Punctuation and Parole: The End of This Blog

It’s Thanksgiving 2016. This was kind of our holiday. It was the first one we ever celebrated really just the two of us. I have things to be thankful for—I do.

This year has been hard.

She left me and I don’t blame her; I would have left me, too. I did leave me, I guess. I had lost so much joy and pleasure and spirit that there wasn’t a whole lot of life left in me. The sparkle left me. All the gusto, too. So my personality left. It’s what I get for denying myself what I knew I needed, and in the end I would never say I didn’t get what I deserved. Not ever.

It’s Thanksgiving 2016 so I do want to start by giving thanks. There are people who go a whole life without feeling love. And I felt it. I felt it so, so much from her. She loved me, wholly. She loved me. And I loved her–so, so much. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

I’m thankful for every kiss I ever got to place on the top of her head when we said hello or goodbye, and the thousands and thousands I placed on her lips, where she has one miraculous little freckle. I’m thankful for her belief in humanity, in feminism, in social justice. I’m thankful to have seen her in her pajamas–the last person to see her at night and the first to see her in the morning. I’m thankful for when she would sneak up on me at my desk and then run away giggling. I’m thankful to have held her when she cried. I’m thankful for every time she ever laughed. I’m thankful for every time she sang in the house when I was home. I’m thankful for every time she tried to share what she loved with me, even if it was just a little thing she saw and she wanted to tell me. I’m thankful for all the fire she brought into life. I’m thankful for every time we connected, vulnerable messy person to vulnerable messy person, though I raised shields and tried to deny my own messiness so many times. I’m thankful that she would read to me sometimes. I’m thankful for every time I saw her shine, in her element, like a true fucking star. I’m thankful that she fought for what she loved in life, and that she tried to get me to fight for it, too. I’m thankful for all the ways she quenched my loneliness.

But I was lonely for myself. I missed the person I was when I felt good—the open, warm, funny, fun, spiritual, passionate, creative, empathetic, compassionate, adventurous person. I was drowning in a job that stressed me out in just about every possible way. Constant pressure and time constraints? Oof. Repetitive tasks that never seemed to add up to anything meaningful? Oof again. Insincere interactions? Oof. Entire work days full of harsh lights, background noise, phone interruptions and a sense that the undercurrent of the place outside of my department was kind of toxic? Double oof.

I wilted, and I just couldn’t figure out how to build myself back up.

She thought it was her, I am sure. She blamed herself for a time and then finally she blamed me, and truth be told that’s her right.

The night she left—a freezing dark day in February—I hit despair that I didn’t even know could exist. In a panic stricken depression with hurricane force winds, I wrote a letter by hand that I am sure sounded like a crazy person. I think of Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption when his character is up for parole. He knows all the words to say, and he says them all emphatically but he doesn’t believe them and neither does the judge at his parole hearing.

He gets sent back to prison, over and over and over.

I understand that desperation. Though my judge never got to read the appeal, because I never sent it. It’s still sealed, undelivered. I’m afraid to read it, honestly. I was just not myself when I wrote it.

I was just not myself for so, so long.

It would be untrue to say that I’ve been strong every day since. One lonely night in early spring after I reached out too hard with too much of my sadness, she pulled away completely. Late that night I made a plan to exit and never come back. I wrote a few letters, also sealed and undelivered. I didn’t follow through, miraculously. Obviously. It’s hard to say what kept me going, but I don’t know if it was strength.

Do I miss her tonight? Yes. I ate a small meal alone but my heart wasn’t in it. There are stretches of time—sometimes long ones—where I feel okay, and somewhat healed. Tonight my arms felt empty, and the hole in my heart shaped just like her felt especially deep and hollow. I miss her.

But I am thankful for the places in me where she remains, and that aren’t hollow spaces. Her spirit was joyous and infections and I am so happy to have been infected by it. She taught me so much about loving people, about loving the whole person.

She loves a lot of people, and they are all so, so lucky.

I started this blog because I knew I needed to nourish myself by doing things I loved. And I failed. Which is not the same as losing, which implies you did everything you could but in the end, it just was out of your control. Failure is different, and I definitely failed here.

Punctuation means a lot to me. Language is important, yes, but I believe in the sort of punctuation marks that signal an end or a transition—things beyond words. Events, I guess. Moments. They can be punctuation, too.

Two Marches ago, my aunt took her own life. She was a beautiful soul, full of art and knowledge and compassion, but life got to be too painful, so she chose her punctuation mark and she ended it all. There’s a movement where people who have faced suicide and chosen to keep going, so they tattoo a semicolon on their body somewhere—on a wrist maybe. Or over a heart. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that life didn’t come to a full stop for them, and something will come after that semicolon; life.

This post is the punctuation mark on this blog. But it’s not the punctuation mark on my life. I chose to keep going, and I am thankful that I did.

I love things still—the things I loved all along. I love being with friends. I love listening to people tell stories. I love making art. I love making food. I love being in nature. I love dancing to live music. I love traveling. I love helping people solve problems. I love reflecting on why things are meaningful. I love rolling around in silly chaos like it’s catnip. I love going to the movies. I love exercising. I love hugs. I love making people laugh. I love seeing random acts of kindness. I love holidays. I love reading. I love daydreaming over coffee. I love crushing a cup of wine. I love performing. I love trying to be authentic, and I love encouraging others to be authentic around me. I love playing guitar badly. I love seeing new places. I love looking at stars. I love connecting the dots of meaning in life, even though they rarely make patterns or make sense. I love trying to be a force for good.

I didn’t quite make my year of love work out. And I did not make my years of love with Leslie work out. But maybe I can be loving to myself, and give myself the things I need, and go for the things I want to go for, and maybe I can finally finally finally be the cup that runneth over. That’s what I’ve always wanted.

So my sentence is a life without her, with no chance for parole. Here I am, at last the somber, present, reasonable Morgan Freeman at his final hearing, pondering what he really feels, knows, and deserves. In a way, I am a free man. I’m free. I doubt I’ll ever see her again, or speak to her again. The punctuation mark is written already. But I’m free to start myself over.

It’s Thanksgiving 2016. It’s a punctuation mark. For me. I needed a period.

I guess I get to begin a new sentence now, and I get to pick a new word to start with or focus on. Hope? Courage? Friendship? Forgiveness? Art? Adventure?


I keep coming back to “love”. Maybe it’s finally going to be the year I wanted, that I knew was possible. We’ll see.

Good night, blog. I love you.

Sweet dreams.


Hello In There, John Prine

johnprine-500x288My appreciation for John Prine bloomed late but furiously. After my tough winter in 2011, I stayed with my parents at their house in Arkansas for a while to regroup. When it was time to head back North, my dad and I took the long way home, following Highway 61 like a couple of less cool Dylans. The route meandered, our thoughts meandered, and of course, of course, our music meandered.

Dad popped in a cassette tape—dads are the purest, most heartful hipsters—and we listened to the scratchy, scruffy stories of a man who could have been from Appalachia, from Nebraska, from Salinas, from home; it didn’t matter. I think the track Dad was most excite for me to hear was the lighthearted Dear Abby and the heavy Sam Stone, both of which I’ve carried with me ever since. That’s how John Prine’s song work—like crumpled dollars you find in your pocket when you think you’ve spent your last dime. Continue reading

From the Dust Returned

ray_bradbury_by_francoclun-d5zn64mRay Bradbury is 95 years and one day old today. I say “is” because his spirit held too much gusto to disappear completely. Ray Bradbury is also, in perpetuity, eleven and a half. He is sixteen. He is eighteen. He is twenty-four. He is thirty. He is fifty. He is all the ages that enjoy a little magic, that mark miles, that offer a place to look back and a place to look forward. Continue reading

Teenage Feelings at The Fitzgerald, April 2015

It’s not easy to talk about the connection between art and pain without coming across like a trite parrot who is only saying what everyone has already said for a long time on the subject. But then, I am not Neko Case.Neko Case Continue reading

A Little More Country and A Little More Rock and Roll Than Even The Osmonds

If you have ever been on a first date or on a long road trip or have spent your first night at college huddled together on the floor of a dorm room down the way, then you have possibly played the Desert Island game. It’s a deceptively simple game—a moment to learn, a lifetime to master.

The rules are pretty much this: you are going to be stuck on a desert island, and you can only have one movie/book/album/McDonald’s Extra Value Meal for the rest of time. What do you take with you?

The eyes of your date or travel companions or batch of friends you are about to forge lifelong relationships with fall on you, and then you have to give your answer.

We aren’t on a first date, you really shouldn’t be reading this while operating a moving vehicle, and my legs would fall asleep after like eight minutes of sitting on some Freshman’s Target area rug their parents bought for their dorm room floor. Which is another way of saying you will never know my answers to these very important questions. (Okay: American Beauty/East of Eden/Raising Sand/No. 2 with extra pickles and a Dr. Pepper). Continue reading

In Soviet Russia, Blog Posts You! Part Two: A Wide Open Nyet

I have never seen the movie Miracle. You know, the one with Kurt Russell? I understand if you want to turn me over to the Midwest Thought Police and watch with glee as they revoke my license to be Minnesotan and send me off to a reeducation camp. I have no excuse aside from my excuse for everything—I was too lazy to make an effort to find it, rent it, pirate it, or read the synopsis on IMDB about it. If finding the path of least resistance had been an event at the Winter Games in Lake Placid instead of ice hockey, you better believe I would have ended up on a box of Wheaties and the subject of a Disney major motion picture.

I don’t really know the best way to help you understand the miracle of my having played hockey as a kid. I’ve thought about this for several minutes just now, and there’s no time to cover the scope of it—to track and turn into an infographic the precise alignment of all the unlikely planets it took to make it happen would exhaust and kill me. But let me try. Briefly. Continue reading