Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fear and Not Loathing

Panic is back.
Goddammit is how I honestly feel about it, but I try not to speak like that.  I battled it for years and years and for a while I thought I was out of the proverbial woods...only to  find myself in the dense understory of it once again.
This much I've learned: extreme emotion, of any variety, pleasant or otherwise, translates in my mind somehow as panic.  Had a wonderful meeting with family and friends?  Somehow on the way home, the mind races instead to holy shit sixty five miles an hour is way too fast for a person to be travelling!  That bridge probably can't even hold us, and if I try to drive over it I'm sure to have an immediate and terminal heart attack and die at the wheel, sending the car careening through the barrier and plunging to the depths below!  I'M RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERY SOUL IN THIS THING AND I DON'T THINK I CAN CONTROL IT ANYMORE...I CAN'T EVEN BREATHE!

Yeah.  Not such a great way to experience life, let alone a simple drive home.  

I'm a pragmatist and more and more an utter realist, somewhat to my own chagrin, and I've been wondering how much that effects the disorder (condition?).  I've read plenty on it, it's link to depression and diet, and in the past I've seen healers of dozens of stripes: psychiatrists, psychologists, hypnotists, acupuncturists, Kabbalistic energy healers, shamans, scores of New-Age type folks in between...a panoply, let's agree on that.  I've been told that the 'why' is second place prize material; the 'what' is the golden ring and it's implementation (treatment, actually) paramount.  
And so it's been of sheer intrigue that I learn that it is apparently genetic as well, and this empirically found at that.  My natural father, it seems, has long suffered from debilitating anxiety and panic, to the point that he's unable to drive a car outside of his city.  I had the pleasure (not so sure that's an apt descriptor, really, but let's go with it) of speaking at length with him about it last week and discovered that his descriptions of triggers and experiences mimic mine to the minutest detail, his words spilling out as though he was able to quite literally speak my mind, my exact thoughts.  
It might have been unsettling to the point of discomfort had I not long ago identified at least a part of myself as a 'seeker', and therefore of the ilk that can oddly (in a macabre sense, perhaps) appreciate puzzle pieces, even if just perceived as such (ha!).  I listened intently, studying his body language and facial expressions, watching for some gateway to a deeper meaning, a window to my own fractured psyche.  And true to form, something quite remarkable did occur.
On the way home I was crippled by panic to a degree I hadn't felt in decades.  

So that experiment went south on me.  Now I'm home and in my familiar surroundings, the waves of everyday anxiety quietly roiling beneath the covers of my mind, but with the strange uneasiness that I'm no nearer (and in fact perhaps further) from anything like an answer to my nervous questions.  Of course, as my wife will tell you, as with anything I address, that old pat answer pops up: the theological implications are staggering!  Yup, it's back to the diaphanous realm of faith I suppose.  
I feel like, maybe just for me, if I had a stronger faith that I was cared for and looked after, that some God wanted, really wanted for me to go on, to live freely and joyously, that I'd feel that much better.  Mortality has maybe everything to do with this, and I'm feeling acutely mortal.  I have my family, my children, my marvelous and beautiful babies...I have more than I had ever imagined for my life.  I'm scared to death of even missing moments with them, of not being present for some poignant flash of time.  And this fear, this being scared to death (catchy vernacular, that) has me frightened to the point of believing that the end is just around the corner at any given moment.  I can't think of any other way to put it.  The inability to continue living out of the fear of death.  We all die, and of course how many Rinpoches need to remind me of the necessity of acknowledging the value of 'dying well', having a relationship with the inevitable?  Cripes, intellectually I get it...I freakin' get it!  But there's a disconnect with waking reality somewhere, and I can't help but feel deeply that it has to do with faith, my faith, for me.  (I'm certain there are atheists that don't know panic and have wonderful lives; I've already crossed the threshold into the miasma of uncertainty...)  

And so I suppose the next quest begins, a deeper journey into faith.  About three weeks ago the adage rang clearly in my mind: when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  I await the teacher, and wander for now with a mind and heart open to receive the message that will carry me through this forest.  What a gift to my family, and what a gift to my children in the future.  The gift of watching my body language and facial expressions for some peace, some modicum of safety, and receiving it in full.  
Full enough to drive home with the windows down, the radio playing, and smiles on everyone's faces.  

May the God of your understanding shine upon you, friend, and ensconce you in all the love and power of One that made the universe...and you.  'Cause the world just wouldn't be the same otherwise.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Great God, friend, how I've changed.  I now have five children and three hundred and twenty two thousand gray hairs.  If it's any consolation whatsoever: I've missed you.  How did I ever have so much time as to contribute to this..? 
No matter.  I hope to speak with you soon. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011


And you, night: I recognize you now. Every day, from Court Street to beyond 125th Street on the ACE and often back, after walking atop the bee hive vibration of a hollowed out spine of earth and iron, I see you. In that soot-patinæd steel projectile we sway and lurch in perfect unison, eyes never once meeting, for years?, but our shared space and witness to humanity at its pinnacle of mundane, to labor, to rest, to labor again.

Maybe you were sad

one day.

I couldn't have known.

For all that we share

in the vacuous space

under the dirt and concrete

and asphalt and mortals

whirls in tunnels and passages,

wet and dank and unseen,

silent but for the ephemeral gnashing

of steel on steel,

hastening ever.

Maybe you don't want to know,

and perhaps

I don't either,

the depth

and meaning

of events and news and wonder and droll.

Maybe I do.

And maybe that's why

I feel...okay

hurtling, as we do,

seeing you there

every day, from 125th Street

and beyond Court Street on the ACE,

and hopefully back.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Midnight Contemplations/Errata, in Conclusion with a Touch of Sadness Somehow

Haven't seen this side of midnight in some time.
No worries, the photo is many years old.
It's been said that it's quite possible (and perhaps all too often palpable) that one can feel alone in a crowded room. I've been performing involuntary empirical studies on the subject lately and I can attest to its validity. And then the gosh-durnedest thing occured to me...again: resentful though I may have been, my dad's 'words of wisdom' keep coming up. Oh, and proving true to boot. (That's the clincher.) Tonights episode fruited another gleaming jewel in said crown with the long ago and far away utterance, "Artists aren't happy people, and maybe when they become happy they stop being artists. They thrive on misery and suffering." I greatly disliked that one, and now I see that my distaste lay in my own myopia: I simply hadn't accrued the experience in life to grasp the concept.

I finished writing the lyrics and music to a song tonight that has been dangling, netless and weary, for several years. I kept thinking, "I'll have the time sometime. I'll make the time sometime." All that crap. Anyway, tonight, alone and frustrated or angry or sad or whatever the hell I was (likely all of the above), I finished the song. It's quite the lamentation in the end although I'm not certain it was meant to be. Don't get me wrong, the melody veers at times toward melancholy, but the impact of what came through me tonight was great. For me, at any rate.

Too much this, none of that, very little of the other stuff, all abutted with silence and aloneness. Lonliness and lamentation sure to follow in whatever form pleases ones muses. Mine answered with song, and for that I'm grateful.

There's little point to any of this, dear one, but for me as a means to regurgitate some emotion lest I get clogged. (Hey! What a catchphrase: Blog to Unclog!) I know this, but I'm glad it's here, any time, day or night.

I'm glad you're here too. I hope you know that.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cutting Diamonds

Many years ago (in excess of 15....whoa) I wrote a song that began with the lyrics, "I said the winter was hardest on me, you said you knew, and without those same excuses, what would I do?" Prescient prose, really, considering its still somewhat miraculous that I come out the other side of February every year. This year I've fared...well, I've fared. When gaunt, hollow-cheeked sailors arrived back in some Spanish port after three years at sea, no one was concerned with the question of how they fared the voyage, and so I'm not entertaining the inane query regarding this winter either. Those that haven't grave tidings are simply miserable in my world this winter. Were it not for the children I may have leapt into the Doldrums of the Horse Latitudes myself. I have muttered the word 'fuck' more in the past month than I have in years...cumulatively. This winter has been hard on me. You knew. Excuses, I know.
When my projects for work tanked before Thanksgiving, you may recall that I was racing about, trying to maintain a family of six humans by any means available. The only means at the time amounted to my current full-time work; to say these means are meager is to call the Lake Erie a nice puddle. The wage is not even nearly enough to support a family, and to supplement I'd been working seven (all seven) days a week. Helps make the winter wonderful. At any rate, after several weeks of this and the mounting, ominous feeling that the condition was not soon to change, I freaked on God. Lost my shit. I screamed and cursed until I very literally lost my voice. I came home and cried really hard on Marcy. I told her that if this is what the deal was between me and God then I wanted out of the contract.
A couple of weeks later, Marcy was scheduled as worship leader at church, and so I was needed in attendance in order to contain the children. I had not been back to St P's since Don left, and the cleft had only widened with time. (Read: I was not pleased to be there.) The children sitting/sleeping contentedly, briefly, I perused the bulletin. The silent meditation read (loosely): Failure is a part of all this. To take this in stride and remain in faith is where discipleship truly ends or truly begins. I ruminated on this for three days before I had a deeper understanding of why it rang my bell so loudly. (I'll assume you probably get it right off the bat, and will spare you the exegesis.) The next morning (every morning from 5:30 to 6:30 is my study time) I opened a particular interpretation of the canonical Bible at random and read. Sixteenth chapter of the gospel according to Luke. Bounced off my frontal lobe like a four inch rubber ball. I read it again; I mean, this is what I opened to, this is what is meant for me. In the end I've now read five (yup, 5) interpretations and still pretty rubber ballish, although I get glimmers I suppose.
Anyway, many twists and turns later (trust me, you'll want to be spared this tome, including my self-inflicted thesis, "What the Christ Jesus Puports to Know Regarding God" of the bestseller list, to be sure), and I'm bringing you right into today, I've been spending my study hour back with the Buddha. Drawn like a magnet to an interpretive selection on the esoteric teaching The Diamond Cutter, I've been almost late twice now for my reluctance to put it down. Funny, when one considers that I've had the book for several years now, and have even begun reading it twice before. I suppose now is the time.
Okay, so as I was saying, I read something this morning that has resonated very deeply with me, all day. I hope it resonates with me for a lifetime. Please do allow me to share with you. (Don't concern yourself with any forebearing context. Really.)
" watching a pink lotus in a pond near our monastery in India, rising from the only thing that can sustain it-a mash of mud and debris. The metaphor is cherished by Buddhists-Can we be like the lotus? Can we swallow the pain and confusion of life, and thrive on it, and use it to become one of those rare jewels of the world - a truly compassionate person?"

I am officially blown away. Maybe I just needed to hear it in a different prose, a different tone...I don't know, but it speaks directly to me and asks me to check my inner reality, which is always a good thing. I mean, I do try, every day, and strive to be a truly, genuinely compassionate person. Maybe its just that I feel like my roots have been in the shit lately and this is someone saying, "Hey, we all get in it brother....the question is do you have what it takes to move on to the next level now?" And maybe all I needed was to be a) reminded that my situtation is not remarkably unique, and b) gently told that the shit underneath can maybe just be the rich humus of humility and helplessness needed to make some other part of this flower grow.

I dare say I'm not what you'd call 'thriving', but I hope I'm presenting the best lotus I can to the world, earnestly, and genuinely. I hope this one stays for a while. I hope to grow on this one.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In a dream

....I have boundless energy. I carry enormous burdens without wincing, my brow not furrowed when eyes cast to God.
...I know what you need, because you are so important to me. I know what I need, and oblige. I'm important to me too. is a concept more than foreign, an entity no more considered than pants on a hamburger. Home is underfoot and the floor is as granite: unwavering.
...I live with the sure knowledge, not needing recognition or description, that I am God...and God is I. We are one seeking ourself.
I thought of my mother the other day. I was having lunch by myself on the job and found myself speaking to her. As I questioned why I would do such an ostensibly absurd thing, I found I was more truly asking a louder, deeper question: "If you're around, if you even have the faintest of consciousness to any of this, please let me know." At the precise moment I became aware of what I was asking so deeply, I noticed some movement to my right. I turned in my chair to see a mouse, standing, staring at me, just out of arm's reach. Moments into the encounter, as dissonance flooded my mind, the mouse ambled behind some wood. "Hey, little friend, you needn't be frightened of me," I entreatied, "come on over. I can share my lunch with you." At that, the mouse walked quietly over and sat directly beneath me in the chair. Psychically stammering, I cut a piece of tortilla and dropped it to my left, whereupon the mouse gladly picked it up and scurried behind a plastic pail to eat it.
I left the mouse some rice, beans, and more tortilla in the container placed on the floor and went back to work.
The container was washed clean by the time I left for home.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rob Base and DJ E Z Rock

What, pray tell, does Rob Base have to do with any of this? I'm so glad you asked!
They created the ever-prescient song Joy and Pain, the gist of which is, not a big surprise, the omnipresent duality in life...."sunshine, and rain" as is sung. And so it is with not a little unclarity that we commemorate the passing of my mother on this day, two years ago. We had a strange relationship that felt to me often that just calling on the phone was to stick my hand blindly into a basket of rattlesnakes. Perhaps not the most pleasant of images, but apt nonetheless. She had baggage that predated my birth, baggage that weighed so very heavily on her daily, baggage that I somehow managed to get packed into apparently from the moment of birth. I have not unwound the ball of emotional yarn even nearly yet, what with all the knots and snarls.
At our worst, I feared her more than any human on the earth, and her proclivity for emotionally filleting me was second to none. I was the bag she beat on, the dog she kicked at the end of a bad day. I never reached the apogee of hatred, per se, but rather remained bewildered and groping in a haze of constant surprise (naïveté on my part, to be sure).
Nor do I think, presently, she necessarily hated me, which offers some comfort. My mother was a devestatingly sad and injured soul wandering this earth, and I was merely a reminder of many sad and injurious years of her life, and it has taken many years just to understand this part, and now to begin to unravel the truth that that was not my fault. Powerful stuff on those days I can remain in that vibration.
I look back with some genuine fondness nowadays. She was, after all is said and done, my mother; I was of her flesh and blood and bone. Being a parent, I understand that there are profound implications of love that run deeper and broader than any human spectrum can comprehend between a child and its parent, and she most certainly posessed that love as well. And perhaps now that I am a modicum wiser, a bit more sure of myself, I even miss her. I loved her profoundly always on earth, and I love her even more now.
To my mother: we never had it easy, and we did the very best we could with the strengths and weaknesses we had. I hope you look as fondly on me and my family as we look to you. It was an honor and a real blessing to be with you at the time of your passing, and I thank you for allowing us to be there. I love you so very much, and I am working diligently on genuine forgiveness. I hope you're well and learning all you need in the loving hands of God, in tender Mercy and infinite Grace.
Joy and pain, sunshine and rain.