I Am Santo

Fiction, poetry, music and mindscape pictures by creative artist Jason Santo

Kicking the tires

So begins three months of nothing but what I want to do. I’ve worked diligently for well over thirty years, and now – finally – some time off to concentrate on things I want to do. It’s an incredible feeling that I’ve been writing about or describing in conversation to people every day since I was awarded this sabbatical.

What happened? I wouldn’t say I “broke down,” but I would offer that I’d had enough of the status quo and living, it seemed, for everyone other than myself. We get one life, and I was spending mine worrying about making everyone happy while giving my own happiness and well-being little mind.

We were in Spain, I was on a day off and yet I was on my phone – always the damn phone – and arguing with a co-worker about the approach to something technical which I took way too damn seriously. That’s me, though, taking everything as serious as a car accident. But this time, it wasn’t a car accident, to me whatever it was we were in dispute over was a train wreck of epic proportions. A train hit by a plane that somehow fell into a football stadium. I just was so worked-up. And why?

The truth is, I was – and am – burnt out. I’ve spent the last ten years at the same workplace diligently pushing whatever I could across the finish line, putting productivity ahead of most everything including the birth of my second child. That’s not my employer’s fault. That’s my fault for not knowing when to say when.

The cup runneth over. I’ve taken on so much for a role that I hoped would expand in scope and title – my great play for getting to a pole position in the rat race. And for the last three years, it went unchecked. So I crashed and now I’ve been allowed to reevaluate, rethink, and decompress. Pole position is likely lost, but I’ll accept that. I’m not sure I’m corporate success material; perhaps the cut of my jib is just not right for the suit-and-tie brigade. But I am a good employee who works damn hard and solves the problems without a Hell of a lot of overhead. And I’m fine with doing it at my current place of work for another ten years, providing I can find a balance in my day-to-day life.

Part of that balance is making time for writing. And the first thing I did was start cracking the journbal (my affectionate name for my daily reflections that resulted from a typo some thirty years ago) so I could clear my mind. Next was getting this site’s damn SSL situation taken care of. Unsure of why I took the approach I did with my personal website, but I find it hilarious that I’m responsible for at work was languishing in my personal life. The landscaper’s lawn is always the worst in the neighborhood and all that.

Now it’s on to writing, specifically copy-editing and compilation of poems and short stories. I put the number of books I have sitting around here at five. Can I put all five together by the end of my time off in early December? Doubtful. But maybe I can get one or two of them done, and oh what a relief that’ll be.

Because while I may be a web professional with mad organizational skills and a knack for becoming proficient in most anything I touch, I’m first and foremost a storyteller. And that identity needs proof now. What is a writer that doesn’t write? What is a writer that hasn’t anything for anyone to read? Not much of a writer at all, in my estimation.

Time to change that.

The Will and the Way

My life changed drastically in August. It was for the better – it remains so much for the better – but like all huge changes, it takes time to assimilate all those stray pieces of your existence into a new and durable routine. As a result, I’m still playing life-Jenga and it’s a little frustrating, even as it is awesome.

The upshot is I’m in love. And man, let me tell you, that one was a huge surprise. It’s no mystery to those that know me – or those who have read a lot of my writing – that when I split up with my son’s mother, I went into a hard spin that involved lots of dating and conversation with people who, while incredible in a number of ways, simply were not “right” for me. In a couple cases, I thought maybe love was a possibility, but almost always those were intentional non-starters due to practical factors like distance, marital status, or both. It was self-sabotage because I wasn’t ready. I simply couldn’t be ready.

Then I met the lady who changed my world without even trying. She stepped into my life and she listened to me. She showed me care and thoughtfulness. She showed me her vulnerabilities, admitted her own imperfections and exhibited passion I’d never encountered in person. And she did it all effortlessly. No agenda. No deceit. No rule-bending or fine print. She simply presented herself as who she is, warts and all, and I fell in love despite the grave belief that I simply had no love left inside.

I did. I had a seemingly endless supply. And I continue to find more and more as we embark on new adventures in this life of ours.

It hasn’t been easy. The cracks in this here ticker are fierce. As big as I love, I hurt. Not others, although I’ve certainly been the cause of some terrible pain which plagues me with guilt, but more so my own hurt. Love and hurt have been in equal measure within this internal matrix, a yin and yang of delight and solemnity that I’ve rarely seen in anyone else I’ve met. And I look too. Very few seem to both love and loathe life the way I do.

Maybe that’s part of the reason I write. Maybe that’s part of the reason I struggle even when I’m living a truly enviable life filled with love and incredible, almost astounding good fortune. A concentrated effort to pay more attention to the things for which I am grateful has helped offset my frustrations with the incongruous parts of my current routine, but those frustrations do persist.

And so I must sort it all. The websites, the blogs, the journal, the poetry, short-stories, podcast ideas… all of it needs sorting and time. But most of all they need to be made a priority, by me, and understood as essential to my happiness. Life is full of obligations and it always will be. There’s no way around that. But they cannot, and will not, be allowed to once again overshadow the things I need as much as I need air.

No one is telling me I shouldn’t write. In fact, the woman in my life is demanding I do so. She sees me struggling now and it breaks her heart. I have to honor this fact – this support – through action. Get this routine straightened out. Get this life’s path paved. Walk hand-in-hand with the idea that my creativity is as important as everything else.

This has to happen now. Before too long, I’ll be a dad for the second time and life will put a very hard stomp on my ability to carve time for myself. But I must. And I must bury any thoughts that I’m doing anything wrong by taking time to create.

I’ve made the mistake once before putting obligations and allegedly more important responsibilities ahead of my personal happiness by burying my creativity. No one told me to. I chose to because I believed it was what I *had* to do.

Truth is, the only person that can really ever demand you do something is yourself. And I’m demanding one thing: stay balanced not with love and hurt as that’s as natural as breathing, but with what creativity brings and what responsibility demands.

Well Now. This is Quite a Mess.

So I’ve decided to collapse as many of my online ramblings as I could into this website and in doing so I’ve managed to create a bit of a tire fire in terms of organization. At the same time, I’m constantly debating with myself what’s actually going to live here and what isn’t. I guess the old adage of “it’s better to have than to have not” has won out, and thus I’m looking at a website consisting of 600+ posts, probably about 100 of which are redundant and many more which, to be honest, I probably don’t want you reading, oh great denizens of the Interwebs. So the next step is to get editing. And that takes time, a luxury I never have.

As a result, if you’re reading this, it probably means you’ve stumbled onto this messy collection of my writing either from a google search or I’ve gone ahead and promoted the site on Instagram despite knowing better. I do really want some people to read this stuff and while it’s on Tumblr – which was populated through Twitter and Instagram in some bizarre game of social media round robin that stopped working a while ago – I’m not really so hungry for attention as to sound the ramparts now and cut the ribbon. Yet this material has been in limbo for so long and even this small dose of organization is better than what’s currently available, so maybe it’s okay to invite y’all to roast some smores by the smoldering wreckage of my creativity.

Just be forewarned if I did toss you into this direction: it’s a sloppy spill of unedited stories and broken image links imported from Arresting Progress (aka jasonsanto.com) and my rather poorly curated Tumblr called Inspiring Progress. (Which begs the question, are there well-curated Tumblrs?) The formatting is inconsistent and I’m not even sure if things are dated correctly. But what’s perhaps most eyebrow raising is that there are likely a few demons lurking in here – raw confessions of anguish with self worth and life in general from a few years back when I was living in very tumultuous times. It was stuff I wrote on Instagram and later deleted, but stayed alive on Tumblr because I wasn’t exactly exhaustive in my clean-up. I’m not apologizing for those times or the quality of the writing produced then – in fact much of it helped me build the modest audience I now have on Instagram. If you know me in real life, however, or if you are a newer follower of my Instagram gallery, then there’s a lot of deeply personal work you probably never saw and maybe do not want to see.

It’s quite possible all of that is buried under the huge import of material, though and I’ll probably nuke a lot of it as soon as some time comes available, so maybe this is much ado about nothing.

Isn’t everything?

Why this?

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve blogged. While I’ve dabbled with Blogger (well past the point any self-respecting web developer would), that was a six month experiment largely geared toward using my jasonsanto.com domain to get out some of the new writing I was doing. Four years or so later, I’ve been tasked with getting reacquainted with WordPress and it seemed like this was as good a way as any to do so.

As before with Arresting Progress, that Blogger space I inhabited for a while, I really make no promises to myself or anyone else about what’s going to happen here. At best, it’ll be a frequently updated repository of the work I compose over at my Instagram account, neatly organized and made more palatable than it is in that space where I am woefully too wordy to fit in with their writing community. At worst, this is it… a single post tossed into the Internet’s unforgiving ether and indifferently ignored by friends, family and strangers toeing the world wide wading pool. Either way, I’m strangely fine with it. I’ll write regardless, create in a vacuum if I must, and periodically hope that someone notices, although it won’t keep me up at night like it did so many years ago when I was young and terrified of never making an impact. Impacts are overrated, it turns out. Sometimes under the radar leaves a lot less mess to clean up.

My first blog was in 2000 or so and it got me into a lot of trouble with friends because I was far too candid. Next time I took a stab was during those dark “MySpace” years where I wrote whatever I wanted and it was more or less ignored. Now I’m cultivating a space in the immensely crowded, yet infinitely accommodating virtual world into which the Internet has evolved. It’s a flag stuck in a barren surface overrun by busy bees seeking their own fortunes and attention, and I have no expectations of either those multitudes or myself. I’m simply writing and sharing. Word by word. World by world.

If you’re there, just know I do think it’s nice to see you again. Cheers.

Your 3rd Birthday

To Justin on the occasion of your third birthday.

I need to tell you, son: I love you in ways so unique they sometimes frighten me.

Your smile sometimes makes my eyes water, partially from pride and partially from a longing to be good enough to deserve it. The way you take in happiness with the entirety of your face – it’s a gift, my boy. You are life personified. You are the dawn and the dusk, but always the most beautiful of both and never mourning for all you represent is promise. Your silly games, the laughter that hangs from the corners of every room in which you let loose – if ever I thought such joy could be found in tossing a deck of cards or dropping myself off a couch, I’d have never stopped doing either! Regardless of whether it’s appropriate or not – regardless of whether or not I am being a good parent – I cannot stomach editing your joy because it’s the key to life. You’ve found it, little man. You stumbled onto the Grail without even knowing what you did, which is truly the way the best stories play out, or at least the truest ones. Live and laugh, they all say. Seize every day, every moment! And you do. You do what so many wish they could.

I long for you to know the wonder and love with which you infect others. Your reaction to music is chemical, it would seem. The movement of your body to each and every rhythm, always adjusting and unique, is perfect. Don’t worry about the steps. Never sweat the routine or the memorization others flaunt, for you understand the purity of the moment, you FEEL what others only know how to pretend to know.

And yet you do strive too for knowledge. You instinctively reach beyond the emotions that course so feverishly through you because you know there’s more behind every couch cushion unturned, every item you cannot quite reach and demand to be picked up to reveal. Your desire is a fire consuming everything, and I have never been more ready to allow myself to be burned because I want you to know it all. I believe you will too.

I’m circling the point here, so I’d better sum it all up. Your need to “talk about it,” coupled with your playfulness, genuine curiosity and the very sweetness of your giving personality make me realize there’s more in this life than my own needs, my worries or my hang-ups. You free your old man – and yes, I do feel so very old despite your youth (or maybe because of it) – of the phantoms of his own undoing and failures as you know light intuitively; you know truth as if it’s something with which you were branded as you entered this world. And the lesson you teach each day is that there is more to everything! There is more love than anyone thinks, more hope, more to understand, more laughter and more toys! I laugh, but it’s true – your mother and I, in cahoots with you grandparents have made your cup runneth over with playthings.

But you are not spoiled by life, simply hungry for the next moment and the next big adventure. You want to play every game and the blue of your eyes adds depth to the sea and the sky. You are life! You are the reason breath tastes sweeter and the day is more than the sum of aches and pains. It’s your passion and imagination that light my days brighter than any sun. And when we played in the bouncy house yesterday as part of your birthday weekend, I laughed bigger and smiled wider than I have in years.

Why? Because for a moment I let myself be you, and your energy and magic spread through me, woke me out of my constant worry and just freed me to be.

Your gift is that you don’t only know instinctively how to live life, but that you wake up everyone around you so they too will embrace this precious gift. You’re a catalyst, a match strike, and you’re the single best thing that your mother and I ever worked together for.

I adore you, Justin. More than angels love Heaven and more than science loves proof. You’re my best, greatest hope and I live every day with a need to keep your fires burning, spreading, and reminding everyone you meet that there is more to each day. All they have to do is want to look.

Just like you.

Happy birthday.


In Order

Squares watch
with perfect order
the chaotic play
of sunlight’s shimmering end,
sparkling denouement
fluttering by wind
that dares to throw
shade before passage.

Curled as one in blur,
lessons play
and their bond merges
fondness and idealism,
sanctity of quieter moments
protected inside
from the bluster
of colorful flight.

Still the distance swims around them,
unnoticed but crawling
through perfect lines,
ninety-degree angles
aligning in a world
where symmetry silently attempts
rule over beauty’s flooding banks.

It will reach into all corners,
consuming progress
while abetting wonder.


Photo of Jason Santo, writer in Portsmouth, NH
Shot with a Canon t2i using a 50mm, f1.4 lens
In the middle of a thought. In the middle of a small town, at the edge of a park, in the middle of a day surrounded by bustling onlookers striving for the next best thing. Concentrated, devoid of water and dilution a stray principle embodying weakness or care for swan-like praise. They curtsy and sway, beckoning for acknowledgement for their attentiveness to this will to commit amongst the swirl of eager business. The thoughts sprawl in tightened, furious script; days numbered and events catalogued regardless of prying eyes hoping to steal glimpses at confessions of weakness; the strength of letters prying in the middle of ruled lines seeking truth.


self portrait of Jason Santo, thumbs hung in denim jean pockets
Shot with a Canon t2i using a 50mm, f1.4 lens
I stand easy, back straight, but shoulders sunk to hide an agitated nature. In my pocket is a hooked thumb, palm flat to baggy denim. It’s a casual facade, masking nerves and trepidation that I’ll drown in my own flood of words, mistakenly citing facts and spouting enough blustery opinion that the listener raises an eyebrow, pauses – as if chewing time – then lays down perfect domino sentences, locking together with every bit of logic my own lacked. And I stand lazy, a figure cut long from lithe stock, but with eyes that blaze indigo as if roots of gas flame, heavy steps betraying ease of manner, heavy heart sunk deep from sight.


close-up of Jason Santo smiling, a self-portrait
Shot with a Canon t2i using a 50mm, f1.4 lens
So many believe it comes with ease, this curl of the lips, the reveal of these artificially strengthened teeth. Nights of correction and discipline, plastic guards pushing straightened lines to appeal. Reaffirming attraction, desirable tendency the bait for suitable match, this clinging hope surrounded every moment as if each laugh was a line cast to the sea, hoping to hook love and magnificently hoist it from infinity. Desire’s banishment was the expectation, a drag through the mud of disappointment, so the smile grew practiced, assured, confident in the dim light of quiet talks at restaurants, theaters, suburban streets lit in orange incandescence with parents safely out of view. Backing invitation, alluring attraction hoped, but always doubtful. Always certain of failure. And thus true happiness is rare fruit, the smile always forced, no emotion ever genuinely playing on the face of this actor. May the spotlight dim so he can finally slink from the stage to meet the true final act.

Belong and Dream

Mother and sun in the light of late afternoon
iPhone 5 shot
Caught in the glow of afternoon’s final gifts, she instructs his eager lesson, and I sit apart from their moment, in awe of the connection shared to the day, the minute, the learning and one another. Bound by sun, blood, and soul, they smile, eyes shining the same blue and fill an ailing heart with the hope of home. There’s no corner this light cannot reach, no complexity it cannot unravel to simple statement. “You belong here,” it whispers. “Rest your head.” And so I do as the evening swallows us, falling guiltless but with longing to land where I desire. In dreams. In futures imagined. In love.