Daydream Believer

“You once thought of me
as a white knight on his steed.
Now you know how happy I can be.
Oh, and our good times start and end
without dollar one to spend.
But how much, baby, do we really need?

Cheer up, sleepy jean.
Oh, what can it mean
to a daydream believer
and a homecoming queen?”

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The Child, The Parent and The Adult

In conversation last weekend, I was told something profound about inner voices. Not the Critic or the Running Commentator we all have in our head. But the voices that protect us, the voices inside that help us decide what to do. You know, if you ever took a psychology class and studied Freud? The Id, Ego and Superego? What if they were voices in your head?

Anyway.

I had always combined those three concepts into two and labelled them as Child and Grownup versions of me. The Child would be the one most associated with my Id, wanting to sleep in instead of work, or eat, drink, fuck instead of exercise any kind of moderation of self-control. The Grownup would be the decision-maker, telling the Child to “shutup and deal with it”, or when the Child was upset, the Grownup would comfort, and promise “a cookie if you just got through this or that.”

Now that you all think I’m crazy, let me deliver the message of this post. The conversation I had unearthed a third voice, the Adult (or the ego). I had always assumed there were only two voices, but instead, I realized there were three. The Child has already been identified, but the Grownup was really my Parental voice. The one that soothed when needed and demanded when needed. But still reacted based on emotion and instinct.

The Adult, however, is the voice that needs to take in the facts and understand the consequences of making a real life decision. The Adult doesn’t scold or comfort, it just understands. It makes decisions and it tallies the important lessons learned in life and imparts them when necessary: “You can’t control anyone else, you can only control you”, “That person’s feelings are important, but you can’t change them, you can only appreciate them”, “Be you, the world will adjust”.

Basically, the Adult is the person we all want to be, or read that we are supposed to be. And apparently some people become these Adults. The voice naturally takes charge and these people live enriched, fulfilled lives that are not free of pain or sadness or joy, but they are in control. They are. Not their emotions. Not the Child. Not the Parent. The Adult.

I realized that I do have this voice within me. But the voice is not my own. It is a conglomeration of everyone else’s Adult. Which is pretty awesome, because it’s easy for the Child to listen to that voice and immediately trust it. It’s also kinda crappy, because the Parent is immediately distrustful and tries to protect the Child from anything imparted by the Adult.

And yet, the Adult steps in, and is there anyway. I think if the Child can continue to grow up and listen to the Adult, that voice may eventually become mine.

Baby steps, little Child. The Parent will always be there for you, but they aren’t always right.

Ohm……not quite.

Not many know this about me, but for about six months in my sophomore year of high school, I was a Buddhist. I blame my World History teacher, a combination Philosophy “guru” and football coach. He wanted us to learn about the religions of the world as we were learning about all the wars. Cool guy, actually.

I eventually quit, realizing the same issues I had with Christian religions were true of Eastern ones – I just didn’t buy into it. I found the ideals and values were similar, and believed they were great tools to teach someone how to be a good person. But I just couldn’t find myself seriously worshiping any deity in the company of others. Believing there was an all-powerful Being that watched our every move felt insulting, and working my community through spreading an all-powerful message of God seemed intrusive, and not my way.

Basically, the budding of my issues with organized religion reared their ugly head, and I blamed all religions for it. I decided that the only thing that mattered was I was here, my relationship with my religion was no one’s business, and anything other than knowing that those before me likely knew a lot more about life than I did was just a fairy tale made for grownups.

Whoa.

So I packed up all that I had learned about meditation and enlightenment, and didn’t bring it out again, other than the few times I told people in the Midwest that I had once been a Buddhist to gauge their shock value.

Until last year. I was asked by a very good friend to attend meditation with him at the only Buddhist temple in my hometown. Wanting to share something new with him, and willing to give meditation a try (since I was feeling a lot of unrest), I went.

I know a lot of people like to describe their religious experiences with as much grandeur as they can muster – I’m not one of those people. The meditation was long, and New Agey, not to mention a little uncomfortable, since it had been about 15 years since I had sat on the floor in the lotus position with my back stick straight. Age is not kind, children.

But afterward, I felt – better. I felt the peace, I felt the calm. I felt the breath.

And then I packed up and moved here. Cross-country. To a much larger population and a brand new culture.

Goodbye peace and calm.

After a year of putting it off, I decided to find a new place to meditate in public. All the times I had tried it when I was a teenager were in private, and I usually found my brain easily wandering away from the point of the exercise. The Buddhist temple had taught me how to quiet my mind and body, and feel everything I needed to feel before I could deeply relax. It was strict, and, like I said, painful. But a deep pain, as perfect posture is not often practiced, so your body rejects it almost immediately.

I had planned to attend this group alone, but after being confronted with some news the other day, I realized the source of a lot of my stress and nerves was feeling the exact same toward me. So I figured it would be a gesture of good faith (and a possible chance to condition my body to relax when around her, rather than tense up) to invite her along. She came willingly.

The group definitely had some of the same perks I had experienced in the temple. There were plenty of fresh-faced moonbeam-loving people around, all welcoming and devoted to their faith. The similarities to church community is not lost on me, but I’d like to ignore that for now.

The community was very receptive to new recruits, so my friend and I were made to feel welcome when I raised my hand to introduce us. I listened to their stories of how their meditations had helped their lives – how one woman took the news of her son’s car crash with a level head, and how the leader’s safari trip allowed him to view a bunch of lemurs welcoming the sun in a meditation pose such as the one he was in. I started to wonder what made these people want to share these stories with the group – was it selfishness? Attention? Or actual altruism?

It didn’t matter then, because we began the guided meditation. I settled myself down, ready to relax, until I realized that we were invited to stay in our chairs.

That was new. I had always meditated on the floor. And there were provided mats, of course. But 99% of the group remained in their seats.

I also noticed that the leader allowed us to carry on for ourselves, after only a few minutes of centering us. This is great if you already know how to quiet your mind, but I sought a public meditation group specifically so someone could instruct me to quiet my mind. I need that at this point in my life, and I suspect I always will. My mind whirs at a high speed, and unless there is something telling it to quiet down, it won’t obey.

It helped that he told us to picture a light pouring from the sky into our skull and down throughout our bodies. I was able to engage my mind in this image, and it kept me centered. Again, until he gave us a chant I couldn’t take seriously. Honestly, I am a fan of those foreign words spoken by the monks – I don’t want to chant “Peace” and whatever the other word was.

I know that means I should chant my own words, but left to my own devices, I would probably think of something to chant like “Ice cream Sandwich” and spend the rest of the meditation time outside, because I’m kicked out for laughing.

Anyway, when it was over, the best part of the meeting came. We were reading the Dhammapada, and the verses chosen dealt with some very relevant topics – suffering and stress.

“There are only two types of suffering – what you want that you can’t have and what you push away because you don’t want it. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is voluntary.”

“Stress is the gap between how things are and how you wish they’d be.”

These words spoke to me, especially after experiencing a quieting of my mind, brief as it was. I realized there is quite a lot of suffering and stress in my life. The inevitability of what I am experiencing is not without merit. I need to let myself feel it.

That was when I realized what was most missing from this meeting – the leader had not once told us to feel the pain, the suffering, the things that troubled us. The monks had focused on that, telling us to let these things be felt, thought about, and then let go.

I realized I will probably come back to this group when I have learned a bit more how to work on my own with meditation. But for the time being, I need a stricter experience.

I do feel it was a good thing to experience with her. I hope she will accompany me in the future.

Long Live the Con

Since August, I have been working for a startup where my editing and writing talents can be utilized appropriately. Applying to work with a company that is extracurricular to my paying job doesn’t seem like something everyone would do. But when I found it, I was looking for a more fulfilling role than the one I currently have. I was looking for a purpose, trying to carve a little spot in the internet world for myself. I haven’t had the easiest time dong this in the past, and especially recently, I have been feeling like my worth and purpose were dependent too much upon others, and not enough on myself.

Enter this role. I have been given a chance to let my natural talents shine, and I felt after the first few weeks that my outlook about myself was improving, simply because I was given a chance. I have made new friends and business contacts, and feel like being part of something that could potentially be explosive fills me not only with inspiration, but the courage to keep making my own dreams come true. To give myself another chance.

I have seen the effect it has had on my life, and how funny it can seem to have one swift slam of a door be enough wind to push another wide open. How funnier when I then can turn around and find the slammed door was never locked in the first place, and perhaps could be opened again, letting in the sweetest smelling breeze my house has ever known.

This weekend marked the first of three comic-cons where we will begin promoting our startup. We are halfway into the first, and I am learning so much already. I am feeling that the public interest garnered over these weekends will be invaluable, and I can only hope that the now shared dream of ours can be fully achieved.

Stay tuned.

On the Subject of Birthdays

I have often in my past chosen my birthday as a point of reflecting back upon the year I have lead. A time to re-evaluate my choices, both old and new, and to make a laundry list of things to apply for the future. This has proven fruitful at the moment of writing it, but upon revisiting it the following year, it has most often been a bit of a letdown, seeing what I haven’t done.

I’ve been told recently that birthdays are like altars, “not only markers of age, but progress”. I have always subscribed to the underlying meaning in this, but have never really thought of them in this way. When I think of an altar, I think of sacrifice, and immediately upon applying it to my year in review, I wonder: what did I sacrifice?

Did I sacrifice my youth alone? Did I sacrifice relationships to benefit others? Did I sacrifice my feelings too often? Did I regress at all?

And then I realize that regression is inevitable. People who look back often may be more self-aware, but perhaps more prone to reverting back to how they were in the past.

“Birthdays are altars of stones we pile up in time. We cannot go back. We cannot change the altars we’ve laid. They stand permanent in memory as reminders that we had been there, and we have since forged ahead.”

I have made mistakes. I have made glorious strides. Just the other day, I was privy to hearing exactly how I have improved over the years, in the form of hearing something I wrote over 5 years ago read aloud. I have improved immensely in my writing, and my self-expression.

I suppose it is time to truly learn to reflect on who I have been. And who I plan to be from now on.

The best me I can be.

Unreliable Narrators

I just finished reading this article. How often have you read a story outside of high school where there was an unreliable narrator?

Think about it. There are so many books written in first and third person, and you are expected to believe that the narrator is completely reliable. What if they aren’t?

What if you read a story where the narrator slowly reveals to you that they are insane? Or that they have skewed the entire story thus far? Most people who have experienced The Tell-Tale Heart or Lolita, as the article suggests, can probably understand how powerful an unreliable narrator can be, but how many writers take the time to actually write tales in which this is the case?

I have always been fascinated by the idea of an unreliable narrator, and recently came across an exercise in The 3 AM Epiphany, where you are asked to write a scene from third person, including an unreliable narrator. I think this is an exercise everyone can benefit from.

Consider telling a story with details communicated in third person, rather than first person. How will it make your reader feel to know at the end of the story that things did not work out that way at all?

An example of this comes from the Alfred Hitchcock film, “Stage Fright” – “a story told by the main male character, who has hitched a ride out of London with the female lead. The two are strangers, but she senses he’s a good man on the run. He tells her the story of what he got caught up in and because she sympathizes with him–and she’s attracted to him–she believes him. The viewers of this film also believe the story, because Hitchcock lets us see this man’s story according to his telling in a visual flashback…the man ends up being proved the murderer. . .and audiences were unhappy they’d been duped by the early visual lie of this story. . .”(The 3AM Epiphany, 22).

Perception is all in the eye of the beholder, and as writers, we have the power to alter perception of any story we tell, in order to educate, enthrall, or even infuriate our readers.

I encourage everyone to give this exercise a try and this article a read. Challenge yourself to make your narrator unreliable!

The Brilliance of the “Fuck Yes!” Principle

Before reading further, please take a look at this article – it fully lays out the principle on which I am basing this post.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

If you have chosen to not read that article (I would be that person, so no worries) the “Fuck Yes!/No!” principle, in a nutshell, touts that one can live a severely less complicated life if they base many of their choices on the level of passion they have for said choice, and the level of passion they receive back from others involved in that choice.

Want to go skydiving with x?

“Fuck Yes!”

Does x want to go skydiving with you?

“Fuck Yes!”

You should go.

Want to get drinks with y?

“Fuck No!”

Don’t do it.

Does y want to get drinks with you?

“Fuck No!”

Don’t pursue them.

There are many factions in life to which this principle is meant to apply, but the author chose to focus on how this applies to friendships and relationships. The idea is that you should not suffer in a relationship where both you and your partner are not saying “Fuck Yes!” when it comes to being/hanging out/etc with each other. If you are already in a relationship where this is the case, it is best to cut ties. If you are unable to ever feel “Fuck Yes!” about anyone, then it is suggested that you allow yourself to let other people in more, to see the real you. If you are going through life with no one who says “Fuck Yes!” to you, then you need to examine what it is about you that should have people saying “Fuck Yes!”. And if you can’t find anything, you need to re-examine why you can’t find anything, and how you can go about making yourself proud of your “Fuck Yes!” qualities.

So, the brilliance in this lies in the fact that you can stop feeling the need to play games with people, or letting them play games with you. You can let that person who’s just not that into you go, or encourage someone to let you go. It is meant to do away with lukewarm, so-so living.

I think it is admirable, if not terribly difficult to become accustomed to. Does that mean I have lived parts of my life not saying “Fuck Yes!” to anything? Of course. But I don’t have to anymore, and I don’t have to let more happen to me as I grow older.

Now is where I name-drop and direct you to the blog of my very good friend, who has taken this principle and deconstructed how you can take lukewarm and see if there is any “Fuck Yes!” to be found. Once you’re there, I encourage you to stick around – he’s got quite a lot to say, and I think it’s worth reading.

Finally, if you haven’t yet, I suggest checking out the article that begat this post. It includes a link to a blog post that includes the “Hell Yes!” principle, designed for everyday life (in case you want tips on how to make more than your love life less complicated).

Hesitancy in the Art of Creation

I happen to have had the privilege of working with George Kalamaras, current poet laureate of Indiana, and a beloved poetry professor. He taught me almost everything I know about poetry, and improved my writing greatly in the few years I was under his tutelage. We have kept in touch over the years, and he is still an active influence on me. I have been following his facebook page ever since it was created, and each week this summer, he has posted a writing prompt. I have been religiously completing these prompts, finding the desire to share my work with those who also follow him.

This week’s prompt was to write a poem about our mother or father without using clarifying words – mother, father, parent, child, love or raise. I set right to work in writing a poem about my mother, as I have had quite a precedent for choosing to work through my issues with my father through poetry, but here was a chance to finally pay homage to her.

What followed were three poems that only highlighted negative aspects of her, or my relationship with her. I was greatly troubled by this, as my mother and I have a stellar relationship, one many of my friends have expressed jealousy over, and I could not love my mother more than I already do. She is a wonderful woman. So why the negative poems? Why all the obsession over the things about her I can’t bear to be, or the way she has changed over the years in negative ways, or the way she might have once pushed me too hard to follow a dream I didn’t want to achieve? 

I recall in the past when my mother was becoming aware of my penchant for poetry, and would often ask me to write poems for family members as gifts. I had to teach her the hard way that I cannot do this, as asking my muse to provide me with homage poetry in a neat little one page package is like asking a dog to take out the garbage – it ain’t ever gonna happen.  

I was finally able to write a poem about her that focused more on a lesson she taught me about choices and free will, in regards to religion. But I am troubled over the path I had to travel to find a suitable specimen. A writing prompt is definitely a better way to jostle my muse awake than a request to write a poem as a gift, so maybe I need to focus more on what Freudian slips my muse provided to me than the method I went about writing it.

Did I just need to clear my throat of my negativity before I can focus on the real pearls of wisdom? Therapy is teaching me that holding onto negative criticisms of those I care about is a way of affecting myself negatively. Letting go of them will free up room to focus on the things I appreciate, and I can improve my relationships and retrain my brain to see the positive in life, even if it is shrouded in negative memories. That seems to be what happened in my writing process yesterday. I find it ironic that I had this issue manifest before I was taught this thought, so perhaps I can be so lucky as to have more than one way to apply what I am learning.

The poem that follows is the one I posted for the prompt:

~~

Blessing

When I was nine, I asked you why
the church was full of people.

You told me everyone was here
to pray and receive a blessing.

I alone was left in the pew
Unbaptized and impure

I would watch as they sung to sup the cup
and feasted upon the wafer.

They looked back at me like I looked at bugs
And yet I longed to be them.

You promised me I would one day
Become a holy host.

I blamed you after every service
for suffering on the outside.

Until one day I opened my eyes
And finally saw your point

When you said you wanted me to choose
Instead of serving indentured.

You were only teaching me that choice
is as important as weighing the options

Of what I want because others want it
And what I want for me.