All posts by blairpatrickschuyler

Writer, Editor, Proofreader, Memoirist, Actor, Poet

There Will Always Be Monsters under the Bed

They will continue to wait, whether we remember to check or forget to inspect. On bended knees, our eyes remain peeled for a glimpse of anything unusual sitting on the planks. But it’s pointless to pretend the floor is clear. They were hiding there last night and last year. They’ll be back again tomorrow…and forever.

The nagging knocking behind the eyes that keeps us awake. The sense that we are barreling toward the inevitable edge. The lists of boxes that remain unchecked. The threat of impending doom. The planet on the verge of collapse. The infighting. The declining educational system. The poor. The sick. The sad. The struggling. The confused. The hurting. The hurt. The loop stuck on a loop. The dubious distrust. The fear. The uncontrollable variables. The time. The schedule. The appointments. The wasted opportunities. The cost. The consequence. The imbalance. The chasm. The loss. The hammer. The nails. The virus. The variants. The worry. The wonder. The sense that any plan must be penned by our own hands. The inattention to intention. The lack of air. The lack of breath. The search for courage. The responsibilities. The falling hourglass sands. The questioning. The projecting. The diet. The disease. The swing. The strike. The call to action. The answer. The bruises. The blood. The tightrope walk. The guns. The drugs. The laws. The disconnections. The deleted lines. The money wearing masks. The trust split into pieces. The rankings. The rancor. The voices. The voiceless. The hardened. The heartless. The abusers. The abused. The race toward a constantly drifting finish line. The ridicule. The neglect. The bottom line. The ringing. The spinning. The tension. The waves. The shortened fuse. The easy ignition. The order. The angles. The criticism. The denigration. The obsessions. The compulsions. The rigid routines. The punishing patterns. The reaching. The rejection. The shooting star wishes for a second chance at another lap.

There will always be monsters under the bed.

Be a scarier monster.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Risk of Honesty

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”  —Fyodor Dostoevsky

A culture of cancellations and filters and the constant traversing of eggshell-laden paths has made for a gun-shy society terrified to whisper a word. But born from the mumbles trapped behind duct-taped mouths are the keys and strategies to bridge divides, lower the gates, and meet in the middle.

The more we are silenced, the more we stay silent.

A consistently suppressed people will lose the desire, inclination, and (eventually) the ability to question the status quo, speak truth to power, or identify expanding cracks in the concrete of a widely accepted and often forgotten foundation.

All muscles eventually atrophy from lack of use.

Protecting people’s feelings is a vitally important endeavor. No one should shuffle down the sidewalk wearing the weight of a thousand slurs, nursing bruises felt from a ceaseless barrage of barbs. But with every drawn line, there is an opportuity to cross. An ounce of prevention has now become a ton. But the cure still weighs a pound.

Constructing and fortifying a personal fortress is just as valuable as confiscating everyone else’s arrows. Perhaps we should shift focus and teach brick stacking or force field raising. Find a way to never feel hurt and you won’t.

I’ve always subscribed to the personal inventory formula. The only thing we have pure control over is ourselves and the way we react to the actions of the masses. So shining the light inside will eventually let the glow escape. It just needs to work its way around a few resistant walls.

Stand on that stage. Sit at that keyboard. Look into that camera. Pick up that pen. Turn on that microphone.

Tell a truth that is yours and let the cards drop and sit wherever they scatter. The world is far too fragile for this much fragility.

Adolescence Interrupted

Green with Nothing

“The grass is greener where you water it.” —Neil Barringham

Envy, jealousy, and the need for other people’s affirmation are the three human attributes I’m most grateful to be missing.

Fundamental to the core neuro/emotional wiring in the majority of the species, these “craving catalysts” can be both potent motivators and crippling knocks to the knees. Like Wilson peeking over Tim Taylor’s fence, far too much of our focus is directed on what the neighbor is doing, saying, and collecting.

For whatever reason, I simply lack that circuitry. Eschewing any desire to walk in someone else’s shoes, I celebrate my circle’s accomplishments and milestones from afar. Watching from the sidelines, I generally track trajectories with a well-balanced mix of support and detachment. I am genuinely happy, proud, and encouraging of their roads and the courses they’ve chosen to chart, but I have no deep-seated desire to join the jog.

If driving toward some lofty goal attainment is only possible by comparing yourself, your talent, or your abilities to someone you hold in higher status, respect, etc., keep chasing the rabbit. If that’s the only protein powder you can use to shake yourself into a state of motivation, so be it.

But turning that light inward might scare away some of those jealous shadows and reshape your target practice. There’s always more work to be done when we’re brave enough to take that introspective dive into the darkness.

We certainly have a lot of Wilsons in this world right now, checking on the neighbor’s grass growth instead of splashing their own yards with a hose from time to time.

Plant your own seeds. Grow your own trees. The other forests will still be standing there, waiting to be explored when you’re ready.

Adolescence Interrupted

A Chapter Closes

Two weeks ago, I lost my last biological grandparent. Defying all rational convention about some hardwired human acceptance of the inevitability of life’s ultimate conclusion, I found myself at odds with the abrupt presentation of this unmistakable new reality.

On a loop or in a wheel, we are only granted so many spins. It should be no surprise that someone who has lived a long, full existence will eventually read the words on that final page. But reaching the coda does not always arrive free of regrets. There are some who scrape and scratch and claw in the desperate hope for one more second to say what’s been hiding, dormant, during each previous solar lap. With the chronometric click of a stopwatch marking that last finish line cross, there are many who will suffer under the weight of internalized regret.

Any finale free of an encore is a bitter pill to swallow and a harsh concept to stomach, regardless of the strength of your constitution.

But there are a rare few who can float above that burden to find the gift of a truly peaceful passing. Leaving this terrestrial plane with the satisfaction felt from completing a comprehensively explored journey is not simply uncommon. It’s downright remarkable.

The only matriarch I had the opportunity to know, my paternal grandmother was a queen in her castle, surrounded by a ceaselessly devoted and doting “royal household.” She was a ringmaster and supervisor, discreetly directing the proceedings with a simple glance or folding of the hands. A subtle conductor, she left little doubt about what she thought or felt. But everything was wrapped in a warm, inviting embrace behind kind, wise eyes that seemed to see the soul.

The finality that follows death is not something I have ever been able to fully process, and there is always this nagging notion that something was waiting…undone, unsaid, or unanswered. But I can take some comfort in the fact that this one human being lived her life to its greatest potential and left nothing sitting on lists. No buckets. No wishes.

Still, there is a tangible vacuum created when a wheel is suddenly absent from its hub, and every earthquake sends out shocks from its center.

We are all still rattling.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Beauty of a Broken Record Is the Skipping

Noons and nights. Suns and shadows. Rise and rest.

Well before the mind-numbing repetition of the pandemic clock dictated our daily existence, we slid from week to week, slaves to the schedule. We were wind-up toys wobbling in the waves of whatever felt like an accepted societal standard of a “good day’s work,” and we celebrated our victories by planting flags in some piece of future soil to mark a personal milestone or forever honor an arbitrary date of achievement. With fingers crossed and blinders fastened, we strove toward a fantastical finish line in some desperate hope for the fleeting opportunity to take a knee and finally catch our collective breath.

The needle dropped…and the record spun.

Resetting back to one, we built a fresh blueprint to pursue an even more impressive objective. A greater goal worthy of our newly acquired skill set…and all those gains gleaned from the grind.

But there is always a higher peak to summit. A wider chasm to traverse. Hotter coals to cross.

So, when we are presented with an opportunity to shatter the monotonous glass—even if we can only muster a few cracks in the corners—it’s important to let those shards fall. There is a deep release felt from the freedom of cutting reins and remembering how to run on our own two feet.

A lifted needle dragging along bumpy vinyl on a tilted table is specifically built to help us remember what sits in the cracks between the tracks.

Leave the broom in the closet. Watch the translucent time pirates sit helplessly in heaps on the floor.

Let the song skip.

Adolescence Interrupted

Ditch the Greed, Find the Good

In a world drowning in overindulgence, degeneracy, and nefariously naked malevolence,  there is one virus more deadly and culpable than any other.

Greed.

The cracks at the base of every broken heart. The desperation of drug addiction as a means of escape. The tear-stained cheeks of a starving child.  The innocent hands reaching out for compassion and finding a wall of abject antipathy. The baffling realization that a chasm constructed by an imaginary system of wealth and power to oppress, ridicule, demean, and belittle is as fragile as the egos that designed it.

This is the way we choose to occupy the literal blink of an eye opportunity we have to breathe oxygen on this planet.

Seems like the collective cost of effort, time, and resources could be better spent improving the quality of our human experience as opposed to a wild-eyed maniacal race to obtain and maintain the most toys.

Some are drowning in money, most are drowning in debt.

None of this is real. It is a giant constructed illusion to award power and influence to those at the summit. We worship the shiny silver success of excess and spend our days plotting our own path to the promised land. But most of those intrepid mountaineers stepped on the broken backs of the masses to make the ascension. 

Unable to handle the level of pain and suffering constantly endured by the innocent, the overwhelming impetus to take action is paralyzing. So I am left stopped and stalled and defeated. Frozen by the panic, size, and scope of the challenges sitting on the docket, passivity takes the place of initiative, and further down the spiral I slide. 

But a reckoning is waiting in the wings and the majority will no longer silently stand idly by, merely satisfied with the fallen scraps dropped from fortunate tables.

Adolescence Interrupted

Get the Motor Running

There are few things in life more propulsive than a powerful internal engine. Those who possess an inherent ability to run in the red at all times can manage infinite checklists, juggle limitless balls of obligation, and spin more appointment plates than the average “avoid friction at any cost” modern human. They are the first in line and the last to leave, having apparently, inexplicably inked a deal with the devil to require less sleep than a roaming elephant.

But instead of lamenting a lack of that wild-eyed Tom Cruise caffeine by resorting to self-caning or drowning in feelings of unyielding inadequacy, it’s important to remember that we all shimmy and shake to the sound of our own drummer…even if he’s keeping it slow and steady at 45 bpm.

The key is time management and a focus on achievable goals. No one likes to be buried beneath the mud of self-imposed demands. There’s no oxygen, and at a certain depth, the stains become impossible to remove.

Sometimes the hare spins in circles, while the tortoise takes care of the details. We all have our roles to play at a pace that works for our wiring. The dissimilarities and peculiarities of our species are what keep the soup spicy. I’ve been called “crazy,” “weird,” “unorthodox,” “strange,” or “perplexing” more than once. But I stopped trying to squeeze into the wrong shoe size a long time ago.

Accepting the tag instead of tearing it from the seams has generally limited holes on the collar.

If your engine is turbocharged, enjoy the speed. But if you need some time to get lost in the weeds by seeing where the winding roads of your brain will lead, embrace the room to wander and roam.

You’ll rarely regret the detour.

Adolescence Interrupted

Around the Next Corner

The most unexpected twists and turns of life arrive with the surprise of a shotgun blast. But the persistent pace of the ever-chasing tortoise is what ultimately helps dry the wet concrete of the foundation beneath our feet.

This very human inability to predict the future is what keeps us driving toward the possibility of a fresh start with every sunrise. If we were to possess a thorough comprehension of our trajectories, that inherent knowledge alone would influence the outcome of decisions and choices we didn’t even know we were making.

So we’re left to wander through these incredibly short lives blindfolded, with arms outstretched and fingers splayed, searching for the grasp of something solid to help steady the spin. Day after day, we turn blank pages in a book waiting to be written, occasionally penning a line or two before we lose the light.

But consistent tenacity is the key. Sometimes simply staying in the game is enough to claim victory. We are not able to forecast the arrival of a rainbow after the rain. So the opportunity to write a new chapter might surface far later than expected.

It would have been inconceivable to envision this beautifully balanced Sunshine State existence while I was in the excruciatingly painful throes of those LA migraines. I spent countless nights searching in vain for any semblance of a glimmer in those infinitely, frightfully dark tunnels.

We can’t see what’s waiting just around the next corner.

The hopeless global desperation experienced by millions of people during this pandemic is further evidence of our supremely frustrating lack of clairvoyance.

It may not have slowed the spread or saved the dying, but a kernel of hope that help was on the way could have delivered the most basic and most lacking resource…perspective.

There’s a reason our planet swims to the current of a constant clock. We like to mark our starts and stops.

Take that away and the blindfold gets a little tighter.

Adolescence Interrupted

Delay the Blame

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”  —LC

Leonard Cohen was right. But maybe that’s how the truth sneaks in as well. In an age of finger-pointing panic, saddling innocent necks with a concocted albatross feels like an exercise in sweaty futility.

Punching someone else in the mouth to alleviate your own toothache is psychotically pointless, and we are witnessing a disturbing cycle of dangerously misplaced condemnations in the form of false attributions.

Clean hands are too often tarnished and soiled by the stream of mud and muck spewed from the mouths of rabid believers desperate for vengeance. Idiots search for scapegoats in a world that has turned its back on their illogical ignorance, and they’re running out of easy targets.

Unforgivable violence as an outlet for the bottled frustration, isolation, and loss that have permeated the population is not going to stop the spread, clear the lungs, or bring back the dead. Sidewalk assaults, venomous threats, and racial slurs only fuel internal fires. So maybe it’s time to spin that mirror and explore some page-turning solutions—as opposed to bullet-spitting blame without scientific proof or justification.

The sneaky little secret that no one likes to share is that it’s not about race. It’s about disgusting food manufacturing and the ugly, unquenchable consumption of innocent, sentient beings. As long as we continue the barbaric practice of wet markets and turn a blind eye to the perilous commingling of humans and animals, we are at constant risk of viral outbreaks.

That’s a much longer discussion, best suited for another post.

But if we don’t take a drastic collective turn as a people and a planet, I recommend we start seeing this pandemic as simply one in a line, not one in a million. 

Adolescence Interrupted

A Panglossian Perspective

“Your end can be greater than your beginning: butterflies are the greatest proof of this.” —Matshona Dhliwayo

The thaw on the heels of a freeze. A rainbow following a storm. Resets and restarts. There is a beauty and certain merit in the gift of a new beginning.

Cleaning slates can achieve more than neat stockpiles of dust generated by rote eraser smashing. For all the effort involved in the grind, the result is a smooth, sharp edge. As our eyes start to squint from the glare of an unfamiliar sun, there’s a chance to see what’s changed while we were away.

With a significant (albeit temporary) reduction in carbon emissions, the planet was able to take a deep collective breath, without choking on the exhaust from a billion daily tailpipes slingshotting between home and work. The solution? Home=work…and it’s not that tough.

A nonsense-free workspace shone a spotlight on the delays and distractions inherent in an office setting. It’s impressive what people can accomplish when left alone to focus on a task. Increased opportunities for mindfulness, meditation, and achieving a better work-life balance replaced idling on a gridlocked freeway, wondering what happened to an already-tenuous grip on sanity.

But the most obvious gift we’ve been granted in this past pandemic year is the smack in the teeth of perspective. What matters and what doesn’t? The global population was left to ponder which relationships were worth preserving, which hobbies and activities warranted the necessary time commitment, and how to best live life on a loop.

Introverts soared, propelled by lighter wings and limitless air, while extroverts crashed under the burden of unattainable energy reserves, held just out of reach by isolated friends behind social prison bars.

Those who craved connection were glued to substandard Zoom chats and a perpetual battle against the glitch. The best-laid intentions for daily commiseration sessions soon became weekly, monthly, and then nonexistent.

But using the sting and pain of the present as brick and mortar for better days, we can stack the necessary blocks to avoid building a road to repetition. Lessons are only valuable when learned, and this is a prime opportunity to put into practice some real, tangible change.

The list of what’s on that docket is a volume too extensive to tackle in this condensed format, but the opportunity for metamorphosis has presented itself, here and now.

Static caterpillar or unbound butterfly? Choose wisely.

Adolescence Interrupted