I Never Thought I’d Be Doing This…

Well. I don’t know if this thing works off-line or not. Still haven’t taken the time to verify it does. So, I don’t plan on closing this window until I get home. It’s 2205 hours, on Wednesday, 06 May 2015. I’m sitting at the dining table, or is it better described as the kitchen table, in the Hurricane. I’ve decided that’s what I’m going to call it. The Hurricane. The AC is on (we connected the RV to campground electricity), so we won’t be overheating tonight.

It’s like being in a small house. I mean. If you call a 28 foot long house small. I mean. It’s bigger than a lot of small houses I’ve read about. Pat and I can fit in here quite well. And quite comfortably. There’s lights everywhere. But I don’t have any on in here as I type this. The display on the Chromebook is backlit, so it’s easy to read, and it gives off enough light I can pretty much see the keyboard.

Yeah. I’m a wreck. I’ll sleep. And I’ll probably sleep well. But, I’m a wreck.

We did learn, we need to get a Blu-Ray player to hook up to the entertainment system. That way, we can watch something other than broadcast TV channels on the TV sets. That’s another thing. The TV channels are all digital now. So the picture is either great, or doesn’t show up at all. No more “bad reception” on stations.

She’s in the bed, reading in her Kindle.

I had a rough day. A bad day. But a good day too. I haven’t been sleeping as much, or as soundly, or peacefully the past 2 weeks. As I told my doc, the brain cells are running wide open, trying to process all this new stuff.

What do I mean by new stuff? Well. I can’t really describe it. I don’t know how to describe it. Not yet anyway. But I can give you one example of what’s happening with my perspective on life. Another story Doc and I spoke of today. Washing dishes. See. All my life, I’ve washed dishes, because it’s what you do. The dishes are dirty, collecting in the sink, so you wash them. Black and white. Yes or now. A check box on a checklist called, “how to lead a proper life”. Wash the dishes, check the box.

And back in the days when all I had was my anger, and the energy it provided, this worked well. Because I had to do something with the energy the anger gave me. See. It wasn’t a question of me. How I felt, what I felt, what I wanted or didn’t want, never entered the equation. The dishes were just another part of being a proper person, in a black and white, yes and now, good and evil world.

Well. Now, the anger’s all but gone. I won’t bother you with the details of all the things I’m having to relearn how to do. I’ll just stick with the dishes. And I admit I’m not there yet. It’s a process of discovery for me. Let’s be honest, my autistic nature, with the hypersensitivity of my fingers, means I really don’t like washing the dishes. Getting my hands in that… That… Stuff. Eww. I mean. Just. Eww.

So, I’ve been having a bit of trouble keeping up with the dishes lately, if you call the last 5 months lately, that is. But I digress. I’ve been having problems getting the dishes done, and even getting around to starting them. Because I’ve been learning why. I’ve been learning how I feel about dealing with the dishes.

I told my Doc, and it took me a couple of dozen attempts to get the words I wanted. I told my Doc, I’m learning I don’t do them because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t do them because it’s proper. Or because I’m supposed to. Or because I’m a grown up. I don’t do them for the health benefits of a clean kitchen sink (Do you have any idea how many bacteria are in those suckers? Momma!) I don’t do the dishes for any of those reasons.

I’m learning to clean the dishes because I like having clean dishes, cleaner sinks, and a cleaner and neater kitchen. Right and wrong, good or bad, proper behavior, and all those crappy things we bury ourselves under don’t apply to me doing the dishes. It has nothing to do with any of those reasons. I’m learning about me. About what I feel, and how I feel about the dishes. And as much as I detest dealing with them, I enjoy the feelings I get when I have clean dishes, empty sinks, and a neater kitchen more than I dislike the yuck of having to clean the dishes.

I’m also not a total dingbat on some things. The math is kicking in, and telling me, “If you clean them up regularly, every night, or every morning, guess what? There’s less of them to deal with at any given time! And let’s be honest here. I don’t like putting my hands in a sink full of yucky dishes. I’d much rather put them in a sink that has a few dishes in it, so they’re there less time.

See? That’s something I don’t know how to say yet. I don’t know how to express it in words yet. But that’s what’s happening with me at this time in my life. I’m rewriting all the rules beneath everything I do. And yeah, there will be things I don’t do. They’ll be things I don’t like. Or things I don’t like the benefits of doing. Or some similar reason.

I’ve tried to explain to people around me about right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust, light and dark, and all those moral, ethical things we hammer into ourselves relentlessly from the time we first start becoming aware of how our society works, and what’s acceptable/expected behavior within that society.

Somehow, it gets turned into right and wrong. Somehow it got corrupted. And somewhere, I lost my way. And forget what I feel. How we feel. And how what I feel ties into what I do. If that makes any sense. And I can’t say if it makes any to anyone other than me, and my Doc.

As with the dishes, so it goes with my walking, my picture-taking, my writing, my exercising, my reading, my watching TV, my listening to music. For every aspect of me, I’m actively questioning why I do the things I do. And I’m learning to do what I like. What I enjoy doing. What I like doing. And even the things I don’t like so much, but do like the benefits of doing them. Like the dishes. And the laundry.

It’s been an interesting five-year journey. It’s been five years since this all started. Since I began to question how things were. Since I first stepped outside the box of predefined, acceptable behavior. Since the days I started to wake up. Five years. And I’m only now getting to this part of my journey.

Well. No one said life would be simple, did they. 🙂

Now, I’m gonna go crash for the night. It’s 2235 hours. She’s already crashed. I’ll try not to disturb her too much as I climb under the covers.

Holy crap. I’m gonna sleep in the Hurricane. Wow. Never, ever imagined this would happen. Have no idea how I feel about it. Other than I feel all kinds of stuff. Yeah. All kinds of stuff. Could take me a while to figure out what that stuff is.


I sit in the dark tonight.
My cat sits on my lap.
She keeps me company.
I need company tonight.
I grab my music player.
Push the ear plugs in my ears.
Turn it on
And let my music play,
And I close my eyes.

It’s been a hard day.

Songs fill my head,
Drowning out the voices
I hear every moment
I’m awake.
Drowning out the chaos
Of a million different thoughts,
A million different perspectives,
On everything in life.

The differences between people.
Between men and women.
Between the left and the right.
Between Christians of all kinds.
The religions of the world.
And endless chain of thoughts.

Thoughts of right and wrong.
What is right?
What is wrong?
How does who you are,
Where you live,
What you believe,
What you learn,
Affect the definitions
Of right and wrong?

What are morals?
What are ethics?
What is religion?
Is there white privilege?
Is that something we’ve made up?
Is there such a thing
As a rape culture?
Or is that something different people
See in different ways?
Is it sexual harassment when you tell someone at work
They look good one day?
Or is that something our media
Have conditioned us to say?

It’s like this every night.
And endless string of questions.
And endless string of thoughts.
Echo in my head.
No one knows.
No one sees.
I keep it all inside.
Hidden from everyone.
Except for me.

It’s silent in the darkness of the night.
With the lights turned off.
With nothing on TV.
And me
Getting ready for bed.
To rest my weary head.

But it’s in the silence,
In the dark,
When the thoughts I bury endlessly,
Float to the surface.
Shattering the silence of the night,
With endless thoughts,
And endless questions,
From countless voices.
In my head.

That’s when I reach for my music.
Why I turn it up.
Why I use it.
To drown out the questions.
And silence the many thoughts.
That otherwise would echo in my head.
In the silence
Of the darkness
Of the night.

It’s April 22nd, the 18th day of the A to Z Challenge 2015. This is the 18th of 26 pieces I’m writing in April for the challenge. This one’s for the letter S. Tomorrow brings the letter T. I wonder what I’ll write for that.


#FinishThatThought 45 : You Should’ve Stayed On The Path

“You should’ve stayed on the path.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard those words. It wouldn’t be the last. I’d make certain of that. “No.”

Tim gave me that exasperated look. You know. The one people give you when you are different from them, don’t share their values, or their view of life. “What about your future? Your career?”

“My career, as you know it, is dead.” I always loved seeing someone’s face when I said such inflammatory things. To me, they were normal things to say. Truthful things to say. To someone like Tim, they were disruptive, intimidating, aggressive, and scary.

“You don’t mean that.”

I laughed. “Yeah. I do.”

“You’ll be throwing everything away.”

“I’d explain everything,” I smiled, and shook my head, “but you’d never understand.”

“Try me.”

How do you tell someone they are walking along a path to a dead-end? How do you explain to someone they’re doing what their parents did. What their grandparents did. What their great grandparents did. Generation, after generation. The same path. The same life. The same pursuits, passions, goals, definitions.

“I told you once,” I knew trying to explain was useless, “everyone here, you, the people who work for you, the people you work for. You’re all the same. The same dreams, goals, hopes, fears, everything.” It was really sad to think about it. To understand how Tim didn’t even know.

“You know that feeling you get sometimes? The one you get when you look in the mirror? The one that doesn’t last long, maybe a minute, maybe less? The one that says everything’s wrong?” I had to laugh. “Yes, Tim. I know about that feeling. The one you never can admit it there. The one you can never feel.”

Tim sat there. He didn’t speak. He didn’t move. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he stopped breathing, and if his heart stopped beating.

“Yeah, Tim. That one. The one that says everything is wrong.”

“You should have stayed on the path.”

“I know, Tim. It’s what we do. We stay on the path. We behave.” I couldn’t tell him what he already knew. How we what we’re supposed to do. Be what we’re supposed to. Get married. Have a family. Buy a house. Buy cars. Have a respectable job, and a steady, predictable income. Be in control of life. With everything organized. Everything planned. Just like our parents. And, by God, that’s how we’ll make our children.

“That’s why I’ve left the path. And I’m not coming back.”

Too bad Tim would never understand.

427 Words

I wrote this for Week 45 of Alissa Leonard‘s Finish That Thought. Please, go read all the creatively shared stories in this week’s challenge.

Be True To Yourself?

I remember the trigger. I can’t forget. It was such an innocuous thing. Such an honest thing. So well-meant. Just another one of a million inspirational posters. I can’t even remember which one. So, I spent time this morning looking for it. I couldn’t find it. But that doesn’t matter. Because I found its spirit everywhere.

“To thine own self be true.”

“Be true to yourself and to your feelings. Those are the only things in your life that will never lie to you.”

“Always stay true to yourself and never sacrifice who you are for anyone.”

The list is near infinite. The sayings all the same. Be true to yourself. True to your heart, and soul. To your feelings. To what you believe. To who you are, underneath it all.

Yep. That’s what started it. That’s what triggered the endless chain of thoughts I find myself wrestling with for two days now, with no end in sight. For the truth rang clear. These words apply to all. Not to the good. Not to the just. Not to the righteous. To all. Everyone. Good. Bad. Right. Wrong. Light. Dark. Helpful. Hurtful. Loving. Spiteful. And everything in between.

What part of that do people misunderstand?

If the human’s heart and soul react with revulsion to the thought of something, is it wrong for them to act on that? Is it wrong for them to stand up for what they believe?

If the Christian believes the homosexual damned to hell unless he changes his ways, then, is wrong for the Christian to say so, and to live as he believes?

Who are you to judge?

If the business man believes he can create more jobs, so more people can earn a living, if he pays less taxes, and benefits, is it wrong for him to act on that? Is it wrong for them to stand up for what they believe?

Who are you to judge?

If you fear the world filled with scientific knowledge, theories, and concepts like evolution, quantum mechanics, and climate models, is it wrong to express your fears, and your doubts?

Who are you to judge?

If you believe Wal-Mart heralds the end of the middle class, and the birth of a slave class of humans, is it wrong for you to express that, and try to prevent the further growth Wal-Mart?

The list goes on and on. It never ends.

How can you be true to what you believe, what you feel, what your heart speaks, if you force yourself to stop, and question everything? If you force yourself to change? Do you live in the box of what you believe, what you know, what you feel? Is that wrong? Is that right?

And what of the person next to you? Do they live in the same box? Do they believe what you believe? Know what you know? Feel what you feel? Are they wrong? Are they right?

Who are you to judge, when you declare, “To thine own self be true”? Are we all you? Are we all the same? One mind? One heart? One belief? One way? One skin color? One hair color? One eye color? One truth? One life?

Then why judge what the person next to you believes?

To thine own self be true.

These are the words, this is the thought, that triggered everything in the past two days. That forced me to take the next step on the path I walk. And wonder. What does it mean, that no one remembers the words they speak any more.

To thine own self be true.

Who are you to judge?

#FlashFriday 22 : Dawn

I stood next to my best friend. We stood, side-by-side, holding hands, as we watched the clouds roll in, coming from the East, toward the shore, with the rising of the sun. I looked up at him, towering above me. He looked to the East, watching the clouds and sun. As he watched, I saw him smile, his eyes gleaming, like a childs, filled with joy and awe.

He didn’t speak. He kept his eyes open, watching every detail, taking it all in. He picked me up, like a father would lift his daughter. He set me on his shoulder, so I could get a better view. I knew him, how he was.

I wondered as I always did, why no one befriended him. Why everyone stayed away, shunned him, ostracized him. He was a giant, standing well over seven feet tall. His size made him ugly, his features being enlarged, his arms and legs lanky, his hands and feet huge. No one knew him. No one knew the gentle, kind, intelligent, loving, human man he was.

I knew. I found him. I talked with him. At first, I was afraid of him. Until the day he protected me from the men in the alley. The men had trapped me. I had no doubt what they would do to me. Leave me broken, bleeding, naked, in the alley.

He stopped them. He picked me up, so gently. Carried me to his home, made sure I was unharmed. Let me stay. I have stayed since that night. He is the friend I’ve always needed. As I am the friend he always longed for.

We stood on the shore that day. Watching the sun rise, and the clouds roll in. Enjoying the beauty of the world, as we wished the ugliness we saw, and endured every day, would vanish, as the darkness faded from the sky, and was replaced by the light of day.

We stood on the shore that day. And never spoke a single word. No words were needed. Each knew what the other felt, what the other thought. We embraced each moment, each breath, each heartbeat, standing there, wanting to remember the feelings of joy, excitement, and hope, the sunrise brought with it.

We both knew the light would be replace by darkness soon enough. When the sunrise was just a memory of the past, and the ugliness of the world woke from it’s nightly sleep, and ruled everything once more.

As he stood there, with me on his shoulder, I knew he cried. I knew tears fell from his eyes. I knew he prayed each day, each night, for the world to wake up and realize how cruel, how cold, how heartless it had become. I knew he understood it never would.

As I sat there, on his shoulder, knowing of so many hearts long frozen colder than any ice, harder than any stone, I cried too. And I wondered how life had gone so very wrong.

501 Disqualified Words

I wrote this for Rebekah Postupak‘s #FlashFriday, Week 22. It’s totally disqualified, as it laughs at the 150 word limit being used this week. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #Flash Friday. They are good reading.

There Are Days I Forget

There are days I forget.
Days I get lost.
Days like today.
When I feel empty.
When I feel wounded.
When I feel drained.
When I feel all wrong.

There are days I forget
This moment in time.
This place.
When I remember everything.
When I can’t find my way
Out of my past.
Out of what’s already done.

Other times
I get lost other ways.
Worrying about too many things
That haven’t happened.
That are not happening.
That may never be.
Lost in wondering about a future
That I can’t possibly know.
That I can’t possibly see.

And I can feel my jaw clinch.
And my pulse begin to race.
I can feel my anger build.
Fueled by all my fears.
And all the experiences
Of my life.

The seeds of self-doubt
Sewn so many years ago.
When everyone I knew
Told me I couldn’t be
Told me I had to be

It’s on days like this,
When I’m so lost.
So confused.
Remembering my past.
And worrying about things
That haven’t happened,
And may never be.

It’s on days like this
I have to sit down.
And stop.
And breath.
And close my eyes.
And remember.

This heartbeat.
This breath.

They taught me long ago
The air is invisible.
You can’t feel it.
You can’t see it.
How can you know it’s there?

Like so many things
I was taught
In the life that was,
What I learned
Was all a lie.

For I know
As I sit here on my own.
And I close my eyes.
And simply breathe.

I know.

I can feel the very air
All around me.

I can hold out my hands.
Spread my fingers out.
And I can feel the air
As it flows across my palms.
And between the fingers
Of my hands.

How can anyone believe
The air isn’t really there?
When you can touch it.
When you can feel it.

So I sit,
Silent and alone.
On the sofa
In my home.
And I close my eyes.
And breathe.
Just breathe.
And feel.
Everything my body feels.

And it only takes a few heartbeats
For my body to remind me
Of the truth.

All I have,
And all I am.
I now.

In this breath.
In this heartbeat.

And there is nothing else.

There is no past.
It’s gone.
It’s done.
No one anywhere
Can go back and fix
Anything that’s happened

No one anywhere
Can even fix what happened
In the last heartbeat.
In the last breath.

There is no future.
Because it hasn’t happened yet.
And while it’s possible
To extrapolate,
And project,
The events that might happen,
Based on what’s happened
In the past.

But there’s no way
To guarantee
What will happen
In your next heartbeat.

So I sit here.
And I breathe.
And I remember.
This breath.
This heartbeat.

I sit here
And remember

I Left, Never To Return

On May 1st of 2011,
I went to church.
At a church I’d never been to.
And I returned
To that church.
Pretty much every Sunday.
For months.

I even started going
To the Wednesday night service.
You would think
I liked it there
Very much.

Until the day
In November
When I walked away.
And since then
I have not been back.
Not even once.

I know it disturbed people.
I know it disturbed a friend.
And I’ve tried to explain
Why I did
What I did.

Because of memories.
Because of what I have experienced.
Because of what I’ve learned.

From the time I was 15.
Until I was 22.
I was almost at war
With a church.
Imagine being told
By the pastor.
By the youth director.
By the people
Of the church.
By every friend you have there
That’s your own age.

That you can’t live
The way you live.
That how you live
Is wrong.
That no one
Can be the way
That you are.
No one can behave
Like you.

I lived through that.
For years.
It’s something
You just can’t forget.
And you just can’t understand it
Unless you’ve been through it

I’ve been through something
Many times since then.
When I was in college.
Going through the classes
That I took.
But it was much more subtle
That what happened
At church.

I was that nice guy.
That everybody knows.
That no girl ever dates.
Or ever gets close to.
The guy that wound up
As the only guy
In a room full of girls.

I lost count of how many times
That happened in those days.
How many times
Those girls behaved
So very differently
When I was the only guy around.
Than they behaved
When there were other guys
Among the group.

I always wondered
Why that was
Until one morning
At 0500 hours,
When the computer lab shut down
For daily morning maintenance.

There were 3 of us
In the lab that morning.
Another guy,
And a girl.
A very pretty one
At that.

The other guy asked her
If she wanted to join him,
And go get something
To eat.
And she declined.

He got his stuff,
And then he left.
And after he’d been gone
For just a few minutes.
She asked me
To walk with her
To the 7-11 store
Across the street.

Being curious
I asked her why
She hadn’t gone
With the other guy.

“Because I don’t trust him.
I don’t feel safe around him.
But I do feel safe
With you.
With you I know
Nothing’s going to happen.”

Every thing I’ve tried to do.
Every group activity.
Has been a total failure.
Things started well enough.
But with each week that passes,
Things slowly fell apart.
Until in the end,
Everyone there
Avoided me.

And when that happens,
There’s not much left to do.
But leave.

And always,
When I left,
I never heard
From anyone

And the words I heard
So very long ago
Echoed endlessly
Inside my head.
“You can’t live that way.
No one can.”

And as I went to that church
Every Sunday that I could.
Things began to change.
I saw the same thing happening
That I’ve lived through
Time and time again.

As people learned my name.
And began to talk with me.
In an effort to be friendly.
And that’s when things go wrong.
One day at a time.
One thing at a time.
Until I end up feeling
Like I’m on the outside
Looking in.

This time,
When I started feeling
That thing happening again.

I left.

I left to protect myself
From feeling alone.
Left out.
As if I didn’t belong
Once more.

I didn’t really
Want to leave.
To vanish like I did.
I wish I could explain it.
Explain my history.
I can’t.
I lack the words.

I tried to explain,
Last Friday.
To my Doctor.
Told him that each Sunday
That I set foot
In that place,
I became more isolated.
More apart
From everyone.

That’s what happens
When everyone in the group
That you’re surrounded by
Feels the same things.
It’s not so much
That they believe the same.
It’s not that way at all.

I know that each person
That I met
In that church that I went to
Is different.
And unique.

But they are all part
Of a social group.
A structure.
A society.
That I have no way
To understand.
And could never feel as if
I actually belonged.

I told my Doctor about
The five minutes they spent
Each Sunday morning
Greeting each other,
In the name of God.

I’ve done the math.
I’ve analyzed.
And reviewed.
And studied.
And torn apart.
And reassembled.
Every detail of
That 5 minutes of time.

I figured out
For most of them
That it’s a priceless time.
When they get to visit
With their friends.
Some of whom they haven’t seen
In a solid week.
They smile at each other.
They shake hands.
Sometimes they even hug.

And they talk.
Something they call small talk.
Something I don’t understand.
At all.

I saw them all smiling.
I know that 5 minutes
Every Sunday morning.
Meant a lot to them.

But I have an ASD.
I live on the Spectrum.
And that 5 minutes
Was pure hell to me.

Shaking hands and greeting
One another.
And that small talk thing.
And the noise!

It was like being in a riot.
It was pure chaos.
I felt like a bug
On the ocean.
Waiting for a big damn fish
To come along
And find me.

With one simple snap.
I’d be gone.

I told my Doctor
That I knew
I couldn’t just sit there.
And close my eyes.
And stuff my hands
In my pockets.
And my ear buds
In my ears.
And turn my music’s volume
To block out every thing.

That would just be wrong.
And no one there
Would ever understand
What the heck was going on
With me.

I left that church.
In November.
Never to return.

I left as much
To protect the people there
From me,
As I did to keep myself
From being hurt again.

That’s why I left.
And why I can’t return.
Because I know this simple truth.
It was a place in which
I’d never have felt
At home.

And I would not have been
The only one
That felt that way.

So I took the lessons
I have learned
Over the decades.
And I left.

And the only thing my Doctor
Had to say to me
When I shared these words
With him
“I know.”
And then he spoke once more.
“And no one there
Will ever understand.”

Missing Puzzle Piece

I’m missing things,
I know.
That other people don’t.
I’ve got tons of evidence
Of this.
From the simple kind
To the complex.

It’s like life is a puzzle.
With some pieces missing.
So that I can tell
What the picture is.
But can’t get all the details

Take driving, for example.
I know I’ve talked about this
Many times before.
But it still baffles me.
The way that people drive
As a whole.

Many times in my life,
I’ve seen the same cars
Day after day,
Week after week,
For months and even years
In a row.

And the cars all behave
The same way.

On Monday through Friday,
They drive like they’re in a race
Against time.
As if they have to get
Where they are heading
Before the building

But on Saturday and Sunday
The same cars
Can’t get out of anybody’s way.
They cruise along.
As if they have all day
To get where they are going.

I’ve timed them.
Many times.
Measured their speeds,
By following along.
And it’s pretty consistent
What I’ve found.

Monday through Friday,
They drive along
At 5 or 10 miles an hour,
And sometimes, even more,
Above the posted
Speed limit.
As a whole.

There’s more to it
Than that, though.
If the speed limit is slow,
Anything less
That 35 MPH or so,
They drive further above
The limit
On those days.

If the limit’s 45 or more,
They don’t drive as much
Above the limit.
Unless they’re on the expressway.
On the expressway
Anything goes.

But, change the time
To Saturday or Sunday,
On the exact same roads.
And the same cars
Cruise along.
Never even reaching
The speed limit
Any more.

Figure that one out.
I just don’t get it.

I’ve learned a way
To get people so angry
When I’m driving along.
It’s very simple to do.
I just ignore the way
That other people drive.
And make like a machine.
Matching my speed
With the posted speed limit.

I get pushed from behind.
I get passed all the time.
I get to observe
Interesting gestures
And hand signs.
And sometimes,
I get cut off,
And nearly wrecked.
By people
That to me,
Have lost their fracking minds.
On Monday through Friday.

Then on Saturday and Sunday,
I have to deal with people
Clogging up the roads.
You try doing 35
Down Holland Road.

The limit’s 45.
And Monday through Friday
Those people zip along
At 50 or more.
But on Saturday and Sunday,
I consider myself lucky
If the person I’m behind
Hits 40 at all.

Same cars.
Same license plates.
Same drivers.

What the hell am I missing?
There’s something there
I just don’t understand.
Am I supposed to just blend in.
Behave like everyone
That’s driving on the roads?
Is it one of those social things
That I don’t know is there?

This is just an example
Of the things I deal with
Every day.
When what people say,
And do,
And the way that they behave,
Leaves me wondering,
Why are they that way?

Sometimes it’s like working a puzzle
Where some of the pieces
Aren’t there any more.
So that the finished puzzle
Has gaping holes in it.

And sometimes
It’s like the puzzle pieces
Are all cut exactly the same.
And will fit together
Every  way at all.
So that the finished puzzle
Looks like paint splatters
Randomly scattered
On a big old wall.

And I end up having to
Rework bits and pieces
Of the puzzle
Over and over again.
Day after day.
Week after week.
Year after year.

As I figure out
That I’ve got something wrong.
The missing pieces should be here,
Not there.
The colors look like this,
Not that.

And the best part of it all
Is that the pictures
And the colors
Slowly change.
And over time
I have to rework the puzzles
Just to keep them looking something
Like they’re supposed to look.

I don’t understand the way
That people drive
At all.
But I can observe,
And understand
The patters of the way
They drive.

And I can mimic them.

So no one knows,
And no one sees,
That I’m not like them.
At least
When I’m driving my car
Down the road.

I just sometimes wish
I knew why people
Do the things they do.
That would sure help me
Mimic them better.
I’d make less mistakes.

But I know that will never happen.
So I’ll keep working with
Puzzles missing pieces.
Where I can get the picture mostly right,
Except for the details.

As my doctor says to me
Session after session.
“Get out there
And make mistakes.
Make lots of them.
It’s how you learn,
You see.”

I wonder what the colors are
On that missing

Hearts Of Stone

I’d finished walking.
The first walk I’d taken
In four months.
It had been a short walk.
Between 2 and 3 miles.
But I’d needed it.
To break the ice.
And get me moving
Once again.

As I walked,
I couldn’t help but see
The birds
Up in the sky.
And in the trees.

I lost count
Of all the bunnies
Munching out
On grass,
And new grass seeds
That so many of my neighbors
Put out by the bag full
Every spring.

I’ve always wondered why
People seem to think
They have to have
A perfect lawn.

When I got back
From my walk,
I cooled down,
And took my shower
To get cleaned up.

And I wound up standing there
With the water on
For just a little while.
As I tried to catch my breath.

My breath had abandoned me
When a picture
I had never seen
Snapped into view
Inside my mind.
And my heart told me,
“It’s true.”

I’d realized
That almost no one knows
What’s going on.
In the world we live in.
And the lives we lead
In these cold, dark days.

Almost no one knows
How many hearts
Have turned to stone.
How many souls
Have become cold.
How many people
No longer even know
What’s real
And what’s illusion
Any more.

And my heart ached
In my chest.
And my soul
Cried out with pain.
As I stood there
In the water
Of the shower

“They just don’t know.
My, God.
They just don’t know.
How can they
Just not know?”

I’ve come to know the difference,
In the past few years,
Between what’s real,
And what’s artificial.
What’s man made.

I’ve learned that what’s real
Will be here always.
It was here
Before the human race.
It will be here
When we’re gone.

What’s real
I can touch
With my two hands.
I can see
With my two eyes.
And can hear
With these ears
I’ve been blessed with.

When I walk
Out on the sand.
I know the ocean’s real.
And the sand is too.
I can taste the salt
Upon the breeze.
I can feel the heat
Of the summer sun
As it shines down
On me.

When I walk
Through the flowers,
Or through the trees.
I can reach out
And touch them.
I can feel the life
In them.

When I reach across
The sand that isn’t there
And touch another’s hand.
Or hold someone
That needs holding.
When I dry another’s tears.

I know what’s real.
And what matters
In this life
I’ve been blessed with.

When I go to work,
It doesn’t matter where,
I know that work’s not real.
It’s part of something
We have made.
Part of the economy.
Part of our society.

And if I look at history,
I can not help but see
That every society
That’s ever been
Has come
And gone.
Not one of them
Has lasted
Like the things
That are real.

I remembered
As I stood there
With the water flowing,
That I’d written
Words of truth
In 2010.
When I spoke of walking
On the sand
On my break at work.

And the way
That my heart ached
When my walk
Came to its end,
And I had to return
To the land of work.

Where nothing was real.

When the memories
Had come and gone.
I turned the water off.
Dried off.
And then got dressed.

Wondering if anyone I knew
Would ever understand this world
The way that I now do.

Wondering if anyone I knew
Still knew
And understood
The difference between their work,
And the lives they let other people see.
And who they are beneath
The surface we all see.

Or if the truth
Of the life we live
Has become lost to them.

Like it was once lost
To me.

Knowing there were many
That did not.

That so very long ago
So many people
I have known
Turned their hearts to stone.
So they could fit within
The artificial world
That we’ve created.

And that even now,
When they look
In the mirror each morning.
And when they go to bed
Each night.

The have embraced the lie
That everything’s

So that they don’t have
To face the truth
That our way of life
Is broken.
And not real.

I’ve spent several days
Since then
Trying to find the words
To share with my friends
What it is I saw
That day.
After I had my walk.

But I know.
I know a simple truth.
That no matter how I try
To find the words to say.
I’ll fail.

And so very few
Will ever learn
What I’ve learned
In this life.

About what’s real.
And what is not.

About the many
People of the world
Whose hearts
Have turned to stone.

And you wonder
Why I speak of
My Soul’s Tears…

Memories : The Phone Call

There is a memory I can never forget. One that changed everything for me, and for my family. A memory of Monday, 11 October, 2010. The day I got the phone call. It wasn’t just any phone call. It was THE phone call. The one that ends everything. I’ll change some of the names, so no one has to worry that I’m pointing any fingers at them. I’m not. I’ve long over that.

I remember it so well. My boss being on the other end of the call. “Mark, they don’t want you to return to work on Tuesday. Instead, you’ll have to come here, to the office. And we’ll figure out what’s going on.”

It was one of those moments when you panic. When the only thing you can do is panic. Because you know when you hear those words that your going to be fired. That no one ever hears those words, and doesn’t get fired.

Hell, I didn’t even know what I’d done. I’d done my job. I’d done everything I was asked. If someone had a technical question about the program, I answered it. Happily. I had no problem with the work. The work was what I liked. It was what I was paid to do. I did it.

There was more to it than that. My summer had gone to hell. Complete and total hell. Two of my friends at work were having very hard times. Now, you have to understand some things about me. About the way I am. You have to understand that to me, people that I work with are not expendable. They’re not acquaintances. They’re not “someone I work with”. To me, those artificial lines in the sand that people draw, those invisible walls that they put up, that sort their lives into compartments, don’t exist. They never have.

I had few friends. I’ve never had many friends. I likely never will. But I had friends that I worked with. People that I trusted. People I would have gladly helped if they’d ever have asked me to. Two of them did. Two of them had problems in the summer of 2010. And I helped them. As best I could. In the only way I knew how.

One was Barbara. Barbara was a few years older than me. She’d been in a downward spiral for a while. It was easy to see that. She had days she called in sick. With her back in great pain. And with back spasms. You remember those Cymbalta commercials? The ones that ask, “How much does depression hurt?”. Well… Barbara was an example of that. She’d reached a point where coming in to work each day caused her headaches. Caused her back to ache. Caused her back spasms. Where her body would literally prevent her from showing up at work.

My heart said to me, “You can help her. Even if she doesn’t ask. You can help her. Give her a reason to smile. Every morning. Find something funny to share with her in an e-mail message.” And that’s what I did.

The most everyone seemed to do was watch. Sit on the sidelines, and watch as Barbara spiraled down into the hell that depression is. Everyone sat on the sidelines. Behaving the same way. Watching, and wondering to themselves, “What’s wrong with her now?” And making the declaration among themselves, “She should pull her act together, and fly straight, like the rest of us, before she get’s herself fired.”

That’s one of those things that people do that drives me bonkers, you know. When they look at you and take the same approach as Pontius Pilate did with Jesus Christ in the Christian Bible. When he washed his hands of the whole topic, and declared, and let an innocent man be murdered by a mob. It’s one of those cop-outs that people use. Like a crowd on a street in a big city somewhere that just keeps walking past like nothing is happening as some guy with a gun and a knife rapes some woman, and then murders her in front of everyone. And no one does a thing to prevent it.

I found I couldn’t be that way. I couldn’t behave as if nothing was going on. As if there was nothing I could do. I had to help. Barbara was my friend. What else could I do? Stand by, and pretend everything was OK? It wasn’t. And I knew it. And I knew exactly what was happening to her. And I knew I could help. I knew I had the ability to help. And that’s what I did.

The way people reacted to her, and the battle she was fighting with depression, made me angry. It was as if they all were part of some machine. Some unified, uniform structure. Where everyone did everything the same way. To me, they all became the same. It was as if all the life in the place was gone. As if nothing real was left there anymore. As if no one cared for anyone. As if the only thing that mattered was the paycheck. And if the person they worked with five days a week for ten years got shot one day, and died, well. There was nothing to be done about that. Just replace the missing piece with another piece. And continue earning that paycheck.

They’d become inhuman to me.

Then there was Cynthia. The one that talked with me one day, and said she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

You know what burned me up? What made me angry? What made me think that no one cared about anyone  except themselves? What I was told to do. How I was told to behave. “Mark. Don’t care about Cynthia. There’s nothing you can do.” That’s like telling someone watching a friend hang out the window of an apartment building that’s on fire, and telling them, “Oh, well. If your friend falls from there, and hits the ground, and dies, that’s life. Don’t try to help.” We me thinking, “Where the fuck’s the air mattress? How about cardboard boxes? Lots of boxes? I gotta do SOMETHING!”

And that’s what I was told. It was unanimous. Every single person that I worked with said the same thing. Maybe in different words. But it all came down to one thing. One essential idea. Protect yourself. Protect your job. Learn not to care.

I couldn’t. To me, that was just flat wrong. To me, sitting back and not saying anything was wrong. To me, coming in to work on a day when Cynthia was so ill that she couldn’t work at all, and behaving as if everything was normal, was heartless.

After what I’d seen happen to Barbara, seeing what was happening to Cynthia was too much. My heart refused to roll over and play dead. My soul cried out to God and asked what He would have me do. My sense of right and wrong screamed at me that everything was wrong. I could not sit back and say to Cynthia, “Here’s hoping you get better,” and then behave as if she was expendable. Another part in the machine of work. Of life. And that if that part failed, well… You do what you do with any other machine. You replace the broken part. The part that failed. And the machine goes on.

I knew I had problems with all of the events that were going on. But, you can’t tell someone that’s having problems, “You need help,” and expect them to listen to you. I hadn’t tried to tell Barbara that she needed help. I’d waited for her to figure it out on her own. Because I understood that she knew something was wrong. And that she understood what she had to do to get better.

She had to figure out for herself that she needed help. And then she had to go find the help she needed. And I had to support her. To be her friend. And when she did get help, I had to ask how it was working. How things were going. If she’d found what she was looking for.

Unlike the people that said, “It’s about fucking time she got help.”

I’ve learned. People are heartless. Their souls are cold, and lifeless. And their hearts no longer beat. They’re dead. And grey. And their lives have no color any more. As if they’ve become machine, programmed to do the same thing every day. And they are all programmed to do the same thing the same way. None of them is different. And that’s how they want to be.

And they said to me, “How’s Barbara doing? Is she doing OK? I’m concerned for her.”

I tried so hard to not laugh when they said such things to me. I tried so hard to not push people that said such things through the wall behind them. Screaming at the top of my lungs, “LIAR!” Because I knew. I knew. I knew that no one cared. Not really. I knew that what they were really saying is, “It’s sad what’s happening. But if getting involved. If caring. If doing anything other than watching from the sidelines puts my paycheck, my career, my image at risk. I have my family to think about. My bills to pay. My home to take care of. I knew why they said they cared. Why they said, “We are concerned.” And at the same time, why they said, “Don’t care about Cynthia,” to me.

It was almost an instant change for me. The rejection of how things were. My declaration that nothing at work was real any more. That nothing there mattered. And of course, that’s how I began to behave. I behaved like I felt. I behaved as if everywhere I looked, I saw people lying. As if no one spoke the truth any more in that place of work. As if everyone knew no one spoke the truth. As if everyone knew that saying, “You’re my friend” was actually saying, “I have to work with you.” As if everyone would wink at each other, and do their best to keep the secret safe about how things really were.

I never saw the phone call coming. I never saw the end. I never expected that I would be told by each of the people that I worked with, “You’re disrupting our carefully crafted machine. We can’t accept that. We have to get rid of you.”

And when it happened. When that phone call came. For anyone to think that I could fee I had not been betrayed by the people I’d worked with for so very long, simply proves that no one there cared about anyone. That everyone there was a replaceable part in a machine.

That phone call was a knife. Slammed into my chest. A deliberate action by people that I trusted. People I learned I never understood. People that claimed to care for Barbara. For Cynthia. And even for me. And ever action they took only showed me more and more how false their statements, and their lives were.

On the day I got that phone call, I knew. I knew that I would never speak with any of them again. That I would never work with any of them again. That there was some imaginary wall in life that they had carefully, and forcefully placed me beyond. So that they were once more safe. In their machine. I knew that no matter what anyone said. Or how anyone acted. I had worked my last day in that job.

I didn’t know that I still had 9 months of lies to wade through. To put up with. Before the people that I’d worked for made their decisions clear.

Did I do things that were different? Yes. I did. I remember laughing to myself as I left the workplace. With people watching me. Not out of concern. But out of fear. I remember the headaches that I used to get the instant I parked my car in the parking lot. I remember the inability of 420 milligrams of Sodium Naproxen to even dampen the physical pain I was in, each day I worked in that place. From the first of July, 2010, through October 6th, 2010. I remember burning every day of vacation I had. I remember burning every hour of sick leave. I remember my hands shaking like the tines on a tuning fork. I remember buying cheap ink pens to replace the cheap ink pens I’d bought before. And I remember throwing the remains of more than one ink pen in the trash. Where it has been destroyed in my hand. And I remember punching the back of a steelcase 5 drawer file cabinet. Hard enough to bruise my hand. Even though I pulled the punch. Even though it was thrown off balance, and off center.

It was part of me learning how wrong everything was in that place I used to work. Learning what it really was that mattered in that place. Learning that in such a place, everyone is expendable. And that the only thing that matters is the work. The end product. And that if people get sick, or ill, of have problems in that place, they get removed. They get replaced. With people that haven’t been destroyed by the work environment yet.

And that the people that survive in that place only give the appearance of having survived. Of being OK. For inside, their hearts no longer beat. For they are frozen. Harder than any ice. Colder than any stone. And they care for no one. People that are dead inside can no longer care.

All of this.

Because of one phone call.

On Monday. 11 October 2010.

They say God works in ways that mortal men cannot understand. I find I can’t argue with that. Because that phone call, on that day, started me down the path that I’m on now. A path where I am free to be how God made me to be. Free to look around, and see the other people in this world. And how wounded so many of them are. And how dead inside so many of them have become.

And in doing so, my heart cannot help but ache, and my soul can not help but cry tears of pain, for the hurt I see in them.

That one phone call changed everything. And in the days to come, I’ll have much more to write about the things I have learned. The things I see. When I look at the hearts and souls of so many of the people around me.