Dearest Art Aficionados,
2013 sucked. It was the worst. Sure, there were some really good and fun times like creating, playing, and planning events with all my artist friends, and camping in suits. But, on the whole, 2013 was horrible. I should probably quantify this and say that it personally sucked. How 2013 sucked as far as the U.S. government, ethics, morals, economy, and elections go… well, that’s another story.
In 2013, the transmission on the Jeep was still out with no hope of it ever being fixed. It’s still parked in the auxiliary lot, held together by a tumbleweed under the front passenger tire and pipe dreams. How a tumbleweed rolled into a fenced in parking lot in the middle of St. Paul I’ll never know, but its entropic appearance calms and reminds me that I am on this Earth for only a short amount of time, then I’ll die, and then finally I won’t have to put up with anyone’s shit.
On January 3rd, the broken down Jeep very quickly took a back seat (see what I did there) to the news that I will be laid off. Eventually, everyone in the office was laid off, but I was the first to go and that was difficult for me. I was so angry, especially because six months prior I saw it happening if the company was to keep doing what it was doing. Of course, it was avoidable, but in their infinite wisdom, executive decisions were made despite meetings, metrics, and marketing plans. Well, at least I qualify for unemployment.
Minnesota is known for being nice, liberal, and sometimes, downright socialist. It was easy to collect unemployment insurance while I looked ahead for the next career move while building the photography business. What wasn’t easy is actually dealing with the State of Minnesota. I would spend hours on the phone with people that didn’t know how to transfer calls to the next person that didn’t know what the hell was going on. I discovered that the reemployment meeting that I attended isn’t a Minnesota State run department. It is just part of the process in which to collect unemployment insurance that is run by an outsourced company, yet housed within the unemployment office itself. And you guessed it; zero interoffice communication. At one point I was told that the form I received from one department was for another department that in turn didn’t know the prior department existed. I then asked them if they had a machine that goes ping. They didn’t get it. So I sold everything, turned it into gold, changed my name to Ron, and moved to the Boundary Waters.
The end of February was especially rough. My best friend of 15 years had… I guess, changed. Or rather, his opinion of me changed. I received a series of drunken phone calls, texts and emails that were so emotionally abusive I didn’t know how to handle it at first. Now, I’m a tough and rational guy but those messages brought me back to an awful place of a young, sheltered me growing up in the church and being the subject of ridiculous accusations from parents and elders (this would also fall under ‘that’s another story’).
My best friend and I met when we were both 21. We were introduced by a mutual friend, hit it off, and then started a band. It was great. It had been a few years at that point since I could call someone my best friend. We didn’t grow up together but, with each other’s help, we grew into being better adults. We supported each other through various girlfriends, roommates, band mates, parents, a marriage, a divorce, money, moving, starvation, hospitalization, or just when we one of us needed a ride. He became my brother. 15 years of great times were had with my brother. We made music and art. We became philosophers, then cynics, then idiots, and then back to philosophers.
However, alcoholism turns a person into a nasty liar, if not to their family and friends, but to themselves. I suspected that this had been going on for a while now. But how do you bring it up? How do you talk about it? You can’t go to your best friend for advice when it’s your best friend that’s in trouble that you need the advice for in the first place.
After the first week of uncharacteristically verbally abusive drunken contact by him, I finally replied to his email. I called him out on his shit and told him that I wouldn’t be pouring drinks for him anymore. I wasn’t going to allow him to drink in my home and I would call the authorities if he decided to threaten himself or anyone else. I couldn’t stand to watch my brother destroy himself. I wasn’t going to be an enabler anymore. Well, as you can imagine, all hell breaks loose and suddenly it’s all my fault because my fiancée turned me into a horribly disrespectful person. I’m told this behavior is typical of an alcoholic but I’ve never been to Al-Anon and I’m not a doctor so this information is heresy at best.
His abuse continued for several more months until I emailed and told him that while he is still my brother, we cannot be friends. I asked him not to contact me anymore. He was no longer one of my groomsmen. He was no longer attending my wedding. He ceased to be in my life and it feels wrong. This one hurt. Right to the core. Every day I wonder if I made the right decision. I think I did. No, I know I did. I just wish I could have made a decision that hurt less.
Inevitably, the band broke up. 10 years together. New material was scheduled to be recorded in winter 2013. That will never happen now.
In the meantime, I’ve been struggling with my parents to get some answers about whether or not they wanted to meet my future in-laws before the wedding. A few options were given as to when and where everyone would meet. All parties involved thought it was a great idea and I was just waiting for my parents to confirm. It was all resting on them and they took their sweet time to decide.
It turns out my parents exist in a different space-time continuum than most of us. It’s a place where the streets are paved with pleasantries like “I don’t understand” and “Well, I don’t know!”, fact is replaced with assumption, and the weather report is something that is only told by a local guy on TV at 10:25 at night. The most bizarre anomaly of this curious land in which they reside is the concept of time. It is not linear and it is not familiar. I learned that the colloquial ‘a couple of weeks’ means 9 months to my parents. They took 9 months to give me a yes or no answer. It was a reluctant ‘yes’, by the way. And, for your information, everyone got along. All comments and judgments by all sets of parents in attendance were kept to themselves, that is, until it was just me, my fiancée, and my parents.
I found myself sandwiched between my mother and father. Dad was sitting in the chair directly to my right and Mom, to my left, next to me on the couch, both of them being totally oblivious that the seat on the couch next to me was silently reserved for my fiancée. Recognizing social cues has never been one of their strengths. I found the situation less frustrating than the time they accused me of being possessed by demons because of my devil worshipping and yet, somehow, was more awkward than Dad telling me about the birds and the bees when I was 28 years old.
Through all the loss, depression, fights, arguments, unexplained outbursts, breakdowns, and poop I experienced in 2013 there was one thing that kept bringing me back to a stable place. That one thing, a mantra, the source of which I haven’t visited in a long time, I would repeat to myself whenever someone’s words or actions hurt me or made me angry. Sometimes I didn’t abide by the mantra and decided to be an asshole because it was easier than taking some stupid high road. That and the fact that instantly gratifying vengeance tastes so good.
The mantra is derivative of many before it but is better than the others. It is perfect and precise and relative to the standard of those who use it and those that receive its fruitful, beautiful, unselfish gift. A mantra that everyone knows, it transcends expectation and entitlement and whatever –ism to which one identifies. It requires not any daunting task, vow, or epiphany. The mantra is perfect as to not oblige one to be so.
One must only be aware and understand that everything is delicately balanced and connected by a thin, fragile filament constantly in flux and on the verge of breaking. It’s unfortunate we can’t control others. That would be great, right? A life without conflict! Hooray! However, we are only in control of our own words and own behavior. This is why the only thing I know, without a doubt, Socratically speaking, is one mantra.
Be excellent to each other.
See you in 2014.