Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Doubting the Minutes

(These are the minutes from our recent all-staff meeting.)

Hey, Bill, can you step into my office this morning for a meeting?

You don't have an office.

Yeah well, meet me in the basement.

The basement is a mess and I don't work well down there anymore.

Alright then, right here at the dining room table.   Bring your coffee.

So... you haven't really written or posted anything for a while.   Are you about ready to get started again?

Dude, I've been busy and the boys are always underfoot and I can't find any big chunks of time to get anything done and it just seems like it doesn't matter and my faith is slipping and I'm full of doubt and...

Deep breath, Bill.   Don't be so defensive.

It's just that I'm afraid you're gonna give me a hard time and use that damn stick and...

What stick!?

The one you poke and prod me with.   The metaphorical one.  The one that's worse than a real stick, the "guilt stick" I call it.

Ah, yeah, it is leaning up against the wall there within arm's reach.  How about I "metaphorically" throw it out the window.   Ooh, I know, I'll fling it through the glass door, that'll liven things up.

You'd be willing to do that?   Then what's this meeting about?

Don't narrow your eyes in suspicion at me, you already look grumpy as fuck all the time anyway.

Screw you and...

And, yes, yes I am willing to do that.


Listen, do you feel guilty about not writing practically the whole summer?

I guess, I mean, I feel like I'm supposed to.   I really didn't have the time, sure, I had a couple hours here and a couple there, I guess I shoulda written then, but, it never seems like I can finish a thought and, this may sound weird, but the constant threat that I might be interrupted really nags on me.  There's nothing worse than having a thought whisper out of your head and be lost forever.

Nothing's lost forever.  If it's a good thought, it'll come back.

I don't have time for that!

Don't shout. What did you do this summer when you weren't writing? Remember, I threw the "guilt stick" out the window. (Don't forget to clean up that glass.)

I dunno, I, uh, cleaned and mowed, cooked and watched the boys and went to the pool and...  stuff.

Yeah, I know that.  It still sounds like you're trying to defend yourself.

Well, you do have a history of being sort of judgmental.

Not today.

Isn't it true that you watched movies late into the night?  Isn't it true that you looked at Facebook a lot?  You spent a lot of time reading pieces on Medium and Aeon and in The Atlantic.   I noticed you playing your guitar more, often late at night on the porch.  I watched you watching baseball games and talking to the one you call Kirby late into the nights, beer in hand, laughing and arguing loudly into the quiet night.   I saw you watching people at the pool and church, wondering about them, figuring them.  I heard you thinking, trying stories out, wishing, questioning, hoping, despairing.

Yeah, I guess you're saying I could have been writing all those times, using my time better.

Actually, Bill, I'm not saying that at all.

You see, I think you were writing.  Watching a movie shows you structure and timing.  Looking at Facebook and people-watching helps you invent characters and learn more about human nature.  Reading, as you know, is absolutely essential to writing.  Baseball games are poetry to you and a late night beer and a long conversation with an old friend is fuel for the soul.  And playing music and singing, well, I can't think of a better teacher, as you've come to understand the music is for you and God and Space and Time and not for others, I've seen you grow and get better, learn.

And trying and wishing and hoping and questioning and despairing?  Is there a better definition of writing, of creating, of being an artist?

Why are you being nice to me?

I was afraid you'd ask that.


Because you know I have to always be honest with you, there's no sense in lying to your other self.


Alright, here's the truth.  I think you're a pretty damn fine writer.   I think you've been writing since you were twelve or so, well before you took pen to paper.  I think the pauses you take from it are essential and I think it is essential that you write.

Yeah, that and a buck-thirty-nine will get me a crappy cup of coffee down the street.


Don't what?

Don't... everything... don't interrupt, don't self-deprecate, don't deny or dilute, don't forget, don't not listen, don't doubt, especially that, don't doubt.

I've heard you on many occasions talk about looking at yourself in the mirror and looking back and being comfortable with your reflection.   Lately, I've seen you looking away, looking down, looking out.  Why do you think that is? 

I'm fat?

You know that's not it.  That's a symptom, a symptom of doubt.

Alright, I'll try harder.   I'm not living up to my potential

What're you in high school?   Again, just doubt.

I'm afraid I'm running out of time.  The gray and the wrinkles and the ticking of the clock make me look away from myself.  How's that?

Better.  But, it's doubt again.

How'd'ya figure?

You're doubting what is yet to come. We're not aloud to do that.

Why not?

Because that's the business of Faith.


Dude, doubt is the absence of Hope.  You know that, and, frankly, you're better than that.   I know your hope.  I know that, through the grumpiness and shoulder pain, through the abysmal state of politics, through the hurt and violence that seems unending, through all of that, you have hope.  You've just forgotten it, no, misplaced it.

One of the things I admire most about what you've done with your writing here, is that you've tried to keep the focus on that hope.  Sure, you've gone astray at times, who doesn't?  But, the words we chose so long ago to echo through these pages - Hope, Faith, Integrity, Honor, Cherish, Love - have - echoed that is.

You've done right by your hope, you've honored and cherished it.  Do you know why?

'cause I had to.


For them.


Nick and Zack.

Are you ready to get back to work now?

Yes, I think so.

I'm gonna go get the stick...

Wait, before you do, can I ask you something, since you're being nice and all?

Alright, what?

What should I do about the time thing?  You know, how time feels like an enemy, how not only do there not seem to be enough hours but how quickly they seem to go?  How I'm afraid of it?  How, well, how it feels like closing time?  And I've seen a lot of those.

Well, I guess it time to "start livin' like Summer's over".

Boy that's a good tune, isn't it?

It sure is, and good advice, too.

But, what of the things I was going to do today.  The cleaning and tending and errands and, the homemaking and all.  I mean, really, I've got a bunch of shit to do...

Screw it.

But when will I do it, how'll it get done?   This is what you never seem to understand.   I have responsibilities.  Fridges don't fill themselves, I don't have a goat for the lawn, laundry is not a self-fulfilling prophecy, these things take time!

You're responsibility is to your hope.

That doesn't even mean anything!

Don't get all riled up.  Is there milk?


Well done.  Is the lawn mowed now?

Yes, but...

Good on you.  Is the laundry done?  Is the floor relatively free of debris?  Are the plants watered?

Well, yes...

So, you're good.  So what've you done this morning?  You've been working on this and you played a couple of tunes on the old Alvarez and drank too much coffee.   That speaks more to your hope than housework and errands.   Are you willing to say that running the old Dyson is more important than leaving some words about doubt and fear and faith and, well, hope, here?  For Nick and Zack and Marci and Mom and a few others and potentially many more?

Well, no, I guess not. It's just that I feel like I've wasted and squandered and dreamed away so many hours that now Time is making me pay, speeding up, shortening, pounding... winning.

This is not time wasted:
Dude, Time is not the enemy.   It is not your nemesis, your rival.  It is not the black to your white nor is it the wrong to your right.

Time is your ally.  Time is your friend.  Time nurtured your talents and fruited your hope.  You rode the turtle back of time to get to this place you are now.  None of it is or has been wasted.   Time doesn't waste itself. It doesn't wish it was other than it is.  It doesn't hurry or dawdle.  It is with you.

"...the turtle back of time...?"

Yeah, sorry.  You’re the wordsmith, fix it.

I secretly like it.

You see, everything right now was given you by time.  Every sentence, every word.

You, really, given to you.  You do all the heavy thinking, you walk all the long paths I don't think there's time for, you willingly let go, or worse, hold onto, thoughts that scare me or make me doubt, knowing, as you said, that the good ones will come back or maybe just did.  You're the one who cries on the porch because a song was so perfect, a thought so joyful, a memory so hard.

Yes, that's true.

But you said I was the wordsmith, that the words and sentences were given to me.


I don't get it...

Well, I'm not very good with words, and all, but... I'll try.

The dreaming and the crying and the shouting; the wildness, the tenderness, the memories; the feelings and the intensity of it all; the sweetness and the bitterness of memory and hope, well, they are enough for me.  But, you, you put it down somewhere.  I am not brave enough to do that, I haven't the will, my hope is not strong enough.

To put the feelings I have down, to put words to them, to write row after row of letters and punctuation marks, to codify it, make sense of it... it just seems, impossible.  It's like alchemy to me, shaping my scattered and battered mess of a mind into something that makes sense.  How, well, brave you are.


Yes, that's what you said, "brave."

I didn't say it, you did.

Dude, we all know you do it all, every damn word, including these.  I'm just flattered that you think to give me a voice now and again, a lot of folks wouldn't.

For what it's worth... well, your job is harder.

Will you look at the time?

Really, after all this...

Yep, time to wrap it up. You said you wanted this by this afternoon and, well, is fifteen after noon, so...

Just turn it in when it's done.

Right, thanks.

There's one more thing.


Why don't you go look in the mirror.  I'll wait...



Yes, better.  Thanks, Other-one-me.

Thank you, Bill.   I'm just gonna go get my stick out of the yard.

Why don't you just leave it in the yard?

It's the only power I have.   Don't forget to clean up the glass.  Peace out.



Peace to you too, let's meet on the porch soon.

Don't forget the beer.

And thanks to you for sitting with me on the porch today.  I hope to get into a better rhythm around here, but, I've promised that before.


(Should you wonder more about "Other-one-me" there is a label up towards the top that will direct you to some of our previous, uh, conversations.  The most recent is first so you'll need to jump back to see the first time he interrupted me.  Make sense?  He also admins the "ihiwat" FB page.)


  1. I've missed you!!

    1. Thanks, I've missed you too. You're always very kind.

  2. I feel like I have this dialog... OFTEN!

    1. I know many of us have these same feelings but don't have your gift of gathering all the letters, words and commas to say it so beautifully. Keep writing.