Storytelling is basically just art, flame, and spastic eels until the truth comes through.

This story is part of my long-languishing semi-fictionalized memoir of the “year of singleness” after my (now ex-) wife and I separated, and before I met Amy. I first wrote this bit up in response to a question someone asked about “people who look like they’d be amazing, but are actually terrible in the sack.”

It’s the genesis of a chapter in a book I’ve been working on since November of 2012. It’s not edited for tone or fit, but this is largely the story I’ll tell though I’ll tell it from a less blatantly direct perspective eventually.

Back in the dark ages of online dating, when flip phones and blue Nokia bricks were the smartest phones we had, I watched my marriage of eleven years flush itself down a swirling toilet of apathy, emotional betrayal, suppressed disappointments, and irrational acts of senseless interpersonal destruction.

My soon-to-be-ex-wife lived in the apartment exactly one flight of stairs down the sidewalk from mine. I had to walk past her window every time I went to or from my car. I was heavily invested in my delusion that she would suddenly “wake up” and run back into my arms and into my life. I did tremendously doormat-ish things, like cook her breakfast, pay her horse boarding bill, and clean the stall of an animal that pretty much personified the nature of our relationship: mean, angry, unpredictable, expensive, and generally ignored ninety percent of the time. All of which meant that I was obviously ripe for that bastion of emotional health and relationship nirvana: eHarmony. Continue reading

Waiting, Changing, and Fighting

People often ask me “How do you keep going?” It’s a silly question.

Quincy Behind Bars

My daughter is in the CICU at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Egleston, and if you want to know more about it you can follow on her fundrazr page where I’ve put far more details that I don’t want to type again. She also has a Facebook page with more pictures and updates and stuff.

If you know me personally, or you’ve read some of my past stuff, you’re aware that fourteen years ago I spent seven days in the NICU with my first child. He didn’t survive. It was very difficult.

An ICU stay with my infant child is pretty much my personal worst level of hell; it’s the nightmare I can’t wake up from. I can safely say I would rather entertain rabid howler monkeys with a sock-puppet made from my own scrotum than spend so much as one more minute in a C/N/PICU with my child. And yet, this is the ticket that I’ve punched, this is the journey that I get to make again. Continue reading

A Heart for Quincy

The hiatus has been long, so let me catch everyone up (ninety-nine percent of you are already aware, but let’s play along anyway): Amy and I had a daughter on June 14th. She went immediately to the NICU at St. Mary’s hospital. Seven days later she was lifeflighted to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston…where she remains to this day waiting for a heart transplant, listed as a 1a Milrinone and hospital dependent critical-care cardiac organ recipient.

Which is sort of a way to say she’s at the front of a very scary line waiting impatiently for a very scary thing to happen.

If anyone is interested you can read more details and follow along on her fundrazr page or read up on her Facebook page.

I’ve been trying to process a lot of things about this experience, and some of that is yet to come. First, let me start with a picture of our little girl and a piece I wrote while sitting in the CICU one night as we waited for the initial tests to reveal a path that we could follow.

Quincy in the CICU

The Lair of Broken Hearts

This is the lair of broken hearts.

Every journey here is deliberate, crossing mountains and valleys, through forests and over rivers, to a city far away. Our truck has become the Argos, and we are seeking something more valuable than any golden fleece.

It is guarded by magic doors that you do not touch, opening by their own power when you speak the magic words and the guardians grant you entrance.

Time means nothing here. Hours flee in moments and minutes stretch out for days.

This is the limbo of the incomplete. This is where babies lay like broken toys, unfinished, and praying for their time in the sun. This is where children sit, alone and silent, less than what their parents prayed that they would be.

None are brought here whole.

This is the lair of broken hearts.

The adults who come here, come to visit, or come to vigil. This is where dreams die. Plans are shredded. Futures change forever.

A couple stands stony and silent, side-by-side, gazing down at an infant nearly concealed by equipment and tubes. No words can express what has slipped from their fingertips, what expectations are lost to time. Lost to change. Just lost.

A man sits on one side of a crib, a woman on the other. The space between them is ice cold and hovers over the body of a toddler, silent and unmoving. Outside observers cannot tell if the man and the woman shared the heat of love before coming to this place, or if they brought the arctic inside with them.

A baby waits alone in a corner, critically ill, no one ever comes to see him. The journey and the guardians are too much for some to endure. He becomes a cypher in a dark place who dreams no dreams of tomorrow.

This is the lair of broken hearts.

Those who tend this place risk becoming like their wards. Bright-eyed newness is ground down to pragmatism, and even that is worn away by the forces of this place. Where time is meaningless, Eternity can hunt down optimism at its leisure. A sunny disposition is an easy target in the endless gloaming dark.

Nurses wear an armor edged in a jaded gilt, reenforced with the shuddering strength of knowing that tomorrow will be no different from today.

A doctor walks from a room where an abandoned child has become more machine than flesh and blood. His eyes hide tears, and he struggles to pull the curtain of his expression across the storm that rages inside of him.

This is the lair of broken hearts.

The river styx flows behind every bed. The Ferryman waits patently, his handiwork is unmistakable: A bed surrounded by pumps and ventilators and monitors and the undivided attention of many through the night; empty and silent under then next day’s sun.

We pray that the miracle happens, that the angels come, that the gates are thrown wide and our child is the lucky one, the one who walks and dances and escapes into the light. There is guilt in feeling like our child is more whole than another. Parents do not make eye contact. Each exists in a bubble of their own hell.

This is the lair of broken hearts.

We come here by choice. We sit here by choice. We wait here by choice. We could be nowhere else and feel whole. But we cannot feel whole in this place either.

This is the lair of broken hearts.

A Saint, an Abbot, and a Vicar…

…It sounds like the start of a bawdy joke. But honestly the only bar in this story is the one that has been raised, not one that purveys drinks.

Some housekeeping notes to start: I don’t tend to write extensively about my spirituality. I find spirituality to be a sensitive topic, and while I certainly don’t shy away from it in posts that deal with difficult topics, I don’t tend to try and impart my personal spirituality directly to others. There’s a basic reason for this, which is that I often feel like the least-qualified person to write ABOUT spirituality specifically. When I have tried to write specifically about spirituality, it often ends up feeling very flat to me.

This is why I was surprised recently to be invited to a writing group being put together by a pastor in Portland that I knew as a teenager and have interacted with (largely via Facebook) over the years since then. Pastor Marc has gathered such an interesting group of people that I couldn’t help but try to join in, as much to be a part of their conversation as for any specific insight I have to offer.

This week’s writing assignment is based on a sermon that Marc gave recently. The entire sermon is available here on youtube. The topic is actually something that I have always had an opinion on, and though I’m a couple of days late, this was a pretty easy topic to tackle. Marc’s topic, and the topic at the heart of this blog post, is the role of women in spiritual leadership.

One man’s opinion about women leading spiritually after the link…

Hiatus

Life is funny. I have days where I feel like I’ve just about spent everything in me to shove some professional rock up some professional hill and for all that effort I made headway that MIGHT be measurable with a microscope if it’s REALLY powerful and you look REALLY close. I end those days tired, frustrated, and generally not in the best frame of mind. Yesterday was one of those days. It just sucked for no good reason, and it was a challenge pretty much from the moment the alarm went off until long after midnight.

But something else happened yesterday. Some friends of mine on Facebook said something really nice about my writing over there. It instantly lifted my whole day, and I was honestly touched by their kind words and the words other friends added to the conversation.

Late in that conversation another friend said “If you had a blog, I’d read it” which amused me because my blog is directly linked from my profile and hardly a secret. But I’m not much for self promotion, so there’s not exactly a huge glowing neon sign that says “Nick Blogs Over Here” with an arrow pointing this way. Still, I figured I should take the opportunity and I put up a link to this blog and to serialstoryteller.com so friends who want to read more of my writing know where to find it.

Then someone very kindly pointed out that the landing page is a bit of a mess right now, as I left off abruptly when NaNoWriMo started and I haven’t really been back since.

So, some explanation. This blog is sort of my “anecdotes from my life” which I try to keep humorous or at least interesting as I write them. There’s a lot of general stream of consciousness stuff as well, or just updates and picture sets and whatnot. But there’s also some stuff here that’s very personal, and that I’m honestly very proud of.

Someone asked “you wrote a LOT of stuff, and some of it is REALLY long, what should I start with?” and I thought that was a pretty good question.

I’m not sure what’s “the best” but off the top of my head, I’m the most proud of the following (in no particular order):

163 States of Compassion (a glimpse into my spirituality, which I’m hoping to see published this year in a revised form)
If you waxed this you’d get less smurf on your hands (my high-school wheels and the music that drove us)

The “What I’m Looking For” series (a sort of autobiography set against the lyrics of the U2 song of the same name)
especially Line 9 (how I ended up at Gem State…and how generations of fathers and sons affect each other)
an Line 12 (one random day in a college art class)
and Line 13 (my first time…sort of…it’s complicated)

Also, I reposted three posts from my older blog Dead Charming:
He Knows the Hour and the Day (about my Son’s death and the difficulty of divorce)
Something Old Made New Again (about the first girl I loved)
and How Sweet Life Is (the eulogy I gave for my Wenatchee Gramma)

Going forward, I’m focusing on my fiction writing, which I’ll be posting/working through over on serialstoryteller.com as the muse strikes. And I need the muse to strike because I have had some developments on that front and I’m basically committed to writing another 75k words of fiction between now and the end of July.

In the short-term, I suspect that mybadpants.com will be “on hiatus” like a middling sit-com during sweeps. I’ll be back here, writing more tales from a sometimes interesting life soon, but not too soon.

Winning and Losing

Some updates:

I broke a tendon in my middle-finger of my left hand. This sucks. It makes typing a real bitch. I do not like. The story is supposed to be some kind of awesome sporting accident, like jamming my finger while doing a monster windmill-jam over some poor and unsuspecting NBA center deep in the key. Or training bullfighting horses or something.

I tripped on my stairs. Whoo. Awesome way to end up with an immobilized digit (the one that types the ‘e’ key on the keyboard no less) for six months. Yippie.

I submitted something I wrote here to a magazine…and they asked me for edits. That’s…that’s SUPER COOL guys. SUPER COOL.

I won NaNoWriMo for the first time since I started entering back in 2007. Only took five years. I’m honestly SUPER stoked about that accomplishment. But in some ways it was bittersweet. I won buy writing half of the 50k words in a style that anyone who reads this blog would instantly recognize. It took me 23 days. I wrote the remaining 26k words about some ridiculous story with preposterous characters and inane situations. It took 5 days (well…more like 3 full days and two halfhearted half days). This caused me more self-reflection than I’d really care to comment on…but it led me to talk about it with a couple of writers I respect and who I didn’t think would answer my emails.

And I’ve realized something. I’m using this site as a really horrible crutch, and it’s killing my creative output. I didn’t want to admit this, or believe this, but it’s true.

I write here as a sort of reminiscence-therapy. I get to process some of my shit, and people come by and tell me nice things. And God-forbid they not say nice things. Talk it out therapy is a wonderful thing. And I love this space, and I have no intention of giving up this space. I fully intend over the next year to finish some things that I started long ago…but my plans here are very secondary to some new plans.

I’m about to break the first and second rules of Write Club, but let me just say that in the last couple of months I’ve written more creative output than I had in YEARS before then. My co-conspirator knows who she is, and I suspect we’ll add some additional Writers to Write Club in the months ahead, but 1000 words a day, NO EXCUSES has been a complete game-changer for me. I have a novel with a full plot, a synopsis, completely set up in Scrivner (you have NO idea how much work THAT is…) and more than 25k words that I’m REALLY happy with. That’s something that needs my continued time and attention.

It’s not that I don’t like blogging, and I’m gonna keep doing it, and I’m gonna keep doing it here…but I’m not going to put a lot of time into it in the short term. I really doubt I’ll post again before we’re deep into 2013. I’m just being honest.

But I’m not going to stop writing.

A couple of years ago I bought the domain serialstoryteller.com and fired up a blog over there. And then I did NOTHING with it. Well, I’m going to use that space to sort of “track” my ongoing becoming-a-novelist process. I’ll probably mostly just post fiction snippits and quick bits of what I’m working on. And provide a way to see how my progress is coming on my various projects, because I’ve discovered that progress bars are really addictive.

If you’re interested in seeing my “fiction” stuff and my fiction progress, and perhaps some occasional tall tales from my epic bouts in Write Club, then please feel invited to follow along over there.

If you’re just interested in the more personal anecdotes and life notes, then never fear, more will appear here. Eventually.

Inspired by Adele

So, I’ve been watching this video a lot in the last 24 hours:

I’ve got to say that it has me very excited for the new Bond movie. I’m an Adele fan to begin with, and I love the classic Bond songs enough to have a compilation CD in my CD case and loaded into iTunes. For me, as a tribute to the legacy of Bond themes, Adele really knocked this one out of the park. I’m completely sold on it and I haven’t been able to get my brain out of Bond mode for some time.

So instead of fighting it, I figured I’d roll with it. I’ve never really thought of doing fan-fiction. I have nothing against it, and have enjoyed my fair share of other people’s great fan-fiction efforts; but what follow is my first personal attempt at direct fan-fiction. My short piece set in the Bond world. When I wrote this, I was totally thinking of Daniel Craig era Bond. Let me know what you think.

Short Spy Fiction after the link…

Three-minute-fiction

My favorite brodcaster, National Public Radio, has been running a series of three-minute-fiction contests. Each round has a specific theme or subject or scene defined, and then entries are posted that can be read in under three minutes. That means less than six-hundred words.

I’ve not participated up until now because I just couldn’t see myself creating something readable in six-hundred words. I’ve decided that talking myself out of it is just silly, and I’m going to participate in every round moving forward. I’m going to post my entries here after I submit them, and if anyone else out there tries one of these too, please comment and link back to your own. I’d love to read what other people send in.

This round’s topic is “Story entries must revolve around a U.S. president, who can be real or fictional.” All entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 23.

My story has been heavily influenced by recent events, and I tried to extrapolate this into a bit of alt-history.

The shortest encapsulated fiction I’ve ever written after the cut…

Drama is composed of Tragedy and Comedy

I’ve been feeling a lot of Drama in the last few days. People show up here, and I have an open door policy. I love conversation. I love critique. I love feedback. As a person with an open door policy, I try to “love everybody” and just parse the stuff as it comes. That policy may not always work in every case. I accept that there are times and people who do not come to participate in the conversation, and that can undermine the environment for everyone. I have not stopped to talk about it, and I’ve tried to deal with it in a low key fashion. I think at some level I thought that if I just played it off it would turn a corner and things would be fine.

A good friend asked me “why aren’t you more upset about how you’re being treated?” Honestly, I’ve had a hard time getting too upset because of something happening to another friend in blog-land.

Thoughts about Tragedy, Comedy, and a baby in the hospital after the cut…