Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year, Same Me

Our MMA class was full to the brim last night. Everyone was in high spirits at the beginning of the class. What a turnout. Some were there on a bet, others were there to make good on their physical promises to themselves. Promises that are made all over the globe the second that ball drops to mark the beginning of the New Year.

The bitch of it is you've got to sustain. Without looking around me, about two minutes into the jump-roping warm-up I could feel the reality setting in. The collective ‘holy shit, this is going to suck’ of the new students. I felt their pain. Just over a year ago, I was that guy, quietly dying inside and fighting the urge to puke. Any trace of cockiness at being a trail runner, a dancer, a former athlete and lifter, falling into the puddle of sweat on the mat below me. What the ever-loving fuck was I thinking?

“Are you making any resolutions this year,” B asks me sarcastically. She knows.
“Fuck no. What for? I’m always trying to do better and to take it to the next level. If anything I should resolve to take it down a notch.”

“Maybe be normal…less…intense.”

“There’s not enough hooch on the planet for that to happen.”

Resolutions are things that happen as a result of circumstances. At least that’s been my experience. And they’re usually terrifying ones. Life-changers where you pound at your chest, pray, let tears fall, beg…and then resolve right then and there that this, whatever this is, is how it’s gonna be, how it’s gotta be from now on.
A few months ago, my father had open heart surgery for a deformed valve and an aneurysm that had formed and was on the brink of exploding in his chest. From the day of his diagnosis to the day of his surgery (and even now) he was a time bomb. If the aneurysm ruptured, he would most likely die in 45 seconds. Maybe a little more because he’s a stubborn bastard. Some days, I half-expected to find him dead on the kitchen floor. I had nightmares that I would discover his body and his eye sockets would be flowing unstoppable rivers of blood.

I could not sleep with these images. I was building my resolve. It was a reckless promise to myself.
The morning of his surgery, as we were saying our goodbyes before he went under I leaned over his hospital bed and quietly begged him.

“Please, please don’t leave me here by myself. I got nobody if you go.”

He nodded his head. He knew what I meant and he promised that he wouldn’t. He probably doesn’t remember any of this.

Fourteen hours passed before my father came up from that goddamn operating room. Gray and small and totally unconscious. My mother and aunt and I went to ‘view the body,’ the only proof of life was the noisy whirring of the breathing machine. I felt my legs lose their solidness and I dropped to my knees by his little gurney. Like God had pushed me down.

“I had a revelation—well a lot of revelations—while we were waiting for him to get out of that surgery.”
“Oh, about living healthier, meditating, stuff like that?”

“Fuck no! This me we’re talking about. No, no. I’ve decided I’m going to do what the hell I want when I want and how I want. You never know.”

“That sounds…dangerous.”

“I’m just following my heart. The only one who has to live with it is me in the end.”

“Yeah, ‘cause there will be an end. Especially if you live like that.”

 I can feel how this resolution has changed me. How that moment has liberated me and wrecked me at the same time. Just like those other pivotal times, where I just plant my feet harder on the ground and whisper in my head.
“This is how it’s gotta be.”

Photo by Adrees Latif/Reuters
Long before dozens of schoolchildren were slaughtered in their classrooms by a psychopath, there should have been a resolution. Yet we wait, with no resolve with eyes to the fiscal calendar.

Long before a 12-year-old with a toy gun was snuffed out by an unstable cop, there should have been a resolve to end this one-sided enforcement of ‘the laws.' Yet we wait, and deliberate and ‘have dialogue’ where there should be action.

Long before…we should have resolved not to displace more thousands of Syrians from their homes with a war that has no end, then tell them that there is no room at the inn while we watch their dead children wash ashore on the beaches of Greece.

 My resolutions are a direct result of circumstance, not Roman calendars and religious holidays. I don’t wait for April to start working on my ‘bikini body,’ whatever the hell that means. I won’t wait until I’m 65 to finally enjoy my life. It’s too late.

When I was 12, my very close friend died. She was 12, too. We were totally silly, all of us. When we buried her, I could feel that do-or-die beast being born inside me. I resolved to be less silly, to get shit done. I was madder than hell. But that’s the year I got serious about music. And I’ve been playing now for more than two decades on stages, at bars, in my living room.

There was this boy, a man actually, who I stupidly fell in love with one summer. I was 17. I wrote him poems and we talked about Greek mythology and went fishing and mulled over his obsession with Ireland…then the summer ended. And he disappeared, cruelly removing me from his life but not before turning me into a lovesick puppy. I resolved to get to that green island before he could. And I did, the very next year. It was a drunken journey to a war torn country, practically dripping with danger, heroin, and violent romanticism. (Don’t worry, I met another man there, a few actually, took my mind right off that fella.)

Once the excitement of the New Year wears off, which it will—it always does, what then? What’s going to sustain these promises we make to ourselves? Nothing. Not unless somewhere deep in that promise, is a raw memory, a moment where the sky cracked open and you had to negotiate who the hell you were, who the hell you are, to be able to take the next step.

And still be able to look yourself in the eye.