Tension of the Opposites

I often forget that my life is somewhat unconventional– That it requires further explanation to obvious meet-and-greet questions. It means funny looks, unintentionally critical questions, and sometimes blatant doubt written all across someones face. The reaction, I’ve grown somewhat used to. But I’ve also grown used to the terms by which I live, and I forget that I come with a large set of footnotes. I long for the day when I can complain about my jerk boss, and talk about an apartment with big windows where I live and my roommates are not my parents. They probably long for that day, too.

Living life with a chronic illness means a few things for me: It means being 32 and not working a real job. It means taking 25ish pills a day and still living under my parents wing. It means a lot of solitude and a lot of talking to the dog–probably more than humans. It means I typically smell like BenGay or peppermint oil, and wear an ice pack on my head almost always. These things have become *my normal. But I forget that they’re not and requires an often long, boring story that I’ve grown to cringe when I have to tell it. Retelling your story, your background, how you arrived at now over and over and over out loud, you start to feel a little phony.

I don’t know when it became such a frequent place to end up, but lately I always find myself hanging in the tension between two opposites, struggling to find the fragile balance in the middle. Feeling bined between two of anything is usually unsettling at best, but can often be torture. The two forces aren’t necessarily always polar opposites. Sometimes they’re merely dissimilar, but operate on the same plane. Think surrender and giving up. Gone unchecked, one can quietly ooze into the other, and suddenly you’re nowhere you thought you’d be. Sometimes they’re contradictory forces: maybe your heart wants something that the head doesn’t like. Other times it’s reconciling two truths at odds, choosing between two options and stuck in the messy mud of the middle. Since I consider myself pathologically plagued by indecisiveness, this tension has left me agonizing in the toothpaste aisle for way, way too long.

Currently, I find myself in the center of multiple conundrums, questions, opportunities, examinations.. Not all of them are quantifiable, and many of them seem to be ongoing. I lay in bed at night and the questions fly around the room like some kind of adult mobile made of cosmic questions and pitiful choices. My brain has been tangled with these questions lately:
*How do I surrender to my circumstances and accept my reality without giving up on trying to make things better?

*How do I talk about being sick without getting caught up in my story?

*How do I write bearing the reader in mind without compromising authenticity?

*How do I maintain a sense of autonomy and identity knowing full well I am reliant on the help of others.

*How do I engage in advocacy that is proactive and realistic without losing myself and my worth in every day outcomes?

How do I satisfy this sweet craving without overdosing on gummy vitamins?

Carl Jung calls this “The Tension Between the Opposites.”

He taught that if you can withstand the tension between two opposites, if you can hold it for longer than what is typically comfortable, often possibilities and solutions will arise you wouldn’t have considered before. It can be an enlightening experience, and also very painful. The waiting is tough. But if you can sustain that tension, you’ll usually encounter what he referred to as ‘The Transcendent Third’. This new ‘third’ can involve both or neither of the two pieces you’re between, but in the wait, you can reach deeper into consciousness, and often that’s where the wisest answers are. “There will be two opposite approaches for solving it.Neither solution will be correct, but must undergo the tension that will result in a third approach.”

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“There will be two opposite approaches to solving a problem. Neither will be correct, but must undergo the tension that will result in a third approach.”

The world is so fast now. We rarely take the time to be still, to listen even in silence. If you’d like to experience the discovery of the Transcendent Third, you have to answer this question the Lao Tzu posed on the matter: Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles? I’d say most of us don’t. Or we do but fail to realize it, living among a pace that’s fast and growing ever faster.
Lately I’ve given a lot of thought to the concept of surrender; something I continue to learn and accept every day it seems.  Among everything that being sick has taught me, surrender seems to stand out the most. Difficult beyond words, but once allowed in, it felt like I’d been given a glimpse of the divine. It can be a beautiful thing, but I didn’t learn it easily, at all, nor did I learn it all at once.

For years before 2011, my body spoke to me in a language called pain. Fatigue. It said slow down, stop, you’re not getting any better. And for years I downplayed, dismissed, and sometimes outright denied to myself that there was a real problem. As things were falling apart inside, I strived to hang on to all the attachments that the illness slowly started to take.  I thought as long as I could keep my job, it lessened somehow the reality of having a disease. It diminished it to an anecdote. I had it, it didn’t have me. As such, surrender came in pieces. Determined as I was, I couldn’t bare the tension of working, being sick and trying to get better. I was basically failing at all three. Something had to give. I will never forget that conversation in Andrews office, me holding back the tears as best as I could, saying I didn’t want to go. I had done my best, but my body just couldn’t take it anymore. Neither of us wanted me to worsen. We hugged and said that thing people say even when they know it’s not true. “I’ll see you again soon! Don’t worry.” But he did look worried, something in his eyes. I punched my time card for the last time–yes the 100-year-old gallery still used time cards. On that drive home I felt more lost and afraid than I’d ever had.

That was the end and the beginning. The next two years would the hardest–the most brutal on every level. I resisted. Lied to myself. Conceived of ways I could return to the path I was on before getting sick. It felt like someone had sat on the remote control of my life and accidentally pressed the pause button. There was an incessant feeling that wherever I was, there was somewhere else that I should be. Not this. Not here. I was sick when I should be well. In California when I should be home. At home on a weekday when I should be at work. I never had an inkling that Yep, this is right where I’m supposed to be. I thought if only I could survive this “wrinkle in time” I could resume the life I’d had before. Just like that. As if time moved in any direction but forward.

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Bye Old Life

I’ve had six years to adapt to the life I would feel proud to call my own again, but it certainly wasn’t  the one designed by my hand. I think the final straw that led to surrender was simply a matter of being too tired to fight. Somewhere after year 2, I let go of the last of my life plans–fed them into a shredder and watched as little paper ribbons emerged. Surrender. One part complete fear, one part total release. In hindsight it’s clear that the fear was mostly ego-driven. If I wasn’t designing my own outcomes, who or what was? And by the way, who could know the path I should take better than me? (Laughable now)  But the release had one up on the fear. It meant making room for the life that was waiting for me to finally begin. In fact I was the hindrance. I was the one sitting on the remote.

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My Life: Mid Rise Skinnies

After six years in the game, my life doesn’t feel foreign or as though it should be another way. It feels more like a perfectly worn-in pair of jeans. The ones where the denim is at that awesome level of soft and is tight and skinny in all the right places. I think jeans are one of the most personable clothing items. Have you ever tried someone else’s jeans on before? It feels like trying on clown pants. In the beginning, that’s what being home on a Tuesday at 2 pm felt like. Now that’s just business as usual.

I now struggle with the idea that if I surrender too much, if the circumstances of my life simply feel normal, I’ll become complacent. I’ll forget that it shouldn’t be this way. I’m not supposed to be sick all the time and spend vacations half conscious on the couch. But it’s become the norm. I don’t want to become so desensitized that a bookshelf filled entirely of my prescription bottles doesn’t shock me at all. And I don’t want to lose the fire in me to change the things we need to change, as a community that fought long and hard before I ever came around. I want to embrace and be happy where I am, but I want to be proactive. And so I’m trying to find the balance between enjoying the present while also remembering that there’s an injustice at play here, something that needs fixing.

I could easily be the one too sick to fight, but I’d have no doubt the warriors in the community would continue to work until it’s done. The baton might change hands but the balance remains. And just because I’ve tapped into joy and surrender and gratitude where I am, doesn’t change the fact that I am part of a community, one that has fought for this cause for decades. I owe it to them to do what I can. I am constantly seeking a way to advocate for what I know is right, but remain distant enough that my ego doesn’t get drawn in to the wrong efforts. It happens all too easily.

A very strange thing that might be hard to believe– I don’t actually like talking about being sick. And I feel that I’m kind of terrible at the whole advocacy thing. Luckily online my awkwardness doesn’t shine through as much, but it’s still a struggle for me to solicit people to help, even though I believe 101% in this cause and am certain I’ll continue petitioning until the deed is done. But how can that be?

How can it be true that I don’t like talking about being sick and yet I have an entire blog devoted to very subject: “Life through the sick lens”? I’ve toyed a lot with these opposing truths and tried to understand how I could want both. And I think the answer is somewhere near this: By speaking honestly about the experience, particularly the chronic illness experience which I found to be largely misunderstood, and by foregoing the typical polite response or social etiquette and supplementing instead with what is true, I open up a space for us to move closer together instead of further apart. By writing about a topic that can be very isolating, people are given a chance to understand, instead of blindsiding them with “Well I live in mismatched pjs and I haven’t showered for a week because I’m too weak to shampoo my own hair and oh, you’ll never understand!” (Runs out of coffee shop. Trips. Continues running.)

Contrary to what I hear people say all the time, the world is actually full of good people, and most of them aren’t trying to hurt you. 99% of the ones I know are exceptional, and they are sympathetic and helpful about my situation when given the chance to be. But you have to be willing to reach out, which means you have to expose a need, and sometimes that’s the hardest part of all. I only know if I keep too tight a lid on my own unusual experience, hellbent that the world will just never get it, I will most likely be right, but it won’t be the worlds fault.

So, life continues, seeking out the peace in the middle. Waiting patiently for the right answer to arise in so many scenarios. And holding the tension between opposites long enough to tap into something deeper and wiser than I ever could be. It’s not the easiest thing, but it sure beats pulling my hair out between Crest Multi Care and Colgate Total at midnight in Walgreens. The point is to be still, patient, and wait for the mud to settle.

Health, Happiness, Settling Mud

The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Song. Hot Off the Street.

Since I have a large amount of free time, I started writing a song about ME/CFS. I called it “The Myalgic Encephalomyelitis But For Our Purposes the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Song.” Slides right off the tongue right? I told myself if we hit 40,000 signatures, I’d post the song and lighten things up a bit. There’s not much humor in chronic disease talk or advocacy, but I think we could all use some. So, 40,000 signatures later..here we are. A few things.

But first, sign the danged petition. Did you sign it? Just sign it. Did you? Click on the link and type your name. Did you do that? OK, well then do it now. I’ll wait. Sign it. You’ve signed it now? Great! I don’t have to keep saying it? I’ll stop. Cool. OK but so just to be clear you signed it right?  Thank you. I love you. https://www.change.org/p/increase-research-funding-for-me-cfs

1. I don’t claim to know how to play guitar. I learned six chords on it a few years ago and can fumble through a few songs, most of them by Taylor Swift as her songs consist of the same four chords. I love it. Anyway this is why my song is only two chords. Sorry.

2. Monty makes some background noise now and then that I was too tired to edit out. He was chewing on some toy the whole time I played. Then in the middle of verse 3 decides he wants to play tug of war. He’s never had great timing, and we’re working on that.

3. This is more of a philosophical thought in general that I had while writing the song–maybe all diseases should come with their own jingle? That way tragic news might be a tad easier to take. Like “hey hey hey, you’ve got cancer in you brain!” Or “Looks like you’ve got a case of GOUT, hey! But we can fix that, no DOUBT, hey!” More creative lyrically, but you get the idea.

4. I’m sure someone will comment that I don’t look sick. Understandable, and truthfully I have improved from how I was last November when it was challenging just to walk. But looks are deceiving and they call this disease invisible for a reason. All those pill bottles behind me are my own, that I’ve been haphazardly saving for the last 9 months or so. I’m wearing my pajamas but threw on a bra and some lipstick– you know, to be professional.

5. This song is for anyone who is sick, including those with chronic illness, and especially ME/CFS. I hope it makes you laugh or smile, because I know that being sick is a weight you carry around all the time, and it’s heavy and intense to deal with daily. Sometimes you just have to step back and laugh. So let’s have some fun.

But make no mistake, this took work and has a specific goal. Rhyming with adrenal insufficiency is no easy task!  I crashed week after week just trying to record it (I know, and it’s still poor quality) but I wanted it to be decent enough to make the rounds, maybe inform some people, make others laugh, and perhaps land on the desk of someone who can help us. You never know if you never try. I’m ready to fight for this as long as it takes, sick or well. So until we get the adequate funding, prepare for more creative/ridiculous forms of advocacy, and please help spread the word. Yall have been a huge help, keep it goin! Thanks again, and enjoy :)

Health, Happiness, and Disease Jingles

That Year the Universe Sh*t On My Family: A Six Part Series

Part 1: No Big Deal

There is no shortage of platitudes and sayings, bumper stickers or posters inside of cutesy frames meant to remind us how fragile life is. How fleeting. How fast it can all go upside down. How fast it can all go, altogether. Live Life to the Fullest, You Never Know How Many Tomorrows You Have Left. I hate this phrase, and I can’t totally say why. A cliché, true, but I can deal with clichés. I even love them sometimes. It might be that I see this and similar phrases on decorative pillows in Stein Mart, on picture frames holding happy photos, etched onto a wooden clock piece in my doctors waiting room, but I rarely confront people who actually seem to live this way. Except Monty of course- he does everything to the fullest. At that doctors’ office with the clock, for instance, the women at the front desk are really mean. All 3 of them, mean. True story. It seems like people who are conscious of how devastatingly short our time is here wouldn’t be so mean, particularly to sick people. But hey, maybe their boss is a jerk. Or they’re having a hard day. Or how about Hey, there are a lot of good excuses to be really mean. Doesn’t mean you have to be. 

I know, I’m writing as though I live this way and sadly I don’t. I forget all the time. I let petty things get to me, forget to be appreciative, or simply fail to treasure the life I’ve been given. Nobody gets away with a pain-free life. It wasn’t a part of the contract that we’d come here and it would be easy. That it wouldn’t hurt sometimes. But you know what other phrase I like? Don’t waste pain. What an auspicious, novel idea it is, to see pain not as a punishment but simply as part of the program. A piece to the puzzle, the plan. It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, but maybe it doesn’t have to be so bad. In hindsight, it’s been the more painful and tough experiences that have taught me the most, made me dig deeper for purpose, made me kinder, more aware, grateful, better. It’s not that they aren’t terrible experiences sometimes, because damn, sometimes When It Rains It Pours. But what can you do other than pick up the pieces and keep going? If you’ve suffered a long time, you might as well redeem the coupon and see what’s on the other side of it. If it’s more suffering well, maybe you’re missing something. Or maybe you’re cursed. Either way, at least you have experience, so you’ll know how to do it. “I’m really good at suffering.” I should put that on my resume.

It’s easy to feel sometimes like you’re getting an unfair deal. And you probably are. I confront stories and realities everyday that are gut wrenching, heartbreaking, and nearly impossible to explain. Watch five minutes of the news, explain that. But I’ve also encountered stories and people who have suffered immensely, endured incredible pain,  and emerged as better people for it. They didn’t just survive their experience, their loss, but actually came out happier than they were before-not bitter. Fair or unfair, they kept going. And it’s almost a miracle to observe what some people have faced in one lifetime and not given up in the process. These people are generally pretty awesome, and hearing their stories are encouraging and important. Maybe their stories should make the news more often.

Anyway, this one year, two thousand and shit, I mean six, 2006, was a really tough one. For every member of my family, life roared its ugly head, respectively. But we survived it and it’s encouraging to remember that, particularly when it’s pouring. I also find it hilariously tragic, if that’s an acceptable phrase. Our lives did turn upside down, but we emerged standing. OK I emerged sitting but the rest of them, standing strong. So, here is our story, in six parts, of the year the Gelpi’s were shit on collectively. Just remember, it all ended up OK, even though at times it felt definitely not OK. Maybe that’s the cliché platitude to take away from that year. Everything is OK, even when it isn’t.

***

On a Tuesday morning in 2006, I can recall certain details with complete clarity; each of my senses awakens and remembers with a concrete ease. I am brushing my teeth in my college apartment surrounded by beige everything: carpet, walls, countertop. My boyfriend is watching TV on the couch waiting to give me a ride to class. Media Law 2030— my favorite course, taught by one of the best professors I’d ever have at LSU. Professor Freeman, the Man. On the first day he passed out a syllabus and guided us broadly through the timeline we’d follow through the semester. In bolded font halfway down page 1 it read: If you are going to miss any day of class this semester, make sure it’s NOT February 6th. It was February 6th.

I can taste the mintiness of that toothpaste still– I’m tapping the toothbrush on the rim of the sink, releasing the excess water. When my phone buzzes in my back pocket, I see “home” on the screen and think twice about answering. I know that conversations with my mom were often pretty long, so I consider waiting to answer it; call her back after class when you’ll have more time. But that thought quickly vanished and I pick up instead. On the other end, a very weak, unfamiliar voice emits from the phone–a voice that I know belongs to my mom yet sounds nothing like her. Mary? Shit. She could barely get my name out. I was standing by the bed now, looking at the ridiculously bright orange of my duvet; I’d bought it at Target because it seemed like happy bedding. Mom? I couldn’t know what she would say next, but hearing just one word in that crushed voice, I brace myself for the verbal equivalent of a car accident– that moment after the screeching breaks, just before the collision. Through palpable pain and shock, the words emerge just above a whisper. Roger died last night. …Crash…

Roger was my stepdad, my moms second husband. My dad had died of cancer when I was 12, and despite whole heartedly believing she would never marry again, in walked Roger. Her second chance at love. Something called grace, I think, seeing her happy that way again. Roger was the reassuring ending I could give people when they asked where my dad lived and then grew visibly uncomfortable hearing the answer. I’m sorry they would say, and I knew that they meant it and this was the standard response, but somehow its never quite felt right to me. Unfitting. Square peg in a round hole kind of thing. It’s OK, I’d comfort them. She fell in love and is remarried. She’s really happy. They’d loosen up, their shoulders would relax. I’d make some joke to break the tension. Better. It was OK.

What my mom was telling me didn’t completely register– it didn’t feel possible. That exceptionally human thought circulated: This was not supposed to happen. And yet in the same instant, something deep within, the intuitive part that knows things but not through cognition, knew with an aching certainty that it was true. Of course it was possible. These things happen everyday, except that they happened to other people, not to us. Four little words, nothing the same.

Goodbye It’s OK. Hellooooo cruel world!

I can’t remember if I sat on the bed or stayed standing, but I remember that orange of my duvet suddenly taking on a very harsh shade. A ridiculous color. I momentarily gasped for air and caught my breath. What? But I heard her, I knew what. You just figure, we already lost a husband/father, we should be safe with this next guy, right? All at once the universe revealed its impartial nature, the lawless reality of our life here. Fair, unfair, it didn’t matter. No one got a free pass. After shock, losing it, then regaining composure all in a breath, I tell her I’m on my way. I’ll be there in an hour. I hear her lose it again. Her weak voice, now with a noticeable outer concern. Your sister is getting married in a week! The cherry on top: one week until Amelie’s wedding–the already postponed wedding thanks to Katrina–at the same venue where Roger and my mom were married less than 5 years ago. Awesome. Cool. No big deal. I’m frantically throwing random clothes into a bag that will later turn out to be socks, a sweatshirt, pajama bottoms, and zero shirts. But I try to stay steady on the phone. Don’t worry about that. Who’s with you? She tells me our neighbor and two family friends are there. Still, in the midst of basic horror, she is heartbreakingly maternal. Are you alone? Don’t drive here by yourself. I tell her I’m fine. I’ve got the dog. I’ll be there in an hour.

We havin’ fun yet? :)

By midnight I was shuttling the last of my siblings from Louis Armstrong, across that long bridge, back to our house. They came from every direction, Amelie with a wedding dress packed in her suitcase. And what did we do? What the Gelpi’s do best: weddings and funerals. Oddly enough, it’s not just logistics. Although the fact that Roger died in another state complicated things only slightly. He was in Florida on business. When he didn’t show up for work the second day, they found him in his hotel bed. Something heart-related. Tragic to say the least, although not a bad way to peace out if you’re not into long goodbyes. With my dad there was time. This sudden-death thing was a whole new ballgame. What else can you do but step up and play the best you know how.

We planned a funeral. Prepared for a wedding. And in between we crowded around my mom protectively like a pack of elephants. We would cry a lot. Give a shoulder for others to cry on. We’d allow the silence when there was nothing to say. And we’d make ridiculous and morbid jokes when we needed to laugh, which we needed a lot of. People who attempted to explain the pain away or fill the silences with quips like “Everything happens for a reason!” or “God has a plan!” weren’t invited to our epic dinners. Not because these phrases weren’t true or even inappropriate really, but because it wasn’t about fixing it. Something tragic happened and it was going to hurt. We’d have to allow that. More than anything, that week was just about being there, being together, picking up the pieces and doing what we had to. I remember my boyfriend Gabe being nervous about coming over. “I know I’m going to cry when I see your mom.” I could sense his angst. But I laughed and reassured him, “So what? That’s what we’re all doing!” And that’s just what happened; when he saw her he cried and she did too. They hugged and felt it. And it was OK. We all took turns.

Friends and family would trickle in and out, and at night we’d have these big, loud dinners. Eat, drink, and tell stories about Roger late into the night. There was crying and hugging and crying and kleenex and relived shock every time we had to tell someone. But there was also a crazy amount of joy and laughter. My brother Doug laughed so hard he cried. So many people showed up for us in many different ways–food, room and board, help with funeral, help with wedding, never asking for a dime. It was truly an intimate and precious time, and we saw how lucky we were, how much love we were surrounded by. Roger was extremely particular so we’d have to make this funeral right. And I know he would’ve approved. The service was outside in the garden that he created, around the pond he’d dug himself. Lot’s of people spoke, including my mom. I can’t remember all of what she said, but I do remember her saying “To love is to be vulnerable to loss. And I’d still do it over again.” What a badass! We grieved. We rested. Then three days later, we had a wedding.

Correction; we had an epic wedding. Once again, the same people showed up plus a bunch of Californians from Keegan’s side. They said “I Do” and the celebration of love and life continued. A beginning after an end. Conceptually these ceremonies seem opposite, but they aren’t so far apart when you drink whiskey and get philosophical. OK there are many differences, but the biggest was the insane amount of dancing we did. And that would’ve been inappropriate at the funeral. I think. ‘Appropriate’ is a hard word for the Gelpi’s to understand, but I like it that way. It means throwing out the rules and embracing the moment, doing what you have to. Talk about a cliché. That week was an intensive life course in The Show Must Go On. And I have to say, I think we aced it. You might say we Danced Like No One Was Watching. That night when I looked over and saw my mom dancing among everyone, a week after tragedy and unspeakable loss (for the second time), I knew anything was possible. A lot of people might say we had really terrible luck, and they might be right, but celebrating that night, seeing my mom dance anyway? I felt really, really lucky.

I also had this strange feeling that big things were in store for her, good things. Turns out when I have strange feelings, I’m usually right. Stay tuned! .

Health, Happiness, No Big Deal

Saturday Night, Live.

It’s 10:21 on a Saturday night, and I feel happy to say I’ve progressed beyond feeling sad about not being somewhere else, somewhere interesting; a party, an event, socializing anyway. I am simply here, home, Monty nursing a busted paw and me trying to avoid the cold most of my family has succumbed to. There was a time not so long ago where being alone at this moment would have a certain angst to it, some restlessness that I should be out, I should be doing something. And I can’t say that struggle is completely over, because it’s not. Not having daily expectations and tasks is oddly work in itself, at least psychologically, if not just a certain re-education of everything I’ve learned about what it means to be important, what it takes to matter. I am still learning those ropes and how to keep a solid hold on my psyche being in one place often and for long periods of time. I imagine those kinds of feelings could haunt anyone, and I remember working full time and still encountering angst of this nature, but of another category. Yeah I’m working a 9-5 job, I’m busy and have a business card with my name printed on it, but do I give a real shiznit about what I’m doing? Am I into this life I’m living, or just numbly going through the motions. I could never be sure I was doing what I wanted or what I thought I was supposed to–taking the natural expected steps that people like me were expected to take. At times I was so disconnected from myself, I would have no idea at the end of a movie whether I liked it or not. I remember specifically feeling this way shortly after watching the movie Punch Drunk Love when it came out on rent. This was in the days of Blockbuster, RIP. My boyfriend at the time, a veritable nihilist who really only showed positive feelings for Dashboard Confessional now that I think of it,  thought it was stupid and totally forced. My brother Nick, with whom I watched the film and who I respected exponentially more than my boyfriend, really liked it. I remember thinking I might like it, but not actually knowing with certainty–I couldn’t explain with any critical feedback why I did or didn’t enjoy it. I only hoped I liked it because I looked up to someone who did. I also realized around that time that my boyfriend was a racist and that was the end of that. Big weekend for me. Anyway, I had a point here. The point is that, even if the veneer of this is a little sad– a Saturday night alone with my dog–and even if maybe one day in the future I’ll look back on nights like tonight and feel bad for my little lonesome self, it’s feels good now to be alone and also feel no pressure to be otherwise. It’s reassuring to remember I’m OK and the conditions to this state are not reliant upon anybody else, really. Sometimes I think I end up doing things or going places just to combat the opposite of that thought–as long as life is loud enough, as long as I’m preoccupied with enough distractions and expectations and tasks of mild importance, I don’t really have to face the question of whether I’m OK or not, vague as it is. I like to know that when everyone goes home at the end of the day, I’m not going to fall to pieces or lose the shape of my self completely. I’d like to know my self and my stability isn’t so pliable. I don’t say any of this with the delusion that being single or living your life alone is an optimal choice.  I guess the point is that wherever you find yourself is usually an OK place to be, it’s where you’ve ended up and usually for reasons that won’t make sense for a very long time. Rare is the gratitude to be exactly where you are and the appreciation of a quiet, without interference, with all expectations and plans and goals coming to a haunted hush of OK and evenness.  There is a lot of questioning yourself and guesswork, and there’s not always someone to tell you you’re doing the right thing or making the right move. It can be sobering to realize I am my own source of good judgment, or that I have to be, because there isn’t anyone else who will endure the consequences of my choices but me. And maybe that is true whether you’re alone or surrounded by people. But it can also be empowering and calming to know you’ve made it this far. You’re still breathing. You’re doing OK. And with so much attention given to pain and drama and the hardship of life, I just felt some need to highlight a very average Saturday, where I watched a little football and laughed out loud at SNL, and at the end of the day in the sharp stillness that comes after turning off a TV, I felt fine. Unworried. Unphased. The opposite of out of breath. And since I know how prevalent those other feelings are, and how fast and easily everything can change, I wanted to get it in writing that on October 9th, 2016, nothing great happened. But nothing terrible happened either. I’m on my own but also far from alone. Of course, I get more help than most my age and I’m often fighting for a sense of independence and self sufficiency despite the help I require and receive. Tonight I just feel grateful that during those times I have help, and during other times I have myself, and both are good things. I guess I just feel plugged into a reality in a way that isn’t exciting or new, but would usually require fireworks or drugs or people or noise, but it’s totally quiet. I’m about to get into a bed with sheets that I picked out, because I trust myself OK?! Actually come to think of it I don’t love the sheets on my bed right now, but they are clean and that’s another simple pleasure that if you’re tuned out, if you’re just moving ad hoc from one point to another, you’ll miss because you’re always waiting for something large and shiny and loud to wow you.  I’m well aware that most days aren’t like this. They’re dramatically more tilted toward feelings, good or bad, and those feelings are informing almost every move I make. I encounter moments, I react, I remember, I feel guilty, blah blah blah. Rarely do I live in the hushed middle of compliance and peace, untinkered by time. Probably soon I won’t feel this way, I’ll lose this stillness and the stirrings of my psyche will resume and I’ll make faces as my ego restarts–in the past, moments like this haven’t lasted very long. But maybe I’ll want to remember that at one time I did feel this way, which means I felt very little at all, and so here it is in writing. There is a lot happening. Hurricane Mathew just took a lot of peoples lives and demolished a lot of homes, and like most catastrophes I watch and read about it feeling disconnected and helpless and I hate that feeling. What can someone like me do but pray for the ones who need it and be grateful that this time, the storm didn’t hit us. There is a lot happening. A major political parties presidential nominee just said worse things than your racist uncle or fundamentalist father-in-law, or creepy older cousin in this case I suppose. There is a lot happening. I’m petitioning my government for 100 million dollars, and it’s not a joke at all. It may actually be possible. It is a weird time, and it will all pass. But for now I feel happy to be here, to have what I have and know what I know. Which isn’t a lot, but for tonight, it’s enough.

Health, Happiness, This

Airports.

I am somewhere between supine and upright on my couch where I have taken residence the entire week. My postcards read Greetings From the Couch! Most the movement taking place is in a continual rearrangement of pillows, positions and blankets in a futile effort to achieve positional comfort one way or another. No success yet. There must be an ergonomic texting/reading chair somewhere out there.

Outside it thunders, as it has every afternoon this week. It’s hinting at another storm, but has yet to produce rain. Monty is in mental disarray, gyrating off and on in these vibrational fits, all due to thunder. I’m still surprised he exhibits such outward fear this way, mostly due to the frequency of thunder in Louisiana–like fearing snow in Colorado. It’s instinct, apparently, that guides him to squeeze his awkward, girthy body into the narrowest nooks of his own making around the house, which right now is between the sofa and coffee table beneath my outstretched legs. When I go to the bathroom, he follows close behind and then wedges himself between the toilet and the wall. Another round of gyrating. Every time it cracks suddenly or it grumbles in that deep rocky tenor, he stares up at me suspiciously with visceral worry in the whites of his eyes. It’s like he’s saying “See, I told you” as though the sound of thunder was proof that it were dangerous. Maybe it is and we’re in harm ways;  I’m just too dense to know it.

My petting and reassuring him with extremely human explanations, my instinct, apparently, does nothing to quell his fear. A boyfriend once told me, as is distinctly male instinct, that it’s my own cushioning and coddling him in my high-pitched, soothing voice that makes him nervous because it communicates that there’s something to be nervous about. If you only acted normal, so would he. But I am beyond certain now that this is an incorrect hypothesis, not just because of the many instances of thunder and attached panic I’ve witnessed, but because once, a year or so ago, I came home from the grocery store in the middle of an aggressively loud storm. Unable to find Monty, I finally discovered him not only in the bathroom, but in the bathtub, quivering. This is still both one of the saddest and funniest discoveries I think I’ve ever made. Being righteous as I am I noted right away that this fear of his is no the result of my coddling, but from some primive instinct to get the hell under something, squeeze into a tiny space and quiver till it’s over. Interestingly enough, they say the bathtub is the safest spot to seek during a tornado etc. That’s what my mom says anyway, to which her husband cackles As if there’s a safe place to go during a tornado. 

I’m supposed to be on a 4:00 plane to Miami tomorrow. I’m visiting my Brother & Company for a week and then attending my best friends Miami Bachelorette Party at the week’s end through labor day, braving ourselves amid the Zika hysteria. I’m in no shape physically to travel right now, but I’m hoping and praying for some kind of divine help. For more than a week, I’ve been, what’s the phrase…Out of Service. Technical difficulties. Shit For Brains. The usual Crash buffet. I’ve rested pretty continuously, changing couch to chair one day, trying a different room the next, mixing it up as much as is possible right now. Among the physical shiftiness  I find myself really grateful that I have the time and space to actually rest. I always recall my last few months of working full-time, when I felt this way daily. The added angst of knowing that on top of being that sick I had to show up somewhere and be a functioning human being was enough for a nervous breakdown. Those were incredibly tough days, but I’m glad I had them. It swells my gratitude now that I don’t have to push through the pain, fake a smile, tell people I’m fine when I’m half certain I’m about to croak. It’s a gift that I don’t have to live like that now, and I try to stay aware of it. I know that traveling to Miami and sleeping somewhere that isn’t home is going to take a lot out of me, annoyingly, because I always prided myself on being a low-maintenance traveler. I’m still able to sleep almost anywhere and don’t require a lot of amenities, except water for pills and sometimes an emergency room. But I don’t think I qualify as low-mainenance anymore. And there’s a price to pay in leaving home now, and that’s just part of the deal. “Vacations” are not relaxing things really. They are usually a lot of fun, but they are always costly. It’s one of many things that, due to physical restraint, has become depressingly large– mundane things are no longer right-sized.  Laundry. Packing. Putting bags into smaller bags. Remembering. Prescription refills. Pharmacy lines. Doctor authorizations. Insurance Authorization. Pharmacy on-hold music. Monty’s sad face when I get out the suitcase. Lifting and carrying and dragging a portable box of crap on wheels around.The normal stuff everyone endures. When you think of all the steps you’ve gone through by the time you’re sitting on an airplane seat, it’s a lot! It’s the same except for the burden it will bear later. An ongoing debt you have to pay, for a bunch of crap you don’t even want! Hah. Am I done complaining yet? Maybe.

I’m thinking of one of the largest culprits of exertional consumption: Airports. Like Vegas, it’s a surprising amount of walking. Standing. Waiting. Discerning boarding announcments. Taking off and putting on shoes and jackets and giving the laptop its own bin and PLEASE MOVE OUT OF THE WAY MA’AM. It’s the meanest display of manners one will ever encounter. A harsh environment in many respects, the airport is like entering this fluorescently lit void where nothing is permanent and you’ll live a little while–but only as a stop on your way somewhere else. Not so different from the no-name town interstate exit you take on a road-trip at 3 am, strictly to use the bathroom and gas the car. It’s a blurred cross-section of time zones cultures and classes that feels like one wavelength just outside reality. The normal rules don’t apply. What time is it? It could be so many different o’clocks at once!

It’s a funny place. It does things to perspective, to experience, even physiologically. You walk but somehow it feels like you’re running. Down a transient track you go, walkrunning to your gate, (your  3 am exit) as bits of conversation and commerce and commotion fly past you in quick succession, one second glances in the eyes of strangers, some of them feeling oddly familiar. Snapshots of children having tantrums among bulky luggage in a news store inline. So many incremental, rapid snapshots of all the others in the world. You forget they’re out there. They flash by at such a rapid pace, and just as quickly they’re gone. I always feel incredibly slow, unable to keep up with a pace that is either insanely hurried or intolerably slow. I feel standstill among it, even when I’m walk-running. There’s a certain nervousness I detect; most people aren’t really reading their books. I know because I’m creepy and I watch while they wait. They’re always looking up and around, just making a general visual sweep, assuring their psyches that no one in the vicinity has lost their mind yet or look like they’re going to. The people watching went down a few notches with the introduction of cell phones. Now people are actually entrenched in what they’re doing–looking at Facebook or Twitter or any of it on their phones, and probably someone could lose their shit really loudly and they’d hardly notice at all. Anyway, inevitably, there’s the well dressed business man running full speed with his expensive roller suitcase in toe and his jacket flapping behind him. Excuse me!! He yells with importance and people seem to respond. Yes move please thank you! Some people give him a dirty look, but they’ve forgotten solidarity! We have all been that man running like an idiot to our gate. I must say the image always makes me smile. It’s the quintessential reminder that yes, you’ve arrived to the airport. Buy something trashy and take a seat. Read, don’t read, you’ll enjoy yourself regardless because there’s something pervertedly entertaining about watching people dressed nicely and running at high speeds. I know I know, solidarity. But it’s just too easy. Thousands of people you’ll never see again.

airport-ronald-haber
Hi your flight has been delayed six days
A mighty few are novelty travelers, for whom the airport is filled with opportunity and new adventure, and the unique sights and sounds are an exciting reminder of going somewhere new! But sadly many more represent the disgruntled traveler, the jaded one, the one with 3 million frequent flyer miles that he’ll never use–for a vacation anyway. Like the teacher who has been teaching far too long, he’s too familiar with the height of inefficiency he’s about to face, the hoards of human stupidity he’ll have to wait on and wade through just so he can board a vessel where all the pieces and parts of utility and supposed comfort are screaming “I’M TOO SMALL!” Inevitably he’ll be seated by a yelling toddler being spoken to as though he were 40, all so he can experience the miracle of flying at 40,000 feet, a height repeated by the captain 2 too many times along with others “uhhhs” and stutters and unnecessary bits of information. Then the final descent, a wobbly landing to applauding passengers for God knows why, in Cincinnati freaking Ohio.

Personally, I love flying.

The sky has finally opened its mouth to a downpour. Monty has calmed, but he sees the open suitcase in the corner and we’re both a little weary.

Health, Happiness, Seats Forward and Tray Tables up

 

Authors note: This was written ten days ago. Not that you care. 

The Thick

Blindfolded, deafened, gone for more than 30 years, I think a native could return to Louisiana in the thick of summer, depart a plane at Louis Armstrong, inhale once and know exactly where he was. Despite the cliché, there is “something in the air” here, yes mostly humidity and probably some indisputable carcinogens, but something else in that first sauna breath you take–The one that wets your lungs with tiny beads of moisture and probably all your other organs too. That first thankless inhale of steam disguised as air: it’s as distinct as the creeping surprise of the Vegas lights after endless, sleepy desert,  unmistakable as the New York City skyline, tangible as the feeling of velvet soft sand on your feet in Destin, once again–it’s always the same. Maybe there’s where the comfort lies. No one ever doubted New Orleans is one city in the country with what we’d call ‘personality’, which is rare in itself, but that you can feel this elusive, geometric charm and how quickly it engages with you, within your first breath of arrival! It’s one reason I love calling this place home. I like the certainty of knowing just where you are. It’s maybe why Percy’s The Moviegoer is so perfectly set in New Orleans (and surrounding areas) for Binx Bingsley, whose fear is being a nobody, nowhere, or anywhere. He wants to be Somebody, Somewhere. And that characters angst always resonates with me when I’m doing something so Louisiana particular. Even it’s just arriving at the airport.

This is not to say there is charm in 98 degrees with 100% humidity and a “feels like temperature of 112!” laughs the thick banged weather lady. With certainty, this place is a gym sock in the summer. I’m writing from inside a gym sock. The cicadas drone outside, another distinct assurance you are where you think you are, their shriek understandably creepy to newcomers, but I think they’re mostly carrying on about the heat, like the rest of us. There’s also the two weeks of swarming termites, and cock roaches, and mosquitos the size of so and so, but it’s all a part of the agreement of summer and survival and Louisiana. You do actually have to make sacrifice to live here, bear things other places do not and would not bear, but somehow it adds to the solidarity of being a citizen here, like you must earn it if you weren’t born in it, and if you were, you might not see any novelty in what I’m mentioning at all. Maybe it’s that I didn’t always live here, had to re-gain my Southernness that I appreciate otherwise somewhat awful things, but even awful things can be special.

The weather is usually such a boring topic of conversation–a fill in topic with people on an elevator or someone you have absolutely nothing in common with. “Gosh..it’s so hot outside.” “Oh my gosh, I know, I was just telling Jerry here that I soaked through my shirt yesterday and you could see everything!” But the heat of summer in New Orleans isn’t weather. It’s air that was once alive and now is dead. Stagnant with no mercy, demanding that you find the least amount of clothes to wear while maintaining some amount of dignity, which has always been hard to do, but comes naturally to true Southern Belles. Especially the elderly ones with the delicate hankies for their brow. The ones with the good stories, who have almost literally seen it all. Their growling, thin-lipped faces, hardly tainted by the heat, probably look at people like me and mine in our cropped, spaghetti-strap tank tops and cut off jean shorts and think “What a shame. The decay of the Southern Woman.”

While it’s true my mom and grandmother actually did walk to school in the snow, Southern women lived when donning multiple layers of clothing was basically required, even in Summer. And if that weren’t enough, they persevered without air conditioning. How? Why? How? This makes me feel like even more of a pansy than I already consider myself, which is pretty high up there on the pansy scale. I call the air stagnant now, but how can when I have the ice-cold relief of entering an air-conditioned building or house, where I then actually get cold and require my handy feather-weight Gap cardigan! How did they do it? After three summers, why didn’t they head for Cali? They must’ve seen telegraphs about 75 degree weather year round! I imagine New Orleans on a beach and think it’d be by far the greatest city of the world, but of course, Louisiana could never ‘happen’ in California. We’re mossy and swampy but formal and demure, not palm tree’d and beachy and board shorted. And yet, we live on a coast. Which is disappearing! The excitement of it all!

It’s not just the stagnancy of air, but of people. Here in the dead pit of Summer, you see them in their cars at stop lights, tired eyes squinting because despite whatever direction they’re facing the sun always seems to be in their eyes, shining at them. Yelling if it could. If you took a photo of one of these persons, and I have been this person, it would be in black and white, evoking the feelings of depression-era photographs, and the caption at the bottom would have one word: “Why?” Condemned. That’s how they look. One degree from driving off the next bridge.

My house can’t cool off during the hours of 1 and 3. The AC just can’t keep up. Monty lies on the tile and pants the entire time, not even bothering for me to play with him because neither of our bodies could withstand the exertion while being smothered by a steam shower we never asked to take. You always forget how intense this heat is. “It’s just this humidity!” any tourist will tell you. And actually most locals will too. Despite the extended Louisiana summer unfolding somewhere near to this climate for at least the last hundred years, and it’s still boasted like humidity is new to the menu. Like El Nino is just making things crazy! And yes I know, we’ve had some actual El Nino and last year was the hottest year on record. But still, the difference between 92 and 96 degrees is slightly felt when you’re out under the sun. Even the Wal-Greens clerk reminds me, “Try to stay cool!” and I answer the same thing every time, feeling like I’m out of the fifties. I’ll do my best! Then I walk self-consciously to my car thinking how stupid a response that was.

Have we been commenting on the heat for the last 127 years? It’s possible. Nothing wrong with recurring conversation topics that survive the decades. I guess I’d rather not get into politics with the Walgreens clerk as I’m buying deodorant and Head and Shoulders. And why do I care anyway? This is just turning ironic because now I’ve written 1500 words on a subject I am questioning the very interest of and expecting somebody to read and find this interesting! Oh jeez. We’ve gone meta. Anyway.

I used to think Summer weather here was basically miserable, except that it provided an atmosphere appropriate for swimming, nearly required for swimming, which I have always loved. But I’ve come to appreciate it in new ways for a few possible reasons. One is probably because I’ve been feeling better, and when I think of the Winter, how I was sick and stuck indoors, cold with no recreation, I’m just glad it’s here– in all its steamy, hot-breathed glory. Whenever I return from a trip and step outside the airport, the first breath is almost the opposite of one. First you lose it, then you breath it back in, and this misty breath will always evoke home to me, and I feel grateful for the oxygenated relic. Maybe because I know or assume it will always be there- June through September at least- and it’s something you have to tough out. You don’t get to stay and party for free. Lot’s of people will come and go, speak about intolerable heat with good reason. And that makes me like it more. You know you have a clan of people who you’ll endure this heat with for four months, as though heat itself were some sort of natural disaster. And there’s a communal, club-like feeling to this. OK clearly I’m reaching. It’s not special, I know. For God’s sake, I’m talking about breathing air! I’ve just never encountered the immediate, difficult, distinctive Louisiana air anywhere else, or anything close to it. Louisiana has its own texture and smell and density, the tension of our past/present invigorates it as much as the coming summer storms. It’s all in there. I don’t have the answer for how. But Gary Zuckav says that the Universe is alive. He says there is an “earth consciousness that guides the cycle of life.” When I think of the ocean and all its functions and how it knows to operate certain ways, these words make perfect sense. At the airport breathing, (gasping) sensing something more than air, waiting for my ride, I hear his words with perfect clarity.

Health, Happiness, Heat
And this humidity!!

Brain Not Work So Good

I feel this modern artwork both describes what it feels like in my brain recently and also represents the clustershit that my writing has been. At least spaghetti brain can look pretty. The writing is a mess.

Jellyfish-in-a-Trifle-WEB

I say the as if it’s someone else’s. My writing. Me. I’m doing that thing where I start out simple, on course, paving a promising path toward something that makes me think but that I can also wrap up and understand in the end. There’s never a lull for words or ideas. They pour out–I have a lot of time to think them up. When I’m not writing them in my notebook or typing them on my phone I’m usually just thinking of nice sentences in my head. I’m mind-writing. Just watching sentences fall into place mentally, perfectly, and I actually feel relief when these sentences are formed. The kind of relief you feel when you  get in your car the first time after you’ve cleaned it, and it was dirty for a long time before. It happened on the way home from the pharmacy yesterday. Sadly, I remember the relief more than the sentences or ideas. I tell myself I’ll remember this later, but I hardly ever do. On rare and momentous occasions, if I just sit down and start to work it will pop out like a wine cork. Ah! There it is. But I hesitate to think how much has gone un written because I wasn’t near a pen or a computer, or that I actually was but just didn’t put the effort into getting it down. Owell. That’s kind of a self-important thought. And, I guess we have to assume the work we never made, lost now somewhere between sleep and consciousness, was probably crap.

The words pour out not because I’m FULL of words and ideas, but because I have no requirements. Few expectations, no deadlines. No assigned topics. And no financial incentive. It’s just a hobby that I treat like a job.  Except that I’d be fired by now and there’s no 401K. Maybe I have too much freedom, so the meandering and circling is just too easy to do. I struggle because it starts off clean, on track with a promising topic and flows naturally in one direction. Then somehow it turns into the literary version of a flying cockroach, darting around clumsily in different directions and you don’t know where it’s gonna land next and you know when it gets killed it will make a crunchy sound. Sorry scratch the last part. I don’t know what it is. I like the words and concepts emerging,they’re just not always in order. Or they’re crap.

sketch-spot-1-time-out-kids
Me Writing Crap

I know this will sound incredulous to some, but when I’m in a crash my brain starts to stutter and cloud way more than usual. In the past I’ve mostly been able to avoid the cognitive effects at least when it came to my writing. But I’ve been working on this post since Thursday. I know I know, easy to blame shortcomings on the illness. But the only reason I feel it is effecting me this time is because that reading stutter returned on Friday too, having to reread sentences over and over, and then just not remembering an entire page and having to start over. Luckily I rested mostly on the couch while Monty quivered near me at the sound of America’s birth, and two friends brought me food! It was nice. Yesterday I was more clear headed reading wise, and able to finish my latest read, The Invention of Wings, which was really great. There’s a lot of good little nuggets in there. And I was surprised and inspired to learn in the authors note, the two main characters were real–born into money and a large plantation in South Carolina around 1830. They would eventually became devout abolitionists and publicly denounce slavery and fight for its end, sharing the cruelty they’d witnessed with their families own slaves publicly, and the world didn’t quite know what to do with them. I enjoy characters like that. It was enthralling and I recommend it.  I need a book club.I just feel like I’d never show up after the first meeting. Anyway my mom says she’ll read it so that’s cool.

Where were we? My writing going in circles, right. I wrote for three hours on Thursday and three hours on Friday and collapsed like a whale on to my couch after both “sessions” and sortof spent the weekend that way. Yesterday when I revisited the words,  I realized I’d written over 4,000 of them, and some made sense and others were in the wrong places and would just require a re-organization of things. But I don’t think my brain can handle it right now. I’m leaning towards spaghetti brain. Noooo. Here, I’ll find another pretty picture.

parsonspaintingsmall
Nice, no? That Jaime Rovenstein is really good at creating non-crap. Check out more on her website.

Also, I think this is why agents exist. Why good writers have agents. Proofreading! There’s a word I haven’t heard since college. Maybe that’s what this blog is, one long proof-reading session and one day it will turn into something else that actually pays dollars and cents and I can get an agent or whatever. Or maybe I just need a small person to stand beside me and ring a bell when I’ve written and rambled more than 10 minutes. Now I’m doing that thing where I write about writing. So dumb. I should just write and post. I’m too cautious. I just want it right and I know when it’s not. DING, the bell rings.

I’m going to condense and summarize the absurd amount of words resting on a white page behind this screen. Because I Believe in Brevity!! That sounds like something..a campaign slogan? Specificity is important too. I accomplished neither, so I’m just going to sum it all up. OK. It starts with this sentence.

“I think the time for a typewriter has come.”

nyt-the-upshot-lisk-1050pxe589afe69cac-1
How fun is this dudes art? Check him out.

 

Simple enough right? Then it drops off the edge. I find myself wondering if technology is aiding or prohibiting these things–writing, art, creativity and whatnot. Which somehow brings up the woes of scanning Facebook in the middle of the afternoon, and what those photos are actually capturing. I ask what it is about these photos that leaves me and others sad and yearning as we keep scrolling. (Authenticity, I think is the answer) Then I compare Facebook photos with those JC Penny photos a lot of us took in the 90’s, (dudes, the hair)  and explore physical momentos verses digital ones. Is my generation more or less authentic than the last one? Next I defend Millenials after continual insistence and wagging of the finger I encounter that says Millenials are all lazy, don’t know the value of hard work, we were given too much, have no accountability, and don’t appreciate what we have. This article is a great example which went viral a while ago and a few people posted it on Facebook like “Oh my God, so true.” Uhh, agree to disagree I guess. I agree that your point is false. Then, I deliver a personal conviction that it may not look like it, but I think as humans we actually are progressing, despite a lot of people my parents age saying the world is going to hell in a handbasket. I wonder if their parents said that too. And their parents parents. The fact is we’re still living among the good and evil that has always existed, which leads me to an exploration of that provocatively awesome question David Foster Wallace asked, which is, If we have all the things our parents never had and more, why aren’t we happy?

Let that simmer.

Then I wonder if is this a theme that has repeated itself throughout every generation. Always thinking the next one would surely have it easier. Each one working hard so the  generations after them might have what they never had, and do things they never did, and avoid the hardships that they had to endure. Maybe it’s hard to see that the world is still what it is, and human beings are still who they are, imperfect, after you’ve worked so hard to make it better. Especially if you worked your whole life to do it.

Maybe our notion of happy is off. Or maybe it’s not about happiness. It’s moving forward.

Then the neighbors fireworks got really loud and Monty was quivering below the desk and the writing turned weirdly patriotic. Fast forward from notions of happy and the formulas that work or don’t work, and also the American Dream. Achieving what we’ve historically called the American Dream does not mean achieving happiness. It means achievement. The happiness part is on us. The Dream is living in a country where we’re free to pursue that happiness pretty much any way we want. And I know it’s cheesy, but when you compare this country and our opportunities and freedoms compared to so many other places, we are danged lucky to be born into this one, with autonomy, opportunity and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome! Kidding. I think I have a very good life. I think a lot of people have very good lives and don’t even see it. Anyway this is the part of America that I’ll always be grateful for and humbled by, knowing the generations before me and the blood and sweat and tears that went into creating it, and I guess our job is to make their work and sacrifices worth it. I’m trying! I can’t say whether we’re a happier generation, I don’t know. But I think maybe the more important question is, Are we a more conscious generation? And to that I say, yes.

Now lets go blow stuff up.

Health, Happiness, Happy 6th of July