“You gotta stay who you are, not who you were.
Places like this..
You have to put it away.”
What if you can’t?
“You have to.
Or it kills you.”
Rip open what’s been sealed tight and the past will bubble up on airy ringlets of regret. Pain grabs and fuses with it on the journey higher – they rise as one, gather momentum, and then explode into a fog of thick fear that absorbs you.
You’ll feel a boulder hit in the gut when this creature surfaces.
Everything you love or thought you loved will crumble. Ashes.
You don’t know it yet but you’re fighting a force you can’t beat.
But you’ll fight all the same.
And the stain begins to take hold.
You hate every minute of its movement.
You feel the crawl. It’s cold.
Your initial response is to resist.
Resistance is an inflammation that blisters from a white soul red.
Resistance is a malignancy; it’s your ego constructing walls to protect itself and destroy you in the process.
And yet you’re still fighting.
You’ll need to face this thing. You know.
Your instinct says rage and battle when you really should relent.
Standing breathless in the cold. Or a journey into darkness.
To another side, another life, another dimension. Wherever that is.
A mission to cut out what’s malignant about yourself.
Extracting a part of you that’s been around for decades.
And you’re reeling.
Search desperately for perspective.
A faint light of faith erupts.
But it burns out too quick.
And the stain continues to spread, thicken. Go deeper.
How do you restore your faith when the stain blocks out every source of light?
It’s black pitch from the start. Shaky and sticky underneath. Each step is a blast furnace full force inside your chest.
The urge to go back is strong. Where is back? Perspective gone. You’re frozen but moving. Stiff. Halfway. Into the dark. Partially across.
The red stain is all over you now. It’s forming tentacles. Wrapping you in a crimson vise.
Look up at the sky.
Catch a breath.
For a second. You rise above the stain.
Hope calls out.
Faint. A vibrato that takes over.
It wants you closer. To nurture you.
Pull you in.
Everything feels right for a second.
Then it’s gone.
The light fades.
Did you imagine it?
But you do remember.
What it said.
Do not fight.
It’ll be better.
You’re not ready.
You don’t believe.
You don’t recognize the tone.
It’s gentle. Soothing.
It speaks the truth. That you know.
On a blue breeze.
Air around you is clean.
You shake it off.
To the hot red of the past.
When you were told.
You’re not supposed to feel good.
People. Those you trusted – they told you you were not supposed to feel good.
Most of who you love. Gone. You watched them die. You helped a few along.
Questions remain unanswered.
The sharp edge is ready.
And before you rise to battle once more.
There’s the voice again.
It’s almost musical.
It pleads: Release the past.
Let it burn.
But you can’t.
Because it’s comfortable to stay where the past lives.
You choose to fight once more.
With alcohol and anger as your weapons.
The damage is self-inflicted.
You raise the dagger of blame.
Blame for everything that went wrong because it feels better.
There’s a tug on you. At you. A thousand magnets. Drawing you away and in.
You reach out wildly to grasp on to what meant everything.
And now means…
“Why you keeping all that stuff?”
The stain is thickest.
The past is dead weight.
One more attempt to pull out of internal quicksand.
A final attempt to return to.
Who you believe you are.
Who you were.
And this time it’s too much.
The puncture is fatal.
It pierces your heart.
Red flames escape; lick at your soul.
You understand. Finally.
No longer will you be able to thin the thickness of the stain.
You shut others out.
The stain shows itself.
And you let it swallow you. Finally.
You can no longer return.
The prison that protected you is ablaze.
Accepting the past is a wound you must not run from. You must fall to its blade. Own it. It needs to puncture the third dimension of you. A last layer.
To create and re-direct the light.
To build again.
You must extinguish.
The past that governed your present.
But it will need to drive up to your gates first.
And puncture you and those you love.
And the red-black will bleed out.
Good people in its wake.
Part of you is gone, too.
Your wounds are exposed.
Your mind is ready.
The silence and beauty of surrender dissipates the fog.
The voice is clearer. Louder. Out from the shadows.
You can make it.
You go for it.
It’s strong now.
So are you.
You’re about ready to.
1). Regret is living death. The word “maybe” will destroy you. It’s a disharmonious life footfall. I’ve learned even more so lately, that nothing is by chance. Everything happens with purpose. Good or bad. Be open to the signs of the universe. With ego out of the picture and the red stain fading out, you will believe again and the word “maybe” will never spill from your mouth. It’s a foul word. Maybe leaves a door open for the mental zombie hoard to eat your brain. Maybe is a downhill path for the red stain to roll.
“If you think about it, how much time do we spend in our heads wishing things were different, beating ourselves up, beating others up, crafting a different past, wishing for a different future? All of this is resistance. All of that is pain.”
“Maybe because I gave up.” Daryl Dixon.
Some of the best words (and I’m the fortunate receiver of great words) from friend and mentor James Altucher resonate here.
Remove the dead weight. Daily, I write down one negative thought, one bad habit from the past, and toss it.
“I find that if I dig deep and throw one thing a day (on my shelf, in my head, an ugly memory, in my heart a small anxiety in my stomach a frown, a doubt, an insecurity a person who drains my energy) fewer things upset me, fewer people bother me; I have fewer regrets about things long dead and buried, fewer anxieties about a future that may or may not exist.”
2). The reddest stain of finance. Is the worst of damage inflicted. A foreclosure. Lost savings on an investment that went sour, got suckered in by a “Nigerian prince” because greed got the best of you, the hot babe needed new dresses. Whatever. I have a section of a notebook I document all my bone-headed financial decisions and purchases (yes financial advisors do stupid things with money). Some of them include – flowers, beanie babies, more shirts and ties than I’ll ever wear in a lifetime, so many watches. All the investments I ever lost on, all the people I invested in who turned out to be a bust. Lessons I never forget. They stay with me. Teach. The red stain abhors knowledge and acceptance. If you don’t accept you messed up, you’ll continue the mistakes.
3). It’s acceptable to give up. Throw in the towel. Say fuck it. Burn it. Hell, I’m all for burning things. I’m Italian. I do dramatic crap all the time; it’s in my DNA. Buy me a gift and I don’t see you anymore I’m sending the shit back or carting it to a charitable organization. Somewhere in Houston there’s a bunch of homeless souls who are walking around in nice t-shirts and jackets emblazoned with the logo of my former employer. It’s beneficial branding for them. Not really. Good.
4). Be the last man (or woman) standing. How? It’s easy. The best solutions come down to a single, present action.
A personal stand that cuts through the smoke.
And helps you rise above who you were.
Your middle finger.
That’ll work just fine.
Don’t go back inside.
Open your window. Your mind.
There’s the place.
Your heart is lighter now.
The weight is off.
I opened the back door.
Finger is up.
I thought I heard the squirrels.
Cheering me on.
The red stain is a spot.
Outside of me.
I gave it the finger, too.