What Thanksgiving Means to Me, the 2022 Edition (with a Visual Aid)

It is that most wonderful time of year friends and sporadic, casual readers. You know the one: That time of year when, after three or four months of silence, I return to the Interwebs and this blog to ruminate on all the things that I am thankful for. If you’ve been following this site and me in all its/my incarnations over the years–specifically Random Musings 1.0 and in print? My post-college Mental Flatulence and my pre-college/college era Dissertations–thank you. All 20-30 of you (winky emoticon; smiley face). This has been a yearly tradition for as far back as I can remember. Some years it has been tougher to verbalize my thanks than others and this year? Well, I guess we’ll see what happens in the next few paragraphs but for now? As my once-alter ego, El Autoro stated circa 1993-1997, “let’s get schazzy.”

2022 has been… Interesting. And not always in a good way. Unexpected is probably a better way to describe it. Challenging is an even better one. Looking back over the last half decade to decade of my life, it hasn’t been the toughest–2018 and 2019 still take the proverbial top slots, and likely will for quite some time–but it is up there. Yet there is solace to be taken in the fact that regardless of the obstacles I and others around me have faced, I’m/we’re still here. We may be a bit bruised and battered (not always physically; mentally, as well) but in the immortal words of Sir Elton John, I’m/we’re “still standing.” Maybe not better than we ever did, and definitely not feeling like little kids. I have jokingly mused over the years that certain epochs of my life have caused me to age prematurely. I added about five additional years in 2018-2019 (the bulk of which were in the former) and this year? At least one or two. Which technically means (if you believe this kind of timey wimey, wibbly wobley BS) that I am mentally, if not physically north of the big 5-0 this cold, November day. But is that a bad thing? The Magic 8-Ball says? Outcome uncertain.

Rather than dive deeply into the bad (as I am so apt to do), for once I’d like to focus on the good. This is, after all, my yearly “what I am thankful for” post. Challenge breeds maturity. You’d think after 47+ years on this proverbial side of the wormhole of experience that I’ve matured enough. And mayhap in many ways I have. But mentally? Something has changed this year. Whether the byproduct of all that I and others have gone through or simply another stage in the evolution of Frank Marsh/El Autoro/The Lunatic Lover/The Madchronicler, my mind is tired, but my focus is sharper than it has been in some time. Why? I can think of a number of reasons:

  1. I have come to terms with an aspect of my past that I never thought I’d come to terms with back in 2018-2019. There is still sadness, but rarely anger, and acceptance outweighs both.
  2. I have come to terms with myself. The dreamer that I once was, dreaming seemingly unattainable dreams remains, but the pragmatist and realist that I fought against for years now has an equal share of my heart, mind and soul. And for the most part? I am grateful.
  3. I have seen, for the first time in a long time that there is more to this world than I ever considered. More beauty. And despite the chaos that seemingly engulfs us 24/7/365–as partisans jockey for position in a 50/50 society–and engulfs me–deadlines and expectations–I have learned, perhaps for the first time ever to pause, and appreciate what surrounds me. There is a certain peace beneath the din. I speculated on this once (anyone remember “there is a key that unlocks a secret?”), but never saw or experienced it. And now? I can. I do.

This is not to say that I am satisfied, or 100% content with what I am and where I am in my evolution–you should never be so; you should always strive to be more than you currently are–but if how I feel today is any indication? This is going to be the best version of Frank Marsh yet. It is still early, and I have learned over the course of my life that the unexpected has a way of f*cking up any and all predilections. So? We’ll see. Though regardless of what happens, I am not sure that I can do away with my Madchronicler moniker. NotSoMadchronicler Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. I think for now, I’ll stick with what’s been working. Besides: notsomadchronicler@__. is even tougher to remember than madchronicler@__, and I wouldn’t do that to you. Winky emoticon, smiley face X2.

How did I get here? What was my roadmap? For that you need to reference back to the three reasons I mentioned above. In reverse order:

I have seen, for the first time in a long time that there is more to this world than I ever considered. I’ve spent so much time in and around Swarthmore, PA (with the occasional weekend trip to the mountains or the shore) these last, four plus years that I forgot that other places existed. This year (and at the tail end of last), I travelled to Atlanta, Tampa, Denver, Alexandria (VA) and Palm Springs. Mainly for business–Tampa being the exception. In two/four cases it was my first time visiting a State, specifically Colorado and California. With the exclusion of Alexandria (which I am sure is picturesque, but the specter of Hurricane Ian cast a damp, and dreary pall over my time there), each place was more incredible than the last. While travel has, for many been a way of life for them for as long as they can remember, travel, for me–even within these 50 United States–has been limited to say the least. And many times, the product of a long and laborious drive from Point A to Point B. In late 2021 and this year, I experienced snow-capped mountains (real mountains, not the Poconos or Alleghenies, which is in no way, shape or form a knock on either), a desert oasis and palm trees X2. I stood upon a beach before clear, blue waters in 80-degree weather on New Year’s Eve, snapped a selfie grinning from ear-to-ear in front of the Rockies, and I relaxed in a hot tub beneath a crystalline, blue sky at the beginning of November. These moments, while trivial for some, were life-altering for me for in each case, I took a moment to simply stop. Close my eyes. Exist. And marvel at how small I am against the backdrop of the larger world that I forgot existed more than four hours away from where I write these words presently.

I have come to terms with myself. I will always be a dreamer and, to some extent, a hopeful romantic. I will always dream of penning the next, great American novel. I will always strive to find and embrace an ideal that many have considered far-fetched over the years. These aspects… They are a part of who I am regardless of where I am in my evolution. But the days of me allowing them to run my life and drive me have passed me by. Perhaps this is age, rearing its ugly head, or mayhap it is simply a long-awaited conclusion to so many times attaining a “dream” that was, in actuality nothing more than a romanticized version of a life, not less extraordinary as I have thought and written so many times in the past, but simply a Life with a capital “L,” responsibilities and all. I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn these days–way more than I spend on any other site in the Social Mediaverse–and this morning? The following pic caught my eye. Cue the visual aid I promised in my title:

To say that this resonated with me (and may or may not have caused me to write this blog post today) is an understatement. May it resonate with you, as much as it resonated with me. And may you too find joy, not necessarily in the story you dreamt of, but the one that you are writing.

I have come to terms with an aspect of my past that I never thought I’d come to terms with back in 2018-2019. A few months ago, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a bit, and we got to talking. I was a bit shocked to hear that they are going through something similar to what I went through almost a half a decade ago (my God, has it been that long?). In hindsight? I likely did more talking than I should have. As someone who has been there/done that I can attest to the fact that the last thing you want when you are going through the early part of a significant life change is to have someone that has been through it advising you on what you should/should not do. Because every circumstance is different. If that person is reading this right now? I apologize. Mayhap my “evolution” has changed me from a listening ear to an at-times preachy old fart. 47+ years, a spot of Type 2 Diabeetus (as my good friend Matt says) and a pre-arthritic, right knee will do that to a person, or maybe just to me. But? I distinctly remember saying that the key to surviving and still standing is focus. Specifically, how you focus, and what you focus on. Priority One is you/your minions (if any and if not? You) and establishing, despite the inevitable chaos, a place of physical and mental stability for you and them to reside within. Priority Two through infinity is all the other sh*t. This is something I, admittedly did not consider to its fullest extent when all manner of things went sideways for me. I was angry. Upset. Neurotic and paranoid. I spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out where I f*cked up. And even now, there are still times when I replay something in my mind and wonder why the hell it happened, or how I could have prevented it. Those moments? They are inevitable. But like any, dark memory that you retain you cannot let them define you. Always dial it back to Priority One. Once you get to that place of relative stability, everything else becomes a metric ton of a lot easier to deal with. Been there/done that. Own the t-shirt. Winky emoticon, smiley face X3.

So? In summation? This is what Thanksgiving means to me in the year of our Lord, 2022. This year, I didn’t write a book. I didn’t publish anything save for a couple of blog entries. But I travelled. I met and networked with colleagues and prospects that became or are in the process of becoming partners. I embraced my 9-5 moniker of Business Development Manager and guess what? I enjoyed it. I was successful. I spent time with my kids and loved every minute of it. I’ve been a Dance and Cheerleading Dad, a Theater Dad, a Volleyball Dad and a Basketball Dad. And despite the exhaustion and wear and tear on my car? I wouldn’t trade it. Not one breath. I’ve got two little minions that have grown into little ladies. Smart. Sweet. Occasionally sarcastic. Oft times fantastical and others pragmatic. But most importantly? Happy. Family? Friends? Amazing as before and always. I have a roof over my head, heat, water, food in my belly and a 9-1/8-2 football team (not to mention a baseball team that won the pennant; we won’t talk about the Sixers and the Flyers). And perhaps most importantly? For the first time in almost a half-decade, I feel… Free. When I sit back and weigh the positives against the negatives? The result is overwhelmingly the former. What am I thankful for?

Everything.

This is your old buddy, the NotSoMadchronicler saying Happy Thanksgiving to you, and to yours.

Winky emoticon, smiley face X4.

F.

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Saturday Thoughts

When you are me… And those of you who know me the best know this, you have moments of inspiration, and those moments can be, and generally are few and far between. Once upon a time… Because all good stories begin as such, or so a battle-hardened revolutionary from a universe that exists solely in my mind (or does it?) once said… Once upon a time, I was a child who thought he would be the next Stephen King. Those of you that know me know this as well. My mind overflowed with ideas. Did you know that I wrote my first short story when I was my oldest Minion’s age? If you read my author bio, attached to ENDWORLD – A Novel you did. I started my first novel at 15 too. Only a couple of people know that. It was called THE OAKS, and it was a ghost story that featured a specter modeled after Jerry Garcia. Yep! I did that. I haven’t the slightest idea what happened to it. It’s likely downstairs in storage on one of the many hard drives that for some bizarre reason I decided to amputate from my first, three computers and keep. They’ve been sitting in a sealed shoebox now for decades. There’s no way anything on them could likely ever be recovered. So I can safely assume at this juncture that THE OAKS, and so many other stories and started novels of mine are lost to time, and youthful stupidity. Ever hear of a disk drive Frank? Of course I have. But where’s the fun in that?

I never became the writer I thought I would become in my youth. Two novels, completed and one left to finish (the story? Done, but my edit is ongoing, and has been on an extended hiatus since February of this year). Dozens of poems and short stories, not to mention novels started but never completed, journals filled and yellowing in my secretary desk downstairs, and this blog. Frighteningly? This is the most sustained and consistent writing I have ever done, which is pretty sad given how often I post something these days. When you look up “prolific” on dictionary.com you do not see my face. But honestly? I am okay with that. I’ve written more than many write in their lifetimes. And I am proud of my accomplishments. So for the small segment reading this (all 25-30 of you, sarcasm as always fully intended), let me get this out of the way right now: This is not meant to be a depressing post. This is not your old buddy the Madchronicler crying “woe is me” or seeking attention. There is no need to call or slip into my DMs on social media and ask me if I am okay. I am fine. Better than fine honestly, and way better than I’ve been in years. I’m writing this with a bit of a smile on my face so in the immortal words of that eminent sage of modern wisdom and hilarity Wayne Campbell, “chill INSERT NAME HERE. Take your Ritalin.”

To dial it back a bit, while I have never been prolific as a writer so to speak, when inspiration strikes me? It hits hard. Like a semi barreling down I80. And I go from writing these little ditties every couple of months to banging out whole, 300+ page novels in a year. Sadly? Those 300+ page novels generally take a lot longer to finish and one year ends up being four. Or in the case of CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD, six. For those of you reading this that are waiting for HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD don’t worry: It won’t be 2025 by the time I publish it. I’d wager end of year this or Spring 2023 at the latest. So once again, “chill INSERT NAME HERE. Take your Ritalin.” And to be honest? I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing over the last couple of months, but nothing that has seen the light of day. Literally. Everything I’ve done has been presented after dark to a group of my besties for between 5-8 hours every couple of weeks as we, ever-closer to the big 5-0, have embraced the geekiness of our youth and the once-cult, turned mainstream attraction that is Dungeons and Dragons. I’m 10 or so sessions into my first stint ever as a Dungeon Master, or DM to those of you that know the lingo and to be honest? I’m having a blast. But writing a fantasy role play for a bunch of high school and college buddies is not the same as composing a blog entry or, more importantly, writing a novel for public consumption. But still? Inspiration again. I’ve been driven to each, new session like I’ve rarely been driven to anything, save for writing a novel before. So as my buddy Tigger would say, “same difference.”

But the inspiration to force a bunch of middle-aged guys to face off against Warforged and Drow, not to mention Hobgoblins and the occasional Thug is not the same the inspiration that goes into composing a novel. And that’s where I find myself this unseasonably cool and clear Saturday night in mid-August. Once again, facing a question of inspiration.

2022 has been an interesting year. You could argue that “interesting” can be interpreted in a number of ways and in both a good and not-so-good context. The good? A great job. An amazing family and support system of friends and colleagues. And the not-so-good? An ex-wife-remained-friend that went through a lot this year, only to come out on the other side of it with a smile on her face and, as she said herself the other day via a GIF, feeling “born again.” She may or may not be reading this right now but if she is? I want her and all of you to know something: I am damn proud of her. I’ve seen people go through less than what she went through and come out changed for the worse, and she has come through it renewed and inspired herself about the next stage in her life journey. I’m excited to see what she does next. To reiterate a point I made in my last post, divorce is hard. Hard on you. Hard on the kids if there are any. Hard on a lot of things. But if you can… If the situation allows you to, remember who you were before the day when you decided you weren’t any longer. Keep that close to your heart and mind, even when the love you once felt has departed and the confusion and all the other emotions that come with it are tempered. Because there may come a day when you’ll be thankful for it. I was. Shit, I am.

Necessity and responsibility have trumped inspiration this year. Yet over the last month or so, I’ve felt a twinge of it coming back. Growing stronger and more prevalent until it reached a fever pitch, earlier this week and I went so far as to cancel my scheduled D&D session with “The Party” in the hopes of devoting an entire weekend to working on HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD. Needless to say there was outcry, and said session did happen as scheduled last night (though admittedly, I may have taken a bit of frustration out on my motley crew of Half-Orcs and Genasis, Humans, Halflings and Changelings; fortunately they all survived). And this morning when I awoke? The urge to dive into the book was MIA. So? I got up and went about my usual, Saturday without the Minions routine: Breakfast, a bit of house straightening, grocery shopping and a nap. By the time 7PM EST rolled around I was resigned to not writing and turned on the Phillies game.

Yet through it all, there remained an inner dialogue between what I like to call Frank Prime and Frank Sol (shoutout to Matt Mercer of Critical Role fame for the inspiration with Pumat Prime and Pumat Sol (see: Campaign Two: The Mighty Nein)) about inspiration. Specifically what inspired me to write ENDWORLD – A Novel and CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD… And what inspires me, or does not inspire me to finish HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD now. And it was there, in the midst of my Saturday thoughts that I figured out something I’ve been apparently working on figuring out for a while.

The first two books were inspired by my past. Book One? My time as a late-teen and early-adult with my own Mighty Nein, the friendship and specifically the love I found and lost there. Book Two? My marriage, subsequent fatherhood and dissolution of the former. These were things that I knew, and have written about before but it was the next recognition that came as a surprise to me and when it hit? My eyes opened wide and I said… I literally intoned, “huh” to my empty house, and my confused looking cat who was simply trying to nap before hearing her hooman’s voice. Book Three? It is not inspired by anything that has happened to me before this moment in my life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. The after-effects of Books One and Two remain for HEAVEN is… We’ll say loosely informed by my past, as is my life this night as I sit here typing these words. And those after-effects or mental aftershocks will never go away. But the inspiration for what comes next? It is the unknown. The ability to forge a narrative not based on where I have been but a true accounting of where I want to go. The long and winding road beneath a crystalline blue sky ahead that leads… Somewhere. To a door? Perhaps, though the road before me right now is quite clear. I envision a smooth and for once not rutted path through a grass-filled valley heading westward. Lush, summer greenery rises up into the foothills flanking me and the sun? It has just started it’s mid-day descent toward the horizon. I hear cicadas droning in the grass… Birds chirping as they go about their business. A light, slight and gentle breeze caresses my cheeks as I stroll, ever-onward into an undetermined future. As for what I will encounter there? That remains a mystery, but one that I am excited to investigate. I realize, as I sit here typing these last words in time with the crickets singing outside my open windows and the not-so-distant drone of semis and cars speeding by on I476 that this my friends and oft time casual readers?

This is peace. This too is how it feels to be “born again.”

May you all sleep well tonight and have the most pleasant of dreams. Thank you as always for reading the random musings of one psuedo-madman co-existing with you on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. And to Simeon Cobblepot, Pia Kha’shu, Gordjuck, Mondragon, Castor Raines and Ames/James/Amelia?

Roll for initiative.

F.

On the Past, the Now and the Soon-To-Be

Lately, I find myself thinking a lot about the past. Where I was. How it pertains to where I am. And just where the f*ck I’m going. 2022 has proven to be a taxing, and quite unexpected year, and not in the greatest of ways: A year filled with challenges and limit testing. Not all bad of course. Some good. But many of the trials have been less-than-savory. I won’t delve into the particulars at this time. If you know me outside of this Blog, you are aware of them, and if you really don’t know and want to know more? Reach out “offline” as we say in Business Development. Or “slip into my DMs” as we say in the Social Mediaverse. God, that sounds even more off-color when I type it out, and slightly pervy when it’s an invitation. Apologies if anyone is offended.

This little piece of Mental Flatulence is not about what’s going on in my life, and the lives of those I care about on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence in 2022. As I said in the first sentence of Paragraph Uno, it’s about the past. My past. How it is affecting my “now” and how it might affect my “soon-to-be.” And maybe what is on my mind this beautiful April day under an endless deep, blue sky (with just a hint of cloudiness on the horizon) applies to you, as well. We’ve all got a past, right? And some of us think about it more than others. Hell, some of us live in it. I try not to. I’ve always endeavored to focus on my present but every so often, something triggers a memory. One memory leads to another, and the next thing you know your old buddy the Madchronicler is halfway down the rabbit hole without a rope to grab onto or a parachute attached to his back. Falling. And the only way to slow that fall is to write about it. Enter? Blog post.

In roughly two weeks my oldest minion is auditioning for a musical at her school. “Annie JR.” She’s 12 years young going on 16 some days, as you’d expect from an almost full-fledged teenager. This is not her first audition. She’s been in a number of productions to date–“Moana JR” last fall and “Aladdin JR” before that to name a few–but this particular audition holds special significance for her given that she is entering 8th Grade and at her school? Every 8th Grader, regardless of skill level gets a part. Or so she tells me.

Don’t get me wrong: The kid has skills. Mad ones. A voice. The ability to be dramatic (like all pre-and-full teens sure, but better… or worse depending on your perspective) and act. The ability to dance. She’s honestly the complete package and I’m not just saying that because I’m her father. She’s a bit shy but who isn’t at that age? I was, and I know that eventually, she’ll come out of it. But despite what she considers a guarantee, she’s nervous. She has her heart set on playing Miss Hannigan and for those of you unfamiliar with “Annie?” Take a moment and Google, Bing or Safari/”search up” (as my kids say) Carol Burnett Annie. You won’t be disappointed.

Now, I understand the need to keep a child motivated. But I further understand the requirement to set achievable expectations with them, and while I firmly believe she has what it takes to not only win the part of Miss Hannigan but knock it out of the park, there are… Considerations. Competition to be specific. And she has some. There are a number of girls in her class that are also blessed with mad skill, not to mention boys, and I wouldn’t put it past her school to introduce a Mister Hannigan versus a Miss. This is, after all 2022. I’ve been working with her… Keeping her level and assisting her in whatever limited capacity I can to keep improving/keep getting better. And while I’ve been doing this–and here’s where I get to the part where I tell you why I’m writing this Blog post–I’ve also been remembering my own time “in the theater.” God, I hope that doesn’t sound conceited because when I wrote it, I heard Mister Howell from “Gilligan’s Island” in my head (I was going for Danny Kaye from the “Choreography” number in “White Christmas”).

I won’t delve too deeply into the particulars of my experiences as a member of The Royal Masque, Barricade Productions and the short-lived Ogontz Theater Company (abbreviated OTC; yep! I came up with that one) because A) I hate to come across sounding conceited and like a braggart–Mister Howell I am not–and B) I don’t want to make anyone associated with those fine companies of talented actors and actresses, many of whom who have gone onto great things embarrassed that I’m referencing them. But… As Norman Osborne/The Green Goblin once said in “Spider-Man” and recently said again in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Ya’ know, I’m something of a scientist myself.” Replace “scientist” with “actor/singer” and you’ll get where I’m coming from. And over the decades since my last, utterly forgettable appearance as a member of the chorus in “They’re Playing Our Song” (save for an unauthorized and substance-induced, staged bar fight on closing night that got me and a handful of others forbidden from ever acting in a Penn State then-Ogontz, now-Abington production again; ah to be 19 again, sarcasm fully intended), I’ve dabbled with the idea of getting back into it. I even went so far as to schedule an audition with The Swarthmore Players a few years back to be in their spring production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” But I never went. Life interfered, as life seemingly always does and I cancelled. Yet the itch… the desire has never gone away and to be honest with y’all? I don’t think it ever will.

Which places me in an all-too-familiar pickle. Not just with “the theater,” but with other instances that I have been faced with in the past ranging from school to writing. If my past is any indication–and it is, else I would not be writing these words right now–I always… get close. I pull a Prometheus and fly just close enough to the Sun to touch it before the wax upon my wings melts and I plummet back to the Earth and my… say it with me guys and gals, my once-and-still “mundane, routine existence.” As Catherine sings in “Pippin,” “I’m your average, ordinary kind of woman.” Replace “woman” with either “man” or “the Madchronicler” and you’ll smell what I’m cooking. God. That didn’t sound right either, did it?

Do not get me wrong. I would not trade my life for anything. Not my family or friends, not my job or… sh*t, anything. But I can’t help but feel–as the day creeps closer toward afternoon, the end of my lunch break and 80 degrees for the first time this year–that there has to be more. It’s blatantly obvious to me at the ripe old age of 46 pushing 47 that I’m not achieving, and honestly never have achieved whatever potential God instilled me with. My skills? Never fully utilized. Hidden behind responsibility and a steady paycheck. Is it too late for me to… I don’t know, become what I was supposed to become? Or is this my destiny: To exist as an average, ordinary member of the societal hive mind and pass on my once-dreams to my children in the hopes that they will achieve their potential in the days, weeks, months and years to come? And would that be so bad? To teach them as I was taught, and sit as a proud member of the audience watching them? After all, I’m a few years shy of a half a century–God it pains me to write that–on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Isn’t the future theirs?

Perhaps this is a mid-life crisis. Or perhaps I’ve simply had too much time lately to think and… I’ll say it: Regret. Regret never following through on my dreams. Regret settling (man I hate that word). I can’t shake the thought that in some universe, perhaps closely adjacent to this one I did write the next great American novel and made it into Oprah’s Book Club. In another one? I am the bearded, suit-jacket-with-the-patches-on-the-elbows wearing college professor that I envisioned myself becoming. And in another? Jesus Christ. No, literally Jesus Christ, starring in a touring production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Well, maybe not Jesus. His range is too high. And not Judas–same problem. But Pilate? Herod? Perhaps either/or. Whether these alternate realities on other sides of the proverbial wormhole of existence exist or not I will likely never know in anything more than a fictional, musing (random musings, perhaps?) capacity. There is only here. Now. And what I do with this life in this universe. And really? What remains is a decision. My decision.

Everyone still tells me that I have the power to become whatever I want to be. But how truthful is that? In life, we the people make choices. And with those choices? Rewards. But also risks. I’ve shied away from the latter in my recent past because there is no margin for error any longer. When I was 19 it was easy to get fashnookered (AKA f*cked up) and stage a bar fight in an amateur production of a little known musical from the 1970s. I like most 19 year old’s gave zero f*cks about anything. But now? I have kids that need me, family and friends that count on me and clients that I support. Not to mention creditors that I answer to but who doesn’t? Sometimes, adulting sucks. But throwing caution to the proverbial wind does not come naturally anymore. One slip and I may find myself without a roof over my head, water to drink or food in my belly. And I would not wish that upon anyone, least of all my minions. So? As T. S. Eliot wrote and Prufrock intoned, “how should I presume?”

Sadly? My aforementioned decision is not forthcoming right now, as much as I might want it to be. And my past is little more than a distraction. I have chosen and choose not to live in it. I chose and choose to focus on my now and if, perchance, an opportunity presents itself in my “soon-to-be” to become more than the guy writing this piece of Mental Flatulence in the waning moments of his lunch break (damn… this only took an hour?)? Well, I guess I’ll simply have to cross that bridge when I come to it. But I can’t help but feel–as the morning segues slowly into the afternoon and I measure out the time left between now and when I have to go pick up my minions at school with coffee spoons–as if my time is running out. Godd*mn that sounds bleak. What can I say? This Blog is supposed to be filled with “the sometimes insightful, but many times inane observations of a self-proclaimed Sh*thead living on one side of the proverbial wormhole of existence.” You may agree with me, and you may not. But despite the bleakness inherent in the words I just wrote? Somehow… some way I feel better.

Thanks as always for tuning in, my oft-times casual readers. We’re a long way from Denis Rodman and a thunderstorm this afternoon. Booyakasha. Respect.

F.

On Balance

Today, I did something that I have rarely, if ever done, not only at my current job, but in most jobs I have worked in over the long and winding course of my life. I took a sick day. While that may seem inconsequential to many of you reading this right now, it is pretty monumental for me. I’ve always been the person that worked through the pain. Even when my head was splitting or I could barely sit up, or I was rocking a fever of 103 I “mowed through.” Because that is how I was raised. I watched my mother suffer through cancer and treatment and never miss a day. I watched her fiance and my pseudo-stepfather do the same until it got to be too much for him and he was forced to throttle back. Mom survived. Larry didn’t. But the lessons I learned from them stuck with me, and remain with me now.

But today? Today was different. It’s been a long time since you’ve heard from your old buddy The Madchronicler. I know. July of last year to be exact. That seems… Kind of shocking given my history. While I’ve never been the most consistent writer, I’ve never let it go for so long. I’ve never gone this long without updating you on my own, subjective life, universe and everything, or interjecting an opinion or five into the interwebs via this platform. Yes, the last six months have been a bit of a whirlwind. Where I envisioned myself last July in February of 2022 did not come to pass for a number of reasons. Were I to update you on all that has happened and all that is currently happening we’d be here all day or night depending on when and even where you are reading these words and to be honest? There are things I either cannot talk about yet or am unwilling to talk about. So? I won’t. What I will say is that I’m good. And also not so good. It honestly all depends on the day. But I’m here. And I plan to be here for a while so if you were hoping I was gone forever I am sorry to disappoint.

Also? The Minions are great. They’re keeping me busy but that’s what you get with a 12 and a nine year old. I embrace it. And the network of loving friends and family that has surrounded me for as long as I can remember is good, too. It’s even grown a bit, but I’ll avoid that topic for now, as well. Those people… You have kept me smiling and for that? I say “wus.” Booyakasha. And respect.

But pleasantries aside, back to today. Today, a pesky cold and a hectic schedule finally caught up with me and I concluded that it was time to take a break. So? Six hours of PTO (I did work a bit; sorry to disappoint) and a couple of naps later, I’m feeling better. Still not at 100% but I didn’t just “vedge” and nap all day. I did a lot of thinking, as well–thinking that was not accosted by my nine to five gig as a Business Development Consultant for once. And that thinking is the clearest thinking. And a lot of it centered on and around balance. I’ve written, or at least I think I’ve written about balance in the past. Light and dark. Yin and Yang. Good versus evil. And how in all of the above cases one needs the other to exist in balance. My life in many ways has been a case study of all of the above. I tried to do good but ended up causing pain. I walked away from things because their inclusion in my life threw my balance off. Finances and a life, a relationship with another person and one with myself or my children. And there have been moments in my life when I got there. Yet more often than not those moments quickly passed. And it’s taken me until tonight to realize one, singular, indisputable fact.

Balance as I always envisioned it cannot and should not exist. Don’t run me off WordPress yet. Give me a chance to explain.

Bob Dylan once wrote that “chaos is a friend of mine.” I jokingly adopted that adage when I was younger. Hell, the surname Madchronicler is a derivative of it. Little did I know however that as I got older, my once-self mocking characterization would become canon and an every day part of my life. Now, at 46 years young/old I am faced with things that I was only faced with in passing before. Life and death. Mortality. The prospect of financial f*ck-ups. Hurting others and being hurt. And I have realized that chaos is not and never was a friend of mine. Chaos f*cking sucks and should be exiled from this universe on one proverbial side of the wormhole forever.

But? It cannot be. And will not be because chaos, like so many other things needs to exist in balance with its much less annoying counterpart, peace. Chaos has been and will always be a part of life. The key is not elimination, but willing incorporation and that’s the lesson I have learned and felt the need to write about tonight. I’ve tried for so many years to get to a point of “balance” as I referenced above–you remember; that which cannot and should not exist–that I didn’t realize what I was really striving for was peace. But peace alone is… Kind of impossible. The way to achieve true balance is to accept that chaos is a real and inescapable part of life, and not run from it, but figure out a way to cope with it. That person who “did you dirty?” Rather than hold a grudge against and maybe even hate them, figure out a way to work with them toward a common end goal. You don’t have to like or love them, but if a civil relationship breeds a good result? Do it. That’s balance. Not everyone may agree with me on that and that’s fine. You don’t have to take my advice. But anger breeds and enhances chaos. And there may come a day when you are happy you decided to work toward a common goal with them, rather than tell them to piss off. The same can be applied to many things too, not just interpersonal relationships. Just my $0.02 folks. Take it for what it’s worth.

Today on my sick day I redefined what balance is for myself and who knows? Maybe for you. That wasn’t my goal but if I did? I’m glad. Today I realized that true balance can only be achieved by accepting chaos not as a friend, but as a shadow when the sun is in the east, and peace as the same when the sun is in the west. I understand and accept that I will always have good and bad, light and dark moments. I will cause pain, but I will also cause joy. Sometimes I’ll get it wrong and others? I’ll be right on the ol’ money. I guess that’s why I’ve always been fascinated by the “Gray” Jedi in Star Wars lore, or the True Neutral characters in Dungeons and Dragons. Maybe it’s why I’m a political centrist. Who knows? But I feel better and more ready for what comes next because of it. As for what that is…?

I’m not entirely sure, but I know that part of it starts, or maybe ends with “the sea has no memory.”

Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

F.

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood…

One of my greatest joys when I was younger was sitting out on my porch in “J-Town” as a thunderstorm rolled through. There’s nothing quite like a thunderstorm in Summertime at the end of a long, hot and humid day. I’ve described the experience at length before. I even wrote a blog post about it, many moons ago when I lived in Broomall, and everyone lived everyplace else. That time? Past. Like the once-oppressive heat that marked today, as rolls of thunder and distant lightning echo through my new home in Swarthmore and I endeavor, for the first time since finishing HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD, to write.

A lot has changed for me since that late, Friday night in April. It is now mid-July. I won’t dive into the particulars of all that has happened. Needless to say my life is, in many ways renewed. It was long overdue. To anyone that has suffered because of it, I apologize. You know who you are. But I needed a fresh start. I needed to refocus on a path… MY path forward. I spent many years putting the needs of the many before my own and in the process of doing that? I lost myself. I had to rediscover who I am. Have I? Yes. Does that mean I know my way forward? Sadly, I’m still working on it. But I’m close now.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both.” You know that one, right? “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. It’s always been a favorite poem of mine, right up there with pretty much anything T. S. Eliot wrote. For many years, there was only one road forward for me. Yet that road? It officially ended a few weeks ago. So here I am, once again looking at two, and only two possible ways forward. Down one? Continued stability and normalcy. And down the other? The road NOT taken. A riskier path. And the latter, while intriguing, scares the living bejesus out of me. It’s been a bit since I took a risk. So the question is: Do I? Do I take the road less traveled and if I do, will it make all the difference as it did for Frost?

Many have told me, as I sit here writing in silence, my only accompaniment the sound of the storm, raging outside that I am still young, even now as I balance on the precipice of 46 years, on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Yet I do not feel it. I feel far detached from that dreaming child that sat upon his mother’s porch in “J-Town” watching a thunderstorm roll past. In truth? I feel old. Despite a renewed sense of self there remains the feeling that I’m past the halfway point of my life less extraordinary and a desire to DO. Now. To live while I still can. That is the allure of the road less traveled. The well-trodden path? Easier. A slow downslope into peace, but without fulfillment. Excitement. And despite the occasional ache in my bones I still crave it. So what do I do? How do I proceed?

I know that I am being vague and that is intentional. For it feels too soon to start speaking of what lies down each path. There remains a step for me to take before I can reveal all. The final step in my so-called renewal. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I? I took BLANK, and that has made all the difference.” Which one do I choose? I know where I am. I know where I want to get to. But do I endeavor to “cash in” on a few, long held dreams before doing so? Or do I stay here. Live. Exist. Maybe write another book or two. Has the time… MY time for dreaming passed me by? Does there come a point where we really are too far along for dreams… A point where our reality is what it is and we need to accept it as such? I wish I knew. All my life I have questioned. Is it time to stop asking and just… Be?

So is the state of your old buddy the Madchronicler’s mind this evening, friends. The storm that was raging outside has passed. There are more storms in the forecast for later tonight. Let them come. Let them renew me as they did when I was a child and make me feel alive, and in amazement at the majesty of nature’s fury. My porch now? Nothing like my mother’s, but big and covered enough to allow me to sit. I think I will. Sit, and consider. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood?” I’ll let you know when I decide which one to follow. I’ll let you know if it made all the difference.

FM.