I, Have Arrived

Photo Sep 15, 2 45 32 PM

Wait for it. Or, maybe — Don’t.

I think about the lessons I learned as a child I wish I could erase. And, of all the things I’ve inadvertently carried with me through the years, the need to wait has proved the most stealthy of my childhood foes.

As children, we are constantly waiting on our adults. To wake, to prepare us meals, to take us places, to do things for us. We learn without ever having been taught the lesson, that — time is not our own. We internalize the notion that, if we just wait for it, we’ll get what’s coming to us. And, as children — that’s often true. Eventually, if we’re fortunate, our needs areΒ met.

In our adult-ness, we draw on our childlike expectations. We wait for the job, the man, the money. And we are surprised and disappointed when they never show. Or, they do, but in a cruel turn of events, it turns out — they’re hardly worth the wait. Good things don’t fall into our laps. We re-learn: Life is work. We make our own breakfast. And, while it isn’t always hard, most of the time, our dream — requires waiting. And, when it does manifest, if it manifests, it’s never what we expect. — The love of our life leaves. The pancakes come without syrup. — More often than not, our expectations turn out to be a colossal waste of time.

Oh, sweet, sweet expectation. The root of all addiction. It’s no wonder we seek comfort in the steady, reliable things that we can count on — things that kill our pain, things we don’t have to wait on. Drugs and booze, baby. Because, really, who wants to wait? — No one. That’s who.

The older, angrier, and more jaded I become, the more I start to think that our inclination to do what we want, when we want — isn’t so reckless. I spend all this time, certain that I am “adult-ing,” convincing myself of my maturity, letting time pass me by and “seeing what happens.” As I revel in my stuck-ness, I begin to grapple with the idea that — the waiting game is just a nice way to frame our fear.

Fear of losing. Fear of failure. Fear of being alone. And, while fear’s expression is perhaps the most central of all our innate human instincts, I’m beginning to wonder if is isn’t the least evolved. It’s antiquated. And, it’s fucking up the whole shebang.

Here, I’ve been crawling around in circles — waiting for something to change. The pity party’s long over. I stare a plethora of excuses in the face — Why can’t I and I’m sad and I’m stuck and I’m old and I’m too much of this and I’m not enough of that. But, — Wait for it. And. No. Just wait. And. No. Wait. Wait. Wait. And. No. — Fuck it.

I’m tired of waiting for IT. What is IT? Who is IT? Is IT coming? Does IT cost money? Is IT a place? — I don’t care anymore.

I surrender. And, my forfeit isn’t a pittance. It’s a declaration. I’ve tired of listening to the shrill hiss of my own misguided anger. It’s an unwelcome guest, slithering, just below the surface of my thick skin — ready to snap its jaw. But, I can’t wait any longer.

So, I train for a 5K. I pull out my banjo when I have the house to myself and I really fucking wail. I crochet little-white-snowflakes to hang up in the coffee shop. I buy a new Kindle book, and — I actually read it. I watch Master of None and I let big-belly-laughs escape me, even though my laughter still feels like some sort of betrayal. But, I decree — There will be no more waiting.

The time for being pragmatic has passed. After standing on the edge of the bridge and looking down into the black water — it’s do or die. Sink or swim. And, as the last of the yellow leaves blow off the tree outside my bedroom window, I decide I won’t wait for the buds of Spring to remind me I’m still alive.

The wait is over.

Not because IT has arrived. But — because I have.

 

 

 

 

La Revolution

tumblr_lapm7drsiF1qa1ix6

Question: What is the difference between a teacher and a guru?

Answer: A teacher points the way. The guru is the Way. In the course of your awakening you will have thousands of teachers. Throughout all of this teaching, the guru waits, beckoning from beyond.

Be Here Now, Cook Book For A Sacred Life; Ram Dass, Pg. 6

I think we’re all waiting for the payoff.

The big reveal. — The moment of release. The summation of all this pain and toil. An unveiling of some blessed reason for the world’s continued suffering, and, what is certain to be, its ultimate demise.

We seek the guru because we tell ourselves it can’t be this. This place. This time. This cast of characters. This. It just can’t be. In our denial and disbelief, we gloss over the thing we know to be absolutely true. We beg answers of the teachers before us — but to truly know — we must go within. It’s clear to me now more than ever — relief is not around us. It is inside us. — Good lives within. — We must find it there and draw it out. A spiritual revolution.

I read the work of Baba Ram Dass daily. I love him. I’d love for him to be my guru. But the truth is, in my seeking him, I become more lost. What’s even more hilarious? — He taught me that lesson. Teachers are funny like that. They shine light where you’d rather not see, so, you go to another teacher, then another, then another. Soon you’ve seen too much, but really, you haven’t seen anything at all. I like to think you know what I mean, because I like to believe that we all are seekers.

I’m still in this funk, so, I’m stuck. I sit patiently and wait for instruction. From anyone, really. A customer. A coworker. A song. Sun glinting off the choppy waves of the water in the bay. — All messages from the Guru.

Recently, a few important people have drifted, unexpectedly, from my life. Teachers. — The best teachers. — And, watching them go has reminded me that there are new lessons I’m meant to learn. It’s not by my design. But, I must remind myself that if I allow myself to be stuck here, then I will continue to be just that. — Stuck here. Any design requires movement. Patience. Love. — Revolution.

Before my eyes, big cities have become incredibly small.

I turn off the television to avoid making myself sick. I embrace and abandon my own sense of place. I wait for healing. I look for apartments in Southern Vermont. I stare at a picture of a covered bridge surrounded by falling leaves, and, in another photo, the same bridge covered in snow. Different seasons. Each lonely and quiet. Isolated and still. It looks like a place my guru might wait for me. I feel myself moving closer to something. — We are all moving closer to something.

But life isn’t about moving. It’s about being. The most sacred lesson, more than any other lesson I’ve learned from my Baba, is the lesson of being. Not thinking, or seeking, or seeing, or knowing. It’s not a tangible trip. It’s not something you can destroy or embrace or free or trap. It’s not something you can kill. No amount of violence, inside or outside of us, can unsettle it.

It’s something we know because we are. All of us. Each one of us.

And, that’s the grist for the mill, Baba would say. — Becoming ourselves is the trip.

 

This moment, is a moment for the guru. — This moment, is the guru.

Vive La France. Vive La Revolution.

 

 

On Being Seen

eye-see-malcolm-b-smith

Don’t look away.

At the coffee shop, after serving an assembly-line of customers their coffee-crack, each falling in line, decaffeinated, our hands exchanging paper-cup-currency — I looked up from the cash drawer to see an unknown face. He was standing there, looking at me.Β  No, staring. — And, not at the frames of my glasses or at my little, silver pendant-necklace. At me. This stranger’s eyes, with tiny black pupils, bore little holes right. into. mine.

This look. — It wasn’t creepy. It wasn’t romantic or sensual. It wasn’t inappropriate or uncalled for — it just was. He was unabashed. Eyes set. Dead-on-straight-on-spot-on. A portal into me. Into my soul. Perfectly still. Seeing me.

And, in an odd act of defiance, I fought the intense urge to immediately sever this strange bond.

Don’t look away. Don’t look away. Don’t look away.

I held his gaze. I let it happen — even though it was terrifying and strange. And, when he finally broke away, he sat down at an empty table with his lap-top and his coconut doughnut and his medium cup of coffee, and he got on with it. — His day. His moment. — He was unaffected by having seen me.

But me? I stood there undone. Feeling naked in the middle of the shop. It occurred to me that this guy sees people all the time. He is decidedly unafraid. He knows where to look and he is un-phased by our contents. He see us, and then — he returns to his doughnut. That’s who he is.

It made me wonder — what was I so afraid he might discover? Why I had been so uncomfortable?

I thought about how I’ve felt recently. — Withdrawn. Disinterested. Tired. Sad. — In my various states of dissatisfaction, I’d rather fade into the woodwork than be seen. The feeling reminds me of early sobriety. Hiding in plain sight. — I didn’t want you to see me int that state. — Vulnerable. Beaten. Broken. Alone.

With years clean, I still look for places to hide. Avoiding help, even when I could really use some. — There’s something to that admission. Something about other people knowing you’re not OK. — It’s hard to let yourself be seen in that way.

But, this guy — this customer — he just took it. He looked in and saw my sadness and my fear and my defeat, and then — he ate his doughnut.

In doing so, he brought me back to myself. He humbled and surprised me. He reminded me that I’m not as wretched as I sometimes think myself to be. And, in recognizing this, I was able to locate some compassion. In the women’s room mirror, I met my own reflection.

Vulnerable, beaten, broken, alone. — But, still here.

And, I’m seeing her.

Don’t look away. Don’t look away. Don’t look away.

 

 

Artwork: Malcom B. Smith; “Eye See.” http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/malcolm-b-smith.html

 

 

Waiting To Feel Something Different

Autumn_leaves_(pantone)_crop

For New York, it was an Indian Summer.

But now, Fall descends — and with it, my depression.

I watch the leaves outside my bedroom window turn from a waxy green to a papery yellow. Literally. — I watch it happen. — I haven’t left my bed.

If I’m not at work, I’m under the covers. My bike has lost it’s appeal. I’m in a constant state of tired, or angry, or irritable, or hungry, or not hungry — I know all these tell-tale signs. But, even if I didn’t — I’m textbook. I’m WebMD-defintion-depressed.

I’ve dealt with it — depression — my whole life. Long before sobriety. And, it used to bother me. There was a time it even scared me. But now, I take it in stride. Sobriety has given me the tools to deal with my depressive bouts. Which, I’ve observed, come along with big, rolling changes or incredible amounts of stress. And, in my adult life, that seems to be — always.

Some bouts are worse than others. And now, at the very least, I know how to talk to myself, even when I’m not entirely sure that I’ll listen.

“This too shall pass.” I tell myself. — Because, it’s true. And, I can handle it. All the little sayings, the comforting cups of tea, the “being kind to yourself.” — Whatever that fuck that means. I know the motions. I’ve made them all before. And, since I’ve never tolerated being medicated for depression — I turn into a Walking-Dead-style-zombie — I made a decision to work with professionals that support my wishes and help me roll with the tides, naturally.

I’ve learned that the hardest part of this deal is being patient with yourself. — Being kind to yourself. It’s these two things, in particular, with which I have real difficulty. — Because I have always wanted it yesterday and I have always wanted it done perfectly. Whatever “it” happens to be.

Often addicts and alcoholics are their own worst critics. And, that’s not just me waxing poetic — that’s fact. Self-hatred led us all to our substances, and, for those of us that struggle with our addictions — it’s what leads us back.

It’s sobriety that’s helped me navigate the waters of my own softness — or lack thereof. I know now, with certainty, that “As-is” is sometimes the best we’ll get. So, I’ve accepted this and learned to be grateful for it.

Many of us want to pin-point the place where it all began. Place blame. Point fingers. We think that if we can find the origin — that starting line — where our depression began, we can also find where our addiction began. And there, we can somehow fix it. Mend ourselves. But I’ve learned, depression is not a problem that gets solved. It’s just another part of who I am. A piece of my treatment has become accepting what is and building my expectations around that reality.

I’m never quite sure how long it will last. — How many hours I’ll sleep. How many responses I’ll bark. How many pounds I’ll lose or gain. How many futile attempts will be made to make me smile. Or how many leaves I’ll watch change color. — But, because I’m sober, I know, eventually, I’ll be OK. I’ll return to some semblance of emotional normalcy. — I’ll walk outside in the sunshine. I’ll dust off the bike seat. I’ll call some friends and meet them for coffee.

But, for now, — for today, tomorrow, and what’s likely the several weeks that will follow — it’s all balling and blankets while I stare out the window and wait to feel something different.

That’s my patience. That’s my kindness. That’s my meditation. — And, today, that’s enough.