Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shadows in the Mirror

Strolling down a country road a bright summers day,
I looked into a pool of water reflective in a pothole.
Trying to see who I was,
To see if it was the image in a faded memory.
As a child I saw only me, no flaws - till someone said I should,
Slowly that reflection turned dark and muddled,
Like my silhouette cast on this dirt road.

Fighting the perfection they said I was falling short of,
My shadow trying to find the light.
A former person filled with life now the dark, nebulous outline of a soul.
Their image felt like an ever changing coat I would never fit in.
I tried contorting to adapt but soon discovered my limitations,
The costume would never fit my skin.

Ceasing to care what others thought seemed a prudent strategy,
And despite following instinct, improving the resolution of myself,
I found I still needed external approval.
I tried to prove myself to myself by proving it to someone else.
If they could recognize what I think I see,
Maybe I could once again believe.

Exhausted, one day I quit looking in reflections,
I closed my eyes for good.
Choosing to live unmolested by external influences,
Following the me I see, when I see no one else.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

America the Insecure

Recently my girlfriend and I have been talking about taking a trip to Germany this summer and of course, with our somewhat limited finances, we have been looking for ways to save money one of which being to stay with her friends. When I asked what we were waiting to book tickets for, my gf said "they haven't written me back yet. They're in Thailand or something." That sparked a conversation about how it seems like people in other parts of the world travel way more than Americans. I asked how they can afford to travel so much and apparently these friends (along with most of the rest of the world) live way more simply than we do.

America as a society needs to consume. We feel insignificant deep down, maybe because everyone still is butt hurt from being the "weird new country that no one understands", but whatever it is, America has to feel special. Most of that is displayed by meddling in the rest of the world's affairs or buying shit. We don't travel the world because our consumption always equals or excels our income leaving nothing left to venture out with. But why see other things when you can stay in your own little suburban castle and stroke your own ego? 

With all this fresh on my mind, we watched the documentary Tiny about micro-homes tonight. The tiny home movement is homes usually smaller than 250 square feet. It's based on giving up the extravagance for only what is needed living a simpler life. Numerous individuals were interviewed about tiny homes (owners, designers, etc) and I had the thought "these people all look like lunatics". There was something about them that felt off but I couldn't place it. Then I realized that despite their quirks and appearance, they seemed quite happy and it struck me - maybe that's just how fucking blind and insecure we are as Americans - freedom and happiness look like insanity because we are so bereft of them in our every day lives. Maybe there is a little bit of quirkiness to these people but it's probably because trying to break free of the system beats you down. Other people don't like to be confronted with folks that don't fit in the mold because it's a mirror to their own fears and imperfections. Living with that judgement takes it's toll - we try to break the ones breaking free and drag them back to our level. That being said, they still seemed happier than most people I see driving fancy cars, flashing the laser whitened smile.

It's time to wake up and shed the bullshit of trying to prove ourselves to ourselves by proving to everyone else how fantastic we are. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Whiplash

Last night I had the chance to watch Whiplash which was a fantastic movie. While JK Simmons character, Fletcher, is an unrepentant asshole, I felt that his character encapsulated the reality of life. He pushed students insanely hard, demeaning, mind fucking and crushing them with one former student committing suicide. The core of his belief is that if he pushes hard enough, someone truly great will emerge because the greats are great for two reasons - talent and they don't quit. 

Cutting people down in an attempt to push them to greatness is not something I support. Encouraging someone you see potential in while being honest is way more beneficial. It might even be what transforms someone from ordinary to great because it gives them that extra boost to believe in themselves. Fletcher (Simmons) says at one point "there are no two words in te English language more harmful than good job" and I am inclined to believe. Placating someone so you don't hurt their feelings doesn't do any good but you don't need to call them a "cocksucking piece of trash" when you are being honest. 

The point I took from the film was not that we should berate and torment ourselves and others to reveal greatness but that those who want greatness will overcome every obstacle. Fletcher was an obstacle analogous to many things life throws in your way but is not a suggestion for how we should interact with others. Passion isn't something that has to be beaten into you. Either you have it or you don't. Adversity simply reveals how much heart you actually have. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Trapped by Happiness

Watching the latest episode of Vikings with my girlfriend, Floki had a line that made an impression on me, sparking thoughts that would lead to a poem. Debating whether or not to go raid while watching his wife and child, he burst out with "I'm too happy. I feel trapped." It was such a great bit of writing and character development because it's something many people have experienced though probably not been able to vocalize so succinctly.

Recently I've been dealing with the fear of being happy, or more accurately the fear of now finding happiness, I would lose it. I imagine Floki was afraid of going to battle because he didn't want to be taken away from his family; however, he also felt torn as if he was losing his Viking fearlessness that defined him. As humans we strive for the things that we believe will make us happy (though many times they are only existential narcotics). Regardless of the long term efficacy of the source of happiness, most who have deeply craved it are terrified of losing it. When you have been miserable for a long time, it's almost worse to accept a reprieve and be thrown back down the hole again because it crushes your soul that much more for daring to believe.

The truth though is that when we are afraid, we run or do other self destructive things before someone else can so that we are still in control. I realized that while I've had many experiences that were unpleasant, as I stood up for myself and moved on, I gained more happiness but I also gained a greater acceptance for myself. It's a snowball effect to where I've finally started to accept that no matter what happens, the past will only make me stronger. Even if the reprieve is momentary, it's a rest that may give you the strength to climb out of the hole yourself the next time.

Life is a beast that can only be dealt with by accepting that it is untamable. When you quit trying to pour water into a pile and accept it's nature of being level, you can learn how to interact with it. Self acceptance and letting go of control are the greatest assets you can have to conquer life. In tandem they provide the capability to handle whatever life throws at you without cracking because you are too ridged or your self worth was destroyed. I imagine that in the recipe for lemonade from life's lemons, it says "chill out, stop being pissed these aren't grapes. You can do this." That of course and "add lots of sugar."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stay As Long As You Can

Decades spent alone pacing to keep warm, a cold and austere room - my home.
The sun my only visitor, 
Who waved hello, when at irregular intervals she broke through cloud covered skies. 
Each exchange only brief,
Yet memories I held dear,
Believing one day the clouds would part forever, or vanish by degrees. 
Paradise finally reached. 

One morning I woke and streaming in, unsquelched rays caressed every corner,
Banishing gloom and sadness, warming life inside my bones. 
My muscles at last relaxed, untensed, no longer bearing the burden of cold, I'm every fiber.
Day by day I grew more accustomed, unsure how I lived before. 

When one day, eyes closed, basking, 
I felt a cloud pass by, 
The red glow upon my retina faded, as dark visions crept into my mind. 
Adapted to peace and comfort, I feared I could no longer play my former role. 
Panic broke like a howling wind unleashed upon my soul. 

Leaping up I drew the shutters which protested, never before put to use. 
Shutting out the light I declared my good fortune depleted. 
For it seemed much better to limit my world, than ride the sea of another's freedom to choose. 
Better to steel myself now after this temporary diffusion, 
Than bear the shock of light to dark, transformed in an instant, no warning, no clues. 
Easier to abandon hope altogether than hold on to faith in you - behind the clouds you still are there, trying to make it through.

Yet through the slats, gold still spilled, it seemed a foolish thing to waste,
Thin lines of light before me, reminded what still could be - joy mine to claim. 
The future is uncertain, foretelling beyond my grasp,  
But the present I had chosen, for no reason save fear - fear the gloom may be worse having tasted heaven for a spell, 
If ever I am cast off again, to my former hell. 

Who knows their strength till tested? 
Character uncertain unless tried.
The light I feared would leave, had provided what I needed to survive. 
Every encounter however short illuminated my very soul, revealing a man who could carry on no matter what befall. 

Tearing the shutters from the wall, I invited the sun - remain. 
"You may have to go, this I accept, possibly never to return, but for now please stay - stay as long as you can."

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Valentines I Deserve

Having your Valentines festivities the day before is genius. You don't have to deal with filled up reservations or the dearth of Plan B at CVS on the 15th, etc. We beat the system and had a great dinner at Rathbun's Steak in Atlanta; although, we narrowly avoided a valentines disaster. I had wanted to take my girlfriend somewhere extra special but I also wanted to push myself by going somewhere a lot classier than I am used to. Hitting up Shony's was a big deal when I was a kid and they had an all-you-can-eat salad bar for like $8.99 so Rathbun's might as well have been The White House. 

I thought I had some decent clothes to wear but when I looked through my storage unit, I only found a few things that were remotely acceptable. It's not like I was expecting to look like James Bond or anything but I wanted to look like I fit into the environment and didn't stick out as the painfully obvious guy who is pretending to be rich. We didn't have time to go shopping due to unforeseen circumstances and poor time management but I also didn't want to spend more money on clothes since work has been slow lately. As we drove back to our house to get ready, I started freaking out inside because as much as I wanted to enjoy the evening, I knew I was going to ruin it. 

As a child I was taught a belief system that subversively attacks your own self worth. It goes like this: we are pieces of shit that don't deserve anything and should quake and tremble at the thought of God because he is so holy and pure. However, God chose to love us so we should feel blessed and as the cherry on top of this special sundae, "we are fearfully and wonderfully made". It's a contradiction coated with sugar that is actually just ground up glass. When you tell someone they don't deserve anything but out of the goodness of your heart you are helping them, it doesn't make them feel any better. Now instead of feeling empowered, you feel even more worthless because they are holding a mirror in front of your face reminding you of what you are without them.

The reason I knew I was going to ruin the date was because it finally sunk in how much money I was going to drop. Before you think I'm a penny pinching asshole, I've been extremely generous to others in my life and it wasn't the expense of the dinner I was worried about because I would have given my girlfriend the money to go treat herself - I just couldn't be there and participate. I lived in my car partially for the adventure but I realized yesterday, it was also partially because I didn't think I deserved to live somewhere decent. My ratio of money expended to personal comfort received was way exceeded by an apartment. 

After putting on my clothes and looking in a mirror I felt awkward and misfit like if I only had a pair of overalls but tried to dress them up with sports coat and tie. My girlfriend was wonderful as I went through this all in my head, helping me adjust my wardrobe from misfit, to douchebag, to finally something reasonably acceptable. As expected I started having a panic attack about three times during the evening but worked through them. The first one was when I cracked open the menu and saw what looked like prices for jewelry not food. My stomach was so tied up that the scallops were the only thing I could think of eating. The food was incredible and I relaxed a bit and enjoyed the meal in between freak outs. When the bill finally came I didn't look at it but had my girlfriend sign it for me because I was afraid I would vomit if I saw the total.  We chose not to take any of the leftovers home which was a struggle since I am not a fan of wasting anything. There wasn't really that much food left over and I knew that this was about shifting my mindset away from that of a beggar. 

I feel like I'm in a chrysalis trying to change into something better but wondering if I'm going to make it because right now I look like a bunch of goo. Deep down I've always felt that I was supposed to be a different version of myself than what I was raised to be but convinced myself that it was a lie and my "sinful desires". Thankfully I have a partner that encourages and breathes life into that dead body on the floor of my soul. I never thought Valentines Day would have been therapy but it's about love isn't it, so learning to love myself more is kind of appropriate.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Audacity at Sea

A vessel not mighty or robustly fashioned, took to the sea captained by Audacity herself - I stowed away under a spare canvas hoping I could dare as well.
Plunging the bow over wakes and waves breaking in the bay, we set out -discontent with The Land.
Piloting such a craft seemed a mere trifle for a creature of such poise so I crept from my hiding spot once underway.
Though surprised, she did not compel me to disembark but bid me stay, join the journey. 
Upon reaching the expansive spread, where the shore and those placid forms upon it vanished - the weight of our own insignificance and frailty shouted:
"Turn back you fool. You are alone by sake of wisdom. Take heed before you cannot".
Nothing to behold save water and sky split on the horizon by a measure so meticulous, nearly undefinable - yet starkly visible. 
From time to time great ships passed by our skiff as it bobbed to and fro offering to throw a line, towing the miserable sight home. 
Audacity and I would have none of it but pressed on when storms arose and others anchored or fled. 
Broken upon by raging swells that seem bent on crushing our dreams
Most sit in more secure haunts whether on land or sea - they do not face adversity like my shipmate Audacity. 
When she grew weary of holding steady the course, I spelled her at the helm coming to discover - the sails were mine as well.
Cut from cloth that will decompose if not perpetually stretched taught - I discovered why I had dared to stowaway. 
Together we charged into the spray, I bolder than before, Audacity stronger. 
If one day we are over taken and perish in the deep, at least we did it bold and brash
challenging that old, destructive yet alluring, maven, others fled from while we chased, almost daring her to try - try and drown us to see if she could. 
We challenge the very spirit of The Sea.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Unblocking the Apology

It's said that "bitterness only keeps you prisoner" but I think that's only partially true.

When you refuse to forgive, the energy / attitude you give off blocks the person who hurt you from seeing that they were wrong. It's kind of like a man molesting a girl and she develops such a bad body image from it that she becomes a "slut" because she just wants to feel valuable to someone. The perpetrator sees this and thinks she was a slut all along. She wanted me to do what I did. Or if a parent was harsh towards their children who then start talking back viciously, the parent thinks no wonder I talked to my kids the way I do. They are terrors. Those who hurt you have a much harder time seeing the error of their ways when you are reacting. In their mind they think I can't be that bad or they would shut me off.

I don't think it's just viewing the reactions the hurt create, but I really believe there is some kind of invisible negative energy that is released when you choose to not hold onto hurt. Many people think I'll forgive them if they ever apologize but those folks usually sit there eternally hurt. The thing is if you need the apology to forgive, then I question whether you are truly forgiving. If someone apologizes before you choose to forgive them you feel justified in the hurt. Instead of letting it go, the hurt gets fertilized soil to grow into a warped world view that you filter your life through. You then beat everyone over the head with all the hurt you now perceive or create for yourself because you want to ameliorate the hurt. Yes apologies are wonderful but instead of being a justification for hurts where you hold onto a little piece of it because you knew you were right, apologies should be the first girders laid to rebuilding the relationship. I've heard stories and know from my own life that when someone lets the bitterness go, many an apology eventually come that never seemed possible.

People who don't forgive sit in a pity party constantly dredging up the past pushing those who would support and love them away. You can only listen to someone vent without taking action for so long before you tire of it. Unfortunately the wallowing only makes you feel more alone exacerbating the self destructive circle. When you take responsibility for your own life and cut out the harmful influences while forgiving, it can be a wake up call to the evil doers where they are forced to evaluate their own lives. The self-empowered actions are like a mirror and if the person is not completely gone, they will have to confront their own demons.

It's also said "be the change you want" and I think that is true on more levels than leading by example of say picking up litter. I really think that when you are the change you want in the world it literally unblocks someone else to change.