In This Place We Learn To Wait

September 25, 2012

ImageSometimes I get so mad, mired in the mundane. Lusting after adventure while I feel my knees, under my desk, degenerating long before their time. Wondering if, by the time I make it to Maccu Piccu, I will be able to even climb it any longer. Wondering if I will ever fucking make it to Maccu Piccu at all.

On the other hand, I’m not positive that I want progress, anyway. I seem to dig my heels in as everyone marches forward, and I’m just tied to this life. Maybe dragged behind it like a sleigh, or a dead body. Bumping along with minimal resistance.

I know it’s my choice, but I can’t slow anything down. All I really want to do is stop it for a while because these are the best years of my life. Or so I have been told. I wish I could enjoy them, each one of them; savoring slowly, lingering in seconds, reveling in the moments in between. Instead I am watching life out the window of this train– it’s happening to me, but not really. Some snapshots, an occasional stop at a station; eventually, I’ll just get to the end with everyone else and shuffle off. I know people who have toured Spain with the same passivity I am living my life.

Image

The train’s not moving that fast, but I can’t jump from it, either. Hop off into the brambles and hope my barrel roll is up to snuff.

Or can I? Maybe I am simply afraid of the future.

Okay, I am afraid of the future. But it doesn’t feel all that simple.

I am afraid of what comes next; while the people around me are getting married, making babies, settling in for a life of mortgage payments, and biweekly paychecks, and I don’t desire any of that. I wonder if it’s just me. Should I be so quick to judge their happiness in complacency? Should I want that? Am I broken?

Twenty Five years, and what do I have to show for it? Student loan debt, a few creature comforts. I’ll be the proud owner of a 2003 Subaru Legacy this coming winter. Where am I going? Not in the car, just generally.

It’s so comfortable to maintain the status quo. I imagine it similar to the feeling Himalayan climbers have as frostbite sets in during a major storm. You just go on ahead without me, I’ll be fine. I’m just going to sit here and warm up for a while.

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Today marks my third soberversary! WOAH.

(Note: you can read last years soberversary post here, and my first one here)

It has been 1,095 days since I stopped conveniently excusing my thoughts, my words, and my actions. It has been three years of conscious self-reflection. Three years of rewriting my story to make the part where I was an lost little drunken fool fit in.

Today is my third sober birthday, and I am damn proud of me.  Conversely, I feel a need to self-deprecate a bit, since our culture finds shame in self-celebration, so I ground my little party balloon by pondering improvements.

Every year on new years, I (like a few million other Americans) set a resolution for myself. Something completely achievable, but not necessarily simple. I suppose 8 months out, on this particular day of personal celebration, is a fair time to analyze my success; if any.

My 2012 resolution was: Question your true motives.

This has actually been a bit of a theme since I quit drinking. After years of drowning all negative skeptical emotions in whiskey, hiding behind a partygirl persona; getting to know yourself is actually really fucking hard. All the standard existential questions apply, times a thousand: WHO AM I??? WHAT DO I WANT?? WHAT AM I EVEN DOING AND WHY???

I’ve said before that I spent the first 6 months without booze in a cocoon, which helped me get my bearings. I sorted through a lot of that maudlin loathing, and learning to love myself (ick. Cliche alert). This year I decided to take it to the next level by getting into my own head.

oh, thats a face.

Truth be told, the most challenging part of sobriety has been interpersonal relationships– learning to socialize without imbibing, and learning to communicate without emotionally dumping, then apologizing the next day “for whatever I said.”  The challenge has lain in finding self-control, patience, and perspective when dealing with others. And to do all this, I have had to take a long, hard look at the things that motivate me.

As a drinker, anyone who knew me will agree, I was rash, impulsive, and unwilling to negotiate. In sobriety, I have found that those qualities cannot be attributed to alcohol alone. It’s hard not to fall back into a depressive mindset when you realize you can be a total asshole sometimes without even knowing it. In 2012, I resolved to be more honest with myself about why I behave the way I do, and I’ve so far concluded only that we humans are petty, silly creatures.

Or maybe it’s just me! I don’t know…

A lot of the time, I find that my root motivators are selfish. My mind wants to act out of desire for personal gain, and react to envy. Which is the worst kind of emotion. I don’t understand WHY. It would be easy to blame corporate capitalist culture, to point fingers at consumerism and society’s emphasis on status. To say I was indoctrinated with the mindset of self-interest from birth, led by a carrot-on-a-stick toward the idea that I always deserve more. But I think that misses the point; and anyhow, becomes irrelevant because, the more you think about things, the more cyclical they become. At the end of the day, it’s not just me, but 7 billion+ humans acting in their own best interests.

So then I hit this catch-22. Where does self-preservation end, and self-interest begin? In the first world, it’s not realistic to say that food and shelter are our only survival requirements. Maslow’s hierarchy confirms, feeling whole in this society means one is physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially content. On any given day, I would say I’m between 60 and 90 percent there.

Now I am splitting my deeper desires into “wants” and “needs,” it becomes confusing which is which. It’s everyone in competition, so why not get your slice (or 5) of the pie? And then you look around you, and there are all these people with what you perceive as more than what you have. Before you can stop yourself, you’re wondering which of you is really more deserving.

This is when I start to feel like a guilty jerk again. Jealousy is so hard to free your mind from, it grabs hold and gnaws at the frontal cortex. It becomes a motivator, much like one of those parasites that makes snails into suicidal zombies. All of a sudden, you’re in the middle of plotting a bank robbery, and you’re like “wait, why?” Because I need a private jet and my own island nation?

No!

So, I’m working on it. I’m getting better at checking my true motives, and curbing myself when I recognize that I am acting out of envy, rather than self-preservation. I think that’s the best one can do, apart from becoming a cave-dwelling buddhist monk. I’m realizing that life is a constant state of negotiating my “needs” with the “needs” of others, and learning to not get so offended when my toes get stepped on. Sometimes, your lines in the sand need to be just that– arbitrary and moveable. Sometimes you need to compromise on your principles, and pick your battles. Sometimes you just need to stop being such an asshole.

Our lives are not as limited as we think they are; the world is a wonderfully weird place; consensual reality is significantly flawed; no institution can be trusted, but love does work; all things are possible; and we all could be happy and fulfilled if we only had the guts to be truly free and the wisdom to shrink our egos and quit taking ourselves so damn seriously.

[[TomRobbins.StillLifeWithWoodpecker]]

Card Games

April 6, 2012

This may come as a bit of a surprise, considering my profound faith in astrology, and even the I Ching, but I’ve never given much thought to the Tarot. I guess I always associated cards with games, like BlackJack and Poker, where it’s luck, not fate dictating which card you turn over. I just wrote it off as one of those Ren Faire novelties, and took a neither here-nor-there position on it. 

A few weeks ago, a couple friends and I did that thing where you pull one card out of the tarot deck and read it. It was fun, so we decided to do a simple 3-card reading for each of us. We went in a circle and picked another. Then another. In a 3-card reading, the first card represents your past, the second card is your present, and the third card is applicable to your future. I was honestly surprised by how relevant our readings turned out. As one example, a friend who recently gave birth to her second child selected the ten of cups as her “present” card. This card indicates familial bliss and domestic harmony.

My reading went like this:

10 of Wands
5 of Cups
5 of Swords

(From the Golden Tarot, the deck we used for our reading: http://goldentarot.com )

 

 

 

Past, 10 of Wands: A downcast man struggles with a burden of ten wands. Nearby are three heavy sacks as though waiting to add to his burden. A high wall is behind him, but ahead is a beautiful city with a harbour surrounded by protective mountains.

Take care not to take on more than you can handle. Spreading yourself too thin could lead to an emotional and spiritual low. Hidden forces may be working against you. Take care that your trust is not misplaced

 

 

 

Present, 5 of Cups: A Pope sits on a chair despondently resting his chin on his hand. At his feet are five cups, two of which have fallen over. A priest tries to comfort the Pope, and a black angel floats mournfully in front of him. There is a column with a carving of God admonishing Eve as Adam sleeps after “eating the apple”.

To have tasted from many cups, and forgotten the sweet wine – recalling only a bitter aftertaste. Jaded cynicism and disillusionment. Regret, anger and bitterness. The ending of a relationship. Loss, sorrow and grief. Depression. This card warns of a tendency to focus on negative memories.

 

 

 

Future, 5 of Swords: A man stands holding three swords. Two more lie at his feet having been discarded by fleeing opponents. He looks saddened, as though it was a hollow victory. At his side stands a large white attack dog.

A failure or win against an unmatched opponent has left you demoralised. Trickery, manipulation and unfair tactics have been used against you, but you must accept the outcome and move on.

 

 

When you approach a tarot reading, you are supposed to have a clear inquiry. Because we were sort of just playing around at first, I didn’t come to the table with a definitive question; still these cards were speaking to the uncertainties deepest within my heart. My friends found their readings relevant and entertaining, then carried on with the evening. I, however, was captivated. I analyzed the cards and read their interpretations, and analyzed again.

By my interpretation, the cards said something like this:
You have carried a number of cumbersome emotional burdens through life, and it has been overwhelming at times, but the promise of something much better has always pushed you to persevere toward that golden city (pictured on card). Now, you feel jaded and unable to enjoy reward. Experience has left you focused on betrayals and consequence. You believe you, like Adam, were removed from the existential Garden of Eden by the actions of another. And, like the Pope in the image, it has become hard to appreciate the three full chalices, in light of the two which have spilt. If things continue as they are, you will likely experience a hollow emotional victory. You may have exposed those who hurt you as manipulative and wrong, but ultimately, it doesn’t change the past or make you feel any better.

Heavy, right?

There are people from my life who I am immediately able to associate this reading with. People who regularly occupy my thoughts. People I trusted wholeheartedly, who deceived me, then did it again. People for whom my heart struggles with magnanimity.

I suppose everyone has experienced this at one point or another, but there are people who I have removed from my life due to their repeated deceptions. And betrayals from others which I dwell incessantly upon, in spite of my best efforts for genuine forgiveness. These are people with whom I shared countless laughs, adventures, and experiences, yet the relationships have become colored by resentment. It becomes hard to keep a sense of cynicism at bay. My defenses are alerted, constantly second guessing whether I am being protective of myself, or simply sanctimonious.

As my mama bear says: Would you rather be right than happy?

If nothing else, this reading gave me a lot to think about. The predicted feeling of hollow victory really resonates.

Righteousness may feel empowering, but at what cost? What is the value of upholding consequence? When we feel an ethical contract has been breached, or as though we have been “disrespected,” when do we stand our ground, and at what point do we concede for the sake of amnesty?