The Storm Within

17 Apr

As I lay here in this empty bed, I listen to the thunder roll in from the west. With each crash and boom that resonates through my eardrums, I realize something insanely profound. As the pain and nausea sets in, this epiphany, this harsh reality, hits me hard like a sucker punch to the gut from an unknown opponent.

The thing is, I should have known this all along. This truth shouldn’t have come as a surprise in any way.

But it did. It took me completely off guard.

And as each flash of lightning illuminates this cold, dark room, my newfound sense of reality finally starts to set in.

I am a storm.

From a distance, you can appreciate and even love a storm. You can marvel at its raw power and beauty. A storm, will mesmerize you and lull you into a false sense of comfort.

I am a storm.

Most of the times, you will make it through a storm unscathed with little more than a few drops of water dripping down your face. But sooner or later, unapologetically and without warning, a storm you’ve seen a million times will turn on you in an instant. Suddenly, you are left wondering what hit you and what you are supposed to do next.

You see, I am a storm. You can only love a storm until it actually does damage to you. Like the best storms often do, I will ruin and destroy. And because of that, you cannot love a storm. Even the most seemingly harmless of storms are unlovable.

I am, without a doubt, a storm.

And as most experts say, you do not get close to a storm. It’s always in your best interest to just admire it from afar.

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Katie Graduates

4 Apr

Life always come full circle. I know this. I’ve seen it with my very own eyes.

What am I talking like Yoda all the sudden?

Simple.

This last weekend, I had the honor of photographing my high school English teacher’s daughter for her senior portraits. Yes. You read that correctly. I am now that old.

I had a blast photographing Katie and reconnecting with her mother. Her mother, has always been a huge inspiration to me. Whether she wants to be associated with the credit of teaching me the fundamentals of writing or not, she was the one who pushed me to write even when my writing was the absolute shittiest it has ever been. And to this day, I couldn’t even begin to thank her enough.

Anyway, come take a look at what Katie and I got into at Hodge Park in the good old Liberty, Missouri.

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The Envy of Toes

31 Mar

With each and every step, I feel the cold concrete seep through the rubber soles of my weathered Converse. My toes, numb from winter’s last ditch effort to retard spring’s progress, seem to mock the rest of my body. My limbs and core can still feel the pain, the cold from the years that have passed. But not my toes. They are lucky. They have been deadened. They no longer have to suffer. They no longer have to feel.

Weaving, maneuvering these crowded streets, my eyes glance up with hopes of discovering a friendly face, a smile or two to concentrate on. But these hopes, these internal wishes are quickly dashed. No smiles, no winks, no simple “hellos”.

Not today at least.

And that’s when it hit me. In a city of nearly 9 million people, I am completely alone.

I can see people’s faces. I can hear their voices. I can even feel their laughter reverberate through me as they joke amongst their friends at the table next to me. But I just sit and observe like I am window shopping for things I cannot afford.

As I curl up to this bar and ask the bartender for another drink, I glance down at my feet that swing beneath me from atop of my perch of this old wooden barstool. My toes, still numb, do not care that they are alone. They do not care because they do not feel a thing.

In this very moment, I envy them. You see, my toes are lucky. I wish I could have what they have. I covet their virtual paralysis.

And As I finish this next drink, I hope the rest of my body will catch up. I want to feel numb. I want to feel nothing but the cold.

Because today, I am jealous of my toes. They do not feel alone. They just do not care. And for once, just for today, I want to feel the same.

One Week

21 Mar

One week.

That’s how long it’s been since the first pill hit my bloodstream.

One week.

That’s how long it’s been since my body slouched and conformed to that comfy leather couch in that dimly lit room filled with books and inspirational messages.

One week.

It’s been one week since I admitted I was broken. Just one measly week.

But in my mind, the way I think, it’s been “ONE DAMNED WEEK ALREADY! WHY AREN’T YOU FEELING BETTER YOU WEAK MOTHERFUCKER?”

My mind has been racing, running like a postal worker trying to escape the clutches of a rabid dog. Like the mailman, my mind just wants to deliver the mail and get on with its life. But there is something waiting, lurking. Something standing in the way. Something more scary than gnarled teeth and a foaming mouth. Something more terrifying than deep growl and a vicious bark. Something so limiting, imprisoning, and so very encompassing it sucks the very air out of my lungs before I can even breathe it in.

That something is me.

As much as I hate to admit it, I am the one standing in the way. At the very core, it’s me who is responsible for my own happiness. I have to be willing and able to accept the help. I need to ditch the skepticism, the rolling eyes, the doubtful thoughts.

I need to open my mind.

And that folks, will be the hardest thing for me. I have to dig deep. I have to unlock doors and open windows that have been shut, sealed, and locked for years and years.

So, as I sit here a few hours away from my next therapy appointment, I realize that I, myself, hold the key. I just have to figure out where I left the keychain in the first place.

Come Monday

17 Mar

Let’s be honest.

For once, at least.

Honest with my friends. Honest with my family. Honest with complete strangers.

But most importantly, I need to be honest with myself.

I am not well.

I have been struggling for so long now, that I don’t even know where the surface is most days. Sure, I can see the sunshine sparkle as the waves splash miles above my head. But I’ve lost the ability to swim. Or maybe, just maybe, I never had the ability in the first place.

I’ve been dodging this truth, this brutal honesty for quite some time. My vocabulary of quick answers carry a bevy of “I’m fine. I’m okay. I’m surviving.” All statements used on a daily basis to thwart a single worry from anyone else about what may or may not be going on inside my head.

But Monday, I woke up and verbalized to myself and the pillow I clutched tightly that I, in fact, am not fine. I am not okay. I am not surviving. And as I heard those words actually come from my own mouth, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’ve known for the last couple of weeks that I was nearing my breaking point. I already knew I had one foot over the edge. And I could feel the other foot lurching forward without much hesitation.

With my grip on reality waning, I picked up the phone and dialed. As ashamed and defeated as I was, I knew I needed help.

Monday was my first therapy appointment.

After staring at a hauntingly scary prescription bottle that sat harmlessly on my bathroom counter for the last three months, I finally opened it and took one of the tiny blue pills, placed it on my tongue, and washed it down with a splash of orange juice.

Monday was the first time I took Zoloft.

For those who know me well, this admission, this revelation proves just how low I am and how serious I am about getting my life back on the right track.

I’ve been saying for years that I don’t need medication. I don’t need therapy. I don’t need help. My pride fooled my logic into thinking these statements were gospel. My stubbornness instructed me that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression were for the weak.

But Monday, I admitted to myself I was wrong.

I am four days into trying to right my ship. The waters are bumpy on the best of days. From hour to hour I wonder how this is all going to work out. My feelings of shame, guilt, and weakness have been magnified exponentially because in my mind, I should be stronger, I shouldn’t need help.

But I do.

And since this Monday, I am no longer afraid to admit it.

The Callahans Get Hitched

1 Mar

This wedding? Yeah. Absolutely gorgeous. But don’t take my word for it. Come take a look for yourself!

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The Irony Of Time

28 Feb

Well, it’s now week three of the IndieInk Writing Challenge. And I have to say, the competition and the prompts just keep getting more and more fierce. My challenge this week comes from the very talented and ultimately lovely Anastasia McDonnell (@mcdonnellism on the Twitter machine).

“The Giant Hourglass: You are given 5 years to live. Not 2 weeks, not six months, but a full five years to the day. Describe how you handle this news & what you fill this rather unusual timeline with.”

Wow. And I thought last week’s prompt was going to be hard. This one? As I am typing these words, I have no clue how I am going to attack this one. All I keep coming up with is fart sounds and the word “DUH” that seems to be on repeat in my tiny brain.

Anyway, here goes nothing!

****

Time.

Until that day, I never paid much attention to it.

You see, time seemed to be so inconsequential, so trivial. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t change time. I couldn’t fast forward reality. I couldn’t go back to fix all the mistakes of the past. After years and years of abiding by other people’s timetables, I just quit caring altogether. After all, why occupy yourself with the task of worrying about things you cannot change?

Well, that’s what I used to think.

That is, until that day.

I remember that day. I remember the sights, the sounds, even the way the small, sterile room smelled.

Most importantly, I remember the irony.

I was late, very late to an appointment that was three months in the making. As usual, I was obeying a timetable imposed on me by someone else. When I made the appointment to see him, I could hear the disinterest in the receptionist’s voice as I questioned her about their lack of a more expeditious appointment time.

“Three months is the absolute soonest he will be able to see you, sir” she said with a hint of irritation to her Southern drawl.

“Fine. Just fine. I’ll just be waiting here, wondering if I am even going to live long enough to make it to this appointment. But don’t you worry yourself about me.”

Met with silence, I wasn’t sure if she caught the heavy dose of sarcastic anger I was throwing her way.

“We’ll see you on the 23rd of April, sir. Make sure you have your paperwork completed upon arrival to insure no further delays. Have a good day.”

No sooner did I try to stumble out some sort of halfhearted valediction, I was met with a deafening dial tone. My time with her was up. There was nothing more I could do.

As the months passed, I got sicker and sicker. I could feel my body withering away.  I knew I was dying. I knew there was nothing they could do. But still, I waited for that appointment with a sense of urgency and diligence that nobody could match. Maybe, just maybe, he would have the answers. He would look at me, wave his magic wand, and take away all that ails me. I clung to hope like a lifesaver. At this point, hope is all I had left.

The unforgiving sounds of my alarm clock jolted me out of bed that day. Discombobulated, I struggled to allow the remaining nightmare to wash itself from my mind. Today, I would meet my maker so to speak. And my subconscious knew this. For the last three months, my dreams had slowly become nightmares. My mortality was at play. By day, my mind struggled with this very fact. And by night, my mind would torment me.

“SHHHHHHIIIIITTTTTT!” I screamed out as my weary eyes finally focused on the alarm clock.

I was already 15 minutes late to my appointment. Once again, time had fucked me.

Without hesitation, I threw on my clothes, doused my un-showered self with cologne, and ran down two flights of stairs to my car. Within minutes, I was checking in for my appointment.

“I’m so sorry I’m late, ma’am. I don’t know what the hell my alarm clock was thinking this morning!”

“Please fill this two top forms out and initial the bottom, sir. He is running  a little bit behind, so there may be a little bit of a wait.”

I took my rightful place among the others in the waiting room. As I sunk into the vinyl seat, sounds of sickness surrounded me.  I knew I was going to end up just like everyone else in this room. I knew there was no way I could fight it anymore. I knew my time had come.

I could feel the tears starting to stream down my face as I initialed each of the documents the receptionist handed me. I felt like I was signing my own death certificate. I already felt doomed before I even had a chance to meet with him.

“Mr. Johnson? Is there a Mr. Johnson here?”

Embarrassed, I slowly rose to my feet and headed into the direction of the womanly voice calling my name.

“I’m Mr. Johnson, ma’am. Please excuse the tears and the red face. I must have gotten something in my eye.”

I knew she didn’t buy my story. Her disbelief was written all over her calming smile and comforting eyes.

“It’s been a bad allergy season for us, hasn’t it?” she quipped back.

I smiled as I shook my head in agreement. I was still way too embarrassed to muster the words needed for an actual conversation.

We made our way down a long corridor and into the exam room. My mind quickly inventoried my surroundings as if I would need these memories for a later date. The room was cold, white, and suffocating. This would be the place I would meet him. This is the place where I would be saved.

Or so I hoped.

Within minutes, he was finally standing in front of me. The pressure of his handshake seemed to crush every single bone in my right hand. I didn’t care though. This was my moment. I had waited so long just to meet this man, this savior of mine.

And then he spoke.

I don’t even recall the whole conversation that took place that day. My mind would only allow me to remember the most important parts. My hope was no more. His confirmation of what I already knew validated my worst nightmares.

I was dying.

Suddenly, the thing I never paid much attention to was front and center on my mind. All I could think of was time. How much time did I have? How much time would I spend in pain?

His words were as heavy as boulders. Each verb, each noun, each adjective stung like cigarettes smoldering underneath my skin. Even though I already knew what he was going to tell me, I felt abused. I felt sicker than when I walked into that fucking room. I finally felt defeat trickling into every part of my soul.

I’m sure the look on my face said it all. I couldn’t even comprehend what had just been presented to me. I tuned out pretty much everything he had to say. I couldn’t change reality.

Time had come for me.

“Wait. Stop. No more explanations. No more talk of experimental treatments. How much time do I have left? What is my timetable here, doctor?” I said between tears and anger.

“A patient with your condition usually has five years to live once the initial diagnosis has been made. Think of today as day one.”

“Five fucking years? I have five years left of this? Five years of pain, agony, and suffering?”

“Yes, Mr. Johnson. I suggest you start living each day like it was your last.”

And with that, his time with me was done. I heard the metal of the door latch click as he left the room.

He was gone. And so was my hope.

That night, I sat alone in my bed for the first time as a man with a known death sentence. Where would I go from here? What did I have left?

Time.

The one thing that was once so insignificant to me suddenly was the only thing I could think about. I was a prisoner to time. I couldn’t speed it up. I couldn’t slow it down. I could feel time weigh me down like a giant hourglass that was strapped to my back.

As I glanced over at my alarm clock one last time as I drifted off to sleep, I was now, more than ever, on the clock. Tomorrow would be day two. Tomorrow, I would have more time to think. Tomorrow, I would have less time to live.

Suddenly, time had become both my friend and my enemy. And now It was up to me to figure out how to keep the peace.

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