School of Rock

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My son, William, started kindergarten yesterday. I wasn’t there to watch him put his backpack on, or take pictures of him in his new clothes, or observe him interact with kids in his classroom—which totally sucks, but that’s not the topic of this post. The topic of this post is this:

Things we choose to remember.

Kindergarten is when things really started to stick with me. Lucid memories and self-identity/discovery were in full swing once I entered those gray, pointed steel gates of Tierra Bonita Elementary.

I remember being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of kids, most of them seemingly right around my same age. Some of them had already formed little groups and were talking and laughing like grown-ups do at parties, or at church. I wondered where they’d all come from. I wondered why I’d never met any of them before.

I think that I pretty much knew from “day-1” that I was going to have a difficult time at school. I pretty much knew that being social and responsible and academically inclined were not my strong suits. I learned that I was introverted and observant and quiet and kind of weird. That’s not to say that I never had any fun, or didn’t fit in, or was overly bullied, etc. It simply means that I was beginning to walk down the ever-winding path of Bryan Carl Nolte.

Now I’m sitting here looking at the clock, wondering how William is doing at school. I’m wondering what memories he’s making inside of his little head. I’m wondering if they are happy ones, funny ones, sad ones, lonely ones, EXCITING ONES???

I’m wondering where he gets picked up by his mom after school. Is it by the school sign? Is it by the front doors? Are there other kids waiting with him? What do they talk about? Does he talk to them? Does he laugh? Is he self-conscious about anything? Has he made friends? Enemies?

My mom used to pick my sister and me up after school at the top of a hill. We would sit on a big rock (pictured above) and wait for her. I can still feel the brittle, smoothness of that rock. I can still feel the sun on my back. I can still see my sisters hair illuminated—golden strands blowing in the warm Santa Anna winds.

I understand that for you, the reader, the picture above is simply “a rock”, but for me it’s a mesmerizing conduit into the past—a visual portal to specific moments of my childhood.

What are some “things” from your childhood that bring back a flood of memories and emotions? Are they things that anyone else might view as trivial, or ordinary? If you could go somewhere, or look at something from your past, what would it be? How would you feel? What would you say to help the person standing next to you know how you feel?

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Some thoughts on over-eating and puzzles

I’ve recently come to the realization (and this is difficult for me to admit) that I’ve become the kind of person that I hated most when I was a married man/father of two young children:

A twenty-something-single-dude-that-lives-alone.

Sometimes, throughout the six years of my marriage, my single/childless friends would feel compelled to tell me about their “problems”. I would listen intently, trying to sympathize–honestly trying to remember what it was like to be one of them. More often than not, however, I would end up envisioning them enduring grotesque, debilitating forms of torture (the evil deeds often being performed by myself):

“Oh, what’s that, Alex? You can’t seem to find enough time to exercise every single fuc$&@$ day of the week? Well isn’t that just the saddest thing I’ve ever heard! Here, hold still while I jam this ice-pick into your left ear.”

Now, before I go down my all-too-familiar path of self depreciation, I should be fair to myself and reemphasize the fact that I am a father of two young children. So, even if my current role in their lives is more like a distant orbiting moon, this fact alone should put me in a different category of “twenty-something-single-dude-that-lives-alone”.

Right?

Maybe?

Can I get “WHAT, WHAT!” from all my divorced-single-dads? (Jay-Z reference)

All the single-divorced-daddy’s, INDEPENDENT, throw yo hands up at maaaaay! (Beyoncé reference)

No?

O.K.

Well, for what it’s worth, here’s something I’ve learned about being a twenty-something-divorced-single-dude-that-lives-alone:

— It’s lonely.

Now, here’s something I’ve learned about loneliness:

— When you stay lonely for too long you become a weird person.

This is what I mean by that statement:

— All aspects of your life and internal psyche begin to deteriorate.

For example:

— You sleep too much, eat too little, think too much, play and laugh too little.
— You start staring at random things for extended periods of time–deconstructing those things until they become unrecognizable, meaningless, inanimate objects of the amorphous, ever-expanding universe inside your head.
— You stop doing things that you like to do, even though you have ample time to do all of those things.
— Instead, you spend your time doing stupid things, like signing up for Facebook and Instagram and Tinder and all that shit. You want people to think you are happy and normal. You stare for hours at all of the normal people’s pictures and wonder to yourself if they, like you, aren’t normal at all. You think about how easy it is to smile for a camera. You remember all of the smiles that you faked throughout your life–your marriage; your childhood. This makes you wonder what the point of everything is. You wonder how it’s possible to be happy for yourself instead of for other people. This makes you wonder what happiness is–if it’s real; if it exists, or if it’s like the Snipe in the woods that your cousins sent you out to look for when the sun was going down and you were all alone and you thought that you were going to get chased and eaten by a wolf or a bear.
— You consider the possibility that you might be depressed, which isn’t necessarily weird, but the weirdness of your actions and thoughts did get you to that point of recognition. You completely dismiss the thought, however, because what does that even mean? Depressed? Isn’t everyone depressed?
— When something unexpected and wonderful enters your life, you squander it; smother it; piss on it until the hot flames are nothing more than putrid pillars of smoke.

But why? Why do you always end up pissing on everything?

Well, it’s kind of like when you don’t eat for a long time and you’re STARVING so you go and eat a steak and rolls and mashed potatoes and collared greens and key lime pie and–your body doesn’t know what to do with all of the attention, so it just barfs everything up.

Perhaps right now you are thinking this, or saying this to someone over your shoulder?:

“Wow, Bryan is kind of a downer.”

Justified.

But let me try and redeem myself.

Looking back on this whole “first-year-of-divorce” fiasco, I think that I’ve actually (so far) gained more than I’ve lost. The “gained” portion of the gain/loss ratio has by no means been a landslide victory, but I believe it to be a silver lining nonetheless.
It’s been really interesting, actually–experiencing the strange bend in time that occurs when significant changes have (in a relatively confined timeframe) infiltrated your life. Here’s what I mean by this:

Sometimes it’s difficult to judge the amount of progress we’ve made in a given amount of time. I think this is because we’re stuck living in the current moment. Everyday it seems that new problems and obstacles are being thrown our way–tripping us up and making us bad people. I think to see the progress we’ve made we need to distance ourselves from our current realities.

In other words: we need to take the time to step back and reflect on all of the shittier-times that we’ve had.

For example: I know that precisely one year ago I was moving all of my things out of the apartment that I’d been living in for six years with my wife and kids. That was a really shitty time.

To help you understand the shittiness of that situation, here is a poem that I wrote about it (I posted this earlier, but whatever–I don’t care if it’s tacky to post things twice):

WHAT YOU WILL REMEMBER

Your parents spent on love—
every last cent.
The apartment
and your innocence up for rent.

Janey-Pie in her crib hugging Blanky,
smiling obliviously.
Obviously, however,
all is not well on the home front.

Clothes, toys, and junk
spread out hanging,
dangling from every space
like flannel snow underfoot.

Your acute angle of vision,
swaying, shifting
slowly back and forth:

Mommy—Daddy—Mommy—Daddy.

So close, face to face,
but not embracing.
So animated, like clowns,
we should all be laughing.

But this is the opposite
of opposites
attracting, my son—
this is the opposite of love.

______________________________

So, at least I’m not that guy anymore.

Or maybe I am still that guy?

Maybe I’m that guy and all of the other guys that I’ve ever been?

Maybe I’m a mass conglomerate of past “me’s”?

And maybe that’s O.K.?

I don’t have all the answers figured out.

But that’s not the point.

Life is a progression.

It’s a 10,000,000,000 piece puzzle and sometimes you want to keep giving up because gigantic puzzles like that suck major balls.

But you can’t stop now because you’ve already spent soooooooooo much time–soooooooooo many years and years and years trying to put the damn thing together.

Giving up now would be a quantum-sized travesty.

Besides, you’re kind of starting to see what the picture is.

Might as well keep going–

Right?

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FICTION FART#3: The Plight of the Bowerbird

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SUNDAY

Rain.

So much rain.

Too much rain.

No time for rain.

Must build bower.

Bower must be built.

Can’t procrastinate.

Can’t be late.

Late last year.

Very bad thing.

Missed opportunity.

No luck last year.

Learned lesson.

Will do better this year.

Must do better.

But sad now.

So much sadness.

Why so sad?

No time for sadness.

Positivity.

Be more positive.

Must be positive.

Rain is beautiful.

Makes things green.

Makes things grow.

Like self.

Am grown now.

Am new bird.

Been long year.

Lonely year.

No lady bird.

No baby birds.

No love.

But have grown.

Am strong.

Am attractive.

Am much better.

Stay positive.

Must stay positive.

Happy.

Be happy.

 

MONDAY

So exciting!

Building bower.

Working hard.

Staying busy.

Still raining.

Still muddy.

Wet.

Staying positive.

Staying happy.

Found blue bottle caps.

Blue bower this year.

Blue different.

So unique.

Crowd pleaser.

Will impress lady birds.

Feathers-crossed.

 

TUESDAY

MATING DANCE PRACTICE:

Hop. Hop. Hop.

Shuffle. Shuffle.

Hop. Hop.

Shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle.

SCREAM. SCREAM. SCREAM. SCREAM.

Hop. Hop. Hop.

Shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle.

HUGE SCREAM!!!

 

WEDNESDAY

Bower finished.

Home sweet home.

Very blue.

Blue bottle caps.

Blue straws.

Blue toothbrush.

Blue string.

Maybe blue overkill?

Maybe not?

Maybe just right?

Will see tomorrow.

Tomorrow big day.

Very big day.

Staying positive.

But difficult.

Worry set in.

Will sun shine?

Will dance stun?

Will see.

Stay positive.

Must stay positive.

Be happy.

Count blessings.

World good place.

Very good place.

So beautiful.

Life good, too.

Could be worse.

Much worse.

Could be sick.

Could be dead.

Am not those.

Am healthy.

Am alive.

Am lucky.

 

THURSDAY

MATING DANCE ATTEMPT # 1:

Hop. Hop. Hop.

Shuffle. Shuffle.

Hop. Hop.

Shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle.

SCREAM. SCREAM…

 

IMPROVISE! IMPROVISE! IMPROVISE!

 

…choked.

Major fail.

Lady bird not impressed.

Lady bird gone.

Need practice more.

Screams no good.

Sound like puberty.

Too much hopping.

…so embarrassing.

So mad at self.

Want to quit.

Give up on life.

But can’t.

Not yet.

Sun shining.

So warm.

So hopeful.

One more try.

Give one more try.

Stay positive.

Must stay positive.

Be happy.

Be self.

Just be self.

True self.

 

FRIDAY

MATING DANCE ATTEMPT # 2:

Strut. Strut. Strut.

SQUAWK!!!

Shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle.

STRUT. STRUT. STRUT.

SQUAWK!!!

SHAKE. SHAKE. SHAKE.

Hop. Hop. Hop.

Strut. Strut. SCREAM!

STRUT. HOP. STRUT. STRUT.

SQUAWK!!!

HUGE SCREAM!!!

HUGE SCREAM!!!

GINORMOUS SCREAM!!!!!!

 

Oh yeah…

Nailed it.

 

SATURDAY

Lady bird in bower.

Sleeping now.

Long night.

Restless night.

Wild night.

If know what mean.

Lady bird so pretty.

So lovely.

So in love!

Lady bird love blue toothbrush.

Thought was nice touch.

Love dancing, too.

Went so well!

So happy now!

Lady bird love me.

Wants baby birds.

Everything SO good.

Everything working out.

Everything perfect.

 

SUNDAY

Woke up alone.

No lady bird.

Lady bird gone.

Thought was joke.

But no joke.

Searched bower.

Searched forest.

Searched pond.

No dice.

No lady bird.

Lady bird gone.

Gone for good.

Thinking now.

All alone.

Alone in bower.

Wondering:

Why happen?

What wrong?

Too much blue?

Not enough wild?

Too much boring?

Not enough handsome?

So sad.

So confused.

Want to quit.

Give up on life.

But can’t.

Not yet.

Sun shining.

So warm.

So hopeful.

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“WHAT IF…” EXERCISE

What if I was nineteen and I lived in Ukraine? What if I wanted to be an accountant? What if I was going to school for it? What if I wasn’t getting good grades- not because I wasn’t a good student, but because my teachers had their hands dipped in governmental corruption? What if I sold my guitar so that I would have enough money to take a final? What if I needed to pass the final so I could transfer to a better school outside of Kiev? What if I didn’t pass? What if I was one answer short of passing? What if they wouldn’t let me see the test or the answers? What if all they told me was that I could try again in one month? What if they also told me that the cost of the test was going to go up because of its popularity?
What if that evening I was walking home with my girlfriend, Ivanna? What if we were super happy and super in love? What if I felt that she was all that I really had going for me? What if we unexpectedly got caught up in a violent conflict between Kiev military officers and the Right Sector? What if Ivanna and I hid behind a large tree as the fighting progressed onto the lawn and concrete steps of a government building? What if the Right Sector militants were pushing forward, hiding behind steel panels that had been welded onto construction scaffolding pipes? What if they were throwing Molotov Cocktails, starting little fires everywhere? What if some of them were trying to protect themselves by holding nothing but a car tire, or a plank of wood?
What if as I turned to Ivanna to tell her that we should run she got hit in the chest with a bullet? What if it went right through her? What if she fell backwards onto the sidewalk and by the time I put her head in my lap she was dead? What if I carried her about a hundred yards to a parking lot and laid her body on the ground behind an old bus?
What if some lady on the third level of an apartment building was waving a sheet in the air that had the words, “INSANE IN THE UKRAINE”, written on it with purple permanent marker? What if she screamed for me to take shelter with her? What if I tried to pick up Ivanna, but I couldn’t do it because I was too tired? What if in that moment a bullet hit the side of the old bus and ricochet into the flesh of my left thigh? What if I fell to the ground and started to hyperventilate? What if I forced myself to rip the bottom half of my T-shirt off to use as a bandage? What if I was losing too much blood, and in too much shock to move? What if I could see the legs of the militants moving toward us from under the bus? What if I huddled myself up to Ivanna and put my arms around her neck? What if I passed out with her cold cheek pressed against mine?

——————————————————————

That’s enough of that, I think.

I’m not going to pretend like I’m some expert on all of the political/military/educational/blahblahblah corruption that’s going on in Ukraine and in many other places around the world. I’m not. I read headlines and I’ve watched some documentaries, etc.
It takes a lot time and effort to stay informed and up-to-date on all of the worlds current affairs. At a certain point you start to wonder if being blissed out on ignorance is really such a bad thing.

We are human, however, so we tend to feel sad and mad when other innocent humans are being killed, mercilessly, for no reason whatsoever.

Anyway, I’m sitting here writing this post on an IPad. Im at my place of employment. I’m sitting at a nice table in a nice cafeteria. I just ate a pastrami sandwich that I bought with a plastic card that’s filled up with invisible money. So…yeah. You get what I’m trying to say here, right?

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A PRAYER OF SORTS

Image Dear God,

I’m going to write this because for some reason I’m having a difficult time kneeling and closing my eyes and all that. I think the last time I prayed was about a year ago. It was that night when I took those Adderall’s from that guy at work and they didn’t mix well with the Wellbutrin and I had to leave because I felt like my soul was seeping out of my extremities and orifices. Remember that? It was also the night that little boy shot himself on accident in Springville and all I could do was think about William and how if he died I would want to die too. I went and sat in my car for about an hour in the parking lot and cried. I cried so hard and deep—it was something very foreign to me. It was scaring me, actually—the uncontrollable flow of tears and sobs. I knew that I was losing it. I could feel my mind packing—taking his little mind-suitcase out of his little mind-closet and putting it on his little mind-bed in my head— stuffing all of my thoughts, ideas, memories, and sanity into it.
“I’m taking the sanity and I’m going to my mother’s—do you understand me? I’m leaving you, Bryan.” Mind said.
“Please, Mind, don’t leave me. I need you.” I said, pulling a chunk of hair from my skull and sprinkling the fibers over the steering wheel.
You remember all of this, don’t you? I drove around Orem like a crazy person and ended up in the Anytime Fitness parking lot where I called my mom. She could tell that I’d hit rock bottom and that I was digging a hole down there, so she and my dad came and got me and took me to their place and calmed me down a bit. That little kid, though—shit. I couldn’t get that out of my head.
Why do little kids have to die? Why does stuff like that happen? I know you get these types of questions all the time, but seriously—what are you thinking? I know life is supposed to be difficult, and it’s a test, and we’re supposed to endure, and we’re not meant to have all of the answers, and we’re supposed to have faith and be humble and all that, but sometimes—I don’t know, it just seems like you’ve let things get out of hand. It’s supposed to be difficult, but it’s not supposed to be impossible, right? And I know that the answer for that one is Jesus and the Atonement and repentance—I know the answers. I guess I’m just asking for you to throw us a bone every once in a while.
How awesome would it have been if you had reached down out of Heaven and landed those planes that crashed on 9-11? Just reached down with your huge God fingers and landed them safely on the ground—as if they were just little Micro-Machine toys. If you had done something like that everyone would totally be on your side. I know that a lot of good comes from bad stuff that happens—again, I know the answers—but sometimes the answers just aren’t good enough. All of us “sign-seekers” need more than that.
Want to know what I think? No? You already know what I think? Well I’m going to tell you anyway. I think you need to do some soul searching of your own. I think you need to relax for a minute and do some kind of meditation, or Yoga, or both. Think back to how you were in the Old Testament. That’s the kind of God we need right now. You were all over the place back then. You were showing your powers left and right. You were killing bad people and wiping out evil places like crazy. Remember that? What happened to that guy? Where’d he go? It’s getting old having to decipher our blessings. It’s getting old trying to see you in an abstract, metaphorical way. Why not just fly down here for a day and chill with us for an afternoon? You could come to a Barnes and Noble or something. They could put a sign up in the window:

ONE NIGHT ONLY

COME SEE GOD READ FROM HIS BEST-SELLING NOVEL:

THE OLD TESTAMENT

$5 ENTRY FEE.

(tenpercentoftheproceedswillbejustlyhandedovertogodwhiletheremainingninetypercentwillbedonatedtothefightagainsthansen’sdiseasefoundation…andonecomplimentarysmallcupofcoffeewillbeavailabletothefirsttwentyfivecustomers).

So, here I am tonight, looking in the mirror, doing some kind of self-evaluation. I’m thinking that I could have done better. I’m thinking that it’s been pretty rough. I’m thinking about how the past year has added about twenty-years of lines and wrinkles to my face— how I’ve got grey stubble in my beard now, and how it feels awkward to smile. I’m thinking about how cute I was as a kid. I’m thinking about how easy it is to change for the worse, but not for the better—kind of like that one poem that I really like—the one about the dead bees that are in that blue bowl and they’re covered with rose petals. Do you know the one I’m talking about? I think that’s how I am. I think that’s how most people are. How is it possible to be a bowl full of only rose petals?
I’m thinking about how small this planet is and how when we look up at the stars at night we’re really only looking at a minute fraction of our galaxy, which is an almost infinitely minute fraction of the universe. Then I’m thinking about the universe and wondering if it exists and how it exists and if you, God, have all of that space to cover—well, no wonder we haven’t heard from you in so long (check out this site. I think this guy did a good job at describing what I’m trying to say:http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/fermi-paradox.html). The universe just keeps expanding and expanding and you can’t keep up. You didn’t expect things to be so technical and difficult. Am I right? Probably not, but I can see how it’s a possibility. Maybe you’re just embarrassed, I don’t know. Anyway, I’m not trying to be blasphemous and I’m not trying to make it seem as though I’m completely ungrateful. I don’t want you to get the idea that I think there’s nothing to be happy about in life. I’m being a bit immature and ignorant and self-depreciating right now, but I think that I mean well. Can you feel that?
I hope so.
Here’s another thing: I can literally feel the shackles of adolescence draped over me like a shawl. It’s something I have to cope with on a daily basis—this Peter-Pan-Syndrome. In a way, however, it’s also something that I’m rather proud of. I’m rather proud of this constant state of wonder and amazement and perplexity that my mind resides in—toward the world and society and the universe. It keeps me from entering oblivion. It helps me decipher what’s real and true and beautiful in this confused world.
Maybe what I’m trying to say is this: Life is beautiful… most of the time. And when it’s not beautiful, it’s interesting. I believe that when we look for the negative things in life, we’ll find them, and vice-versa.
Hmm…
Maybe what I’m trying to say is this: I know that things will work out. If things don’t work out then that’s just another way of saying that things did work out. Right?
No. That’s not it, either.
How about this:   I DONT KNOW.  
Okay, well that’s it for now.
Don’t be mad at me.
Have a good one.  

Amen.

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AN UNEXPECTED FLASH OF LOVE

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My sister sent me this picture tonight. She took it earlier today as I was saying goodbye to my son, William. There is no way that she could have known the impact that this kind act would have on me. I needed it so badly. It has saved a part of me, in a way. It has reminded me that there is no power stronger than LOVE. Sometimes we don’t know what to say, or we say the wrong things—or we just don’t say anything at all. Sometimes we don’t know how to show our love for others. It can be so, so difficult.

This picture reminded me that love can be simple. It reminded me that love, for the most part, is made manifest in the small, intimate, quiet things that we do for others.

A picture.

A letter.

A smile.

A hug.

A glance.

What are you struggling with?

I don’t have all the answers. Nobody does. But I think if we can forget ourselves every once in a while, and do something for someone else, it might help eleviate some of the pain.

Hug someone.

Smile at someone.

Send a picture to someone.

Leave a random note for a stranger.

Tell someone that everything is going to be OK.

It’s difficult, I know, but try to forget yourself sometimes.

Thanks Julianna. I love you.

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