THE END IS THE BEGINNING IS THE END

Towards the end of the incredible movie, Mr and Mrs Smith, the beautiful Brad Pitt says, “I guess at the end, you start thinking about the beginning.” Sitting here, still swimming in piles of shit, bags discarded suburbia and broken down IKEA bookcases, I’m terrified of walking through the maze. With each step, I am panicked to take a step, afraid to get another screw or staple into my ashy feet. Instead, I simply resign to the couch, ignoring the obvious: I am running out of time.

Grimsby never felt like home to me; I think its why I treated her like shit, left her tossed and abandoned most of the time. It wasn’t her fault. I confused her. Each space was filled with two minds. Relics of furniture from my old life, even though this was supposed to be a new start; a triumph of recovery — the most courageous thing I had ever done. But too often, Grimsby left me with the same suffocating feeling I felt in my marriage — that this was a life I did not want. I began to resent my stairs. First, because in my drunken and high stupor, they became a nightly oppressor — mocking my ability to get the fuck up and go to bed.

Most nights, I fell asleep on the couch, lulled to sleep by binging episodes of Law and Order, hoping to one day write as good whoever wrote Jerry Orbach’s classic New York City one liners. This is the same couch that Sandra and I watched Barack Obama be elected President of the United Stats — my head resting on the rumbling of her stomach, talking to my soon-to-be-born son. I whispered to him, “Pumpkinhead, you really can grow up to be anything you want to be.” It was an extraordinary thing for me to even contemplate uttering — I never believed it for me. I never dared, too.

On Election Day, snuggling with Sandra, her pregnancy waddling in full effect thanks to Justin dislocating her major organs, I felt that this was the apex of love and life. In so many ways, I lived as the antithesis of Obama’s pivotal book, the “Audacity of Hope.” I only spoke audaciously, blusters of a hoodrat gone right — and by right I mean the traditional judeo-Christian, white picket corporate thunderfuck fest of the Matrix. But deep in my heart, I didn’t want to be fucking Obama — no offense to the family that replaced the Huxtables as the first Black Family of the Americas. It just wasn’t. Me. The ME that screamed at me, first in a whispering simmer. Then, it pulled at me like a nagging toddler. Finally, as Johnny Rotten and Sid Viscous, full of rage and spit and vomit and blood. That moment also happened on this couch. as I went out of my way to remove all pretense that I wore like armor. Everyday.

One night I woke up, drool and snot dripping on my favorite stain on the left arm, covered in golden Oreo crumbs and Charms blow pop sticks. I had no concept of time, my phone lost to the cushions. I only knew that King the Bougie Dog was still sleeping, humming an occasional rumble, and the sun had not yet broken through. Normally in that moment, I would reach for my phone, or the remote, or something stronger. Instead, I did something I rarely do; I meditated.

i was sober and alert, surprisingly aware and aware, like when fall into that deep coma of sleep after a great night of fucking, sticky and satisfied. Even King looked at me, head cocked in confusion, as if he whispered, “Nigga, you good?”.

But i was better than good. Better than great. I wasn’t awake.

I was woke. Not in the way the culture uses the word; I’m talking about that individual consciousness where you figure your own shit out — the true revelation of the Five Percenters, street descendants of the Nation of Islam, who stood on boxes in Harlem celebrating “Knowledge of Self.” I never joined the Nation — but like most black kids of the era, I could have benefitted from the rules around self-discipline and determination. I could be further along if I had just come back from the Million Man March, joined the Nation, and lived my life. But bacon is just too damned delicious.

That meditation lasted for hours. I thought about how my old friend Ludovic Blain and I at the March, how I was forever changed by the experience; the love I felt on that sunny day. And how I let that opportunity go by to change myself, as if I had not bothered to go. I watched the sun rise. and the moon fall as my breath did the same. Somehow this question whispered over and over to me until I could no longer ignore it; the way King knows exactly how to drive me crazy until I have no other choice but to walk him. Or kill him.

The questions stirring were not unfamiliar. In fact, I had thought about them everyday of my unimpressively ordinary life. In hotel rooms all over the world, when I was traveling for work and the only thing to occupy me was my dick and my thoughts. I’d lay on my bed, my travel package of water, emergency Pringles, Oreos, and Twizzlers tossed onto the unused side of the bed. I imagined these same questions contemplated by men and women all over the world, throughout the legions of time.

Who am I and what do I want?

50 years of life, across countries and wives and kids and jobs and nothing. No clue. It’s a tragedy. In that meditative moment, though, as the sun sparkled so brightly I could see the sweat on King’s nose, and I did something I never thought I could — I stopping thinking. As the world’s worst over-thinker, even taking a piss requires a United Nations-style debate inside my brain. Yet, I rarely allow myself to feel, to let my emotions rule the day — and this has been my Achilles heel.

My mind has always been my greatest asset; my wordplay has kept me alive many times I can count. Because of that I have always suppressed my feelings as a driver of my decisions. If it didn’t make sense to my mind, if it wasn’t. strategic and thought out, I would avoid it. Yet, I am certain that my mind started to betray me because I could no longer ignore my feelings — like a Jedi learning to use the Force. Any Star Wars fan knows that feelings lead to fear, which is the path to the dark side … fear leads to anger … anger leads to hate … hate leads to suffering. That’s the triple decker shit sandwich of life. I’m tired of eating them motherfuckers.

In this moment, I realized something incredible. That I could accept my feelings, even the gross fart-fueled ones, but what had changed on that morning was this…I woke up with no fear. Zero. That while I thought I was in control the whole time, I allowed everyone else — relationships, careers, etc — to dictate how I felt about myself. I sought value in accomplishments, instead of because I was in love with myself and felt worthy. This was the day that I knew I was ready to live. Really live. On my rules. With my passion. And my drive — but instead of living for other people and other companies, I could actually love and live for me — even if people got hurt in the process.

I will try and live every single day giving no fucks; I used to think that when people said they didn’t think give a fuck, it was proof positive that they actually gave TOO MANY fucks. I can confirm that is true. I can also confirm that when you let that go — when you embrace letting go of fear, magical things can happen.

That magic is called Happiness.

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Ralph Bryant Writer

Ralph Bryant Writer

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RALPH BRYANT is writer and content creator living in Canada. He is the author of Shackles Lost and the host of the podcast Black Fathers Matter.