You Mad?

Working with a writing coach has been interesting because The Grinder, as I call her, has torn my manuscript to pieces. In other words, it sucked ass. I think the story is good but that remains to be seen. The execution of it was really bad. And I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know what nor how to fix it. So I called The Grinder.

She has given me line by line critiques, and I had to decide whether to use them or not. When the critique was technical, like grammar or structure, there would be no question. I'd either make the edit or rewrite that part. However, when it came to suggestions such as logical progression of the story, or to reveal certain story elements earlier, then I'd have to take the time to think if this would work for the overall book. I'd either do the edits/rewrites, or decide that her suggestion won't work and move on.

Having done an overhaul on my book over the past two years, I needed people to read it to see their reactions, do some fine tuning. So I'm fortunate to be a part of a writing group filled with writers that are also working on their own books. We trade pages each week and critique each other's work. And it's going really well. For me, reading other peoples' works allows me to apply what The Grinder has taught me.

Yesterday was an interesting session because one of the authors challenged my critiques.

He tries to be really efficient with his writing. He doesn't use dialogue tags, which makes it difficult to know who's speaking, especially at the start of the scene. Many times I have to re-read lines to figure out who's speaking. I think making the reader work hard when they're already piecing together the images he's trying to paint isn't a good idea.

The other issue I have is he's telling instead of showing. A simple example, he often writes something like 'She lets out a sigh' instead of 'She sighs'. If he wants his writing to be efficient, then 'She sighs' is it, and the wording is stronger. Look at it this way:

She gives her man a beating

She beats her man

They're both still telling, not showing, but by linking the noun directly with the verb, the wording is much stronger. To make it vivid:

She punched her man in the face

This is a much stronger image that plays against the expectation of her kicking him in the balls, leaving us wondering why she punched him instead.

Here's another example:

She gave him a pointed look

I suggested that he show this. He then gave me a pointed look and asked what I thought that meant.

It doesn't matter what I thought because he wasn't showing, at least not clearly enough for me. She could be pointing with her forehead, chin, index finger, nostril, tongue, or tits. Or was he describing a look that was pointed, whatever that means.

Now the critiquer in me wouldn't mind this as much, but he was telling way more than showing, and I thought he needed to help the reader out a bit.

The thing is that he challenged my suggestions on his work that are just that: suggestions. It's his book. He can ignore everything I say. I have no power when it comes to his writing. Literally.

In one of my suggestions, I told him I didn't have a problem with one of his sentences, but remembered something similar that my writing coach had pointed out. He said, "She's not my writing coach." And I said, "OK," and moved on. I'm not about to argue with someone who isn't willing to listen, and again, it's not my book. I'm just trying to help.

The lesson here is that my opinion, or anyone else's, has no real power over you. And if you think there is, then you're the one giving those words power.

Sticks and stones. 

The Writing Dead Strikes Again

Tease. Don't you hate it when you make out with a woman, and your hand glides close to her chest, feeling the tightening of her shirt as she breaths, then she says, "I have to go," and leaves.

Crow.

Or have you seen friends fall to drink collectors at bars? For those not in the know, they're girls who have guys buy them drinks, then walk off with those said drinks.

This is what The Walking Dead writers have done to their viewers. If you haven't heard by now, a baddie named Negan from the comic book series of the same name has finally made his appearance on the television show. The writers have teased his appearance for most of the sixth season, especially through AMC's show, The Talking Dead. Fans knew that Negan's appearance would result in the death of a character, as dictated by Negan himself. And as he promised, he took his love, Lucille, a bat, and whacked somebody's head. Again and again and again.

But the episode ended without showing which character got the axe. Sorry. The bat.

As a writer, a storyteller, I would not do this. It's plain manipulative. Meaning it's done on purpose to fuck you over.

Scott Gimple came on The Talking Dead and explained that the end of the story is what we got. And the beginning of the next story is dealing with that character's death.

No.

First of all, the surviving characters can deal with the death in season seven even if who ever died was shown on the finale. Second, the writers did the same thing with Glenn in this season. In other words, don't be boring.

Imagine you've captured the attention of a drink collector and make it to the point of sex. You do this by describing a night that includes a scrumptious seafood dinner, followed by a tour of your mansion where you show her a serene lavender-scented bedroom, in which your strong manly hands give her a massage that will bring her to the brink of orgasm, and then continue the evening on your silk-covered bed with the solemn promise of multiple orgasms that will be more of a spiritual moment than having a conversation with God.

But...what she actually gets is a quick wet kiss, fast honking of the tits, a few pumps of the pelvis, and then you roll over and sleep. Worse of all, she wasn't even wet.

When Gimple was asked about people being upset at the cliffhanger, he said:

I would say, when they opened up the hatch [on Lost], we had to wait and see who was in the hatch. I liked thinking about that. I liked talking about it...blah, blah, blah...

He didn't answer the question. And is he that dumb to think that people wouldn't have talked and thought about it, despite revealing who was killed? Or is he that insecure about holding the fans' interest? Or worse yet, is he that arrogant to purposefully fuck with the fans' emotions through manipulation? Well, his non-answer to the question in regards to people being upset really says that they should like whatever he puts out.

And, yes, I know this is only a television show. Many fans have stated this as a way to dispel the huge disappointment in the ending. But if you asked the producers of The Walking Dead if they rather have us watch their show or skip it and watch something else, they'd want you to watch their show. And they want us to be invested. That's why they do this, but it's so unsatisfying. And if you search Twitter for #TWDfinale, you'd see the huge dissatisfaction from the fans. And that's just one tag. Reading comments from articles and YouTube videos discussing the ending show the same disappointment.

I'm not saying you have to give in to the fans, but pissing people off by doing a stupid stunt like this can reduce viewership. But then again there's no such thing as bad press.

Character Trait

I think writing fantasy is difficult. When creating a new world with new rules (i.e. magic, physics, politics), authors have to remain consistent. The magic in Harry Potter is a great example. J.K. Rowling establishes different economic classes in the wizardry populace. For example, the Weasley family is considered poor. But the Malfoys are rich. Very rich.

We see this when Harry goes to the bank and sees his vault open to a pile of gold coins. We see this again in Harry and Ron's first train ride to Hogwarts when the candy cart comes. Weasley frowns and holds up his lunch(?) wrapped in Saran Wrap. But Harry makes it rain with gold coins and buys 'the whole lot'.

Then we see something curious. In the Great Hall after the new students have been sorted into their houses, plates of food miraculously appear out of thin air onto the tables. Ron dives in and gorges himself. This suggests that food, or anything else, can be created out of nothing, which contradicts the idea of economic class. Why does money exist if a basic need like food can be conjured from nothing?

Rowling even acknowledged that she had run into a storytelling problem, and covered herself by showing that house elves prepare the food, and magic is used to teleport the plates of sustenance to the tables. To be honest, I didn't even see the problem until I started to learn the rules of world building.

Now, reading other writers' works, I've had to take notice if/when they're breaking their own rules. But writing about human insecurities is a little difficult. One of the authors in my writing group has a story about a guy who is self-conscious about feeling old. But there are moments where that character feels youthful and moments when he feels old. We've all harped on this fact, that his character seems to flip flop on his own perception of age. That the character needs to be consistent, otherwise the author may lose the readers' trust. The author states that his character's feelings on age depends on the situation.

And that makes perfect sense.

Character traits are defined as something that changes their view of the world. Put it simply, if the character is a man, his view is going to be vastly different than a woman's. A man isn't going to fear rape every time he goes on a first date. But a woman may because she's the physically weaker sex.

Or if a character is narcissistic, then she will see the world as beneath her, or her above it, as seen in the character Cat Grant in Supergirl.

So what we, as fellow writers, are harping on is the consistency of the character trait. But what we did not see is that declaring yourself old or young is not the trait the author intended. The trait is the insecurity of being old. And the character's flip flopping supports that trait. Because if the trait was that he feels old, isn't worth anything because he's old, then flip flopping wouldn't make sense. And it wouldn't make for an interesting story.

Life Is Fair

I remember as a kid my niece scooped more ice cream than I had and I told my brother, "That's not fair."

"Who said life is fair?" he retorted.

I always hated that question. Who said life is fair? Well who the fuck said life is unfair?

Dude. A lot of people.

I just came out of a writing group that is surprisingly going well, and one of the critiquers said my main character has faced a lot of opposition and is going through a lot of opposition. In a way life has been unfair to him. Obviously, I've set up this character and his life in this manner to make him a more compelling and interesting read.

But when we look at real life from the perspective of labels, situations and material wealth life can be unfair. There will be people that are richer than you. There will be others that are poorer. Certain people will have talents that you will not have. And you will have talents they won't even want. A coworker may get promoted faster than you. Some people work hard and withstand stupid people (retail workers) for little money. And hard work doesn't guarantee success.

So, yes, from the perspective of the have and have-nots life is unfair.

Going back to my main character, he is now at the top of world. He's married to a beautiful woman who was highly sought after in her day. His two adult children are well adjusted. He's the general of the most powerful military force in the seven provinces. He's also the most talented and best swordsman this world has seen. Yet, he's unhappy.

Jimmy, this is crap. No one on Earth, the real world, who is this successful can be unhappy. Not true.

Now, I'm not saying that if you're rich, you're unhappy. But people who do not consider themselves rich may think that having more will increase their happiness. And we can see that's not true. And I don't need to provide proof that unhappiness exists in people that are considered poor.

And this is where life is fair. Happiness can be had by all. Because for anyone to say they are unhappy, they at some point in their lives were happy.

The question becomes how can people herd more happiness into their lives?

For my main character, one of the things he can do is let go. As one of my critiquers have said, he's faced a lot of opposition in his life. One is portrayed here. Enduring this kind of tragedy obviously takes a mourning period. But the mourning period can extend as long as he holds onto this memory. I'm not saying he'll forget it. What I'm saying is how often does he remind himself of this tragic event can extend the mourning period.

I think losing a child is too extreme of an example. So let's take my friend Mr. Vagina. Well, don't actually take him.

My friend had fallen for a girl, hard. And he's had the damnedest time trying to heal from it. And that's the crux of his problem. He's trying to heal. You get a cut on your hand. Your body naturally begins the healing process. You don't need to pray, talk to someone, pay anyone money, or look in the mirror deep into your soul every morning and night and affirm that your body will heal itself. It'll fuckin' heal itself.

Mr. Vagina's mind is the same. It will naturally heal and move on from his perceived emotional torment. But every time we've met up for dinner, he would sink into his victim hood.

World’s smallest violin

World’s smallest violin

He would give me a history lesson of how all this pain started, how he's a good guy, how she's at fault, and then asks me for confirmation of all those things. I don't give it to him, but that's not the point here. He's taking the cut on his hand and slicing it again and again everyday. He's the proverbial self-cutter. Not only that but he either refuses or is unable to see that this is all self-inflicting, despite me showing him. He's been unhappy for a very long time because he's a true master at holding on to grudges.

Once he lets go, happiness, like a healthy body, will naturally show itself.

For my main character, losing a child is a very deep cut. And with that, it may naturally take more time to heal. And like some severe injuries, the human body has limits. Does the mind?

Why Read?

Writing groups. What is it about writers? As God is their witness, they declare they are writers. Some want to write. Some write. Some don't but say they're writers. And if you join a writing group, shouldn't you give your best feedback? In the end, it may not be useful, but at least try your best. Right?

I've written my experiences with writing groups. They weren't good. But sometimes things that do not work out has its reasons. Here, it had led me to work with a writing coach who opened my eyes to just how crappy my writing was.

Now that my work with her is almost over, I needed a way to see if all of my edits and revisions worked. And a friend contacted me about joining a private writing group where we could workshop our pieces. What timing.

There are four of us, so two writers submit pages to be read each week by the rest of us. And then the next week the other two writers would submit pages. One of the guys couldn't make the first day, which was fine. Life either gets in the way or shits on us sometimes. I'll call him Walt.

We're three weeks into it, and Walt and I had submitted pages. I spent a lot of time going though his work, giving him mechanical corrections and suggestions, writing detailed notes of what I thought needed to be worked on. And I made sure my handwriting was legible. I'm sorta like a doctor where my writing can be illegible. Even to me.

I wrote my first drafts in longhand. There had been many times where I turned my notebook upside down, inside out, used a magnifying glass, trying to decipher just what the fuck I had written. My thoughts moved so fast that my writing tried to keep up, and in doing so my words looked like old leftover spaghetti.

Anyway, this past Saturday we met in this cool cafe on Market Street close to Union Square in San Francisco. And the group chose my piece to talk about first. Two of the writers gave me really good feedback. They told me where they got confused, where they saw some inconsistencies, told me what they liked and didn't like, specific things that I could use. Walt, on the other hand, said, "I normally don't read this stuff (fantasy)."

"You wouldn't be writing to me," Walt said.

Ah. Awesome. Good to know.

Walt continued, "For me, I need to know why I should read this. Instead of creating this whole new world, this story could have been told with regular people."

Not showing up the first day and reading my first three chapters doesn't help your understanding of my story either...

Walt yammered on about my piece, then gave me some generalities, none of which I could use, and then said it was well written.

In other words, he didn't read it. Or at most, skimmed through it.

So the question was, why read any kind of science fiction or fantasy? When real world fiction, taking place in the real world, is plentiful in real bookstores around this great nation of ours that's real.

I was listening to a personal growth lecture a long time ago, and the speaker brought up Lord of the Rings. Why would a speaker of enlightenment do this? He said that there's no guarantee when it comes to our goals and dreams, so all we can do is move toward them one step at a time. But what we can have is hope. Because it's in our despair that our dreams can fade and disappear. Lord of the Rings is really a story about hope. Hobbits, the smallest creatures in Middle-Earth, do the seemingly impossible. Frodo Baggins is tasked with holding the most powerful ring and resisting its evil influence, while trekking across Middle-Earth, avoid getting killed by the Orc armies, and destroy the One Ring in Mount Doom. Frodo doesn't know how he'll accomplish this, only that he needs to, so he sets out on foot with hope in his heart.

Another example is Star Wars. Luke flies into the trench of the Death Star, and he hears the voice of Obi Wan Kenobi say, "Use the Force, Luke. Let go, Luke." Luke turns off his targeting computer. We, the audience, already witnessed another pilot miss using his, and we intuit that Luke needs to trust himself. That somehow his own wisdom will guide him. In a way, the Force symbolizes that wisdom and that we should trust our own.

What Walt may not understand is that all stories are quests. Whether the quest is for love, revenge, balance, or world domination doesn't matter. It's in that quest that teaches us something about ourselves. It's in the ups and downs of trying to destroy an evil ring that can show hope. It's in our trust of the magical Force that we see that wisdom resides inside all of us.

And science fiction and fantasy allows the storyteller to remove the boundaries of the real world, and let's us use fantastical things to showcase truths of the human condition.

Light the Way

Driving down the street, I turned right and felt my car labor up the hill. I dropped the stick shift into second gear and sped up before I realized I had passed the house I was looking for. My tires crunched the gravel until they halted. I stepped out of my car and saw a set of stairs that led up to what I thought to be the front door.

This part of Oakland seems nice, I thought. I wasn't sure why that thought buzzed in my head. Maybe because I opened the trunk and brought out hitting pads and didn't want to start a fight. Not that I couldn't take care of myself. My car could be a good getaway vehicle.

I walked up the stairs and remarked at how quiet the street was. Once at the front door, I could see through the screen door an old Chinese gentleman sitting in his cushy chair. His trim hair was as white as the white marble rocks that paved the front of the home. His wife, I assumed, approached the door. Her hair complemented his, but permed. I think. What spurred in my mind was her impending accent. In fact, there was no doubt that she would greet me with an old thick Chinese accent. I wasn't afraid of not understanding her as much as not liking Chinese accents. Especially thick ones. Don't ask me why.

She smiled. "You must be Jimmy. Tony is waiting for you. Common in," she said in perfect English.

There wasn't a drop of an accent. If I closed my eyes, the last image I would expect to see was an elderly Chinese woman. The next thought in my mind was that her English was probably better than mine.

Tony's grandfather stood from his chair and shook my hand and welcomed me in. Also in perfect English. Was I in the Twilight Zone?

No. But this assignment was about to teach me three life lessons.

That was my first: What I see in contrast to what really is can and often be two different things.

Truth be told, I was a little nervous. Taking on a paying client was new to me. Not only that, but I had to figure out how to imbue this Tony with confidence while teaching him how to be a lethal weapon.

Down this narrow hallway that splintered off into bedrooms strolled a skinny thirteen-year-old Chinese boy, standing about five feet tall. His eyes were heavy and hair matted from his nap, which I eventually found out to be a daily habit. We greeted each other, and Tony led me down a steep set of stairs.

We had met once before at my best friend's going away party, Tony's former martial arts teacher. And mine. Penn was chasing his Hollywood dreams and was leaving for London to study theatre and drama at the famed The Old Vic. His departure had been dramatic for me because I was losing a close friend, and he gave me little guidance of how to continue the martial arts training of his clients he had gifted me. This added to my nervousness. Why? Both Penn and I had been throwing around the idea of opening our own school that not only delved into self defense, but also addressed issues that these kids might be facing. That of course went out the window when Penn had decided to go to London. Now, I didn't want to screw Tony up as a person. I had issues of my own with no concrete idea on how to solve them. So I had been trusted to solve Tony's? Good luck kid.

"This is where Penn and I would have our lessons," Tony stated.

We ended up in the basement that was filled with a lot of nick knacks that only an old couple who had been together for decades could collect. Toys from the past were stashed in shelves along side old books. Boxes and crates were shoved against the wall, and an old Chinese calendar hung along side faded pictures. There was so much stuff, I couldn't recall what color the walls were. What floor space we had was enough to run basic drills, which was fine, but when we shifted to movement drills, I would need more room.

"Oh, they can move their car from the garage if we need more space," Tony said, referring to his grandparents.

I didn't really know what to say except for, "Fabulous."

What peaked my interest was a door on the back wall. It just sat there, waiting to be opened. For some reason it looked ominous because nothing blocked access to it, despite all of the stuff packed into this tiny space.

Since this was our first official lesson, I wanted to spend time assessing his abilities, which helped lower any student's guard, so I could converse with Tony and try and figure out who this skinny kid was. I slipped my hands into my striking pads and held them up a little higher than his height. He struck the pads with pretty good efficiency and power for his size. His pad work filled the small basement with explosive sounds like firecrackers. I wanted to say he could beat up little girls now, but this was our first lesson, and I didn't know if he could take my sarcasm. Yet.

The door kept stealing my attention. It was a few feet off the ground. So to step inside, someone would have to climb in. And it wasn't a normal door like those that led into bedrooms or bathrooms. It was squarish. Why was that?

"What's behind the door," I asked.

A veil of coldness draped down Tony's thin face. His eyes seemed to darken and his shoulders tightened toward his chest. "I don't know. I don't go in there."

Images of dead bodies sparked in my mind.

"Where does it lead?" I prodded.

Tony shrugged. "Under the house?"

"Have you seen what's in there?"

Tony took a few steps away from the door and gazed at it as if he was seeing a long dead tormentor come back from the netherworld. "Someone might be living under there."

What was interesting was there had been no easy way of getting under the house other than through that door. So where did this poor kid get the idea that someone could be living under there like a troll?

As my weekly lessons continued, there was one simple truth I had found out about this kid. Fear was a very real thing that he had been living with for a large part of his life. It had to have originated from somewhere. Tony lived in a very safe neighborhood where the idea of a robbery was sinister. I mean, he attended private school. His parents were well-to-do. He had friends.

What gives?

Tony was close to his older sister who had Hollywood aspirations as well. Crystal had talked shop with Penn when he was Tony's teacher. She seemed well adjusted, aware enough to know what she wanted, and had a healthy social life. He often talked about her and had the normal brother/sister conflicts that all siblings have. During times of struggle, he would go to her for advice. It's heartwarming to know that he still does to this day.

His father was a restauranteur at a well known eatery. He was a tall man of six-feet, the shortest among his brothers. His demeanor was gentle and friendly and giving. I had never heard a harsh word come from his mouth. Except when talking about his daughter's then boyfriend. If anything, Tony inherited his father's temperament and eventually, his height. Yes, Tony would outgrow me. Then I met Tony's mother. Talk about ominous doors. I'm not referring to Norman Bates kind of relationship. But...

Tony's mother worked as an assistant D.A. for the City of San Francisco. She had prosecuted people that horror movies were based on. And like any civil servant, she was overworked and stressed. But both parents were on top of their kids' needs and education. The mother more intensely, like the military's Apache helicopter. To say she was overbearing was understating things, like saying Bruce Lee was some Asian dude. I understood, coming from a Chinese family myself, that overbearingness had come from a deep love and want for her kids to be successful in life.

This was when I learned my second life lesson: Children are people too. I watched Tony struggle with the constraints his mother placed on him. And I watched the struggle she had with her son, trying her damnedest to mold him into the man she wanted him to be.

All of this was to say that Tony had learned and lived with a lot of unnecessary fears that came from somewhere, and I inherited the simple job of showing him most—if not all—of his fears were created in his own mind. In other words, not real.

Another twist had shown up during one of our lessons. We were in the middle of a drill, and I slapped the back of his hand. He cradled that hand with the other, brought it up to his mouth like a mother would, and kissed it.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm kissing it to make it feel better."

"Are you serious?"

Tony nodded.

Lord. How does anyone teach toughness? The fastest way? By throwing that person to the wolves. Knowing his mother was a prosecuting attorney prevented me from doing this. Also, I was taking a shine to the kid. But an idea popped into my head. One that would possibly get me sued. Again, I reminded myself what his mother did for a living.

In our next lesson, I walked through the door and greeted Tony with a smile. He turned around to lead me to our training area. I targeted his back. He suspected nothing. "How are you?" I said. And slapped his back hard. Really hard. So hard that it could be heard a mile away.

"Ouch! What was that for?" he cried.

"What? It's just a friendly pat on the back."

Next lesson. I enter Tony's home, greet him with a smile. He turned around. Slap!

Next lesson. I enter. Smile. He turned around. Then looked back at me.

"How's school?" I asked.

Tony put his guards up.

"What?" I said, giving him the most innocent look I could muster.

"A lot of homework."

"Ah. Are you done with it?"

Tony turned around. "Not yet."

Slap!

The boy learned to have his guard up, to be more aware. But that didn't stop the slaps. Sometimes they would come during a drill. Sometimes after the lesson. Other times I would slap his shoulder because he would never present his back. In the end, he didn't kiss his hand when he got hurt. At least not in front of me. And hopefully Tony learned that he was a lot tougher than he gave himself credit for.

The ominous door stared at me.

I had been teaching Tony for around a year. The slaps ended. Naturally. But Tony still had irrational fears. So in the beginning of our lesson, I told him that he had to open the door in the basement.

"Will you be here?" he asked.

 "I'll be here."

Tony stepped up to the door and hesitated. "You're not going to trick me and stuff me in there? Right?"

"Would I be that mean?" I assured.

He gave me a look to remind me of the slaps he had received.

I found a flashlight from the piles of nick knacks in the basement and stood about a few feet away from the door.

Trembling a bit, Tony reached for the door handle and let a moment pass. He closed his eyes and took a breath, then opened them. He pulled the door open. Cool air entered the basement, bringing an earthy smell. The concrete foundation expanded under the house into the dark. More nick knacks were packed off to the sides. Some lumber. But there was enough room for a person to hide with evil intentions. That was what I read from Tony's eyes.

"Let's go in," I said.

"Serious?"

"Yeah. If there's anything in there, then you and I will handle it."

"You're not going to just lock me in there, right?"

I didn't bother asking if he thought I could do such a thing. "I'll be here."

Surprisingly, he climbed in first, trusting that I wouldn't shut the door behind him, forcing him to suffer alone. I climbed in after with the flashlight. There wasn't much height between the foundation and the bottom of the house. So we had to squat. We shined the light around different crevices so Tony could see nobody was lurking, hopefully dispersing his fear like a shadow.

"I'm gonna turn off the light."

"For how long?"

"Fifteen minutes."

Tony's eyes widened to almost round-eyes. And that was a feat. He had very slanty eyes. "Serious?"

"How long then?"

"A minute."

I smiled and agreed. I turned off the flashlight. And we waited, squatting like old Chinese men in kung-fu shoes, smoking cigarettes.

"You OK?" I asked.

"I think so."

"Nothing to be afraid of."

"But you're here."

"So?" A moment passed. "You could have done this alone if you wanted to."

"You think?"

"Don't you?"

Tony didn't answer. "Is the minute up?"

"Don't you?" I asked again.

"Probably."

"Want to try?"

Tony thought for a moment. "Next time."

I opened the door and stepped down. Tony followed.

We never tested that fear again. Maybe because I knew he could do it. Or that he had outgrown that kind of train of thought because he could reason it out, that most of his fears were fake.

Five years had gone by. I relished our time together because we became friends, much like how Penn and I had been. As all kids do, they grow up, graduate from high school, then move out-of-state to attend university.

He had been at university for a year or two. He was talking to his roommates who were going through their own growing pains. And he realized something. In one of the rare times we saw each other, he said that he had been thankful for having me help him through his issues. That he was glad he was beyond them. Truth of the matter was that Tony was more than capable of moving beyond his own issues. Sometimes people need a flash light to find their way.

And it's not like he would never have problems again, or that sometimes life shits on people. But it's how we handle it that shows how far we have grown. And it was at this moment that I knew Tony didn't need a person like me anymore. That was my third life lesson. I would have failed as a teacher if he did. But I hope he knows that I'll be here.

Closure

On one Saturday evening in SoMa, I strolled down a dark secluded street and entered a bar to attend a party. The DJ blasted his music, my friends were talking and ordering drinks from the bar, and I saw a whole bunch of people I've never met.

Then I spot a gorgeous woman dressed in a long black flowing dress. A scarf covered her shoulders. She wore high heels with straps. She took good care of herself and had an uncanny resemblance to Lucy Liu. Later I found out that she was in her mid fifties. Though, I'd never guess that she was anything over the big four-oh. I approached her and began to flirt only to find out that she had just recently ended a five year relationship.

As the party went on, in between the other guys hitting on her, we form what I thought to be a start of a beautiful friendship. We talk about what we like/don't like about relationships, what kind of things we like to do, our workout routines, trade gossip about our common friends, her two adult kids.

Our connection seemed to cement us as being good friends. And I was fine with that.

Over the next few months, we went out to dinner, talked about our dating histories, attended parties, forging a close friendship. It was one of the few that I'd treasured. And I enjoyed watching many men trip over themselves to get at her. Truth be told, she enjoyed that a lot, too. She needed outside confirmation of her attractiveness to feel good about herself.

Then she did the one thing that all women seem to do at some point in their lives. She went back to her boyfriend.

I wince because this guy had refused to call her his girlfriend. For the first three years of their five-year relationship. Say what? And of course, all of her complainants from their past surfaced up again: he doesn't listen, isn't attentive, spends too much time at the bar with his rowdy friends, is insecure. He didn't want her hanging out with me because he felt threatened by little old me, but he could hang out with anyone he wanted. What a guy...

So, during my epic trip to New York City, I texted, talked, and counseled her with her relationship that was barely treading water. I saw the signs, the massive tidal waves that had begun to break. Though, I never told her to break it off, that was a decision she had to make on her own. She feared being alone because she couldn't see that she could have a good man, despite all these men hitting on her.

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My advice was simple. Stay with him and accept him for who he was, a perfectly good option. Or break it off and heal. And for the umpteenth time, she broke it off. So when I returned from my epic trip to The Big Apple, I tried to get her out of her house, to get her to be social again. I invited her to a whole slew of events, which she agreed to. And every single time she'd flake out. After a while, I stopped inviting her to things, and our texting conversations trickled to a slow halt. She admitted that she needed closure, but didn't really know how to get it. It's hard. I get it.

A few months later, I texted her to see how she was doing. No response. I emailed her. Chirp, chirp. I checked Facebook. She had unfriended me.

Now I wish I could say that I did something to piss her off. But reading over the last few texts didn't reveal anything to me. I assume she went back to her boyfriend and promised to severe all contact with me because our friendship seemed to be a sore spot for him.

Obviously, she ended our friendship. I don't have a lot of close friends, the kind I value the most, but I'm not one to beg to hang out with someone if they don't want me around. What's the point?

For the past five months, I've been counseling a friend about a break up. Now, his relationship was a little different. You know how some women say that they want their man to be their best friend? That some of their best relationships started as friends? This was the case. Sorta. Keep reading.

I'll call him Mr. Vagina (and by this designation, he'll know I'm talking about him).

Mr. Vagina met this woman at a Meetup event. By his telling of the story, he was enthralled by her and the connection they had. Not only could he feel said connection, but he knew in his heart of hearts that she wanted him. So he did what any nice guy would do. Looked out for her, texted her day in and day out, hung out with her and her friends as often as he could. But he made no real move toward her until he couldn't stand it anymore. He gathered his courage and asked her out, and she said, "OK."

Then the one thing that guys hate happened. She texted him and flaked out. Not only that, but she specifically stated that she wasn't interested, wasn't ready for a relationship, and that she wanted to just be friends. Good friends.

A couple months rolled by. Mr. Vagina continued to hang out with her, became a good friend, even looked out for her when she had drunk too much. It was this particular night where he thought he'd give it one last good old college try. And why not? History is filled with successful people who had never given up, never heeded naysayers.

He took his nifty iPhone out and poured his heart out in one long single text. Shakespeare's sonnets were a far cry from his outpouring. Poets of ye olde couldn't come close. The movie Ghost couldn't touch Mr. Vagina...his text that is.

And like Godzilla putting a stomping on Mothra, this woman cut him off, kicking him out of her Meetup group, telling him never to contact her again.

It's been eight months since this event occurred. And Mr. Vagina has yet to get over her. Human babies are conceived, gestated, and given birth in this time. Faster if you consider premature babies. God could have created forty earths if he didn't take the seventh day to rest (34.3 if He was lazy).

The one thing Mr. Vagina wanted was to reconcile his relationship with her. There are two issues with that. First, the relationship was completely made up in his mind, so he thought what he had was real. It was! But only for him.

Second, closure is a myth. Mr. Vagina chose to hold onto this for eight months. And who knows how long he'll continue to do so. And that's the crux. It's an idea in his head that he's holding on to. Just like the Lucy Liu lookalike, she can't see that men are attracted to her, so she grips to the idea that her ex, or current boyfriend, is the only man for her.

Now, I know how traumatic it is trying to get over someone you love. No doubt it hurts.

Mountains of books have been written to help people through this painful event. And I explore this in my own book, except I write about a father who has to get over a significant tragedy. Nevertheless, there's a time after the mourning process where we have a choice: to let go, or to hold on.

It is very difficult to see through the epic fog of despair when that moment arrives. But it comes. I told Mr. Vagina that we naturally heal from emotional wounds. He didn't believe me. So I told him to think of it this way: You get a cut from a knife on your arm. You'll feel the pain. The deeper the cut the deeper the pain. It'll hurt for a while. But your arm will naturally heal. It won't remain cut, unless you reopen the wound.