I’m a fairly permissive person…with myself, anyway. Which is probably to say that I am undisciplined.
I make plans: gym, writing, hiking, biking, chores around the house, whatever…and let them slide. I’m good at keeping commitments with my friends, I think. And with Netflix. Although, those plans seem to be more spontaneous occurrences versus actual plans. It’s keeping commitments to myself where I tend to be less disciplined.
That said, I am also unabashedly grumpy at times. Sometimes it’s a sincere grumpiness. Others it could be misread grumpiness. Still other times it might be someone projecting grump onto me. It’s the risk I run being open about my codger-ly tendencies, I suppose.
I think that my grump spends a fair amount of time focused inward, to be honest. I know some of my friends would find that hard to believe given its seeming consistent outward trajectories. But I am pretty grumpy old man on myself at times, too. When I’m at the gym, I have replaced my inner voice – which used to be my dad’s voice – with the grump’s voice. “You’re only cheating yourself!” he tells me in an attempt to drive me to completing my set versus giving into fatigue. Sometimes yelling, “You want to look like an olive on toothpicks forever or are you gonna actually put some weight on for your next set and build some muscle?” to clear the apathy out of my routine.
He’s kind of a dick. I wish he’d just stick to telling me to get off of his/my mental lawn, but he’s decided he gets to play the role of tormenting coach as well as mean old neighbor.
So, that’s a little back story to my thought process as I close out 2015. It began in earnest back in early November when I was in Seattle getting my condo ready to rent. I stopped by a friend’s shop – Custom Smoothie – in Fremont just to see if one of the twins that owns it was in that day. One was and we got to chat for a while and catch up.
I hope she doesn’t feel shorted that I didn’t come up with a nickname for her…
An added bonus with good old impromptu conversation is that you never really know where they are going to go. Eventually, ours headed toward social media, Facebook specifically and our mutual friends. We worked together at Macy’s for a bit – but were all three restructured out of jobs, as Macy’s likes to do – and she and her twin started the smoothie shop. That’s a long way of saying our mutual friends are mostly tied to former colleagues.
Well, three, if you count her husband.
She asked how I met…let’s call them The Vagabond Parents.
Unsurprising to anyone that knows me is that we had met in a bar. Well, it could be somewhat surprising, because now I tend to sulk in bars more than I used to versus being open to random conversations with strangers sharing the same watering hole.
But in thinking and talking about The Vagabond Parents, I got to get some answers to questions I have had about them but not had a forum to get answered because like many of my acquaintances I have met in a similar manner, I haven’t seen them in person since. The reason behind their moniker is the source of many of my questions about their life…so allow me:
After we met, they became pregnant.
Soon after their beautiful baby was born, they actually moved out of the country.
Both life events would – not shockingly – severely impact our ability to meet up in the most likely fashion again. Parents rarely hire a sitter to go swill booze with a rando old dude and – outside of true jet-setters – people who live abroad are unlikely to fly in for a night of inebritude. Inebritude = Chrisism. But I got to monitor their travels and their daughter’s growth on Facebook, and I appreciated it. In the years since we met, they’ve been through Europe, Australia and I think even SE Asia.
So, my question was, “How the hell do they swing that life? I’m so jealous!”
The answer was basically “The Yes Game”.
And this is where our personalities diverged since the night of shots and effusive conversation in Purr so many years prior.
Back then, I was completely open to passing the evening chatting excitedly with people I just ran into, be them stranger or prior acquaintance. Now, I’m more prudent with who I invest my time with. I honestly think that it’s that The VP were exceptions to the Seattle Freeze, which eventually doused my enthusiasm for investing in random strangers in a bar. I would prefer that those initial engagements more frequently garner friends versus acquaintances and that simply was not my experience in Seattle. Meeting these two is a bright spot in my social drinking career in Seattle. But the people whose lives changed significantly due to offspring or emigration were far outweighed by the folks whose paths I crossed again and the circumstance that prevented us becoming friends was more along the lines of “my normal people are here with me now, so I don’t need you tonight”, which is pretty fucked up.
So I kind of shut down my social drinking career and became a curmudgeon over the course of my time in Seattle.
They did not.
While raising kids can turn the most outwardly social people into homebodies, The Vagabond Parents left the country. Their lust for life and adventure seemed insatiable. My friend told me that things just kept falling into their collective lap and they availed themselves to it.
They kept saying yes. Not because they had to, like in the actual Yes Game. Because they wanted to.
And look at the lifetime’s worth of opportunities they have experienced in the better part of the decade since we met. It’s truly inspirational.
Since moving back to Portland, I have openly acknowledged my Early Onset Grumpiness, if for no other reason than to take away its power. I want to retire my reserved “no” mentality in lieu of a better, happier social life here in my hometown. It’s time to vanquish the near emptiness of my social life in Seattle. Nothing against the friends I did make up there, by any means, there simply weren’t a lot of people in my social circle beyond co-workers and neighbors. I prefer to have a less focused group of people to surround myself with. People who have different interests to keep my growth as an individual on an upward trajectory versus a flatline. I wanted to take away the safety net that friendships evolving from work have, which is that there is always a significant and safe common thread to fall back on: work.
To that end, what I have begun to focus on recently is to stop saying what I don’t want or like and start noticing and embracing the things I do in order to surround myself with that growth. Create my own trajectory.
I can trace this change of attitude back further than last Fall. Back to late Spring of this year when a friend suggested to me that I should write.
A blog, specifically.
I had started one back around 2005 or 06 that I ran a few posts through, but I decommissioned when I moved to Seattle in order to better focus on making a life for myself up there. Outward focus versus inward focus.
So, after that conversation, I set a goal of publishing one post a week and just seeing what happens. It’s been 40 weeks since that day. I’ve published 24 blog entries since then, this will be number 25. So I am a bit off my pace. A good indication of my lack of discipline, eh? It’s not a lack of content ideas or thoughts that I want to share, there’s 18 drafts in my pipeline. I just need to commit to this. To myself.
I need to say yes to it.
Another friend – former co-worker, go figure! – reached out to me late in the Summer. She’s a writer of children’s books and had just returned from some publisher’s convention or something where she was amazed at the sheer volume of publishers openly seeking LGBT content.
She thought of me.
This was not the first time, either.
After she published her first book, we had chatted about a career as a writer. I started a book at her urging. But I never really found my voice as a writer and the pages languished on my laptop. Filed away, collecting virtual dust. When she reached out to me again last Summer and actually sent me publisher contacts as well as offering to help me draft a submission letter, I re-opened my literary cold case.
Re-reading it and fathoming getting it ready to submit was akin to raising the Titanic with the goal of getting her sailing again. I love my story idea…it’s just the prose that bothered me. It didn’t sound like me. I couldn’t imagine completing the task in some stranger’s voice. So, the blog became a practical solution to figuring out how I want to sound and tuning up that voice.
I admit, there may be some Fear of Success happening here. Like I said, it’s not lack of topics or shortness of material. It’s me allowing me to not follow through.
I’ve read a lot of the LGBT authors out there. A great deal of them…suck. In my opinion. Much like gay cinema. The execution just isn’t polished. My former blog, my Facebook page and certainly this current incarnation of my blog have all had comments along the “You remind me of David Sedaris” or similar. Which is great. He’s pretty funny. I don’t really want to be a monologuist, though. I’d rather follow in the serial footsteps of Armistead Maupin versus Augusten Burroughs.
I also get a lot of people acknowledging how open, honest and raw my posts sound to them, which they call brave. These types of comments were certainly part of the conversation back in November at Custom Smoothie…it’s unexpected support like that that invigorates my creative juices. I returned to Portland and began a draft-a-palooza. Like I said, there’s 18 in my pipeline. I was just having trouble pulling the trigger to post them.
Likely this is a form of paralysis relating to writing in a voice that is so unique to my actual personality while wanting to be a novelist versus a memoirist. I’m sure there is some personal emotional baggage residue from my time and the subsequent fallout from the Broken Poet, too. Proof that every time you say yes you aren’t guaranteed success. But perhaps the Seattle Freeze experience and failures like the BP have scared me away from saying yes in the past…I overcorrected and withdrew from the game.
Not in 2016.
And Sonos just pops out Brave by Sara Bareilles as this train of thought reaches its destination.