Coming Out Of The Dark
Hello, dear readers.
It’s been too long, and for that unintended absence, I apologize. Too often I worry that what I have to offer is not important enough, or interesting enough, to be deserving of your valuable attention. Many words have been written, but none posted. I hope to do better.
I want you to feel connected to me when you read these words. Even if we are not friends, I want you to feel the respect I have for you as a living, feeling person. We’re in this together, you, I and every celebrity you know of, we all have to live in this beautiful yet fucked up world, some of us with way fancier accommodations and designer drugs, but the best environment is the one filled with true friends, and money can't buy those.
Today, through browsing my typical daily array of websites, I came across a “darkness retreat”, where you can go and spend several days in a sparsely furnished room with absolute darkness and silence. You have a bath, a toilet and a bed, and they bring you organic food once a day through a door, which is also your only opportunity to connect with someone to discuss your needs or your feelings.
Basically a way nicer, voluntary version of solitary confinement.
This intrigued me, because on the surface it sounds so simple, so unnecessary, so “new age”. But then I watched the video testimonials on the website, and all of them are people who have obviously been moved and challenged by the experience, having been forced to spend time with their own hearts and minds, typically coming out of it with some new profound self-love or perspective of things. Skeptics can roll their eyes, but after hearing those words, and how easy it was for me to connect to them, I could not.
Could I spend 3 or 4 days in total darkness and silence? Sure, but… how would I deal? The idea is scary, but also seductive. I am at a point in my life where I yearn for the answers I have yet been able to find, knowing they may not exist, but also knowing that the answers may have been in front of my face all along but invisible to my overstimulated and self-critical mind.
I’ve never done psychedelics yet, but it’s always been one of those “not if, but when” things, except that my trepidation keeps pushing the when back again and again. What am I afraid of? The truth? I don’t know.
Possibly the biggest thing I have used to torture myself in my life is the constant feeling that I have been lucky to get certain gifts, and not done enough with them. Like there is some amazing thing inside of me that if only I could figure out what it was, and how to access it, I could do all the good I really want to do. My fear is that I’ll die before I ever figure out what it was. But my growing suspicion is that it doesn’t exist, and I’m already using it, and that it’s actually just some old misguided expectation that grew into this grand idea that I can do more, that I can matter more, that I can be worthy of the life I was given.
That’s why I want to go into the darkness, or take the mushrooms. I want the red pill. I don’t know if I’ve ever truly felt inner peace, the closest has been the time I spend with my close friends, when the inner critics are shut off and I am just loving being with the people who love me. But I think it could exist. Somewhere is the key to learning how to stop fearing death and accepting my life, it’s flaws and it’s virtues, it’s challenges and rewards.
The person I am today is closer to who I want to be than ever before. The love I have for people is real. The desire I have to help is real. I won’t pretend that it isn’t also tied into my need to be loved and needed, but it isn’t just about that. I want to have done something meaningful with my life, especially if there isn’t anything else.
Some people would say I already have. And am. I want to be one of those people.
I just turned 50. It’s hard to fathom, somewhat less hard when my body is malfunctioning again.
Mortality is often on my mind. My family’s. My friends’. My own.
How much time is left? How many things I wanted to do, won’t get done? Why am I not doing more of them now? How long will I be remembered? Was it enough?
When I saw Everything Everywhere All At Once, it just completely hit my emotions like a bomb. So much there that I could relate to, so many feelings, ideas, philosophies. Rarely, maybe never, have I seen a movie that resonated so soundly with me that I literally felt it in my chest.
(By the way, if somehow you have managed not to see this movie, makes plans to see it ASAP. You will not regret it, I promise.)
We are, all of us, as Kansas (the band, not the state) once sang, dust in the wind. All we are is dust in the wind.
But while we are here, we feel. We struggle. We laugh. We cry. We hate and we love. 100 years from now, no one may remember who you were, but right now, you have the power to make the brief lives of others a hell of a lot better. And if one life is all we get, how is that not important? We can’t live in the past, and we can’t live in the future either. We don’t have a DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor. It’s right here, right now, for better or for worse.
These days I really try to find joy in things that I had long since taken for granted. The way a favorite song makes me smile and sing along (albeit not as well as I used to). The taste of a great meal. The enveloping cascading warmth of a hot shower. The embrace of someone who sincerely cares about me. Something that makes me laugh until I’m coughing madly like a sick man. The beauty of flowers. Everything.
Of course, sometimes this works and sometimes I walk past amazing things because my brain is too focused on something “important” or something totally unimportant but hard to let go of. We are imperfect, but trying matters. Every day I try to be a tiny bit better than yesterday.
I wish there was some way to tell young people to not focus on the frustrations, to not wish away years in service of gaining some expected privilege or enlightenment, but to cherish every part of life. I think about my childhood, and how grateful I am for all of the ‘limitations” I had that modern day kids will never have the privilege to experience. I’m so glad I was born when I was. It was perfect, and not just because “Crocodile Rock” was #1 on the charts.
If we could somehow strip away all the sound and the fury that assaults our senses every day, maybe we'd be better able to focus our attentions on each other, and just how much that is precious lies in each of us.
Think of your best friend, or your partner. You may think you know everything about them, or everything that matters. Do you really, though? Did there come a point when you just stopped asking them things about themselves? Their childhoods? Their fears and dreams and hopes? If the answer is no, congrats. We are definitely kin, because I never stop being curious about my friends. Probably to annoyance sometimes, but nothing is more interesting to me than people and the reasons they do what they do.
Why don’t we spend more time learning about each other? Is it lack of curiosity or fear that we are invading their privacy? Or fear of the answers?
Have you ever had a grandparent (or anyone you cared about) pass away and one day thought ruefully, “I really wish I had asked them about their lives more”? Or some experience they had, and how different it was from your own? So many really fascinating, useful, enriching details get lost because they “weren’t that important”. Or “no one really cares”. Until they do, and it’s too late.
I promise you, the most boring relative you can think of has interesting stories to tell, things you’d be surprised by. Why are we so afraid of being curious, when we all want to feel interesting? Over-stimulation is part of it. We’re fatigued by everything that demands our focus, we end up so beaten down that when we finally get a break, we often just want to do nothing, to turn our brains off in the futile hopes that it will automatically recharge them by doing so.
Maybe you’re like me, your mind tends to seek mistakes or things to feel bad about when it’s not focused on a task or a person. And when it isn’t, you just dive into the nearest easy, meaningful instant gratification you find. Maybe it’s a mindless game, maybe a dumb show. I struggle to decide if this is unfortunate, or if it’s just coping and totally acceptable. I guess it depends on the level and frequency of using distraction to avoid thinking about things.
Exhausting to real all these tangents, I suspect. The way my mind zips around from one thing to another with the boundless energy that doesn’t exist in my body ever. Thank you for trying to stay with me. Thank you for feeling any kind of connection to me. Thank you for listening when you have so many demands on your time. Seriously. Thank you.
Every time I write a blog post, I want it to all tie together neatly, to be able to wrap it up with a memorable quote or something that makes you laugh. I want to be worthy of you. But I need to start appreciating me without being perfect, because I’ve never been perfect, and I never will be. Sometimes you have to trust your instinct. Sometimes you make a joke that you’re pretty sure no one else will find funny but you, but that’s okay, because it still made you laugh and smile. Sometimes you do the right thing even when you’re almost certain it will go unnoticed and unappreciated. Because YOU know you did it. And how you feel about yourself is critical.
So much more important than I would have realized at any point in my youth. The years I’ve spent desperate for people to love me when it was probably obvious that I couldn’t stand me. Wondering what the problem was. Did they see it? Was it bad luck, or bad attitude? It doesn’t matter now, just what I learned from it.
And what I learned from it was that caring about people is important, but caring about yourself is just as important. For so long I thought if I took care of others, someone eventually would take care of me out of love or gratitude. Sometimes they did, but it was still a pretty naive strategy. I kept getting self-confidence and self-love confused with arrogance and self-importance. Anything nice I said about myself would surely be taken as bragging. Best to let compliments come through earning them by my behavior, as if every good deed would ever be rewarded.
I’m so much wiser than I’ve ever been, I just wish it didn’t feel like I traded my physical health for mental health. But even that is my fault, because I haven’t been diligent enough to care for my body like I know I should have. So much easier to care for other people than it is yourself, amirite?
Let me try, make an attempt to tie this glorious mess together. With as few cliches as I can manage.
Anything I can manage to give to the world, I am grateful for, as well as everything this world (and my effort) has given me. I am imperfect and that is okay, more so because I strive to be better. I don’t know if I need to be alone in the dark and silence for days to discover the truths lurking inside of me; some I’ve managed to unearth, some are still stuck. I won’t stop digging.
But I need to dig more at those stuck glimpses of truth and less at my self-inflicted wounds.
And probably, so do many of us.
Even if you don’t feel like anyone else does, and maybe especially, you have to figure out not just how to love yourself, but why. It’s good to be well aware of your flaws, as long as you know your virtues, too. Everything in balance. Easier said than done, I know.
As long as I'm here, I will keep on helping people to the best of my ability, if I can. I may never really know you, or what makes you special and unique, but I love you for being a fragile imperfect human being trying to make the best life you can under increasingly difficult circumstances. And for every person you try to help or care about in the process. Which includes yourself.
We may be dust in the wind, but we can be beautiful shiny GOLD dust, damn it.