Sound and Fury

Yesterday, I met Frank Schaeffer.

Frank. Schaeffer.

Friends, you probably don’t know the significance of this moment (give me time, I’ll elaborate). Many of you may not even recognize his name and that’s okay. In the art world, he’s…magnificent. If you like texture and color, reminiscent of VanGogh (a personal favorite), check out Frank’s work (www.frankschaefferart.com). Truly extraordinary. He’s the most famous person I’ve ever met. But more than that, he’s human. He’s just like the rest of us. Knowing of the tormented emotional and mental backgrounds of many of history’s famous artists, I wonder what motivates Frank’s brush to move across the canvas in the manner it does. Why does he choose those colors or the specific designs? What’s the meaning? What thoughts are coursing through his brain, down his arm, and out the tip of his paintbrush?

What you also may not know about Frank Schaeffer is that he’s a New York Times best-selling author for both fiction and non-fiction publications. Another element I believe many artists share…the constant need to move the thoughts from the confines of our craniums out into the universe. Whether that’s through a painting, a blog post, or a novel, etc. The words have to come out. The feelings must evacuate us, lest we become consumed by them. Perhaps my ruminations are simply projections of my own need to create, but that’s a deeper discussion for another time.

Yesterday, Frank spoke at a church I attended at The World of Beer (the only worthy church location). Church scares the shit out of me. I went because a friend of mine told me I should meet Frank because Frank was “my kind of people.” By “my kind of people,” my friend means that Frank doesn’t bullshit, likes beer, participates in deep conversations, and gives a damn about the people in his life. My friend’s assessment was accurate. The moment Frank started to speak, I was captivated. I felt like he stepped inside my brain and walked around for a while. It was the most soothing, most invigorating speech I’d heard in years.

After he concluded, the group of us migrated outdoors for beer and more conversation. I kept feeling the need to talk to Frank directly but like a good introvert, I found an excuse to avoid it. He’s talking to someone else, he’s eating, he’s busy. I’ll just sit here and read his latest book and pine for the moment when I can sit in his proximity. If you’ve never met Frank, you’re missing out. This man looks you in the eyes, holds your hand, hugs you, and talks to you like you matter. He exudes such compassionate energy.

A moment presented itself (thanks to an opening provided by my friend) and I began discussing art with Frank. I’m a painter…and for me, “art is not a thing, it is a way.” Frank and I sat together for over half an hour discussing art. He poured buckets and buckets of encouragement into my mind and soul and rendered me quite speechless. In fact, the entire drive home from the event, I could hardly concentrate on anything else.

I’ve been reading his book (“Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God“) off and on since yesterday and in it, he quotes Macbeth:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing
.”

Frank has his own reasons for including the text and it carries a specific meaning relevant to the book’s content. But when I read those lines of Shakespeare, I reflected on part of Frank’s talk (in front of 15 people at a random bar church in Arlington, Texas) yesterday. We’re sucking the creativity out of life. We’re stressing out about all the bullshit…the career, the bills, the mediocrity, and we’re losing touch with ourselves, with who we’re supposed to be. We neglect our souls, we discard our families…and for what? The sound a fury of a society who expects us to think and behave like a bunch of fucking robots.

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Life is so much more than sound and fury… Life is “giving love, creating beauty, and finding peace.”

The Vacation I Never Took

God, I’m tired. Like monumentally exhausted. I’d say my non-fatigued to fatigued daily ratio is 1:6. I’ve been distracted and stressed enough to forget important meetings, confuse my regular schedule (because it changes daily), and have panic attacks while taking out the trash. Yesterday I almost took the wrong highway to my destination. My appetite is all over the place. I don’t really want to eat anything but ice cream and even then, I’m a rather uninterested in it. Oh, cereal! Cereal has now become a central focus in my life. Thanks, Rory Gilmore.

My goal today was to finish sorting through shit for my thesis so I can start piecing it together and hopefully meet the January 1 deadline. So far, I’ve only accomplished about 1/4 of my intended goal while drinking coffee, having a conversation with a professor, nibbling on a cheeseburger, checking Facebook, listening to Pandora, and watching the latest episode of The Vampire Diaries. Did I mention I play episodes of Parenthood in the background while I type? No? I’m also supposed to Skype with a friend later. And I have to tutor other people’s kids for a few hours. And I’m waiting on important e-mails to arrive, as well as notification of when I can take my car in to have a recalled part replaced.

When did this become my life?

Bills, deadlines, bullshit, stress, worry, insomnia, irregular heartbeat, frustration, anxiety, and traffic. FUCKING TRAFFIC.

When did the joy disappear?

September 25, 2014. That’s when joy vanished. I’m pretty sure. Something really fucking awful happened on September 25th and I can’t seem to crawl out of the chasm that appeared under my feet. I’m somewhere down there, just above the scorching flames of hell, and just below that mysterious land of acid trips where unicorns and leprechauns run freely. I like to call that mysterious land, “The Vacation I Never Took.”

I have good days and bad days and today feels like the latter. I woke up with this burden hovering over my eyes like a damn rain cloud full of liquid lead. Just before I awoke, I had a nightmare related to the events of September 25th. The thing you, dear readers, should know about my nightmares is that they are chronic and very realistic. I feel pain when I dream and wake feeling sore and weary. F you, REM cycle, my nemesis. In this particular nightmare, I felt like I teleported into the mind of another person…like our dreams were being linked so we could converse and say all the things we haven’t been able to. Then I woke up and wished so much that the dream was real. Instead of feeling joy, I was overcome with sadness and disappointment; like god (or the universe or whoever) had toyed with my subconscious and gave me this nightmare to fuck with me. I’m not thankful for the dream because I know it’s not reality. My reality is still hell.

There isn’t an amount of meditation or prayer to bring me peace (or so it seems right now). There’s only staying busy and occasionally frantic, just so I remain distracted long enough to get a reprieve. I’m able to forget for a few hours a day at best; then I feel hopeful that at some point, this turmoil will abate. And then the night rolls around again, filling my mind (and body) with the truth of the chaos that’s become my life.

It wasn’t so amazeballs before September 25th, so maybe the events of that day just magnified the discrepancies in my daily conduct.

That place, The Vacation I Never Took, I should go there…maybe they have cereal.