Monday, December 15, 2008

Open Letter


You know who you are. I know you’re reading this, so imagine I’m writing it to you, because I am.

There’s a scene in the book where I’m called into the general manager’s office of a nightclub after I hit someone. I’m sure you know the one. I don’t really remember how much detail I went into about this in the book, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I told you this yesterday.

The incident happened when I was first hired at this place. It may have even been my first night there. I don’t really remember anymore. I lost my temper and punched a guy in the ear. He was wearing an earring, and it ripped halfway through his earlobe. He bled everywhere, and actually ended up suing the club.

The GM, whose name I changed in the book, called me into his office and gave me a speech about “tough guys,” and how he needed people who could take a punch without throwing one back. It was one of the most important things anyone ever said to me, and it came from a very unlikely source.

I’ve been thinking about what he said recently because I’ve lost this ability over the past couple of years. You’ve watched this happen. You’ve warned me about it, but I haven’t been listening.

I’ve been called “tough” many times in my life. In any bouncing job I’ve ever had, I may not be the biggest, baddest SOB in the club, but I am the guy who shows up on time, doesn’t call in sick, stands where he’s supposed to stand, and backs up his friends – and does so without complaint for hours on end. I’m a given. You can hire me and I’ll do that for years.

The captain of fishing boat once told my father that I was “tougher than a pine knot.”

The foreman of my uncle’s moving and storage company – where I worked on and off from when I was kid until a few years ago – told my uncle that I was the “toughest motherfucker” he’d ever seen.

I have other things. Lots of them. You know some of them.

I’ve lost that somewhere along the line. I’m not tough anymore. In fact, I’m a pussy now. A big one. I do nothing but whine, mope, complain and tell everyone how things should be, instead of dealing with how they actually are. People who give a shit about me have been telling me this for a while now, but it took one of them bailing out on me, probably for good, to get me to spend a week analyzing the problem and coming up with a solution.

I run away from things. When I don’t like the way something is going, or it’s not exactly the way I need it to be, I remove myself from the situation and go home. I’ve been doing that for almost three years, and I can trace it back to a pair of specific dates when some really bad things happened.

You know what that date was. Shit, you know what both of those dates were. If I asked you, you could tell me. What you don’t know is how profoundly they shifted my life around. What you do know is how I’m always using that and everything else as excuses for my ridiculous behavior. You’ve told me this more times than I can count, and so has everyone else, but you know how I react to “everyone else.” It’s pretty much the same way I’ve been reacting to you.

Watching someone die of a terminal illness is murder. I know you know that. We knew it was going to happen, but when it did, I had to live minute-by-minute after that. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about this. I had to tell myself, “Just breathe for a minute.” Then after another minute, I did it again. And again. And again. I had to just keep telling myself to keep breathing for another minute. Then two minutes. Then five. Then an hour. Then a day.

I’m up to years now.

I’m not trotting this out for melodrama. I’m telling you this because the way I’ve dealt with things has been nothing but a series of decisions. They’ve been bad decisions, but that’s all they are – choices. I chose to take some shitty luck and use it as a crutch to make people feel guilty. I used it to turn myself into a pussy who runs away and hides under the “you wouldn’t understand” blanket every time something goes wrong. I used it to drive people away – the same people I go to for help and advice when things really get untenable and I can’t handle them by myself.

I’m going to figure out how to take that punch again. I don’t have a choice. Nobody’s going to wait for me anymore, because they’re all done doing that and they’ve told me so.

And in case you’re wondering, you are good enough. That’s the whole point. There aren’t many people for whom I’d go off the deep end like this. In fact, I think you’re the only one. Think about that, please.

Your Friend,