May 23, 2013

Don't Call It A Comeback

"If you are going through hell, keep going." - Winston Churchill

This isn't a comeback.  Everyone loves a good comeback.  But comebacks often fall short.  Even the greatest teams, athletes, human beings on this planet fall short sometimes.  It's too premature to call my post-Sandy resurgence a comeback.  I haven't come all the way back yet.

This is a metamorphosis, an awakening.   

This is destiny.

Why Are You Doing This?

I can't tell you how many times I've asked myself that question since Sandy.  Why have you been running like an idiot for the past 14 months?  Why have you been fighting for what you have been fighting for?  Why are you spilling your guts in Your Stoopid Blog?

Why not?

Why not?

I know why.  I know exactly why, I've talked about why in this very space, in different ways.  I've told the people closest to me why, or at least the biggest reasons why.  Writing about it comes naturally, it's good therapy.  Running and writing are better forms of exercise, rehabilitation and stress relief than drinking whiskey.  Turns out your doctor was right.

But to write and reveal.  To share it in this space - that's literally a different story.   

Get A Journal, Ron.

I started this blog a few years ago.  Just another forum to use to promote my burgeoning record label.  Marketing 101.  Then Sandy happened, and instead of shilling product, I started to talk about my life.  I started talking about What Really Matters.  Sometimes all that typing was necessary to get through those first surreal days after the storm, thoughts pouring out of me during those restless homeless post-Sandy evenings in Bensonhurst after spending my days amongst the muck and the mold on Staten Island.  Late at night, it was either lay out on an air mattress with my nutty traumatized dog at my feet and watch some dark shit - High Plains Drifter and Blue Valentine and Shame - or sit at a folding table and type type type away.

My Sandy Experience changed my life - not just aesthetically or geographically.  The life I was leading pre-Sandy was unacceptable.  Mediocre.  Unfulfilled.  I needed to grow up, to grow out of the bad habits that were plaguing me.  I had to learn how to recognize The Devil.  I had to accept the truth about who I was and who I wanted to become in the wake of losing everything.  Sandy's destruction forced me to let go of a lot of things, a lot of history.  It's hard to let go.  But it's often necessary.  You can't create the future by clinging to the past.

There will be worse things in store for me, worse things than a superstorm wiping out my house, my record label, and my home music studio.  No matter how much I've lost, how much I've learned, how much I've grown, there will still be losses in my life that I'll never truly be prepared for.  But now, today - these six months since Sandy came and fucked my practical world up for a bit of time - have been the most interesting of my life.  Not the best, mind you.  But certainly the most interesting, the most I've learned about myself, about karma and about morality.  As for the best, it isn't here yet.   

The best is yet to come. 

Well how do you know that, Ron?  You could get hit by a bus tomorrow.

When superstorms happen, when tsunamis show up, when Boston bombings and Oklahoma tornadoes send shock waves through neighborhoods, cities, nations - the victims never celebrate.  Rather, we universally ask the same question.  It's the same question you ask when someone you love passes away or gets sick or any sort of tragedy invades your life.

Why?  Why me, why us, why now?

A week after Sandy, my next door neighbor came by to share some words and a puff of smoke.  I was in the house alone for the first time since the storm.  All my help had gone home, back to their own less complicated lives.  I was playing my piano in what used to be my living room, surrounded by boxes of my surviving stuff.  It was snowing, a nor'easter in New York City during the first week in November.  It was 37 degrees inside my ruined house.  My fingers were numb as I played a song I wrote about a girl, singing aloud to no one in particular.  The bulldozers rumbled outside, clearing debris, furniture, rubble, history.

My neighbor showed up and we talked for awhile before he asked the inevitable.  Why us?

My answer was simple.

Why not?

If you don't believe that there isn't at least a framework to your story - that the doors you open and the doors you close don't lead to very specific adventures, down treacherous paths or yellow brick roads - then you have yet to be awakened.  If you don't believe that there's a Sandy in your future, or something akin to a Sandy, you're wrong.  The wind doesn't have to bring the ocean with it to stir up a storm in your life.  Sometimes the wind blows you away from things and sometimes it sweeps you up and puts you where you belong instead.

If you don't believe in redemption or transformation or self-affirmation, then you might as well be a zombie or a Communist.  You've obviously never seen The Karate Kid or this past season of Survivor.

If you can't say "I can do this," then you will never do this.

You might not do whatever "this" is anyway, but rest assured you will never do it if you don't grow some balls and get to work.  Sandy broke me out of prison.  Through it all, she has given me more than she could ever take away.  She didn't take my life, she gave me a chance at a new one, a better one.  So how can I not forgive her?  I haven't changed altogether, I have just been fine tuned.  And I wonder if I would have made those changes, those tweaks, if not for her.  Sandy changed my outlook even if she also changed my address.

Some things haven't changed, most specifically the condition of my house.  I still have little faith in the system that is failing me as I type this, the capitalist system that is supposed to rescue me from this national natural disaster yet continues to compound the problem rather than solve it.

FEMA hasn't saved me from Sandy, they just ask for more paperwork.  My insurance company hasn't saved me, they just make excuses for shortchanging me.  My boss saved me.  My friends saved me.  My parents saved me, my dog saved me.  Complete strangers saved me.  Love saved me.  Running saved me.  Writing saved me.  I saved me.

My Stoopid Blog saved me, it has played its part.  It reconnected me to the world, to people I barely knew, to people I really love.

Did you really know who I was before I started writing this blog?  Did I really know myself?  What I publish here has been raw.  It's personal.  But I don't put my thoughts to the virtual page expecting a reaction from just anyone.

After my last post, a woman I have never met reached out to me.

"This was beautifully written and hits very close to home. I've been married for 5 years and have been through the same cycle more times than I care to remember. I'm in the middle of getting off the ride apart...but I'm still dragging my feet and tripping as Im getting off. Thanks for sharing your story."

She reminded me why this is just the least bit important, this relating.  This woman shared her friend's blog with me.  Her friend had recently lost her young son.  I read this woman's blog with tears in my eyes - this brave, amazing woman who has gone through things I can never truly understand - and realized the same things I realize whenever bad things happen to other people - in Boston, Oklahoma, Japan, New Orleans, Sandy Hook, Aurora.  In your own neighborhoods, in your own families.

Your problems mean nothing, Ron.

You're lucky.  You got off easy.  The first time I ran after the Boston bombings, I sprinted around Prospect Park like a roadrunner.  I still had my legs and they still worked and I was grateful.   After Boston, I stopped writing this blog for awhile because I started to ask myself What's the point?  Doubt starts to creep in until you ultimately realize that what you share with people is what brings you closer to them.  What you share with people is what strengthens your love for them.

We have forgotten what it means to open up.  It ruins us - our convenient omissions, our self-denials, our excuses.  Our tall tales and our little white lies.  Isn't Sharing Caring?  Why is Honesty such a lonely word?  Won't the truth set you free?

Why is it so hard for us to really talk to each other, to communicate?  To shed our skin and share our dreams and our fears?  When I run now, I try to make eye contact with people.  Sometimes I wave or I nod or I even say hello.  The Old Ronnie would have avoided that, looked the other way.   But The Old Ronnie drowned on Staten Island.  Good riddance.

That's why you can't call this a comeback.  Sometimes you have to close a certain chapter of your life in order to start a new one, a better one.  Sometimes hurricanes push you to grow up, sometimes people do.  Sometimes you have to push yourself.  When I cross that finish line in November, it will be a different guy running through Central Park rather than the one who started training for the NYC Marathon last February.  When I run now, I don't struggle.  I excel.  I no longer want to just finish, I want to finish strong.

Life is a gift.  It's a fucking gift.  Open up the box and play with whatever is inside.  You'll never know how long you'll have to enjoy it.