Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Everything's amazing

I don't think I'd ever seen Louis C.K.

The last clip was not comedic. Well, this is, and I figured both you, my imaginary friend, and me, who's spent the entire day self reflecting on some serious shit (oh my - three curses in one day! I'm going to hell!). . .well, it's time for some comic relief. This could almost be Andy Rooney oh-that-unappreciative-younger generation material, but I think not:


Instead of describing, I'll simply post this:

Seems I can't get away from certain themes lately. I'd break it down, but it comes to one thing: courage.

I have quoted someone a number of times here on this blog and to people I've written to. I had forgotten who had written this - "Live as if you father was dead" - and, in fact, I had thought it was "write as if your family was dead." Never mind. It's simply about being unafraid; unafraid of consequences, unafraid of yourself, of your feelings, of others' judgments, all of it. You know when you're coming from a place of no fear (at first) because you are, indeed, terrified. Louis C.K. said he "felt it in his balls."

I don't have any balls, but I know what he means.

It's about being authentic. For some, this matters little, but for whatever reason, to me, it seems to be everything. I've heard the expression, "living life on life's terms," and I thought, eh, it's just a cliche, pay it no mind. I quibble with things like this; what inherent meaning does the word "life" have? None, However, this cliche has come to mean a lot to me. It's about meeting life's challenges openly, and not backing down from them.

I've given a lot of thought to the concept of depression, and I think, at heart, depression is the place we habitually go when we're feeling so much pain that we collapse. I also think it's a choice. There. I've said it. It's a choice. It's not about feeling happy or unhappy. It's about feeling painful feelings. Depression is an attempt to feel less. One can be grieving, hurt, sad, angry, filled with shame, in physical pain (just stick your own so-called negative emotion in here) and not be depressed. Depression is the attempt to run away and give up. All the outward appearances of depression show this: sleeping, lethargy, the attempt to stuff one's feelings with food, television, or whatever one's medication of choice is. The depressed doesn't say "I'm sad," but instead, "I feel like a piece of shit." As an aside, those silly multiple choice tests are just plain ridiculous: "Have you felt pervasive sadness for a duration longer than 14 days?" Why not simply ask, "Do you feel like a piece of shit?"

It takes courage not to be depressed if one is prone to it. I do think there's a propensity for it, and maybe (just maybe) the depression piece is the complete opposite of the disease model..I can see a good argument for that. Depression seems like an almost appropriate reaction - a non-maladaptive coping mechanism when one has an accurate understanding of one's complete powerlessness in the face of overwhelming circumstances. When I think of my childhood, it makes total sense to have developed depressive tendencies. Children have no rights, and in essence, their situation is the same as an inmate's. Now, your childhood may have been wonderful, so this analogy may seem absurd, but give it some thought: You are told where to live, who to live with, and you have no choice. You go to a school where everything you do is regimented, and you're tested and measured and analyzed and forced to socialize in groups, whether or not that's the right learning setting for you. There are bullies and cliques and all sorts of crazy power dynamics. You might have an abusive parent or teacher or be tormented by your peers, and you can't do a damned thing about it unless it's so bad that the law has to step in. Isn't this a pretty fair description of prison life?

Some people are fine. In prison, if they are, we call them "institutionalized." Truth is, a child who navigates the American school system with ease is already institutionalized, and if they are not complying, these days they are given drugs. Is this crazy or what?

People who can't conform to institutional setting either become angry or collapse in on themselves with depression, and some people can feel both at the same time.

Bruce Levine writes a lot about how people say they are depressed when, in fact, they are demoralized. He has a good article on Counterpunch in which he says,

"Can people become so broken that truths of how they are being screwed do not "set them free" but instead further demoralize them?"

For the answer, go here.  It's a good question. I have always marveled at how there are general strikes in European countries, but when similar circumstances arise in the U.S., no one bats an eye. I think there's other reasons besides demoralization (such as the promise of the American Dream), but as I've just written about that recently, I'll leave it be.

Oh yes. I have written about depression before. It's the gift that keeps on taking.

Ah well. I know I started this post with some other point to make, but digressions get me (almost) every time. Truth is, if I was being terse (most unlike me) I'd simply say this: I feel overwhelmingly sad, and it's a bit harder than usual to stay on topic. This too shall pass.

Cliches are pretty useful.


Some things need practice. Lots of practice, and you get better at it. I've never heard or read anyone say this, but I think serial monogamy is a bad idea. It's not something you get better at by doing over and over again. Think of this: how would you wind up if you thought you could master car accidents by driving yourself over a cliff's edge time and time again? And no, the boxing analogy does not apply, 'cause even though one may get better with practice, you wind with less brain function, and the retirement age is early. Maybe it's the same thing with failing at relationships.

If you don't heal your woundedness before you get into a relationship, it's likely you'll attract someone who will wound you in exactly the same places you've been wounded before, or if you don't, you feel as if something is wrong when it isn't. Does one learn from this? I've got to say, emphatically: No

All that winds up happening is the re-injuring becomes a scar, or an open wound that can not heal, and then everyone feels like a potential injurer. I seriously doubt I could recognize a truly good potential "partner" if they were standing nose-to-nose with me at this point. Everyone reminds me of something or someone terrible (and that includes me).

I didn't get it that I felt this way. I thought I'd gotten over most of this stuff, but all I've done is become numb. Then, something came along and exploded that mistaken notion. As an aside, as much as I love Zen, I think sometimes the at-one-with-the-world-and-everyone-in-it that a person can feel on that black cushion in an empty room is pretty darned empty (but, of course, I'm oversimplifying. . .)

At some point, a person just gives up. I thought I had, and was oh-so cool about it. Yeah. That's fine. I have no more wants, needs, or desires (another black cushion myth and mistake). I thought about living as a monk, thought about it a lot, and have wondered, "Why am I still living in the world?" Well, I don't have a good answer to that one. Or perhaps I do: I know I've used meditation like a drug instead of a tool a good amount of the time. Anything not to feel deeply, please! Yogic practice is another story. Done correctly, the aim is to become more in touch with one's body and emotions, to embrace them. Yes, Zen can do the same thing, but the bulk of the literature and practice was written and designed for men living a monastic existence, so it's pretty easy to fall in love with the coolness of living in no-mind/no-body. 

For the most part, those of us who haven't been brought up in deeply religious households just aren't given any clear map of how to live this emotional relational life. If we're lucky, and we have good role models, stuff pretty much takes care of itself, but sadly, a great many people don't have great or even good role models. Not only do we re-injure ourselves, but we injure others, even if our intentions are good.

If only we treated each other with the tenderness we all deserve. Yes, every person is a precious gift, and yep, I sound soppy and new-agey, but I stand by it. Why I continue to apologize for having nice thoughts is another mystery. Well, maybe not. I've been trained to act that a tough guy, and that doesn't work for the girl who lives inside of me screaming to be allowed to finally have a say in things. 

And no, I haven't yet learned how to live by it, and I'm starting to realize I'm too scarred by this life to do so. Whoever you are, if you're reading this, and you aren't, be kind and gentle with yourself and others. Do it fearlessly and honestly. Life goes by in a flash, and it's worth it. 

Addendum: I wonder sometimes why I over-share in the public sphere. It's one part compulsivity (I just can't help myself), and three parts a desire to yell out warnings to the world, to those who haven't made the mistakes I have in this life. . .it's not so different than yelling, "Hey! Don't walk down that road. There's a huge chasm of venomous snakes down there." Well, yeah, maybe you want to see for yourself. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Image note: Head of Medusa, Peter Paul Rubens, 1616.