It’s just life: Toil and strife (what my father wrote to me 20 years ago that applies right now)

Read Sober Psychonaut disclaimer for people in sobriety exploring psychedelic medicine

Since I’ve been working on this memoir and sifting through letters my father wrote me over the years, certain wisdom strikes me differently than it did when he first delivered it.

At the time he wrote this missive in 2001, it was the year I got laid off from the print-on-demand book publishing company I worked for in Philadelphia. But I had also decided to start my own business so I struck out on my own⏤the same year the Twin Towers were downed in a terrorist attack and the world stood still. Either way, I must’ve written to him of my struggles, whether with writing or outlook, and he wrote back.

I understand your pain and disappointment. BUT It’s just LIFE. You didn’t ask to be here but you IS IS IS.”

Dealing with depression so much in these later years, there’s something about the simplicity of that statement, and maybe⏤as I’m learning more about dialectical behavioral therapy and the idea of “this exists” while “this also exists”⏤a faint experience of acceptance of my existence. Jokingly, I recently told my therapist, “Yeah, I guess if I’m not gonna off myself and I’m gonna be here, I gotta figure this shit out.”

Poem excerpt from East of Nowhere, my father’s unfinished novel, and words of wisdom to me

These are the good times

Another line in the poem struck me, reminding me of Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” when she sings about “these are the good ol’ days.” My father writes that these are “finally the good/s times. I never knew that many that bad.” And if you knew the kind of shitstorms my father would find himself in, you might wonder how that could be. But that’s one thing about my father, in spite of severe alcoholism and oftentimes impaired rationale, his optimism persevered. As my brother once said, good thing Daddy wasn’t all woe is me and sad sack. He would’ve been miserable to be around. He just kept looking to the dawn.

Check out more Chowanisms (Stuff Ed Said)

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