I spent an hour on I-70 tonight, coming back to Columbus from Zanesville (my hometown.) Driving alone is, for me, an amazing experience - probably the closest I come in my life to a meditative state. Some things occurred to me, and I want to write them down so they aren't lost come morning.
I was in Zanesville to visit my brother Brian, who's leaving for Alaska tomorrow. Brian spent six years near Fairbanks, at Eielson AFB and now, some... geez.. 12 or 13 years later? he's going back again, this time as a civilian contractor. I'm pretty used to saying goodbye to Brian. He moves around a lot. (In our wedding program, we noted the home-cities of all the members of our wedding party. Brian we listed as 'Aimless Drifter.')
I know he'll have a great summer up North, and I'm glad I got a couple hours' face-time in with him before he leaves. Brian is one of those special people in my life that I have absolutely no anxieties about. Or around. My relationship with him is good, no matter the time or distance between us.
On the drive home, I listened to an old cassette tape that I've carried around in my car. Kevin Johnson and the Linemen. The tape was a gift from my friends Sandra and Mikol. Johnson is actually the brother of another friend of ours, Kelly, from grad school. I liked the music -- rootsy americana. Some tasteful mandolin, pretty straightforward songwriting. A couple songs reminded me of Dwight Yoakum (which is a high compliment, in case you're not familiar with Dwight's oeuvre.) My only complaint was the production. It was a little too.. easy. I like my roots-rock with grit under its nails, and the Linemen went down a little too smoothly. I'm curious enough to look up some of their newer titles, though.
But the music's not the point... The damn thing is, I've carried that tape for almost 10 years now. And tonight was the first time I've listened to it. Let me repeat that, for those who weren't paying attention: I am the kind of man that can fully intend to listen to a cassette tape (a gift, mind you -- Sandra was so proud when she presented it to me, and said 'I knew when I heard it, it was Brycey-music!') For 10 years. And still never get around to following up on his good intentions.
Okay. Revelation number 1: I've got problems with follow-through.
Listening to the music, driving along, missing my wife and the dogs (and kinda driving too fast so I can get home to let them out for bedtime pees - the dogs, not the wife), I start to think about Mikol, and Sandra, and other friends. Brian, my other brother Brent. Valerie, Shawn, Nate, Gary, Brandon, Rob, Ron, Bradley, Amy and Dawna. And on. And on.
Then I realize that these are people.. friends.. that I think about, and sometimes talk about several times a day with my wife. These are the people of my anecdotes, my stories, my jokes and my memories.
But I might not talk to them more than once or twice a year.
Revelation number 2: My follow-through problems extend into my personal relationships.
You see, I have this dirty little secret. Only it's not so dirty, and it's not so little. And now, it's not even a secret. In fact, I think alot of us have this problem. I'm more comfortable alone and inside my own thoughts than anywhere else in the world. And - for whatever reason - I always stop just short of fully committing to the friendships in my life.
A good friend left Columbus today, moving back to California. Another one just gave notice -- it's off to Seattle for her. Will we remain friends? I hope we will. But I always find an easy excuse to beg off (moving away, or changing jobs, or -- that old standby -- "drifting apart.") Life today presents too many easy excuses to not be a good friend. And I'm all too eager to accept those excuses.
Revelation number 3: I don't have as much integrity as I'd like to believe.
In the last few years, my life has become my wife and our dogs. With a little bit left over for her family, and then a littler-yet bit for my own. I was talking with a (new) friend at lunch yesterday about inlaws. For us, at least, the old stereotypes just don't ring true. We actually enjoy spending time with our inlaws. Perhaps moreso than with our own families.
Don't get me wrong. I love my family. I love my Mom so much it hurts. My Dad has been my hero for longer than Spiderman. (Folks, that's a looong time.) But, as my friend pointed out, when they talk to me, they're talking to the bookish boy I was. And the awkward teenager. And the deeply-depressed new college grad. And the self-doubting, but self-sufficient, man I've become.
That's a lot of history to fit into every exchange. It has a way of coloring conversations, adding imagined subtexts where maybe none really exist. I've been trying real hard lately to not get cranky with my Mom. Cause I realize, it's never been her I've been cranky with. It's all those years of me that I see reflecting from her eyes.
Revelation number 4: I have this weird belief that I can't be 'known.' (It's so Jerry Springer -- "You don't know me!" my cocky inner white-trash self yells at the taunting crowd that is my life..)
So we come to it. Is this why I can't sustain deep, rich long-term friendships? Is this why I've found it easier, more convenient, to periodically reinvest in new friends? (I tend to have about a 4-year cycle. I refresh friends like I refresh desktop Macs.)
If you're reading this and you're shocked -- "Hey! I've been friends with that asshole for 10 years! Or I thought I was.." then know this: I'm generalizing a bit here. To make a point.
Revelation number 5: I get close to friends only to the point that the relationship gets interesting. Then I back away. Cool down. Stay cordial, but definitely stop investing.
I think I know why this is, but that is a revelation that I'll keep to myself. What I'll offer instead is this: a promise.
I'm kinda getting tired of writing lame stuff on this site. Stuff utterly disconnected from the world of shit that matters. I mean, really. pre-historic Atomic warfare theories? Who cares? My promise (or my threat, depending on how you feel about it) is this: I intend to use this site to reveal a little more about myself. And more importantly, in the coming weeks, I want to write some more about friends that I've known in my life. People who've inspired me, or lifted me up when I've needed it.
I promise not to get too schmaltzy, and -- for the most part -- I won't name names. Okay, maybe first names. But that won't matter, cause I'm only gonna focus on the positive. Yeah, every friendship has its ups and downs. (And you'd all probably prefer to hear the downs, no?) But these will be ups-only. Take them as mini-tributes to the people who've shaped my life. You might find yourself in the list. (If you don't ? Don't worry about it -- I still love you, man.)
Postscript: Just to be clear, I will continue to write about stupid stuff as well, cause I like stupid stuff. And dick jokes. I love those.
Also, just so you know, I was tryin' real hard to find 4 more revelations, cause I wanted to title this post 'Revelation Number Nine' ("Turn me on, dead man.") but then I realized that's a long way to go for such little payoff. And I also didn't want to risk coaxing the endtimes nutjobs over to the site. So be thankful.