A Promise

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Hide my head, I want to drown my sorrow.  No tomorrow, no tomorrow.  And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad.  The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.  I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take.  When people run in circles, it’s a very, very mad world. – Tears For Fears

You really can’t go home again. The ghosts of my youth are still present and palpable on every filthy corner of the city where I drank and moped my way out of a college education. The strange thing is that everything that happened between the walls of my old haunts all those years ago plays back like a film from a bygone era whose central character happened to look a lot like me. They might be memories, but they’re not mine.

While I stood outside of a store cutting another 5 minutes off of the ass-end of my life with a Marlboro (the only slow, non-committal form of suicide in which I still indulge), I watched students trudge through the dirty brown gutter snow on their way to class. Pity was all I could feel for them, though they quite likely felt very similarly toward the overgrown hippie in a trench coat hiding inside his wafting nebula of smoke. Assumptions help to pass the time, but they also skew one’s perspective.

I don’t know how anyone is able to entertain the frivolous holiday pretense this year. The world just seems so sad and lost. After 5 days of laughter and reminiscing with Linda, my beautiful sister texted me last night to say that a colleague and close friend of hers at the Cancer Institute — a man widely considered to be among the best surgical oncologists in the country — killed himself with a bullet to the head. She doesn’t know why. I suspect he didn’t, either.

For reasons I can’t adequately explain, I spent 2017 in the least self-destructive manner of any other in my adult life. Aside from my little cylindrical 5-fewer-minutes-’til-suicide sticks, I eschewed pills and powders (and of course, booze) in an attempt to be a positive contributor to the resistance of the influence of pitiful, powerful men. At about this time last year, it occurred to me that I would probably need to keep a clear head as we embarked upon uncharted territory (read: fascism) in the US. As it turned out, I didn’t help to improve a goddamned thing. Oh well. Another number change on the calendar is just around the corner, giving me an opportunity to fool myself once again into thinking that I, along with the rest of the human race, will stop being so fucking mean and ignorant and selfish and lazy and hopeless. “Back where we started…here we go ’round again.”

I love children, but they make me sad. What horrors might be in store for those still young enough to dream? I can’t think about it for very long or I’ll cry.

I don’t want any more good people to bail out. Listen: I understand. I really do. But we need you. I need you. Life might be a zero-sum game but it can still be beautiful if we love each other, help each other out, listen and prop each other up. I know it’s hard and sometimes it’s all too fucking much. But I’ll stick around if you do. I promise. It doesn’t have to be this hard.

There is beauty in sadness, in vulnerability. Feel it, embrace it, let it wash over you. Then dry your tears, lift your head up and move on all the stronger for having listened to the painful song of your heart. We can’t afford to wallow in sadness. Too many good people are deciding to leave us. And though this is their right, I wish they would understand that they are integral to our world. No one who loves is alone. No one who cares is worthless. No one who has the potential to bring joy to another is expendable.

My 2018 wish for everyone is that you will be right back here one year from now reading some more silly end-of-the-year reflections from yours truly, alive and well and ready to do it all again. Let’s alleviate as much sadness as we can. I’ll keep trying my best if you do. I promise.

45 thoughts on “A Promise

  1. Contemplation, as Winter Solstice speeds darkness our way, is such a welcome friend. No wonder the pagans before us celebrated this time of the year. It is the most melancholy, thought stirring period of our lives and it comes around every twelve months. Christians call it Christmas, but we all know it’s the time our souls cry for the warmth of a fire, a hug, a lover’s kiss, the comfort of an old friend.
    Thanks for expressing it so well for us, Paul.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Paul. Fuck. I needed this like my soul needs a hug. This time of year is brutal for me right now…like unbearable. I am doing my best to stay positive, but I truly get it why people check out sometimes. I now that sounds dark and terrible, but I really do. But then just this morning, this man who I see every morning at the coffee shop, who is half friend/half stranger, did the kindest thing for me seemingly out of nowhere. He just walked right over, handed me an envelope and asked me to please treat myself and my best friend to dinner. I just started sobbing. For as alone as I feel, how much faith I have lost, and the amount of fucked up shit I’ve seen and experienced over the past year, my god there is so much good… so much. But we truly do have to look for it, believe in it and give it out like it’s in endless supply… because it is. Huge hug to you. You are a gift to all of us here and we’ll most definitely see each other here next year…

    Liked by 8 people

  3. And I think I am a healer? Fuck, Paul, this was some of the most powerful mojo ever wielded. You have created an amulet of words woven with the simplest truth of the arcane: Love is alive and can make ones heart grow many many sizes. I think I am going to cry now!!!!!!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I had to sit on this one for a day, Wulf, because it might just be the highest praise I’ve ever received and as such, it rendered me rather speechless. I hope you know that you are indeed a healer and that eventually, your ideas always find a way of creeping subtly into my posts (that’s just another way of saying that I sometimes steal your entire point and then re-word it so no one will notice). Thank you!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You do me too much honor, but also just made a moment brighter when needed. To know that I am able to touch in a way that might subtly shift your work is the greatest gift I will receive this season. Blessed and safe travels home to Jesse.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. “Hi Oblivion. It’s time to go? Well, okay. Hmm, hold on, there’s someone on the other line.”
    “Hello? Ah, Paul, nice to hear your voice, can you hang-on for just a moment? Great.”
    “Uh, yeah, Oblivion? Sorry, not today, there’s a friend on the other line, catcha later, maybe.”

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Your way to thinking is very close to mine, nothing like Leibniz’s irritating hopefulness and confidence about the future and doctrine that we live in the best of all possible worlds. How can someone be so optimistic?!
    We are more of pessimists, like Schopenhauer (not really amusing), constantly at war with the world and challenging a belief that life is inherently good. We may have good moments, though these are quite rare (and hence precious). Exceptions to the rule of otherwise perpetual suffering.

    “At some point in your childhood, there was probably some toy, video game, or other item that you wanted more than anything else in the world. If you were lucky, you eventually got it. After a few days, though, that object seemed to lose the luster that it had before you owned it. Pretty soon, something else caught your eye, and the cycle repeated itself. Schopenhauer felt that this is an accurate description of all existence. We want to own things and achieve certain goals; in other words, we have a will. So, we work and struggle to own those things and achieve those goals, but, shortly after we succeed, the fun wears off. Getting a perfect score on the SAT may make you feel great for a few days, but pretty soon, you’re going to forget about it, even though you may have spent months or years suffering as you studied and prepared for the test.
    If we aren’t struggling towards goals of ours, then we experience boredom. This type of boredom is not just lounging around on a lazy afternoon – it is the lack of any hopes, dreams, and desires. Boredom, as Schopenhauer used the word, is strikingly similar to extreme clinical depression. With no goals or drives, you simply waste away. Even if you don’t reach such an extreme level of boredom, it’s still a pretty terrible feeling to not have any sort of long-term goals or big dreams. You just sort of float through life, passively accepting it all, but without any larger purpose. Boredom, both in the extreme and limited senses, seems to involve rather significant suffering.
    Your choices, then, are either struggling or boredom, both of which result in suffering.”

    Now, I see a glimmer of hope in the end which means you decided to struggle, although you know it’ll sometimes be tedious, and mainly painful, unpleasant and hard to bare. But if there’s a minute indication that something may improve, succeed, or turn out for the best eventually, it means this life and world, however sad and depressing, is worth fighting for, and that there’s still hope for us.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hey that’s a great blog post in itself. But I have a 3rd alternative to the “struggle or Boredom” dichotomy: It’s acceptance. Acceptance is the key to happiness. Yeah, it’s a little Buddha-ish, but it works. There is no struggle because, being alive, we have already arrived and there is nothing to achieve. Just sayin’

      Liked by 2 people

      1. What happens when we find it hard to accept (and we often do)? Does it make us inapt, somebody who can’t cope? hat’s a dangerous ground too. In such cases, we’re prone to giving up on ourselves. I believe we all have to strive for something, to find some goal, some purpose to make it all worthwhile. So, in my opinion, it’s quite the contrary from what you said.
        When we are born we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools, the Bard said it nicely. Disappointments and struggle are yet to come. Therefore, there’s lots to achieve and fight for. Otherwise, we’d have to satisfy ourselves with the fact that simply walk the Earth and breathe the air. So fucking what?

        Liked by 1 person

  6. You say that you “didn’t help to improve a goddam thing”. How do you know? Are you absolutely certain, or might it be possible that another recovering alcoholic read one of your posts and thought, ” Hey, he did it, and so can I?” Or, alternatively, “Thank Christ I’m not as bitter as Paul?’ 😉
    You don’t always get to see the rewards of your hard work, mate. Keep fighting the good fight.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Paul, you wise, enlightened, gentle, kind, beautiful soul, you. My god, all of this. Just all of it. The other day I was driving and oddly enough was thinking about a photo of David Beckham holding his new nephew (I know, so fucking random) and I thought, what is there to be happy about, to even smile about, David? There won’t be fresh air, water, food and every polar bear will be dead by the time he is our age, if he even makes it that long, and being here will be like living in hell. Suppose those thoughts are a reflection of our reality, the horror our eyes are witnessing on a daily basis, and the utter despair and helplessness we all feel. I know I do. But, perhaps his nephew will be the change. Perhaps new beating hearts will restore hope and replenish this world, one that is so inexplicably void of love, and maybe…just maybe; they will save us. You have reminded me not to wallow and to look around because standing beside me might be someone who needs to hear that there is beauty in sadness and that they are not alone. Today I shall step out of the darkness and go forth seeking only to bring light to those around me. For this profound message of hope and love, thank you, my friend. Thank you so very much.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I absolutely accept your deal. I will stick around. I expect you to do the same.

    Listen, I’ve been feeling miserable. Lately, I guess for a week or so — except for one good Tuesday — I’ve been feeling down. Blame it on the weather. Blame it on the holidays. Blame it on the 33% still clinging to the orange con. I don’t know.

    I talked to a few friends last night, at the bar, and they’ve been feeling the same way. We can’t put our finger on it.

    But I’d be feeling a lot worse without ya, Paul. You, and many of the luminaries responding in comments above me, have given me hope. I live in a red county. Here, there is 80% acceptance of the orange con. These bastards want their own red state, in the north of California, to call their own. You know, the kind of state where everyone is white and packing a gun and anyone who doesn’t have their shit together in exactly the right way ought to get the hell out.

    So, they wear on me.

    But, here, on this medium, I get a glimpse of a different world. A brighter world, for all the sullenness I find. People who feel bad about the state of humanity, today… well, they give me hope. You give me hope.

    So I accept your deal. I’ll see you here a year from now, right here, and probably every damn day in-between. I’ll bring with me some joy. I’ll take any you have to give. And, together, we might just save this damn world, after all.

    Crazier things have happened.

    Happy Holidays, pal. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tom, and happy holidays to you! I think Pablo was on to something somewhere up there in the comments — this time of year always has the potential to exacerbate pre-existing ennui, but this year (for obvious reasons), it’s worse than usual. And crazier things have happened — which is why it’s so fantastic to have friends like you along for the ride.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes, what they all commented above! In addition, Happy Holidays Paul. I will be here with you because I “love” too. We will never understand the sadness but what will we ever understand in this life? Just love, hope, be kind and welcome the new babies into this world. They are going to do great things…and we will help them as we help each other. Our time on this earth is not a wash, it means something we are not yet able to discern. ~Kim

    Liked by 2 people

  10. It’s a date; “My 2018 wish for everyone is that you will be right back here one year from now reading some more silly end-of-the-year reflections from yours truly, alive and well and ready to do it all again. Let’s alleviate as much sadness as we can. I’ll keep trying my best if you do. I promise.”
    Happy New Year, Paul. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Of all the stupid things I could have thought
    This was the worst
    I started to believe
    That I was born at seventeen
    And all the stupid things
    The letters and the broken verse
    Stayed hidden at the bottom of the drawer
    They’d always been
    And now I plough through piles
    Of bills, receipts and credit cards
    And tickets and the Daily News
    And sometimes I just

    Wanna go back to my home town
    Though I know it’ll never be the same
    Back to my home town
    ‘Cause it’s been so long
    And I’m wondering if it’s still there

    We think we’re pretty smart
    Us city slickers get around
    And when the going’s rough
    We kill the pain and relocate
    We’re never married
    Never faithful not to any town
    But we never leave the past behind
    We just accumulate
    So sometimes when the music stops
    I seem to hear a distant sound
    Of waves and seagulls
    Football crowds and church bells
    And I

    Wanna go back to my home town
    Though I know it’ll never be the same
    Back to my home town
    ‘Cause it’s been so long
    And I’m wondering if it’s still there

    Back to my home town
    Though I know it’ll never be the same
    Back to my home town
    ‘Cause it’s been so long
    And I’m wondering if it’s still there

    Liked by 1 person

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