Thursday, January 27, 2011

Halfway Home or I’m A Man, I’m 40

                “And I’m talkin’ to myself at night because I can’t forget.” – Jack White
                The first time I heard the voice was in September.  My dog B Is Love turned 7 and my wife Charger Gal and I celebrated her birth as if she had 2 legs instead of 4 paws.  It was during this celebratory moment that the voice first started spewing in my head.  This is nothing new for me; the total tonnage of voices that converse within my mind are enough to blend into white noise most of the time.  This voice was different.  It’s simple and dangerously affecting sentence was reminiscent of a George Carlin bit that argued “Shell Shock” was a far more effective term for what war veterans go through than “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”.  I always respond to moments of discombobulation like this with humor, thus I stated to Charger Gal that within 6 months, all three of us would be halfway home and it’s all downhill from here.  Charger Gal was not amused and I can’t blame her; it wasn’t terribly funny.  This worried me more than anything.  Humor is my fastball – If that’s not working, this emperor has no clothes (Not a pleasant sight I assure you).
                A short time later, the voice returned during a conversation with my best friend Cowboy Jelly. He was freaking out one night to anyone in the vicinity of his voice (a far larger radius than the human vocal cord should be capable of covering) about turning 40.  He also freaked out about turning 30, so I wrote it off as a Meg Ryan When Harry Met Sally breakdown mixed with a Willy Loman Attention Must Be Paid Temper Tantrum and listened with half an ear while watching the Packers game.   The voice took advantage of my distracted state to reiterate its simple, piercing sentence.  Rather than attempt another joke that might fall flat, I chose instead to intently listen to Cowboy Jelly spend 20 minutes lecturing how none of today’s music has the soul of 1987. Yes, 1987 – A year whose number one song was Walk Like An Egyptian.  This was not going well.
                The next few months moved along with the voice making regular appearances, each one leaving me sadder and more disheartened than the last.  It wasn’t a constant chant, but every time it reiterated its message, it was in a moment where vulnerable was the emotional color of my rainbow.  It particularly loved making its presence felt at night, waking me from the dreams it could not infiltrate and taunting my inability to return to the peace of slumberland.  The voice was taking its toll.
This week, to celebrate my own entrance into the forties, Charger Gal threw me a party.   She is an amazing cook – better than Meryl Streep’s characters in Julia and Julia and Its Complicated combined.  This being a milestone birthday, she even outdid her usual high quality cuisine and provided a delicacy that had carnivores and vegetarians alike craving more.  The soiree was worthy of The Hangover – minus the ruffies and missing friend.  I love parties because it’s the one situation where people from all aspects of your life come together and interact in a melting pot where you serve as the binding ingredient.   I always allow myself a moment to step back and take a mental picture of the glorious sight of those whom I care so much for together as one.  Even the voice could not crack the unbridled joy of such a scene.
Then the party ended. 
Charger Gal and I prefer to clean up before bed no matter how big a post celebration mess may lay before us (Yes, we go “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” even in a semi inebriated state).  As I was separating the abundance of empty bottles and cans into their respective recycling receptacles, a cool breeze blew up through me carrying with it the voice, louder and stronger than it had ever been before. 
“You are a failure.” 
Told ya it wasn’t exactly “If you build it, he will come.”  I was tired of the months of consistent shanking upon my psyche and attempted to compose a response that would banish the voice once and for all.  What did I come up with after such a lengthy period of hearing this menacing review of the first forty years of my life?
“No I’m not.” 
I’m a regular Aaron Sorkin character when it comes to verbal combat aren’t I?  But my lack of a verbose defense stems from the truth of the matter, which is this:  I’m a good husband and a good dog owner – beyond that I can’t argue much with the voice and its destructively concise argument.  I’m not the professional writer I have yearned to be since I was a kid.  I haven’t been able to lose the excess 30 pounds that has dragged me for years despite a consistent exercise program.  I have a massive inability to just let things go when someone upsets me.   My current employer is facing a 500 million dollar budget cut and the job market could be charitably described as lacking.  I am on the whole an insecure, neurotic mess that despite sincere efforts to the contrary is halfway to life’s finish line with a distance to success meter that still reads To Far To Count.  This is what I have accomplished in 40 years of existence. 
But they say Life begins at 40 and 40 is the new 30 and whatever other verbal slight of hand they can concoct to soften the blow of becoming, without a shadow of a doubt, middle aged.  So I will rise up and I will continue to bleed, sweat, and pay the price that is necessary to bring to fruition the things that must come to pass in order for me to meet my maker and emphatically state “I got life right this time.  My ticket can be one way.”
The real work begins...
“Don’t remind me of my failures, I had not forgotten them.” – Jackson Browne

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