I go into casinos from time to time and late fate drag me around. I always pack light–20 maybe 40 dollars at most. It takes at least twenty for the trick to work. Here is how it goes: I’ll walk in and close my eyes for a second. Close my ears for a second. And I’ll just feel. Try this sometime. Stand there and think about something you want really badly and just feel. Back in the old times folks would use these things called divining rods. The rod would lead them one way or another. The human body is like that in a sense, if you listen.
So I listen with my skin and I’m pushed one way or the other and I walk in that direction, eyes finally open, ears finally open and just feeling the space. It leads me, eventually, to a specific game. It is never the same game, but it is a game that feels right. I sit down and within a couple pulls I’ve hit a minor jackpot.
Neat trick. The problem is understanding the rest of it. See, I know enough about myself and fate and will and ka to recognize how to get this far. I’m learning the rest. For example, when do you stop? I’m starting to get a handle on that too. It is a twinge, or change in mindset. I can feel it most of the time, that subtle shift at the top of the pendulum traveling down the length of the thing until what was a mere twitch becomes an enormous hammer swing down at the bottom where the real world exists. I can feel the twitch and my brain says, you’re about to lose everything and you need to walk away. I’ve never been much for listening to my brain in these moments, so I lose everything.
But I go back from time to time to feel that feeling and to know what’s coming and to recognize that I have the ability to stay on a path when I know it is right and jump off the path long before the train comes to knock me around–if I’m smart enough to get when the twitch says to be gettin. There’s a word for that feeling.
I am no therapist, so when I talk about depression I talk about experience–both what I have seen and what I have and continue to go through. For me depression is about burden. It is about carrying around fears and lies and worries. It is about living in my failures and turning my limitations into prison bars that I stare through. It is also about things. The more things I have, the more I am weighed down by those things, and that too is a form of depression. Relief is as simple and as terrifying as getting rid of those things.
I’m starting with the garage. My plan is to make a pile of all of the things that I own but don’t actually need or use even on a semi regular basis. These are the things that are kept for ‘just in case’ and largely sentimental purpose. Some of that should remain, so long as the sentiments shared are meaningful and of real lasting value. Six or so years ago I switched jobs and the folks who were my family at the old job gave me a wine subscription. I still have half a dozen bottles of that wine that I haven’t opened. It is sentimental, but do I need 6 bottles I don’t truly expect to drink? Do I need a leather jacket from the 90’s I’ll never wear again? Carrying around these memories clutters the garage and the heart in a way that suborns regret, and regret is the path to depression.
Today I’m going to spend some hours in the garage cleaning out my history and making space for my future.
Growing up black I quickly learned to abhor double standards. Yet those standards persisted. They still infect my life in many ways, including one which I am particularly vulnerable and sensitive towards. However, it is that standard that stands apart from the rest if only to help me understand the relationship between standards and expectations.
A double standard exists whenever two people perform the same or similar action and the expectations for one person are different from the other based on some arbitrary measurement like race, height, wealth, etc.
In my situation there is a double standard that I believe to be based on the depth of knowledge and closeness to an individual and how much one person matters in one way vs. how much another matters and in which way.
This is also a question that for me starts to tip into the idea of love and what love means. Of course you expect more from the people you love and you are supposed to think that way.
- Mindfulness is a hard concept to maintain. Occasionally sadness gets the upper hand and you find yourself spinning and slipping. Still, mindfulness is always there to help you regain your footing. It just can’t always keep you from falling down.
- I’ve reached the point where coaching is far less about being passionate about what I’m doing for these kids and more about getting through the season and getting to retirement. The bullshit that surrounds coaching (including parents) has really been eye opening this season. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see this side of the game and to know that there is no real lasting desire to make this part of my existence.
- The center of my existence is still what it has been for the better part of a half decade. Despite what is happening, I have no intention of changing that. I still worry that it will be forcefully, conditionally changed for me.
Dwelling in the past of what was is by far my biggest weakness. I’ve been working on the lasting idea of living in the moment, by which I mean enjoying where I am now and not spending my energy staring into the abyss of what was and what will possibly be. This is no easy task. This is not about planning for the future but considering how the present situation impacts or builds towards future situations. On the surface is sounds like a bunch of nonsense–word stew with a thick bread of bullshit to sop it all up. It works better in example.
Take for instance the idea of this blog. While writing this I could be thinking, ‘what do I need to do after?’ and in that ceding the beauty of the moment of creation to the worry and fear of future action. Another example is a kiss. If I kiss someone will it lead to sex? A mindful mindset would ask, how was the kiss?
So I am trying to observe a mindful mindset and trying to meet the now head on. There is more than enough pain, fear, jealousy, and worry existing in the now to last me a lifetime. I don’t need it to consume the good moments as well.
I’ve reached a point in my life where I don’t want to reach out. In football we have a term called alligator arms. It means that you try to catch the ball without extending yourself, because you’re afraid to get hit. I’m afraid to get burned. After a while you start to expect it. I’ve been burned by just about everyone in my life saved for my kids and the man I consider to be my brother. If I’m being honest I’ve burned him by failing to maintain a decent line of communication. This all has left me in a position where not only do I refuse to reach out, but I feel incredibly shut down as a human. What happens next is part choice, part pain, and part inevitability.
I’m slowly and actively becoming a hermit. I’ve watched myself close off all of the writer support avenues I have. My remaining connections to writing are the classes I teach and the blog I devote ten minutes to each and every day. Even that stopped for a little while as I grieved openly for the fracturing of the relationship that triggered all this. I suppose the lesson to be learned here is to not fall in love, to not give your heart to another, to never ever find your soulmate. Another lesson could be to never screw it up, which I did quite thoroughly. If someone loves you unconditionally, stands by you as a friend through the worst possible versions of yourself, is still madly and passionately in love with you, but can no longer see you as the person she’s meant to be with at this time, you’ve screwed things up.
I no longer believe that life comes with second chances or even that love is enough. I’ve developed alligator arms and I refuse to extend myself in any way. Instead I’ve been closing off my avenues of access to disappointment, staying in the smallest possible cocoon and accepting that life can blossom in small moments but does indeed live on a bed of suffering.
Recently I’ve come to a crossroads in my life where I am having to consider why I am making the choices I am making–both professionally and in my home life. What is driving these choices? Is it fear? Love? Something far less binary? I believe the answer is something far less binary. Often I’ve broken the world down into the idea of giving and receiving love as the main impetus for why we do anything in life. More recently that turned into a binary dynamic when my partner introduced me to the idea of fear as a driving impetus. Perhaps it is not one or the other but more of a scale in which both emotions trigger a response.
Take for instance my desire to move. This is driven, on the surface, by practicality. I want to be closer to the people I love and I want to bring my kids closer to the things they need and love. Below the surface the argument is driven by more basic emotions. If I am closer than I get to spend more time with my partner, because neither of us has to waste as much time getting to the other. If I remain far away the time I get with my partner may continue to dwindle. Now this is both love and fear. The scale tips more strongly towards love in this case, because it is a desire-driven situation.
The job situation is more fear-induced. I want to leave my job because I am not part of the community and feel like I’ve become so far removed from the community and created key enemies such that I will not ever be a full part of that community. I also want to leave because I want to finish my career at this level where I started my career at this level and give something fundamental and all encompassing back to the people and place that took a chance on me. I feel like I am prepared to offer that now in a way my younger self was never capable of. That is love. While I would only leave my job to return to the starting point, I believe fear still wins out, because not feeling part of a community is a powerful feeling.
So we survive.
We do everything that is required of us. We move forward. We fight, claw, bite, scratch against the tide of overwhelming responsibility. We stare into the disappointment of lives that aren’t the ones we dreamed up as children. We stare at news broadcasts and internet memes that remind us how scary and ridiculous all of this is and yet we rely upon the somber seriousness of our lives to provide our lives with gravity–to tether us to these earthly responsibilities and habits designed largely to lock us into lives of modernity and mundanity.
I have ceded too much of myself to algorithms.
I watch them infect every moment of my network existence. They’re in my mail, creeping around in tiny letters proclaiming a better solution to this or that. They paint the edges of web pages with their certainty that the handful of items I looked at out of curiosity are everything that I need to continue my day. I grow impatient with the reminders of what I bought two years ago and certainly need to buy again and again.
I am not from this world.
I’m from the time when Knight Rider was king and a computer was a new-fangled device that you plugged into a Television. I’m from a time when we still said television; when we needed such things to watch shows. The internet wasn’t ubiquitous in my now. We plugged computers into phones with handles and cords. We played video games that didn’t look like real life or even try to mimic that. We told stories in books and magazines and made mixtapes. We loved conversations where we could see each other smile. We held hands and ran through the streets. At night we sat around and told each other stories. on the edge of cities there were fires and we sat around those and drank and sang and listened to music. In concerts we lit flames to signify our affection and togetherness.
When I was a kid my aunt bought me a Voltron toy. This wasn’t some cheap plastic model. This was the real deal five metal lion jam. I never told her how much it meant to me for her to find and buy a toy like that. The lion made me feel like she really cared. She knew I was into Voltron and went out of her way to bring me a piece of joy. That is the kind of thing that made Aunt Darlie special. Recently Netflix restarted the Voltron series. It had gone through previous iterations, but this is the first that felt like a story. This is the first that my kids connected with. My eldest son started watching season one with me and then he watched season two on his own. I’m currently watching the season by myself at his request. He wants us to watch the third season together.
There are a handful of moments in my life where I feel that connection between past and present, where the wheel of Ka turns fully and I know I am passing something real forward to my children. Voltron might just be a TV show, but it meant something to me as watching it with my first born means something to me. I recognize that Beyblade is his Voltron and this connection we’ve formed with my show is something he gets to pass on down to his kids in the way they’ll interact and be a family.
It is easy to forget the positive moments and impacts you have on your loved ones when the negative is so present and compelling. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “I have noticed that people are dealing too much with the negative, with what is wrong. … Why not try the other way, to look into the patient and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?” I intend to be more mindful of the positives and make those things bloom.
I’ve always been fascinated by idioms. As a sociologist the idea that specific turns of phrase survive beyond the original context to become part of the language code of a specific region is gold. Idioms are memes. So when I hear people tell me I have ‘too many irons in the fire’ I giggle to myself, because it has been a very long time since anyone put an iron in a fire with the hopes of forging a steel tool or weapon or horseshoe or… even understanding what that process looks like. What is meant behind the phrasing is simple: I have way too much shit going on. That part at least is real. In fact I secretly (and until now privately) nicknamed myself Ironkiller because I am actively trying to remove the amount of ‘shit’ going on in my life.
What is hard about the process is that I cannot half-ass any of it. In terms of football, I’m the Head Coach now and that brings with it a new level of responsibility and planning–especially if I am not going to be at the practice to execute the plan. At school I have a number of responsibilities that demand my attention. Most are semester based, so I need to stay completely on top of them. It feels like the work that does get shifted to the back burner is always the stuff that I care about. It is always the work that belongs to me alone.
In this case I’m talking about my writing. I have allowed the novel to become Lord Commander of the Back Burner. There it lives in full control of my stray thoughts and hopes. There it can build an army of worries and doubts that populate the space at the back of my mind. There it can live a full life and, eventually, die.
This is wholly unacceptable. What I truly need is a base level of understanding of how much stuff I can effectively do and a plan to manage that over the course of a day in a way that allows room for everything and no back burner philosophy. Of course, this is what I’ve been looking for my entire life.
- Another person cannot kill your desire. That is merely an excuse for whatever doubt already lived inside of you. Yes, pain and suffering is real, but those things are part of life and meant to be dealt with. Any quitting is entirely the result of you giving up on you. So, stop blaming other people and get to work.
- My mom lives on whim alone. Unfortunately whenever she has one of these moments of whimsy the world is expected to stop functioning and immediately rush to her aid so that she can accomplish whatever bit of ridiculousness that has currently absorbed her thinking. This leads to a great deal of anger from the people around her–especially my kids who ‘don’t have time for that’ or even an ounce of the patience required. It is a great lesson in patience, because she is really tough to deal with.
- Loving is hard. Sometimes it can be absolutely unbearable.
Lately I’ve been all about the Thich Nhat Hanh quotes. As I move closer and closer to a more buddhist practice (and not just philosophical stance) I am finding his words particularly enlightening. He says, for example, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” If I apply this to my relationships it helps me to recognize that I do have a fear of the unknown. Particularly I have a fear of being and eventually dying alone. I do not prefer that end. I hope to find my way to the clearing with my partner holding my hand. Still, circumstance continues to remind me that I have chosen an emotional path that closes me off from any realistic and obtainable options. This is largely due to the fact that I have personally decided upon one option and one partner and that choice–that discovery of a soulmate–changed everything for me. There is no iteration of reality where I don’t see us hand in hand as I find that clearing at the end of the road.
What Thich Nhat Hanh is talking about is present suffering and mindfulness. He is speaking to the fears we have of letting go now. In fact he writes, “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” So we let go with hope of tomorrow. Then we take action and we are mindful of those actions so that we can be mindful of his next lesson to realize that, “My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.” This lesson is where I sit now. I am at once burned out on teaching and love. The stress and fatigue of both flow into each other creating a deluge at the edge of my consciousness threatening to breach the dam of my actions. I exist in a space where I have stepped far back from ‘Meet them where they are’ and far towards, “If they aren’t already there they don’t matter.” The latter is a place ruined teachers go, and I don’t mean to be that person.
Awareness isn’t action. I’m taking responsibility to have positive actions that move me forward and affect those around me in a positive way. It is a difficult and slow step, but one that will ultimately point me in the direction of a healthy life both mentally and physically.