Love At The Bottom Of A Well

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“My lifetime dream is to be sitting at the bottom of a well.” –Haruki Murakami

Down the street from where I live there is an empty irrigation well, with nothing but an old wooden ladder reaching far, far down into it. The ladder leads all the way down into the bottom of the well and as many times as I had followed the ladder with my eyes to the bottom, I never had the courage to step down into it. I approached the well with the same kind of fear and apprehension that a person might when approaching a potentially intimate relationship or an airplane. Every time I pulled my head over the edge and looked downwards into the well, it was as if a gravitational force was pushing me in the opposite direction. I often felt upset with myself for feeling afraid to do the very thing that I knew I needed to do most- sit at the bottom of the well.

Life seems to have a rhythm all of its own making. Undoubtedly things happen in a non-quantifiable way. Those who try to quantify life’s rhythms, tend to lose a certain quality of magic and spontaneity. It’s a Faustian bargain I suppose. I have never been one to believe in metaphysical explanations for phenomena, but I do acknowledge a fundamental and uncontrollable rhythm that is always pulsating. We can hear it if we are willing to just stop and listen. Sometimes this rhythm creates the most mind-blowing sounds, other times the rhythm causes us such pain and suffering that all we can do to protect ourselves is plug our ears. Why it was that I was suddenly compelled to walk into the well that summer afternoon, I will never know or try to explain. All I know for certain is that as I looked down into the bottom of the well (for the hundredth plus time), I felt a complete absence of fear. Without hesitation, I draped one leg over the side of the well and put my foot on the first step of the ladder. Everything else seemed to happen on its own.

For a few months before prior to that afternoon, I had not been feeling well. My spirits were low and I was apprehensive about so many things. I felt like I was coming down with the flu but never really manifesting any visible flu-like symptoms. There was anger present but my anger had no specific object to release itself upon so I slipped into a subtle but always present depression. I felt physically fragile and knowing that I no longer possessed the invincibility and reduced odds that my youth afforded me, I was acutely aware of the impermanence of all things. When reflecting upon my own life and everyone and everything in it, I felt sad. In my sadness I was desperate to figure out away to make everyone last forever, and the best way I had found thus far was to push everyone away. The moment that I draped my right leg over the edge of the well, the negatively charged chemicals that seemed to be turning my thoughts against me, disappeared.

Step by careful step, I proceeded to walk down the ladder- further into the darkness. The ladder made strange, hollow, grunting sounds. Only an object that was really old could produce such sounds. I knew that what I was doing was not a dream, because as I climbed down the ladder the splintered wood pushing into the skin on my hands caused me to clench my jaw. I have always struggled with a form of claustrophobia that has always gotten in the way of my freedom to roam. I was glad to notice that as I climbed down the ladder I felt no shortness of breath, no tightness in my chest, no sweat on my palms and zero frightening thoughts in my head. I was on an adventure. The first really exciting adventure I had been on since I was an anxiety free kid.

When I put my foot on the bottom of the well, I heard what sounded like the crushing of little pebbles into sand. The same sound was made as I placed my other foot on the ground. The sound echoed off the concrete walls and caused my skin to vibrate in tune with the rhythm. I released my grip from the ladder’s wooden handles and felt an absence of pain in my normally tension-filled finger joints. The bottom of the well felt so uncomfortably cold that I contemplated climbing back up the ladder and returning home quickly to grab one of my winter coats. Even though there was an absence of detectable light at the bottom of the wall, I was still able to see a few feet in front of me. I noticed liquid slowly dripping out from the cracks in concrete wall, oozing down the wall until it disappeared before touching the ground. For a moment I tried to figure out how the liquid could evaporate so fast. I assumed that maybe it was because of the sharp cold, but deeper down I knew there was no logical explanation for what I was observing.

My superstitious nature prevented me from going beneath the ladder. I kept myself positioned on one side of the well. I looked around with curiosity and interest. I checked to see if my feet were actually on the ground and when I realized they were I felt a victorious kind of feeling. It was the same kind of feeling that I imagine a person would feel after they accomplished something they never imagined they could. I let out a loud and enthusiastic “yes!” Finally, I had made it down to the bottom of the well. As much as I often doubted it, at that moment I knew for a fact that I was experiencing happiness. Yes, happiness. I knew it because of the large smile on my face. I could feel the edges of my smile poking me in the eyes. I was beyond the fear that had hobbled me for so long.

As I looked up at the top of the well, I could see a small, tubular ray of light hanging out above me. The ladder that I climbed down seemed to become smaller and smaller the further up it went. My smile was causing my mouth to open and as I looked up I could taste the light. I know that it makes no sense to attribute a taste to light, but ever since that moment I have always been able to taste light. If I try hard enough- I can smell it. As I looked up at the small circular patch of light above me, I was again perplexed by the absence of fear. I was alone, in a small-contained foreign space. If anything happened to the ladder, I could potentially be trapped forever. There was no help to be found anywhere. But still I felt calm. The kind of peace that in my punk days I would have pointed my middle finger at. I could have cared less about anything going wrong. I was at the bottom of the well and that was all that mattered.

I exhaled a deep breath and felt chilled dust settling on my hair and face. My smile started to adjust itself accordingly as I slowly squatted down onto the ground. I put both palms of my hands down onto the ground and then lifted myself into a four-legged position. I don’t know why but I started to laugh a little. I investigated the ground with my eyes and hands. How long had these pebbles I was sifting through been down here on the ground? When was the last time another human being was down here? I saw no footprints and nothing that resembled the imperfections that occur upon human contact. It seemed as if I was the only person in the world. Claustrophobic me, a discoverer of an entirely new world. How cool was that? I didn’t care that the threads in my $159.00 pants were being ripped away by the small pebbles on the ground. No one discovers a new land, without getting a rip in their pants.

I will never be able to represent accurately with words, what happened next. If I was able to compose music, a song might better describe what took place. I am not a very spiritual or religious man so I don’t attribute my experience to anything supernatural. It was what it was. I’m ok with the mystery.

I sat down on the ground in a kind of tangled lotus posture, with the side of my left shoe resting upon the inside of my right thigh. My right foot was being compressed into the ground by my left leg. My spine was attentively upright as I rested the palms of my hands on the top of my thighs. I closed my eyes and began listening to the sounds of my breath moving in and out through my congested nose. I noticed the sensation of microscopic vibrations, in perfect tune with the rhythms of my breathing. I was not trying to explain to myself what was going on. I was present. Not one step ahead. Not one step behind. For once there was an absence of madness in my mind. I was no longer a slave to thinking about all the things that need to get done and all the things I didn’t like. I was letting my ego slip away. Time disappeared and as a result, so did I.

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I’m not sure how long I was gone for. Could have been a few minutes, could have been hours. With my eyes still closed (I did not want to open them yet) I realized that my hand was holding what had to be my heart. It felt like the frog that I had dissected in junior high school, except this was palpitating. I was not afraid or freaked out (as you would think you would be if you realized you were holding your heart in your hands). I was just enjoying the peculiar sensations without any need to know how it got there or to validate its presence with my own eyes. I felt a cold, lactose like liquid dripping on my hand and assumed it was blood (which, strangely was not there when I opened my eyes). I can’t remember the last time I cried but in that moment, tears were streaming down my face and onto my chest. I wish I could use another word to describe my experience but the word love fits perfectly with what I felt. There was an abundance of love coming out of this pulsating muscle that I held in the palm of my hand. The feeling was upsettingly bliss-filled. Even with my eyes closed I could see all the pulsating light waves that were illuminating the bottom of the well. If I had been around another person earlier that day I would have been certain that they managed to slip LSD into something I consumed. But just like most days, I had been alone.

It is not like me to feel like this. As I type this account now I am finding it difficult to find the right words to describe the experience. As I sat there, I knew for certain that what I was holding in the palm of my hands was not just a heart, but also the physical manifestation of love. I had so much love in me towards everything in my life. My dogs, my birds, my wife, my family, my teachers, my enemies, the world. A stream of thankfulness was pouring forth from the center of my chest where once there had been so much constriction and heaviness. Everyone who ever caused me hurt, I thanked. I thanked all the people I could think of. Everyone. Instead of the Oscar for best screenplay in my hand, I held my heart high in the air and thanked, and thanked, and thanked. What a liberating feeling it was, even though within a few short hours the feeling would be gone.

Occasionally I wonder, if in those few moments I was able to somehow heal my heart from the harmful effects of all my anger and fear. I’d like to hope I did. I have heard neurobiologists talk about how the heart has neurotransmitters that are stronger than the ones in the brain. When a person feels love the heart is able to flood the body with these feel good neurotransmitters, which in turn has a healing effect upon our entire organism. Even though I did not see it, I like to think that it was the neurotransmitters exuding out of my heart that illuminated the bottom of the well. Who would have thought that on that afternoon, at the bottom of a discarded irrigation well in the middle of a lower-middle class neighborhood in suburban Los Angeles County, a middle-aged man would be conducting a symphony of love and neurotransmitters with his heart in the palm of his hand. That’s got to be worth something.

The moment I opened my eyes, I knew it was time to go. I looked down at my hand. My heart was not there. I was perplexed since I did not doubt that I was holding my actual heart in my hand. My hand was resting flat on my chest just above my heart, which was safe behind ribs, tissue, skin and my white t-shirt. I smiled and laughed a little as I tried to comprehend what the hell just happened. Maybe I imagined everything. But it all felt too real. There was no way this was all a creation of my imagination. No way.

I looked around at the walls and noticed that all the liquid that had been dripping was also gone. Not a drop was anywhere to be found. Was there ever any liquid there in the first place? To say I was perplexed would be an understatement. It was not as easy as I will make it sound here, but I lifted myself off the ground and back on to my two feet. I bent over and dusted off all the dirt from my pants. As I put my aching feet and hands on to the steps of the wooden ladder and looked up towards the daylight (it seemed to be almost dusk), I prepared myself for my ascent back up the wooden ladder. One final time I looked around the bottom of the well and said goodbye to no one. Then I began taking step after step up the old ladder. The more I stepped up the ladder, the more vibrant and excited I felt. I had not felt this way in years and climbed the ladder with the energy of a teenager. Mid-way through my climb I realized I had completely forgotten about how cold it was at the bottom of the well. That was strange, since it was the kind of cold you would find on the inside of a glacier. I looked back up at the daylight, which was not much further away, and continued to climb towards the opening.

I returned to the well a few days later to see if I might still have the courage to climb back down and sit at the bottom of the well again, but the ladder was gone.

The Anxious Therapist

images-1 In a world where a nine-year-old girl accidentally shoots her instructor in the head with an uzi, one human being publicly beheads another and where the “terror” alert in the UK has been raised to severe- I suppose the problem of the anxious therapist is not such an important cultural issue. But the anxious therapist is a kind of conundrum that is a stark commentary upon the times in which we are living.

The psychotherapist is often perceived by the general public as being a professional person who is the pillar of mental health, wisdom and neutrality. A kind of modern-day Socrates. The therapist plays into this persona because it is a luxury (and for some a curse) that their profession affords them. The position they hold comes with a kind of enlightened status, even though most of us know deep down this is rarely ever the case. The therapist is symbolic of a wide-spread misrepresentation that puts into question all of  our perceptual abilities. If we perceive the therapist as someone or something they are not, what does that say about the state of our own minds? After all if we really were able to be accurate in our perception of the therapist, we may no longer elect to pay them for their time. And then who would objectively help us through the struggles that haunt our souls?

The anxious therapist is a threat to the entire sanctity and effectiveness of the healing potential of psychotherapy. I am not telling you anything that the anxious therapist does not already know deep within themselves. They represent everything which is false about the claims that they make. At least this is what we may think at first glance, but as we go deeper into the conundrum of the anxious therapist maybe we will find the opposite to be true.

During a session in the anxious therapist’s office, the client and the anxious therapist sit across from each other. The anxious therapist sits in a reclining chair and the client on a couch or in a chair. As the client talks to the anxious therapist about whatever issue they are dealing with, the anxious therapist is struggling to pay attention. To the client, the anxious therapist appears to be deeply listening, but what appears to be true to the client (even though the client may suspect that something is not quite right) is far from the truth.

The truth is that the anxious therapist is trapped in her chair. Her body is doing incredibly strange things to her, which causes her to be fearing that life could slip away from her at any moment. As the client talks, the therapist is stuck in a hypervigilant and panicked negative thought process. She is thinking about ways that she can excuse herself from the room without losing the client and all her credibility. She is using every fiber of her being to remain composed, despite the ominous feeling that within her body their is something terribly wrong and at any second she is going to lose all control. Without moving, the anxious therapist is enduring a kind of arduous inner work out, which causes her palms to sweat, staining her pants with a salty liquid in the areas where she plants her hands. In this very moment, the anxious therapist is working harder than 99% of human beings on earth to not only remain attentive but to also avoid a complete freak out. Even though there is an unlocked door and the anxious therapist is not confined to her chair, the client sitting just across from her causes her to feel painfully stuck.

The phenomena of the anxious therapist is hardly an isolated one. The anxious therapist has been around for as long as the practice of psychotherapy has. Sigmund Freud is the most well-known anxious therapist. He wrote a lot about the various terrors that he struggled with. Freud would often break out into fits of sweating during his psychotherapy sessions, due to the onset of the sudden fear of dying that would come upon him in his sessions. Freud used a plethora of drugs to try to control his anxiety, but besides having his dog besides him during psychotherapy sessions, was not able to find much relief. This resulted in Freud’s life long struggle with depression.

In the field of psychotherapy, a few researchers believe that the phenomena of the anxious therapist is much more wide-spread than is documented. It is only natural that most therapists would not come forward about their struggles with anxiety during sessions with clients. It is embarrassing to admit that during a session with a client the anxious therapist is often struggling with mental health issues much more than her client is. With all the education and training that the anxious therapist has had to go through in order to get to where they are at, publicly admitting their struggle with anxiety threatens to diminish the credibility that keeps them in practice. As a result, most anxious therapists struggle silently through a kind of inner hell from which they see no chance of rescue on the horizon. It is a miserable and unpredictable fate that they have to endure.

But is the anxious therapist really a discredit to the field of psychotherapy? Is the anxious therapist really presenting to his clients as a kind of fraud? Or is the anxious therapist a living example of how a person can struggle through the darkest and most frightening experiences, but still remain calm and composed (for the most part)? After all, in life shit happens and at some point all of us will find ourselves faced with absolute terror. Maybe the anxious therapist is like a shaman because they are silently and energetically imparting the most valuable lesson that a client can learn from psychotherapy: the ability to remain calm and composed in the face of absolute fear.

Personally, as a therapist myself, I believe that the anxious therapist is a kind of hero. In a situation where most people would run to an emergency room or doctor and need to take a Valium or something stronger in order to feel some sense of safety and relief, the anxious therapist silently wrestles with immense fear and physical discomfort while remaining calm enough to continue to engage with her clients without giving much notice (other than the sweat spots on his pants) that something is terribly wrong. This is a skill or ability that even some of the most disciplined meditators struggle to posses.

Most of us are way behind on the current scientific and psychological research into the neurological explanations for anxiety. The scientifically validated explanation for the development of anxiety disorder is that it goes back to the individual’s parents (or primary care-givers) and the psychological and emotional environment that their parents raised them in. It is well documented that a person is not created with a mental illness (mental illness is not genetically pre-determined). Mental illness is created by the environment that the child grows up in (environment begins to have its effect in the fetal stage of development). From a nuerobiological perspective the root of the crippling anxiety that shows up in the anxious therapist’s life can be directly traced back to how she was parented, but knowing this does not make the anxious therapist’s struggle with anxiety during her sessions (and outside his sessions) any easier. All the anxious therapist can do is take full responsibility for her current situation and practice various techniques that can help her navigate her way through the terrifyingly uncomfortable terrain of anxiety. You can not change the roots of a tree, but you can give a tree water, which will hopefully help its leaves to hang on.

It is well documented that Freud’s anxiety often drove him to the edge of isolation and despair. The isolation and despair that he experienced (which he described as a “disappearance of hope”) caused him to often contemplate suicide as a solution. After the potentially life threatening bout of anxiety, which always leaves the anxious therapist thoroughly exhausted, depleted and depressed for days, the anxious therapist finds herself feeling what some could describe as suicidal. The anxious therapist does not necessarily think about ways to kill herself, but feels hopeless up against the anxiety which she knows will soon reappear. Once the anxiety has run its course, the anxious therapist knows that it is only a matter of time before she has to go through it all over again. She knows this because it has been this way for her entire life.

In the end, the most difficult hurdle for the anxious therapist to get beyond, is to accept that no matter how hard they work on themselves, they are not the model of mental health that their clients and profession raises them up to be. The anxious therapist is surviving with a mental illness, that effects their life just as much (if not more) as whatever issues their clients are struggling through. In a profession that demands that the anxious therapist not publicly admit their personal struggles for fear of losing credibility and the luxury of appearing better off than they really are, the fate of the anxious therapist is to feel terribly alone. They live with an inner contradiction that can not be fully expressed in the work they do in the world. If it is expressed, chances are they will lose a lot of the luxuries their profession affords. What pains the anxious therapist most, is that as much as they are able to help their clients to get well, they seem unable to help themselves. Every time the terrifying anxiety returns during a therapy session, they are reminded of just how ill they still are.

For the anxious therapist there is no greater relief in the world than when they look up at the clock and notice that it is time for the session to end. They have made it through the session without freaking or passing out. What a great relief to have not been exposed! But like all temporary rewards, the price to pay for this feeling of great relief is the terrifying and imprisoning feelings that rise back up when the anxious therapist realizes that her next client is sitting in the waiting room. For fifty minutes she must endure all over again the exhausting fight to remain alive.

 

 

 

On Solitude….

I’m sitting here alone at my desk. I’m in the writing/painting room in the backyard of my house. The house that my wife and I bought came with a detached garage and so my wife and her mom and dad and I, converted half of the garage into an extra room. We built the walls from scratch, did the wiring, put in the window, floor boards and an all glass front door. We painted the walls bright white and left the floor, which is a nice glazed concrete with some paint and oil stains. The window looks out onto a teardrop trailer (guest bedroom) that sits on the grass under and extremely large maple tree. My desk is up against the window, which I often getting distracted by looking out of it.

In this room it’s quiet, other than the small pond with a fountain outside the door and an occasional dog bark. In the far away distance if I try, I can hear the mechanical whooshing sounds of the 10 highway. If you don’t know the 10 highway in LA, then I should let you know that it’s probably one of the busiest highways in the world. I grew up in a country club surrounded by gold and golf courses, but I prefer living on the fringe of a ghetto with a busy highway in the distance. Helps me to feel less alone.

It’s almost 9pm and I’m tired after a long day spent sitting with people and listening to them talk to me about their personal struggles. I know that they are paying me a good amount of money, which they do not have a lot of, just to feel better. To find some freedom from the pain which weighs them so heavily down. I can’t help but get teary eyed just thinking about it. Anyways, I feel its my obligation to give them my best. To really be with them in their pain and with all my effort help to guide them towards a more ease filled place. If I’m taking their hard earned money, I owe them every piece of wisdom, insight, heart and soul that I got.

But now at the end of the day and well into the evening at this point, I’m alone in the solitude of my backyard room. The only company I got are the insects that bump up against my neck trying to get to my blood and the flies, which no matter how hard I try I just can’t live with in domestic harmony. I always pledge to myself that today I will not kill a single fly. I want to respect life in all its manifestations. But once I’m sitting at my desk or reading a book and trying to harness focus, the hyperactive buzzing of the flies drives me to quickly revoke my pledge. I find a book or a magazine and I swat at the flies like Jack Nicholson’s character in the Shinning did when he took an axe to that bathroom door.

I’m not sure I remember how to be entirely quiet and still. I’m trying to ease my way into the solitude even though my thoughts want to distract me in every way. I think about watching a movie, or reading a book, or surfing around on-line, or listening to music. But I really want to just sit here in solitude. Why is it so darn hard just to be alone with myself? Why can’t I just sit here and listen to the sounds and ease my way into the solitude? I feel like I’m always trying to push the solitude back just a bit, but as soon as I am done writing and re-reading this for spelling errors (I don’t really give a fuck about grammar errors, just spelling), I’m going to spend some time just resting in the solitude. Alone with or without my thoughts. First I might look around on-line a little, read a few things, but I will eventually get there. For a few minutes at least.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Almost Fatal Accident At The DMV

I needed to renew my drivers license so I made sure I was dressed nicely. I shaved and was wearing my favorite eyeglasses, since I know the picture on my drivers license is representative of me as a human being to those who do not know me. I realize that potentially, in certain situations, this picture has the potential to make or break me.

I arrived at the DMV early so as not to miss my 10:10 am appointment. Because I am often miserable in the mornings, I stopped first to get a sugary oat scone and a cup of coffee to lift my mood. Once I arrived at the DMV, I began the process of loosing my personalized identity and becoming just another body in a sea of other bodies. A man in a uniform directed me into a line where a bunch of other bodies stood patiently waiting. There were beeping sounds and an Orwellian computerized female voice announcing numbers and letters over the intercom. When a bodies number was called, they launched up from there plastic chairs as if someone had just lit a match under their ass.

I gulped down my large coffee as I stood in line and felt the oat scone that I inhaled cleaning the insides of my colon. I was called up to a counter that said START HERE on it and a black man behind the counter asked me some questions in the same way that he talked to all the other ten thousand bodies he encountered in a day. I stuck my thumb on to some kind of digital scanner and once my identity was verified I was given a peice of paper with F080 on it and told to take a seat until my number was called.

At the DMV it does not matter how cute you are, how cool you are or what you do for a living. The DMV is a living example of how equality is still alive and well in a world that seems to indicate the opposite. Everyone becomes a body that needs to stand in-line and wait it’s fucking turn. Other than the abundance of germs flying around in the DMV I enjoy sitting there, observing the multicultural sea of bodies that come through the place. For us humans the DMV is the cattle processing plant- the place where bodies are identified, updated and registered legit.

As I sat in my plastic chair watching bodies and waiting for my number to be called, I felt the oat scone and coffee mixture make it’s way down into the depths of my stomach. Immediately, I was overcome with an unavoidable urge to shit.

Sometimes there is no reasoning with my bodies need to eliminate whatever is inside. When it has to eliminate it gives me very limited time to find a location to plant my ass. I have had bowl movements in numerous public places where I was just not able to beat the clock. These experiences have been embarrassing and humbling because they make me very aware of the fact that no matter how hard I try, I have zero control over what my body ultimately wants to do.

I knew I was fucked. My stomach demanded release no matter how hard I tried to tell it to wait until I was finished at the DMV. F078 was just called and even though a near fatal accident was about to occur, I did not want to miss my turn. I felt my anal sphincter expanding like gates being opened. As hard as I tried to hold those fucking gates shut, I could not. I shot up out of my seat and was so frantic to poop, that I did not even bother to find out where the restrooms were. I headed for the nearest tree. As I was running through the crowd of bodies I unbuckled and unzipped my bealt and pants. The first thing that vanishes in emergency situations is your concern about what other people think of you.

By the time I got to the tree my pants were ready to be pulled down and the coffee, oat scone and whatever else was in there was already half way out. I pulled my pants down, squatted on the ground and let out a huge sigh of relief as I surrendered to my stomachs demand. A white inter-con security car idled a dozen or so feet away but the officer inside was way too absorbed in his cell phone to notice the body of a well dressed, middle aged gentlemen who was squatting with his pants down behind a tree on DMV property.

As I walked back into the DMV with a lightness and a joy for living that can only be attained after a person has made it through a potentially fatal incident, I heard the computerized female voice on the intercom announce F080 go to window 16. Sometimes everything just works out that way.

The Captive Audience

images-1 There are train tracks close to my home. Trains heading into and away from downtown Los Angeles pass by on these tracks. Often times I feel like these trains are like toddlers, screaming out and making noise with no concern for anyone around them. Such is life in our “modern” hurried up age. You can only imagine how happy I was when a train broke down on the tracks by my home the other day. In my mind it was the trains karma for all the disruptive noise it had made. Fair is fair. But I felt bad for all the passengers inside, who were instantly turned into prisoners. They really had nothing to do with the trains bad karma. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It was hot outside and I imagined it was probably just as hot, if not hotter, on the inside. Wanting to be of service to all these locked up prisoners, I took a stack of my drawings and paintings from my garage and carried them up to where the train was stopped. Engineers and other train workers were hard at work trying to figure out what was wrong with the train. One at a time, I held up my drawings and paintings so that they faced the innocent prisoners inside and walked each one up and down the entire length of the train. Some people looked at me, smiled and waved in a display of gratitude. Others could give two shits about the art I was exposing them to. They seemed perplexed about what I was doing, almost angry. One disgruntled person even mouthed the words “fuck off” at me. I understood that being held prisoner for something you did not do can bring out the worst in people so I did not take their hostility personally. I continued to walk each one of my paintings and drawings up and down the train. The prisoners were getting a personalized gallery showing of my work. I thought it could be helpful for them. But really I did it for selfish reasons. I figured it was a good opportunity to expose the world to my art, since finally I had a captive audience.

The Pothead

marijuana-dbc04668ba596d1d11bbfdcab899d5bdcf6b293a-s6-c30 (The Pothead. Please pass this along to those whom you think could benefit. Thank you.)

He is not your ordinary pothead. In fact, by looking at him you would never know. He smokes pot most of the time. He consumes pot in the same way a sick person would consume her medicine. He does not mind telling people that when he is smoking pot everything feels better. His life long depression seems to slip away. Suddenly he cares about how he looks and feels an excited vibration towards life just around the area of his heart. Dark clouds part from the sky of his consciousness and light starts to flood in. Have you ever seen what happens to a child who is protein deprived and then receives a good dose of protein? It’s as if they are risen from the dead. He likes to tell this to his doctor who thinks that the daily consumption of pot can lead to lung cancer, schizophrenia, short-term memory loss, amotivational syndrome and intellectual stupor. Every time he visits his doctor (which is less often since he started consuming pot regularly) he reminds himself that he needs to find a new, more enlightened doctor.

His favorite time to take his medicine is in the mornings and again in the evenings. He works at a local bank and it is a job that often depresses him and causes him a great deal of inner conflict (as a progressive, radical, leftist, anarchist he believes that banks and corporations go against his deeper liberationist values). When he takes his medicine in the mornings he is suddenly excited about the day ahead of him, even if it is a ten-hour work day at the bank. After he takes his medicine, life feels good again and anything that he does can be experienced as a pleasurable activity.

He does not smoke to get high, not eighty percent of the time at least. Well this is not true- in the evenings he consumes pot to get high, to be fully immersed in a relaxing cocoon, to be in love again. In the mornings he consumes pot to feel better, to feel excited about life again. Normally in the mornings he is miserable. He has practiced meditation, exercised, done all sorts of things to feel good in the mornings but nothing has worked. After taking his medicine in the mornings he can be seen skipping around, smiling, pleasurably writing, going for long joy filled walks and laughing. It’s as if the depression immediately dissipates and he becomes awake to his life in ways that were not accessible to him when not consuming pot. His girlfriend likes to tell him that when consuming pot he is fun to be around again.

No one at the bank knows that he consumes pot. If they knew that the reason why he was so engaging, exceptional at his job and happy was because he was under the influence of pot, they would judge him. They might even see him as a drug addict (even though most of them take daily anti-depression medication pills), so he keeps his pot smoking to himself.

Certainly when he is not under the influence of pot he feels a higher degree of agitation and depression. He feels less satisfied, as if a certain quality of happiness has abandoned him. The negative side-effects of pot are a small price to pay for what he gains as a result of his consumption of pot. Everything has its trade offs, he believes. There is the yin and yang in every aspect of life. The definition of intelligence is to know and act appropriately when the positive outweighs the negative and vice versa.

This morning when he awoke it was dark and cloudy out. He felt a heaviness in his chest and a blackness in his head. He made himself some coffee and read the paper version of The New York Times. He felt heavier and heavier until finally he decided that it was time to take his medicine. Within ten minutes he was in the shower and then getting dressed up nicely for work. He was smiling and joyfully listening to music. He did some cleaning up around his house before leaving for work. He kissed his cats goodbye. On his drive to work he did not feel the heavy, unsatisfying weight of displeasure that can consume a person when going to a job that they hate. Instead he was present, enjoying the music coming through his car speakers. He felt lucky to have a car.

The pothead consumes pot every night before going to bed. Prior to not consuming pot before bed his sleep was always interrupted by back pains, leg pains, chest pains, breathing problems and the never ending gyrations of a restless mind. Now he sleeps every night through, uninterrupted by anything except the occasional need to pee. He is not troubled by overwhelming dreams or any other discomforts while sleeping. His sleep is the sleep of those who inhabit the realm of weightlessness, boundlessness and have been able to completely let go of all attachments. It is the sleep of a very pleasant nothingness.

When he does not take his medicine his cats drive him crazy. He feels overwhelmed by the mess they make, their financial upkeep cost and the damage to his home that they have done. He often ignores them. After consuming pot, there are few people’s company that he enjoys more than his cats. He loves his cats and wants to play with them. He laughs at the amount of trouble they cause and appreciates their defiance and destructiveness. His cats become his best friends. He is well aware that when he takes his medicine (consuming pot) the whole world becomes like his cats. Everything becomes interesting and enjoyable. He is comfortable with his life and life seems comfortable with him. Activities that often cause him drudgery are fun. He wants to engage with the world. When under the influence of pot he is able to see just how unhappy and heavy the majority of people are (including himself at times), how uninspired they are about their lives.

He is well aware that this is a fundamental part of being a pothead that he needs to accept. When under the influence of pot his consciousness seems to work better. It seems to become re-invigorated and alive. However, the majority of humans that he is around are unable to access these plateau states. They are weighed down by life. This can be alienating for the pothead, but what he has learned is that through being more alive, more invigorated by life, he has a greater capacity to handle the daily suffering of the human race. After all, life involves a great deal of suffering. The person who lives for 40 years and does not experience a great degree of suffering is someone who is exceptionally lucky. They have a high degree of good karma. However, even they too will eventually experience an increase in their levels of suffering as life goes on. For the pothead, the general suffering that seems to be involved in daily living is almost completely eradicated when consuming pot. It would not be a stretch to think of the pothead as someone who has mastered the art of living, once they take their medicine. The pothead is well aware that pot could indeed save the world.

The pothead is thinking that this weekend he will buy a new bike and start going on long and spontaneous bike rides.

What To Write?

imagesI’m sitting here in front of a blank digital page (obviously it is not blank anymore). Empty coffee mug to my left and a small book by Boyd Rice on my right. It is Monday morning, the beginning of a five day work week. How many of us are happy about this? How many of us are resentful that we have to leave behind the weekend’s promise of the freedom to do whatever we want and be whatever we want to be? I don’t fully understand it, but it is always on Monday mornings that I hear more ambulance sirens than at any other time during the week. Maybe the weight of the week ahead is too much to tolerate for certain human physiologies. I should be working on writing the novel that I have been writing for the past few months, but I have lost interest. My mind seems to think that it is no good, a failed word soup with too many different ingredients in it. Instead I have been doing other things, like writing smaller pieces such as this one, reading, painting, cleaning, listening to music, surfing around on the internet, hanging out in the sun. Anything to avoid the drudgery of working on my novel. What’s the point of writing a novel these days anyways? Hasn’t the attention span of humans been cut in half? I sit here staring at a large Mulberry tree through my studio window. I have to leave the comfort of my home and be at work in less than two hours. This is something I have always resented about work- it has a tendency to take me away from where I want to be. Maybe I could do a little reading before I need to get dressed for work? Sit in my chair and listen to the birds conversing with one another in the Mulberry tree? Meditate? I need to do something other than this, since currently I have no idea what to write.

No Trespassing

sgp4_hi  It’s never a good sign when a neighbor puts up a No Trespassing sign in their yard. If you look through my bedroom window, the sign will be looking directly back at you. Yesterday, I was sitting on my bed and I was just staring at the No Trespassing sign thinking about the No Trespassing sign that terrified me as a child. It was nailed to a wood fence and I would pass by it on my walks home from school. The sign terrified me because on it there was this picture of what I thought was a Tres- an all black ape like creatures with no eyes or mouth that was wandering around, somewhere. I thought that the sign was telling these shadow like creatures that they were not allowed to pass by that area, which must of meant they were around. I was always terrified that Tres were hiding in the bushes, under cars, behind houses- just waiting for me. I asked other people about Tres but no one knew what I was talking about. Still today when I look at that No Trespassing sign, a chill runs up and down my spine and arms. My mind seems to still believe that there are Tres around. Under the cars, behind the trees- just waiting.

Where, Were, Their, There, They’re, To and Too

stress3-brain  Their is no doctor that can help me resolve this. Teachers and friends have never been much help. I have talked with a few neuroscientists about it and still I have come away empty. I have made charts and tacked them to the wall above my desk. I have spent hours sitting on my patio (in my favorite Herman Miller outdoor chair replica) trying to commit the proper use of these words too memory. But still, almost everyday in my writing life, I will misuse many of these words several times. It is as if I have a neurochemical block when it comes to using the words where, were, to, too, their, there and they’re in my writing. Maybe these words are plotting against me, deliberately trying to undermine any of my efforts to have a legitimate writing career. They sneak in at the most opportune moment and are as difficult for me to catch as would be a coyote running wild in the desert. There sneaky, skilled and they’re very existence is predicated upon undermining all of my efforts to use them correctly.

The Authentic Hipster, A Manifesto

tumblr_n4r61eQxwl1qc1ogno1_500  tumblr_n3rvbuuZUy1s0xfxyo1_500

It’s an over used word, I know.

Hipster.

I have friends that refuse to use that word anymore.

They feel like it’s a word that has lost its inherent counter-cultural value because of its now globally popular use.

Now-a-days, for the right price, anyone can be a hipster.

Seems as if hipsters have become commonplace.

Ironically, to be a hipster is now a popular trend and it’s packaged and sold in mega chain stores like Urban Outfitters and Target, across the globe.

I find that it is more common now than ever that hipsters are often confused for what I generally refer to as the real thing.

Like any real thing, you know it when you see it.

Nick Cave is the real thing.

Tom Waits.

Jim Jarmusch.

David Lynch.

A tree.

Sonic Youth.

However, it seems as if it is harder to tell with a hipster whether or not she or he is the real thing or just in it for the vanity.

When I meet a hipster who is really hip I often say something like, “so nice to meet someone who is the real thing.”

For purposes of this manifesto rather than using what I realize is a somewhat trite phrase (the real thing) to designate that which I feel is authentic, I am just going to use the word authentic.

The use of the word authentic is just an easy way to cut to the bone.

It gets right to the point.

I understand my friends (two in particular) rejection of the word hipster and I realize that this rejection is precisely what makes them so hip.

The word hipster seems to have lost all connection with the word authentic.

At their core, these two friends of mine are the very embodiment of what it means to be an authentic hipster (more about them later).

I, however, do not mind the use of the word hipster.

I also realize that many people have a problem with the word authentic.

They feel it is too general and is filled with spiritual and psychotherapeutic self-help undertones.

Ok, maybe so, but for the purposes of this manifesto I will use the term authentic hipster only because, like I said, it gets to the point.

Recently, I have been making a concerted effort to use the term authentic hipster more often.

When I use the term authentic hipster it always starts some kind of conversation.

What is an authentic hipster? people tend to ask.

This is my doorway into their perceptions.

For this reason I use the term whenever I can: family gatherings, social engagements, one-on-one conversations, art exhibitions, when volunteering at the homeless shelter, at work and even when engaging with my server at a restaurant.

Granted, maybe I am over zealous in my use of the term authentic hipster, but there is a manifest reason why I am using this word so much.

In the same way that a political activist is passionate about letting people know about what is going on in say Gaza, I want to let people know about the difference between a hipster and an authentic hipster.

It’s important to me.

Until now, I have not taken the time to write a manifesto about the authentic hipster (maybe this is because I am lazy or maybe because I feel a bit too unhip to write a hipster manifesto), so talking about it was my way of making manifest my inner beliefs.

Until now I would talk about the authentic hipster, enlighten people about what it actually means to be an authentic hipster, instead of writing it down.

This manifesto was born out of all those pleasant and sometimes unpleasant conversations.

Throughout my readings and conversations, I have found that the majority of people have very little understanding about what it means to really be a hipster.

They think of Urban Outfitters and rich parents.

Or they think of white pretentious people with mustaches, beards, an American Express card, tomboyish women’s clothes and bad attitudes.

They think of a group of overly stylish people who think that they are better than everyone else.

Admittingly there are indeed elements of all of these traits in the authentic hipster.

The difference is that the authentic hipster, the real thing, is not a person who is just a consumer and a follower of popular trends.

The authentic hipster has constructed a life out of a love for things creative, counter-cultural, underground and artisan.

They are the ambassadors of good taste (you can see this in their clothes, their food, their music, their homes, their cars, the movies they watch and on and on).

They are not in it for the money (vanity) so to speak.

They care about quality and independence.

They care about a radical revision of the way we live our often mundane lives.

When I use the word hipster, I am referring to what I believe is the essence or the root use of this mainly Americanized word (it is also used in England a lot).

I am going back to the beats and using the word hip in the same spirit that they used the word beat.

To be beat was to be cool.

To be beat was to be self educated and passionate about literature, philosophy, art, spirituality, poetry, sculpture, crafts, sexuality, fringe music, style, drugs, and leftist, anti-government political ideologies.

To be beat was to be counter-cultural.

To be beat was to be free of ordinary and often religious social restraints and to dress in a way that was evidence that you were not “one of them.”

Every time that I use the word hipster I am invoking the spirits of Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Patti Smith, Brion Gysin, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassidy, Diana di Prima and Herbert Huncke- for they are the original hipster.

Hell, I could go all the way back to Rimbaud, Keats and Blake but for purposes of this manifesto I will stay with the beats.

The beats really are the soil that the contemporary hipster grows out from.

Most people that I talk to about hipsters think that beat refers to something that happens in a song or in the heart.

Or if they have heard of the beatniks, their knowledge of the genre goes as far as On The Road (which, in most causes they did not even finish reading).

As I often say, it is impossible to understand what it means to actually be an authentic hipster without an understanding of the beat generation.

It is like referring to The White House without any knowledge of who lives there and what goes on inside.

It goes without saying that my two friends (who do not want to be named and who are a lot hipper than I am) were deeply influenced by the beats.

This is the main difference between an authentic hipster and all the rest.

The authentic, contemporary hipster is in some way, shape or form deeply influenced by the beats.

If you consider yourself to be a hipster and you have no or very little knowledge of the beat generation, I recommend that you start reading.

Without this knowledge under your belt, you are an imposter.

You just look good.

My two hipster friends will probably not even get this far in reading what I have written.

By the end of the first page they have probably been put off by my continual use of the word hipster.

Ok, so be it.

They probably think I am being corny by using the term authentic hipster.

Or maybe it is too painful for them to be accurately mirrored in the way I am attempting to do here?

Who knows.

The authentic hipster derives a great deal of his or her confidence from the fact that they are very unique and there are only a select few whom they share things in common with.

This is why often times the authentic hipster is a complete and absolute loner.

When they look around them at their fellow man and women they often feel isolated and disconnected.

This is why the authentic hipster dedicates so much time, interest and energy towards finding musicians, poets, writers, designers, artists and other out of the box creative individuals.

They are continually reaching towards finding some kind of specific connection with something or someone radically different to pull them out of what often feels like a vacuous, uninspired and soulless void.

The Urban Outfitters hipsters don’t even see the void.

They are too distracted by their Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter accounts (the authentic hipster often uses these social media platforms as well, but they are doing it for deeper connection and creative expression- not just distraction, frivolous socializing and vanity.

What my two hipster friends have indirectly taught me is that to be the real thing means that the authentic hipster is actively engaged keeping alive a particular underground or counter-culture that the majority of people in the world have no idea exists.

The reason for this lack of knowledge of this underground culture is because the majority of people do not care enough and/or are not educated enough to dig even a few feet beneath the level of information that is fed to them by popular media outlets.

The majority of people just take the few popular and almost always corporate (big business) options that they are given (what is accessible) and do not go much deeper than that (the majority of hipsters are victims of this corporate, ideological branding process that happens to most in America).

The authentic hipster, on the other hand, keeps the non-corporate, the independent, the counter-cultural alive.

They are heroes of the underground and they have a genuine and often inspired interest in cool niche things.

Most of the niche things that they are interested in are not even noticeable by the majority of people.

Like when the Native Americans could not even see the huge Spanish ships just off the shore because they had no reference point for these ships.

The majority of people have no reference point for the cool niche things (clothes, music, books, furniture, art, fashion, film, design, etc) that the authentic hipster is interested in.

Like the fleet of Spanish ships just off the shore, the majority of people don’t know what the fuck to make of these niche things so in their confusion and ignorance they call them pretentious.

What a tragic misinterpretation.

The authentic hipster is a master crafts person.

They craft their life away from the mundane norm and towards the beautiful, the creative, the organic, the indie, the cultured, the profound, the soul.

They look aesthetically refined because of the careful choices that they make.

Their attention to detail, durability, quality and style in all that they wear, eat, watch, listen to, talk about and on and on creates a way of living that is closer to a work of art than it is to anything else.

Here is a good example of some authentic hipster looks: http://thestreetstylecurator.tumblr.com/tagged/menswear

Oscar Wilde said that an artist’s greatest work of art is themselves, and the authentic hipster has mastered this way of living.

Everything from their food to their hair to their watches, belts, socks, t-shirts, socks is refined, independently made, artisan and attended to with a concern for detail.

Have no confusion about it- the authentic hipster is much more alive than most people are.

They are engaged with being alive in ways that most people are not.

Life and art are one and the same for them.

In listening to say a piece of experimental music on vinyl, or in reading a highly literary book by an obscure counter-cultural author, they are communicating with a radical energy that is often liberating.

This is why if we can all get beyond our judgments and inferiority complexes (which is natural because authentic hipsters make everyone else acutely aware of just how unhip they are), there is a lot that we can learn from the authentic hipster.

They can teach us things that will enhance our quality of life.

They can teach us about quality and independence.

They can teach us about doing things ourselves (DYI) rather than asking others to do the work for us.

They can teach us about creating our own identities rather than going along with what is socially acceptable and commonplace.

They can teach us about the finer things in life- excellent quality food, smells, sounds and visual imagery.

They can teach us about how to make creativity into a way of being in the world.

In short- they can teach us about how to live independently.

Of course my two hipster friends would not admit to any of this.

If they are still reading this they probably think that I have gone off the deep end.

They might agree that they are deeply interested in niche things.

They might even also admit to having deep reverence for anything underground.

But like I said before, the very thing that makes my two friends authentic hipsters is that they do not see themselves in my description of what it means to be an authentic hipster.

They have an innate aversion.

Only the imposter hipster is like Narcissist who sees his own reflection on the surface of the water and writes all kinds of status updates about it on their Facebook accounts.

These imposter hipsters have done a great dis-service to each and every authentic hipster.

It is mainly for these imposter hipsters that I am writing this.

Please see the errors of your ways and try to correct them.

Stop being just a consumer and learn about the deeper history and meanings behind the very way of being that you have so mindlessly embraced.

Authentic hipsters avoid all things large scale and corporate.

You will not find them at Target or Urban Outfitters (well maybe sometimes).

You will not find them at the new big blockbuster movie (well maybe).

You will not find them on CBS, ABC or NBC (well, you might).

Educate yourself about the counter-culture, artisanal movements and the underground.

Years and years can be spent learning about these things.

There is an endless amount of information and experiences out there but you will find none of it in your local mall, those giant festivals, in the news or on TV.

Just imposters.

Lift yourself out of your limbo so that you can become more informed and move more towards embodying what it truly means to be an authentic hipster.

This is the only way that lasting counter-cultural movements can occur; when the majority of those involved are more than just a look.

When they have depth, purpose and a collective vision.

When they are authentically finding ways of being in the world that have not been flattened by the hands of corporate, common place America (work, house payments, kids, Madmen and weekend sporting events).

This is when a radical movement can be born.

But this is the fatal irony inherent in what it means to be an authentic hipster.

An authentic hipster is by their very nature an outsider.

They live on the margins of society because they do not want to have much to do with society.

They could give two shits about politics and starting radical, counter-cultural movements (some however do care about creating small, independent communities).

The authentic hipster is too in love with their books, music, clothes, coffee, food and general way of life to really care too much about larger social issues.

The way they live their life is their act of political protest.

I suppose this is why I have written this brief manifesto.

I just wanted to let you know about what is going on in the fringe areas of major cities and in the less affluent parts of suburban towns.

The authentic hipster is out there.

They are not all imposters.

Next time you judge one, hopefully you will be able to tell the difference.

And if you are an imposter- hopefully you will find some inspiration in these words and deepen your knowledge about what it really means to be hip…..

 

 

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?