🧩 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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Our boys are not “stuff” kids. We learned this early on, when Boy The Elder was but a wee little lad and we did what normal first-time parents do: Buy him a ton of what I call KidShit for Christmas. The KidShit went largely untouched. BTE, we learned, was more of an “experiences” kid. He…Keep reading
Tonight was date night for me and Wifey Poo. We swung by Stone Summit Steak & Seafood for a drink — she, a fruity white wine; me, a Woodford Reserve, neat — and then went to see Dear Evan Hansen. I’d wanted to catch it back when it was on the stage and never had.…Keep reading
One of the interesting truths about this whole “living” thing is that we make so many important decisions before we know what the hell we’re doing. For example, I chose my career path the same year I got my driver’s license. I had absolutely no concept of a mortgage and office politics and exactly how…Keep reading
I have seen in person how protective a mother grizzly bear can be of her cubs. The Fam was on a two-week Alaska vacation between my seventh- and eighth-grade years, a trip on which my voice changed and I enjoyed the company of twin 14-year-old sisters from Alabama, which is a story for another day.…Keep reading
I spent the morning in my office at work ensconced in my gray shirt-jack. If you don’t know what a shirt-jack is, that’s OK. I didn’t either until I found it on Amazon a few years ago while searching for something that wasn’t quite a sweatshirt but not quite a jacket to wear around the…Keep reading
Today was all about my father-in-law, Marvin. FIL died in November following complications from heart surgery and COVID. Wifey Poo and the sisters-in-law organized an ice cream social and issued an open invitation to the family and FIL’s friends. When we set the date for late September, the thought was that we’d be past the…Keep reading
The term “hot as balls” definitely applied to today, though I don’t know exactly what it means. It was parents weekend at Mizzou, so we traveled yesterday evening to see Boy The Elder and attend a football game today in which the Tigers took on the mighty Southeast Missouri State Somethingorothers. The game itself was…Keep reading
Me this morning, in GIF form: Folks, I try. I really do. But I’m worn thin. I got up and decided before starting a work-from-home day that I would attach the TV I just brought over from Old House to the new stand I bought. Easy-peasy. Hooked the wires up and turned it on. And…Keep reading
In high school, I was friends with a girl named Denise. She and I were both free-spirited creative types who liked to write. For a time, we served as co-presidents of the formed-by-us creative writing club, and we even went on a date (that didn’t work out too well). Denise was and is a no-bullshit…Keep reading
Today was a work-from-home day, filled with the excitement of having my new office location set up. Well, sort of set up. For the past month, I have been relegated to the basement because what is to be my Mancave was jam-packed with the detritus from New Home’s previous occupants, my in-laws. But over the…Keep reading
The score was 54-0 when I decided I would coach Boy The Younger’s basketball team the next season. After all, there wasn’t much room for me to do any worse. Still, this was a bold decision, considering the entirety of my team basketball experience came in one 3-4 season as a high school freshman on…Keep reading
My “awake” part of this 24-hour spin on Mother Earth’s axis began in the wee hours of the morning when I came to consciousness screaming — scaring the crap out of Wifey Poo in the process — because evidently calf cramps are a thing for middle aged men. How Do You Cheer in Cross Country?…Keep reading
I’m what you call an ambivert. This doesn’t mean I eat both plants and animals, though I do. Rather, it means — among other things — that I’m somewhere in the middle between an introvert and an extrovert. Sometimes I refuel by getting away from people and enjoying my solitude. Sometimes I refuel by soaking…Keep reading
I spent a half-hour today renewing my hatred for Robert Gaskins. Don’t know who Robert Gaskins is? I wish I didn’t, too. Robert Gaskins is the principle inventor of PowerPoint. He sold his little tool of the devil to Microsoft in 1987. QAnon Crazies love to point the finger at Bill Gates and say he’s…Keep reading
I stopped at the cleaners on my way home from work to pick up a pair of khaki pants that had an unfortunate run-in with honey a few weeks back. As I stepped through the door, a middle-aged woman named Karen (I’m assuming, anyway) was finishing up berating the lone employee. It had something to…Keep reading
You’re a Wizard, Harry When the Great Awakening of Societal Selfishness began in 2020, Wifey-Poo, Boy The Younger and I began reading the Harry Potter books out loud to help pass quarantine time in a way that didn’t involve baking bread or killing each other. It took more than a year, but we finished the…Keep reading
Kitchen Completed It is laughable even to me that I find myself, at age 47, really good at organizing stuff. I am the grizzled aging man with more salt than pepper in his beard who at a different stage of life had to bulldoze a path through dirty clothes, random school stuff and assorted other…Keep reading
Sometimes Things Be That Way There are some days that, when night falls and you take stock of all that happened, you just say — or at least think — “Well good goddamn. What the fuck was that all about?” Today has been such a day. I look back at the waking hours and realize…Keep reading
I’ll Drink to That Since my departure from newspapers in 2009, I’ve worked for very conservative not-for-profit organizations. An electric cooperative. A Lutheran benefits provider. A pediatric orthopedic hospital. None ever encouraged me to post photos on our social media of employees drinking during the workday. But that happened to me today following our champagne-tasting…Keep reading
An Impressive K Boy the Younger got shelled on the pitcher’s mound last night. As a former pitcher myself, I know these things sometime happen. No one squared up on any pitch he threw. They just hit it where his guys weren’t. And this should happen to him. He’s playing up an age group and…Keep reading
I Parent Like China It pleased me a great deal to share with Boy The Younger this morning that the rules he lives under are similar to those imposed on kids by the Chinese government. Our Communist Owners recently banned whippersnappers younger than 18 from playing online video games on school nights and allow them…Keep reading
Dying Less I think we can all agree that it’s not exactly a good thing to stop breathing more than 53 times an hour while we’re sleeping, yes? OK, good. There’s at least one thing that isn’t divisive in this country right now. When I had my first sleep study in February, I was not…Keep reading
Believing in Myself So here’s the thing: I have amazing intuition. Believe what you want about humans having only five senses. We don’t. We have more. And for me, one of my strongest senses is my gut feelings about what to do and not to do. I’ve had this ability since I was a small…Keep reading
Road Show Coming to you live from somewhere in the Ozarks, where I’m hoping not to hear banjos and have some inbred redneck hillbilly make me squeal for him. Wifey-Poo and I are in the middle of a weekend getaway. It has been a long while since we’ve had an extended period of time to…Keep reading
And the Thunder Rolls My desk at my new office faces out to a busy street – Manchester Avenue – and has a floor-to-ceiling window. I’m absolutely loving it. At my previous job, my desk was tucked away in a corner behind a cube. I called it “My Hovel.” It was a good place to…Keep reading
Namaste, yo I found myself tonight in a state somewhere between awake and asleep, lying on a yoga mat with 40 pounds of sandbags on my shoulders and chest in a dimly lit studio as soft music tinged by rain sounds caressed my ears. I love this state, and I’ve only found it through meditation…Keep reading
Sell This House Our house hit the market today, which is to say the Great Gods of Google allowed for it to be found by Realtors and anyone else who happens to have a larger-than-average nosy bone. Our Realtor said we could share it with our friends and family. I was trying to think of…Keep reading
Stages of Life Over the years, I’ve found tremendous comfort in the stability of my in-law family, especially with my sisters-in-law and, as time has progressed, their husbands. My own family is pocked by constant drama. It took me a long time to recognize exactly how not-typical my own family is and to realize that…Keep reading
Wakey Wakey My day started off with a bag-full of my blood being drained, filled with ozone and then dripped back into my while I listened to a cancer patient banter about QAnon insanity as if it were gospel with the nurse in charge of my treatment. How was your morning? So Long, Sonny Boy…Keep reading
Interesting Things You Say to Your Spouse “Please don’t get killed by anyone using a sharp object. I don’t want to go to prison for the rest of my life.” This sentence that I said to Wifey-Poo this morning makes sense if you have a spouse who loves murder podcasts and TV shows. My hands…Keep reading
Welcome to the World of Real Estate Starting a new job today was a welcome relief from the drudgery of moving. After getting my ass kicked yesterday in the Great Fridge Swap, I welcomed the opportunity to use my brain instead of whatever physical power I might have left. This is the first time I’m…Keep reading