Freight Hopping

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A self-proclaimed-self-help junkie, I find myself in a predicament.

I know too much. The trouble with all this starting over crap is — whether you’ve moved coast-to-coast, left a relationship, or are totally revamping your outlook on life — at some point you have to stop starting over and, well, — just keep fucking going.

Self-helpers, like myself, will often spend much of their time building themselves up, hoping to arrive at some very specific end result and — they never quite get there. We can’t finish what we start. We give up. Or, worse — we settle. And, we find ourselves starting over. Again.

It’s an existential hamster wheel. And it’s especially cruel when you’ve read something like 80 books on the subject: Starting over. Creating yourself. Recreating yourself. Healing yourself. Losing yourself. Finding yourself. Finding happiness. Creating happiness. Losing happiness. Keeping happiness. — I know my fellow Seekers will understand. Because, we know. We’ve read the book on that — 80 times. We can watch ourselves fucking it up — in slow motion. We know exactly where we’re missing the mark. But, there’s no stopping that train once we’ve boarded. We’re freight hoppers. It’s this: A one-way track. Stay or jump. — But know, jumping off now will hurt.

Since moving back East, I’ve been trying, relentlessly, to deconstruct this goddamn train. I’ve exhausted myself. And so, I’ve had no choice but to give myself a little leeway. And, after watching the same landscape speed past my train-car window — it dawns on me that, this time, starting over won’t require that I design some grand master plan. I just have to ride this runaway train — and try to enjoy it.

The truth is — I’m in love with all these unfulfilled parts of myself. I admire my own willingness to trudge through mistakes and misery to get what I want. It makes me proud that I haven’t settled for someone else’s version of me. I revel in my highs and lows — I would hate for my own story to be linear. While I may be sad, I will never be stagnant. I’m still a kind of mystery, even to myself. And, sometimes, I find some real joy in my own elusiveness.

On my good days I seek patience, forgiveness, and — when I can muster it — a little tenderness. When I get even just a taste of these things, I’m able to locate some hidden part of myself.

There are moments, however fleeting, where I remember who I really am, without making apologies for her. And, when I find myself in those places — starting over doesn’t seem so pressing. I’m reminded that it is in the pursuit of my happiness that I have been most happy.

Keep fucking going. The train will roll on. Without brakes. Seekers, we don’t need them.

We trust the track — and we ride.

 

Photo Credit: Mike Brodie, From “A Period of Juvenile Prosperity”; http://mikebrodie.net/

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A Llama For Your Thoughts

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We’re supposed to be visible.

But sometimes, it feels like I’m not here. I get caught-up in mechanical motions, and it feels like I’ve ceased to exist at all.

Simple things, even ones with heart, become so routine that I begin missing the point. — Devoid of place. Time. Importance. — I struggle being present half the time, if at all. I am so convinced of my own insignificance, that, I’m sure, everyone else is too. The world, limitless and beautiful, slowly loses all color and meaning.

Things fall by the wayside, and I let them.

But then — a package arrives.

My wily and wacky Aunt has sent me a hand written note accompanied by a small ceramic dish that bears my initial, “S”, and with it, three, small, paper journals. Pink, blue, and green. — All adorned with their own, ridiculous llama. Each batting their bright eyes, flashing chiclet teeth, wielding unruly, pink tongues, and carrying colorful, tiered packs on their ridiculous, llama backs.

I squint as I read each line of her perfectly penned greeting. Cursive. Tiny. Black and inky. She writes, “Hey, you can’t always have your laptop handy when inspiration strikes.” And, apparently, the llamas are meant to help in these situations.

“Here.” I imagine her saying. “A llama for your thoughts.”

In the kitchen, I feel tears creep into the corners of my eyes. It’s nice. I suddenly have this — an unexpected note from my Aunt.Β  And, with it, ridiculous llamas that make me feel visible again. Something light in all this heaviness.

Most days, I resign myself to feeling forever lost — misplaced among God’s little things. But, here, somehow, my Aunt managed to find me, even in this place where, I’m sure, I don’t belong.

Love’s little notes, — Cursive. Tiny. Black and inky. — are the paper proof that I’m actually here.

Without my laptop handy, I turn to the first page in my little, pink-llama notebook.

And, I jot that down — so I don’t forget.

 

 

 

 

 

Doing Things Badly

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This week, my people, has been tough.

A dry, dusty, depression wasteland.

But, rather than abandon you, my faithful, with nothing — I leave you with a morsel from one the zaniest and the most human of my favorite writers — Anne Lamott.

Her book, Grace, EventuallyΒ  started me down the road that led me to Baba Ram Dass, andΒ shortly thereafter — to my own sobriety. She is a writer who had little trouble wiggling her way into my heart, and, I hope that this week you’ll devote the five minutes you might have spent reading my words to watching this short piece, and perhaps, you’ll allow her to wiggle her way into yours.

 

Artwork: Nicholas Roerich, “Issa and Giant’s Head”

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Our Bones

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My coworker tells a red-faced customer that the New Year starts with our bones.

He is referencing the seasonable cold front that, only just now, has arrived in New York City. But, as I stare from the coffee shop window out onto the still-dark avenue, I think it’s possible his theory has nothing at all to do with the weather.

He’s right though, the New Year does start with our bones. And, after letting some heavy weight drop, I am left again — feeling empty. Just a feeble frame.

This feeling is a familiar one.

September 9, 2012. I stood in the center of my Portland living room. I remember staring with empty eyes at my black, cubed, IKEA bookshelf. I read the title off the spine of every book I owned.

It was my first day sober, and, I didn’t know what else to do. I could not sit or walk or make calls or cook or watch TV. Most importantly — I could not drink. I could only do this one thing — stare at my shelf full of books. And then, I sat on the stoop outside my tiny kitchen, my elbows pressed into my knees, and I smoked an entire pack of Parliaments. A lonely skeleton.

Days and weeks past. Then, months. Now, years. And, where substance is concerned — I am human again. I can see myself in the mirror without having a drink. I have created something. That old skeleton — a spine, made up once from those of my books and my rib cage, made up once from twenty premium cigarettes — is now covered with flesh. I made matter with which to cloak myself. And, with practice, I learned how to uncover meaning in my own assembly.

Meaning will come and go. But, one thing is sure — Time will always create new bodies for us to build. And I have come to believe, despite the hardship, it is important we continue the difficult work. Unending. Tedious. Painful. Slow. Rewarding. Beautiful. Unexpected. — Grace.

We sew our veins, organs, and muscles into place. We cover ourselves in this — our skin. Unique. Never again to be duplicated. We all start out with these bones. And, at the end, which is never really the end, we are something we weren’t before. Original in our effort. We are our own life’s work. — We become our willingness to begin.

In the New Year, cold descends. We feel it. The work commences.

It starts with our bones.