Just Another New

Reality comes for us all.

I moved out to Seattle to do something different. That must be why I have a job waiting tables (like before) at a sushi restaurant (like before). After the initial discomfort of failing to acquire employment and the inevitable (though brief) poverty that came with it, I am back in my holding pattern. I make more than I spend, I have three days off a week, I drink and eat as much as I want, and I am oh so bored.

The shiny newness factor has wore off and Seattle is just another city that I moved to. I can add it to a list that includes such greats as Memphis, Tampa, Buffalo, Long Beach, and Alexandria. The weather is different and so are the people – but – everything is really just the same.

Guests at restaurants are still very much like those in Tampa were; needy, entitled, obliviously vacuous cheapskates. Some are great, most are just fine, a lot are badly behaved. None of them seems to have a clue. Nothing new here.

The bar scene here seems very similar to Tampa now as well. At first I was impressed with how many bars knew how to stir a classic cocktail. Now I realize that no matter how fancy the drink, after enough of them everyone becomes a drooling piece of trash, stumbling up the sidewalk, knocking things over, and being loud and creepy. This is certainly the case with me. Whether I’ve had gin martinis or PBRs, I still eventually break something.

Last week I knocked over a champagne flute in my bedroom. It took me until yesterday to sweep up the shards, and that was still three days after I stepped in it and bled all over myself. My behavior is not any better or worse than it was in Tampa. Weird. So, is the lesson that changing places doesn’t change the person? Okay, okay. I get it. Now what?

Don’t get me wrong. I am much more content with myself than I used to be. I’m just getting bored with it all. Simply being content with being a bit of a slob, or a guy with some chemical dependency issues, is no longer as exhilarating as it once was. Now I’m starting to feel this gnawing urge to do something more. Perhaps to change for real? Like, to start doing something that will reward me more than drinking and eating whatever I want and making easy money waiting tables.

It feels like most people solve this issue for themselves long before they wake up being 34 years old. I used to be convinced of this. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe all you people who have it figured out are the crazy ones. Maybe none of us knows anything but some of us are much better at feigning confidence and going about their business as though it had any true meaning. Maybe there really is meaning. I can’t tell.

Finding Myself: Kauai

“So, you’re 40,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean; flying at half the speed of sound in a tin can; heading to the most remote place in the world; to find yourself?”

My companion on the flight from Seattle to Hawaii asked me this question near the beginning of our five hour conversation. If plane rides to the Aloha State always come with a spirit guide, I lucked out with mine. Why do strangers say the things they do? What do they know about us?

“If that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.”

I came to Hawaii for an intensive, three day qigong course. Qigong is an ancient Chinese art. I’ll call it ‘standing meditation.’ I can’t say that I decided to come here to find myself, but I certainly came here for myself. I came here because I felt very strongly that I had to do something good for myself. I had to make a commitment to myself.

“It’s ironic, since of course you’re right here. But it’s not about that. It’s about the process.”

My spirit guide on the plane knew what I had yet to put into words. I live with myself and more often than not, I attempt to accept who, and what, I am, but I’ve been searching for the ‘me’ I want to be. I didn’t even begin the search until I turned 30. That was four years ago next month. Before that I fatefully expected never to become what I once dreamed for myself.

“I have some advice for you … be kind to yourself. If you were a child in your own care, would they call protective services on you?”

Yes. They would.

I never valued money. I barely valued possessions. I valued my family, but only in the way I might value a loan, or a gift I had not earned. I saw in them my own judgement. After all, when you don’t love yourself, how can you want to be near the people who know you better than anyone else? If they knew me like I had come to know myself then they could only be mirrors to my own weakness. Their belief in my potential only served to measure my shortcomings.

What I’m saying is, I’ve been depressed for most of my life. Ever since I finished high school I moved every year or two. I was trying to escape from my life. Which is to say that I was trying to escape from myself. And that cannot be done. I know.

“No matter what the problem is, you are the problem,” my friend on the plane said to me.

Of course I agree. Things are almost always a matter of perspective. Not to say that it’s easy to change one’s perspective. Moving has always seemed to help me for a time, but I always seemed to sink back into that same frame of mind. I still had no answers. Only different places and different people.

“Sometimes the answers to our questions are not important. Sometimes it’s the questions that we need.”

It’s about the process.

I moved to Seattle telling myself that it was a different kind of move. I wasn’t running away this time. No, this time I was going to find myself. To realize myself.

After two months of basically failing, I got on a plane and flew to Kauai to channel energy from the cosmos with a Qigong master, openly admitting that I wanted to miss my flight back to Seattle and stay somewhere warm. I hoped that Hawaii would welcome me like surrogate parents.

“Don’t bring any expectations with you to the islands,” my friend said.

I took those words with me to the three days of intense instruction and powerful meditative practice that is this particular school of qigong. I finished the first day feeling alright. I tried not to define my expectations but still I couldn’t help but expect something. I wanted an awakening.

After the second day of practice I realized something. There was no dramatic awakening coming. There was no explosive shift on the way. There was, however, a quiet realization. I felt a warmth inside myself I’ve only rarely come upon before. I realized that regardless of the things going on all around me, I am the only one responsible for my happiness. Or my depression.

I am the problem, but I am also the solution. Qigong isn’t a magic pill. Neither is religion, or love, or actual pills. They are just tools. It is up to you, and me, and everyone in their own lives to choose what they want, to find the tool they are most comfortable with, and to use that tool to create the life they want.

So, did I find me? I am me. I always have been. Whether depressed or content, I have always been with myself. I am the door and the key. Within me lies all the answers. To seek outwardly is, ironically, to get farther away. But searching outwardly has, eventually, lead me back home.

I landed safely in Seattle after three days of what I cannot describe to you. Before the class had ended I was offered two jobs – after two months of searching.

“Take life as it comes. Live in the moment.”

It’s a cliche because it’s true and it’s harder said than done, but here goes nothing.

Dangerous Days: Seattle’s Fast Food Scene

Two for 99 cents!?

Two for 99 cents!?

Like many great American past times – baseball, winning wars, and joyrides, for example – fast food joints are fast becoming decrepit relics of the past. Not that we have less McDonalds’ or Taco Bells, but that the ones we do have are hopeless shit holes. The magic is gone.

We all know that baseball is corrupt nowadays. At least in the past it was just one team throwing a World Series, now it seems like every player who hits a home run is injecting random animal proteins and growth hormone into his ass between innings. And war? We claim to win a lot of wars, but come on. We flat out lost Vietnam, Iraq is, well, check today’s newspaper to see if the government we installed has fallen. Korea was a draw. I don’t even want to get started on the War on Drugs, or the War on Obesity, etc. The last war we really “won” was WWII. That was 69 years ago. Continue reading

After the Facebook Fast

Two weeks ago I gave up social media for seven whole days (here’s the link). Well, sort of. To be honest, I checked my stats on WordPress (this blog) for the first two days of my social media fast. I also waited to delete all of the social media apps from my smartphone until day two. So, while I didn’t know what my Facebook notifications were, I knew I was still getting them – for the first two days, at least. Other than that, though, I didn’t check Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or OkCupid, or my blog.

Here is what I discovered:

Not checking Facebook on my phone every other minute is great.

I felt antsy for the first few days, but after that I barely thought about it. I thought that maybe the terrible boredom and lack of attention I would inevitably feel during that week might force me into some amazing sort of adventure, like talking to a girl in a bar, or Trader Joe’s, or something. It didn’t. Apparently the same affliction that drives me to obsessively check Facebook also ramps up my anxiety in ‘actual’ social situations. Continue reading

You Have Spurned Me, Facebook

There’s something wrong.

I find myself all too often feeling dejected after checking my Facebook and finding it devoid of any new notifications. No new ‘likes’ or mentions, no comments on my posts or comments on the comments I’ve commented on. Or liked. How many Facebook messages arrived in the hours between leaving home for a walk and my return from the grocery store? Zero.

Sure, there’s that old friend request from my father’s second cousin out in South Dakota, but that only makes it worse. No one’s left any real evidence, in the last since-I-checked-facebook-last, that I’ve occupied even the most casual of their thoughts (‘click’). Nobody did anything to let me know I’m funny, or smart, or cute, or envied. No one even sent a digital ‘poke’ while I sat on my inflatable mattress, watched Mad Men, made a cucumber salad, read part of a book, and randomly checked my phone to see if notifications had arrived.

This makes me feel dejected. Continue reading