Never Forget Zara Larsson’s Monster

I fell in love with the monster from Zara Larsson’s video for “Never Forget You.”

I fell in love with the monster (strictly platonic; monsters aren’t my type) from Zara Larsson’s video for “Never Forget You.”

Since seeing the video last year, he/she has stayed in my mind. I’ll go with “he” for some reason. On a recent drive to see Laura’s mom, I brought up what Frankie (now he’s got a name) means to me for the hundredth time. I closed my eyes and imagined finding him on my run and waiting for me on subsequent runs. Always in the same spot, beside the first bridge I cross on the greenway. Between the flowers and the creek.

I imagined moving away and coming back years later. Going on a nostalgic run, seeing what’s changed in the city and around the park. As I leave the neighborhood and come around the corner, I see Frankie beside the bridge. But instead of joy I’m heartbroken. A knot tangles in my stomach as I think of how long he’s waited for me. Every day? I can’t fathom waiting for someone that long. Each day not knowing when or if they’ll be back. There were no goodbyes. Frankie doesn’t own a phone. I don’t even know where he lives. We’ve only seen each other on the greenway.

I slowed down the first time I saw him. Took my earbuds out, letting them dangle down my chest. We looked each other in the eye and nodded. “Let’s do this together.” Frankie never judged me or held my faults against me. He’s got shit going on in his life too. The only thing we really know about each other is that the other is pure of heart.

I opened my eyes as we drove past the spot where the greenway runs parallel to the highway. Craning my neck, I could just see around the bend to the side of the bridge opposite where Frankie meets me.

I fell in love with Frankie and lost him on the same trip. I want to meet him so badly. I know I never will, but I’ve pictured our meeting so many times, it’s real enough to make me long for it.

Monsters aren’t real, but some things may as well be given the name. Maybe Frankie is a metaphor for my depression. That’s the only rational idea I can offer. But I see Frankie as a positive. It kind of makes sense though. The chemical imbalance that causes my depression will always be part of my life. Maybe Frankie represents self-love. For all the negatives depression, and to a lesser extent OCD and anxiety, has brought to my life, I wouldn’t be the person I am without it. I wouldn’t have the same sense of humor. I wouldn’t go on ridiculous tangents about inconsequential ideas, forgetting along the way why I brought them up, leaving us in fits of laughter.

If you have a friend like Frankie, you probably think they’re amazing and awesome and life would be less bearable without them. Whenever you’re feeling down and your confidence is waning, ask yourself: If [insert your Frankie’s name] is so amazing and awesome, why are they my friend? Because you’re equally awesome and amazing, maybe slightly more than they are.

If you don’t have a friend like Frankie, find one and cherish them. Better yet, be someone else’s Frankie.

Physical monsters aren’t real, but that doesn’t stop me from speeding up as I approach the bridge.


Running as Therapy

I’ll get to running in a bit. This happened yesterday.

I had just finished working and was about to lie down and read.

I handled the situation well. Didn’t try kicking the door down or pulling it until it broke. In overwhelming situations, my senses get cloudy/muted and I tend to panic and try things rapidly as they cross my mind. This time I sat and breathed before doing anything. The first thing I learned in CBT. It’s so simple but works nearly every time.

I finally freed myself using the credit card trick, sans credit card. I used a greeting card instead. My hands shook for a while afterward and I felt anxious about the lost time, but I didn’t beat myself up over my feelings. I can control them to an extent, but it’s more important to realize I’m fully responsible for my resulting actions. I didn’t even have the urge to yell at my niece. I couldn’t find it in me to cook though, so I had Laura grab dinner on the way home.


What I planned on sharing is how running affects my mental health. I started running regularly after being diagnosed with major depression, around the same time I started writing seriously. I had run inconsistently for years, the longest consecutive period being a month. My goal was always to get in shape. I played basketball but felt like I needed to do more. In my experience, the healthiest goals often fail because they are started for unhealthy reasons. For example, the only time I watch my sugar intake is as a punishment for being fat. This time I started running to clear my head and to expel negative and repetitive thoughts, but I discovered most of the benefits when I quit looking for them. (However, it would be foolish of me to think I’d be the runner I am today without proper treatment and medication.)

I noticed it helped curb some of Lexapro’s side effects. Initially, the medication caused me to feel shaky and sleepy. And I don’t mean needing a nap. I would have to go back to bed after getting up. At my first follow-up appointment I fell asleep in the waiting room; waiting on the nurse after being called back; and waiting for the doctor. Running made the side effects tolerable until my body adapted.

I also felt better in general. I had more energy throughout the day and my confidence increased. I stuck with it and fell in love after several months. I love it because I can improve by myself. I can see results that have nothing to do with my appearance. I’m faster and can run farther. Not to mention the unseen health benefits. (And it’s not just me.)

Some of my best writing comes after running, when I’ve gotten rid of any harmful thoughts. Running has also made me less introverted. I still feel self-conscious running past the waiting kids at the bus stops, but I challenge myself to look every runner/walker in the eye and wave before they do.

Writing is Hard

This blog reminded me that writing is hard. As a writer, there are tough days when I have to search for words. If they do come they’re not cohesive. It’s gross, like vomiting alphabet soup on paper. Then there are days when the words pour out of me and read like a final draft. It’s perfect.

One of the challenges of starting a new book is finding the story’s voice. Grasping that voice makes it easier. I have my own style when writing books, but this blog is uniquely mine. I’m not writing through a character or about a character. There’s less editing, less thinking about the reader and less time worrying about finding the perfect way to write something. And when the material changes constantly, like this blog, it can be hard to latch onto a consistent voice.

It should be easy, given this blog is mine. But before I can put my thoughts down and share them, they’re often filtered through my anxiety. I’m uncomfortable with myself. I’m so self-conscious about every aspect of my presentation, I can’t let my guard down around the people I love most. I have problems talking to my wife.  I spend so much energy worrying what people think of me, I’m exhausted when I’m alone.

Hopefully this blog will help me release that anxiety and create a consistent voice. The voice I hear in my head every day. My voice.

This post may not be substantial, but it’s cathartic for me, as most of them are. Knowing people are reading my writing makes me anxious, but it also makes it easier to share the next time.

The Next Chapters

I don’t know what to write today. I don’t really have anything to write about, but it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so I thought I should try. On the other hand, it would be inappropriate for me to try to write something poignant. The best words I’ve written, in terms of language and evoking feeling, have just happened. I may have thought about what to say or what scene to set, but when the words came out they just flowed.

Which brings me back to MLK. You can’t manufacture emotion. If a story doesn’t connect with a reader, no amount of editing or flowery language will correct that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make others feel a certain way. Once you have a story that resonates, once you know what to say, the way you deliver it can change lives. That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. did. Except he wasn’t dabbling in storytelling. He was staring reality in the face and accepted the challenge of becoming the face of a new reality. A reality that was inclusive to all. A reality that honored all people, regardless of their differences. A reality where my white mother and black father could openly love each other without being harassed. MLK, and so many others, saw what the citizens of our nation needed, even when so many were flagrantly unwilling to accept it. A better reality was possible. He was tasked with writing it down and sharing it aloud. The civil rights movement was a story that needed an author. He became that author.

The Montgomery bus boycott, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and the Poor People’s Campaign are just a few chapters from the story he helped start. A story that is far from complete. As we live among one another, with all our differences and beliefs, let us continue searching within ourselves and our society for the next chapters of this story.

In an interview with Writer’s Digest in 1975, Maya Angelou said, “If we started looking at each other and our differences, our family background and personal history, we could find so many differences. But those are tangential, those are peripheral. There are really no differences. We are, first, human beings. And so when you weep, I understand it clearly. When you laugh, I understand it clearly. When you love, you don’t have to translate it to me. These are the important things.”

When Martin Luther King Jr. said “I have a dream,” he wasn’t the only one. We all have dreams. As we chase them individually, let’s remember to help others achieve theirs. Sometimes a word of encouragement is the difference between quitting and giving it one more shot. Everything that has happened in the world is connected. The more dreams we accomplish, the more the next generation of dreams become possible.

I Returned the Damn Book

The library lies.

I’ve been accused of not returning a library book. This allegation is false and has caused irreparable psychological harm. I’d rather be caught running a red light doing 105 mph. I set them on the counter last weekend with my wife’s books. I even checked the car to make sure. I’ve been waiting to dispute the claim until I finish the book I’m currently reading, so every day I see the email the library sent and I feel ashamed. I went to sort it out today, but the library was closed due to inclement weather. It will probably be closed tomorrow, and it’s always closed on Sundays. A weekend of shame awaits.


Laura and I are getting a trial run at having a child. Our four-year-old niece Emily has been living with us for at least six months, with two more to go. (She’s another reason I’m glad everything fell apart for me when it did. Without leaving my job, she’d be in a much worse situation.)

Everything runs smoothly during the week. Coincidentally, when Laura is at work. After I run and shower, she goes to work. I hang out with Emily in the morning while reading and drinking iced coffee. Then I cut on Netflix for her and go to the office to write. She takes a nap after lunch, gets a snack, and watches more TV or plays in her room. Not much variety, but whenever she gets ungrateful I remind her she’d be on the streets without me.

Everything falls apart when Laura works from home on Fridays. I’m successful with Emily because I’m as much of a child as she is. If she talks back to me, I’ll mock her. If she bothers me, I’ll bother her. If she gets up to play while taking a nap, I’ll listen at her door, waiting to ambush her next time she gets up. I’ve been acting childish for 27 years. She can’t keep up. I can be louder than her, more annoying than her. If she throws a fit, I’ll roll around and throw a fit. Kids aren’t ready for that shit. They don’t like it. It puts them in a role they’re not ready to play.

Laura is all about reasoning and consequences. She’ll take a knee and talk to her face to face. I don’t have time for that (although I’m unemployed). I really don’t have the patience. The other day I threatened to hold Emily in the corner of the ceiling with the spiders. I can’t do that when Laura’s home.

During her nap today, she got up three times to play with a dog toy she picked out yesterday. If Laura wasn’t home I would’ve taken it out of her room or put it in the closet. Instead, I put it back on the shelf and calmly reminded her nap time is for sleeping. After the third time I said fuck it and told her she could get up. I walked through the house a few minutes ago and she looked at me like “Do something. Try me.” The little shit knows I’m powerless. She’ll do something wrong, something she knows she isn’t supposed to do, and when I catch her she’ll wave and say “Hi.”

We have three nephews. The oldest is a budding serial killer. The youngest looks like he suffers from Benjamin Button disease. Not progeria or accelerated aging. This kid is aging in reverse. Our other nephew likes cursing under his breath.