Accidental Murder

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Isn’t it funny in the most macabre way how we inspect our failures after they shine in the worst times? Each motion of the sea serves to draw beasts from the depths closer to the shore, but when they emerge it will be too late, won’t it?

The brakes in my truck have been failing for a while, and I knew I needed to get them changed. A little over a week ago I made plans with my father to change them that Friday and make sure my truck was running properly. When the day came for me to replace the brake pads, I woke up early to help pops with a class at our church and my girlfriend needed the truck that afternoon to run some errands for her new job. I was exhausted, not having gotten any sleep and getting called in to work that night myself, I asked to reschedule. It was no problem for dad, he let me reschedule, knowing I’d be around to fix them as soon as I had the availability to.

I went home and went about my day, returning from work as my girlfriend took the truck and headed to her graveyard shift. I was sitting quietly at home when she called me and told me that the brakes failed, and she needed a ride.

A sudden wave of realization washed over me as I realized what had actually happened.

Have you ever watched something occur, and it took a few moments before your brain processed the event? Something catastrophic like a train wreck or a hurricane making landfall? It was in the scale of that for me, because I am a bit of a drama queen naturally.

Still, the realization struck that if the scene had been just slightly different, if there had been lots of traffic, if she didn’t know about the emergency brake, if she was on the freeway, there was a real chance that I would have lost my girlfriend that night.

It was all due to my negligence.

I’ve often wondered how a parent can allow something to happen to their children in the same way, there have been a handful of national cases involving negligence over the past few years, children passing away untimely in the event that their parents weren’t paying attention to them or something that they were doing.

I’ve chastised that concept for years.

“How could you be so careless to not take care of the things your loved ones will be doing?”

“How could you not make sure everything was safe before you let your kid play around out there?”

“What were you doing that you weren’t looking towards them and caring for them?”

Albeit, she isn’t my child, but the comparison still rings true.

I could have fixed the brakes that day, really. I could’ve called my mom to give her a ride. I could have sucked up my exhaustion and done what needed to be done, as a boyfriend should.

However, I didn’t, and I thank God that my laziness and negligence didn’t turn into a waking nightmare for me.

Don’t get me wrong, the probability of something worse actually happening was slim, but it wasn’t nonexistent. Which is what I would rather in all scenarios. The fact that it could have been done in two hours or less is the kicker. I had plenty of time. Hell, I could have fixed the brakes and still napped before work, but I made the argument to myself that I had too much that needed to be done, it was more important for me to get work done and get my girl to the bank. When in reality, I ended up staying up late that night panicked because I could have accidentally murdered my girlfriend due to nothing more than laziness, or negligence.

I think I see the side of the negligent more clearly after this.

No that it is an excuse, but I can see how it happens.

When your own life and needs come before others, bad things can happen. I’ve nearly lived it, and I don’t want to live through it again. I hated the thought of something happening because I was more concerned with my exhaustion, and my own needs than I was taking care of the vehicle we both share.

The point is, I am not the most important person in my life anymore, and I would do well to remember than when important things arise.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I released the first vlog on my writing YouTube channel this tuesday! If you’ve ever considered writing or had the idea that you could make a story, this will definitely be a channel you’ll want to see.

www.linmtba.com

Should I Write?

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I’ve been getting a lot of questions over the course of my writing career from people who have stories that they want to write, but don’t know where to start or if they even should begin. I’ve been writing for eight years or so now and in that time, I’ve finished a bunch of manuscripts and published a few books to boot. Through those experiences, as well as dealing with publishing companies, resorting to the avenue of self-publishing, and learning that though they are expensive, editors are more than worth it, they are necessary, I’ve come to sit upon a wealth of lessons and advice that I wanted to share, to some degree, with others in my position.

Writing is my favorite past time and it’s something I’ve felt passionately about for nearly my whole life. I wrote my first story in fifth grade, then have written ever since. What I didn’t realize then was shitty Yu-Gi-Oh fanfic birthed a storyteller within me and I’ve been on that path since the day I began. Writing is an internal thing to me, I do it for several reasons, but almost all of them deal with me.

I write to process information, happiness, pain, anger, guilt. I write to speak to myself clearly, I form ideas about life and in order for me to understand what I’m trying to say, I write it down. I write because I need that outlet. When I don’t write, I notice a sizeable change in my mood and my life outlook. Things tend to grow bleak in a world where I don’t get to be a writer.

In the video, I mentioned the reasoning behind adopting a creative discipline, be it writing or art or something else that employs the creative muscles in your brain. The fact is, being creative makes for a good mood shifting tool. From my perspective, engaging in various forms of art has been nothing but good for me. Of course, it grows frustrating when I can’t adapt a song the way I want to play it, or write a passage the way I see it, but my mind is enamored with struggle. I’ve been known to do things the hard way intentionally in some instances, just because I want to learn more along the way. Everything is a lesson to me, and in the process of artistry, those lessons are sometimes vague and difficult to understand, while other times they cut right to the bone. However good or bad the experience is, it always turns into a positive for me.

From Psychology Today:

Repetitive satisfying art making may actually mediate depression and anxiety by stimulating the “accumbens-striatial-cortical” connection in the brain. It is perhaps connected to what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi named “flow,” an experience of complete concentration and absorption. Because flow is close to other mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga, it may offer many of the same positive, attention-focused benefits through deep engagement in an art process.

This process adapted to the practice of art is why it is so calming and efficient in the management of negative emotions. It’s basically meditating when you delve deep into the practice of your art. Of course, there are likely caveats, as with all other disciplines. There are days that you will wake and find yourself frustrated at the size of your task.

In fact, that’s how I feel currently in the process of editing, but editing is a beast that requires its own whole session in this series. For now, I am holding on to the token of thought that one day, the hard work that makes me want to rip out my hair will bill worth every second of time I spent wading through misspellings and difficult choices when deciding what of my writing to keep in the story and what to abolish.

“Art is an expression of joy and awe. It is not an attempt to share one’s virtues and accomplishments with the audience, but an act of selfless spirit.” -Davit Mamet

So, the process of being creative brings a fundamental joy to us through the work we pursue. If that is the case, then you should absolutely begin writing, or creating music, or whatever else you decide to pursue. Each faction of creativity creates an outlet for us to push our displeasures, heartbreaks, and sorrows as well as a place to celebrate success, joy and love. There are few things that hearken back to the thought of magic than that, don’t you think?

One note, in regard to creativity and happiness, is that it serves as a dual effort. There is a wide one-way line between happiness and meaning. We exist to have a purpose, some kind of meaning that can define our lives. For example, happiness can give us meaning but the meaning will give us happiness. When we find our purpose, it will fill our hearts with joy.

Creativity, in whatever manner you use it in, will aid in creating meaning for each of our lives. Creativity doesn’t necessarily mean making art or writing music or books. My father is one of the most creative people I’ve ever met but he doesn’t create music or poetry. He builds things, he works on cars. He takes that creative spirit and turns it into energy.

We each have our own way to be creative, and I happened to choose words.

Which brings me back to the original question,

“Should I write?”

Yes, yes you should. If you have the desire, even a seed of an idea growing in the back of your mind, you should at the very least try. If you don’t try, you will never know.

Of course, if the answer is yes, it can be a daunting task to follow through. There is a lot involved when it comes to learning how to pursue writing, and that is why I decided to create this blog + corresponding YouTube channel. I want to talk to you about writing in its various forms, and give insight to the journey I’ve been on for the last few years when I sat down in a Walmart bathroom and asked myself…

Should I start writing?

Tying The Knot

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They say you can’t stop the Dogs of War. They’ve slipped lose and The Machine has awoken.

Purpose is so easily defined for some, others struggle for most of their lives and still seek it until the day they get home. The way we sing for identity in the world is astounding to me, this encompasses even myself, to be sure.

I’ve always been just a bit put off when people identify themselves by their job or interests. Those components make up who you are overall, but the real grit in who you are is what you do with those things. The way you use your work to make a difference around you. I ask myself if we have diminished our purpose so much to a handful of titles we hold.

Certified, Electrician, Gumbo Prize Winner, Trumpet Playing Champion, Honorable Mention in the 2016 Annual Bilge Water Science Fair, Server, Wordsmith, Passion Play Predictable Penman of The Year, Two Time Lover and the Best Guy to take to Horror Movies.

The other day a stranger and myself were talking, getting to know one another for the first time and she asked what I did. I immediately responded that I am a server and an author. She asked about my books and I stammered around explaining The Darling Bones as well as I could, hopefully making a sell in the middle of the awkward conversation.

It’s interesting that I still tried to pitch the book to this girl when I had no idea what her interests were, or who she even really was. She was a phantom to me in so many ways and I still tried to convince her to buy my book. (I didn’t do a great job, either, by the way.)

It’s almost a knee jerk reaction for me at this point, someone asks about my books and I devolve into some kind of puppet controlled by a gluttonous phantasm that’s trying to steal someone’s money. Not that I don’t want to talk about my books, but I didn’t start writing to get rich. That was never the plan.

It’s interesting that it’s come to that. Instead of talking about how passionately I wrote The Darling Bones, what it means to me, I just kind of gave her a sales pitch and left it at that. I realized later that we do that with so much of ourselves. I often try to pitch who I am as a person based on what I do. I’m a server and a selfish comedian. I like to keep my jokes to my close circles. I’m an author that writes lots of books I don’t have published yet. I’m a YouTuber who hasn’t uploaded to his channel in a few months. I’m just hanging out. Long haired ruffian that hangs out, plays video games and sleeps more than I should.

This especially comes out at first meetings. I’ll ask someone to tell me about themselves and they usually respond with their job and favorite hobby.

“I’m Dolores, I work at Jo-Ann’s and I like to Knit Lifesize Horse Puppets.”

It seems so silly that we look towards our tasks and duties to identify who we are. Mothers, Kids, Bartenders, Clerics and Lawyers. Thousands upon millions of us exist and we all have to have a job of some kind, and it becomes so engrained in who we are that it becomes our identifier overall. I think that an alternative we could use would be to describe ourselves as if we were passionate about who we were. Are you a person that lives for kindness? Is your heart full of grace? Are you ambitious?

I’m ambitious. I have a lot of stuff that I want to do. It’s mostly just stuff, too. It’s important, but it doesn’t make up who I am. My purpose in life is a result of that ambition, that desire to make the world better, somehow. So I push forward with the books and the jobs I choose. I want people to smile more. I want them to love more. So I make things that reinforce those motives. Life is such a crazy myriad of events and moments that can quickly confuse you. It moves fast and it’s hard to describe.

Don’t travel through life attached to your profession or your hobbies. Absolutely appreciate them and love them, but we were meant for more than just a list of stuff we’ve done, don’t you think?

www.linmtba.com

Make The Best, This Carnival.

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I didn’t publish last week, I apologize. I was caught up in celebrating my girlfriend’s life and accomplishments with my family, and some of hers.

My schedule is back on track now. Enjoy, today. We get nothing else.

You know the feeling, the terrible yawning inside of your head, nestled in the back of your skull as you stare at something. A microwave, as your third frozen dinner this week rotates slowly around the turnstile. You know the feeling, staring at your low budget coffee maker drip slowly from the filter and fill up the pot as you stand before it, buttoning your shirt or reviewing emails. You know the feeling of staring, silently, at something. Feeling the expanse of space within your mind growing, distancing you from your own soul, somehow. It is only when the inevitable beep from the microwave timer rings through your dirty, unvacuumed one-bedroom apartment where your girlfriend is sleeping comfortably in your room, that you wake up from your daze. As if struck by a club the wind is knocked from you. Your Zatarain’s steaming in the center of the microwave, and still, as if pulled by a force you can’t comprehend, you still stare. Your mind still expanding and growing. Your eyes unblinking as each droplet of coffee hits the growing pool, you know that it won’t really help wake you up. You haven’t been awake in God knows how long, another cup of coffee, another blackberry Red Bull drink won’t pull you back.

You’ll button your shirt and pour your cup of coffee and in the blink of an eye you’ll be back home again, staring at your microwave, marveling at how tired you seem to be despite not having done anything taxing in days. You’ll write off your eleven-hour work days, you’ll yearn for a weekend at the beach, you’ll question the legitimacy of your coworkers asking you for coverage, so they can go visit their granddaughter. Each one of them are where you are. They go home, they stare at their microwaves, they gaze without passion into the depths of a pint of Squatter’s White IPA, sucking absentmindedly on a dab pen in a bar that is somehow listless and full of life all at once. It will all spiral around, and they will find themselves, just as you will find yourself, standing in your shower, wondering how you got to where you are.

It will come at least, once, if you’re lucky, you will only find yourself there a handful of times. You’ll only watching your paper plate stacked high with chicken nuggets rotate for a few moments amid a lifetime. If you’re really, lucky, you’ll never see yourself in that yawning expanse as you put your best foot forward and push on to the next task. The way your mind stretches in that time. Like the blade of fate is shaving so close to your soul that you can feel the cold shivers of the steel brush against your dreams.

I’ve heard it described by exactly two people, what death feels like. They both said roughly the same thing. A man who wrote a book and a man who wrote a forum post online who described death to the best of their ability. It is funny, that to each of them, death offered the same longing and stretched out yawning that I feel so often, staring at a blank page or a screen, my cursor hovering over the latest time waster I’ve adopted into my life.

They said that death is a bit like reaching the end of a carnival ride. You can feel the giant machine that had been pushing you forward slowing down. The hydraulic arms retracting slightly, aligning you with the take off ramp, but it won’t be your ramp to ascend again. You are getting off, and the slowly rolling coaster cart is pulling you home against your will. You want that ride to take off once more, to shoot through the glistening heights of the steel dragon you’ve spent the last forty years a part of. To feel the falling and the rising. To feel the hands of your best friend gripping your shirt in fear, because they are horrified that despite the ride being carefully groomed and cared for, there is still that sliver of despair that they won’t make it out of the ride alive.

That is the essence of life, no one makes it out of this ride alive.

It is funny to me that these descriptions of death were perfectly in line with the way I feel when I watch my food rotate in the microwave. The way I watch the last puffy piece of cereal dance around my spoon as I trace it across the surface of the milk in an effort to savor just one more bite, in an effort to avoid being wasteful. To, by the grace of God, make breakfast last just a few seconds longer.

If I can make breakfast last just a few seconds longer, perhaps the yawning in my mind will halt. Perhaps the way my mind stretches into infinity will be cut short, every few moments. The handful of moments I spend each day dancing with my last bite of cereal can stretch and stack together, into infinity. If I can spend just a few seconds each day outside of the confined task of eating breakfast, just to dance with my food for a moment, to let my mind be present on the act of chasing down the last anchor shaped marshmallow.

The ravenous desire to find anything in my mind that isn’t a cheap imitation of a better idea that I had come upon days before. The growling hunger inside my heart for defined purpose. The echo, as I call out, screaming with my head inside of a microwave, hoping that someone can hear me over the alarm.

It’s hard to get up some days. It’s hard to pull my shirt across my shoulders, shifting the weight of my world from one spine to another. We have all felt it, that sprawling moment of time just before our alarm sets off. Just before the bell rings. Just before the buzzer sounds. That moment, that we can stretch for just a moment. Five more minutes of sleep, ignoring my alarm, knowing how much it grates on those around me. Holding your students in class for a few more moments, to impart something worthwhile, to show them that this world is brutal and hungry, and we are the perfect mix of savory and sweet. To hold that ball as long as you can, to push the clock into overtime, to try, with all of your purpose for a few moments, to reach for another goal. Whether you’re winning or not doesn’t matter.

What matters, is that you can take those infinite moments, dancing with your cereal, dashing for the end zone, bracing the bars of the thing that locks you in place eternally and screaming at the top of your lungs…

“I am alive today. I am alive in this moment.”

This infinite moment.

It is all we have, some days. Those miniscule moments that flirt with infinity.

Once, a long time ago, a mentor told me that I define my purpose too broadly. That I put my all into everything and have nothing left for myself.

I think about that, while the timer on my microwave counts down. The fifth frozen meal this week spiraling in the center of the box while I wonder how long one could survive within a microwave. I think about the people who have difficulties eating. Those who force themselves to vomit after a meal, who are unsatisfied with who they are or what they look like. I think about the time a friend refused to work her shift because her eyeliner wasn’t even. I think about how frustrating it was to cover that shift, knowing that the staff knew why I covered. It wasn’t a secret. She wasn’t ashamed, to her, she was ugly.

What a horrible thing to be.

Ugly in your own eyes.

Lost, in your own eyes. I think about that as I watch my meal spiral still.

Once, a long time ago, a mentor told me that I paint my life with a broad brush, that I give everything for these projects and these people and save nothing for myself. I argued, as much as I could, but he quickly ended my protest when he told me that purpose isn’t defined by the broad-brush strokes. The large patches of color aren’t what make a painting beautiful. It is the small things. It is the tiny, fine details that seemed to have taken eternity to get just right. I didn’t understand until I saw a painting next.

Each broad color was accented with small strokes of laughter, of joy, of sorrow, of remembrance that these moments can stack together forever…

But will not be infinite.

We are given but one ride to enjoy, and in times where we meet the Yawning of Death, those moments where our mind needs to rest. Where we find ourselves at the cusp of a new day at the same job, doing the same things, seeing the same people, we have all of the power to look up and button our shirt a bit differently. To pick a new pair of jeans. To find some funny socks to wear beneath our slacks.

Those moments, right before the small things end, those are the best places to harvest life.

They last forever, and shouldn’t we be seeking something that will make our memory last forever when we are gone?

Will you be remembered much for staring at a screen, hoping for words to come, or staring at a loved one, hoping for the right thing to say? Will you be remembered for logging every moment in a digital journal, possessing yourself with your own caution, praying that you see a new day?

Or will you be remembered as the one who forced the new day to rise, to burn out every last second of that endless time, to wake the Yawning Death and remind Him…

You have so much further to go.

 

Don’t worry about the website today. Instead, tell a loved one what I’ve said here. Make sure that you use your infinite moments wisely. We don’t know how to control time, we must be a slave to it until one day, down the road, we become the masters of time and infinity will be always.

Life is not meant to be awful.

Don’t let it be.

Cut Up Towel

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Everything you do folds into everything else you do. Each moment of your life you are acting or reacting to other things, it is up to each of us to make the best out of what we have available to us.

The other day as my girlfriend and I were cleaning our house, we dragged a bunch of stuff out and cleaned up the bedroom, I worked on my office and we had decided to take a break, the following day in an effort to drum up some more inspiration to continue the cleaning project, she went to go clean my truck as how dirty it has gotten has begun to bother her. While she did this I went to work on some projects for Salt + Iron and she pulled this pink towel I’ve had for years out of a box. In it’s past life I’ve used it to wrap my consoles in when I brought them to other places. Since I’ve moved out and purchased a laptop, that isn’t necessary any more and It’s laid in the bottom of a backpack for a number of months. She asked if she could cut it up when she was cleaning and use the scraps as rags.

She went ahead and did it as I continued about my day and later that evening I went shopping with my mom, just to spend some time with her and talk about future plans for my life and my business and to get in some quality momma bear time. When we got back I invited her up to the apartment so that she could look over what we had been talking about and we talked about it briefly. Before she left, she noticed the towel still on the plastic table in our living room and turned to me. Her voice almost quivering as she asked me.

“Did you guys cut this up?”

I nodded and said yes, when she told me that it was a wedding present from her brother. 30+ years she had held on to that towel and the rest of the set he had gifted him, long after Montie had passed away and she had shared the stories of his life with her.

As she was explaining that it was a gift from my late uncle I felt a sudden burst of anger, a feeling that I should have known better. That I should have had my girlfriend rip up a different towel, or a T-shirt I don’t wear anymore. Anything but that towel.

I apologized immediately, furious with myself because I should have known better. There was a reason I dragged it around with me and didn’t ever get rid of it. I should have trusted my instincts. I didn’t, because I didn’t remember. I didn’t recall the importance of the towel, if any resided within the cotton still. I had no idea why I dragged it around, assuming at the time that it was just there because it was ratty and old and I didn’t feel a need to use it for drying myself off anymore.

Still, I apologized. Knowing how much small things mean to me, I could only imagine what it meant to my mother that these towels would remain intact. It was a physical representation of her brother and I had given my girlfriend the go ahead to slice them up.

After momma left the apartment I talked to my girl about it, she was really upset that we had ruined something that held so much intrinsic value to my mom. I was upset too, and somewhere in my heart there was this thing tugging at me, knowing the feeling of making a mistake as it clawed at the inside of my head.

I returned to my office to continue working and sat down at my desk, unable to focus on my work. It was a towel, of course, it was silly, but it wasn’t just the fact that it was a towel. Just like my grandfather’s pocket knife. It wasn’t just a knife. It was my grandpa’s. I try to take delicate care of those things in my life, because I know how much the memory means to me. I don’t often keep pictures. I keep fragments of memories that rest in shelves or in cases, between the pages of books that tell stories of my grandfather and my friends. The concerts I’ve been to reborn as bookmarks to keep the new stories I read wrapped tightly within memories. The shirts I wore to concerts worn down to slivered threads with each wash as I keep them and drag them to shreds, remembering what I did as I wore them. Hats and beanies my mother have made stick on a rack until I need them again to hold my unkempt hair together.

Memories surround me. The stone I keep in my pocket that I panic when I lose was given to me by my mom years ago. My tools a gift from my father. My words, each and every one, a composed structure that was given to me by my family. The small bead keychain I don’t keep on my keys because I’m afraid I will shatter it. The tickets from dates with my girlfriend and more all revolve around my life. Many of them hung and pinned to the calendar hanging above my main computer where I do my writing. All of them hung there as memories and keepsakes of moments in my life that I look back on often when I am lost and when I am afraid.

How could I have thought so carelessly about a towel? I wondered.

So I penned an apology to my mom. Promising that we wouldn’t cut it up and we would use it with great care in the future. When she responded, I didn’t expect the answer, though I know my mother well enough now to know that I should have.

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It made me think about my life and how I just use things. I use people’s kindness to my benefit when I need assistance. I use their trust when I want to gossip. I use the items I’ve been so graciously given by those in my life like they are just similar pieces to an ever-expanding puzzle. I allow things to come and go freely between my heart and mind without consideration of where it came from.

I thought about the weight of the towel as I held it in my hands the next day and realized that I don’t carry the weight of what we all do quite enough. Each word we say and each thought we entertain creates who we are. As time goes on, we become worn and battered, meant to be a gift to those around us. Not one to be squandered and tossed away. We aren’t impractical. If the life we share is a wedding. We are not picture frames, not ceramic vases. We are not these things that are meant to hang on walls and be looked at. We are so much more practical. We are towels to clean wounds, to rinse the rainwater off our friends. We are rags to soak up oil and we are much more simple gifts to one another. In their eternal search for purpose and meaning. We are a simple gift, sent from one home to the next to provide a service to them that they cannot get elsewhere.

Will a bookshelf soak the tar of life from the carpet of your home? Will a cell phone clean the wine stain from your dress?

Will an unused word grow the hope of another bride or groom, wandering the soil alone and searching for purpose?

No, it won’t. It never will.

Not until we look at one another as the truly simplistic and still incredibly complicated gifts that we all are. The gifts we all have to give are wildly unique and special. We cannot see it any other way if we want to live meaningfully, with purpose and most importantly, with immeasurable hope.

The next time you brandish scissors in your hand, consider your own use. Are you a gift, practical and useful in your application? Can you survive the next 31 years doing your duty, or will you wither on the shelf as you fill your soul with temporary decorations that can easily be destroyed by a rampant fire of pain or a few days without the water of life?

If your answer is the latter, consider my uncle’s towels for a moment.

Find your purpose.

Pick the scissors up if you need to, but whatever you do. Whether you slice apart the towel or not, consider what it came from. The life that it gifted and the worlds it changed so effortlessly with groundbreaking thoughts and compassionate speech.

Cut the towel, or don’t.

Whatever your life will have you choose,

Live it with a smile.

If you enjoyed this, consider checking out my website where you can see when I will be uploading next! (Every Wednesday + Friday.)

www.linmtba.com