A Conversation With My Twenty Seven Year Old Self.

Haven’t seen you in a while.

Yeah. You look a lot older.

I do?

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 see.

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.

What does?

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 what?

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)

My Mid-Life Crisis?

I woke up this morning thinking about the band The National. In particular I was thinking about the lead singer Matt Berninger and I was imagining the various events in his life. I saw him checking into his nice hotel room after a large concert in Hollywood, California. I saw him greeting various fans that had been waiting for him. I saw him hanging out in his room with a large smile on his face. I saw him thinking to himself “so this is what it feels like to reach this place.”

“This place” is what most people would call success. I do not think of this form of success so much in the financial sense all though financial reward often goes along with it. Instead I think of “this place” as the kind of success that most people long for in their lives. It is the success of being able to be seen by the world in a very similar way that you see your self. This may be a confusing explanation for some so let me try and simplify things a bit.

You see, I feel the reason why we idealize and idolize rock stars, actors, actresses and other artists and writers is because they get to do something that most of regular people do not get to do. They get to be exactly who they are and get paid for it. Matt Berninger, for example, does not have to go off to a job where he must play the role of a graphic designer or psychotherapist to the best of his ability so that he can make a living. He does not have to be something that he is not inorder to get paid. He does not have to be seen by other people as being a graphic designer or a psychotherapist even though who he feels like he really is on the inside is a musician and a poet. His success is that he gets to be seen by the world exactly as he sees himself. Maybe its not so perfectly black and white but you get my point. I am sure that there are few things that Matt Berninger would rather do for a job than make music and write poetry and have thousands of people acknowledge him and his work.

I got out of bed this morning and went to make some tea. I thought about what I need to do today and a slight depression came over me. I tried to remind myself to remain present and stay focused on the breath. To be with “what is” without judging it. The idea that I had to work for a few hours, take the dogs for a walk, read, eat, find something to do and spend time cleaning the house just did not seem as engaging or satisfying as I imagine Matt Berningers plans for the day would be.

Now I realize envy is a trap and I am not envying the lifestyle of Matt Berninger over mine (who knows what it really feels like to be him). Well maybe there is a tinge of envy but what I am acknowledging is that life must feel very different on the inside when you get to be exactly who you are on the outside. When the world acknowledges (and pays) you for being exactly who you want to be. And is this not what a mid-life crisis really is? Reaching a certain point in your life and realizing that things have not turned out exactly how you imagined they would? Realizing that how everyone else sees you is not how you see yourself? I think it is. I think a mid-life crisis is born out of the cracks that occur when a person becomes fractured in their life. When they have to try as hard as they can to be something that they are not (in order to make a living).

Granted, such is life in the modern world. This is the fate of most men and women. We don’t have to contend with the massive poverty that exists in India or the political nightmares that exist in Palestine, Syria and Eypt but we do have to live with this feeling of a fracture inside of our souls. The nature of contemporary capitalist society is that the individual must be able to generate a moderate profit if they are going to have a decent quality of life. If they do not have the ability to generate profit than they are either homeless, a vagabond, a loser or even worse- a total failure who is dependent on others ability to generate profit. Most people are terrified of suffering these potential consequences of staying true to who you really are so somewhere along their lives journey they make compromises. They settle for second or third best. The degree to which a person settles determines the degree to which a person experiences a mid-life crisis. I suppose it even determines the degree to which you will envy the kind of life someone like Matt Berninger gets to live.

Am I experiencing a mid-life crisis? Probably not. Would I like it if my life was filled with more acknowledgment from others for being the person I imagined myself becoming in my twenties? Probably so. Would I be happier if my work life felt like it reflected my inner life more? Maybe so. What I do know for certain is that change is the fundamental nature of reality. All things are always in a process of continual change. Nothing stays the same- not even my ideas about who I am. So do I continue to hang on to a past that may not have worked out as I would have liked it to or can I move into the present moment of my life embracing the change that shapes everything? I suppose this is what Shakespeare may have meant when he wrote:

“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to?”

The Mooch

One of the happiest men I know is a mooch. He lives in a beautiful home in the woods of Northern California. His wife is the one that keeps their proverbial economic boat afloat by working a high income grossing medical insurance job. She works from home and so does he. But his job is different from hers. Rather than sitting on a computer and making phone calls for ten hours a day his job is to keep the house clean, chop firewood, cook, make love to her regularly and as she says it “just be happy and healthy.” She loves him and does not mind that he is 43 and earning zero income. She makes enough for him to live like a mooch.

A mooch is defined as to ask for something or obtain something without paying for it. The noun form of mooch means beggar or scrounger. I can’t help but think that the Webster Dictionary holds a rather negative view of those who have found a way to live happily without paying for it. Maybe the authors of Websters Dictionary have to work hard at a job they don’t really love, day after day and they resent those who do no not have to do this? Maybe some of the definitions in Websters Dictionary are nothing but a form of passive aggressive revenge for a life they do not feel others deserve to live? A way for the authors to use language to strike back at aspects of the world they find contentious? I am sure that if my happy friend was to become aware of the definition for mooch he might become afflicted by some guilt or feelings of low self esteem but then he would probably get over it and go for a hike.

Last night I was watching a film in which the word mooch seemed to show up a few times. I felt my chest tighten and a negative feeling begin to brew inside of me. I went to sleep without giving it much thought. When I awoke this morning the word was still hovering around in my head in the same way that sheep do when you count them before falling asleep. So far today I have cleaned up dog poop, fed the dogs, ate breakfast and took care of some work related issues. I tried to sink my mind into a book about the indie band Yo La Tengo but was not able to concentrate. It is as if some incorporeal force has been trying to bring my attention towards something that I have been trying to ignore. Am I a mooch?

By the age of 40 should a man already be 100% self sustaining? Should he be paying for his own house, car, food, vacations, dogs and living rather comfortably off of the income that he earns through his well to do business ventures? Is this not what our society refers to as successful? And to not have attained this, to be living off of the assistance of others- what does this mean for a man over the age of 40 in our capitalistic, work obsessed culture? Well the authors at Websters Dictionary sure have an answer for me. It means that you are a mooch. Or even worse- a beggar and a scrounger.

So maybe it is this negative lexicon that has been pervading my consciousness today. Maybe hearing the word “mooch” repeated several times in the film I was watching last night triggered something deep within me. I mean after all by the time my father was my age he was a roaring economic success (but he was also a roaring emotional ball of anger and unhappiness). But maybe I have had his capitalistic flag waved over my head for so much of my life that a deeper part of me feels bad about myself for not having lived up to the responsibilities the flag implies. Who knows. I didn’t even know I felt this way before I watched that ridiculous film.

I will say this to those people who decided to define the word mooch with negative undertones. My friend who is the happiest man I know is without a doubt a mooch as those at Websters Dictionary define it. He mooches every time he enjoys a nice bottle of red wine and travels to the Hawaiian islands for a yearly month long vacation. And I myself probably fall into this category (I have always said that if I could just find a way to sit on my couch, read books and have checks show up in the mail I would be a happy man). If being a mooch is so bad then why are we often so happy? If I look back upon the history of famous moochers (scroungers) I only come up with those that I consider to have been generally happy people (Henry Miller, Bernard Glassman, William Saroyan and that black guy who walked around the world and did not talk for years to name a few). Yet the great majority of people that I know who work a lot, are not scroungers and make a good amount of money are some of the more unhappy people I have come across. Even though they work hard and have lived up to various societal expectations when I am around them they often feel very unpleasant. So if mooching is a negative thing then the opposite should be a positive, right? Then why are all those who don’t mooch so darned unhappy?

I realize I am going a bit off track here. All I am trying to imply is that mooching really is not so bad. In fact those who have found a way to make mooching work in their advantage are actually some of the more fortunate people on this planet. If they can just get over their cultural conditioning that wants to make them feel like a low life or failure for mooching they can then have lots of time to pursue various interests or happily sit on their couch and “just let the checks show up in the mail” so to speak. In fact my friend, who is the happiest man I know- loves to spend a few hours every afternoon sitting on his couch (while his wife works in the office downstairs) looking out a huge window which is filled in with nothing but mountain ridges and red wood trees. Maybe being a mooch is not as bad as those at Websters Dictionaries want you to believe? It is 10:43 am on a Friday morning and I should probably go get out of my pajamas now.

Coming In Through The Back Door Of The Castle.

Four_Seasons_Hotel_Los_Angeles_at_Beverly_Hills_usn_1 I am innately predispositioned towards luxury. I was raised in the lap of luxuries warm potpourri smelling embrace. My bed was always perfectly made when I returned home from school and three meals a day where prepared by a live in chef. Maids, cooks, pool cleaners, gardeners, tennis teachers, golf instructors, tutors, and concierges all made up my inner and outer life while growing up in an exclusive country club. Five or six times a year my parents would take my sister and I on deluxe vacations where we would stay in hotels that were clean enough to eat off of their floors. I remember lemon tart cookies and slippers were often left by the sides of the comfortable resort hotel beds that I joyfully slept in. I was living a five star lifestyle and I did not have to spend a penny of my own money. Of course I had no money of my own. I was just a kid who had the good fortune of popping out of my mothers womb and landing in the lap of luxury.

Fast forward thirty years. Fast forward over my rebellious and angry teenage years and my eventual decision to reject the world of capital and embrace the lifestyle of the suffering poet, writer and artist. Fast forward over my years spent living in the ghetto and not wanting to have anything to do with money. Fast forward over my rage towards my mother and father. Fast forward over all the miserable blue collar jobs I worked. Fast forward over my addiction to alcohol and marijuana. Fast forward over my years spent suffering from deep depression, anxiety and panic. Fast forward over my years spent working as an underpaid inner city high school teacher. Then you will arrive at a place where I am 40 years of age sitting by the side of a beautiful pool in Palm Springs, dressed in only swim trunks and sun glasses, sun tan oil all over my aging body, an expensive glass of sauvignon blanc in my hand and a book on the table besides me.

You may wonder how I got to where I am. How did I go from riches to rags and then back to riches again? Well one has to be clever in this world if they want to keep up with the Joneses without working full time. I am not sitting by the side of this beautiful resort pool sipping a glass of white wine, surrounded by people who make more money than 99% of the earths population because I too have a lot of money. No this is not the case. I am still just as broke as I was ten years ago. Instead as I have grown older I have become more ambitious in pursuing the luxurious that are still innate in my predisposition. Even though I no longer live a lifestyle that could be considered glamorous by any stretch of the imagination- I often long for the luxuries of my youth. So what I do is I pack a bag filled with a change of clothes and swim trunks and I head off towards a luxury resort or hotel of my choice. I then sneak in through the back door.

I am lucky to live in California where there is not only a good amount of warm weather but there are also an abundance of five star resorts and hotels all around. These resorts and hotels have rooms that usually start at around $800.00 a night and spas and pools that look like they were ripped right out of the pages of a designer magazine. There are enough luxury hotels and resorts around where I live that on warm days I have gotten into the habit of going to a different one each week. I have the good fortune of being a rather handsome and well adjusted man, which often allows me to avoid any kind of suspicion from others that I am indeed a freeloader. As a result of being raised in a country club and surrounded by the aroma of people who possessed a lot of money, I can blend in rather well with this crowd. I can walk the talk and talk the walk so to speak.

You might be wondering if I pay for the several glasses of wine that I drink and the gourmet food that I order. The answer no. What I do is before going to the pool I will find a particular room number. I will then tell the poolside server that I am staying in say room 54. I will then give my last name without any hint of hesitation. Often times the server will come back over to me and say something like: “excuse me sir but we have listed a different last name staying in that room.” I will then tell them that yes indeed that is my wife or father-in-laws last name. From then on I am able to drink and eat what I want for free because I was clever and confident enough to believe my own lie. I am grateful to whomever is staying in room 54 because I imagine that they are picking up the tab.

There have been a few times when my fraudulence has been discovered. Upon ordering food and drink and signing it to “my room” the staff will discover that I am giving them the wrong name and demand proof that I am the one whose last name is assigned to the room. When I can not produce proof I tell them that I will go get my wife or father-in-law and then come back. I gather my things and never return to that particular hotel or resort. But this does not happen often. I am rather good at what I do.

I will spend an entire day sitting by the side of the luxury pool. I will read my book, drink wine, watch women in bikinis, sun tan, swim and sleep. But none of this is what I enjoy most about sneaking in through the back door of these luxury hotel and resorts. What I love most is that when the day is done I get my bag of clean clothes from my car and go into the spa area of the hotel. In these areas there is always a mens and womens area. I sign a fraudulent last name on the sign in sheet at the front desk of the spa and then I head into the mens area. Inside the mens area there is a sauna and a steam room. There are very clean shower stalls, which have containers mounted to the walls filled with shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Besides the clean sinks there are razors, deodorant, hair spray, body lotion, hair brushes, hair dryers and fresh folded white towels. It is in this area that I feel like I am back again in the luxury of my youth. It is in these mens areas where I can feel pampered again.

I will find a locker that is open and put my bag of clothes inside. I will then undress until I am nude. I will then wrap a freshly laundered white towel around my waist and head into the steam room. I will stay there for twenty minutes or so until I am drenched in my own sweat. I will then take a sauna where I will allow the dry heat to rip the toxins right out from my skin. I will then shower away the stink and sweat and shampoo and condition my hair. I will then come out of the shower and walk up to the sink with a large beautifully lit mirror behind it. With a clean towel wrapped around my waste I will then shave, put deodorant on, comb and blow dry my hair and cover my body in lotion. I will look around at the other men who are doing the same. I try and talk to no one but often I can not help but wonder what these men do for a living. It is obvious to me that they are most likely not sneaking in to these mens spa areas like I am. The one thing that is fundamentally different between these men and myself is that they are actually paying a lot of money to be there.

Once I am showered, shaved and fully dressed I will put my wet swim trunks into a plastic bag, pack up all of my stuff and leave whatever luxury resort or hotel I have spent the day at. I will then drive back to my studio apartment in the barrio where I will make myself dinner and spend the rest of the night reading a book in bed. Such is the lifestyle of a man who sneaks in the back door of places that were created for the rich and famous. Tomorrow I am looking forward to going to the Ritz Carleton in Beverly Hills. I read on-line about their pool and spa facilities. Sounds luxurious enough for me.

Profile of a Young Rampage Shooter

i’m so angry. this world is a prison from which I long to escape. all around me I see people being turned into zombie’s by the world of bills, money and jobs. i don’t want to become a zombie like what the world turns all adults into. it disgusts me. how could adults give up their freedom like that? how could they allow themselves to become so mediocre? this society is sick and people just go along with it. they follow the law, they do what the police say, they listen to their corrupt government, they allow corporations to make tons of money off them, they show up for work on time- they do exactly what they are told. i can’t stand it.

my parents are always so stressed out. they are always so angry. how the fuck do they expect me to be happier in my life, to do better in school if they are always so unhappy? every day my mother worries about stupid shit. every day she asks me questions about my day, “how are you doing?” “did you do your school work?” “you cant do this or that before all of your homework is done, you know this right?” “did you clean your room?” “why do you not put more effort into things?” “who do you think you are just sitting around while everyone else works?” “how do you expect to do anything with your life if all you do is day dream, play video games and surf the net?” it is constant questions like this all day long that make me hate her. i wish she would just shut the fuck up, leave me alone and get her own life in order rather than focusing on me so she does not have to focus on the fact that her husband is an abusive dick and she is stuck in an unhappy life.

my father is so obsessed with work and money that if he is not working he is stressed out from how much he has worked. america turns adults into pigeons scurrying around for any available crumbs. work, work, work and work more- it disgusts me. why are adults so afraid of being different, of not trying to appear like they have money and influence? my father is obsessed with his reputation. everyone thinks he is a nice and successful guy. people look up to him because he has a job where he makes a lot of money. he knows how to paint the picture of success and people love him for it. but at home he is a miserable dick. sometimes he hits his kids, he yells a lot, he is mean to my mother and he always expects us to do what he wants. it is like he takes of his mask and becomes the unhappy man he truly is deep down once he comes home. he is like one of those villains in the video games I play- on the outside he looks good but once you do not do what he wants you to do, or act like he wants you to act- he becomes filled with rage.

and they tell me I have a MENTAL ILLNESS. what the fuck!!?? i have a mental illness? you bastards should try growing up in a house like mine. try living under the same roof with my parents all the time and then going to a school where I am always told what to do, am on lock down and forced to do work I hate. try it mother fucker. you think you would not start to not give a fuck? you think you would not lose focus and concentration? you think you would not have little interest in following rules and doing your work? you think you would not become quiet and resigned? you think you would not do stupid things? you think you would not want to blow up the world? come on- you jerks can not tell me that I have a mental illness until you have lived in my shoes for a few days. i don’t have a fucking mental illness- I have fucked up parents and live in a society that stresses them out beyond belief. the problem is not in my head- it is in your head and in the institutions that all these ignorant adults have bought into. i am not the cause- I am just one of the many symptoms of the world adults have created.

and they want me to take medication? are you kidding? they need the medication. it is like taking an anti acid pill when you have just eaten a bunch of acidic food. STOP EATING THE ACIDIC FOOD AND THEN YOU WILL NOT NEED THE ANTI ACID PILL! these people are so fucked up. my school counselor and parents want me to take medication so that I can focus more, so that I can follow the rules more, so that I can be less depressed, so that I can be easier to control. yeah that is the quick fix- give me the drug, make the drug companies even richer and don’t bother looking at the root cause of what is wrong with me because what is wrong with me is YOU.

so you wonder why I hate this world. you wonder why I am so angry at everyone, especially all of the kids in my school who seem to blindly go along with what adults say. don’t they see how they are being manipulated, conformed and indoctrinated into the very system that is the problem in the first place (and how if they don’t go along with it they get put on mind numbing drugs!)? they are like undigested food for this fucked up society we have created. dont they realize that the adults who are the problem are the ones turning them into the conditioned drones just like the adults are? i cant stand watching this happen everyday. it disgust me. i have no respect for them. in video games we destroy anything that is a threat to our survival. we do it in an instant without any hard feelings because it is the right thing to do. it is what we have to do to free ourselves from the hell that is all around. it is how we get our honor back and restore harmony to our inner and outer world. why the hell should the “real” world be any different than the world of video games? the world of video games makes so much more fucking sense than the world that adults have made. in video games when there is a threat to my survival I am able to annihilate it. but in the real world when there is a threat to my survival I am put on medication and told I have a mental illness. what the fuck!!!

i am SO angry.

My Work Ethic?

Fuck. I don’t know why this word comes to mind as I stare into the blank screen thinking about what I am about to write. Fuck. Why fuck? Maybe fuck is the word that comes to mind when I think about my work ethic. Fuck. See, right when I think the term work ethic the next word that comes into my mind is fuck. Fuck. I need to think this one through a bit more.

The other day I was listening to the writer, musician and monologist talk about his work ethic. He was discussing how he came from a working class background and always needed to be gainfully employed. Ever since he was young he said that he has had this drive to work for a living. The idea of waking up in the morning and not having at least ten things that he has to do mortifies him. His worst fear is waking up in the morning and having nothing to do. Maybe this is why he has written over thirty books, made more than a dozen albums and still to this day travels around the world, performing his one man show more than 300 hundred days out of the year. The guy is terrified to stop. He would not know how to live without a hard days work.

I on the other hand am that guy who is happiest when he wakes up in the morning and has nothing to do. I am not driven by what Henry Rollins calls, “a deep need to pull your weight in the world.” Instead I seem to want to shed this weight, to be weightless. Henry Rollins seems to love being in fifth gear whereas I often feel stuck in first gear. Recently I have been thinking a lot about this feeling of being stuck in first gear. I have been wondering if it is a choice or just a bad habit. Am I lazy or enlightened? Have I chosen to not work my life away or do I just lack a work ethic?

Henry Rollins said something that really got my attention. He said that he thrives off of obligation. Obligation is the wind that moves him forward. He lives for obligation. I don’t know why but when I heard this the hair on my arms stood up. Obligation? He loves being obligated? I he kidding? Is this the link in my non-working chain that I have been missing? I can’t stand obligation. When I feel obligated to do something I feel pushed into a corner. I don’t want to do it. Obligation creates immense resistance in me. I seem to do everything that I can to avoid obligation. It is as if I have been hiding from obligation for as long as I know. Well maybe this is not true. I do not mind a small amount of obligation but I do know that in the course of a week I need much more time that is not obligated to anything or anyone than I do time that is obligated. Hmmm.

My wife said something to me the other day that made a lot of sense. She said that I love having money, I just don’t like having to work for it. It is true- I do love having money so that I can buy good food, records, clothes, books, treats for my dog, furniture, supplements and whatever else I may want. I enjoy the security that money brings to me. When I have money I no longer live in chronic fear of having to wait tables, bartend or ask my parents for money. I feel at ease. The problem is that I do not like to work for money. I do not enjoy working, never have. I prefer to spend my days floating around. Having the freedom to do what I want to do. The problem with this is that I know that money is not going to just randomly show up in my mailbox. I need to work for a living.

So I ask myself what is my work ethic? Fuck. But when I go deeper I realize that I do not really have a work ethic in the traditional sense. My work ethic is that I do not like work. I avoid work because work has never been pleasurable.  Somehow I have managed to spend considerable time in my adult life in what some workaholics might refer to as retirement. Being free from the terrible and dehumanizing world of managers, bosses, fellow employees and obligations is one of the greatest victories of my life. I intend to keep it this way.

I really do not think that it is fair of me to think that I do not work. As much as it may sound absurd to say, to live the way that I do within a culture that is obsessed with work- is no easy undertaking. It is a kind of work to not get caught up in the proverbial rat race. To maintain a life that is based in being as opposed to doing. When I meditate, read, write, draw and paint it is fair to say that I am working, but the work that I am doing is pleasurable. It does not feel like work. I am doing what I am doing because it is fun and freeing as opposed to motivated by any ambition to make my work about turning a profit. I am as uninterested in making money off of the work that I enjoy doing as I am in watching whatever sports team is playing on television tonight. But I also recognize that this may be a lie that I tell myself so that I can avoid working. So that I can spend more time living.

I suppose I am envious of people like Henry Rollins. He has found a way to do the work he loves and turn a profit from it. His work does not feel to him like work at all- it is just what he does. His strong work ethic pushes him to remain obligated, to get his work out into the world, to pull his weight in the world so to speak. But on the other hand Rollins discussed how he realizes that his need to work all the time is a way that he runs from having to deal with him self. He talks about how sitting still and doing nothing terrifies him because, then what? Then he would have to be with himself.

So maybe this is my work ethic. Fuck. It is a kind of non-work ethic. It is an ethic of being with myself, learning about myself and a desire to experience my life as it unfolds. It is an ethic of learning and growing as opposed to earning and working. I don’t know, this explanation of my work ethic does not fully satisfy me. A part of me feels that I am just rationalizing the fact that I am lazy, that I do what I can to avoid work. It is true- I love being. I love sitting still. I love being free enough to be able to watch the day unfold. I love how I have learned to spend my time. There is a quiet kind of satisfaction that I live with. It is this satisfaction that is my greatest wealth. But there is also this itch to do something more, to live a life that is relevant and accomplished. An itch to pull my weight in the world. A desire to help others. To work with my fellow human beings in a way that helps them to struggle a little bit less. Without this component of helping and interacting with other human beings (as opposed to the desire to make money off of them) something feels incomplete in my life.

In a sense my non-work ethic is a work ethic, it is just not a work ethic that is based in turning a profit and needing to stay busy everyday. I am more than comfortable with not being busy, with having nothing to do, with sitting still (and I am also aware that that in my society these ways of being can land a person in the poor house). And maybe this is ok. Maybe I can stay this way and things will continue to work out. I was in a bookstore the other day and the title of a self-help book caught my eye. It was called “Stay the Course and Keep Doing What You Do.” I liked the title so much that I took a picture of the cover so I could have it as a reminder. Stay the course and keep doing what you do. Things are working out even though I am far from being the hardest worker in the world. Some may say that my non-work ethic is working for me. A part of me agrees and feels that I need to keep riding this thing out and see where it takes me. But I also need to work. I just need a little help getting into second gear.

Interview #6: Death, Depression, Existential Hang-Ups and the Unbearable Beauty of Life.

It is 10:48am when this interview begins. I am again sitting at the round kitchen table and am dressed in the clothes that I have slept in. I have not looked in the mirror but I presume my hair is a mess. I meditated for a few minutes this morning and then proceeded to make myself some cereal and green tea for breakfast. I “surfed” around the internet, wasted time on facebook and youtube and am now ready to begin the interview. Outside my window it looks as if the day is going to be filled with blue skies, sun and heat. Strange weather for mid October.


Interviewer: Good morning Randall.

Randall: Good morning.

Interviewer: Did you sleep well?

Randall: I had a hard time getting to sleep but once I feel asleep I believe that I slept well. I remember getting up a lot to pee though.

Interviewer: Did you drink alcohol last night?

Randall: Not much- I had a pint of beer.

Interviewer: How was it?

Randall: Delicious. Beer is very grounding for me and even though it has drastically increased the size of my stomach I have a hard time staying away too long from my beloved beer.

Interviewer: I see.  How have you been feeling lately?

Randall: To be honest the past few days I have felt what can only be described as a kind of negative, bleak, depressed feeling.

Interviewer: Really?

Randall: Yes, you say that as if you are surprised?

Interviewer: Well I know that you are prone to bouts of depression but I am surprised because it seems as if things are going so well in your life.

Randall: It may appear that way but you know that old cliché adage: “Wherever you go there you are.”

Interviewer: But just a month ago you were infused with the greatest feeling of happiness that you have ever felt. What happened to this feeling?

Depression: Wish I knew. Trust me I am looking for it. Depression is kind of like a weather system. It gets triggered by something and then moves in over you like a rain cloud. It is tough to get away from and all I can really do is wait for it to pass. It is true I have a lot to be happy about- my beautiful wife, my new home, my great dog, my life and on and on. It is true- so why am I not feeling “happy?”

Interviewer: This is what I was going to ask you. Do you have any idea what the cause of this depression is?

Randall: I think that it is a combination of things. One is that I am worried about my finances. To be blunt I don’t have much money and I live in fear of going broke. Why am I 41 years old and still so financially strapped and why am I not more ambitious about changing my financial situation? I suppose in this regard a part of me feels stuck and like a failure. Yes I have everything and more that I could ever want but there is this one thing missing. This thing is this inner satisfaction that I can take care of myself financially. That I do not need to depend on others for economic help. As I think I have said before- in our culture manhood is all tied up with economic success and somehow there is this feeling that has been conditioned into men that if they are not able to be economically independent they are somehow less of a man.

Interviewer: Yeah I have noticed this myself.

Randall: The second part of my depression I think stems from the fact that my life has not turned out the way I thought it would. I never imagined that I would be starting a career as a psychotherapists and have so more financial aid debt to pay off as a result. When I was younger my dream was to succeed as a writer and painter but this is not how things have turned out. Even though it is very difficult to make a living this way I thought I could do it. I never really wanted to be “a professional” with financial aid debt. Seems very mediocre and unremarkable to me. I envy artists who are able to make a living doing their art, to be themselves and get paid for it and the fact that this is not how things have worked out for me depresses me.

Interviewer: Well out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Randall: What is that supposed to mean?

Interviewer: Not sure but it seemed like the right thing to say in the moment.

Randall: I see.

Interviewer: (smiles)

Randall: The third reason I feel depressed is because I feel like I am not able to please my wife sexually at as a result I feel as if I am letting her down. I seem to be sexually inhibited and it requires a lot of effort for me to be intimate. My wife has a very healthy sexual appetite and if I was in the mood we would be having sex at least five times a week. But the problem is that I am often not in the mood and I just don’t understand why. I think my sexuality is all fucked up. I know that I am shy sexually but I just don’t understand why I can not be sexually intimate with my wife more often. My wife is one of the sexiest women I have even had the pleasure of having sex with but still this does not seem like enough. There is something deeply rooted in my sexuality that keeps me from being uninhibited and consistently sexually active and I wish I could find out what it was and change it.

Interviewer: As far as your sexuality is concerned this is a big topic and I would like to spend the next interview discussing it if possible. For now I would like to stay focused on discussing your depression if you don’t mind?

Randall: No I don’t mind but I think that I have said everything I need to say on this topic.

Interviewer: Do you talk with your wife about your depression?

Randall: Kind of. I think she gets what is going on and I try and talk about it but it is often difficult for me to open up and discuss it. It’s embarrassing that I feel this way and plus I just would rather not talk about it. It is a complex problem.

Interviewer: Complex how?

Randall: Well I know there are so many factors involved. There is also the fact that I don’t have a job at the moment. I am trying to start a psychotherapy practice but things are very slow. I also went a few days ago to a memorial service which kind of confronted me with the facts of life and death. At a deeper existential level I think I am depressed because I know that everything we work for, everything we own and love passes away. The cars, homes, art, furnitures all these things remain when we pass away but we are gone. The suddenness and finality of death make life, for me at least, seem very beautiful but also very tragic and sad.

Interviewer: Seems as if you are having a kind of existential crisis?

Randall: I have been having an existential crisis most of my life. I have been aware of these things to a degree which is probably not healthy. Whereas most people spend their lives working and trying to avoid the fact of their mortality, I have confronted it head on. It is scary to think that all of this can disappear in an instant and it is this awareness which has led to my life long struggles with anxiety, hair-raising anxiety.

Interviewer: So it seems as if while you are living you are in a perpetual state of mourning?

Randall: I do not know if it is mourning but I know it all vanishes in a second, that we age and deteriorate and for some reason this scares me and makes me sad.

Interviewer: Yeah I find it a bit depressing myself but at the same time it makes life that much more beautiful. It makes life something I want to cherish, be present with and really drink in.

Randall: It also really makes me want to do things that have meaning, to accomplish things that will out live me. I guess I get depressed when I see artists who are engaged in this process and I know that right now I am not. Having a career, having to pay bills puts a person in a situation where they are investing in things that vanish and do not stand the test of time whereas when you make art you are involved in a process that is much greater than you and the things you own.

Interviewer: But even art eventually will turn to dust.

Randall: Yeah, but if it touches enough people it will be around for a long, long time and there is something deeply gratifying about knowing that you are involved in this process.

Interviewer: So why don’t you involve yourself more in this process?

Randall: I am trying but it seems as if the motivation is just not there. I am also confused. A part of me would rather spend my days on earth working in the garden, wandering around, listening to music, sitting on benches, writing in my journal, walking my dog and just being. I have spent many years of my life making art and now a part of me just wants to do very little and be. Enjoy my life and work on myself.

Interviewer: That does not sound so bad to me.

Randall (shakes his head in agreement).

Interviewer: Well I certainly hope your depression passes soon.  I need to get going but I hope that we can continue this conversation at another time.

Randall: Sure. Thanks for listening.

Interviewer: Try to enjoy your day today. Make an effort to be positive and not think too much. Listen to music, walk around- do whatever it takes to just enjoy your day and get that feeling of happiness you spoke of earlier back.

Randall: Ok

Interviewer: Ok.

Randall: Thank you.

Interviewer: Thank you.











Interview #5: Difficult Parents, Anger Towards a Father, Economic Woe and the American Dream.

I am seated at my kitchen table. It is a round vintage table from the 1950’s. I spent a lot of money on this table and every time I see it I think about that. It is 9:49am and I am dressed in a t-shirt, sweat pants, slippers and I have a blanket draped over my shoulders. My hair is a mess, my eyes are swollen, I feel lethargic and bleak and I did not even drink alcohol last night (I did have a pint in the afternoon). My wife just walked into the kitchen and asked me if I was “filled with the love of the universe.” I replied, “No I am filled with the dread and worry of the American dream.” Not so sure where that answer came from. I am about to eat a muffin and drink some green tea as this interview begins.

Interviewer: Good morning Randall.

Randall: Good morning.

Interviewer: Good morning.

Randall: Good morning.

Interviewer: Look I just want to apologize if you feel that the last few interviews have not gone so smoothly.

Randall: I appreciate your apology. I’m not feeling hung up about it at the moment. It is in the past.

Interviewer: Good I am glad to hear that. I will do what I can to make sure that this and following interviews are much more pleasant for the both of us.

Randall: Sounds good to me.

Interviewer: How are you feeling this morning?

Randall: I am ok but I suppose a bit grumpy. I did my thirty minute morning meditation and my mind was racing with all kinds of thoughts.

Interviewer: What kind of thoughts?

Randall: Well thoughts about my anger towards my parents, thoughts about my childhood and how much I have aged, thoughts about all the bills and economic worries I have, thoughts about my difficulty breathing in the mornings- all kinds of thoughts.

Interviewer: Do you mind if I delve a little deeper about some of these thoughts that you speak of.

Randall: Sure.

[Randall eats his muffin and sips his green tea]

Interviewer: Do you still feel like you have a lot of anger towards your parents?

Randall: I do not know if it is a lot but it is in there and it comes up at various times. The anger that comes up seems to be more directed at my father.

Interviewer: And what are you angry with your father about?

Randall: It is hard for me to fully understand but I think I am angry at the way he has treated me all of my life. For me he was a monster while I was growing up and still to this day he gives me the creeps. I do not trust him and I never know if he is really trying hard to be nice to me or if it is an act. I am often very uncomfortable with my relationship with my father. I have all these past resentments that I feel never get resolved and I have current resentments towards how he shows up in my life even though I really don’t want him to show up anymore.

Interviewer: How does he show up in your life?

Randall: To be honest he plays a small roll. If I really need it he will throw money my way, I get a phone call once or twice every two weeks from him, which I admit I try and avoid. When we talk it is very superficial, uncomfortable and we both try and pretend like everything is ok. I know he is making an effort to be nicer, to be a better father but the problem is that I don’t feel like he takes much responsibility for what he has done to me nor does he acknowledge the pain that I live with that is a direct result of our relationship.

Interviewer: I also know that you are angry at him about money issues. Is this still true?

Randall: It is, as much as I would like to admit that it is not. I do feel that he is very greedy and selfish with his money and am resentful that he does not help me out more economically. You and I both know that I have a lot of worry about money. A lot of my self-worth issues revolve around money (I can thank my parents for this). I currently have a lot of economic worries and wish that he would help me out more instead of build his mansions in Idaho and take long vacations in China. I feel that some of that money can be put to better use (his children’s well-being) but this is not my parents priority. They feel that we should make it on our own, work hard and that economic struggle is a good thing. I think deep down they believe that if you do not work hard enough you are going to struggle economically. In their mind it all boils down to- I have earned my economic struggle because I don’t work hard enough. I don’t slave away at a job, so I have earned my economic struggle. My dad is a republican- what did expect?

Interviewer: But you also know that it is not a good idea for you to take money from your father. That taking his money in the long run can make your life much more stressful, unhealthy and it is not good for both of your relationship.

Randall: Yes, I am aware of this. I suppose I am resentful that my parents have allowed for money to become such a big issue between us. It just should not be that way. Money is there to make life easier not more difficult.

Interviewer: It seems to me that you are a bit confused by exactly why you are resentful or angry towards your father.

Randall: Hmmm. I suppose so. I suppose there is so much water under the bridge that it is challenging to sort it all out. Fundamentally I am resentful about the fact that he does not love me the way that I need to be loved, he does not meet my needs for trust, authenticity, safety, care. Ultimately he has made my life much more difficult than it has needed to be and I am resentful towards him for this. But I am an adult now and I am trying hard to let all of this go. To become independent of him and all the emotional garbage I carry around. I feel this will be a lifelong process.

Interviewer: Yes it will.

Randall: Yes.

Interviewer: Well this brings me to wanting to know more about your economic worries. Can you tell me a bit about this?

Randall: Well this is complicated also. One thing that I have learned about myself is that when I have more money I feel much more confident and good about myself. When I sink below the economic worry line and start to feel like I do not have enough money and then feel like I need to rely on others for financial help I no longer feel so good about myself.

Interviewer: What do you feel like when you are in this economic red zone?

Randall: I feel like a failure. I feel embarrassed. I feel stuck. I feel like a loss of independence.

Interviewer: I see. This loss of independence must feel terrible.

Randall: It does. I also feel like others judge me because I am 41 and not in a position in life where I am making a lot of money.

Interviewer: Hmmm. I understand this.

Randall: Yeah.

Interviewer: But you have a nice life. You have your own house filled with beautiful furniture and a remarkable backyard. You have a wife who has a good amount of money and is willing to help you out. You have a beautiful dog, a nice car, a painting studio, computers, a refrigerator filled with delicious food- you really have it all.

Randall: Yeah in a sense I do and I appreciate you focusing my attention on these things but I suppose I am someone who looks at the glass as half empty. All these things that I own I can barely afford. I have never had more bills than I have at the moment. I also have financial aid loans that are over $80,000. My employment is not bringing in any money at the moment and I really have no idea how the hell I am going to afford my current lifestyle. All the good things that I have in my life just do not feel like enough to assuage my economic worry. What if I have car trouble or my dog gets ill? I have no idea how I am going to afford these things and that worries me. How am I going to pay my bills and have enough money to live? It is thoughts like these that run through my mind and yeah I am resentful that my parents are traveling around China in luxury when they could be doing more to help me out of this financial worry.

Interviewer: Yeah but you understand that you are trying to become independent from your parents, to separate yourself emotionally from them and if you take money from them it is damaging to you on so many levels.

Randall: I know. I know but why do they have to be so fucked up around money?

Interviewer: The American dream does this to the best of us.

Randall: (silence)

Interviewer: Look, it is just the way it is. It is not that they are bad people- it is just what they have learned from their parents and it is who they are. You need to accept that they are not going to change. They have their karma to live out and you have yours. Don’t allow their karma to mess up your karma more than it already has.

Randall: I am working on this. Do you know that when I got married my wife’s parents spent way over 40 grand on the wedding and my parents gave no more than a thousand dollars towards our wedding?

Interviewer: Be happy they gave anything at all.

Randall: I know but it just does not sit well with me. If they had no money it would not bother me but because they have so much and give so little it just feels selfish.

Interviewer: I understand but don’t let their negative karma become yours. You need to find ways to let go of your anger and resentment towards your parents before it corrupts any more of your life.

Randall: Yeah I know. I am working on it. I have been working on it for years. I try to be kind to my parents, be there for them and be a good son- but it is tough when I have all this rage towards them. I know I need to let it all go and trust that if I do let go- things will work out. It helps talking with you about all of this.

Interviewer: Good I am glad it helps. I am glad that you trust me enough to be so honest and open with me. It always amazes me just how much power a parent has over the life of their children. Unfortunately most parents are not aware of how their behavior affects their children and as a result generation after generation passes down these emotional wounds. You can look at it as a kind of inheritance.

Randall: That is a bleak thought.

Interviewer: I know but the only way to disown your negative emotional and psychological inheritance is to distance yourself emotionally and financially as much as you can from your parents and also to continue to work on yourself and cultivate the qualities you needed from your father and mother but never got. Be generous, be honest, be loving, be kind, be grateful.

Randall: Yes. Thank you for the reminder.

Interviewer: Not a problem. I think that pretty much wraps up our interview for now. I know it was a rather serious interview but I hope it was helpful.

Randall: It was. I enjoyed this interview much more than the last two.

Interviewer: Good I am glad. Well have a pleasant, worry free day and go get dressed. You look terrible.

Randall: (giggling) I will.

Interview With Myself #4: Doing Dirty Dishes and on Growing Up a Spoiled Rich Kid.

While this interview is being conducted I am doing dishes. It is mid afternoon and I am dressed in brown corduroy pants and a black t-shirt. I did not want to be interviewed while doing the dishes (especially after the last difficult interview) but the interviewer shows up at unpredictable times and is very difficult to turn away from. As is typical I did not stand my ground but instead gave in to the interviewer.


Interviewer: I don’t mean to bother you again but I notice that you are doing the dishes?

Randall: I am.

Interviewer: I know we ended our last interview on a difficult note but would you mind if I asked you a few questions about doing the dishes?

Randall: Really? Now?

Interviewer: Yes, now. I promise it will not take up too much of your time. Just a few questions.

Randall: You want to ask me about doing dishes?

Interviewer: I do.

Randall: Really?

Interviewer: Really.

Randall: (taking a deep breath) Ok, do what you need to do then be done.

Interviewer: Sure, sure- will only take just a minute of your times sir. I am just wondering how you feel about doing the dishes.

Randall: Really?

Interviewer: Yes, really.

Randall: Well it is not my favorite thing to do.

Interviewer: Do you find yourself doing the dishes often?

Randall: I try to avoid doing the dishes as much as possible but there are few things that I dislike more than a sink filled with dirty dishes.

Interviewer: I see.

Randall: Yes.

Interviewer: So I often notice that if your wife does not do the dishes the sink sits filled with dirty dishes for at least a day or two. Why is this? If you dislike doing the dishes so much why are you not more consistent about doing them?

Randall: You know, I don’t really know.

Interview: Maybe you are waiting for someone else to do the dishes or for them to magically disappear?

Randall: Are you starting with me again?

Interviewer: No, no of course not. I am just wondering why if you dislike dirty dishes so much you do not do them more often. You should know better than anyone else that doing dishes can be a kind of meditation, an enjoyable activity and after all you always say to everyone else, “after enlightenment than the laundry” yet you yourself often do not do the metaphorical laundry.

Randall: Ok look, I really don’t want to argue right now with you. I am trying to get better at doing the dishes. I was forced to do the dishes as a kid and so it is only natural that as an adult I have a natural aversion towards doing the dishes.

Interviewer: I know that you did not like doing the dishes as a kid. I think it is safe to say that you did not like doing anything that you were told to do as a kid.

Randall: Ok, whatever.

Interviewer: In fact I feel the real reason why you do not like doing the dishes as an adult is because you grew up with a maid who always picked up after your messes. She did your “laundry,” cleaned your room, did your dishes, cleaned up after you.

Randall: So what are you saying?

Interviewer: I am saying that you do not like cleaning up after yourself because you are so used to having someone else clean up after you. You leave messes and wait for your poor wife to clean them up. Would you not agree?

Randall: Look, you said that you only had a few brief questions to ask me. You are not really asking me questions about doing the dishes but instead you are trying to accuse me of being a spoiled little rich kid. I pick up after myself and clean all the time. I am doing the dishes right now aren’t I? I find it disrespectful that you come here while I am doing the dishes and try and accuse me of not doing the dishes enough! Some nerve you have asshole!!

Interviewer: Easy, easy, easy man. I was not trying to accuse you of anything and I did not come here to make you feel bad while you are doing the dishes. I just wanted to ask you a few questions that came to mind when I noticed you were doing the dishes.

Randall: Well now I am finished with the dishes and would appreciate it if you left me alone for the rest of the afternoon.

Interview: So be it brother, so be it.

Randall: Don’t call me brother and what the hell is “so be it” supposed to mean?

Interviewer: It means I am already gone.

The Success Man

I have always wondered what exactly success is, feels like, tastes like and looks like. Is success having a roof over your head and food in the refrigerator? Is it being able to pay your bills? Is it staying true to the cravings of your soul, the images in your youthful dreams? Does it look like that guy driving around in the newest Audi, the actor on the screen or the rock star being idolized by thousands of adoring fans while on stage? To be honest, I am confused by exactly what success is and what it means. Through trial and error, I am at least confident saying that I know what success is not. Success is not having to earn a living doing something that has little to do with your dream. Success does not involve too much compromise and/or settling. Success is not having to ask your father to take you clothes shopping when you are 40, unemployed and shackled with a large amount of debt.

But then again maybe success is a state of mind, a way of thinking, a belief system. At least this is what I am hoping is the case. In my life I have had two serious dreams that have not born serious monetary fruit or worldly attention. I wanted to be a professional tennis player when I was younger and then after I started reading and drinking more I decided to trade that dream in for the dream of being a writer/painter. Despite the fact that neither of these dreams have yet to work out (the only real chance I have of achieving my professional tennis dream is maybe getting to compete some day on the senior citizens professional tennis circuit), I still try to keep my spirit up and convince myself that I have indeed been successful. After all, I have a beautiful and loving fiance, a roof over my head, a fridge full of food, nice clothes hanging in my closet (even though these clothes seem to be food for moths), a newish fully owned car that works (but that I struggle to afford), various opportunities, positively influence a few people in my lifetime, good working headphones and an iPod filled with a plethora of good music. The current NOW of my life is really good- but is it successful?

Often times I feel this inner void that sneaks up on me. I try to fill it in with various foods and things, but the void consumes these things faster than I can chew them down or purchase them. What is this void? From where does it come? Shall I call it existential? A chronic feeling of dissatisfaction that is the result of not fully living my dream? Is it not fair to say that our consumer society has been built upon temporarily satisfying and alleviating these failed dreams? Last night while I was lying in bed I found myself in a bit of a funk. I get into these funks whenever I think too much about what I do not have, what I have not been able to achieve. I ask myself if I am doing with my life exactly what I want to be doing, am I doing what I was born to do? I also wonder if I am seen by others for who I am, not for who I have to be? Are there a lot of should of, would of and could of thoughts running around in my mind? I was also thinking about what Jay Z (one of the wealthiest and most successful black men in the world) said about ordinary success. In an article I read he talked about how he feels sad for people who have to go to work everyday to achieve ordinary success, the same kind of success as the majority of other people. Jay Z discussed how he feels particularly sad for those individuals who have to pursue ordinary success because their dreams did not work out. Tell me about it.

“If you could be doing exactly what you wanted, what would it look like?” my fiance asked me as I lay besides her in bed. “I would have a decent sized painting and writing studio, no debt, no obligation to go to a job and would be able to be immersed in my creative work and earn a living pursuing my creative aspirations.” “Is there not a happy medium you could find?” she asked. “What do you mean?” I replied. “I mean can you not do your work as a therapist so you can pay your bills and help others but also spend an equal amount of time doing your writing and painting?” I found myself feeling frustrated by this suggestion. Aggravation grew in my chest as I thought about what little energy I already have left. I wanted to say “do you really think I have the energy to work as a therapist and also seriously pursue my artistic work?” Instead I just took a deep breath and let it out. I then figured out what success might be- getting to spend the majority of your energy on doing the work that you want to do, getting to be engaged with your life’s work/purpose on a full-time basis. Basically, not having to find a happy medium.

I suppose this may be why I envy certain actors, musicians, writers and artists- they get to make a living doing their life’s work and do not have to return to graduate school, go into serious debt in order to build a decent and worth while career. Their soul work is acknowledged in the world, not just in the privacy of their own minds. As I turned out the light and shut my eyes to go to sleep, I realized that I am the one who has made certain choices in my life. Sure I may not have had parents who supported my dreams but maybe I never believed strongly enough that I was capable of achieving whatever I put my mind to. Maybe I smoked too much dope. I doubted myself and did not do all I could of done to turn my dreams into some kind of tangible reality (here is an example of one such could of statement I live with). Such is life- it is the deck of cards that I have been dealt. I am almost 41 years old and about to embark upon a new career as a psychotherapist. Being a psychotherapist did not enter into my youthful dreams but I figure that it is better than waiting tables. No, I do not consider myself a success man, but I am open to the idea that maybe some day I will. In my back pocket I still carry around a wallet sized portion of hope that I have enough time on earth to see at least a part of my youthful dreams become a reality. I will keep doing my part, keep showing up, keep writing and painting and keep remaining open to possibilities and inspiration rather than compartmentalized by a profession. However, now I may just have to begin to work on finding a “happy medium.”

At the End of a Rainbow (re-post, gosh I love this one)

Ever wonder if there is really a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow?

It had been raining for a week straight. Streets had become shallow rivers and plants were drowning in excess water. A dusty shade of gray had colored the sky until yesterday and then the clouds decided to break. I was sitting at my desk trying to keep my mind off the dismal weather outside. A pen drawing of a nude woman sat unfinished on my desk for hours because I was having difficulty staying interested in it. I had the radio on and repeatedly looked up from the drawing and stared out the window. I watched the slight drizzle and my aching eyes took delight in the birds sliding across the wet sky. Then it happened. The sun began cracking through the gray colored sky and off to my right I noticed something that I was not used to seeing through my window. What was taking shape right before my tired eyes was the birth of the most incandescent rainbow I had ever seen.

The colors of the rainbow began to form gradually and then grew into bright vibrating hues of red, yellow, blue, green and violet. I sat mesmerized at my desk watching this creation of nature unfold in front of me. For a moment I was reminded of the rainbow flag that was used in the German peasants war in the 16th century as a sign of a new era, of hope and change. So much awe overcame me that I had to go outside and watch the birth of this rainbow without the obstruction of a window. I noticed other residents of my neighborhood coming outside their homes and observing the same thing that was mesmerizing me. Bicyclists, dog walkers and joggers all stopped to watch the uncanny sight. The luminous rainbow covered the entire length of the city in which I live and owned the sky like a majestic doorway into some unknown place.

After ten minutes or so of staring at the rainbow, I slowly lost interest and decided to come back inside and finish my nude drawing. Even though what I should have been doing was spending my day looking for a job, I am a master procrastinator who will find the most obscure ways to distract myself from what really needs to get done. As I worked on the women’s hips the idea that there is a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, popped into my mind. As a child my mother, my grandmother, a baby sitter and several of my teachers had often told me this but as I grew older other adults told me this idea was just a myth or a superstition. I believed these adults without ever really checking for myself to see if they were right or wrong. Now I was in a different predicament. I was a thirty-eight-year-old man, a victim of the great recession who was out of work and unable to pay next months rent if I did not find some money fast. When the thought occurred to me that I should go check and see if there really was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow– I said to myself “what the hell- I got nothing to lose.”

I am an average, lower middle-class man. I am a dull man with very few friends. A man who would rather not work and be left alone so I can read books, draw and roam around town. When I found myself putting on warm clothes to go on a long journey in the cold and emptying out my backpack to take with me (just in case I did find gold) the thought did occur to me that maybe I had lost my mind. “Maybe I already lost my sanity months ago and this is the real reason why I am broke and having a hard time finding a job?” I thought to myself. I tried not to listen to this judgmental voice of mine and just focused my attention on what I remember my grandmother saying to me many years ago when she showed me my first rainbow. “The end of the rainbow is further way than you think, but if you keep on walking really far you will be rewarded by finding the most beautiful pot of gold right where all those brilliant colors touch the ground,” she said to me.

It must have been below fifty degrees outside when I began my “end of the rainbow” search. I threw away the naked drawing I had been working on and fed the cat before I left. I had an empty backpack on my back, thick gloves on my hands, a wool hat covering my ears and the anticipation of an excited child inside my rapidly beating heart. As I walked I imagined to myself what my life could really be like if I found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I would be able to not only pay my rent next month but also never again have to spend sleepless nights terrified by what I was going to do if I ran out of money. I would not have to eat beans out of a can anymore or tell my wife that I cannot afford to meet her for lunch or dinner. No more frozen food. No more ripped socks and old underwear. No more jobs and bosses I cannot stand. No more suffocating anxiety every time I spend more than a dollar. If there is a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, I told myself, I will be free.

These thoughts caused me to walk faster. I could feel anticipation in my feet. As I walked I noticed more people stopped in the streets, watching the rainbow in a state of awe. I however did not bother to look up. I had both my eyes set on one place, and one place only- where the colors of the rainbow touched the ground. My grandmother was not wrong when she told me that I would have to walk really far. The closer I thought I was getting to the end of the rainbow the further away that it seemed to be. When I finally felt as if I had reached the end- the rainbow moved a little further from me. After an hour or so of walking frantically I was exhausted but determined not to give up. The thought did not occur to me that the end of the rainbow could be an optical illusion, like a pool of water in the middle of a hot desert. Had that thought come into my mind- I may have given up.

One belief that I have never let go of is that all perseverance is rewarded in the end. It must be! With this belief buried deep in my heart I kept on walking towards the end of the rainbow no matter how many times it seemed to change directions. I walked off road and went through horse stables, ravines, cornfields and forest areas with thick overgrown shrubbery. I felt like a warrior on the war path when in reality I was just a man who really needed money.

As I walked out from a claustrophobic cornfield that threatened to burry me alive, I finally came upon the end of the rainbow. There it was before me touching down in the middle of a dirt field in the middle of nowhere. All around was nothing but miles and miles of wide-open farmland. The end of the rainbow was not more than half a mile away from me and without a moments hesitation I began to run across the field with the slow speed and tight muscles of someone who has not exercised in months. I was willing to die for what could be at the end of that rainbow. I felt terribly out of breath as I ran but I forced myself to run faster because I was afraid that the end of the rainbow would get away. But all my determination paid off, because right when I could run no more I stood directly in front of the radiant colors of refracted light. I had made it to the place where “the brilliant colors touch the ground.” But my grandmother failed to tell me about what would happen next.

It was not until I was finally able to catch my breath that I was able to see what was in front of me. A young woman, no older then twenty-six or twenty seven, was rainbow bathing in the nude in the center of the rainbow. It took me a moment to see whether or not what I was seeing was real or just the result of my exhausted mind. Sure enough, when she sat up and looked at me with a bright smile I could see that what I was seeing was not an illusion. She was lying on a red towel that had the word Hawaii all over it. She watched me as I watched her until I finally got the courage to say, “excuse me. Ah….I do not mean to bother you…. but did you by chance…. find a pot of gold in there?” I knew that what I was saying must have sounded ridiculous, a little insane but she did not laugh or seem in the slightest bit surprised by my question. She just stood up and said to me “why don’t you get undressed and come in here and see for yourself.”

I felt my throat tighten up. I was shocked. The young woman was too beautiful, so perfect in every way that I felt like something had to be wrong. Things like this just do not happen to me. I was much older than her and could not understand why she would want to see me naked. I was slightly embarrassed but again I reminded myself that I had nothing to lose. The young lady stood there in all her nudity, patiently waiting for me to make up my confused mind. I was still thinking about the pot of gold. I so badly wanted the money. Maybe it is hidden someplace in there, maybe she is hiding it, I thought to myself. So like any desperate person would do- I said what the hell, got undressed and walked into a rainbow. She reached out her hand for me and I walked in just as naked as the day I was born- except for my wedding ring and the backpack in my hand (just in case I was going to find the pot of gold).

I remember reading someplace that the ultraviolet light put off by rainbows was beneficial for skin cells and blood. The light was filled with vitamins D, K, E, C and numerous antioxidants. I was comforted by the thoughts of these health benefits (since I have been struggling with some health challenges) as the young woman held my hand and escorted me towards her Hawaii towel. One of the only things she said to me during our time together was “there is no need to talk. Just feel and allow yourself to let go.” When we sat down side by side on the towel I tried not to stare at her naked body. I could not tell what mesmerized me more- being besides an exquisite naked young lady or being inside a rainbow. I also could not tell if it was the warm rays of a rainbow heating up my body or if it was my nervousness that was making me warm. The young woman started to rub my back with the palm of her warm hand and then whispered into my ear “lay back, let go and feel.” It was at this moment that the thought- maybe she is an angel, ran through my mind.

I followed her directions since I was in no condition to argue. I was a little concerned about getting an erection but I took my mind of off any sexual thoughts by visualizing a pound of ground beef. She lay down besides me- so close that I could feel her skin breathing. Together we lied there, not saying anything to one another, just feeling the warmth of the rainbow. Slowly I felt my eyes close and my heart slow. For the first time in months I felt my mind become still and my body felt at ease. I was hovering someplace between bliss and relaxation, feeling the individual colors and mist of the rainbow nurturing my skin. I was not cold and there were no thoughts about needing money frantically swimming around in my mind. I could swear the sun was shinning and the sky was a brilliant shade of blue. I did not worry about anything. For the first time in months- I did not think about how I was going to find a job or what I was going to do. Everything seemed to become silent except the exquisite sounds of the vibrating rainbow. The last thing I remember saying was this is fantastic before I finally let go.

When I opened my eyes I was lying naked in the middle of dirt field. I did not know if an hour or days had passed. Cold rain was falling on my body and there was no longer even an inch of sun in the sky. I looked around and all I could see was miles and miles of farmland. Besides me was my empty backpack and a few feet from me were all of my clothes neatly folded and placed in a pile. The young girl was gone and so was the rainbow. I was shivering from the cold when I got up to put on my wet pants, shirt, sweater, and shoes. I looked around to see if anyone else had witnessed what had just happened. No one. I put on my wool hat, gloves and backpack and started walking out of the dirt field. I did not feel sad, frustrated or confused. In fact I did not feel any negative emotion at all. I simply felt each step I took and listened to the raindrops as they fell all around me with a deep sense of satisfaction. When I finally made it back to the road I turned around and looked at the field that I had been lying naked in. It was at that point that I thought to myself, so that is what they mean by a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I smiled, took a deep breath and began my long journey home.

The Lentil Challenge

A few evenings ago my wife made a gigantic pot of lentil stew. We have both been very low on money and we were trying to find ways to save money. My wife had the idea of making a large pot of lentil stew that we could feed off of for days. Lunch and dinner for at least three days was the initial plan. My wife added potatoes, carrots, onions, cilantro, peppers and kale to the stew, which seemed to grow as it sat simmering on our electric stovetop. When my grandmother lived in Communist Russia and suffered through the food shortages and poverty that was an epidemic in the 1940’s and 50’s, her mother would make a massive pot of lentil stew to feed the whole family with for a week. Now that my wife and I are living through an economic crisis of equal proportion, we decided that it was a perfect time to use the recipe for this lentil stew that my grandmother gave to us on her deathbed.

As the lentil stew simmered on the stove I stood over it in the same way that a man would pray at a shrine. I had my eyes closed, hands clasped and I breathed deeply. I was reminded of a time when food was more plentiful and economic woes were no place to be found. Another way that my wife and I are trying to save money is by not using any heat in our house, so I also used the simmering stew as my heater. I would grab a book or a magazine and read by the stew. My grandmother’s recipe said that the stew had to simmer for eight hours and I spent every moment by its side. I read an article about the thousands of people who have lost their homes and gone bankrupt because of medical bills that they could not afford to pay. I read another article about how the richest Americans are living the high life, “rolling in economic prosperity” while 97 percent of Americans are in some way struggling economically. The article talked about how the main consensus amongst the wealthy is that they would like to see Julian Assange jailed or assassinated because he is exposing the lies and corruption of the American government, whose job it is to work for the rich. I read all of this as I hovered over the simmering lentil stew, longing for the time when it would be time to eat.

That night at dinner I consumed three bowls of lentil stew quicker than my dog plows through a bowl filled with kibble. My wife and I did not talk much since she has been struggling through a wintertime spell of depression. Since we are trying to save money we no longer buy much wine and beer. We go a few days a week without a drink but that night at dinner she nursed a glass filled with some whiskey that was donated to us by a friend who owns a successful restaurant in San Francisco. My wife is in her final year of graduate school and the stress of her program, and the worries that coagulate in her mind (worries about what she is going to do when she is done) sometimes cause her to become quieter than a silent film. When I got up from our small dinner table to get a fourth bowl of lentil stew my wife suddenly blurted out, “how many lentils can you eat?” I turned to her and said, “I am so hungry that I bet you I can eat more lentils than any other man in the world.” She chuckled and said “no way.” I reminded her that our economic woes have caused me to have to go days on end with very little food. “The recession may cause a lot of economic despair but it also creates a lot of hungry men,” I said with an upturned grin on my face. It was at this point that my wife lifted her wallowing head, pointed both her wide eyes in my direction and said, “I have a challenge for you.”

I have always loved a good challenge, especially in times of despair. Challenges distract my mind; take my consciousness to another level. The last good challenge that I had was a few years ago. A friend of mine bet me one hundred dollars that I could not walk in a straight line for one mile through downtown San Francisco. I took the challenge and with my friend following me I managed to walk in a straight line for more than three miles. I walked through stranger’s homes, through gas stations and office buildings. I had to walk through a police station and several restaurants, but somehow I managed to walk in a straight line through the heart of the city. Sitting at the dinner table with my fourth bowl of lentil stew in my hand, my wife challenged me to eat 5,000 lentils in one day. She told me that there where at least that many lentils in the stew that she made and she would give me until 7pm the following day to eat the lentils. “Do I need to count every lentil I eat?” I asked. “Duh,” she replied. “How else would I know if you ate 5,000 lentils?”

Since I myself am unemployed and on winter break from graduate school- I had nothing to do the following day. I woke early to prepare myself for the challenge. I boiled a pot of hot water on the stove to get warm and I then did thirty minutes of meditation, where I visualized myself winning the challenge. I saw myself jumping up and down after I ate the final lentil, a victorious smile upon my face. My wife would not be home that day but she told me that she trusted me enough to not lie about the amount of lentils that I ate. I may be a poor man but I am no liar, so I appreciated her faith in me not being a cheater. When I was done with my meditation I took the ten-pound pot of left over lentil stew, warmed it up on the stove and began to eat one lentil at a time. Each lentil I ate I counted out loud and every fiftieth lentil I would make a note of on a pad of paper.

I spent the afternoon in my kitchen. I was hovered over the simmering stew pulling lentil after lentil out of the pot. On the busy street outside of my house I could hear the sounds of cars, busses and people. I heard the mailman drop of the daily mail. The symphony of commerce and daily toil was in full swing as I sat in the solitude of my impoverished kitchen eating lentils. Every hour or so I had to take a break. I would go into my living room and stretch out on the fading green carpet that I inherited from my grandmother. I would lie on my back and remember a time in my youth when my days were filled with tennis lessons, private tutoring and three large meals a day. I remembered my heated bedroom, the white carpet that I would often lay down upon, the large swimming pool in my backyard and the feel of economic prosperity that ran through my childhood memories. “Now I am living in a cold house where I cannot afford to pay the heating bill. How things change overtime,” I thought to myself. Rain came down outside, I stared at the ceiling and tried to find a way to eat more than 5,000 lentils.

Psychologists often suggest that in times of distress the human mind distracts itself with the most superficial preoccupations. This is often referred to as the denial syndrome. The idea is that often the real reality of a person’s life is too large and troubling for the human mind to comprehend. So the mind has a built in mechanism, which allows it to focus on things that are not as threatening to its survival. I realize that spending my day focusing on eating 5,000 lentils was a way for me to avoid thinking about more pressing concerns. I had bill collectors I needed to call. I needed to contest inaccurate charges on a medical bill. I needed to look for a job and register for my next semester of classes. I also needed to clean out the birdcage, exercise, clean the bathroom and check in on my 90-year-old neighbor who spends her days staring at a blank wall. But I managed to avoid all of this and more by focusing all of my attention on getting that number 5,001 lentil into my mouth. I got my lanky body off the floor and continued to eat lentils.

Time has a way of passing without my awareness when I am deeply immersed in a task. When my wife came home at around 6pm it was already dark out. I had not noticed the transition from light to dark because my head was buried in a pot filled with lentil stew. I heard my wife complain about how cold and dark the house was and I answered by saying, “welcome to our America.” In my attempts to save money I insist upon keeping as many light off as possible and my wife does not like living in the dark. When she came into the kitchen she noticed that I was still dressed in the clothes that I slept in. She asked me how close I was to eating 5,000 lentils. As I put a lentil in my mouth and slowly chewed it- I pointed to the piece of paper that I was using to keep track of every lentil that I ate. She began to count up all of my markings and when she was done counting she let out a small, victorious laugh. “Ha!” she said. “You have only eaten 2, 203 lentils?” she asked. “If that is what it says than that is how many lentils I have eaten,” I replied. She came up close to me and said, “well your still my champion.” She grabbed my penis and then gave me a kiss on the cheek before walking away.

It was at that point I knew that I had lost the lentil challenge. I may be one of the hungriest men in the world- but there was no way that I was going to be able to eat 5,000 lentils. If it took me the whole day to eat 2,203 lentils then it would take me all night and some of the morning to reach 5,000 lentils. One of the virtues of growing older is that I have learned when to accept defeat. I believe that it was the essayist Montaigne who wrote, “a wise man is able to smile when they have lost and congratulate the victor.” I nodded my head and walked away from the pot of lentil stew. Slowly I walked to the bedroom where my wife was changing into several layers of thermal underwear, sweaters and socks. “It is going to be cold tonight,” she said as she slipped a sweater over her head. I swallowed and then suddenly felt sad that this had become my life. I never thought that things were going to turn out this way. “What’s wrong?” my wife asked as she put on gloves. “Nothing,” I replied with a superficial smile. She came up close to me and took my arms in her gloved hands. “You did the best you could sweetheart,” she said looking me in the eyes. I did not want to talk about it so I asked, “what’s for dinner?” My wife chuckled and as she walked past me towards the kitchen she said, “lentil stew.”

You Are Who You Pretend To Be?

“Life,” said Emerson, “consists in what a man is thinking all day.”

A year ago someone said something to me that changed the way I directed my life. At the time I was depressed, forlorn and feeling like all of my dreams had been sucked away through the vacuüm of job, rent and making a living. Maybe I was hopeless or maybe I was feeling what everyman feels when they reach a point in their life when they must realize their dreams are not coming true. I felt like I was carrying a dead baby around with me in my arms and the weight of the planets above was pushing down upon my shoulders. Then one of the most vital realizations of my life took place during the time it took my friend to speak a single sentence. “You are who you pretend to be,” she said to me without realizing the effect of her words. By the time she had reached the end of the sentence- I was already filled with a new perspective.

“Of course,” I thought. “How could I be so dumb? Day in and day out walking around like a man who has lost everything that he values most. Bemoaning my job, my economic situation as if I was worse off than anyone on earth. I was feeling like a failure because that is who I was pretending to be. Duh. All this morbid dressing that I walked around in was my own doing. I was dressing myself into looking like the man I was so unhappy being!” Maybe it would be an exaggeration to say that this personal realization of mine was just as significant as Sir Isaac Newton’s falling apple insight or the Buddha’s epiphany under the bodhi tree- but for myself personally, this realization was as important.

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a great writer. Maybe great is an overstatement but I have wanted to be well-known enough so that I could write and receive economic recognition for it. Respect from my peers would be a nice side dish, recognition from strangers when I go out to eat would be a good dessert- but the ability to no longer have to go to some subordinating, energy dissolving job would be the main course paid for by my success as a writer.  The tragic irony of my situation is that the more I long to be a great writer the less I write. Often sitting at a desk, writing for five or six hours a day sounds just as painful as being hung upside down by chains wrapped around my ankles. I love the idea of writing but I disdain the act of writing. It hurts and I most always would rather ride my bike in the rain, go for a walk, clean my house or read a book than write. So I avoid writing better than I avoid looking for a job or making love to my wife.  I run from writing like a cat runs from a screaming child. I pray everyday that God, or Buddha, or Muhammad or some supernatural being will inculcate into my veins the energy, passion and dedication that I will need to someday seriously write.

I have written hundreds of short stories in my lifetime but a great writer is not made of short works. The great writer is a collection of longer works so engaging that often times his or her books refuse to stay upon the shelf. Putting my short stories together into a completed collection, feels as difficult to me as I imagine rolling a bolder up a steep hill would be. I would rather drink, eat, sleep or listen to the radio. So these short stories rest in random folders, separated like distant lovers who constantly remind me that I need to get serious, toughen up and some day soon bring them back together. However, I am at a point in my long literary struggle where I no longer care so much about being great. I have resigned myself to the fact that I may never make a living as a writer and for the first time in my life that is starting to feel okay. Not having the burden of numerous novels that I must write following me around like gnats- I am starting to feel like I can breathe again. I am no longer in competition with Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett or Jack Kerouac as I once was. Now I can enjoy their books with delight and not the typical gnawing desire to write. But I would be lying if I told you this was really true.

Much to my wife, in-laws and parents chagrin or consternation I have taken on the wise words of my friend in the same way that a General would wear his metals of honor on his chest or a Doctor would wear her stethoscope around her neck. It has not been difficult for me to convince myself that “I am a great writer walking among ordinary mortals.” Even though I rarely write- I see myself as a great writer. It may be true that I am yet to be discovered by anyone else other than myself- but I am as certain about being a great writer as I am about being unemployed and broke. Even though others are unaware of the paragraphs that will be written following my name in future dictionaries and encyclopedias and the collections of my blog entries that will sit on Barnes and Nobles book shelves or be pirated in Egypt- I am content enough pretending that all this will one day occur. Someday, sometime.

It is my daily, hourly struggle to continue on in the eyes of those who see me from day to day. My wife, mother, landlord, potential employer and the police officer who gave me a ticket the other day. I know what they are saying when they look at me: “Sure you like to write, it is your hobby and you are even a good writer, but you are almost a forty-year-old married man and you need to get a stable job, a career so that you can be independent, be a provider and start a family of your own.” I see these thoughts floating around in their minds when they listen to me talk about the books that I will one day write. It always triggers one of the biggest quagmires in my life. Do I continue to be who I am pretending to be or do I just embrace what others tell me I should do with my life? Do I trust that what my friend told me is a fundamental law of the universe or do I wake up from the dream? So far- I prefer the dream.

The Counterfeiter

I know a man who wears fake clothes.  Well, the clothes are not fake because the cheap material is real, but the labels that the clothes hide behind are as a fake as the plastic flowers that sit on my desk. For almost a year I have been meeting this man for lunch and I had always been very impressed by his nice clothes. He often appeared to just walk right out from the pages of a fashion magazine. A few times when I glanced at the label on his clothes, sunglasses or hand bang I was surprised to see such exclusive names such as Dolce and Gabbana, Versace and Prada. “What is this man who works as a Waiter doing wearing such expensive clothes?” I always wondered. I never asked him this question, because as it turns out, I did not have to.

Not to long ago, one afternoon in the middle of our lunch together- this man confessed to me that he was a fake (for the sake of maintaining this man’s privacy I hope readers will not mind me referring to him as this man. I think we are all entitled to our privacy no matter how much the things we do and say deserve a wider audience). When we first met for lunch that day, I noticed that he was not looking good at all. His black shirt was not tucked in and his gray suit jacket was wrinkled. The hair on his head seemed to be out of line and the bruised bags under his eyes collected the water from the previous days rain. “I am a fake….I want you to know this,” he said in a serious tone while putting the noodles from the chicken soup into his mouth. “Everything on me….is completely….fake….it is time I come clean.”

I was surprised by his confession but not entirely clueless. I had read an article a few weeks before about how people who make certain choices that hide the truth can often feel like fakes. The article went on to describe the detrimental psychological repercussions of knowing that you are fake and explained how easy it was for a person to fool others but how impossible it is to fool yourself. After I read this article I did not think about it again until the afternoon that this man sat in front of me eating chicken noodle soup and confessing to me his fraud.

“Prada, Armani, Zegna, Gucci, John Varvatos, Dolce and Gabbana, Versace….I dream these names….I hang pictures of the clothes on my wall….spend hours loitering in the finest department stores…..I try the clothes on and weep….they look so good on me….they feel like a million dollars….but I cannot afford them….the fact that I cannot afford the man I want to be kills me…. keeps me up at night….I spend hours wondering up ways to steal the clothes….ways to make quick cash and buy them….but these are all just dreams….so I travel into the tenderloin….go to a little shop that sells the next best thing….all this stuff is fake…. my $65 Armani suit….these fucking $10 Prada glasses….my $18.99 Versace shoes….and the fucking $1.00 special Gucci socks…. all of it is fucking fake….I can not take it anymore!”

Now I had the answer to my question and it all made sense. As this forty year-old Waiter dressed in fake designer clothes sat in front of me with tears running down his face and noodles coming out of the side of his mouth all I could do was think about myself. I thought about my own preoccupation with clothes. I had always liked to dress nice and I remembered that as a child I often dreamed about growing into a man who wore fine suits everyday. As I got older this dream seemed to fade away and I became content wearing t-shirts and jeans. Sometimes I shop at Banana Republic because I like how the clothes fit me, but if I do not have the money to go clothes shopping I will happily go many years without even buying a pair of socks. I had never thought that deep down it could be a source of repressed sadness for me that midway through my life I am not able to afford any sort of designer clothes. I have done a good job convincing myself that I do not need these things- but as this man sat in front of me confessing his counterfeiting ways, I could help but see a part of myself in him.

“I have the entire world fooled,” he lamented on. “Everyone wonders how I can afford such expensive clothes….on a Waiters salary….they think I come from a wealthy family….am independently wealthy…. this makes me feel like less of a victim or failure….it gives me a sense of power and pride….knowing that other people think I can afford the most expensive labels around….but I know….I know….that these clothes are fake….even though others might be impressed….I cannot make myself believe….that these clothes are real!!!!no matter how hard I try to convince myself….I shiver every time I pass by a department store window with an Armani or John Varvatos display….or when I notice a person who is wearing the real thing….I feel like a complete….such a complete looser.”

He was talking so loud that some eyes in the restaurant looked over our way. My eyes also looked around the restaurant and wondered how many of these nicely dressed people were wearing fake things? How many of them look good on the outside but are feeling fake and uncomfortable on the inside? Even though this man sitting in front of me has tears running down his face- how many of these people have tears running down their souls? I tried to offer some advice, to be of help to this man but I found that I had little to say that could repair his soul. “It is okay Randall….you do not have to give me advice….I just needed to tell the truth to someone….this is all the help I need.”

A month passed before I saw this man again. I thought about him almost everyday and since his confession I had not been able to stop noticing other people wearing designer labels and wondering how many of them were fake. We met for lunch at our regular place but this time something was different. This man was dressed in “normal” clothes. A plain t-shirt, jeans and converse shoes. I was surprised. “I just got rid of them all….every fake label I owned….ended up in the trash,” he told me with a confidence within his words that I had not heard before. “It is much easier just being me….no matter how much I wish…. I was someone else,” he said. I could relate and told him that I understood. “Knowing that I was a fake….a counterfeit….ate away at my soul….even though now I know….I may not look as good….or successful….or stylish….I feel like I have been set free.” I felt glad for this man even though when he crossed his legs I noticed a Gucci symbol on his green socks. He had found a happy ending for himself and seemed to come to terms with who he really was. We had a nice lunch that afternoon and as we were leaving he put on a pair of sunglasses that I noticed had a Versace label on the side of them. “Hey, what is with the glasses?” I asked him, knowing full well that they were a fake. “These my friend….are the real thing,” he replied with what looked like a sinister smile and we walked out into the light of day.

The Bank Teller

Let me tell you somethings. Did you know that every time we inhale, we absorb oxygen expelled into the atmosphere as a waste product by the earths plant life? Every time we exhale, we expel carbon dioxide as a waste product into the atmosphere where it can eventually be absorbed by the same plant life? Did you know this? Let me also tell you that no matter where you live upon our beautiful earth you are breathing in trace amounts of depleted uranium from the bombs that the U.S are using in Iraq. Did you know that over twenty thousand children die a day from starvation? How about the fact that a plane never went into the Pentagon? Did you know that 9-11 and the war in Iraq (which has terminated the lives of over one million Iraqis) are a result of what is called War Games? Let me also tell you that Lao Tzu, the Chinese mystic believed that if we can somehow expand our narrow image of ourselves and live from our wholeness, then many of our problems will simply disappear on their own.

This is why I took the job as a Bank Teller. It allows me the opportunity to tell strangers things that they would otherwise never know. Costumers come into the bank where I work and think that they are only coming in to deposit or withdraw money. They are usually impatient and in a hurry- stuck in what Lao Tzu would call “Narrowness.” Rather than just taking their money or giving them their money I like to tell them things- expand their consciousness. It is one way that I can make an active contribution to my community and to the human race as a whole. Did you know that writing poetry and reading poetry helps you maintain dignity, it will help you to be better suited to defend yourself in the world? I said this to a middle aged women the other day who seemed aggravated and in a hurry. I could tell that her life had become a collection of material pursuits and failed dreams and I could see the frustration in her eyes. “I have always wanted to read poetry but I never have the time,” she said to me with a glimmer of hope between her eyes. “Well, you might want to make time.” Today she returned to the bank with a book of T.S Elliot poems in her hands and she seemed refreshed. “I am making the time,” she said to me with a smile as I withdrew cash for her.

Often times people come into my bank to find out about bank balances, interests rates, mortgage payments, and fees. I give them the information they want but I usually prefice it with information that I want to tell. I have a sense of urgency within me that drives me to say something. Did you know that Spirulina, dried prunes, beef liver and beer are excellent sources of copper? I said to one man who looked to me to be suffering from a copper deficiency. Because of global warming and soil erosion, human beings are no longer getting a proper amount of this valuable mineral in their diets. The lack of copper in our diets may be responsible for the majority of contemporary diseases. The next day this man came back to the bank to show me the bottle of copper supplements he bought. It is by demanding dignity and respect that you gain it, I told another costumer who was being passive aggressive with me and refused to tell me how she was really feeling. Something was triggered in her when I said this and she straightened up her posture and left my bank looking more confident.

The managers at my bank are on my back. They have accused me of spending to much time with my costumers and not moving the line at a quick enough speed. Did you know that capitalism is used to exploit workers by making them maximize profits in the quickest amount of time? “I did not,” one of the managers said to me with a look of stupefaction upon his white collard face. Yes, capitalism exhausts the worker for the betterment of the organization that they work for. This is what drives capitalism. Use the worker to maximize profits for the company. When the worker gets worn out or dies- just fill the vacancy with another worker. There will always be workers because in capitalistic societies only the very few get to enjoy the wealth of other peoples labor, I explained. “Look, you are one of our best Bank Tellers but you need to stop spending so much time chatting with your costumers so that we can maintain our banks reputation for giving expedient service.” Then he walked away without waiting for my reply.

Did you know that I am going to get fired from my position as a Bank Teller? I am expecting it any day now. At the staff meeting yesterday the bank handed out a list of strategies for normalizing behavior in bank employees. One of these strategies was to replace words with a smile to speed up the line. “Smile more and speak less.” I am not a very good employee because I do not like bosses. I don’t like being subjected to their expectations. Did you know that a real culture functions to limit greed. Our culture functions to increase it , because we are repeatedly told, it’s profitable to do so, though the majority of profits go only to a few people, I said to every one present at the meeting. People who go to work for corporations essentially abandon their integrity as individuals in order to serve the corporation, I added to the consternation of the managers. “Okay that is enough just keep smiling and maximizing profits and that is all,” the head manager said and then ended our staff meeting. If you have lost the capacity to be outraged by what is outrageous, you’re dead. Somebody ought to come and haul you off, I said on our way out from the meeting. Like I said, I have a sense of urgency- I have to say something.

Did you know that we pity Muslim women for wearing veils, yet almost every face in this country is veiled by suspicion and fear? You can’t walk down a city street an get anybody to look at you. People’s countenances are undercover operations in America. Oh, and let me also tell you the most important thing I tell costumers at my bank. That love is not abstract and cannot lead to abstract action. Love is the catalyst for concrete action, which is taking responsibility for what we do here and now. Love is not just a feeling. It’s an instruction: love one another. That’s hard to do. It does not mean to sit at home and have fond feelings. You’ve got to treat people as if you love them , whether you do or not. I know that I am holding up the line, and that I am going to loose my job as a Bank Teller- but I have to tell these things……….