Monday, December 29, 2008

On Peace

With today's headlines from the Middle East, it seems odd for a post on peace. But peace has settled upon me and I am trying to welcome it into my life.

I've spent much of 2008 picking up the pieces of my heart and mind while recovering from the divorce. I could write at length about the drunken, sobbing nights I endured this year, but those don't much interest me now. Toward the end of the winter and the beginning of Spring, I began to feel better. I've written about this turn of the road before, but some elaboration is in order.

My therapist recommended that I construct a timeline of my marriage. Major events, changes in mood or circumstance, things that may seem minor and/or important. I approached this assignment with a fair amount of dread, because who wants to see their failed marriage arranged on a spreadsheet or a table? But I decided to attack this as another Technical Writing project: document what happened in order to produce a better Test Case for future releases. So I began the task. Took me about two months to complete, but by the time I was done I did see some patterns of behavior. Patterns that during the marriage I considered essential to its survival. Patterns that I have exhibited my whole life.

I sat on these discoveries for a while, not knowing what to do with them. Typical guy thing to do, I guess: ignore the problem and it will go away! I wrote in my journal without reviewing its contents as I went along (a former habit of mine). I also used the VoiceNotes program on my iPhone to record my thoughts and feelings, mostly while porching ("Porch Thoughts"). And after a while the problem revealed itself. The best way to sum it up is in a maxim I have often said to people over the years: "If you can't take care of yourself, then how can you take care of another?"

The cruise was a wonderful kickoff to my latest project: Taking Care of My Emotional Life. Making small changes, asking myself if this choice or that one will be beneficial to me as well as to another, for example, has done wonders. And all during the hectic production process at work I felt calm and centered. Unlike last year when I was at wits end, spending 12+ hours at work because I loathed returning to my new home to be alone with my demons.

This Holiday Season has been one of the best I've ever had. My family has been a real source of strength and I wept when we exchanged gifts, saying that they had already give me the best gift of all: their love. I had Dad, Sister, and her dog over for dinner last night, and we all had a wonderful time chatting and marveling in the sixty-degree weather! We sat on the porch before dinner and reveled in it.

So, this peace. I like it. I'm still working hard at welcoming it into my life, and I still have much work on myself to do. But I feel that I've been given a headlamp while still spelunking my mental caverns. I can find my way out of this; I believe this now.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

On Singing in Public

Last night I attended a holiday party and met a whole bunch of new people. Always a good thing. A group of them left early to go to a piano bar and asked if I wanted to tag along. I brought some cigars to share with my host so I told them I would meet them up later.

After leaving the party, and then going home to put on a sweater because the air was getting chilly, I made my way to National Harbor. This is the brand new hotel/convention center/outdoor mall complex just over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Maryland. Only took about 20 minutes to get there from my house and I found the place with no problem.

I call one of the folks to find out the name of the piano bar. "Bobby McKey's," she said.

It's not a typical piano bar. It's what would happen if a dueling piano bar were dropped into the middle of a frat party. And people don't get up to sing while the pianists provide backup, rather, the performers encourage the crowd to sing, clap, chant, and make all manner of ruckus while they belt out a bunch of very different tunes.

On the plus side, all of the musicians were pretty good. Nice piano technique and serviceable voices. Even their canned jokes didn't feel quite so canned. They all knew how to read a crowd, and this was a raucous one. So they got appropriately raunchy when they needed to be and then clever to amuse themselves.

All in all, I had a nice time even though my voice paid the price for howling along with the rest of the crowd. But as I drove home, I felt a longing for a real piano bar. And then I remembered the one that my friend TRP took me too many years ago when I was visiting Seattle

I usually prefer new takes on old forms, but in this case I'll make an exception.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Different Kind of Holiday Show

Over the weekend, I attended a production of "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot". I thought it was one of the most moving and sensitive portraits of Christianity I've ever seen. That title was previously held by "The Last Temptation of Christ" (book and movie), but this moved me even more.

The play consists of a trial for Judas Iscariot held in Purgatory. There are witnesses arrayed for and against, and while Judas spends most of his the play in a semi-catatonic state, he remains central and vital to what is going on around him. The question before us is simple: Can we forgive Judas? Should Judas be forgiven at all?

Not surprisingly, I found that I could forgive him. But not because of my feelings about organized religion, but because I understood why he made that choice. I won't tell you the reason, because that may spoil the play for you and I do encourage you to see a production if you get the chance.

But for now, during this season of peace and reflection and forgiveness, I choose to think not of the Light of the World, but of the man who effectively snuffed it out. Sometimes cursing the darkness is the only choice you think you have.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pastor Rick Warren

Speaking as one of those non-religious types, I have to ask a question: Why do we need a religious figure to be included in the Inauguration of the President of the United States? I don't care about Rick Warren. He doesn't speak for me -- but then again, the Reverend Barry Lynn doesn't speak for me either (at least from a religious standpoint).

But if I were the leader of the LGBT band from San Francisco that is scheduled to perform in the Inaugural Parade, I might be tempted to inform Obama that they might be busy that day. You know, for a parade in South Dakota, perhaps.

I do think that Obama's response is pretty good, FWIW:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On Thrown Shoes

This may get me kicked out of the super-secret-commie-pinko-bleeding-heart-liberal-elitist club, but I didn't find the shoe-throwing incident funny. In fact, I found it rather sad. Sad for our country, sad for Iraq, sad for the troubled journalist, and sad for the President. Maybe I'm still feeling a bit melancholy over the death of a friend but I couldn't enjoy any schadenfreude from it at all.

Truth is, I just want GWB to go away. I don't want to waste any energy (emotional or otherwise) on him. That's not to say I don't want every single one of his crimes investigated to the fullest extent possible. But that's for the incoming administration to deal with. For now, we have to deal with this sad little man who doesn't seem to understand the enormity of the insult that those shoes represent. Either that, or he just doesn't care.

And that may be the saddest thing of all.


OK, this may be the saddest thing of all:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Inferno and Paradiso

Funny how two weeks ago today I was lying on a beach in the Dominican Republic, soaking up some Vitamin D and listening to the latest Stephen King short story collection on my iPhone. Today I plunged deep into the document production process for our upcoming release. Only 150 docs or so to deal with. It'll be fine. Really.

Also funny how remembering how the powdery sand felt between my toes helped today go by a bit faster...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Post Mortem

So much has happened.

A vacation that was 15 years in the making.

A peace that is slowly settling upon me.

The death of a dear friend.

Updates to follow. I am needing this forum once again...