It is 5:29 p.m. July 22nd, three days past my deadline to turn in this column and I cannot write. Or at least, I haven’t until now… It’s not just the bills or the everyday busy-ness that goes on the service of going about paying them. Nor is it my little boy I am helping to raise who’s currently playing in the next room; although I will voice the observation that I never realized how many random outbursts can randomly burst out of an almost-five-year-old with such alarming (a fitting word) regularity. It’s not even the 100+ degree temperatures that have accompanied these long dog days of summer…
It’s the chatter.
Sure, there’s always plenty of it on hand as political pundits pund their observations and interpretations, while the coverage of this less-than-optimistic presidential election year grinds on and on… and on. One candidate brags that he’s so popular, he could shoot someone in New York City’s Time square and not lose votes. Meanwhile his otherwise brilliant opponent seems to feign ignorance unbefitting a former Secretary of State with regard to a matter of national security. Words fly as fingers point and still nothing truly gets said, or gets said truly.
Add to that the increasingly frequent and apparently unending torrent of murderous acts that terrorists have perpetrated upon innocent people, both domestically and abroad. All in the name of a cause or deity that could in no way justify the senselessness, the barbarism and the cumulative crescendo of lives lost.
Long-smoldering racial tensions flare-up and burn, as if all of the healing and edification we have done as a society over the last 40 to 50 years was simply a hallucinatory fever dream never really happened.
Law officers and citizens square off as the drugs from the pharmacy wear off and everyone with a smart phone stares off, as if this whole thing drives itself.
It all rattles through my brain like wind chimes in a hurricane, derailing any and all trains of thought as their cars and cargo go tumbling down my rising mountain of responsibilities and expectations. Is it any wonder I’m having trouble rolling this seeming stone of Sisyphus? Am I really so distracted, or am I the distraction?
Life can do this to you. Or just as often, we do it to ourselves. Writer’s block is as time-worn a concept as writing itself, but it’s usually the writer that’s in the way. Not that there’s anything wrong with having a conscience. Or a life. Or being concerned with a world that is actually so much bigger than the little personal universes we each live at the center of. I mean, really: who cares about my lovelorn songs of longing and broken-heartedness in the face of all the real problems in the world?
Still, we are artists. It is within our very nature to express, interpret and yes, share our feelings and experiences. Not just for the sake of ourselves or our careers, but in service of giving a voice to those that seek but lack such means of expression. To provide a perspective that perhaps broadens one’s view, or consoles and commiserates in a very intimate way. A knowing wink that lets us know we’re not alone in this freewheeling freeform freeballing freefall called life.
My little boy, Miles, suddenly bounds into the room like a neighbor on a sitcom.
“Hi Bug!” I answer, not looking up from my laptop.
“Guess what I have?” he asks, brimming with that joyful exuberance that only a child can ceaselessly sustain.
“What?” I ask, though not quite at that same brimming point.
“A balloon!” he loudly proclaims as he stretches it outward with one hand, while he holds the other end behind his back. He lets it go with a loud thwack! As he does, it whips around at me and releases about 1.5 oz. of boy saliva directly into my face and neck.
“Ewgggh!” is all I can eek out of my restricted esophagus as I flail about like the drowning man I’ve certainly become.
“Blow it up!” he commands and offers the glistening red hunk of rubber to me.
“Gross!” I yell as I recoil in horror. “That thing’s nasty!”
“Blow it up, Dad!” he insists.
In one of my most Father-of-the-Year moments yet, I fight back my fears and my gag reflex and inflate the freshly moistened novelty to roughly the size of a cantaloupe. I pinch off the airflow at the neck and offer it back to him like a joint at Woodstock.
“No, no, no!” he admonishes. He points the nozzle towards his face. “Now let go!”
I do. His hair abrupty blows back like Fabio’s on the cover of a cheap Harlequin Romance novel, his eyes go aflutter and his nose and forehead take on a glistening sheen.
“Yeah, Dad. Like that!” he shouts, grabbing for the balloon. “Now I’ll do it to you!” he says, wiping his face on his short sleeve and sounding like some kind of evil freakin’ dentist clown from my worst nightmares.
“Nooo… we’re good, Bud.” I say with the same tone someone uses when they’ve stumbled upon a lion on the Serengeti, coolly circling face to face and desperately looking for an exit. “Daddy’s gotta work now.”
“Okay, Dad.” he concedes with a warm and all-too-brief hug before retreating to the TV and sofa.
Although Miles had jabbed a significant oar into my current river of thought, I found myself refreshed and reset in my both my attitude and approach upon my return to the task at hand and was able to finish this assignment.
Maybe the message here is to remain present and available to your inspirations, even if you can’t quite see them over the horizon. That all the chatter in the cosmos can be drowned out by simply tuning in and listening to the sweet songs sung by the blessings we’ve been bestowed.
Sven-Erik Seaholm performs with a full band at the Music Box’s All Access Fest, Thursday August 25, 8pm. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets.