I recently finished a project called The Wall of Lonely and Unstable and Strange Men. It is a wall drawing that I used black ink pens to draw, over the course of the past year. The idea came from a group of mentally challenged men who walk past my house, several days a week, on their outings. They are some of the less fortunate members of society, the one’s who have dropped out of the game. I thought I would pay tribute to them in some small way. It was a pain in the ass. The first few days were fun but after that I kept thinking, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” Now that it is finally finished, I thought I would share it with you. Enjoy and thank you for your support.
The pages are too long. The words spread out. The words slip out. The words move through the brain and back out into the nowhere place from which they came. The brain no longer able to retain the words that live in a book. The brain is slipping away into a kind of digitalized maze. Only tidbits of information and pictures are able to stick. A book filled with words is a marathon, which a person is too out of shape to run. The words are a threat to a person’s limp attention span. No longer capable of the longer sprints and solitudes that a book filled with words requires, The Terrible Reader reaches for her phone.
The Terrible Reader is no longer capable of being alone. He needs to know what is going on on-line. He needs to know what texts have come through. He needs to carry on a conversation that was begun on his phone. He needs to find new emails in his inbox. He needs to check who has checked his frequently checked Instagram and Facebook accounts. There are things to do. Likes to be given and had. Comments to be left. Photos to be seen and loved. The terrible reader has no time for a book. A book keeps him off-line. There is no excitement in these printed words.
The Terrible Reader can no longer sit with herself. It is too uncomfortable. Toes curl and uncurl. Nails are bitten. Fingers are picked. Hair is pulled. It is a continual struggle to keep her attention fixed. She feels restless. Anxious. Just sitting there alone with a book is no longer enough stimulation to keep her attention fixed. She tries to hold on with the book in her hand but it is almost painful. There is an antsiness that won’t go away. And when it does, she feels bored. She feels ready for sleep. The Terrible Reader is in a continual struggle between restlessness and sleep. Her attention span can’t keep up with the attention that words in a book demand. Instead she needs the digitally illuminated screen. She needs the fake light to get off. She needs the high-resolution pictures and live time conversations to feel engaged. When The Terrible Reader is on her phone toes do not curl and uncurl. Nails are not bitten. Fingers are not picked. Hair is not pulled. There is no struggle to keep her attention fixed. There is no battle between restlessness and sleep. Her attention is completely transfixed when on the phone. When on-line, her attention span is dialed in. She is immersed. Like particles of dust sucked into a vacuum machine, she is gone.
The Terrible Reader can read books no more. The Terrible Reader still tries to read books but most of them remain unfinished. Worlds only partially explored. These unfinished worlds pile up like dead leaves in the fall. Discarded and no longer needed, they are left to die under the weight of newer books which will also go unfinished. Unexplored. The Terrible Reader is yet to come to terms with the fact that they have become a terrible reader. They do not want to admit this painful fact to themselves so they continually try and read some more. It hurts too much to make an honest appraisal of what they have become, since humans never like to admit the truth about themselves to themselves. Every time The Terrible Reader sits down with a book their smartphone pulls at them. It won’t leave them in peace. Come to me, come to me, check me, see me, it whispers in The Terrible Reader’s ear. For the fifth time in an hour The Terrible Reader puts the book down and must reach for the smartphone. They no longer have a choice.
Prince, then David Bowie and now Leonard Cohen. What a terrible year this has been for those of us deeply touched and taught by these creative visionaries.
Leonard Cohen was once a wild man. Then he became a Buddhist monk. But he was still a wild man, even when he was a Buddhist monk. I love the story of him sneaking out behind the meditation hall early one morning to drink his coffee and smoke a cigarette.
A lover of women, words, good whiskey and wine. A fine poet indeed. A man with impeccable style, in so many more ways than just how he wore his clothes. The kind of youthful charm Leonard Cohen had well into old age, was proof that a man can grow old without growing old. Every time you heard him speak you listened and learned something original and new. A real philosopher and poet he was. Not many, if any, around like him anymore.
Leonard why did you have to go? I know you were almost really old, but couldn’t you hang around a few more years? I am not quite ready to make a go of this without you in the world.
His novels, poetry and songs where doorways into imaginative landscapes and lovescapes, the likes of which a person never heard before. Without even knowing it was happening he taught you how to live and how to die. This world will no longer be the same place without him in it.
I don’t know as much about Leonard Cohen’s songs, books and poetry as I probably should. I know the basics of Leonard Cohen’s life but I can’t tell you specifics from his biography. For me Leonard Cohen was an example of how to live as a man and an artist. It is strange to me that I have the deepest reverence and respect for a man I have never met. I studied his interviews and from that I learned what I needed to know. I have his album Songs Of Love And Hate hanging on my wall, in the same way that someone would hang a cross or a picture of their hero.
I suppose this is what Leonard Cohen meant to me. He was my teacher. He was a man who spoke more eloquently about how to live life and deal with the various demons he struggled with than any other man I have heard speak. He made me feel less alone with my demons and despair. He showed me the way to deal; through solitude, meditation, occasional nights filled with wine and women, books, music and filling up journals with words, wisdom and art.
How many people become icons but continue to live in very humble conditions, on the second floor of a small home (his daughter and her family live below) in a lower economic neighborhood? He didn’t care much for more ostentatious material things. Money was not his main thing. How rare to find a human being (especially a successful one in America) who puts his art and his life before preoccupations with money, status and more materialistic things.
In today’s America, it is the poets and artists who go unseen. No one talks about them. Leonard Cohen broke through the thick cloud of obscurity and showed generations of artists and poets that they do not have to live a defeated, delegitimized and conformist life. He showed artists, poets and writers that there are alternative ways of living where you can keep your edge and remain in the poetry.
I could be wrong but I think Leonard Cohen somehow knew me. I often felt like he was talking right at me, especially when talking about isolation, loneliness, women, love and art. But I know everyone who loved him felt this way. That is what made him so great and this is what makes things feel so much more hollow and empty now that he is gone.
Thank you for everything Leonard Cohen. You were such a class act. I will continue to live the things you taught. Hallelujah.
Yesterday, the majority of Americans elected Donald Trump as President of the United States. I was angry. Very angry. This morning I woke up with breasts.
These are not male breasts. They are good-sized female breasts. It is as if while I was asleep, someone came and took my male breasts and replaced them with thirty-five year old female breasts. I don’t understand how something like this could happen.
The minute I got out from bed this morning I felt a heavy weight pulling my chest towards the ground. I immediately became concerned that I was having some sort of heart issue. Maybe I was too angry yesterday, I remember thinking. But then as I was walking to the bathroom I noticed feeling like I was carrying decent sized water balloons inside of my chest. I could feel something jiggling around. I stopped in the hallway, turned on the lights, lifted up my t-shirt, looked down and noticed I had decent sized female breasts.
I couldn’t make sense of this right away. I thought maybe I was still in a dream. When I realized it was not a dream, I thought that maybe I was hallucinating. I have been meditating a lot recently and have heard that sometimes walking hallucinations can be a side effect of too much time spent in meditation. I looked at my breasts in the bathroom mirror. I touched them and that is when I realized they were real.
I don’t understand how this could happen. My wife has been Googling all morning. She is trying to figure out how a man can go to sleep with perfectly normal male breasts and then wake up with a pair of decent sized, nicely shaped, female breasts.
This must be the result of feeling too much anger yesterday. I don’t normally feel such long-lasting periods of intense anger and somehow the anger must have messed around with my hormone levels. I have read about men who are really angry suddenly losing all their hair or getting a non-viagra induced erection that does not go away. It is well known that anger messes with chemical constructs in human bodies and yesterday my anger was so strong that I was sweating throughout the entire day. My anger intensified after my father told me that he voted for Donald Trump and that he thought that Donald Trump was going to “Make America Great Again.”
I suppose it would be fair to say that my anger reached levels that if documented by a medical device could be safely called rage. But I did not yell. I did not express my rage in any way. I just let it be there as I kept myself present and aware of my breathing. I know that all emotions are just waves and because of my meditation practice I do not really identify with waves. I just notice them. But I wonder if the meditative suppression of my rage with regards to the election of Donald Trump as President is what has caused me to grow these breasts.
My sweet wife leant me one of her black bras, which I am now wearing as I write this. The bra has helped ease the weighted discomfort in my chest. But now I feel this tight constriction across my entire chest and back. Is this what women have to deal with everyday? Is this what bras feel like for them? If so, just like Donald Trump and all his male counterparts, I have yet again underestimated what women have to deal with everyday. No man, no matter how rich and studly, could tolerate this feeling of being hugged tightly around their chest all day long. No way.
I don’t feel as angry today. Anger is just a wave, I keep telling myself. The shock seems to be wearing off and I am accepting that as a result of the election of Donald Trump as President, nothing has changed and everything has changed. The sun has still come up. There are birds eating from my backyard bird feeder. I can hear cars racing by outside my home. But the far right has seized power in America. Every advancement America has made with regards to equality for all people over the past eight years has been undone. White patriarchy is now back in power. And I have a pair of decent sized female breasts hanging from my chest.
My wife told me that hopefully as my anger subsides, the breasts will decrease. What does this mean? I have to go to work today so I am not sure how long this will take. If I really try to let go of my anger now, will the breasts go quickly away? But anger is not really something I can get rid of. All I can do is step back, breathe and not identify with it. When it completely goes away is not really up to me. What if it doesn’t go away for as long as Donald Trump is in power?
A great deal of Americans are still celebrating today. They are thrilled that a multi-billionaire, far right extremist has seized control of the highest office in the world. Some people are not happy about this but are trying to make peace with what has happened. I am really upset about it and will not pretend like everything will be ok. I will not take my mother’s advice and just try to see the positives. What is positive about this? I am the one who has ended up with a pair of good-sized, female breasts hanging from my chest.
Everyone else seems to be getting on just fine.
My wife just asked me, “Are you mad at me?” I said, “No, I’m just mad.”
I am mad about everything right now. What is wrong with controlled anger when it is a logical response to a terrible situation? I am mad that a man like Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States. I am mad that I live in a country where the majority of people voted for a man with OBVIOUS and SEVERE Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I am mad that all the white, male, power hungry men have won. I am mad about what this will mean for the values of freedom, intellectualism, peace, non-violence, creativity, equality, social justice, integrity, honesty, sharing, environmental consciousness, non-authoritarianism, independence and autonomy that I believe in. I am mad that police officers and the military will get more praise, power and prestige. I am mad that there will be more conformity and worship of money and business. I am mad that people who are not cool at all will now be in power. I could go on and on, but I am just mad.
I realize that anger is an emotion that arises and then gradually dissolves. This too shall pass. I am mad about this because I want this anger to remain. How else will I be able to continue to oppose and not give into this catastrophe? The society in which I live will be forever changed. I am mad that American nationalism has now taken over. I am mad that people think that a multi-billionaire is the fit leader of a working class revolution. I am mad at the degree of stupidity and arrogance that has become confused as the way to “Make America Great Again.” America has never not been great but I am mad that it just got a lot worse. I am mad that America is only going to become dumber and even less tolerant than it was before. I am mad that racism and sexism has just been normalized. How does a man who said all the awful things Trump has publicly said get elected to be President? How does a woman who seems like her husband’s puppet get to be first lady? I just do not get it and I am mad about this.
I have a long day at work ahead of me. How am I going to go to work feeling so mad? I was supposed to exercise this morning but I was too mad. I can hear ringing in my ears. I don’t want to leave my house. I feel afraid of anyone who thinks that it is a good idea that Trump has been elected as President. I hope I will be able to control myself if I am confronted by someone like this. I am mad that after having one of the better, cooler and more intelligent Presidents in American history (Obama) we end up with far right, extremist, Republican, uncool, opportunists seizing control. People who actually think building a wall and shooting dissenters are great ideas are now in power. I am mad about this. I am mad that uncool people are now seen by the mass of Americans as being cool. I mean look at Trump’s Vice President. He is a robot. As uncool as a person can get. I could go on and on but I won’t. I know I already said I would stop but when I am mad sometimes I keep going on and on even when I know I should stop. But even my dogs are mad. They have been barking all morning.
*Sorry for any grammar errors. I am too mad to care.
All of our lives are running away from us and all we have to let us know that this is happening is our withered reflections when looking in mirrors. I am someone who is continually aware of how my life is running away from me. Often I will look at pictures of people in the 1950’s and 60’s and think about how their lives have completely run away from them. I am well aware that I am up against the same fate, every moment of every day.
I have a particular practice or daily exercise that I employ for better managing the feelings of dread and futility that arise when a person is aware of their life running away from them. I make sandwiches. I try to make at least two sandwiches a day but on a bad day I will make five. There is no greater satisfaction in my life than eating a sandwich that I have made. The thicker the better. I do not enjoy thin sandwiches. Thin sandwiches are for those who are not courageous. Thin sandwich makers are so afraid of the realities of life that they do everything to calorically restrict themselves so they can feel the illusory impression of being immortal and unaffected by aging. I prefer thick sandwiches because not only do they satiate the more fear prone parts of my brain, but they also allow me to better enjoy a life that I know is running away from me.
I use the healthiest bread that I can buy. This means bread with a high fiber and seed content. Not only is this bread delicious but I do not feel so guilty after eating large amounts of it. I know that I have superseded my daily recommended fiber intake and this helps me feel more confident about the workings of my bowels. I prefer using organic mayonnaise on whatever high fiber bread I use, but since my wife is vegan I normally have to resort to using organic vegan mayonnaise. The good thing about using organic vegan mayonnaise is that I can use larger amounts of it and not feel so doomed to coronary heart disease. I also like to use large amounts of organic spicy mustard, the names of which I can never pronounce. The combination of organic vegan mayonnaise and organic spicy mustard usually and temporarily suspends any kind of existential dread.
My wife and I both try to keep our refrigerator loaded with stuff to make sandwiches with. My wife is younger than I. Not much younger in terms of the span of human history on planet earth but much younger in terms of the deterioration of the human body. Fourteen years can make a massive difference when it comes to the ravages caused by aging. But because my wife also suffers from a certain existential awareness (a fundamental signifier of an intelligent mind) she too is aware of life running away from not only herself but also from her beloved husband and her even more beloved three dogs. In a way I envy her youth. Even if in youth a person is aware of their lives running away from them they still have the underlying comfort of knowing that they still have a good amount of time to lose. Once you are older, the awareness of life running away from you fills you with more despair (or denial) because you know you have much less time to lose.
My wife has picked up the sandwich making practice from me. She also finds it an effective way to deal with the awareness of a run away life. I appreciate that she dedicates just as much interest in keeping our fridge filled with stuff to make sandwiches with as I do. Because my wife is still young enough where she still has the ability to have an incredibly attractive figure (which often provides a person with the fit illusion of being immortal) she does not make her sandwiches as thick as I do. She usually makes her sandwiches with things like organic vegan cheddar cheese, organic sprouts, organic pickles, organic lettuce or organic kale and organic sauerkraut. For some reason she always insists on toasting her seeded wheat bread, which is something I never do. This is another luxury of being young- you feel like you have more time to spend on doing trivial things. I never toast my bread, only because I feel like I just do not have the time. For her she still has a good amount of time to give to such superfluous things. (This is why most good art, literature, film and music is made in youth. A young person has more time to spend passionately dedicated to such things. Once a person is older they just want to spend time with life or living because there is less time and energy to give towards working at things that feel more superfluous the older and sicker a person gets.)
I stuff my sandwiches with a plethora of different organic things. I use various kinds of organic nuts, organic onions, organic vegan cheeses, wild tuna or wild salmon from a can, organic humus, organic pickles, organic sprouts, organic vegan sausages (usually uncooked), organic cabbage, organic kale, organic mung beans, organic sauerkraut, organic habaneros and organic baked barbecue potato chips for extra crunch. I find that stuffing my sandwiches with things that create a crunch effect allows me to discharge a lot of the anger and frustration that I feel with regards to a life that is running away from me and everyone I love. Crunching is a very effective way to deal with this chronic frustration that I feel in my life.
It requires mindfulness and slow movements to keep everything in the sandwich rather than falling out on the plate. What I have found is that with the right positioning of everything inside the sandwich and with mindful movements, overboard condiments can be avoided when eating a thick sandwich. Whatever things do fall out on to my plate, I make sure to eat once I am finished eating my sandwich. I look as this as a kind of dessert.
My grandfather, on my father’s side, used to do a similar thing. After the age of forty he was also very aware of life running away from him. He often spoke about how he could not believe how much older everyone was getting. “One minute they were young and filled with life and now they are older and filled with all kinds of unwanted obligations, wear and tear,” he would say when talking about friends, family members, old lovers and celebrities that he liked. Every day for lunch he would eat a large hoagie sandwich. He lived in Philadelphia where there was a hoagie/steak sandwich establishment on every corner. Philadelphians obviously are also very aware of life running away from them and deal with it by making and eating very large sandwiches. Have you seen how big these things are? Some people refer to them as subs, because they are so long. My grandfather would eat one all to himself. Everyday. All alone. A sandwich filled with not organic cheese, meat, hot peppers, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, mustard, mayonnaise, vinegar and oil. He would shake not organic pepper and salt on top and whenever he took me to a hoagie place on one of my yearly visits he would always say, “It is all in the bread kid.” To this day I still believe that to be true but instead of using freshly baked white sourdough bread, I use high fiber wheat or rye seeded bread.
I have found that making sandwiches on a daily basis has been an effective, short-term way for me to deal with the day-to-day knowledge that my life is running away from me. The thicker the sandwich the better. But I also realize that this is a short term solution. I have to keep making sandwiches, sometimes several times a day in order for it to work. Once I am done making and eating my sandwich it is a matter of an hour or so before my sense of life going quickly by returns. I notice when it returns because I feel somewhat depressed. This is usually when I will make another sandwich. If I am away from my home and not able to make a sandwich I will settle for having one made for me. It does not work as well, but it still eases the pain of knowing that it is all quickly passing by.
By the way, now it is Fall. I stay inside as much as I can when it is Fall. Fall is a season that can literally fall on you, so please proceed with caution. Look up, even as you eat sandwiches.
Haven’t seen you in a while.
Yeah. You look a lot older.
Yeah. Wow. You look like a full grown man!
I am. Even though a big part of me still feels like I am twenty seven.
And you own a house, have money, a job and are married now?
Jeeze. That is so crazy.
I just can’t imagine that right now. Did you become a published novelist and artist?
Lets not to talk about me right now. How have you been?
I don’t know. Stressed out I guess.
Why stressed out? You are too young to be stressed out!
Yeah. But it doesn’t feel like that.
What do you mean?
I just feel like I am just existing. I’m not accomplishing anything or going anywhere. I have no idea what I’m going to do.
Yeah. I have no sense of direction. I’m sad all the time but no one sees it. No one realizes how stressed out and upset I am. I hate that I feel this way but I do. I feel so unsure of myself that I can’t confidently make even the most basic decisions. I have no clue about anything.
That is not true man. You are a smart young man. You know a lot.
It doesn’t feel that way. I feel like I can never be sure about anything. I’m just so stuck in myself and it sucks. I don’t know how to get out. I have so many hang-ups and I’m sick of it.
So why don’t you just get a job? Just find a job doing something so that you can make some money and not have to be dependent on your difficult parents. Don’t you think that would help?
I don’t know. I feel pressured by my parents and everyone else to make a decision. To do something, but I don’t know what it would be. It feels so confusing. I have no idea what I want to do and as a result I feel like I can’t commit to anything.
I see. Must be rough.
I don’t know. It makes me feel very uncomfortable. I can’t do anything without feeling guilty about it. I feel guilty about everything. Even just hanging out and drinking a beer or just listening to music makes me feel guilty. I feel like I should be doing what other people expect me to do. Like make a decision. Find a job.
Don’t you just want to find a job? Wouldn’t that make things easier for you?
I don’t know. I guess a part of me feels like having a job would make me feel more accomplished and happier. I could have my own money and buy things I like. I know I feel guilty because I am just hanging out in my pajamas all day but I love doing this. But at the same time it makes me feel non-existent. Like I don’t matter in the world at all. This feeling non-existent just feels like too much for me. I can’t take it.
So why not do something about it? Change it?
I’m trying. I started looking for a job but looking for a job makes me feel very anxious. Job hunting depresses the shit out of me. Makes me feel uncomfortable with myself.
I don’t know. I guess because I know I am spending all this time filling out these job applications but none of it will really matter. But I still have to do it to maybe find a job and the amount of time and energy this requires makes me feel very sad.
I just am going to have to apply to every single job I can. I know that in order to get one response I have to apply to a hundred jobs. I have to fill out every god damn application even though I don’t want to.
I know. It is rough.
In just three years I will be thirty. Time feels like it is ticking down for me. I feel guilty that I am not like every one else already making my own money and with a good job. I see people who are like this at much younger ages than I am. Makes me feel terrible about myself. I have to do something or I feel like I am going to die. I have to spend all my time looking for a job if I am going to find something. This makes me sad because I won’t be able to spend my time doing the things that I enjoy doing. I will have to give these things up.
You don’t have to give them up, you just might have to do less of what you want right now.
Maybe. But getting a job and becoming a real person just feels like I am going to have to give up so much of myself. I am going to have to go work most of my time and then the rest of the time I will be too tired to do the things I like. Maybe on the weekends I will have energy to do things I want to do but this makes me feel very sad.
That I will have to give up so much of myself. I will have to sell out. But I want a standard of living that I can feel ok about and I need a job to get to this spot. I know it sounds superficial but having money of your own does make such a big difference in how a person feels about themselves. It sucks that this is the way it is but it is the way it is. The barrier between getting from here to there just feels so strong that it feels impossible to achieve. I know I would feel better if I could advance to the next stage but I just have no idea how. My lack of progress just makes me very sad.
So why not just really make an effort to find some kind of job. Dedicate yourself to doing something! Write a novel and get it published. Get a gallery show for your art. Find a job. Just do something!
I know I need to do this. I know accomplishing something in the world would make me feel happier but I’m the kind of person who will just keep doing the same thing if it feels comfortable. I know I need to change but it feels like it would require a massive effort. So I just keep doing what feels more comfortable.
Like sleeping in, reading, drawing, hanging out, spending the day in my pajamas, watching films, sleeping. Not doing these things just feels like it would require such a massive effort. This makes me sad because just looking for a job or not sleeping twelve hours a night should not feel like such a massive effort. It should not feel like running a marathon to not do these things. But it does. Now I feel guilty about everything I do. Skyscrapers of guilt have built up. I’m pissed off about everything. I need to find some way to alleviate all of this other than drinking beer and smoking pot. I feel like just finding a job is the only logical way that I could feel less guilty and be more happy. Isn’t this what society wants me to do? I feel stupid feeling the way that I do.
Don’t feel stupid. In a sense, what you are going through is normal. You are having to assimilate into society and as a result you feel like you have to lose a part of yourself. In a sense, you are right. You do lose a large part of yourself and your time. It hurts. Only the lucky few get to assimilate into society while staying true to themselves. It can be done but it is hard. In order to have a decent standard of living most of us have to lose a big part of ourselves and this can be painful. You are just resisting this process and it makes it harder because it feels like there is nothing that you want to do and can make money from.
People don’t understand this though. Everyone just thinks I just need to find a job and then everything will be better. Maybe they are right. I feel deeply upset and alone about all of this. No one else understands. Everyone else seems to have happily assimilated into society. They all seem to do it just fine. Why can’t I? I feel so guilty about this that it causes me to think myself into destruction. I feel trapped in this. I know I have the potential to be a lot of things but my negative thinking never lets me get to this point. Makes me feel very frustrated and sad.
But you don’t really know what you want. How could you expect things to be going how you want them to be going when you don’t know what you want?
This frustrates me that things are not going the way I want, but I don’t know what I want.
So what are you going to do?
I don’t know. I feel like if I am going to find a job I really have to force myself. I have to give up all the things I like doing and just force myself to find a job. To only do that. But then I don’t really know if once I find a job if I will really be any happier. I will have to give up so much of myself and my time. People want me to find a job and feel like I am not progressing in life because I spend all my time in my pajamas. But I like doing this. But it makes me sad that everyone else looks at me like a complete fuck up. This makes me feel very guilty.
Yes. It is rough. It is not as bad as you think though. You can find a job, earn money and still stay true to yourself. It is hard to do. Really hard. I will not lie about that. But it can be done.
Do you do that?
I try. I do the best I can. I think I have managed to stay true to myself but a part of me does have to do things I do not want to do to earn a living. You do have to trade your time for a certain standard of living.
That is what I am afraid of. That must feel terrible.
It is not easy but it is the nature of society. Society is an assimilation machine. It is the way it goes and you need to accept this at some point if you want to have a decent standard of living.
I know. The way I see it, I have two choices now. I can adhere to what society wants of me and find a job or go to graduate school to find a more specialized job and then maybe I will be happier. I will not have the guilt anymore and I will have money to support myself. This feels like it would lift a huge load. OR I can just stay the same and just learn to be happy with what I am doing and how I am living now without feeling guilty all the time. Both of these options feel like they will require a massive effort.
Yes. Personally I think you should just keep buying time. Learn to enjoy what you are doing now. Don’t feel so guilty about it. Just enjoy yourself while your parents are still willing to help you out. Make good use of this time rather than wasting it feeling so despondent and depressed. Write a novel. Paint. Find some kind of job. Go easy. Don’t worry about the future because everything will turn out fine. Not ideal but things turn out well for you. For now just enjoy being young rather than filling it with so much despair!
Yeah. It is good to hear that things will turn out ok for me but it is still hard for me to believe that. I am worried that I will have to give up too much of myself to get to where you are. But soon I will be thirty and I don’t want to be thirty still spending my entire day in my pajamas.
(To Be Continued)
I’m late for everything. Dentist, therapy, dinner, lunch and business meetings. I am late on bill payments, bank deposits, email replies, car tune-ups, car-registration and work deadlines. My dogs go several days without food because I am late to buy their food. I am late to buy myself groceries. I am late to getting myself in better physical condition, eating a healthier diet and visiting doctors for general check ups. I am late to watering my plants, cutting my toe nails, doing my dishes, laundering my clothes and filing my car tire (which is almost flat) with air.
I am a late man.
I am late for everything. I am late to wash my car. I am late to floss my teeth. I am late to do all the things that I need to do to have better oral and sexual health. I am late to write a novel. I am late to write anything. I am late to having a career as an author. I am late to becoming the man I want to be. I am late to telling other people that I love them. I am late to getting the dried leaves and dead branches off the roof of my house (the leaves are currently causing the roof shingles to break apart).
I am a late man. Late, late, late, late.
I am late to organizing my life. I am late to keeping a daily journal. I am late to going for long walks every morning. I am late to finishing several projects I have started. I am late to listening to all the records I want to listen to. I am late to finish writing this. It is as if being late is a fundamental part of my biology. Being late seems to be imbedded in my neural operating system. A way of being that I was born into. I was late to being born. Doomed from day one. My mother says I took 15 hours longer than expected to show up. Is it true that the way in which we are born determines our fundamental behaviors for the rest of our lives? I think so.
With my therapist we discuss lateness. My therapist also struggles with being late. I have been working with her for almost a decade and I do not think that she has ever been on time to one of our sessions. This is ok because neither have I. Because my therapist is late, I can tell that she is hesitant to really talk about what it means to be late. She fears exposing too much about herself to me. I understand. She fears that I would see her as a flawed human and thus no longer trust and desire her psychological guidance. She doesn’t know that the more flawed she reveals herself to be, the more I trust and desire her psychological guidance. She is late to knowing this.
Most humans are late to everything. Everything important at least. Even the ones who are on time to appointments and meetings are late to almost everything else. They are late to knowing themselves. Late to achieving authentic human happiness. Late to love. Late to figuring out their life’s meaning. Late to learning how to appreciate the people in their lives. Late to knowing how they hurt others. Late to realizing that taking care of themselves is being kind to others. Late to not being so deeply self-absorbed. Late to knowing how to properly floss their teeth. Late to being sexually comfortable. Late to taking care of their bodies. Late to feeling comfortable in the nude when around other people. Late to being the directors of their own lives. Late to spiritual understandings. Late to not feeling bad after masturbating or having non-traditional sexual experiences. With medical improvements, most people these days are even late to their own deaths.
Everyone is late.
Knowing that everyone else is late makes me feel better about being a late man. The difference between myself and other on time people is that the ways in which I am late make my struggle to be on time, more transparent. Being late to meetings and appointments gives me away as being a person who struggles with showing up on time in every other aspect of my life. People assume that if I am late to appointments and meetings, I must be late to learning what it means to be a healthy and responsible human being. I think they are wrong. People who show up on time to meetings and appointments are just better able to hide how they are late for everything else in their life. Even though everyone struggles with being late for most things (especially the important things like love, health, flossing, guilt free sexual fulfillment, generosity, kindness, being naked and happiness) those who are on time to appointments and meetings get to appear like they “have their shit together.” Obviously, this appearance could not be further from the truth.
I am late to buying new underwear and socks. I am late to career development. I am late to committing to a career. I am late to being financially independent. I am late to having a hairstyle that I am comfortable with. I am late to being comfortable with my physical appearance. I am late to being able to be vulnerable with another human being. I am late to authentically being a nice person who is not sometimes faking being a nice person. I am late to being able to turn to a stranger who is sitting at the table next to mine while talking really loudly and eating with mouth open and being able to let her know that she is talking really loudly and being really obnoxious. I am late to accepting the conditions of my life as they are. I am late to not feeling guilty. I am late to giving before getting. I am late to inner peace. I am late to transparency. I am late to telling people what I really think. I am late to not caring what other people think. Obviously, I am late to all the important stuff.
My therapist tells me to be patient. That I have made massive improvements over the past ten years. My therapist tells me that gradually I will be more and more on time. That being on time is not something that happens on time. Being on time takes time and happens in stages. My therapist tells me that because I am working on my inner self so diligently, everything will gradually fall in line. These are the fruits of long-term psychotherapeutic labor, she tells me. I trust her. I am on time to more things in my life now than ever before. Especially love, inner peace, kindness and sexual fulfillment. Also economic independence and not caring what other people think. More and more I am on time for these things, no longer as late as I once was. But I am still late to appointments and meetings. I don’t know if I will ever be on time for these things. Maybe it is a fundamnetal genetic flaw which escapes all attempts at correction. What is important is that I try. That I keep trying to be on time. That I do not retire until there is nothing left in me but bones, blood and an empty space where my will once was. This is what my therapist tells me. This she says is how I will be an older man who is more on time in life.
No longer late.
“The grass always looks greener when you are really high.” -A commercial airline pilot
Like any other addict, the first thing he thought about when waking up in the morning was getting high. “Waking and baking” had become one of his favorite activities of the day. In the mornings he would have less anxiety when using marijuana. He got out of bed and made his coffee. He sat down in his chair or went outside and took his first hit of marijuana for the day. It felt good. It helped to wake him up and put him in a less grumpy mood. He drank his coffee and enjoyed feeling the combined effects of caffeine and THC. He would then read or exercise or do some domestic chores. Being high made it feel much more enjoyable for him to do these ordinarily mundane things.
Whenever he felt the effects of being high begin to wither away he would smoke again. This way he could hold back the tiredness, boredom, lack of interest and slight depression that comes along with no longer feeling high. He often made sure that he did not get too high. He just wanted to maintain a slight marijuana “buzz” to take the edge off while getting through the day-to-day. (Sometimes he would get immensely high, so high he did not want to move. But this was only on weekends or after a hard days work was done.) The marijuana just made things feel easier, more enhanced. Made the mundane much less mundane. Made the things he did not want to do much more enjoyable to get done. Being high seemed to take away the more unbearable aspects of his being.
He was able to be productive when high. It seemed like he could be even more effective at doing certain things (especially cleaning). Sometimes he felt like the marijuana gave him more focus and creativity. It opened his mind and made him want to do things. Everything he did seemed to be done with more interest and enthusiasm when high. The existential pain and banality that daily life often created, were alleviated by marijuana. Suddenly he was happy doing whatever it was that needed doing (which was often nothing). Even going to work felt fun. Marijuana sometimes made him feel like an accomplished Zen practitioner but without the Zen practice.
When high he went about his life in a happier state. He often felt like a better person than when not high. He would convince himself that marijuana was his medicine. This is why he needed to be high all the time. Things just felt better.
But sometimes this was not the case. Sometimes being high would not work as well for him. He would become paranoid that other people knew that he was high or thought that he was acting dumb. He would wonder if people thought he was a loser and this would make him distance himself from them. Sometimes he even felt bad about himself for being high all the time. He felt like he was doing something that he knew he should not be doing. But he would tell himself that this was just conservative social conditioning kicking in and then try to let these more shame-filled thoughts go. He was just a better person when high is how he really felt.
Sometimes he would begin to freak out because he feared that he could stop breathing or lose control at any second. It felt terrifying. Maybe the marijuana was poisoned? He felt his heart beat and he would become suddenly aware of the very fine line between life and death. His anxiety would spike and he would be unable to get rid of a sense of impending doom. Maybe something was seriously wrong with him? Maybe he should call an ambulance? Sometimes when this would happen he would drink beer. The combination of beer and marijuana seemed to balance out the more undesirable effects of being high. Sometimes the beer would get completely rid of the anxiety caused by the marijuana and this would allow “highness” to be so much more enjoyable. Often times he would drink beer when smoking marijuana. Often times he had to drink beer when smoking marijuana.
Sometimes marijuana would also cause him to become easily angered. More reactive towards things he would not normally get so angry about. When high he would sometimes lose control of himself without any say in the matter. It was just a sudden lose of self-control. When not high he noticed that he had more self-control over his reactivity, but when he was high if even the slightest thing made him mad he would react. The paranoia that he did not know he felt caused so many things to be blown out of proportion.
The more he used marijuana on a regular basis, he noticed that these negative effects of marijuana would often mellow out. The anxiety would still occasionally be there but the paranoia and anger seemed to dissipate over time. But he had to remain high all the time in order to have this more desirable outcome. But so what! Life was better high! Music was better. Television and film were better. Being creative felt easier. Sex was better. Sleep was better. Focus was easierLife no longer felt so dull. The pain was gone. Yeah he gained weight as a result of always needing to be munching on something delicious and drinking beer, but life was just happier when high. The belly and love handles were a small price to pay.
He had a hard time accomplishing things. Marijuana allowed him to be more content with his life in the present moment so there was not as much of a need to be ambitious about getting things done with a future purpose in mind. His future ambitions seemed to lessen and he didn’t mind that he was getting less done. Society was a trap anyways that he wanted to drop out from. Everybody was controlled by “the forces of mediocrity” and marijuana allowed him to become very aware of how narrow people’s minds had become. Timothy Leary’s saying: Turn on, Tune in and Drop out become his motto. By smoking marijuana he was liberating himself from the more socially conditioned workings of his own mind.
He always wanted to be high. When he was out of his house it was a bit more difficult. He felt some paranoia when interacting with the world. The world that he wanted to drop out of made him anxious. Being in cars or public places made him anxious when high. Being social made him feel uncomfortable. Uneasy. He much preferred the quiet and calm of his home when high. The home environment was much easier to control. So he became more isolated. Spent more and more time at home and in his head. He preferred being lost in the stoned meanderings of his own mind rather than engaged in social interactions with other people. Being social with others was just too hard when high.
He remained high for years. Years. All in all it was not a regrettable experience even though he does not really remember much. Several times he tried to give marijuana up or smoke it less frequently but his attempts almost always failed. After a week of not using marijuana he told himself that he could just use it more recreationally. But once he got high again he wanted to be high all the time. His own company and solitary activities were just so much more fun when high. The boredom was gone. The grass looked greener. Things just felt better, so he was back to being high all the time again and again. He was not as worried about what he was going to do with his life. Money was no longer as important. Everything was just fine when high. He did not need anything more than what was right here. He was all good. Everyone else was too uptight. But in the back of his mind he knew that he was going nowhere. He knew he was not living the life he really wanted to be living. He knew he was throwing his full potential under the bus. But that was ok. Such is life. He was right where he wanted to be. What a wonderful weed!
When he finally did manage to stop using marijuana it was not so easy. The first week or so he felt very anxious. Uneasy and on edge. He was tired a lot of the time. His mood had become depressed. He would become depressed when using marijuana as well (those times that he would not be high were often filled with a low-level depression). The cravings for marijuana were strong and constant. If he just used marijuana again all of this would go away. He would feel better again. But he stuck with it and just dealt with the cravings. His thoughts told him he could use marijuana recreationally. He remembered how nice it was being high and somehow managed to forget about all of the less advantageous aspects of using marijuana. It was as if his brain was continually trying to talk him into using again. Come on. You will be fine. But this time he was determined to not give in. He knew that if he went back and got high just one time, he would be high all the time.
The boredom returned. The mundane feelings returned. Cleaning or being creative was no longer nearly as enjoyable. His job became a drag again. He seemed to slow down and become less enthusiastic about basic things. It felt like he had to rebuild from the ground up. Normal life returned. Now he had to do what felt like really heavy lifting without the medicated feeling helping him out. But gradually things improved. The paranoia went away. He was much better at controlling his anger. He became reactive much less. The depression seemed to dissipate. His ambition gradually returned. The fine line between life and death began to feel much thicker. And even though things did not feel nearly as enjoyable as they did when he was high, gradually he felt like he was doing much more with his life. Now he was not stealing Zen. He was actual practicing it.
He still thinks about getting high each and every day. How nice it would be to be back in that stoney space where everything feels more enhanced and fun. With one puff to be able to eradicate the boredom, stress and mundane nature of day-to-day life. It is a continual temptation. But he also knows that boredom and the mundane are matches which light the fires of ambition. Without the matches, nothing can catch fire. He no longer wanted to drop out. He did not miss the paranoia, anxiety, angry reactivity, shame and continual need to buy more weed that seemed to accompany his perpetual dropping out. He still wanted to turn on and tune in but now he had to put in the effort that was needed to create these inner states for himself.
To my subscribers.
Please excuse the spelling error in the first sentence of Hot Soup On A Hot Day. I spelled “rarely” correctly but for whatever reason spell check changed it to “early” without my say so. I had sent out the finished piece before noticing the unintentional error. Here is the first sentence in it’s corrected and meant-to-be form:
Please learn from my mistake, even though I realize this rarely happens.
Thank you for your understanding that sometimes, in rare circumstances, spell check can work against us despite our best editing efforts.
Please learn from my mistake, even though I realize this rarely happens.
I don’t know why I did it. It’s been a long process to return to normal. I never appreciated normalcy as much as I do now. Many years ago, while seeking treatment for a certain health condition, an Ayurvedic doctor told me to never consume hot liquids on a hot day. He said that this was the worst thing a person could do to their health. I listened, up until last week. Then I forgot.
When a person is hungry and there is very little food around, eating for the sake of health no longer matters. Eating to be healthy is a luxury that most people in the world can not afford. I made my self hot soup only because there was no other food to eat in my house. I had to be at work within the hour, so I had no time to go out for food. I had to eat what was left in my pantry and since there was only one can of minestrone soup and I was starving, I ate it without thinking.
I had not been outside yet that day so I was not aware of how hot it was. I suppose I should have been since normally I check the weather on my iPhone. But that day I did not. Had I known that the day was going to be so hot I probably would have eaten the soup cold. This is a common human problem- only realizing what the correct thing to do is after doing the wrong thing. I am human.
I brought the soup to a boil in one of my pots. I then added a few tablespoons of cayenne pepper to make it spicier. I prefer all of my food spicy. Non-spicy food bores me. It lacks soul. I also added some garlic salt along with a few raw cloves of garlic. I then took out a tablespoon and began eating the soup right out of the pot. I don’t enjoy doing dishes and avoid using dishes whenever possible. My wife often gets frustrated that I eat my meals right out of the pot they were cooked in. Since I am the one who does the dishes in our house, how could she understand?
I always eat as if someone is about to take my food away. In retrospect I now realize I should not have eaten the hot soup so quickly but I needed to be at work. I burned my mouth and my gut and probably began the process of some sort of abdominal or esophageal ulceration. When a person is hungry and in a hurry all health considerations go out the door. I finished the minestrone soup quickly, put the empty pot and tablespoon in the sink, picked up my things and left the house. From the start of eating the soup to the time I left my house, no more than five minutes elapsed. It really is not a good idea to do anything in a hurry.
The moment I got into my car I noticed an unusual amount of perspiration on my forehead, chest and underarms. I thought nothing of it. It was just an effect of eating hot soup and would pass quickly enough. I turned the air conditioner on HIGH and drove to work. During my seven minute commute, the perspiration turned into a full blown sweating attack. But I still assumed it would pass.
While at work the sweating did not cease. It became relentless. I had to take off my button down shirt and use it to soak up the sweat coming out of my pores. I hated doing this since the shirt was new, expensive and I had just received it as a birthday gift. Sweat was dripping from my forehead onto my desk and crotch area. My entire black t-shirt was soaked. What the hell is going on? was all I could think. My tan pants were also absorbing a large amount of sweat from my leg and crotch pours. After an hour at work I was completely drenched in my body’s sweat. My sweat filled the room with the rancid smell of digested garlic. It looked as if I had jumped into a pool with my clothes on. This is when I began freaking out. I use the word freaking literally. I panicked.
I left work without asking or letting anyone know. I just ran out the front door and went directly to my car. As I ran I could hear the soaked cotton sound of my pants rubbing together at the thighs. When I got into my car I looked at my face in the rearview mirror. I was drenched. My hair and forehead were dripping with sweat. I considered going to the emergency room but decided to drive home and figure things out instead. Other than feelings of panic I felt fine. I was just sweating profusely and it would not stop. I had my car’s air conditioner on HIGH as I drove home, all the vents pointed directly at my chest and face. It is strange that I was thinking this because I have often heard people say things like this but suddenly I was the one thinking, Why me? Why do things like this always happen to me? I wanted to cry.
Once I made it home I took off all of my clothes and turned my home’s air conditioner on HIGH. I considered texting my wife and letting her know what was happening but I did not want to worry her. In the nude I walked all around my house waiting for the cold to kick in and trying to calm myself down. I got bath towels out and carried them around with me in order to absorb the massive amounts of sweat. I opened up the freezer and stood in front of it. I even stuck my head in the freezer with the freezer door closed against my back. None of this seemed to help. I continued to sweat.
I took a cold bath, rubbed ice cubes all over my body, ate a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I laid down on the kitchen floor and covered as much of my naked body as possible with packages of frozen vegetables that we had kept stacked for years in the freezer in case the apocalypse struck. As the packages of frozen vegetables thawed and the air conditioner roared away- I continued to sweat all over the linoleum. I had no idea what was going on.
Should I go to the hospital? Should I let my wife know? What if I sweat so much I just melt away? All kinds of thoughts ran through my mind. I thought up various ways that I could try to stop the sweating. Climb into the freezer and shut myself in. Build a tent over the air conditioner vent and stay in there with packages of frozen vegetables duct taped to my body. Fill the bathtub with ice and soak in it (we did not have enough ice for this, I would have had to go to the liquor store down the street and was in no condition to be seen in public). As I was searching my mind for solutions to stop the profuse sweating it was then that I remembered the Ayurvedic physician telling me to never consume hot liquids on a hot day. I then remembered the hot minestrone soup. “Shit,” I said out loud.
When my wife returned home later that day and saw packages of frozen vegetables duct taped all over my naked body, she began laughing hysterically. I often did these kind of pranks to lessen the stress and banality of normal life. When I was finally able to calm her down, convince her this was for real and tell her about the severity of my situation, her laughter turned into deep concern. The sweating lasted for several days and my wife helped me out in whatever ways she could. I do not know what I would have done without a loving wife to help me. She kept me hydrated, she made me delicious cold gazpacho soups, she bought me powdered electrolytes which she rubbed into my body and kept fresh bags of ice piled on top of me as I rested in bed. Most importantly she continually calmed me down by telling me that everything was going to be alright. This helped my mental state so much because when the sweating would not stop for days, I really believed I was going to melt away.
The sweating ran its course and I have thankfully lived to tell this tale. It was a terrible experience that I am sure will traumatize me for the rest of my time on earth. Sweating that profusely for so many days was something that I would not even wish upon the most terrible human being. It was the single most awful experience of my entire life, even though I did enjoy the attention and care that I received from my wife. For months to come I will have to take mega doses of supplements and drink a lot of coconut water to return my bodies potassium and magnesium levels to a normal state, but this is fine. I am just happy that I did not melt away.
Most lessons are learned after the mistakes have been made. I realize that very rarely do us humans learn anything without experiencing the consequences first, not matter how much someone tries to teach or warn us. This is a fundamental human flaw and we just have to accept that some things don’t change. As far as consuming hot soup on a hot day is concerned, I will never do that again. I realize I can’t stop you from consuming hot soup on a hot day, but for what it is worth, I wanted to try.
The writer Marty Fletcher interviews the writer, blogger, artist and psychotherapist Randall Sokoloff. This interview will be published in our upcoming summer issue of WEDONTEXIST Magazine, which will be about the art of blogging.
Interviewer: Hi Randall. Should we continue the interview now for thirty more minutes or so?
Randall: Sure. What was it you were saying last time we talked?
Interviewer: I’ve been reading your blog and other published writings for a long time now. I can’t seem to figure out what exactly you are doing but this interview is an attempt to make some sense of your writing. Is it one big lie you are constructing or are you actually telling this continuous, never-ending story with each piece that you write, like an open ended novel? I think of your writing as merging somewhere in between these two points, but I wanted to ask you, what are you doing?
Randall: With my writing?
Randall: I like a quote from Stevenson about fiction: “The novel, which is a work of art, exists, not by its resemblances to life, which are forced and material, as a shoe must consist of leather, but by its immeasurable difference from life, which is both designed and significant, and is both the method and the meaning of the work.” So for me the meaning has nothing to do with what I write, the meaning of what I write is entirely in the distance from what is being written about.
Interviewer: So you are merging both method and meaning?
Randall: I suppose. Each story that I write is really just setting up the need for another story, so yes your statement about my writing as a kind of continuous and unfinished novel or literary project is correct.
Interviewer: The meaning of what you write is to be found in its distance from reality?
Randall: I think that fiction is realistic when it reminds readers that what they are reading is a complete lie. Getting readers to a point where they can accept the pleasure and excitement of the text they are reading as being just that and not a reflection of something else. In fiction meaning only exists in the experience of reading. Outside of the book or blog entry the story does not exist. The meaning is temporary, transitory, like all forms of meaning. It is the same when watching a film or listening to music. The meaning is transitory. The problem is when people try to extend the meaning of art into reality (the world).
Interviewer: What I like about certain stories or pieces of music is that they are not trying to offer up some kind of conclusion that you can take home with you. There is an infinite bundle of possibilities within the piece but ultimately it does not mean anything beyond the experience of reading or listening. Even though I feel like sometimes you are offering solutions in your work, I don’t feel like there are any conclusions. Just infinite possibilities.
Randall: I like that reading of my work. Thank you. For me, fiction is the only authentic terrain where anarchy is still possibility within a society that has become completely militarized and regulated. Within the context of fiction the writer has limitless possibilities. They can shape realities in whatever way they want. This is the exciting thing about blogging. There are no rules online. Do whatever you want! There is the freedom to create whatever meaning you want to create. Where else in life can a person do this?
Interviewer: This is why it so important to not accept any conclusion, even though it may look good.
Randall: Absolutely. In our current society, if you accept a conclusion, chances are you have accepted propaganda- not straight talk.
Interviewer: I feel like your work has something to do with a kind of resistance. Resistance to the status quo, to the society you find yourself living in. It seems like there is a kind of heroic struggle in your writing.
Randall: I don’t know about that. Sure there is a lot of resistance in my writing. Writing for me is an act of resistance against status quo. Ultimately, I’m trying to work through the problem of sincerity. I am attempting a kind of sincerity between what the story is about and what is being said. This is the interesting problem for me to try and work out in my writing.
Interviewer: Yes. The pleasure of reading your work, for me at least, is going on this journey as you try and work through the interesting problem you just spoke of. You are a terrific narrator and you make things happen on the page that I identify deeply with. Even if you are not understanding what may be going on there is still the pleasure of discovery when reading what you write. I feel like I get to join you on the path of discovery, that reaching into what you do not know yet.
Randall: Thank you. I like that and would like to say more about it. Do you mind if I go get a cup of coffee quickly and then you could call me back in say twenty minutes?
Interviewer: Sure. No problem. I could use some coffee myself.
Read more of this interview with Randall Sokoloff in the upcoming summer issue of WEDONTEXIST Magazine!
My writing is a mixture of quasi-autobiography and fiction. I pull from my life but then run it through my imagination. Some people go to sports events, bars, sex shows or movies to have fun. I have fun by combining my real life with my imagination and then blending it all together through writing.
Several years ago I wrote a mini-story called Confessions Of A Facebook Addict. It was ten percent autobiography, the rest was fiction. This is why I distinctively remember having a lot of fun writing the story in my small writing studio in Davis, California. I sent the story out to several publications but no one was interested. I posted the story on my blog and no one read it. Confessions Of A Facebook Addict, like most online stories, hung there suspended and unread in digital space. After a few weeks I forgot all about it.
But then I began receiving emails. The New York Times, The Huntington Post, Money Magazine and many other on and offline publications I had never heard of wanted to interview me about my Facebook addiction. I thought about whether or not I should tell the truth and let them know I am not really addicted to Facebook and it was just a story I made up. But I have always been interested in the intersection between life and art. I love it when art gets away with imitating life. Doesn’t happen often that art can be victorious over the forces of banality and conformity that are continually trying to destroy it. But sometimes art sneaks in and no one knows it’s happening. Blending art with the banality of real life is something I never had the opportunity to do outside of my blog and other writings. This was my moment, my one shot to make my small contribution. So I played the part and pretended to be the character that I wrote about in Confessions Of A Facebook Addict. I was interviewed and confessed to being a Facebook addict and before I knew it the fictional character was being made real in many on and offline publications such as The Huntington Post. This just goes to show that A LOT of what you read online is not true.
I did leave Facebook not long after. I broke up with Facebook because I already had enough anxiety in my own life and felt like Facebook was adding an extra level of anxiety that I really did not need. Like most people, my relationship with social media is complicated and not having this added complication present in a life that already felt complicated, was really nice. Facebook keeps a person in touch with people who in a world without Facebook would remain in the past. I think it is healthy for most people you have known to remain apart of your past. The past heals. We know each other for a period of time and then we don’t. This is natural. But holding on to a past that should be long gone creates all kinds of unnecessary difficulties. It is something that is not supposed to be happening and we suffer the consequences for holding on to something that really should no longer be there.
As it is with a lot of complicated relationships that have a blend of love/hate feelings, after a three year absence I returned to Facebook not really knowing why. It was good to be back because Facebook is a realm in which time stands still. In a world where time ravages everyone I know and knew, it was nice to find a warm place seemingly immune from the ravages of time. Sure the interface and various Facebook accessories changed, but more or less everyone was still doing the same thing; posting about fun times, feelings, people they love, opinions, songs and bands they love, things they have accomplished, political and spiritual perspectives and on and on. As a man who is not entirely comfortable with the rapid passing of time, Facebook provided me with a kind of SAFE SPACE in which to hide from storm. A space where whether people are aware of it or not, everyone is taking collective shelter from the ravages of time. This is what creates that underlying sense of community on Facebook. It is a community of people all connecting up together and pushing back against the forces of entropy.
Like most communities that provide people with a safe space, it is easy to get too involved, too quick. Of course I involved myself too much, too quick. I got in over my head as I often tend to do with most things. I shared and said too much. Without Facebook, a person is much more alone in the outside world. Fewer people listen to things you have to say. You get to be less yourself. At times being alone in the outside world can feel isolating. You might even question if you really matter anymore especially when you know that to be relevant in this tech driven world, you must join the gathering going on inside. I already have a tendency to share too much in my day to day life. Give me a microphone and I become that quiet guy who has so much more to say than you ever thought possible. Like most people, I keep a lot in, but when given any opportunity to express myself, it will be a gushing forth.
This time around on Facebook, I deleted more status updates than I shared. The status updates I did share, I felt apprehensive about. Did I say too much? Maybe I should not have said that? This was my common thought process every time I posted something. I did not want to post banal status updates about say my new puppy or the plate of food I was eating but I was also aware that Facebook is a pretty conservative place where people are overly concerned about what others might think of them. Most people on Facebook just elect to play it safe. Personally, I find this boring but maybe that is my downfall. Like Icarus, despite your warnings, if you give me wings to fly I will definitely get too close to the sun. And besides, do most of my “friends” on Facebook really need to know this stuff about me? Maybe they need for me to be just as a part of their past as I need them to be apart of mine. This is not a bad thing.
So in a sense, maybe Karma has bit me in the ass. The character in Confessions Of A Facebook Addict is a neurotic man overly concerned with all the different nuances involved in the Facebook world. He is continually wondering about what others think of him, angry about the vast degree of passive aggressive behaviors and judgement of others that is an epidemic on Facebook. He is annoyed with his own narcissism, human folly and frustrated that he allows Facebook to turn him into what he feels like he has become. In a lesser way, maybe this is what is starting to happen to me now.
Some people, like my wife, can be very responsible with their Facebook usage. They check in every few weeks or so and that is it. Some people have no need to share at all. They play the role of the voyeuristic troll going on Facebook to see what certain people are up to. But then there are those of us who go on Facebook several times a day. When given an opportunity for self-expression, we indulge. As an artist, writer or any creative person this is a great asset. The artist or writer who has a lot of self-restraint when it comes to self-expression makes mostly boring art. All surface no depth. But Facebook is not the place for most kinds of self-indulgent, self-expression and if someone does not take the mike away from me I will keep expressing myself when maybe what I really need to do is shut up and sit down. This is why I am breaking up with Facebook (again). It feels like the right thing to do before karma really sneaks up on me and turns me into that character in Confessions Of A Facebook Addict.
It is always a beneficial human ability to know when it is the right time to jump ship and then to be brave enough to actually jump. Without this ability, we just live our lives stuck on the edge.
I’m jumping (again).
*This will be my final post for a week or so. I will be finishing a short novel, which I hope to self-publish in full on this site. Thank you.
I am not a conversationalist. At least this is what I tell myself. When I do engage in interesting conversations with certain people, I often find it a relief to get out of my own head for a bit. I then wonder to myself, what would I be like if I was more of a conversationalist? What would I be like if I actually struck up conversations with random strangers? But I don’t. Normally I keep to myself and pretend not to see other people.
Maybe if I took a small dosage of a certain psychiatric drug I would be more of a conversationalist? Or, maybe if I drank beer or consumed marijuana on a regular basis I would be more interested in talking with other people? What would it take? In my normal state of sobriety I don’t really want to talk to anyone. This is why I was so surprised when I walked into the record store yesterday and started up a conversation with the record store clerk.
I startled even myself when I said, “Hey, how are you doing?” Startled, because when I said this I was actually interested in hearing his response. Normally I am not. I use this question in the same way I use soap, it’s a habit. Do I really care about the response? I’m not certain. I am often asking the question before I know I am asking the question. Hey, How Are You Doing? It’s a question in a can that I have been trained to pull from without thinking about it.
Hey, How Are You Doing?
Hey, How Are You Doing?
I feel bad about how often I have disingenuously utilized this question. I try not to do that anymore but like all bad habits, it sneaks in. For whatever reason, I meant it this time. Maybe it was because I have a deep respect for anyone who works in a record store.
Walking into a record store (for me) is always a feeling of walking into a happier place. A record store is a place filled with endless possibilities, endless new discoveries. Very rarely am I more excited about life than when I walk into a record store. What new discovery will I make today? I am no different from a child walking into a toy store or a religious person walking into their holy space. My mood is instantly lifted every time I walk into a record store.
“Oh, I don’t know. I am existing I guess,” the record store clerk replied in a defeated kind of way. Shoulders hunched, back bent from carrying too much psychic weight as Sade played on the sound system. I don’t know why or what this says about me but immediately I could relate. I stopped at the counter and he moved towards the counter. I wanted to hear more of what he had to say.
“Other people just really suck, you know? The mass human beings just fill me with such disdain and disgust. I really don’t like other people at all. Such a selfish and ugly species, destroying everything we touch. Like cattle or something. Just a really stupid people. You should see the crap I have to sell everyday. I don’t know man, I just don’t like other people one bit,” he said while looking me straight in the eyes.
He looked like a nice guy. A guy that was once a cute kid deeply loved by his parents. He had wide brown eyes and a boyish smile. His hair was short, black and parted to the side but his style (Guided By Voices t-shirt and black jeans) indicated that maybe he stopped caring about fashion after the nineties ended.
“I understand man, I really do.” I meant what I said rather than saying something I did not mean just to be nice. I have found myself thinking similar things about other people from time to time.
“Other people can be really troubling, I know. I get it. We are in a really difficult period in human history. I get it man,” I said.
“You do?” he said with a smile breaking through what I assumed was a permanent grin on his face.
“I do, I really do.”
“You know, I think my day just got a lot better. I am so happy to know that I am not insane for feeling the way I do,” he said.
“No, you are not insane at all. I get it and don’t disagree with you but the question is what are you going to do with the set of circumstances you have found yourself in? You live in this society surrounded by people you have immense disdain for. What do you do?” I asked. I was hopeful that maybe he would provide me with an answer.
“Didn’t Albert Camus write that the only real question is whether or not we should kill ourselves?” I asked not thinking that he would know.
“Yeah, but Camus advocated against suicide in favor of making life as meaningful as possible within the meaninglessness of life. In his book The Myth Of Sisyphus, Camus wrote about how we, like Sisyphus, are doomed to have to roll the boulder up and down the hill every fucking day for a lifetime and that we should learn to make the best of it even though none of it means anything and it all sucks,” he replied. I was impressed.
“I thought Camus thought that suicide was the only reasonable answer given the situation human beings have found themselves in?” I asked.
“No, he argued for making the best out of a life that would always be filled with suffering and ultimately has no meaning. That is existentialism,” the record store clerk replied.
“I see, I guess I had that one backwards.” I was slightly embarrassed by my ignorance but glad to finally get it straight.
“So then what do we do?” I asked him again.
“Roll the boulder with a smile? I don’t know man, I just spend most of my time reading and listening to records. Outside of work that is all I do. I am a consumer of culture. A culture whore. I consume but do not produce. I don’t produce anything. All consumption with no production. I just read and listen to records. It’s pathetic, I know.”
“I dont think its pathetic at all. How old are you?” I thought he might say 32 or 33.
“I am 40 man,” he said as if it was something to be ashamed of. As if he should have all of this figured out by now.
“40, that is tough. It definitely gets harder at 40, I know,” I replied sympathetically.
Again his eyes opened wide and his back straightened. “Really. Thank you for saying that. I really appreciate that. Everyone is always telling me that No Everything Will Be Fine, Everything Is Ok, Don’t Get So Down but no one seems to acknowledge how much harder it actually gets. I am glad you do.”
“Yeah, it does get harder,” I said. I wanted to say: Yeah it does get harder especially if you have a lot of self-judgement, are working retail and have a strong dislike of other people.
He kept looking around the store trying to see if his manager was looking at him and getting frustrated that he was taking up so much time having a conversation with a customer. I didn’t want to get him in trouble, so I started moving the conversation towards an ending point.
“Reading and listening to records all the time is not a bad thing. Someone has to do it in order for there to be writers and musicians,” I said. “Some of the greatest artists, musicians and writers were obsessive consumers of culture.”
“Yeah I know but I am not producing anything, just consuming.”
“So what? That is great that you have something you love to do!”
“Yeah but I am not consuming stuff that the mass of people consume. I can’t stand all that crap. I consume obscure books and records that no one reads or listens to so it can feel really alienating and isolating,” he said while looking around the store.
“I know man. I like all of that stuff as well. It does make you an outsider,” I replied.
“Thank you, an outsider. That is exactly what I am. A doomed outsider.”
“Oh common, you are fortunate to have discovered and cultivated an interest for music and books that the mass of people have no idea exists. Don’t look at it as a bad thing. By working at a record store you are just buying time. Buying time so that you can spend the rest of your time reading and listening to records. It’s a very noble pursuit in a time where most people’s interests are shaped by massive advertising and entertainment companies making a fortune from figuring out how to feed the mass of people a steady diet of mind numbing crap filled with propaganda,” I said.
I really wanted him to know that he was not alone. That we were floating along in the same boat.
“Maybe so, but I’m not producing anything. A person should produce something.”
“You just need to stop judging yourself for that one. That is your real problem. You got to just let yourself enjoy what you love doing. Stop beating yourself up about it. Listening to obscure records and being a reader is a perfectly productive way to spend a life.”
It seemed like he was becoming a bit lighter. Like his mind was backing off from the beating it was always giving him. He told me about his two divorces and his recent break up with his girlfriend. I asked if the decline of these relationships had anything to do with his misery. He said no, then yes, then definitely his first two marriages but not the recent break up with the girlfriend. I asked him his name.
“Anthony,” he said.
“I’m Randall,” I said reaching out my hand to shake his. I felt like I was meeting someone who I could be good friends with but probably never will be. We seemed to be similar in many different ways except that he was still spending much of his time beating himself up. I like to think that I finished with that long ago.
He looked around the store again, this time he looked worried about being reprimanded by his manager who was walking around the store pushing a cart filled with records and then filing them away into their correct resting place.
“Well, I am going to go buy a record. It was really nice talking with you,” I said.
“Really nice talking with you as well,” he replied.
I walked further into the record store, ready to make a new discovery.