Saturday, June 28, 2014

Follow your bliss

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”   
-Joseph Campbell

Some day you will find me,
caught beneath the landslide
In a Champagne Supernova in the sky

It occurred to me recently that I’ve been writing these little essays for a number of years now. Sometimes they’re about travel, or holidays, and sometimes they are just about drinking beer or something. Oddly, others start with some fixation on a song I’ve heard, and how the meaning of this has clarified itself to me later.

This is one of those essays.

The year was 2005 and I was working as a waiter on Mackinac Island. I had just finished up a Master’s Degree in Psychology, but was a long way from doing anything productive. I decided to return to my roots, and go back to the national parks and work for the summer. It was something I’d done quite a bit of in my twenties with great success and, although I was in now in my 30’s, I wanted to try and recapture the magic.

It never really happened.

Oh I still had a fun summer, but it wasn’t quite the same. I wondered if I was just too old, or that perhaps I was just chasing something from my past that I could never reclaim. It was kind of a sad feeling actually.

But all hope was not lost.

That summer I became oddly fascinated by the song “Chamapagne Supernova” by Oasis. A lot of the musicians around town played it as part of their sets, and somehow the lyrics of the song became strangely intertwined with how I was feeling. It conveyed a kind of longing to me. A man in search of a champagne supernova. It sounded so mysterious and interesting. Perhaps the singer was simply hopped up on psychedelics, but in any case, it stuck with me. I wanted to find MY version of this again someday, and strangely I knew I would. I didn’t know how and I didn’t know when, but I instinctively knew that the feeling wasn’t gone. It was just lying dormant for a while, and one day I would find it again.

So on to the following your bliss part. As many know, I’m a huge Joseph Campbell fan, and readily subscribe to the idea of “following your bliss.” Of listening to your intuition at all costs, even when it takes you in radical directions sometimes. I somehow ended up in New Zealand with this philosophy, despite a firmly established career as a psychologist and professor. It doesn’t get much more radical then that.

And yet, two weeks into my stay in my new country, that old feeling of longing started to creep back again. Was I missing something? Were my best days simply behind me? What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t I “feeling” very different, despite a radical shift in geography? I reminded myself to be patient. These things take time, and the universe answers these kinds of questions at odd times and in strange ways.

But today I finally got it. The past recaptured. That crazy, radical, energy of exploration and discovery that I had been thinking about and trying to recapture for so long.

My champagne supernova…

It’s hard to define these things exactly with words, but it’s just kind of that FEELING when you truly discover a new world for the first time. There’s nothing else like it really. It’s why people love to travel I guess. It’s more than that though. It’s a feeling that you are somehow being guided by something, and that the fates have aligned to put you EXACTLY in this place at this time to understand it. It’s a moment of pure mindfulness, and it is a tantalizing fleeting.

You know it when you feel it though..

I hope someone reads this and understands. I hope even one person reads this and decides to take some kind of risk with their life. I’ve been struggling with leaving all of my patients behind, but ultimately I hope they will take my life as more of an example than my words. We find these moments by DOING something. Through action. Through risk. Through daring to venture out of our comfort zones.

Although the hourglass has been flipped, you’re not too old, you’re not too fat, and you’re not too broke. You can find a way if you want something bad enough.

You still have time…

You still have time…

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Say Hello and Wave Goodbye

“I think if I've learned anything about friendship, it's to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don't walk away, don't be distracted, don't be too busy or tired, don't take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.
Jon Katz

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Mark Twain

Getting ready and making my final preparations to leave America and head to New Zealand. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve been quite busy packing, repacking, sitting on suitcases to make them close, and worrying way too much about what I might be forgetting. I need to get over it.

Pretty sure they have toilet brushes over there. I probably don’t need to bring that.

It’s occurred to me that what’s infinitely more important is to remember to take some time to say goodbye to the people in my life. It’s amazing how quickly these things move to the back burner if you let them, and I’m pretty good at letting them.

While reflecting on this idea, I’ve picked up an earworm. I keep listening to the song “Say Hello and Wave Goodbye” by David Gray. It’s my experience that songs get stuck in our heads for a reason, and this one isn’t hard to figure out. Say hello and wave goodbye. Meaning for me at least, where did the time go with all these people in my life? Time is such a funny thing. Sometimes an individual day, or even an individual HOUR can feel like they last an eternity. Yet years can slip away. Even decades…

I’ve kept these feelings at bay by staying busy. Really busy. I’ve also been using beer. And yet they continue to creep back. Leaving America is saying goodbye to so many things. Goodbye baseball, the 4th of July, and the red white and blue. Goodbye to all the patients, friends, family, and familiarity that provide a sense of security that can’t be completely quantified. It’s a lot to give up, and a number of people have asked me why I would even want to.

In answering this question, I found myself thinking about a scene from the movie “Rounders.” In this particular scene, the lead character has broken even playing poker and started to walk away from the game. He says, “You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle.”

Then he pauses, and thinks,

“But you sure can’t win very much either.”

That’s what risk is all about. Sure you can lose something; Safety, security, money, a feeling of comfort. If there was nothing at stake it wouldn't scare us. And if we never do anything that scares us?

We sure can’t win very much…

So as I wind down my last days in America, I remember to appreciate all of the things I love, including the people who all contributed so much to all these different chapters of my life. You will be missed. A lot. But for me it’s time to turn the page. You get one chance at this, and I don’t want to have any regrets.

It’s time to play another hand.

So hello again to everyone I've been catching up with over the last month or so. It's been wonderful seeing you again and remembering all the good times.

And goodbye..

Until we meet again.. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mama I’m coming home (A Mother’s Day Tribute)

“Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”
― Elizabeth Stone.

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of cake for five people, promptly announces she never did care for cake. 
~Tenneva Jordan

“It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives.”
-Mitch Album

It might seem strange to start a Mother’s Day tribute with the title of an Ozzy Osbourne song. I’ll explain that later.

 But let me backup and give you an opinion.

Mother’s Day should be the biggest holiday of the year.

Sure Christmas is tough to argue with, and a lot of people love Thanksgiving or Easter, but to me, Mother’s Day trumps them all. Surely no one ever put in more hours in your service than your mother, and I bet it’s not even close. I read recently in a business magazine that the average mom spends 80 hours a week (that was one of the low estimates) taking care of the children and the home. From the day you come into the world kicking and screaming, your mother never stops wiping your nose, cleaning up after you, and making sure you have the things that you need, (this lasted till about 24 for me personally).

One day in return with a Denver Omlette and cheap flowers seems a little low to me.

And we sure do take them for granted. Wow do we take them for granted. As much as I would like to pull rank and say that I know this from being a family therapist, that would be a little bit of a lie. I know it because I’m guilty of it, and always have been.

I do see it though. I know that sad and bewildered tone in a mother’s voice when her 13 year-old daughter has started to turn on her after years of closeness and admiration. I know the look in her eyes when her 8 year-old son tells her he hates her for the first time, and she quietly absorbs the hurt without much rebuttal. I’ve seen the bags under the eyes of the mother who has waited up all night for her teenaged child to come home, hoping and praying that whatever he does, he won’t pay the ultimate price for a momentary and impulsive decision.

I don’t know how they do it. I really don’t. I know I rarely said thank you, and many of us don’t very much during these years. It’s all about us when we’re young, and that’s not as much a criticism as it is a statement about our development into responsible human beings. Our mothers want so desperately for us to grow into good people, and often we seemingly fight them every step of the way. And yet they trudge on, cleaning our clothes, making our lunches, and most of all just continuing to care, really care, what happens to us next.

In the moment it feels like they’re nagging.

Upon reflection though, this caring and attention is everything.

So please, please, please, don’t just buy a card today and think you’re covered. You’re not. Not even close. This is as much a note to myself as it is to you.

This should last more than a day.

And why the Ozzie song for a title? It’s simple really. I’m leaving the country soon, probably for a long time. I want to go home first. Spend some time with my mother, and perhaps absorb a few more lessons, and feel the comfort of home one last time again. I’ll get back there if I have to crawl. So yes, I’m quoting Ozzy Osbourne to end this little essay. Even guys that bite the heads off of bats have mothers.

I bet she worried he was going to get rabies..

Their job never really ends.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Friday, March 7, 2014

I don’t ever wanna feel, like I did that day.

It's hard to believe
That there's nobody out there
It's hard to believe
That I'm all alone
At least I have her love
The city she loves me
Lonely as I am
Together we cry

I don't ever wanna feel
Like I did that day

Under the Bridge-Red Hot Chili Peppers

I was in LA recently to do a TV show. It was kind of a big deal for me. While I was there, I hung out in Hollywood, saw a great show, and met some really cool people who invited me to be on their show.

But that’s not the end of the story.

While riding the Red line in the city, I noticed we were approaching a stop. MacArthur Park. Instinctively, I hopped off the train. There was something I wanted to do there.

Specifically, I wanted to spend some time under a bridge. Weird, I know. But it wasn’t just any bridge. It was the bridge Anthony Keidis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers wrote about in his famous song “Under the Bridge.” With a little research, I found the spot.

The song was personal to me. Particularly the lyric , “I don’t ever wanna feel like I did that day.” I’ve thought of it often during some very low moments of my life. In the book “Scar Tissue” by Kiedis, he discuses how the song came out of a sense of loneliness, loss, and isolation.

I know what that feels like.

For Kiedis, under the bridge was a place he shot heroin with gangsters and thieves. It was rock bottom for him, and he never wanted to go back there again. I think we all have our own version of “under the bridge.” A place or maybe a moment or a time that we desperately hope we never have to return to. I know I certainly have some of these darker places in my memory bank.

It may seem strange to want to visit this place, but I wanted to do so when I was experiencing a really good moment in my life. It reminded me that life can change. That even in our darkest moments, there’s a chance we can turn our lives around. That whatever hope we can gather in these moments is not in vain.

The story has a happy ending. For Kiedis and for me as well. But it was a great meditative moment. As a psychologist I see people in the middle of their darkest hours, and a large part of my job is the installation of hope.  My trip under the bridge reminded me that whatever advice I have to dispense has been hard-earned. It was important to remember.

Eventually my great day came to an end. They always do. They don’t last forever any more than the awful days do. Maybe in the end this is the most important lesson.

Good, bad, victory, defeat, they are all temporary and transitory states of being.

This too shall pass…

My little trip under the bridge was a great reminder…