The Abyss

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“…And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” Nietzsche

The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

In the matter of a week and a half two friends, former coworkers, had taken their lives; a ripple of sadness passed through what used to be a close-knit family, one that has been cast to the four winds, nomads, since they closed the plant a couple years ago; Facebook is all a flutter, as everyone is trying to make sense of this tragedy and offering to be a sympathetic ear for those in need; and I’m just crying; when “Bob” committed suicide about two weeks ago there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it; as he had recently gotten a better job and appeared to be happy; well…he always appeared to be happy; he was the guy that you never felt the urge to avoid, that you always had a nice conversation with, as he was soft-spoken and was rarely ever without his smile; though rumor has it he has fought periodic depression for quite some time; he has been in an on-again-off-again relationship with another friend/former coworker that he has a daughter with, but whatever the reason(s) he had he found it necessary to hang himself with copper wire in his garage; and I found myself wanting, no needing to know what was going through his mind as he stood at the abyss’ edge; I don’t know if this need stems from morbid curiosity, the writer and student of human behavior that resides within or because I have been near the abyss’ edge before and needed to know just how far down this rabbit-hole goes–how much worse can it get before one takes action; whatever the reason the idea was always lurking there like the shadow behind every sunny-day thought; then a few days later my wife called me while I was on the return trip from North Carolina and told me that “Mark” had killed himself; as I was with my father-in-law and sister-in-law I bottled and buried all reaction to this news; but once I was home it started to hit me harder and harder in waves and I began going back over all of Mark’s Facebook posts; it was as if each one was a scream for help; the most recent post had seemed darkly poetic, as it spoke of the woman he lost; she held him in her arms; his cheek against her chest; lips pressed together; his need to be with her is paramount; his eyes grow heavy; he is sorry; I had lumped this post in with all of the other dark/depressing/vengeful/lamenting/antagonistic posts he had made forever, but with 20/20 hindsight it couldn’t have been any clearer to me; a captioned picture of him laying with his dog on the couch, “at least someone cares about me,” and another post asking all of his contacts to tell him something good about him; a one sentence response to Bob after his passing, “I feel you but you could’ve called me bro,” and the more I read and re-read these posts the more I despised myself for not seeing the signs before it was too late; where I once needed to know what Bob had been thinking, I found myself overcome with the raw pain of hopelessness and loneliness I knew Mark must have felt at the end; I was there at the abyss’ edge with the ghost of a friend and the familiarity of the abyss washed over me; I had to shake it but I couldn’t; we had babysat his now four fatherless children; I had given him rides when his car was broke down; I had told him in an IM when he looked for validation on Facebook that he was a good man and that I had a great amount of respect for him; it took me two days to get to the point where I wouldn’t just break down crying at the mere thought of him or at the latest Facebook posts; I had gotten closer to the abyss’ edge than I ever had before, but I learned a valuable lesson, that I remain unbroken…perhaps even stronger having faced those demons; the deep lows and the amazing highs give me the breadth of reference that not only makes me who I am, but allows me to bleed upon these pages unabashedly; life goes on;

Immortality

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Most of us, if not all, are afraid of what comes next…the big next.  Now, I’m not going to get mired down in a philosophical treatise on the afterworld or reincarnation, rather I am going to center on the simple act of leaving the life you know behind.  Death waits for us all, whether we want it to or not.  We worry about the state of our affairs, “who’s gonna support my loved ones, who’s gonna take out the garbage on Monday night,” and so forth.  The question that burns the deepest is, “how long before I am completely forgotten?”  At least if I am remembered, in some way, then I live on.

Those of us that blog, do so for certain reasons, like catharsis, or sharing beautiful moments, or introspection and trying to understand what it is to be human…reaching out with this to say that we are not alone.  We read the words of others to experience their human condition and to see not only what makes us different, but what unifies us as well.  Beneath all that, I think, that we yearn for immortality through our words.  Many of the bloggers I see have already published books, and in that alone deserve our respect and gratitude for adding to the chronicles, while some of us (yes me) are still finding our voice with hopes of one day writing the next Great American Novel.  Is that too much to ask?  If I can string the right words together, in the right sequence, I can live forever.  It’s wizardry.  We are trying to cast a spell, but if we do it wrong we could find ourselves lost in the oblivion.

This carries a lot of weight.  I have always allowed fear, more specifically the fear of failure, to paralyze me into inaction.  If I do nothing then I haven’t failed yet and the possibility of success is still there, but if I try and fail then the dream dies.  Now with age comes wisdom and I have learned at the intellectual level that this is false, that we learn from our failures and can always try again, but at the subconscious level I am still scared shitless.  A prime example of this fear induced paralysis was, for me, going to college.  I didn’t go right out of high school.  I went to work through temp agencies, at warehouses and factories and found myself having nervous breakdowns that bubbled up when I would think, “is this my life, am I stuck?”  I had always wanted to go to college, but the fear told me that if I go and I flunk out, then factories and warehouses will be all that’s left for me.  It took every ounce of my resolve to fill out the paperwork, but in the end…I flourished.  I loved it.  I wish I could be a career student to this day.  Now I won’t get into the irony that I am now employed at a factory in a managerial position, as it would change the tone of this entirely.  Rather, I am going to talk about hope.

As most of you know, I am now the proud father of a beautiful almost-five-month-old son.  Now, as much as he can serve as a wondrous distraction, he has also given me my immortality (at least that’s how I see it).  He looks so much like me that it’s like having a window into my own infancy.  I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of my future self sending my current self a letter that not only explains what’s coming, but the right decisions to make to get there…perhaps this’ll be a future post.  Now I know this concept seemed a fantasy, but it will happen…not for me, but for my son.  I am the letter from his future and hopefully with my help he can make the right decisions and avoid certain pitfalls.  Okay end of tangent.  This newfound immortality means that it isn’t all riding on me becoming the next Stephen King.  I can begin to write with a sense of insouciance.  The weight has been lifted, by the hands of a 17 pound, almost-five-month-old mini-me.

So, watch out world…here I come!  Right after I change his diaper and I figure out a new way to  make him smile and laugh.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I started a new job about a month ago and I’m really enjoying the change of pace, the learning/growth opportunities and having moved out of the food manufacturing sector and into electrical component manufacturing sector. I’m on 1st shift, which is great, but would be better if my wife wasn’t working 2nd, as I don’t see her all week. 

Today I erased a handful of social media apps off my phone, including Facebook. I truly feel giddy with liberation or, perhaps, it’s low level anxiety at losing that outlet/connection. I’m not entirely sure. 

I quit those apps to be more present when spending time with my son and to hopefully spur more creativity. The only social apps I kept are writing/creativity related. I’m keeping this short, so raise your glasses for a toast to change and to creativity! 

If anyone has done the same or similar…don’t hesitate to comment on how it went!

I’m radioactive!

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Standing in the back aisle of the local Kmart, I came across a test kit for determining if your microwave is leaking.  My first thought was, holy crap…my microwave could be irradiating my beautiful single-wide trailer, with me and my miniature schnauzer included!  My second thought was, I wonder if I concentrate really hard if I can get this little tester to light right up.  Stay with me…this is how my mind works.

I picked the tester up, it had a shiny black surface, like vinyl.  The packaging showed an ominous radioactive symbol, a bright red, right in the middle of the area that now appeared black.  Apparently the tester detects the microwaves and the symbol appears, like magic…like finding a pure white, wooly caterpillar–foretelling of a long hard winter, but in this case sterility and bleeding gums.  Again, the idea of concentrating my mental energies on this tester, to bring the symbol out of the black depths had goose bumps running up my neck.

I clutched the tester in both hands, pinched between thumbs and pointer fingers, like someone reading a winning lottery ticket for the fifth time.  I concentrated on the area where the symbol should be, my eyes almost crossing.  I held it about six inches from my face.  Five seconds in and I swear I could see a ghost image of the symbol, like the lady of the lake rising from the depths–the sword represented my newfound psychic abilities. My pulse quickened.

If such a thing is possible…I concentrated harder, spurred on by the ghost image.  My eyes were slits and perspiration beaded on my forehead.  The faintest pink pulsed within the specter and what was once faint began to take form and showed clearly distinct lines.  My eyes widened as the symbol took full form–a phoenix from the ashes.  My heart pounded.  I glanced around to see if there was a witness.  I stood alone.  I frantically flipped the package over and read the small print.  What were the repercussions?

My eyes quickly scanning the fine print.  A bowl.  A bowl of water is placed in the microwave.  The water boils.  The boiling water creates heat.  Heat.  The tester measures heat.  Heat?!?  My fingers pinching the tester right where it’s affected by heat.  My shoulders slumped.  I was once again a normal citizen.  No longer a member of the mutant brotherhood.  I chuckled nervously to myself, wondering where this placed me on the MMPI.

Affirmations 


I suffer from the same crippling self-doubt most writers do. I can, also, find myself falling into a complaining vortex. I have toyed with the idea of affirmations, of getting up early and looking at myself in the mirror, and saying, “Erich, you are a writer with a story to share that people will want to read!” And, I’ll rewire my brain and quickly ascend the world of the literati. Anyway…I could never do it consistently. Soooo, I used the calendar app on my iPhone and created events throughout my day–reminders of how good life really is and how I am meant to write. I read the event when it pops up, I whisper it aloud to myself and I smile. 

Here’s to a better me! If you like the idea, of course feel free to do the same, but let me know how it goes or what types of affirmations you might use, as I could always use more. 🙂

Happy writing!

The little blonde haired girl 


Middle school

She was the new kid

I was alone in a crowd

She started mid year

I should’ve known everyone 

She was used to moving

I went places in my head

Her golden hair made her stand out

My unkempt curly hair did the same

She felt everything was temporary 

I was afraid I would always be that way

She was selective on who she befriended 

I gave my lunchtime chocolate milk to anyone 

She asked me to push her on the swing

I felt the joy and rush she experienced 

She set a date for every recess

I now looked forward 

She chose me

I let her in

Then one day 

She was gone

I pushed an empty swing

Decades later

I don’t long to reunite 

I just hope 

That she found

Someone

Who loves to swing her

Closer to Home, Father I Roam pt. 2 


In an earlier post, Closer to Home, Father I Roam, I talked about the loss of my father. I talked about our relationship, about his being supportive of my writing and how his passing affected me.

I talked about how I am embarking on an inward journey, in attempts to better understand him, creating some of the same neural connections…through reading the same books he had read. He left a map of his adventures–his Nook reader and a library of titles. 

I picked The Shannara Trilogy and was not disappointed. I’ll be the first to admit that I moved through the first two books slowly. It was as if I was subconsciously coming up with excuses to not buckle in and read, at least not nearly as often as I had in the past. However, I did really enjoy them, as they are definitely in a genre that I love. Now I’m not going to do anything close to an in depth book review, but simply say how the journey went and what I took away from it. 

I’m currently about 100 pages away from finishing the third book. I take it with me to work and inevitably I end up going down an internet-search-wormhole and make no use of my breaks, whatsoever. Irritated with myself I’ll return to work, vowing to read the next time. Some part of me doesn’t want the story to end, just like I wish my father’s story was still going on, I guess. 

My takeaway, at this point, is simply my seeing a parallel between my father and the Druid Allanon. He wasn’t really there at the beginning and until later in life he was kind of a mysterious figure that moved in and out of my life. Most importantly, he gave me my love for reading, which blossomed into writing and is the most powerful magic I know. 

I will try to push through the last 100 pages and then see what’s next. I hope to report back on this pilgrimage. I miss him sorely, but these breadcrumbs I’m following will not only bring about a deeper understanding, but will also take time…putting me closer to him in a more final way. 

To me, sharing a book with someone is probably one of the most intimate things you can do. It was, for a time, a life you lived and now, through your actions, they share that life. Share your lives with those you care about, my friends. 

Park bench

Yesterday

I sat on your bench

I tried

To feel your resonance 

I didn’t know you

I saw you on my walks

Apparently no town 

Is too small

For homelessness 

You’d disappear 

During the day

Leaving behind your

Belongings

A ratty backpack and

Your tattered sleeping bag

Returning in the dark

To lay your head down

To sleep

The article said 

Your heart gave up
The fight

Enjoy your rest

As I lie in bed

Hating myself 

For never even

Saying

Hello

New traditions


My father, who I think about all the time, used to go nature walking at some local trails (Beaver Lake Nature Center). It’s where I laid his ashes to rest. 

I now take my little man there as often as I can. I need him to see these trails as sacred, as our church. 


These are the stained glass windows that hold more solemnity than anything man made. 


These are the waters that should hold reverence, be sanctified like the entire natural world…protected. 


I’m trying to raise an eco-warrior.