A couple weeks ago I received an e-mail from Good Men Project saying they were looking for posts about solitude. I immediately replied and said I know all about solitude and that I would get them something. If you read my blog on a regular basis you may be surprised to hear that I know about being alone, but it’s true. Alone is (unfortunately) who I am and it’s totally how I roll.
This post may go off on different tangents and that’s OK. Why? I’m a complex dude. What do I mean by complex? I grew up five miles from the beach in the O.C. (Orange County, CA) so I’m definitely a dude. In fact, I’m fluent in Dude* as evidenced in the previous paragraph’s “It’s totally how I roll.” I can conversate in Spanglish as well. I also like to make up words, such as conversate. ‘
Besides being a dude, I’m a dad. And a mom. I’ve had full custody of my now 14-year-old daughter for nine years and that’s where I feel most alone. There are (unfortunately) a large number of full-time single moms, but not a lot of guys who have full responsibility for their offspring.
In addition to dude, dad and mom, I’m a friend, writer, hockey player, radio host and most recently I find I’m becoming a crotchety old man. The crotchety old man thing kind of sucks considering I’m only 46, but when I’m in a long line at the pharmacy and one employee is leaning against the wall I think I’m allowed to shout “Yo slick. When you’re done texting you think you can get back to helping people?” That remark (made on Valentines Day) earned me a fist bump from the older Asian lady in line behind me.
My point is that I, like all of us, have several facets to my life. You would think that these different parts of me would somehow make me feel like part of a community, but you would be wrong. I often feel like I don’t fit in with any group, but I’m not stressing much about that.
I am who I am and if you don’t like me, that’s cool. I have no plans to give up my argyle, loud music ,cardigan sweater, rad hat or my greying chin weasel because they make me happy. Trust me, Happy J.R. is way cooler than Unhappy J.R.
The past couple years I’ve been having some neurological problems and I often need to go to others for help with simple things that in the past I could have easily done. That makes me feel crappy about myself and I deal with it by pulling away from everyone. The last year in particular I’ve felt very alone, though not lonely. Does that make sense?
I feel like no one knows what I’m going through and how I’m feeling, so I retreat to my man cave/hovel and shut out the world. I’ll be straight with you and admit that when I get that way I become a huge tool. Like really huge. I internalize everything and that drives me up the wall. Why do I internalize? I’m not totally sure. It’s probably because I don’t want my friends to think I’m a whiny bitch and because I realize they have their own stuff to deal with.
I have some great friends and I know they have my back and they’ve helped me through a lot of stuff, yet I feel like I can’t always share the crappy stuff with them. How lame is that? Pretty lame if you ask me. I would rather have a small group of close friends than I can really get to know instead of being a social butterfly and hanging out with different people all the time.
I met Steve 21 or 22 years ago when I was coaching youth soccer. His oldest child, Shawn was 11 or 12 and Steve was a coach in my league. He got tired of my team kicking his team’s butt and we started coaching together. Since that time he has been one of my closest friends and the teams that we coached together were awesome.
Steve got divorced and pulled the majority of the load with his three kids. Besides Shawn he has two daughters, Stephanie and Crystal. I don’t think I’ve ever said this out loud, but I respect the hell out of Steve for the job he did raising those kids. They’re all grown and are awesome people. I hope my Drama Queen turns out like Shawn, Crystal and Steph, who is a pretty amazing artist. Crystal’s husband, Bone, is rad too and I love going to their house to see their two year old daughter, Victory. They’re doing a great job with her and I’m looking forward to watching Victory grow up.
I met Victor 16 or 17 years ago playing ice hockey and we’ve become close friends. He and his family have been great over the years and I’m happy to count him as one of my closest friends. The same with Josh, who I met covering minor league hockey 10 years ago. Josh currently hosts Duck Calls, the Anaheim Ducks post game radio show and he’s kind enough to bring me on as a guest from time to time.
Why am I telling you about my friends? I have no clue. I told you this was going off on tangents. Now that I think about it, I guess I’m not telling you about my awesome friends as much as I’m reminding myself that I have these great people around me. If I have these awesome people in my life, why do I feel alone? I have no clue.
And I can’t forget about my Muse. She came into my life more than a year ago when I was living in Buffalo and feeling both alone and lonely. Baby Mama (the ex) got a judge to give her visitation two weeks a year and my daughter went back to California to spend the holiday with her mom. It was my first Christmas without my daughter and I was feeling horribly lonely.
It’s funny how people come into your life at the right moment. What you originally think is a random occurrence eventually blossoms into the realization that this person was brought into your life for a reason. My Muse has become a very important to me and I can honestly say that in the past 14 months she’s talked me down off the proverbial ledge more times than I care to count. Thank you.
I’m a 6 foot, 220 pound ball of stress (three and a half months ago I was a 275 pound ball of stress) and the internalizing was taking a toll on me physically. Right after the New Year I made a conscious effort to find a way to relax, so I’ve started to regularly go out on my 80’s era beach cruiser and ride down by the beach.
I park in Sunset Beach and ride 6.5 miles to the Huntington Beach Pier. The scenery is beautiful and I occasionally stop at the Huntington Cliffs to look down at the surfers riding the waves and at the dogs running and playing on the mile long dog beach. Then I look up and see Catalina Island 26 miles off the coast and I start to let go of the random thoughts racing through my brain.
One wouldn’t think that a 13 mile bike ride would be the thing that I most look forward to, but it is. I get to exercise and I get what I call “quality alone time”. When I retreat to my hovel I become bitter and occasionally cry because I want to get past the crappy existence that is my current reality. I realize that there are millions of people in the world who would kill to have the life I do, but it’s not the life I want and it bothers me.
I recently finished my first book and have a publisher interested in it. After seeing the first 12 chapters I was told they could see this as a three or four book series. That should make me feel elated, but I’m mixing that elation with my ever-present fear of failure. It’s like I can see a great future on the horizon teasing me. It’s telling me to chill and wait for it to happen, but I’m impatient and want it to happen now.
After reading this rambling, disjointed post you’re probably asking yourself if there is a point to this. The answer is yes. I spend a lot of time by myself and I push the world away, but I know that I have people out there who love me and who care for me. I’ve often thought that “alone” and “lonely” are the same thing, but I’ve learned that though I’m often alone, I’m not lonely.
I don’t often tell my friends what I think about them, but I love each and everyone of them and appreciate them being in my life. They may not think they’ve made an impact on me, but they have. And they still do. And I totally appreciate it.
The last five years of my life have been the toughest I’ve ever experienced but I’ve grown as a person and as a writer. Five years ago I never could have written this book and as I sit at my favorite coffee joint (which is the setting for several scenes in the novel) writing this post I’ve realized that I needed the solitude to make me a better person. Now it’s time to break out of the solitude and get back to being the J.R. that I was meant to be.
If you’re reading this and you feel that life is hopeless, let me assure you that it’s not. I’m going to end this with a simple thought in my unique vernacular. Good shit is in everyone’s future, but you have to be ready for it. I finally feel like I’m ready and that is totally rad.
*Dude is the unofficial language of coastal Southern California. The best example I can give you is Jeff Spiccoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
I took the picture at the top of the post while on my bike ride up the beach. Pretty cool, huh?