There’s a thin line between sharing pain and exploiting shame. I know this because, recently, after watching my latest, recorded, performance, I had to take quite a few steps backwards, to see that line. I backed up, I looked down, I peered over my shoulder, and saw that I have been exploiting my shame, instead sharing my story.
The line is a thin one, so it’s an easy mistake make, but an even easier mistake to correct. All I have to do is stop.
Not to leave you hanging, here’s how the SAA thing ends: I went through the program for seventy-five days. I got my thirty-day chip, and then my sixty-day chip. On the seventy-fifth day, fifteen days before I was to get my ninety-day chip, a pedophile came to a meeting and told a story of the FBI kicking in his door and taking his computer.
(In the original draft of this, I had a great joke about him being more upset about the computer than he was about his door being reduced to splinters.)
I heard his story, realized that I wasn’t a sex addict, if there even is such a thing, and then I quit the program. I reconciled that I just had to manage my time and porn better. I resumed looking at pornography, without informing my fiancée, and without realizing that I was not doing something horrible. I resumed looking at pornography, without realizing that I was not a piece of shit.
(There was seventy-five days worth of new porn, when I resumed looking at it.)
My fiancée never asked me about my “addiction” and I was never called to lie about it.
(In the original draft of this, I drew a parallel between the miscommunication between Payton Manning and his center, Manny Ramirez, in the opening play of Super Bowl XVLIII, and the lack of communication between my fiancée/wife and myself. It was pretty clever.)
That was that. Sorry that it is so anti-climatic, but here’s the thing: I don’t want to do this anymore. It was fun, and you, my readers, liked it, but this is not me. Parts one, two, and three, of this blog series, are the me that I was then, when I wrote them, but not the me that I am now.
Let me back up a bit: In order to promote my short film I am God, I have been going to, and performing at, poetry readings, in and around San Diego. On the 12th of this month, I performed at Queen Bee’s Lyrical Exchange in North Park. A fan saw fit to record a recitation of the poem I Am God. I was given the recording and I watched it. The tape took some reviewing before I would recognize the person on it as someone whom I have not seen since 2005: Me.
However, there would be some reviewing before I would recognize myself.
In 2001, moved to Dallas, from Atlanta, Georgia, a broken man who had to go live with his mother. By 2005 I had built myself up to be, what I consider, a monster: strong, independent and carefree. I was the man whom my ex-wife fell in love with.
I had built myself up to be so strong, that I got full custody of my son and met the woman whom I would propose to, in the same week. I was just a lowly bike messenger, operating in the streets of downtown Dallas, but there was not a thing that I could not do.
As I watched that monster who, unbeknownst to me, had returned, from two thousand and five, to command… destroy that stage, while armed, only, with his wit and his passion, on August 12th, 2014, one question came to my mind: “Who the fuck is that?”
He has a fresh haircut and a clean face. His chest is out, his is voice confident, and his words are so powerful that his audience seems to be afraid to, so much as even, breathe while in their presence.
He is forty pounds lighter than I have ever been while standing in front of a camera. I even see cheekbones!
When he finished his recitation, I watched him defy the audience, by leaving the stage without saying his name or, even, telling them how they could find more of him.
One of the two most memorable lines from Silence of the Lambs came to mind.
I was a little more than aroused.
The question sounded in my head a second time: “Who was this guy?” Every tape, prior to this one, is of a broken, beaten, desperate, yet hopeful, “man”- biologically speaking.
I watched the tape again, and again, as the question repeated itself in my head, over and over, at a pace that turned the question into a buzzing sound that brought on a feeling of excitement that was proving to be relentless, and yet, the question remained unanswered. Unanswered, until I remembered the phone conversation that I had with my father, the evening before.
Before this phone conversation with my father, the two of us hadn’t spoken to one another in three years. That was when I called him by his first name and then told him to stay away from my family and me. For three years, I would defame him as a person who didn’t respect my boundaries, not noticing that, for those three years, he respected what was probably one of the toughest boundaries he has ever refused to cross.
Fast-forward to the evening of our first conversation in three years: I’m divorced, broken, homeless, lonely, trying to maintain, and better the relationship that I have with my own son, and trying to make sure that I don’t forget what my daughters, who now live twenty-one hours north of me, look like. I’m tired and I need to talk to someone. I call my baby brother.
He and I play phone tag while he’s out with his own wife and son. Before too long, he and I connect and talk. He listens to me talk about my situation, he asks me some questions about my situation, I give him the only answers that I have, and then he encourages me to continue on my journey.
Before letting me get off of the phone, he begins a long preface about needing to talk to me about something that, he says, has been on his heart for a long time.
He asks me to reach out to our father, a man he lives thirteen hundred miles away from, but speaks to and sees as often as possible. I interrupt him, as he begins to defend his request, and promise him that I will call our father, who has lived twenty miles from me for the last two years, since I moved to San Diego.
I ignored my baby brother’s advice to sleep on it and to call our father the next day. I was too excited- I was about to get my dad back into my life- so I called him immediately, after ending my phone call with my father’s youngest son.
After so many rings, the call went to voicemail. I left a message saying, “Dad, it’s Adam. Call me back. I want to apologize.”
He called me back, shortly after I had left my message.
I answered my phone, and then I apologized, profusely. In so many words, I apologized and told him that my telling him to stay away from my family and me was a horrible thing for me to do and that my calling him by his first name was the one of the worst things that a son could do to his father.
(Ham, Noah’s son, may have done the worst thing that a son can do to his father. Genesis 9:20-25)
My dad accepted my apology without any hesitation or condition, and then he talked to me about the three years we were apart. He missed his oldest son. He had questions: One of them being about his grandson and his granddaughter. His second granddaughter, and youngest grandchild, turns two years old, the date of this post. He didn’t know about her. I told him about his second granddaughter, the grandchild that he did not know that he had, and he congratulated me.
He had questions about how my marriage ended. One of his questions wondered why I treated my wife in such a way that she would choose to take my daughters and leave me, in such a cold manner.
It was my answer to his query that came to my mind, as I reviewed the tape of that monster dominating my stage as though it had been his all along.
I assured my father that he was mistaken. “Dad, I swear to you that I treated her like a queen. I did everything she wanted me to,” I said.
“I don’t understand. Then why would she leave you like that?” He asked.
After a moment of reflection, I gave him the only answer that I could, the only answer to the question that I have been trying to answer since she left me a year ago. After only a moment of reflection, I said, “Because I treated myself like a jester and gave her nothing to respect or love.”
“Adam, I’m so sorry,” he said, into the phone.
Now, watching the video, I see the answer to my original question. I took this long to find it because I went about my search the wrong way. I set out to answer this question, “What unhealthy contribution did I make to my marriage, ” by, foolishly, admitting to being a self-hating, drunken fool, by, ridiculously, prophesying another failed marriage, and by, sadly, exploiting my shame.
I watched the video and saw that my marriage failed because I, for whatever reason, stopped being that monster of a man.
Hours before that monster was captured on tape, sharing his pain, in a way that can only be described as, without any shame, whatsoever, my father came to me, hugged me, took me to lunch, got me a haircut, insisted that I stopped hiding behind that rat’s nest that was on my face and told me, “Adam when [you become the greatest writer that this world has ever known] I’m only going to be proud of you because you do everything that you can to be a father to your kids. You will never do anything to make me prouder of you, than I am when I’m watching you do that. [Not even become the greatest writer that this world has ever known.]”
(The tape, of that conversation, skips a couple of times, but that “greatest writer in the world” stuff, is what I remember him saying.)
Now, I know whom I am watching, when I press “play” and watch this last tape. I am watching me, being a man, standing tall, with my head held high, all the while, speaking of the unbearable pains that I am going through. I am watching me, be a man who knows that he is a king, who has prince and two princesses. I am watching me, be a man who is working hard to build his castle, brick by, fucking, brick, knowing that it is not going to be too much longer before it is complete with walls that are impenetrable. A man who knows that, one day, he will have a queen who will pick him up if he ever falls, again. A queen who will, also, know that her king will rein down hell on anything, tangible or intangible, that, ever, dares to threaten his kingdom, because the man on that tape, is a king who has a father.