Sunday, January 24, 2016

Who Are We, and Where Are We Going

a Spiral Dance essay

It's pathetic, I suppose, that I'm now more comfortable in anonymous hotel rooms than anywhere I'm supposed to be living, I have a place to live in Madison, now, with a very positive and even supportive roommate, but sometimes I still prefer being alone. That's really why I stopped at a hotel last night. Too tired to deal with people. No spoons left for social graces. Too much effort to even talk to people I like and want to be with. I just wanted to be alone and silent. I don't know how to survive without silence and solitude, anymore. Happiest out there driving alone on the road, in the desert, or forest, or wherever there aren't many people, or any.

I've been kicked out of every group I've ever belonged to. It keeps happening. I should accept it by now, but I keep fighting it. Every group I've ever given my loyalty to, I've been forced to leave behind. I keep getting kicked out of the nest, before I'm ready to leave on my own. Either I've outgrown them, or the gods want me to move on, or it's time and I don't want to go, or fate moves the pieces on my board and I have to leave.

It keeps happening. It's happening again.

Madison, WI, isn't supposed to be where I live. During the crushing end of times in Beloit, when I was having to see everything I own, including my home, the only home I've ever owned, I dreamed that I could give Madison a chance. After all, I used to live there, and had and have many friends, and musician partners, and so on. I've given it a good try, but everything, literally everything, has told me not to make a hime there. No signs of inevitable placement. I've been prevented at every turn. That's the usual sign.

I went through the hell of trying to rent an apartment in Madison, only to be confronted by the unsolvable Catch-22 of: 1. You can't rent an apartment unless you have a job, or credit, or income source. 2. You can't get a job unless you have a street address of a place to live, like an apartment. That paradox is what me onto the road in early November, where I spent almost two months out West; two months, I must say, that were almost the only happy times I had in all of 2015. Everyone noticed. Everyone commented on it. I was happier out West than I had been all year. Less stressed. More positive.

Then I came back to Wisconsin. And the stress immediately got worse again. And then I got bullied, and had to flee a situation where I had been staying. And that pushed me back out on the road again. If only for more healing via travel.

Then I came back.

I'm exhausted, right now, because after two weeks on the road, to Ann Arbor then down to Tennessee and Kentucky to check out another possible living situation, which did not pan out, I had to immediately go back to Ann Arbor for a job interview. I sucked at the interview, and I don't think I'll get the job, but the more I thought about it the more clear it was: I am being invited to live anywhere except Madison. It's time to go.

I got really clear, driving back towards Madison, although stopping short at a hotel before getting there, that Wisconsin is hell for me now and I just need to leave it behind. I got really, really clear; it's so obvious that I should have seen it before, that all my remaining time spent in Madison will be about preparing to leave. It's true, there are details to finish up of this life. I won't rush, if the gods permit, and I know I won't be staying much longer. A few months, probably.

Wisconsin has been very hard on me for the past decade, and it's never going to emotionally neutral there. All that suffering will always leave an aura of sour apples behind. Maybe not in the greenwood per se, but everywhere there are people. So it's time to go. I have more Stuff to get rid of, from the storage locker, and I have time to say goodbye properly to some long term friends, but then I will be gone. These past few months were offered to me, in the words of a friend, as a Farewell Tour. And that's how I am treating them. I won't say de ice what kind of Farewell, just yet. It doesn't have to be that final one, although for awhile that too was in the cards. But it's definitely a Farewell to the life that used to be, that I have now outgrown, and need to put behind me, so I can actually live and thrive, elsewhere. That's the truth of this. That's also why hotels feel better than what used to be "home."

I've never been able to "go home again" in my life. (Cue Thomas Wolfe.) I've never really been able to go back, and stay, anywhere I used to live. I've always been required to live in a new place. I know that on some level that the gods park me in a new place, to be of service there, so that my frequency of light can be used to brighten up a dark place. I'm really tired of always being alone, of never finding a loving partner, although I accept this as part of my path. You're getting a lot more honesty from me, tonight, in this hotel, than anyone is probably prepare to deal with. Well, deal with it. This life path I am on is nomadic, is lonely, is demanding, and has its powerful rewards that sometimes make it all feel like it's been worth it, although not that often.

And I have to keep going.

Caroline Myss, one of my spiritual directors this lifetime, says: Loyalty is a beautiful tribal quality, especially when it is conscious loyalty, a commitment that serves the individual as well as the group. Extremes of loyalty that harm one's ability to protect oneself, however, qualify as a belief pattern from which one needs to free oneself.

That nails it on the head. When I first give my loyalty to a group, I am very conscious of it, and very aware that service is the key: serving others, we serve ourselves. Yet I tend to give my loyalty a bit too fiercely, and it does come back to bite me. Because I make the mistake of thinking that others also give their loyalty as I do. That's one reason I've been kicked out of the nest so many times. People change, and I find myself alone in where I gave my loyalty, with no reciprocation anymore.

I don't really want to die, anymore. I'm not really suicidal. But I do still have days when I just don't care, when I'm too tired to care, and don't want to go on. Lots of honesty, here. Days I can't face anything normal or socially typical. When I'd rather be out there talking to the Green Man God of the Woods than any human. When Dionysus has my love, and you don't. Days I just can't deal with the superficiality, the inanity, the shallow self-regard. Days when I could cheerfully be a hermit in the desert, and talk to the coyotes more than people. I'm half wild as it is, I guess I always was. Maybe that's why I keep getting kicked out of every nest I've ever tried to build. It's happening again, right now. Let me just pull the knife out of my back, before I continue. There. That's better.

The last year has been about getting rid of or being forced to let go of everything I owened, everything left to me by my parents, all my money, my condo, my belongings, my whole life here. Another nest just taken away. Apparently I'm just a drama queen for ever mentioning it, or for it affecting my mood, or for being so exhausted that I'm not perky or cheerful enough, for it giving me a "bad attitude." I guess that's true. Never mind that it's been the most horrific decade of my entire life, beginning with the deaths of my parents more or less in my arms, passing through almost dying from chronic illness, and finally culminating in the Year I Lost Everything.

Well, so what.

Time to move on. Time to start over somewhere else. Time to go back out to the desert, or the woods, and start over elsewhere, with a lot less baggage, including the physical. Since that seems to be the pattern of my life, I might as well embrace it. I don't know if I will ever live with people anymore, I'll just drop in for a visit. A good visit. With some people, a very good visit. But love and sex? Probably never going to be a permanent thing, for me. Always moving on. I can accept that, too. It doesn't hurt too much, tonight, to embrace that. After all, being pansexual or an omnisexual mystic means I've had sex with the sky and the mountains as often or more than sex with people, men or women or both.

I like people. I really do. I just can't build permanent love relationships with them. I mean, other than as family of choice, which I do love and am grateful for. I just seem to be the wanderer, the warrior, doomed to be homeless, rootless, and so on. That's not self pity talking, that's just acknowledging the archetypes that rule a life.

So, here I go, again. Writing this out in a hotel in the middle of the night after collapsing into sleep upon arrival. That's why you get so much honesty, at the moment, no point in lying to myself. No need to pretend anything other than what it is. And we go on.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Floating in Space

I suppose my mood is being affected
by a lot of dying right now. I'm reading death poems
by the saints and angels, the Zen masters
who on their deathbeds would dictate one last poem,
haiku, tanka, Chinese syllabic quatrain, whatever.
The enlightened masters gave one last lesson
when departing. One of the greatest of masters
left us with the haiku: "Now that I'm enlightened,
I'm just as miserable as ever." I suppose that must
be true, or at least hopeful. Meanwhile I read poems
from Jim Harrison, of late life, the darkest things
I've read from him since "Letters to Yesinin," where
he wrote to Sergei as a way of not joining Sergei,
not killing himself and becoming another dead poet.
That whole book, and one other, inspired me to do the same,
not kill myself, when I was dying, or so close to it
that I didn't want to live. I didn't care. Nothing
was less fun than living, just then.
And today the news is full of the last words
from another saint, David Bowie. Someone once asked
John Coltrane what he wanted to do, now that he had changed
the entire face of jazz. He said, "I want to become a saint."
And he did. THere's a church in San Francisco
dedicated to Trane's sainthood, where they wroship
with an all-day free jazz jam. I can't think what's more fitting.
Now Bowie. I'm not sentimental. I never cry when expected.
I reserve my tears for when I cannot prevent them,
which is rarely the usual suspects or times.
Some movies will make me weep consistently, who remains
dry-eyed at most funerals. The truth is, when you're too full
of feeling it stops you up rather than brims over.
When it's too much, you go numb, at least for awhile,
and nothing can come out without explosives.
The tributes that get to me are the ones as weird as
who inspired them: like Chris Hadfield singing
on the International Space Station, a free-fall rendition
of "Ground Control to Major Tom." Hollywood, never the best
at being tasteful or sublime, couldn't pay for a backdrop
or special effects like that. Actual guitars floating in space.
Now this long distracting mournful stretch of a day
is ending. All day I've tried to focus on what must be done,
and never got as far as chores or duties. I was stuck
on the cusp of contemplation, a tired man sitting on a stump
in a desert thunderstorm, weeping.
What else is there to do? I'll tell you:
If you want to make a tribute to the artists who have changed
your life, do something at least as amazing as what they did
that changed yours, or at least inspired you.
DOn't settle for weeping with the herd. Make a fire.
Here's a random guitar. Place it on the funeral bin,
or set it slowly spinning down the length of the tin can
out there in space, with the Earth rotating out the window.
Don't imitate, steal. Be just as good as your gods.
After all, that's the minimum tribute they deserve.

Chris Hadfield performing Bowie's song "Space Oddity" on the Space Station

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Wizardry 2016: Notes


What I need more of in my life, what I need to remember, is wild magic, not rule bound and law bound magic. Everything you need to learn, you can, from the trees, the wind, the old stones, the lake. No explanations or justifications are necessary. I am far more wild than that. I need to remember and embrace the wild.

It feels sometimes like all I know anymore is despair, doubt, suffering. But a wizard's way begins in words. Naming is a powerful thing. Change the words, and you change the story, and maybe the story's ending. Words are a wizard's tool, although there are many things behind words. Use the tools, change yourself, change the world.

Another thing about wizardry and wizards: They notice everything. Everything. And they never lose their sense of wonder. Even at ordinary things. Everything is a source of wonder.

Half of wizardry, like empathy, is deep listening. Listen to what the world tells you. Most people can't shut up long enough to actually listen to anything. Are you that afraid of silence, that nervous about gaps in social interaction? Try just listening for awhile, without spending all your energies thinking of your next reply.

If you want to leave a tribute who an artist who made a difference to you, who changed your life somehow, do what that artist did: don't copy what everyone else is doing, make something transcendent, memorable, and durable. Make it count.

Basho said: “Do not imitate the masters. Seek what they sought.”

Be just as good as your gods. That's the minimum tribute they deserve.

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Gratitudes 2015

It is very difficult for me to write Gratitudes for 2015. I won't pretend otherwise. I may have to start very small.

(I'm feeling a bit scattered and distracted as I write this tonight, because earlier I was verbally assaulted, which has re-triggered some PTSD about bullying, meanwhile I managed somehow in the past day to upset my touchy stomach due to somehow getting a wheat gluten hit against my gluten allergy. Never mind. Onward.)

I might start with the background of why I have a hard time with Gratitudes this year. I could start with the fact that 2015 was the year in which I lost everything. My home. Most of my belongings. My inheritance. My financial cushion. My application for disability. Several friends. I could mention that I was homeless for seven months in 2015, and unemployed, and stuck in the catch-22 of You can't rent an apartment without having a credit history or a current job to list, but you can't apply for a job unless you have an address where you live. I could mention that I have been verbally abused and bullied twice in the past week, something beyond Holiday Stress and into ridiculous mirrors in which people yelled at me for having a bad attitude but in fact were exemplifying in their own actions what they yelled at me about. (It's called projection, and it's one of the most pernicious strategies of the bully, and the person living with no awareness of the consequences of their own actions in the world.) I could mention the times I've approqched taking my own life this year, because life was too painful, too exhausting, too horrible, and I didn't care in those moments whether I lived or died, and would have preferred dying, just to get some relief. I could mention how I had to sell my beloved pickup truck, which had served me well on many road trips and daily commutes for eleven years, and, to replace it, bought a van that had a lot of trouble of first. I could talk about how my van was my only home for several months, during which times I drove it around the country looking to fix my life, and slept in it many times, and so on. my van actually was my only home for half of 2015. I could mention the many friendships I've lost this past year, as people who I thought I could count on seemed to fear being contaminated by my misfortunes, or were overwhelmed and helpless to the point of backing away in helpless surrender to not knowing what to do, or who left me feeling betrayed because they seemed to forget old agreements of mutual commitment and instead kicked me to the kerb. I could talk about how bitter I have felt most of 2015, bitter and abandoned and lonely and mired in self-doubt about how to move forward. I could talk about how my self-comfidence was so wroded that I ended up with panic attacks preventing me from making any decisions at all, more than once.

All of this is true. It's also just the tip of the iceberg, and I am leaving many things out. All I've listed so far are many but not all of the big pieces, and few of the daily, small, cumulative bits of suffering, bumiliation, frustration, loneliness, and sadness.

In truth I genuinely would prefer to "accentuate the positive." I am not unaware that losing everything this year leaves room to fill my life up with better people, places, experiences, and feelings. I would rather talk about how happy I was in November and December of 2015 to be on a road trip out to the Western Lands, to be making photographs as I went, to be camping in the National Parks when the weather permitted, to be making tracks in snow in the Rocky Mountains, while back in the Midwest there was an unseasonably warm winter and green lawns well into December. Indeed, being on the road for those several weeks at the end of the year were almost the only time in all of 2015 that I felt joy, or simple happiness, at all. Then there were the weeks when I housesat while I was homeless and took care of the cats and other pets for a week here, a week there, another week over there, enjoying being with the cats, and very much enjoying the restful silence and solitude while I had a roof over my head. I tried in every instance to do my best to be an excellent, responsible job at housesitting; it's something I would cheerfully do again when asked. One of the happiest times of my homeless wanderings were when I camped along on the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, in August and again in September. Similarly, the times this summer and fall I was in northern Michigan were very good for the soul and body.

So, with all that as preface: truly 2015 was the worst year ever: I want to move forward into what I am grateful for, from the just-ended Year from Hell.

I am grateful to everyone who has supported me over the past year, helped me move, helped me financially, helped me organizationally, helped me out with a place to stay for a night, or for several nights, helped me keep my head together when everything was falling apart, helped me with strategy, with planning, with a thousand other small things that add up to my personal survival.

I am grateful to be alive. Some days, that's enough. Some days, it's the bare minimum I can manage.

I am beginning to comprehend what the Powers That Be seem to want me to do. I'm grateful for getting some clarity on that. I'm aware that Losing Everything also means that a door opens to freedom, for a new life to come in and replace the old, and maybe be better than the old. In moments of clarity and vision, I accept this. Sometimes I can even be happy about it. I'm grateful for insight, for intuition, and for being clever.

I mean that. I am grateful for being clever. For having been born with smarts, intelligence, and gifts. And for having had the opportunities to do something with them. My parents provided a good education. If I didn't live to everyone's expectations for my life, well, there are reasons for that. One of them is, without my knowledge, I was starting to get sick. I didn't lack ambition, I lacked the health to fulfill it. I know so much more now than I did back then. I try not to have regrets. I'm grateful for such knowledge.

I'm grateful to have survived all the bullies and assholes who have tried to knock me down, destroy my life, knock me out or over, from the day I arrived in the USA after a childhood spent in India, to last week. I am grateful not only to have survived bullying, I'm grateful to be able to make art about it. Making art is the best revenge, some wise person said, and I believe it.

I am grateful for losing everything so that void can be refilled with something new. I had a dream a few days ago in which I had been hired to go out on tour as a sound man for a famous band, one of my favorites, one I aspire to. I was the new guy, and I was about to go out on tour, so I had a lot to learn. The gist of the dream was: I need to be out on the road, doing art, making art. I need to be nomadic, more than ever, and make art. I am grateful for the dream. I am also grateful that most of the tools I need to live that lifestyle have fallen into place in the past few months.

I can't honestly say that in fact I am grateful for Losing Everything, but I'm working on it. As I said above, there are some indications that it was necessary. You don't always have to like or enjoy the way your life works out. our plans are not necessarily the real plan. I am grateful for those moments of clarity and enlightenment, regardless.

I am grateful for passion. Sometimes stubbornness is all that's kept me alive. I'm grateful for the anger that is fuel. Fuel to get things done, to move forward, to keep going. Anger is an energy. Use it. Be grateful you have the fuel, you will need it, and you will use it.

I thought about listing every name of everyone who has helped me over the past year. I still want to do that, and I also don't want to leave anyone out. So I'll postpone that in favor of general gratitude and eternal respect. More than I can say. Thank you.

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