Saying goodbye

It’s something I have told myself many times over for years. Anytime I have ignored that advice and stayed in my comfort zone, I think I have derailed myself. Years and years of doing what was expected of me. What I was “supposed” to do always felt like paddling upstream.

My life is different than I expected it to be.

For a long time, I felt that fear of missing out. I felt that insane pressure to follow the crowd and dreaded the looks I would get by doing my own thing. Growing up, it was never good to stand out. You were weird. You didn’t get invited to the parties. You didn’t get to date anyone. Being different was bad. Being different was synonomous with being lonely.

I’m trying to voice this thought without sounding bitter, because today, right now, I am anything but. My heart feels light. The world is open to possibilities. So many possibilities that the choices and variety of what comes next feels endless. Like stepping out into infinity.

I’m alone, but I haven’t felt lonely in a while. This morning though, I felt something. Some kind of pull. I felt a sadness. A loss. Like turning and saying goodbye forever to an old friend. I knew that old friend was a version of myself I tried to be. I’ve outgrown him and what he thought he wanted. He had that last vestige of clinging on to an old value. The need to be wanted. Or rather the need to provide for someone else–family, relationships, friendships, his job–to find value in himself. He knew it wasn’t right to see his value through someone else’s eyes, through someone else’s approval, or their need of him. But he did it anyway.

I am moving forward, and that version of myself knows he can’t come along. He knows I won’t write to him anymore, and he’s telling me not to feel guilty about it. We have to grow. He has known it was coming for a while. I am no longer him.

The next steps ahead, leave my head swimming. I feel so light. Unsteady.

I’m not saying that old path was wrong. It just wasn’t right for me. It might be right for someone else. I might have been right for me if I hadn’t kept moving forward. Right now, I feel vulnerable in the way that someone must when they set out on a long journey with no compass and no goal in mind. Whatever I encounter now is directed by only one plan.

To live. To experience what this life has to show me. To savor the things that I experience.

It’s the plan I had when I was seventeen, but the idea of being an explorer in our lives is terrifying, because we are told what we “need.” And as it turns out, most of us drive ourselves crazy chasing those things, when we really never really needed any of that. Security, stability, A then B then C then D (or someone’s perceptions of these things) can turn into a prison. All of my life I have been lazy, because I thought it was easier to just do what was expected of me, rather than what I wanted. Now I’m finding out that the opposite was true, fighting to be someone I wasn’t was much harder. My life has not been easy because I’ve tried to cram myself into a box. Really, it was a cage.

Today, I feel like I have breath in my lungs. I don’t feel like there was one more thing I could have done to fix something. I am no longer haunted by my regrets. I have dug a hole, and now I get to fill it with anything I want. For the rest of my life.

The possibilities of what can come next are so, very frightening. But I no longer feel trapped by a “plan.” I’m no longer fighting to be wanted, I’m no longer settling for a prepackaged life that seemed adequate. And to those who walked away from me, they can wonder one day how life would have been if they had taken a different path. I’m not going to concern myself with it anymore. It is their loss.

I’m seeing my real worth just now, and it has almost nothing to do with anyone else’s approval. It is no longer bound to any sense of injustice or something I “deserved” but didn’t get. I’ve thought what I have wanted and chased after it many times, only to discover it wasn’t what I wanted after all. I’ll be another year older soon, and maybe I still don’t know what I really “want.” I know what I don’t want. And I also know what I’m not willing to settle for.

I’m breathing. I can smell the rain as the next shower is about to begin. And the world I have been living in has been parched for so long.


Table Flip: a Game for the Whole Family

There have been a few moments in my life I have witnessed a decent table flip. A small percentage of that has been an Epic Table Flip.

What is a table flip, you might ask? A table flip is that moment in Monopoly (or any other bored game) when you realize that you have lost and in a moment of pure unsportmanly behavior, you grab the edge of the table and flip it up in the air so that the piece go flying and there is no more evidence of your defeat. The rules of Monopoly say differently, but this is actually how you know the game is over. Somebody flips that damn thing once they’ve been beaten.

Flipping the table isn’t always about defeat. Sometimes it’s about victory, a final “Suck it!” to those you have conquered. Maybe you’ve conquered something about yourself. It’s one of those “Personal Journey” namaste fucking things.

I think of one of the best table flip moments I have witnessed. My former GF was working at a company that supplied materials to fracking, electrical, and gas companies. She was supposed to work in the office, but she had a boss who was instead returning his wife’s texts all day long, so Office Girl was often sent out to the pipe yard to QC shipments before the trucks could drive off. Which meant standing on a truck and physically counting pipe to make sure they loaded the right items onto the truck.

She had aspirations of quitting the job and going to become an electrician. So, she talked with the trade union and they got her set up with a correspondence course so she could take an advanced Maths course and be assigned a journeyman electrician for training. She went into work on a Monday morning, and instead of sitting down to start her job, she loaded her belongings into a box and walked out of there. Her supervisor tried to get her to sit and talk about staying or even giving notice and she said, “No thanks.” Table. Flip.

My older audience might think “What a dick move! No notice?! Who is going to fill that position until they hire someone else?” That’s the problem right there. If you were to be fired by an employer for any reason, they just call security and have your extracted from the building (I’ve had that happen). They don’t care. Why the hell should you? I don’t know what became of her training, but I hope when she flipped that table, it opened up opportunities for a better life.

The same attitude has people in history digging their own graves before they are shot by firing squad. “Well, if you want something done right, you oughtta do it yerself!”

I had a slower table flip myself. When the University I worked for for nearly twenty years laid off 200 people at the beginning of Covid, they didn’t give a damn what happened to us. So, I started writing full time. I had already been considering asking to be part-time so I could write from home and just have insurance and a steady paycheck from work. That was not to be. Hell, I had already been calling in sick to write whenever I got some great assignments.

I have been working on my book (which if I had joined an MFA program, I would have to get out student loans to pay a school to do this, on top of taking classes), and writing content for companies too (which pay better than the University in some cases). I also moved back home to live in the mountains of Colorado. It has taken me a while to realize that I do have control over my life. I can flip that table and do something I want to do.

Liberation is one of the hardest things to get used to.

There are risks and there are costs. I’m learning more and more about the costs, some of which are very steep. There is a divide between Liberty and Security, and the goal is to find a happy zone between them. There is the mess to clean up from flipping that table too.

There are all sorts of ways to flip that table. What if you are in a rotten marriage? FLIP! What if you want to cry in your car the whole way home after having dinner with your family? FLIP! What if you find yourself frothing and screaming at other cars on the interstate on the way to a job that gives you no fulfillement, while having to kiss someone’s ass all day just for the privilege of working in a cubicle maze? FLIP!! And what if someone you’ve been seeing is unable to have a conversation about where your relationship is going? It’s okay to flip that sucker too!

It’s okay to start over. It’s okay to let things go. And before you say “Well, some of us have to work! I can’t just do that!” Think of that whenever you get called into another meeting at work and they have “concerns” and “retraining opportunities”. They are just gathering info to hold against you for later. You could be sent home with a box of your shit any morning without any warning. The difference being that it was their choice and not yours to walk away. They don’t care if you have enough money for rent.

Think about that “It’s not you, it’s me” moment or worse yet the day you walk into your house and find your significant other in bed with someone else. Did they want to shake hands with you and say “Good game, old bean!” No. Don’t you wish you had flipped that table? (I’ve seen other friends go through it and they always wished they had). My table flip moments came and went so many times for a variety of reasons. I’ve had a few that have stood out and I flipped that table. Even though I second guessed myself, eventually I understood that I had done the right thing.

Flipping the table does NOT include doing something stupid to hurt yourself to punish someone else. Fuck that noise. After a good table flip you should want to pour a drink, lean back in your chair and sing along with the saxaphones in Baker Street.


Flipping the table is a moment when you’ve had enough and the pieces on the board don’t matter. You are changing the rules. You are taking control of your life again and charging forward into something magnificent.

Flip that table and don’t look back.


I used to write letters to a woman I was dating.

No, let me go back further.

The first time I was in love, I wrote love letters almost daily to a girl and she wrote me back. I still have a box of her letters. A collection I compiled in two years of correspondence. In some of my darker moments, those letters have held me together. They brought back the moment that I went to the town post office and opened up the mailbox. The scent of paper and wood, brass keys, and vanillin, which the post office still smells of today. To read those letters takes me back to being 17, 18, and just past 19, almost like a negative space of a memory, since what I can read is usually in response to what I had said.

A moment when someone was giddy to see me. Someone who valued me as only young lovers do.

Among the things spoken of in those letters were typical teenaged worries. Getting into college. Trying out for the basketball team, pondering what the future held. Expressions of affection and brief flirtations with passionate moments between two kids on the verge of adulthood. In those times, phone calls were expensive and the distance we had to travel to see each other in person was prohibitive. You could send a ten page letter for $0.29 and keep that conversation forever. Well, half of the conversation anyway. A summer romance turned into a nearly four year relationship, which eventually ran its course. The letters stopped long before that, especially since we lived only about an hour apart for the last few years. Somehow that three week romance in person set the groundwork and we continued to grow together through our letters.

I never wrote my ex-wife letters. We met in college. We saw each other all the time. And as it goes with bad marriages, I don’t think we ever really communicated well. I can attest that we lacked the intimacy that those letters provided in my past. Maybe one of us had a set impression on who they wanted the other to be. We didn’t grow together. We could only grow apart. Funny how that happens between two people. Actually it isn’t funny at all. It’s tragic. Telling.

So, after my divorce, I dusted off that romantic part of my heart that had either been unappreciated or unused. It’s hard to tell which. I dated a woman for a few years. But she stopped reading my letters, saying they were “too personal” as though she were reading my diary or something. The idea of something so personal made her cringe. And when things fell apart, which they sometimes do between people, I saw that my letters were not the same as that first love. Oftentimes, they were discussions on what was going wrong, which were never answered.

As you continue to grow, people come and go from your life. You meet, sometimes fall in love, and sometimes realize that you weren’t as compatible as you thought. The next relationship was better than the one before it, but a red flag was that the few letters I wrote to her, she only finished reading one or two. Over the years my handwriting has gotten bad. Arthritis and took much typing have turned an already difficult work of penmanship into something arcane and almost illegible. In the end, she couldn’t be bothered to finish reading them. And not to be one to keep track of affection–which I dislike–but I never got one back either.

Talk about throwing your heart to the wind.

I like writing letters because the words come together as a permanent stain of ink on paper. There is no deleting what was said at the moment. A hard drive can’t be dumped. You can carry it around with you all the time until the paper loses its scent and every word is etched into your memory, or you can keep it in a box that never needs updating or a subscription to keep. You have those words forever. Maybe your children or grandchildren have those words. The double edged sword is that a letter you write when you are sad also stays on the page forever, unlike a text which will just scroll away into obscurity. On those pages are heartache and tear stains.

I’ve had those too.

I used to work with an old rancher who corresponded with the likes of JFK and Johnny Unitas and many others. He told me the key to writing a letter was to just put the words down like you were having a conversation with someone sitting across the table from you. He wrote a letter of recommendation for me when I got my Eagle Scout award. He held true to his word. It was like he was just saying what he thought. The meaning was clear and concise. Sparse and ommitting anything unnecessary to weigh it down. I lost that letter in my divorce, but I can still see the way his words had found themselves on the page in my memory. He had such hopes for seventeen year old me, just starting out in life.

I don’t read the old letters anymore, because I have outgrown them like an old favorite sweatshirt or pair of boots. I’m in my forties now and ready to make new memories and have new adventures. Reading those letters to my old self feels a little too much like intruding on someone else’s life. I wish him the best, since he eventually grows up to be me. I’ll give him his privacy now.

Maybe I just keep too much old junk around the house.

But unlike typing something out or thumbing it through as a text in messenger, when you take the time to find a pen and paper and put words down, trying to write them as carefully as you can so that the person receiving them can read what you said, and doing it in such a way that your thoughts have to be linear enough to convey meaning–because there’s no cut and paste function in a spiral notebook–that carries weight. It has meaning. It’s about as close to a magic spell as any of us will get.

Or maybe I’m just an anachronism. I’d rather begin my message to someone I care about with “Dear…” than “Hey, you up?” And just maybe you’ll find that out of all the methods of expression that have fallen out of favor over the years in preference to instant gratification, there are just a few romantic souls out there who cannot wait to rip open that envelope and see what is waiting for them inside. And sometimes the scariest thing about getting a letter back is the anticipation of what the other person will say. Good or bad. There’s powerful magic in that too.