Almost famous, a Billy Mac movie review

Rock and Roll in the 70’s wasn’t just about the music. It was a culture, an identity. Right up there with your social status, your Zodiac and other aspects of identity was the omnipresent “what bands are you into?” It was a powerful statement about who you were and what you were into.
A lot of 70’s parents didn’t get that. The cool ones did or at least tried. It was key to getting along with your kids, at least understanding them.
My parents didn’t like the music, but they understood that it meant a lot to me even if they didn’t understand it. They certainly didn’t understand what would make me sit in my room for hours on end, a stack of LP’s scattered in front of me, admiring the album cover art and dwelling on the lyrics as my head bobbed and swayed to the music. The music was my friend during the difficult adolescent years. Often it was my only friend. That my parents understood.
There were plenty who didn’t. The parents who failed to recognize the societal and cultural impact of the music on the youth, and instead focused on the sometimes-unfortunate accompanying drug use, rebellion, promiscuity and other factors that made them feel that they were losing their kids, they didn’t get it. To us, it was all about the music. The parents didn’t have to get it. It wasn’t for them. It was ours.

Enter 2000’s Almost Famous, the movie about Rock that brilliantly depicted the Rock N Roll landscape of the 70’s.

William’s oldest sister has had enough of her overbearing mother. They fought constantly about her lifestyle. She was too free, too rebellious, too sexual and too into “that music.” The sister moved out. Before she hopped into her boyfriend’s Z28 she took young William aside and told him, “Someday, you’ll be cool. Look under your bed. It’ll set you free.”

Under young William’s bed was a bag stuffed with vinyl. The Beach Boys, Zeppelin, Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, The Stones, Hendrix, The Who. Some of the greatest of all time. There was a note.
Listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you’ll see your future. His sister was a student, a disciple of the sound and William had just had the torch passed to him.

Flash forward a few years and William is now 15 and an aspiring Rock writer. Through his work for Creem, he scores an opportunity to do a piece on Black Sabbath by his DJ Guru Lester Bangs, brilliantly played by the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman. But William can’t get into the backstage door and by a chance of fate meets Penny Lane, a presumed groupie, that gets him in the door. Penny Lane is a “Band Aid”. We quickly learn from Penny, portrayed by the uber-adorable Kate Hudson, that the Band Aids are not groupies, just dedicated lovers of the music that travel with the band as fans.
“Groupies have intercourse with the bands to feel close to someone famous. We travel with them as fans, as lovers of the music. We inspire them.”
A noble distinction indeed.

Penny Lane, who eventually forms a powerful, sexually charged but never consummated relationship with William, introduces him to the band Stillwater and a connection is made with the lead singer (Jason Lee) and the guitarist (Billy Crudup, a very underappreciated talent IMO). The band is suspicious of William, to them the critic and the journalist are the enemy and the Devil. But they like him and reluctantly invite William to go on tour with them. William turns this into an opportunity, and he solicits Rolling Stone, the bible of the music scene, to commission him for 3000 words on the up-and-coming (almost famous) Stillwater. The stage is set. All he has to do to get the interview with Russell is get permission from the same overbearing mother that drove his sister out of the house. Not an easy task.

William embarks on a journey, a quest for the interview that will make him a journalist. An interview with a band that wants fame and all that comes with it. What unfolds as William travels from city to city, constantly badgered by his despondent mother (the brilliant Frances McDormand) and her omnipresent insistence that he “not do drugs” is a familiar story to me; the dynamics of the bandmates, the players (Band Aids) and the forces that inevitably seek to divide them played out before me as a teen as Superband after Superband disbanded after experiencing the collateral damage of fame. They are of course differing artistic visions, conflicts over who is in charge or the biggest star, drug and alcohol abuse, all the stuff that any fan of music has witnessed. Stillwater sees what is happening to them. They are hyper-aware that they are on the precipice of fame. They are also very aware of the elements that broke up other big bands and are present enough to recognize each incident as such and acknowledge it openly. They are at a point where their star could rise exponentially or crash into obscurity. Add to the mix their skepticism yet tacit acceptance of William, the 15-year-old “devil” could either be the best thing that ever happened to them in their quest for fame, or he could destroy them. Not unlike passing a car wreck, you can’t look away.

If you do, you will miss the real.

Almost Famous

Every once in a while you see a movie that not only gets under your skin, but penetrates your soul. I know, strong words. But strong emotions require strong words. Music, especially the music of my formative years, evokes powerful feelings in me. The soundtrack of my formative years was the Rock and Roll of the 70’s and 80’s. Post Motown and R&B and pre Disco and the New Wave synthesizer-laden shit of the 80’s were the Super and almost but not quite super groups of the 70’s. Groups that put out amazing efforts of exhaustively complex, soulful and often life-changing music with less regard for commercial success but instead a quest to create something that would transform, inspire awe, and stand upright longer than a few radio cycles but instead stand the ultimate test of time. Music that packed arenas and penetrated basement dwellings, house parties and the comfortable confines of adolescent bedrooms where legions of kids found a connection, a soulmate in the music. For many, it was life-changing.

You’ve probably gathered that I am a music lover. Most certainly. But I am a larger fan of the era, the culture that rock and roll created. I have always been a student of the cultural events that led to the inception of the music, it’s impact and most importantly the link to an actual identity. The late 50’s and early 60’s marked the first time in history that the youth of America had their own music. The days of listening to Mom and Dad’s music was over. It was the final piece of the puzzle that was the cultural revolution of the second half of the 20th century. The youth of America had asserted themselves as a cultural force, a separate and powerful demographic that demanded to be heard but had formerly lacked an identity outside of the umbrella of the nuclear family. They rebelled against the puritanical Patriarchy and demanded to be heard. At first it was Chuck Berry and drive-ins and carhops. The parents tolerated it but called it harmless. Then came the 60’s and Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and the massive music festival Woodstock became the voices and symbols of the counter- culture. The patriarchy became concerned. The once (somewhat) obedient youth of America had begun to rebel and the Poet Laureates with guitars provided the soundtrack of the new generation. Once Vietnam dominated the cultural Zeitgeist the divide was nearly complete as the youth of America rejected the thinking of the previous generation about so many aspects of society. It was a us vs. them. By the 70’s the generational divide was established. But behind the political and cultural impact there was the music.

In 1977 I was 14 years old. 14 is the age often cited by those in the know as one of the formative years of development and it is theorized that the music you enjoyed at that age would be the music you would love forever. At 14 I was a lost soul. An only child that didn’t understand the world around me. Desperate for guidance (I always wished I had an older brother) and hungry for acceptance I needed something, anything to identify with. I was an awkward kid. I was bullied. I dressed badly. My hygiene needed work to say the least.
I loved to read but hated school. Still, I was considered smart. I was offered a double promotion in 5th grade. My family said no because I was already young for my grade and skipping 6th grade would have made me the youngest 7th grader by far and my parents (correctly) concluded that the bullying would only get worse. Subjecting me prematurely to even bigger kids was not a winning proposition. It didn’t matter in the end. Regardless of my age, the bullying in middle school was as predicted by my parents. My school day consisted of being slammed into lockers and having my books dumped in the hallway.
But I was still considered smart. But that also put a target on my back in my school. The mouth-breathing Neanderthals that bullied me resented those of us that could count past 11 without taking our shoes and underwear off and they lashed out. So, I withdrew academically. Once a B plus to A minus student in elementary school, I became a C and D student. I was frightened and angry and my grades suffered terribly. I would never really recover. Not that I was ever destined for academic greatness, but I never reached my full potential. I became sullen and withdrawn. Good enough to get by was my mantra.

Enter Rock music…one of the only companions I could count on in life.

In 1977 I joined the Columbia Music record club. Remember that? Buy 8 records or tapes for 1 dollar with a commitment of one at full price per month. And no-one ever paid. I chose to let them send me the selections of the month. My music collection to that point was oldies. I always loved the 50’s music of doo wop. I even enjoyed to a degree the surfing shit by the Beach Boys. But I had never really gotten into 60’s and 70’s Rock. The first shipment contained 5 albums. Boston’s original album, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, the Doobie Brothers’ greatest hits, Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest hits, and Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell. I had found my muse.
I’m not sure why I didn’t listen to the radio that much but it was clear to me that this music had been around for a while but I had never really listened to it. I was too busy reading. Suffice to say that I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough of the driving drums, guitars and production of Boston, the fusion of pop influences and original compositions of the music of the Doobies, the ethereal vocals of Christin McVie and Stevie Nicks (I also fell in love with Stevie Nicks for other reasons typical of the hormonal teenage boy), the folksy but eternal harmonies and lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel. As for Meatloaf, I really don’t have words. That album was like nothing anyone had ever heard. From that moment on, if I was awake, I was listening to music. If I wasn’t home I carried a Transistor radio(remember them?) and later a Boom Box. I spent every penny I had on music and all of my time immersed in it. My journey had begun.

My friend Marc and I spent a lot of time hanging out. He was way ahead of me on his musical journey and had a formidable knowledge of it as well as a very repectable record collection. He played for me Rush, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin and The Who, just to name a few. We sat transfixed in his basement bedroom as we absorbed the lyrics and played epic air guitar solos, slowly grooved to intros and solos that tantalized the senses, often building to orgasmic levels. We were there, eyes closed and hanging on every note. To say that it was transformative is a true understatement. Music was so much more than just simple entertainment. It was my haven, my escape, it spoke to me. It would become the music that I would love for the rest of my life.

The only thing that I would come to love as much as music was movies. Imagine my joy when I discovered a movie that would help me rediscover my love and passion for music, and the impact of it on my life.

Enter Almost Famous. The movie that just plain fucking NAILED it.

to be continued…

Turning the corner

It took a while, but I think I have turned a major corner in my ability to get along with well, myself. If you have been following my recent posts you know that despite my nothing-less-than-miraculous Kidney Transplant which restored my former physical vitality almost entirely, I have been battling some emotional demons along the way.
This is nothing new, I have been at battle with myself as long as I can remember. I have always marveled at how I could stand up to almost anyone and anything and fight with the resolve of ten men, yet my own fucked-up thinking would get me in an “arm-bar” every time. Despite everyone close to me in my life, including several bloggers on this site, telling me that I need to let go of the past (the wise and prescient Steve Markesich comes to mind) I continued to fall into the trap of negative thought. In particular, I struggled with past mistakes and established a dangerous precedent of linking them together and calling it a pattern instead of what they really were. Isolated (a little more frequent than I would like) incidents that, at face value were really not the biggest deal.
What I came up with is that I’m trying to be perfect. My ideals are too high. I can’t be nice all the time, I can’t always say the right thing, and I can’t help everyone. All I can do is put the best version of myself forward every day and hope that I do better each day. I changed my thinking. FINALLY. I gave myself a break also and that didn’t hurt as well.

I have been oddly Zen lately. I’ve been rolling with things. I’ve been less neurotic and overthinking things less. I’ve stopped trying to be nice and pleasant and instead allowed it to flow naturally. The results have been palpable. I’m on a course to establish a lifetime goal.
To be comfortable in my own skin.
To do so requires you to acknowledge that skin is a reflection of mortality. I am human after all and I need to allow myself to be just that. It’s easier than I thought.
I truly hope I can stay the course and keep my thinking on track. I have a wonderful opportunity right now. I’m healthy, feeling amazing actually. I’m working again. I have an amazing support network of family, friends and the brothers of my amazing fraternity. All of these are pieces of the puzzle that is happiness. I believe that I have rarely been truly happy, or even content. But for the first time in a long time, I see being happy as achievable.

I can build on that.

Giving myself a break

I don’t make resolutions. If I don’t like something about myself, I don’t wait until a cold December night to start to implement change. Yet, I do sometimes get caught up in the season and compile a rudimentary list of shit to work on. This New Year it was really a matter of timing. As the Baby New Year assumed his tiny throne and dug in for a year of unprecedented chaos, I was already taking a hard look at myself and assessing areas of potential improvement.

As great as things are going for me right now happiness still eludes me. Feeling physically strong and healthy is a wonderful and refreshing feeling but my newfound vitality is still only part of me, the emotional baggage never went away. It only stood second in line to my physical limitations and to a large degree was explained away by my illness. But now that I have conquered the physical, my neuroses and fatal flaws are now under my spotlight and frankly, I’m goddamn sick of them.

I don’t even know where to start. For as long as I can remember I have been dealing with feeling chronically misunderstood. As if “mansplaining” is the only way to make others understand me. Sometimes it is just not having a filter on my mouth, and I just say something stupid. Other times it is my body language or facial expressions. What can I say, I’m not responsible for what my face says. Other times I just get neurotic or insecure and it comes out in comments that I make. Both of these fatal flaws undermine what I consider to be my greatest strength, my confidence. 95% of the time my confidence; in my abilities, my work ethic, my ability to withstand adversity, is unshakeable. But that other 5% of the time I become markedly un-confident. And the darkness that those moments cause do an astounding amount of damage despite their infrequent appearances.

Employers and women have one major thing in common…both desire confidence. My new employer saw a moment of weakness on my part the other day and now he may be having issues with his confidence in me. This is partly speculation at this point, I think I’m more worried about the admittedly minor incident than he may be. Over thinking is another fatal flaw.
Having been broken up with twice in a year, my confidence in the romance department is shaky at best. I don’t deal with rejection well. In both instances I was taken back and caught unaware, and it hurt. I thought I was above getting hurt. Both breakups left me searching for answers and very down.

Which brings me to my biggest fatal flaw, the one that I really hope to lose this year in true resolution form. I invariably blame myself entirely. Why is that? Is it even possible that it may not be me? Looking back on my life and as I rehash every time that I sat nursing a rejection or a failed relationship it never once occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t entirely my doing. It is possible that there were other considerations and factors. This one just has to go.

I need to give myself a goddamn break once in a while. If I don’t I will never, ever be happy.

Doubt

Hi, my name is Bill, and my life didn’t turn out as I planned. There, that wasn’t so hard I suppose. Too bad they’re just words, false ones at that. The very reason that I have the life that I do is because I failed to have a plan. And I largely view myself, minor exceptions excluded, as a failure because of it.

My dreams are often uneventful. But last night I had a dream encounter with a character that I have yet to identify. For the sake of this conversation, that doesn’t matter. What he said to me does. I was in a bar yet to be identified for reasons yet to be determined, nursing a Crown Royal when the stranger engaged me in conversation. The details are muddy but his final words to me snapped me from my edible-induced deep sleep.
“Bill, you don’t know who you are, what you’re doing or what you want. Until you figure that out you’ll never be happy.”

I guess that I’m going to break my “New Year’s Resolutions are bullshit” mantra and make one. To dig down on this “revelation” and see if some good, or maybe just some clarity, comes as a result of it. I have to get to the bottom of this, because I know there is some truth to the dream and I feel motivated to take the initiative to dig down on it.

I’ve always had a “man in the mirror” mentality. As long as I can look at that man staring back at me and make eye contact then I am living a good life. And for the most part I like who I am as a person. I try to be kind, charitable, respectful and pleasant to be around. I have a traditional understanding of what a good man is and I endeavor to be one every day. I embrace simplicity, honesty, and integrity because I know they work. Simplicity keeps things easy to define and sort. Honesty allows me to avoid the pitfalls and memory gaffes that bring down liars. Integrity above all else because it is the ONLY thing that is a common denominator in every man of respect you will meet. Integrity is always doing the right thing, no matter if no one sees or knows about it.
So why am I so concerned about being full of shit?
I mean, I don’t think I am but I worry about it too often and it concerns me. Clearly, the self-doubt that has plagued me for most of my life is still with me and I really need to lose it. But how?

Until I get to the bottom of that question I really will not know who I am or what I want and I will never be happy.

Broken

I feared this day would come. The proverbial chickens have come home to roost, so to speak. My heart is in pieces right now.

I’ve often posted about my children and how they are thriving. I considered myself lucky to have them. As young expecting parents, we, like countless expectant parents always responded to queries about what we wanted for a baby always responded “happy and healthy.” As they grew, we never pushed them towards what we wanted but instead helped them find their own way. And despite the tumultuous, often hostile environment my wife and I subjected them to (real proud in that arena) they all turned out to be exactly what I had hoped for. Happy, healthy good people with kind hearts and good values. I really thought that we had dodged a bullet, I had always feared that their parents’ failures made a lasting, damaging impression.
My fears have been confirmed, my youngest is not doing well at all. My baby is sick.

It started with erratic behavior. The once sweet, kind-hearted girl had been acting out in public. Being loud and disrespectful, smoking a ton of weed, arguing with her mother about silly things, being sexually promiscuous, dressing provocatively, poor hygiene. She was getting in trouble at work. Her manager wanted to know what happened to the sweet girl she hired. She was disciplined several times. I spoke with her the best I could as often as I could but with COVID I was limited to how much I could see her and I had to rely on her mother for most of my information. Yes, the woman who is famous for histrionics, exaggeration, mood swings and her ability to make absolutely any fucking thing EVER worse, was my source of information. As it turns out, she wasn’t off by that much. My baby really is mentally ill.

We talked at length on the phone after I realized that it wasn’t a phase and that I needed to get involved. She confirmed that she was struggling. Body dysmorphia, self-esteem issues and her relationship with her mother (bad doesn’t begin to cover it) has resulted in Anorexia.

I saw her in person yesterday for the first time in months. It was very up in the air if she was going to attend Thanksgiving at her older sister’s house at all. Her mother has COVID and my daughter had been exposed. She high-tailed it to her girlfriend’s house (apparently she’s gay now) once she found out and stayed away. This of course was a major problem for her mother who doesn’t believe in the vaccine. In short, she refuses to get it because she doesn’t think it works yet where my vaccinated daughter is concerned, she feels that her being vaccinated will protect her. Fucking hypocrite. Knowing how differently it affects people, it is incredibly irresponsible to expose her because my ex wants to be cared for. It is a lonely disease for everyone, deal with it. So anyway, my girl was tested and was negative so she came.

I knew it was going to be awkward for her. She had recently had a bad argument with my oldest daughter, our host for the holiday and things were said. In short, my oldest told her that nobody recognizes her anymore and it’s like she doesn’t have a sister anymore. This cut my youngest deep and to make it worse her sister was unapologetic. She was also very anxious about everyone’s reaction to her weight and worried about the pending comments. She is horrifyingly thin and any mention of her weight is very damaging to her. Of course, several people commented and it was hard for her. She wanted to leave. I excused myself from the table and took her outside.

We had the most honest conversation we have ever had. But the things that I heard have rocked my very soul to its core. I think she told me more than she has revealed to anyone. She is so broken, so conflicted, so in need of help that I truly do not know what to do. She claims she is doing better emotionally. Maybe she does seem a little happier but she’s not her own self by a longshot. To put it in perspective, happier for her means she doesn’t want to kill herself right now. Her body image and food issues are killing her. She showed me a video she took in the bathroom. She merely looked in the mirror and began crying uncontrollably. I will never, as long as I shall live, get over seeing that. I was up most of the night. The only bright side I can find is that she is starting therapy next month and she really wants to get better.

At my darkest moment of my life this girl’s face appeared to me and gave me the courage and strength to face the life that was beating me down. I hope and pray that my unconditional love and support for this poor damaged soul has the same effect on her. I love all of my children to the moon and back but with her, it’s a little different. Maybe because the others were always so strong and independent that they needed me less and she always needed, and asked for, my attention. Our relationship is just unique and very special to me. I would do anything, and I mean absolutely anything to make her better. I would gladly exchange my life for her happiness. But it ultimately will fall on her to get better. I have never felt so helpless.

And powerless…I find myself again just wishing for happy and healthy

Getting easier

It’s been a week since someone pulled my heart out, backed her car over it and then tossed it to the Crows. But I have to say that it is getting easier. It still stings but I have a better grip on it I suppose.

My friends were very surprised when I shared with them my situation. They weren’t so much surprised that I got dumped, but they were surprised at how hard I took it. See, I am famous for concealing or downplaying my emotions. They’ve seen me wear my heart on my sleeve in many areas of my life; Freemasonry, charity work, my children to name a few. I’m not shy about sharing my feelings in most areas. Relationships are different, they are a known sore spot. My romantic struggles are well-documented. While I can’t say that it is all my fault, my penchant for crazy women has been the source of many a conversation. My recent attempts at love, post-divorce, have been messy to say the least. While I have no animosity towards any of them, there is a story to be told and I’m always the one holding the bag. But I famously and typically shrugged it off and moved on with my life. This one was different.
I was in a funk. My friends have never seen me show an emotion like hurt. I was hurting bad and they responded.

Sure, there were a few who offered the standard “fuck her”. It was well-intentioned. They knew that I’m better at coping when mad so they channeled that. Others, those who knew the situation, realized that it was a little more complicated than that, offered sage advice that I am indeed better off. Maybe I am, I don’t know. I would still like an explanation but that’s not going to happen. In absence of any contact I was forced to text my feelings to her. I kept it above board. No insults, nothing nasty at all I simply asked for more than she gave me (by text, classy fucking girl huh?) but she didn’t respond. So I finally sent one long one detailing my frustration and I briefly asserted that I deserved better and that she will find that no matter how many men she dates as she is “exploring” she will not find one that is nicer to her than I was. I know that for certain. I was very nice to her always. Her one response was to ask me if I felt better after all of that and then to tell me that “she thought we’d be friends”. I responded but I never heard another word from her.

There is no scenario in which we can be friends. I don’t need to be that guy that listens to the woman he cares about tell him about all of the guys she is fucking. That is reserved for the gay friends. I’d rather shave my scrotum with a rusty cheese grater. She chose to make us friends, not me. She doesn’t want to be the bad guy. Well fuck that, there is no way that I will ever be friends with someone who treated a genuinely nice guy, sure I have flaws, show me someone who doesn’t please) like the shit that a slug wipes off of his feet. I should have known that someone who went down on me on the first date would burn my ass eventually.

So in summation, I’m angry now. I like anger. I can channel it. And it always fades. Then she will be out of my mind. Just like that. And I have learned a valuable lesson. Listen to the man in the mirror. He knows the right thing to do.

The best revenge is living well. I plan on doing that.

Blessed

With the exception of my Romantic struggles my life is really going well right now. It’s almost as if things are falling into my lap lately.
My health is excellent. My Team gave me a glowing Bill of health the other day. No protein or blood present in my urine, blood pressure is normal for the first time (still on meds but half of what I used to take) since I was 23. My labs showed normal levels of everything. They really couldn’t find anything wrong and believe me they tried! All they could say was to keep doing whatever I have been doing.
Financially I have been blessed with 2 windfalls. I have resumed detailing cars, despite the weather, and have been getting a fair amount of calls. I am a bit of a “even Steven” with this. Today a job cancelled and ten minutes later I got a call to do 2 more. Funny how that happens.
Then there is the new job. I will be working for a guy in town that I met almost by accident. A local detail customer referred him to me and after doing 3 of his cars we became friendly. He told me that he bought the local store and wanted someone to run the kitchen, Did I know anyone? Yes, Me! Long story short, he hired me on the spot. So I figured that I’ll play it cool until it opens in January (this guy doesn’t play he has crews working every day over there). I was wrong, he wants me to go on his payroll immediately so that I will be at his beck and call during the setup process. He has me doing the kitchen setup, buying the equipment, preparing the menu and lining up vendors. While I haven’t gotten a whole lot done so far because I have to wait for the construction he still insists on paying me.
Have you ever worked for an asshole? Silly question I think we all have. This guy is the polar opposite. He wants to know what he can do for me, not just what I can do for him. He wants to invest in me. Even when I told him he was paying me too much, due to everything still being under construction (I do that, I’m not a taker instead ever considerate) he insisted that I take it and not worry about it because there will be times when he will need a lot out of me and it will balance out.
Who does that? I am truly blessed to have met him. He has made me one of his 2 contacts, the business being divided in two parts, the Convenience store and the restaurant. The other person is the one who led me to Vinny in the first place and she is awesome. We get along great and I know we will work well together. She is very down to earth and very savvy. She also knows the value of community and really surprised me when she told me that I have a excellent reputation in town. Her words were “everybody loves you”. It’s not a very big town but I’ll take that. Being a small town, the word got out fast and apparently a lot of people are excited that I am going to work there. How about that?
I am going to really enjoy working with food again. I wish I could have made a living out of it before, it is fun for me to see people enjoying themselves and eating food that I prepared for them. It’s weird I know but it’s how I’m wired.
Is it possible that I may finally work for someone that appreciates me and treats me decent? Isn’t that what we all want after all?

All I need now is to find someone to share these blessings with. I know that in time I will. Hell, I have 2 dates in the next 5 days! Billy Mac don’t play.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that life is good. It’s going to take a lot to knock me off of this high. It almost makes me forget that I had my heart ripped out 4 days ago. The sting is much less because the one thing that I am most grateful for is my circle, WP readers included, that have reached out and supported me in this difficult time. Friends are everything and I have many great ones. In fact, if they cost money I could never afford the great friends that I have. If you’re one of them then thank you!

Always grateful is the way to be…

Should have known better

One consequence/perk of having a ton of scars is that I have learned to harden myself to things. I have a big heart and I give of it freely but I’m ALWAYS cautiously watching for the “other” shoe to drop. Meaning, if I am prepared for something to go south I can handle it. Grief, anger, disappointment, sadness, longing, regret…I can handle all of them. I’ve been called a cold fish, I’m not. I just know how to compartmentalize. But now I’ve found an emotion that I can’t handle.
Heartbreak.

The end is finally here, the jury is no longer out on the married woman and I. Shame on me for not seeing it coming, for believing that for once I was with someone that got me, that wasn’t judgmental of my quirks and pecadillos, someone that I could be truly happy with. So I wasn’t ready when I got the text on Sunday night. I’ve been a sad, droopy fucking head case since. I hate it. Every attempt to just wash it off and let it go have failed. The worst part is that I haven’t been given the luxury of an explanation as to her change of heart. All I know is that 3 weeks ago we went on a hike and during that hike she decided that she was going to dump me. I would love to know what I did.

For a year I have patiently lent a sympathetic and supportive shoulder as she came to grips with her lousy marriage and the way her husband treats her. I knew she would eventually divorce him but I was always careful not to offer unwanted advice or try to steer her in a direction that would benefit me. I kept myself open to see her when she had the opportunity and I tried not to ask for more than she could give. All along, we talked frequently of what it would be like if we were together, post asshole husband. To my encouragement she told me that she was finally ready to go through with it. Little did I know that I wasn’t part of her plans after all. With the whiff of freedom in her path, she apparently decided that playing the field, or exploring, was the way to go. Fuck me I guess, I just came on too strong and she can’t give me what I’m looking for.

The funny thing is that I wasn’t even close to being the only intense one. She was as guilty as I about “glimpses” in which we talked of how it would be when (not if) she became a free woman. But her account now is that I was too serious and she doesn’t want to be in another “stifling” relationship. I only saw her when she wanted so how the fuck was I stifling?

I’m confused, I’m angry and I’m hurt and I don’t know how to process this. I loved her. She made me happy. Now I’m alone again and I’m beginning to think that I’m going to stay that way. It has to be me, it has to. Maybe I fall too hard, too fast and too soon. I think I suck at relationships, looking back I don’t think I’ve ever had a successful one. And now I’m gun shy. I’m going to be alone forever.

If it makes her feel better to make me out to be the heavy I guess that’s her journey. I can’t change that. All I know is that 6 months ago I broke it off because I didn’t feel right about running around with another man’s wife. The guy code and all. When I did she continually texted me, often with mean -spirited comments about how I hurt her by breaking it off, etc. How the fuck can I hurt someone who is married? Reluctantly, I started seeing her again. It was great for a while. I saw her on her terms and unbelievably, I actually said no to the sudden slew of attention I was getting from 2 or 3 other women. I chose to be only with her because I don’t like to confuse things. One person at a time and keep it simple. She even expressed jealousy over them, she called it being “territorial” and I asked her how she could be because again, she’s married.

Now I’m holding the fucking bag again. Half of me wants answers and the other just wishes that I could just forget her altogether. If only it was that easy.

See, the signs were there. The burner phone, the sneaking around on her husband. Her wanting to get together even after I withdrew my date offer when I found out she was married. If she did it to him she would do it to me. I’m not so dumb to think that it wouldn’t. In fact, I’m pretty sure that she already has someone in mind and she got bored with me. She definitely would have cheated on me had we stayed together. And that would have REALLY hurt.

I don’t like heartbreak. Anger is easy. Disappointment I can handle. But I don’t like being discarded like a old soiled napkin. I was too decent to her and I don’t deserve it. She obviously doesn’t give a fuck about my feelings and definitely didn’t realize just how good I was to her. She is going to recognize what she had someday and in the event that she comes back I guarantee I will not be down for that shit. Fuck me once shame on you. Fuck me twice shame on me. I gave her all that she would allow when she would allow it. Over time I gave her my heart. She returned it broken and bloody and covered with muddy footprints.

She may read this, in fact I hope she does. These are the things I didn’t have the courtesy of time to talk to her about. Nope, she just avoided me for three weeks and then broke up with me by text. It’s an indignity I have absolutely no damn clue how to handle. It hurts and I want it to stop. Now.

My conscience knew it was wrong to get involved with her. My brain also warned me. But my heart wanted what it wanted and now here I am. Please tell me that it will get easier.

My legacy

I don’t write often about my experience as a parent. I’m surprised at myself because raising my children is one of the few things I feel I was successful. It didn’t always seem that way, I have an awful lot of regrets about the environment they were raised in with all of the fighting and marital hostility. In fact, there was a time that I truly thought that my kids would have no chance at happiness after seeing some of the debacles that took place in my house. I’m not proud and I don’t think my ex is either. I stayed awake many nights lamenting the things said and heard and beat myself up mercilessly for allowing myself to get into it with her constantly in front of the kids. Yet she continued to bait me, like a fat kid with a cupcake, and I fell into it. The fighting was brutal.

For my part, I was quick to apologize to them and tried to explain to them what was happening but it was difficult to do without making myself look innocent, which I certainly wasn’t, and not making their mother the villain. I vowed that I would never ever play the kids against their mother ever, kids are not a pawn. I wish I could say the same for my ex. When I attempted to pack my shit and leave one day, her first reaction was to say, “If you think you’re going to waltz in here and see the kids whenever you want you’re sadly mistaken.”
Yup, I knew it. She was one of those parents.
Then the kids asked me to stay. My oldest daughter clinched it with one sentence. “Dad, you can’t leave, she’ll be so much worse if you aren’t here.” There you have it. So I stayed. For 10 miserable, hostile and sexless fucking years I stayed because of the kids. Many people advised me that it was a mistake but I know I did the right thing. First of all, my happiness is secondary to theirs and always will be. Second, I know it solidified my relationship with my children. They would be strangers to me today if I had left then.

For those ten years things were a little better in that I didn’t allow myself to get sucked into a lot of the arguments. We became barely friendly roommates and merely tolerated each other. I focused all of my attention on rebuilding and strengthening my relationship with my children. I decided that I had to be the adult and I learned to suppress my passions and anger and focus on them. My wife, for her part made sure that she tortured me about my job, my pay, my health and my apparent indifference to her negative bullshit. I only rarely took the bait. I didn’t know what my future held but I was certain all along that Bankruptcy, a foreclosure and a divorce were definitely part of it. The only question was when.

My wife spent money like a drunk sailor with a fistful of Viagra. And she was totally unaccountable for it. She bought elaborate gifts for her best friend, who she was unhealthily attached to (a symptom of her then undiagnosed Borderline Personality disorder) while requesting of our family that we not exchange gifts because we didn’t have the money, effectively alienating my Holiday loving family. She refused to show me her Credit card statements but continuously scrutinized mine and yelled at me in front of the kids. I bought a lot of alcohol, I will admit it, but anyone who has ever met her would easily understand the need for that. Money, and her attitude about it would be the biggest source of fighting and the kids knew all about it. I think it put them in a bad spot, as if they felt guilty. I never wanted that.

My devotion to the kids and my commitment to their turning out as “normal” as possible continued. As they got older they understood what was going on and, without my asking for it, they felt bad for me. I defended her, with difficulty, because I didn’t want to be that guy. What I didn’t realize is that they knew what she was about and they acted more out of fear than love with her. Consequently, I unwittingly became the favorite parent. It wasn’t all too difficult, when they asked her for help or advice her first reaction was usually based upon how it affecter her, not them. She was quick to assign fault and blame and less interested in soothing the pain and finding solutions. While I, on the other hand, tried to offer an ear and a solution without judgment or blame.

While I plan on discussing this dynamic in greater detail in future blogs, I want to jump ahead and tell you that despite the horrible and regrettable example that we once were, they turned out absolutely wonderful. In particular, all four have healthy relationships. I was fearful that our example might tarnish them but it didn’t. I’m also not afraid to tell you that despite my efforts to the contrary, I think I am the favorite parent.

My marriage was contemptuous at best. The only good takeaway I have is my relationship with my children. It negates the anger and bitterness that I felt for so long. And I am happy to report that I have a decent relationship with the ex because I chose to let go of my anger and bitterness. Emotional baggage makes my neck hurt and I couldn’t carry it around anymore. I did it for me, not for her. I’m proud of the sacrifices I made in the interest of winning back my children. They are and will continue to be my crowning achievement. I have four amazing ,good-hearted citizens who make the world a better place. They make me proud every single day. I need not desire or seek a legacy, they have done it for me.