Welcome to a new season of my memoir series. It has been a long time coming, and during the past year, I have been tempted to throw-down a few prematurely, I created the “Morning Meditation” series to fill the role of “dailies.” But, there is no substitution concerning the memoir. A few things should be dealt with before this year’s season of “The Story of an Arkansas Atheist.” can be allowed to officially begin. One could call it housekeeping I suppose, but I see this as a chance to answer questions for my audience concerning some of the stories and series that seemed to have died down or stopped altogether. I don’t like unfinished business, and this is an opportunity to tie up those loose ends.
First of all, last fall and winter I attempted to publish a miniseries called “The Story of an Arkansas Atheist: Retreat Edition.” I did get a few episodes in, but then lost steam. The reason for this is quite simple—the holidays. The details are forthcoming, but rest assured, I didn’t do anything too worthwhile over the last holiday season. Redemption from the season, though, would be another step to becoming what I consider the most productive version of myself I have ever been, and almost entirely achieved except for a few little pieces of drama that in and of themselves would go extinct.
Secondly, I attempted to take on a crazy project “The One Year Religious Holiday” or OYRH for short. I started strong, but realized quickly how much help would be required to continue the project. I just don’t have the resources to make it happen right way, so that one is officially on hold until I have a proper team and resources, which may take more time than I would like. My preference being sooner rather than later. Yet, I do realize that this may be beyond my scope. I will not be giving up. Rather, I would not want to half-ass such an important project, so I will put.
Thirdly, I transcribed my father’s travel journal last fall and have since obtained the picture album from the trip. I have also contacted at least one of his travel partners who also had knowledge of how to get a hold of another. I plan on running those interviews in the near future. I would like to get that into manuscript form as well before the summer’s end. We’ll see how that one comes together.
Penultimately, the musician and sociological studies have also been sitting dormant for several months. These, I do not suffer any lamentation over. I knew these were long-haul studies when I generated them, so no love lost.
Lastly, fiction releases. I will be continuing those in the near future, but the last attempts to compose fiction have revealed perceived improvement and confidence. Therefore, I decided to rework all that I have and either finish, release, or update. I plan on putting some short stories together in manuscript form soon. My first short story book. Won’t be the last. I promise you that.
Alright, all business cleared out.
If restricted to only one word to describe the fall of 2015, there is no other than “profundity.” No one could have adequately prepared for the changes I would undergo between August and Christmas. Not my largest fans or my greatest hater would have foretold this severity. I had lost Hilary, but perhaps found myself. Not that this brings any type of consolation.
I feel today as I did then; she is good for me. And this loss would become the greatest emotional trial of the entire year, perhaps of my life. Everyday is a test of my will against this loss. Some days it only comes to mind six or seven times, and others are all day affairs; the type of day when no matter how many times I let it go, be in the moment with my life, I keep remembering. There is no imbalance between the good memories and the painful ones. They both come with frequency. I have learned to stop apologizing when the bad memories appear. We have forgiven each other. Hurt each other since the end as well; apologies have been well accepted, when we manage to speak. Doesn’t sound like love, or does it? Who can say?
Many who have been in long (or short), “successful” relationships will profess to knowing a secret or two, but I am not buying reasoning from within. It is almost a mortal certainty that every reason given wouldn’t stand up to the microscope. And I predict the phenomenon has more to do with the simple affirmation process of “giving reasons,” Sort of a supplement to a couple’s baseline fortitude to withstand difficulties. That conditioning via affirmation works because of old-brain, bird-brain if you will, systems. The reasons then flow fourth after the gauntlet of love has been run.
“Oh, he just knows when I’m in that mood.”
“She gives the best back rubs.”
“I love his pizza.”
“She is a great mother.”
We are all familiar with the tens of thousands of variations on each and every one of these, and how you feel after. A little hit of hormonal reward comes, conditioning the mind to “love” that object (person for this example). It is likely that the real secret to keeping a relationship. Literally pretending you love someone enough it comes true through repeated behavior. Of course, there are thousands of variables, amounts of hormones released with age, external factors (addiction, loss of life, physical illness, relocation), and overriding conditioning encounters, aka. affairs. So, affirmation alone wouldn’t be enough to keep the fires going indefinitely, but probability increases with further reinforced conditioning measures: “honey do” lists, gifts, sex, tandem discovery, etc. These are some of the reasons I am still convinced more value lies in choosing who you want to be with than the attraction factor, which is 80% proximity alone. You can believe all you want that someone is or is not “meant” for you. Yet, there is no evidence to suggest that the person you have found is the 100% best match, just the best within a certain environment. Furthermore, we can guarantee that any mate chosen will change. It is nonsense to say, “I have always loved” that woman or man. The rate at which cells die, change, and move coupled with the way minds evolve, shift, and re-purpose, there can be no statistical evidence that anyone could actually be executing what you perceive. You may love who they are now, maybe as much, more, or a little less, but neither of you are who you were.
Sure, sure, that analysis is nowhere near as romantic as soul mates or “true love,” but I believe it makes for much more powerful unions than provided in fairy tales (movies and novels). So, I chose, and it has cost me somewhat.
The conditioning measures I used were powerful indeed. And nothing thus far has been able to provide an overriding conditioning measure. I have tried.
Over this Autumn of Discovery, I had tried to be friendly to new women, while still talking to Hilary almost every morning. I played alarm clock to her while she adjusted to life away, on campus again. I had begun awaking at 04:20 every morning so had an easy time of the job. I will admit I cherished this morning ritual. Her voice is still the most soothing to have ever reached my ears. A cool depth to her banter, so smooth and light, I have chills recalling it now; and as I write and by my own hand, I have not heard it for months.
Soon the news would come via email that she had started seeing somebody else. This is the first of the darkest times. At first, I brushed it off.
“I’m not threatened by this guy.”
That mindset was unhealthy and would not be sustained. The darkness following is the deepest feelings of regret I have ever faced. Such helplessness at a point when my body was becoming the healthiest it has ever been.
I had been working on not hating myself for a few months, but that wasn’t enough, as self loathing is ridiculously painful. You blame yourself heedlessly, punishing every failure and ignoring any successes. Hours would be spent on the edge of my bed, tear after tear trailing off of my nose and around my freshly shaved face. A cold loneliness I had never experienced crept in despite my affirmations. This battle, that I never believed I would lose, waged while I attempted the high road. I went sober for a time before my birthday, clearing out against the depression that threatened to overwhelm each day. I did have one escape that kept me going—Morning Meditations.
I started the series after beginning a meditative and yoga daily practice. This also helped to fulfill the writer’s challenge. Fiction had been filling most of the necessary 1k a day, but my motivation to compose fiction had lost most of its steam. The original idea was to try to make them around five hundred words. That lasted for a quite a while into the series, but as of late, they have been as large as a thousand words by themselves.
I could give lots of reasons why that is. The one most important is likely the one that claims I just wanted to write more. I don’t publish them as much as at first, but I imagine that will revert at some point when there is a need. This now brings me to the most fascinating part of my modern story.
How did a bearded, 260 lb. mess of self loathing and rage becomes the clean-shaven, 215 lb. system of empathy and productivity sitting at the keyboard right now. You’ll have to excuse the pun; a whole new chapter is about to begin.