It is December 29th, 2008, smack in the middle of the saddest Christmas holiday I have ever experienced; the first without a mom and the first without a wife. my wife and I are not divorced, yet, but separated and living in the same house. It’s less than tragic and slightly more than economics.
My brother met my wife’s sister at our wedding and they are now married with one child. They and most of our immediate family on both sides of the aisle, all live within 15 minutes of us. To say we are a close-knit family is to say the sun is hot, and there’s not a second goes by that I would ever wish it different. Yet, you can imagine the amplification of everything that goes with a situation like this. We both have love and support to spare, but it doesn’t dull the pain for either of us. if anything it polarizes the situation even further.
That morning of the 29th I wake up and have what I have heard best described as a moment of clarity. I am neither an alcoholic nor a priest, but this is an undeniable experience. After fighting to save my marriage for the last 9 months, I realize I have to step out of the way and give birth to failure. I have carried to full term and there isn’t much to do but cut the cord. I get out of bed and walk into the bathroom, where my wife is getting herself ready for the day. I tell her what I have to say and a smile escapes her lips. Ah. Not exactly the response I would have chosen. Not really mine to choose, though.
It doesn’t matter; for a second I have relief. The relief, real or not, that comes with letting go of something you’ve been holding onto with white knuckles and clenched teeth for much too long. And while I know it will eventually diminish, if not disappear completely, for now I bathe in the relief. I go out onto my deck and sit in the sunshine. I breathe deeply and listen to the sounds of the street below. On an impulse, I pick up my trusty moleskine notebook from the table beside me and start writing a letter to a friend.
It’s an actual letter on paper, analog-style. I’m writing it to an old friend, X. I used to talk to her like a narrator, a tour guide. We’d drive across LA just to drive, just to talk. Just to listen to the music, as the soundtrack to a life passing by us at just the right speed. I think back and I miss whoever that was; I want to see if he’s still in here somewhere. I finish the letter and read it over. Then, without thinking much, I go my laptop, open my recently activated Facebook account and type the letter word for word into the “About Me” section of my Facebook profile.
I have no motivation for this action, none that I can readily claim. Maybe I want my wife or friends to feel my pain; I don’t know. I almost remove it right away but I’m held back by my better or worse angels. I don’t know which, yet. There is a feeling of fear mingled with adventure, a sensation not unlike laughter or nausea.
I look at what I have posted and try to read between the lines, try to read what others might think. As I read it, something strikes me: I avoided thought while I was writing the letter. I didn’t edit, I just let it spill out all at once. It was originally addressed to a friend, so I wasn’t trying to follow form or structure. It’s not earth-shattering writing, but it is somehow authentic, true. True to my feelings of the moment, true to what I was trying to communicate to the original recipient. At that moment it truly was “About Me”.
My scribbling had never really seemed to pass a certain threshold. My writing had form, but no real content; like a big, shiny balloon, filled with air. Seems there’s a little helium in the mix, now. Day-old helium, but enough to make my words rise to a certain elevation and change perspective.
You have to keep doing this, I think to myself. You do this here and now and maybe you won’t end up talking to yourself in a subway queue or in some dank alleyway behind Vesuvio’s. Can you do it for a month? A year? Document your life, man. Write everyday. Remember what you felt like or tried to feel like. Someone will relate. Someone will be able to see the shards of glass and say ‘oh yeah, that’s what happened to the mirror,’ even if it’s just you. Especially if it’s just you.
So I digitize my analog letter. I perform a certain kind of alchemy that turns ink and paper into ones and zeroes. I send these naked words and feelings out to the ether and to everyone who cares to read them.
So there it is. This may be seen as upping the ante in the Facebook war. The one that I have been passively accused of waging. I do worry sparks will fly when my wife sees it. But even as I read over my post, glaring from my wall like a warning sign, I know somehow this is right. At least, the right direction.