Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Devil In Me: The Apple of My Anger's Eye

I have strange fears. I fear that my mind is somehow becoming a barrel of compost, and that symbolism will eventually be replaced by straightforward rhetoric and ad hominem attacks. I fear the passive aggressive counter-culture within the American republic. I fear women who are not feminists. I fear water in large quantities, and yet I am inexplicably drawn to swim, dive, and resurface over and over. I fear the power of television. I fear people's intentions. I fear myself. I even face anxiety around the notion of checking my email. I fear the communal soul and intellect of society- the lack of spiritual progress- the lack of compassion- my own lack of compassion.

And of course, there is always the song of anger.

My wounds heal slowly and bleed blood that is old. My wounds cry loudly and wail for the infantile wisdom which has been replaced with a cynic's shadow. My corpus callosum is strangely round, and I imagine that my brain smells like an onion, and might unravel like one too if peeled...peeled...peeled.

I fear my lack of investment in this bizarre and often terrible realm of human form.

I am afraid that wind howling just might signify the end of times. I fear that this world might go on forever.

I am not afraid of illness, or sickness, or the words " terminal illness" when combined.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gone Fishin: Cake Means I Love You

I am having one of those " off" days. Ness has been at work all day and I decided to take up my housewife burden and get some cleaning done. I sat up in our bed, and Jack- my sweet puppy vomited all over the floor. I made my way into the kitchen and managed to clean maybe 2 dishes and then I stepped on a glass shard. The shard punctured deep into the heel of my foot, yet I felt no pain. I was surprised that it didn't hurt. I lifted my foot and pulled out the offending shard and blood began to flow. Alot of blood. I limped back into the bedroom ( leaving a trail of bloody footprints) and Jack jumped up on the bed and vomited again...and again.....and again.

I clacked out a brief email to my spouse. In my email I tried to keep a controlled voice...what I wanted to say was " I AM SITTING HERE BLEEDING PROFUSELY, JACK IS THROWING UP EVERYWHERE AND YOU ARE AT YOUR JOB LAUGHING IT UP WITH YOUR BUDDIES, KICKING BACK A FEW BEERS." I didn't write that, but I wanted to. I felt like a mob wife.

Lately,we've been fighting a lot. Ness wants to stay in LA to work at the restaurant; I want to move back to Baltimore. We need to develop a solid plan. Things seem chaotic and out of control. In 9 days we'll face our 1 year anniversary. We did a really small ceremony on the beach, followed by legal formalities downtown with California's Secretary of State, I believe. It was some state office. I remember sitting in that office shaking from nerves. I don't know what I was afraid of, but the legal formalities felt like a march to face the firing squad or something. The security guard was really nice and allowed us to cut in line when we explained that we were filing partnership/marriage papers. After we got our paper, the next day we went to social security administration and took care of business there.

I'm a Coppola now...and I feel like it...bloody foot, sick baby-dog, husband/wife at the restaurant...who will come home later smelling of beer, and will fuss at me for something. I'll fuss back.

I thought of Kellie today. For some reason, I remember sitting on the floor of my therapist's office telling her- " I have this horrible sensation in my heart..." It was inexplicably painful, even then- before I knew that my best friend had died. I felt the severed connection in my gut, the frayed pieces of me, flapping against themselves like a flag in the wind. I knew even before I knew. When I read the letter from her husband, I sat down in a laundry basket. It was as if my body just folded in on itself. My limbs became heavy and I felt as if I was in a terrible nightmare. On that evening, I had already promised Mercedes that I would make a cake for Adam, and so, I dutifully attempted to finish the cake. Through tears I mixed batter and rolled fondant. I dropped the first cake on the floor and had to start over. While the new cake baked in the oven, I lay in a fetal position on the floor....screaming...literally just screaming and gritting my teeth together. My fingers were clenched back in tight fists and I breathed in gasps. The cake suffered greatly because of my grief. I still feel so guilty about the state of that cake. It looked like a half-baked armadillo... and yet the effort that went into that cake was my love for my friends. I baked the cake in a post-traumatic haze. I ruined things about that cake that I can normally do effortlessly....and yet nothing about it came out right because even my hands seemed alien to me. It was as if I had tried to bake the thing on an acid-trip. It really looked like the work of a crazy person, and yet my friends expressed such heartfelt gratitude. Adam and Mercedes have always been very dear to me, but I think this was the moment when I really knew they were good people, good friends....people that would eventually become very dear to me.

Kellie's death changed a lot of things about me. The changes have happened in stages. The first and most obvious change was my sudden desire to marry. After a lifetime of citing the evils of marriage- after referring to my married friends as chattel and subliminally jabbing their husbands in provocative articles and threads, I caved. I met Anissa and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I love her. I even love arguing with her. I love the way we laugh, the ways in which we tease each other. I love that I have spent my day nursing a sick puppy and a bloody foot, and that I am laying here hoping....yes hoping that she'll pick a fight with me tonight. At some point I'll squeeze her around the waist and breathe in the scent of her hair, and I'll know that life is good....or good enough to bear.

I suppose that I was resentful of my girlfriends as they married themselves off because many of them instantly merged into these scary codependent existences with slimeballs. Both of my best childhood girlfriends married men I didn't like ( for varying reasons). I really resented that I had no choice but to put-up with these men or to lose my friends forever. Ironically, I did lose both of my friends forever. One was lost to death, the other was lost to stupidity ( if you ask me).

Mercedes and Adam kind of heal all of this bullshit for me. Tiff and KC do too.

It's nice to see your friends married to really good people. It's nice to see people treating each other well.

I'll never forget what Kellie said to me when she returned home from Kristin Mitchell's viewing. She was sobbing on the telephone saying " She looked like she was sleeping. I just wanted to wake her up."

When I stood in front of Kellie's corpse at her viewing, I thought ( and said outloud) " You asshole"....and I meant it.
Kellie was my best friend of 23 years and she killed my best one way or another, she killed herself.

Kellie and I made many cakes together. We were in disagreement about when a cake should come out of the oven. Kellie liked the baker's standard, and I wanted mine nearly burned to a crisp. When we were children, Kellie thought that funfetti cupcakes were pretty and I thought they smelled like play-dough and tasted like dog-shit. Kellie was with me when I got into my first car accident ( on the way to visit my mom in the hospital). Kellie was in my life when I lost my two front teeth, when I received my first girl scout patch, my first perfect attendance award, my first honor-roll listing, when I lost my training wheels...when I received my junior ring, my freshman medal. She was there when I lost other friends, when I lost my virginity I called her...Kellie knew virtually every one of my secrets. When I taped my underwear onto my body before senior prom ( a pathetic ploy to keep my virginity in tact) Kellie was there to help cut me out of layers upon layers of duck-tape. When I decided I wanted to make a Blair Witch-esq film, Kellie allowed me to paint her face like a ghoul and she filmed me as I thrashed around in a bathtub filled with fake blood. When my mother fussed at me to clean up the mess, Kellie helped. When our little click decided to take vinegar shots ( because we were afraid of using actual vodka), Kellie took something like a total of 13 shots of vinegar. She was the only one who didn't throw up afterwards LOL. Kellie and I got lost in a cornfield. We had so so many adventures and memories.

When I stood in front of her casket, I couldn't help but ask myself " What now?" ...and " What will happen to all my secrets?"...
and " What should I do with all of your secrets?"

I showed Katie our favorite hang-out, but the rest of the secrets will remain with me.

It was hard for me to walk away from her casket. I knew I would never see her physical body ever again. Maria held me in a tight embrace and I sobbed. I couldn't stop crying. I knew that I had to leave her there.... but I didn't know what that would mean because for 23 years Kellie was only just a phone call or a bike ride away.

I dream about Kellie fairly often. Maybe it's just my mind's way of finding closure, but maybe she is somehow telling me that it is okay to go on. I don't know. I may never know. But I hope that when I die, Kellie comes to get me. I picture myself wrapping my arms around my friend. I imagine what it would be like to hug her, to hear her voice again. When we were kids, we did a play and Kellie was an angel...I was an animal in a pasture. After the final line of the play was delivered by Laura Spicer, I gave the audience this huge stupid wink. My well-meaning father had given me a pep-talk beforehand about how it was important to be the best lamb I could be. I was a weirdly overly zealous lamb that seemed to be parodying the play with my final wink. When Kellie and I graduated from kindergarden, she took a photo with our teacher gracefully, and I managed to throw up all over myself. I remember getting into a tiny little argument with Kel's dad in the 3rd grade because he wanted to buy me a slurpee from 7-11, and I wanted to pay for it myself. Kellie had a thing for cheese sandwiches, and I preferred to bring exotic things in my lunchbox (one day my teacher asked me if I was eating bird food). At my 5th birthday party, Kellie helped me open my gifts. When Kellie came to visit me in Los Angeles a few years ago, we went swimming in the pool and had fun diving to the bottom. We had a great time. Before her wedding ( I was a bridesmaid) I asked her " Are you sure you want to do this? We can get out of here if you don't want to do this"...she said she was sure.

We laughed so very much. We cried a few times. We watched Beaches. We even took bets on who would get married first, who would have sex first, who would die first....

but I don't think any of us really believed that we would actually die.

After her funeral, Katie and I went back to the room in which Kellie died. I wanted to curl up on the spot and go to sleep, but instead I sat on the floor. I took a shirt and a pair of pants. I keep them in a box next to my bed.

After Kellie died emotions ran high. I wrote an ex-mutual friend Q, a letter about how I cared about her, but about how I did not attend Q's own wedding because I thought she'd made the mistake of her life. In my mind, I had lost enough friends because of their attachments to people that I felt mistreated them. But I suppose that being around such evil is contagious because she now behaves just like him. Q, the girl I grew up with doesn't exist anymore. I know that my viewpoint is unpopular, but I don't care. I know that XYZ have plenty of nasty things to say about me and I don't care about that either. My ex-friend deserved better. She deserved more respect and love without being constantly berated and invalidated. And I should have said this to her face from jump-street. She deserved more dignity, and a life of peace and compassion. Attachment and ownership don't equal love. It wasn't the choice I would have made, but it's her life. She's the one who has to live it...

As for me...there will be birthday cakes for my children- past, present, future. There will be celebrations of victories and failures. There will be arguments too- and most of these will somehow be worked out and repaired.

Regardless of what has happened, I believe that most people are good at heart. I have many more cakes to bake....but in some way Kel, every one is for you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Scorecard Relationship: Compassion vs Friendship

In my life, I have made many many mistakes. I have misinterpreted some of the behaviors of teachers. Tonight, someone blessed me by explaining the distinction between friendship and compassion. I have confused the two often in my life.

My new friend Dave, explained to me that one of the dangers of hanging around just anyone off the street is that their karma might catch up to them while you are nearby. That could put you in big danger. The other issue is that people's emotional states, their words...all of this reverberates and has real consequences. You have to recognize your limitations and " make choices you have the capacity to follow through with", Dave stated.

I asked Dave many questions. He reminded me that " true compassion requires dispassionate objectivity" while " friendship requires trust and commitment".

I recently had an experience, where I felt I had to delete a few people from my friend's list. I really struggled with this. I mean, I really feel for some of these people. I feel their suffering, and their hurt. I literally felt lost about this- I felt compassion for them, but I just didn't want to participate in some of the things they were doing.

I decided that it was important for me to honor my intuition about these people. Trust and commitment were not possible in these cases for varying reasons.

Last night, Anissa and I decided to take a walk on the pier. Far down below us, a group of baby pigeons were scurrying around trying to pluck worms out of the sand. When the tide went out they would rush in, dig quickly, and then flee the incoming wave. We watched helplessly as a few were swept under the water, and eventually out into the black ocean. Anissa wanted to save the pigeons; her heart cried for them... but what could we do? If we went down to help, the pigeons would have certainly scurried away from us, and surely after they were a safe distance from us they would have continued their game of pecking worms out of the sand. We watched several of the baby pigeons die.

If I could have saved these pigeons, I would have- but I could not save them because they would have run away from me. People do this too. You cannot save people who run away from help.

Some people will not let you get close enough to help. Some people are so busy plucking worms out of the sand, that they cannot see the huge dangerous wave headed for them. Some people are swept out to sea. We've all done this ( myself included) in varying degrees.

I feel for these pigeons and people. I want these pigeons to know better than to dig out worms in such poor locations, but baby pigeons will always do this, and some of them will die because of their instinct.

Not everyone will see the wave.

Not everyone will be able to see that they are the wave.

The Keen Observer: On Testing Friends & Fear in Meditation

I test people. When people claim to have forgiven me, I test them. I don't test them to be cruel or hurtful. I test them so that I can understand and know on what level this person lives their testimony.

You cannot practice the dharma without artful listening and compassion. I cannot practice without learning to be kinder...and I am trying.

My wife and I had a long discussion last night about the dharma. I have a long way to go. I was explaining to her that I am not afraid of death, but that I have a lot of anxiety about an " unprepared" death because I would like to reincarnate mindfully.

I have a lot of confusion about society and social circles. I wrote a blog a few days about about my 10 year highschool reunion, and about how I had no desire to go. I had never before considered that I should probably extend my compassion to these people. An experience today made me realize that I am still reacting to an experience of these people that is ten years old. I need to get current. I cannot continue to react to people that no longer exist. I am projecting my memories and powerful feelings of resentment etc onto the current people and this might not be fair :)

People do change.

Some people change slowly...but people do change.

I have a real vindictive streak. When a person hurts me deeply, it is hard for me to walk away from that and then rejoice when the person is happy. One of my gurus taught me that that this is the equivalent of swallowing rat poison and thinking the rat will die LOL. When you carry around all this anger and resentment, you poison yourself- it doesn't touch the person you are angry with- it touches only you. If you eat rat poison, you will suffer.

I have such a long way to go :)

In some areas I am on solid ground, and in other areas I just don't understand. I don't understand why people have been able to harm me when I have been kind to them. But then, I suppose I have cast stones against other people without a compassionate heart. When I am mindless, impulsive, and angry, I impose limitations on my goodwill.

I have feelings about people. Some people evoke in me feelings of peace, goodwill, love and tranquility- others evoke pain, anxiety, fear, restlessness, and paranoia....they bring me closer to these aspects of myself.

In my meditation today I keep coming into contact with a bodily sensation of pain in my heart on the left side. I am having difficulty in detaching my mind from this painful sensation. During my meditation this morning, I wanted to scream-to break out into sobs. My mind started chattering, telling itself that the sensation was too painful to sit with, that the sensation would make me go insane. I felt as though I needed to vomit... then I remembered to emphasize the comforts around me. I focused on the feelings of warmth in my hands. I focused on the feeling of well-being radiating through my feet. My feet seemed very happy.

I am not sure of how I should approach this pain in my heart. Although I want to be a fearless meditator, when I focus on this area of pain I get waves of pure terror. My mind starts to play naughty tricks on me, telling me that the feeling could swallow me and that I might jump out of a window or something, in an irrational fit of anxiety and fear. With this kind of chatter, my mind convinces me that there is real danger in feeling this amount of terror. When this happens, I try not to participate,but to observe, but the feelings of terror just seem to multiply and swallow me.

I was able to sit through this terror once before, but I actually feel traumatized by what I experienced. I wish I could say that I look back on the experience fondly, but I don't. I meditated through a panic attack that literally lasted six hours, and it was one of the worst experiences of my life.

When I find answers, I will post and share. If you have answers/suggestions..I'd be grateful to hear them.

UPDATE: A few friends proposed some interesting ideas to me about this. One suggested it is my ego trying to save itself from obliteration- and the other suggested i am identifying with this voice on some level. Both suggestions were extremely helpful.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Experience at a Private Haunted House, Years Ago

I love halloween. I love haunted houses. A few years ago, when my friend X graciously blessed me with two tickets to a " private haunted house" I was both thrilled and terrified. In order to gain entry, two forms of ID were needed, I had to sign a legal waiver, I had to sign a note saying that I would hold the owners and everyone else involved blameless if something happened to me. I had to sign a third waiver stating that I was emotionally and physically healthy enough to go in. Strangely enough, the part that scared me the most was the way the doorman methodically went through my pockets, scouring for recording devices- these were also not allowed. No cameras, no recording devices- and anyway, they told us that we would likely get " wet". I couldn't bring a purse. I couldn't bring any guests " openly associated with the entertainment industry" unless these individuals were cleared by " guest management" first. The secrecy surrounding the event deepened my curiosity, but it also increased my anxiety. For some reason, my mind immediately played out many "worst-case scenarios"... I was going with someone I trusted deeply though... a man, that I considered to be my world. I felt safe with him.

The event was away from public-access roads. It took us about 3 hours to drive, and we had difficulty finding it. We got lost a few times, but eventually figured out that we needed to take what looked like an unmarked road, largely hidden by shrubbery and trees. We drove down the winding road, which was eerily steep on the right side and encountered an iron gate and three hooded attendants. Two of them were wearing purple robes, but the smallest wore a black robe. For some reason he/she reminded me of a gnome. The masked/hooded individuals asked for our two forms of ID. Because my ID was "out of state", they asked me a few questions about the host and about myself. How did I manage to afford the ticket? A trick question because all tickets are gifted. Who was the mascot of the first University I attended? The man in the black robe checked my answers on a nearby laptop. Was I squeamish? Did my boyfriend and I intend to get married? He laughed at that one and looked over at me. I shrugged. My ID was held up immediately next to my face, as all three men nodded in agreement. My boyfriend was grilled as well, but I think they were a bit easier on him. He made a few jokes, and they laughed. They knew him already from other parties. Eventually they asked him if business was going well, and he smiled the same crass smile he always uses when someone asks him about money. He casually gave them the password, and we continued up the drive. Even though we are no longer together, X and I have remained friends...and I can tell you that he is the cheapest person I have ever met. I love him, but he is CHEAP.

X was proud of his abilities to secure these tickets. The black iron gate opened and we continued up the drive. Unbelievably enough there was a second check-stop with four individuals this time. There was no gate at this stop, but instead a mat spread across the driveway. As we pulled to a stop, one of the individuals pulled out a walkie-talkie and radioed in my boyfriend's license plate number. My boyfriend commented " I wonder what they would do if it were a rental? Shmucks." He pulled to a stop. For the first time, I noticed that my boyfriend looked short behind the wheel. I wondered silently if he would be able to protect us if we ran into any real danger. My boyfriend and the men talked a little while, but this time my eyes were on the forest that was now enveloping the car. I thought I saw a bonfire in the distance, but I couldn't be sure.

After some time, we pulled forward again. My lover assured me that his friend, the host, enjoyed doing things like this for show. " Imagine if we were running late?" He snapped.

We reached the mansion about 20 minutes later. I will leave out physical description of the place, so that you won't be able to identify it. Suffice it to say that the place was huge, but also monstrous and vile. I don't know how much was done for the event, and how much of it was just the way the place normally looked.

The first part of the night was all about champagne and food. Attendants served sushi on large plates that were shaped like the silhouette of a black cat. Each tray had one jack-o-latern candle in the middle. There was also a buffet of corn dogs, hot cider, candied apples. My favorite part of the buffet was the punch bowl... the punch bowl had an inside layer and an outside layer. The outside layer was an aquarium, and it had all kinds of fish in it. I thought the punch bowl was beautiful. The food was so pretty to look at. They had traditional smores, each stacked like an individual pyramid. There were also very "exotic" foods...most of the likes I had never seen before. Of course, there was also an open bar. The ballroom was unbelievably beautiful, and we looked a bit strange in it because most of us were wearing old jeans and t-shirts. After about 45 minutes of schmoozing, I met a lady who was just as unnerved as I was. Her boyfriend had dragged her along too. " All of this silly XXXX stuff," she smiled, " but you know how men and their toys can be."

My new friend and I (for the purposes of this blog I will call her Lisa) gravitated over near a giant jack-o-latern. She had a soft southern accent, and for some reason this made me feel safer. " Daniel told me that the men were disappointed in things last year, so they promised to kick it up a notch this year." She laughed, although I didn't know what was so funny. We were interrupted by a loud boom. The entire room went black. " Would everyone please make their way to the theatre!" a strong male voice commanded. " Where is the theatre?" I asked. " I don't know, just follow the crowd".

The crowd funneled into a small area that also looked more like a ballroom than a theatre. I sat next to Lisa, and my boyfriend sat with her man, both of them with drinks in hand. I grabbed Lisa's hand " Is it really scary?" I asked. " I don't know, every year they change it." She replied. The show began.

The show was unlike anything I'd ever seen. It was just a really weird hodgepodge of perverted musicals with vampires and monsters thrown into the mix. My favorite part was a parody of the children's show Barney. " I love you...You love me"...and then Barney turned evil and ate all the children in one bite. He farted out bloody clothes from a mechanical anus at his other end. The guests sitting on that side were soaked with fake blood. I was so happy we were sitting on the other side.

Then an announcer began to speak....

" We now give you the tragic story of Hansel and Gretyl"... he started laughing like a maniac. A few actors did a short skit about the ill-fated children and I started to feel sleepy and bored.

After Hansel and Gretyl were eaten, a large projector came down from the ceiling.

The screen came on and the words appeared, " You didn't think it would be THAT easy did you?"

The short film that followed was just plain crazy. I'll leave it at that.

We were then shepherded onto flatbeds and taken down to the location of the great scare.

The haunted house was incredible...but I also felt it was a bit dangerous. It's not something I would ever do again...but after experiencing it, I understand why this event isn't open to the general public. There are floors that literally slide out from under you. The first time I landed in a giant ball-pit...the second time I landed in a pool. The material is highly offensive...and something in that is really liberating. At the end, everyone came out unharmed- just unnerved. The scariest part for me was having to crawl through a door in the floor through a hollow casket. I also was not particularly fond of a part called " fear of drowning." For what was done though, it seemed that every precaution had been taken to keep guests safe. I loved a part which took you down a long corridor so dark you couldn't even see your hands in front of your face. People started falling through holes in the floor. I was one of the lucky ones! I made it through by simply edging along! Even when I heard the terrifying roar of chain saws behind me, I didn't run. I slowly felt my way through the corridor. The people who didn't make it fell into Jello and had to start over.

The live actors were excellent, but they freaked me out. The common haunted house rule of " don't touch the actors and they won't touch you" didn't apply there. Actors would appear out of nowhere and completely soak you with buckets of slime and fake blood. Another neat part was a staircase that somehow instantly turned into a slide....but I must say that the fact that everything was padded around it kind of made me suspicious from the get-go. At first the constant surprises startled me, but after a while I acclimated and started trying to predict what grisly thing would happen next. The strange thing was that my boyfriend actually seemed genuinely frightened. At one point, the haunted house let us out into a another room that was totally dark. I was holding my boyfriend's hand, and a man up ahead of us said " How the heck do you get out of here?" The sound of chainsaws closed in all around where his voice was. I yanked my boyfriend's neck down and whispered into his ear, " stay quiet, they're relying on sound to find people" and SURE ENOUGH the sound of chainsaws closed in on the next person to make noise. Each time the chainsaws started, you'd get splashed with something wet...and that part made it really scary. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't real. My poor friend Lisa was absolutely terrified. The more she screamed, the more they targeted her.

At one point we came to two doors, and a masked man asked us if we wanted to take a shortcut. Lisa nodded yes desperately. The man pulled a glass out of a black box and informed us that in order to take the short cut one of us would have to drink a smoothie made from G-d only knows what. For some reason everyone looked at me. "Heellll no" I answered.

All in all, it was a great life-experience. I learned recently, that people have paid in excess of 1,000 bucks to get into this affair...but tickets can only be gifted :) You have to know someone who knows someone....

There are other private haunted houses, but I think they all aspire to mimic the one I went to. I had the time of my life.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me & Hugs to You

Last night I went to bed with a terrible headache from my sinus infection. My nose drained lots of glop, and then a steady river of slime. The antibiotics are doing their job.

My birthday is a strange day for me. On this day I am reminded of the losses of my mother, father, and sister. With age I have achieved a bit more balance in my grief. I also think of the friends and family that have blessed me with their love, and that helps me take some of the sting out. If I remain in a place of gratitude, I can get through it pleasantly...if I indulge feelings of grief, abandonment and rejection I will end up face-down sobbing on my bed. I used to suffer greatly on this day. As a child, I didn't want anyone to know that I was in so much pain, but my birthday has always been a day of utter heartbreak until now, that is.

I feel as though my heart is opening. My heart has been constricted for some time, encapsulated by fear and anxiety. Last night I wrote on a friend's wall about how incredibly comforting her love and care were to me many years ago. She said that she didn't know that I felt this way. I didn't tell her.

I don't know what made me put so much of my heart on mute. Life is difficult, I suppose. I needed to retreat from people for a while.

I am consciously trying to turn up the volume again. I have a lot of feelings, a lot of deep emotional states.

When I was younger, I was capable of such tremendously potent emotional love. I loved in a way that was profound...and also dangerous because I didn't know the dharma yet. I had such power, but no wisdom. Now I have less power and perhaps a teeny bit of insight, LOL.

But at least now, I know how to welcome people into my heart.

My gurus have insisted that on the path one must " nurture a kind heart". I want people to know that I care about them.

I have a friend that is dying of stage 4 lymphoma and I am completely livid with her. I'm angry that she is going to die and abandon me. I'm angry that she has allowed fear of death to change her. My friend was a meditator that I admired, a practitioner that I perceived to have meditative nerves of steel. She is terrified right now. Right now, virtually everything she is doing is in reaction to fear- she is making desperate last-ditch attempts to save her life. She should be investing her energy into caring for the people that love her ( in my view)...but instead she is flailing around, trying to grab hold of anything that will prolong her life. Where is your dharma, friend?

I am having difficulty settling my mind in relation to my dying friend. Strangely enough, I feel very little compassion for her when I remind myself that she is extremely ill. My blood disorder did not change me in the ways her illness has changed her. I just don't understand how or why she is allowing her illness to give her license to forget to have a compassionate and mindful heart.

I'm angry at her. This is what she has been preparing for- this is the MOST IMPORTANT PERIOD OF TIME in her life...the moments before her death....and she is allowing her mind to run amok. She is being overtaken by fear.

It is so hard to watch.

I wrote her three letters this morning( only one of which I actually sent). In the letters I allowed myself to vent, to scream at her. In the letter I actually sent I let her know that I am hurting because she is hurting, and that I am grieving...that seeing her abandon her practice right now is very painful to watch.

My letter was written from a place of pseudo-anger. What I meant to say was, " I am so so very sad to see you in this much pain...and I will miss you terribly when you are gone."

My birthday has been fairly non-eventful. I've been hugging my dog and cooing to him in baby-talk, kissing his forehead. Ness managed to get food poisoning from a taco salad, and this has placed a damper on our plans to eat dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant " Taste of India". My sinus infection is giving me a hard time. We might stay in.

I have no complaints today. I'm grateful for all the love my friends and family have shown me.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Designing the Universe

Ness and I have reached an intersection within our relationship. This isn't quite impasse because we still have the emotional lability to be industriously cruel to one another. I feel an overwhelming love for her, a love which places my soul on spin-cycle, a love that fills me with mortal dread. She touches me and I coil because her touch awakens everything that is human within me. My preconcious mind always seems to be forcing itself through my perceptions in revelation after revelation. When my mind is in full swing, I close my eyes and hear a nonsensical chorus of anxiety-filled overtures- irrational and rational fears of rejection, abandonment...fears of going insane. And then I breathe, I invoke the power of breath. I release myself from any emotional investment in these thoughts, I decide not to worsen my own wounds by engaging in this emotional chatter and it stops. My mind quiets, and the anxiety has revealed itself to be empty. In one second I become the entire universe.

Lately, I question America's proclamation for desired separation of church and state. The state killing of Troy Davis raised new questions for me. The main question this event raised for me is- " are we going to allow the law to become God"? Are we going to allow the law to be our new God? Should the law have unlimited power to inflict judgements upon people's lives? Where do the limits of law end, and the divine rights of freedom infringe upon one another? Which of these should we protect- our right for freedom- or our right to collectively play God?

We have to be very careful. We need to choose wisely.

Some of us are vengeful and impulsive. No matter how you look at it- not all men are created equal- not all men have the capacity to rule wisely.

We have created a society in which money and fame are highly sought after. Could you imagine what our world would look like if this greed and hunger for fame were replaced with a spirit of compassion and respect for all life?

I am not interested in increasing the sense of US VERSUS THEM in the world. I'm not going to take sides because I want to have compassion for all people.

In fact, I have a tendency to distance myself from people who feed my ego by saying things like " you are a good person" bla bla bla. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I appreciate these sentiments, but they are dangerous for me. I do not want to fall back into certain ego trappings.

I have a very real sense of how impermanent life is. Even suffering is impermanent. I don't understand why so many people chase money instead of spiritually preparing themselves for death. Some people live like they will never die....and yet they always die in the end.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Living From the Heart Again: 28 Years of Life

I am sitting on the bed as I write this. Ness is curled up in a quilt, our red love- blanket spread across her body. I have just returned from the kitchen with an old jam jar filled with water and a croissant in a white paper bag. As I sat down, my cat pounced into the windowsill and perched himself there, staring into the magnolia trees in our yard. Earlier, I thought I had a good plan for how I would type and eat breakfast in bed without waking my wife. I had intended to place my jar of water into the sill...but with my cat Sadie there, this is no longer a viable option. Sadie enjoys knocking things over. I looked to my right and considered trying to balance the jar on the bed for a moment...but if I moved without thinking, or if someone else ( Ness, or our dog BB) moved suddenly the glass would spill and wet everything.

" Where can I place my jar so that it will remain full?" I asked myself.

And then I realized that this is the same question I have been asking myself for 8 years.

Where can I place my jar, so that it will not spill over accidentally? Where can I put my jar, so that I will comfortably be able to drink from it when I need to?

I have been searching for the answer to that question for a very long time.

This morning, an idea occurred to me that might actually be a viable answer, " open a meditation center". A great answer.

This could be a real possibility for me down the road. I would like very much for us to buy a plot of land on which we could live, own a meditation retreat, and run a simple vegan restaurant. It would bring Ness' passion and mine together in a way that each would compliment the other, and in the middle of this little oasis, we could find ways to bring our families back together.

My wife looks a bit strange right now. One foot is high up on a cushion facing downward, and the other is contorted in a sideways position. I must have looked silly yesterday too. I won't go into too many details here, but I had reason to believe that something terrible had happened to my wife. In the 45 minute period that ensued while the police searched for her, all kinds of macabre and disturbing fears terrorized me. I sat in the dining room, completely hysterical, sobbing uncontrollably. I called everyone that she knows, pleading with them to please call me if she phoned them. I prayed.

A few minutes later the police showed up on my doorstep, announcing that everything was just fine. Ness had only taken a stroll in the park. No one had harmed her. " She's right over there if you want to talk to her" the officer told me, and I looked over to see the love of my life chatting with three or four cops down the street. I walked down the hill in what felt like slow motion and the moment I was near her, emotions just started pouring out of me. " I thought you were dead!" I wailed. Ness looked at me and her face turned from anger to sympathy. She turned to the cops, thanked them and rushed me off before too much more of a scene could be made. She later told me that I looked totally destroyed and as if I was just hanging on by a limb. That's pretty much how I felt when I feared that I would never see my wife again. I felt as though I would just give anything to speak to her one more time... and through all of my self-made samsara, she was fine. She'd been fine all along.

Loss can really rack your brain. It can make you imagine terrible things when everything is perfectly fine. Trauma can do the same thing. It can cause you to make enemies out of people who really only mean well.

My birthday is in a few days. I used to have so much trouble with my birthday. On my birthday, I used to lash out at people, and I used to cry ad grieve for my first mother. It was not a day I could celebrate. On my birthday my heart was heavy, and everything reminded me of the family I lost many many years ago. I felt like some kind of cosmic joke on that day.

This morning, I started to think of the evolution my personality and spirit have undergone. I still struggle with how to live in the world, but I think I'm moving in the right direction. I have learned to appreciate my wife, my parents, my grandparents, my cousins, my extended family. I have allowed myself to search for the meaning of life.

In some ways, I feel as though I was born into a trap- and in other ways, I feel that I was very very blessed. I have had to overcome the loss of my first mother, father, and sister. Starting out this way wasn't easy...but I was adopted by people who love me. Even though there are a few people in my family that are unable to extend themselves to me, I am lucky because I can count these people on one hand. In life, although I have lost a lot, I think I have gained much much more.

On Sept 28th, I will be able to celebrate 28 years of life. 28 years of experiences. I have met strange birds. I have survived intense periods of grief and loss. I have been privileged enough to witness change. I have evolved. I have continually tried to understand the universe and myself. I have sought life. I have loved with my entire heart in the best way I know how.

If nothing else, I think I am finally allowing myself to be just be true. I didn't feel as though I could do that before. I felt very threatened and rejected by the world at large.... but this is now.... I have grown, I have changed. The world has grown and changed, my parents have grown and changed.

I was heartbroken when I learned that Troy Davis was put to death. I called the Georgia Parole Board and Supreme Court many times to advocate for him. For me, this was a very complex legal and emotional issue. Regardless of what Troy did, we have to decide what kind of society we want to be- the kind of example we want to set. Are we going to listen to what our citizens want? Is public outrage important? Should we allow criminals time to change, grow, and evolve? Should we hold ourselves responsible for creating a world in which people get left behind? Humans prey on each other. We do this for oil, for money, for power. Are we ever going to look at the ways in which WE have been perpetrators against life... or are we going to abide by procedural evils which DO NOT HEAL our society. DO we want to allow the law to become God?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Potluck Dinner Beneath the Sky & Kellie

The fire alarm spooked me. It exploded in one loud chirp and then silenced itself. The noise didn't even stir Ness, but BB and I sat straight up, looking around equally dazed.

I'm thinking of my step-children tonight. I sense their sadness and confusion. I don't know where I fit I can help them feel secure in the world again. I am a realist. I think that children should know the truth about their flawed parents. I think they should know that we do our best, and that we too are lost ( in varying degrees).

I will do my best to keep them shielded and safe, but I don't have the answers either. The only thing I have is more experience than they do. I still don't know why it is the friends we think we can trust most turn on us, or why life is so unpredictable. I have no cure for the common-cold, only a few remedies to ease the pain. My offerings are small, but I'll do what I can.

I don't know the children very well yet.

I cannot quite figure out where I am. Perhaps, I somewhere between here and the stars, between near and far, stuck in the middle. Lately, my dreams have been vivid and emotional. Last night, I dreamed that Kellie and I were on a journey. I lost her in a crowd of people at the supermarket. I woke up screaming her name. I have so much I need to say to her. There are so many things that I should have said to her while she was alive. When she talked to me about suicide, instead of repeating R's idiotic mantra I should have talked from my heart...I should have told her that I loved her and that I wanted her here, alive, healthy, and happy. I wish I would have known then how deeply I loved my best friend. I wish that I could have known that losing Kellie would mean losing a part of myself.

I decided tonight that I should start writing about the grotesque workings of the mundane. I should write about the things which really horrify me. I'm not afraid of the boogie- man, no...I'm afraid of me. I'm afraid of whatever silenced Kellie.

When I read her old letters, I didn't cry. He locked her out of the house without shoes on. She walked to the library in the snow....but she didn't have the strength to open her mouth. I don't understand why she didn't call me, why she didn't ask for real help, why she didn't fight for her life. Or maybe she did...

But people are cruel.

After she died, J wrote A about me and they conspired to send me into the grave after her. They bullied me and called me names. I bit back. I wrote fire. I let them know that no one would dance on my grave.

But in the end, there is still silence.

Those evil fools will never matter anyway, and my friend is still gone. There's nothing i can do.

In some ways, I see Anissa as my grace, my resolution. She is my replacement friend who also happens to be my wife, but there is no replacing Kellie.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Family Ties & Other Pies

My wife is in the hospital.

I'm trying desperately to sort through my feelings, regarding her absence. Even when she is physically here, I feel an emotional void. The voids travels and writhes within my guts. I eat, vomit, and shit the emptiness. I am filled with a vacuum of time, space, and pollution.

I am still somewhat haunted by R. Today I experienced a strange urge to call her, to be held by her. The worst part about the demise of our relationship, was that it deconstructed my sense of safety in the world. The week after she terminated our relationship, I lay balled up in the bed, gripping my legs tightly to my chest. I feared that my legs might fall off, or rather I knew that they had already fallen away from me. There was nothing to hold me in psychological orbit. I could feel myself drifting farther and farther from earth.

I often try and compare Kellie's death to R's departure within my mind. Kellie's death- though agonizing- was straightforward. The rules were clear. No contact, no possible resolution, the unanswered questions would remain unanswered...but things were different with R. My relationship with R was like a child that had been born healthy who eventually lost her sight, and later her sense of touch. The relationship revived my feelings, only to push them off a cliff...and no matter how many times I fell, I did not have the good luck to die.

After R left, I changed. I became cynical and embittered. I often tell myself, even now, that I hate the world and that I hate people. I look at my life and I feel cheated. Robbed of biological ties, cheated out of identity, forced to assimilate. Forced to pretend affinity for people who seem alien to me. I am nothing like my adopted family. They run an empty household. Cousins come over, people exchange pleasantries, but no one really knows anyone else. For them, it's important to appear strong. Even now, my mother ( whom I love) refuses to refer to my wife as her daughter-in-law. We live far in the back of my mother's closet, tangled up in shoes from Sears and the occasional Nordstrom sweater, and she wants to keep us there- silent and invisible.

I really struggled with my family ties. I am very close to my mother's family, but the rest is kind of a crap-shoot. It might not be anyone's fault. I'm not like them. While my cousins joked around poking fun at my grandmother, I just felt like we were all wasting time. Why spend time with people if you really aren't going to connect with them? Why not get to really know each other? Why not build relationships that could result in support, maybe even in love? Board games just weren't enough for me. These people seemed not only to enjoy denial- but they seem to prefer it over genuine connection. After a while, the superficiality of our interactions grated on my nerves. I enjoyed deep glasses of vodka before they came over. I looked for any and every excuse to leave the house during their visits. I even begged my parents to stop inviting them. They were the infestation that knew no remedy. After a while, they started to get to me....

I fiercely began to hate them because of forced interaction. It seemed to me as though everyone were trying to force a square peg into my circular eye. As I said before, the interactions grated on my nerves. I just wanted one holiday without these loud obnoxious people and their mindless conversation. I perceived my grandmother to be the ringleader of this circus. After years of this, I think it drove me slightly crazy. I started doing loud impersonations of her during comedy routines. I told people that her voice sounded like a fog-horn.

She used to pinch my nose when I was little, saying " I don't want a flat-nosed grandchild" and I have spent my adult life asserting, " No Grandma, I don't want you. I don't want you in any way, shape or form, you bigot."

I feel guilty about this because she's my dad's mother and he loves her. I feel bad about the fact that I can't love her too. But I can't. I don't. It just isn't in me. After a lifetime of dry turkey and goddamned mothballs, and after being forced to eat on silverware at her house caked with dry bits of old food ( she didn't understand that dishes require soap), I feel the same way as when I whispered to my mother as a toddler " I hate grandma."

When Kellie died, I learned that my parents were good people. Even though we don't get along a lot, my parents got me through that ordeal. When I couldn't dress myself, my mother went to Macys and bought me two black outfits- one for the viewing, the other for the funeral. When I couldn't eat, she tiptoed into my room with an oreo-cookie mikshake. And when I couldn't stop crying, couldn't stand up, they tucked me away in their bed. This is when I really learned to love and appreciate my parents. I could not have gotten through Kellie's death without them.

With age, I've come to the realization that one cannot overcome biology totally. My mom is a neat freak, I'm not. My mom likes daily showers, I don't. She likes toilets, I like compost piles. She likes coconuts, I'm allergic. We're so different. I'm so different from all of them. I think that as a chid, this made me profoundly sad. I couldn't look around and find anyone in my family that was like me. Nobody else seemed to want to cry at the drop of the hat, and I was and have always been highly emotional. They didn't even seem to be able to comprehend WHY I was such an emotional person, let alone know how to comfort and care for me. I think I just got a double ( or triple) dose of emotionality genes.

As a little child, I wanted to be as emotionally controlled as my parents were. I even forced myself to watch scary movies because I wanted to be tough. I didn't stop after the films gave me terrible nightmares LOL. My father's lifelong quest to toughen me up has failed miserably. I'm just a sensitive, imaginative, intuitive person. I was born this way.

It's hard to have strong emotions. I'm adopted and I have feelings about that. My feelings regarding rejection and familial loss are complex and sometimes agonizing. I feel like a permanent visitor. No matter what I do, I can never be a full member of their club. That hurts me.

Maybe deep down, I wish I was one of them; We could all be dumb and happy together.

I almost wish that I could be this person my mother keeps trying to coerce me into being.

When I think about all the awful dinners, the countless times I had to pretend...I literally feel as though I should have been paid to have to do it. My childhood was so tiring, someone should have cut me a check...because it really was just one long performance.

This is why I've stopped acting.

I've moved into being myself.

I don't want to suck up to shitty casting directors or spend my life inflating people's egos just to get by. I've already done that and it tired me out. If someone is yelling at me ( as directors sometimes do), I'm going to tell them to stick it. If someone treats me like a second class citizen, I'm going to tell them exactly what I think of them...and I won't apologize for it.

It took me 27 years to learn that I'm not a second-class citizen and that I don't have to swallow dry turkey to try and make others happy. At this point in my life, I don't eat anything I don't like.

I got sick of people trying to shove things down my throat- their superiority, their religions, their culture...

Anissa is learning to understand this about me.

My Ness is very kind. She thinks of others and has an incredible sense of humor. My wife has beautiful flowing brown hair, and sincere albeit guarded eyes. My wife is trusting, soft, and warm. She supports my sense of adventure. My wife holds to the best in people with an iron claw, even when I encourage her to let go.

This morning, the stress of her hospitalization and illness started to get to me. I usually go and visit each day from 5:30 until around 8, but today I literally had to force myself to do it. I asked each of my friends for advice. " Should I go?" The answers I received were mixed. I thought of how she might feel if I didn't show up and I decided that I wanted to spare her those feelings of abandonment and rejection. I did not want to cause her that kind of groaning and griping, I pulled myself out of bed and made the 2 hour trek to the hospital. When she saw me, she seemed to be so happy and relieved. I was someone that would show up no matter what.

I love my wife. I hate to say this, but I love her almost dispassionately when compared to some of my other love-affairs. True, I did pursue Ness... but it was easy for me because she wanted me just as much as I wanted her. Even still, it's hard for me to trust something obtained so easily. My wife didn't come kicking and screaming, and a part of me wonders why. I didn't have to write her long love-letters. I didn't have to write her songs. I didn't shed a single tear over her before our wedding.
All of this made me distrust our relationship. It made me question my love for her.

Is it really love without any sign of adversity? Isn't love something you have to win? Doesn't love have to be dramatic and involve some kind of misery?

My upbringing made me think that love wasn't real unless it hurt...unless it ripped you to shreds.

We've had our ups and downs, but her love is something I've never had to beg her for. She gives her love easily, and sometimes I punish her for it. I don't want the cheap stuff...I want the stuff that she's been saving, hiding on the back shelves...the one so precious that she'd be fearful of giving it away. I want the fermented love! I want the love she's been guarding since her mother broke her heart. I want the love that is dark and deep... the love I have to seduce out of her.

The love she gave me just came so damned easily. I felt as if I had walked into her house on the first date and made off with her soul. I wanted her to put up a fight, but she only smiled softly. There was no reason on G-D's green earth for her to have trusted me, but she did. In my mind, this either made her my soulmate or some fool who didn't have enough sense to guard her emotions.

Ness is the best person I know. Even if she thinks you're a wack-job ( like X from our meditation group) she'll be polite; she'll try. Even if she thinks you are wacked out of your mind, she'll try her best to do right by you...and if she sees you hurting ( no matter how strange you may be), she'll hurt with you. Both of us hate to see people in pain.

Ness is hilarious. She is one of the funniest people I've ever known. She loves animals. She cares about the environment. She is so funny that she really could manage a very successful career in stand-up.

She is learning. She is a work in progress ( as we all are).

I really like the way Ness looks. I love it when she smiles at me, but when I look into her eyes for an extended period of time she becomes fearful. I wish she wouldn't.

Sometimes, when I look at Ness from behind I can see all the suffering- the years of hard work- the slumping from shame and guilt in her body. This is the one thing that never fails to remind me to be kind to her because she has been through a lot.

Ness has gone from being shy and timid, into a person who enjoys sex.

No matter how many times I tell her, she doesn't believe that she is beautiful.

She is my family now.... and we fit.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

This Divided Life I Lead

I feel as though I am possessed by a fire, and the blaze is burning me up, consuming my kindness and my will.

Anissa and I met with our marital therapist yesterday. Our love for one another is deep, albeit strange. The therapist was a lot like Latte- assaultive, judgmental, cruel, and inaccurate. She seemed unable to comprehend how or why I might have mixed emotions towards my step-children. She seemed to feel that the demonstration of mixed emotion is cause for ridicule, and could be remedied by repeatedly bashing my psyche into the sofa. She is very clearly severely emotionally disturbed.

As our therapist lit into me, Anissa shifted in her seat. Afterwards Anissa apologized to me. Later the therapist left a message on my voicemail. In the recording ( which I was tempted to post on youtube) she rambled on about how messed up I am for having mixed emotions. At first, I was very hurt by this....but now, I just see this as a sad and sorry commentary on our mental health industry. Therapists need to learn to respect differences, and to suspend judgement. That woman attempted to rip me to shreds. I regret that we wasted time and money on her.

Anissa made a lot of good points about the ordeal. " I see it as a business transaction that didn't work out" she said. As I was slinking down in the seat of the car nearing tears, Anissa was bright eyed. " It's not like she was a long-time friend or someone that really knew us." She was right. S had only spent a grand total of 3 hours with us. In the message, the therapist stated that " In every session someone would be in the hot seat." I swallowed. " I have a feeling that if we had stayed in therapy with her, you would have been the one in the hot seat in every session. For some reason, I get the feeling that she really didn't like you Julian."

I don't think it was about what I said. It was about who I am. This therapist is an ego-maniac, and regardless of her verbal assaults, I didn't waiver. I stayed true to my emotions. I refused to lie about my feelings to appease her and this got her goat. She expected to be able to shame me, but instead I did not move.

Los Angeles therapists protect one another. S turned out to be a friend of R,which would explain her hatred of me.

The consensus among them seems to be that if you speak out against one of their friends, you deserve to be bullied, harassed, and abused.

I know a few therapists that are genuinely good, open people...but most of them have god-complexes... and I sit here tonight, wondering why this should come as such a surprise to me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Adulthood & Maturity: The Slope Formula

The gradient of this climb is no longer measured by the sounds of traumatic overtures. There comes a point in life where anxiety and fear seem to cancel each other out. Extreme tiredness, is also a sort of grace. In the face of exhaustion you become less self-effacing.

The blessing of experience has been gracious and kind to me. I no longer feel as though I am being asked to run a marathon without legs. I no longer feel the weight of traumatic rejection and abandonment within the totality of my being, but in the peripheral lens of my preconscious mind. The grief is manageable now...and ironically- because it has compounded. The death of my best friend placed all my whining into perspective. Life is a blessing. Life is always a blessing. Life is cyclical.