I’ve been away for a while.

2016 has been tough, but I’m still here, still keeping a fire burning.

I am writing and reading more than I have in a long time. This is partly due to an involuntary Facebook exile, five months of which have passed as the Southern California sun has cranked up it’s intrusive, uncomfortable intensity — perhaps mimicking Donald Trump.

One thing I still have access to is Goodreads, so that gets much more attention these days. I burn through Amazon wish lists, research for my own writing, and friends’ recommendations while sitting in my apartment courtyard eating roasted Mexican peanuts by the pound and drinking Anchor Steam.

Since last fall, I’ve been researching and writing a novel, my first attempt at anything like this. The work has been an anchor and a motivation for me in a season when many other things in my life have been in upheaval.

Speaking of upheaval, I’ve missed being able to be a part of the conversation about the election. O, for the the lively Facebook debates of 2015, a kinder and simpler time. I’m not sure who follows or reads this blog, but if it is of any interest to you, my thinking on the Trump phenomenon (and the election as a whole) has shifted this year. My harshest criticism, which I hope to articulate in future posts, would be for liberal camp, the SJWs with whom I most identify.

My younger brother just texted me to tell me that he accidentally shit his pants while working at Subway and was fired a week later for “entirely unrelated reasons.” He only worked there for one month. It’s too bad he got fired, that that is damn funny. And the the coolness with which he seems to be taking the whole situation just made my whole day a lot brighter.

I’ve been paying close attention to a friend of mine , a relatively newer guy friend that I seem to have a lot in common with. I think I have come to view him as a sort of analog to me, the “control” sample in the study. I’ve been struck by his growing confidence, the focus and assuredness of his habits and goals. I notice the unabashed way in which he is himself, takes joy in the things he likes, and does so thoughtfully and publicly. He’s been strikingly honest about his flaws and his weaknesses, confiding feelings and thoughts about his marriage, for example, that would make my own inner censors gasp in shock were I to ever express them myself.

I look at him and see a man — though flawed and struggling — who is genuine, has a good heart, and is seeking to improve and be at peace with himself.

I contrast that with who I see myself to be: a flawed, broken man who has rarely been honest with himself or anyone, who is submerged in shame and self pity much of the time, who has a really hard time embracing the wholeness of who he is and sharing that with others.

So, what does this comparison accomplish, what is the outcome of these insights? Can they motivate me? Can I identify steps to change? Will I ever be more assured of my own worth in the world? Will I reach a point where I am not hurting those who love me through my fear and dishonesty?

The good news is, I am finally doing some of the emotional work to get me to that place. It is for that reason that I’d ask you, readers, friends, whoever still reads this out there, to continue having patience with me. Keep praying, keep asking, keep those fires burning.