what I hope. You know what I hope?

That you're not a thief. I hope you are merely a desperate person in a desperate situation. Maybe you lost your job, and you saw a phone laying there on the table and knew you could get a little quick cash from an automated phone trade-in machine.

Maybe you have children. Maybe you've been struggling week to week to keep them fed. Maybe you don't have children, but you yourself are having trouble making food appear on your dinner plate every night.

Maybe you have an income, but it's just enough to get by -- and medical expenses or an emergency repair to your car or even a speeding ticket threw your budget into a tizzy.

Maybe you're just like me -- going through one hell of a hard time. And you saw an easy fix to a situation and you took it.

I hope you're a good person in a bad situation. Because I know that I've had those thoughts. Trust me, I've had them. Just two weeks ago, I literally had 27 dollars. Twenty seven. I didn't plan on having only twenty seven dollars. It was a catastrophic sequence of events all at once in a very short period of time that drained every single dollar I had. A sick cat, a locked Paypal account due to an errant eBay purchase, an unforeseen auto insurance expense due to screwed up paperwork from my divorce, and a very untimely deactivated phone (the one you stole) due to a really big screwup with my phone bill drained me.

I was pretty desperate. And thankfully, I received some donations from people I did not see coming. Two very wonderful, very generous people just randomly helped me out. I didn't ask them. I didn't even hint that I needed help. I just got an envelope with some cash in it from one and a repair deposit for my truck from the other. It wasn't a lot, but it got me straight for the time being.

And I'm still there. I'm still trying to get straight. That's why the phone you stole was so important, and that's why the texts and messages you received sounded so desperate. It's not that I just can't wait to Facebook all night, or return texts from friends, or that I can't be separated from my email for a day.

It's that you took a few hundred dollars worth of my work when you took a few hundred dollars worth of hardware. And that's going to be hard to recoup, because I also have editors to explain things to. And that's okay, because in my head, you're not some lowlife thief. You're not just a greedy morality-deprived jerk who decided they wanted something enough to take it from someone else while they were reading poems to a crowd at a coffee house.

In my heart, you're a person in need. And that being the case, I no longer consider my phone stolen. I gave it to you. And I hope that whatever you got for it helps you out of whatever bind you're in. Because if not for the kindness of several very generous people the past few weeks, I'd be so very screwed. It's amazing how the universe works. It just seems to provide exactly what you need when you need it.

And even if you simply are a thief, you taught me a lesson. I was pretty low when I realized my phone was stolen. Like I said earlier, I was so angry with you when I realized you stole it. That anger sat in me for a while. I wasn't instantly enlightened or anything. I'm no Zen Buddhist. In fact, I reflected on my stolen phone as the latest item in a checklist named Everything Is Going Absolutely Batshit Crazy In My Life.

And that's where I realized, I've been where I am thinking you are now. I've been at the deepest part of a sinkhole that opened up in my life and swallowed everything in it. So I know exactly how boundless what you're willing to do can get. And that's why I'm giving you my phone. Consider it a fair exchange for the perspective you gave me this morning.

Sincerely,

Joe Peacock

10.11.2013

Where Strength Comes From, Both Emotional and Physical



Yesterday's post "Fuck The Fuckers" got a LOT of response via email, Facebook, Twitter and comments (and is still getting some...) You guys are incredibly supportive and I thank you so very much for your support.

But more than the support, I thank you for opening up to me with your own experiences. I seem to have struck a nerve with a lot of people. I know that we've all experienced our fair share of pain, doubt, suffering and abuse in our lives, but I think the idea that someone would stand forward and take it all on really hit a lot of people hard.

One commenter, Cat Campbell, said:

"Fake it til you make it", that's the advice I was always given. And I have tried, with great success, for so long. But it has become almost impossible to fight anymore.
I wish to god I had even a portion of your strength. I wish I knew where it comes fr:om. How to cultivate it. There are very few nights where I don't hope that I just won't wake up the next day. I know it's what "they" want, but when you have run out of strength, and run out of will and run out of hope, what is there left beside the "easy way"?


Cultivating strength is pretty easy. It just sucks.

In weight lifting, strength is developed by the systematic tearing down of the muscles. You lift weights and the process of doing so tears the individual fibers of the muscle. When it heals, it heals back bigger and tougher. This allows you to do more weight, which tears more, which heals back stronger, which allows you to do more weight... So on and so on.

The same is true with emotions. You survive hard experiences and you heal. This enables you to survive harder experiences.

And much like weight lifting, emotional healing is where actual strength is developed. You do not build strength  while exercising -- that's where you tear things down. You build strength while you rest. If you don't rest, you cannot develop strength, because you cannot heal the damaged tissue. The same is true of your emotions. If you don't take the time to heal, you cannot get stronger.

That's the problem, though. We don't treat our emotional pain the way we treat our physical pain. I've written about this in the past, and it's highly relevant to this post.

How I choose to heal may be different from how you choose to heal. As I explained, writing is a massive part of my healing. Writing what I wrote last night was active healing. I was hurting so bad last night, and have been hurting this week... This month... This year. It's been a painful time for me. And there are times I want to collapse and give up.

When I feel that happening; when I feel the weakness and the tiredness and the pain, I imagine it like when I'm sore after a workout. I choose to see hardship and pain and suffering as training. And when I feel that feeling, instead of giving up, I begin healing.

I feel the darkness swirl and become thick, like being enveloped in a cloak made of sap. And rather than collapse into it, I light a candle in my heart. It's amazing how quickly the darkness can be vanquished with but a single light. Imagine being in a room that has grown dark. You cannot see anything. The room is vast. Maybe it's a stadium. Maybe it's the size of an entire forest. But no matter how large and how dark, the second you light a candle, the light cannot be denied, nor can it be squashed. It might be small... But there it is, glowing.

That's what writing is for me. It's lighting a candle. It's a hope that my pain and my anguish and my experiences can help someone else. Maybe it shows them a way to move forward. Maybe it simply reaches out and says "You are not alone. Take my hand." Maybe no one reads it at all, ever. But it doesn't matter. I begin writing, knowing that maybe it could help someone someday, even if that only someone is me.

And with that, that candle is lit. And in the light, I begin to heal. And the more I heal, the stronger I get. And as I get stronger, I gain the power to stand in the face of darkness and scream defiantly "COME AT ME BRO."

Maybe I'm standing in your darkness when I do it. Maybe I'm standing in your best friend's darkness, who you sent my writing to. Maybe it's my friends or maybe it's my own. But there I stand, bruised, battered and scarred but hard... Torch in hand, ready to take it on.

It might hurt. But so does any other form of training. And at the end of it, I'll just be stronger.

10.10.2013

We Are NOT Them (or, "Fuck The Fuckers")




There are days I want to give up. I want to crawl into a cave and curl up for eternity. I want to hide from the planet and everyone on it. I feel rudderless… Useless. Without merit. Without purpose. Without recourse.

And then I think about all that has happened to me this year and across my life. I think of the birth father who wished aloud on many a drunken occasion that I'd stayed dead when I was born, and beat me every day for having the audacity to stay alive.

I think of the relatives who thought I was a freak. I think Of the “brother” I had who literally tortured me. I think of the black kids in my first four years of school who kicked my ass literally every single day for being the only white kid in the school besides my sister… Who beats up a kindergartner! Really!

I think of my mother marrying my adopted father and moving us to the suburbs, where the white kids in middle school beat me up for being the only white kid who liked “nigger music.”

I think of the teachers in high school who would rather just send me to the office than deal with me. I think of the kids who made damn sure every day I knew I was worthless because I didn't have the cool shoes… And when I finally mowed enough lawns to get them, stole them out of my locker.

I think of the coworkers at every job I had after I quit college who couldn't relate to an 18 year old freak kid who liked computers and football. I think of the nights spent alone working when everyone else my age was out at parties, and the people I worked with were out at bars. I think of the people at my last corporate job who laughed when I showed them my magazine articles and, when it came out, my first book. “Self published… How cute.”

I think of the people I did projects with over the years who outright fucked me over to get a little bigger slice of the pie. I think of the web personas who told me to “bug off” when I was starting out, who now ask me for favors. I think of my former best friend and wife, and the end of things between us… Stories I won't ever tell, which left me broken and destitute.

I think of every lie and every betrayal and every beating throughout my life. And I realize something: Crawling into a cave and disappearing is exactly what they want.

So fuck them. Fuckers, all of them. I'll be the light in their darkness, and I'll burn so bright they will go blind.

And for every person who has hurt me, there's an equal or greater number on my side. There are people who have stood by me thick and thin. There are people who continually support my efforts. There are too many people on my side for me to give up on them. And they're the ones I shine for, because I can tell you from experience, they've all been just as screwed over and held down and betrayed and lied to as I have. And that's why we all stick together.

So I don't crawl out of my cave and come out of hiding in spite of the fuckers. They don't deserve that honor. They don't deserve the attention. I'm not going to let my successes be based on them, as if they're my muse and my motivation.

No. I come out and I fight the fuckers, because I am capable of fighting them. I have the strength. I have the power. I have the endurance. I have the knowledge. And whatever I lack to fight them, I have the ability to seek it out and acquire it. I fight them because I am able. I fight them because the people who have my back might not be. I fight them because evil only needs one thing to exist: a lack of action by good people to squash it where it stands.

So I'll fight. And when I get weak, you pick me up. When I get beat up, you are in my corner to cheer me on. When I suffer defeats, you're there to tell me it'll be okay, because we all fight this fight. And I'll be there for you to do the same.

Because that's what we do. Because WE ARE NOT THEM. And we never will be.

10.08.2013

I Just Want To Cry All The Time


I want to cry all the time. But I can't. So I don't.

But I want to.

It's like an ever-present jumper on a building with a fence on the rim. He's always standing there, just over the edge, looking down, wishing he could be at the bottom of what he's on top of. But he can't.

Sometimes, it's because he's not supposed to. The sign on the fence says no, he shouldn't be on the other side of it. So of course, he has to follow the rules.

Sometimes, it's because he simply can't muster the strength to climb the fence. It's too tall. Nevermind he climbed all those stories to be up there in the first place… That fence is the last .2 miles of the marathon and after all that running, he just can't run anymore.

Sometimes, he's just scared. A coward. He is too afraid of the consequence, so he doesn't take action.

But the vast majority of the time, it's because he knows he's full of shit, and that the view from up here is so gorgeous and jumping would just take that away. And thinking about how beautiful the view is gets him thinking about how beautiful the world is, especially in the fall when the air turns and the breeze kicks up and the birds fly south, contrasting their dark shapes against the bright clouds in the blue sky. And he has to remember, "I'm supposed to be sad right now. I'm supposed to want to cry right now. Don't forget that. Happiness is so boring and trite… Don't forget amidst all this amazing beauty in this present moment where nothing is actually wrong right here and right now, that everything else sucks and I'm supposed to be hurting. Stay sad, man. Stay sad."

So I don't cry. I want to, but I don't. Because I know that with everything in my life I could enumerate and put into a list of "shit gone bad" it won't matter right here, right now, where the sky is gorgeous and the birds are flying and the breeze is blowing in and I feel little goosebumps crawling up my legs and my spine and my arms and I feel Autumn coming.

I know that the rest of this year and all of 2014 will be filled with "This time last year, [X] happened" because this entire year has been disastrous. Almost daily, some new something happens that, in any other year, would be the worst thing possible ever.

But I can't cry every day about it because I have conversations with friends who help me through every [X] I face. I am lucky to have even one... But I have many. I have a group of friends on an email chain right now discussing my latest breakup and helping me through it with jokes and support and love. I have a friend who is flat out paying for my back window in my truck to be fixed. I have friends who came to a book signing last Friday and hugged me and told me they love me and took my book out into the world for their friends to check out. I have two friends who took in my cats when I had no room for them, and who loved them and made them a part of their family, and when one of them passed, were there for me like I was there for them for us to mourn together.

There's so much joy being uncovered in all this pain. There's so much to be thankful for in all this loss. For every disaster, there's a crew standing there with shovels and hammers and nails and warm meals, ready to help. And there's been a LOT of disasters. So to see this many people show up to help me... Humbling isn't the word. I'm thinking more like "Unparalleled." It shows that, at some point in my life, I've done something right, because when I needed them most, I've been surrounded by the most amazing people on the planet.

One does not accidentally make friends who will march with you into hell. And while I do indulge in feelings of despair and hopelessness when I dwell on all I've lost, my brain eventually calls "bullshit" and makes me remember that, for everything I've lost, I've gained one thing that it's impossible to have without going through something like this:

Perspective.

I want to cry all the time. But for every second I want to cry out of sadness, there's another minute I want to cry from joy.

There's a huge, huge hole I have to claw my way out of, and I have a long, long way to go. But not a minute goes by where I don't hear someone cheering me on from somewhere along the sides. So I know I'll get there. It might take years, but goddammit, I'm going to get there. If for no other reason than the fact that I'm not going to make their showing up to cheer me on a waste of time.


10.07.2013

Get My New Book Everyone Deserves To Know What I Think on Amazon Today!

The book I've been working on for, oh, ten years now releases today! It's called Everyone Deserves To Know What I Think, and you can get it in paperback and Kindle formats.

Buy the paperback edition

Buy the Kindle edition

The Kindle version is $4.99 for 380 pages of pure amazing Joe Peacock article-writing goodness. That's a huge value, considering most books that size are like $11.99 or more. Bastards. Capitalists. A bunch of cash-hungry greedy brats, is what those guys are. Me? I'm just an independent guy turning a corner in his life, making a living on his writing. And I want you to get the best value for your hard-earned buck.

That's also why if you buy the paperback version from Amazon ($14.99), you get the Kindle edition for the low, low price of FREE. That's right -- thanks to Kindle Matchbook, if you buy the dead tree version of my book, you get the Kindle version for free.

And as always, my digital versions are all DRM-Free.

If you'd like a sneak preview, I've included a few of the chapters that are included in the book, in full, below this article. It also includes:

Gay Marriage: I Don't Get It. -- This article was one of the most popular articles in Huffington Post history.

Joe's Rules Of Air Travel -- This one was too. It's the piece that made Gayle King (Oprah's best friend) a fan of mine and got me on her show the first time.

How To Actually Win A Fist Fight -- Arguably the most popular thing I've ever written, with over 7 million reads. Yes. Seven. Million.

The (Updated) Rules of the Gym -- Basically, guys need to quit making girls feel uncomfortable, girls need to stop egging it on, and everyone needs to quit farting on the treadmills.

Of course, the entire book is comprised of my articles on CNN and Huffington Post, and this blog. So really, this whole blog is a sample of the book. But I digress.

And now, a few selections for your reading enjoyment:




********






Yesterday, I was at the gym.

...Don't worry. This isn't a gym story. This is a story about a boy who needed to hear something important. But it happened at the gym. So that's why I started with the bit about being in the gym. If you were hoping for a gym story... Well, you could call this one if you really wanted to. And if you hate gym stories, you don't have to worry, the ones calling it a gym story are just really desperate for a gym story.

Anyway, I was at the PLACE THE STORY HAPPENED WHICH WAS THE GYM. And I was working out, as I am usually doing while I'm at the gym. And as happens over the years spent going to the same gym, relationships form and people get to know each other, and groups form and jokes are shared and camaraderie takes place. And it was the same this day.

I was talking with a group of folks who are regularly in during the afternoons on Saturday. Among them was a 14 year old boy named Bradley (not his real name). He's a great kid. He's been coming to the gym with his parents for the past two or so years. While his parents walk around the track upstairs, he spends his time learning how to lift weights with us big guys. When he first started, he was wiry and awkward. He's still pretty awkward; being a teenager and all. But us big guys, we set him on a good path to maintain a healthy level of fitness.

We were cutting up and laughing. The guys made fun of me for liking hockey. "That's a Canadian sport, isn't it?" one asked. "What are you, part Canadian?"

"Only the part that likes real sports," I replied. "And maple syrup."

"I still don't get why you don't like college football," another asked. "You're in Georgia. SEC is bigger than NFL here."

"What can I say?" I asked. "Southerners like their little league sports. I prefer watching pros."

And so it goes, about the same way every Saturday. The topics change -- what cars are best, what sports are better than other sports, what teams are better than other teams, what shows are better than other shows (but never politics or religion -- something you learn really fast in a gym is to never bring up the two topics most likely to incite violence in a building filled with metal bars and heavy plates). Someone has a divergent interest, everyone else jumps on it, and laughs are had. And invariably, the topic turns to girls.

Husbands laugh about the young singles and their stories about weekend endeavors. Singles laugh at the guys stuck at home with their ball and chain. Whispers are shared about which girls in the gym are hot; warnings are issued by the more experienced about the dangers of dating people from your gym or your job (short version: it doesn't matter how hot the guy or girl is, it's stupid. Unless marriage is assured, don't do it.)

One of the guys asked Bradley if he had a girlfriend. If there were dirt on the gym floor, he'd have been kicking it.

"Nah, no girlfriend," he replied.

"Young strapping lad like you? Nonsense," I said, knowing fully well that not only did he not have a girlfriend, he'd have absolutely no clue what to do with one if he did. Because I was him once. But as a grown up looking out for a younger kid, you have to act like it's completely ridiculous that girls don't flock to him. It's the right thing to do.

"I asked a girl out to the spring dance," he said. He then said something that hit me hard. "She called me lame and said, 'That's why you don't have any friends. Because you're weird.'"

The words rang in my head. Those exact words -- I remember hearing them. A lot. He didn't explain why she thought he was weird. He didn't have to. I knew the feeling very, very well.

"Come on now," one of the guys said. "Don't let her get to you."

"No, she's right," he said. "I don't have any friends. Not at school, anyway." His face got really sad. "I really am weird."

I was weird, back before I realized I wasn't. And it resulted in some extremely lonely times in my young life. My entire elementary and junior high school tenure was spent with no friends. In tenth grade, I found my tiny group of four friends (you can read about some of our little adventures in this story, which is to date the only thing I've written that came out exactly how I wanted it to, and that I am proud of).

I dated the wrong girl (they're all the wrong girl, until you find the right one). The four of us fractured into two groups of two -- Mike and I split off from Walter and Rod (not his real name, by the way -- Rod was the name I gave Jay Naylor, who is actually a very famous furry cartoonist. Yup: not only did I go to high school with a furry, he was one of my best friends. That in and of itself is a long and crazy story I'll tell one day, but not today. Today I'm telling a not-gym story).

Then one day, Mike got tired of my bullshit and said those words to me. "That's why you don't have any friends," he said at very high volume. He deserved to say it -- I'd just told him to go fuck himself when he tried to explain why my girlfriend at the time was screwing someone behind my back. I called him every name in the book. So he bailed and joined up with Walter and Jay, while I spent the last few weeks of my high school career alone. Even the furry had more friends than I did.

And now, 17 years later, life is fantastic. I belong to a studio full of amazing people who were all weird, just like me. I get to meet freaks from across the nation who all love anime and comics, just like me. I get to talk to people who read my weird stories about my weird life and relate to it, because just like me, they're weird.

There's thousands -- no, hundreds of thousands -- of us. All weird. All strange. All over, everywhere.

We all went to school and hated everyone because they didn't understand us. We dealt with the bullying and the isolation and the feeling that we were the weird ones. You want to know what's weird? Spending hundreds of dollars on clothes and shoes and purses that everyone else thinks is cool. Spending hours of your life doing things that everyone else is doing because it's cool. Liking the bands that everyone else likes because you're a loser if you don't.

You want to know what's weird? Hiding who you are just to have the company of people you don't even like. That's weird.

I looked him straight in the eye. My normally grinning mouth turned stern. With as serious a tone as I could muster, I said "Listen to me, okay? What I'm about to say is something I want you to take in and think about and really hold on to."

He nodded. "Okay, he said."

"This isn't just conversation, this is important," I said. "You listening?"

He nodded again. "I'm listening," he replied with a look that convinced me that he was.

I took a deep breath. "Right now, you're in high school in a small suburban town," I started.

He nodded.

"Everyone you know looks the same and acts the same," I explained. "They may dress differently from each other or belong to different crowds, but they're all the same. Hipsters, brainiacs, jocks, so-called 'geeks' -- they're all so caught up with not being left out that they're changing who they are to fit in with whoever it is that will accept them.

"When you show up and you're not like that, it scares them," I continued. "They don't know what to do with you, because they have no idea what it's like to think for themselves. So they try to make YOU feel like the loser, because there's more of them doing what they're doing than there are of you. In such a small group of small minds, the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.

"To them, you are weird," I said. "But weird is good. No, screw that -- weird is great! Being weird to someone just proves that you are being you, which is the most important thing you can ever be. There's nothing wrong with you. There's something wrong with them. They can't understand what it's like to be themselves, much less what it's like to be you."

He smiled a little. "You really think that?" he asked.

I laughed. "Dude, look at me!" I said. "I'm 300 pounds of ex-football player covered in cartoon and comic book tattoos, who builds websites and tours the world talking to people about his anime cel collection. Trust me, I know all about being weird."

He shrugged and said "It just sucks, you know?"

"Oh, I know," I said with a smile. "And here's the little bit of bad news -- It's gonna suck for a little while longer. But one day, you'll get out of school and go somewhere besides the small town you're in and you're going to discover that there are groups of people just like you -- not that they do what you do or act how you act, but that they refused to change who they are to fit in, and that makes them just like you. And when you find them, you're finally going to feel at home.

"It might be college, or it might be visiting another city. Hell, it might even be on the internet. But at some point you're going to find them. And it's going to be great."

He smiled. "That would be awesome," he said.

"It WILL be awesome!" I replied. "But until then, it's going to be lonely and frustrating. You're going to do stupid things thinking it's going to impress them or change their opinion of you, and it won't, and you're going to get sad. Just know that it does end. It ends the day you realize that you never wanted to be them in the first place, because they are losers. They lost the battle to be themselves. You're the winner."

I paused for a second, because it had just occurred to me that, at some point during my little motivational speech, his parents had walked up and were waiting a short distance behind him. I presumed it was to give him enough space to let the conversation be his own, but I knew they had heard me, because when I looked at them, they both nodded and smiled.

So I put the cap on the whole thing. "And I know your parents are right there, but I'm going to say it anyway: Fuck. Them."

I kept my eyes on him, but could see just behind him that his mom reacted a little to my vulgarity. His dad placed his hand on her shoulder and just let it be.

The guys in the group all nodded and agreed with me, and began talking to him about their perspectives on the situation (which, in previous conversations over the years, I knew to be similar to mine). His parents came up to me and thanked me for talking to him.

"He just thinks the world of you guys," his mom said. "He talks about coming here all the time to work out with you."

"He really needed to hear that," his dad said. "We try to tell him that high school is just that way, but you know how it is..."

"No teenager wants to listen to his parents," I said. "Hell, I'm an adult and I still don't."

They both laughed.

"He's a great kid," I said. "He's going to be just fine in a few years."

"Well, thank you," the dad said. "It means a lot."

"Hey," I said with a shrug, "That's what we're here for. We're his friends."



********






I'll give away the ending of this letter:

You don't want to die. You just want the pain to stop.

Trust me on this. I've been exactly where you are. It hurts. My God, it hurts so bad. The entire world -- your entire world -- has come crashing down around you. You realized the constructs you put in place that serve as relationships were false. You realize that you never truly connected to anyone. You've had your heart smashed. You've felt pain your entire life, with brief reprieves that came when you felt you found someone (or someones) who understood you; who accepted you.

And that's gone. And now you're alone. You're isolated. You've been trapped in a vast expanse of nothing, because you were cut loose. You've made damn sure that everyone you know knows you don't need help. You're no pussy. You're strong. You're in control. And to do that, you've put everyone in their place. You've kept them at bay. You've never told them what's going on with you. You've never asked for help. And when they finally stopped trying to help you, you took that as a sign that they don't love you and never did.

And you want out. You want it all to go away. You want it to be over. And you think death is the way to achieve that, because nothing you've tried and no one you've met has ever cauterized the wound in your heart that's bled since birth.

So you're going to do something drastic... Something final. And that's your right (at least, I feel it's your right. It's your life, and you own it, and if you feel that you deserve the ability to go out of it on your own terms, in your own way, that's your choice and I can't stop you). But here's something you need to hear, because it's something you need to know: As you lay there bleeding; as your eyes begin getting too heavy to hold open from the pills; as consciousness begins to fade... You're going to have a moment that you don't realize is coming, and when it hits, it's going to be the most horrific moment you've ever experienced:

You're going to realize you've slipped over the edge of a cliff you never actually wanted to jump from, and now you can't stop. You don't want to die. You just wanted the pain to stop. You just wanted them all to realize what life would be like without you. You wanted to matter, if only for a moment. And all of that is about to happen, but in the worst way possible, and you feel for the first time that there are alternatives. Sure, you knew all along that there were, but now you actually feel it. It's in you. It's clear as a bell. And it's too late, because you're about to die with years left on your tab. Regret is going to set in. You're going to scream and you're going to cry and you're going to beg for someone to save you or for the pills to wear off or for your wounds to clot... And they won't. And your last moment alive will be spent in anguish and regret.

And then it's over. You're gone, forever. And we get to pick up the pieces. We get to clean up your blood and handle your remains and pack up your apartment and move your furniture and tell the world of your demise. We get to call everyone in your phone book and tell them what happened, and try to hold back the pain and the tears and the crying as we have to be the strong one in that conversation, over and over.

We get to hold your mother as she cries for days. We get to explain what your last weeks and months are like. We get to figure out, without any real answers, what happened; what we could have done differently. We get to live the rest of our lives knowing we couldn't save you. And now, we get to live the rest of our lives without you.

Thanks for that, you fucking asshole. That's right, I called you an asshole, because right now, you're being an asshole.  And what a waste, as you never wanted to die in the first place, you just wanted the pain to stop.

It can stop. Right now. Right here. All you have to do is talk to us. All you have to do is pick up the phone, no matter how many times you have in the past, and say "I need my friends right now." All you have to do is ask. We realize you're hurting. We realize you're weak right now. We realize you need help, and that you're not crazy, you just can't do this yourself. That's what we are here for.

But you see us as the enemy. You've spent the past few weeks or months or even years pushing us away, because you can't trust anyone. And that's because you can't trust yourself. You can't admit to yourself or anyone else that you are the reason you're alone right now, because you turned your back on those who love you and every time they chased you, you slapped them away.

Because you feel like you have to. Because you know no better. And it's just sad that you can't, because it's all so easy. All you have to do is put down the blade. Throw away the bottle. Toss the pills. Take the first step. Admit to yourself that you don't want to die, you just want to stop hurting. Ask for help.

My fear? That this might stop you temporarily, because it filled enough of the hole in you to make you realize you're not alone; that you're not unloved... Until it's not enough. And you convince yourself that I am just saying this to be nice, or because I feel like I have to.

Of course I have to. I love you. You're human, and you're here. You're alive. You have so much potential and so much access to so many wonderful things. You have a thinking mind that conceives of powerful concepts. It's just turned the wrong way right now. And I feel like I have to at least try to turn it the right way.

Please turn it the right way. Because when you are really honest with yourself in those moments where your fear can't hide behind bravado, you know you don't want to die. You just want to stop the pain.

So stop the pain. Call your friends. Get therapy. Stop being tough. Start being strong.

Or don't. I can't make you, and I can't stop you from doing what you are about to do. But I hope you won't. I really, really do. Because I want you around. It's entirely selfish. I don't want a life without you in it. I don't want a world that doesn't get to have what you bring to the table. But more than that, I don't want to live the rest of my life knowing that you lived the rest of your life in fear and panic and regret from making a decision you can't ever come back from, make right, or change your mind about.

But I'm not you. You're you. You're the only one who can stop you.

I eagerly await your reply. I can't wait to hear how you feel that suicide is your right. I want badly to hear your side of the discussion; to know why you've chosen this path. I want to discuss it with you over coffees had across multiple weeks.  I hope we argue about this for years to come, because you'll be here to argue with me about it.

And I think deep down, you do too. Because the truth is -- and this is harsh, but there's no getting around it -- you don't want to die, because if you did... You'd be dead right now.

You're not. Let's keep it that way.




********







When I care about something, I engulf myself in it. I pay full attention. I soak it all in. I want to study every single corner, seam, side and stitch. I want to know it, fully and wholly.

When I love, I love with my whole heart. I don't have room for embarrassment or regret, because my heart is 100% dedicated to love.

When I trust, I trust fully. I subscribe to the theory that the best way to figure out if you can trust someone is to trust them.

I get hurt. A lot. Sometimes, very badly.

And yes, I get sad. I have to face memories and pain and periods of time being alone and broken. And I'm not sorry. I don't regret it one bit. I don't have time for it. Regret is distraction. Wishing something never happened is basically saying I wish I hadn't lived. And having actually been clinically dead before, I'm not about to wish that. I'm going to live as hard as I fucking can.

When I die, I don't want a perfect shiny heart, protected in plastic and encased in a safe box. I want my heart to have scars and stretch marks and all the signs that show it was well used.


************


I hope these selections are enough to entice you to support me and my writing habit. After all, I'd like to be able to eat, so I can stay alive and write more for you:


Buy the paperback edition

Buy the Kindle edition



No, seriously, I do hope you dig it. And if you do, please consider buying a copy of my new book. Also please consider reviewing it on Amazon, and telling your friends. It means the world. Thank you.




10.03.2013

The Night Before The Big Day



Tomorrow is the early release party for my new book, Everyone Deserves To Know What I Think, which releases Monday on Amazon and in bookstores (and if you can't go and want an autographed copy, you can still preorder through Sunday).

Tomorrow, I'll get to A Cappella Books in Atlanta a little earlier than everyone else... Probably about 6:15 PM. I'll get the books to the store and help set up. I'll talk for a while with the staff, who are exceptionally nice and very supportive of local authors. People will begin arriving, and there'll be conversations and a lot of joy all around. I'll start talking about 7:00 PM, and I'll try my best not to bore everyone.

Then, I'll sit at a table and sign books for anyone who wants to buy one, and of course I'm hoping that's a lot... But I'm not expecting anything. I am simply preparing to enjoy the feeling of having finished something, produced it, put it out there and having people support it.

For tonight, I'm stamping books with the official embossed seal of This Is Not Art! Productions, my silly name for my silly imprint of a publishing company. I think it's a cool little thing to do to books I actually sign and ship out myself. I'm sipping some coffee. My dog is snoring on the bed next to me. I've got They Live! playing on the TV, because it contains some of the best catch phrases in film history ("I'm here to kick ass and chew bubblegum... And I'm all out of gum.") It also has the single greatest unnecessarily long fight sequence ever. It keeps my mind off of the fact that all I want to do right now is throw up.

Every time I pick up a book to stamp it, I flip through it and I catch a little something different of my own words staring back at me from the pages of a book I wrote and produced. A real-life book. That I wrote.

The third I've written, actually. And the second I've published myself. But it all feels new. It feels like the first time. There's still part of me that feels like I'm cheating, or getting away with something. Like I'm breaking someone's rules, or defying someone's demands. Like any minute, someone's going to break down the door and take my boxes of books away and say "Dude, what were you thinking... You can't do this."

I guess I'm just an asshole that way, because the more I feel like someone says I can't, the more I'm ready to prove I can.

And tomorrow, I'll be doing that again. But this time, as a full-time writer. And who knows, I may fail. But rather than hope I don't fail, I'm going to work as hard as I can to keep that from happening.

Tonight, though... I'm going to try to keep my leg from shaking all night and puking my guts out.

10.02.2013

Numb.

I'm supposed to be excited right now. The first order of books to be sold at the early release party for Everyone Deserves To Know What I Think arrived yesterday. It was awesome to post a picture of an open case to Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and see peoples' likes and responses. 

I'm not excited. I was a little yesterday when they arrived... But right now, all I can think about is the fact that on Monday morning, someone else in my life I put my trust in hurt me very badly and I had to cut them out of my life.

And the fact that I don't have any money to fix the back windows in my truck that were busted out for the second time in two months, much less pay rent, because my only source of income is frozen in Paypal due to a fraud claim on a missing autographed jersey signed by Wayne Gretzky and the 1998 New York Rangers team (which was a wedding present from my ex-wife, and I couldn't bear to look at it anymore) which basically disappeared from the eBay holding facility in Erlanger, KY and both the buyer and I are screwed. 

And the fact that my cat of 15 years, Mew, is at the vet tonight under observation because she's lost a lot of weight lately and they think her liver is failing. Of course, I wasn't able to see this happen, because she and her brother MewToo have been living at a very loving and wonderful foster home provided by my friends Laura and Randy since I don't have any room in the tiny place I'm living, since I lost my house to foreclosure due to losing my company (and thus my job) due to the divorce from my wife of ten years and best friend of fourteen for reasons I'll never ever be able to write about. And Mew will be the fourth long-time pet I've lost this year. And I'm not sure how the hell I'm going to pay the vet bill. 

I'm so burnt that my nerves have been cauterized at this point. What should be "Oh my God, this is awful, what will I do now?" has become "Well... Tuesday sucked, what's Wednesday got in store for me?" 

I'm numb to it at this point. And that's worse than hurting. It's a coping mechanism you can't control. It's not like disappearing into video games or the bottle or Tahiti. It just turns on, and all you can do is shrug. There's no more perspective, just reaction and soldiering through. 

I've been numb in the past. And from experience, I know that the worst part is that numbness is temporary. It only gets you through the immediate future. It's like going into shock when you break a bone. The pain is on its way... Not right now, but it's coming. And I know it is. 

And when it shows up, all of the tools I have in my emotional toolbox will be put to use, and like everything else this year, I'll get through it. I'll attempt to learn whatever lessons there are for me in these events, and I'll make the best of things. 

But for right now, my entire body tingles lightly with the sensation of feeling no sensation whatsoever. And that scares me. Because I should be excited right now. And I should be sad right now. And I should be angry, and elated, and fiery with vengeance, and overwhelmed with grief... 

But for now, I'm numb.