My hairshirt and the hope for forgiveness.


“Yet this is the watch by night. Let us all accept new strength, and real tenderness. And at dawn, armed with glowing patience, we will enter the cities of glory.”
– Arthur Rimbaud –

Some days are better than others. Sometimes I feel like I have turned from the light to run right back into the dark. And the smell of death and goodbye becomes so strong that I cannot be aware of anything else. Like the taste of gun oil. I know this fight is mine. But sometimes I want to cast it off, like clichéd poetic chains, a well-worn literary device. The pain and sadness of my days just are too much. I start to feel like any joy or any peace I experience is just a brief reprieve from the truth of my life. I am meant to hurt. Like a boxer between rounds. I collapse into the corner and hear the noise of voices telling me how to go into the next round. But when the bell rings it is me alone standing against the battering and blows. No prayer or distraction will change the truth that each hook, upper cut and combination hurts and leaves me rocking back on my heels.

Boy I can really let loose with some high fallutin’ words when I want. I guess what I am trying to say is I am hurting. I am broken. I seem to feel these things so damned acutely like riding in a car with bad shocks, the slightest bump throws me into these bouncing and careening fits. It ain’t manly and I sometimes feel like a loser. Ha! Sometimes. Man I never feel much else. Ugly, useless and rejected. I think my big change has simply been that I don’t feel sorry for myself so much anymore. I just have no feeling of value. You know these feelings are so deep that I sometimes think about just throwing myself away, writing myself off. But then I consider the sorry bastard who would find me or the one who had to clean up the mess. And I figure that I can’t really impose that on anyone.

Can you believe I do actually feel better about life though. A year ago all I thought about was dying. Getting out. Two years ago this time I was actually hospitalized because people were scared I really was going to commit suicide. My father’s death hit me that hard. And to be honest I had to make a real and stern effort not to kill myself. I wanted to follow him out. I got so bad I had written notes just in case the impulse was too much just once and I did do something. Fuck I am pathetic. But you know even the bravest soldier in the throes of a terrible wound will turn to his buddy in the foxhole and in a moment of delirious agony say “Come on Joe just fucking shoot me, I can’t take it!”

Today I don’t feel that all the time. But I still do on a regular basis. And you know if you can judge me by that than that may be your problem more than mine. I am just honest enough to say so. I am not going to hide who I am or what I feel. This isn’t some angsty teenager bullshit. It’s real. And I get strength from pulling these cursed skeletons from the closet and throwing their bones into the yard. Let the world know. I am not the best person there is. But I am honest and I am brave enough to do that.

Yesterday I gave my daughter back to her mother. And it’s not getting any easier to say goodbye. In fact as she gets older and becomes more her own little person it gets harder. Though in the first few weeks after I left the house when I’d give her back I would literally sit on the curb and watch her mother drive away with her and sob. But now it hurts in a deeper place. Full of regret and guilt. I feel like I fucked up. I made a mess of something I swore I would do right. I swore just this one thing in my life I would get it right. And my stupid ass couldn’t even do it right for a year. You see now why I feel so rotten? I blew it before the game even started. Like a quarterback who falls down before the first huddle.

I feel like if I were a better man and kinder and more determined I could have made it work with Ruby’s mom. I could have held the family together. But like everything else I try it seems to have gotten away from me. I couldn’t do it.

Ruby is so much like me and so much the real live proof that if I had been given the chance, the love and the brave support I would have been something so much more. I tell her I love her and she tightly hugs me and whispers “I love you too daddy, ever and ever.” and I kiss her and she giggles. I dance with her and she smiles. I let her be free in her heart and she glows. People see it too. Strangers are always watching or commenting. People see this beautiful light move through the world and are drawn to it and want to share in it. Even people I know or people in places we go, I hear people say “Oh here is Ruby, I heard about her”. She is my miracle and my star. And when she comes over to me just to hug my arm or hold my hand I feel so honoured. So blessed. And when she says “Love you my daddy” I feel humbled and gifted.

What an amazing human being she is. And what an amazing woman she will become.

But because I failed, I have to say goodbye to her. I have to guess at what she is doing. I can’t see her each day as she grows. Because I am this broken animal/machine I cannot truly share in everything. And the worst part is I have to watch her leave. Something I thought in the beginning I’d have at least twenty years to prepare myself for. But instead I have to do it on a weekly basis. It’s my fault, it’s my stupid self and my mistakes that cause this. And my guilt over the emotional hurt and confusion it must cause her is almost unbearable sometimes.

I am sorry. This post is so dreary. But this is my truth today. And I won’t hide it. There are enough people who smile instead of scream or who show nothing in the name of some ridiculous code of modesty or manliness. Fuck that. I am me and I am here.

Send me love today. I need it I think. This is the watch by night after all.

Be well.

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7 responses

  1. amanda

    I’d like to offer you this: The girls who grow up visiting their Daddys very often grow up to be better women because of it. We are stronger, more independent and we value love. It sounds as if you have helped to bring a very bright old soul into this world, but just remember, SHE chose YOU.

    November 17, 2009 at 10:57 am

    • Thank you. If she can find all that because I am there as much as I possibly can be then it is worth the sadness and goodbyes.

      November 17, 2009 at 10:59 am

  2. amanda

    I hope I didn’t sound trite, or worse. And I am certainly not belittling your feelings. I just wanted to offer a word of encouragement. You asked that people send you love today, I’ll send thoughts of comfort instead.

    November 17, 2009 at 11:11 am

    • Nah not trite at all. I think maybe I am a little selfish, I want to have more than just frequent visits. I want her here all the time.

      Of course I couldn’t afford it. I am unemployed right now and am struggling just to have the visits. I am hustling to get groceries for her next visit even now.

      So in a way it is a blessing I guess.

      November 17, 2009 at 11:29 am

  3. “And I get strength from pulling these cursed skeletons from the closet and throwing their bones into the yard.”

    I can certainly understand that. And you are brave for it. And I am inspired by that.

    Left foot. Right foot. Repeat.

    Sometimes you just need someone else to remind you of it.

    November 17, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    • Thank you. I guess you’re right. No matter that I don’t feel so brave.

      November 17, 2009 at 4:34 pm

  4. Wow, I teared up towards the end! I remember those years of my young life with my father. My dad worked a lot, but those times when he was home were very precious, very special. Somehow I always thought I was his favorite. Whatever time I had with him was precious. Just for her to know you’re proud of her and love her is huge. I’m so sorry for you. I love daddy and always will, just because of what he is for me. Wow, I didn’t know it was mutual, your feelings really come through strong, that’s so cool… thanks…

    November 21, 2009 at 10:49 pm

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