Tag Archives: terror

Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down

My friend Sean Cranbury shared an article on Facebook earlier, and a comment debate ensued. Here’s my takeaway.


In my youth, I was a huge U2 fan. For a long time, my listening trifecta were Joshua Tree, Rattle & Hum, and Achtung Baby. That was my “era” of U2.

One song I played a lot back then was “Acrobat.” Something about it spoke to me, because I knew I was an angry person. I was angry then, I’m still a brand of angry now.

And you can swallow or you can spit
You can throw it up, or choke on it
And you can dream, so dream out loud
You know that your time is coming round
So don’t let the bastards grind you down.

I wanted to live a life where the bastards didn’t grind me down, but I also wanted to be of those who shouted at the wind to evoke change.

Somewhere in the middle of it all, it did grind me down. I lost my soul for a while. I was angry about everything. I was the trodden. I was the one looking for the crumbs of hope and choking on any I dared to swallow.

I’m 41 now. I’m tired of being angry. I’ve learned something along the way — nothing will ever be perfect. Nothing will ever make us all happy. Whatever victories lift me up are the same that leave others crestfallen.

We live in an imperfect world. That’s just the way it goes. There are no flawless heroes. No perfect souls we can hold up as an example to all.

But every now and then, we have a great day. Like when marriage equality was finally doled out by the Supreme Court in the USA. That was a fine, glorious day.

Then someone turns around and says “But we need more! There are injustices left! Don’t stop! Don’t breathe! Keep going! Fight, fight, fight!”

Here’s the thing, though.

In the United States, more than half of the states still have being gay as a fireable offense. Show up to work gay and you can be fired for it. Really. “Sorry, Bob, we’re in a no rainbow zone here. Pack your knives and go.”

And yet, in plenty of those states, gays lined up for the opportunity to put their love on display and get married on the least-subtle day EVER to be married in gay history. Some said, well, the strange thing is, I can get married today but on Monday I could be fired for celebrating a right given to me over the weekend by SCOTUS.

But still they married. Why?

Because Monday would be a new battle. This weekend? It was for joy. It was for celebrating. It was for saying that in one brief moment we all had a little more love, equality, and hope in our lives.

Those moments — they’re truly rare. That instant of glorious togetherness, where we don’t have to sing “We shall overcome,” because we overcame. In my life, there are a handful. Berlin Wall toppling. The Quiet Revolution in Egypt. Obama’s Inauguration.

I’m 41 and I’m struggling to remember more moments of true joy, laced with the feeling that comes from witnessing change in the making. The good change.

If you don’t stop to enjoy the feeling of victory, then what is it that sustains you? It’s certainly not hope for a better day, because you just had one and you didn’t savour it. No, what sustains you is anger and frustration.

I can’t hate like that. I can’t be angry all the time.

Love wins.

Love wins.

Choosing your moments

Do you know what I did on the night that thousands died on September 11th, 2001?

After a day spent in horror and fear and lost in the coverage on TV, I went for a bike ride. I wanted to find a moment in time somewhere that reminded me what life was like before planes crashed into two buildings that morning and killed so many.

Remember that first night? We knew over 50,000 people worked there. We didn’t know how many were killed. I’d thought over 10,000, easy.

But I went cycling. I found some kids playing in the street. I stood there and watched them battling out over street hockey supremacy, laughing and giggling and shouting and disputing each others’ goals.

For just a moment, I was in a world that hadn’t changed beyond recognition. I was terrified of the loss of innocence we’d had as a continent just hours before. I guess, like me, these children’s parents were trying to make sense of that loss and death and hate, and they’d not yet spoken to their kids about it. I’m grateful they took a pause because that laughter helped me sleep that night and for many thereafter.

Whatever else the terrorists took that day, they didn’t take my hope that we’d one day move past it.

For one brief, beautiful time, this happened. Did you enjoy it? Or did it pass you by because you were too busy worrying about Monday?

For one brief, beautiful time, this happened. Did you enjoy it? Or did it pass you by because you were too busy worrying about Monday?

All this and so much more

The world is filled at once with unending beauty and undeniable evil. We hate, we love. We contain multitudes.

I guarantee you: On every good day you ever have, there are horrors happening elsewhere. Not just bad things, true horrors. They happen daily. This is humanity, for good or ill. It’s nature, too. Animals eat their young. They kill the weak. We are not so different. We are nature too.

Moments. That’s all life is. Snippets joined together. Vignettes.

The good times, they won’t last. Your righteous rage does you much wrong if it robs you of the ability to find joy and celebrate the small victories that punctuate our banal and fleeting lives.

I, for one, would rather have my world and my values cobbled together by those who can see great moments when they come, not those who brush aside victory because the world is not yet perfect.

All I want from the world I live in is more good than bad. I want leaders who call out injustices but jump to ring the bell of victory the loudest when the good wins pour in.

Tomorrow is Monday. We will have stories of those fired for embracing their love. We will have a new fight. But this weekend, I chose love. I chose gratitude. I chose to sleep in with the warm fuzziness of knowing there was one less injustice in the world this weekend.

And tomorrow, my rage will rise in support of those who show us that there is a new day to fight for. Either way, I won’t let the bastards grind me down.

Crisis of Confidence & Craft

My day daunts me. I must find nuggets of awesomeness that define me as a person and writer, deep within these stacks of posts. I’ve no idea where to begin. Other than the beginning, that is.

In the next 27 hours, I have to somehow distill all that I have to say, the whole of my dream, into one email.

These past weeks have been an endless parade of “terrifying” firsts.

My heartbeat needs a muzzle.

I’ll tell you more about this another day. Let’s just say I’m learning about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I’m sure a day will soon roll by where I finally feel like the scales of suspense are tipping in my favour, but this is not that day.

[deep breath]

[sigh]

I swear, though, the biggest lesson I’ll probably ever learn in this life, is that of reconciling how others see me with how I see myself, and striking a balance in there. I’m manic when it comes to my self-image. I’m either all self-love or all insecurity, and seldom in between. Logically, I know the insecurity is stupid, so I can talk it down, and I also know the self-love’s maybe a little over the top or biased.

I wish that was an easier lesson to learn. I wish it was easier to process in writing, too.

I can’t flick off the self-judgey side when I’m reading my old work. I can’t see past some of the stilting dishonesty I’m passing off as restraint. I wish I could undo my hesitations and get fully past the apprehension.

That’s where great writing lies. Ripping off the scabs.

I’ve come close on very rare occasions. Once in a blue moon I can extract all the marrow and get to the centre of anything I’m writing, but it’s so rare that it’s almost a religious experience. I remember those moments with the same intensity as I do a fantastic night of sex. I can’t explain that feeling, but, oh, is it rare.

I blame blogging for that, in some regards.

The nature of writing for such a short-yet-long shelflife is an odd thing. To truly edit well and nail a piece that’s, oh, 2,000 words, a few weeks should pass by. Ideas should be expounded upon or hacked as necessary, emotions redefined, words sharpened, ideas stretched or molded.

Writing’s like wine in that its aging process exposes its weaknesses and challenges its structure. When it’s young, everything gets a pass — it’s quick, in-the-moment, and it’s “great for what it is.”

But…

It’s writing.

It’s not just a second that flashes by. Well, it is… until it isn’t. One day you remember you have archives, you toggle through them. You stop on an insolently average posting and a sigh rises up as your belly turns and you’re forced to acknowledge you phoned it in.

You phoned it in because of some perceived deadline or stress, because some audience you might never know, never make money off of, and never impact.

A little restraint, a little time, a little longer pulling at those threads, and you mighta tamed lightning. But, no. So often have I seen something with promise spat out in mediocrity all because of rushing.

In the fast-moving world of overscheduled lives, pressing demands, and the promise of temporary, we bloggers cut corners and offer up lesser work than we’re capable of.

Or I know I do.

My average posting is written, edited, and up within the hour. Even when it’s pushing 2,000 words.

Excellence? Quality? Pfft, not even. I’m better than the work I churn out here, but there’s a limit to what I think you & this deserve. Deep down inside, a part of me thinks wonders why should I put my “A” game out just for some thieving hack to steal and publish elsewhere on the web.

But that doesn’t mean I need to bring my “C” game.

I’ve reached a turning point in the last two to three weeks, but it’s been a long time coming.

I want the blog to be more content-focused. I don’t want to post because I think you need another meal. I don’t want to care about your needs at all.

I was once told that Robertson Davies, the legendary dead Canadian author, said a writer ought not write until the thought of not writing became unbearable. I’ve never been able to source the quote, but I don’t really care that I can’t, because I love it.

Every piece-of-shit writing I’ve ever done was forced. Any crap I’ve produced has been because I’ve felt obligated and not honest.

Unfortunately, deadlines loom in the world of writers, so waiting for whimsy and her muse to traipse through that door is unfeasible.

But, in blogging? Really? Come on.

There’s no real reason any blogger should have to post more than 3 times a week. These people pushing for 5 to 7 postings a week, if not more, need to stand back and read the crap they’re writing. Seriously.

They need to look at it on a long-view and see just how poorly it’ll hold up in the passage of time.

Because I did. I do. I know now. I’m sad I phoned it in so much in 2007 and 2008.

I did what I had to do, but to whom did I feel so obligated? To you? What have you ever done for me? Really? Most of you sit there silently, paging down, reading.

And that’s okay. I’m happy you do. I’m glad you find worth in this. I want you to! You’d rather I write well than often, wouldn’t you?

But I’m not really obligated to you, am I?

Aren’t I obligated to the craft that has made my life what it is, that makes me who I am, and gives me these eyes I see my world through? Doesn’t it deserve better than the cheap and fanciful flings I have with it? Doesn’t it demand that I really rip into the truth and heart of anything I write on?

Norman Mailer tells how Jean Malaquais once explained the reasoning behind his life of writing: “The only time I know the truth is when it reveals itself at the end of my pen.”

Writing’s kind of this dream I have of life — it’s this place I go where things start to make sense, where the world has meaning.

“In the end, writing is like a prison, an island from which you will never be released but which is a kind of paradise: the solitude, the thoughts, the incredible joy of putting into words the essence of what you, for the moment, understand and with your whole heart want to believe.”

James Salter

Do most blogs feel that way for you? Do they feel like a paradise prison the writer at once loathes and loves their confinement within? Is it a place where journeys are taken and experiences shared? Is where you go to feel like an illicit voyeur with an eye on their innermost thoughts?

I wish mine were. I want it to be.

So I will write less. I don’t sit on posts, so I doubt you’ll see me writing and giving it three weeks’ barrel-aging before I share, but I will be more judicious about when I hit “publish.” I’ll be more considered in choosing themes to address.

I would like to see blogging evolve and become more literary. I think publishing, words, media, everything is changing so quickly that the only safeguard we have left is the desire for excellence.

For now, simply being better and judicious is a fine start.

In Case of My Death, Read

I’m familiar with fear. Oh, am I familiar with fear.

In fact, I’m not actually a person. I’m a giant ‘fraidy-cat. Yup. A pussy, wimp, gutless turd.

I do it well. Continue reading