The Morning After

“Funny how nothing else in my life seems to matter after 5:24 pm yesterday. Women, food, to do list, job search, none of that… that’s about it except for which friend to tell.”*

*Journal entry for Friday, August 21.

This morning I read over the journal entries from those first, critical days in August, when my very ordinary isolation life became my very ordinary survival life. Besides my literary creativity in trying to best describe what a clump of dissolving-in-urine blood mass should be called, the 24 hours after First Symptom were spent repeating the phrase,

“I’m scared. Of course I’m scared.”

The fear which consumed me, and navigating those feelings, through “very ordinary” things like eating and sleeping… and at that point, having not yet told anyone… well, I can barely remember what that felt like, even while reading my words as I compose what I’m typing right now.

By the way, my chosen simile for what came out of me every time I was brave enough to pee was “hibiscus tea”. You’re welcome. Let THAT image carve its own space in your brain going forward.

“And now the questions… How long will I live? How will my quality of life be? Who will be there in my future? Seriously, will I even see the election? What comes after that? What DOES come after that?”**

**Same journal entry for Friday, August 21.

You know, it’s been 11 weeks and I still ask most of those questions. The election question just seems silly right now, but on August 21st, November 3rd seemed like one hell of a long ways off.

There is a thing said of athletes as they mature, and as experience begins to show itself greater than any ability with which an athlete plays the game. That thing said is, “The game begins to slow down” for them. It is that moment when experience and a history of being good at something, trade places, and the doing of a thing is made easier merely by having been there and done that so many times, that there is an almost unconscious take-over by the body, of the mind. Call it Gladwell’s ten-thousand hours. Call it simple muscle memory. It’s how I know I could still roller skate when I haven’t laced up a pair of roller skates in decades. How I know I can field a ground ball behind second base and, all in one motion, throw it, without looking, to first. And it is how, without ever having been this scared for my life, the game of life slows down, and I am able to make check-box decisions, one after the other, even when, in my head, I hear myself screaming louder than the crowd of spectators that surrounds me.

Call it time served on earth.

“How many times have I mentioned that I’m scared? At this time yesterday, I was peeing clear, felt fully hydrated, healthy, alive even. This morning, I feel like I need to get my affairs in order. Seriously? In 24 hours?”***

***Even later journal entry for Friday, August 21.

(c) copyright 2020 William S. Friday

Projection

After more than three years, I still begin almost every day with a cup of black coffee, followed by time spent in the blank pages of my journal. Originally, this practice of self-care… at the suggestion of a dearest friend… was begun as an attempt to find my way out of a year-long “depressive episode”, that had led me down a dark emotional path.

What began as a desperate attempt to climb out of a dark hole, eventually became a road of discovery that brought me back into the light.

This is an Instagram post of a thought that came to me today, while the coffee was still warm. It stands on its own merits. But there were still more words to follow.

Continue reading “Projection”

And Please Don’t Call Me When You Read This Because I’m Fine

Seen first on Instagram Stories @billfriday

Copyright (c) 2020 William S. Friday

Pouring Hot Coffee into Cold (4:17 am)

On Instagram (@billfriday if you’re curious) I do original, multi-media content on my stories page.

This is one of those Instagram Stories.

Words and photo are mine, and mine alone. Click the Instagram link in the right margin for more.

Copyright (c) 2020 William S. Friday

Reader

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I’m not a reader.

Now let me explain.

I’m a damn good reader.  No disorders that I know of, comprehension through the roof, the ability to cold read, out loud, in public, strong as it gets.  I’ve been reading since I was a little over a year old, or so they said when I was growing up.

No, I’m just not a reader.

I grew up reading every day.  Prose, mostly, and that, contained in the sports section of the LA Times.  I never read comics, except for the papers on Sunday, and I was never encouraged to pick up a book during my childhood, except by command of teachers, and then, not until high school.  Along the way, I read some things, mostly by accident.  Some Peter Benchley… sharks fascinated me… and some pulp journalism style stuff you could find on the book rack at the grocery store while my mom stood in line to pay.  Besides that, the only two things I read like they meant something were Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, the World Book Encyclopedia, and the 1973 Baseball Encyclopedia.

But none of that is reading.

In the years that I should have been indulging my creative consciousness on everything from Swift to Burroughs and Dickens to Baum, I was memorizing batting averages, the etymology of 19th century English words, and the names the crew gave the mechanical shark in the movie Jaws.  I wasn’t reading, I was collecting… nonsense, mostly.  I read quickly.  I read to absorb, to obtain, and to satisfy curiosity, not for the love of the words themselves.

At least that’s the way reading was explained to me.  That it was a love affair with words, and with the stories that the words would unfold for me, if I would only let it be so.  As you might imagine, school was a nightmare for me.  I got by, barely.  Not by reading, but by listening.  I listened to every word the teachers said, and made copious notes.  Page after page of classroom notes, writing down every meaningless detail of these frustrated storytellers, never once looking inside the textbooks they ordered us to read.  Because of this, obviously, math was a killer.  English was hard because all the questions on tests were neatly tucked away inside the books I didn’t read.  History worked for me, because teachers of history fancy themselves “historians”, and would rather act out the full contents of the books themselves, than leave the interpretation of history to the transcribers of history.  I took notes, and answered the questions from them. 

That didn’t work out so well, in high school, or in college, after.

I gave reading one more shot in my 20s.

The girl I was seeing was a reader of book club selections, and I would read books over her shoulder, at night.  For a while, I became a reader like she was a reader.  Picking novels that sounded interesting based on my already-cultivated curiosities.  Bad sports stories, the occasional adventure, and spooky stuff.  Spooky stuff that would have caused childhood me to keep both hands and both feet inside the covers at night.  Blatty’s Exorcist.  King’s Stand.  A bunch of other crap I barely remember.

In this time, I realized that I read the way a cow eats, deliberately, and not in any hurry.  Not the way a predator hurriedly consumes its prey, but slowly, chewing on words and phrases, taking them all in, and then barfing them back up in the form of re-reading without actually finishing the book first.  It took me forever to read a book this way, but when I was done, I maybe knew the stories better than the authors.  

Then the girl became wife.  The wife stopped reading.  I stopped reading.

Because I’m not a reader.

At this point in this story, I’ll save you the exposition of the next 30-something years.  I’ll just tell you that, while I am not a reader, I am reading again.  I have to.  Something I discovered about the silence that only reading brings.  The silence that, I didn’t know until now, brings healing to a soul that fed on only noise, and a mind that, for most of a lifetime, knew only confusion and pain.  Words and stories that should bring healing, and a minimum of confusion and pain.  From Murakami to Bradbury, Goldman to Gibran.  I will read these, soon.

I’m not a reader, yet.

But I’m going to be.      

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

When an Empath has no Empathy

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I undergo profound changes every November. 

Cataclysmic, visions-of-a-personal-apocalypse life changes.  It’s happened three Novembers in a row now.  Sure, it’s only a blog challenge, but I’m generally blog-challenged, being a poet and not really a blogger at all.  So when November rolls around, it seems like I’m just not allowed to ignore all the seismic emotional upheaval that something of this creative magnitude rips open for 30 days straight.

See, here’s the thing, because you knew there’d be a thing, right?  The thing is, I’m kind of an empath.  Not the ‘I shake your hand and know where you’ve buried the bodies’ kind of empath.  Just the ‘I feel things deeper than most people’ kind. 

My feelings. 

Your feelings. 

Friends’ feelings. 

Strangers’ feelings.

Hell, I even feel your dog’s feelings.

Did you ever see the movie “Species”?  The original, where the government assembled a team of previous strangers with varied skill-sets to capture and/or kill the Escaped Sexy Female Alien Hybrid, on the loose and looking to mate?  Then you remember the soft-spoken empath, played by Academy Award™ winning actor Forest Whitaker.  This version of the B-movie empath wasn’t a psychic, or in touch with the spirit world, or whatever other way B-movies portray the empath.  This version could simply feel what others around him were feeling, and tell you what those feeling meant

I liked that interpretation. 

Because at the roots, it’s the closet I’ve ever come to being introduced to mine. 

And then there’s the downside. 

The thing is, I’m kind of an empath.  Not the ‘I shake your hand and know where you’ve buried the bodies’ kind of empath.  Just the ‘I feel things deeper than most people’ kind. 

My feelings. 

Your feelings. 

Friends’ feelings. 

Strangers’ feelings.

Hell, I even feel your dog’s feelings.

Especially my feelings.

Which in the past, I could ignore for my own sanity’s sake.  But last November, after writing a super-concentrated month’s-worth of feelings, I lost the ability to bury mine.  No more clearly-marked boxes for emotions.  No more handy compartments for feelings to go.  No more mindless default ways to ignore them.  They were, for the first time, all on the same great big plate like a 64-box of crayons melted together in a microwave oven, and it was a fucking mess. 

My fucking mess. 

And I had to choose my path before it killed me.

The title of this post is, “When an Empath has no Empathy”.  It comes from a random thought that popped into my empath head a couple of days ago, about someone from my past, equally gifted with the ability to ‘feel all the feels’ like I do.  A random thought that goes, “What if you were an empath with no empathy?  Wouldn’t that just make you a sociopath?” 

And after reading everything… okay, a few things on Reddit… my non-clinical, non-scientific answer is, “Yeah… I think it would.”

But is that how I want to live the rest of my life?  Just surviving like a spiritual grifter, living off the feelings of others instead of feeling all the feels and helping those who need whatever it is I can do with all the messed up feelings.

My feelings. 

Your feelings. 

Friends’ feelings. 

Strangers’ feelings.

Hell, I even feel your dog’s feelings.

Especially my feelings.

So this November, I was left with a choice.  Do I want to spend the rest of my life finding new ways to shut off all the feelings and face the consequences of knowing and not caring?  Or do I stay on the path, as I suppose was originally intended, and learn how to be who I am?  Feeling, and dealing with my choices.

Like I said, I undergo profound changes every November.

And I can’t wait until December.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

A Ghost Story

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I am a ghost. *

I, in the beginning of my time here on this plane of existence, I could not understand what it was to be invisible to the world and those living in it, as I still thought myself a part of the world that I still saw before me.  I moved, I thought, I felt everything as I did before my transformation.  Little seemed to change from one moment to the next.  I was me, and the world was the world, and neither of us looked much different as far as I could tell.  But it was different.  I was different.  Because now, the world looked right through me. 

Because I am a ghost.

I am a ghost.

I know I am a ghost because, after what I’m guessing – since there is no clock or calendar in my world – many years of living.  I say “living” with some caution because, of course, ghosts aren’t alive.  At least not in the way all those around me who don’t see me are alive.  But they are alive, every one of them.  I can tell by the hurry and worry they carry with themselves everywhere they go.  Constantly in motion, even when that motion seems to take them nowhere in particular.  Just circles circling other circling circles, always in a rush to go everywhere, but never seeming to go anywhere.  Except that none of these concentric living circles ever seem to circle me.

Because I am a ghost.

I am a ghost.

I know I am a ghost because of something I saw in a movie once when I was still alive.  Those who still move in circles can hear me.  They hear the same sounds I hear when I make when I choose to make them.  They hear the groan, the belch, the occasional fart – although I don’t know where the belch and the fart come from, because as I learned from the same movie, ghosts don’t belch or fart – and also from the moving of objects that are, in my ghostly existence, important to me. 

I guess, because that’s what the movie taught me, that objects which were important to me in my previous life are still important to me in this life as well.  It makes me question my previous life’s life-choices as to why I didn’t place more importance on a nice car, or maybe a big house, or even on better clothes, because the only things that must have been important to me in that other life seem to be a raggedy overcoat, the morning newspaper, and a shopping cart that wobbles at the wheels and scrapes at the pavement as I walk.  Seriously, if I could give just one word of advice to those still living – but I can’t, because to my knowledge, none of them has ever heard a word I have said – it would be to acquire nice things for yourself in life, because one day you might be a ghost and need them. 

Yeah, the things you learn the hard way. 

Because you are a ghost.

I am a ghost.

I know I am a ghost because, after a lifetime of seeing no need at all for god or the church, I live behind a church, on the edge of a graveyard – how ironic on so many levels, being a ghost because… graveyard, and an atheist ghost because… church – but they let me stay as the church folk look right through me like the rest of the living do.  Oh, and they allow me to eat left-overs from the shiny dumpster next to the boarded-up back door.  I even sleep behind it when the wind blows extra cold some nights, and my overflowing morning newspapers can’t seem to keep the wind out of my ghost-self bones. 

Like on this night.

Because that’s what ghosts do.

And I am a ghost.   

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

 

*A Ghost Story first appeared on Day 30 of “31 Nightmares” at Card Castles in the Sky.  Thank you to the nice folks there.

 

Six Tacos

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Today, I ate six tacos from Del Taco, and watched a movie that I wished had been about my life.  Also, I considered day drinking, but there was company in the downstairs, and I didn’t want to have to explain to anyone why I was crafting a boilermaker at 2:54 in the afternoon.  The movie was about a child musical prodigy, and his college age summer nanny.

And before you think that thought out loud, no… not because I have a fantasy about that sort of thing… although, hot nanny… but because I wish I had a childhood memory I held dear that didn’t involve loneliness, or being an outcast. The way the boy felt in the movie.

The way I feel now.

Over the previous bunch of months, in both my poetry and my blog posts, I’ve been telling the folks who read me that I was changing my life.  Changing it for the good.  Cutting the ties that held me to the old life…the job and other questionable choices… and I did.  Except, I realize, that the one thing I brought with me in all the changes, that I have not yet changed, is me.

So now, after all the changes, it is time for me to change me.

Changes begin the moment the first one happens, like eating six tacos from Del Taco, or stumbling upon a movie you wished you’d lived, decades before.  There’s a part in the movie where the boy and his nanny talk about past choices… hers… and the possibilities for the future.  And since I’ve already lived my past, it all made me think what those possibilities will be.  And to be truthful, I don’t know what they are yet.  But I know now that they aren’t as far off as I once thought they were.  They are as close as a story I wished I’d lived.  They are as close as six tacos from Del Taco.

They are here. 

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

Baby Face Chinaski

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I don’t have time for your shit,

you post-pubescent misanthrope. 

Once upon a time,

when your ironic alter-ego roamed the streets,

and haunted the bars of dirty L.A.

like a piss-stained ghost,

you were yet a regret in your

bitch of a mother’s misbegotten womb. 

Although I don’t think I blame her

for how you turned out,

given how you beg for the teat

in every Facebook post of yours

I have ever read. 

Maybe I’ll listen to you

when you can grow a mustache

thicker than a row of pubes. 

Until then,

I will simply shake my head,

and comment less and less,

because the only two things you are listening to

in these last days of your misspent youth

are your own mewling laments of growing up too fast,

and the hollow sympathies of girls your own age,

who would sooner court the clap

than give you what you think will make it all better

for just one night,

before the sun rises in your sunken child-eyes,

and you post online once more.         

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

Catalyst

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There’s a poignancy to changes in an ingrained life, lived flawed, but still true to human nature.  Change is not natural, and it only comes by way of trauma, either physical or emotional.  And though the choices for our changes are brought about under the sovereign hand of our autonomy of spirit, there is always a catalyst, and never of our choosing.

I am no different than any other soul that must change.

My catalyst is emptiness.

For me, it was a two-step process.  First you lose most of what you have, and then, you give the rest of it away.  The losing isn’t all that hard.  Humanity is conditioned to lose.  It’s what we do most of the time.  We’re used to it from as far back as our earliest memories.  It’s the real reason we idolize winners.  A winner is humanity’s real life superhero.  They succeed where the rest of us fail, and we idolize them because of it.  To be human is to worship, and it is easiest to worship the demigod who looks like a better version of us.  Hero worship is as real a thing as hunger and thirst, and easier to satisfy.  Just find a winner and put your hopes on them, while all of us who aren’t them keep doing what we do best.  Lose.

But after the losing comes the hard part.  The giving away of whatever you have left.  You’re already a loser.  Not a day goes by when you aren’t reminded of it.  For most, the response is to try and hold fast to what’s left of your losses.  For the rest, there is a different choice.    

I used to be that guy who held on.  To everything.  Until there was nothing left to hold onto.  Until life removed the last of everything I thought I wanted.  And the thing you realize when everything you thought you wanted isn’t yours anymore, is that you can finally let go of the rest.

So after a life of losses, now comes my time to let go, because only empty hands can take hold of the good that comes after defeat.

And I’m going to need a new catalyst.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday