The Summer of My Discontent? A Series of Questions Asked

Has my “job” become worry, or Worry?

By being “beside myself” am I somehow acting “responsibly” given my uncertain circumstances? Or am I “beside myself” as in “not myself” but someone else? Do I have to be stressed in order to feel alive, to send a message to myself that says, “I know what you’re doing, and I don’t like it. Therefore, I am going to make sure you are unhappy, even miserable”? Who’s running the show here? Is this not neurotic behavior?

What’s to keep me from enjoying myself regardless of circumstances? Or am I so tied to “results,” “security” and the illusion of certainty that until I get “back on track” the only option is no option at all, but to feel lousy?

If I believe in myself, trust myself, can I not also enjoy myself, regardless of whether or not I’ve got another steady “day job,” a girlfriend, a social life, a robust and creative life? (And if not, does that mean I don’t trust myself, believe in myself?) And is that not a list of wants/needs/desires that are both general to most everyone and specific to my life? Yes, I have bits and pieces of all of them now, but not in any satisfying mix. Can I live with that? Or do I need to maintain a “fever” until there’s enough, until there’s more? Can I be satisfied with what is? Or is that settling, lowering some kind of personal standards just in order to relieve the pressure? Or are the feelings I have these days a warning? Even more to the point, am I going crazy?

The answer to all these questions resides in me, and comes from a place of stillness, which involves paying attention to circumstances, not letting my fears dictate my choices, but instead love myself as I remain curious, even if the world has become less interesting. Trusting myself, I continue to live, somehow grow, not in spite of myself but because of it.

The Summer of My Discontent? I take the stuff of my life, as I experience it, and make something from it. I become a poet. My life lived with no firm destination, free of abstractions, lived concretely for its own sake.

“Negative Capability … is when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.” John Keats, 12/22/1918

Overwhelmed, anxious then relieved, peaceful

  1. What was happening? I began my day by checking my calendar book to see what activities I had planned for that day. Instead of focusing on just that I looked over to the previous few days “unfinished business” and became overwhelmed. Chores, errands, phone calls to make, bills to pay…the list seemed endless…and I seemed so far behind.
  2. How did it feel in my body? I felt tightly wound, almost shaking. It felt like I was a hamster on a wheel—running and running and getting nowhere before I could even start.
  3. What meaning do I give it? I am project oriented probably because I like to be in control and I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when the project is done. Seeing all of these unfinished tasks on paper made me feel overwhelmed, unaccomplished, worthless, like a failure.
  4. What did I choose to do with the energy and what happened? Being as overwhelmed as I was I couldn’t even focus on where to begin and although it seemed totally counterproductive, I decided to take a walk on a nearby nature trail. I began the walk very uptight, asking myself what was I doing here with so much waiting for me to do at home. As I continued on the walk I started to let go of that and enjoy the beauty around me. I started to BREATHE again. It felt as though my tension was actually leaving my body down my arms and through my fingertips.
  5. Gathering wisdom: I think I was given the message in childhood that the more you do/accomplish, the better person you are. (I am valued for what I do, rather than for the person I am.) Although as an adult I know better than this, that thinking is still a part of me.
  6. What do I choose to do now in respect to my learning? I need to remember to balance “always doing” with “just being,” have more realistic expectations of what I can do in a period of time and know my limits.

Love, Joy, Gratitude

  1. What was happening?  I’m at Weight Watchers picking up a month’s supply of breakfast packages for my wife. The woman on the cash register asks me if I do anything special with all these. I tell her they’re for my wife. She has Rheumatoid Arthritis, a tough corporate job, and I do what I can to support her. The woman looks me right in the eye with a warm look and says, “You are a wonderful person.”
  2. How did it / does it feel in my body (then, and/or now).  I have the impulse to cry.  A warm surge of energy expands from my heart upward, swelling behind my eyes. In hindsight I feel the impulse to hug the woman. My heart is so full.
  3. What meaning did I / do I give to it?  As I sit, breathe and feel the moment, I am filled with love for myself, for my life, with gratitude for all the love I have received that has opened and filled my heart. And I am joyful that I was seen by this woman as a vessel of love.
  4. What did I choose to do with the energy?  … and what happened…  At the time, I warmly meet her eyes, smile, and say thank you so much. I’m also a little embarrassed by the sudden intimacy with a stranger, and gently take my leave.
  5. Gathering Wisdom: What do I learn about myself? How does the learning fit within major themes in my history? How does it relate to my life purpose? What does it tell me about a specific present relationship? What is unfinished?                                     I am devoted to embodying love, and when someone sees this in me, and honors it, I am filled with joy. So much of my life has been dedicated to becoming this person. This woman’s words are a deeply appreciated affirmation.
  6. What do I choose to do now in response to my learning?  In a similar situation in the future, I’d like to acknowledge and let go of the embarrassment, stay with the intimacy of the moment, and see what would happen.


The man who fell to earth

I have stopped. Why? That I may begin again? Start “over”? I’m not sure. It’s as if I have led myself out into an open field, alone, and with no instructions, “suspending disbelief” as I continue on, from day to night to day. Is this the culmination of something, or an endless detour? An escaping of what is or a serious reckoning? Can I blame someone, some author of some book somewhere?

Now, everything begins to take on a kind of surreal otherness, people moving in and out of my life as if suddenly revealed phantoms, characters who contain human qualities, me the “observer,” to quote one of the character’s description of me; a character who flashed on the scene with unbridled enthusiasm only to, it appears, disappear, perhaps due to my less than-charming-responses to her obvious overtures. It’s like I’ve lost the skills of how to relate to people beyond a kind of chumminess, my desire for “the other” having evaporated through this life of bumps and bruises, this life marked more and more by uncertainty, willfully so or not.

Am I fit only to love generally, and not too terribly specifically? Am I not capable of loving deeply one person now? And has it always been so? I’m a nice guy. Except when I’m not. For all my time alone, I really wonder how evolved I’ve become. Has it really made any difference, to seek a kind of stillness that, unfortunately, finds me even more alone than ever? Is it not better to throw myself into the busy throng, to let my head run free with scattered thoughts, to embrace the monkey mind after all, embracing the confusion that seems embedded in an overextended life? To jump in, physically as well as emotionally, throwing caution to the wind? Then I remember: I have left a trail of tears on such occasions, regrets crowding out the apparent wisdom learned from such escapades.

Is “pure being” enough? As if I were the only person left on this planet?

Movies and Life

I’m walking down an endless series of stairs inside a cavern, a mountain, an old castle, everything looking like it’s been carved out of a cave with stairs surrounded by cave-like walls and ceilings that change shape with each step, uneven, with lighting coming from somewhere below so I can see where I’m going. There are young people, kids, coming up. As I go down, I see/hear what look like saunas, locker room/shower areas.

Is this the last level? Why am I going down?

To get to “the bottom of things.” That’s everything. That’s what I’m doing. Of course, getting to the bottom is about right now. There will be other “bottoms” to “get to,” I’m sure. Some, perhaps of a different, more delightful nature.

In the meantime, it’s weeding out, pruning time. Junk status for lots of email, more “un-following” on Facebook, anyone who isn’t a part of my life – gone. I don’t want to have all that distraction. It’s needless, that’s why it’s called a distraction. Gives the impression of belonging. Not real. Items posted may be pointing to something interesting or worthwhile, but it’s become way too much. A time-sucker. Not worth it.

As I lay in bed this morning, I suddenly become fearful. The “bottom.” Is it “falling out”? Money worries, empty-life worries. Confusion. Anxiety about living.

And then… getting to the “bottom of things” comes to me as I jot that note down from one of my new dreams, those words serving as a cue for later morning journal writing. Aha! I take a toke, listen to my mind (?) my heart (?) and I become aware that I have a choice of versions of reality to pick from, all but one already waiting to be followed. Everyone does. That’s all everyone is doing, all the time: picking their version of reality. There is no one version of reality, however. We may choose to try to believe that, try to align what we think that “version” really is with what we believe is the social version, the compatible version. And so, we stumble along, never really sure. Why? Because it’s impossible to know deep down, since it’s based on something “out there,” an abstraction. “Fitting in” means different things to different people, perhaps done to ease the tension that results from living from the outside-in, and “knowing” deep down, deep, deep down, that something’s amiss, fake. It’s an attempt to foist something less authentic onto something real. And what is that “something real”?

It’s you. It’s me.

In the quiet of my lonely room, eyes closed, mind floating, body relaxed and stretched out horizontally, untethered from top to bottom, I begin to imagine possibilities instead of feeling anxious. At this sleepy stage, it’s more about the possibilities of possibilities than anything specific. I can tell I’m onto something real because I’m nodding off, I can feel it in my body. “Dreaming. Sleeping.” My temporary mantra. I relax and enjoy the blend of thought with feeling, not sure which is which and not caring, either.

An insight into real living leaves behind the worry and doubt of “hitting bottom,” replaced by “getting to the bottom of things.” There is no Secret Code, unless that’s what I want. And then, it’s just a secret I keep from myself, if I choose to. And it’s not about “not fitting in,” because it’s about something that’s not a “not.” “Nots,” after all, have the potential to become “knots” in the end.

Everyone’s version of reality is a like a movie. That movie can be a seemingly endless series of reruns, an endless series of sequels, attempts to play someone else’s dream as you perceive it. It might be “Fun With Dick And Jane,” or it could be “The Stepford Wives.” Or a television show, like “Ozzie & Harriet.” But why something “out there” instead of what’s “in here”? Isn’t what’s “in here” the real thing? And how much do we know that’s what we are doing? Sure, you can like or appreciate certain aspects of those programs. But in the end, they’re just “programs,” aren’t they? And can you see the results of trying to live “out there” instead of from “in here”? One has the potential to become pathological, the other moving us toward personal integration and a lifetime (not the cable channel) of discovery (also not the cable channel).

We are surrounded. Like in a shooting match, and we’re outnumbered. Or so we think. “It” is waiting for us before we’re even born. It “welcomes” us with “open arms.” It’s Disneyland. It’s “Apocalypse Now.” It’s “Nothing But A Man.” It’s your favorite “reality” TV show or “source for news.” Anything but what’s right in front of us.

Being damaged is one thing. Staying damaged is another. Does it come down to “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” (you pick the best version you like) or that which is indescribable except by each and everyone of us, individually, each and every day?

“But is Brain all that important? Is it really Brain that takes us where we need to go? Or is it all too often Brain that sends us off in the wrong direction, following the echo of the wind in the treetops, which we think is real, rather than listening to the voice within us that tells us which way to turn?”

I’m tired, exhausted of being afraid of what’s inside of ME.

The only true claim on anyone’s life is their own.