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2016 Redux

Saturday, December 31, 2016

What an odd year. With all of its twists and turns, I’m not sure anyone could have scripted quite a year.

It began simply enough with the most joyous occasion possible: a wedding. I will forever remember this as the year I got married to the love of my life. That day is seared into my memory. The fates conspired to provide perfect weather on a Friday in February. My wife looked like something from another world because it seems impossible that so much beauty could take shape in one person. But she’s real and I’m lucky. It was a day full of love and joy. One of the greatest feelings of my life.

Unfortunately after that the year seemed to take a turn. As we were coasting along, mid-year I experienced two events that would upend everything I knew. One was the most agonizing heartbreak at the hand of a lifelong best friend, someone I considered family. In most years this would take the cake. But 2016 is resilient and wouldn’t let us off the hook so easily. Soon after my mother was diagnosed with her second bout of cancer. This was absolutely devastating.

My world still isn’t right side up, some five months later. But I believe she will win the battle. And all the heartbreak lead me to something I never would have believed I could prosper in: mindfulness. Buddhism saved me. Daily Dharma pulls me out of the deep end. I have now meditated for over a hundred and ten days consecutively and don’t plan on stopping, ever.

In 2016, I learned to let go. It hasn't always been perfect and I’ve had to remind myself that after ecstasy then comes the laundry but I’m in a better head space now than ever before. Everything is temporary.

The end of the year brought more challenges, some large and some small. The election of the single most unfit (and corrupt) candidate to ever run for the highest office in all of the land. The death of one of my greatest idols. A stomach flu that left me sicker than I have ever been. A panic attack that landed me in the ER. All of these challenges failed to squash my spirit, however. This December the latest Star Wars movie was released, Rogue One. The final word of the movie resonates as we move into the new year: Hope.

2016 hasn’t broken me, we shall all come out on the other side. I’m blessed with a caring beautiful wife, a strong family, everlasting friendships, and a fortunate life. This year may have been terrible in many ways but we can stand taller knowing we made it through.

The journey is not about going into the light. The forces of our human history and entanglement are tenacious and powerful. The path to inner freedom requires passing through them.” — Jack Kornfield

The Green Pool

Monday, December 12, 2016
   Enduring heat from dawn to dusk. Only stifling heat in the darkness of night. Skin coated in a thin layer of perspiration clinging to even the smallest articles of clothing. Baked concrete frying the tough skin at home on the bottom of relentless feet, rendering them useless without proper footwear. Pink to red flesh that needed re-apply with a thick slathering of alabaster sun tan lotion hours ago. Ebony leather car seats affixed to thighs with searing temperatures. Florida summer had arrived in full force with its endless misadventures of the heat index. This summer would last in eternal dissidence, however. It would shine as an utter protest against the fabrics of everything she understood to be the truth. The adulthood that she had hidden from took giant leaps towards forcing her hand. An assault had begun on the most stable of aspects of her life.

   ‘What a joke…’ Her mind was spitting venom as she paced the crudely laid wooden flooring. She had peered out the window, admiring the way the sun evaporated the unattended to pool that had grown green and chunky; congealed with leaves, perished insects, and pine needles pushed in by the elements over the months of neglect. Her synapses firing as she replaced the walls in front of her with nostalgic snapshots of what her and the man who owned the residence were before it all turned. For fifteen years there had been a steady balance between them. They were as unalterable as the tides for as long as she could recall. What started as a sibling-like bond over video games morphed into a respected partnership as the years went by. He had been her rock, she always liked to think she was that for him too. Going on family vacations, having late night adventures to take photographs in distant cities, concerts filled with awkward swaying, jokes committed to for decades, hours of playing catch in her parents’ backyard, and all the tiny moments that come in between. This was once her house not all that long ago. Years of companionship, of moving from apartment to apartment before finally settling down. A small part of her felt like she had earned this house, but at the very least she felt a small tick of ownership based on the fact that she’d been paying part of the mortgage for about ten months. Yet here she was walking the chestnut floors as a stranger. Her shoes left a hollow click in the air. The house, that was once a home, had become foreign to her. New wall hangings and furniture slowly trickled in over time. Where once there was comfort, now there was the gnawing feeling that she had become a guest. While balmy outside, the inside of the domicile was frigid with contempt.

   The truism ‘if these walls could talk’ felt applicable to the moment. Imagine what they would say. There’d be happy moments shared between family and friends. Like the night they moved in, exhausted but so pleased. Or the pool parties for birthdays filled with laughter. The tears shared after saying goodbye to a beloved dog, sharing a hurt only the three of us could understand. But the majority would be all the unseemly things said behind closed doors in the recent weeks. The baby blue walls wouldn’t have had much on her until the last month or so. She had finally been broken at some point during that stretch. The proverbial shit certainly hit the fan. She’d been chewing on some things. How does someone you know so well turn into a stranger before your very eyes? The answer was hard to pinpoint. The pressure placed on relationships with other people is too great. Expectations are a poison. It is nearly impossible to think they won’t fail. Everyone has one person in mind: themselves. The greatest person is still as self-serving as the next. If these walls could talk they would tell a tale of best friends who were always on the same page. Or so she thought. That is what she’d told herself over and over.

   He was older, by a lot, but they worked. They worked for a very long time. Through her shitty relationships and then her eventual fateful marriage, they stayed strong. Through illnesses, deaths, nieces and nephews; they never once wavered. Until one day a girl came along for him. And instead of the harmony that her wife had provided, the pages were erased before being ripped out all together. With an air of manipulation, things went from unbelievably good to indescribably horrible in a matter of months. And just like that, she thought as she sat in the spot that was once her’s at the dinner table, she became rendered obsolete. Not long ago, the dinner table was their home base. They’d sit there with their laptops reading each other stupid things they found on the internet, playing tunes and singing along, and watching baseball on the television across the room playfully roasting each other about their favorite players or analyzing what was happening in the games they watched. Her head shook savagely in hopes of knocking out the sentimentality. Those moments felt like a lifetime ago now.

   She fought back tears in this place. It was all a sham because inside she was screaming. “How could you do this to us? How can you throw away family?” She wanted to say, grabbing him by the arms and shaking him violently. He was once considered the best person she’d ever known, he had to wake up. But no words could wake him, he was gone now. Now they lived apart in this small home. Now they saw one another infrequently. She wondered if he missed their bond. A sigh escaped from her lips so immense it filled the entire room.

   “Probably not.” She broke the suffocating silence to speak to her loneliness. For the most part the sad woman had put on a brave face, trying to pretend that it wasn’t eating away at her. This all had felt like the final push into the world of hopeless adulthood. There were no illusions anymore. The front door across from where she was sat slowly opened.

   “Ready to go?” Her dad asked with a smile that was equal parts sad and strong. He didn’t want to show that he knew her pain but of course he did.

   “Sure,” she sighed with her glossy eyes studying the table in front of her. She knocked its cedar top once with her knuckles as a hopeless goodbye.

   Exiting the front door, she left in her wake the remnants of a friendship that mirrored the pool in the backyard: once a point of happiness left neglected.

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