Burning Bush

I know we, many of us, have lived difficult lives, some more than others.  All too many of us have been kicked around, anxious, depressed, abused, or stared into the eyes of death.  It's not simply that we've lived this way, but we have turned into different people because of it.  Many of us may wonder, who would we be, or what would we be doing if we woke up feeling normal for the past however many years.  This feeling, that we're damaged, that we're corrupted, that no day could ever feel quite normal, is not one to be ashamed of.  Are we not damaged?  Corrupted even?  And yet, should we allow this to make us feel unworthy of the day's gifts?

I don't remember where exactly this began, but I've always felt like a magician or a circus performer in front of people, like I was flourishing cards or doing a song and dance while carrying a conversation.  I'd always felt so alone, no matter where I went or who I was with; sometimes, people would ask what's wrong, and I didn't have a good answer for them.  Interestingly, as a teenager, my complexion became fit for juggling, and now my face is rather akin to Harvey Dent, emblazoned a rich, ruby red.  I don't know how the way I felt became so transparent, but I suppose there really isn't anywhere for me to hide; the way I feel, who I am, it doesn't do me any good to keep my feelings concealed; one's true will is best put to use among each other, and I could only ever be as I am in my heart.

Something they don't always tell you about becoming a man is that you're going to have to become what you hate before you arrive at what you love, and for many of us it's bound to be very painful.  I thought, maybe, I was going to get away with half stepping and short stroking – nope, not for us, we're going all the way baby.  I'll raise hell if I have to; I'll become hell if I must, because I know you'll be here to bring me back.

We often feel like we fall short of our expectations for ourselves, especially if we are perfectionists.  Nothing could ever be perfect enough, as we feel as though our expectations are always outrunning us.  If we remember that our lives are only as we live them each day, it can be easier to let go of feelings of inadequacy or regret for things in our past.

We can't rewrite yesterday, but we can live each day as truly and effortlessly as we mean to in each moment, and we can forgive ourselves for all of the ways it might feel like we aren't living out who we really are.  Perfection, for some of us, may be a reasonable goal, but rarely is it a reasonable expectation.  Live each day mindfully and truly, and you must know that you lived just the perfect day, just as you are.

38 Hands

My dream began at a restaurant, I was seated in a carpeted area with a pony wall surrounding it, and a few older folks nearby, reading the newspaper and exchanging excited stories about their grandchildren.  It made me wonder, wistfully, what my grandchildren would be like.  It wasn't too busy at this hour, and I liked the warmly lit sconces and the leather chairs of this oceanside eatery.  The waitress told me that the bar was closed and they couldn't serve me a margarita at this hour, which I didn't understand; no matter, I ordered my fried chicken lunch special and enjoyed the ocean view and the sound of the waves rolling in.

Now, at home, we had much of our family in town and we all seemed to be living together.  Kate and I were goofing off in the kitchen, where I made coffee, while you entertained the guests in the courtyard.  Everyone loves you, and I felt you didn't fully recognize or appreciate that.  You make them smile so wide, and laugh so deeply and truly with your stories and cheerful wit.  I tried to make out what you were saying, but mostly I enjoyed watching you glow, as you sat, legs crossed, and spoke charismatically.  Just then, Kate turned into a dog and lept on me with her arms outstretched.  Kate was very cute and sweet, and she made a fantastic dog, which I told her outright; I told her, affectionately, "You're a nice bitch", while she was wrestling with me on the kitchen floor.  You came into the kitchen, and I could tell this rapport made you jealous, but she was literally able to turn into a dog.

You informed me that everyone had decided to go to a restaurant apparently called Don Perón's, which I heard as Dom Pérignon.  I said, "What is it, a champagne place?", and you clarified, carefully articulating and rolling the R, "No, Don Perón."  "Ah, well it sounds good!"  You told me we'd be leaving soon, so I finished up in the kitchen and headed to the bathroom and to change.  Ordinarily, I'd ask if you got a reservation, but I didn't want to trouble you.  From the main staircase, I saw you putting your shoes on, smiled, and continued up to the bathroom.  On the way up a few extra steps, leading past a painting and into the corner hallway to the bedroom, one of the nephews stopped me to ask where the bathroom was; I led him to the upstairs guest bathroom, congratulated him, "There you go lil' mans.", as though he had been awarded something, gave him a high five, and went on my way.

While I was in the bathroom, examining my face, Uncle Frank FaceTimed me from downstairs to convey, lightly, that Don Perón's was closed or couldn't seat us or some horseshit, but he had another good place in mind and we agreed it sounded like a good idea.  Personally, I don't go anywhere without a reservation, but you were all having fun and the spontaneity must have rubbed off on me.  Really, I was mostly excited to see you at dinner, because it felt like all of the guests were vying for our attention for the past few days, but I was also glad there were others to perform for.  I had many things to talk about that would be new for many of the people visiting.

I arrived at the restaurant, and it was dark and moody, with quite ornate wood beams and furniture, and rather intense oil paintings in the entry area that depicted an unusual sorrow in landscapes and various animals, bovine and birds that seemed to be speaking with their eyes.  I spotted you sitting with everyone at a large table and went to seat myself; I could tell you were already having fun, which I knew would loosen me up.  You saved me a seat near the middle of the table so I could participate in all of the discussion.  As I took a seat, I greeted everyone, excited to see that they made it safe and well.  How beautiful it is to see your face...  After I sat down, I realized everyone was sharing stories about exes, which annoyed me, but the waitress must have known because she promptly arrived and I was soon enjoying a crisp and sweet mojito.  Why do people enjoy, so much, sharing in embarassment?  It wouldn't ever occur to me to tell embarassing stories about people I hadn't seen in years, but alas, you were smiling, and so I did too.

The cousins were quick to inquire what exactly my writing was all about.  I said, as I had earlier in a discussion with your sister, "You could describe it as a real-time epistolary work."  Some had also described me as a gonzo journalist, but that makes everyone think of porno.  I explained that the novel has its early roots in a confessional sort of prose, with stories unfolded over the course of many letters or journal entries, in some cases, with a didactic element meant to inform the reader and pose interesting philosophical and existential dilemmas.  I loved teaching people and amusing them at the same time, and this sort of writing came naturally to me.  I would never ask, but I was always curious who in the room had read my writing, and further, who seemed excited to know that peculiar experiences and discussions we had would sneak into what I wrote.

By will of the uncles, the topic soon shifted to stocks and cryptocurrency.  Cryptocurrency does excite me; I was quite adept at answering many of the questions about how it works and why it is valuable, but my dirty secret is that I like stocks more.  To me, talking about crypto is like discussing the value of gold or other raw materials; it's definitely fun to help people understand what's cool about it, but really it all comes back to people and companies, with real, tangible impact, that are putting the resource to use in a way that stimulates the value.  So a lot of the stocks I like and would discuss are quite adjacent to cryptocurency, whether it's because they are major players in silicon or financial services, or they are strapped with cash and cash equivalents that aren't helping them grow.  Crypto is an interesting way to diversify.  I'm also interested in how Apple is offering tranched bonds; that's another way to go about putting free cash flow to work.  One of your uncles looks at me like I run 47th St.

Anyway, some of them were wishing they didn't ask, by now, and so I reverted my attention to what you were talking about with everyone that checked out of talking business.  You really are an eloquent speaker, I often had to remind you.  You could tell I was paying more attention now, and your oration changed slightly, affording a breathy grace and charm to each word.  I fancied how confidently you spoke, and the ease with which your words came in the beautiful tone and rhythm of your voice.  Ah, you were talking about skincare, which you had always been well-versed in.  You spoke of it like the birds and the bees, with such a delicate and considerate approach to how you treated your skin.  I was affixed to your narrative, every syllable you spoke, and I loved to see how curious and excited everyone was to be uncovering your precious secrets to beauty and longevity.  I found it rather philosophical, too, that we were all before each other, discussing how we could appear better, before each other, the next time we would meet.  Skin is a difficult conversation for me, it would be like talking about IBS at the table, but you spoke to it with such ease and confidence.  I suppose, at times, you feel the same about stocks and business.

Our food started arriving, ushered in by our waitress and another, similarly dressed man from the kitchen.  Everyone enamored and revered the plates as they were set on the table, each meal appearing so carefully arranged, with a fresh portion of garden herbs and vegetables embellishing various cuts of meat and unusual grains.  I ordered salmon, and it came dressed with hollandaise sauce, asparagus, and lemon, with a sort of thick brown rice, some of the grains bearing shiny husks that hadn't separated from the rice.  The plate was steaming, fresh off the pan, and the fillet may have still been cooking as it sat.  It's difficult to get salmon just crisp enough, while still tender and delicate at the center.  As I separated the layers of the fillet with my fork, it revealed a satin smooth interior, with a light sheen.  I took a bite, and I could tell it was just right.  The fish was tender, slightly oily, and tasted fresh and bright.  I could never quite tell whether a cut was fresh, but it did seem to be, with the crispness of the ocean coming through.  The hollandaise was creamy and lemony, slightly spicy, and it accentuated the fillet well.  I looked around at all of the beautiful and familiar faces enjoying their meals, and at once, all I could think was what a day to be true.

Between the Lines