Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Grief Bends Time

A year ago today I lost someone I loved and cared about deeply to depression and suicide. I posted this on Facebook the day after Tony's memorial service. 

I've managed to get out of bed multiple times today, only to return to it each time. I believe and meant everything said before: on love living on in our memories and hearts, on the ripples from a special soul reaching out and extending into eternity, on the gift of past shared time with a truly loved one being precious. To be cherished and embraced, to offer comfort and warmth in remembrance.

Yet, though true, today it has been hard to hold... I feel not the warmth of the gift that I'll always have within me, but the fragility of seams and scars surrounding the absence, and the endless beating drone of guilt and regret that I was not more: Before. That I was less than I could've or should've been: Then.

I know the ache I feel is not profoundly unique or special from that of others. It is perhaps less deserved than that of many: yesterday, today, tomorrow. I claim no loss beyond any others; in fact, I wish I had more of the strength I've seen in many. And perhaps it is bad form to share mine, again, here ... as though it is somehow special, or deserves unique attention. But I share it, because I feel like I need to, even if possibly being self-indulgent in expressing it, again.

While walking the dogs earlier, without even realizing they were there, tears were with us. As I stopped to cross the street, "Are you okay?" a couple on the corner asked. Thoughtful concern from strangers.

"Yeah" Pausing, "Thank you..." Pausing again, "I'm trying to be." I suppose that's something.

Earlier, in recounting her own feelings of a devastating loss, a dear friend said "grief bends time." That thought rang with such truth. One moment, it has found its place and you're living on, better for time shared - warmly recalling togetherness and being, embracing the gift you were given and will always have. Then time bends, and it all opens up, and you just fall into it.

After the beauty of the memorial concert, and through some attempts at focusing on today, it opened up. I fell into it.

But time will bend again ... if not tomorrow, perhaps soon. And I'll hear his music again, and - while still missing him - will be able feel the beat in my heart, to have my soul lifted by the melody, and to dance in recollection and love of its beauty.

Rest in Peace - Anton Zafereo - Feb 19, 1969 - Dec 29, 2014

Friday, December 18, 2015

Prepare the Spelunkers

Had a colonoscopy earlier today. The prep before hand was a blast! (get it? a "blast"... see what I did there?) It went as well as you could expect laying on your side in a room full of people, naked but partially covered, and having tubes with "live action/real-time" cameras stuck into your orifices would go. (I was assured that the videos will not be posted, despite their potential of going viral.)

Things were found, removed and sent to "the lab" ... (Jimmy Hoffa was not among them. Presumably that search continues elsewhere. There were also no WMDs. The Department of Homeland Security has been notified.)

Results in 2 weeks. The doctor was unconcerned, so that is what I am as well.

Thanks to my friend Jeff for picking me up at the hospital, and then joining me afterwards in having my first solid food in two days. (And also for not mocking me when I ate every single thing on my plate ... and some from his. Though he did tell me not to eat the plate, so I guess there was some mocking. Meanie.)

I started to feel poorly almost immediately after eating and Jeff dropping me at my hovel, which got worse as time passed - a massive headache in particular. After spending most of the remaining day with it, I checked in with the doctor, and was assured that it was not because my head was removed from my colon. (So there.)

Just a reaction to coming out of the anesthesia, related "physical disturbances" recovery - something that varies both by person and event - and one that will pass with rest and liquids. Dosed with headache medication, did some serious napping, and am starting to feel better.

So, that was my day. And you thought yours was a pain in the ass ... (Okay, yes, that was an obvious joke. Whatever.)

Now it's off to the couch, to Netflix and recover, curled up with the pups. No pink plastic gloves required.

updated somewhat from original version written earlier in 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

I want to go home.

Frequently I find myself saying out loud how much I want to go home.

"I want to go home."

Even alone in my apartment...
even as I'm lying in my own bed.

I want to go home.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

That's just mean.

I changed my twitter profile picture from one of Kurt Cobain to one of me today.
cartoon by toothpaste for dinner

Shortly afterwards, three people unfollowed me.

That's just mean.

Hurtful even.


Friday, December 4, 2015

I'm Unable to Read This

And the category is: Good news/Bad news. I bought new cheap reader glasses at the drug store today. I can read without squinting again. Yay! My eyesight is getting progressively worse. Boo!

I remember going to the eye doctor when I first began having problems reading a while ago. Tests and tests (and then, some more tests) followed.

"Is this better?" Uh, I guess.

"What about this?" Worse.

"And this, or this?" The second.

"And this? How is this?" Was that a trick question? No difference. Are you trying to trick me? Don't try to trick me!

"Okay, what about this?"

There was an eon of that, back and forth, on and on, until the verdict: I could no longer read without glasses. (Yeah, thanks for that news flash.)

Knowing that of course there could be any number of potential issues, I ask "So, is there anything else to worry about?"

He doesn't even look up. "Nope. You're just getting old."

Seriously. He said that, exactly that. Bedside manner, FAIL.

"You SO could've put that better!" I exclaim. "How about, after all that you have seen, after the vagaries and multitudes of life and living that has passed in front of you, your eyes have grown tired. They need to rest. Let's help them rest ... You know, something like that."

He laughed.

So, anyway, I bought new glasses today. I got new glasses today, and NOT because I'm even older now than I was then. My eyes are tired. There is much that they have seen, absorbed, focused upon and considered, scrutinized and helped to transform into understanding, viewed near and afar... and now, they need more rest.

Is it any wonder? They need more rest.

I'm helping them.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Not Open, and Yet, He Knocks

It'd been another long night. Work was endless, progress a mirage. Acceleration only spinning wheels - as one item was addressed, three appeared to take its place.

Dawn’s light arose. Silvery peach light peaked thru the office blinds. Heavy eyes batted against it, trying to read the words on the screen in tandem with fighting their attempt to close, to rest.

"Late Night Coffee" (via)
Coffee. I must have more coffee. That’s what was needed. Temporarily satiate internal emptiness, distract emotional hunger with physical sustenance. Wake up.

The Starbucks across the street had just opened. A cigarette preceded the walk, a better life through chemicals — nicotine, then caffeine. The wind blew, the rumpled mess upon my head shuffled and settled. My mouth felt pasty, sticky, slow to respond: like my brain, weighted at the hinges.

I wandered across the street.

Crowded early, damn, so many people. All these people starting their new day, me still living the previous one. "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." Shut up.

Entering with rumpled clothing, weighted countenance. Two days beard growth covering my face, a physical representation of my life — continuing despite an inability to handle the present or the preceding, progressing on while unable to participate in the motion.

I had thought many times about the casual meeting. A relationship built from a momentary passing… pollination from the unexpected bee lighting upon the faded bloom. Did I ever bloom? Does a faded bud count? Whatever.

It happened all around me. Magical moments landing upon friends only cast me in their reflection, never seemed to greet me in light. It happened in movies. I’d attempted it even — so long ago, so very long ago, back when I was trying. Make my own movie. But no Parting Glances video store clerk dating for me. That attempt, starting with flirting, turned to an evening that still stung a little in remembrance. Not as much as other relationship failures, but still. There was to be no meeting within the passing of a simple event. That happened to others. Not to me. Where’s my coffee?

“Can I get a drink started for you”, she asked, irritatingly cheerful.

“Triple tall non-fat latte”, I responded, thinking the line was beyond long. Couldn’t some of these people be somewhere else?

“Tom” I said, twice, in response to the query for my name. Pay attention. Get me my coffee.

“Mmm, Tom” a voice beside me said. As I reflexively turned, “Oh did I say that aloud” he responded to my glance.

I said something pithy in response, I don’t remember what. Something about how things occasionally emerge from your mouth on a direct path from your brain — bypassing any control mechanism. A thought believed to be unspoken, suddenly voiced aloud, consequences following. An event I was familiar with, as my “career” evidences.

“Yeah, particularly tough in this instance” he said in reply to whatever I’d said. Was he flirting with me? Couldn’t he see me? What?

Man, I wanted to sleep, not be here, not go back to work. Where’s my coffee?

“Keep smiling,” he said, amidst the line progressing.

Was I smiling? Did I smile? He was all morning — I was all night. I needed a shower, feeling less than the limited amount that I could be on my best day. All scarred and burdened with yesterdays.

I got my coffee and exited, concerned with the work that remained to be done… clouded. I was across the street with my coffee before I caught up with the occurrence that was part of its purchase.

A movie moment had occurred. Not the dream vision of the perfect match casually dancing thru my life while I was fully engaged and ready for the melody … but a guy, possibly cool, talking, reaching, introducing — while I was anything but there, anything but ready for an invitation to join in with the music.
via Trigger Image

The phone rang, and my voice mail barely picked up … ending the call before it had completed.

Protection born from the past producing an unavailability that extended, encompassed, surrounded… that became all. I was barely there behind the protective fortress.

Amongst the weight of overnight work, smothered by responsibility pressuring to be addressed, burdened with past pain and loss, stifled behind shielding walls …

There was a knock on the door. Unavailable, I had no answer.

updated somewhat from original version written in 2005

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Express Yourself

Lucy, SueKaye, and Vida photo by Tom Thomas
Took the pups to the vet today. It's a "drop-in" (no appointments) vet; we've only been going there a short time.

"Hi, they're so cute! And what can we do for you today?"

"Hi. My name is Tom, and this is SueKaye, Lucy and Vida."

She greets the pups, and then goes back to the computer to bring their records up.

"Today it's nail trims and anal gland expressions, all around."

Silence, while she is typing. A silence that, for some reason, I just had to fill.

"Not for me."
"I mean, I could use a manicure, but I'm sure my anal glands are fine."

A guy waiting for the vet to see his dog found this amusing. I suppose I could've used this as a starting point for a conversation with him, but I didn't. I'm not sure what I would've said after that anyway. "And, how are your anal glands?" Segues are hard!

It was probably best that I didn't. Besides, it would seem that I just self-expressed sufficiently for the day.

Also, they don't do manicures.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

You know that feeling...

That feeling you get when you're walking in the city, and you see this woman who you think you know and you wave at her and smile, and only after you're waving and smiling you realize that you've never actually seen this particular woman ever before in your life ever.

And so you try to play off that you weren't waving at her and look past her, like there's someone else there that you were waving at, and she turns and sees that there is no one there but her and realizes that you were totally waving and smiling at her.

And then, rather than simply saying "sorry I thought you were someone else" or something like that as you pass her, you decide to turn this moment into one of friendliness and greeting so you say "hi, I hope you're having a great day" as you begin to pass each other.

And, rather than joining in on the moment of friendliness and greeting, she looks at you like you're Creepy Joe McCreepster. And you want to say "no, it wasn't like that at all" or something and explain, but now she's already passed you and you feel like Creepy Joe McCreepster even though you're totally not.

And then you notice the person across the street who is sitting outside having a coffee at Stumptown, and realize they watched the entire thing and now they're looking at you like you're Creepy Joe McCreepster even though you're absolutely not.

And you want to say something but realize that is totally what Creepy Joe McCreepster would do, so you just put your head down and keep walking.

Yeah, I hate that feeling. Totally.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Well, Hello Mr. New Executive

A new member of the company’s executive team started today at work. (Because, you know, a company can never have enough executives.)

His first project is a fairly high priority action to coordinate some new product development, and as I'm managing the Information Technology department -- he wanted to meet on his first day and get status of some setup actions to support its progression.

I sent him a serious of emails, spreadsheets, and other such information that had occurred prior to his arrival, setup a meeting, and then dutifully showed up at the designated time. Thankfully, I remembered to bring my humility, and an ability to speak in full, clear sentences. (You know - neither run-on style, nor laden with parenthetical speak commentary... I can do it if I really, really concentrate... honest.)

He asked a number of questions, I answered with detail and managed a couple of jokes.
(Humor: it can warm and entrance, it can endear and engender positive thoughts, it can deflect and defend, or it can wound and hurt. Either of the middle two groupings in that list was fine with me. What the hell, the first one would’ve worked too.)

"Pink Slip" by Vincent Romaniello
"Sounds like you have it well in hand", he says, glancing towards the door giving an ever-so-subtle version of the universally recognized signal for "get out of my office now".
(I believe Amazon will be selling a handbook of these signals shortly. If you purchase it with the workplace humor book, "That's not Blood on the Slip, It's Just a Really Color Rich Version of Pink" - you'll save on shipping.)

We shook hands, both laughed as he said he had about 400 emails to read. "Welcome to your new job", I replied sardonically, and exited.

"That went fairly well, he seems reasonably cool", I said to myself under my breath, as I returned to my office and to fulfill my wage slavery responsibilities for the man.
(Oh, and to grasp the American dream. And pay bills. Wage slavery for the man, to fulfill the American dream, and pay bills. Purpose.)

About 30 minutes or so... and he was in my office with a question - apologizing for interrupting.

"That's okay, I'm just looking through resumes trying to hire a Network Operations Center Manager. You don't happen to know one do you?"

"None that I'd recommend, all I've done is fire them."

(I’m pretty sure my resulting “gasp” wasn’t audible, but it sure was loud in my head.)
My, now that's some intimidation technique. Well done.
(You know, if that was his plan. Was he kidding?)

(Barely disguised nervous laughter)
"Uh yeah, well... there you go!"
(More barely disguised nervous laughter, pregnant pause)
"... was it any of these?" handing him some of the resumes.
(Crossing my arms, and ever so slightly pleased with my "think on your feet" response.)

Laughing, he thumbed through quickly, and said "No. Good luck!"

He asked his question, I answered, he thanked me and left - and I turned back to my computer and found that my boss had just committed me to have all the budget projections and full uptime and status reports, including monthly and quarterly trend analysis, complete by the end of the week without checking on whether it was at all possible.

Just another day in the office...
(Note to self: check for that signal handbook at Amazon tomorrow. And keep practicing that full, clear sentence thing. And pay bills.)

originally written in 2005

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Moment in Life, or on TV, or in Film… One of Those

I'm walking the pups tonight, and we turn off Pine onto Boylston.  We're walking by RPlace, and the pups stop to catalog all the smells around a tree when, through a big smile, a guy standing outside the bar calls out to me, "Hey, can I have one of those?"

I almost respond "You can have me!" arms flung wide, heart beating faster, music swelling in the background, suddenly appealingly lit from above - because he was just that adorable. But I stopped myself.  Because, well, that would just be sad.  Not to mention an express elevator to awkward moment.  

So I looked up like I was thinking, and then replied "Uh, yeah, NO."

"Oh, c'mon, you have so many" he laughed.  We interacted for a bit, shared a little moment like strangers sometimes do on the street, and then the pups pulled me away, back down the street.  I smiled and nodded goodbye to Mr. Adorable, as the pups had so many more smells to catalog, or places that need to be marked, or stuff that might deserve attempted digestion - a bounce in their tiny little feet, tails wagging with life, ears flopping with love.

Across the street, a "gangsta" wannabe stereotype walked in the same direction as us.  His cap was on backwards, the gold chains around his neck swung in rhythm with his stride, his coat was too big, his jeans hung around his thighs, his underwear was checkered boxer shorts, his attitude was loud.  Head neck bobbing; holding his phone away from his mouth so it can capture the full breadth of his meaning, yo.  

"We already know where you live!" says the stereotype loudly at his phone and into the surroundings, holding the crotch of his jeans with his other hand as he walked with testosterone threat.

I stop for a minute, watching the stereotype.  Just then, a big blue van pulls up right next to me.  There are a number of antennas on the roof, the windows are shaded ... the driver points one of those coned listening things from action flicks at the stereotype, and puts his other hand onto his ear.

Uh ... did we stroll into a "Law and Order" episode somehow?  Were we just part of the opening scene, disconnected from the story, which is introduced suddenly as the slight opening turns into a ghastly crime scene?  I imagine Briscoe and Greene driving up, glancing at the stereotype's body as Brisoe says, "He shoulda used his rollover minutes" or something funnier... the pups and I now recounting the horror that interrupted our lives to a partially attentive policeman in the background.

A couple approaches us going the opposite direction.  He is using one of those rolling knee rests for one of his legs, presumably because his foot was hurt at least as much as the wheels squeaked.  As they approached, she said "Triscuits" with some fervor.  He replied "Cheez-its" with less confidence, which caused her to shake her head furiously and say "No, Cheez-whiz."  Their conversation paused as they passed by us, each repeating "Cheez-whiz" to each other.

“Never Have // Night Walk” from blurred lights
Then it dawned on me.  This isn't "Law and Order".  This is a Fellini film.

I'm not staying for that.

"C'mon little babies," I said, pulling the pups out of frame.  The stereotype was still loudly threatening the phone, oblivious to the blue van of barely adequate stealth.

The pups’ tails wagged as we exited stage right, floppy ears bouncing in stride.  I smiled as I watched them... the night seemingly descending behind us.

originally written in 2011, also published on Medium

Friday, November 13, 2015

Just Plain Nuts

I'm in the evaluation stage of pursuing treatment for major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. It was no small accomplishment to take this step. I expect that at some point I'll go into it more on this blog (exciting, I know), but that point isn't really now.
Just Plain Nuts, by Gary Larsen, "The Far Side"

During the evaluation, which continues with another appointment next week, there were a few things that were said which landed on fully functioning memory brain cells. (Fully functioning memory cells are an increasingly rare and precious resource.) So, I'm going to put them in this blog. Why not?

  • "You're a difficult case."
  • "You need to stop that."
  • "That's a really long time. Why do you think that is?"
  • "You're very likable."
  • "What is it you see at the end of this? What is it that you want?"
  • "You just need to get over that."
  • "Exercise is the magic pill. If I could synthesize the effects of exercise into a pill, I'd make a shitload of money."
  • "You're obviously an intelligent and caring person."
  • "You've done amazingly well over a long period of time, considering. It's time to help you."

Amazingly well is obviously defined very loosely. Or a comment that depends heavily on perspective. Or a white lie said as encouragement and support. One of those.

Thankfully, "just plain nuts" hasn't been said. Yet. There's still time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


That it was not completely rational made it no less real. That it wasn't returned or fully shared, made it no less true, no less offered or given.

"Lost in Thought" by Stephane Villafane
A dream, a hope, unbound and felt completely can swallow reality, cloud vision, consume being. Lifting your feet off the ground: pulling by desire, alight with belief in possibility, motivated by a want for it to be truth.

When removed, cold and exposed, when the bubble bursts, the fall is more complete than a rational pursuit rendered unreachable. While disappointing, and perhaps mourned, that sought while grounded, with brain engaged, can land with knees bent. We get up, we move on. The risks were known. Options, recoveries, alternates - if not readily available - are conceivable, reachable. We get up. We move on.

Those losses can be accepted more readily than ones propelled by heart beat - your being consumed - your brain rationalizing away or failing to acknowledge reality, all in service of hope. The landing is more devastating with the heart fully engaged, the head an afterthought. That it may not have been completely rational makes the pain no less real, makes hope's destruction no less impactful.
“No one loses their innocence. It is either taken or given away willingly."
~ Tiffany Madison, Black and White
Cynicism occupies, builds, consumes with repeated occurrences. What were you thinking? You should've learned after all. Foolish man. Or perhaps it was just taken, because it could be. Because it was easy to take. That's what you get. You got what you deserved. Or, at least what should've been a possibility considered, acknowledged, prepared for. Don't give yourself away, protect your heart.

That you were not completely rational, makes the scars no less real. That it was never to be and you still pursued, hoped, dreamed, tried ... makes you no less true. But perhaps, over time it simply makes you less. Less you.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Uncertain Progression

I'm not sure what I'm writing, or why I'm writing at all. (Sometimes, the expression emerging from simply existing is insufficient. More is needed, even if born absent awareness. Even if it appears without point or reason. Even if it, ultimately, means nothing, and is but a shadow… drifting, disconnected from any source.)

I'm not sure why I'm in this life, or where I'm going within it. (Sometimes, I sense a purpose - but for others, not for me. The destination - even the reason itself - remains a question. Eternally. Yet inertial aimlessness - seeking an answer, hoping for something – continues.)

I'm uncertain of past effects, unaware of future consequences. (Sometimes, I look back, and question what I remember. Do shades and shadows of experience color the recollection, distorting its truth? How is a future to be formed, without understanding the path tread … when the next step lacks any thoughtful action, has no driving motivation?)

I'm uneven in the day, embracing of the night. (Sometimes, in light – the glare betrays all. What occurs shouldn't, and wouldn't, without flaws lit and illuminated. The darkness has appeal – the lights’ retreat offering the comfort of obscurity - to which I cling, escape to, hide within, sometimes.)

I'm questioning love’s existence; yet still hope to know it. (Sometimes, the “could be” remains worthy of pursuit, even when it may never be. The possibility - however slight, however doubt clouded - reason enough. The potential existence, just enough. Hungry, yet tentative… timid in expression, desire unspoken, yet a persistently aching void.)

I'm not sure what I'm doing, or why I'm doing it.
And yet, sometimes, I do it anyway.

The purpose or reason, to be: Unknown
The past or future, to hold: Uncertain
The light or dark, to feel: Unresolved
The question or answer, to know: Unclear

I wonder if…
I hope that…
from simply living...
Life can be found.

Modified from original, which was written in 2005

Life Under the Exit Sign

Under the Exit Sign
"Life Under the Exit Sign" photo by Tom Thomas
Every single apartment I've lived in has been under an exit sign. Starting with my college dorm room, and then continuing on through six different apartments in three different cities.

There were a couple of breaks over the years, joining with friends to rent a house. The houses had no literal exit signs... though in each instance, there were many signs that I should exit. Sadly, I stayed in each beyond the signals, indicators and warnings that it was not the right place for me. Except for one positive experience, I finally moved out hurt and disheartened, with friends reduced to roommates. Friends that became lessons.

Whether moving into an apartment beginning the journey into adulthood, or from leaving a shared rental, or leaving one apartment to move to a new one; there was always the exit sign. Right above the door.

Was this a signal of some kind? Perhaps a warning that my move was insufficient... that life was continuing on a path from which deviation would be beneficial. I mean, the exit sign is RIGHT THERE.

Regardless, they were ignored. The consistency deemed a recurring coincidence. A road less traveled not taken.

After many years of living under the exit sign, I wonder if it wasn't a coincidence. If it wasn't the universe obtusely telling me to move further, to try more, to venture... beyond.

I'm not sure what this blog will become. There will likely be posts comprised of some things written in the past, and thoughts arising in the present. Maybe some political things, maybe some cultural things. Maybe not. I don't know, I have no particular plan. It's an outlet more than anything else, at the moment anyway.

The exit sign is still, as before, above the door. Life, such as it is, remains under it.