My soul is the sound of water reflecting light at night

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Summary: When poetry turns into prose, or, when Doug reflects on things that have made him different this past year. Sort of.

BLOT: (23 Jul 2016 - 12:37:00 AM)

My soul is the sound of water reflecting light at night

Tonight, as I was sitting down by the duck pond (the one out at UAH) while Sarah was jogging around campus and playing Pokemon GO, a man came up and sat down and just started talking to me. He said friends call him "T" (he said his full name, but I am bad at retaining that sort of information). He was back from Saudi Arabia. He had been a student at UAH a few years ago, played on the soccer team, and then had gotten a job. He reached a point where he wanted to come back to Huntsville because while it had not always been his home, he said he just wanted to be back here because he really liked it here, though in his transition he was living with one friend and had his stuff stored in another friend's garage. He offered me a drink. I declined. He asked me if I was ok. I told him I was, and mostly meant it. We stared at the water for a little bit together, then talked some more. We shook hands, and he got up and left. A few minutes later, Sarah wrapped up her jog and came back and sat down next to me, and I asked her about making this blog post, she said I could. Then we came home.

A collection of materials about having a baby, now gone

Earlier this year, Sarah had a miscarriage. I've told some of you about this. Maybe a dozen. About twice that many people know that Sarah and I were trying to have a child. I've talked to maybe half that number about the impact it has had upon us. I've talked to maybe half that number about it in depth. I've talked to just about no one about how it has hurt our marriage. Miscarriages do that. Sometimes even strong marriages can end because of them. For about five-and-a-half months now, is it made us into something like combatants on opposing ends of a war where both people actually want the best for each other. I became afraid that trying again would hurt her. She became afraid of letting me know how much it had hurt her because she had saw how happy I was in planning to become a father, and she really wanted to try again. Stuff that we had been working towards, like buying a house and planning a future, sort of went on hold in my mind. In hers, those plans of a house and baby and retirement became synonymous with me saying I wanted to stay with her, and my refusing to talk about it became a sign that I was tired of her. We stopped being able to share ourselves fully with each other, started running in slightly different circles, both hiding some of our intense emotions on the topic in stupid fights and long weekends of just sitting on the couch and not talking much. It left a void in our marriage. The past couple of weeks has made this apparent. To both of us. We have started couples therapy, actually started it about a month ago, and have just got to the point where you have to unwrap enough bandages to really face the wounds, and some of those are big wounds. We even discussed the real possibility of divorce, which sounds so unreal to admit.

That above photo was something she took as part of a therapy session with herself. She gets full credit with it, though I helped a little. It was all the bits of hope of a pregnancy and despair of a miscarriage in a single shot. If you click on it, you will see the full-sized version, which is something like 13MB. It is not an easy photo to look at, because it is a lot of suffering thought to be a for a good cause, only now, looking back, there is little to show for it but more suffering. I can't look at it without crying. I'm crying now just looking back up at it. But I am glad it exists, because nearly any pain made honestly open is a pain that can be healed.

Again, some of you know this, some of you don't, but it has been nearly a year since what I call my Real-Bad-Week. A mixture of many things, from heat-induced exhaustion to Sarah being out of town to opening up my soul again to other people to finally coming to terms with Shawn's death, left me a wreck. The fact that I was taking pills to boost my testosterone and Sarah and I had to start regulating our love life to increase fertility chances contributed. I collapsed into myself, becoming sort of manic and depressed at the same time, eventually started therapy, eventually opened up to more people, and then sort of hit a coasting pattern. Sarah's pregnancy, about six months later, was something that made it all seem worthwhile. When that ended in early February, it was like Sisyphus, only as the boulder rolls back down the hill, it crushes him in the process, and now he must get up, ribs cracked and knees ruined, and push it back up again, only he don't know if he can.

Since that Real-Bad-Week, I have actually done a lot to improve myself. My poetry is better. My fiction is better. I have written more good stuff than ever in my life. I have given a significant poetry reading that still gets discussed when I run into people around town. I'm a better librarian. I'm in better shape. I have a better grasp of many things. I know about my limits more. But... I have been a worse husband. I have been a worse friend. I have been a worse brother. I read less. I smoke more. I mope more. My arthritis has moved from a semi-thought in the back of my head to something that has changed my daily routine after a couple of bad flares have left me in a fair state of regular pain. It is not a wash. It is not an equal exchange. In that year, I made a several important friendships. But, this week, one important friendship ended. I will take full blame, because even when a friendship is an entire network of people's shared experiences, I was a big enough asshole to need the wake-up call about just how big of an asshole I had been, even at moments I thought I was being the opposite. Now I wonder how much of that immensity of friendship, all those memories, matters in the shattered silence that is left behind. Again, it feels a little like Sisyphus. A year reduced to being back at the bottom of the hill. Though, this time, it doesn't quite feel like it broke bones and left me tired, more like it taught me a lot about how to push a boulder. It will take me some weeks to process the silence, but I am still glad for being there before it, and I am glad to be here in it, and I will be glad to be here once I have moved on past it. Something I wrote to that friend about a month and a half ago, when I had a inevitable sense that it was ending and couldn't shake the feeling, feels important for everyone that looks back at significant moments in their life and finds it hard to express what they even meant (note, slightly edited to remove specifics, and to sum up the final sentence in a different, more general way):

Life is full of inexplicable dances, and you and I are always only a few waltz steps away from the one meeting that will be the last time we will meet. One day I will look you in the eyes and then we'll say something like, "See you, later!," and we will finally be liars, because we never will see each other again. Things flow as they flow, until they cease, which is another way to flow. Good beginnings are only half the story. How it ends for us is some hours away, and I hope it is very many hours, but hours are like sand, it only seems like a lot of it when you think of individual grains. Looking back at the beach, it is a simple thing to have walked away from, and all the drops of water in the ocean are just a few waves crashing into foam at children's feet. The old phrase, "Can't see the forest for the trees," is such a dumb thing, because as a species we can rarely see the trees for the forest. There have been many good hours with you and I together, but some decade from now, those will probably dwindle to a thought given to months as a whole. Just a year as a single phrase.

When the second anniversary of Shawn's death was looming, Sarah did an immense thing for me. She contacted several of my friends, several of the people I sort of bossed around and uncled and talked to about things, and had them write letters for me telling me how I thought of myself as a harmful darkness but I really had been there for a lot of folks. I still have those letters, and still read them, because sometimes it seems hard to admit you are a bastard, but it is frankly much harder to admit that you are a force of good in this world. For me, anyhow. I sometimes fancy myself a puzzle box wrapped in skin and inside are all these pieces waterlogged and jumbled together, but that is a coping mechanism for me to deal with the fact that I am merely human. I talk a lot of shit about myself, call myself an ugly old man and an asshole and a fool, but that is also a coping mechanism. I know that I have a genius level IQ, am good at my job, am found attractive by a number of people, have helped more people than I can count, and am capable of great change and much greater things than I give myself credit for. But it's easier to talk shit about yourself than to get out there and take responsibility for yourself, and this past year I have relied on the former much more than the latter. To all of you, I am sorry for this. I am sorry for the long weird talks. I am sorry for the buried implications in poetry, and in the "subtweeting" some pretty important things. I am what I am, but the me that has been around lately has been only a part of me, and not necessarily the best part.

Before T came up and talked to me, I had been writing a poem in my head. I wanted it to be sort of a happy poem, since so much of my poetry lately has been kind of confusing and dealing with confusion and such. After he talked, I realized it wasn't a poem I was writing, it was this blog post. However, the poem that will probably never be goes something like this...if you were to say it more of a prose form:

My nights used to be more stars than city-folk can know, a blanket of lights in the sky and me laying down and looking up and thinking I was so small and could fall at any moment into the depths of space, and being both afraid and excited that things were never as small as me. My nights lately have been streetlamps reflecting on water, and the sounds of cars, and again I think that I could fall into the depths of the world outside of myself, being both afraid and excited. I have tried to say that my soul is fire, burning bright and burning flesh and leaving scars where I go, but I am a liar. My soul is the sound of water reflecting lights in the night, my soul is the shape of stars up above the pines, and it is a comfort I am afraid to admit, because it is a soul too big for one man, full of words and sounds hard to understand, and it longs to be known.

T was actually the second man to come up to me today and talk to me about his life. Another, Johnny, talked to me about going through transitions, about growing up poor and then having money, and knowing the value of good shoes and how it can actually change a man to have shoes comfortable to walk and work in. Last Friday, a woman came up to me and talked to me about her life growing up in Caribbean, watching the ocean, and how she had recently visited and spent the week with her sister, and the way her sister had fretted that there was no one to take care of her now. Then a student came up to me and talked about how he was afraid he wasn't going to be able to get food because some stuff had come up, and he was desperate to pick up his grocery order from Wal-mart, and I sort of stood there with him while he was on the phone getting his stuff settled. During Con Kasterborous, this one younger guy, Wyatt, came up and just talked to me about Doctor Who and fandom and about some of his insecurities of being in a crowd.

I have a gift I cannot explain, that strangers on a regular basis come up to me and talk about their lives in transition, and they give me their name and we shake hands and I never see them again. And it has been extra surreal this week, because I have been sort of sad and trying to understand myself better, and I think these strangers have sort of sensed it. I am glad of this gift, though, because I have met literally hundreds of people because of it, and most of those people I have never seen again, never quite talked to again, but each, in their own way, were nice moments.

Last year, I returned to Facebook and I have generally enjoyed it, catching up with friends and family, but earlier this month I left it for three days or so. I am only now getting back into the full swing of it. I have given different reasons to different people - jealousy, fear of hurting people, fear of annoying people, wanting to be offline for a couple of days - but really the real reason is that I simply could no longer understand. All my interactions on there were becoming noise, and it seemed that everyone was just a little bit different than they had been, and I knew I was different than I had been, and some of these differences were big differences, and I couldn't process that, not fully. It was a sign of some of the vast wrongness that had started to take over my life, and this week has largely been me exorcising my demons so that I could be myself more fully again.

As April turned into May, Sarah and I entered into the roughest patch our marriage has ever faced, a patch that just this week came to something like a head in some pretty big fights and really big discussions. Stuff we should have said months ago. Stuff we probably should have said instead of really petty stuff we said to fill the silence. Even with the anger and the sadness, I am now at peace with many of the things said, and my only sadness is that I had to disrupt the peace of people I loved, including myself, before it cold be said. However, in that rough patch, the past couple of months and not just the past couple of weeks, there were some amazing moments. Her getting me those letters is one of the best things that has happened all year. For my part, I tried to let her know that no matter what we were going through, I was there for her, and that the memories of our marriage were just a precursor for hopefully better things to come. I did it in the form of a poster where I tried very hard to show her that she was the most beautiful woman I have ever met.

Many photos of Sarah as a single poster

She really is the sexiest, most intelligent, most special person I have had a chance to know. Eleven years, and not all of them have been good, but maybe in the next couple of decades of marriage, we will look back at this point as a sign that we were meant to be. My only regret is that she had to get saddled with an ugly, foolish asshole like me. heh. *winky face*

Looking back at my blog, which has been sadly neglected as of late, I have found only a single public post talking about my Real-Bad-Week, and it discussed in terms of the I Ching. The image of a man exhausted, sitting under a tree by a lake, unable to move, unable to breathe, waiting for the waters to refill. Since then, I thought a couple of times that my waters had refilled and that I had moved on past that tree, but I realize now that this whole year has been me under that tree, moving around it, pretending like I was strolling about free to go as I please. This week, I think my lake finally started refilling. Properly refilling. It took longer than it should have because the source of my waters is largely myself, and have delayed my process by putting a lot of my own self-growth into the external act of helping people while only sharing myself in selective ways, but I now I realize that it is time, again, to punish the world for allowing me to exist and the best possibly punishment I can inflict is by existing more fully in it again. You asked for it, you bastards. May God have mercy on your souls. In some ways, being told that you are broken and an unhealthy friend and having it implied you are a bad husband is a good wake up call to remind yourself that no matter what you do in life, there are moments that can judge you and those that can uphold you, and really it all comes down to how you judge and uphold yourself after those moments are done. There are times for both. This past week, I was by far my most harsh judge and my moments judged me harshly as failing others, failing myself. Next week, we'll see.

I mentioned the I Ching, above. I have used it way too much this past year, though I am still a bit terrified at how accurate it seems. More than the I Ching, was my "flipping quarter". It is a 1977 quarter that I often flip to make some big decisions, and I ask it yes-and-no questions about life and such. It was probably my least healthy coping mechanism, because it was both me relying on random chance rather than take personal responsibility for things, and it was a way to pretend that destiny was guiding my actions. Tonight, starting this blog post, I asked a question and went to flip it and it hit my desk and then fell into my trash can, sinking immediately below the bottles and the ash and the wadded up paper. I went to dig it out, and then decided that it was its ultimate answer. To just do what I want. To do what I felt was right. Tomorrow, I'll take its advice, one last time. The quarter stays in the trash can, and when I take the trash out, which will be soon, it will be a small victory.

I will end this with a series of messages to various people. Mostly obfuscated.

Good night, good bye, and good luck. Now I'm going to go up and look at Sarah's photo one more time, cry about it one more time, smoke another clove cigarette, and then get some sleep. It has been surreal.


Written by Doug Bolden

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