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.