🧩 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 🧩Take Me Away🛀Period Tracker🩸Choose Wisely💒 Arriving for the first day at a new job is kind of like showing up in a new town after throwing away your old identity. It’s a blank slate, and you can be anyone you’d like to be. Want to go by a different name? Go…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Racist Billboard🐲Roe Silence😶Guest Bulldog🐶 Driving out of rural northern Arkansas today to return home after several days in a cabin in the boonies, I passed a billboard that was startling, to say the least. It starts off innocently enough with a very true statement: “It’s not racist to 💗 people.” I…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Uranus Sleeper🔭Cabin Rules🩲Taco Seasoning🌮 What does Cuba, Uranus, Sleeper, Doolittle and a billboard saying “If we don’t return to 2 Chronicles, than were finished” have in common? They all were on the route from my Humble Rural Missourah Home to the cabin in the boonies of Arkansas that is my home…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Check Engine 🚗Declined 🥡Murder Suspect 🔪 Every once in awhile, life throws you a pleasant surprise that seems to even the score a bit. Wifey Poo’s car is up for an emissions inspection this year. Her “check engine” light has been going on and off for a year or so, and…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩River Thoughts 🛶Little Annoyances 😠Birthday Boy 🎂 I didn’t know what a float trip was until I met Wifey Poo. I’m not even sure today that the term “float trip” is used outside Missourah. But if you’re a Missourahn, when someone says, “Wanna go on a float trip?” you know a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩My Boys 👨👦👦Work Drinking🥃Feeling Good 😎 I’ve understood since seventh-grade science class how a child is a somewhat random and yet somewhat traceable mish-mash of his parents and their parents and their parents ad infinitum. It’s so cool to see that play out with my own boys. Boy The Elder is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩The Stinger 🦂Inflation 🎈Housing Costs 🏘️ There’s something quite amazing about witnessing a human dinosaur be thrown through a stack of four tables. That was just one of the scenes from last night as Boys The Elder & Younger and I attended AEW Dynamite and Rampage. The biggest news from the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Shitty Goodbye 💩Bald Is Beautiful 👨🦲Housing Market 🏘️ It’s official: My duty ensuring the continued breathing of roughly 20 chickens for Wifey Poo’s and Boy The Younger’s vacationing friends is over. Success! All birds were present and accounted for this morning, as I said goodbye to my new friends — Gertrude,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩CrytpoStupidity ₿Coffee Seltzer ☕Chicken Update🐓 I like to make fun of Matt Damon. I know this comes from a place of deep-seated insecurity because Matt Damon is, well, Matt Damon and I am not. Yet it’s fun to make fun of Matt Damon, precisely because he is Matt Damon — all…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Meatloaf🦎Ugly Fish🐟Chicken Update🐓 You can buy insurance for many things. Your car. Your home. Your boat. Your health. Your eyes, teeth or brain (which, for some reason, is separate from your health). And now, according to a Missourah court, you can buy insurance that pays you if you contract a sexually…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Kentucky Fried Idiot 🍗Johnny Boy Marketing✏️Airplanes!🛦🛦🛦🛦🛦 There’s a scene in the 1979 film Rocky II in which the titular character (sorry, I’ve always wanted to write that …) is tasked by his trainer Mickey with chasing a chicken. Rocky was pummeled into oblivion — though somehow managed to eek out a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Rogue Golfers 🐝Nay Voters🐟Chicken Day🥤 Golfers are known as being a genial sort. Whereas a basketball player could maul an opponent driving the lane, leaving him bloody and unconscious, and still complain about the foul called on him, golfers actually call fouls on themselves! Yet the world of professional golf is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bees Suck 🐝Bees As Fish🐟Cup O’ Pee🥤 I hate bees. Yes, I know they’re somehow the lynchpin on which our species’ survival will turn, but seriously, if we’re so fragile that we’re depending on a stinging invertebrate to keep us going, well, perhaps we’re not really so special after all. My…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Poultry Responsibilities 🐔Fine Dining🥩Crappy Year For Music🎵 I am many things. I am a husband, a father, a marketing guy, a storyteller, a jokester, a damn good parallel parker and a guy who played on a basketball team that lost 135-3. What I am not is a farmer. I left my…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩NASCAR President ₿Creepy Coffee☕Chef BTE 🍖 We all know that just about every politician at any level is, in some way, bought and paid for, right? I mean, perhaps your local school board representative isn’t (though she might be owned by her kid), but when you reach the state and national…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Dessert, Not Desert 🍨Happy Belated Birthday, McLovin 🎁Men Kissing 🏳️🌈 I started out my career in the news business and quickly learned that people suck. I mean, back in the mid-1990s, the internet was just becoming a thing — we even capitalized it … Internet … and wrote “e-mail” instead of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩New Job🧑💼Happy Times🤗Small World ⚾ Buckle up. It’s story time. Today I made a reservation for Ruth’s Chris steakhouse on Sunday for me, Wifey Poo and Boys The Elder and Younger. The Core Four is getting dressed up. Keep in mind, we are not Ruth’s Chris people. It’s not that we…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Pants on the Ground👖Pimp Slap✋Pissin’ in the Wind🌬️ I had occasion to wear a suit yesterday. This was notable because I evidently hadn’t worn said suit in about a year. Over those 365 days, I’ve lost roughly 30 pounds. Thus, I showed up to the engagement necessitating a suit looking like…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Chainsaws Suck🪓Early Arrival✈️Shrimp on the Barbie🦐 I awoke bright and early this morning, kissed Wifey Poo on the forehead and went outside ready to put chainsaw to felled tree. I live far enough out in the country that crankin’ up a chainsaw at 6:30 a.m. on a holiday morning isn’t a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Racin’🏎️Heat☀️Gorilla Guy🦍 When I was a small boy, the Indianapolis 500 was must-see TV. I’m not sure exactly how it started, but it must have been around 1978 — when I was a 4-year-old boy who loved Matchbox cars and big wrecks. It was around that time that Pops brought home…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩My Fullback 🚑Sicky Poo 🤒Helium Shortage 🎈 I don’t get paid anywhere close to enough to deal with St. Louis traffic when it rains. Not that St. Louis drivers are uniquely bad. I would imagine large swaths of drivers in other cities react just as poorly to the presence of moisture…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Taking Toys Away 🔫Checked Out ✈️Windsurfing Kid 🌬️ Many moons ago, I had a toy rubber snake. That my parents would have allowed such a purchase is shocking, given that Mother Dearest was terrified of anything remotely reptilian and Sister wasn’t that far behind. Yet there, in the depths of my…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Shut Up🤫Waffle House 🧇Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes🤗 So here’s something I don’t quite understand: Why is anyone, especially our political leaders, expressing “shock” over what happened in Texas yesterday. Dude … the sun rose yesterday. The sun has risen every single freaking day for the course of humanity. The sun will rise tomorrow. That’s…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Subway Obsession😞Guard Dog 🐶Chainsaw John🪓 Every child is peculiar in his or her own way. It’s an early indication we all should recognize that none of us is normal. We’re all weird. And that’s OK. Boy The Younger has always had his peculiarities. As a small child, he was fascinated with…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Musical History🎹Why Write? 🖊️Loser Level😔 We finally have only one piano in our house! Now, don’t get to thinking we’re this uber-musical family. We’re not. Wifey Poo, from what I hear, was a helluva clarinetist back in her day and did, indeed, take piano lessons. Boy The Elder is really good…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Beyond Tired😫Busting Ass 🐝Covid Sadness😔 Everything is knowable. When I look back at the pace of change in my life, I think that’s the biggest difference between my life as a child and my life as an adult. Back then, if you wondered something, you just … wondered it. I mean,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sad Anniversary😞My Back! 😳Dachau😭 Thirty-five years ago today, my first grandparent died. Grandpa was my favorite grandparent, and in looking back, I think it was because of his willingness to join my world. Grandpa played games with me endlessly. He taught me how to play rummy. He would spend hours on…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bye-Bye BTE✈️Rival Riot Rumble 🤼♂️Old Man John🤕 In a few hours, Boy The Elder will board a plane headed for Germany. He just completed his sophomore year at Mizzou, and now he’s going overseas for a two-week study-abroad session in which he’ll allegedly learn more about food science and fermentation and…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Double-U🧸Big Sis 🦸♀️Preggo Healer 🤰 Anyone remember Speak & Spell? If you’ve seen E.T., you’ve seen it before. Don’t know why, but I was thinking about this toy the other day. For some reason, spelling wasn’t school if you had one of these things to play with. I can still hear…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Heat Wave🥵Lawn Mowing🚜Last Podcast 🎙️ It’s hotter than balls outside in my section of Missourah, and I’m not happy about it. I am not a hot-weather person. I hate heat. I sweat easily. I turn red even easier. Having a bald head does not match well with sun exposure. And has…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Friends😔What To Do?🙋Creepy Dolls 🎎 Yesterday was a rough day. It’s one thing to be a person with essentially no friends. It’s another thing altogether to not be friends with yourself. That’s where I was yesterday — all up in my head and imagining the worst was about to happen in…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Losing Money 🥊The Best F’N Mom Ever👩Heat 🥵 Wifey Poo and I took our weekly date Saturday and went to the city made famous in the original National Lampoon’s Vacation movie: East St. Louis. No, East St. Louis isn’t in Missouri and no, it’s not a popular data destination, but what…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩One Long Sentence 🖊️Birthday Boy🎂Wine & Chocolate 🍷🍫 I remember being a kid and wanting to be an adult. I wanted to drive and have a girlfriend and be able to do whatever it was that I wanted to do, not what someone else said I should do. And now, here…Keep reading