Are you a Medium writer who feels abandoned by the hope you’ll ever be profitably read? Like me?
Did the person for whom you felt your most powerful love ever… leave you, turning the rest of Life to ash in your mouth? As with me?
And do you feel a terrifying sort of interwoven failure, about both, that makes your mind, body, and spirit echo altogether too often with the words “I am not good enough, and that is why I lost her.” In the way I do?
Nice to meet you.
My name is Amos Stone Parker.
You know, for the longest time (or rather, since I started writing on Medium in April of 2018), I felt like I shouldn’t write deeply personal things here. It’s strange, right? I mean, I started a WordPress blog back in 2014 when I was 37, just after I moved south to be with the woman I alluded to, and I felt free to write all kinds of things there. Personal essays, memes, stories, humor, and whatever came to me.
For a while it satisfied me. I was still in that place where I wrote all the time, and where it was “enough” just to write because I loved it. I’d already been writing novels and short stories, just for myself, for seven years. It all reminds me of the way that a child can play just because the play is fun.
But I got older slowly. Now it’s 2019, and I’m 42. Very slowly it started to feel insufficient to just write for me. Selfish even. “Well the writing’s all on my computer, for the future” no longer seemed like enough. And in early 2017, out of the blue, the woman who I’d moved south for, who’d begun to seem to me like a sad, grumpy workaholic who I kept hoping would finally be “ready to start,” dumped me.
I was a pizza delivery man by “day” (day is in quotes because the best food service money is at night and on weekends), and I’d worked myself into an insular corner where I had no one but her… and my solitary artistic pursuits.
Something seemed to be calcifying in my artistic spirit, but I hadn’t acted on it.
When she abandoned me, though with all guilt and kindness and desire to ease the transition, it all turned to ash. For a few days it was about how my future had been set aflame, though I didn’t know if it would burn to the ground. But when, after I asked by email when she was at a weekend conference, she confided that, yes, she had been seeing someone else (sleeping with her ex), I drank for the first time to blackout, waking up on my bedroom floor with no memory of how I’d gotten upstairs.
I say “my” bedroom floor because I’d moved to the guest room. We both spent a few months hoping, expecting even, that my feelings would easily move on and we could easily be friends.
But then the strangest thing happened.
My heart exploded with what was, is, and likely ever will be, the most beautiful feelings of love I’d ever felt. My God, it was transcendent. Entire days of peace and clarity.
I remember the pure bliss of coming home and… just being able to look at her face.
Or, one night, going into “her” room, while she slept, and lying next to her. Overcome with joy because maybe, just maybe, she would snore. And I would get to hear her do it. Even heroin, despite what I’d heard, couldn’t possibly top it.
But those days were interspersed with the sickest, most terrifying days of jealousy and panic attacks. Because she’d sometimes not be able to talk to me, easily and warmly, as if “we were good.” Or she’d visit the neighbor, the religious guy who I’d walked in on her blowing on the living room sofa, one night after work. She just as confidently said she was just visiting him as a friend as I’d said to myself she was only pitiful, when I pretended I hadn’t seen her come up, on that sofa facing away from me, and when he, even drunker than her, put his shirt back on. Only the prospect of an uncomfortable conversation bothered me. So we went to the kitchen and tried in vain to teach that neighbor, too drunk to do anything but mumble about blowjobs, a board game.
Guess how often I’ve wished, in superlative imaginative detail, that I could do that night over again? Oh well.
Long story short, I finally moved out, after having a ring delivered to her at work, in a massive flower bouquet, that was explicitly not a marriage proposal. And after having a hardcover book made of all the emails we sent to each other before I moved south to her, and before she got the new job that reestablished the workaholic tendencies I learned had been lying dormant.
I succumbed to depression. I gave up on a few books. I drank more and more. I cried myself to sleep most nights. I woke up to panic attacks and a thundering heartbeat at 4 am just as often, when she appeared in dreams, with faceless men. I came close to killing myself, but brought the 24 pack of beer not to my place with the sleeping pills I’d also bought, but to friends who lived at “her” place.
She’d insisted I was welcome back anytime and often. And I never dreamed that, after a friend of hers in another part of the country had killed herself the previous year, partly because my ex couldn’t get away from her grandmother’s funeral in time… that I’d find her drunk, that she’d retreat into “her” apartment to vomit… come outside in a rage to drag me away from the other friends at the bonfire… and scream bile-breath derision at me in my car for 45 minutes, so no one else would hear.
Oddly, that shook me out of the desire to take my life. At least for that night.
I went home. Eventually I tried to get back into my WordPress blog, with some help from the woman I was seeing to help keep me afloat, a woman who was as over the Moon for me while I was with her as I’d been for my ex after she’d left me.
But it felt like ash. No one read my writing. It didn’t seem to matter.
Why bother, if it’s just for me?
And why worry about the woman trying to help keep me afloat, when I felt like I was drowning? After all, early in winter, I found out my ex was seeing someone, got drunk, and totaled my car. I just needed to be kept afloat, especially after the crash caused me to lose my driving job.
Eventually I heard about Medium, early in my two month suspension, housebound and writing-hopeful. Seemed like a good idea.
I knew I had a knack for political satire. So I signed up, and started writing a Trump satire post a day for Medium. I decided to keep the “personal” stuff separate.
Well, in part because I didn’t want my Medium site to become too diffuse. I should stay focused. And shouldn’t I focus on what was most likely to be profitable? Certainly Donald Jabberwocky Trump was creating a political satire renaissance.
I made a little headway. I posted daily. It came easy.
Then my desire to keep myself afloat (my heart needed to feel like the door to stratospheric love was open) without doing to the woman I was seeing what my ex had (criminally, it seemed to me) done for me… turned my taste for humor to ash.
I’ll let you fill in the gaps. I’ll only add that, in the aftermath, I tried to stay friends… and she interfered to destroy the fragile, improbable love with another woman.
I still struggle at times with alcohol. Sometimes there seems to be nothing at all in the future worth working toward. After most of my adult life being lived under the shadow of varying degrees of debt, the death of my father got me an inheritance. That made it possible to think about the future. Like an adult.
But what did I see far into the future? Without a love to satisfy that new, fifth chamber of my heart that may never switch allegiance from my ex to another?
Not anything wondrous. No money from writing. No fans of my writing.
I only saw my grave.
And it terrified me. As it has terrified so many.
In desperation to find the only thing, the one and only thing, that I felt could give the future meaning, I burnt up most of the inheritance trying to switch that chamber’s allegiance. I took a singles tour to Colombia in South America, to exotic women desperate for loyalty in a nation where men made scarce by decades of war treated women like expendable trophies for machismo collections. And I scraped together the courage to move to a more expensive place, an eco village with community that might inspire the warm and wonderful young woman I found. I moved there just before a return to Colombia, to strengthen things with “the woman who might save me.”
But my heart didn’t switch allegiance. And the pressure to “take charge” of life, perhaps on the way to children, fractured something in me. After my second trip to Colombia, where we went on a Pacific coast whale watch… I came back to the eco village… and promptly became a shut-in who often drank all day, terrified to go out into the World, and to face the “pressure” of building community.
It would be a month and a half before my Colombian beauty came to visit me. For a month. I survived, holding out hope.
But the magic didn’t come, though I wrote almost daily Trump satire while she stayed.
And now she’s back in South America.
The first day after she left, I drank all day. To be honest, I wrote two pieces that day.
The day was yesterday.
As I was yesterday, I felt terrified to go outside.
But there was no booze in the house.
I managed to convince myself to face the similar terror of looking at other Medium posts, of seeing posts by writers who seemed successful. Writers who could blow my bandaged ego to bits.
I found one. He’d written a post about how to get 5000 followers in a month… though it was about a lot more, having such a title mainly to get clicks.
The main points? Fail, fail, fail… and write every day. Be deep, honest, and love life, even if so much of life so easily turns to ash.
Sometimes I feel like a needle in a haystack, even on Medium.
How will readers find me?
How will I become a personality people look forward to reading, the way for some reason I feel anxious to read John Cassidy at The New Yorker website?
How do I care about building a career, and not being angry about not being allowed to “just be an artist”?
Recently I heard a great NPR interview with Ethan Hawke. An artist who’s happy to engage in the silliness phoniness of selling himself, or his art. He talked about how many artists he knew who struggled with depression, in part because he had a film out about a country music great who never got known like he deserved, because, like so many artists, meeting someone who had the money to make his dreams come true elicited a tragically common response.
To punch them in the face.
Medium is like that. The plethora of successful writers have the ability to make my “dreams” come true, when they phoenix from ash and into dreams again.
But part of me wants to punch them in the face.
It’s sad, really.
I have this dream, you know? Two dreams, really.
One is that I gained the magical ability to… see the path that would lead to success. To cut through the long shot luck and “know” what post to make, with what tags, or for what famous person.
Think of Harry Potter using the felix felicis potion. The one that led him to Hagrid, Slughorn, and the giant dead spider.
The path is right in front of me. But I can’t see it.
The other is that there is someone out there with the money or power to make my dreams come true. Someone who can also just “see,” as if he or she also had taken felix felicis. Surely they would want to give greatness it’s due.
And though I hate myself so much, and am so convinced that… this is why she broke up with me… I try to remember that I’m a needle in a haystack.
I’m sharp. And maybe, just maybe, I’m a needle made not of some base metal, but rather of silver, or even of gold. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask. It doesn’t seem like too much at all.
And yes, I’m repressing that voice that wails “Then she would take you back!”
Instead, I’m augmenting the voice that says “Maybe you know what I mean?”