Month: January 2013

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!

In a recent post titled Of Cigarettes and Swing Sets, I recalled a time when I got in trouble for picking up my Dad’s lit cigarette. Many people commented on the post, and what struck me was how many readers reacted to the smoking culture of the ’70’s.  Numerous people reminisced about  how “everyone smoked back then.”  Everyone might be a slight exaggeration, but those who didn’t, certainly spent their time breathing in a cloud of second-hand smoke.

140174607122264705_ElBkToIf_cMy mother, who quit smoking 17 years ago, was a champion smoker back in the day. This mother of 7 defied the medical theory that smoking during pregnancy lowers birth weight. All of her children were in the seven to nine  pound weight range–I was her biggest at 9.9 pounds. Plus, she had the largest twins on record at our local hospital–8.5 and 8.2 pounds! That’s over 16 pounds of baby in her belly, folks. Yet, the stories she has shared about the smoking culture back then would make you choke on your venti, decaf, no whip, no foam, Chai latte.

When my mom delivered her first child in 1963, it was during a snow storm. The labor and delivery nurse called her midnight relief to pick up smokes for my mom and another lady Microsoft PowerPoint - Post as jpegwho was delivering her baby that night. The two expectant mothers were worried they were going to run out of cigarettes and the snow would prevent family members from replenishing their supply. Such accommodating nurses. They were even happy to assist their patients in lighting the cigarettes since IV lines were affixed to a flat board on the patient’s arm. Nurses lighting patient’s cigarettes. Can you imagine?

Flash forward ten years. My mother is pregnant for the last time, with twins. After examining her, the doctor meets her in his office. He lights a cigarette for her, and then one for himself, and says, “You’ve done this enough times, Joanne. So tell me, when’s your due date?” Ahhh, nothing like a smoke break with your OB-GYN.

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Cigarettes were a fixture in my childhood. I often remember running in to the drug store or up to the window of the gas station to buy my mom’s cigarettes: “Two packs of Newport Light 100s, please.” When on a field trip or at the boardwalk, someone was always buying a new ashtray for mom or a lighter for dad. My favorite souvenir was a glass test tube that held a single cigarette and a match. In bright red letters, the outside print read: “In case of emergency break glass!” Oh, how I always hoped I would be there to witness one of my parents breaking it in a time of great need.

One week at Sunday School, I learned that smoking could kill you. I think the lady who ran the church school had recently lost a loved one– a smoker. I remember walking home with my brother and sister determined to make our parents quit. We made “No Smoking” signs and hung them up throughout the house. We told our parents we didn’t want them to die, and proceeded to break their cigarettes in half or run them under water. That didn’t last long. They promised they would try and stop. Yet, our campaign was not successful, so I turned my efforts outward. In first grade, I entered a poster contest during Fire Safety Week. My compelling slogan: “Use your head! Don’t smoke in bed!” above a drawing of a man falling asleep in bed with a lit cigarette in his lap. I won third place.

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The first time I smoked was third grade. I was eight years old. A bunch of boys in the neighborhood and I found ourselves in the woods one day with a whole pack someone had stolen from his parents. We each took one, lit it, and “smoked”–I learned later that I didn’t do it right. I blew out rather than sucked in, but the red end still glowed with fire, so I believed I was smoking. We visited the woods everyday that week to have a smoke. By midweek, someone had also brought a Playboy magazine they stole from an older brother. There I was, receiving quite an education. Of course, as a Catholic, I could not enjoy one moment of this. Between the cigarettes and the naked women, I was wracked with guilt. I peered into the future and saw, just a few short years later, my eighth grade self dying of lung cancer and being sent to Hell for looking at dirty magazines. The smoking visits died down in the woods, but someone shoved pages of the Playboy up in the hollow of a tree.  We trekked back to the woods often to stare at them, until they were so weathered and worn the images were unrecognizable.

I went from breaking my parents’ cigarettes in half during  my early elementary school days, to swiping a few from the pack to smoke with friends as I reached later grade school. I would sneak drags off my mom’s lit cigarettes that she left burning in ashtrays while she went to change a load of laundry, or to answer the phone–which was attached to the wall back then.  By eighth grade, I was a full-fledged smoker. I walked around at night with my friends (thank God for the dog–it was the most exercise our beagle ever got). We cupped our cigarettes whenever a car would pass; we carried pocket warmers in the winter to use as a ruse in case we ever got caught. Ever paranoid, my friends would tease me, “Hey Mike, there’s an airplane! Better hide your cigarette.” Indeed, every car that passed I swore was my dad, until one time it actually was. As I approached his car, I was so nervous, I put the butt out in my hand (it was raining that night, so it didn’t hurt too much). “You guys need a ride anywhere?” “No,” I said, heart beating, “we’re fine.” In hindsight, I think he  probably knew what we were up to, but could certainly relate– a lifelong smoker himself.

I went on to smoke through high school, college, and my roaring twenties. Luckily, I discovered running. And I ran long enough to realize I couldn’t be both a runner and a smoker. I am happy with my choice.

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I don’t miss smoking. I DO miss the camaraderie, though. The excitement of meeting someone for a break in the routine. A chance to get away from it all for a few minutes. Also, smokers are a friendly bunch–my favorite people growing up were the smokers. It took me a while, but I learned that one still needs to take time out to enjoy a few minutes to himself, or catch up with a friend.  The trick is to find ways to do that that won’t kill you.

I don’t really miss the good old days, either. As Billy Joel once sang, “the good old days weren’t always good…” So often we long for yesterday. We think perhaps times were simpler; we assume our life was less complicated. I never know how to react when someone laments for the childhood of  a bygone era like the ’70’s: “When I was young, we didn’t have ‘play dates’, we ran around outside from morning ’til night. I only came in for dinner…” As a parent now, though, I think  I might choose a play date over letting my kids roam free all hours of the day. I might suggest we all go for a walk in the woods, rather than let my eight-year-old  wander there with kids of all ages. I do consider it a small victory that my son, who is the same age I was when I lit my first smoke, has never even held a cigarette–has never even seen one in this house. Plus, he has yet to look at porn. I’d say those are some small victories. And I hope to maintain them at least til he gets into the double digits:)  As the great Virginia Slims campaign used to say, “We’ve come a long way baby!” We sure have.

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Portrait of an Artist as a Weird Man, numbers 4 and 5

This is a series of weird drawings my kids make of me. I haven’t posted one in quite some time, but both boys have drawn renderings lately that I could not resist.

Daddy and Donkey Kong, by: Hayden (6)

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Hayden drew this for me because he loves trying to help me get better at Wii. In my speech bubbles, I am saying “Do I have to hold any buttons?”

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Dear Daddy, by: Owen (8)

Owen drew this picture of me to go along with his Christmas letter from school (he always seems to leave out a body part). The letter moved me so much, that I chose not to share it publicly. Some moments are meant to be private! I’ll just say that in the letter he says I am a “wonderful dad!” Sniff. Sniff. Boy, I’m trying to live up to that– but some days I certainly fall way short.

The thing I love about these drawings, all the ones featured in Portrait of an Artist, is the fact that these boys don’t care what I look like–no matter what, they think I’m pretty cool. So, whenever I feel like a load, or wonder if any amount of sit-ups will ever get rid of my belly doughnut, I am reminded that looks do not matter nearly as much as memories and experiences.

And on that note, I’ll leave you with a funny example: One day recently, we were walking in the woods with our dog, Rufus. The boys suggested we play “I spy…” It was Owen’s turn, and he said, “I spy something gray.” And Hayden shouted, “Daddy’s mini hair!” And we all burst out laughing. Bald jokes rank just below potty humor in our house:) One of the best things about children is that they teach us to laugh at ourselves–life’s too short to take it all so seriously.

Swim Lessons, Take Two

High DiveI spent the afternoon at the YMCA with my sons, watching them take swimming lessons. We’ve been at this since they were babies–every winter they take lessons, and I do see the results. But, God, sitting in that steamy hot chlorine sauna known as the indoor pool, I secretly pray that neither boy wants to join a swim team. As I watched them swim, I was once again made aware of how quickly they are growing, yet still wanting me close by. Hayden, my six-year-old, even insisted I sit on the benches at the deep end, so I could watch their dives up close. I find I am one of those parents who likes to sit farther away. This prevents me from hovering–wanting to reprimand their every misstep and also alleviate the perennial fear that they will get hurt. For instance, sitting near the deep end today, I was concerned with these pole-type things that hang down from the diving blocks. How are more kids not getting stitches from those, I wondered? Plus, the farther away I sit, the easier it is to check my cell phone.

Like many parents, I have the talk in my head when at an event like swim lessons. It goes something like this: “Now make sure you actually watch them when they are in the water. They really like to know you are paying attention. Do NOT check your phone or sit there texting like a teenager.” My other voice replies, “Jesus, give him a break, he’s sitting in this steam bath getting high on chlorine. He can look at his damn phone once in a while.” “Well, you know what I mean–don’t sit there the whole time and ignore your kids.” “He’s right,” a third voice chimes in.

I really want to be present in the moment. I want to capture all of these small snapshots in my memory, so I can happily sift through the slide show in my mind for decades to come. But swim lessons are boring as hell. I make an effort, though. Like an obedient dad, I do sit on the bench Hayden summoned me to. As instruction begins, I feel my phone buzz– a text from my wife about tacos for dinner. Hayden calls from the pool, “Dad, I was first to finish the lap.” I look up from my phone–caught, “Awesome, buddy.” “Pay attention, Michael”  Voice One reprimands. “Okay,” I say–right after I check Facebook. “Dad, watch this.” Now it’s Owen, conveniently in the lane next to Hayden, beckoning me to watch him bob from the poles hanging from the diving block. “Cool,” I say, looking up from my cell. “Dad!” It’s Hayden again, confidently waving to me from the other end of the pool. I hear his voice 50 meters away, yet there I am buried in my damn phone still.

“ENOUGH!” I think all the voices in my head say this at the same time. I place my phone in my back pocket, and swear  I won’t look at it again until we are in the car.  “Enjoy this time. Watch them swim. They want you here. Be present.” And so I watch their various drills, up and back the pool length. I admire how cute their new haircuts look now slick against their skin. I watch their little heads submerge in the water and come up to the surface with new life and excitement. I marvel at how their feet kick like tiny motors. I am in the moment. Until…Until, I begin to recall my own days of swim lessons. As I watch my own six-year-old in the water, he reminds me so much of what I think I was like as a child, bad bangs and all, and my mind flashes back 37 years…

I am in Abington Senior High School. It is the weekend. I am here with my five-year-old neighbor, Greg. His brother, Jeff, is my age (6) and we are friends, but Jeff is a capable swimmer, and I am not. Even Greg seems more advanced than I.  So, here I am, one of the oldest kids in the class, which will continue to be a pattern in my remedial athletic experiences as a kid (I think I was the only boy playing T-ball who had a learner’s permit).

Greg’s mother has driven us here. She drops us off outside the school, and we make our way into the labyrinth alone. It is our first lesson, so I am quite nervous.  I think this is my first time in the public high school, and since I go to Catholic school, I am immediately fearful of what I will find inside: kids hanging out doing drugs, gang members sharpening their knives, pregnant girls searching for the fathers of their unborn children…I was quite neurotic as a child (note the past tense).

Not surprisingly, Greg and I get lost. This confusion does nothing to calm my nerves. Finally, we find our way through the maze-like hallways to the boys’ locker room. We change, and then try to find the pool. I am overcome with anxiety, which means I have to go to the bathroom….number two….pronto. I tell Greg, and he kindly tries to find one with me. With each passing second, my nervousness increases, until finally, I can take it no more. The urge overtakes me, and I go to the bathroom in my bathing suit. Number Two. Number Freakin’ Two.

I am too embarrassed to tell Greg, so like any good Christian, I lie. “I don’t have to go anymore.” (Technically not a lie, I realize as I write this.) He is none the wiser, so we make our way out to the pool. Any bathroom still eludes us, so getting rid of the evidence is not an option. Once on the pool deck, we find our instructor, who checks our names off the list. My panic comes back, as I am now confronted with what the hell I am to do with this load that is sitting in my bathing suit. I contemplate telling the instructor. Or Greg. Or anyone. But then, I look around at all of the people, and I imagine all of them laughing at me. I peer into the future, and see my nickname years down the road: Poopy Pants Trainer, Poop for short. No effing way am I saying a word.

We are told to line up at the side of the pool. We are to jump in and swim to the other side. Now, I am nervous about the fact that I stink at swimming. Thankfully, this replaces my anxiousness about what lies beneath my bathing suit. “Okay, everybody, on the count of three.” I realize I must jump in and swim with the pack. Swim close to everyone else. If the poop does fly out and surfaces to the top of the water, I want a crowd around me so I will be able to deny, deny, deny. If I am in a pool surrounded by a dozen other kids, there’s no way they can pin it on me! As the instructor commands “three” I jump in wildly. I swim to the other side with reckless abandon, making sure that other kids are within arm’s length.

We get to the other side, and so far, no sign of my package being delivered. The instructor tells us to swim back and forth so he can assess us as a group. On about the fifth lap, I finally have the courage to feel the back of my suit. Gone! GONE I tell you. There is nothing but netting. In hindsight, I may have opened up the lining so it could slip out, but I honestly don’t remember. All I know is that the evidence disappeared from my suit, and did not resurface the entire time I was there. I was so relieved. After the lesson, I say nothing to Greg. When I get home, I do not breathe a word of this to anyone. The story alone could give me a nickname for life. My brothers would have had a field day with this one. Yes, I would be keeping this to myself. I consider it the day I swam and swam, and I never looked back.

“Hey, Dad.” It’s Hayden again. Waving to me for the umpteenth time. His voice brings me back to the present moment, and this pool a few lifetimes away from the one I was just revisiting.  I smile at the recollection of my swimming lesson. The smile turns into a chuckle. I laugh at it all. The craziness of my youth. The fact that now I am the adult in charge, and these two boys want very much for me to be there on that bench watching their every move.  I love that they care so much that I am watching. I love that they feel a sense of calm and security knowing that I will be with them each step of the way, so they won’t get lost; that I am just outside the pool if they need me, for example, to take them back to the locker room so they can go number two.

It’s All My Teacher’s Fault

Good news! My first book was picked up! Okay, it was picked up by me–a couple weeks ago. I found it buried in a box of memorabilia while I was looking for Christmas decorations–you know how one box leads you to another, then another, and then you’re looking at crap from forty years ago that has nothing to do with decorating a Christmas tree? Yeah, me neither. Anyhow…I found this book I wrote in third grade–1978!! During that year, my dad had a massive heart attack and my grandmother on my mother’s side died of cancer. It was a very dark year in the Trainer household. And, as I recall, my teacher, Mrs. Deturo, had me meet with the guidance counselor, Mrs. Brent, who encouraged me to write about the experience–express my feelings through writing. The result is the masterpiece that has been digitally remastered for your viewing pleasure below on this very website. So, without further ado, I present to you Nine is Enough.

photo (13)photo (12)photo (11)photo (10)photo (9)photo (8)photo (7)photo (6)photo (5)photo (4)photo (3)photo (2)photoFirst, let me say that this particular brick contact paper used to cover the book was limited edition–sold exclusively at Grants before their closing in ’76. And, don’t worry, I may be trying my hand at writing, but I promise I will never publish my own illustrated book–my gosh–look at those scenes from the story (I find the “Schools” one particularly compelling).

Yet, as I read over this story, I realize that perhaps the seeds were planted in me at a very young age to write about my experiences–to process my thoughts and feelings through writing. A teacher took the time to care about me and have me talk about my issues with another educational professional. I am lucky to have had these people in my life. And, in some respects, I feel I have been drafting the second book in my head ever since.

The Sounds of the ’70s

My car became a time machine last week. On Wednesday, when I was driving to work, I heard a news clip on NPR about the death of singer Patti Page. I was not familiar with this artist, who, apparently, is the top-selling female singer in history according to the news. But I did grow up with one of her songs: How Much Is That Doggie in the Window? When a snippet of that song was played on the news report, I was immediately transported back in time to our purple station wagon. Or maybe it was the Gran Torino with the panel sides. Whichever car it was, those lyrics echoed throughout its vinyl seat interior. My sister loved that song, and would often sing it around the house, while playing outside, and, of course, in the car. Truthfully, I thought it was pretty annoying as a six-year-old, but I would tolerate it because she always let me do the dog bark: “Arf, Arf!”

Hearing these lyrics over thirty years later, I got to thinking about the songs that made up the bizarre soundtrack of my youth. The songs I recall are as farout, groovy, and downright trippy as the seventies themselves. Here are my top ten:

10. One Tin Soldier, by: Coven

I loved how this song took me back in time to a place of kings and knights. I always imagined that I was that one tin soldier who rides away–off to do more battle. In researching the song for this post, I realize why we went around singing it back then. It was a cartoon that was aired during Saturday programming. As I watched the YouTube video, I was certain that I viewed this cartoon in our Rec Room (which I always thought was spelled WReck Room because we always made a mess out of it). The cartoon is a mashup of Schoolhouse Rock and George Orwell’s 1984. This was the first war song I remember from my youth.

9. Lovin’ You, by: Minnie Riperton

This song was weird to kids, but we always had fun lip syncing the falsetto.

8. Dick and Jane (Look Dick Look), by: Bobby Vinton

My grandmother was a big fan of the Polish Prince, Bobby Vinton. I remember going around singing some gibberish for one of his songs with Polish lyrics: Yola shogga masha colta–these were the words I sang. But the real favorite was this one about two young people and love–ripped straight from the pages of our elementary school readers, Fun with Dick and Jane. This song made me ponder the meaning of the word “vain” every time I heard it (Then one day, he kissed her, but it was all in vain…) Poor Dick! Poor Jane!

7. Delta Dawn, by: Helen Reddy

Helen Reddy could rock this song–even though in this video she looks like she’s performing it at her 7th grade talent show. Everyone knew the lyrics to Delta Dawn. And I felt so sorry for her. Forty-one and not married. In my head, I would think “I’d marry you if I was older.” After all, in her younger days she was the prettiest thing you ever saw. Then there’s that faded rose–I could just picture Dawn and Barry Manilow’s Lola the showgirl commiserating with their faded rose and feathers over lost love at some singles’ bar in that mansion in the sky.

6. Muskrat Love, by: The Captain and Tennille

For anyone who did not live in the ’70s, please watch this video. It was a time so weird, so freakishly fun and uncomfortable at the same time. The video is classic kitsch from this wacky era. How could The Captain and Tennille make so many people care about rodent love? How could The Captain score a babe like Tennille? These are questions that still haunt me today.

5. Please Come to Boston, by: Dave Loggins

This song is in my top 10 because my brother and I would sing it all the time walking to and from football practice in grade school. But since we didn’t know the real lyrics, we made up our own: “Please come to Boston/ with me and Steve Austin (The 6 million dollar man)/ and we’ll have a party/ something something fart something.”

4. Dust in the Wind, by: Kansas

Even a straight-laced fifth grader wearing a tie to Catholic school everyday knew this song was about drugs. The lyrics were haunting and heavenly at the same time. I put it in my list because I remember driving home from a Saturday football game with my older brother’s friends and the mom who drove us sang this song like it was her job. Mrs. “H” was a large woman, and she could be rough and intimidating. She wore t-shirts that had cute animals on them that said things like: “I’m so happy I could shit!” Yet, when she sang Dust in the Wind she was as light as a feather, as gentle as a songbird…To this day, whenever I hear it, I think of Mrs. H.

3. Undercover Angel, by: Alan O’Day

I remember hearing this song while piled in the way back of our station wagon on the way to a pool party. There were 4 of us crammed in the back, and one guy started doing some inappropriate gestures in time with the lyrics–pretending his swim towel was a cover and motioning the angel to get underneath it. I had a confused look on my nine-year-old face. “The guy wants to have sex with this lady in the song,” he explained to me. I was shocked. What kind of angel was she? We’re all going to Hell, I thought. But it made me pay more attention to lyrics from then on.

2. Playground In My Mind, by: Clint Holmes

This song holds a special place for me because the beginning talks about a kid named Michael and a girl named Cindy who grow up and get married. It felt cool having my name in a song–a song that made it to number 2 on the Billboard Charts, believe it or not. And, the girl next door was named Cindy and we would go around singing the words and joke about getting married.

1. Seasons in the Sun, by: Terry Jacks

What a maudlin song. It captivated our minds in the ’70s as we went around on our roller skates and Schwinn bikes singing about death. I loved how this guy got to say “Goodbye” to people before he died (That’s my mother’s influence on me). I remember listening to this in a neighbor’s basement, and we all just started bawling. Such melodrama, but remember this was pre-cable TV, so we had to get our kicks wherever we could find them. Quick note–I hate the last line of this song–it’s silly: But the stars that we reached, were just starfish on the beach. Bad imagery. But not as bad as Jacks’ perm.

Honorable Mention:

Three Jolly Fishermen

This classic Boy Scout song is not one that I heard on the radio, but my family used to sing it on the ten minute drive to my grandmother’s house. What I loved about this song was we all got to curse. The last line talks about the three fishermen going down the AmsterDAM: AMster, Amster, dam, dam ,dam. Oh, how we screamed that part:)

Music, My Muse: Shake It Out

It’s New Year’s Eve 2012 and I am so excited to have no plans. I’m not even sure I’ll make it to midnight, and that’s fine by me. When I was young, this night was fraught with so much pressure, so much expectation. And it was usually a letdown.  The Christmas break is coming to an end, and I’ve had my share of over indulgences—food, drink, sleep… And now that our vacation, our “long winters’ nap”, is coming to a close, I feel I am entering the “winter of my discontent”.

This is a time to be reflective. To look back on the past year and evaluate the good, the bad, the expected. And whenever I reflect, I run the risk of becoming overwhelmed with regret and fear. There are always regrets. My most recent is having too much to drink at a holiday party on Friday night—another reason I’m glad to be home tonight, and soberly writing this piece. Then there is fear. Just looking back at the past few weeks, with tragedies both near and far, it’s a daily, conscious effort not to let fear rule our lives—if we did, we’d never get out of bed.

Overall, I had a wonderful holiday. I got to catch up with a lot of old friends. I received wonderful gifts from my family. I am lucky. And that makes me fearful, which in turn makes me regret that I am not being “present in the moment”. Yeah, you get it—it’s a vicious cycle.

About a month ago, I talked about the fact that music and song lyrics are such a source of nourishment for my soul. I said I was going to feature some of the songs that were inspirational to me as I set out to write this blog. Tonight, on this, the cusp of a brand new year, I feel it fitting to share with you my second installment of Music, My Muse:

Shake It Out, by Florence and the Machine 

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play

Why is it that the regrets in our lives, the creatures that make up our darker moments, become like old friends to us? We spend so much time with them. We visit with them often. And in some cases, we never let them leave. It really is like living among ghosts. Their presence is always lurking, and they certainly know how to toy with us. They play around—at our expense! And as long as they are here, it truly is impossible to see a way out.

And I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I’m always dragging that horse around

Now, if you’ve ever read my blog, then you know I am a Fool—with a capital F, and I’ve certainly been blind– by anger, by shame, by resentment. And I struggle with the past. Writing is my humble attempt to make peace with my past. I once heard the expression that “past is present.” I think as I get older, I understand that more. Unless we come to terms with our past, unless we put it in a healthy perspective, then it will always hold a claim on our present. We never truly move away from the past if we live in a world of regret and fear, of anger and shame. The horse image in the last line of this stanza did not click with me at first. But as I thought about it more, I found it rather fitting. A horse is difficult to tame. A horse needs constant attention and copious amounts of our time. The horse equals our past, and unless we tame it, it will never stop demanding or time and attention.

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah

And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh woaaah

This is my favorite part of the song. We probably all have a devil on our back, or as I seem to operate, a different devil every few weeks. Just think about all the devil‘s floating around  this time of year–the time of New Year’s resolutions. The devil of weight, the devil of finding a lover, paying a mortgage, giving up a vice, ending a bad relationship, finding a job…Devils. All Devils. But, you know what my resolution is going to be this year? Shaking off the devil! Yeah, that’s right. Eff him! I want to spend more time living–I couldn’t bring myself to say dancing–and I can do that much better without a damn devil on my back.

And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t
So here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my rope
And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope
It’s a shot in the dark and right at my throat

For the past decade or so, I have tried to put my life in perspective. Becoming a husband and a father forced me to seek understanding within myself. Now that I am writing about my experience, I feel I am damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t. Whenever someone searches for meaning there will certainly be hardship–suffering. But there is also hope! Hope of coming out on the other side more complete. I am ready to hope.

And I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart
‘Cause I like to keep my issues drawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn

I feel the graceless heart is the heart that refuses to love, the heart that won’t allow one to experience pure love.  I’m working on that, for sure. I do images (3)believe  that we can’t love others unless we love ourselves. That may sound hokey to you, but there is no way around it. If you are having trouble with loving the people in your life, I would imagine you are not truly loving yourself.  And tonight, as I’ve done many times before, I am going to cut out the parts that are preventing me from feeling my best, from loving myself unconditionally.  And with the beginning of another year, I am going to then restart. My issues– and your issues– will always be present in our lives, but there is always light. There is always the hope of a new dawn, a new day, a new year. So, whatever devils you are dealing with, I wish you much luck and strength as you try to reconcile with them in 2013. You’re welcome to join me as I try to “shake it out”. Happy New Year!

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa

PS: It’s 12:15. Goodnight!