A Rudder, an Anchor, and a Sail


I’m not 100% sure but I think it was around September 1, 2014, which was my 17th sobriety anniversary, at around 2:30am on yet another sleepless night, that I wrote what I came to call my “suicide blog.”
I was visiting Salt Lake which I love to do because I have family I love very much there but it’s also the scene of the crime for my shitty marriage and I have to admit I was hanging heavy on those memories that night—plus the lack of sleep, and not even allowed a short glass of Jack Daniels to knock myself out. I reckon I can go back and find the blog, find the exact date. Right now, I just want to write about it. Which is odd. I was put on this earth to write and it seems to be the absolute most difficult thing to get me to do. At war with myself, the perpetual and disobedient adolescent in me rails against the disciplinarian authoritarian in me. I’m so resistant towards authority I will throw bricks at whoever’s trying to point it at me, even if that person is me.
So I declared to all who would read that my feeling bad for all the people who would be hurt by my exit from this life could no longer meet muster as a raison d’etre so I’d be building a guillotine and chopping my head off one year from that day. Unless things could turn around. And I could find a reason to live other than how fucked up most of the people who know me would be if I died.
I’m a Marine Iraq War Veteran. I got back from Iraq in 2004. I have watched the shock waves concuss through the veterans’ community after one of us swallows a bullet and it’s a shitty thing to watch. It’s a shitty thing to go through and a shitty thing to watch. I didn’t want to be the guy who did that to so many. That being said I am definitely not one of those assholes who judges someone who takes their life or calls them “selfish.” While I certainly hope every veteran can do what they must live in a healthy relationship to their experiences, to live a full and happy life as much as is possible but I am mostly glad they don’t hurt anymore.
Predictably after my wee-hour revelation, a few people started running around with their hair on fire until I passed it all off as metaphor while secretly thinking “I’m gonna do it man. If this shit’s not better in one year from tonight, they’ll just have to fucking work it out.” And I kept the stakes high for my “year to live,” some shit needed to change.
I did make a commitment to my readers that I would actively and earnestly try to seek out help and I would do everything that was put in front of me if it seemed like it might help me get better.
All this was PTSD. I understand that better now. I also committed to blog everyday for that year to keep everyone abreast who was tuning in to see how it was going. As you can imagine if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, the blogs were all over the place in style and content. I don’t know how much I really even talked about PTSD or how the process was going. I seem to remember writing some fan fiction around Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, et.al..  But the point was that I did it; with the exception of when I was away at Sundance Ceremony or Hambleycha (vision quest), I blogged every day for a year. And in the end, I didn’t want to kill myself anymore. That in itself was so very helpful and some might argue worth the trouble. The blog seemed to be a sort of… I was going to say anchor but then I was reminded of something that came up for me in Morning Pages this morning.
I’ve always had the sense that I could benefit from the use of a good anchor. But then I realized that at times in my life when I actually had an anchor, times when that anchor was down, I just tended to drag anchor. That’s just sort of who I am. The Morning Pages brought memories of a Veterans’ Outward Bound course I attended a few years back in the Florida Keys. It was my first experience with trying to sail a boat at all and with the help and teamwork of my 12 shipmates, I eventually did; we all eventually did. The voyage taught me things about myself and memories of it fuel the vision I’m about to describe.

Here’s from my Morning Pages, here’s how I see myself in my life right now: I am alone on a sailboat about the size of the one that carried our 12-person crew. I’m standing on the deck. The sails could not be fuller. My heart explodes and I stare into them beholding the invisible power that fills them and rockets me across the increasingly agitated sea. I scream in terrified awe because although I do know that I have been gifted with the ability to witness the power, that comes without really knowing how to harness and control it. The boom swings wildly like Poseidon has taken hold of a Louisville Slugger and I hit the deck in abject embarrassment at my former cockiness and I think, “I don’t need a fucking anchor. I need a rudder! I need a strong, sturdy rudder.”

Writing is my rudder. If I’m to be honest with myself, it always has been.

At twenty-three, after I’d opened my wrists with a razor blade, a wise old queen with a Boston brogue laid out essential wisdom on what seemed like an eternal exhale of a Pall Mall cigarette. On the grey plume issuing from beneath his bushy mustache he wrote, “M’boy, if you don’t put pen to paper, you’re gonna die.” He was right. Years later, in Iraq, I remembered his words and he was still right.

In so many ways my life is great. My days no longer begin with thoughts of suicide like they once did. After years of rolling anvils uphill, I’m now about to prance around the planet playing make believe for a living and helping other veterans to find that which quite literally saved my life. I get to see and make art for a living and involve myself in causes that are important to me at what is arguably the scariest time in American history during my lifetime.

Yet there I stand, atop my craft adrift in building winds, wondering how I might get a hand on that boom rope and praying my hand might find the smooth wooden grasp of my rudder.
I’m committing, to the very best of my ability, to blog daily for this next year of my Artist Residency at Bastion. I’ll keep it under 1500 words and I’ll try, as best I can, to keep it on mission and on topic. It can’t take away from the scriptwriting.
The mission is to make you confederates in my plan to save the world through my art and to bring along as many other veterans as possible. More than ever before I’m being offered resources and avenues to do this work but I am absolutely overcome by how many different irons I find that I have placed in the fire and you’re going to help me figure out, step by step, which will be the next right step to make all this happen. You down for the ride?
If so, I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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