So I know some of you are wondering what it’s like to start a book. Well; I guess this season is a good example of what really happens to any starting author! It’s been a rough few months; transitioning, looking for new work, but it’s interesting: desperation makes for good writing sometimes. My tip of the day would be for whoever’s been reading ‘The Boatyard’ and also is aspiring to become a published author is to recognize how you feel during difficult times when there is no motivation to continue writing; when you feel nobody is really reading your posts anyways, or maybe if life is difficult, everything seems to lose its flavor, and your will to want to do anything artistic starts to drift away. Maybe that’s how you feel as I have lately. I guess my tip of the day (as one of my characters in ‘Dogg Daze’ is: write as if you were living in a perfect world, and nothing was hindering your muse (whether to right something joyous and uplifting or just dark and earnest), it does not matter what you write. Keep creating the story and try to pen your feelings in place. So without further ado, here’s the next chapter completed of my book:
Chapter 15: Peter’s Dad
“So this whole time when you say I came full circle, and it took me ten years to come out of the wilderness, you didn’t necessarily mean anything bad by that?”
“That the last ten years of my own personal growth in life were a waste of time, just because I wasn’t necessarily settling in a career; chasing financial stability?”
Peter had shown up to his parents in Long Island for the holidays. After a tense evening dinner where the whole family were forced to walk on eggshells around one of their oversensitive aunts while discussing every topic, the family had retired to the basement for a movie. Peter ended up taking an evening walk with his Dad. Typical father son walk: nothing but him and his Dad venting out about their frustrations on one another. Every year it was the same thing: his Dad expressing his disappointment without directly saying it, and Peter muttering out indifferent replies to his Dad’s small talk. But among other heavy handed topics, Peter finally brought up the point that these gatherings were always awkward because people in this family were never real with each other.
“Not like we are right now. But at least we’re making progress” he growled. Peter’s father said nothing, but he had that look on his face: the one he made whenever they were driving together and was about to crank up the radio just so he didn’t have to hear his son babble some inane diatribe on him about the family. Once they reached the clearing of trees right in front of the roundabout near their house, it was around that point that his Dad said something rather unfortunate, and soon they were in the living room trying to sort out what his Dad had meant by that remark.
“My God, Dad, you could have explained it ten freaking years ago! This whole time I lived in regret: feeling completely insignificant — like I always disappointed everyone — like nothing I ever did was good enough. You have any idea what that fucking feels like, having to justify your existence to your own family?”
“Watch your language” his Dad corrected him. He seemed more concerned about protocol than trying to understand his son’s true feelings.
“You know how hard enough it is having to measure up to society?” Peter continued while taking no notice of the reprimand.
“A society that spins desperately like an insane rodent on its own hamster wheel but doesn’t even know why it does anything?” Peter’s Dad replied. He was always melodramatic – when he wanted to be.
“Exactly! Why the hell didn’t you tell me any of these things?”
“That’s all I wanted. For you to be happy.”
Really; after all these years. Actually, this was the first time he had ever heard his Dad literally utter these words. But it was too late now. Peter was really confused. “Why did it take you this long to tell me these things? Don’t you think it would have been useful to know this years ago? Then we wouldn’t have been so upset with this dynamic. Unspoken words not explained just leaves me to assume things in my own head: Have you any idea how inefficient that is?”
For a minute, his Dad was truly at a loss of words. “Of course I do” he said finally. “You’re forgetting we have the same relatives. And half the problems your relatives on your mother’s side have with each other is because they don’t try to reason together.”
“Exactly! They give each other the cold shoulder because they let their egos get in the way.”
“Yeah” said Peter. “My friend Michelle always says that, but it really does make sense.”
“That’s probably true” his Dad agreed. “But you have an ego too.”
“Well if that’s true, then why the hell do you agree with following this stupid tradition of fake family gatherings?” Peter replied irritably. He took notice of his Dad’s last accusation. He felt like he was on a role, and also felt he was on a breakthrough. “Look: you just acknowledged what’s so messed up with the family. But everyone is too chicken to really say something.”
The look on his Dad’s face remained addled. “I don’t understand where you’re going with any of this” he told Peter.
Peter was hurt. And still really confused. But to hell with that: this time, he wasn’t going to let his Dad’s callous insensitivity disguised as lovable obliviousness crush his spirits. He had wasted too many years feeling like death just because of mere words. Too long he had let himself get hurt from the lack of compassion that people he loved would accidently dish out on him. It had finally dawned on him that they meant well, but they just weren’t perfect. And thus, all that mattered to him, he concluded, were relationships with people who sincerely chased the idea of self-improvement. It had been a bittersweet process, and in the last several years, he felt he was usually misunderstood. But it didn’t matter anymore. He could see the existential prize ahead in his mind: the confusion that had always plagued him was finally starting to fade away, and he be damned if anything was going to get in the way of that inner peace.
Peter closed his eyes and took a deep breath, and when he opened them, his Dad was still there, sitting on the couch – with that oblivious look in his eyes as always, and with a slight look of unhappiness at the same time. If only there were such things as parallel universes where everything was the opposite of this – emotionally speaking.
After a few moments, his Dad, not knowing what else to do, nervously grabbed the paper and continued to read it: covering his line of sight so he wouldn’t have to see his son starting at him with that look of pain on his face. While his Dad so callously ignored him, Peter studied the man. Soon he chuckled to himself at the trick of his own mistake. So what if it’s like this? If his own Dad came across as an insensitive bastard, just because he didn’t word things perfectly for Peter to cognitively process, at least it wasn’t so bad anymore. Peter knew how to surf through this matrix of confusion. He only needed to embrace the fact that reality was hardly ever the way his senses immediately perceived things to be. His astrophysics background and prestigious credentials had taught him this at the very least. “Detach yourself from the immediate, and focus on the bigger picture” he reminded himself. As his Dad continued to flip the pages of the newspaper, there it came again to him: a higher level of inner peace: “You don’t have to live in uncomfortable aloofness like the others” he thought to himself. “You are free. You need not fear anything, you see spirit above mere semantics: you see through the trick.”
His family may have been nuts half the time, but he didn’t have to fall into these existential traps. Not when the rest of his ridiculous family wouldn’t speak to each other for years because they couldn’t fathom this axiom of truth. Still, as he studied his Dad, he found it so hard to fight the frustration welling up inside of him: Peter, in his own mind, didn’t really want to argue about the stupid idiosyncrasies of this family. Rather, he really wanted to share with his Dad this secret he had discovered about life: that he had finally realized how his own brain betrays him this whole time, and so much of his anxiety and depression came from the reality of letting the spirit of disappointment hurt him so much. As his oblivious Dad sat on the couch, not sure what exactly to say to his son, Peter wanted to share with him how finally it had dawned on him how all this was ok; that nobody in the life really owed him anything. That his own depression wasn’t really his families’ fault, even if they were callous jerks. And no matter how much he wanted those he loved around them to be perfect, none of these goobers were ever perfect. He wanted to share with him how if people treated him nicely on any given day, he considered it a lucky day. But there was no point letting his mental health fall apart. He had made it his new life goal to rebuild his brain until it could handle any callous adversity, just as long as whatever anyone ever dished out to him brought him closer to some ultimate truth. So if he was going to waste away the rest of his life waiting for some magical group of friends, family or perfect love to save him from his existential pain, he was wasting his time. With that reminder, he calmed his mind and looked at his Dad comfortably.
There sat his Dad on that favorite couch of his –still. More newspapers remained sprawled out on the side of it – more biased information about the world that Peter swore made his own pop even more oblivious to what really mattered in life every passing year. “Shit, this is getting difficult”; Peter’s darker side was winning him over. He loathed his Dad’s rituals: here was this successful suburbanite who considered himself a born again Christian — that spent most of his energy oblivious to the real emotional cues of others. He thought about this man in front of him: his Dad was a nice enough guy and never really got mad at anyone. And maybe it was through years of getting bullied by Peter’s uncles, and even Peter’s own mom sometimes about the smallest things, but Peter’s Dad had learned to tune out anything that was inconvenient. Between that and the material comforts he had amassed all around himself that distracted him from deeper existential mysteries, the soft life had sort of ruined his Dad. Consequently, before him sat a man who was oblivious to his son’s feelings, and didn’t once ever know what made his son tick. In his own way, he really was the incarnation of complete lack of sensitivity to other’s feelings. Peter could see the irony of that feeling rising within himself, but in a different form. Finally, it just came out: “So when you said just now that it took ten years for me to get out of the wilderness, now that I’m a sort of successful astro-physicist, you weren’t really implying I had wasted ten years of my life trying to find myself.”
“That’s right” said his Dad indifferently, his face remained shielded by the giant newspaper.
“That is, before I got respectable” Peter continued. “You’re telling me that you didn’t mean what you said in a mean-spirited way.”
“No, I didn’t actually.”
Peter paused with some confusion. “Well, couldn’t you have come up with a better way to say what you wanted to say? I mean, I am to understand that even if you came across so condescending when you say this, you didn’t mean it in a negative way.”
“No, I didn’t.”
It was always mind games with his Dad. “So I shouldn’t take offense to it, I should really in essence ignore the tone.”
“That’s what I’ve always taught you.”
“You never taught me that” Peter sneered.
“Look; when I told that you had spent ten years in the wilderness, I didn’t mean it meanly. If I came across that way, I didn’t mean it and I apologize. I don’t mean to come across as condescending. But I want you to know I appreciate all the effort you have gone through at this point.”
“Dad, suppose that all this time, you were oblivious to your insensitivity. Would it be better then from a Darwinist view that I was absorbed whatever truth you were giving me whenever you talked to me — even if the way you delivered something to me sounded harsh?”
“That would be the ideal way to approach self improvement” his Dad reasoned while he rudely thumbed through the newspaper.
“But then, in that sense, whenever someone says something to me that is a delusion, no matter how nice they shower me with flattery whenever they give me advice, then the greater path is not listen to the naysayers that hold you back…I would imagine, right?”
Peter’s Dad was annoyed. What was his son complaining about now? He half-hoped that his dramatic son joined the rest of the family downstairs so he could read the paper in peace. But the lad took no notice of his Dad’s hints. In Peter’s mind, this never-ending cycle of passive aggressive drama had gone far enough.
“Now, what if you I told you that this proves how inefficiently it is to let words kill?” Peter insisted.
“This Dad! This whole situation! I mean, if I listened to all your insensitive comments – or you ignoring everything — and let this get to me, I would have never believed in what I could do for myself these last several years because I would have been too depressed that you hurt my feelings!”
“How am I hurting your feelings?” his father inquired in his typical oblivious manner.
“Based on what you said to me today, I made the right decision this whole time” Peter continued. “If I take your tone seriously from now on, and believe what you tell me when it’s not based on logic, then I’m doing myself a disservice if I wasted an entire afternoon feeling sad because of your bullshit remarks. In the end, efficiency, I guess, is the key component to progressive reality, not just wasting time in idle conversations.”
“You mean like this one?” said his Dad.
“This isn’t a waste of time, Dad! If people are not willing to educate themselves to a higher standard. Nor is pointing out the sheer stupidity of everyone in our family who keeps contributing to these dysfunctional family gatherings by being fake-polite to each other all the time.”
Moot Point. Peter’s Dad finally put the paper down and looked right at his son: “But some people like to get together and they like the social aspect of getting together.”
“Well what’s the point?” Peter countered. “It’s so superficial — if it’s not based on a sincere attempt of being in one another’s company in one accord. If some of you think I’m so rude and selfish for being so brutally honest and thereby killing the mood at these family gatherings, well couldn’t I say it’s just as selfish to be so emotionally brittle that we can never talk about anything real in life because everyone has to walk on eggshells around each other?”
For whatever reason, Peter’s Dad was resolute to defend against these accusations about the family, even if both men knew they were true. “But if people may not be able to sincerely express their intentions, that may be because they are superficial. They could be just that and they don’t know it. But it also may be that they do not have the ability to understand what their true purposes with the grand scheme of life are.”
“Fine” said Peter. “But if someone came along who was truly more aware about what reality was all about, then shouldn’t that person be leading the way for the rest of us?”
“And I suppose that person is you then, right?”
“I never said that!” Peter protested. “But if you’re agreeing that if these family gathering are depressing, that’s because people don’t’ have the ability to discern their own needs for discerning deeper things.”
“And what you’re telling me is that these people that are supposedly more enlightened than others are actually necessary for society.”
“You tell me” Peter answered. “Or do you honestly enjoy this melancholy feeling we have that you can’t put your finger on? You know: whenever you go to these family gatherings?” Peter felt like he was wearing down his Dad’s counterarguments. He could always tell he was winning an argument when a person couldn’t directly answer a question.
His Dad really was getting weary of this. The poor guy just wanted to read his paper, as always.
“Hey, is anything I’m saying so insane?” Peter continued.
“Hey, talking like this requires effort” his Dad replied. “The effort to confront yourself with these things, so they want to just be left alone.”
“But then, wouldn’t that be insanity?” Peter shot back. “Because if technically, you’re repeating the same pattern going to these shitty family gatherings and don’t do anything to change the pattern, you’re basically saying to yourself that you’re too lazy to want to change your life even though you kind of hate your routine?”
“You’ll never have that perfect gathering you always want” his father warned him. “Because people are too oblivious to make that happen.”
“Maybe oblivious because people can’t come to their true feelings.”
“Yeah, because people don’t want to have conversations like this.”
“Yeah, because people are disingenuously lazy, and this requires effort” Peter went on. “So the meaning of everything is really purifying yourself through effort, because ultimately effort is what gets you results. Don’t you think?”
“Sure, whatever” his Dad said as he continued to read the paper.
“Everything else is a wasted loophole” Peter continued as he took no notice of that last remark. “Yeah, it brings pain and frustration because in the process, you’re trying so hard to work through things, but others don’t care. So sure; in the meantime you’re going through a process of self-discovery and it’s going to be painful. Which is the better path?”
His father continued to ignore him now. “Far better to confront all this” Peter continued. “And at least know where the confusion is coming from – than do what everyone else in the family does, and continue living in limbo in these shitty social constructs.”
Peter’s Dad did not reply. Downstairs, some group laughter could be heard resonating out of whatever movie they had watching. As his father continued to ignore him, the folding of the newspapers seemed to have grown louder – as if his Dad’s rage was channeling into the nearest inanimate object he could find. But Peter was not going to give up that easily.
“Let me ask you something” Peter demanded. “How come you are obsessed with this carpet more than us?”
“What the hell are you whining about now?”
“Why are you so obsessed with trivial things, like letting the whole afternoon get ruined here because some guest forgot to take off their shoes? You know; that kind of thing…”
Peter’s Dad slammed down his newspaper in frustration. “Look: Just because you have these fits about our rules, we tried to preserve the cleanness of this carpet — and for that reason we asked people to get rid of their shoes, to remove potentially dirty bags from our white carpet.”
“That’s just it!” cried Peter. “White carpet! If you love this house so much, why didn’t you think ahead? If you sit and think about it, when you purchased the house, why did you buy a house with white carpets, and a house that would leak water in the basement?”
“White carpet? Really Peter?”
“Yeah; that knowing, when expecting family and friends to come over, would amplify the amount of stress and anxiety for cleanup? Why choose a white carpet?”
“We chose the white carpet because we like to produce a certain comfort and look for people and for us who come here… mainly for us.”
“And yet, you realized that this simple tapestry creates more stress than its worth.”
“No , because we ask people to respect the integrity of this house.”
“So you want it to be like a museum…”
“No!” his Dad shouted. “Because we want you to be comfortable.”
“But that’s not comfortable” Peter replied. “This is not comfortable. If I’m using my usb drives and there’re readily there in my bag, and you scream at me to leave the bag by the front door…”
“Hey! Don’t come if you don’t want. You need to respect the rules…”
“Were’ going back then to the danger for people who run things — such as someone who owns a house and wants things their way, to not employ logic in their exploits.”
His Dad couldn’t take it anymore, but decided to hear Peter out.
“What the hell is your point? I’ll hear you if this will get you to stop.”
Peter chuckled darkly and shook his head, but continued his diatribe. “By right and legal right, a person that owns all this property can direct things how they want. But if they want allies to come to their house but not employ any logic to their rules, they are creating unneeded stress, don’t you think? I just discovered the root of all dysfunctional family gatherings: it’s this attitude.”
“No you’re not, because you are not employing love yourself to respect someone’s wishes.”
“But if it was true love, then you’d think there would be a mutual desire to prefer enlightenment rather than comfort. If the greater dysfunctionality was buying a white carpet in first place rather than the emotional health and well-being of your family.”
“You’re generalizing, and just babbling at the same time. Who understands you?” quipped his Dad.
“Hey, at the end of the day, you’re basically saying you love the house above your family. No, at the end of the day, you treat us like we violated some major law if we forget to take our shoes off. I’m not breaking some law of physics by leaving my clean sneakers on there!”
It was no use. He decided to drive home back to Providence that very night. Screw New Years. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” Peter reminded himself as he hit the Merritt Parkway. Then it hit him: the one thing he must make sure to survive this constant spiral of insanity when his own turn to raise a family came (if it even could happen in this day and age) was not become complacent in his ways. “Especially if those ways are lame and ridiculous.” Man, what a holiday it had become. He was glad he trust in this: Michelle and some other friends were coming back to New Year’s early. They should be back in a few days, and finally – some people who appreciated higher learning he can just talk to about anything without fear of retribution.