Running High

My bout with anxiety is ludicrous when you consider the traits that make it so extreme: vanity and egotism. I feel like a total horse’s ass that I haven’t been able to conquer these embarrassing characteristics–that I still allow them to fill my head with unattainable dreams and expectations. It’s not for lack of trying; but I can’t seem to kill the idea that I should be doing way “better” than I am. People should be saying about me: “Wow, Andrew White is successful.”

I know that I shouldn’t care too much about what others think. That I should stop comparing myself to others–that I should drop out of the “race” up Society Mountain–that I should peel off and find my own route. One that I enjoy every step of the way–one that I can follow with confidence that it is the way for me–and one that brings maximum happiness, which, honestly, may or may not involve fame or fortune but probably doesn’t.

Ironically, one of the few things these days that helps me momentarily step out of the “rat race,” is running. Continue reading

Plenty

How did it all begin? Why are we here? What happens to us after we die?

I remember asking my mom these questions as a child. Her answers never satisfied me.

“God made the world, honey.”

“Why?”

“Because he was lonely.”

“Why?”

“Because he had no one to play with.”

“What about his mummy?”

“God doesn’t have a mommy.”

“Then how was he borned?”

“God created himself.”

“How’d he do that?”

“With a miracle.”

“What’s a mira-go?”

“It’s when something very special happens, like magic.”

Magic my ass (minus the sarcasm) is basically how I felt after these conversations with my mom. Things didn’t add up. Her answers only led to more questions. It was irritating. And, like all kids, I was a little ninja and could perceive she wasn’t satisfied with her answers, either. Right around Kindergarten, I stopped bugging my mom about the “meaning of it all,” but I never stopped wondering.

In college, I grappled with the great mysteries of the universe as an (“independent”) “adult” for the first time. And I began to view my parents’ explanations, and those of the church, as not just flawed but silly even. Ridiculous, some of them. I mean, come on: God created the earth in 7 days? Anyway, I began to question pretty much everything I’d been taught and (sort of) accepted up to that point about existence. And I began to experience the pangs of existential angst that would hinder me in years to come.

After college, when the framework of school and organized sports was no longer there to guide me (a.k.a. when I had to figure out what to do with my life), the big questions with which I used to torture my mom as a toddler returned to center stage in my mind. I felt like I needed to figure out the meaning of it all so that I could move forward in the right direction. I tried my ass off to figure things out. I really did. But it was like banging my head against the wall. As time passed, I got more and more tired and hurt; and I really began to suffer from anxiety.

Before things got too terrible, something happened. Not an epiphany, but a blessing in disguise: my savings ran out. I was in Pasadena, California at the time, where I’d moved to explore the film industry. (But really all I was doing out there was walking the streets, smoking butts, talking to homeless folks, and scribbling notes and ideas for stories and screenplays I’d never get around to writing.) By the time I went broke, I’d been out there plenty long enough to know that I wasn’t exactly poised to take over Tinsel Town, so I decided to wave the white flag, move Back East, and take the first job I could find.

Shortly after my return to the Northeast, I accepted a job as a laborer with a small landscaping company on Cape Cod. And thank God I did. Thank God for all the failure and paralysis by analysis and other shit that led me to that landscaping gig on the Cape. For if it weren’t for that move, I probably never would have met my wife, Annie. And had I not met Annie, we of course wouldn’t have had our baby Ellie. And a world without my girls is unimaginably empty.

Annie and I met at a bar–the Woodshed–in Brewster, Massachusetts. The night we met I was with a buddy from the landscaping crew. A band was playing, and the place was packed. It was hot, loud, and so crowded it was hard to move. Honestly, had I been alone I would’ve turned right around and left. Miraculously, though, moments after we arrived, I spotted what were probably the only two open seats in the place at a nearby table. My buddy and I moved in. And I’ll never forget it: I sat down then looked up, and there, across from me, was a beautiful, tan, dark-haired, brown-eyed girl.

Holy shit.

Somehow, I was able to work through the shock of love at first sight in order ask her if it was okay to join them. And when I heard Annie’s voice for the first time (“Sure.”) and saw that smile, I practically busted a nut. Yes, she is very pretty, and projects an aura of sweetness, but that’s not why I was so blown away. This was different; there was something else going on here. I know it sounds nuts, but the best I can explain it is our souls connected and were like flirting or something. After five minutes of chit chat we had somehow gotten to talking about our dreams. Our futures. We wanted the same things–right down to living in Vermont and owning chickens!

Before I met Annie, I was not a romantic. And, now that I think about it, I should probably bring her flowers and stuff more than I do. But I really do try pretty hard to express my love. (I can’t help it actually. Whenever I look at her I just want to hug and kiss and…) Every once in awhile, like for an anniversary or something, I try to demonstrate my love in writing. But when I try to put it into words, I never do it justice. I mean, I scribble about how I love her compassion and kindness, and how she looks, smells, and feels, etc., but these qualities are not really why I love her. These qualities are just qualities. Qualities are things. Beautiful things, yes, but just things. And lots of people have them. And while I love all people, in a way–I don’t love them how I love my wife.

No–I can’t accurately explain our love any better than I can put my finger on the secrets of the cosmos. And even if I were capable of this task, language isn’t. What I can do, though, is continue trying my best to come up with ways to show my love. And while demonstrating the depths of my love for Annie is about as futile an endeavor as capturing it in words, it’s totally worth the effort. Because even when it doesn’t land me any poontang, it will at least get me a kiss, a touch, a smile–or even just a glance from across the room, any of which are more than enough to keep me playing Sisyphus.

The other day, Annie and I were outside in our Adirondack chairs with our baby girl, Ellie, who was climbing all over us. It was pure joy watching our little one laughing–without a care or concern in the world. She was giving us kisses, and we were tickling her and making her laugh until she screamed. The sun was shining on us and there was a nice breeze, carrying the scent of lilac.

Sitting there, I thought to myself: Even if I get hit by a truck tomorrow, a universe in which this moment is possible is a really great universe.

I thought about how it won’t be long before our daughter starts asking us about life and death and the meaning of existence.

I put my hand on Annie’s, and she looked at me and smiled.

The Lake Monster

There was a time when man was free and his world made sense.  A man hunted.  Killed.  Fought.  Spoke.  Fucked.  Then slept – without dream or interruption – by the raging fire he made.  Man never thought to ask permission.  He never worried.   Regret didn’t exist, nor guilt.  His sense of responsibility never strayed beyond the province of himself.  Man sought his own fulfillment above all else and chased it everywhere.

On his mad quest, man roamed the wild ends of the world, while his desire ran alongside, like a loyal wolf, unchecked, unrestrained, and deadly, devouring all experiences and tossing them away like meatless bones.  It was a ravenous linear existence and not once did man stop to surmise his wake of destruction and waste, nor did he look to see where he was going or where he had been.  The pressure of time spurred man towards another pleasure that needed exploring, another impulse that commanded his full attention.

Man never asked himself or others what the search meant or what it was for because he hadn’t thought to care.  Man lacked the capacity for self-reflection and it was wonderful and liberating.

Women did not trouble their men with questions about intent, motivation, and reasoning because they knew better than to look for answers where there were none.  Early woman accepted their man as the brute, ungoverned beasts of madness the Creator had made them to be, and out of fear and awe, acted has man’s handmaid to his desire, indulging any and all of his whims with silent acquiescence.

Man was a man.  It was terrifying, ordered and good.  And yet time, nature, and entropy loosened his grip on his world.

Without his blessing and under his fingertips, the world evolved, bringing about social norms and expectations that hemmed the length and depth of his forays into the wild.    Suddenly, man returned from the hunt and woman wanted to know where he had been, what took so long, why he hadn’t checked in and if he had been smoking.  Instinctually, man dashed these silly women’s brain out against a round stone, found another vagina, and fucked it.  He solved his problems in the only way he knew how – by destroying them and moving on.

This worked for a time, until the populations of women dwindled and man’s depravity increased to the point that he looked upon his own livestock, his rolled up socks, dead fish, and his fellow man with an inquisitive raised eyebrow and unbridled longing.  It was an ugly transitional time for man because man began to see the dangers of his unfulfilled desire and the bizarre holes he would explore to quench it.

The remaining woman banded together, stubborn in their persistent demand for an accounting of man’s thoughts and actions.  Man became confused, disorientated, and for the first time, afraid.  He was lost, caught between his desire and extinction.

He acted.  That is what a man does.

Man double down on the fucking and killing, waging war against the evils that plagued him.   Yet, the paradox scrambled his mind.  How does a man wage war against the very beings he wishes to fuck?  He will win but was winning best?  He fought the contradictions within himself using the blunt tools of his past.  He raged and swore and abused everything.   Finally, he herded the remaining women of the earth into a pen, closed the gate, and realized that with one stroke of his ax, he could rid the world of all women and silence their loathsome questions that had stained his perfect world.

He paused for a moment and imagined the world without woman.

From behind the bars, the women protested.

Why are you doing this?  Why is this so important to you?  Explain yourself.

And for the first time in man’s history, he turned to his fellow man, looking for an answer.

Man returned with the only answer he knew, “I don’t know.”

And in that moment, man’s self-awareness was born.  He finally saw the mute stupidity of his existence.  He saw himself – his ugly, half-erect, drooling dirty self – stinking of old jizz, sweat, and booze, holding his balls with one hand and a rudimentary club with the other.

He cowered in the face of his reality.

Involuntarily, his gaze returned to the women locked in their cage and heard their questions.

Why? Why do you do it? 

He didn’t know.  But in that moment man saw the world without women and he retreated from the bearded man-sex, the farm animals, the crusty tube socks, the microwave pizza, the mattresses on the floor, and the crippling sadness of it all. He saw the womanless world and he saw himself in it.  It was too much.

Out of fear, he enslaved himself to woman and the questions he could never answer.  It was safer this way.  This arrangement afforded some level of protection from the destructive power of himself.

Man became domesticated.

But before man opened up the gate and freed the remaining women, the last free men gathered around the shores of Lake Dunmore, stripped down, and washed themselves, using the glacial water to rinse all their base desires, lusts, unquenched thirsts, and animalistic instincts away so they might have a chance at successfully leading their lives of dutiful servitude to the expectations of woman and the new society they imprisoned us in.

If you believe the legend, then these baptismal waste waters, full of life-sustaining minerals and raw organic man material, settled in the bottom of Lake Dunmore, and brewed a primordial soup that spawned the Lake Monster.

The Lake Monster is terrible and destructive and evil.  He is also harmless and misunderstood.  He is everywhere and nowhere.  He lives on everything man left behind as he entered the modern world and weighted himself down with expectations and responsibility.

He is as real as your ability to believe in him.  We assure our kids and our wives that monsters like him don’t exist in the rational world and if they did, we would hunt it down and kill him.  Our homes, our marriages, our society can’t live with monsters like that, so he lives alone, or doesn’t, at the bottom of lake.

The only record we have of the Lake Monster are his stories, tales from a bygone age which he maniacally scribbles down in his underwater layer as an effort to preserve himself against the changing times.  These stories keep him sane and society safe.  If he writes it down, his terror safely stays on the page and doesn’t spill into the real world above.  Sometimes his stories float up from the abyss and get published here.

We don’t know who he is, what he wants, why thinks as he does, what his purpose is.  We don’t spend a lot of time analyzing his writing or adopt his thought process as our own.  It just is.  Out of respect for lost customs, we don’t ask the Lake Monster stupid questions.  We let him be.

Throw your questions into the lake where they belong.