If you keep asking questions you’ll keep getting answers

My therapist always warns me about asking “why”. I remember the first time he did it and even back then I knew why asking why was a bad idea. Why questions tend to lead to more why questions and rarely result in helpful answers.  My therapist just wants me to be happy, to be content, and asking why is not the way to get there. I know that, but I still say…

So What!

I’m not seeking contentment. I”m not seeking happiness. I’m seeking the truth.  For that I would rather follow the advice of Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus. She says is fond of saying, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.” These are words to live by. Yes, there is wisdom to be found even in children’s programming and Magic School Bus is one of my favorites. I watched it all the time with my kids when they were young and I’ve recently started watching it again with a three year old friend of mine.

He’s really into the episode about the Haunted House so I’ve watched it probably half a dozen times. In this episode, Carlos is trying to build a musical instrument.  Try as he might, his instrument still sounds loopy. He doesn’t know what he did wrong. He doesn’t know what he is going to do to fix it. The only advice Miss Frizzly has is, “Well, if you keep asking questions, Carlos, you’ll keep getting answers.”

I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions lately and I have been getting a lot of answers although most of them have not been that helpful. My biggest questions are, “Why is my best friend not talking to me?” and “Why is my daughter not talking to me?” These are difficult questions to answer when the person with the answer isn’t talking to me. Logic would suggest that I just give it up, let it go, get on with my life… but I don’t. I just keep asking more questions.

Why can’t I move on?

Why do I care?

Why do I believe what I believe?

Why do I like what I like?

Why do I do what I do?

Why can’t I stop asking questions?

This is the behaviour of someone who is searching. This is the behaviour of someone who is missing something. But what am I missing? I have everything I need, in fact I have more than I need so why do I still feel this hole in my soul?

Well, I think that I have finally found the answer… and no, it is not helpful but it is the truth.

It’s an answer for which I have been searching nearly forty-seven years. It’s an answer which has been there the whole time but one which I have never allowed myself to look at.  It’s an answer I haven’t been able to look at until now. It’s an answer I have probably been training my entire life to receive. It’s an answer which could not be found by asking. There is no way to find this answer. It had to come to me which is strange because it is not something that is out there. It is something that is in me. It is something so basic to who I am. It is what burns at the core of my being. It is something so primal that there is no language to explain it. It is not an answer that I could find by thinking. It is something that I needed to feel.

You see, I was put up for adoption at birth. That not really a big deal. It’s certainly no great revelation. I grew up knowing that I was adopted. I understand a lot of the implications of being adopted. Adopted people tend to have more problems than the general population and the reasons for this are pretty straight forward. There are always those questions about where we come from. There is an understanding that someone who is considering putting a child up for adoption is likely to have a stressful pregnancy. We know that stress can affect fetal development. Open adoption has worked to remedy some of these issues but there is still something more going on. There is still something that we don’t want to look at. We are still told that adoption is a beautiful wonderful thing. It takes a child who needs a home and places that child in a home that needs someone to love.

What could be more beautiful than that?

We could stop asking questions right now and just go along our merry way and if you want to be happy, I highly recommend doing just that. Stop reading right here because you don’t want to know what I am about to tell you.

What really happens to a child when that child is put up for adoption?

This is not a question which can be answered through observation. The adoption process is very personal. The child has no memory of the birth. Well… at least no explicit memory. But I was there. I did go through this experience and recently I became able to remember. But it’s not your typical memory. There are no details, there are no pictures, there are no words. It’s more like a psychic connection. This memory has been sitting inside of me all along without me being able to understand it. Somehow, through the course of everything that I have been through I am now able to decode it. I am now able to give it words.

This is what happened to me. This is how my life began and this is why I have spent my entire life searching. I remember life before I was born. I remember being in utero. That womb was my entire universe. My mother was the be all and end all of everything. Upon my birth my universe disappeared. Everything I ever knew, everything that made any sense, was gone. You might say that this experience is not unique. Every child goes through this at the point of birth and I would not refute that. We have all been through this trauma and it’s probably the greatest trauma we will ever experience until we die.  It is probably a good thing that we don’t remember it.

But my trauma was different. The trauma of birth for an adopted child is different. I never got to be held by my universe. I never got to connect with my world. I never got to experience all that my time in utero was preparing me for. I was born to a foreign world, surrounded by aliens.

Anyway, now I understand it and that is pretty fucking cool. Now I know the trauma that I have experienced and I can begin to heal… if I want to. I’m not sure I do. I now understand that I have this huge gaping wound but you know what? It has served me pretty well. Sure, it makes me more sensitive to pain but so what? At least it’s real… and it’s mine.

—–

I was given something else to think about yesterday. It was suggested that I could get more of what I want and cause a lot less trouble if I just kept my mouth shut. That is really good advice. I’m actually pretty good at keeping my mouth shut I would rather not. I would rather just share everything that is on my mind. I guess that is where this blog comes from. Still, along with my insistence on asking questions, speaking my mind has probably caused ninety-nine percent of my problems. I’m pretty sure that my best friend would still be talking to me if I had learned when to keep my mouth shut. Also, I might have to quit drinking if I want to practice keeping my mouth shut. Those two things don’t seem to go together very well.

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Don’t tell a soul

I have a secret. I’m really not into having secrets. I think that they cause nothing but problems. I know that most people have secrets. I actually hold a lot of other people’s secrets and I’m good at keeping secrets. But this is my secret. No one else knows what I know. I didn’t plan for it to be a secret. I expected to get caught. But I didn’t. So now I have this secret. What do I do?

Like anything else in my life I’m going to treat it as a gift. I’m going to see what I can learn from it. If I’m called out on this secret I’m going to come clean. I really don’t  believe that it is possible to keep a secret. Chances are someone already knows my secret and is keeping it for me even without my knowing about it. Everybody knows something that no one else knows and someone knows everything that is out there to be known and anything you think is a secret is probably known to someone whether you know it or not.

When I think about the current debate over public surveillance this is what comes to mind. I don’t give a shit about surveillance or what anybody knows about me. The fact is most people don’t really care what I’m doing. What does concerns me is that a harmless, loving person like myself still probably breaks the law 6 times a day whether by accident, through ignorance or with benign intent. If someone really wanted to label me a criminal, they could. Fuck, anyone could be labeled a criminal.

I think that we have created far too many laws and in doing so have made it nearly impossible for anyone to be a law-abiding citizen.  But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe laws are the only thing keeping us from plummeting into complete chaos and we really just need more of them. I don’t know but I’m up for a debate.

By the way, the thing I did which I am keeping secret is just embarrassing, not illegal.

*The title of this post is a reference to the 1989 Replacements album, the first to feature Slim Dunlap on guitar.  The Replacements released a new record this year titled, “Songs for Slim”, to raise money for the guitarist who is recovering from a stroke.

Always listen to your bartender

I hadn’t been out on my bicycle in nearly two weeks and I was starting to go stir crazy. Even in the winter, I make bicycle my primary mode of transportation but lately between work, picking up my daughter, helping other people and then snow I’ve had to drive. And it drives me crazy.

Friday was a beautiful day and I was not going to let it go to waste. As soon as I was done writing I hopped on my bike and headed downtown. I went to the bank to deposit my tax refund check. I still want to close that account and open one at a credit union. I was going to use my tax refund to do that but now I need it for other things.

After taking care of my banking I received a text message from my bff. She wanted to know if I was going to Cause Soundbar that night to see Rape Door and Dumpster Juice. I said I wanted to but had a big day on Saturday and thought I should stay closer to home. If I was a normal person, I would totally be there but I have issues and life is hard. Okay, normal people don’t go see bands named RapeDoor and Dumpster Juice but they would be better people if they did. If I did, I would need to crash at my friends place because there would be no way I could make it home on my bike. Still, I didn’t know what was going to happen; my day was in the process of unfolding.

Feeling hungry, I headed to Club Jager for food and happy hour beers. They have great food that’s pretty cheap, wonderful bartenders who take good care of me and a happy hour crowd that is always up for some lively conversations. Plus, it’s centrally located to whatever I might do next. I was still waiting to hear back from a friend who was going through some hard times so I wanted to remain available for him.

After my two beers and a meal of artichoke dip I was ready to figure out what would happen next. My friend had gotten back to me and wasn’t going to be able to meet up. When I’m biking and drinking, I don’t like to stay in one place too long. Moving around helps me from getting too drunk. I had a choice between heading to Northeast Minneapolis for a couple more drinks then heading home or heading south and winding up at Cause where I would be stuck until bar close.

I proposed my dilemma to one of the bartenders. She suggested that I play it safe and stick closer to home. At this point that sounded like a good idea.

Then I got engrossed in a conversation with another bar patron so I ordered needed one more beer. He was having beer and a whiskey. I thought that sounded like a wonderful idea so I ordered a whiskey as well.

When it was time for my conversation companion to leave I took his seat at the bar and started up conversation with my new neighbor. This procedure repeated a couple more times and I had another round of beer and whiskey. By this point I was feeling pretty invincible. I thanked the bartender for her advice but informed her that I was going to head to Cause anyway.

I mean what’s the worst that could happen. I’ve done crazier things and I’ve survived. Yeah, there was that one time when I lost an eye but most of the time nothing bad happens. I have a pretty low bar for success. As long as no one dies, winds up in the hospital or jail – all is good!

Recently someone posted this quote on my wall because it made them think of me.

“I would rather die of passion that of boredom” – Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh may not be the best role model for responsible behavior but I do share his passion for life… and probable some of his mental illness.

By now it was dark out and the temperature had dropped significantly. The ride south was pretty rough. Before I made it to Cause I had to stop and warm up. I popped in at the Leaning Tower of Pizza for a quick beer before continuing the last half mile to Cause. They are only open from 4pm – 2am but I think half time time they are open it’s happy hour. Unfortunately I was there for sad hour. Oh well… I just needed to warm up.

I made it to Cause just before the first band went on. I had a couple of $25 gift certificates for Cause from CityPages so I headed to the bar to see if I could use one of them. The bartender said “sure” but I needed to use a credit card to open a tab. “Fair enough.”, I said and ordered a beer.

By this time the place was filling up and I knew most of the people there. It was a constant barrage of:

“Hey, hows it going?”
“What have you been up to?”
“It’s so great to see you!”
“ I’ve missed you!”
“Can I buy you a beer?”

At this point I was feeling like my Club Jager bartender had no idea what she was talking about. I definitely made the right decision. As I was trying to burn through my gift certificate, people kept buying me drinks. At one point I had three beers in front of me. I had to start giving them away. I completely lost track of what I had ordered or even how much I drank. I knew I needed more food so I ordered a slice of pizza, but to be honest, I don’t recall if I ever got it. I was so “in the moment” I didn’t know what what going on.

Despite what people might think, I don’t go out to have a good time. I’m all for people having fun, but that’s not what motivates me. I’m motivated by a need for survival and a need to make life meaningful. I go out primarily because I need human interaction or I will go crazy but I also go out to make other people’s lives better. You know… to make life suck a little bit less.

Without a doubt I was doing that but to my surprise I was also actually having fun as well. I was enjoying the music and the people and dancing and having a really good time. This majorly depressed person who lives almost solely for other people was, in it’s most pure sense, enjoying life!

Oh yeah, making bad decisions is totally worth it!

Maybe…

The night came to an end and everyone filtered outside. I still needed to take care of my tab so I walked up to the bar with my $25 gift certificate. I presented the piece of paper and asked how much I owed. The bartender seemed irritated and just told me it was twenty-five bucks.

“No, really. How much do I owe you?”

I suppose it’s possible that my tab was exactly $25 but that seemed highly unlikely and her attitude about the situation did not provide me with any confidence that I was getting a straight answer. I wanted to be able to tip her appropriately but that would have taken a level of interaction that I didn’t feel was possible in this situation. I was planning on tipping her at least $10 regardless but all I had were twenties. I would have needed change and I didn’t get the impression that she wanted anything more to do with me. I wish that I had just left a twenty and been done with it, but I wasn’t feeling it. I was feeling judged and rejected so I just left.

I got outside and quickly realized that I was missing my hat; my brand new fancy green & purple sparkly hat that my friend had made for me. I needed to find it. I headed back into the bar to look but was told that I would not be allowed back in. Was it something I did? Was I being belligerent. I usually don’t get out of line when I’m drinking but I guess it’s possible. I had been having a great time, feeling tons of love and now I was being treated with disdain. I was confused, unsure if I had acted inappropriately or if I was simply suffering for the sins of drunks that had come before me. In any case, I wasn’t going to argue. I wasn’t going to make a scene. I knew I was drunk and my band has played this venue on several occasions so I didn’t need to make any more of an impression than I already had. It was time to shut the fuck up.

They were kind enough to let my friend back in to look for my hat. Although she was not able to find it someone else did and brought it out to me. Whoever that was, thank you so very much. It would have been a unbearably cold bike ride without that hat. As it was, the two mile ride was close to intolerable. Temperatures were just above freezing and it had started raining. In my opinion, these are the absolute worst biking conditions. Add to that, drunk and tired and I had good reason for gratitude after making it safely to my friend’s apartment.

I striped off my sopping wet clothes, hung them in the shower and collapsed on the couch. I had made it, I survived; just as I had done so many times before. My friend asked if I wanted a shot of whiskey.

“Sure,” I said. “I’m safe. Nothing bad can happen now, right?”

“Just don’t piss my couch.” she replied.

The smile melted from my face. Oh yeah, that. The most horrifying, embarrassing consequence to pushing myself too far and drinking too much. A reminder of my limits so painful that I have actively blocked it out. But it’s true. I have peed her couch, not once but twice. In fact over the past three years or so I have had two other accidents while sleeping at other people’s houses. It’s never happen at home, only when I’m staying with someone else. I wish that was something that I could keep private. I wish no one else knew about that. I’m not one for keeping secrets about myself but if there was one thing I wish I could keep hidden from everyone, it would be that.

But I can’t keep it a secret because, you see, it happened again. I woke up the next morning and I had wet the bed. I was mortified. I felt defeated, helpless and alone. The only comfort I could take was in knowing that I would survive this. Having been through this before, I knew what I needed to do make things right and that it would not be the end of the world. I knew my friend would still love me and that I could repair any damage I had caused.

I also know that I’m not alone. A quick Google search of adult bed wetting returns over a million results. I know that there solutions but denial is not one of them.

Fear and loathing in Minneapolis

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” – John Lennon

For most of my life I have subscribed to the philosophy put forth here by John Lennon; and for the most part I still do. There is a lot of wisdom in those words. I just can no longer treat love and fear as two sides of the same coin; two competing forces vying for our response. I can no longer view love simply as something that is good and fear as something that is bad. It’s not that black and white. Nothing is black and white. There are no absolutes, there is no certainty, there is no escape from fear. Am I absolutely certain of that? Well no, and hence I stand convinced of my doubt.

Writing this blog has been a life goal of mine for at past two years. For two years I have failed at taking that first step. For two years I have procrastinated.  For two years I have made excuses: I don’t know what I want it to be about, I don’t know what to call it, I don’t know how to set up a blog, I don’t have the time, I don’t have the money, I need a better computer and countless other arguments in my head that kept me stuck in my thoughts. For two years I have felt paralyzed, unable to take the next step in my life, because of the weight of a dream.

But that’s bullshit. I haven’t just been sitting around doing nothing. I’ve been living my life. I’ve been growing, changing, struggling and preparing myself for this day. The truth is that this blog came into existence on the absolutely first day it possible could. The truth is that getting to this day has not been a two year process. The truth is that it has been a 46 year process. Everything that has occurred in my life has been leading up to this very moment. That’s a pretty overwhelming though,t but it’s true, not just for this moment, but every moment. The present moment always arrives right on time. You can never be late for now.

So what possessed me to write a blog at all? What is the motivating factor behind this endeavour? Am I being driven by either love or fear? I would love to tell you that this is a labor of love. I would love to tell you that being a writer has been my life passion. I would love to tell you that I possess some great wisdom that needs to be shared with the world. I would love to tell you that I am so fabulous of a person everyone needs to know who I am. I would love to tell you that everything I do is motivated by love. I would love to tell you all that… but none of it would be true.

The fact is, this blog is a product of fear. To be precise, my fear of death. Well, not of literally of dying, I’ve already experienced that and I’m not really afraid of death. What I am afraid of is not living. If I’m not growing, expanding, taking risks and moving forward… well, that feels like death to me. I’ve been reading a number of blogs lately and it seems like a lot of them are born out of a period of tremendous life change: divorce, loss of a job, loss of a child, major medical diagnosis, physical injury, spiritual awakening or coming out process.

For me, it’s because I don’t know what the fuck else to do. I’ve been through my share of hell and along the way I have developed a lot of tools. I have a tremendous skill set and support system to cope with what life has thrown at me.  Still, it has only gotten me this far. I have worked through all of the issues I am aware of, I have made all the changes to my life I can and accepted those things about me which I cannot change, yet still, my life sucks. It’s time to shit or get off the pot. It’s time to forge into unknown territory or just give up. It’s time to face my fear… or die. I know, sounds pretty dramatic, but that’s how it feels to me.

I don’t think that it is an irrational fear, however. I think what I am setting out to do is pretty fucking scary.  I intend to share every aspect of myself with the entire world. I intend to share every thought, every hope, every dream, every fear, every strength, every weakness, every doubt, every secret, every opinion and every activity whether successful or utter failure with anyone who chooses to read it. Granted, I know that is impossible and there is no way I could actually share every aspect of myself so I guess in that respect the fear is irrational. But fear is fear, it doesn’t really give a shit about rationality or logic. It just is.

Regardless, I’m exposing myself, making myself vulnerable to the world; a world which can be cruel,  a world which has judged me… a world that includes my mother. So you may ask, why I would want to do this, and the answer is because it is all I have to give. For reasons I am still trying to figure out I have always wanted to be the best at something. I guess I figured if there was someone better at a particular task than I am then they should do it and I would find something else to do. Well the only thing that I have found that I do better than anyone else is BEING ME. So that is what I am going to do. That is my gift to the world. Don’t worry, I won’t be offended is you exchange it for a different size. I’ve never claimed to be one-size-fits-all.

I’m not fearless and I have not overcome my fear. What I have done is learn to love it. I embrace it. It has purpose and it deserves respect. As I have been writing my daily entries for the past two weeks I have realized that I am still experiencing fear. I am practicing cation as I am writing; not cation for my own safety so much as cation for those with whom I interact. I accept that this is part of the process and I trust that in time I will find a way to find peace with it.

It seems fitting, at this point,  that I should share my number one fear with you. My number one fear is hurting someone I love, and I love everyone. My second biggest fear is not living with honesty and integrity.  I imagine that balancing these two fears will define my life struggle.

Truth is stranger than fiction

What lurks in the deepest recesses of our brain? What hides behind our pleasant out-going demeanor? Not all wounds heal. We can bury the hurt but it can also be exhumed; either by choice or behind our backs when we aren’t looking. These are the places I want to explore. I want to forge head-on into the darkness and shine the bright light of compassion. I want to swing open the closet doors and meet the skeletons stashed within and give them a hug.

I must be honest, to do this scares the hell out of me. I’m going to need courage and I’m going to need protection. I find my courage in a bottle of wine. I find my protection in undying love. But how do I protect those who walk beside me? As I set forth to tear down the wall, who is going to be hit by the falling bricks? Who will stick by me as I journey into the realm of secrets and unleash the demons we have locked away?

—-

Who was that girl that I met last night? I know I have met her before but she usually comes out in twilight. This time she came out of the blackest of nights, beaten and abused, ready to unleash fury on her attacker. But instead she met me, a lonely brokenhearted boy who meant her no harm and was in deep need of comfort. She was a warrior; fearless and strong. Certainly she could defend me. Grateful to no longer be alone I approached her in hopes of being received by her embrace but as I got closer I could tell she was lost. She had run from the terror that had found her earlier, to place of safety and solitude but she knew not where she was. I wanted her to know that she no longer had anything to fear; that I was there to protect her.

Unbeknownst to me, I had been followed. For how long, I don’t know. Perhaps he had been there all along. There in my shadow lurked a monster. I caught his reflection in her eyes but not in time to avoid her attack. I guess she must have thought that we were together, and there is no denying that we were. Her assault with fists, feet and fangs were indiscriminate; half hitting me and half hitting the monster. I didn’t want to fight back. I didn’t want to hurt her but I didn’t want to run away either. I didn’t want to leave her alone with the monster. If I could convince her that we where on the same side perhaps we could defeat this threat that plagued us both.

I grabbed her arms and said, “Please stop! I’m your friend.”

But this just seemed to enrage her more. A friend would never bring a monster into her sanctuary. A friend would never violate her solitude with requests for affection. A friend would never restrain her ability to defend herself.

At this point her aggression was squarely focused on me. The monster stepped back to shout taunts and egg her on. He was enjoying this. For him, seeing two friends fighting was pure joy. As I was trying to calm her down the monster was adding fuel to the fire. I had become the target of her rage and there was nothing I could do. There was no way to find peace and everything I tried only made matters worse. I was helpless. I wanted to resolve this but I was not in control. I don’t know if anyone was in control. Among the three of us there was not a rational brain to be found.

I needed reinforcements. I needed calmer heads to prevail and there were none around. I ran off to find help. My girl retreated to her den of solitude and the monster, bored with the lack of violence, returned into the shadows. Once again, I was alone. I wandered until I ran across a woman who knew of the keepers of law and order.

“Can they help me?” I asked her. “Can they resolve this conflict?”

“The keepers of law and order can only address conflicts between warring nations. This sounds like an internal struggle. You need to speak to the sage.”

I protested but in the end I had to concede that the real struggle was within. The battle had ended yet I still carried the fight. I had no adversary but myself. She pointed me off to the mountain where the sage resides. The walk wasn’t far but the wait in line to see him seemed to go on forever. Apparently there are a lot of internal struggles going on.

When I was finally able to speak to the sage I broke down in tears.

“I know that she knows me but when I look in her eyes all I see is hate.” I explained.

He responded with some mumbo-jumbo about living in the moment and that spirits work in mysterious ways. But for some reason it made me feel better. Maybe it was just the passing of time that calmed me down or the fact that there was another person to talk to and I no longer felt so alone.  In either case I knew what I had to do. I had to return to my girl and make things right. I believed deep in my heart that love would always triumph over hate.

When I finally found her she was held up in a cave guarded by two ferocious lions. Tried as I might I could not penetrate her defenses. Exhausted, I took refuge under a tree. Perhaps she would come out on her own and find me laying there, helpless, and take pity on me. She did in fact come out eventually, but pity was not what I received.

“What the hell are you doing under my tree? Get the fuck out of here!”

I rolled away to a nearby tree and we both sank into slumber.

I woke the next morning to inspect my wounds; flesh torn from my chest, shattered teeth, choke marks around my neck and a bruised ass from where I fell upon a rock. But I was alive. No one had died. Perhaps the monster was right. Perhaps this is fun.

I looked over and saw my sleeping beauty laying there. I walked over and stroked her hair.

“Wake up. We need to talk.”

She had no recollection of what happened the night before and I started to wonder whether it was all a dream. But then I grabbed my chest and realized it wasn’t.

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