I’m Sorry Is Not Enough


 

 

This has been one hell of a week. I screwed up in a big way, unwittingly hurt a wonderful friend and got my ass handed to me. It wasn’t pretty. After studying the whole situation inside and out, I had to own the injury I caused. It didn’t matter if I meant to hurt, what mattered is that I did. It totally sucked that I had to step up and apologize for being an idiot, but it had to happen.

Unfortunately, saying I’m sorry isn’t always enough. Sometimes we have to let them speak. They have a right to tell us what hurt them and how it felt. They have a right for us to hear them and respect their feelings and take the punch to the stomach we feel as their pain drains out of them and onto our ego.

That being said, there are lines that should not be crossed without immediate action. No name-calling. No repetitive cursing or bully beat-down. Redemption is supposed to hurt like a mother but as adults who actually have the power of speech, logic and reason there is no good side to that kind of loss of composure. Now I do imagine that it feels good to rain hell fire down on someone who deserves it. I’d bet the farm that there was a huge sense of relief and release.

Hurting someone you care for on purpose is a severe loss to both parties.

Sorry, but there it is. I wasn’t trying to erase the wrong I’d done, that’s not possible. I wanted to “man up” so to speak and own my shit. I wanted my friend to know that I saw clearly how my behavior resulted in this downward spiral. I don’t think it mattered that I’m the type of person that bleeds for a long time if I find out I’ve hurt someone I love, or maybe they just don’t know that about me yet.

Honestly, sometimes “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. It deserves to be said and heard, but the pain or injury can take some time to fade enough to look a little closer and forgive. If I care for you in any way, knowing my past behavior is still causing pain is hell to me. Take comfort in that if you will. I am my own hair shirt when it comes to penalties for hurting anyone I love.

I have heard a handful of things in my life that I will never forget. There are words that have been said to me on purpose that I will never be able to un-hear. I am trying not to carry them forward with me, but it is hard to let go of my need to protect myself from those who would break my heart if I let them. This is a weakness, a cowardice that I will work to overcome. Otherwise, they win.

This time, something odd happened. I took my hits and understood the ferocity behind them. I heard the hurt and fury behind every word that stabbed me straight in the heart. I sat with all of this afterwards and just let it roll through my head and my heart. I let it sink in and settle. I even got pissed for a day or so because I owned my shit didn’t I? I apologized and copped to screwing up right? I did the right thing and this is what happens? WTF???

I hurt someone I love without thinking. They hurt me on purpose because I deserved it. I learned several things from the fiasco of this week from hell. Get my head out of my ass and listen to those who care for me. Do not insult them by minimizing their feelings of concern. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Dammit.

I also learned I have limits. I have boundaries I’m laying down to maintain the human dignity in any conversation I have. I’ll listen to every feeling, every sorrow, every injury I’ve created by any action of stupidity I perpetrate upon another. I’ll take every tear and jaw clenching description offered to explain why I am temporarily a low life, scum sucking piece of crap that needs to be lit on fire and put out with an ice pick. I can do that.

Name calling and cursing, over and over…not so much. No. Won’t be happening again.

This is the lesson I’ve learned. I hope, with all my heart, you learn from my mistakes.

Nut up. Take your medicine. Hold the line of decency. That is all.

 

 

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This Is How


 

This is how you quit hiding. This is how you do that scary thing you only whisper to yourself when the shadows of midnight are your cover. This is how you quit being someone who accepts insult and disrespect and turns it into fuel for the journey to redemption.

This is how you quit looking at yourself with the same contempt that you hear in the voices of those who are supposed to love you. The same people who demand respect for themselves and won’t give it to you until you grab them by the nuts and squeeze. Yes, those people.

This is how you lift your head and look yourself in the eye and say “fuck you” to anyone who tries to tread on you while you fight your way out. This is how you lose friends you don’t need, and create an open space for people with spine and courage to come rest with you when you stop to breathe.

This is how you make it through the jagged edges of your own bullshit and throw yourself on the ground of the truth you were never willing to see until now. Go ahead, roll onto your back and look up at a sky you haven’t seen as you inhale the possibilities. Count the stars as you dream, watch them as they shoot across the sky and fall. Feel the wind of everything whispering at the edges of your mind for a chance to grow. Take in the feeling of the grass at your back supporting you like the certainty burning in your gut right now.

I didn’t know what it felt like until now, did you?

This is how you finally break the destructive pattern of giving pieces of your heart and soul that you will never get back to those who are too blinded by their own damage to love anyone.  They are not capable of seeing, accepting or thriving in the love burning you from the inside out.

This is how you say, “I love you, but you can’t stop yourself from trying to bury me in your own damage, so I have to step away”. This is how you say “I am here anytime you need me to hold you or help you move forward, but no more games”. This is how you say “I love you, but you’ll speak to me with integrity and respect, or not at all”. This is how you can look yourself in the eye every morning in the mirror.

The other option is shame and sorrow, which I personally have lived with for too long and do not recommend. When you look at yourself with the same disgust that you hear in the voices of those who say they love you, it is time to take yourself outside and kick your own ass.

Nobody is going to save you. You are all you’ve got.

So let me recap. No matter now badly we were treated, we thought even less of ourselves than those who smacked us down. No matter how much we want to love and be loved, allowing disrespect to build another’s broken self esteem is unacceptable.  Stop the lies you tell yourself. They don’t love you, you just make them feel powerful. They don’t need you, you’re just convenient. They don’t respect you and you hear and see it daily until you WALK AWAY.

WALK AWAY, MY DARLING HEART .

I am here. I am the sky, the stars, the wind and the grass at your back supporting you. I have been there, I may still be there now to welcome you. I am fighting my way out and away from those who would build themselves an empire of our shattered bones, broken spines and torn hearts. I am fighting. Every day means change if you just have the courage to take one step.

One step can be the difference between living or dying for your love, hope, soul and dream.

This is the way. Be afraid. Do it anyway. I believe in you. I believe in me.

Let it be written.

 

A Time To Grieve


I’m in mourning. I’m grieving the loss of so many things it’s overwhelming to me. I can’t begin to heal yet because they’re everywhere; vicious, to the bone slices that render me powerless to do anything but marvel at my ability to function normally.

I’m ashamed at my lack of self-respect and the unwillingness to cry foul when I’m being belittled. I’m filled with sorrow that I’m willing to minimize the showing of my heart and the sharing of my thoughts to make another more comfortable. I watch my words and the way I phrase things instead of freely communicating.

I’ve been a fraud.

I’ve hidden myself for so long, even I don’t know me. I’ve changed to suit those important to me for whatever reason. I’ve put others first when it was ridiculous and harmful to me to do so. I didn’t say “no” so many times when I should have. I didn’t mark the boundaries to protect my heart and the respect I should have carried for myself there. I let myself down and broke my own heart.

I’m not a beautiful chaotic mess, I am a flaming mass of regret for not learning the lessons sooner. I carry them as bruises on my heart and contusions to my soul. Nobody can help me, no one can heal me, there is not a single person out there who can make me rise like a goddamn phoenix from these smoldering ashes.

I’m going to have to do that shit myself.

I mourn my lack of honesty to myself. I’ve got to tell you the truth here while I’m on a roll. I’m so tired. My heart, soul, spirit and mind are weary from rolling the stone from the mouth of the tomb. I’m tired of allowing myself to be manipulated. Just accepting all the agony I brought upon myself is exhausting. It takes a lot of really hard work and focus to totally destroy your own chances to live and breathe freely.  We all keep peering into the tomb to see if anything comes out. No sign of life yet.

It takes a champion in self-destruction to be successful at this for a lifetime, but I’ve been nothing if not committed to the cause. It makes me shudder to realize I’ve carried some of it here with me. That shit clings. I don’t think anything but the shock of actually seeing myself repeating the unacceptable could have made me aware of the necessity to burn every bit of this out of me. I won’t take any more of this. It will be the death of anything worth having in me.

I mourn the part of me that loves you. The heart of me is cracked and aching from restraining itself from going where it’s not treasured. Even the joy in me weeps from its inability to reach into you and give you some sense of its power. I don’t blame you for not loving me, I just wish you’d been courageous enough to be willing to try.

I’ve learned that love gets labels slapped on it and slid into the appropriate slot to make people more comfortable. It apparently requires documents and promises and other meaningless things to make it some kind of goal worth achieving. It’s not a goal, it’s who you are. Or who you’re not. It’s not a tee shirt or a ring. The paper, the ring and the labels are worthless without the courage to love someone and allowing them to love you back.

All the documentation and diamonds I have will not hold a heart. Only love will. That huge, nameless, label-less love that you’re holding back because it’s just way too big and powerful? That love in there that scares the shit out of you because you’d be throwing yourself on the line? That love that you talk about and write about and sing about? You know, the one that you hide from because it will turn you into more than you’re comfortable with?

That’s the kind of love people will work their asses off to keep alive.

I have that. I feel it. I carry it with me. I will not be careless with my heart again.

But I will be fearless when I give it next.

No More Excuses


I’m at a pivotal time in my life. Some would call this a crisis moment, a fork in the road so to speak. I see it simply as a time of frightening and exhilarating clarity of who I’ve been, and why. I see my entire life built upon the constantly changing foundation of what I thought was expected of me. I believed that  what I taught myself to be because of that belief, was what gave me value. I lived my life as if my purpose as a human being was dependent upon my giving what was expected.

Now here I am, at 53 years old, holding the knowledge that I screwed myself, and everyone in my life, out of the real deal. I get it, it’s okay. I see and accept what I’ve done to myself, but goddammit if it doesn’t just piss me off at the moment.  I’ve been a hot mess posing as someone who has it all together, let me be the first to say it here.

So let me tell you what I’ve learned, and you may do with it what you will.

I have learned that honest communication between us is imperative if we are to have any relationship worth having. I’ve learned that love is a living thing that can be grown to an unbelievable  beauty or shoved into a closet for its inconvenience to slowly suffocate until it is no more. Love is a living thing that can thrive and strengthen the environment where it exists or suffer from the poisoning of neglect or apathy, thus destroying all that surrounds it with its misery as it dies.

I’ve learned that our lives are an example of what love is to us, and I’ll be damned if that doesn’t scare the hell out of me. The example I’ve set is that love requires constant sacrifice, and the lessening of self. I’ve lived as if it required that I didn’t matter, that I never say “no”, that I turned myself into a mat that it wiped its feet upon. I made myself matter so little to myself (and therefore others) that everyone was a priority before what I wanted was considered. Unfortunately by the time I asked myself what was important to me, I had no  idea. None. At. All.

Here is all I know for sure right now.

I know that I want people around me that are brave enough to say when I’ve hurt them, and how. People that are willing to say I’m sorry when they’ve hurt me, and mean it. I want those strong enough to work through the hard shit because our friendship is worth it. I want those who are willing to work hard the same way I am willing to work hard, to build a relationship of value and not just one that skims the surface. I’m tired of the bullshit, the cheap seats and the easy way to nowhere. I’m not just tired of it, I don’t want it in my life at all.

I don’t have time to spend on those who have no courage to really love me.

To be honest, I don’t have time to spend on those I can’t truly love. Because they deserve better and so do I. It’s  a ridiculous waste of time to live a half-hearted life in a mediocre way that fits into some la-la-la bullshit of normal. I don’t want normal, I want real. I’m willing to do the real and jump through the hoops that result in looking into the eyes of someone who will go the distance for me. Truly. Someone who deserves me to go the distance for them, and I will because they’ve done the work and matched my resolve and offered their heart. Straight up and without apology. Devil take it, come what may.

That’s the kind of relationship I’ll go to war to preserve.

I don’t want beige. I have no interest in tepid or vague or nerveless little gatherings of comradery. Give me the people who will put themselves on the line for me, start a riot, burn a building. Give me those people and I will give them every bit of that in return. Is that too much to ask?

And if it is, do you mind if I say fuck you, step aside and let the real ones through?

If you do, step aside anyway. These words and this life aren’t for you.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. It took me half a century to figure it out.

No more excuses.

 

 

Michael Xavier ~ This Is Not An Interview


mx hoody pic fave #1

 

I offer a warning to anyone expecting to conduct an interview with Michael Xavier. He avoids them like the plague. He guards his privacy resolutely, and has no problem turning the tables on a hopeful interviewer and putting them in the hot seat in his place. Don’t waste your time coming armed with the idea that there’s nothing wrong with asking a few simple questions. A conversation with him is a learning experience of what will, and will not, be tolerated during the time he decides to offer. Any more than two questions will place you in a mine field you do not want to walk through.

The author of last year’s HEART LIKE A HAMMER, and the recently released book, THE LAST CIGARETTE OF THE NIGHT, is at the same time engaging, and a master of deflection. He’s both forthcoming and evasive, depending on your area of inquiry. After multiple attempts to question him about his writing and his life, he stops deflecting and begins to question me.

It’s not a pleasant experience being on the other side of the equation.

I admit freely that it’s an eye-opening experience for me. He calmly asks me similar questions about my life that have me feeling uncomfortable, defensive and a little ashamed of my unintended disrespect. It’s disconcerting to learn that the way we hold conversation in the midwest is actually quite intrusive and rude to say the least. I spend most of the evening after the first phone call analyzing what the hell happened, and what truth did I find? What lesson did I learn?

In the phone calls that follow this awkward experience, I learn very quickly that if I want to know anything about him at all, I need to listen. I learn that the less I ask, the more he offers. My respect for him grows with each phone call that follows, even when I hang up gritting my teeth and mentally calling him a jerk. Our talks range from a wonderful experience to a conversational train wreck that passers-by can’t look away from. He can go from easy-going entertainer in the blink of an eye, to a verbal surgeon, ready to eviscerate me for my latest careless infraction.

He’s a walking, talking lesson on what it means to be honest, generous and unashamedly human. He offers no excuses for his flaws, and accepts none from those he chooses to allow into his life. A conversation with him is often painful and exhilarating at the same time. When he says to me, “Bless your heart”, it’s a strong indicator that my latest comment was either naive, foolish, or both. He’s admitted that he has to hide his phone from himself to keep from saying anything harsh when I aggravate him. I find myself laughing, and at the same time, grateful for his temporary restraint.

If you ever talk to him yourself, I’m sure you’ll understand.

Those who follow his fan page learn very quickly to think before they comment. He has little patience with those who offer uninformed opinions, negative comments, or try to answer rhetorical questions. One of my favorite responses of his is, “Just because you can comment, doesn’t mean that you should”. He’s irritated with those who vomit their opinion onto his page three or four seconds after reading something it took him hours, or even days, to bleed onto paper.

It bothers him when he posts a picture of himself with a piece he’s written, and more comments are directed at his looks than his work. To him, the first is genetic, and none of his doing, and the latter is his heart offered up to the world. Put like that, it’s easy to see where the exasperation comes from. If you’re on his page, he invites you to enjoy the writing, instead of spouting nonsense that should be reserved for your own page.

His sharp, analytical mind struggles to tolerate my rainbows and butterflies mentality. He studies everything, tears them apart and then puts them back together again. When I carelessly wonder aloud about something, he starts spouting facts and telling the supporting story behind them in a matter of fact way that leaves me amazed and speechless. Somehow, for the duration, we were able to communicate successfully, largely due to my ability to be open-minded and his willingness to overlook…well…all the the things he had to overlook to remain in conversation.

His childhood is something he doesn’t often talk about. After learning even part of his history, I understand why. There is the mother he never knew. The childhood he wasn’t allowed to have. The defender he had to become for his own well-being. He is that defiant soul, that rebel heart, that molar-gritting determination to beat the bastards that think to keep him contained within their sanctimonious parameters.

I begin to see the boy, chin out, tiny shoulders squared, hands fisted in preparation for a fight, refusing to drink or read or bend to the will of those whose hearts were so atrophied as to be non-existent.

His view of love and relationships is illuminating. He thinks it’s bullshit that people talk of giving and needing nothing in return. He believes that love given is meant to be returned by thought, word and deed. He believes that sex should be raw, raunchy and real to keep the fire going in a relationship. He doesn’t roll with the 50/50 way of thinking. He gives 100 percent and expects the same in return. He’s a relentless defender of those weaker than most of us, and he will tell you that loyalty means more to him that the “love” word we toss around so cavalierly.

His work makes us feel hope, anger, envy, sorrow and love. His stories are raw and real, changing our perception of the world and those who walk in it with us.

With his latest book, I begin to see that there’s a part of him in each character. The unloved child, the good boy, the irreverent jokester and the everyday hero. He writes of his struggles and his salvations, and he is the main character in both. He is the both the man with the past that no one would want to endure, and the maker of a life that anyone would be proud to claim. The more I learn of what lead him to the present moment, the more I respect him for making himself into a good man from a life that would have taken most of us to our knees.

While reading THE GOOD BOY, I felt the desperation in his need to escape, the power of dancing around the fire in the moonlight, and the awe in watching a man of character minimize a man of weakness with integrity alone. There are parts of myself I am forced to face when reading BLAND FATHOMLESS CONTEMPT, or EATING BUKOWSKI, and in MOLLYWOOD, my heart broke for both of them.

The need for love and a sense of belonging is what motivates each of us at the core, no matter our position or lot in life.

The crown jewel is LULLABY, the first five chapters of a serialized novel. I fell in love with all of the characters in some way as I read myself through their loneliness, fear, courage, and exuberance.It’s been a very long time since I’ve found myself so wrapped up in the story unfolding in my hands. I know I can’t wait to read the next chapters of their lives as they’re offered. My only hope is that it will be soon.

I learn to harvest the truth mixed with the bits of fiction in the stories he offers. Underneath every word of every story is a furiously burning love, hope and determination. He thrusts himself into life, chest first, heart hammering, eyes wide with fear which is “just excitement with no place to dance”. He has lifted himself above neglect, bigotry and abuse. He has overcome heart-staggering loss, and addiction.

His passion for his craft isn’t limited to his writing. It bleeds over into everything he does. I’m fascinated to learn that he makes Messages in a Bottle, and jewelry as well. The bottles are works of art in themselves, holding various pieces of his writing inside, crowned with hand-carved corks with silver toppers, and sealed with wax. The first one I ordered arrived on a Saturday when a friend was with me. When I unwrapped the carefully packaged bottle, and read the poem inside, we both had tears in our eyes. That is power. Those are words that make worlds. The more he makes, the more elaborate and intricate they become.

The jewelry pieces are novels without words. I order a charm bracelet, and what I receive is a story about me, in solid silver. Each charm represents something he’s learned about me, and I’m not ashamed to say I was at a loss for words when I held it in my hands. Everything he offers holds some of the heart and love he has for those he calls “his people”. He puts so much thought into every piece, searching for the right charms to suit each person, so that when they open their package and hold it in their hands, they know immediately that this piece is only for them, no one else could own it and feel the impact. If you don’t have one of his pieces, you have my sympathy, and I suggest you rectify that oversight.

As I said, this is not an interview. If you follow him, you know he grew up in northern Idaho, his IQ is in the upper two percent of the general population, his childhood was unacceptable by any humane standards, he won his first major writing award at age twenty-one, and that he writes as a conduit of something much greater than all of us. You may know he’s a Sagittarius, that he drinks whiskey when he drinks at all, smokes Pall Mall Blues, and permits only limited printing of his work. If you pay very close attention, you’ll learn that his greatest fear is to leave this life before all the words that need to be written are finally put on paper by his hand. These things are not what it’s my intention to share with you.

He gives of himself to such an extent that he is constantly disappointed in the apathy of those around him. He has no desire for anyone to put him on a pedestal, the same one that all of his literary heroes have fallen off of soon after he met them.

He knows that life is fleeting, and can’t bear the thought of not speaking the truth, not loving with all he has or not “eating the cookies”.

He is part badass, part bleeding heart; the logical mind of Spock warring with an endlessly giving heart. He will give you the shirt off his back, and then bite your head off for mentioning it later. He is irritating and amusing, offering his advice when asked, and letting you fall on your face when you don’t listen. His example of tell it like it is, has obviously rubbed off on me.
I recently purchase two signed copies of The Last Cigarette of the Night. His generosity inspires in me a desire to give the second one away to someone who can’t afford to buy a copy, so I ask him how to decide who to send it to. With his permission I post a contest asking for an essay on the feelings inspired by his writing.

The responses I receive are strong and varied. The emotions expressed range from soft and sweet to hell-fire and brimstone. They come from as far as Africa, all carrying the same message of love and gratitude. The chronically ill, the broken-hearted, the lost and the angry at life respond with fervor.

I’m stunned by the outpouring of emotion inspired by one man and his words.

My original thought was to give a book away as an act of kindness. What I ended up with was an example of what it means to make a difference in the lives of people you may never meet. I find myself struggling with the desire to buy all the copies and give them to every single contributor. It’s a very hard decision.

This is what I know for sure. This is the truth I can offer the reader. Michael Xavier is flawed and indomitable, generous and reserved, blunt to the point of offensiveness and loyal to those who remain at his side, no matter the circumstances. He can be both sharp-tongued and soft-hearted. He is quick to anger and forgive. He’s sweet and snarly, funny and sometimes rude. He’s a gifted writer, a superior craftsman and a good man.

Getting to know him is not easy, or painless.

But it is worth it.

The Confession of She


She looks out from her porch across the quiet water and lifts her face to the wind and silence of the world she’s creating for herself. She’s afraid, who wouldn’t be? She is, at the same time, filled with an uncontainable joy, and why should she try to contain it?

Like most things in life, there is a balance that must be maintained for things to grow ever forward; to deter the stagnation of the soul that comes with too much. Too much sameness, too much resentment, too much blame. The blame is the most damaging as it can be directed inward to the self or outward to another, both being a total waste of life and time.

She smiles for a moment at her joy, and then her eyes fill with tears as she begins her confession. It’s a hard, but necessary thing she’s doing. If she holds onto her pride, and confesses nothing, then everything she’s doing is pointless. She has to say her part in it all, claim her mistakes and wrong-thinking. There are penalties for the mistakes she has made, and she has paid for most of them already by living with them every day.

Now it’s time to confess and forgive and move on. 

It starts as a whisper, as she names the dreams she put on the shoulders of another that were hers alone to pursue. Her voice trembles just a little as she speaks every wish she had for them that seems to now be nothing but a silly fairytale remembered from bedtime stories. Her heart quivers and cracks as she admits freely that what she asked of him was beyond his capability to give. Beyond even his desire to give.

They are both the result of hearts unevenly yoked, each causing the other to falter.

He is a realist, and she is a seeker. He believes in what is right now, and she believes in what could be. He’s right. So is She. She confesses that she did not have the power to blend those into a thriving life, and knows he has no desire to blend at all. She wants love. He wants respect.

Neither of them got what they wanted.

That is her greatest confession; her greatest sorrow. They matched themselves together, and both of them starved to death from the inside out. He left more, did more, worked more. She turned into herself, pounding out her frustration and loss on the keyboard. What he did hurt her heart, what she did hurt his pride.

Both are apparently unforgivable offenses.

So here She stands. Confessing to the world her greatest failure. The failure to successfully love and respect the one she chose to build a life with. What his part is in this is of no concern to her now. That will be for him to see or not, to confess or not. Her confession is what matters, or she will never go any farther than where she stands right now.

Remaining the same is unacceptable to her. There are dreams to be had, a life to live.

So she stepped away from her keyboard, and into an unwritten future. She walked away from apparent safety into the uncertainty that comes from wearing courage cleverly disguised as foolishness and rash thinking.

No one understands how brave she is being in the face of fear. No one knows how her blood runs cold to consider that she may be wrong, and have nothing to offer the world. It crosses no one’s mind that she wants her legacy to be one of living without apology, loving without restraint, and laughing over mistakes that are only tools for learning. None of this clear to anyone but her, and she confesses that it scares her that she might be wrong.

But what if She’s right?