I watched Fight Club again. It’s metaphor, not entertainment. Every time I watch that movie I see another angle of reflection. I really should read the book. I’m probably committing some literary faux pas, being fascinated with a movie based on a book while pursuing a life as a writer. I have at least five books and a pile of Letters in the Mail that sit unread, scattered throughout my house and floating in the electronic ether. Unread. Undead. Is a book dead after you read it? Some of those books I’ve had for years. If a shat an iron bar, I’d flush it without a thought.
Shortly before my mother’s death, we talked about writing. I said I wanted to write, that I was an artist. You have to suffer before you can be an artist, she said. She didn’t mean it rhetorically. Why would she say that after being witness to so much of my suffering? If I woke one day and did not feel the weight of it, it would be frightening. Maybe as a parent it’s less painful to forget a child’s suffering, especially when deep inside they take responsibility for it. In this culture we all suffer. We are all potential artists.
It’s like when I talk about my dad. But he did love you, he just didn’t know how to, they say. How can this be? He knew of me since my birth, but never laid eyes upon me or spoke words to me until I was almost thirty. And even then it was not by choice, I found him. You have to know someone to love them. You have to spend time with them, want to spend time with them, make time for them. The truth is he didn’t love me. And that’s amazingly tragic. Even after his death, the guilt and shame is so great his chosen family have to soothe themselves with make-believe. It hurts the most when they tell me I need to move on. Their frustration and judgement thrust upon me with reckless misunderstanding. Some wounds are too deep to heal completely. They turn septic when ignored or denied.
It’s hard to be a father. I struggle. There is a deep chasm that I must stretch across daily to connect with my boy. Sometimes it’s just a crack in the sidewalk, sometimes it yawns wider than I can see. But I do love him. I am present. I try. When I look at my son, I see myself and wonder how anyone could abandon their own child. How could my dad abandon me so absolutely?
I’ve got a lot going on. Time means more than anything else and I’m making changes so to not waste it. That means being a father and a writer above all things. It means embracing risk and judgment and resistance. It means acknowledging that security and guarantees are the wardrobe of fear, mythical trades we make instead of living our best destinies. We are fools to believe that the most thoughtfully executed lives are immune from ruin.