Category Archives: Dialectic

Spirituality as an Attitude: A Manifesto

We create our own reality.
Our life is a storybook in the first person that we’re constantly writing, with every action and every thought. Aristotle understands half of this in his well-known saying: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Correct, but he is only seeing half of the picture. What we repeatedly do is a condensed product of who we are moment to moment; what we do is motivated by our thoughts and emotional reactions, which are provoked by our experience of life. These internal parts of our identity are also not who we are, ultimately, because they are not the only things present in our minds. We have the Thinker that experiences emotion and produces thoughts – a running narrative on the state of things; and then the Awareness of that narrative, slightly behind it.The Thinker belongs intrinsically to this Awareness, and depending how often we separate from the world of thought, and invest our energy in awareness, the more able we are to influence the Thinker.

It is reductionistic to say that who we are is as simple as our actions. Actions only cement in place a history of who we were in that moment, without ever exposing the details of what caused that particular accident of an action. Which part of our collective identity – meaning the holistic interplay of all the various roles and archetypes we fulfill throughout our duration – causes individual actions/mindsets in each moment?  All of this is enclosed in our personal story. Who we are is nothing but the protagonist of that story. Reality is the gestalt of everyone’s stories going on at once – collectively intersecting and producing plot twists in the stories of others, yet who you are remains a moment-by-moment construction of who else’s story is influencing yours in that moment, and who you personally are preceeding each moment, always bleeding into the next, forever surging into itself. The momentary decisions we make create the next, into infinity; the Butterfly Effect in action.  I created this moment without knowing that this Manifesto would result from my creation, and that’s kind of what art is like. We continually create our reality, without being aware of the resulting future, by constantly interacting with the world and all the other worlds going on. We can influence these resulting realities through learning from past moments and using that knowledge for growth in present moments. Of course we never have control of the future, and adverse things that may intrude on our known routines, but we always have the power to interpret a moment how we wish, and this determines the way our story is written and the way it will be recorded in our history. Our interpretation depends on our attitude.

With a spiritual mindset, I can interpret, learn from, and make the most of my time spent depressed. It’s a lot like flying a kite, and using a strange gust of wind with which to propel your mindset. When I’m depressed, I do what I can with it. It’s like taking a burst of momentum & running with it. When I’m overtly depressed, I have good and bad days. If I take a good day and do what I can with it (things conducive to feeling better: self-care, cleaning, creation – should it come, observing beauty in art books or nature, seeking out loving connection or understanding in another), I find myself swept away with it. Like an exponential magnetism. It is the herd behavior inside myself – if one thought is doing it with complete conviction, and infects other thoughts similarly, the mirror neurons inside myself avalanche in the direction that has the strongest pull – whether positive or negative. It is thought polarization that maintains either a positive or negative attitude.

I’ve observed this in my own downward spirals – one day, I’m far too exhausted to get out of bed, so I go back to sleep. I wake up much later and am not able to accomplish the things I’d wanted to while I was sleeping in, that had meaning for me (volunteering, reading and article, researching, meeting with someone). I feel badly about myself because of this, reasoning that I should have fought my exhaustion and forced myself through it because at least then I wouldn’t feel like a failure. Not wanting to feel like a failure, I invest my waning energy in escape, because comfort is the only energy expenses I can manage, besides continuing to lay in bed and stare at the wall.  Perhaps I scrap the entire day in light of these feelings – I spend it doing NOTHING conducive to feeling good (despite what I may or may not have salvaged), maybe I eat junk food, smoke weed and watch a lot of tv. All of these feel good in the moment and distract me from who I am because of the pleasure derived from them. {However, through observation, I know that eating junk food makes my body feel poorly which affects my self-love and overall mood. Weed does the same by causing my thoughts to be foggy and dulls my experience of life which is constantly altering, so I’m more likely to miss an opportunity for love or connection or experiencing beauty. TV is a huge waste of time that can be addictive}. Maybe because I indulged the day before, the next day, my desire for that pleasure again is aroused, and I think to myself “well, what’s the harm in just one more day – one more indulgence”.

This type of attitude is conducive to habit-forming, which is helpful if the habit is good, but only destructive if it is bad. So maybe I smoke, over time with frequency and my thoughts become increasingly duller and I am unable to create or communicate or even be self-aware, because I am off in the ether, feeling good. Maybe I eat a lot of junk food and cause my stomach to feel nauseated for the rest of the day, and feel fatigued and bloated. Maybe I waste hours watching TV, and don’t read something I told myself I would or don’t create anything again. Eventually, I stagnate and feel poorly about myself for not having accomplished anything, for having no novel thoughts or perceptions on the world with which to record and for pain/discomfort in and with my own body. These swell together in my depression and evoke low self-esteem, fatigue, misconceptions about myself, isolation from others, a dulled ability to do things that I love (writing, singing, playing, socializing). Seeing this transformation in myself causes me to feel cynical about my own abilities and potential, because my thoughts are constantly overrun with the negative, so I say, “oh well, I guess this is just who I am at heart, and its way too difficult to get back to who I was, because I’ve spent so much time being this fat, lazy, dumb slob with no convictions and no ambition. I’m wasting my life and wasting space on this planet”.

And yet — I’ve made the long, difficult journey back there before (to a person with talent, health, clarity of thought and creation). It – again – starts with one, two, three grains of TRY, then ten grains of good habit, and then the whole damn avalanche comes racing down and all of a sudden… I’m happy?    I’m happy. I made that journey back this past year, after a strong bout of depression that started with a relationship going south, a realization that I was no longer important to the one person that was important in my life, and then half a year of rebound. It started with making new friends who stimulated my life and thoughts (watching other people become important in my life), starting to run again (building my health, quality of life and self-esteem), eventually pursuing a new love interest (having the spiritual experience of being in love), writing poems when they came, enjoying life (the outdoors, the nights, the love), going out on limbs and taking the opportunities that were handed to me, putting myself out on limbs by sticking my neck  out – and continuing to, allowing others to fuel my wonder with the world and motivate myself to study and learn. While these were landmarks on my journey back from depression, none of them (even all together) were enough to fully bring me back. It was the attitude that I developed that allowed me to believe in myself and allowed me to follow this path back to happiness. I would not have believed myself or trusted myself enough to put myself out on the limbs that lifted me highest.

I continue these attitude-based habits in my daily maintenance. I still experience bouts of depression that intrude on me with fatigue, irritation, anger, depersonalization and a strong urge to cry –  sometimes provoked by illness and sometimes provoked by a lack of spirit. Getting sick knocks me completely off my feet and forces me to be bed-bound for days, which makes me extremely vulnerable to being overtaken by my depression. However, by maintaining my spiritual attitude, it is easy to take advantage of things the moment I get a burst of energy – a gust of wind. The moment I’m feeling better after being sick, I clean up and change my sheets, air the stale air from my bedroom — get out of bed, cook myself healthy soup and tea, straighten up my room, because I know it boosts my vibes to have a tidy environment, spend my day quietly watching movies I’ve been meaning to see, etc. These are the actions that separate me from my depressed self. But these actions do not define me for en eternity – only in that moment. They don’t make up for past actions and they don’t assure that I will remain this way forever. Additionally this only exists in the world where every day is basically similar; if a wrench were thrown into the monotony of our “average guy” story, who we’ve practiced being will determine how we handle catastrophe.

Perhaps another’s story will horribly intervene with yours – you may meet the end of your story one day by being squashed by a random meteor. Perhaps you will be taken out of your story and thrown into a nightmare of history by a sudden war, fatality or persecution. Each moment will still be what you make of it. Are you the type to attempt escape at the cost of your life? The type to derive meaning from it, while passively accepting the reality of it? Are you the type to be broken and victimized by it? Possibly, you are a combination of all three and many others, fluctuating throughout the time of your life spent inside of this tragedy. Being yourself, with your own duration, encountering others with their unique durations within this tragedy epoch of your story contributes to the constant creation of your own reality that you are always doing. This is very much an echo of the Serenity Prayer.

We all start our stories in a set of  unalterable factors (generally: our race, sexual orientation, home culture, etc.) alongside circumstances or factors that are more alterable, though often through much opposition and struggle – which act as LEARNING opportunities for us (ex’s: gender/sex, religion, behaviors and habits). Generally, we cannot change our roots, but we CAN grow in whatever way we please to, shooting out to whatever direction we  want. A tree may be pruned constantly to fit within a pleasing shape to whomever holds the clippers, but the tree has the resilience and hope to continue bursting through these societally pleasing boxes to fulfill its own destiny and to reach for the sun in its own way. We can change to be whoever we wish to be, because the world truly is what we make it, within the confines of what restricts us naturally. In rarer anecdotes, certain individuals have made triumphs through supposed “unalterable factors” via  pure will and refusal to lose hope. Wilma Rudolph was told after her polio-inflicted paralysis that she would never walk again, and became the fastest woman in the world (circa 1960’s), Anaïs Nin slaved over her novels – producing them herself – for a society that did not value her perspective, until she finally became recognized (in the modern age), the resilience of those that survived the holocaust (Victor Frankl, in particular), plus EVERY success story you’ve ever heard. The hope of individuals who refuse to accept defeat have been proven more often than we know, even if just in the anecdotes of your friends on Facebook.

This is why it is so important to use and understand life as a learning opportunity. We must live life with an open mind, because we live in a world of uncertainty. Science tends to have an ego attached, and tends toward the idea that all things can be known NOW. But there will always be questions. There was a time when people knew beyond a doubt that the world is flat, and we’re no different today – there is so much science still doesn’t know.

To assume that I know everything now and that this is how it will be always is a mistake. I am excited beyond reason for every love, every instance of suffering and every experience that I will have, because I know that I will continue to find truth in the world and continue to get better at living wisely and will be able to contribute so many more truths to my own art and creation! I will be able to do something better next time (whether it be the beauty of a relationship, or something as simple as baking a cake). By experimenting, and then doing, and then doing over and over again as a habit, we learn! We get better, we become experts! We integrate it into our flow, and into our life-long dance!

If I can learn to keep my head in a crisis, I will be that much better at dealing with crisis. If I can learn how to detect my depression when it surges up again, I can combat this by knowing what triggers me – it’s all body chemistry & psychology. If I can learn my deepest fears and grievances – If I can know which previous parts of “my story” are damaging me still now and making a victim of me, I can detach my ego from those things and tell them that they will no longer have control over who I am. I am, ultimately, not my thoughts and feelings, but the awareness behind them. If I choose to give my energy to the parts of my life that defeat me, I will spend most of my time feeling defeated. If I can learn what things widen the gap between me and my depression, I can do those things constantly to maintain my balance. If I can learn to harness my awareness and use it to be present in my body and anchored in sanity, then I can better treat myself and maintain my health.

By learning and observing, I gain wisdom about how I live my life, and subsequently, I love it with those truths alive and active, making my life into something beautiful and wonderful. When I have a new experience, (ex. Going past 6 months in a relationship with somebody) I learn more about what it means to love them, I learn how to compromise, I gain the wisdom that you can disagree and fight and still love more strongly than ever. I learn what/how much tension I will take to continue a particular experience. I’ve learned my boundaries – I learn about myself. I learn how to draw the line, and I continue this particular exercise knowing that at some point it will end. At some point we will break up, there will be some endstop when the relationship becomes too damaging to us to continue it, too unhealthy, as a bad habit, to be enjoyable any more, infecting other aspects of our lives. And at this point, we will separate, but I will certainly love again after this, because love is a dazzling experience that can change the entire nature of existence – a particle (with considerable weight) in the ether that can influence and infect all the other particles as to entirely sweeten this time we spend on earth. When I do start a new relationship, I will have the knowledge of this past love to do it better next time, and be a better lover, be a wiser lover, to continue to grow. I have valued growth  so strongly throughout my life, and growth is a product of learning.

Having an open mind is oh-so important for this reason. I agree with the teachings of Alice in Wonderland, here – I indulge as many as twelve impossible thoughts before breakfast, because I never would have made it to this happiness – this life! – if I hadn’t been open to the possibility. I believe in the impossibility that this life is a great cosmic joke. I believe these impossible things, because the world itself is impossible! If one million factors hadn’t all aligned to produce this world, I wouldn’t be here, and yet I am. This existence is highly improbable. This existence IS a Boltzmann brain emerging from the ether, and I plan to construct it exactly how I choose. There are *impossible* thoughts in existence that the mere collective presence of many people’s interpretation of a thing is what defines it in reality. This is of course subject to change through changing social attitude over time (ex. Anaïs Nin going from nothing to famous to defamed). The power of thought.

It’s easy to see yourself as one way, and one way only; To look at yourself as no good and without hope to change, while your mind is in hell. And yet, because you are on a continuum, *who you are* is a vast amalgam of all the people you’ve ever been. I can produce the same action while depressed as when I’m happy (Ex, complimenting somebody) and it will likewise be motivated by two vastly different attitudes, therefore having two completely different meanings in the context of the whole. When depressed, I may compliment someone because I think somebody I want to impress will overhear and think better of me, here it is motivated by ego and it is not good; Perhaps I do it because I feel so poorly about myself, that it is a type of jab at myself, because secretly I crave to be as good as them, or to be like them, making it motivated by low self-esteem and self-deprecation which is not good; or maybe, I say it because I love them and it cheers me to see them so empowered, in which case it is motivated by good energy and love and a will to build someone up.

This gets dangerously close to the Love/Fear approximation from “Donnie Darko,” which is not quite correct either, because it supports over generalization and a resistance to the complexities that are a reality in everyday life. Something motivated by love can still be horrific and grotesque – we’ve waged wars through a destructive love of one deity & way of life over another. Every action is quite subjective and complex because it is enacted in a specific context and BY a particular individual with the ever reaching bias of their previous experiences. The same action can have a world of different meanings or interpretations (which is why we must keep an open mind when judging others & why we must leave room for their different ideas/opinions and their subjective story). The antagonist from one story is the hero of another – “The Wizard of Oz” vs “Wicked”.

This is why I keep an open mind, because I know the reality of things is often a product of perspective, and often potentially so many things at once. This is why I strive for a positive mindset, because not only does it feel good and is conducive to a happier existence, it can signal and affect another’s existence. It is the path I take while creating my own reality, so that I might make the best of my own reality.

We must go into life with a positive attitude – the spiritual mindset.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Dialectic, Inspiration, observations, Philosophy, Thoughts

Imaginary Car Ride with Dad

Were you ever worried about becoming your dad when you were growing up, because I’m worried about becoming you and mom.

“thanks”

I’m serious, I don’t mean it as a dig, it’s just a weird topic to discuss, which means it should probably be discussed the most. And I’m pretty terrified to discuss it. Which is just another reason why it should be brought to light.

You don’t feel like my dad. You kind of feel like a housemate that begrudgingly has to help with things sometimes and also takes me to obscure concerts every once in a while – which is nice. I guess I like it. I didn’t have the heart to tell you that I only liked the Ingrid Michelson songs that we sang in chorus and danced and screamed my ass off so I wouldn’t seem ungrateful, because I know concert tickets aren’t cheap. And the only Arlo Guthrie song I knew before that concert was “Comin Into Los Angeles,” and I snuck out during intermission and smoked a couple roaches I’d been saving on a street corner, because it was the only thing that made the trip exciting.

The majority of conversations we have, I cry afterward. Mainly, we talk when Mom makes me talk to you – to check something she doesn’t want to say yes to, so she hopes and prays you’ll say no even though I’m fairly certain (from the genetic source that my apathetic depressive swings stem from) that you don’t give a fuck, or if I need help with something on the car. The way you talk to me makes me feel stupid, and it’s juvenile and mean and I literally bat away tears halfway through having to talk to you, because I know you’re the reason I believe I’m stupid at heart. I was the goddamned valedictorian of the whole campus, but I know I’m interminably dumb because I don’t know how to put air in my tires. Even more confusing and anguishing are the times when you’re nice to me. You offered to make me a grilled cheese sandwich a couple weeks ago, you were making one for yourself and thoughtfully offered one to everyone else that was home. You were in a pretty good mood that day. I said no thank you and went back to my room and cried with complete confusion as to why.

I’ve sort of convinced myself that you aren’t my father. My chef takes a greater interest in my life and knows more about my life than you do. You didn’t know I was a chef until a month ago. So I’d concluded that you aren’t my father. All of my memories growing up are of mom, and you’re kind of just a blurry part of the background.

I remember you yelling at me and freaking out when I spilled a soda in grandma’s apartment, she was fine with it and told you to calm down, while I cried on the couch. I knew I fucked up bad, and have been afraid of failure ever since. I’m afraid to drive to Philly, because I think I’ll fuck up, drive on the wrong side of the highway, get terribly lost, cause accidents, get a flat, never get your love.

I remember a similar situation in which Megan and I spilled milk. I remember walking in on Megan after we all rode home from the carnival, crying into her pillow because you called her stupid. I remember you teaching us how to play croquet in the backyard in the summertime, and you swung too far back and hit yourself in the eye and the day was over. I remember the ridiculous way you used to hide your cursing, and I could never understand why you couldn’t just get over it. I remember when it started feeling weird to kiss you on the lips; I was in the kitchen in June, standing behind the dishwasher and you walked inside and I huffed out my gut so that I would look ugly to you. I felt pretty uncomfortable in our embraces after that, and didn’t really know why. I didn’t trust you, didn’t trust me. I remember staying outside raking leaves and  hauling firewood two consecutive New Years Eve’s, respectively, because I wanted to stand out from my sisters and show that I was a good helper and that I didn’t do half ass jobs and that I would stay outside as long as you were outside.

I remember when I stopped giving a fuck what you thought. When you asked how school was and I told you I was dropping out, not breaking eye contact with my coffee mug as I pulled it out of the microwave. “What,” you said with confusion that was trying to be upset, but who the fuck are you to start giving a shit twenty years into my life. “I dropped out of school two weeks ago,” I walked past you through the kitchen and was already in the hallway when I heard you say “okay,” with abandon. I remember feeling pissed the fuck off whenever you tried to be my father before that moment, but I didn’t yet have the power to not give a fuck. Whenever you said no to something I wanted to do – the times mom’s prayers came true – it felt like betrayal. “Who are you to have anything to say with what I do with my life,” I screamed into a pile of laundry on my bed when you vetoed the proposition that I spend the night at Amanda’s beach house, without parental supervision.

I remember when you and mom were separated. I used to cry on the weekends we had to stay with you. Your side of the house was disgusting and smelled and was cluttered with your moldy neurosis and I hated it. I remember waking up early to go to the flea market with you. I never walked as fast as you and Megan, and it was usually cold and everything was old and dirty. All my friends had new coloring books and plastic bracelets. I think that was when I started to feel like trash, watching you root through the trash all weekend and bargain and talk with the ugly fat people selling garbage out of the backs of their trucks. All our dress up clothes smelled stale. Whenever I went over to a friend’s house it was always clean and there was a place – a drawer, a cabinet – for everything, so whenever we took something out of its place we had to put it exactly back, and their homes had scented candles burning and it was nice and I usually liked it better than our house, but usually I missed Mom. And soon, I never wanted to ask people over to our house, because I slowly became aware that ours wasn’t as good as theirs, but when it came to spending the night, I needed my mom.

I remember sleeping in your bed when mom was in Florida for Greg’s funeral. I tried sleeping alone in her bed and couldn’t do it and had to walk like a scared sheep back to your room, nose dripping with snot and tears. I ended up getting sick the week she was away, and you gave me NyQuil and brought me cranberry juice in the middle of the night when I was coughing. I remember looking at the half finished cranberry juice, right where I left it on the side table a week after mom got back, we’d set up a banner for her on the garage. The cranberry juice was covered in mold.

I came to understand that your room was where we hid the embarrassing things. When I became too old for dolls, that was where I still played with them, immediately embarrassed if Sarah walked in unexpectedly to see me holding them about the waist and making them kiss, I think I was a preteen when I finally stopped playing with them. It wasn’t a connection to the dolls that made me keep them, it was an escape, just like weed is for me now. I like to escape into the fantasy world of their love affairs and their shaming and battles and drama. I was always trying to leave the house I hated so much to spend time with my friends, but they could never spend time with me – were too busy with their own lives, but I made the round of calls to them every weekend, desperately lonely.

I remember when you put up the rope swing for us, and Megan climbed all the way to the top. That mud hill and slide and rope swing were the best parts of my childhood, and now that I think about it, I don’t remember you putting it up. It was just sort of there one day. I remember you mowing the front field.

I remember that Halloween when the Fransisco’s came over and we were playing manhunt in the backyard, I was giddily hiding behind the swings. Then out of nowhere “ZHOOOOOM” a bright green streak illuminated across the field, in the garden. Darth Vader emerged, growling “Cindy Loo Who.” Danielle. We ran around for an eternity, you chasing us, I don’t remember when I realized it was just you, but it was the happiest night. I remember when you and mom had an anniversary, I had just come home from a sleepover birthday party at Felisha’s house or Becca’s, and you made lobster and shrimp for dinner, because it was a special night and we were all allowed to have some. The Fransisco’s came over again and we played hide and seek in the basement, I guess while you and mom had a nice night. I remember that was when I first wanted to be a writer – I didn’t want it plainly like that, but it was when I first had the urge to record my thoughts and memories, even though I didn’t know half of the words I was writing. I can’t even imagine what my attempt at spelling anniversary was, but I’m certain it didn’t go well. It was also, appropriately, the first time I abandoned my writing to keep having fun, so that there would always be more to write about. More memories to cherish and hold close when the ever-forming bad ones gurgled up.

There aren’t many good memories of you from my childhood. That’s not to say you didn’t do a multitude of kind things for me, and that you didn’t feed me, burp me and wipe my ass when I couldn’t walk, but I have so many bad feelings and uncomfortable situations associated with you. I think I must have rejected you from the beginning. Mom was so nice, that I just never wanted her to leave, and you were the villain that held the reigns when she went away. I think I remember being three when she went to yoga and I screamed and wailed and threw a fit, because she was the only one I wanted, I squeezed my little fists around her sweatshirt, the memory is so fresh that I’m sobbing a bit now, gone as soon as it came. You always put me to bed in her bed where I lay in wait for her, you never read stories right. She did all the voices and sounded like a mom, and your voice was male and tired and feigned and I felt like you were waiting for it to be over. My favorite memories from those nights, the sound of gravel and her headlights tracing the wall as the old van, the one that got crushed, floated up the driveway.

I remember the day that van got crushed. We were in the back paddock, you were cutting trees and I was feeling the beauty of the world in the tall grass and butterflies. Sarah came out scared and said mom was on the phone and needed you and she said the word crash but I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew that you never ran anywhere, but this time you dashed inside. I followed. Later, we set up pillows on the old couch, so that mom could get comfortable, like when we were sick. I though a car crash must be some kind of illness, and she said she had a guardian angel after that and we got a new van.

I remember how I hated when it was you that would stay home with me when I was sick. Half the time I wasn’t sick, but I recognize it now as I sometimes do as an early sign of my depression. I never wanted to be at home with you, just with mom, because she was so nice and pitied me and loved me and kissed my forehead. I think you sat in the other room while I watched TV on the couch. I felt like a chore that you’d walk in to check on. I remember telling you I was better halfway through the day, because I’d rather be at school than at home in the dark cold house. Mom always turned on the lights.

I spent most of my time with mom, because I could never give up sleeping in her bed. It was my first addiction. I remember the agony of trying to sleep in my bed, I thought I’d never be able to do it without tears, and now it’s hard to have it the other way. Sometimes at night when I couldn’t sleep, we’d stay up late telling stories and talking and she’d tell me all kinds of things. She was my best friend, and she told me one night that you cursed so much because you were angry. And when I asked her why, she said “daddy’s angry at the world,” and we changed the subject.

I remember one day, Megan and I woke up on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons, but Sarah was past that stage, so we came out to her just making her way to the couch with a cup of coffee. I dove for the good spot on the couch, resilient to win the TV battle at all costs. I buried my face in the couch pillows while Sarah was still realizing that lunging would spill her coffee. “That’s my blanket. Give me back my blanket.” I claimed territory by wrapping myself in one of the available blankets that happened to be hers, but that she wasn’t quite using at the moment. I got upset at the injustice and buried my face further into the pillows, stubborn. You walked in as she went to rip the innocent blanket from my warrior grasp. “Hey,” you said, walking over to me and smoothing the blanket back over my shoulder, “let the baby sleep,” you made Sarah go back to her own blanket on the couch that didn’t have a good view of the TV, and I smiled into my success and my oblivious partner in justice.

I always liked it when you talked soft to me and tucked me in and called me the baby or the little lamb. When I got older and wary of you, you stopped doing that, which was fine with me – really – but you started doing that with the cats. I remember when Babe was sick, and eventually died, I was jealous of her. This was only two years ago, but I understand those feelings now. I remember feeling bitter, at how you loved that cat and showed it a whole range of affection that I never remembered. I’ve seen you cry three times. Once when your mother died, twice when Babe and Mittens died.

One of the happiest memories I pin to my name, that still glitters with the best in my mind is that four days we spent in Ithaca when Grandma died. You and I got back from a book fair at the school, I wasn’t allowed to buy the book that I wanted because it cost twenty dollars, and fifteen was my limit. I got a cheaper book and was okay, though I still remember the book. It had a shiny covering and was about greek mythology. There was a pretty, long-haired Goddess with a red apple on the cover, I was twelve and already a good year into thinking I was ugly. I don’t ever remember you telling me I was beautiful, and I don’t think it’s just because my memory isn’t perfect.

We got home and there was a phone call from Aunt Chris, and while you spoke to her on the phone, Mom came back and explained to me that grandma might not be alive for very long. When I came home from school the next day, I was ashamed, I used grandma’s sickness as an excuse for not having as much done on the research paper I was supposed to. It’s not that I thought she would survive, it just seemed like an easy way out and I dug my hole of shame a little deeper. We drove up to New York that night, Sarah and Megan fell asleep in the back seat, but I stayed awake the whole time and watched the street lights race across your profile. I always liked the closeness of family car trips. I was the only one up the next morning when you got up, in Grandma Conney’s house – the one that isn’t our grandma, but our cousins grandma. You asked if I wanted to go to Gimme, to get coffee for everyone and hot chocolate for me. It was that walk we took where your obscure, inappropriate humor came out, and I enjoyed it for the first time I can remember. We walked by the planet statues in the park, under the rainy green morning sky that’s still my preferred weather over sunshine. You made jokes about Uranus, you adolescent, and how it’s full of gas, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Every once in a while you’ll say something stupid that I can’t stop laughing at and you’ll catch me and mock me and I’ll feel loved in a weird way.

You cried when you knelt to lift grandma’s body on your shoulder. I remember laying in bed in high school, unable to fall asleep, wishing I would die, so that you’d cry for me.

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A Note on Identity

Very few people are themselves. Most people are a well balanced equilibrium of the people they care to impress that are currently present. Well behaved in your parents presence, discussing through an array of charming anecdotes that demonstrate what a moral and responsible member of society you’ve grown up to be -cut to- several shots past drunk, chain-smoking cigarettes in a basement that very well may harbor tortured girls just beyond the unfinished cinderblock walls, spouting stories of good fucks, bad fucks, and any drug story – any. Who exactly is yourself?

Yourself is always honest, it’s constantly perched back there in the shady crook of your brain, palms pleasantly intertwined over its large, you-shaped belly, dropping insensitive comments you were conditioned to produce at a young age, judging people the way your mother used to in pedagogic observations, grumbling cynically about the ill-truths of humanity your fellow humans display, checking people out, loudly reminding you of whatever you momentarily forgot to crave, bleeding a little bit when it loves, when it becomes attached to things. But going around and being yourself is considered bad manners and cockiness.

People whisper about individuals, half out of fear and half out of infatuation. The real you stretches into your entire body on psychedelic trips. The trip you is you. Insecure, suspicious of everything, unbreakably enraptured by the cheap plastic flower vase in the corner, and the way it pushes itself into that space underneath the naked light bulb, and when you aren’t tripping, all you can see are the scratches on it that reveal its inferior material, and the brusk edge where Joe knocked it off at least once a month, but tripping, it’s so complete and glowing and you want to be inside of it, in it, to be it, but you are it and it just keeps – “oh,” you take the bowl being passed around and hit it, immediately forgetting the overpowering love the real you just had for a parsimonious attempt at home decor, and just as your gaze settles again on the aforementioned Joe who has been staring at your nipples for the past hour, the little you at the back of your head stretches its helices and glares at his disgusting male face, jaw partly open because god knows what is seducing him into a hardon in his brain, his awkward autistic mind that just hates to ask if you have any weed to throw in with whatever niggardly stem he decides to drop on top of the nug I always offer up – out of courtesy and social responsibility – never kindness, that same blank expression that has been jaggedly picking up mannerisms and phrases from the overconfidently attractive asshole in the gang, the same classic Italian that you hate to sit next to when he’s drunk because he chews with his mouth open constantly belching and snorting and stinking in his beer breath, and as the effervescence of you touches fingertips and toenails inside your psyche, you begin to loathe him and allow yourself to think of him as an inferior homunculus while the latent part of your brain begins to piece together from its dusty eternal cabinet of filing folders each and every way which who you are actually resembles him, and how if anything, you’re worse because you hide all these characteristics away like a cowardly hypocrite and pretend to be pure and perfect to everyone else, but only the real you knows that you aren’t and you’re just as bad, so you take this half deflated balloon collection of uncomfortable thoughts outside with you to burn a camel and slowly suck the stagnant air from each day-after-a-child’s-birthday-party edifice, until you’re weak from asphyxiation, so you light another fag and it occurs to you this is actually your third fag, so you may as well stay outside on the damp bench with the curiously reddish clouds swirling on top of twinkling diamonds laid in zaffre, and you begin to get lost on hating yourself and fall into the complex dervishes above your head so that when Thomas comes out for a smoke, you realize that you are much more horizontal than he is, rising obliquely from your hip bones, because you’d unconsciously laid out on that green wet minefield of splinters, once again to fall in love with strange beauty. So you sit up and find the energy to be not yourself for a cigarette longer (the fourth in a night that has not yet reached its chain smoking threshold, you’ve already made your amends with throat cancer), so that he’ll leave without question and you can go back to relishing in the exhaustive self hatred and should-haves. That’s not to say the real you is simply a child with love and curiosity and confusing rushes of emotion in inappropriate circumstances, the real you wants you to be better, and the two of you get along when you clean your room and do the laundry and wake up on a schedule, so as to accomplish things throughout the day, because the morning wake-n-bake, coffee from the dingy diner you half waitress/half prostitute yourself at every weekend for rent money BELIEVE IT OR NOT is a self perpetuating routine because it makes you feel like shit, and shit is as shit does, and hell, I always get the sticky bun and two refills of coffee, so between the weed and the coffee and the fiber and the cigarettes you smoke to cover up the weed, the only guaranteed high point of your morning IS shitting. The real you knows this, and whispers lasciviously from inside your ear to use that tea the homeopathic doctor suggested, and to run for just ten more minutes even though the old fart on the treadmill infant of you keeps glancing back no doubt at the sound of your labored breath grunting through the stalactites that have built up in your nose from the dry greasy atmosphere you work in every day, and wouldn’t you be happier if you didn’t have to wake up and step buck ass naked sweaty dream feet onto the soil and stone granule from yesterday’s shoes that have embedded themselves in your carpet. Wouldn’t you like a clean room?

The real you knows exactly where it’s going and what it wants, but is consistently burdened with concerns of the flesh that heap up around it in cells and tissues and organs and cosmetic products that stay on the top of your skin, though the bottle said ultra-absorbing and the flickering glances that size you up and sexualize you under the hushed discussion that halts when you round the corner, that sink in though you tell them the bit about the duck’s oily back and its history with water. The ones that want you to be like them tell you that your identity is just pipe dreams and dormant failures so you believe them, because company is as addictive as the bowl ride on the way home from work. The real you is shouting inside to SHUT YOUR EARS TO THE ROARING OF THE VOICES, GEORGE WILLARD AND GET THE HELL OUT OF WINESBURG. Sidenote: Why is it Ohio has so many famous towns? Winesburg, Xenia, Defiance, etc. The fuck’s Ohio have that Delaware doesn’t?

The real me keeps seeing foxes when I drive home at night, or when I drive to the friends house after work, though I’d rather be at home studying, as long as it isn’t for a grade. They dash in front of my path and I never hit them, I have a jumper sticker that says “I Break for Bunnies” with a pink little Peter Cottontail thumbs up on the right. They walk towards me sometimes ,but mostly away from me, and I wonder if they don’t have my scent caught in their pointed snouts. A Native American adage claims the fox to be a wolf, bearing flowers, and you know they had that shit down, so who am I to disagree. The real me knows these foxes aren’t just foxes, because I’m the one who’s seeing them and it’s crazy and I’d never explain it to my friends, but it’s the only time the voice in the back of my head shuts up and listens, like she does when I become infatuated with dollar store vases and stormy April nightscapes. She’s listening, because she knows that she is in the presence of something sacred and couldn’t bear to gab over a cosmic gift, for fear she’d stop receiving it and still not know which direction to steer the wonky tires in.

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Filed under Dialectic, Inspiration, observations, Philosophy

The Need for Danger

Telling yourself “this is the last time”. Last time for hooking up with strangers and getting away with it, last time taking mystery substances, last time walking down Anderson at 3am, last time driving too high, too drunk, too tripped out, last time lying to the boss, last time manufacturing a whole universe behind the ‘my car wouldn’t start’ story.

All the illegal things we do, the immoral, as well, feel so tense in the moment. The build up of the expectation for the moment it will fail, just before it crosses the threshold of getting away with it; pulling into the garage, locking the door, closing your eyes, opening and releasing the breath that’s been choking up your stomach. It goes back to when we were children, just after learning we could get away with lying. The one time our parents don’t catch us and distinguish truth from reality, we have a seed of hope planted in our cunning. Our own little secret, pregnant with possibilities.

Every night after I heave my body of sweat and grease buildup into my Honda civic after work, I begin the ritual of rolling a joint. Sometimes a spliff, sometimes with mullein or lavender to cut the almost wine-like cooking taste of blue dream. I tap the volume up as high as it goes, light the twisted paper at the end and zoom away, down one of the back streets of Middletown. Over the period of months it’s been since I graduated the court-ordered Drug Diversion program, enforced after my marijuana related arrest, I’ve worked the required number of intoxicants from one spliff, up to a bowl hit + two pure-blood joints accompanying my nighttime meanderings. Whatever winds my eyelids down to halfway when I notice a deer the moment just before too late.

The first time, it was going to be just a special trip, but after three months it’s a habit. My comprehension that should I be pulled over, any dumb officer could see my eyes, smell the interior of my car, badly coated with Zum spray and charred cigarette butts, and ask me to step out of the vehicle before placing me into the caring, seatbeltless, hard plastic of his own backseat to ensure that I’m no longer a danger to the other midnight motorists (who after three months, I have concluded are all doing the exact same thing, some with liquor, my favorites with strange). I now the risk every time I take it, and I cherish it. It’s something like freedom, knowing that what you want to do is understood as prohibited by everyone, but having the secret knowledge of just when that’s going to stop you from doing it anyway.

It’s the need for danger that makes it feel so good. The moment you turn down a side street, like Aladdin snaking through the bizarre with a loaf of Walt Disney animated bread in his arm, and lose the car that wasn’t a police cruiser but was following you anyhow. The breath right after the clench. It feels a little like being a hominid hunter after slaughtering the big bad, but more self-indulgent. The same breath that whispers in your most vulnerable ear “I got away with it, this time”.

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Filed under Adventures, Dialectic, observations