The Audacity of Loving an Ugly Duckling

4thgrade

A friend who I really only know through Facebook posted a few pics of the “new” her that were so striking that I felt compelled to encourage her with a comment. What I said was “You look great! I hope your mind has followed.” She’s someone who I know has struggled because she’s been pretty honest and open about how she feels. Some of it is easily just the rites of passage that all of us go through in our twenties. But some of it is that extra tweak of damage I recognize because it reminds me of me. So naturally I root for her from afar.
I grew up a pretty ugly kid. Nerdy on top of that. And an introvert. With a big brain and an uncool depth of feeling. In short, I was fucked. When I turned 18 and got clean I miraculously went from ugly duckling to stoner punk rock swan. Only I had no idea that I had. I saw myself through the same filter I always had, only now girls started to pay attention to me. Which I thought was weird, but I sure wasn’t going to ignore my good fortune. Unfortunately my mind didn’t keep up with my improved outer appearance and I played from the perspective that I still suck but I’m smart and charming and as long as I’m good in bed you’ll hang out for awhile.
For the next 30 years.
I made a LOT of messes. Aimed for women who I had no business falling for. Managed to never get shot. (and I don’t make that statement for dramatic color) Pushed away lovers who were probably actually great, loving, loyal people for the very reason that they were just those things. And handed my heart on a platter to lovers who were no more capable of receiving it responsibly than I was at staying.
I finally broke at just under 40 years old.
I spent the next two years doing absolutely nothing romantically inclined and sought outside help. I’d dug as far as I could with the steps. They weren’t designed for this shit. But they DID give me the basic honesty and self awareness to be able to flip all my cards face up with a professional so *they* could put them in an order that made sense and receive new tools to heal my psyche. Learning to apply those ideas and skills was sometimes graceless. But it was exciting and it required me to step radically outside my comfort zone. Frankly I was all for it.
My 40’s became bar none, the best decade of my life by a long stretch. At 43 I was brushing my teeth one morning when it dawned on me that I was a pretty good looking guy. It was quite literally the first time I’d had that thought. My mind caught up to my outsides – just in time to get deathly ill for about 4 straight years, culminating in the loss of my leg. During that stretch of repeated tastes of “almost dead” fear drove me back to all my old ways in spades. But I wasn’t that ugly, introverted, awkward kid anymore. My mind actually had caught up, though at the expense of another relationship and long friendship.
It’s funny, having a fake leg hasn’t rendered me ugly. If anything it’s emboldened me. It no longer matters to me whether I’m attractive or not. Because I am clearly not my body. I am the thoughts I act on. I am the kindness I show others that no one knows about. I am a kid blowing raspberries in my wife’s belly while she squeals in equally childlike laughter and redoubles her feisty efforts to pin me. She thinks I’m hot and it makes me smile because it just isn’t important anymore. Staying and appreciating a fellow good, kind, loyal soul as my partner is what matters.
So I have great hopes for my Facebook friend. Because it took that guy to become this guy. I’m rooting for her.

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Jake the Wonderdog!

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Jake the Wonderdog!

Adopting Jake was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. People say I’m lucky, but it’s not true. ‘Luck’ would’ve been bringing home a puppy and hoping for a great personality. I interviewed Jake. We interviewed each other.
Think how many Jakes are out there – ready and excited to make you happy! Take a chance…

Shaking My Own Hand

2b4ac717-3a59-489c-9778-4b4c230ec49eTonight I stared myself in the face and shook my boy’s hand – entirely by accident.
I was adopted and grew up tripping at the idea of no one looking like me with a quiet and unsettling knowing that someone looked like me.
That itch got scratched 15 years ago when I tracked down my birth mother. After a happy reunion and 3 years of magical connection it all went bad and i found myself pretty grateful that my upbringing was the only thing standing between me and my criminal genetics. End of story, book shut.
Until tonight when I bumped into an old drama from 16 years ago wherein a girl turned up pregnant and no one was sure whether it was mine or her husband’s. He slapped down any suggestion that it was anyone’s other than his and frankly, given the times, so be it.
16 years later I crossed paths with that man again and it was all water under the bridge. He introduced me to his son. I looked at him. I looked at his father. I saw a whole bunch of his mom in him. Then I saw a whole lotta nadda of his dad.

Then I noticed the eyes.
And the dark curly hair.
And that square head.
And when i shook his hand goodbye
I realized it fit perfectly in mine,
as if i were shaking my own.

The wheels slowly started to turn and I put pieces into place and it wasnt till the ride home that it really sunk in. That was my boy.
Though i am not his father. That man, looking nothing like him stood beside him tonight. I have no intention of reigniting that fire. It nearly got us both killed a long time ago.
It sure stirred up a cauldron in me though. Regret, relief, longing, pride, sadness and a long dormant ache. One that I get to live with because to scratch it means to do it at everyone else’s expense.
First do no harm.

I’ll happily cheer from a distance for the connection clearly evident between you and your dad. I know him and know he’s raised you well.

Enjoy the ride, my boy.