A writing assignment

I wrote this as part of my final portfolio for my Creative Writing class back in 2013. It’s probably the most intimate portrait of what I went through during 2011, and the most painful experience I’ve lived through ever committed to writing. It’s not easy putting it out there, but here it is.

If you’re interested in seeing the video to the song, here it is on YouTube. It still moves me to listen to it, and I think it’s probably one of Pink’s most powerful songs to date, and the reason I’m one of her fans.

~Joe~


Far from perfect

(Discovering a truth in an unlikely way)

You’re so mean when you talk
About yourself, you were wrong
Change the voices in your head
Make them like you instead

Lyrics from Fuckin’ Perfect by P!nk
From her album: Greatest Hits… So Far!! 2010
Written by: Pink, Max Martin and Shellback

The one thing about my ex, you have to understand,
Music has meaning, a true and undeniable significance.
On her computer she created and saved several playlists
All personal, speaking about what she felt in her heart.
This she confessed to me when we first found ourselves free of
Our respective spouses, and after we finally got together.

She played one of those playlists for me,
Telling me as she did so that she created it for me.
She would sit and drink,
Wistfully listening to those songs as she though about me,
While her children ran around her,
While her husband sat there enjoying the music with her,
Oblivious to the fact that his wife had another man on her mind.
And that man was the most unlikely person
But one the husband always feared because he knew
Deep in his wife’s heart she felt she made a mistake in choosing him over me.
He knew she loved me but she thought she lost her chance.

What could I say to that?
I probably made some self-deprecating joke,
The kind I use to protect myself from pain.
The kind that tends to piss people off.
And that always has gotten me into trouble
Especially with the other loves in my life.
But I can’t deny who I am
I won’t deny what I am.

One day when we were still in the everything-is-wonderful stage,
She emailed me a link to a video and I played it at work

Made a wrong turn once or twice
Dug my way, blood and fire….

I listened, trying not to let my tears show
I listened as the singer reached the chorus

Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
like you’re less then fucking perfect…

All I could do was sit there in my office
At my desk on the computer at work
And all I could do was play it again
All I could do was look up the lyrics to the song
To grasp the meaning behind the song –
To understand why she might have sent it to me.

I confess:
I am guilty of belittling myself
I am guilty of putting myself down –
Of trying to use my jokes as a way to protect myself –
Of trying to diffuse the pain by laughing instead of crying.

I try to cover my shame and guilt of never achieving,
Of finding myself with someone I despised,
Of having a dead-end job.
I felt trapped and forsaken,
A complete and utter failure –
Dejected,
Rejected,
Ashamed of who I had become,
A loser – a waste of space.
I fucking hated who I had become.
I wished I were dead.

But…

I was sent a link by someone who said she loved me,
And I listened to this song,
One that I had heard before but never paid attention,
But this time I listened
This time I heard what I needed to hear.

…you’re fucking perfect to me.

At my lowest she picked me up,
At my lowest she told me what I needed to hear.
And although it wouldn’t last but a few months,
I felt that someone actually cared.

She burned a CD for me that I listened to in the car.
The third song in and the powerful ballad would come on
I listened intently, especially to this one.
Every song was precious to me,
Knowing that she chose them with great care,
But it was her music that would become our undoing.

Her playlist changed.
Not gradually, not subtly
But radically.
All of a sudden it was about partying and drinking.
Avril Lavigne’s “What the Hell” and Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night”
Sure enough we broke up.

What of those songs she said belonged to me?
I could no longer stand to listen to them
I threw her CD out my car window,
On a dusty dirt county road in Hunt County.

To this day I can’t hear any of those songs because they remind me of her,
And my stomach tightens up and I want to punch a bitch.
Does that make me a bad person?
I don’t know, but at least it makes me an honest person,
Even if it makes me uncomfortable to accept my own darkness,
My own personal shortcomings.

But that one song?

It became something more –
It became, not a love song, strange as it may be to say,
But it transformed into an anthem,
A mantra,
It was – it is – a song that speaks to me,
Deeper than any other song before or since.

Yes, it will forever remain intertwined with her,
But it is separate from her, too.

In spite of what I may feel,
Despite the ugliness I fear I wear,
Maybe I have value, perhaps I have worth.

I no longer am the pitiful person I was a couple of years ago.
I no longer feel as dejected as I did then.
I no longer feel the all-consuming anger towards her.
But neither have I forgotten,
And I struggle to forgive
Her,
My ex-wife,
Life,
God,
Myself….

I’ve accepted that it was my own life choices that led me to my downfall.
In the midst of my personal Dark night of the soul,
I found a strand of hope to hold on to,
A tether to this most perishable life.
I found an affirmation in a rather profane song.
Isn’t it ironic that sometimes the message has to come from the most unlikely of sources?
Could this be why Life-Destiny-God, sent her to my life –
To give me the message and then slowly drift away?
And I hold onto it, a life preserver in the rough seas,
A reminder of the bad and of the good still to come.

…you’re fucking perfect to me.

(end song)


Short Stories

Next story – Lina
Previous story – Open Secret

Telling you about my first time

all's well that inks well

all’s well that inks well (Photo credit: b1gw1ght)

Today starts the first week of my break between classes. I have three weeks to do nothing resembling anything academic. Just me and my computer, television, and maybe a few good books. As soon as my new book arrives, I’ll begin to read it for next month’s book review.

Of course I’m going crazy, obsessing over what my grades will ultimately be. So far it appears as though I’m going to pull straight A’s, but it’s not definitive. As soon as I know I’ll drive you crazy with my pathetic display of self-congratulatory behavior. I’m stretching as we speak to give myself a hearty and well-deserved pat on the back. I don’t want to pull anything as I contort myself awkwardly.

But while I wait, I did something last night that I’ve been toying with for a long time, but finally worked up the nerve to do; I submitted a short story for publication. To be honest, I think this rates higher on my “Hurray!” scale than my grades so. I finally did it!

Okay, I know this doesn’t seem like too big a deal. People submit short stories, essays, and novels everyday. What is a big deal, at least for me, is that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I sent my first submission. Now all I have to do is wait the appropriate amount of time to receive my first rejection.

Hey! Think positive! Yeah I can practically hear you screaming at your computer screens. I am thinking positive. I’m thinking I’m going to hear a response. Joking aside, although I really do hope they decide to publish it for me, I’m okay if they pass on my piece. I think I expanded my boundaries just by filling out the form and sending my story “Letting Go” to Agni Online. Everyone has to start somewhere and this is my start. And if they do reject it, I’ll send it to another site. Try, try again, as they say.

I’m also working on a short creative nonfiction essay that I plan to submit to Hippocampus Magazine. My essay chronicles my struggle with depression after the turmoil of my divorce up to leaving my job and spending a year unemployed. It’s set on my first day back to school, thirteen years after I dropped out. It’s nowhere near completed, and I’ll probably obsess for a few weeks before I submit it, but we’ll see where it takes me.

And finally, I still have to finish my rewrite of my novel. Once I’m done, I can evaluate where I am there. I’ll probably have to do another rewrite (and then another) before I’m satisfied letting this one out into the world. As you can tell, I plan to spend a good part of my time off writing. I let my classes get in the way of writing so I have a lot of time to make up. Then my last class will start next month and I may temporarily lose track of writing again, and that’s okay. By July I should be done and then I’ll be able to move forward in my life.

Hopefully I’ll also have a published story to go along with my sheepskin. I hope, I hope, I hope!