Nov 26, 2012

A View From The Other Side


I'm on another planet right now.  It's official.


The holidays are here.  Leftover turkey, tree trimming, bargain shopping, celebrating.  The lights are up and the halls are decked.  Capitalism always gets us refocused.  Everyone loves a good sale.  But I am not here.  I'll be having none of that this year.  I am on another planet.  I am on Planet Sandy, a barren wasteland inhabited by insurance adjusters and mold experts.

Thanksgiving was a blur, and I have white wine to thank for the help.  I spent the second half of the weekend in front of a computer and a huge pile of papers and forms, filling out grant applications, itemizing all my lost gear and furniture, figuring out my next move.  The Pause Button is in full effect. 

The Pause Button means that your life stops while everyone else's continues in its perpetual motion - sure, there are people in your life, big and small, affected by your situation, but no one is nearly as affected as you.  It's happening to you, not anyone else but you.  I'm not commiserating with my fellow survivors because thanks to this storm, my neighborhood is no longer a neighborhood, rather a disaster area, a til-further-notice construction site.  My fellow survivor is a Westie dog.  Normalcy no longer has meaning.

Right now, the only thing normal is chaos.

Buttons the Traumatized
But your life doesn't actually pause, only the normalcy of it does.  Instead, it spirals off in this other direction that no one else is headed in.  My brain is on all the time, sleep is a cruel mistress.  I've barely watched television.  I haven't read a book, I haven't written any music.  There was barely time for that before the hurricane.  I've left all that behind on the planet that you're all on, the planet I was on a month ago.  Now I'm here.

I can tell you some things.

$54,000

That's how much it all adds up to - all the stuff I lost that I won't be reimbursed for, all my contents.  I suppose I was living pretty well for a divorced dude doing middle management duties in the burgeoning radio industry while struggling with a middling music career.  I had a cool house, a fun house, even if it was on stereotypically uncool Staten Island and even though I wasn't having much fun inside of it last year, the year my wife left and the dog and I stayed.  I had assets.  I always had a job.  Since I was 12.  Always.  And I was always a saver.  Responsible with my money, my parents drilling that middle-class mentality into my skull early on.  "The more you save, the more you provide for the future, for your children, the more comfortably you can live as you get older."  Now there are no children, little comfort, and the future is as uncertain as it has ever been.

And I was trying to grow a business, which meant spending - on musical instruments, on recording gear, on office equipment and computers.  High priced items.  Expensive tax write-offs that became collateral damage.  But this is not just about money - disasters are never just about one thing, they're about everything.  There is always fallout.  This is about history, about legacy.  A big chunk of mine is gone.
Was this my last Keytar?
I can also tell you that I currently don't have a place to live.  Nothing goes smoothly in life, there are no perfect parachutes.  I had two very hot stokes in the fire that would have offered two very different things - status and comfort - and both of them fell apart within a few days of each other, leaving me to mull various offers of couches, guest rooms, potentially uncomfortable situations, and very inconvenient commutes.  I may have to give up my dog for awhile, which will certainly pain me, but will probably pain him more.  All these unknowns - how much will it cost to fix my house? how long will it take? where is my bed frame headed? do I have enough clean socks? - can be a scary thing.

I can tell you that the mold is still growing in my house, I can tell you that my insurance settlement is still a great big question mark, and I can tell you that dealing with brokers, contractors, and adjusters is a very stressful and expensive business.  There are snakes in every field.  Even at a time like this, they are lurking.  People are out for themselves.  Most people.

The only times I feel halfway sane are when I run and when I write, and I've managed to do a decent amount of both these past few weeks.  But my sanity is waning.  It's getting cold.  I no longer have my trusty treadmill to get me thru the winter months, no less a place to run in.  I'd join a gym if I knew where the hell I was living.  And I'm not sure about the writing, either.  What am I trying to prove by baring my soul?  Who cares what I have to say?  Get a journal, Ron.  Am I punishing myself further by rehashing all this?  Should I try to turn my brain off?  I can't.  My soul is aching.  Aching.  

This time last year, it was aching too.  It was Thanksgiving weekend and I was spending my first holiday season alone in five years, my first as a divorcee.  I was on another planet back then too.  Planet Single.  I was trying to explain to my family how displaced I felt by not being with a woman, that I was over my 'alone time,' that at this time of the year more than ever, I needed someone.  The dating sites were a nightmare, and I grew weary of them quickly.  I grew weary of life.

Soon after, I met someone and things changed.  There was holiday magic in my world last year, even if there was little else.  It was a beautiful, unexpected gift.  It all starts with electricity, just like it has to in my damaged house.  Electricity is what sets everything in motion, what turns the heat on, what gets the motors running and the fixing done.  You can't start fixing yourself until the power goes on, then things start to become illuminating.  Electricity is not just wires and switches, tho - it's an energy, a force.  And you don't have to be a professional to channel it.

Before all this darkness, there was proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, and I was becoming enlightened.  I understood things about life and karma and destiny that I hadn't realized before.  I learned to lower my shield, even if just a little.  I was learning to trust my feelings again, to trust someone else's.  I learned that we all must be held responsible for our actions, in one way or another.  And we are never truly prepared for what happens when things go wrong, no matter how strong we think we are.

The electricity has always been there between this girl and I, the magnetism.  That thing between two people that doesn't fit into a box, that exists just because it does, not because it necessarily makes practical sense.  I've felt that spark before - rarely, but I have.  But like all the waterlogged gear to follow, just because the sparks are flying, that doesn't mean everything is functional.  I've felt that feeling before too, I'm sure a lot of you have in your own imperfect love lives.  And now I feel the same way about this woman who was the best part of my 2012 that I feel about the water that was the worst part.  On one hand, it's this beautiful thing that I need in my life to survive.  When the water is tranquil, I yearn to be around it, I am in awe of it.  On the other hand, the same water destroyed my house, it turned my life upside down, it pulled me off the tracks.  It ruined things.  At least for a little while, possibly longer.
How can I ever forgive it?

Staten Island: A View From The Other Side
It's a rhetorical question.  And it's not a question I know how to answer anymore, or even care to.  But this is why my soul aches, why my head hurts, and my heart even worse.  All you can do is try to be someone's ideal mate, someone's everything.  You have to recognize that the rest is not up to you.  You can only do your best.  And if your best is not met by someone else, you have to snuff out the flame.  It Is What It Is.  Sometimes you have to surrender the battle in order to win the war.  And for me, surrendering has meant forgetting.  It has meant accepting that it's over even though you never want it to be.  Accepting that love will never move forward without its bumps and bruises.  Accepting that taking a chance is the noble thing, that the risk of putting yourself out there is worth the scars that form and will someday fade.  You have to try.

The hurricane and love are the same thing.  Both can break your spirit, you can never truly be prepared for either, and although you might never be able to avoid them, you can make choices and change philosophies that will help you better deal with both the next time around.  You have to protect yourself.  You have to have insurance.  You have to prepare for disasters.  But who the fuck wants to live their life that way?  Always waiting for the next shit storm?  Not me.

Today on Planet Sandy, I feel destined to be one of those people who settle.  Those people who want to live life in a safe little box instead of living life to the fullest outside of it.  For me, it's not by choice.  Sometimes life puts you in that box and it dares you to break out.  But I've been beaten down pretty good.  Eventually you get beat down enough times that you don't feel like getting up anymore.  It's harder to take chances, to risk whatever security you have.  You settle, you accept something less than you deserve.  But I'm forever the fool, I still look at that water and I see the sunlight and the horizon even tho all the rubble is right there in the foreground.  I still feel like something great is out there in the distance.

Everyone wants to paint this as a blessing, including me, even tho it feels like the worst kind of curse right now.  The house will be fixed up, it will have shiny new stuff in it.  I can make it my own now from the bottom up, even if there's a lot less inside of it than there was before.  Even if the winds and the waters will never seem too far away.  But even if I'm back in it at all, I will be back in it alone, and I'm not sure if it will ever feel like a home again even if it resembles a house.  I will recover from this hurricane.  But will I recover from all this heartache?

No matter what side you look at all this from, it's hard not to have mixed emotions.  Hope and despair.  Faith and surrender.  Strength and apathy.  For me, this isn't just about the tidal wave, that part is over.  It's about love, it's about the future, it's about the choices I made on the planet you're all on right now and the choices I'm about to make while on Planet Sandy.  It's about the choices I make once I return to earth.  It's about who'll be waiting there for me when I do.  It's about recognizing what matters most and maintaining until you can find that.  It's about being grateful once you have it and becoming the type of person who deserves to keep it. 

It's about not giving up.

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