They will never ask you what the wall said to you in that room.
It would be less than honest for me to say that I have found no enjoyment in reading many of my old pieces in the last few weeks. In my current state, I see the guy that wrote those things as someone who was stuck somewhere between righteous indignation and bitter anger at the world around him. I did write at one point about how putting anything on the internet seals it as a time capsule of your life in that moment and that’s now how I see many of the things that I may or may not feel as strongly about as I did this time last year. I also wrote a lot about why I was writing.. which I suppose is still happening here.
A recent experience landed me back on the unfortunately familiar landscape of a dating app, swiping through hundreds of profiles that say some combination of “I love tacos and dogs and traveling and brunch”, in no particular order. In fact those four items are so prevalent on dating apps that I would probably believe you if you told me that it is a requirement to use the platform that you say something about how much you love “doggos”. Amongst all of the enneagram numbers and pictures of women drinking wine I did find a rare outlier that was attractive and seemed interesting enough and so we began chatting about this and that.. the kind of stuff you talk to a random stranger about before deciding if it would be safe to meet them for coffee or if you think they might turn you into a couch cover… This one seemed relatively safe and I have survived enough of these experiences to be able to weed out the ones that pose a threat to my well-being.
I do this thing when I talk to people where I ask questions in a way that can sometimes get people off kilter. I’m honestly not sure if it’s intentional or if it’s just how I learn about people, but (some) people are fascinating and the more questions you ask the more you can learn. It is wild to me how many people don’t expect a simple request like “tell me more about that” when you’re having a normal conversation about something. This particular non-threatening individual told me that her Christian faith was very important to her. I, in a sincere attempt to learn more about this person, asked her to tell me a little more about that. I of course didn’t mean anything offensive by this request… If you have read literally anything that I’ve written you know that I find faith to be very interesting so if someone offers up that they choose one particular faith over another… I am going to ask why. Her response was a combination of being offended that I would question her faith (I didn’t) and telling me that she wasn’t about to defend her faith to some stranger on the internet… And just like that, her little photo disappeared from my inbox. Dust in the proverbial wind.
While it’s pretty clear that things between this person and myself would not have gone well had they progressed beyond this conversation, this final interaction stuck with me for a bit. Did I maybe ask a question that was too prying or aggressive? Did this person assume I was attacking her because I didn’t immediately share in her ideologies of faith? It’s impossible to know the answer, and even though it was a bizarre interaction, I hope her faith brings her some peace. I think the most glaring thing about how I felt after this interaction is that it didn’t lead me to some kind of immediate generalization about fragile christianity or whatever else I probably would have ranted about in this space a few months ago, and though I did make a quick joke about it on twitter, I believe this person probably had some other stuff going on and wasn’t willing to deal with what she perceived to be a stranger’s bullshit. Fair enough, I can respect that.
So anyway writing has been heavy on my mind recently and even though I have had almost no mental capacity to do it for the last several months, I have returned to give it another go. A friend of mine recently nominated A/D for an award on his instagram stories which, although an unofficial nomination, was very kind and reminded me that people did and do read this and for many months it was a very important part of my life. That said, I have spent the last few months trying to figure out why I couldn’t bring myself to publish anything about all of the absolutely wild shit happening in our world. There is so much good content for me to write about, and yet the thought of doing it made me feel almost dirty.
Here is what I think I have discovered: I didn’t *truly* like the high that I got from the angry emails that came in. I didn’t like having to defend my cynicism and I really didn’t like cementing my role as an angry leftist asshole in the minds of many of my friends and acquaintances.
While it’s possible/probable that I am those things, what value does it add to anyone’s lives? I was trying to make you angry by telling you about all of the problems in this country. I was trying to make you angry by telling you about how many people in power and even many of your own neighbors care less about you than they do their own symbols and ideals. I was coming here with alarming regularity to try to make you angry because it made my own anger feel more normal. I think that where I messed up was that somewhere along the line I realized that it was so much easier to say something that just made people pissed off than something that would actually enact any kind of change, and I was more than ready for that keyboard cowboy reply that you were going to send my way telling me I was a stupid libtard or whatever. This is not to say that I don’t or didn’t believe any of the things that I wrote during that time. I did and do, but I arrived at a point where I did not like adding to the anger. I did not like who I was after taking a giant hit of that internet rage and then going to try to coach little league or interact with people that I care about that feel strongly about different positions or faiths. I became displeased with myself and that’s when I knew it was time to move on from who I was at that time.
A lot has happened in the last 6 months, most notably being the passing of my 12 year old best friend. A weird thing happens when you spend your entire adult life caring for a living creature in that their existence becomes a part of yours. My ex and I adopted this dog when we were just young and dumb college kids in love and partook in the old cliche of a couple raising a dog together. It was gross and I’m sure all of my friends hated it at the time but nonetheless I fucking loved that dog. He was part of me in a way that anyone who has had a pet that they care about can understand. When the vet told me that it was time to focus on making him comfortable instead of prolonging his life, I began to try to understand what life would be like without this animal in it. Each of my kids has seen this dog every day of their lives. I have photos of all of them sitting on his back or covering him with leaves in the yard or any other number of adorable kid/dog things. He was a bedrock of our little family through every single phase of it, and then he was gone.
In a showcase of incredible maturity my 9 year old insisted that he help the vet and I carry the dog from his bed where he took his final nap to her vehicle so she could deliver him to the crematory. He was a sobby mess, but he didn’t let that stop him from participating in a final act of service for the dog that has kept watch over him every day for his young life. It was sad and beautiful and a moment that I hope to never forget. Life is weird in that one minute you’re here and the next you just… aren’t. The dog that slept next to my bed every night for 12 years now only exists in our hearts and our photographs, and one day that’s how we will exist too.
The takeaway of all of this is that I am in a long process of softening that makes me uncomfortable because I don’t know what exists on the other side. Someone I respect recently told me that they were proud of me and it was among the first times in a while that that statement has felt meaningful- because I have worked hard for it. When someone notices a deliberate change in your life, it helps to validate the work you’ve put in to get to where you are, and the work that you have to continue to do to get to where you’re going.