The Proof And The Pudding

Photo May 03, 12 37 00 PM

I’m a believer. — It doesn’t take much.

There are days I’m a step up from gullible. But really, for the most part, it’s just that I have a enormous amount of faith. In people and in humanity. I live by my gut. And, some people will tell you this is my flaw — my hubris — but I believe that Belief is one of my greatest strengths.

So begins the second month in my Year of Happiness. And, you guessed it — our theme for the next four weeks is: Belief.

It may appear that I’ve taken things out of sequential order. Shouldn’t Belief come before Surrender, you ask? It’s a fair question. Believing in something before you Surrender yourself to it seems, well, logical. But, when it comes to Happiness, your logic is worthless. Your gut, however, — priceless.

You’ve heard it before: Seeing is Believing. It’s the hallmark slogan for the skeptical and faithless. For many, proof is required if they’re going to give an inch. People want to be sure when they invest their time, money, and yes, even their Happiness in something. They want a guarantee for the return on their investments. They want their dividends paid.

The thing is, when it comes to Happiness, there isn’t a formula. We can’t trade one stock for another and expect to finish out the day trading up twenty points. And, this is the reason we have to Surrender to Happiness before we believe in it. We have to turn ourselves over to Happiness long enough to buy into it. We take a risk. And, in doing so, we begin to see Happiness show up in our lives. We gain momentum. And, with that tiny bit of proof, we leverage enough confidence to believe in the possibility of our own Happiness.

Belief is more than knowing Happiness exists. Even if we are at the bottom of our barrel, we know that there is something more out there. We are designed to desire Happiness. It’s human nature. It’s achievement, I believe, is our purpose here on Earth. And Belief, when I talk about it in terms of Happiness, is intuiting and understanding that you are worthy of it.

In my career, I have played the part of the customer service guru. I know how to make you feel happy. I’ve worked with students, lawyers, chefs, corporate/celebrity clients, and upscale diners  — and it’s always been my job to identify what will make these people happy and get it to them quickly, and with a sparkling smile. Up until recent years, I believed that bringing other people joy was the thing that brought me the most joy. I was satisfied being a people-pleaser. — Or so I thought.

When I got sober, I realized that people-pleasing is its own drug. It gets you high, but, it’s euphoric buzz is short lived and it will bottom you out, fast. — Try falling helplessly in love with a heroin addict. You’ll learn very quickly, wanting to help and actually helping are two very different beasts.

After a long, hard fallout following my people-pleasing years, I discovered that if you don’t believe in yourself and you don’t make your own Happiness a priority, — you’ll never serve anyone else to the best of your ability.

Belief in your own Happiness, above all else, is essential. And, like Surrender, it’s a hard sell. We fight hard against the inclination to put ourselves before others, because we want to help. We want to make positive changes in the world. We want to create a place that others can believe in. And, that requires a lot of hard work. But, when you find the Belief within yourself to find your own joy and Happiness, you actually make it easier on yourself when it comes time to help others.

I’ve found, in just this short time living for my own Happiness, I have been able to connect and influence people around me in positive ways, effortlessly. When you are happy and connected to your own Belief in yourself, locked in to your unique way of being and seeing the world — people feel that energy, and they respond to it. It sounds woo-woo. And, maybe it is. I don’t have proof. There is no irrefutable data I can present to you — only my experience and observations.

This month, we’ll dive into our Beliefs around Happiness. Because, what we believe influences how we feel and act, exponentially. Happiness is a Belief. It’s a choice. A choice we make with little or no evidence to assure us. And, much like religion, Happiness requires us to trust something we will not always see standing in front of us.

Happiness asks that we be devoted. Reverent. And, the faith and Belief we have, in ourselves, our worth, and our right to Happiness — is the return on our investment. It pays our dividends. The proof isn’t in the pudding. — It is the pudding.

This week, I am starting small. I’m identifying the core Beliefs that have kept me removed from my own Happiness. And, I’ll have to take these results back to the drawing board. Because, if your Beliefs do not lead you to Happiness — you’re doing it wrong.

That’s my gut feeling. — And, it’s proof enough for me.

 

Advertisements

The Great, Woo-Woo Crusade

woowoo

“The Year of Happiness.”

I know. Just reading it makes me want to barf a little bit, too. But, this is how it starts? Right?

As someone who has been perpetually on the dark side of things, the mere mention of Happiness is like being dragged out from a dark cellar into the light of a blazing sun and being screamed at in Chinese. Which is to say — I have no idea what’s happening.

But, it’s happening.

I’ve mentioned that I’m a self-help junkie. Books. Movies. Workbooks. Day planners. Online lectures and seminars. You name it — I’m into it. I’m not ashamed. Not to toot my own horn here, but, seriously, I’m post-doctorate-level-well-read in this genre. From the critically acclaimed to the absolute-worst-ever dreck, my self-helping skill spans oceans and continents. And yes, sometimes, I watch Oprah.

I’ve had many people poo-poo my love of the woo-woo. I’ve been slighted, both on social media and by “real life” peeps. I don’t care. Honestly, I’ve learned heaps about myself, and others, by burying myself in this kind of material. I’ve implemented changes in my own life, and, I’ve seen results.

So, the idea to devote the year to  “Choosing Happiness” didn’t just appear out of the ether. I figured out, long ago, there’s got to be something to this deliberate Happiness thing. But, until now, I didn’t see any way to implement it. Pure, unadulterated Happiness never made it into my self-help arsenal.

If I were so motivated, I could sink my whole life into analyzing my clinical depression. I could unpack the roots and effects of my alcoholism. I could self-help my way through a few more decades with all the crap I’ve stowed on deck. But, there’s an inherent dishonesty in avoiding it. — Happiness. — I kinda know that’s where the answers I’ve been seeking live. Yet, I’ve never really committed myself to getting there. I haven’t really made an effort to sell myself on the concept. And, if Happiness really is the Holy Grail of all this self-help questing, then — I guess it’s time for a Crusade.

That’s right. When I say I’m committing to a Year Of Happiness, I fucking mean it you guys.

That said, I realize, especially for a person like me, this endeavor is going to take organization and planning. Strategery. That’s where this blog steps in. This is the place where I’m going to splay Happiness out in my very own, Dexter-style kill-room and take it apart piece by piece. I’m going to figure out how everything works, and then, by God — I’m going to make it work for me.

Each of the next 12 months will examine a theme — not unlike the 12 Steps. (Apropos, I know.) And, each week, I plan on unpacking said themes and examining how they play into the Happy Factor.

More than anything else, I plan on using this space to eradicate all my well-rehearsed excuses.

*               *               *

Before I sobered up, I was convinced Happiness and sobriety were synonymous. I figured if I could just stop using, I’d finally arrive at Happiness. But, with 3 1/2+ years of sobriety — I know that isn’t true. However, I am sure both require the same caliber of commitment.

In that vein, April’s theme is Surrender. Is it cheesy? Maybe. But, it’s one of the most difficult and complex things you can do in your life. We surrender to people, places, concepts, laws, governments, feelings, faith, and ourselves — every single day. But, surrendering with intention is extremely difficult.

Surrender means starting where you are — details be damned.

And, surrendering to Happiness? For many of us, that means forfeiting all the baggage we’ve been lugging around. That’s hard. Surrendering to sobriety meant giving up an addiction — a torrid love affair. So too is the trade off (up) for Happiness. We get the good door prizes for our sacrifice.

This week, surrender feels like a lot of effort. Quieting the gloomy voice that’s constantly speaking to me is difficult — and, at times, it’s impossible. But, that’s what The Year of Happiness is all about. Being willing. Surrendering old stories and giving voice to new ones.

It’s crusade time. You in?

 

Photo courtesy of Ebay: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/GRAIL-CAT-spoof-funny-T-Shirt-Mens-6-sizes-8-colours-crusade-kitty-joke-/151276415654

 

 

In Stitches

Braided_Crochet-1

My world seems so small.

Maybe it’s because there isn’t much happening. But, when I sit down and try to examine why that is, I keep returning to the same thing — in reality — a lot of things are happening.

I’m not a big-picture person. I have trouble backing up. I always find myself too close to the situation. I look at the fragments. And, that’s why, much of the time, I’m disappointed with myself. Disappointed with how things are going. I look at all the little failures and don’t manage to see how they play into everything else. I overlook how all those little missteps have led me to wonderful places that I wouldn’t have otherwise arrived.

Have you ever crocheted a blanket? If you look at one little crochet stitch — it isn’t much. But, after several thousand stitches, you end up with an afghan. Sure, it takes awhile. Yeah, you’ll likely end up pulling out three rows because you’ll notice that you fucked up with your counting a little too late. And, yes, by the time that blanket is done — you’ll be sick as fuck of looking at that same color. But, — you have something. Something big. Something tangible. Something to show for all your time and labor.

I run into problems when it comes to appreciating life’s afghans. I live in the process. The reward, for me, is in the making. Taking the little steps. And, once it’s all said and done, well — it’s all said and done.

Most of the time, I feel like I’ve got nothing to show for myself — no blanket. No payoff.

It feels like the work ahead of me couldn’t be in these little steps. These single stitches. I think that’s why the future feels so daunting. The work I’ve always assigned myself has been in stepping back and seeing the whole, big thing. Making grand decisions for some grand life. And, that’s got me in stitches. I don’t feel equipped. There’s no blanket. And, I want to know — when’s it all going to come together?

I’ve always felt that getting older meant that we had to let go of these small things. I thought we had to follow our little patterns — precisely — so that each row leads seamlessly to the next. And, we have to be very careful — because ripping out rows wastes precious time. But, the truth is, it’s in ripping out the rows that we learn to make the best blankets. Growth is in the repetition. Fuck-ups will happen. I try to remember — It wouldn’t be a genuine, handmade gift without a few little errors hidden somewhere in the chevron.

We eventually find ourselves in our different places — in our different ways. We must remember to occasionally step back, we must look at our work. But, we must also remember to do the work that’s right in front of us. The single stitch becomes the blanket.

It’s all about these little pieces.

I know. — I crochet.

 

 

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.

 

 

The Great Squirrel Chase

giphy

This weekend, I evicted a squirrel from my apartment.

I first saw his ratty, grey tail peeking out from under my enormous television set. First, I panicked. Next, I reached for my yoga mat. Which, obviously, I proceeded to wield as an unruly weapon.

Even in my hysteria, it seemed simple enough. — I just had to lock the cat in the back bedroom, open the front door, and then usher my squirrel guest out, with gusto, flopping my yoga mat this way and that.

As it turned out, we were both quite terrified. So, I called my friend Tony who lives across from me in our apartment complex. No answer. Then, I tried my landlord. No answer. Then, I called my father — in New York City. Though separated by five thousand miles, he was the one who did not fail me. And while he did laugh at me like a hyena for five minutes, he also remained on the line for my intense, steady, and, dare-I-say-it — hunter-like — progression of profanity. Which, progressed as follows:

“Holy shit! Oh my God he’s in the closet now! Fuck! He’s making noises! Holy fucking shit, I can’t see him! What if he fucking bites me, Dad? Dad — Stop laughing! That stupid fucker just ran into the kitchen. God, that asshole’s a stupid motherfucker. THE FRONT DOOR IS OPEN YOU ASSHOLE!!! Jesus fucking Christ, he just ran out the front door. He was, like, fuckin’ airborne Dad. He’s out. Holy shit. He’s out! Fuck.”

My heart was beating like rapid fire. — And, there I was, yoga mat in hand. — Alive.

In truth, I’m rarely present. I run over the past in my mind, I plan the future, I design escapes and intrigue. But, I’m not here. It’s tough to get me in the moment.

One evening, my ex, after hearing me spout off about this or that, asked me how it came to be that Ram Dass was my hero — my guru — if I was constantly struggling to “Be Here Now.” — “Why didn’t I try harder to live in the present?” He wondered. I didn’t have an answer. It’s hard to explain to someone else how you can love a person that has the one, intangible thing that you want most, but, can never seem to grasp. It’s not coveting. It’s reverence. And, it’s nearly impossible to describe to someone who cannot comprehend any spirit that’s bigger than their own.

It’s funny, because that very same ex got me a framed “Be Here Now” poster as a gift. — A reminder I guess. It’s purple with a white lotus flower in the center. And, even though my ex is gone, the poster remains, situated happily on my mantle. So, after I had called, texted, emailed, and tweeted to everyone I knew — I plopped down on my couch to draw in my breath and stare at my purple-poster. I smiled with my teeth for the first time in months.

Excitement. Joy. Suspense. Hilarity. A SQUIRREL. Here. Now. IN MY APARTMENT.

That squirrel was my gift. Maybe from Baba himself. The moment where I was reminded: I am a real, breathing creature, wielding a yoga mat and taming wild — albeit tiny — beasts. Even when the moment had passed — the tiny creature bounding out over my two-step stoop, the feeling he awakened in me remained. — A feeling that will not escape me so quickly.

Sometimes, we can only love those that are present — without us. We can bask in their light. Their awareness. Their true presence. We can read the words that they have spilled across thousands of pages in countless books, we can watch their YouTube channels, we can sing chants along with Krishna Das. We seek out the presence.

But, sometimes, it will come to you: A squirrel who shits all over your house —while you chase it wildly with a yoga mat — while your father laughs in your ear — while your heart pumps in your chest. At the end of it all, you watch something leap to freedom. — And, it’s you.

I thank the purple poster and, for old time’s sake, I text my ex.

Because, I need to tell someone — I’m here. Now.

“Now is now. Are you going to be here, or not?” — Baba Ram Das

A Mass In The Trees

Photo Jun 02, 9 31 35 PM

In bed, my eyes open and look upward. The world is white and dry like the paint that coats the ceiling. I turn my whole head to look at the bedside clock instead of moving each eyeball in its socket. 6:48AM. The world is still lighting up and the overcast hue of a Portland morning bleeds out from behind the red bed sheet that has served as my curtain for almost a year. I lay there, unmoving, until 7:02AM, when something shifts. My foot, or my thigh, I can’t remember. My own body, now separate from my head, pulled its legs from between the sheets. Stepped into dirty jeans, piled on the floor beside the bed. The pants rose up around my ankles without obvious help from my hands.

I stare into my mirrored face in the bathroom. Flecks of make-up and dust surround my reflected portrait. I look tired. Old. Worried. I think I need saving. I need a blessing. I need someone to hold their hand out over me and make me well. A brush to paint over the dark circles of my eyes and make me appear fresh and young. I need a priest.

As a child there was a magic in the church. The clergy. I still remember the robe, a long green smock with gold threads, that Father Kraus used to wear as he billowed back and forth across the altar of St. Charles Borromeo in Brooklyn Heights. My mother singing out in the folk choir as I sat in the front right pew, on my knees, waiting. Not for salvation or peace, but to be heard. The smell of something ancient and holy. The hollow cold of the marble and stone. Each face, frozen, in its station of the cross. Back then, I believed in something. I’m not sure it was Jesus, but that church, in it’s ethereal enormity, made me feel as if I were part of something larger than my body, two arms, two legs, and a head. I prayed. I knelt at the statue of Holy Mary, her eyes cast to the floor, just to the left of the lamb that bowed at her feet. Mother of God.

Father Kraus is dead and I am in Oregon. I walk out of my apartment and drive to morning mass at St. Ignatius on Powell Boulevard, which in stature, has only a fraction of St. Charles’ dignity. I haven’t been in a Catholic church in years. The light is yellow and everything is as gold as idols. Old biddies in beige shoes and nuns in habits chant the rosary and I don’t belong here. I could not belong here. I entered my pew and sat, eyes closed, and let the sound wash over me. A bell chimes. Enter the priest. His robes are purple and stiff, unlike Father Kraus’, who upon his entrances appeared a holy wizard. I allow the routine of the service return. The call and answers, the prayers, the kneeling, then standing, then kneeling, then standing, then kneeling, then standing again. I swallowed my communion, but, it didn’t taste the same. I genuflected leaving the pew and my knee hit the floor with force before reverence, there will be a bruise.

On the steps of St. Ignatius, I felt as empty upon my exit as I did when entering the heavy door into the stale, sour air. Outside again, new breath moved in my lungs and Oregon sky pulled me closer. There are mountains nearby.

At the trail head, leaves crunch under my feet. The trees arch around me like long arms, bending so slightly, to hold me to the path. A chilled gust of air moves their last leaves, ushering me forward. I walk in quiet, the sun burns off clouds and beams of light search for the ground through the canopy. Pine needles dance in circles as they fall to their soft beds, made of their fallen comrades. Fall color cascades. The earthen smell of damp moss reminds me of the wet cold smell of St. Charles. The landscape opens up as I near the clearing and the wind echos like my mother’s footsteps on the marble.

I walked for miles. And became a part of this church. Stopping at its stations to sit on stumps and draw air into nostrils, flaring and alive. At the top of Powell Butte, the sky is open. Mt. Hood is raised in the east like a statue. The sun cradles its peak like a halo, and a soft ring of clouds hangs at the crest, shrouding it in white and blue, like Holy Mary. A beam of sun cast to the Earth, just to the left of the lamb that bowed at her feet. Mother of God.

 

(A Mass In The Trees is an excerpt from my essay collection: The Ascent, And Other Essays.)

 

The Red Room

change

I spent my lunch break in the self-help section at Powell’s City of Books.

And, I know. It’s bad. But, it’s how I roll when I’m in a rut.

In sobriety, I’ve learned pain is predictable. I know when it’s coming. And, I know what to expect. There are levels of rut. In 12-Step, when you’re still sweating alcohol and amphetamines, they tell you, “It will always be peaks and valleys, peaks and valleys.” — It’s mostly valleys.

So, back to the self-help section. I’m not entirely sure how I ended up there. I know I started in the Red Room — the travel writing section. I was reading David W. McFadden’s An Innocent In Ireland. It was really good, too. I was totally planning on buying it.

But, I was standing there next to this intellectual-type-guy with horn-rimmed glasses. He was paging through some book on Greece, and I found myself getting pissed off. Like, really pissed off. And, I had no reason to hate this guy. Absolutely. None. But, I absolutely did. He was breathing too loudly and he was turning the pages too recklessly. One moment, I’m in this pub in Ireland, and the next, I’m about to lose my shit — thinking, “Screw this fuckin’ guy, and, screw Mykonos!” At that point, I just couldn’t take it any longer. McFadden went back on the shelf. I’d come back for him later.

Next thing I knew, I was two rooms over — in the thick of it — Self-Help: General. I’m standing there reading Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. And, fuuuuuuuucccckkk. It’s good. It’s Mykonos beaches good.

I’m on page twenty. And, I seriously I have to get back to work. But, with those twenty pages under my belt, I’m walking out of the store, then onto Eleventh Avenue, then up Flanders Street and — I’ve totally bought into it — Goddammit! — I CAN heal my life!

I can see it. This hysteria. It’s just the rut. A big, long valley. It’s the same place where I always get stuck. Post-break-up and pre-break-through. And, when I’m here — I read a self-help book. And, it’s bad. It’s awful. It’s a waste of ink and trees. And, as I’m reading it, I’m thinking, “God, I hate myself.” Because, I kinda do. — That’s how you end up in the self-help section.

But, then, it happens. — I help myself.

The thing is, there comes a point where we completely detach. Someone has to talk us into changing. And yes, sometimes it ends up being a hack who’s spiritual abundance is superseded by monetary gain. But, sometimes, hacks can make good points. I should know.

So, I do the rut-thing. I’m in bed, with the blinds closed, for days. I watch terrible rom-coms until I start to smell and the cat begins to pity me. Eventually, I convince myself to shower and take a walk. And, that’s when it happens.

I get back to dreaming. The sun kisses my vampire skin. I see the hot-pink flowers that don’t exist on the East Coast. There’s a calico cat rolling in a patch of long grass by the hippie-guy’s house. And — I’m here and I’m alive and I can change.

And, that’s how it happens.

Go to the Red Room. Meet McFadden for a pint. Escape the horn-rimmed-glasses-wearing- Grecian-jerk. Lose your place in time and space. And, return to consciousness with Louise Hay.

Twenty pages later. — No, I haven’t healed my life. But, I’ve helped myself.

And, that’s the hardest part. Helping your heart. Convincing yourself that you’re close.

That it’s coming. — A peak. — Change.

 

Strange Communion

Photo Apr 01, 5 11 18 AM

A year ago, I wrote a birthday essay in a vain attempt to convince you that I hadn’t completely failed myself at age 30.

I year later, I find myself wondering: What does it mean to fail yourself? And, what brings us back from the edge? — I’ll admit, I’ve been heady.

Recently, I was asked: What do you believe? And, as I made numerous attempts to pen a witty, annual retrospective, jovially escaping all my unstructured thoughts and feelings, I kept returning to that question — What do I believe?

I stare at the wall. I avoid your eyes. I want to tell you. I just can’t articulate the concept. And, it frustrates me when I can’t make my language speak to you. It should be easy. Hearing each other. Understanding. We are comprised of beliefs. Beliefs make us up. They are the dark matter that hold our cosmos together.

Beliefs. An army of them. — An onslaught. — Learned beliefs. Inherited beliefs. Lost beliefs. Stolen beliefs. Hurtful beliefs. Freeing beliefs. Soulful beliefs. Selfish beliefs. Intoxicating beliefs. Lucky beliefs. Fateful beliefs. Loving beliefs.

Too many beliefs to explain or unlearn. All patched together in a ratty quilt of celestial protection. — One square informs the other. But, get this — they’re not all believable. How can that be? I hear you wondering. Unbelievable beliefs? To you, it sounds absurd. But, is it? Does it make me a fraud? A fool? The wolf in sheep’s clothing? Am I a liar? A tyrant? A moron? Maybe.

But, whatever I am, I own it — this odd menagerie of soulful things — they make up my spiritual life. And, I won’t risk ridicule. I won’t offer up the only thing that’s allowed me survive. I have reverence for my strange communion.

Prior to getting clean, I’d stopped believing altogether. I was angry. I lived in my own, sad ceremonies. And, even those small, broken beliefs helped me to save myself.

I’m sober when I should be drunk. — It isn’t believable. But, it’s true. Certain faith makes it possible for me to be OK without having to be wasted. But, even as I walk on this solid, stable ground, I end up taking a few steps backward. I revisit the old, angry places. Some beliefs are hard to abandon, even with time and wisdom under my belt. Even with all my heroes and my heart.

We cannot always be everything we believe in.

That would be enlightenment. And, I will be the first to tell you that I am still a student of myself — of you. And, after another year of introspection, I’ve come to understand that the same belief that you once thought would sink you, will be the one that saves you.

So, what do I believe?

I believe in whatever spirit guide, constellation-riding, woo-woo-hippie-fuck-savior got me this far. It was enough to save me. Though, I never did see it, face to face.

But, it was never seeing that made me the believer.

 

*Artwork from Be Here Now, By Ram Dass*

You Crazy Diamond

Photo Nov 11, 11 14 12 AM

Light is a sort of magic to which I will be forever drawn.

I long to capture the intricate details of light’s dance with my darkness. But, the beauty there is one that my own words fail to express. I still take comfort in spelling it out on a blank page: L-I-G-H-T. The kind that’s too bright be ignored. — It’s a part of my make up. I know where to look for it.

I always end up losing my light — only to find it in the most obvious of places. Haven’t I learned? Everything remains the same. I go back to the beginning. People come and people go. The illusion is created that, maybe, this time, it’ll all be very different. I battle and find peace in my continual “same-ness.” It’s like being stuck and moving simultaneously.

The cure for a case of chronic same-ness is to attach yourself to a great adventurer. I’ve been known to love the type before. The person that can’t sit in the same chair twice. The one who isn’t happy unless they are doing something wild. They travel incessantly. They change their minds mid-sentence. They show up late. They forget to breathe. They find no comfort in space. They have no attachment to home. They need something different. Something uncharted. And soon, they’ll be gone. Because, if you can say it’s yours — you’ve stayed too long.

Me, I find beauty in the nuance of my same-ness. I see where little things have changed. I note the sky’s movements. How clouds morph and disappear. I watch as the sun cloaks itself, then undresses — yellow light spilling over the trees outside my apartment window. And, when the windows black out, my perfect sky fading to black, and sinister clouds move in — I seek it out. My L-I-G-H-T . After standing in the dark too long, my branches arch toward the sun. My bones know the way, even if my eyes cannot see.

I stand still again. I listen to Pink Floyd albums while I’m in the shower. I know all the words, but, I’m singing to myself. The same song plays. — Only this time, it sounds different.

Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun.

People always get it wrong. Light. Dark. It’s never one versus the other — It’s the balance. The Dance. The Yin. The Yang. The Lost. The Found. Cyclical things. Intricately linked in the space time continuum. Weighted in eternity. Ancient and unchangeable. Every day, the sun remains our flare. It shoots up the signal in ever-changing same-ness. It announces a new day. One where everything is unwritten.

L-I-G-H-T.

Shine On, You Crazy Diamond.

Maps

Photo Sep 07, 4 45 37 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, I celebrated two years clean and sober.

I once thought that sobriety would forever be the beacon, lighting my way. Yet now, more than ever, I find myself in the dark.

It has taken two years to learn that there is no way of knowing the path.

I do know this — Sobriety is not the road — it is the mile marker. Sobriety is the daily reminder: There is light. Where my own light comes from, and how it continues to shine, I do not know. But, it emanates from a place inside of me that, two years ago, I would have denied existed. Today, it glows hot like a coal.

In my second year of sobriety, I have shown up  for and stepped away from things and people. I’ve taken action and made decisions that once would have required copious amounts of whiskey. I have watched moments of my life unravel and then bloom with a happiness I still do not understand. And I have let go of my still beating heart, like a balloon, and watched it float away into an unforgiving sky, wondering if I will ever feel it again — love.

I have learned that we do not recover from some things. There are some wounds that will never cease to sting. But, if we treat them with care, acknowledge them with honesty, and bandage them properly — they cease to slow us down. Instead, their momentary aches become reminders of who we are, who we were, and who we are becoming. My scars are the road map. I wear them like the tattoos I do not have.

I have learned to smile with my teeth. I do not hide behind my own inadequacy. Perhaps the most poignant lesson I have learned in these past two years is: We are all inadequate. This isn’t a flaw. This is a challenge. This is the opportunity life affords us — to rise up and offer a fragment of greatness,  despite our lacking. To create from a place of authenticity, not perfection. To stand alone with the knowledge that, no matter who surrounds us, we remain cogs in a beautiful machine. To honor our worth. To step away from darkness, no matter how fervent its plea to take us over.

Joni Mitchell sings — “We are star dust. We are golden. And, we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” So, I walk in my maze of hedges. I meet dead ends, where I collapse in frustration. But, I stand up. I walk again. Because, I know, I am already in the garden. I can see — on the other side of this wall of leaves — something waits for me. Light gets in through the cracks. I know. One of these days, I will turn at the right corner and I will emerge, unguarded. Luminous.

So I stand here. At the second mile marker, on this — my road.

Two years of nothing. Two years of everything. Baba Ram Dass, you brilliant motherfucker, you called it. I begin to understand the many ways we are infinite. I run my fingers over my scars. Old and new. Rough and smooth. My maps.

Behind me, everything is illuminated. Before me, my heart casts out its high-beams on the dark highway.

 

And, to whatever power it is that’s listening, I whisper:

For the light. For the road. For the maps.

Thank you.