My Failed Twitter Experiment

images I am deleting my Twitter account today. No more. The key to living a good life is knowing when enough is enough. With Twitter- I have already exceeded my enough is enough point. It is time to come down out of the trees and stop with all the tweeting.

I gave Twitter my best shot. When I started tweeting over a year ago I told myself that I would not allow Twitter to become another fixation like Facebook was. Like someone who quits drinking alcohol and takes up marijuana instead, I thought that Twitter would be a less addictive addition to my life after quitting Facebook. I was wrong. At first I only tweeted once or twice a day, but what captured the majority of my attention was that I could actually read the live time thoughts of various musicians, actors, writers, comics and artists that I admired. I would get excited every time I logged onto Twitter because in some strange way I felt like I was communicating with these minor and major celebrities whom I had always wanted to get to know. I felt like I was apart of their life in some strange way. This was my first mistake. I will come back to this later in my narrative.

From the beginning I knew that I was good at Tweeting. I felt like my tweets had substance, style, depth, originality and a brazen honesty that was like nothing else on Twitter. The name of my Twitter account was The Confessionist and in my bio I explained that I was using Twitter to engage in a radical transparency art experiment. I was not going to hold back. It was my intention to give an honest and uncensored portrayal of the various machinations that go on in my inner life. I did feel like I was over exposing myself, but this slight discomfort was a minor price to pay for my art.

After the first six months on Twitter, without any significant efforts to gain followers, I was proud and satisfied with the fact that I had achieved 98 followers. In my twenties, when I was an unpublished and unrecognized writer (which, to some degree I still am) I always used to say that if I had just one reader that would make all my efforts worth it. So I was grateful to have 98 readers. Well kind of grateful. Ok, well maybe I wanted more. A lot more. Maybe I got greedy.

I could not help but notice that some of the people who I followed had hundreds of thousands of followers. People like Marc Maron, Damien Echols, Raymond Pettibon, Yoko Ono and the lead singer from that band The Flaming Lips all had more followers than I could wrap my head around. Their tweets were no better than mine, they were less prolific tweeters than I, hardly as honest but they managed to have more followers than I have blood cells. I realize that they are all public persons, which exposes them to a wider audience and I am more of a suburban hermit- but still I began to feel like having 98 followers was hardly anything to feel good about. My accomplishment of achieving 98 followers almost felt like a failure in comparison to what these other tweeters had attained. They were like those birds in the trees who have hundreds of birds singing a long with them while I was a bird on a leafless branch with a few birdies looking at me wearily as I tweeted my tune.

The one thing that I read again and again while trying to educate myself about how to get more followers was that a tweeter needs to have patience. Successful tweeting was all about perseverance. Like a long uphill climb, you got to keep going even though you think that you can’t. So I stuck with it despite the fact that the number of my followers had started to dwindle down to 89. I tried not to take the lessening number of followers too personally and I carried on in the dark. Little did I know that a trend had begun.

I started tweeting more. Some days I was the loudest bird on the branch, generating one profound tweet after the next. I was convinced that one day my tweets would be seen for the genius that they were. They would be collected in a book and finally I would get the recognition I deserved. I accepted that for the time being I was a kind of underground, indie tweeter telling it like it was, while very few people had the intelligence or the understanding to grasp what I was saying. Such is the case with most fringe artists. I could live with this. I would tweet things like:

The only thing wrong with people’s mental health is that they do not spend enough time in nature

 

 The only problem with watering in the front yard is that I am exposed to the neighbors

 

 The thing about Twitter is no one misses you when you’re gone.

 

 

It boggles my mind that I would rather stare into an iPhone screen than look up and watch the sky.

 

 

I wonder if Thom Yorke does his own dishes?

 

 

Ok, so as I look over my tweets now I realize that maybe they were not an expression of genius. But they were good enough. Honest fragmented thoughts spelled out nicely on the digital page. I would write one tweet after the next and rather than gaining followers, I noticed the strangest thing happening. Like an airplane slowly falling out of the sky, I was losing followers. At the rate of a few a day! Before I knew it, I was down to 51 followers and I had no idea what I was doing or saying to precipitate this loss. I tried not to think about it.

 

 

I was like a man who was gradually drowning in a lake filled with Twitter. I tried desperately to grab onto whatever I could. In a tired effort to get my number of followers back up to a non-humiliating number, I started following random people whose profiles presented them as someone who might have something interesting to say. Some days I would follow hundreds of random people and then spend an hour or so the next day unfollowing them. My hope was that they would follow me and not notice that I had unfollowed them. I know, a manipulative strategy but I was desperate. Every time I looked at my dwindling number of followers I felt like I was doing something wrong. I felt like I was failing and that my failure was being publicly announced to the world on my Twitter page right beneath the word FOLLOWERS.

 

 

Then my wife informed me that the minor and major celebrities whom I followed, those lucky people who had hundreds of thousands of followers and whose tweets I enjoyed reading because they gave me a feeling of knowing them personally, were being paid per tweet. “Paid per tweet?” “Really?” I was shocked. “You mean they are not Twitter obsessed tweeters like myself but instead are tweeting so often because they are paid per tweet?” In the words of Marc Maron, “What the fuck?” Somehow this seemed unfair. It felt like I had been the unknowing victim of a manipulative magic trick.

 

 

Twitter pays these people per tweet so that all the rest of us unpaid tweeters feel like we are on the same level as the celebrities we admire. Or even worse it keeps us tweeting because we want to be more like them! Twitter presents all of its fellow tweeters as equals in the Twitter universe. But its bullshit! Tweeters are not created equally and those whose celebrity status affords them the ability to have more followers than the average person are getting paid to create the impression that they are just like all the rest of us. Like a bird on a branch whose tweeting gets all the other birdies to tweet along! No thanks.

 

 

I had no choice but to unfollow all of the minor and major celebrities that I was following, which left me feeling all alone in the Twitterverse.

 

 

Gradually the amount of followers that I had dwindled down to 32. 32! For some reason this number seemed to stabilize at 32. I stayed at 32 for months. I have a feeling that these 32 followers are people who have deserted their Twitter accounts. They left their Twitter accounts active but no longer come around anymore. So I have become a lone bird who is tweeting in a tree to the skeletons of birds that once were. Great.

 

 

My time on Twitter has awoken me to the harsh realization of my non-celebrity status. I suppose that before Twitter I thought that I had the potential for fame in me and it was only a matter of time before others picked up on this. But now I see that not only am I a non-celebrity but actually I am a non-non-non-celebrity since I lost the majority of my very few followers on Twitter. To think that back in the day when I had 98 followers was the height of my fame, is a rather sobering thought with regards to my artistic and literary accomplishments in this world. Maybe I am not meant to be one of those people who have thousands or hundreds of thousands of followers. As hard as I have tried, it seems to just not be my fate in this life. Now I need to come down out of the branches, stop tweeting out loud into a larger world that does not want to hear my song and realize that at the age of 42 my fame extends not much further beyond my wife, my dogs and those darn mosquito’s who seem to be addicted to taking a bite out of me every night when I am asleep. Goodbye Twitter.

For the Dogs, How to Help Yourself and Your Angry Owner

Chapter 12

You, the Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Black Labs, Poodles, Huskies, Pitbulls, Rottweilers, Terriers, Beagles, Shih Tzus, Pugs, Boxers, Afghan Hounds, Akitas, Alaskan Klee Kais, Foxhounds and on and on (I love you all)- it is for you that I write this chapter. You have had to carry a very heavy burden as a result of having an angry owner. In this chapter I am going to attempt (I may not succeed since I do not know exactly what it is like to be a dog) to address your needs, wants and desires as you try and live with an angry dog owner. I will also try and give some specific suggestions for how you can better handle his anger and how to help end the cycle of anger in your relationship- even if it means digging your way out of the backyard and leaving your angry owner altogether.

*Since the majority of angry dog owners are men, I will be using the personal pronouns he or his in this chapter. If you have an angry female dog owner, please just substitute she for he.

It’s Not Your Fault

Probably the first thing that every dog in a relationship with an angry dog owner should know is that his anger is not your fault. Most angry dog owners are reluctant to admit their flaws and shortcomings, so they will try and blame you for their problems. It seems as if they are getting angry at you because you are pulling on the leash, not sitting when told, going to the bathroom in the house, barking too much, digging holes, chewing up their personal belongings or playing too rough. But you know him better than anyone else and deep down he knows that you can see through his bullshit. You know that he is not getting angry because of the things you do but instead his anger is a result of things like: his unsatisfying job, his difficult relationship with his parents, the fact that he always has to lie about how much money he makes, his failed promotion, the problems with his erection, his failed expectations of himself, his difficulties with intimacy and so on. Because he knows that you know these things about him you may therefore be a threat to him, and he will feel less threatened if he can somehow shift the responsibility for his actions on to you. So you will become the reason for everything that goes wrong in his life. I know it seems unfair, but it is the way it is.

You are the one whom he abuses, verbally or physically, and this makes him feel guilty. It may sound strange to you, but at the same time that he feels guilty for all the terrible things that he does to you, the fact that he feels guilty only makes him angrier. Since you are the one that he feels guilty about, you are the one that is the focus of his anger. This is why he does not seem to care that he does not walk you for weeks on end and leaves you in the backyard all alone, all day and night. His anger is being directed at you and as a result he sees his abandonment of you as fair punishment for the “disobedient” things that you do.

Getting Angry Dog Owners To Move Beyond Blame

In my role as a psychotherapist, I encourage angry dog owners to look back and see why they became angry at their dogs. I ask them to be honest with themselves about how they felt when their parents mistreated them in both big and small ways. How did they feel when a parent humiliated or abused them or when they got in a lot of trouble for doing something that they did not know was wrong? This is an important part of the coping process, since so many angry dog owners have walled themselves off from their feelings and from their unpleasant memories that they truly do not understand why they are getting so angry at their dogs.

As the angry dog owner proceeds in his therapy process he begins to remember what it felt like as a young man to continually have one or both parents angry with him for doing nothing other than being himself. At this point in the therapeutic process I encourage the angry dog owner to move beyond blaming his dog for his anger. I help him to see that putting too much emphasis on blaming his anger on his dog is to put the emphasis in the wrong place.

You Can’t Fix Him

I know that you have nothing but unconditional love for your owner. I know that all you want to do is be with him and help to make him happy. That is what is so wonderful about dogs- your continual desire to please and to love your owner. But keep in mind that human beings have domesticated you through hundreds of years of trial and error. They have manipulated your DNA and trained you to nurture, comfort, heal, love, protect and make huge sacrifices for your owner. Your needs are supposed to come second, or third, after everyone else has been taken care of. The trouble with this ethic (for lack of a better word) is that your needs often never get seen or tended to. By the time everyone one else’s needs have been taken care of, your owner is tired and ready to go to bed or zone out in front of the television. This often leaves you hungry and alone in the backyard.

In particular, dogs are trained to realize that it is their job to be subordinate to their dog owners and to always put their owners needs in front of their own. Any time you attempt to get your own needs met you will almost always experience anger from your dog owner. A dog is supposed to be “loyal to their owner.” As a result most dogs are trained to believe that they have very few needs and it is their main job to “fix” their owners. Dogs come to define their role in life very narrowly. They come to see themselves as having little other purpose in life other than to provide obedience, comfort and happiness to their owners. Suddenly, their owner’s problems end up becoming their problems.

When the dog falls into the “fixer” role, his or her life becomes more and more constricted. The dog tries harder and harder to please its owner and stops doing all the other canine things that are important to him/her. He/She does not run around and play as much as he/she once did. He/She does not chase squirrels or birds with as much determination and excitement as he/she once did. He/She does not smell and lick other dogs as much as he/she once did. The dog becomes increasingly “de-selfed.” He/She gives up more and more of him or herself in order to try and please his or her owner. But the problem is that you cannot fix your owner. The sacrificing does not work! The more you sacrifice and try and please him, the more he continues along his angry way!!

The most important thing that I try and communicate to the dogs that I work with is- you have got to back off. You cannot fix your owner no matter how hard you try! It is futile for you to continue to try and mold yourself into what you think he wants you to be in a vain attempt to make him happy. I know you feel like it is in your nature to want to please him but remember- this has been domesticated and conditioned into you. It is not a natural part of who you are. Your work is to reconnect with what is natural to your canine being. To reconnect with the authentic self that has been conditioned out of you. As you might imagine, this is hard work. Are you up for the challenge?

What Can You Do for Yourself?

Your angry owner may be pulling you both down. It is important that you do not let him destroy your life. This may mean that you try and escape by any means necessary in order to save yourself. This is better than both of you being destroyed. Lets take a minute to talk about whether you should stay or go.

If your dog owner has physically abused you, chances are that it will happen again. Past violence is the best predictor of future violence. Even though it may not seem like such a big deal that your owner occasionally kicks you or forcefully throws you down on the ground and holds you there against your will, it is. According to the American Bar Association, “Domestic violence is an ongoing cycle producing increasingly severe injuries over time.” According to data that I have collected, almost half of the dogs that have been battered will be victimized again within six months. Remember: there is no excuse for kicking, forcefully holding or hitting you unless of course you are starting a fight with another dog or attacking a human being (I understand that usually the reason why you are attacking another human being or starting a fight with another dog is because you are expressing the anger that you have contracted from your owner but it is not the correct way to deal with your anger).

Other than attacking another human being or starting a fight with an innocent dog, there is nothing that you can do that justifies getting physically abused. It does not matter if you are barking too much, have dug holes in your backyard, have made the mistake of going to the bathroom in the house, continually pull on the leash when you are on a walk, do not come when called, do not sit when you are told or chew up things that belongs to your owner- as frustrating as these behaviors may be to humans, none of them justify having violence inflicted upon you by your owner.

With the majority of dogs that I work with who have been violently assaulted by their owners, I often recommend that they find a way to escape. As hard as this may be, I am sorry to say that unless your angry owner gets into serious psychotherapeutic treatment, the behavior is not likely to change. I recommend that you start digging a hole someplace in your backyard that is not easily noticeable to your owner so that you can get under a fence and run away. As drastic as this measure may seem, I recommend that you look at this measure as digging your way towards a better life.

Now if you decide that you can stay and that there is hope for change, well then- good for you! But you must take care of yourself. The first thing that you need to do is find out where he stops and you start. You have probably been too bound up in his business for long enough. Now it is time for you to start taking care of your business.

Even though you might be left alone in the backyard a lot and not taken on daily walks, there are things you can start doing. Get some exercise. You may find that aerobic exercise is a quick remedy for your depression and anger. You have a lot of time on your paws, so if you have the space, run around in circles as much as you can. Also rather than just sitting around all day with your head down, start doing deep breathing exercises (you can learn more about specific deep breathing exercises in the appendices of this book). This will not only help to revitalize your depressed and stressed out cells but it will also bring you more fully into the present moment. Even though you may be left outside alone on a cold night, use deep breathing to keep yourself warm and satisfied in the present moment. Often times I hear stories from dogs about how depressed they become when left alone outside on cold nights. I try to encourage them to empower themselves in these situations rather than becoming victims of the cold and the negative thoughts that can occur when a dog is left alone for too long. As I discuss in the appendices of this book, some ways to empower yourself are through deep breathing exercises and stretching (keeping yourself strong and fit).

Above all- make sure you stop letting your life completely revolve around your angry owner. It will be better for both of you in the long run if you can take care of yourself and work on your own insecurities and anger. Even though you are not able to communicate with your angry dog owner about the issues that you are dealing with, see if you can find a therapist that specializes in working with dogs who have angry owners. These trained specialists will be able to communicate with you in ways that you are not able to do with your angry dog owner. If you make the effort to take charge of your mental health, I promise you that the results will be worth it!

*This chapter was inspired by the work of Thomas J. Harbin, Ph.D. and his groundbreaking work with angry dog owners.

How To Be Isolated And Together All At The Same Time.

Whenever I am online and someone walks up to me and looks over my shoulder, I tense up. I feel my heart rate rise and my body contracts as if I am trying to protect myself from a serious personal space violation. Every cell in my body wants to scream out: “Hey! What are you doing? Get out of here! Leave me alone!” Instead, I freeze up and wait for the person to feel my frozen energy, get the message and walk away.

I never really understood why I have this kind of intense reaction while I am online and someone else comes into my personal space until I read an essay by the writer Douglas Coupland. In his essay, “Everybody On Earth Is Feeling The Exact Same Thing As You: Notes On Relationships In The Twenty-First Century,” Coupland writes:

“It is very hard to imagine calling someone and saying, “Hey. Come over to my house and we’ll sit next to each other on chairs and go online together!” Going online is such an intrinsically solitary act and yet, ironically, it allows for groups to be formed.”

When I read this I thought to myself: so this is how it happens. It was as if I was realizing something for the very first time. In one sense being online is a very, very solitary act but on the other hand it is not at all. When we are online, we gradually become more and more isolated from the things and people that are in our immediate physical environment and closer and more intimate with the things and people that are “somewhere out there.” It is quite the contemporary paradox that you, myself and everyone else online has found ourselves in.

While I am swimming around online in my continually expanding isolation bubble, I am also becoming more and more connected with other people, music, images, stories, ideas, sites and current events that exist in my online universe. As a result I am becoming more and more disconnected from the people, music, images, stories, ideas, sites, current events and other things that exist in my immediate physical environment. I am becoming quite the anti-social loner who stays indoors more while feeling like I have a rich intellectual, creative, social and spiritual life that seems to exists only when I am online.

My wife, my dogs, my house, my garden, my few remaining physical friends, my beautiful backyard, the stars in the sky, the sun, those long afternoons and evenings spent entirely outside alone and with friends seems to be becoming more and more like background sounds as the internet makes is way more and more into my very private life. Please pardon my over use of the word “more” but the more I am online the more I become isolated from the “very real” things in my life but the more together I become with the people, images, ideas, current events and sounds that are delivered to me through a computer screen. What a paradox!

Even as you are reading this now (chances are that you are reading it on a computer or smart phone), think about everything that you are isolating yourself from at this very moment.

I am trying to be optimistic about the way in which the internet seems to be colonizing our minds and bodies. There is currently a massive sea change taking place in our human relations and the ways in which we spend our time. I realize that at this point it may be an unavoidable sea change and as soon as previous generations and my generation die out, existing in the online world will be the norm. But I can not help but wonder if the paradox that most of us are experiencing at this point in our lives has enormous consequences for our personal freedom, our planet, our mental health, our physical health, our intimate and personal relationships, our imaginations, our backyards, our outdoor afternoons and our pets. It seems to be so that the more and more we are online the more and more we become isolated from all these things.

As we continue to live “part-time” in our immediate environments and relationships and more and more online, I can not help but wonder and feel a bit frightened about what you and I and our society is going to be like twenty years down the line.

But on a more positive note….being online is just so much darn fun for those of us who find ourselves all alone.

Am I An Anarchist?

photo-5 I have always thought of myself as an anarchist. I don’t like being told what to do, I disdain the word Boss (I like to say: “no free person has a boss”), I think that government is a huge failed experiment in the endless possibilities inherent in the human condition, I do not trust people who wear uniforms, when I hear media people or politicians saying things like “Americans believe…” I know they are not talking about me, I am not a big fan of capital, sports, pop culture or competition, I think voting is a scam that the mass of mislead people still think actually matters, I feel that soldiers have been terribly manipulated and indoctrinated by those in power, I don’t watch television or identify with any “leader,” I think the president is a limp puppet and every time I see a police officer I have to hold back from shouting out, “Wake up!”

But am I an anarchist?

The last time I confessed to being an anarchist was over dinner with my Republican father. That was a mistake. Fortunately, I had been practicing meditation regularly at that time and was able to not get caught up in the hundreds of angry thoughts that were steam rolling through my mind as my father told me that I was not an anarchistic and that anarchy was a bunch of bullshit. “Anarchy is an impossible dream, it is violent, misinformed and could never work. You are much more intelligent than that son,” my father said as everyone picked at the cheese plate and Caesar salad that sat in the center of the table. That night was one night that I wise enough to realize it is futile to argue with someone who thinks they know everything but really knows nothing at all.

But now several years later I am starting to wonder if my father was right? Shit. I have been reading a small book that I picked up at a zine fair called, “The Anarchist Tension,” by Alfredo M. Bonanno. In this little book Bonanno speaks of anarchy as having nothing to do with what we traditional consider as political and more to do with a way of being, a way of existing in a conformist world. What threw me into doubt about my own anarchistic identity was this sentence: “Instead, the anarchist is someone who really puts themselves in doubt as such, as a person, and asks themselves: what connection do I manage to maintain each day in everything I do, a way of being an anarchist continually and not coming to agreements, making little daily compromises, etc?”

Shit.

I like nice things. I like the home that I own with my wife. I am grateful to have a job where I can help others and make a decent income but for the past year or so I have been struggling with one question that I keep asking myself: Am I living authentically, true to my beliefs, true to who I really am? I keep coming up with the same answer: I’m trying but not really.

All throughout my twenties and thirties I wanted to exist as a writer and an artist. I wanted to be my own agent and not have to go outside of myself to earn a living. This was real anarchy as far as I was concerned. I admired the plethora of artists, musicians and writers who were able to build a life out of their true selves without having to compromise their own identity. This is what I wanted for myself- problem was that I was always broke and had to work at various low paying jobs that I did not really like. I had to have a boss.

After working as a high school teacher who also tended bar I realized that I could not do this anymore. I chickened out. I came to terms with the fact that there was no way that I was ever going to be able to support my desired lifestyle as an artist and writer, so I went back to graduate school and became a psychotherapist (a painful process). And now that I am working as a “professional” in a government regulated, very conservative profession- I can not not help but wonder, is this really me?

Bonanno writes that “for the true anarchist the secret of life is to never ever separate thought from action, the things we know, the things we understand, from the things we do, the things with which we carry out our actions.” So many of the individuals who come to see me for psychotherapy are suffering from deep depressions because they are stuck in careers that they want to get out of but can not. They are experiencing what Sartre called, “No Exit.” They are stuck living a life where thought and action are completely separated. For years they have been trying hard to connect the two but it just does not seem to be working out. Is this happening to me also? Is this the fate of the majority of Americans who live in a capitalist system? Could this be the main cause of mental illness in our first world, highly sophisticated and systematized society?

Maybe so.

But even more importantly- now that I have a legitimate and professional career that demands that I appear in a fairly standardized, conservative and professional manner- am I still an anarchist? Even though I have gained more cultural legitimacy, credibility from people like my parents and financial security have I lost that way of being that characterizes living authentically as an anarchist? Have I become what I always used to refer to as a sell out? Maybe not. Maybe there is a way to function within the system that keeps a person’s autonomy, truth and freedom in tact.

But if I can’t find that way………..

is it possible that I can at least be an anarchist on the side?

Ten Ways To Achieve Blogging Fame

Seven years ago when I decided to start my blog Absurdistry I told an older, more successful writer that I was thinking of doing so. “Why would you want to do that?” he immediately and indignantly asked me. Without much thought I replied, “Well it is one way for me to get readers without having to go through more traditional avenues of publishing and besides in twenty years or so people will not be reading books anymore. People will only be reading blogs and such.” “No way you crazy son-of-a-bitch!” he replied. “You will be wasting your time because a blog will never legitimize your work in the same way that a published book will. Don’t waste your precious time writing on a blog, keep going towards the published book!”

At the time I thought he was dead wrong. An old school traditionalist who had no insight into how the internet was going to change how writers were read. I was convinced (and still am) that the book was going to become a thing of the past and that if I started a blog my work would become just as valid as any writer who was publishing books.

Seven years later I am the owner of a blog with a massive amount of what I consider to be good and honest writing. But I am still without a single published book. In fact, since I started the daily toil of cultivating my blog I do not think that I have submitted one story or essay for potential publication. In all honesty, I was convinced that if I wrote enough on my blog, I could get the middle man or woman out of the way and one day find the literary fame that my younger and more do it yourself self was searching for.

As a writer I am just as unknown as I was seven years ago. My younger self would of been pissed that I am admitting this but I now work a satisfying job as a psychotherapist and meditation teacher (I have had to learn how to quiet my own mind) and I write when I can. On the other hand, the more successful, older writer who told me to forget about blogging has published six more books since I began my blog and is now living in a nice home in the Berkeley Hills- all paid for by his work as a novelist/essayist.

So when it comes to ten ways to achieve more fame as a blogger, I really have no clue. After seven years of blogging and lots of effort to get my blog noticed in the digital universe, my blog has about fifty views a day. If my blog gets more than a hundred views a day- I am impressed. After seven years of trying to achieve blogging fame (and hoping that maybe, just maybe my blog posts will be collected into a published book) I have learned four things: find another line of work, post on your blog when you can, have fun doing it and be happy if what you post gets a few reads.

Seven years ago I started blogging with great expectations and mildly repressed thoughts of literary fame. Now I am content knowing that maybe one or two people have read something that I have posted. Maybe one day my blog will have a kind of Kafkaesque resurgence and be revered by more than a handful of readers. But like my older, writer friend likes to remind me (even though he admits to enjoying reading my blog from time to time), “I wouldn’t plan on it buddy.”

Everyone blogging seems to consider themselves a writer these days even though most are so dull, mechanistic and imaginatively bland that I feel my creativity diminishing a little each time I read their posts. For the blogger who wants to stay true to her or his literary and more creative/anarchistic ambitions- there are no ten ways to achieve blogging fame. In fact there probably is no literary fame. All there is the calm acceptance that maybe one or two people enjoy reading what you write. And maybe those of us who really care about the craft of writing should be asking ourselves when we sit down to write a blog post rather than working on our novel, essay or a book of short stories, “Why would you want to do that?”

My First Cup of Coffee

Sunk-cup-of-coffee I had my first cup of coffee this morning in over ten years and I used to drink coffee every day all day because I was religious about my coffee intake coffee all the time because I loved the taste and the flavor and the way that it put me into a better mood or woke me up or took away my hangover or gave me more clarity and allowed me to get stuff done in the mornings because I am not really a morning person in fact I am quite grouchy in the mornings and don’t want to do anything so I have been waking up and jogging in the mornings in the hopes that this would deposit more oxygen into my body and help me feel better in the mornings but it does not really work that much anyways I stopped drinking coffee because it made me feel very wired and uncomfortable all of a sudden but I guess that as we grow older things like that happen our bodies change and our pleasurable vices become uncomfortable and self destructive bad habits anyways my wife is really into coffee so I went with her last night into this really nice coffee shop in Venice Beach and I loved the aroma of the coffee beans and I got this idea in my head that maybe I should start trying to drink coffee again since the coffee shop sold my favorite coffee roaster from Northern California so I bought a pound of coffee and decided that I would give it a shot because who knows maybe my body would be able to tolerate coffee better now who knows I thought who knows why not give it a try because I would love to have focus and energy in the mornings and my wife was happy about me wanting to drink coffee in the mornings because then maybe I would not be so grouchy anymore in the mornings so this morning I woke up and ground the coffee beans and then put them into a French press and poured hot water over the grounds and immediately I felt my mood shift because I love the aroma of coffee and suddenly I was smiling and happy and excited to be awake and be having this experience so I poured myself a cup of delicious smelling black coffee and drank it a lot quicker than I probably should have because it was so good I was so happy to be drinking such delicious coffee again so I drank and drank it along with eating a homemade cinnamon bun and at first I did not really feel anything so I thought that maybe I made the coffee to weak so I had another cup and enjoyed it thoroughly because there are few things in life as wonderful as a good cup of coffee and I drank my second cup of coffee a bit too quickly also since I felt like if I did not drink it quickly it would get cold and there are few things in life as bad a s a cold cup of coffee in the morning but half way through my second cup of coffee I immediately began to feel what can only be described as a highly focused and wired sensation take over my entire being and I say this because I could feel my eyes opening wider my vision clearing up and my heart rate getting higher so much so that I could not stay seated on my couch any longer but instead I needed to get up and do something I could not just sit there and read my book any more because I felt wired delightfully wired but at the same time uncomfortably wired in a way that I had not felt in a long, long time so I got up and started moving around my house and then immediately I realized that I needed to go to the bathroom and have a bowel movement which I did and it was the largest bowel movement I have had in over ten years because it took three flushes to clear the toilet bowl and I remember reading about how coffee is a wonderful laxative and it obviously is because it left me feeling completely cleared out and wired so I took a shower which I could not stand being in for longer than a few minutes since I felt trapped in that shower and I needed to move around so I got out of the shower and put on some sweat pants and brushed my hair and teeth and cut my toes nails and shaved my neck and then I put on a sweat shirt because I was feeling a bit cold and was shaking a little and I knew that there was no way that I could sit still so I made the bed in my bedroom and then I swept the hardwood floors and then I realized that there was a lot of work that I needed to do around the house so I started doing some laundry and cleaned the kitchen and then I swept the floor some more because I noticed a lot of stray dog hair and the one thing that I do not like is dog hair on the floors I don’t know why I am so sensitive about dog hair on my hardwood floors but I am I really don’t like it feels dirty to me but I have two big German Shepherds and dog hair on my hardwood floors is as inevitable as dust in the air so I know that I need to learn how to accept the dog hair on the hardwood floors and not get so worked up about it all the time anyways after I was finished sweeping the hardwood floors for the second time I was feeling really speedy and uncomfortable so I decided that the most helpful thing to do would be to come sit at my desk and write and that writing would some how discharge or settle some of the caffeinated rush that I am feeling but I am not so sure that it is working because I am still feeling the rush and my fingers are trembling and I can feel the coffee settling in my gut and I am not sure what to do at this point so I should probably stop writing now or else I will keep writing too much and I might end up divulging too much personal information so I will stop writing and I will go get my two German Shepherds and take them out for a long Sunday morning walk or maybe it is too cold outside right now and I should continue to do some work on my house since it is Sunday morning and it seems that Sundays are the days that home owners spend working on their homes so maybe I will just do that because I need to convert my gas burning fireplace into a wood burning fireplace since I much prefer the smell of wood burning over the smell of fake logs in the fireplace so I need to do this I also need to clean the windows since I do not like seeing spots all over my windows because I think you can tell a lot about a person based upon how their windows look so I need to do this and I also need to do some work in my back yard since the pomegranate tree needs to be trimmed and certain things need to be watered so I could go do this since I think that the act of watering is very calming but it is too cold to go outside right now so maybe I will do that if and when the sun comes out because I have so many more things that I need to do inside like I could work on work related stuff but I don’t want to work on work related stuff since work related stuff bores the hell out of me and so I am always putting work related stuff off for another day since I would rather make music or write or draw or read or go for walks or do something that really matters with my precious time rather than spend my precious time on earth doing work related things since I know that in the end I am not going to think to myself gee I wish that I did more work related stuff so I am not going to do work related stuff instead what I think I am going to do is go attempt to sit down and read the very long novel that I have been climbing my way through I should go spend some time doing this since reading is one of the more meaningful and enjoyable ways to spend my time here on earth while I am alive so maybe I will go read for a bit do something other than sit here and write because writing is hurting my fingers and I am making a lot of spelling errors since my fingers are trembling and it is difficult to get my fingers to land on the appropriate key.

28 or 29 and Lost

meeeeeee I am 42 now and I awoke early this morning with an all too familiar feeling. It felt like seeing a person from your past who you hoped you would never see again. The feeling slowly traveled from my toes up into the center of my chest. I could feel it nudging itself right up against my heart. I thought to myself: What the hell is this? Oh that’s what it is. It was that dreadful what am I going to do if? feeling. What am I going to do if I run out of money? What am I going to do if my job does not work out? What am I going to do if I can’t afford to pay back my debts? What am I going to do if I go broke? I’m not sure where this feeling originated, since I feel more financially secure now than I have ever felt in my entire adult life. Maybe it was triggered by a traumatic dream about my youth. Whatever its cause, I remember waking up feeling this way everyday when I was 28 or 29.

I like to live in the moment now. I have no use for walking the dead (except when writing things like this). The only thing I confidently believe in is the practice of not thinking about tomorrow. I trust that tomorrow will take care of itself and I don’t need to worry about it. When I was 28 or 29 I worried about tomorrow ALL THE TIME. I wore all black in order to let others know that I existed in a state of worry. I was continually tormented by an untreatable condition called what am I going to do if:

I don’t amount to anything?

I can’t pay my rent?

I run out of money?

I can’t figure out how to hold down a job?

I am unable to earn a living through writing and painting?

I die young?

I can’t ever get my anxiety under control?

I have a fatal sexually transmitted disease?

I have to depend on my parents for the rest of my life?

I never succeed?

When I was 28 or 29, this was the narrative that was continually looping around in my head: What am I going to do if?, what am I going to do if?, what am I going to do if? I was living in my x-girlfriend’s walk-in closet in the ghetto section of downtown Oakland. I set up a small futon just beneath her hanging dresses, pants and shirts. Every night I fell asleep to the earthy scent of body odor that clung to her clothes. Radiohead had recently released their fifth album, Amnesiac. I listened to the album ALL THE TIME. I listened to it when I went for walks. I listened to it when I drew, painted or wrote. I listened to it when I spent afternoons lounging around on my futon. I listened to it before going out and before going to bed. It was my anthem of despair. It prevented me from bleeding to death. In that album I found a bandage. A group of musicians who were around my age and who understood what I was going through. At least it felt that way. I felt like the only difference between them and myself was that they could afford to buy a house and all I could afford was to rent space in my x-girlfriends walk-in closet.

I drank much too much. I smoked much too much. I was stoned much too much. All of these methods of intoxication interfered with my motivation levels. Rather than spending my days making an effort towards some kind of productivity, I preferred hanging out in and around a coffee shop, reading, smoking and talking with the locals. I was happy in my unhappiness. Content maintaining my own status quo. All that I knew for certain was that I wanted to be nothing like my father. Aside from my appreciation of writers and artists, I presume that the main reason why I wanted to live my life as a writer and artist was because it was as far away as I could get from good old dad.

I tried. I tried terribly hard to make certain compromises with my father’s world of licenses, degrees, work ethics, status, cultural legitimacy and financial drive. I started but was never able to finish:

Medical school

A Masters degree program in English Literature

Ayurveda school

Podiatry school

An architecture apprenticeship

A well-paid position as a stockbroker

(There may be other things I can’t recall at the moment.)

Along with my fathers urging and hostile support, I tried to find a balance between his world and the world I envisioned for myself- but was never able to feel comfortable in this common ground. Even then I knew that life was short and should not be spent doing things for the sake of money and prestige. Growing up I watched my father work hard and earn a lot of money but he was often angry, stressed out and deeply unhappy. I consider myself fortunate to have learned young that hard work, making money and happiness do not often go together. When I was 28 or 29 I didn’t mind so much living in my x-girlfriends walk-in closet. I figured that it was what all great artists and writers did at the beginning of their “career.” I saw it as a kind of initiation.

My grandfather ended up dying just in time (I am forever grateful to him for this). I ended up inheriting his Lincoln Continental Town Car, which was put on the back of a truck and driven from the suburbs of Philadelphia to the ghetto of downtown Oakland. My grandfather was a failed musician and I think he saw me stumbling down a similar path. He took pity on me because he saw a lot of himself in me and as a result left me his car. The problem was that I could not get his smell out of the car and every time I drove around I felt like his ghost. So I did what felt logical to me- I sold the car to a very friendly older gentleman who put $6,000 in the palm of my swollen hands (I had been taking too high of a dosage of Paxil, which caused my body to retain fluid and bloat. As a result my hands, feet and face where often ballooning out). When my parents found out about what I had done, they were furious. It was if I had stolen something very precious from them. I had deceived them by selling my mother’s, father’s car without their consent (meanwhile they were building a mansion and traveling to Europe while I was broke and living in a closet in the ghetto).

I used the $6,000 to move myself up in the world. I was able to move out of the closet and into a legitimate (but small) fifth floor one-bedroom apartment in a better neighborhood of Oakland. I bought myself some new socks, underwear and shoes. I also bought a well preserved 1988 silver Honda Accord. My dead grandfather’s car had given me back some dignity. I began to feel confident enough again to meet women. But I still had no idea about what I was going to do, so I got stoned and made art. I waited and was lonely. I did not know it at the time but I was struggling with generalized anxiety disorder. I was 28 or 29 and lost.

When I got out of bed this morning I went into the front room where I lit a fire in the fireplace. I looked around at my beautiful home and smiled at my two German Shepherds who were looking at me through the large window, which separates my front room from the outside redwood deck. My heaven-sent-wife was still asleep in bed. The house was quiet. I looked out into the backyard where a large, strong, branchy maple tree was shedding its leaves. As I looked around my house I told myself that everything was all right now, that I was perfectly ok, that everything had somehow managed to work itself out. I smiled, felt my heart lighten, got off the couch and went into the kitchen to make myself some tea.