Monsters under the bed

While I was meditating today, I heard a particular notification sound from my phone,  that made me immediately anticipate a specific message from a specific person.

A few seconds later, as my mind and body was relaxing back from this, I asked myself, ‘And what if this is not the person you are hoping it is?’

I saw my mind instantly prepare the sequence of things I would do in that case (some minutes of internet entertainment on my phone, followed by reading a book the rest of the night). I was immediately trying to fill the imagined void, and I wasn’t too bad at it.

The enterprise of incessantly filling this kind of void has become so commonplace today that it is starting to emerge from private lives into popular culture. Louis C K talked about it:

You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty — forever empty. You know what I’m talking about?

And sometimes when things clear away, you’re not watching anything, you’re in your car, and you start going, ‘oh no, here it comes. That I’m alone.’ It’s starts to visit on you.

And I go, ‘oh, I’m getting sad, gotta get the phone and write “hi” to like 50 people’.

I remember a friend talking about this, about the awkwardness of catching the reflection of your unfulfilled self on a dark TV screen in the few seconds between episodes of a binge-watch.

As a generation we look only at the bright side of technology. But as we constantly create better distractions, do we notice that this is the process of making a scarier monster out of the void?

Let’s just play with this as a hypothetical question. What happens, if on a night when the void is knocking, instead of planning a strategy to avoid it, we draw a deep breath and look into it? Instead of constantly fabricating our plan to escape from this fear, what if we tentatively explore what exists in this void that scares us?

I have done this a bit, and the answer is that some familiar monsters do actually live there: impatience (very true for me), sadness (somewhat true for me right now), maybe loneliness for some, anxiety for others. How scary these monsters are can be different for different people, and confronting and working with them are a truly demanding task. But I have also seen that years of practiced avoidance have made their shadows grow longer and scarier than they really are, and have created new monsters that begin to fall apart even with the very first curious investigation.

Most influences in our lives today are incessantly prescribing us cheap, low-hanging, shiny, shallow and always accessible distractions from the monsters under our bed. But this is what the monsters feast on, too. How will life unfold if we could start taking the first difficult steps in the opposite direction, such as living a more physically healthy live, cultivating tenacity and becoming more tolerant and friendly with boredom, discomfort and fear?

I hope that like the past year or two of my life, the rest will be a story of continuing to succeed and fail, but never stopping to try.

 

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Letting Go

The last rays of the sun caressed a soft paint of a sad gold on the brave steel towers of the young city. The dark ink of the quiet night hung watchful on the opposite horizon, stealthily creeping into the space given up by the receding light. The glass and steel vertices of the craggy city center reflected glints of the fading glow through my windows, as I sat contemplating the unbearable despair of being sentenced inside my skull for the rest of my life.

Here it is all, my feverish mind croaked from the corner of the familiar damp prison-cell: look at the pastel gradient of the dusk sky, the brown winter fingers of the tree branches scratched across that easel. Look at that incredible ambitious human habitat in the distance that lunges forth into the vertical. Look at all the being and the happening and the contemplatable beautiful in the observable world. This all I have given you, this all I create for you, this is me, do you not see? What of do you complain then? The very perfection and stillness against which you judge your being to be so ill and incomplete is also born out of and crafted and witnessed by another part of that very same being. What then necessitates this constant comparison and dog-fighting part of your living experience against another? As you give away the prize to one, do you not also create the rejected rest that will moan and claw and keep heaving their pathetic languishing dying breaths in this lightless cave?

Do you not see, that it is not in fact any property of what you call the inhabitable prison of your skull, but your incessant readiness to jump to heartless rejections of the home of your living, that is the root of your psychosis? Let it go, let it all go. It is not an affliction, it is an indulgence. You are clinging to the mythic tree that you complain will not let you free. It is not an act of acquiring more, it is an act of doing and demanding less. It is here, right here, the key is in your palm, why won’t you look? There is room always to step back, opportunities always to keep unclenching that fist from the sand you wish so hard to hold on to.

A moment with the Universe.

Starset

A sad grey twilight watches me from outside the window. Faint traces of the sun’s orange being given up to the quiet waiting blue some way up from the horizon.

How long has it been since I opened these little attics of my mind? How long since I last deemed they were of value? How long since I let the universe touch me, filling a moment? How long since I let it hold me and stare into my eyes, unhurried with questions?

Aren’t there really two ways of seeing everything? One says that the only things that matter are those detached of irrational feeling, while the other says that only how you feel about the universe is real. In the end, we are left to choose. How long has it been since I last chose the second?

Darkness now trickles closer to the horizon, chasing the last orange around the planet, leaving the city draped in beads of harsh sodium.

Isn’t it sad how it gets harder every day to see the face of the universe and contemplate its incredible existence, even for a fleeting moment? Isn’t it ironic that what is most difficult to see is the greatest encompassing truth? Is it not childish to clutter one’s fleeting time with small playthings, that have only to do with marginally extending that time? Isn’t it sad how many hurdles must be overcome, in violation of the code of compliance, to sit down with the universe for a moment of uninterrupted privacy?

Isn’t it sad how, despite knowing all this, one must chase this conditioned lunacy day after day until time runs out?

How will I be any different? It is an increasingly escaping possibility that I shall.

For now, just a moment will have to do.

Until the next time, universe. Hope to see you again. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.

Fever

I’ve never had hallucinations before when I was sick.

Some invisible form was holding my knees, my feet, pulling them, dragging me slowly by my legs downwards. It was so real. And I knew that the more I let myself float into these imaginings the more real and physical they would become, the more inescapable. Just like a drug trip.

I would struggle to try and wake myself. It’s important, terribly important, I would tell myself in my head in my half-awake blurred darkness. If you don’t try and wake and remember the real life where you are now, you are going to drown in this, and he will have you. He will pull you down. This is going to get scarier and he will get more real, and there will be real damage. This is all in your head, but your entire life has all been in your head, right? So don’t underestimate how real something in your head can be. Don’t give in, wake up.

And I would jolt awake every time, dizzy from the pain of immediate transfer into reality, having to take it all in again. My room, the time of the day, sounds of repairmen in the bathroom fixing the heater. All over again. Why did I have to take in the same reality so many times to know it was real? It was all so tiring that sometimes I wondered if it was worth it to not just go with the hallucinations.

Who is he? I blearily scanned my room. Daylight lay only faint fingers through the closed blinds on the soft, hazy darkness. There was no one. I was so scared in my head. I couldn’t decide if I wouldn’t be less scared if I actually saw someone to explain the touching and the pulling.

Then I would lie and breathe deeply, half-panting, and start to drowse again back into his gently but steadily pulling arms.

 

Later I would sit the electronic keyboard in a state medically known as wide awake, feeling weak but fine otherwise, and forget the notes I play every day. I could only tell that it didn’t sound the way it sounds every day. I would look at my fingers on the keys, pressing down where I had trusted muscle memory to so naturally lead them, and hear the plain wrongness of the notes, and draw a complete blank on what I was doing wrong. And then, as I sat poring over my fingers as though my unaccepting, disbelieving stare will heal them of their malady, I would be so scared again inside my head as I felt the inklings of something happening within me that I have never known before.

OCD Street Tiles

Not many people know that I have a certain degree of OCD. So I was interested to see this metapicture photo shared on facebook, titled ‘Worst thing that can happen to OCD people’:

funny-OCD-person-sidewalk

The sense of utter discomfort I felt was surprisingly sharp and immediate. I was itching to go pull up the tile and put it back the right way. I wondered what abominable people could have left it like this.

Then I read the comments below and the most liked comment was:

‘What bothers me is that even if this was lined up “correctly” it still wouldn’t fit.’

I glanced at the photo, did a mental realignment, and it did fit, so I wrote that as a reply to the comment.

Partly to satisfy myself, and mostly to soothe my sudden spike of OCD, I decided I needed to do something. So I actually reoriented it in Photoshop:

funny-OCD-person-sidewalk-2

There’s  a problem there with the corners because of the white bar at the bottom in the original photo. I left that unedited.

But it fits. So there.

Wait, the grey squares on the tile don’t line up with the ones on the pavement though. Maybe that’s what the commenter meant.

Shit.