Forever tuning

And so it was that when I was about 13 I went to see Adelaide the psychic whose name my family had been passing around for a while and she told me two things which stuck with me all the way through until that time when I was trying to make the decision whether to break my engagement with Chris and be with James or listen to my mom and stay the course through the uncertainty and into a marriage which by now of course would have already ended.

The first thing Adelaide told me was that one day I’d be writing a book, and the second thing she told me is that one day a man with blue eyes would say goodbye to me and I might never stop crying.

As fortune would have it, I looked for that blue-eyed boy for many years, hoping for a love that was so deep I’d cry forever at its loss, thinking that perhaps she was speaking metaphorically or that the goodbye would not come to pass.  So when one month out from marrying Chris in the foothills of California, I saw vibrantly-blue-eyed James at a bus stop–the night after dreaming I was swimming in pure bliss with a blue-eyed man–I retrieved James’ dropped Blue Book, thus starting an awakening within myself from which it became obvious that uber-cerebral Chris was for a “me” that didn’t exist anymore.  It was 1992, three years after my parents divorce, 2.5 years after the earthquake destroyed the dome the emotional fallout from which saw me drop out of college, and mere months after Chris and I had moved from Maryland back to Davis, CA–the college I’d dropped out of–so I could finish my degree; life was finally becoming stable again after such a long time.  But there I was. 

I do not feel I can adequately express how frightened I was during that time.

I would not be able to encompass what it feels like to be financially dependent on someone with no place to go yet knowing your soul won’t let you stay; I wouldn’t be able to explain what it feels like to go through days of being petrified, shaking and unable to eat, hearing your mom scold you for not marrying him anyways.

I would not know how to condense a lifetime of self-doubt into one event, from which one choice is accepting the truth of yourself and causing hurt, disgust, and personal hardship, and from which another is accepting a life of ease, making everyone else happy, while you slowly suffocate.

It was as if Life was trying to kill me and, in order to survive, I had to constantly be looking over my shoulder.

And I guess it isn’t an accident that today, summer solstice 2017–the longest day of light, a pagan day of power, 25 years out from this event which shaped me in ways that each day I’m still recognizing–I see two FB friends are “interested” in seeing a screening and discussion next month of the movie Thelma and Louise and in just seeing the movie title, I’m instantly back in Davis California, sitting on the floor of the living room of the house I shared with Chris watching Thelma and Louise for the first time.

Because the past becomes what we are, and the entire world is really just an orchestra of forever-tuning instruments.

For Adelaide was right.  I did lose that blue-eyed boy and did go on to shed what-felt-like a million tears.

But I didn’t cry forever.

Because sometimes there are moments when we face going against the tide, believing ourselves weak and frightened for the feelings we’re having; and sometimes those very same moments are actually portraits of ourselves standing alone in our own power amidst a crumbling world.

The Yin and Yang of Del Taco

And sometimes it’s true that the things you believe you need in order to be joyous aren’t the right things at all, and so it is that I’m standing in Einstein bagels this morning getting breakfast for my kids experiencing an epiphanic moment.

Because in my former life, I was a married, stay-at-home mom—whose hobby basically amounted to filling up her spare time with activities–and I can remember standing in line at Einstein bagels during that life with a “gettin’ ‘er done” attitude, as if getting my kids bagels was just the prep for the bigger parenting moments yet to come; as if standing in line, waiting for my nova lox on plain, crossing “nutritious breakfast” off my to-do list, was devoid of meaning unless accompanied by the million things I was reciting in my head that I’d obviously still need to do in order to be a good parent.

But ten years out, I’m now experiencing a life in which my parenting is done via text and in moments of stealth, or at the end of my workday (and they’re ALL work days), when my eyes are hazy from exhaustion and I will myself to stay awake and present long enough to hear their voice bare the heart and soul of themselves.  I’m experiencing a life in which my million things to do are actual things I really need to fucking do and not some mental exercise in overparenting. And so at Einstein this morning, facing a day of relative ease (work-wise), I’m grabbing bagels to take home, and have an intense experience of knowing that this moment is of special treasure. Because when you normally don’t have time to do even the basic stuff, it becomes the most delicious act of nurturance just to stand in line and buy your kids a bagel.

And maybe there’s like this yin/yang of experience where it’s a Truth that we can’t ever truly know anything–like “joy”– in its fullest and most proper form until we’ve embodied a “lack” of similar equivalency.

Which makes sense. The last time I experienced this same feeling was at the eating counter at the Dancing Cranes over my leafy green salad; the sun was streaming in, and while I sipped an espresso, I was overcome with emotion at remembering how I was once unable to afford the food I was now-putting into my mouth and how even just that very day–only just 200 minutes before–I’d had too much work to do to be able to afford a moment to sit down and nourish my body. And so there I was, living realizations and juxtapositions, and joyously embodying a moment of complete abundance, as if the lack from my past had cleared out a reservoir of privilege and reset my baseline to ‘absolute simplicity.’ The yin being the only thing making the yang possible, this dark energy existing in my life to enrich my experience not with a negativity but rather with the contrast needed to fully embody the sensation of joy.

And of course, I really don’t know. For I also remember having this feeling of joy after finding an open fast food restaurant at the end of my 18 hour Thanksgiving 2015 shift, and there’s a certain amount of justifiable haziness to a spiritual experience in which you find yourself exhausted and hunched over a taco salad in your car, thanking God for Del Taco.

But in the dissection of the past and blending in of the present, I sense the truth of yin/yang, and try not to be too hard on that “she” steeped in the privilege of time who gracelessly moves within “getting’ ‘er done,” because I could never be the person of joy today without the beautiful soul that I was, standing in line, worrying about a million little things, and there is much growth in just acknowledging that my current moment of “now” will one day be my future self looking back at me.

And of course, in the yin and yang of all experience, wisdom comes in fits and starts, meshed together in time, and stalwartly avid in unclarity, but even in the solitude of a solitary moment, there is comfort in knowing that every experience of lack–every time-barren moment and every flawed “you”–is really just a temporary stop in the longer journey towards making us whole.

One Single Yesterday

Sometimes I think it happens that Time becomes a weird entity, mashing together events of totally different origins and reconvening them as if they were occurring together, right then, into a singular story, clear in connection, real and provable. Maybe it’s a Tune in, Turn on, Drop out thing. Or maybe my kids drugged me (which I’ve asked them NOT to do. so many times. goddammit).

Last night, I was walking a dog along 1700 South near 1300 East, singing aloud to “Me and Bobby McGee,” and realized that I’ve been on a journey in this life—wherein I’ve been worn down to almost nothing just so I could find myself again—and as I walked alongside cars speeding with haste to unknown places, the power and strength of Janis’s passionate and authentic life could be felt in her voice, and under the nearing-full moon, listening to her sing lyrics written by someone else for an experience she never personally had, I experienced her journey too, she of the tender soul who felt out of place and unattractive but didn’t give up reaching for the big dreams, and living the big life; living how she wanted, doing what she wanted, carving a path out irrespective of how weird it seemed to others, dying after a life so big she accidentally killed herself by living it.

And I’ve heard people relay Janis Joplin’s story as if it was a tragic one, because there is a tendency to believe that there is something inherently sad about a life of internal struggle ended accidentally at a youngish-age.

About an hour later, still singing the same song (I get on a roll with one song sometimes), I see my oldest daughter’s FB post, in which she’s wearing a sweatshirt a friend bought her that says “I Understand. I Just Don’t Care,” and it tickles me, because it’s so “I could give a shit less,” and even though I know Julia feels tender and out of place and unsure, she’s also living how she wants, doing what she wants, and steering her life in the manner of her choosing, and I wonder if maybe it was Janis Joplin who helped her get this way, and that maybe someday she’ll be me, singing to herself on a dark street in Salt Lake City, and as homeowners exit their cars to go into their homes, into normalcy–pumpkins on porches, and utter predictability—she’ll be okay with weird, with walking down the street, loving the world while also not giving one shit what it thinks of her. That someday she’ll make it to where she loves herself enough to stay calm and centered as she lives each day as if she’s daring the world to judge her.

And I thought that maybe THIS is the end of Janis’s story.

Because there is no stopping Time, it marches and evolves and becomes enriched with past, present and future, and when we pull back from it, any story holds the hope of transforming someone else’s experience so as to exact different outcomes, and if Janis’s life becomes an example that inspires others to perhaps see themselves differently or be aware of a more-enriched bevy of personal choices, then her story didn’t end at her death, but carried on, weaving itself into lives and experiences, meshing her own life into something different for the promise and hope it gave to others.  For her life was so big that we could all see and hear the experience, and so real–so authentically her, so authentically noncomformist–that the loss of her manifested as societal change, funneling into a 48 year old unapologetically-singing aloud on the street and an 18 year old facing emotional foes with an altered set of skills and a vision both broader and simultaneously more tender of both her world and her self.

So be yourself, everyone. Love the world but don’t let it tell you who you are. Value yourself. Dare it to judge you. Be authentic; be big; be weird. You’re special.

For in living your story, you’re changing the future for someone, somewhere, in some time.

And thank you, Janis Joplin, for choosing a life of authenticity and nonconformity so that we could all learn from your strength and your struggle.

Contrast

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USA Today from 9/12/2001
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Salt Lake Tribune I kept from 9/12/2001
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Today, 9/11/2016, different flag, different house

 

Fifteen years ago to the day, my ex and I were in Reno.  We’d driven the 8 hours with our then-2 year and 10 month old daughters, Julia and Livy, to combine James’ business trip with a visit with my mom, who’d driven from California to meet us.  Courtesy of my sleepless daughters, we were awake early that morning, TV on, and when the South Tower started crumbling it looked—at first–like a puff of dust, and I can remember thinking the very same thing that Katie Couric(?) was saying:  “What is that?”

“What is that?”

And fifteen years now, we know what it was and know what it is, and America became humbled by a hate so palpable we celebrate the anniversary of collective trauma together because none can bear this burden alone.

That day in Reno, my daughters played at a park, that had well-tended equipment placed in a garden setting with those little animals on springs that go back and forth and that spinny thing where you sit on a platform and hold onto bars as you’re spun into sickness, and while my daughters smiled and laughed, mom and I straddled two worlds, which almost seemed too incompatible to coexist, and when I returned home, I held my baby in the calm of night, sobbing as I rocked her in grief for the world she had already unknowingly relinquished.

 

But many good things come from tragedy.  For it’s in the removal of false divisions that strength can be found and in contrast that we can see beautiful things more clearly.

 

James and I divorced in 2007 amid an epic shitstorm in which he broke hearts as if we were Sims, but when his brother Steve was deployed to Iraq that same year, our American flag got placed outside 1531 Garfield Avenue and remained there for the duration of his deployment (a year plus), becoming weathered and tattered and faded, a hole developing on the bottom, front corner as even the slightest wind had made it catch on the thorny bushes that edged our lawn.

 

When Steve returned home, the girls and I took the flag down, folded the frayed fabric as best we could, and gave it to James to give to his brother.  James was a dick, but I sure as fuck wasn’t going to return fire.   For the hate of 9/11/01 showed us how not to be and how not to live, but people died that day holding onto one another and heroes ran up stairs to save the lives of people they knew nothing about, and if they can be that, then so can we.

 

If we don’t see anything beautiful, we must make something beautiful.  If we don’t see a helper, we must be the helper.  If we don’t see the love, we must be the love.

If we make judgment against another, we must try harder.

 

For we can’t forget what happened that day wasn’t just about hate; it was about sacrifice and love and overcoming your own feelings in order to help a perfect stranger.

 

Guru

And the Dead played this song at that concert in 1992, and even though some fans said they were sellouts since the song was so mainstream, we all danced to it that night anyways because even then we knew labeling a song like that was really our own mind trapping itself in a mind-control of its own judgment plus the LSD had kicked in and nothing brings about the feeling of soul-family, never-ending unity and freakshow-dancing faster than small squares of drug-laced paper.

My mom had done her part to keep me off psychedelics by repeatedly relaying the story about the time that guy spiked her Coca Cola with acid (she went psychotic, and tried to escape out the half-window of an old Studebaker).  But in 1992, I had already been under the influence of Dr. Tart at UC Davis studying altered states of consciousness’s–taking part in his intro course which was basically a 3-month long hit-piece against mainstream psychology AND his follow-up course “Waking Up” (a class title that was most assuredly a compromise to what it should’ve been called “Sit Around and Meditate and Talk about Drugs”)–and I wasn’t as worried about “losing” my mind as I was about never finding it, so I decided to risk it.  By the time the Dead concert rolled around I’d taken LSD three times in my 23 years, once spending the entire experience recording myself answering deep spiritual questions into a mini-cassette recorder as I sat in my ’84 SAAB overlooking the beach in Seacliff, CA.

Dr Tart had lured me with his (admittedly sometimes pseudo-scientific) research into subjects most psychologists wouldn’t touch–the altered states of dreams, hypnosis, near death, trance, etc–and his UC Davis colleagues scorn of him was so ridiculously-obvious that it prompted many student bitchslaps towards them, including my own in the form of a lengthy lit review on Hypnotic Age Regression for rigidly-mainstream Dr Kroll’s Cognitive Psychology class, an effort which rather than falling into the shit-pile of undergrad-oblivion was recommended for UC Davis’s annual Prized Writing contest by my English composition professor.  Dr Tart himself though didn’t care about his colleague’s opinions of him as I’m sure it was already quite a “fuck you” to them when their classes of 30 students were dwarfed by the 300 in his, in an indication perhaps that students were less beholden to the rigidity of “relevant” science as well as not that interested in falling into the self-congratulatory mindset of superior thinking that tends to permeate elite academia.  Their still-malleable brains more able than their professors to fast-forward in time to when advances in technology would clarify that it is sometimes the limitations of imagination and research methods that prevent the world from claiming its inherent sense of wonder and amazement of its own abilities.

Tart was the closest thing to a personal guru as I’d ever have, and I still respect his ideas even as my respect for him as a person dwindled after becoming his assistant and witnessing his scorn bordering on sexism towards a crying co-Ed. (tsk tsk tsk, “guru”).  But I never really needed him or mainstream psychology to affirm my beliefs or tell me about my own experience; the foray into Tart-ness was–as were all things–temporary, for “the search for meaning” has always been compulsory, and I didn’t want it sullied by what Dr Tart called “consensus consciousness,” (the idea that people’s mental processes exist within a mutually-agreed upon and reinforced pattern of “normalcy”), even if that “consensus” was spearheaded by Dr Tart himself.

What can I say:  some people have religion/science/standard operating procedure; and some people have Castaneda, Cayce, counterculture, and walking around the parking lot meeting Deadheads after a concert at RFK.

So in 1992, at Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy Stadium in Fairfax Virginia with two coworkers from O’Donnell’s Restaurant and my boyfriend/soon-to-be fiancée (who in another years time I would essentially be leaving at the altar for James who would then leave me after 14 years together for Sarah), I was high and dancing, and filled and filling myself with experience, living the Castaneda wisdom “All paths are the same, leading nowhere. Therefore, pick a path with heart!”

 

Be well, travelers, and make sure to question authority, especially when that authority is your own mind.

Conformity

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Bernie Sanders is a great man who fought for justice in our nation for 30 years (only to then be cheated out of it with regards to justice for himself), and — even after the now-admitted corruption by the DNC — some Dems in the resulting anti-Trump panic are referring to his angry, protesting supporters as “inappropriate”, “classless”, and “overly emotional,” (not to mention the classic “ridiculous”) and condescending to our grief as if they alone can tend to the faint and flickering pulse of our nation, so I jotted down a few things in case it could help clarify the mindset of Sanders’ supporters through all of the armchair psychology and utterly-useless “calm down”’s I keep seeing:

In the course of human history, significant changes in the flow of society haven’t occurred when its individual participants have “calmed down” or conformed to the societal demands of etiquette; societal change has happened because large groups of individuals have somehow collectively come to similar realizations simultaneously, and while this can be an uncomfortable sight for those not also experiencing those realizations, I feel certain that it doesn’t benefit a society to allow conformity to dictate the broader direction it moves in, for I’m sure there were many who thought the participants of the civil rights movement and Vietnam war protests were overly emotional, and that the impolite tactics often instituted during major reforms deemed distasteful and inappropriate; a godforsaken slope that led to such things as slaves being beaten in the barn out of sight of the houseguests it might upset. For even this recent American history tells us that sometimes “passion” looks like “emotionality” to those on the outside of a movement looking in, and some could even make the argument that it is the lack of emotionality in the form of malaise that more quickly leads to the moral and ethical downfall of a civilization.

In the big scheme of things when you look at these people who you’re describing as overly emotional, it doesn’t actually matter if you understand why they act that way, why they’re emotional; it doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with their feelings; the fact of the matter is is that this is the way they feel. Period. Whether you personally feel the same or understand it at all is not the point. Because the bigger picture is why any of this is happening at all, and the questions that should be asked when 13 million of your fellow citizens fuel a presidential campaign with their own time and money, is this: Are they all just fucking nuts, or is there something legitimately upsetting going on that is making them fight so hard for a common cause?, and if at any point you find yourself trying to answer the former, then welcome to “Societal Anesthetization.” For sitting in your chair acting like Dr. Spock talking to Captain Kirk doesn’t help, and the reality right now — whether you like it or not — is that the Dems are going to need a huge portion of Bernie’s demographics in order to beat back the almost-certainly certifiable Republican candidate so please go-ahead and take your dose of “shut the fuck up” right now. Because you’re going to need it to get through the next 99 days.

Because Bernie Sanders has taught us that you can be strong in the face of a society which isn’t quite “there” yet if only you hold to the broader goal of reducing the suffering you see in the world, and, in the end, your derision and condescension mean little except as an admission of your own sedation, and take it from us Berners: if you can’t allow yourself anger in the face of admitted corruption and injustice, then you are basically allowing yourself to cower in the corner and die the enormous soul-death that comes when you give up striving for what’s right. So forgive me the fuck ever if I take a pass on that, and stand up and fight and embarrass your “polite society” by being what is — in your opinion — an overly emotional asshole.

[Postscript, for complete clarity:

I’m not crazy and would vote for Clinton if I wasn’t in a deep red state which will most likely go to Johnson (it could be a toss-up though actually–the Mormons hate Trump–so I have to revisit this topic periodically; don’t want to inadvertently give my vote to Trump).

This isn’t about Hillary personally (for me, at least): it’s about the insulation that the elite/the system have been afforded for too long at the expense of broader society, including extremely vulnerable populations which literally grow by double digit percentages every year. This year, for example, the Salt Lake City homeless shelter served as many people by May 26, 2016 as it did for the entire year of 2015. Students are coming to school hungry and traumatized because our lifestyles are on the razors edge, and I’ve personally seen parents repeatedly pick up their kids up totally high and in clear sight and awareness of school admin and nothing is done because there is no one to call to help these addicted parents and no beds anywhere for getting them mental health assistance. And people aren’t recognizing it or are blaming the vulnerable for character defects that usually aren’t there or blame Republicans for their inability to be reasonable when really this is a problem with the system wherein money is being hoarded and populations held at bay with excuses and justifications. And society can’t go on like this.

There will be a tipping point; I already see that we are getting close to it. And it is scary. When people have nothing to lose and when inequality becomes normalized, they take their frustrations out in ways which harm the stability of our society as well as our own mental health (insidiously, so as we don’t even realize) and there has to be a better way than what we’re doing now. Because mowing people down with firearms has now become de rigueur, and when a Donald Trump is the figurehead for millions of angry citizens, we have to acknowledge that we are clearly living within a failed system.

Anyways, don’t worry: Hill will get my vote should it come to that. You aren’t privy to my Facebook posts which outline my views on this situation but I go into the fact that Trump is clearly dangerous, and a third party vote pointless so, in spite of my rage at the lawlessness that our democracy has become, I know where my truth lies.]

One person’s “ridiculous” is another person’s coping skill

Just read an article on Slate where the author added snarky captions to pictures of last night’s crying Bernie delegates, some of whom looked so young that they certainly have never known a day without the struggles brought on by daily gun violence, 9/11, and the great recession.

I’m glad this is over. I’ve been mocked, called names and chastised for being a Bernie supporter, and it’s been depressingly-illuminating to witness how quickly people are willing to leap into the lowest common denominator of human behavior simply because they want even a brief, fleeting moment of personal superiority. Even as Orange ClownTown was mocking the disabled, Hillary supporters have called me delusional, ignorant, vapid, irrational, entitled, and—a personal favorite—“privileged,” (as if dragging myself up from not being able to afford food for my kids into being thankful I’m working 16 hours a day makes me the poster girl for the American Dream) and it has become apparent that there is a desperation in our society, spanning classes and political parties, which is indicative of the duress our nation is and has been under. We are all clawing for the little slice of the pie that has been allotted to us, and the internet has allowed us to connect with like minds and say our piece without having to witness the vulnerabilities of the human being who reads them. For what is “Ridiculous” to some people, Sarah Silverman, is all other people have to hang on to.

I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton–but it doesn’t matter because electorally Utah is never blue; I only had this one chance with Bernie to make my vote for president count—because in so doing I would consent to the DNC installation of a candidate into office, which is a slippery slope we’re already at the bottom of. When the next government is put into place by the current government, it’s safe to say that America can start shitting its pants, and when fear of President Trump prevents some very smart people from atoning for actions even they admit are corrupt, the house of cards crumbles to the point that we become dead inside and not even Michelle Obama can save the party (well, maybe she could…too bad she’s not running).

Anyways, please be gentle with Bernie supporters. Don’t mock them. Don’t make fun of them crying. That’s not the society we want. I do understand that some of them can be pretty obnoxious but, as they see it, they’re trying to save democracy (and our planet) from a self-destruct button that’s already been pushed, and—whether you agree with them or not—we need people like that to keep the hope and the passion alive, and the deadness at bay.