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When the Bill Comes Due

I have been working on a project, a retrospective of the Lolligaggers, the band I was once in.  And I have found that revisiting the past through memories and discussions with old friends has dredged up some old stuff, stuff that I am not really interested in having dredged up, and it is sometimes uncomfortable for me.  I have an idea for this thing that could be great, a book, maybe, and a podcast, and an exploration of the creative drive, letting the band serve as a stand in for every band, every creative venture that doesn't serve as a source of income that has to stand as art on its own merit.  It could be so cool.  But uncorking all this stuff means that I might be made uncomfortable, that maybe this might reveal some truths that I don't want to face.

I keep asking why. Why do this?

I have been thinking of the divergence of our paths, where I split off.  I left my hometown, and thus the band, because I couldn’t take it anymore, the town was too small, the pain was too acute. I had fucked up and been fucked over too many times for that place to be anything other than a daily exercise in mutilation. If I had stayed, I would have died, probably, or maybe just have descended into madness, or lost myself in addiction in a pathetic attempt to hide. I left as an act of self preservation. I left because I had to. I left, and I went to California where I tried to die, but instead found myself healing in spite of my best efforts. I made some friends, learned to skateboard, and eventually felt a little patched up, a little taped together, but whole again, more or less, and I bounced around on the beaches of north San Diego County, and I was alone. Not because I wanted to be, because I remember a terrible loneliness, a desperation to be touched by someone who cared, I was alone because I was a fucking mess, and even the most generous of hearts could see that I was lost in myself, that I couldn't be anything for anyone other than for myself. I was a drunk and worse, and on one occasion thought seriously about suicide, and I found eventually that I didn't want to die after all. I left to cocoon up, build a chrysalis around myself so I could become who I am now. And I am not completely fixed, I have been blessed beyond all measure with a beautiful brilliant and kind wife, and two beautiful and brilliant sons, I have a house in a nice safe suburban neighborhood, a minivan with leather seats and a heated steering wheel. I have a stable and reliable job, and health insurance and a respectable credit score. I have crawled out of a pit of fucked up despair and have built and have been gifted with a life, a good real life.

And still, I am filled with restlessness and depression, I am filled with this amorphous melancholy, this cross of anger and regret. I love who I have become, who I was shaped into, I love my family and my hard earned peace. I love it, and I will protect it jealously, covetously. And I am afraid I will fuck it all up somehow, that I won't be able to stop myself, that I will burn it all down without even understanding my own actions. Because I do not trust it. I do not trust myself, and I do not trust this stable happiness to stay. I love my life, and I hate that I am ungrateful, that I am not filled with gratitude and love at all times. I hate that I can't even allow myself to enjoy the goodness that I have been blessed with.

I am happy most days, or something close to happy, a reasonable facsimile of happiness, I am grateful for everything if I think about it in a realistic way, even for the pain for the mistakes for the stupid destructive dangerous decisions. I am no longer disinterested in self-preservation, I am no longer interested in hurting myself. I am glad for even those things because here I am, an adult, or a reasonable approximation of an adult, with a family and a house and a dog, I am talented and ambitious and not too old to make something interesting happen in my life. I’m happy, in an intellectual kind of way, if I think realistically I am happy.

I wonder sometimes about those lost and desperate years, if I did something to myself that I will never be able to fix, if the poisons that I dumped in my system have killed me, but just not yet, if somewhere inside I have a thin wall in my heart, if I have a growing tumor in my lung, if my liver is dead or dying, and it is just there, hidden inside, waiting, waiting for the moment where I start to believe that I am good, that I am worth something real, that I somehow deserve all this goodness, and then it will arrive, I will collapse at my desk, or straining to lift a piece of furniture, and that thin wall in my heart bursts, or I go outside to throw a football with my son, and I can't breathe, and then there is that moment in the oncologist’s office where my wife asks what treatment options are, but I don't say anything, because I know already that there are no treatments that will make a difference. It will all have to catch up to me right? The bill always comes due, in the end.

The problem, I have found, is that when you have been blessed so much, have been gifted with the world, that you have so much to lose. It is fine to self-destruct when no one cares if you live or die. It is fine to squander every opportunity, piss on every helping hand. I have been given the world, I have worked hard for this life, I have done serious self-reflection and I have had to decide who I wanted to be. And now I am shackled by the gifts, I am afraid to make decisions that might shake it, I am afraid to take risks that might result in sacrifice. At rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up; any movement is for the good. It is easy to be a mess. I am finding that it is much more difficult to have people counting on me; having so much to lose has frozen me into inaction. Fear of loss has made me a coward.

I want to be brave.

And I will, because as Andy Dufresne said, "Get busy living, or get busy dying," and until my bill comes due, I want to live.

Still Writing,

RP 6-13-16

If you want to reach out, I'm on Twitter, @RDPullins, and on Facebook.  Comment here, or you can even send me an email if you wanna: dissent.within at  To all of those that are hurting and can't see a way out, I couldn't either, and yet here I am.  Hang on; there is a light there, even if you are blinded to it.  Peace.



  1. I understand that feeling of being stuck because there is much to lose... but there is also this part of me ( one that tends to be quiet) that says what the heck ... it's just life and we only have one take the risks and see what happens... I want that voice to be the one I listen to but it's still so small (and growing increasingly smaller)... if I don't watch myself I might end up exactly where I am and 90 years old and the life I had a chance at gone ... sometimes when I think about it that worries me more than the fear of jumping and seeing what happens .. and even though I am
    Sure makes sense to you is it worth going for it? Possibly losing it all ?? Maybe gaining it all though right???? Who knows!!

  2. You already are brave. Don't forget it.

  3. Risk growth or embrace the anxiety of stagnation. This is the burden of agency you never see coming until you get to a nice comfy place in life. It sneaks up on you, just like old age.

    I find myself in a similar place and agree with you in spirit. I think it's common. I think society writes it off as midlife crisis. I think society is wrong.

    Here's my take on it.

    Growth only comes from change. Absent of change, life is absent of growth. Absent of growth, life is shadowed by anxiety. Change can be deliberate (self initiated) or imposed. Change-up may bring positive feelings/circumstances and change-down may bring negative ones, but stagnation almost certainly brings uneasiness and dissatisfaction. Sometimes madness. Doesn't matter how “good” things may be.

    For much of life, usually when we’re younger, growth is imposed on us by the universe. There is no deciding to grow. It is forced. We may have other, more terrestrial problems (and the pain that can accompany growth), but growing gives a meaning to life that you don’t appreciate until the growth slows to the pace of “choice.”

    Choice is the slowest pace growth knows how to move.

    Or is it? Must it be?

    The new dilemma: burden of agency.

    Then there’s staying vs. going….Staying well vs. going well. Staying bad vs. going badly.
    (I use bad as an adjective on purpose; staying feels more like a noun than a verb. "The staying.")

    Ideally, things keep “going well.” The worst is “stay bad.” But are you willing to risk circumstances going badly to escape the forbidding anxiety of things staying well?

    Is there a way to choose to grow that doesn’t involve risk? I don’t know. Maybe as a hobbyist, but probably not in the ways that would truly alleviate the anxiety of stagnation.

    Would you prefer the universe make the choice for you? Would you rather be thrown into a world of imposed change? imposed growth? Because that will inevitably come at some point. The two that seem most certain are health issues and death in the family, but there are many more that can spring up.

    If the universe threw a tragedy your way, would you still feel the stagnation, or would it subside?
    Sometimes I wonder if tragedy is the universe forcing us to grow when we abdicate the responsibility to initiate it ourselves.

    And sometimes I think the anxiety of stagnation is just another mechanism the universe employs to compel growth.

    So much for agency. Maybe we're all just feathers in the wind.

  4. Spot on as usual, Simmo; I think the point that change comes whether we want it or not is an important one. I personally want it to be on my terms, or at least to go down swinging.

  5. Not when it comes to heights, or scarecrows that move when I am not looking, that's for sure.


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