Belong

Big John drove us down to his brother’s. We picked him up and we went to the racetrack to bet on the horses.

I pushed Big John’s brother in his wheelchair. We sat at a table outside. Big John placed his brother’s bets. I didn’t place his brother’s bets since I didn’t want to fuck them up. Big John and his brother, Wop, have a rhythm and language to their betting. They have a language and understanding that is still foreign to me.

We bought rounds of beers and sat outside with our programs and bet. Sometimes I stood in the sun. Sometimes I wheeled Wop up to the rails to get a close view of the finishes.

Me and Big John drank a lot of beer. I didn’t win a single goddamned bet. John and Wop bet a lot. They won some and lost some.

I could tell the brothers were enjoying themselves. The racetrack had been their thing for decades. The racetrack had been their father’s thing too. The racetrack, I could tell, was where they belonged together.

It was a privilege being there. It was a privilege being able to see those brothers, through all the years and all their illnesses, being together where they belonged.

It was a privilege being there. I hope I’ll get invited again.

Sometimes, all you gotta do is sit back and watch. Sit back and enjoy without asking for any more or too much.

Sometimes your main role is helping facilitate a good time. Sometimes the best of times are being a part of other people’s good times.

Where we fuck up is imagining a good time needs to be my good time.

We fuck up a warm Friday afternoon with beer and horse races and friends with needing it to be more than a warm Friday afternoon with beer and horse races and friends. We fuck it up by needing it to be about us. By needing it to be about you or me when it’s not about any of that. It’s about recognizing a time and place where you belong, and accepting it for what it is and demanding nothing more.

Our day didn’t need to be about what Big John was doing for his brother or for me. Rather, it was about the weather and the beer and the horses, and we all just happened to be along for the ride. We were all happy to be along for the ride. We all knew that the ride was enough and none of us wanted to fuck it up by making it about any one of us instead of the ride.

The job is to let the ride be. The job is to let the ride breathe. The job is to let the ride live. The job is to humbly and graciously accept the privilege of being along for the ride. The job is to enjoy the ride for what it is.

The job isn’t to constrain the ride. Your task isn’t to steer it toward you. The ride flows independent of you. It starts at the gate and ends at the finish. Your job is to decide to enjoy the ride or not, not force it in a direction for you to be able to enjoy. Your job is to decide to enjoy the ride as it needs to be. And, if not, then find another or find none.

I could tell Big John and Wop were where they belonged – winning , losing, scheming, calculating. Sharing the highs of a few wins and the disappointments of a few losses. Understanding and united in the ebb and flow. I could tell they’d been there many times before. I could tell it was where they belonged. They knew the dance of all their winning and losing. They enjoyed it.

My job today was easy. Enjoy it too and don’t do anything to fuck it up.

Let them have their fun. Don’t be envious or jealous. Just be glad to be a part of it. Be glad to enjoy a Friday in the sun with beer and friends and some bets. My bets were all losers. But who the fuck cares? Tonight, not even me.

It’s a romantic notion to some artists that there’s nowhere to belong.

Perhaps the greatest art is recognizing and accepting the places where we belong. Times and places where we belong that are also, sadly, ephemeral. But, like they say, it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

And how does one paint or write or sing of love without having felt it? Without having known it?

How does one write or paint or sing of living without ever having lived?

How does one write or paint or sing about the world without ever having lived in it? Without finding any place in which he belongs, if even for a day? How does one find a place to belong without ever having looked?

Some have decided it’s far more romantic to have nowhere to belong.

It seems like a mostly lazy, cowardly thing to have nowhere outside yourself to belong.

When it takes effort to find our moments of belonging – moments that are neither devastating nor transcendentally elating – moments that are only fleetingly sublime – it’s simple to understand why some never even try. Why some are forever in need of an excuse for never searching for anything beyond themselves.

But such is the nature of the ride and its rewards. And, again, it is each person’s choice to enjoy the ride or spend his eternity in Hell trying to conform it to something it is not. Or accepting it for what it is by rejecting it altogether for the paltry, fleeting rewards it gives.

Today, with Big John and Wop, it was only beer and warmth and some losing bets. But, somehow, it was also much more.

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