« Sunset on the Single Life »

kelli with flowing hair in a summer straw hat with flower a short while before our wedding day.I am getting married on the 28th of August. It is one month from now. We got engaged on the 16th of February. It wasn't that long ago. It was a cloudy, cold Monday and we were tucked into some blankets. It was about 6 pm or so. I had given Kelli the ring before (one that I received on the day my grandmother died, nearly three years before), sort of as a goofy gesture I am inclined to do. I had been warming to this new idea, obviously, but I don't think she knew that. We had been going to counseling for a few months, and that was starting to show some progress, and our life together was showing more promise than it had in a while. Let me put this out there now—I never had a proposal planned out. I knew she was good for a "yes." We've known each other for 14 years now. Anyhow, we were there, sort of fighting off the chill of the winter (all 50 degrees of it), and she asked me, "so uh, what does this ring mean? It's too big for my pinky, and its too small for my middle finger. I'll have to have it resized. What finger am I supposed to have it on?" To which, I said coyly, "I thought you knew that by now..." It was cute. That was, as much as anything, my proposal. Was I chickenshit, or just confident that I didn't need a plane to write it in the sky, or a banner hanging from a bridge, or a billboard on the way home from work? It was sort of a spontaneous thing, giving her the ring, and letting her wonder all week what all that meant.

I never really told that story before.

I had a mentor like figure in the music world who once told me he was about to get married at 30, but decided against it, because he was afraid he was doing it only because he was 30. At 46 he wasn't married. A little later on, he was. He got a 50% extension on the single life. I have always sort of had that story in the back of my mind, as I go ahead with the few relationships I have had.

Last year, at this time, life was utter hell for me. In fact, getting married this year on 8/28 is a few days short of the darkest day of my life so far, but the one that also was the biggest opportunity for turning shit around. A year ago, by my reckoning, I was supposed to be dead. September 4th was the day. No particular significance for that; it was just in the few short weeks before I was to turn 30. And, with 30 being one of those arbitrary ages when you are supposedly judged by people, I wanted nothing to do with it, because, at that time, I felt like an utter failure, and saw no need to get an award for it. I was a reasonably functioning clinically depressed dude. Two of my musical heroes, Jeff Buckley and Kevin Gilbert, had both died under "mysterious" circumstances in about a years' time. Jeff was 30, Kevin was 29. I guess I had some morbid fascination with them. I still love their music, but I gotta watch out how much of their mythology I take in. For me, as a frustrated artist and human being, 29 or 30 was as good a time to check out as any. I had my bags packed, so to speak. I just wasn't committed enough. The funny thing about the suicidal is that they are either on or off that bus. The ones who really don't give a shit just go ahead and do it. But here was me—I just somehow had to know what would be around that next corner. So I chickened out and called for help. Like the space shuttle when a piece of equipment fails before launch, the countdown to death by 30 stopped.

I didn't know what help would offer, or what form it would take, but I caved in and went for it. I ended up turning things around far better than I would have thought. I still am in solo counseling and couples counseling, and time permitting, a group. I've been doing most of this pretty solidly for a year. While I was at the residential center being tended to by nurses, counselors, a psychiatrist and my housemates, Kelli was always there for a visit. Rock solid. Of course, she hid the fact that my little antic scared the living shit out of her. Sometimes the stuff that women put up with just amazes me.

Kelli was one of the few things that made me put on the brakes that day. Of course I would say that, getting married as I will be, but really, it's more than diplomacy. Kelli and I have been on different paths, but have enough common ground to communicate this stuff to each other, but her experience in life has been one untimely death after another. It's terrible. And there I was, wanting to pull the plug on my own life. The thought that made me stop my little ritual was that she had lost enough, and didn't deserve to lose again if it were in my hands. I still had other people I wanted to spite, and other wrongs to right, but the look of Kelli being broken down again from losing another loved one? That was it.

I had expected that maybe I was going to miss my 30th birthday, but somehow, I didn't. And, in one of those really odd course of events that really makes a person know he isn't the boss of his own destiny, just two weeks after I got back from the residential care center, I got notice that my little job was going to be cut out of existance. I had been trying to think of better things, and this could have sucked me back in, but no. I found that the center I now work at was willing to have me on, based on a reference from the first center, and "how soon can [I] start?" That job, and the greeting I got on the first day ("we are so glad you are here") just sort of turned things around. All of a sudden, as bad as things were in August, they were great in October. It was like taking out the mental garbage. It was work. Kelli didn't understand some of it; the signs of her stress while I was gone were becoming evident. Meanwhile, I was riding a wave with my new job and just about everything else going good.

I turned 30, got a satisfying job (not super paying, but intrinsically satisfying), got into a few routines to change my outlook, and even put my studio back together. I got A grades in the three classes I have had since September. I am wayyyy more aware of my world, and that of the outside world. Instead of using doom and gloom as a weapon against myself, I am trying to use it as a force of change. I am a lot of things I wasn't last year. All of a sudden, the age that was supposed to be lights out, turned into the exact opposite. Do I still think the world is fucked up? Yeah, mostly. But do I feel I need to knock myself off for it? Not as much. I won't kid you. Some days can be pretty bad, but more of them aren't, and the 'bad day dots' aren't connecting like they used to.

So if my music buddy was saying he didn't want to get married at 30 just because he was 30, I ended up coming to the same decision about suicide. I guess I shouldn't do it simply because I am 30. But jeeezzzeeee, what a difference a year makes. And, what a difference a warm caring person makes. Its not that she wasn't here before, but I had fallen into a spiral of negativity that was like a black hole. She was always there as much as ever. And, trusting more and more that the future would be like that, it didn't seem all so bad. I have stopped mourning the inactivity in music. I still go in and mess with stuff, and I still have not come up with a damn piece of finished work in ages, but the energy I spent hating myself for it was better spent learning about my world or cutting a homeless person a break with some food or talk, or just sitting here in the company of my lovely fiancee.

My single life was the dying days. And now those dying days are dying. So be it.

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