NOT ANOTHER TV DAD
★ ★ ★ ★
By CL Bledsoe
I’ve got to stop getting distracted by snack cakes. It’s a real problem. What do I mean by a snack cake? Something that seems appealing but ultimately lacks nourishment. It will make you fat but never full. It doesn’t nourish the soul.
Another way of putting this is that I have a problem with falling in love with people who don’t love me back. I say “love” generically—I really mean love or like-like or something in between. These days, I’m too old to full-on fall in love without giving my insurance provider a quick call to make sure it’s in network .
And not just people. Things, processes, hard stuff. Snack cakes are easy as Sunday morning. Actually being a decent person, though, that takes work.
I know what you’re thinking. “You’ve got to love yourself before anyone else will.” Someone put that on the wall in a waiting room somewhere, and thought it was clever. It feeds people’s self-doubt in just the right way. It’s an unattainable goal that manages to blame you for not accomplishing it. Nicely done, platitude creator. Here’s the thing. I don’t love myself. Lots of people don’t. Really, what kind of person would? Do they just accept themselves, as is, without working to improve? That sounds like someone I don’t want to meet.
Me, I’m a human garbage fire. You can see the smoke for miles. I’m broken. Some people just are. Sucks, but oh well. I work and have worked for a long time to better myself, to grow. This idea of being fixed—of finishing this work—is bullshit. Trauma shatters you. You put the pieces back together as well as you can and you go on about your day. You take your meds. You go to therapy, if you can afford it. You do your job. You try to laugh more than cry. You’re still broken. But you make peace with yourself. A detente. You accept, which is not the same as love. You make peace.
That’s a hard thing to accept. I sometimes still think I’m going to be that rock star I was supposed to be when I was seventeen. I’m going to lose all this weight/debt/whatever and go back and find all the people I’ve disappointed and make it up to them. All that wasted potential. (What asshole came up with the concept of potential, anyway? How condescending can a concept be?) That’s what the snack cakes are all about. They’re not broken. They’re uncomplicated. But the thing is, once first blush has passed, they’re ultimately boring, whether we’re talking about people or lifestyles. But that’s what I want—really want, deep down—to be boring. In that way, not the way I really am boring, all angsty and awkward.
See, I’m not a snack cake. Never was. I’m some weird casserole that a relative no one likes brought. Hardly anyone is going to try that casserole, and probably the ones who do won’t like it. But maybe somebody will. And it will fill them up. It will nourish them. Also, it’s got asparagus in it, which makes your pee smell funny. Maybe that makes you smile for a second. Enjoy it. That’s it. That’s the message. Sometimes, funny smelling pee is all there is in life.
 In-network means that your healthcare provider will work with your health insurance company, i.e. you may be able to afford for them to save your life.
CL Bledsoe is the author of sixteen books, most recently the poetry collection Trashcans in Love and the flash fiction collection Ray’s Sea World. His poems, stories, and nonfiction have been published in hundreds of journals and anthologies including New York Quarterly, The Cimarron Review, Contrary, Story South, and The Arkansas Review. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize fifteen times, Best of the Net three times, and has had two stories selected as Notable Stories of the Year by Story South‘s Million Writers Award. Originally from a rice and catfish farm in the Mississippi River Delta area of Arkansas, Bledsoe lives with his daughter in northern Virginia. He blogs at NotAnotherTVDad.blogspot.com
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