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From my Facebook page:

I heard something today that struck a nerve:

"One mystery I still can't figure out is why some people come into our lives; why some people go and others become a part of you. Some friendships feel like they'll last forever, but not every friendship is meant to last a lifetime. What does last forever is the pain when that person is gone."

I'm not someone who easily develops relationships with other people. I can be quiet and standoffish. I have little patience for fools and little tolerance for instigators or drama seekers. But when I do form good relationships with people, I value them, sometimes to a fault.

Over the years, I've had people come and go. I don't think it's happened to me more than most people, but I feel it more. I've held onto relationships far longer than I should have at times, I've waited far too long to cut some people off, and I've missed other people more than I should have. In some cases, I still do. I still struggle to find peace with the idea that some people, people that I thought I would always have in my life, are no longer there.

But no matter how hard that is, I still have to move forward and form new relationships with people, make new friends. And that's hard for me. That's why I still value my old friends. So I hope everyone here understand that if you ARE here, if you're still seeing this, I value you and our friendship. And that's true of some people who, for whatever reason, aren't here anymore. Some people do become a part of us, of me, and they always will be.


An Open Letter to My Kids
I just wrote a letter to my kids. The hardcopy will, of course, go in the mail so they can read it on paper, but I thought I might save it here for future reference. It's not like anyone ever reads this journal, anyway.

16 February 2016

Dear Thing1, Thing2 & Thing3,

One of the hardest things that a writer can do is put pen to paper for the first time. That blank, white page can be one of the scariest things imaginable and the hardest to overcome. Where do you start? How do you begin? En media res? In the beginning? With exposition, explanation, or humor? I've never been very good at beginnings, and I hate endings, so that just leaves the middle.

I've been here at the Hacienda for almost a year now. I came back in on 18 March 2015. I won't get too much into why I came back, but suffice it to say that the place I was staying wasn't working out. For lack of any better options, I was staying with a friend who turned out to be not entirely stable. There was a lot of drama going on in that apartment, which culminated in her blaming me for her boyfriend assaulting someone, and on another night for her shattering all of the glasses in her kitchen and then rolling around in the shards and bleeding all over the floor. I understand she's been talking to your grandparents about me--I don't know what she's been saying, but experience has taught me to take everything she says with a very large grain of salt.

Almost since I arrived here, I've been running the front office. As soon as I finished my 30-day evaluation, I was asked to serve on staff to supervise and minister to the other residents. At the same time, I was asked to take over running the front office, and also to take over running the induction center, which is where all new residents spend 30-to-60 days to get used to the way the house runs. All of this keeps me pretty busy. I have access to the internet during the day for work, but at night I have to lock up the office and we don't have any computers or internet access in the residential areas. Most of the time, I end up working in one capacity or another in the evenings and on Sundays, either supervising the residents, administering drug tests, working on special projects, or even dismissing residents for rules violations. My schedule runs from 0500 in the morning until about 1930 in the evening every day, so there isn't a lot of free time here in the first place.

This has been a pretty hard year for me. I've seen people come and go, some voluntarily, some not. I've met a lot of people I would never have thought, in my entire life, that I would spend a lot of time around. The Hacienda is mostly home to people with criminal backgrounds, long histories of drug abuse, and who only know how to run the streets and hustle for money. I see the paperwork as they come in: most of them have records including possession, assault, burglary, robbery, gang affiliations, and even murder. I've seen guys walk away from their old lives, and I've seen them go back, seduced by the siren call of heroin or meth. I've even spoken at a funeral. I'm a complete fish-out-of-water here, and I mostly keep to myself. In a lot of ways, my job has been a blessing because I don't have to participate in all the locker room talk or the daily vulgarities.

My job here is basically to run the day-to-day operations of the campus. We run a thrift store business for the church, so a big part of my job is scheduling donation pickups and supervising the truck routes. We also do deliveries and special donation pickups from stores like Albertson's, Costco, and even Amazon. On top of that, it's my responsibility to get everyone to wherever they need to go, whether it's just getting to work in the morning (we have four stores and a warehouse location), going to court, reporting to probation or parole, meeting with a public defender, going to the doctor or dentist, or any number of other things that need to be done. Sometimes I just arrange for drivers to take people to stuff like that, and sometimes I go and meet probation officers or parole officers myself and represent the Hacienda.

I know I haven't made much contact with you guys since I've been here, and part of that is by the design of the program (and my job), and part of that is just my natural tendency to keep to myself. I'm not very good at reaching out to anyone and I never have been. But I wanted you to know that it isn't because I don't love or care about you. Not a day goes by that I don't think about all three of you, that I don't miss you. I wish there was a way to go back to our old lives, but I've slowly had to accept that there simply isn't. What I'm working on right now is finishing my one-year commitment next month and then looking for a job outside of here. I've already started applying to a bunch of jobs through the county and the state, and I'm optimistic that I'll get one of them. One day, when I can, want to see you all again and spend time together like we used to. I miss those days, and I miss all of you.

I hate endings, so I won't say goodbye. I'll just say this: one day I hope you can forgive me for all the ways I've failed you. I'll be a different person then. I'll have changed. And that's okay, that's good. You've got to keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of us. Not one day, I swear. I will always remember when we were all together and happy.

Love always,


In the Words of Lao Tzu
I am very results-oriented. I'm less good with the touchy-feely stuff, and not-so-good with catering to people. I'm direct, to-the-point, and I have little time for people's drama. I'm not entirely certain why that is, because I used to be very patient and indulgent of other people's feelings and nuances. But at some point in the last year, I've basically lost all patience when it comes to other people's nonsense. If you have a point, get to it. I have neither the time nor the inclination to entertain anyone else's immaturity, egoism, or pettiness. Whatever we're trying to accomplish, let's just get it done. I don't care who gets the credit and I don't care if anyone feels slighted. I don't care if someone feels they're not getting the attention or priority they deserve, and I certainly don't care for people who spend their time second-guessing or Monday-morning-quarterbacking every decision. I'm a very simple man when it comes right down to it.

Now, that's obviously going to rub some people the wrong way. But when I say I don't care, I mean every word of it. It's not a front, and I don't harbor some secret reserve of concern somewhere deep down, as someone tried to convince me I do yesterday. I care very little for anyone else's opinion unless you're one of the few people I've met who I believe to have good judgement and whose opinion I've come to value. I've spent a great deal of time and energy in my life up until now trying to make people happy and make sure they have a good opinion of me. What I've discovered, however, is that it doesn't really do any good in the long run and it's not worth all the effort.

Lao Tzu said "Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner." And he was right. If you care about anyone else's opinion, you choose to give them power over you. It's the same reason I have Rule #6: "Never apologize; it's a sign of weakness." I choose not to give anyone else any power over how I live my life. I am not here to please people, only to do right. Don't get me wrong: I do care about people's health and well-being, and I will always try to do right by people. But don't expect a lot of sympathy when you come to me expecting to be put at the top of the priority list, ahead of seventy other people, just because you're you and you're that important. Your ride to the dentist can wait until I've figured out the logistics of getting everyone else home using only three passenger vehicles and no bus. That's just the way it is and if you insist on trying to convince me to leave everyone else out in the cold so you can get to where you want to go, I'm probably going to get rude with you and tell you to get out of my face. Sometimes rudeness is called for.

The Secret to Happiness
New Year's Eve. I've always kind of hated New Year's Eve, while at the same time desperately wishing that I could participate in it. The fact of the matter is that I hate large gatherings and parties, where masses of unwashed strangers rub elbows, shake hands, and join other undescribed body parts in an effort to both celebrate the new year and declare to the world that they are not horribly, horribly alone. The truth is that I am alone, but it's not too bad. An ideal New Year's Eve for me would involve some good friends, probably not more than 10 or 15 at the most, some movies and music, good food and drink, and some games. Good friends are few and far between, but they do come along every once in a while and should be appreciated for the happiness they bring.

It occurs to me that not everyone knows how to find happiness, even temporarily. Some of us work our nine-to-five existences, go home, and don't know what to do with ourselves. I can empathize because that's exactly how I felt at one point--I tried to do all the things I was supposed to do, meet all of my responsibilities, but at the end of the day I just felt empty and alone and pointless. There were two things that ultimately made me feel better, and one of them was my friends. Being around genuinely good, kind, courageous and uplifting people was uplifting for me--the kind of people who make an effort every day to help someone else out, even if only in small ways. A kind word, a smile, a joke to break the ice, or simply hanging around to keep someone company can go a long way; it can make you feel like there's still good in the world, that it isn't all pointless, that kindness for the sake of kindness may just be the point of our existence. I don't really see those friends of mine anymore, but I know they're out there, and that keeps me going.

The other thing that helps me is stories: the kind of stories that make you laugh, cheer, dance, and celebrate. Stories have always been one of the best salves I've ever found for whatever might be troubling me. I was recently able to get my hands on some Doctor Who DVDs, and those stories have been a lot of fun to go through again, and they're remarkably inspiring. They circulate in my head and kind of keep me going, help me to stay optimistic. Whatever it takes, right?

So here's to all the people who are searching for happiness, who don't know how to find it, and who may be embedded in pink blankets and pillows without any idea of where to start. I love all of you, I wish you the best, and if I can ever help, I will. Because you're all important. All of you, even if I don't say it enough. Happy New Year to you all, and a belated Merry Christmas as well. And here's a little of what I'll hopefully be doing tonight:

Each Night I Dream of Home
I woke up crying this morning. This is not a normal occurance, I assure you. Normally, I just roll out of bed and get down to business, but this morning I started crying within seconds of waking up and came dangerously close to bawling. Angrily, I slapped the moisture from my eyes, grabbed my razor and toothbrush, and rushed to the bathroom. I didn't dare look at my roommate--tears would undermine the entire persona I've built here. Vaguely unfriendly, firm and unyielding, stoic and not prone to outbursts of any kind, I work hard to keep people at a distance. I work hard to not show any vulnerability or weakness. The only way I can get through every day is to put one foot in front of the other until it's over--I can't afford to show emotion because I basically live among sharks, and the only way I can ensure the respect that I need to do my job is to be as invulnerable as possible. Weakness can kill.

Last night I dreamed of home. It wasn't my parents' house, of course. That hasn't really been home in years, as much as I tried to convince myself that it was. No, I dreamed of the house in Sacramento, where my ex and I lived with the kids. I dreamed of waking up in bed with her in the morning, and listening to the sounds of my kids across the hall, playing. Even now, just thinking about it, I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes, and I have to force them back lest I have an emotional breakdown right here at my desk.

This isn't the life I'm supposed to have. I can feel it. Home was back there, with my family, where things may not have been perfect, but they were good and happy. Even after all these years, I still have an overwhelming impulse to just get in the car and drive home. I would walk in the door and my family would be there; my kids would still be little, and my wife would be happy to see me, and we'd all have dinner together and get back to our normal daily routine. All I ever really wanted was that. But I know that life can never be again, no matter how hard I work or how badly I want it. All I can do now is put one foot in front of the other and hope for the best.

But mornings like this are the hardest, when I wake up to the cold reality of where I am and what I'm doing now. When I have to deal with all the absurdities and outbursts and temper tantrums that come with housing 70 men on a daily basis, and the differences between the life I should have and the life I actually have are laid out in stark, plain terms, I sometimes wonder what the point of it all is. Why do I keep going, when my life will never be what it should be again? I think it's because it's all I know how to do--keep pushing forward, no matter how bad or hopeless it gets. I have one son who intends to never speak to me again, and two more who need me but who I can't help right now.

So I just walk, and hope for the best.

Fear of Heights
I'm at kind of an odd intersection in life.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't aspire to terribly high positions or titles. I'm content with a fair amount of responsibility and little-to-no recognition for it. That was one of the things that I liked about working at the City, for example: I liked to let my two coworkers take all the public credit and recognition while I was happy to run things from behind the scenes. I don't like a lot of attention.

Now, for a variety of reasons I won't go into here, I'm being asked to to ascend higher in our organization than I really want to. I can already feel how people look at me differently. I can't stand save-asses and I won't abide kiss-asses, but it seems like everyone is already being conspiciously nicer to me in the hopes of getting things they want. They don't realize that I make all my decisions based on the merits of the situation, and that no amount of making nice with me will get me to do things for them in return. What's right is right and what's wrong is wrong. Nevertheless, I am beginning to feel like Londo did shortly after he began ascending the ranks of the Centauri government:

"Six months ago, hardly anyone knew my name. Now everyone wants to be my friend. I wanted respect. Instead, I have become a wishing well with legs."

I really just want to live quietly. I hate the feeling of being swarmed every time I step onto the property. I actually yelled at everyone to back off the other day. I don't think I like this development, and I miss all my friends I could just go and be around without having to be anyone remarkable. I've found myself developing a vaguely unfriendly and Gibbs-like persona, which usually discourages people from approaching me unnecessarily. Thank God for small blessings.

It's actually more normal for me to isolate myself from people than it is for me to be social. Wanting to be around people was something I developed after I got together with Lindsey and then became more pronounced after we split up. Before that, I hated socializing, going out, and being around groups of people. So in a way, you could say I'm going back to being my old self. Yay.

So for anyone who is curious, here is a complete list of my rules as they currently stand. I do my best to follow these rules, though I do not always succeed. Pay particular attention to rule #4. It currently applies. (Incidentally, rule #12 is there for a reason, but I've had just as many good reasons to break it as I have had to follow it.)

Rule #1
Never screw over your partner.

Rule #3
Don’t believe what you’re told.  Double-check.

Rule #4
The best way to keep a secret?  Keep it to yourself.  Second-best way?  Tell one other person—if you must.  There is no third-best.

Rule #5
You don’t waste good.

Rule #6
Never apologize—it’s a sign of weakness.

Rule #7
Always be specific when you lie.

Rule #8
Never take anything for granted.

Rule #9
Never go anywhere without a knife.

Rule #10
Never get personally involved in a job.

Rule #11
When a job is done, walk away.

Rule #12
Never date a coworker.

Rule #13
Never, ever involve a lawyer.

Rule #14
Bend the line; don't break it.

Rule #15
Always work as a team.

Rule #16
If someone thinks they have the upper hand . . . break it.

Rule #17
Risk is part of the game.

Rule #18
It's better to seek forgiveness than permission.

Rule #19
When someone falls, catch them.

Rule #20
We don’t leave our people behind.

Rule #21
Never argue with a drunk or an idiot.

Rule #22
Once someone agrees to something you want, don’t change your mind.

Rule #23
Never mess with someone’s coffee.

Rule #24
Most things are better left unsaid.

Rule #25
Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Rule #27
[There are] two ways to follow [someone]: first way, they don’t notice you; second way, they only notice you.

Rule #29
Never ask a question you don't want to know the answer to.

Rule #30
Always give credit where credit is due.

Rule #31
Always trust your gut.

Rule #33
Never be afraid to look ridiculous—own it.

Rule #35
Always watch the watchers.

Rule #36
If you feel like you’re being played, you probably are.

Rule #37
The first obligation of a prisoner is to escape.

Rule #38
Your job, your lead.

Rule #39
There is no such thing as coincidence.

Rule #40
If it seems like someone is out to get you, they are.

Rule #41
Never start a fight, but always finish it.

Rule #42
Never accept an apology from someone who just sucker-punched you.

Rule #43
Whenever someone says something isn't personal, it is, because everything's personal.

Rule #44
First things first—hide the women and children.

Rule #45
Clean up your own mess.

Rule #49
Sometimes you have to roll the hard six.

Rule #51
Sometimes, you’re wrong.

Rule #65
Never send flowers to a woman anonymously.

Rule #68
Never trust a woman who believes that every interaction with a man hinges on how attractive she is.

Rule #69
Never trust a woman who doesn’t trust her man.

Just . . . Here
Yesterday, I got a phone call from my family. This is exactly the second phone call I've received in more than six months. Only some dire situation, such as wanting my help with a towed car, would bring my family to contact such a horrible human being as I.

My grandfather passed away Sunday night. I remember him as a kind, gentle, good-humored man who always doted on his children and grandchildren (and great-grandchildren). He's been living in a nursing home for the last few years, so this isn't entirely unexpected, but it is sad. I always loved my grandfather and it's been a couple of years since I've seen him.

The conversation was unsurprisingly short. My family and I are not on the best of terms at the moment and will likely never be on especially good terms ever again. I'm saddened, but also angry that my present circumstances prevent me from even considering going to the funeral services. It's just not an option at present, and that's an entirely involuntary thing. I shouldn't be in the situation I'm in; I should be able to just pick up and go to the services, but I can't.

I don't think it's actually hit me yet that my grandfather is gone. I feel kind of numb inside, probably because I'm already dealing with a lot on a daily basis, so adding one more thing just isn't having a lot of impact. I'm sure it will eventually, but for now, I'm just . . . here.

The End of the Storm
I have been extremely pissed for the last few days. Extremely, extremely pissed. Words cannot adequately describe how pissed I have been.

I take my job very seriously. I enjoy it (for the most part), I'm good at it, and it gives me the opportunity to learn new things. But for the past week and a half or so, I have not had my job. Someone else has been sitting in my desk doing my job while I have been driving idiots around to various appointments and engagements until I have bled out of my eyes and ears. Then I drove some more.

Ultimately, this has made me realize that I am a workaholic--provided that I find my job fulfilling, anyway. I'm not sure I could work such long hours if I was flipping burgers or plowing fields or teaching zebras to play the xylophone, but I do enjoy administrative work. I enjoy organizing, I enjoy solving problems, and I enjoy making sure things run smoothly and correctly. I do not enjoy driving until I reach exhaustion, nor do I enjoy handing out flyers in 105 degree heat. So now that I'm back at my real job, I feel deeply appreciative. Not that I wasn't appreciative before, but I'm certainly more appreciative now.

So now that I've mastered the ability appreciate what I have (to the point where I get pissed off when it's taken away from me), now I have to figure out how to find that zen place where I don't care what's given or taken away from me and I can just be at peace all the time. Needless to say, I have a hard time with that--it's why I drink. Losing . . . nevermind; I'll not allow my thoughts to wander in that direction. Too much loss over too few years. *shuts closet door*

In unrelated news, it is my understanding that Donald Trump, the Hairdo-That-Shall-Not-Be-Tamed is running for president. He's a windbag and a half, but he appears to be garnering a great deal of media attention. I can only hope that he ends up on episodes of Celebrity Golf instead of in the White House, but I remember thinking the same thing about Arnold Schwarzenegger years ago and look where he ended up.

I hope my friends out there are doing well. I don't think any of them read this, so it's safe to say how much I miss them. I have friends here, too, of course, but I hope I can see the old ones again one day. And my kids; always my kids. I know everything can never be right again, but maybe we can all find something that we can live with. I hope all is well.

The Inevitability of Time
So the days continue to pass, and I find myself more and more absorbed with work. I like it this way. I like being busy (although starting work at 3:00 in the morning and working until about 10:00 at night might be a bit much). I like having my mind occupied; I always have, whether it be by work, books, comics, television, games, or whatever may strike my fancy at any given moment.

Sometime I wonder what the point of it all is, though. The older I get, the more it seems like it's easier to not get too attached to people in general. People come and go, especially here. I've only been here for five months, but most of the people who were here when I arrived have already left. It's like a constantly cycling cast of guest stars on a bad reality TV show. If my life is going to be a TV show, I'd rather it be closer to NCIS than The Psychotic Housewives of the Inland Empire.

Customer service is, as always, a treat. Dealing with strange people on the phone all day is taxing in its own way. Like the lady I'm currently talking to now, who seems to be having a hard time walking across the room to get her street address. I would hate to be the cause of a heart attack, anuerism, or seizure of some kind (judging from the number of "oh my god"s I can hear in the background), but it's hard to schedule a pickup at her home without a street address.

I've been making plans for my future lately with the idea and intention that it will be nothing like my past. My past is over, and it's not coming back. Ever. My kids will never be little again. I will never be married again. I will never live that kind of life again. Whatever comes next will be something new, something unprecedented. I've accepted that I'm pretty much a workaholic and I like it that way. I've also accepted that I'll pretty much have to start over with essentially nothing--all the belongings I've accumulated over 37 years on this planet are basically gone, never to return. My comics, DVDs, books, clothes, furniture, car . . . everything. And that's okay. This is going to be interesting, to say the least.