They flow so easily from your lips.
Momentary sounds of normalcy
That hold no meaning.
They change nothing,
They hide the sepsis
That slowly builds,
Pressing ever harder
Into our every morning.
I’m no better.
Eyes wrinkle in amusement,
Thoughts emerge, wrapped in softness,
Trying to hide the harshness
That lies beneath, barely hidden.
Cold feelings disguised in warm notes.
And all I can think
As I stare across the table;
The only true feeling inside
Is a solitary echo:
I can’t do this anymore.
(Image is property of owner and is used here without permission.)
When we were young, my brothers and I were very close. The house was so small, we had little choice.
We moved a lot when we were kids, so we tended to see each other as playmates as much as anything, even though we were 5 and 5 years apart, me being the eldest. My brothers were constants in a sea of change.
At our youngest, spending time together was easy. Scott and I would use Shawn as cannon-fodder for any number of experiments, and he would respond as though it was great fun. The fact that Shawn did not die in childhood or does not suffer the after-effects of brain damage today is a testament to the strength and resiliency of the human skull.
As we got older, though, the strengths and directions of our individual personalities began to interfere with our genetic and social bond. I was the studious, overly verbose nerd. Scott was the quiet and reserved one; the observer. Shawn was the independent freedom fighter.
What were once common goals became more fractious, and as Shawn became older, he began to realize that his lot in life didn’t have to be guinea pig, and with his fiery temper, he in fact became a weapon of filial destruction. Only my decadal seniority kept him from killing Scott, who wasn’t always in my good books.
The genetic link continued to sever as we continued to age and each of us found less reason to spend time with the others. Our interests were different. Our needs were different. And our attitudes about the other two changed.
Around the time that I buggered off to college, Shawn’s rebellious streak took solid hold and he headed across the country to do his own thing. And Scott folded more into his own world.
In one way or another, we had effectively abandoned the family unit, and more important to my mother, the family unity. I can appreciate now how hard this must have been on her, but at the time, it all sounded like mom whining.
Over the next bunch of years, I think I saw Shawn twice…both weddings, one his. I saw Scott more regularly, but a lot of it felt forced as we would often meet at my mother’s place. I can only speak for me, but it felt like we were trying to maintain an illusion of what was.
There were good interactions between us. And I like to think there was still love. But there was no friendship. Genetics just wasn’t enough.
We parted company and lives. If asked, I am confident that any two thought the third was a complete asshole.
Time passes. We evolved and continue to become the men we need to be for ourselves. And from my perspective, something great has come out of that. We have been given a second chance at friendship.
As full-grown men with our own lives, interests and goals, we have chosen to welcome each other into our lives in one way or another. It is not the bond we shared in our youth, but I don’t know that any of us are too worried about that. (Shawn’s still too big and strong to let Scott and I pile drive him into the basement floor.)
The friendship I have with Shawn is different than the one I have with Scott, but both friendships are meetings of equals. One of the only bonds we seem to share as a trio, other than our familial link to our mother, is a neurological link to alcohol (damn, that’s one hell of a pub tab).
Shawn is the successful restaurateur, who is still the independent freedom fighter.
Scott is the dedicated family man, who is still the observer.
I am the raconteur, wit and writer, who is still the sexiest man in town (okay fine, the studious, overly verbose nerd).
But none of these descriptions is sufficient. We are simply the men that we are.
Shawn, Scott and I are brothers by birth, but we’re friends by choice. And that’s the way it should be.
Last week, I walked through my neighbourhood and passed a theatrical costume store called Malabar, a place through which I love to rummage for the sheer joy of the pageantry. And that brief moment would have been forgotten had not fellow blogger Madelin Adena Smith posted a hyper-caffeinated blog and vlog early this morning.
In it, she challenged her readers/listeners to consider the roles they play in their day-to-day lives and asked us to consider the real us that lay hidden beneath those performances, which made me think of my psychosocial closet and all of the costumes I have worn throughout my life.
(Before proceeding, this is not a complaint against family or friends. These costumes were of my own choosing and it is only now in later life that I am realizing what I did to myself.)
Here is the schoolboy outfit…god, I was so small back then…the dutiful student who wanted to explore storytelling, but knew that this was not the accepted route to success. Oh, I was supported in my storytelling, but only as a hobby. My real future lay in science and medicine.
And the eldest son/man-of-the-house costume…almost looks like a football uniform with its broad shoulders and firm back…heady responsibilities for a young boy growing up and not having a clue as to who he is supposed to be, let alone actually is.
The clown costume…my go-to in times of stress…a protective device against a world in which I didn’t feel I belonged or related. Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh. Then run away.
The Creative Director costume…the true song-and-dance man of my repertoire. This was perhaps my biggest role in life and is a costume I still wear on occasion, if only because it is expected by clients.
My psychosocial closet is filled with these things and all of them served to block my art because they stifled the real me.
You see the problem with the bars of a cage is that they work in two directions. Yes, they keep the world from getting at you, but at the same time, they keep you from reaching your true self and that is where your art lives.
During my eldest son phase, my art would express itself in the wee hours of the morning, long after everyone had gone to bed, until my mother would finally yell downstairs for me to cease the deafening machine-gun fire of my electronic typewriter.
The clown phase almost cost me the love of my life but when the silly girl challenged that I was simply a clown, my hackles rose and I gave her reams of painfully personal poetry I had written. Her preconceptions shattered, we were married within a year and were so for 13 years.
Interestingly, it was the new costumes we donned during our marriage that led to our separation last year. Luckily, in shedding those costumes, we remain very close friends and confidantes.
Ironically, even my Creative Director guise stifled my art. Sure, I was creative, but for others, not me. This is the main reason why I chose to quit my job last year and pursue my art as a career unto itself. I had to sacrifice something, and it was the job.
With rare exceptions, my psychosocial closet is now just a relic of my past; a yearbook at which I can reflect on lives lived and mistakes made. It is not, thank goodness, something into which I feel the need to dip.
The only real costume I wear now is my Randall C Willis (please, call me Randy); the only costume that was ever truly mine. The artist has no clothes, if you will.
And because I have finally divestmented myself, my art can flow freely and keeps me warm at nights.
I am, therefore I create. It’s a great feeling.
And in the meantime, I wonder if Goodwill accepts old costumes.
So, now that I stand here naked (don’t think about it), I feel free to ask: What costumes you have worn in your life or do so now that have blocked your art?
The lifespan of a conversation never had
Pain unrecognized invalidated
Anger unexpressed unbearable
Disappointment ingrained unappeased
Sadness unutterable unrelenting
Despair intolerable unfathomable
Acceptance impossible unreachable
Hope unthinkable unrealistic
I am sorry that I hurt you