🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩
The Voices In My Head 🎤
‘Puzzle Pieces’ Origin Story 🎬
A New Direction 🧭
I spent much of the past year with my writing trying to find a distinct voice. I dabbled in characters and tried to give each his or her own style.
There was Q.F. Conseco, the free-spirited former Hippie trying to find his way in a world he doesn’t quite understand; Pissed Off Paulie, who’s always, well, pissed off; Lucy Robertson-Rosenblatt, who has a very distinct view on life that she believes should be shared by every single person she encounters. B. Goode, whose soul is moved by music and the stories behind the songs.
I did all for no other reason than because it just felt right. I enjoyed cultivating these characters and developing their personas, comical and two-dimensional as some of them might be. I fell in love with Q.F. and the commune, to the point where, if a had the ability to draw or paint, I could easily sketch exactly what his hometown looks like, what his mom (she of the butt-length wavy blond hair and culturally appropriated moccasins) looks like, what stupid Bob looks like.
It wasn’t until very late in the year that I realized something: Without intention, I had created a cast of characters who, with their own individual eccentricities, each represented a slice of my own personality.
In a sense, these folks were the voices in my head, the voices that never seemed to stop arguing and demanding supremacy. They were the poles — the extremes from which I have ping-ponged for much of the past half-decade or more.
Halfway through the year, a line from a song that has bounced around in my soul since the first time I heard it demanded to be heard.
No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the significance of that middle line out of my head: A puzzle known as life. That was how I began to see my own life — as a puzzle, one in which I didn’t have the picture on the box for reference and, apparently, one to which I didn’t have all the pieces, even at the age of 47.
So I created a new section of my website by that name and started writing. I tinkered around with the format and formula, strayed this way and that before arriving at something that felt right — equal bits entertainment, information and reflection that I hoped would help me — and maybe you, faithful reader — find some of the missing pieces so I could begin to assemble them into something that resembled a pretty picture.
Turns out that going down this path did, indeed, lead to some of the missing pieces. But the picture those pieces helped me form in the puzzle was kind of ugly.
There was a lot of pain in those pieces, a lot of heartache and loss and regret. They caused me tremendous confusion and, in writing about them, I sometimes hurt people I love. Perhaps it shouldn’t be at all surprising that wrestling with life is ugly and doing so publicly in real-time leads to mischaracterizations and misunderstandings. I’m not sorry I did it. I value transparency and honesty, and I don’t regret sharing the not-so-attractive process of soul searching and trying to figure out exactly who the hell I am, what I believe and how I’m going to make the rest of my life better than the first part has been.
Which isn’t to say that first part has been all bad — or even half bad. It’s certainly been challenging, but now, as I appear to have the pieces I need to put the puzzle together, I’m able to look at the picture it paints from afar and appreciate the necessity for all the pieces, not just the ones that contain the blue sky, green grass or beautiful flowers.
And so it’s time for me to move onto some different types of writing. There are only so many hours in the day, so many free moments I have to write and, disturbingly, only so much stamina my post-COVID brain seems to have to give toward non-work creativity. Where once I used to be able to write or create from sun up to sun down and well into the darkest hours of the next night, I now find myself simply unable. It’s frustrating, because there are moments — moments like these — when all I want to do is write and create … for hours and hours and hours on end. Maybe someday I’ll be able to do that again. Today is not that day.
So I have to choose what I want to create in the available window, and what I want to write in this coming year is different than what I wrote last year. Whereas last year I developed characters and explored voices and ultimately wrestled with who I am right there in the moment with little to no space for context, now I feel as if I’ve finally created the environment in which I can things into perspective and a framework. To be a bit cliche, I can see the forest for the trees.
And so that’s what I’m going to do. I have a story to tell. Lots of stories to tell, actually. There are some works of fiction I want to write, edit or complete, I think I’ll do that in 2022. But the big thing that’s on my mind is to tell my own story, a story I finally feel equipped to tell. I am be no means of any great importance to this world and certainly not important enough to have a biography anyone but a small group of people might ever have an interest in reading. That said,I do know this: I want to leave something behind, and I want that to be the truth — or, at least, my truth.
You see, one of the most important puzzle pieces I found in my wanderings this year were the ones that showed me how valuable it is to look at life honestly. When I found the puzzle pieces around last year’s path, some of the ugliest were created because of the things that remained in darkness, swept under the rug without ever being addressed. Those things unfortunately shaped a lot of who I am — or, at least, who I was.
Because I’m not the person I was through 2021. Or, at least, I’m not going to be the person I was through 2021. I’ve already made some significant changes thanks to the realizations found through my meanderings of the past year. There are more to make in 2022. A lot more. One of the ways I’m going to do that is by shining bright lights into dark corners.
What that means is that there won’t be the nearly daily Puzzle Pieces in this section of my website. I plan to use it to keep up on my One Hundred Intentions for 2022 list. But it won’t be anything nearly as frequent, nor as lengthy. I feel some guilt over this, as I know there are at least a few of you who like reading what I write. My most loyal reader seems to be someone I’ve never met, someone whom I know only by the name of her own blog, Read Between The Lyme, and who “likes” everything I write. I’m grateful for that sort of support, and I’m sorry to be taking that away from her and the handful of others who dig what I do.
But I’m happy to be charting a new course that, like the character creation and Puzzle Pieces search did in 2021, just feels right. I’ll still be doing a lot of writing and creating outside of work. I might even be sharing some of that stuff on here. And I know I’m not bound by any sort of statement I’ve made in this post, that I’m free to change directions whenever I feel like it, not just because the calendar flips to a new year.
So off I go. I have stories to tell, and I hope I’m given the time, brain space and clarity to tell them well.
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🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Triple-Threat 🖥️🖥️🖥️Tasmanian Tiger 🐅Video Work 📹 Humans were not meant to stare at laptop screens. At least, humans of a certain age were not meant to stare at laptop screens. I say this after successfully lobbying for a second monitor at work, which effectively turned my laptop screen into a third…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Look Before Brewing ☕Hoop Construction 🏀Nuclear War ☢️ If you’d like an indication of how much of a Monday yesterday was for me, know that I ended up with an orange in my coffee. Well, to be fair, it wasn’t a full-blown orange. It was something called a Cutie, which is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Weird Date 🪦Nature Walk🌳Bulldog Bath 🐶 If you have a date walking around a cemetery, you’re either weird or goth, and neither Wifey Poo nor I were wearing black today, which I guess tells you all you need to know about us. Old cemeteries are something of a fascination for us,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩So Long, Kid 👨👦Steak Celebration🥩Chip & Joanna 🪚 Regular readers of my drivel know that I’m kind of an emotional guy, which is like saying that Jack kind of could have fit on the spacious floating door with Rose in Titanic. So it should come as no surprise when I say…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Cash 4 IRS 💰Cash 4 Workers 💸Sound of Silence 🤫 Be extra careful on your taxes this year. The IRS is expected to receive nearly $80 billion when The Inflation Reduction Act eventually becomes law, and its plan is to hire 87,000 full-time workers. More than half of the $80 billion…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Spoon Nose 🥄👃🏻Dump Truck 🚚Twitter Traitor 🐦 Every night, I strap a mask attached to a long hose to my face so I don’t die. Not satisfied with looking kinda like an idiot, I then wrap a flexible Velco-enabled strap around my chin and fasten it on top of my bald…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Thanks, Yankees ⚾Kitchen Moment 👩🍳McDonald’s Glasses 🥛 Wifey Poo and I were recent college graduates and months away from becoming Married Folk when our relationship nearly faced its greatest test. The New York Yankees were rolling toward their first World Series appearance since I played with Matchbox Cars, and the St.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Mammoth Dilemma🦣Zombie Pigs🧟🐖Stadium Pals⚾ Finding the fossilized remains of a Wooly Mammoth in New Mexico isn’t exactly news. It seems the furry elephants loved to hang out in the land so frequently visited by aliens. What is news is the condition of the fossils from the latest find. Some of the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Ankle Shot 🦶🏻Teamwork 🤝🏽Talkspace Stupidity 🤪 Over the years, I’ve played catch with Boy The Younger dozens and dozens of times. From those early days of him aimlessly flinging an oversized soft thing a few feet forward, to now when he’s zipping a real baseball the regulation distance from a pitching…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Creative Desert 🎨So Long, Supra 🏎️Taco Truck 🌮 I have absolutely nothing today. On most days — even the really, really bad days — I can push out something creatively worthwhile. A blog post. A flyer. A video. Not today. Today I have jack shit. This is professionally problematic, considering my…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hungry=Stupid 😋Strategic Planning 📅Bed Sizes 🛏️ Hunger is a strong motivator. This, most of us know. Yet I witnessed this truth at a whole new level this weekend. Wifey Poo and I traveled up to Hannibal, Missourah, for a few days. Hannibal, for you uncultured folks, is the hometown of Mark…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Change 🌀Me, Different 😷Bad Baseball ⚾ I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Most everything in humanity is governed by two intertwined forces. Supply and demand. Scarcity. Whether its the economy or human emotions, everything about us is geared toward responding to these two things. For example, when there…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Double Standards 🦅Birthday Deals 🎁Video Guy 📹 The United States has a problem with hypocrisy. Don’t worry, though; it’s nothing new. It just happens to be glaringly apparent right now. Our revered Founding Fathers got things off on a really bad foot when they penned the lofty statement that all men…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Revolution 🌍Rain 🌧️Refund 💰 By this time tomorrow, I will have completed 48 trips around the sun. Or is it 47 and I’ll be starting my 48th? Whatever. I’ll be 48 years old tomorrow. I have to admit, I’m feeling kinda blah about it. Looking back, this past revolution was busy…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bitchy Mother Nature 🌧️⚡Tech Woes 🖥️Maturation 👦 Overnight storms made for a restless night, as waves of rain and thunder rolled through our section of Missourah. Flash flood warnings pinged my phone sometime in the middle of the night, and by the time I left for my drive to work, eastbound…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Rollercoasters 🎢Sad Puppy 🐶News Roundup 🤖 It’s possible to think a lot of thoughts while plummeting 90 feet at a 90-degree angle while staring up at the sun. This I learned yesterday while at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missourah, with the Core Four, Div, Wifey Poo’s baby sister and baby…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Date Day 🤟🏽Prison Justice 👊Universe Questions 🚀 Wifey Poo and I ended up having more than 12 hours to ourselves yesterday here in the Midwest Redneck Mecca of Branson, Missourah. Boys The Elder and Younger, along with BTE’s lovely girlfriend of nearly three years, and Wifey Poo’s baby sister and family…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩WFH WTF? 🧑💼Rebel Ball ⚾Psych Myth 🧠 As a writer/columnist/blogger/thought-spewer, I always enjoy when I get something out there before anyone else. I dug that when I was a newspaper journalist, and I dig it now. That’s why I’m happy to be hearing national publications and sites like Business Insider starting…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Fahrenheit 🌡️Blindingly White ⬜Alone Time 👴 Muricah is very much a reactionary nation. Much of what we do and who we are is because we were pissed off about the way someone else did things. Monarchy? We’ll have a democracy, thank you very much. The metric system? We’ll measure stuff our…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Tryouts ⚾BBQ Sauce🍖TMNT🐢 There is cause for celebration in the Core Four: Boy The Younger has been drafted. Sadly, we’re not talking about the ongoing Major League Baseball draft. Rather, we’re talking about the sick modern world of Little League baseball. Not to get too “Get off my lawn!” on you,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Growth 💗Dreams 💤Redecorating 🛋️ There are moments in a dad’s life in which he can see the growth of his sons quite clearly. Sometimes that growth is physical. One day, Boy The Elder was a short, stocky little boy and then, boom, he came home from his high school job at…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Burn Pit🔥Alaska Ass🍑Nose Hair🐽 Having a plan is a far different thing from having a plan work out. I’m really good at the former, yet the latter seems to be extremely elusive. Yesterday, my plan was to take the huge pile of chopped-down cedar-tree limbs that have been in my backyard…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Jewel💎First Kiss💋Slow Ahead🐢 Wifey Poo and I are headed out into the sweltering hell that is Missourah this evening to see the woman who, should she knock on my door and say “let’s go,” I am fully empowered to join in the next part of life’s journey. I jest. Sort of.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Parenthood 🚓Alexa 📋Quick-Hitters 👋 Just about every statistic imaginable tells us we shouldn’t have kids — at least, not if we’re concerned about our own happiness, mental health, marriage, career, finances, time or ability to buy a really boss car instead of a freaking minivan. Yet here we are, still a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Lawrence Pfaff Sr. Sucks 🚓Engagement Talk 🌯Quick-Hitters 👋 From what I know of Lawrence H. Pfaff Sr. of Belmont, NY, he was kind of a douche. The 81-year-old man died on June 27. I never met him. Never even heard of him. Until I read his obit. And about that obit?…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Travelling Companion🚓Free Beans 🌯Unfollowed 👋 Brandy Bottone is either stupid or brilliant. Whichever it is, she’s also right. The Texas woman was traveling in the HOV lane — which, for the country folk out there, stands for High Occupancy Vehicle and is reserved for cars with two or more people to…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Slots 🎰Dude Perfect ⚽Bye Bye Facebook? 👋 My mother-in-law (AKA The Judester) is nearly 81 years old and has knee problems that keep her from getting around too well these days. Watching her stand up from a chair is to feel pain yourself. Yet when I walked into the Ameristar casino…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Reflections on Grandma 👵Kids & Death 👨👦👦Don’t Say It 🤫 My grandma died yesterday, four days shy of her 96th birthday. As it goes with people at that age, it wasn’t a surprise. She had been fading for more than a year and, though she still was breathing, that version of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sleepwalking 🧨DnD Gang 🎲Gas Idiots 🛢️ If there were a day-by-day measure of the collective output of workers in these here United States of Amuricah (and for all I know, there is), I would venture to guess that July 5 ain’t our most productive day. I base this on my observations…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Stupid Parade 🧨Math Matters ➗What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Not being a hugely patriotic person at this point in my life, I made no plans to go to any Fourth of July parade this year. It seems mighty foolish to be celebrating freedoms that are eroding right before our eyes, though I…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Alone Time, Girl Time 👩👧Picture Hanger🔨What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Wifey Poo and I found ourselves in an interesting position at home today for a little bit: Alone. Boy The Elder took off for Six Flags with his buds, and Boy The Younger left with a friend and his family (Chicken Owner,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Oil Change 👨🔧Goose Lover🛦Church & State⛪ Based on my history, the last place anyone should ever look for me is underneath a car. Yet that’s where I found myself late this morning, side-by-side with Boy The Elder as he showed me exactly how stupid I’ve been all my life. I’m not…Keep reading