I don’t know what I’m trying to find at this hour.
As it tends to happen when normal people go to bed and I choose to stay up, the wheels fall off the wagon of motivation and I sink into melancholy. At 12:15 a.m. my intention is to polish a few old photographs and share some thoughts on Valentine’s Day. I want to record a new episode of Creative Drive because I had some things to say. Wanted to read something. I type this on the first few minutes of the 15th, as a clear admission of failure. This is a slight failure, however. It won’t haunt me too long.
“Some nights, I’d have to sleep alone. I didn’t mind, I would listen to the house breathin’. All those people sleepin’. I felt… safe.”The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Very often, I think about this quote from that superb film written by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, from the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Eagerly waiting for the movie’s release, I read the short story hoping to get a sense of what was lifted straight from the story, how it was embellished, and how it would live in a different medium. The process of stories transcending their mediums really intrigues me, if you haven’t noticed…
While I don’t recall this line nor the scene it comes from existing in the original tale, I became madly in love with that notion: There is an endless comfort in knowing your loved ones are safe in their warm beds, and you know nothing will harm them. I find that my biggest daily preoccupation (you might say, my constant, irrational worry) is making sure my wife and son are aware of my love for them, the emotional part of it, the loosey goosey moments of communicating to them that I will do anything for them, and proving it by working hard at the office for them, by trying my damnedest to be present when we’re together, and by trying to put the phone down and sometimes succeeding. I don’t know how many folks out there think about this, but I let it motivate and burden my every action.
I don’t want to take anything for granted.
It’s very rewarding to live this way, but I also recognize I need a breather. When my wife and son are safe and sound, I wallow. I muse on nothing. I take my time. This is a luxury for those of us pressed for time and a throwaway pleasure for those already in luxury. I wonder and wander as I imagine the stars beyond the ceiling of my unfinished basement and the ceilings of the living room and the bedrooms above. I remind myself there are constellations up there, always blinking.
Then I think of my grandfather. My Pa Valente, who played his violin but I forgot to ask him whereabouts. And then my heart fills with regret at not knowing enough about him, and worrying that I won’t be able to recognize his star in the sky, and I won’t know where to point when my son asks me where he is. That’s the kicker: trying to remember that which may fade away come morning. Maybe I’m just looking for one more chance to document something before it’s no longer here. As if my creativity will magically prolong special feelings and memories and messages to remain for just a moment more.
I’ve written my best stuff deep in the night. When you can feel winter creeping through the cracks in the door. In a quiet I’m not fearful of. When I was a kid and we lived in the duplex, I slept in the living room, and I stayed up late reading Stephen King, recording tracks, and scheming stories to capture on that bulky VHS camcorder in the closet under the stairs. This story might be quite common, but perhaps I’m looking to find that stillness once again. Maybe I had too many cups of coffee today. I don’t know.
Regardless of how I got to this point, it feels like I must write this out in the open because it’s okay to take a moment for yourself in the morning, midday or late at night. An ounce of time to get your act together, to ruminate and scheme. To find gratitude if you didn’t find it earlier that day, or to prepare for tomorrow. And sometimes, it’s even okay to hear the house breathin’ like a sad sack.
Happy Birthday, Pa Valente. Despite my worries, you are still here, keeping me company when I need it most.
P.S. For those of you riding the high of Valentine’s Day (I’ve been high on mine since 2006), here’s a little soundtrack for your troubles.