^^ It’s the title of a self help book which I may or may not have read years ago. I don’t recall. I’ve read so many … Nowadays I think self help books don’t work. If you’re constantly seeking, constantly looking for answers, for a new, superlative amazingly simple solution, you’ll never be satisfied.
All peace, confidence and self-knowledge is auto-generated. We create it ourselves by staying present in the moment, expressing gratitude for the goodness in our lives, by observing ourselves, feeling our emotions and then once we’ve felt them, letting them pass.
There is no external fix, no panacea. No geographic cure, no perfect relationship, no spiritual or religious solution, no ideal job, career or marriage. Nothing external can “fix” us or make us happy or secure. Until we acknowledge this… until we take responsibility for our own experience, we’ll repeat negative patterns and attempt to avoid pain by focusing on the external, shallow and fleeting. Those around us may also get unwittingly and unwillingly drawn into our drama.
We owe it to ourselves and those we love to find the love, acceptance and answers we seek first within ourselves.
It does not sting so much anymore. My Dad has been gone eight years. I healed, realized what the heck happened, and forgave. When the whole #MeToo thing happened Sarah Silverman wrote a piece asking if you can love someone who did bad things. I can relate to that. My Dad did some really shitty things. To himself and those he loved. He was a clinically depressed alcoholic whose antics hijacked my early adult life. His repressed, undealt with emotions led to escalating depression, addiction and eventually terminal cancer. Those around him were sucked into the vortex as those who love addicts always are. We wanted to help him, we couldn’t and in the process, we were forced to put our own lives and desires on hold.
Letting go of all that took a while. At first there was relief. Then the anger came. I was also so tired of only hearing the good stuff about him. My Dad was handsome, charismatic and funny and everybody loved him. But at home he was very moody and emotionally unpredictable. He was kind of a dick to my Mom which is never a good thing for a kid to see. And I resented his utter selfishness. But over the years I’ve come to accept and forgive him. He was doing the best he could. He had a crappy young life himself in many regards. He himself dealt with a home life marked by emotional unpredictability –a father with a serious gambling problem who was frequently MIA, and a stoic Irish mother who thought life was something to be endured. Despite all that he managed to be a pretty good Dad when we were little. Fun, loving, virtuous. Teaching me lessons about this and that. Always around, always ready with a joke, a hug and a smile. He loved music and shared his love of it every night playing new vinyl on his Yamaha sound system. The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson, Steely Dan, Paul Simon … the list goes on and on but those stand out. He was funny and had endless jokes and stories.
He was a spiritual guy with real curiosity about metaphysics, which was contrary to his strict cultural identity as an Irish Catholic from Washington Heights. He had a brief stint with Transcendental Meditation, and I remember him reading Dianetics (which was advertised on TV relentlessly in the 80s). Later on when I lived in the city post grad school, he and I would have dinner once a week after he came in for his therapy appointment. We had such fun nights. He was in a good phase – steady, hopeful and sober. He said that he regretted his career choices. That he stuck with the financial advisor gig because he felt he had to give us a stable life. But in his heart of hearts he wished he had pursued something creative – being an actor, singer, performer or even a history professor.
I believe that suppressing his ambitions, desires and feelings led to his deterioration later in life. Once he was no longer needed as a provider he became rootless, remorseful and sought refuge in the bottom of the bottle. Just as our adult lives were beginning and as my parents’ retirements laid ahead of them, my Dad’s drama took over.
For me, it is therapeutic to put it all out there and be honest with myself and others about what happened. It’s a sigh of relief. It’s what allows me to look back with love. He was a good man with good intentions. He was my father, he gave me life and so much more … my sense of fun, my independence, my healthy skepticism and love of family. I cherish him and am grateful he was my Dad.
Begin again to begin again. A new year. I am grateful for what I have, for those I love, for this moment in space and time.
2017 was a tough one. When someone you love dearly is in a life or death situation, it really drains you. To the point you are consumed with it, hemorrhaging into all aspects of your day to day. But you learn to fight back. To keep it in its place. To reclaim your peace. You don’t surrender to the old unhealed wounds that have been quiet for the few years prior. You steel yourself and you keep on keepin’ on. And eventually the crisis abates. And once again here you are. Such is life.
There is something cool about aging. You learn to trust the cycle. You learn that the low moment is as temporary as the high moment. And everything in between is the true stuff of life.
Every morning when I walk my dog Rufus I am filled with such a happy feeling. I feel so damned lucky to have him. That of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, he walked into mine. So much so that as I was walking him today, this epic Curtis Mayfield love ballad came to mind … one that in my youth I had ascribed to countless fellas who either didn’t want or deserve my affection. As I’ve grown older & wiser, I’ve learned to save myself for those who really love me back. Like Rufus!
When I got him, my life was in a shitty place. The economy was in the craphole … everyone worried for their jobs. And I had been abruptly booted from my apartment at Christmas time just days after learning that my Dad’s cancer had reached an advanced stage and he only had a few months left to live. I ended up taking the first apartment I could find. It was a dump for sure – it smelled so badly I called it “Stankonia.” On the positive side, it permitted dogs. I went on a mission to find my canine companion and three months later, after countless shelter visits and petfinder.com inquiries, I found Rufus. That was almost 3 years ago. My Dad got to meet Rufus. He said “he is a cute as can be.” Rufie loved Dad too – he loves manly men.
And here we are, several years later and the honeymoon’s not over. It is such a simple thing: the unconditional love of a pet. Each day their joy at being fed, pet and loved is a reminder of how to be grateful. Easy to please, never snarky or insecure or abusive or manipulative like humans are wont to be. I am not one of those people who elevates pets to the level of humans per se … I don’t view my pets as “children replacements.” I want children TOO! But until that’s possible, it is so fulfilling and grounding to have creatures to nurture, love and care for. It’s an external focus that really enhances my life.
“The forces of affection that bind us to each other preceded the rise of the rational brain. Love’s reasons have always been subcortical, though love’s execution may require careful plotting. … The three major systems for loving – attachment, caregiving, and sexuality – all follow their own complex rules. At a given moment any one of these three can be ascendant – say, as a couple feels a warm togetherness, or when they cuddle their own baby, or while they make love. When all three of these love systems are operating, they feed romance at its richest: a relaxed, affectionate, and sensual connection where rapport blossoms. …”
Excerpt c/o Delancey Place
Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence, Bantam, Copyright 2006 by Daniel Goleman, pp. 189-193.
This day has run the gamut. Smiles and tears. Funny stuff, sad stuff. Lots of memorable stuff. Started my day watching as Falcon, the balloon boy, barfed on the Today Show. Thank you Meredith Viera for suggesting the family take a minute to help the kid and get composed. I only wish I saw the Dad fart on Good Morning America. Later on at the office we all shared our opinions and laughed our asses off.
Also at work, I turned a corner on a story I’ve been working on. An aha moment. Don’t get those every day and when you do it’s satisfying. Nothing else feels as major as that aha. All the drivel and tireless processing pales in comparison.
And beyond the office, I heard stories of tragedy. Things happening to friends. Beginning of life, mid life, later in life: the unexpected can happen at all stages. Sometimes I wish we didn’t have to suffer. But I wonder if we’d know delight without suffering. Life is a gift, and it’s fleeting. All the dumb stuff we obsess over. Silly.
Folks, I’m telling you,
Birthing is hard
And Dying is mean
So get yourself
Some loving in between.
– Langston Hughes
Ended the day up in Monroe. My Mom gave me her diamond earrings — amazing.I tend to lose jewelry, but will guard these babies with vigilance. I also received a necklace from my Dad. Well, sort of. My Mom had found a gift certificate to Tiffany in one of his drawers. He won it as a sales incentive and the expiration date was coming up. I picked out this piece — the shamrock — for him.
We talked about missing him. We talked about parting ways with his shoes, his coats. How weird it is to have a football season without him. It will be two months on Sunday. We miss him miss him miss him. But onward we march.
I am moving to a new apartment. Trading the West Village and all its celebrities and rich people and trust fund kids for a much more modest nabe in the East Village. I will miss the beauty, I will miss the Hudson, I will miss the charm. But it’s time to move on. New places, new people, new routines. New York. Change is good. All the fun stuff I sacrificed and put off, all the freedom and creativity that I denied myself. Now, it’s coming.
It is quite true what Philosophy says: that Life must be understood backwards. But that makes one forget the other saying: that it must be lived–forwards. The more one ponders this, the more it comes to mean that life in the temporal existence never becomes quite intelligible, precisely because at no moment can I find complete quiet to take the backward-looking position. — Søren Kierkegaard
i am enamored with hbo’s new original series, “bored to death,” created and produced by jonathan ames. was pleased to learn today that we’ll be getting a second season. there’s so much to talk about here, but basically it’s about men flailing around in the absence of women. the main character, jonathan, played by nerdy dreamboat munchkin jason schwartzman, is pining for the ex who left him due to his meandering lack of focus and proclivity for white whine and weed. he’s a writer whose debut novel won him critical success. but he’s languishing with the writing of the second novel. aided by craigslist advertising, he begins moonlighting as an unlicensed private detective. it’s jonathan’s way to fight boredom and get his mojo back. absurdity ensues. when he’s not sleuthing, jonathan’s activities are centered around his two buddies: his boss George Christopher, magazine editor and party-goer played by the dashingly deviant Ted Danson, and Ray Hueston, his bestie, a Brooklyn comic book artist played by the hilarious bearded yet feminized Zach Galifianaki.
this is a writer’s show. the dialogue is fantastic. the most recent episode had some words that broke through to my noggin:
Claudia Worth: Are you a man or a boy?
Jonathan: Well… what’s the difference?
Claudia Worth: With a man, you feel like you’re being taken, and you like it. And with a boy, you feel like they’re stealing something from you, and you don’t like it.
Claudia was the 16-year-old daughter of a psychologist that Jonathan picked up at a party (assuming she was older). out of the mouths of babes, right? that distinction is right on, and it extends beyond the physical sex act. the difference between being took and being stolen from. when you’re took, you go along with. when you’re stolen from, you are left alone, in a world apart.