Wipeout Why am I writing all of this? I mean, what‟s my motivation? Everyone has to have a motivation, even if they don‟t tell you. Well here‟s my motivation. Recently, I thought my life was over – literally – and decided to kill myself. It‟s quite humorous because I couldn‟t actually figure out how to kill myself. Here‟s how that entire comic tragedy went down. First, let me say that I‟m not talking about simple suicidal ideation. I‟m a very goal oriented, serious person who likes to accomplish the goals and tasks that set before me. So of course, once I‟ve decided that killing myself is the most viable option given that continuing with living is not, I then set about figuring out how to accomplish that. The funny thing is that I actually couldn‟t figure out how kill myself in a practical, appealing, and feasible manner. Here‟s why 1) I started with slitting my wrists. However, I don‟t like razors. Sharp objects bother me. I don‟t like knives, I don‟t like needles – in other words, cutting myself is out of the picture. Plus, from what I understand about cutting your wrists, it takes some time to bleed to death and during the time you gradually grow cold and lose consciousness. Of course, this sounded really unpleasant to me and I decided this is not how I wanted to die. So of course I checked that one of the list. 2) Then I thought about hanging myself. The thing that most people don‟t realize with hangings is that the point of hanging is to generate enough downward force to snap the neck. Otherwise, you‟re going to die from strangulation, and that might take some time and be very unpleasant. The idea being that one would fall with enough force to snap the neck and die near instantly – if not – then death may or may not occur through slow strangulation. I say may or may not because the anchor point of the rope or whatever might break, and then your weight is going to bring you down to earth, so you‟ll probably just end up with a sore neck and a bruised body. So to hang myself I would have to solve several dilemmas – find something to support my weight such that it wouldn‟t break when I free fall, and this thing would have to hold my weigh long enough for my neck to snap. Keep in mind that I really don‟t want to strangle myself because that‟s different from killing myself. Killing and torturing myself are two different things. I might want to kill myself, but I really don‟t want to torture myself – at least not for free…I mean, I‟m not a masochist, so that‟s just not something I‟m into even if it‟s my death. 3) Maybe I could poison myself. With my background in science, it would be easy for me to figure out an appropriate poison, the problem would be getting access to that poison. If I was still in graduate school it would be a simple matter to just take the solutions that we were using to kill the rats and use it on myself. However, I‟m obviously not in graduate school anymore and that‟s not an option anymore, so a convenient neurotoxin wasn‟t really an option. Of course there‟s always the sleeping pill option, but commonly available sleeping pills are
essentially anti-histamines and as such, they wouldn‟t be a surefire death sentence. On one hand an overdose, particularly combined with alcohol, would likely cause either respiratory or cardiac arrest, but then again, if I didn‟t get the dose right, or I vomited, or I was taken to the hospital while unconscious – then I might survive. Worse – what if I survived and suffered brain damage because of oxygen depravation? Then not only would I be alive with a sucky life, but I‟d be alive as a mentally impaired human vegetable. So I scratched the poisoning idea of the list. Particularly because I had no interest in stupid methods of poisoning myself like drinking Draino or something equally asinine. Then there was drowning myself. That‟s how Virginia Woolf killed herself. So I thought maybe I could take sleeping pills, and drink lots of alcohol _ and_ then drown myself. Of course then I realized that my dilemma was, how would I get to the beach if I had taken a lot of sleeping pills and was intoxicated? Would I even make it to the water? Would I even be able to drive, maybe I‟d just crash the car. So that idea didn‟t seem to work very well. Crash my car. The fiery car crash seems good, but what do I crash into? It doesn‟t seem fair to crash into another car or cause a major wreck to happen on the freeway, so what do I crash into to ensure death? I mean I don‟t want to have some kind of sissy crash that triggers the airbags and then I get rescued by the emergency team – that would defeat the purpose. I would need somewhere to build up speed and then something to impact. Like many other suicide methods, one of the big drawbacks to a car crash is that if you don‟t succeed you‟re likely to end up a cripple or human vegetable. I don‟t really want to be Christopher Reeves or Terry Shivo. Their lives didn‟t seem very appealing to me. So moving down the list – shoot myself. Well the problem here is that I don‟t have a gun. I don‟t feel like buying a gun, and once again, if you don‟t hit the right part of the brain, you‟re likely to end up with severe brain damage but remain alive. My life sucks enough at times that I really don‟t want to add human vegetable to the list. Scratch that idea. Carbon Monoxide. The great thing about carbon monoxide is it‟s pretty certain, and it‟s very gradual and you don‟t really notice it. One of the dilemmas that I had was, how would I seal a room and generate enough CO2 to kill myself? I didn‟t want to burn charcoal for a variety reasons, so I thought maybe I could just sit in my car and seal the exhaust inside the car. However, what I discovered is that apparently most new cars have catalytic converters that remove about 99% of the CO2, rendering the exhaust fairly harmless – so that meant my car, which is a new Honda 2008 Civic, was never going to be the death trap I was hoping it would be.
So there I was contemplating the absurdity of my life and realizing that I didn‟t really have any valid or appealing ways to kill myself. At this point I realized that I would have to deal with life and live, and I looked forward and backward and I tried to figure out how I was going to cope and what I was going to do to deal and one thought came to me, “It‟s like surfing, just ride the wave.”
This is what brings me to meat of my story – the point of what I‟m writing about – I‟m not really writing about all the bad things that have been happening to me – I don‟t really want to focus on those things, in sense, my purpose in detailing my thoughts about suicide is to illustrate how low my life was and how low I felt. There in the midst of all the despair and misery the uplifting sense of strength and guidance was the memory of my father teaching me surfing – the memories of him taking me to the beach each weekend – the memories of him teaching me to surf. This all coming to me despite the fact that I absolutely hated and loathed my father for the various wrongs and slights and that I felt towards him. Perhaps some of these were real and perhaps some were imagine behind the veil of space and time things transform and decades later I find that what I once hated, I now love and respect. My only wish is that I had been more open minded and accepting and willing to tolerate new things. I feel like that was one of the big issues growing up in my household. A constant struggle between tolerance and intolerance – wrath and compassion – but that‟s a story for another day. When I detail my mom‟s half of my life story because you see this is my dad‟s half of my life story, so it‟s only fitting that I keep steer away from the fiery intellectual brimstone and save that for my next book. At that worst point when I was sitting on the couch in my now ex-fiance‟s home staring at the living room wall, wondering where I was going to go, where I was going to life – thinking how much I‟ve hated living in California and how much I‟ve lost in my time in L.A., and how the only good thing has been Ross, and now I‟ve lost that one good thing – I realized that I‟ll be able to ride through the entire mess and come out better on the other side because my dad taught me how to surf. So I called my dad up and had one of those cinematic moments – the kind that you think only happens in a Hollywood script, but it was real – I really did feel an overwhelming amount of forgiveness and gratitude towards my father because I knew that I was going to ride through my hardship and suffering and misery and get to a better place because I had the mental understanding, outlook and attitude of approaching life like surfing. It‟s funny because I think Ross was being vindictive because I walked out on him at dinner during a heated discussion, but in the end I got the better end of the stick because our break up was catalyst for healing and growth that I never would have imagined happening – not ever in my lifetime. I hated it – I hated learning to surf and I hated my dad – but there and then in my darkest hour, the bit of wisdom that brought me up and over the hump was the knowledge that all I need to do was just keep myself together, get up the next day and ride the day, and the next day, and the day after that – surfing from one day to the next. The reason I can get through life is because of the things that he taught me and so I want to write about that experience and to me this is the big wave – writing about how I cope with ups and downs thanks to my dad‟s teachings. My life certainly has been filled with a lot of wild disaster. I had lots of therapists – most of them pretty useless (although a few were competent) – most just sat there listening and nodding sympathetically, which wasn‟t in the long run very effective or productive. I‟ve seen many psychiatrists and those have been worse than useless because all they‟ve done
is put me on an endless run of medications from lithium to lamictal and nothing has ever done anything to help me whether illegal or legal. With each successive drug that I‟ve been prescribed or simply tried, I‟ve realized ultimately that they‟re all just frames of mind and that the real issue is balancing my own mind - not ingesting pills or smoking something – but learning how to simply live with what is and accept that which is around me. I feel this is an important lesson that I learned from surfing – you cannot control the sea but you can learn to ride the waves. So that‟s where I‟m going will all this mental baggage and excess thought – although I think as I move along I tend to shed things along the way – I cannot master my life or really anything in my life – perhaps not even myself – however I can learn to surf through everything. That‟s not saying that I‟m abdicating control or giving in or giving up or letting go or admitting defeat – it‟s just me saying that my approach to life is to recognize that there is just massive chaos all around me and while it is tempting to enforce order on the world around me – that‟s ultimately a doomed effort – instead what I‟ve realized is that I want to learn to handle myself with skill and composure such that I‟m able to move through situations with ease and excellence – riding the ups and downs in way that I‟m enjoying myself while causing no harm or injury to others – and maintaining my essential integrity. I like to think that I am a surfer of life. I‟m familiar with most if not all major world philosophies and religions. Nothing has really helped me per se. I‟ve realized why; nothing is really wrong with me. I‟m like my dad, but I don‟t want to surf waves in the ocean, I like adventures, I like mischief, I like drama I like to get into trouble, I like it when things go wrong, I like to see the resolution, I like to get to the other side, I like the mystery, I like to solve things, I like to learn and grow, I like to dissect and take things apart, I like to break things and put them back together again, I like to see what‟s going on, I like the ups and downs. So here at the point where everything is still a mess, I‟m still in L.A. and my life is still in shambles, my emotions are still raw from my breakup with Ross, my heart still aches because I feel like I met my true love and I just lost him, and my career is currently in shambles, I‟m sleeping on my sister‟s living room floor, I don‟t know what the future will bring, but I feel a kind of freedom and gratitude and hope and goodness that I never felt before and it all comes from connecting with my father and my past in a positive way that was never possible until Ross and I broke up our relationship – and now I just want to write a book about how my dad taught me to surf and the lessons that he taught me and the things that I learned and how his wisdom has guided me through life. I feel like I‟m just paddling, paddling through my current situations – just waiting for everything to coalesce into that perfect wave that I‟ll ride just so because I know that the skills are in me, and so I‟m just taking each day in stride and in each and every spare moment I write when free and when I‟m sitting in traffic I dictate voice memos about what I want to write and slowly but surely I‟m composing my book. This is everything that my father taught me, everything that has guided me through life – most of it has been unconscious and now I‟m consciously writing it down, but it‟s important and pivotal
nonetheless. For me, writing this book is my big wave – I have bitterly struggled and I have hated my father my entire life, but I have realized that teaching me to surf was my father‟s one true act of love – the one thing that he did to prepare me for life and equip me to live excellently. Surfing is my father‟s passion and he really tried to share that with me. He made me part of that world, he took me to the beach every possible day and every possible morning. I later went to college, and although my dad never went to college – I carried his lessons and his wisdom with me, and his knowledge guides me to this day. It‟s funny because he quit work and then went to college a second time but then quit college again and went back to surfing. We‟re alike in that respect we each love to rush out and jump into the water and start surfing – he to the sea – and I to life. I see waves in people and places where most people would just see standard events and objects. We took to different waters in different worlds but we still seek the same fundamental ride. I‟m glad that I got to this realization before my father passed away and I‟m glad that I was able to hit this point now before more time passed by and I and he grew older. When I was contemplating suicide and unable to figure out how to kill myself and realizing that I was in love with someone that wasn‟t returning my love, I kept wondering, “What am I going to do with myself?” Then I remembered the principals of surfing and realized I just need to ride the wave or break my neck. The strangest aspect of all of this is that this is happening at all – I always thought that my father would simply die and I would continue hating him until the moment that he died. I never really thought that I would find a way or reach a place of forgiveness or understanding. I suppose this is why Ross factors into this story so much – Ross was powerful catalyst for an unusual event – something that wasn‟t supposed to happen – at least not in my mind. Sticking with the wave analogy – Ross and our time together was like a massive wave that came out of no where and just swept me along in the direction that I need to go and like surfing – waves don‟t last forever – and although I desperately wanted the relationship to last forever – there were fundamental problems that I could not overcome. I do have to say that if it hadn‟t been for our relationship, I don‟t think I would have been pushed in the direction that I‟m going right now – I would have reached out to my father and I wouldn‟t be writing this. It‟s sad and tragic that it took the end of a wonderful and beautiful relationship to move to me to a better place with my family and in my own personal life. We as people want things to go on forever, but waves never last forever – they‟re always finite, ephemeral and they always come to an end. I feel like I always have one foot on dry land and one foot in the water – one part of me fluctuating constantly and the other part seeking stability. I think that the solidity that we associate with the objects around us – solid ground – solid objects (and even these solid things are themselves shifting and changing in a slow and gradual way thus the solidity is actually quite illusory). It‟s nice knowing that things are stable and going in the right direction, but I think most important we need to head in the right direction because stability is ultimately an illusion.
My father is a surfer. Sometimes, when I was growing up, I wished that he was something else like a doctor or a teacher or a scientist or something – anything but a surfer. My father had a job as something else as I was growing up, but that job never really defined him. The job simply paid the bills. Surfing was his passion. Surfing was what he did. Surfing was who he was and surfing was what he tried to teach me. I realize now decades later that although my father failed to impart upon me the actual skill of surfing, he did pass to me the fundamental wisdom of that sport. Now as I struggle to navigate through life I realize that I never would have survived and flourished for so long had my father not taken the time to teach me how to surf. I may never have taken to surfing waves on the ocean, but I certainly ride waves through life. So this is my testament to the miracle of life, love, and forgiveness and all that lies between. I know that we have such works as the Bible and in that we purportedly have the word of God. I think that however we forget that similar themes play out time and time again within our own lives. I‟m referring to the powerful transformative force of love and how it can alter hate and anger be that alteration slow and arduous and long over time. So many people like to look to divinities to intervene and save them, and now thirty something years later, I realize that what is saving me is the crude but effective acts of love that my father demonstrated to me so many years ago. These are perhaps the only significant acts of love that he ever showed towards me in my entire life. At times my father has said that he loved me, but more often than not, my memories of my father are painful and uncomfortable – and well – frankly downright terrifying. I live with a certain dread and anxiety instilled by my father‟s actions that were not loving, and for so many years, all I could see, all I could think about was the wrong that was done and the hurt that I suffered. I hated and resented my father for so many years, so much that my subconscious anger and resentment threatened the love and relationship of the one person that I loved the most in the world, the love of my life that I had gone so far as to even make a proposal. It was at this point that I realized that my anger and my resentment had to be let go and as I let go – I was able to see all of the amazing things that my father had done for me. So here is the collection of surfing wisdom that I‟ve gained – wisdom that I‟ve relied upon to ride the ups and downs of my life, and while much of the time this wisdom may be only in my mind as a subconscious attitude, I now know that these truths have been with me for all of my life.
You Never Know Until You Go Back in the day – when I was very young – there was no Internet (imagine) and the weather report wasn‟t exactly a regular and dependable occurrence at five or six A.M. I noticed that my dad and his surfing buddies always had an attitude of “let‟s just go.” Of course they would pay attention to the weather and keep track of things like trade winds and tides, and so they did have some sense of the possibility of waves. However, fundamentally I noticed that when my dad and his friends wanted to go surfing they‟d debate for a bit, but by and large they‟d simply drive down to the beach and see the conditions, and of course, if there were waves they‟d surf – if not, well then such is life. The attitude that I learned to appreciate is a willingness to explore the unknown for something of interest. In other words, if I want to do something, I‟ve learned that I just need to go and do it. It‟s funny because I think that many people stereotype surfers as undisciplined and somewhat lazy. The truth is quite the opposite. Waking up at five or six AM for “dawn patrol” is anything but undisciplined. Driving down to the beach and making a thirty or sixty minute trip with the just the hope of waves- that‟s not lazy, and to do all of this week in and week out over and over again – that‟s disciplined and dedicated. To be honest I hated surfing, nonetheless the years spent accompanying my father taught me how to be dedicated to a passion. What my father modeled for me was pure passion, nothing more and nothing less. He would go to the beach almost every week and just surf, and as I grew older and moved forward in my own interests and hobbies – I‟ve applied that same drive. I‟d say that many people “stay home” and just let life and their dreams pass them by. Although, I constantly resented my father‟s early morning admonitions of “wake up!” his drive has carried with me to almost everything else that I do. I believe without a doubt that everything that I do, I constantly throw myself at it because I‟ve learned that once I‟m “woken up” and my gears are in motion, I may as well put everything into the effort. Otherwise, I might as well just stay at home, figuratively or literally. As I look backwards, I realize that I never want to stay home. My father definitely instilled a sense of wanderlust in me. I might have initially hated the early morning forays to the beach, but once I got a taste of adventure, I never wanted to go back and now I just want more and more. The worst possible fate I can imagine is to be stuck at home just sitting and looking out at the world passing me. And what an adventure it has been. I went to boarding school in high school, and after that I never really quite looked back. From Hawaii, I then traveled almost five thousand miles across the Pacific and across the continental U.S. to Amherst College, and when I was finished with college, I then went to Japan for three years. After that adventure, I came back to Hawaii for a year, applied to graduate school, and then moved back to the East Coast to work on a PhD in Psychology at Brown University. Somewhere during my second year of study, I grew tired of that adventure, and found myself more interested in
working for Whole Foods Market, and so I left Brown University and jumped ships for natural and organic foods. There are so many things that I‟ve tried along the way – I‟ve learned Japanese and Ancient Greek, and I‟ve also learned how to paint with oils, acrylics, water colors (in Western and the Chinese styles). I‟ve also studied and mastered ceramics both in the United States and in Japan. I‟ve tried a wide number of career options from scientist to teacher to human resources manager. Here, be it the crest or trough of the next wave, I see that my father‟s first lesson is still guiding me. I am constantly inquisitive and endlessly curious, and rather than simmer restlessly with that curiosity, I throw myself into the experience and learn as much as possible. Sometimes the experience is shocking, disappointing, unpleasant, and downright terrible – but never regrettable. In truth, I must say that in principal I don‟t really regret anything. How can I? To regret anything, would be to deny the fundamental experience of learning, and as much as I would like to avoid the discomfort and pain that I‟ve experience over the course of my life, I realize that even the most unpleasant experience are still contributing in a meaningful way to my total existence as a complete person. So it is that I continue to rush forward into uncertainty because I will never know until I go.
Watch the Waves One of the first things that my father always did upon arriving was to watch the incoming surf. He‟d sit in the car for awhile, or sometimes he‟d get out and sit on the beach, or maybe he‟d sit on a break wall or a rock. Most of the time he‟d just look out to see and watch the waves as they moved inward towards the shore. I liked this time because it was a slight respite before the dreaded „getting into the water” part of surfing. I never really liked getting into the water because it was almost always cold early in the morning, so of course, I liked sitting there on the beach and watching the waves. It‟s also very relaxing and almost hypnotic to watch waves move inland and break against the shore. With time I learned that my father was studying the waves and watching for patterns in the waves – seeing the direction that the waves were moving, whether the wind was affecting them or not, if the reef was influencing things – in short, figuring out what factors were in play. Even today, I have a hard time with this approach. It‟s easy for me to adopt an attitude of rush in and learn about a situation. It‟s not so easy for me to sit and watch the waves. However, I have learned time and time again that it‟s imperative for me to assess a situation before I step into it, and as such I‟m pretty obsessive about gaining information. Everyone likes to say knowledge is power. I disagree. Knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions that are powerful. You could have all the information in the world and still make poor decisions. You could also have access to all the information in the world and have such horrible insight that you don‟t really make much sense of the information at hand, and thus regardless of what information you do have, you‟re not going to make very good decisions. To me, and this comes from years of formal training in academic psychology -much of human life boils down to the attitudes that we have. The attitudes that we carry guide our actions and these actions in turn shape and influence our lives, and these resulting shapes and influences are what we associate as the quality of our lives – good or bad, happy or sad. What we tend to over look in our mad dash toward the perfect happy life is that attitudes are tiny things that essentially exist only in our minds. Attitudes are the easiest things in the world to change, and yet they are also the hardest. I think they are so difficult to change because so many of us are proud and stubborn, and our attitudes are often an important ingrained part of our constitution and character. We don‟t want to change our attitudes because we don‟t want to change who we are. Regardless, I know from experience that it is vitally important to have an attitude of observation. If I am not observant entering a situation then I will learn nothing, and if I learn nothing, then what was the point of the experience? To me life is an experiment, and I‟m constantly testing the world around me, trying this and trying that. Those early morning surfing sessions with my father taught me the value of stopping, pausing, and watching the incoming waves.
My life feels so much more complex than it was twenty something years ago – and yet – in many ways it‟s not that much more complex. I still get up in the morning and set out and confront and uncertain set of events. The beginning of each day is the same as the day before, I‟m assessing a course of action, and find that the best way to approach each day is to just lay in bed for about fifteen minutes and just mentally review my day. People talk about this often – psychologists, coaches, and athletes are just a few who focus on importance of visualization techniques. To me, the events of the day, and the events of each following day are simply like the waves progressing towards the shore. Just like my father sitting on the beach watching the waves before surfing, I find that it‟s very helpful to consider the future on a regular basis and anticipate and expect what may and may not occur. Of course that‟s somewhat paradoxical, because how do you anticipate the unexpected? In relative terms, you simply think about unusual or abnormal events, but that‟s a tangent. The point being, you can visualize both the near and distant future, and observe the immediate present, and in this process of visualization and observation, you enter into a state of mental readiness. I think this state of mental readiness is what my father and his surfing buddies were always seeking before they went out surfing. It always seemed to me that they were gearing themselves up from a state of being on land to a state of surfing and this process involved watching the waves and moving themselves mentally. I feel that this approach has served me well over time, and I feel that it will continue to serve me well. In fact, I think that constant observation and visualization is something that is very powerful and meaningful and rarely exercised in our frantic and hurried life. One thing that I find myself needing to do each day is slow down before acting and remember to watch the sit uation before entering. As I begin to embrace and celebrate the wisdom that I have gained from my father, I realize that there is so much that I could have been applying that I can apply to the better. As the saying goes, no use crying over spilt milk. I know that there have been many times that I have leaped before looking and I have certainly found myself wishing after the fact that I had spent a little more time looking. However, I‟m beginning to realize that this is all part of a mindset. I believe that by simply wanting to be more observant and more watchful, we become more observant and more watchful. As we train ourselves to see the little things and watch life around us, we begin to see the patterns in the events that are moving towards us and we can ride the waves better. This is my goal in life, as I actualize further towards my own greater potential – that just as my father was an excellent surfer – I too will be an excellent surfer of life. In each moment, of each day, I find that one of the most crucial steps is simply watching and being aware and attentive. Again, I believe the importance of this is because if you want to ride the waves well, you need to know where the waves are heading, where the reef is, where the biggest sets are breaking, and what the timing of the sets are. These are the more advanced lessons that took me a very long time to learn, and in the end it was the reef that really scared me and kept me from wanting to surf in water.
Know Where the Reef Is In surfing, the reef is probably the scariest thing. People probably see big waves and think, “Wow, big waves – scary!” However, what most people don‟t realize is that even gigantic waves won‟t really hurt you. At worst a really large wave will simply hold you under water. As long as you can hold your breath until you surface, you‟re really okay – well, as long as you can hold your breath and the wave doesn‟t strike you against something else. There‟s always the possibility that you might hit your board or another surfer…or the reef. In my mind, the reef is always the worse fate. One of my most vivid childhood memories is my father returning from a morning surfing with one of his legs gushing blood. He had hit the reef and the middle of his leg was gouged with long slashes as if a large cat had clawed him. That wasn‟t the first time that he had hit the reef – but I think that‟s the most vivid and horrible memory that I have. The reef is something that simply scared me. When you‟re standing on the shore – you can rarely or barely see the reef. If you can see the reef – it‟s usually barely apparent through the water – but it‟s probably the most consistent area that waves are breaking. The reef creates a shallow area in the water that breaks the waves, which is paradoxically desirable. I suppose in a sense, if it wasn‟t for the reef or shallow shorelines for waves to break upon, then there‟d be no waves to surf. However, whenever I found myself on a wave heading towards shore and I‟d be passing over the reef, I always found myself freezing in terror – less enjoying the ride and more terrified that I was going to wipe out over the reef and end up shredded like some kind of awful human hamburger. In other words, I never really managed to appreciate the reef – I just viewed it as this nightmarish obstacle between the shore and myself. To be honest I probably would have enjoyed surfing much more if I could have gotten myself mentally past the reef. I think that's where my father and I parted company so to speak. He was able to teach me how to surf, but he was never able to make me like surfing, for the simple reason that he was never able to get me to overcome my fear of the reef. Of course, that‟s probably because I never really told him how much the reef scared me – and oh did it scare me. Imagine moving very fast on a flat board, with a slight angle downward – and you feel that at any given moment you might slip off or slip forward. Imagine as well that as you‟re moving forward you‟re moving very rapidly over very sharp rocks and that the only thing separating you and these sharp rocks is a thin layer of water. That‟s what it‟s like to surf over a shallow reef. That‟s why I was so scared of the reef. That‟s not to say that all surfing is always like this. Sometimes my father would take me to surf spots where the reef wasn‟t so shallow, and sometimes I never really noticed the reef at all. However, in retrospect, it seems to me that often our surfing ventures seemed to involved spots with a shallow reef, and although I never personally wiped out on the reef – I did see first hand the potential awfulness of reef injury.
You could say that these early experiences really informed of the hidden dangers of any activity. It‟s weird to articulate this so late in life, but I swear that because I was so paranoid about the reef when surfing as a child, I‟ve developed an anticipatory approach to all activities. In essence, I look for the reef in everything. When I consider this approach, part of me thinks, “Hmm, that‟s very negative, maybe I should get therapy to stop being so paranoid about hidden dangers.” Then I remember, that one of the important things in surfing is knowing where the reef is. There‟s an important difference between recognizing and knowing where a danger is, and allowing that danger to overly influence and control you. For me, I think the fear of the reef overwhelmed me and I never managed to enjoy surfing because I was always afraid that I was going to hit the reef. Of course, if it wasn‟t the reef, I was then afraid that I was going to hit a rock or another surfer or my board or something – but that‟s another story. For life the same principals and approach hold true. I‟ve learned that being aware and anticipating dangers are incredibly important when leading a very turbulent life. This might seem like an obvious truism, but I‟d question why, if this is so obvious, do so many people – including myself – seem unable to avoid the reefs of life? As humans beings, physical pain is a great teacher and our pain informs us against repeating mistakes and actions that have hurt us in the past. We tend to avoid physical circumstances or physical things that have hurt us or might hurt us. Inversely, we seem to be fairly poor at judges of the more ephemeral and abstract areas like mental or emotional dangers. Clearly, anticipating dangers is a good thing period, but I‟ve found that for my tumultuous life - full of wild ups and downs – it‟s very important that I be always mindful of the potential downfalls. Of course, I think it‟s kind of tragically funny that in my case I prefer to learn about pitfalls by falling into them. Funny because I imagine that most people prefer to learn about danger through observation, but I being a very experiential person actually want to go through adversity and challenges in order to fully understand the experience. To me the experience is everything, and while it might be very difficult for most people to understand why I would want to trip myself up in a mistake, I find it to be the best way to avoid future mishaps. As I reflect, I have to say that I find myself a little odd in that I know that I don‟t like pain – even needles bother me – I tense up when my blood is drawn or when I‟m getting a shot. However, I still jump headfirst into unpleasant and difficult situations – although in all honesty, most of the time I don‟t really know that they‟re all that unpleasant or difficult, because I‟m not really assessing the situation first. Since this seems to be a taking stock of my life kind point in time, I guess I have to wonder, do I want to asses the situation? If I were to assess the situation would I stop exploring? Would I stop trying? Would I stop making the effort? I think the answer would often be yes, because fear would step in and I would be dissuaded. I think that often I choose blind action because I don‟t want to know where the reef is and I‟d rather charge into the situation. However, I think this is there I begin to realize that I need to rely upon the wisdom and attitudes that I learned from my father.
I‟ve spent so much of my life blindly rushing into situations because I‟m terrified that if I pause to consider my actions I‟ll slow down and if I slow down I‟ll lose my conviction and stop what I‟m doing. It might be that I flourish in adversity and hardship, but I think it‟s time to start watching the reef a little more. For better or for worse, I must say that although my fear of the reef prevented me from ever truly enjoying surfing, I think that I then approached the rest of my ventures in life with the attitude that even if something scared the very shit out of me, I was still going to try to do it…and that‟s exactly what I do. There are days, events, situations, and moments where I am so terrified that all I can do is simply push my feet forward and remember to breath. Lately it seems like that‟s mostly all I do – walk and remind myself to breathe. Yet, I am content with this life because I have lived my life to the fullest without regrets. I have given myself wholeheartedly to the moment and I have said yes, yes, yes every time….okay maybe not every time, but most of the time. I‟m a very willing person, but I do say no sometimes. Suffering isn‟t so bad once you accept that you‟re simply going to have suffering. It‟s when you‟re constantly trying to get away from the suffering that it‟s awful because you‟re trying to escape the suffering. I guess that‟s why I think it‟s important to know where the danger, the pain, the suffering is. These negative unpleasant things are always going to be present because they provide the contrast and definition of our lives. Without suffering and unpleasant experiences, how would we know what was pleasant and enjoyable. How could we define positive without the negative. It‟s funny, but in as much as we‟d like to do away with suffering, we do need a certain amount of it in our lives and in the world, or there would be no contrast and no definition. Going back to surfing, if there was no reef or shallow water, there‟d be nowhere for the waves to break and nowhere to surf. So I think the trick lies in recognizing the dangers, learning to respect and understand them, and then skillfully avoiding them – surfing over them, if you will. Of course sometimes you‟ll wipe out.
Sometimes You’ll Wipe Out Yep. It happens – the wipe out. If there‟s a reef, you can be sure that there‟s a good likely hood that you might one day have a wipe out and if you wipe out, it might hurt. Even if you don‟t wipe out over the reef, there‟s always the chance that your board might hit you or you might hit another surfer or some other freak accident might occur. So you‟ll probably have some kind of unpleasant wipe out just falling off your board. Wiping out always scared me - partially because the experience is just plain scary, and partially because the experience can also be simply painful. I was fortunate that I never had any major surfing injuries, but I did see other surfers like my father come back with gashes and serious cuts. I have to say that my father never let this deter him. He never seemed to regret or complain or bemoan his injuries. He simply took these things in stride. I think he might have laughed or joked about wiping out, but I don‟t think he ever be labored it like it was some kind of major anxiety. In turn, though I was very terrified of wiping out while surfing, I‟ve carried this attitude forward in life and as I move through a life of total impermanence and upheaval – I know that there is always a possibility that horrible things might happen to me. In fact horrible things do happen to me - quite frequently it seems, but then that makes sense given that I‟m always eager to take risks and venture to the edge of my comfort zone. This past year alone has been truly awful for me. In the course of just 12 months, I‟ve coped with no less than 2 major break-ups of significant relationships (one was even an engagement), moved cross country, my cat whom I hand raised from a new born kitten disappeared in a coyote infested area, my car was involved in three accidents (one was apparently a drunken hit-and-run, another involved a negligent valet service, and the last occurred when I was trying to parallel park in a very narrow street), I had to fight with an auto repair shop regarding a thousand dollar bill after their repair fell apart, I got a single traffic ticket nearly four hundred dollars, several parking tickets, uncovered some major problems at work, underwent a huge amount of physical and mental stress, fought constantly with my fiancé, then broke up with my fiancé, meanwhile my finances were increasing disarray and despite careful saving and management unforeseen expenses had drained my savings, and next I was looking at taking a loan against my retirement account, and now I‟m writing this book because honestly there were times that I simply wanted to kill myself. Where other people might see California as the state of golden opportunity, I see it as the land of hellish traffic and smog – a world in which most of my life is wasted on the freeway or sitting in traffic aimless watching the tail lights of the car in front of me. To make matters worse, I feel in love with someone that I thought was the love of my life and while I initially thought he wasn‟t the person that I wanted to spend my life with – after a few months – I found myself falling head over heels for him. Then is quickly as it began the entire thing was abruptly over. Meeting Ross, was the one good thing that I felt redeemed my trip to California and made the entire time worthwhile – to lose him
and to lose the entire relationship made me completely question my life and myself and I no longer wanted to continue living. There, I‟ve said it - the nadir that everyone fears. Isn‟t that what so many intelligent, creative, successful individuals fear? That one day you‟ll run into and endless rut that you simply can‟t get out of and you‟ll be faced with the desire to kill yourself? What do you do when you find yourself wiping out? It‟s quite an interesting experience to reach such a low point that you find yourself thoroughly and methodically contemplating your own death because living is no longer a viable option. However, yet again, I time and time again, I find myself seeing beyond the patterns of the waves – the ups and downs – and what I see is that there are waves – nothing more and nothing less. In other words, to me, I‟ve come to the realization that my life is always going to have the potential for disaster. Tomorrow everything could begin to workout and I could have a very successful life for many years, but suddenly a series of events could turn and my life could once again flush right down the drain. What won‟t happen is that I won‟t necessarily change. I‟ve realized that just because I crash and burn, doesn‟t mean that I can‟t get back up and get back on the board. All my life up until just this point, I‟ve bitterly hated my father and I‟ve never wanted to admit how much he‟s inspired me. I‟d probably rather die than admit that he‟s a hero to me. I mean, I‟m a fairly educated elitist, why would I admire the habits and wisdom of a surfer? Simply because of this: my life has been all about riding increasingly bigger and bigger waves, and often I have most certainly crashed. I haven‟t concretely recognized this reality until recently, but now that I‟ve recognized it, I‟ve realized that with this understanding, I have an entire wealth of experience gained from my father that I can draw upon to guide me through life‟s ups and downs. I allowed my fear of the reef to deter me from surfing and I think that as I moved forward in life, I‟ve galvanized myself against that attitude of fearful discouragement. I refuse to allow myself to be dissuaded or discouraged from something because I‟m afraid. I don‟t think of myself as a very courageous person, but in retrospect, I suppose that I am because constantly doing the very things that scare me. It‟s funny because I think back now and I wonder why I was so terrified, I don‟t think I every heard of anyone dying from hitting the reef, so what was I so worried about? Probably in my child‟s mind I was simply envisioning worst case scenarios and with time I‟ve come to realize that often those worse case scenarios either don‟t happen or they‟re simply not worth worrying about. If they happen, they happen. You pick yourself up and move onwards. It's a cold and brutal approach to life, but I feel that it‟s the most appropriate one. I think that it is a most important guiding principal that you will wipe out. Plain and simple. It‟s a fact. This will happen. I have to accept this and move on with my life. It‟s futile and foolish for me to expend energy and effort structuring and arranging my life in such a way so that I might avoid hardship and failure. I would love to never fail, however, I‟ve learned that whenever I‟m trying new things – I‟m bound to fail. Failure is
a natural part of the learning process – and since I‟m so incredibly inquisitive and bound and determined to toss myself right into the thick of things, I‟m probably going to fail a great deal. The lesson that I‟ve learned from all of this literal physical events and abstract life events is that I can‟t allow fear to prevent me from living the life that I want to lead, and I don‟t. It‟s empowering to realize that I have lived my life to the fullest – I rush out each day into the thick of things and I do crash and burn a lot and I certainly do seem to wipeout quite a lot. My life is full of enough catastrophe to evidence that I am not holding back – I am falling right over those cliffs, smack dab into traffic. Maybe I‟m the extreme opposite of being cautious. I am aware of the dangers, I know what are the worst case scenarios. I could have been mugged while I was in L.A. I could have been shot, or had a heart attack. A plane could have fallen out of the sky and hit me. I could have been killed in a horrible fiery car crash. I could have been maimed or knived or paralyzed or mangled. Driving in L.A. is so dangerous and scary – I‟m thankful each day that I‟m alive. I think that we tend to skate over the day to dangers. Driving alone is one of them. I think driving on the freeways alone is a constant brush with death. I‟m always thankful when I get home and I‟ve survived another car trip unscathed. Embracing and accepting the potential disaster frees me up to live in a more fulfilling way – I don‟t have to be defensive all the time. I don‟t have to plan and arrange my life in a compulsive manner, hoping to organize every little event and item in such a way that misfortune won‟t strike me. Most likely something bad is going to happen again. I‟m just going to roll with it and get up again and move on towards something better. I don‟t like the low points in life, and I don‟t want to fail. I would prefer to always be successful and I wish that my life could always be full of nothing but high points. However, this is where I feel that I have to make an argument for empathy and compassion.
Watch out for Other People Another thing that my father impressed upon me is the importance of being aware about and respecting the other people in the water, especially when you‟re on a surfboard – there‟s nothing worse than running another person over with your surfboard.
Empathy and compassion are traits that very important to cultivate if one wishes to successfully surf through a tumultuous life – simply because if you‟re already contending with difficult situations and events – why would you compound that difficulty with animosity and strife between oneself and other people? Of course one of the interesting dilemmas that I see with compassion and empathy is that no one every really says that you can have too much compassion and empathy – but I think that you can. I think that you can have so much compassion and empathy that boundaries are blurred and you take in the experiences and pain and suffering of other people and become overwhelmed by the issues and situations of other people. At which point you can‟t help or aid effectively because you can‟t help the other person (or people deal with other things). Then again, there‟s the other side – where there‟s no empathy or compassion period and there are just boundaries separating. It‟s interesting because I think this is the dramatic theme that was playing out between Ross and I over these last few months. In m line of work in human resources obviously compassion and empathy are key attributes – and people did constantly come to me with their issues and problems. This past year was my first year working specifically in a focused human resources position – prior to this year, I was a corporate trainer, so although I was somewhat part of the human resources world, I wasn‟t really focused in human resources such that I was the human resources lightening rod – so to speak. I hadn‟t really articulated to myself going into the position that I would principally be dealing with people‟s problems, and when it became apparent to me that I was primarily solving issues and dilemmas – by that point my head was sort of already underwater. This was my first year dealing with the job and working with this kind of the job – sure I didn‟t really know what to expect and I only had a vague understanding of the position. As I moved into the position with time, I noticed that I liked being able to help other people. I know what it‟s like to have things going wrong in my life, and I know what it‟s like to have someone else standing there and holding out their hand and saying, “Here, I am, let me help you.” Even if I was only helping people in small ways, I still felt profound satisfaction in the day to day resolution of little details and fine points. It was very interesting to see the interesting to see the dynamic between Ross and I. At first I didn‟t really say much to Ross about my struggles at work. I tried to keep a separation between he and I. With time that became apparent to be an ineffective strategy – Ross voiced frustrations that I was keeping myself separate from him and that he didn‟t like it when I was separate from him. I think I remember him once saying to
me that it was very hard to comfort or help me when I‟m always withdrawing or closing myself off from him. Then I guess when I began to open up, I guess maybe I opened up too much. It‟s funny because I vaguely remember him at one point being very compassionate and empathetic to my situation. The only thing that I can think of is that with time he began to feel threatened by my situation and these feelings of threat caused him to shut down and caused him to withdraw – and of course as he withdrew he was no longer able to be compassionate and empathetic. It was interesting again, to watch myself being compassionate and empathetic at work and at home (we were living together), and then there was Ross shutting down, and me pouring myself out over and over again both at work and at home. At some point it became almost comic in retrospect, because I think it was a vicious cycle of me pouring out my compassion and empathy and Ross shutting down – and in the end it just turned into a tragedy…maybe it was comic tragedy. The is all emphasizes to me the importance of compassion and empathy. Yet, not just the singular importance of these virtues. We‟ve all heard that these are important virtues. Time and time again people have hit us all over the head with the need to be compassionate and empathetic. What I‟ve come to realize is that compassion and empathy must be judiciously controlled and carefully regulated. This may seem cold, artificial and harsh, but I have seen first-hand what out of control compassion and empathy will do. Too much compassion and too much empathy can be emotionally and psychologically toxic. There was point in our relationship that I was very annoyed with Ross because he was constantly “checking-in” with me and asking me how I was feeling and asking me about me feelings. I really began to resent his concern for me. Likewise, I believe that with time, although my compassion and empathy and caring for him came from a good place, I think that this massive outpouring of caring ultimately overwhelmed and poisoned our relationship. So what I‟m saying, is what I think no one has ever really wanted to say before – yes you can be too compassionate and too empathetic. As the saying goes – moderation is key. From experience, I would say that compassion and empathy need to be carefully regulated and tempered like anything else. Unchecked and uncontrolled they will overwhelm and consume both giver and receiver. As I move forward in my life, I am accepting that most likely my life will always be a life of great ups and downs. If this is the case then I really need to work on not pissing other people off. I have enough problems and enough issues – upsetting people doesn‟t need to be added to the list. Why add strife to an already chaotic mix? Instead, I feel that it‟s important to heed the warnings of my father, who always impressed upon me the need to respect the people around me – especially as I‟ve mentioned when surfing. Don‟t run over people with your board. Don‟t cut in on other people. Don‟t take someone else‟s wave.
In other words – think about other people before acting. It‟s a bitter pill to swallow because we‟re raised in this day and age to be very self-centered, independent, selfish, etc etc. These are traits are, I would argued, glorified and even idealized. I‟m saying that such attitudes are ultimately counterproductive. If you‟re self-centered and constantly selfish, you‟ll never be a very good surfer because you‟ll probably cut in on other people, take other people‟s waves – stuff like that. People will hate you, and then the locals will probably cut you off and do mean shit to you like slash your tires or rake your back with their board or other nasty things. So the movies are lying. Thinking about yourself all the time isn‟t really the way to go. To me the world is a huge fluctuating chaos function, undulating in strange patterns like a bizarre trampoline and we‟re all just bouncing along for the ride. Or maybe it‟s just that some of us – those who want to ride – are riding. I know that I like fun and adventure, and I‟d rather have an exciting and thrilling life, so if life is a chaos wave function trampoline ride – I definitely want to ride that ride, but I‟d like to stay on the ride and not fall of and break me head – you know – like those poor monkeys – the ones that were always jumping on the bed and breaking their heads? I don‟t want to be like them, because I always thought it was so unfair that the monkeys could jump on the bed, fall off and break their heads, but when their mama called the doctor, all the doctor would say is, “No, more monkeys jumping on the bed.” Well, I think that we need better advice than admonitions against jumping on the bed. I say jump on the bed – jump more and more and more. However, it would be a good idea to get a better doctor than the one that the monkey mom called because if I fell off the bed, I would like my doctor to do something to make my head better rather than tell me not to jump on the bed because you know what? Chances are very good that if I like jumping on the bed, I‟m probably going to jump on the bed more! The point of all this is – that we don‟t need to fight with each other when we‟re busy bouncing from one situation to another and trying to cope with the incidentally disasters that are already coming our way. If we‟re struggling to deal with bills and car repairs, or illness or finding a home or whatever – why do we need to fight with people? Other people should be our allies regardless of position or place in life. The time and era of the rugged individual – the hearty pioneer – to me that time and era is long gone and dead – a historical relic, a fiction. Maybe this mentality and existence served a purpose at one time and place – the gunslinger striding out to right wrongs. Honestly though? Today we don‟t solve problems by shooting things. We negotiate, compromise, investigate – there are court cases, proceedings, and laws. Nothing is so simply solved as justice by a bullet. Those days are gone and rightly so. Like the passage of clubs to swords to bullets, now we stand in the era of words. This is it – what we‟ve all been waiting for – a time and place where we can finally put aside all the bloody implements that were used to solve our problems and we can work things out in more civilized manners. Of course, it won‟t be easy, and it‟ll take time.
Of course, I think that I‟m hitting an epiphany and figuring everything out and then I realize that I‟ve only gotten to level XYZ and there are in fact 5 billion levels yet to go, and then sigh and trudge along further. Internal exploration can be dreary and daunting when your realize that we are infinitely growing and developing and that we will always be advancing and evolving – yet that same coin has a pleasant side – if it wasn‟t so, then we‟d just stagnant – and that‟d be boring. As I look back at the events between Ross and I, I see the how an utter lack of compassion and empathy created a huge rift. I, standing on one side pouring out, perhaps too much, and Ross standing on the other side, closing up too much. It was fascinating to watch him, like watching a closed box full of potential mystery certain to hold something more fascinating than anything I‟ve ever seen before but denied to me with absolute rigor because I was never allowed to open it. It was like the worst Christmas present ever because it was the best Christmas present in that I was absolutely in love with him, but I couldn‟t get him to open up to me. So there I was looking at him across this infinitesimal divide of space yet infinitely separate by our minds and emotions. It‟s sad because it‟s as if we spoke two different languages and never managed to find a common denominator despite our overwhelming love – and so stepping back – I find myself realizing that even empathy and compassion must be tempered carefully because they are not the end all be all solutions to everything – at least not in and off themselves. Perhaps it was that Ross was all reason, I was all empathy and compassion and between us we were like some kind of primeval explosion of the cosmos – a little to fiery for this mortal plane… One thing that I think that‟s so fascinating – beyond my own personal hardship – is that if one‟s life is spent in constant idyllic bliss – how would you relate to others that do suffer? Obviously other people do suffer. There are people that don‟t get what they want. There are people that go through great hardship. Without having some inkling of what these people are experiencing, would it be possible to even relate to them? I think this is where empathy and compassion become so essential to the survival of the human race. If we are to advance beyond the age of nuclear wars and terrorism and rape and murder then we need to get beyond our inability to appreciate the suffering of others and the only way to do that is to develop empathy and compassion. The best way I think to do that – coming from personal experience – is to go through suffering on a personal level. I don‟t think I really expected, anticipated, or asked for this type of experience when I set out, say a few years ago. However, as I look back on my life, I don‟t think I would have it any other way. As I move forward, I expect that I will most likely inherit at some point great responsibility and authority, and I would hope to exercise that responsibility and authority with empathy and compassion. I don‟t think that I would have been able to do that before my current set of difficulties, but having gone through this past year of suffering, if feel much more equipped to approach other people with greater caring. As society grows more interconnected and the Internet and television and video games permeate through our world and dynamic forms of information become more common and we exchange thoughts and ideas in increasingly energetic manners we are achieving that transcendent interchange of idea and emotion that we once thought reserved for the supernatural and fictional realm – what was elusive telepathy is now imagery on screen
personalized with individual emotions thoughts preferences and histories. We are breaking barriers between ourselves and we aren‟t even realizing what we‟re doing because these transformations are so commonplace. We must more than ever learn to step beyond ourselves and consider the other person because that‟s what‟s happening – we aren‟t always in our own minds anymore – we are often in another persons thoughts and minds – albeit via a screen or book or page or game – but it‟s happening – we are interfacing with each other through these mediums and we must recognize what is happening. I think it‟s very exciting that we are able to share with each other our thoughts and ideas, dreams and hopes in instantaneous ways – faster and faster – until one day what Hollywood offers us for billions of dollars, I hope that we can each offer to each other for free. To me that would be the ideal future – a world where we can all trade freely our hopes and aspirations in the free medium of the technology that we have developed – the wonder of life and sheer amazement of everything. Yet, I still believe that we have a distance to go, for if we aren‟t careful, then all the scary things will intrude and fear, and terror, nightmares, and monstrosities will intrude. Could you imagine if instead of wonderment and joy we had a world in which our waking nightmares were walking about in plain daylight and tormenting us? It seems like a silly rhetorical question, but consider the logical extreme for a moment. If we develop our technologies to the extreme point that we are all able to generate imagery and fantasy so that what we imagine and hope become in essence a shared reality – would it not be a horrible fate to suffer if suddenly we were inflicting our nightmares on other people? This is why I think that compassion and empathy are so important in the coming future. If we can‟t learn to control our fears and realize that hurting and suffering are unacceptable period – whether imagined or otherwise, then we don‟t deserve to have wonders like solidified holographic imagery. In other words, as long as we continue to remain obsessed with continually playing out our base fears even through stories and movies and imagery of other people being tortured and killed and maimed and hurt – then our culture is never going to get to the next level because as soon as we get there – we‟ll just implode and kill each other. Imagine a world in which your worst nightmares are suddenly roaming the streets in physical form? Now imagine a world in which everyone‟s worst nightmares are roaming the world in physical form. I deliberately avoid the horror genre for one reason – it engenders the opposite of compassion. The purpose of horror is to feel perhaps pity or revulsion for victim, but not true compassion. If you were to feel compassion for the victim, then the genre is not horror, it‟s drama or perhaps a documentary, or maybe action or something entirely different. Horror exists soley for the sake of hurting people for entertainment purposes – there‟s no if ands and buts about it. You might try to couch the activity behind the guise of social catharsis and argue that horror offers people and outlet for social unacceptable emotions, thoughts, and tendencies – however I would say that if you have those emotions, thoughts, and tendencies, you need to find something else to do with them other than feeding them with more of the same thing.
I want a world in which our dreams can truly become reality, and if certain people‟s dreams became reality, it would be a very frightening world indeed. I suppose this is why empathy and compassion are so important to me – the social scientist in me says that we‟re rapidly heading toward a world in which we will one day have virtual reality, and I don‟t want to live in a world in which there are virtual realities full of virtual people that are being virtually killed. To me the moral questions have already been posed and we‟ve been beating about the bush for long enough. Just because a person is virtual, does that really make it okay to torture and kill that person? I don‟t think so – I mean I feel that there are infinitely better things to do with that person, and killing them is definitely not on the list. I hope that the next five years will be more exciting than any of us can imagine. Yet, regardless of what happens technologically – what remains so amazing to me – what has always struck me as amazing in life is the connections that form between people. The fact that we can form connections between ourselves despite the vast differences that separate us. Though age and creed, sex or space, language or race divide – we can still form fundamental bounds based on interests and shared experiences, hopes and dreams, or simply based on a look. The connections that we can make are so amazing. My favorite experience is when another person says, “I‟ve shared that experience…I know what you‟re talking about…I‟ve had that happen to me.” Even if it‟s a horrible experience, it‟s still wonderful to know that someone else has had a shared experience. I know it might seem odd, but I sincerely love to rejoice in suffering because you know what, life is so full of suffering – but we all go through it and sometimes there‟s nothing better than finding someone else who‟s gone through the same experience and rejoicing with that person that they have survived and that they have gone through it and that they know what it‟s like and that‟s a wonderful thing. Sometimes, I think that‟s all I wanted from Ross. In fact, I think I told him that. It‟s weird because I remember him telling me bits and pieces of his first years in L.A. and how he too struggled to get by and how his life was really difficult. I admired him because although his dad was a dermatologist, he never took a great deal of money from his parents, and he seemed to genuinely struggle to get by on his own. I wanted him to tell me more about his struggles and how he survived, but he didn‟t really open up to me much. It was hard because I was clearly struggling to get by in L.A. – the traffic, the smog, everything was getting to me – not to mention the high cost of living – and it would have been nice for my fiancé to tell me – “don‟t worry, I‟ve gone through this myself and it‟ll get better – I know it will.” I think that‟s what drove us apart was that he seemed genuinely incapable of sympathizing even though he had a similar experience. In fact in someway, I feel he had a worse experience, and maybe he was trying to make my experience worse – I know that he ate really awful food like Vienna sausages and canned tuna for years – just to get by. I think he resented me that I worked for Whole Foods and got 20 % off – he said that to me in anger.
The point of all this rambling is that during my most recent low point – it would have been nice if my partner Ross, who had experienced something similar, had commiserated and offered to share his own experiences – but he didn‟t. Now, I can‟t truly speak for Ross, because I can‟t get inside of his mind and fully articulate what was going on inside of him at the time, but my conjecture is that he fundamentally lacked the capacity for compassion and empathy that would have allowed him to connect and share with me. The thing that disturbs me is that he didn‟t lack for shared experience – it was as if he deliberately didn‟t want to be compassionate and empathetic – as if he didn‟t want to relieve the experience himself. I can only think that his initial years in L.A. were so traumatic that he didn‟t want to relive them by empathizing with me. Of course this is only mental guesswork, and only Ross will ever really know what was going on inside his head – and that if he was even aware at the time. I often wondered how much he was aware of, given how often he seemed to be either inebriated on alcohol or stoned on marijuana. I maintained that his judgment was significantly impaired – theoretically – it would have to be given that he was under the influence of one or the other on a daily basis. This would all mean that the entire question of us sharing our emotions and feelings was relatively moot because I never seemed to find myself getting to the point where I could be comfortable being habitually intoxicated on a daily basis like him, although I tried to – because that was what he was doing and I wanted to be like him because I loved him. Again, that empathy thing. If we could have only laughed and joked about our mutual suffering, our lives would have been so different. I love to laugh and joke about my problems. It‟s my favorite kind of humor. When things are going wrong, I like to make fun of my problems. I like to laugh at the problems and find the humor in the situation. Of course, it‟s so much more easier when there‟s another person to find the humor with and when we can laugh about those things together. I guess to Ross, maybe I was too serious of a person, but I think that to me, Ross never realized that it wasn‟t that I was too focused on my problems, I just wanted to find the humor in my problems and laugh about them. I want to find the funny things in the bad things and laugh about away the day because to me that‟s the best kind of laughter – when you laugh away the bad and frightening things because you and another person both recognize and see the absurdity in the situation and just laugh and laugh. When you say, “I‟ve had this horrible thing happen to me, and you‟ve had this horrible thing happen to you, and we‟ve both lived through it, and now we‟re better for it.” And we‟re okay…it‟s okay. That‟s why I think it‟s good to through to terrible things, and not just go through terrible things and develop empathy and compassion, but so that when you do develop the experience, you can connect with other people, because to hold those experiences inside of yourself does no one any good. What purpose does self-containment do when you‟re exploding with a wealth of experience and other people are hurting for that shared
knowledge? We thrive on knowledge and sharing and empathy and compassion are keys to that sharing of communal knowledge. To me that‟s what life is about – not holding in – letting out – sharing – giving out to the world. That‟s what I feel was so tragic about what was going on between Ross and I. Ross was holding everything in, and I was pouring everything out. I don‟t know that you can pour too much information out – at one point I used to wonder about this – but now I don‟t believe so – because I feel that we are our own filters – filtering what people say to us, choosing to listen or not to listen. We don‟t have to pay attention, we don‟t have to stay around, but we can‟t predict or read other peoples minds, so we don‟t necessarily know what is or isn‟t always appropriate and because it‟s always a guessing game, I feel that we should err on the side of too much information and let the rest sort itself out over time. We can choose to believe what is said to us. We can choose what we will do with what is said to us. We can choose to investigate further or delve further. Of course, I do think there are lines that can be crossed and that there are certain things that shouldn‟t be said – I do believe in boundaries. For example, I do believe in professionalism in a work place setting, and I do believe that it is not acceptable to harass another person. However, I see these actions as fundamentally different from “too much information.” I see these types of actions as a violations of acceptable boundaries. To me the connections between people and that ability to connect – that is the future, and what is dividing us, the culture, the language – what have you - these things will all be broken down – and the key to all of this, I believe, is that we will become more empathetic and compassionate. For me, my life is very much a series of waves peaking and rising – and some time the peak is really high and some time the trough is really low. At points I‟ve really wished for calm waters and I‟ve wanted to just level everything out, but I‟ve realized that‟s not going to happen, most likely because that‟s not what I want to happen. I want the adventure, and part of my problem is that I‟ve been wasting energy trying to flatten the wave. Instead, I need to just ride the wave. Maybe for other people the waves are smaller or flatter, I don‟t know – I can‟t speak for other people. I seem to out in pretty deep waters with really huge waves, and I‟ve realized that key to surviving all of this is getting along with other people – because it‟s hard enough coping with the ups and downs – I really would benefit from the positive connections with other people.
Know which way the wind blows In surfing, an awareness of the wind will inform you regarding the conditions of the waves – particularly the ever so crucial question of, “Will there be waves?” Certain winds are favorable for waves, and others are not. I‟ve found that the same is true in life, it‟s very important to be sensitive to the ancillary things surrounding events because sometimes you‟ll have a very good idea whether or not something is a possibility simply based on the subtle details of the political or social climate. I think I‟m a very situational person and I prefer to attenuate to the situation around me. I think that for those like me who live in highly chaotic lives in very turbulent worlds, it‟s important to attend to the subtle elements of what‟s transpiring around oneself. To me this is one of the things that I love about life, because this approach turns everything into a mystery. What‟s a person thinking? What‟s someone‟s opinion on the matter? How might so and so react to a certain situation? I‟ve learned that simply asking people doesn‟t always elicit the actual truth, but careful observation will often be much more revealing. I‟ve learned that people demonstrate their thoughts and opinions very truthfully through their daily actions. Although when pressed for time this process can be frustrating, I think that often the mystery of determining people‟s true thoughts and motives can make life very interesting and very entertaining. Of course, this doesn‟t always work out in a fun and entertaining way when it becomes personal. Case in point, my relationship with Ross. The relationship was very romantic and very passionate, but he was very passive – sometimes borderline asshole at time, and it was always a mystery to understand what he was thinking. This was one of those situations where I wonder if it would have served my interests and the interests of the relationship better if I had paid more attention to his moods and emotions. A lot of time I questioned at face value what was going on – and that‟s what I‟m talking about – the questioning of the surface and the questioning of the under current. You can tap into what people are saying at face value and sometimes people are being honest and if you ask someone if they like something and they answer, then maybe they‟re being honest – maybe they‟re being truthful, but they could be being dishonest. So one could learn to read the winds so to speak and determine if someone really does like or dislike something. I think that body language is a really good indicator – I‟ve always tried to read people‟s body language and use physical cues to understand what a person is feeling. Of course some people are very difficult to read – Ross was one of those people. There are people that seem to constantly wear masks and hold walls around them, and for those people I‟m never quite sure what to make of them. Sometimes, I feel that the best I can do when dealing with an unreadable person is to simply carry on with my course of action as best as possible and hope that this other person doesn‟t derail me too much. In Ross‟ case, one of the difficult things was that he also seemed to be completely emotionless – or numb – and that of course introduces another confound.
Emotionless people certainly exist – or people who don't express emotion. Once again, the big question – is – what do you do with people who aren‟t reacting to a situation. Well, once again, my adaptive behavior is to simply proceed with my course of action because if I can‟t get an emotional reaction out of someone, I really don‟t have much of a gauge as to what another person is thinking. Someone might say they like something, but the difference between dispassionately saying, “I like that picture,” and then saying, “Wow, I really like that picture, it reminds me of a place that I used to visit when I was younger.” Now add in some physical reactions in the second scenario and you have a more compelling case for the statement of “I like.” In one case you simply have the cold, unemotional words, “I like.” In another case, you have the excitement, enthusiasm, and physical expression of “I like.” Personally, I prefer to have people elaborate on their statements with some degree of emotion or passion – even if it‟s just a hint or an allusion to passion like, “that thing stirs a memory in me,” or “that thing really excites me because…” A lack of passion really concerns me because it‟s like a windless day – the air is still and you don‟t have any sense of the weather. You don‟t know what‟s going to happen and you don‟t know what the other person is really thinking. I feel that the professional business world has done human civilization a disservice by obsessing over the control of passion and emotion. I think that we really need to return passion and emotion to all areas of our life. Without passion and without emotion we are nothing – we are just empty shells that are generating words and uttering semblances of speech that are meaningless because the heart of those words no longer exists. If we hide behind masks and walls and constantly guard our thoughts and feelings then we‟ll never really live. We have to be willing to open up slightly and let out a slight – even if it‟s just a slight – amount of emotion because even the slightest bit of emotion and passion is like fuel to fan us forward in our day to day interactions. I think that this is why Ross and I ultimately fell apart. He pulled himself closed and held everything in, while I tended to open up and let things out of me. I felt much of the time that I was constantly trying to break through some kind of barrier, and I think that this exacerbated the situation because I‟m the kind of person when I encounter a mystery or closed door, I want to solve the mystery or open the door. I don‟t like to settle for no or walk away from the unknown. I like to know and I like to solve things. Just like my father and his surfing buddies always paid attention to the trade winds, I think it always serves me well to pay attention to the subtleties of the situations around me – to notice the undercurrents of the social climates so to speak. Of course, as I‟ve already noted, that only works when there are obvious currents. When people hide their emotions and mask their feelings – then it‟s next to impossible to have much of any sixth sense, and I think that‟s unfortunate. I think we lose a beneficial dimension to our lives when we start to close of our emotions in our extreme sense because we lose that subtle level of extra sensory communication and we can‟t “read the winds.” Unspoken communication is fascinating – and incredibly difficult. Ross and I struggled with this for a long time and in the end I think our inability to achieve good unspoken
communication broke us apart. I love unspoken communication because spoken communication is very limiting while unspoken communication can be incredibly liberating. I could tell you, “I liked that meal,” or I could communicate my happiness in an unspoken way that touches you in a meaningful and profound way such that you perceive deeply how much I appreciated and enjoyed the meal in manner that transcends the mere words I-liked-that-meal. The tricky thing with unspoken communication is that all parties involved really have to be attenuating to each other or harmonizing with each other such that non-verbal cues are given and perceived in a meaningful fashion, otherwise unspoken communication simply fails and becomes frustrating. I‟m sorry to say that Ross and I never really managed to harmonize very well with each other, I think we never managed to get past the initial post-honeymoon fighting phase. I think if we had gotten past our fighting we would have, but we didn‟t. C‟est la vie. I really love unspoken communication because it‟s so varied and impactful. It can be a touch or a kiss, a look or a appearing at the right moment, it might be suddenly arching your eye brow or a gesture – unspoken communication can be so many things and it makes life so interesting and enjoyable. Another great thing about unspoken communication is that it adds an element of mystery and imagination to the day to day interactions – an added flavor that wouldn‟t be there otherwise an element that wouldn‟t be if we were stuck with just our literal words and flat sentences. To me, one of my ideal states of being is to be more attuned to the people and world around me so that I can understand the subtle and unspoken communications around me just as my father and his friends understood the trade winds and so gauged the surf conditions – I too would like to better gauge the people and world around me. I think in this respect I still have a ways to go, but then if I had everything nailed down at thirtyone – what would I do with the rest of my life? I need to have some area of growth or the rest of my life would simply be spent in stagnation and boredom. The artist Hokusai said that he believed that all of his lives work was simply leading him towards an understanding of the essential nature of things, and that when he was very old, he would be able to capture things as they truly are. I think that that sometime the beauty of unspoken communication is just that – the ability to capture a moment or a feeling just as a it truly is because words are ultimately too limiting and while useful for precise expression they don‟t always give us the total picture and the total experience, but I believe that unspoken communication can do just that. Sometimes, I think the trick to all of this is stepping outside of our own trajectories and getting out of our own paths and moving beyond our comfort zones and looking at the things that scare and disturb us. I say this because I think much of the time we turn aside and look the other way, choosing to avoid many events that are transpiring around us because we don‟t want to know or see what‟s happening because we don‟t want our comfort zone to be disrupted and we don‟t want our trajectory to be altered. It seems so odd that something innocuous as simply witnessing and viewing an event would have a great impact on our lives, but I think that when we perceive and understand the unspoken events around us – these unspoken aspects of life to impact us in profound ways, and I
think that many people are consciously avoiding much that they would perceive to be unpleasant simply because they don‟t want their safety or comfort zone to be disrupted. Why is this bad? Well, if we use the Holocaust as an example, we can look at the subtle social phenomenon of the persecution of the Jewish people. We can ask, why was it so easy for this phenomenon to reach the severe levels that it did? Many have pointed out that the answer is quite simple, at the very beginning, many influential members of the community – lawyers, doctors, priests, and scientists were aware and cognizant that the Nazi agenda was very toxic and dangerous but these individuals didn‟t take a sufficiently strong stance against the Hitler‟s influence. It‟s obvious that a sufficiently strong stance wasn‟t taken, because if enough of the community had resisted, then Hitler, as a sole individual, would never have been able to achieve the influence that he achieved – instead, he was able to use fear and persuasion to slowly move the course of the entire world in a very disturbing direction. What‟s most disturbing is that any simple historical analysis will indicate that there was a great deal of subtle, unspoken indicators that something very bad was on the horizon, but again, sufficient action wasn‟t taken. To me, the it‟s not just vitally important that we be attentive to the subtle elements of the world around us, but we also know how to react to them. These are both very difficult propositions, and I‟m still learning to master these skills. It‟s still a day to day challenge to read the undercurrents and winds of the situations around me, and it‟s always a challenge for me to figure out the proper course of action. Like Hokusai remarked that he aspired to understand the essential nature of all living things, I too aspire to understand the deeper nature of the situations and events that transpire around me because you cannot deny the power of the thought. An individual conceptualizes the idea of splitting the atom, and then one day two cities in Japan are literally vaporized. What do we have years later? A legacy of nuclear fear. The world is still terrified of nuclear power, perhaps not as terrified as decades ago, but still terrified. Thoughts are powerful, powerful things. The unspoken is very influential and very powerful.
The water is in constant motion One of the first things that you learn surfing – in fact just swimming in the ocean period – is that the sea is always changing. Waves might come in sets for a few minutes, and then they disappear. Then they come back, and then they go away again. The tide will rise and fall, and the shoreline will shrink and expand. You jump in the water and swim and after ten or fifteen minutes you realize that you‟ve shifted from the shore and your perspective has changed. When you spend a long time at the sea you develop a deep realization that constant flux is simply a fact of life. The waves and the beach move and in a sense – you move as well. We all want life to stable and constant and permanent. I know that I certainly want my life to be stable and constant and permanent. However, I‟ve come to realization that more often than not, my life is going to be wild and chaotic and unpredictable and that my life is not going to be constant and it‟s not going to be permanent. I‟ve finally come to accept that I‟m not going to control my life. There are billions of other people on the planet, how can I control them? If I can‟t control them, and they are impact my life, do I really control my own life? Isn‟t control therefore an illusion? Influence perhaps isn‟t, but that‟s a different story. I get up in the morning and step outside of my door and as best as I possibly can regulate my life, I also have to deal with the lives of these other people who are intersect with my life in ways that affect me. It‟s a difficult realization to accept that the world is not as solid as I would like it to be. For so much of my life I‟ve simply taken for granted the solidity of things around me and I‟ve assumed that that solidity would translate into every aspect of my life. Surrounded by solid chairs, cars, houses, rocks, and books – I‟ve come to expect solidity in my day to day life. Yet recent events have clearly demonstrated to me that solidity is an illusion at best, a fiction that we tell ourselves to keep a larger madness at bay. Not that this process is inherently bad – I think that we need to believe at some level in a fiction of solidity – if we didn‟t then we‟d all just run out into the streets and start rioting and burning everything. What point would there be to living for tomorrow? We have to believe at some level that there is a permanence to our actions and that there is meaning that extends beyond this very moment – a meaning that continues to the next moment and the next after that, and that this meaning is solid enough that others will see and recognize it. If we can‟t hold onto this perception of solidity – illusory or otherwise – then we will fail as a species. There is a movie that I love very much, “The Hog Father,” and in the movie the character of Death says that we must believe the little fictions in life in order to believe the greater fictions in life. The little fictions in this case are things like fairytale creatures like the Tooth Fairy or other Holiday and Seasonal creatures. The greater fictions are justice and truth and compassion. Death says something to the effect of, “can you show me an atom of justice, truth, or compassion?” The point being, concepts like morality are in essence a fiction, we can‟t necessarily “prove” justice or truth or compassion. We can only construct our beliefs to the best of our ability and then run with those beliefs – in other words we put out the idea and then run with faith. This is all a very tangential way of
saying that I‟ve come to recognize that solidity and stability in life is never going to truly happen, that life will never be truly solid and stable – however, it‟s nice to aspire to such and it‟s nice to wish for such because I think that fundamentally, we need to have a core of solidity and stability in our lives, even if it‟s just a fictional belief in our minds. I belief this is the case because if we didn‟t have this belief then we‟d simply self-destruct with nihilism. Yet above all of this obsession with physicality and solidity – I‟ve realized that life is not a set of cars or a set of cars plus chairs – a life is not a set of cars plus chair plus houses – a life is not a set of things. Just because many things in our lives are solid is of no relevance to whether or not our lives are solid, therefore the solidity of the things that exist in our world can‟t inform us regarding the permanence and constancy of our lives. I can only guess that our persistent wish for a concrete and permanent life stems from what we witness in the physical objects around us, but then I realize that those things are not living and can‟t really inform us regarding the actual experience of living. Ultimately there is nothing concrete about time or life – these things are invariably changing – there is death and decay. Memories flower and bloom, and what we think today is colored differently tomorrow, and weeks and months later we find ourselves wondering what it was that we saw in the situation that we perceive so differently with the passage of time and space. Change. We forgive and forget. I want to hold myself constant against change, but I‟ve come to realization that this is futile, counter productive, and waste of energy. On the other hand, simply throwing myself into reckless abandon and dissipating is no better. The opposite extreme may be attractive when one realizes that constancy is futile – abandon the struggle for stability and live in utter chaos! Speaking from personal experience, this is incredibly unhealthy because as always moderation is essential. If absolute solidity in life is not possible, then a purely chaotic life isn‟t really a life – it‟s pure chaos. I think the trick is to straddle that fine line between anarchy and order and exist in the happy medium between those worlds. This might seem incredibly deep and philosophical, but I think that most people do this on a day to day basis. The truth of the matter is that fundamentally human existence, even in its most basic form, is a truly incredible a amazing thing. If you think about all of the massive amounts of sensory information that we are bombarded with each day, you realize that we are swimming in a sea of chaotic information – appointments, friends, work, obligations, dates, romance, sports, news, politics, religion, food, bills, culture – on and on the demands for our attention do no end. We are pulled in a million different directions and the amazing thing is that we are able to get out of bed, step out the door and march through the day making decisions, interacting with people and pushing through the massive sea of demands upon our persons. In a sense, I think we owe our selves a pat on the back to just step back from time to time and say to ourselves wherever we are, “I‟m doing a good job,” because chances are, if you‟re getting out of bed, and getting dressed, and just getting through the day, then you are doing a good job – because there are people that can‟t even do that. Certain mental
disorders or cognitive disorders are such that individuals become so overwhelmed with intrusive thoughts or unwanted cognition that a person can‟t function in even the most basic ways. We really take for granted the simple things, like walking through a grocery store and choosing what kind of cereal we‟d like. I guess I say this because I was once in a mental hospital for a serious mental breakdown, and there questions as to whether or not I would be able to resume functioning at my normal capacity, that is return to my PhD. program at Brown University. Long story short, I did, but there was a long time where I spent months and months rehabilitated myself to basic tasks like grocery shopping and exercise and writing letters. When you are no longer in control of your thoughts or emotions, the most simplest of activities becomes the most challenging event in the world. I‟ve traveled all over the world, walked on dark deserted roads by myself, been in huge crowds by myself, done all sorts of strange and unusual things, but I have to say that when recovering from a mental breakdown – the simple task of walking through a grocery store or driving myself to the doctor suddenly became an incredibly daunting task. These kinds of fears and anxieties are impossible to truly understand until you‟re place into the realization that the constancy and stability that you believed in is no more. Yet when you get to the other side and cross through the uncertainty and survive the fear – there is so much strength and growth that comes with the realization that you can thrive and flourish in an unstable and intangible world. Take for example my relationship with my father. I never thought that I would forgive him. Then a few weeks ago, I‟m sitting at Ross‟, heartbroken because I realized that I was losing Ross‟ and at that moment I realized that if I was ever to have happiness and ever be functional with another person I would have to sincerely forgive my father and appreciate and love him, and then suddenly everything began to change. So I‟m glad that life is not a fixed and solid thing. I think what brings much of that impermanence and fluctuation to life is that we are life – life is an extension of ourselves. We are constantly changing and growing – our bodies and cells die and regenerate and we truly start each day fresh and new. Even our brain cells are going through synaptic changes forming new connections, trimming away old connections – this is the fluctuation of life – this is what composes our fluidity of our world. If we accept and celebrate the impermanence of our lives and our world – then we can embrace the positive aspects of constant change. If we struggle to constantly hold everything in stationary solidity then we are in essence preventing the necessary evolution of our lives. To benefit from change we must become comfortable with change and impermanence, and I believe that we start this process by recognizing the essential fluidity of our lives and our world and then recognizing the good of this fluidity. I think we have a base obsession with solidity and stability because our world is full of solid objects and we rely upon these solid things for our day-to-day existence. However, I also believe that this obsession is ultimately childish in the sense that as we evolve as conscious entities progressing forward in wisdom and intellect, we start of with very
infantile approaches to the world and we gradually leave those childish things behind. Much like the Paul wrote in Corinthians, “When I was a child, used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.” And thus it is that I have realized that the obsession with a solid and stable life is a childish thing. I can be an inherently stable and grounded person but live a very chaotic and tumultuous life simply because such is life – events, people, places – all these things are very chaotic and tumultuous. Rather than waste and expend my energy trying to stabilize the situations around me, I‟ve realized that I simply need to focus on stabilizing myself – literally – grounding my emotions, stabilizing my mind – and when I‟m at peace with myself and content with myself, I can move through life much more effectively. Once again, the surfing metaphor is very apt. Life will be full of waves rushing through everyday. If you‟re not stable and balanced within yourself, you probably won‟t be able to ride the waves and you‟ll most likely fall in and lose your self in the chaos – maybe even drown. Having wiped out severely a couple of times in my work and personal life, I‟ve realized that the most important thing that I can do is be stable and balanced within myself so that when the big waves come, I can simply jump on my board and ride the wave. Love is a kind of security and stability that I find difficult to evaluate. On one hand we can never full expect that other people will unconditionally support us with their love. Certainly this is an ideal and we uphold this ideal culturally. I know that we believe certain members of society, particularly parents, should always unconditionally love – but I‟ve come to realize that to expect unconditional love from other people is a risky thing – at best it‟s something that we can receive and be pleasantly surprised when we receive unconditional love, but I realize depend on this. In a romantic and fictional sense this ideal certainly exists, but in a realistic sense the ideal won‟t always exist. Case in point – the relationship between Ross and I. I discovered that I had HIV during a routine blood work test. I usually have my blood work done on regular basis as a precautionary measure every six months if not in a monogamous relationship. At the time that I was seeing Ross, we were still casually dating and thus I had also seen other people. I‟ve always been very careful in my relationships with other people, making sure that I talk with my sexual partners and I‟ve always discussed HIV status and asked about STDs and things like that. Obviously, a sexual partner was unaware or lied, but that‟s beside the point. The point is that when I discovered this information, my immediate concern was for Ross. Just prior to learning this news I was beginning to realize that I was falling in love with Ross. It was a slow and gradual process. With my previous partner Mark, the process was instantaneous – we met at a dance at Brown and we instantly fell in love – we saw each other and didn‟t leave each other‟s side for days. It was an incredible intense and passionate affair that lasted three years and then exploded as passionately as it began. With Ross the love kindled much more slowly. It was gradual and mysterious. He was gradual and mysterious. It took me a very long time to get to know him and it took me a very long time to realize that I loved him.
When I discovered that I had HIV I was devastated, not because I felt my life was over, but because I felt that I had found the man of my dreams, and now there was something that was going to come between us. We spent one day at the beach just walking and talking, because the day was presumably supposed to be an enjoyable day, I decided to wait and tell him the news the next day. We ate dinner with my sister and I did my best to smile and be engaged and loving and caring. The next day I called an HIV hotline and asked for advice on how to break the news to Ross – the staff worker said that she could tell that I cared about him and that I should show just that, my caring for him. In other words, instead of being defensive or confrontational or convoluted, simply speak the truth and then say, my main concern is for you. That‟s what I did. I went home to Ross that night and went up to his room. He was sitting at his computer and I sat down on his bed. I told him, “I have something serious to tell you.” I could tell he realized it was something heavy because his body stiffened up. It was hard for me to speak so I quickly blurted out the information, “I have HIV, I found out two days ago, I not worried about myself, I‟m worried about you. I‟ve always been careful and talked with my partners, so I don‟t know how this happened, but I‟m really worried about you.” What happened changed my life forever. Instead of attacking me or judging me or accusing me, Ross just started crying and he said, “I‟m afraid that you‟ll leave me. I love you.” To be honest I don‟t remember what we said to each other for much of the night. I remember that we held each other and that we slept together. I remember that we told each other that we would stay together forever. I remember saying that I would never leave him. I remember us going downstairs at some point and Ross talking to me about how we would have to work together as a team, and how things would be different. Fast forward from January to July and we‟re at each other‟s throats and Ross is kicking me out the door. What happened? I don‟t really know. I know that I realized that Ross had some deep emotional issues that were hidden and I wanted him to deal with them, but he chose to hid behind drugs and alcohol and I couldn‟t accept addiction and defeat as a solution. I know that Ross couldn‟t accept what he saw as condemnation and judgment
pouring from my side. Beyond these simple facts, I‟m not really sure what happened. At one point we had unconditional love, and then one day, it was gone. This experience shook me to the core of my being. I‟ve always thought love to be the most powerful force in the universe, and above that I‟ve always thought that when to people are in love and in harmony together – they can do anything. At one point Ross and I were in perfect love and perfect harmony – then we fell out of love and harmony. I can only say that other things – like work, chores, cooking, bills – so and so forth intruded – still I‟m sad and disappointed that love would capitulate to such things. The point that I‟m making by relating this story is that I‟ve realized that unconditional love does have limits. It can come and go, and thus like everything, even love is not a constant. At least not love between people. Sure we can wish for that romantic ideal – true love – and I still wish for it. I do believe that it is possible for two people (and sometimes more) to be intimately connected forever through all sort of adversity through thick and thin. I suppose that‟s what made me so sad about the break up with Ross, I believed very deeply that we had that kind of bond that would stand the test of time, and then it suddenly snapped under pressure. Strangely enough, and I use the word strangely in the most sincere way, love for oneself may be the only true constant in the universe. I think the story that I‟ve related above regarding Ross and myself is a very dramatic example of unconditionally love. Here‟s an example of two people who discover themselves infected with a very serious illness and rather than accuse and blame the other person, then embrace each other with love and caring and decide to make the best of the situation. The flip side is that the story ends tragically, which means as I‟ve been repeatedly saying, unconditional love between two people is not always going to be limitless. It might be, but it might not be. However, we can learn to love and accept ourselves always. I think this is a very strange and interesting proposition. Strange because society doesn‟t focus on this proposition. We focus on love between people. The problem with love between people is that people change, people move, and people die. However, we are always with ourselves. Shouldn‟t we learn to love ourselves fully and completely? In a world that is full of turbulence and chaos, I‟ve realized that in order for me to have a self centered and balanced, I have to accept and love myself and be proud of who I am. This is not a message that I hear very often. I think there‟s one song – by Whitney Houston – that I‟ve heard – and that‟s about the only popular media message that I‟ve ever heard about loving oneself in positive way. I think this is unfortunate because if we stop focusing on tying down physical objects because we realize that creating a stable life is illusory, and if we stop obsessing over the perfect love with another person, and instead we focused on being content and happy with ourselves, I think the world would be a radically different place. Of course, I‟m not sure that the major capitalistic purveyors would be very happy with this idea. After all, much of our economy is based on dissatisfaction with oneself. Don‟t
like the way your face looks – buy make up, skin care products, or for the more extreme route – go surgical. Don‟t like your teeth – get dental work done. Don‟t like your clothes – but new ones. Don‟t like your body – buy a gym membership, gym clothes, gym products, and protein shakes. Don‟t like your home – buy a new one. Don't like your car – buy a new one. Our economy thrives on dissatisfaction . If people were satisfied no one would be participating in the current economy, or the level of participation would be much less than it is now. Of course, if everyone was satisfied with their lives, we might see a paradigm shift and instead of a culture in which people were expending their incomes on perishable products intended to fill and emotional void – people might be expending their incomes on thoughtful and intelligent purchases. I realize this might seem like a vague statement – so let me explain. Say you have the choice between buying new shoes for yourself or buying wind energy credits. If you‟re obsessed with making yourself look better or attracting attention to yourself, you‟re probably going to choose to buy new shoes. If that‟s not really something that you‟re interested in, then you would probably choose to spend your money to acquire the wind energy credits. Now imagine a world in which everyone was demanding wind energy credits instead of new shoes. Suddenly, overnight we could have a huge demand for wind power and we would see a true shift in the balance of power for energy supply. I believe that being balanced within oneself and being centered and loving towards oneself is the beginning towards a better world. I think the world around us will always be in flux and constant motion, just like the sea is constantly shifting. Yet, as we center and ground ourselves, I think that we learn to better ride the ups and downs and master the various situations that we encounter.
Hanging out on the beach Hanging out on the beach usually entailed sitting on the beach and watching the waves, waxing the board, chilling out and talking story with friends. What I remember of my dad and his friends is that when they were hanging out on the beach they would just sit around and watch the waves and talk story for hours. If it was before surfing, they might wax their boards, if it was after surfing, they‟d probably strip their wetsuits and put away their boards while talking to each other. Usually I would dig holes in the sand while my dad talked with his friends. The holes were elaborate networks of tunnels that were intricate city-states populated by tunnel people. I don‟t remember much about these tunnel people, but I do remember that I had worked out a pretty complex culture and history for these underground, seaside dwelling denizens. I pretty sure they were a technologically advanced race (I always liked to imagine technologically advanced races), and I‟m sure they were also benevolent and enlightened, because again, I liked benevolent and enlightened races. What can I say, I grew up in one of the last true Hippie bastions of the world. I was raised on the virtues of love, peace, intelligence, and creativity. As a side note regarding waxing the board: waxing the board was always a funny ritual because usually the surfboards were covered in brown sticky wax and to my young mind, I could never understand why one would want to apply more of the stuff. I hated the gummy feel against my stomach and chest when I was in the water – it was one of the worst sensations I have ever felt – water lapping between the board and my skin, and then the sticky, gummy wax clinging to my skin. Of course, the whole point of the wax is to provide a grip when standing on the surf board – but when you‟re seven or eight, you don‟t rationally consider these things, you just think – “Ew, gross sticky wax.” Another thing with wax is that it would always melt in the sun. So you‟d get in the car and there‟d be a pile of melted wax on the floor – or worse yet – on the seat. Sometimes I‟d find wax melted into a beach towel or melted into swim trunks. The surf wax that my father used – Mr. Zog‟s Sex Surf Wax - also had a very particular smell coconut smell – and to this day when I smell that smell – I am instantly transported back to a world of sun, sea, sand, salt, and surfing. It‟s funny that in this frantic, work intensive culture – we really do forget the importance of simply relaxing and taking a break. I know that I can be very obsessive with my work and I will get into incredibly intense work periods during which I‟ll be intensely working for long periods of time and I‟ll completely forget to break or relax for weeks on end – sometimes months on end. Of course, one of my fundamental issues is that my passion – or hobby – is simply life – I love to just do things – I like to jump into the thick of things and simply do stuff. Sometimes I don‟t even care what I‟m doing, I just want to do something. Then of course there are times where I simply don‟t want to do anything at all, and I just want to lie around. Some times these phases last for weeks, sometimes they last for months – sometimes – most recently they last for years. That is, after I left graduate school, I had several years where I was just piddling about and meandering through life killing time waiting for myself to figure out what I wanted to do. Now that
I‟ve gone through this cataclysmic break up with Ross, I‟ve decided that I really want to make a go at being a writer. The point of all this is that sometimes we just need to sit down on the beach and hang out and do nothing. It‟s funny that I‟m saying this because this was something that Ross and I fought bitterly about as a point of contention. This was one thing that I realized at the end of the relationship that I was truly wrong about – I in my obsessive productive bursts of energy had forgotten that we just need to hang out at times, and I felt awful when I realized that I had failed in this respect. I think this something that really did kill the relationship because this was a point that Ross did complain about often and it was major thorn in his foot…or paw...or whatever. Ross once told me that his family called hanging out “piddling around” and I was kind of like, “Oh, my family never piddled around the house. We didn‟t have a t.v. so we were always collectively doing things.” The funny thing is that I do remember that when I went surfing with my dad, there were definitely times that I would sit on the shore with him and just watch the waves and we‟d sit there for a very long time and sometimes not say anything. I‟d get restless and eventually run off and start throwing rocks and sticks into the waves, and I think my dad was just watching the sets, but again – we were just hanging out on the beach. There were many times that I‟d get dragged to the beach, my dad would go out surfing by himself first and I‟d get left on shore by myself, so I‟d just sit and play in the sand. Eventually my dad would come back in and then I‟d go back out with him and catch some sets and then ride a wave in and that would be the day. So it‟s not that I‟m incapable of hanging out – it‟s just that I do it in a very nonconventional way. I like to approach things in a very intense way and throw myself into things for a very long period of time and then I like to just do nothing for long periods of time. I think I approach my use of time very differently from other people, for my long stretches and long blocks of time are just pro forma. I can work for months and months on end without a break and then take a break and be completely fine and happy with that arrangement. I don‟t think I‟m a workaholic per se in as much as simply operating on a unconventional timeframe. I think it‟s hard to then develop synchronicity with another person when living together because sometimes you don‟t know your own internal schedule. I know that until I started writing this book I was nowhere nearly as in tune with myself as I am now. It‟s quite funny and tragic as well, to consider in retrospect that I can be intensively working on something for months or years at time, and then simply relax for months or even years at time. I‟d say that the past few years I‟ve been really sort of relaxing comparing to years previous. When I was in graduate school I was working between one hundred to one hundred twenty hours a week, and this on a measly student stipend that was less than twenty thousand dollars for the entire year. For the last few years I‟ve been working for Whole Foods Market where even in my worst week, I don‟t think I‟ve ever worked more than perhaps fifty or sixty hours and that‟s very rare. Most weeks I work about forty hours and I‟m making way more money than I did while in graduate school. My quality of life is infinitely better and I‟m much happier. So yes, these last few years have been a period of relaxing for me. Now, as I look forward to the future and I decide to make a serious effort at a writing career, I realize that I‟m going to
have to go back to those one hundred or one hundred twenty hour weeks. I‟ll still need to put in my usual forty hours at Whole Foods to pay the bills, and keep my health insurance until I feel secure with an alternate career, and then the rest of my free time I‟ll need to devote to writing. It was difficult trying to communicate this difference in my approach to life and work and relaxation and time – I don‟t think I really tried to explain because I don‟t think I fully realized that I needed to articulate it – but I think at some level I did try to get this point across. It‟s also ironic because at one point I accused Ross of having a non-standard view of time, and now I realize that it was probably more that I had the non-standard view of time and it was I who had the non-standard concept of time. As an interesting side note or tangent – I see life is a roller coaster of sorts and we‟re constantly going up and down, up and down - but at the same time we can also get off the ride and step off and rest. Obviously one can simply take a like down and take a nap (a favorite of mine), or you could mediate or pray or use some other techniques to step out of the situation. I think it‟s interesting that I‟ve heard some experts say that you shouldn‟t use mediation to “escape” the difficulties of life. I think care should be used with that perspective. It‟s one thing when mediation is approached purely from an escapist perspective, and it‟s another thing when you‟re approaching the process with the idea that you‟re using mediation as a technique for grounding and stabilizing yourself. So maybe the world around you is a giant undulating wave chaotic wave and mediation can give you a break from that chaos. I don‟t see anything wrong with that. Now if you were to retreat and spend the rest of your life in meditative bliss and forgo the world forever, perhaps that would be abuse of the good of mediation, but I think that it‟s silly to discourage people from using mediation to take “mental breaks” from the chaos in the world around them. You could be in Kmart surrounded by screaming children, a heavyset person may have just fallen down and hit one of the aisles and now shelves and products are falling down everywhere, voices could be screaming over the intercom, and ambulance could be blaring outside, and it could be mass pandemonium and you could just focus on your breathing and think of a calm place. This process is essentially escapism – your escaping the situation – does that mean that the process and the activity is bad? I don‟t think it‟s appropriate to judge such behavior as right or wrong, although I have seen mediation experts say authoritatively that you should not use mediation to escape the problems in the world around you. I think the issue arises in the sense of how long and why your are escaping. If it‟s something that you‟re doing as way of stepping away from the situation and grounding yourself so that you can reassess and return then I think it‟s a good approach. I think this a good and appropriate approach to problematic situations and I would like to see more of this in life, both in myself and other people. Sometimes I think all you can do is mentally step out of the wave and hanging out or relaxing becomes just a state of mind because physically you may still be engaged in strenuous activity or work or still caught up in a stressful situation – I know I‟ve been there many times before, but what I‟ve learned is that you keep persevering and you keep
trying and you keep at it and you keep working at it and you don‟t give up, and while you‟re plugging away at whatever it is that you‟re doing, you can also separate yourself mentally from the situation and find yourself a separate mental place of peace and contentment, and I think this a very good thing. So maybe you can‟t physically get out of the water, but you can mentally get out of the water. I think this is what I have to most of the time, and I think that‟s how I deal with life a lot of the time – I mentally displace myself – sure I‟m in the middle of hell – but I‟ll just imagine myself somewhere else. I‟ll imagine myself going somewhere that I want to go, or doing something that I want to do, or completing something that I want to finish, or being successful at something, or becoming someone that I want to be – and in doing so I envision a future that I want and I give myself something to look forward to and I motivate myself through the situation. Sometimes there are situations that I find myself in and I realize, I can‟t change this situation, I don‟t want to focus on the situation, I don‟t think I can learn much from this situation, and I think I just have to endure and persevere through this situation. I know that there is always opportunity to “learn” little things like patience and composure, grace and compassion, empathy and better communication skills – I‟m always trying to improve myself in bad situations – because often that‟s all you can do. Sometimes though, you get to the point that the self-improvement in the bad situation reaches a limit and now it has become a case of mentally separating myself from the situation. I think it‟s funny that I‟m candidly discussing and encouraging this behavior – because this is what a lot of people do through books and television and other things – escapism is a regular part of our lives. The truth is that escapism can be healthy or not depending on your approach. If your aware that your escaping and choosing to escape then it‟s good. You‟re choosing to escape. You know that you‟re escaping and you‟re making that conscious choice to escape. You are in control and you are empowered. If you are allowing the situation to force you to escape, such that you feel pressure to lose yourself in television or books or even drugs or alcohol, then that‟s not good because you‟re not in control and you‟re not making the choice – the situation is making the choice for you. I think this is one of the issues that I had with Ross. I felt that much of the time he was trying to escape something but he wasn‟t consciously admitting to himself or I what he was doing. Occasionally he would articulate something to that effect, but I don‟t think that he fully understood, accepted, or supported his own actions. When I was growing up I read voraciously as an escape mechanism from a pretty awful childhood. I proud of that choice. I read hundreds and hundreds of wonderful books. Instead of focusing on the terrible aspects of my childhood and the abuse and neglect that I experienced, I focused on the amazing ideals and morals and experiences that I encountered in the stories that I read. I knew exactly what I was doing. Every possible moment I would go to the library and get more books, regardless of whether or not I was finished with what I had in my possession. I always had a stash of books to read. I filled my life with escape tunnels because I needed to escape. I never fully understood what Ross needed to Ross needed to escape from. I have some strong suspicions, and it pains me that he never wanted to open up to me about the hurt in his past – but he was clearly trying to escape something through drugs, alcohol, and television. The fact of the matter is that unless you‟re willing to admit that you‟re running away from something, you‟re never going to be able to
actually escape it because that thing is just going to be there dragging behind you until you admit to yourself and other people that it‟s there. I was very frank and honest with everyone as I grew up – my parents were terrible parents – they were self-centered, dysfunctional, abusive, neglectful, and far more hurtful than supportive. Yes they clothed me (minimally), and fed me (again minimally), and sheltered me – but I honestly think that were it not for the support of the educational systems that I went through as a student, my church experiences, the support of other friends and family, I would probably be schizophrenic drug addict right now. My parents were not bad people per se – but they were not parents. They were out of control Hippies that were going through some sort of crazy existential crisis. I have memories of the house when I was five with rooms filled with trash bags full of marijuana and then years later these same parents were “born-again” Christians. Go figure. Mine was not a pleasant childhood. The point is that I definitely had to escape through books for most of it because if I hadn‟t I would have been much worse than I am now. So yeah, I think there are definite points where we just need to get out of the water - go back to shore and just recharge and hang out and chill out and just recuperate. I think as a people we don‟t daydream enough. When I was kid I remember the adults around me were constantly discouraging me from daydreaming – it‟s funny because I‟ve gone through batteries of therapists and psychiatrists and psychologists and even now I‟m working with neurologists and I‟m supposed to be working with UCLA to figure out “what‟s wrong with me,” and I think it‟s probably just that when I‟m unhappy and stressed and disappointed with things – my natural reaction is to just start to daydream about things – its an natural and powerful reaction – and it‟s very strong. Of course, most people don‟t have anything like my ability because for me it‟s as strong as watching television – I can literally see images and people and voices and stories and everything – intricate storylines – I mean hell, I‟m writer. I have dozens and dozens of stories sitting on my laptop all of them unfinished of course because I apparently have some bizarre form of Attention Deficit Disorder that doesn‟t respond well to medication so although doctors have given me Ritalin and Adderall, I still can‟t really concentrate. I used to think that daydreaming was bad – but now I‟ve come to realize – why subject myself to misery when I could be happy and enjoy myself? A week ago, I realized at work that fear is a huge force in the life of many people. I don‟t think that I have many genuine fears in life. I do get anxious about things, but I think that comes from the fact that I was spanked a lot as a child and I‟m just a highly anxious person period. It‟s funny because currently my present work at Whole Foods Market has me interacting with customers on a regular basis, much more than in the past when I was doing human resources or corporate training. It seems that much of the time the customers have these harried, terrified looks on their faces and they are running up to with frenzied expressions, desperately seeking helping. Of course, I‟m always wondering, what‟s wrong with you people? I‟m was in good mood when I came into the store, and very happy, but then everyone else seems to be the opposite. Now I‟ve come to realize that it‟s everyone‟s fears. I‟ve realized that the reason I‟m reacting so strongly to other people and the reason Ross and I didn‟t get along, is that fundamentally I don‟t really care. At the end of the day, I don‟t really care – kill me, maim, take away my
possessions, take my money – whatever, you can‟t take my mind, my soul, my thoughts – because those are mine. My consciousness is my stronghold, my place of retreat – the place that I go to hangout – so when the world is collapsing – I‟ll just withdraw internally and I‟m okay, and what more can anyone say, do or expect?
You just have to keep trying Learn to surf was very frustrating for me because fundamentally it all boiled down to, “Get back on the board.” Every time I‟d fall off or wipeout or eat it, my dad would just shrug his shoulders and then guide me back to the board and back to the waves. It was always, so you fall off, so you wipeout – you get back on, you paddle back out, you catch more waves. There‟s no thinking your way through surfing. You fall off the board; you get back on the board. You fall of the board; you get back on the board. You fall off the board; you get back on the board. I think this is why I hated surfing so much – it‟s not a sport that you can mentally work your way through to success. There are certainly intellectually demanding aspects to surfing – timing a wave for example – but when you‟re learning to balance on board – that process doesn‟t involve much of your higher cognitive processes. It‟s like riding a bike, you just get it or you don‟t. I suppose my experience learning to surf is also analogous to how my parents taught me to swim. My recollection of learning to swim consists of my parents taking me to the water and throwing me in the water…literally. I don‟t really remember much of the experience, other than my parents standing on the shore and me being tossed into the waves and then running back to my parents, and them throwing me back into the waves. I don‟t know if I was traumatized and screaming or what. I must have enjoyed the experience because to this day I love the ocean. I could spend the rest of my life in the sea – in the waves – on the shore. It‟s funny that I don‟t spend all of my time at the beach given how much I love the sea. I think the reason that I‟m not always at the beach is that because for nearly twenty years of my life every week of my life was spent at the beach. I wouldn‟t say that I‟m tired of the beach, but it‟s like I carry that memory with me everywhere. It‟s a part of me and all I have to do is close my eyes and I can feel myself swimming in an ocean of light. I know it sounds like some kind of weird New Age visualization technique – but it‟s true. I can feel and picture myself swimming in a sea of light just as if I were swimming in the crystal clear waters of my home in Hawaii. I guess when you do something long enough it gets engrained in you and you never forget it. For all my parent‟s mistakes – their unconventional approach to raising me certainly left me with certain things that other people don‟t have and I would never trade those experience for anything. There have been many moments in my life that I wish my parents were not whacked-out Hippies who then turned into fundamentalist born-again Christians, but on the other hand, I have some very unique abilities and experiences that I‟ve never encountered or seen in other people.
Case in point, my persistence in the face of absolute adversity. I think that because my parents taught me to do things by simply tossing me into the experience. I‟ve learned to do things by jumping into the experience – failing miserably, then going back and succeeding wildly. Or I‟ve learned to fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, and then succeed because I really want to succeed and I‟m not going to take no for an answer. I think a lot of this comes from the style of teaching that my parents used in things like swimming or surfing – or many other things – which was sort of a general, “We‟re not going to really explain or show you how to do this, we‟re just going to throw you into the situation and you‟re going to keep trying until you get out alive or die trying.” Yep, I had a wonderful childhood. Maybe now is good time to mention that my mom would routinely drop me off at random street corners because she didn‟t feel like going out of her way to take me to my destination when her destination was in a different direction, or that one summer my dad made me work in the pineapple fields and because the job finished hours before he could pick me up, I‟d just sleep in a parking lot waiting for him to pick me up…yeah mine was the childhood to escape from as fast as possible. Of course now I look back and I‟m actually thankful that my parents were such awful parents, because I‟m a much more resilient and hardy person. I can enter and survive horrible situations and come out better than before because that‟s what I‟ve been doing all my life – continuing to try and come out ahead eventually. So in a perverse and twisted way, my parents in their bizarre, dysfunctional parenting, probably best equipped me for the wildly adventurous life that I‟ve gone through. At the core of all this is exactly what my father would emphasize to me when surfing – if you fall of the board – get back on – if you fall off again – get back on again – if you fall off yet again – get back on again. No matter how many times you fall off, you keep getting back on the board. When you‟re tired of getting back on the board you go into shore and hang out on the shore. Then you go back out and do it all over again. If you get tired of falling of your board and don‟t want to go out anymore then you go home. You come back the next day and start it all over again, and you keep doing the same thing day in and day out and you never give up and you never stop. So I never stop. It‟s funny because I think that my dad would have been really happy if I had dropped out of school and become a professional surfer. He probably would have loved it if I had cut class and skipped school to go to the beach to surf or falling behind in my grades because I was surfing. For other reasons, I don‟t think he would have been happy, and sad to say for my father, I was straight A student who always went to class on time and turned in all my assignments on time and studied for my tests weeks in advance and always did the extra credit and always did extra curricular – yeah I was that kid at school that you loved to hate because I was the perfect student – the teacher‟s pet – the one that everyone just wanted to take out in the back and shoot. I always sat at the front of the class and answered all the questions and scored so high on the tests that if I was in the class there was no way in hell there was going to be curve.
The thing is that I was dead set on doing exactly what my parents taught me to do. I was utterly and absolutely determined to escape my life – to get out of the world that I was born into. You might say, what‟s so bad about Hawaii. Let me tell you. First, I was born in Hilo, Hawaii, but spent most of my life in the Puna District. The Puna district makes all the bad areas of Los Angeles and New York city seem tame in comparison, why? Simply because you expect muggings and violent crimes in various parts of big cities like Los Angeles and New York city or Chicago. You don‟t expect violent, heinous crimes in backwater places like Puna, Hawaii. Puna, Hawaii was like a third world country. For example, there was this case of a jogger who was beaten to death with pipes on a country road for no apparent reason. As I recall, there was no specific money or drug connection, this unfortunate woman just happened to be running on the road when a couple of guys decided to beat someone to death with some pipes. It might have been because she was white and they were local and they decided to “get the haole” (haole being non-locale). Who knows. There were instances of random campers who were brutally murdered at campsites. As kids we knew not to wander to far into the woods because we could stumble into drug dealer territory and either fall into some booby traps or run into someone who would simply shoot and not ask questions and probably just leave the bodies. Pit bulls were very popular pets, and people always told stories of vicious pit bulls mauling someone in the face or attacking someone in the chest. Our public schools had bouncers…even the middle schools. Huge giant guys that would patrol the hallways and break up fights. They were called security guards of course but I always thought of them as bouncers because they were huge and always throwing people out of the restrooms where the students liked to congregate and engage in illicit activities. Paradise is not such a pretty thing under the surface and growing up in a world where like this isn‟t the most enjoyable thing. Around middle school I quickly realized that I had a choice – spend the rest of my life in Hawaii or get the hell out of Dodge. So I decided that I was getting the hell out of dodge – and that‟s what I did. Maybe my straight edgestraight-A-by-the-book-perfect-student approach was over kill, but hey, I did get into Amherst, the top college in the world (I‟m sure Williams would like to think that they should occupy that spot but we all know that Amherst is superior), and since then I‟ve essentially done exactly what I‟ve wanted to do with my life. Of course the issue is figuring out what I want to do with my life. The problem with achieve terminal velocity is that once you hit that speed you‟re traveling pretty damn fast and things happen pretty quickly. I‟ve now learned that my issue is less can I do something but should I do something, do I want to do something, and most importantly, what do I want to do.
And of course, this all goes back to falling down, getting back up again, falling down, and getting back up again. After developing a tremendous degree of personal perseverance and confidence that I will prevail no matter what (sure it might take me awhile, and the path might be difficult, convoluted, confusing, and unconventional), I‟ve realized that I really can do anything that I set my mind to achieve. I think that ultimately everything in life boils down to sweat and perseverance – sure there‟s definitely that element of blind luck and genius – both which I seem to posses at times –but I‟ve learned time and time again that it‟s really the hard work that pays off in the long run. Life is like a long marathon – everyone knows that you have to put in the hours of practice and exercise in order to run well and finish well, but not everyone is willing to do that. For me, I‟m a very goal oriented person, and I do set very high goals for myself. I figure I may as well shoot for the stars and if I miss the stars, maybe I‟ll hit the moon, failing that, I might land somewhere interesting on Earth. Dedication and discipline pay off in the long run, although sometimes I do with that I had more fun and partied more – I especially run into this regret when considering my break up with Ross – this was a major point of contention between us. I always wanted to be doing something productive and he always seemed to be wanting to either get high, drunk, party, or go out with friends. On one hand, I wish that I would embrace that lifestyle and be that person just to be that person and feel that life and experience that life, but I realize that I‟m simply too goal oriented. There are places and things that I want to do with my life and I realize that if I want to accomplish those things, I need to keep trying and I can‟t give up now. I like to remember the story of the Little Red Hen, and how the Little Red Hen went to all the other animals and asked them for help with baking bread, but all the other animals said no, they‟d rather just chill out and relax. So the Little Red Hen was like, well then I‟ll just do it myself, and each step of the way the Little Red Hen would ask, “Who‟s going to help me grow the wheat? Who‟s going to help me harvest? Who‟s going to help me grind?” and so on and so forth. I realize that‟s what dedication and discipline are like. It‟s a long hard road to be focused on something that you love and care about. It‟s difficult to stay the course and just say – this is what I‟m going to do, especially when you realize that you can‟t expect anyone else to be there for you. I think my work ethic really drove Ross and I apart because I would always want to be doing something – I always wanted to be cooking or cleaning, or doing laundry, or painting, or writing, or going out hiking or going to a movie – or doing something. Ross on the other hand just seemed to want to come home, get drunk and get high and sit in front of the television. I tried to play along for awhile, but I found the entire lifestyle to be really dissatisfying – it was like I was living my life as a vaporous reflective shadow of these other people on the screen in front of me – I didn‟t really have a life – it was these people on the television screen and I was just some sort of supplicant or fan or what have you that was there supporting the lifestyle of these glamorous, exciting people. The thing that I kept thing was, “But my life is and can be glamorous and exciting if I make it so!” Once my sister pointed out to me that there are some people that just like to watch television period as their way of spending time, and I think I began to realize a little late
that this was Ross thing to do, and it probably just wasn‟t the thing for me to do. My mom also pointed out to me once, because apparently this was something that my dad liked to do as well, and she hated television, that some people simply don‟t like their own lives and want to step into the lives of other people through television. For me this is very hard to grasp and hard to deal with and it‟s actually a very painful concept to think about. Fundamentally I like my life. I like my life because I know that I am in control of my life. I make the decision in my life. I suffer the consequences for my poor decisions and I reap the rewards for my good decisions. For the most part I am pleased with how I‟ve led my life – I feel that I‟ve thrown myself whole heartedly into many different situations – I‟ve tried many things, I‟ve broken many boundaries, pushed the envelop many times, I‟ve done all sorts of strange and unusual things, I‟ve gone all sorts of strange and unusual places – and yet I‟ve remained quintessentially myself. If I don‟t like something about my life – then I work to change it. I don‟t try to escape into television or a book or movie or something like that. Yes, that‟s what I did as a child, but I‟m not a child, I‟m an adult. I‟d say I‟m a man now. I think that‟s the difference between children and teenagers and adults or the difference between boys and girls and men and women. I think that boys and girls are immature and run away from things and hide in fantasy, where men and women are mature and don‟t need fantasy to protect them from the difficulty of reality. Reality is what it is – it‟s difficult, it‟s hard and it‟s brutal at times – but it can be god damned fucking fun a lot of the time because it‟s like a roller coaster of exhilaration when you bite off more than you can chew and you get to the other side and you land a perfect jump. That‟s what perseverance is all about. You can either continue to lead a life that you hate, go to a job that you hate, and be a person that you hate, or you can fight to change things and choose a difficult road and be a man or woman about that process rather than being a whiny little boy or girl. Infants whine. Boys and girls whine. Men and women get out and get shit done. What I hated about my relationship with Ross was that he always seemed to be making excuses for things. It was very ironic that he made almost $25,000 more than I did, and had been in the work force for many years longer than I (although he was six years younger than me). I quit graduate school a few years ago, and I‟ve only been working at Whole Foods Market for a few years. In that time though, I‟ve been diligent and aggressive with my finances because I don‟t want to be starving when I retired. Ross had practically nothing in savings, I had about $10,000 in my 401k, which isn‟t really a lot but it is considering that I don‟t actually make gobs of money – especially not when I first started working (when I first started working at Whole Foods, I was on leave from Brown University, so I just took a position in the Bakery and I was making $8.50 an hour). I also had thousands of dollars in a money market, not to mention two sets of stock accounts with two different brokers. Where was Ross‟s money? I dunno – I think it was going down the drain with the drugs and alcohol and nights out with his friends.
It‟s funny because the last night that we were together, we had a dinner and we were supposed to tell each other what we felt we needed from the other person, I clearly remember Ross telling me that he wanted, “freedom for his friends, freedom for his music, freedom for work, and freedom for himself.” Of course, my thought was, well are you sure that it‟s not you‟re poor use of money and time that‟s causing you to have issues, and are you sure that it‟s not your constant intoxicated state that‟s imparing your judgement? But how do your reason with an alcoholic addict? You don‟t. To me, the difference between Ross and I was that Ross gave up at some point – I don‟t know where and I don‟t know why, and I kept fighting. It‟s not in my nature or vocabulary to give up or surrender. If I do give in or back down, it‟s usually just temporary and I‟m probably just regrouping, assessing the situation and preparing for my next assault. I‟m always running out into the thick of things – the analogy that I like to use is – playing in traffic – I‟m always running out to play in traffic. Where the other folk have been hit by cars and run over and beat up and have decided, “I‟m sick of being run over and beat up and smashed underneath wheels,” I‟m on the other side of the street screaming, “Give me more! Throw me under the bus again! Toss me in front of the semi one more time!” I don‟t mind how many times I‟m demolished, destroyed, ruined and or wiped out – I know that I‟ll keep picking myself up and I know that I‟ll keep trying. I know that Ross was struggling with some deep issues. He alluded to some possible trauma in his childhood, and I wish that I would have been able to help him with that, but he never wanted to open up to me. Again, I see the fundamental difference as he was simply slipping under a self-medicating slumber of drugs and alcohol and self-defeat and I was constantly jumping around on sidelines screaming, “No, no, no! Let‟s keep going!” I‟m the kind of person that if all my limbs were missing, I‟d probably use my teeth to drag myself over the finish line – I‟m that determined. I‟m a very determined person. Once when I was in high school, I wanted to go to Washington D.C. for this program called Close-Up. It was a week long trip to Washington D.C. and you toured the Capitol and stuff like that. Everyone else‟s parents were going to pay for most of the trip – my parents weren‟t going to pay anything…literally. I don‟t think my parents even paid a penny. I raised all the money that I needed, including spending money (all told about $2000) selling cookies, candy bars, and stuff like that – mostly candy bars. It was horrible, humiliating, and depressing – but it was all worth it in the end. Plus, when I was finished, I realized, “Shit, I really can do anything. If I can sell fifty cent candy bars everyday, every week for months on end, and raise thousands of dollars to go on a trip to Washington D.C., then I can do anything I want.” It was a rough process, there were days that I spend hours just walking around neighborhoods going door to door knocking on people‟s doors and asking them if they wanted to buy candy bars and I‟d get tired and hungry and I think I fainted once on a sidewalk. I think one of the big points of contention between Ross and I was how much I hated L.A. – I hated the traffic, the smog, the superficial aspect of many people – the negative environmental impact of the city – there‟s a lot to hate about the city. Ironically, I‟ve actually come to adjust to the city and now, I‟m kind of in the me versus the city kind of
stand off – but it‟s a fun stand off – a humorous and entertaining fight against L.A. I‟ve already gone through the hellish, miserable, brutal – get the crap beat out of you phase, so now it‟s more like the can I make it in L.A. phase – and I‟m having fun now, because I‟ve made up my mind that this is what I‟m going to do. I think eventually, I‟d like to write a book called “I hate L.A. I love L.A.” or something like that. I‟m not going to let L.A. get the better of me. I‟m sorry that Ross couldn‟t see this change and that all he saw was the negative and anger and the misery – but life is what it is – and sometimes people who aren‟t patient and willing to stick through to the bitter end don‟t get to better place. Even in the midst of my misery, I would still constantly cook meals for Ross. I‟d wake up in the morning and make breakfast for Ross, cut up potatoes for him and make fried potatoes, cook bacon and eggs, and tried to make dinner each night and make sure that there was lots of leftovers because I know that it‟s the hidden incidentally costs that cause you to lose money so I wanted to make sure that he didn‟t have to spend to much on food. To me this is the point of struggling and fighting and never giving up no matter what, because I sincerely believe that if you want something and you believe in it and you refuse to give up that you will get there and it will be worth it. I fear that to often in this world we sell ourselves short, we allow all the little deaths – the bills, the worries, the anxieties, the people around us, our families, our friends – everything to bring us down and keep us from accomplishing our dreams and objectives. To me, I‟m still believe in the strong ideals captures in the literature of Greeks or Shakespeare – ideals of love and devotion or justice that were so strong and powerful that people literally died for them. And this is choice that I think we all have to make at some point in our lives. The choice may not be a big dramatic, cinematic choice with music and lights and all kinds of stuff like that, but I think that each of us will know in our souls that we are making this choice and I think the choice is as follows – I think that at some point – we will all have to make a choice to stand by our personal ideals and truly live for those ideals at whatever cost – or acquiesce and accept the second best offering. Now the second best offering seems like a tempting solution because it seems like, well – you can always get the better thing the next day, but I don‟t think so – I think that once you make that choice to betray your own ideals – you‟ve sold your soul so to speak – you‟ve given yourself away and there‟s no turning back the clock. I think the death of the soul is such a subtle thing that when you do it, it‟s gradual and insidious and it might even feel like you‟re doing the right thing because what you‟re doing might line up with what other people are doing or what‟s right in materialistic sense. However, I think that if you can‟t be true to yourself and your own ideals, then you are true to no one and you have gone down a slippery slope from which redemption is next to impossible. For my part, I‟ve already made this hard choice. I‟d describe it in detail, but the truth is that I can‟t because I signed a confidentiality agreement and I can‟t say what happened. However, I can say that I was given the following two choices, A) Do the right thing or B) Keep my job, keep my home life, keep my happiness, keep my new car, get a promotion, keep favor with my superiors, keep my comfort and standard of living, keep my relationship with Ross. Needless to say this was a hard choice. I cried a lot and I nearly had a mental breakdown. I chose to do the right thing as best as I could.
I‟d like to say that I was rewarded and applauded and praised. I was not. I lost my position, I lost my happiness. My home life was destroyed. My engagement with Ross was destroyed. I didn‟t get a promotion, needless to say because I lost my position. I clearly lost favor with my superiors, and I definitely lost my comfort and standard of living, for several weeks I was living in all sorts of different places as I searched for a permanent place to live after Ross and I separated. The only satisfaction that I had was that I was vindicated at the end of the process as having been “technically” right, but it was a small satisfaction because part of me felt like I should have never done anything at all. However, I also know that would have been false and had I made that choice, a significant part of me would be dead today and I would not be a free person. Margaret Atwood says that there are too kinds of freedoms. Freedom from and freedom too. Most people want freedom from. Freedom from hunger, freedom from proverty, freedom sorrow, etc etc. I am the opposite, I want freedom to. I want freedom to chose. I want freedom to go. I want freedom to be. Freedom to is the harder freedom. Freedom to is the freedom that comes at the higher price. Freedom from is the freedom that the state, religions, and your parents provide you. Freedom to is what you provide yourself when you step out of your comfort zone into the places that scare you and say, “I will not stop trying, I will not be discouraged, I will not be dissuaded, I will not give up.” To me, freedom to is the greater ideal. Freedom from is what dogs have. Freedom from is for animals. Freedom from is for children. Freedom to is for adults and for enlightened people. Freedom to hurts and it‟s scary and it never works out the way you think it will. My life is certainly not what I thought it would be five years ago, but it‟s my life. I am a free person, I am proud of my choices because I made them from a good place for the right reasons out of thoughtfulness, caring, and compassion. I‟ve tried to do the right think, and I‟ll continue to do the right thing. I know that I‟ll fall down and continue to fall down and I‟m not afraid to fall down. I don‟t care how many times I fall down, and if life is a cliff – then guess what? I‟m running straight at the cliff and jumping head first over the cliff. And when I hit rock bottom, I‟ll get back up, climb back up to the top and I‟ll run back to the edge and jump over the cliff again. You might say, “Why are you doing this to yourself?” And I would say to you, “Don‟t worry about me, worry about yourself.” Maybe I‟m trying to fly, maybe I just like plummeting down at high velocities. Who knows? It‟s really not your business. I‟m doing my thing. What bothers me is all the people that are holding back, but like to judge me as if they‟re better because they make more money or have a nicer car or bigger house or nicer clothing – and yet my question to them is – what are you really doing with your life – you‟re not your money or your car or your hose or your clothing – those are just the ancillary things – those things are not you – you are yourself – you are your experiences and your memories and your interactions with the people around you. Outward and inward success are such different things and the criterion by which we judge the two are so radically divergent that those who focus on one, I think are quite
incapable of focusing on the other. For the most part, I don‟t think that I am particularly concerned with outward success – yes I would like to have more money, a house, a nice car, nice clothes, and a good career, and such – but really, I want to be a fully actualized person. It‟s far more important to me to achieve inward success and be complete and whole as a person, content and happy with myself. I suppose, if I was a rice farmer in Louisiana, and that was what fulfilled me in the grand scheme of things, then that‟s what I‟d want to do. Of course, it might take a very long time and much trial and error before I get to that rice farm in Louisiana because currently I‟m in California and I‟m not on any trajectory that is taking me anywhere close to rice farming or Louisiana. I like to think that whatever I'm doing, I‟m making some sort of progress – that even in my darkest hours, I‟m making a step forward in the right direction. Of course, if it‟s my darkest hour, I could very well be stepping off track, over the cliff into a bed of razors or spikes or other unpleasant things – which has certainly happened before – and it‟s not particularly fun, but I‟ve survived those mishaps as well. To me the alternative is to simply lie back or lie down and give up and give in and do nothing. I‟m reminded of the attitude of the writer from “The Hours” when he claims that the best part of life is when you are young and then that‟s the best and everything that comes after is second best. I disagree. I find that my life is always full of more and more interesting and more exciting things. Meeting Ross was the best thing in my life. I am broken hearted and devastated that our engagement has ended, but I believe that all things work towards something better and I believe that I am moving towards something better. I don‟t believe that my best moments are behind me, I believe that my best moments are perpetually behind, around, and before me. In other words, I believe that the best is always happening if I look for it. It‟s hard to do, and it takes an open mind and it requires that you always try and try and continue to try, but I find that as long as I don‟t give up, I always find what I‟m looking for and I always get where I want to go, and I always get what I want. Giving up is unacceptable to me – you might as well kill yourself. Giving up is worse than killing yourself because giving up is like killing yourself – you‟re just emotionally and mentally killing yourself – so you‟re continuing to function in a day to day sense, but all that‟s left is a shell, the body remains but the spirit is gone. Kill yourself and spare both you and everyone else the ordeal. Be a man or a woman and just throw yourself off the bridge. Or pull yourself together and get on with your life. I know that‟s the decision that I have to make often…like sometimes on a daily basis. Seriously. There are stretches of my life where I have to say to myself, do I want to mope around and lie about depressed and doing nothing, in which case, why don‟t I just kill myself, or do I want to get up and do something about the situation and change reality? See, I subscribe the philosophy of “greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world.” In other words, I will get me fired up and I will kick the ass of everything around me because I simply will. I don‟t think I‟m special in that regard. Sometimes I think that Neil Gaiman is crack writer and sometimes I think he‟s a brilliant writer, one of my favorite stories by him is one in which he proposes that we only need to dream in order to change reality. I agree.
Don‟t like your reality? Then imagine something different. That‟s what I do, and oddly enough, it works. It‟s not easy, because dreams are fragile things and they tend to get disrupted very quickly, but I‟ve learned to dream big, often, and all the time. As in everything else, I just keep dreaming and dreaming and dreaming. The truth is, I often hate my immediate reality. So I dream of a different reality. The funny thing is my realities often change, but just as often not in the way that I expect – I‟m still learning to apply more careful qualifiers to my dreams because I seem to have this unfortunate habit of getting exactly what I wished for but not what I expected – which is of course what we are always warned about regarding wishes – but I still haven‟t learned my lesson – I keep dreaming and wishing. What I‟m trying to say is that I think that most people by the time they hit my age, and even before, simply give up and accept their reality. They accept their jobs, they accept their lives, they accept what‟s happening to them and the world. Not me. I refuse to accept. I say “No” to accepting! NO. NO. NO. And then I step out and get run over by traffic because all the other people have learned to use cross walks and I‟m still convinced that if I concentrate hard enough, this time, I might be able to teleport across the street. But hey, someone has to keep the insanity alive. Someone has to keep the improbably dreams going. When everyone in my generation is sedentary and settled in their ways, I‟ll probably be in some malaria infested country, or maybe crash landing on Mars, or possibly on that farm in Louisiana. I don‟t want to accept reality if it not to my liking – I want to get up and change the channel. Now maybe that‟s breaking the rules because we‟re not supposed to change the channel, but I‟ve always subscribed to the other philosophy of, “learn the rules, then break them because you know how to break them correctly.” I think this is where Ross and I started to part company. I am ultimately full of chaotic energy. It‟s ironic because Ross seems to have a slight obsession with chaos, but I don‟t think he really understands, appreciates, or wants to embrace chaos – if he did – he would have handled me much better. I am in essence chaos incarnate. On a good day, I look normal as most people. On a bad day, the kitchen will be destroyed, but there will be a delicious meal on the table, the living room will be destroyed but there will be several amazing paintings on the wall, the bedroom might be destroyed for no good reason other than I was trying to find something and can‟t remember what I was looking for, the bookshelf might be ripped to pieces, on top of all this I‟ll probably have written a poem or two, and maybe an idea for a movie script and a book – seriously – I really do have days like this. Ross once looked at me and said something like, “Daniel, you‟re really hard to handle.” I felt bad for him because I realized then that he was not going to make it. I‟ve only met one person in the world like me and she scares the living daylights out of me. In fact, Rachel Adelstein and I would eat breakfast together almost every morning for four years in college and we‟d fight passionately about all sorts of zany things because we were probably the craziest people at Amherst…well – then there was Johnnie Lamar Odom, but he‟s another story. The point being, there are not many ultra-high energy, super hyperactive, brilliant, very verbal, articulate people like me – so I am quite
a handful. I have learned to dampen myself over the years, so you would never know that I‟m a freak of nature unless I started to forget myself. I think that was the problem with me and Ross, I started to get comfortable around Ross and I started to forget myself and I began to explode and the whirlwind came out. I suppose the reason I mention all this is because I recognize that one reason it‟s easy for me to adopt a “try and try again” attitude is that I have some much energy I can just run in, fall down, pick myself up, run back in, fall down, run back in, fall down, run back in – etc etc – mean while the rest of the crowd is still getting dressed while I‟m setting fire to the city. So I suppose my cavalier attitude of “just keep trying” should be tempered with, make sure you have enough energy to pick yourself back up, because if you‟re too tired to get back up, you‟re not going anywhere. Looking back, I think that Ross was mostly depressed and tired, and thus unable to match my energy and so where I was willing to endlessly throw myself into the situation over and over again and try to solve problems and fix things – I think he was too drained and tired to do anything. Of course, endlessly drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana doesn‟t do much for restoring energy – I tried to get him on various nutritional supplements and a better exercise regime but he was like a cantankerous old man and never wanted to listen to me, despite the fact that I worked for Whole Foods Market and clearly knew what I was talking about in terms of health and foods and supplements that support health and well-being. The worse insult was when he blamed me for interfering with his music writing, and I was kind of like, “um yeah, what about all that alcohol and pot that you‟re smoking? I suppose that stuff doesn‟t kill brain cells?”
Don’t fight the current One of the main rules for surfing – or really swimming in general for that matter – is that you can‟t fight the current. It‟s impossible, you‟ll just tire you‟re self out and eventually drown or get pulled out to sea…and then drown. Currents – like much of the hidden forces in life – is rarely obvious (although some say that you can detect certain ones like rip currents from shore as a stretch of darker water – this was never really applicable where I grew up because our sand was black and so the entire shoreline and thus the sea was black). Currents like the undertow usually start further out from shore, past the initial breakwater, and so the danger is that you‟ll often get caught in it once you‟re too deep to actually stand. The trick to escaping a strong current is to swim out of the current, not against it. So you can either swim horizontal to it, or as I liked to do, swim below it, if possible. This was often a possibility for me because many of beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii have steep drop off points where the shore hits the water and then drops sharply away, so I would just swim beneath the current, and travel back to shore. I liked to imagine myself as a dolphin or a seal – it was fun and I never really imagined myself in great danger although I probably was in a lot of danger in the sense that I could have been pulled out to sea if I wasn‟t careful. Of course, the most recent and tragic example of fighting the current was the conflict between Ross and I. Fundamentally, we both and serious issues, or currents, that were at work in our lives and unfortunate for both of us, each of us took it upon ourselves to fight those forces in other person – and in the most misguided ways. For example, Ross took my explanations of mental instability, which are true, and he ran with those statements and suddenly, in his mind I was “Borderline Personality Disorder.” I discussed this with my therapist who is a clinical psychologist, and a person – who if any would make such a judgment, and she completely dismissed that notion. The problem here was that for months, and I think up until the very end, Ross was convinced that I had Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). He told me that he had read tons of articles and was participating on forums for people with partners that had BPD. At first I thought it was kind of amusing and touching. Then it took on a really twisted and sick element because Ross was essentially diagnosing me with no formal training and no consultation with any medical experts. It became a serious point of contention because he even began to treat me like I had BPD and he began to use techniques that were supposedly effective for people with BPD. The problem I think was that he created a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don‟t have BPD, but because Ross was treating me like I had BPD, pretty soon everything I did was interpreted in that framework, and I was constantly reacting in frustration and anger because he was treating me like a sick child. It was frustrating and denigrating and very humiliating. I felt ashamed and embarrassed much of the time because he always seemed to be doing something behind my back and I could never figure out what it was. Later, I realized, and confirmed with him – that what he was doing was systematically ignoring
me in a very specific way regarding specific inquiries, behaviors, requests, etc. The issue with all of this was that we generating a very vicious cycle between ourselves in which we systematically destroyed a healthy, beautiful relationship. That‟s not to say that I don‟t have mental instability, I do, and I‟ll get to that in more detail later because that‟s one of my deepest currents and the hardest one for me to deal with in terms of living day to day. I should also be clear that it wasn‟t Ross alone that poisoned the relationship with his paranoid home doctoring and quack diagnosis procedure. I burned down the house with an obsession for neatness and organization and I think I drove Ross to heavy drinking and drug use because I was constantly complaining about how I was displeased with things. What a tragic comedy we made. I could probably draw a lifetime a source material from those few months we had together – there was so much intense activity between us. We fought - we made love – we were at each other‟s throats – we embraced – we kept secrets from each other – we told each other all sorts of intimate details – we made dreams and plans together – we destroyed those dreams and plans together. It was like every movie and book that I‟ve ever seen compressed together and then rushed through at a surreally high pace. I‟m still reeling from the experience. I grin and grimace because I would spend so much energy trying to fix things and Ross would run away. He always liked to call himself a ninja. If he was a ninja, then I would be more a knight. I‟d come charging into the situation and chop things up and hack and slash and try to fix things up and make things right, and then Ross would do his ninja stealthy thing and throw clouds of smoke everywhere and I‟d be left wondering, “What the fuck just happened?” So of course, I‟d run back in and hack and slash, all upright and honest – shouting at the top of my lungs, “This is what we need to do!” Ross would of course sneak away and hide in his bedroom or plot behind my back, and then undo whatever activity I had done. It was an endless battle of the wills and neither of us wanted to admit defeat and neither of us wanted to admit what we were doing. Now, looking back, I realize that I was just fighting the current. I never could win - I thought I could win – but I never could win. I thought it was a game. I thought that I‟d eventually break Ross‟ bad habits and win him over to my side. I thought I‟d snap him out of it, I thought that I‟d tame him – whatever – now I realize that I was simply fighting the irresistible forces of Ross – just as much as Ross was fighting the irresistible forces of me. If I could do it all over, I‟d lay my sword down in heartbeat, surrender and give myself up, because that would be the only sane thing to do, but I wasn‟t very sane at the time and I thought fighting was the better option. In the last month or two preceding the break up, we fought constantly, and Ross shut down more and more and became increasingly non-communicative, emotional unavailable, and more unengaged. Yet there were these amazing things that we did for each other. For his part, Ross made an incredible sacrifice for me when it was unclear whether I was transferring back East or remaining in L.A. with Whole Foods. Ross was given an offer by a friend of his to live at his place rent-free for about three months in
exchange for supervising his adopted teenage son. Ross was excited about this prospect because he could save several thousand dollars in rent and save up for a place to rent later in the year. Of course this was a decision that he needed to make soon because this friend was leaving the country and Ross would need to move into Chris‟ place and put his own things into storage given that Chris‟ place was fully furnished. I thought I had an interview that was coming up shortly, but the interview was suddenly pushed back on Sunday night. I notified Ross from work and I let him know what was going on in terms of the situation. Ross immediately went into action. Later that night, he told me that he had cancelled the tentative plans with Chris, and because Ross‟ current landlord was allowing Ross to extend his lease month to month, Ross was going to extend his stay for the month of August. Ross then told me that he felt that I need that time and space to get myself together and he wanted to do that for me, and he was going to provide a place for me and I could pay whatever I wanted or I didn‟t have to pay anything. I don‟t think I‟ve ever seen such a selfless act of love in my life. To be honest, I don‟t recall either of my parents even doing something like that. All my life, I‟ve struggled to do things for myself and I‟ve felt very much alone, unsupported by anyone and here was someone, whom I was quasi-engaged to (because at this point we were fighting so much that the engagement was sort of in limbo), and yet he was still going out of his way to help me. Of course I then went and sabotaged the entire thing that very night with a huge argument because I go very angry with Ross for wanting to watch television rather than pay attention or interact with me or do anything with me. I think I was upset because for the entire week we had spent no quality time together and that night I was hoping that we‟d have some quality time together, and Ross just wanted to watch t.v. so I went off the deep end and threw a fit and threatened to leave because I couldn‟t understand how it was that someone could ignore another person that he presumably loves so intensely for an entire week or more. My feelings were obviously hurt and I was devastated that Ross would rather zone out in front of the t.v. rather than interact with me – even after he did this amazing sacrifice – I couldn‟t comprehend it. It made no sense to me. He didn‟t even want to do massage time, which was when we‟d give each other massages while watching t.v. I was pretty broken hearted because I thrive on personal interaction and Ross could be very impersonal at times. For my part, and I‟m not sure Ross ever understood or appreciated my acts of love, I tried to form a strong monogamous relationship for us. Given that we were both HIV positive, and I know that we would one day need to support each other critically in terms of finances and health care, I really felt it imperative that we form a strong monogamous relationship. The irony is that Ross and I never really discussed the boundaries of our relationship until I proposed to him. It was a very nebulous relationship, and I don‟t know if that‟s how Ross preferred things. In retrospect, it seems that he was often a person that preferred unspoken agreements or unspoken communication. The issue that I have with unspoken agreements that are complex, like the nature of a relationship – i.e. monogamous or not, is that both parties could think that they are in agreement, but not be and the end result could be disaster.
Case in point. Until I proposed to Ross, we had never discussed in any fashion whether or not we were seeing other people, whether or not it was okay to see other people – none of that. I don‟t know if Ross just tacitly assumed that I wasn‟t going to do that, I know for my part that I assumed nothing. I actually thought that Ross was seeing other people on the side because he just seemed like that kind of person. He would often talk about “fuck buddies” and he and one of his best female friends had a very elaborate conversation regarding “fuck buddies” in my presence, and the conclusion that the two of them reached was that they didn‟t care if their significant other had a fuck buddy, they just didn‟t want to know about it. For my part, I wasn‟t really comfortable with an ill-defined relationship. Very quickly after learning our HIV status in January, I decided that not only did I love Ross, but I wanted to be with him always, through sickness and health, and that I wanted to form a strong legal bond that would grant us the rights and protections that I felt we would need. So I started to move in that direction. It took me a very long time to get an engagement ring for him. I think I started looking sometime in March, and I finally found one that I liked. It was black titanium, in a style called mokume gane, which is a Japanese process by which two billets of metal are combined together to produce a layered laminate. It‟s very beautiful and symbolic of the melding of differences, or so I read. I thought it was perfect. Sizing Ross‟ finger was difficult, and finally, I just had to up front ask him to allow me to size his finger. I think he might have suspected what I was doing at that point, but I‟m not sure. The ring then took forever to arrive, and I had to keep calling and calling because there were all sorts of errors with the maker. It‟s funny because I wanted to propose on our trip to Catalina, which was presumably for my birthday, but I wanted to propose because on that weekend because I have a bad memory for dates, and I thought that if I proposed near my birthday I would never forget the anniversary of our engagement. The ring barely arrived in time before we departed. I remember being in a panic and utterly worried that the ring was not going to arrive in time. It did, and I proposed to Ross and he said yes, and it was magical and wonderful and everything that I dreamed off – then the nightmare began. Ross found out that I had seen other guys before I proposed to him – which I was truthful and honest about – I tried to point out time and time again that we had never made any definitions about our relationship – hence my move to propose and my move to make the relationship monogamous. For what it‟s worth, once I proposed to Ross and we were engaged, I never even so much as looked at another guy with desire. I was that committed to him. But currents run deep and they are powerful, and the forces that were running between us were so forceful that I fear that our love was simply not mature and strong enough to combat the deeper malaise inside of each of us. It hurts to look back at the relationship and see each of us doing what we could for the other, and the other then reacting in the opposite direction. It seemed that each time one of us would do something loving, the
other would misinterpret or notice an unrelated point and then undo the efforts of the other person. If I‟ve learned on thing- which I already knew, but now it‟s sharply reinforced – under no circumstances should I ever fight the current. There are simply forces that are too great to fight and fighting them is stupid. In the process of fighting the stupid things, I trampled on the good things, and demolished a wonderful relationship as I tried to wrestle control of currents that were beyond my control. Much of the time I think our fights were ultimately silly, trivial, and down right asinine. Sure in our minds there was some kind of fundamental point that we could trace back to if we boiled away all of the words and hours and hours of bickering, but in essence we would start with a point of contention and then simply fight about it endlessly. The perfect example would be the mess. I fought endlessly with Ross regarding “the mess” or rather “his mess.” His mess seemed to constantly be shifting all over the house regardless of how I tried to clean it up, he would blame his roommate Anthony, but to be honest, Anthony was rarely ever in the house and so I had a hard time believing that Anthony could really be responsible for the huge piles of clutter that seemed to constantly accumulate in the living room, in the kitchen, on the dining room, and in the bedroom. Yeah Ross was really messy, he was probably the messiest person that I‟ve ever seen in my life. His idea of a clothing system consisted of a giant pile of clothing lying on his bedroom floor. I kid you not – a giant pile of clothing and sometimes the clothing in the bins were clean, and sometimes they were dirty. I could never figure it out because I wasn‟t the person that was putting the clothes there, and I‟m sure at some level Ross knew what was what, but to be honest it was really confusing because sometimes clean clothes were on the floor and dirty clothes were in the bins and sometimes it was the other way around – but in general it was essentially a humungous pile of clothes. And we fought and fought and fought about the clothes. Finally, I got him to separate the dirty clothes on one side, and the clean clothes on the other side. That way at least I could tell what was clean and what was dirty, and I could wash the dirty clothes and not waste time trying to guess or wash the clean clothes by accident. However, was it worth the cost? I don‟t think so. Now that I reconsider, I wish that I had just left that pile of clothes there. I wish that I had just learned to love him for his messy pile of clothes and accepted that giant mess rather than fighting with him to change it. The bitter struggle to deal with the laundry was clearly not worth it because it was just yet one of the nails in the coffin. Now in my mind‟s eyes I will probably always have a picture of that huge mess of clothing in Ross‟ room, and him sitting at his computer and me surveying the mess, and when I charge into a situation and I try to change things, I think I‟m always going to hesitate because there are simply currents that we cannot fight. Part of me thinks that while he drove me to a mental break down, I drove him to drinking and excessive pot smoking because I was constantly obsessing about the cleanliness of the house. I remember him telling me several times that he wasn‟t as fast as me, and I wouldn‟t listen to him because I would keep telling him, “well you just need to take
fifteen minutes or thirty minutes of your day and spend a little time cleaning.” It never occurred to me that even that might be asking too much. I know that he did try and that he did make and effort but it was never good enough and it never quite made a difference, and that was my mistake, and it breaks my heart because I want to go back in time and say to him, “Thank you for cleaning the kitchen, thank you for picking that up,” instead I think I just kept complaining about other messes. Part of me feels like I‟m going to have this awful guilt for the rest of my life and I‟m going to have to live with the knowledge that I was ungrateful and cruel and demanding, and that I destroyed a beautiful thing. Right now, I can barely sleep at night and I have a hard time eating because I‟m so consumed with guilt. This all reminds me about a story that I used to read as a child about a duck that was having a friend over for dinner. The duck found an ant scurrying through the kitchen, so the duck tried to get rid to the ant, and what ensued was a series of successively horrible disasters. At some point the duck tried to spray the ant with bug spray, but that didn‟t work because the ant hid behind the stove, and the duck didn‟t want to spray the food, so the duck moved the stove and tried to hit the ant with a frying pan. Then the duck broke a pipe and flooded the kitchen, and pretty soon the duck had brought down a kitchen wall and then practically destroyed the entire house. That‟s how I feel about Ross and I, I was trying to get the living room and the bedroom clean and I destroyed our engagement – an incredibly beautiful relationship – because I wanted things clean – and then on top of that, I think drove Ross to excessive drinking and marijuana use. Of course, I think he may have had a latent addiction problem to begin with before I arrived on the scene, but I still feel bad being the trigger because I still have nightmares given that my last memories of him are him coming home from work each day, going upstairs, getting really stoned, coming downstairs, eyes red, then pouring a drink, and sitting in front of the t.v. for hours. It was like I drove him to emotional and mental suicide. I still agonize over the situation because all my friends and family tell me, “Well you know, you did the right thing and you got out of a bad situation,” and everyone‟s patting me on the back, but I‟m thinking, “No! Not great for me. I‟m a horrible person.” Sure Ross might have ended up all drugged out and drunk out of his mind most of the time, but I think I pushed him there. Sometimes, I find myself wishing that I could just go back and take all those attacks away and just tell him, “you know what, the mess doesn‟t matter, I love you for who you are, and I don‟t care about the mess.” Then I look around me and remember I can‟t change the past and I remember I can‟t fight the current and I‟m just left accepting the horrible things I‟ve done. Time is current and I can‟t change time as much as I would love to go back and alter the past – and it is very tempting because if I had a time machine, I‟m pretty sure that I would be running through the door to jump back in time and tell myself – “Don‟t fight with Ross about the mess!” Still, I find myself wishing and dreaming from time to time, when I‟m not paying attention – I wish I could go back and do it over again. I don‟t think I‟ve ever wanted to do something over again – ever in my life – but this time I do, and that‟s a hard thing to
live with – the incredible regret that comes with realizing that you wish you could do it differently. Currents – particularly the past – are hard to escape – and I‟m always wondering how do I escape the past – how do I break the cycle and move past this loss of true love? In the ocean I would swim sidewise, in life, I‟m trying to do things differently the second time around the block. So now that I‟m not with Ross, I‟m given up one-night stands and quick hook-ups. I‟m not normally a dinner and movie guy; I usually do things in the opposite order – “let‟s just sleep together now and get the sex out of the way.” Now I‟m approaching relationships from the other angle, “let‟s start with conversations first, and then maybe we‟ll get to the sex.” The relationship that I had with Ross is still very salient and present and it still affects me in positive ways. For example, I used to be a very angry person, and now I‟m not. After the breakup, it became painful clear to me that anger gets me nowhere good – fast. Not that I didn‟t know this at some level in the past, but now this truth is indelible seared in my mind. Every time I start to become angry, I immediately see Ross‟ face and I can see his expression and the hurt on his face when I would be angry at him and just as quickly as I become angry, the anger fades. The same is true for being judgmental towards other people. That was another issue that drove a stake into our relationship – I can be very judgmental and critical towards other people. So, I think it‟s true that I am breaking out of my own currents, I am learning to be less angry and less judgmental. The anger is the most fascinating thing to consider. I was once so consumed with rage and bitterness and now I‟ve come to concretely realize that anger is totally useless – it does nothing good in the long run. Sure anger might be appropriate in a life or death situation, but honestly, how many of us are literally fighting physically for our lives in some kind of literal death match on day to day basis? I‟d warrant to say that very few of us are actually locked in ongoing, literal, physical, life and death struggles. Most of the time our struggles are mental, emotional, and spiritual in nature, and anger as a reaction doesn‟t do much good in the long run. Even in a life and death struggle, I‟d argue that anger isn‟t really helpful. If anything, I‟d say that anger is actually more harmful because anger is clouding judgment and anger will impair higher cognitive functions. This was something that was always impressed upon me in every martial arts class that I‟ve ever had, be it judo, kendo, kung fu, or tae kawando – anger is never a useful emotion for a martial artist. We are thinking creatures and thoughtful creatures and I would bet good money that a strong martial artist would beat an out of control anger person any day. Sure going out of control might feel good at the moment, but then you‟re out of control and things spin out of control and you probably will regret the consequences later. I know that I‟ve learned this lesson the hard way, and I suppose that I‟ll go to my grave with Ross‟ face always floating in front of me whenever I start to become angry because
it‟s sad but true, the last night that we together, was a dinner that we had together and I basically got angry at him and while I might have been technically right about the things that I was saying, I was still saying everything in anger and now I realize that I accomplished nothing other than pushing Ross away, upsetting him, and ending our relationship. I know that some people might say that it‟s okay to get angry a little, but I feel that a little anger is like a little alcohol for an alcoholic, if I get out of control when I‟m angry and my anger is destructive, then I feel that I should simply avoid ever getting angry. So why get irritated, why get frustrated. So I break out of the current. And I give up my neat obsession – because it‟s like the duck and the ant – because I‟ve realized – what‟s the point? I try to get the ant and I bring down the house. There was one day that I walked into a store and I started crying nonstop because they were playing that song that goes, “He‟s leaving on the midnight train to Georgia. I‟d rather live in his world, than live without him in mine.” I started thinking about Ross, of course, and broke down crying and wandered around the store for the longest time because they had a ten dollar minimum check out for credit cards and all I had was a gallon of milk and box of cereal which did not total ten dollars. This was my first night staying at the hostel-inn that I was at, so I needed to pick up some breakfast food and I wasn‟t sure what to get, so I just grabbed milk and cereal and then made circles around the store crying and then each successive song made the situation worse because each successive song was even more sentimental and reminded me even more about Ross and all my crying was making it very difficult for me to pick up items and figure out what to buy. So then I called my sister Lehua and tried to talk to her on the phone but I just cried more and sat down in the aisle and cried more and just cried and cried and I don‟t really remember how I pulled myself together, but at some point I managed to get up and finally I picked up a bunch of Vitamin Waters because those were what Ross really liked to drink – before I told them that they were making him fat – which made me cry more. So this all goes to remind me, what‟s important in life? The neat, orderly space or the relationships between myself and the people that I love? I regret to say that it took losing the love of my life to realize that things and neat spaces and an orderly home are not worth the cost of a happy relationship. I‟ve never really thought that things are important per se, but now I really know that things are not important. I know that often I am a very physical person – I pay attention to the physical and I pay attention to the here and now and aesthetics are very important to me. These was a big difference between Ross and I I think that Ross was primarily a mental person where I would be both a mental and physical person. Of course, there were times that I thought Ross wasn‟t really present in any plane, mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual – I think this was because he often heard music in his head as he was oft to say. It‟s strange because he of all people should have understood me. He heard music in his head – I see stories in my mind. It was funny because every so often Ross would come back at me with some kind of deep response to something that I said or did or asked, and I would always be impressed or amazed. I know that he‟s very smart, in fact, I‟d warrant that he‟s one of the smartest people I‟ve ever met, if not the smartest person. He just wasn‟t a very motivated person.
I have a very dual personality – I cognate constantly in a separate reality – you‟d never really know it from looking at me, but if you opened up my mind and pulled out all my thoughts you‟d have a massive library of movies and books - a whole plethora of literature that‟s constantly churning in my head. I‟m serious – I literally have my own unpublished library sitting in my head and when I‟m bored I take books off the shelf and read them. I know it sounds weird and I think sometimes this is why I‟m always on the verge of a mental breakdown because I feel guilty and bad because I‟m like, I shouldn‟t be able to do this, this isn‟t normal – normal people can‟t do this – normal people don‟t have an infinite series of unpublished titles – books and movies in their head that they can review at their leisure, but I do. I really do. Stick me in a room by myself and I‟ll happily twiddle my thumbs and stare at the walls and daydream – I could dream about The Kingdom with Seven Impenetrable Walls, or the Underworld of the Liches, the Land of Nightmares, the Planet of the Solar Trees, the Seven Schools of Magic, the Lord of all Things Dark and Terrible, The End of the Time and The End of the World, The End of the Universe, The Dark Thing in the Woods, the Silver Universe, The Feuding Kingdoms of Day and Night, Squirrels, Deep Waters, The Whale and the Star – these are just a few of endless stream of dreams that parade through my mind on constant basis. Sometimes, it‟s all I can do to stay afloat in this current and I think I do a good job interacting with reality, but honestly I have to say. People of this reality – you suck. Reality – you suck Reality sucks. I like my dreams infinitely better, and sometimes I think Ross was jealous of what I saw. I think he knew that I could step into alternate realties and alternate worlds with just a thought and without even closing my mind I was in another place and time. He was the first person that I ever confessed this to and the first person that I ever told my dreams to – not that I have dreams – but that my dreams are massive and infinite and living and constant. I suppose like he would claim to hear music in his head – I say that I see other worlds and other realities – I see other people, other times, other places. I hear other people and other places. I‟ve come to terms with this and I‟m happy and I‟m fine with this ability. I don‟t confuse those realities with this reality. I see the difference and with time I think I‟ll start to write stories about what I see and I suppose I‟ll label them as fiction, because isn‟t that what this is all about, narrative fictions? I am coming to terms with who I am the currents of my life just as I should have come to terms with the currents of Ross, but I couldn‟t because I wasn‟t willing to accept them. I think I was afraid of many things, chief amongst them being called crazy and mad – but he did call me crazy – he labeled me BPD – so I think that‟s why I was so leery around him and didn‟t fully open up to him, because I didn‟t trust him. I have worlds inside of me, massive civilizations. I can tell you their histories, their cultures, their rulers, their major battles, their epics, their rise and fall. I don‟t know why
I can do this and I don‟t know how I can do this. It just comes to me. Usually it starts with an image, a name, a thought or something simple – a trickle – then it becomes a flood and soon I‟m drowning in a flood of sensations that overwhelm me in sensory information. Sometimes the reality of the experience is connected to this reality in some remote way. Sometimes, and often – I am somehow present in the experience, but often it‟s just me, and the reality is completely alternate. These experiences are so intricate and so complicated that they‟re very difficult to describe period – if telepathy were possible, I suppose I could just share the experience, because to be honest even describing orally fails to capture the complete totality of everything – when I‟m having an experience I am literally there – it‟s like being inside a movie – it‟s great – I love it – it‟s fun, it‟s enjoyable – it‟s fascinating – and it‟s interesting. Sometimes, my greatest fear is that one of these days I‟m going to stay in one of those worlds and not come back. I wonder about that a lot, I wonder if I‟ll find that perfect world and that perfect person and then just stay there and never come back to this world. Then I met Ross and I wanted to stay in this world. For Ross I would be here, now, forever. I would work a minimum wage job forever and just do grunt labor just to see his face. Why? This is silly I tell myself. In my dreams I can be anyone anywhere anytime. Why am I coming back to Ross, why do I come back to this world? Why am I returning here? Why this place? Why this mortal coil? Perhaps for no other reason than my body is here and oddly enough, I have grown attached to my body, and I do like it and I want to take care of it and I do love my body. This is where Ross and I seemed to be at odds. Ross never seemed to be very physically devoted to his body. He never seemed to want to exercise as much as me or pay attention to his diet or take helpful supplements. He just seemed to want to engage in mental things, if that at all – often he seemed to want to sleep or watch t.v. or play video games or play on the computer. In other words, he just seemed to want to be entertained, which is fine to a point, but there‟s so much more to life than an endless entertainment feed and I found it disconcerting to watch him constantly watching t.v. It was surreal – me watching him watch t.v. Ross also never seemed to be particularly concerned about his physical surroundings – he never seemed to care about the state of the living room or the bedroom or the kitchen or any part of the house for that matter – it was if he was completely unaware of the physical environment. I was very fascinated because I always wondered what he saw. Did he even see the same things that I saw? Or did he see some other kind of pattern? I still wonder to this day how he sees the world. To me the physical world is always as important as the non-physical world. However, I also think the distinction between the two is spurious. I think there is no distinction. To me the distinction is a limitation of the mind. I think people apply the two terms because of limitations in perception, and thus people need to use labels to divvy up the world. To me it‟s all the same because you are a person who has thoughts and ambitions, occupying a physical body, influencing a physical space – you‟re part of a system and a world – why draw distinctions?
I think Ross saw himself as separate from the physical world, at least I think this because he would often say I was more physical than he. It‟s funny in a tragic way that we clashed in this regard because he always seemed to be attempting to achieve some kind of emotional and spiritual harmony while I was trying to organize the physical space, and I tried to point out that having harmony in our physical space would give us emotional and spiritual harmony. I guess he didn‟t really understand feng shui. And for my part, I should have just understood that I was fighting an impossible current. The television was another battle that I should have just let go, because that was one of Ross‟ favorite activities, and it was a stupid battle for me to fight. The television was always a sore point with me because I felt like Ross wanted to pay more attention to the television than me, and that was incredibly upsetting for me. Of course, it makes sense from his perspective because he probably doesn‟t have the gargantuan imagination that I have, and so watching t.v. was his important source of entertainment. For me, I‟d rather not watch t.v., and I‟d rather day dream because my dreams are much usually much, much more interesting, but then I doubt it‟s very interesting for Ross to listen to me describe what it is that I‟m seeing because it‟s like listening to someone watching a t.v., but you can‟t see the t.v. and all you can perceive is what the other person is describing in terms of what they are seeing – I‟m sure Ross got very tired of listening to me talk about what was going on in my mind. I think one of the greatest difficulties with currents, particularly strong currents, is that it‟s not always obvious that you‟re fighting them or that they‟re present. With Ross and I, it wasn‟t until too late that I realized that there were issues between us that would never change and that I was attacking the wrong things. On top of all this, Ross can be incredibly passive, so it was rarely clear that I was doing the wrong thing until I hit the point that I realized, “Shit, I‟m fucking up major – big time.” This was something that really upset me with him, he never indicated to me that I was pushing the envelop to the edge of the table until the envelop had hit the floor and was trampled on the floor. To me, that‟s poor communication skills because when someone is pushing your buttons in a bad way, you need to tell that person to back off and stop what they‟re doing. It‟s not fair to tell that person two month later, “Oh by the day, you really pissed me off for two months, and now I‟m going to take it out on you by doing this.” That's what Ross did to me. He was upset at me for a while, a month or more he claimed – and then one day he just told me that we weren‟t going to live together anymore. He never really discussed or told me the degree or extent to which I had been upsetting him, and I wish that he had made it clear how much I was upsetting him. It really hurt me that he couldn‟t be clear and up front with me at the beginning and clearly put his foot down and say strongly, “You‟re upsetting me tremendously, you need to stop what you are doing or I don‟t think we‟re going to be able to live together,” rather than letting things get to the point where he felt he needed to make that decision and just tell me, “You‟ve upset me tremendously, we‟re not living together.” I think that if you can‟t effectively communicate with the person that you love, to whom your engaged – then there‟s something deeply amiss – I
don‟t know if he simply has fundamental communication problems approaching people regarding difficult conversations in areas of confrontation. I think the trick with understanding the deep currents in people is determining what is an irresistible force and what is not. One issue with irresistible forces is that you don‟t necessarily realize that they‟re unchangeable traits, habits or behaviors until too late. It would be nice to know and it would make life great for everyone if we would alert other people when they start to run into our irresistible forces. I think it‟s a decent courtesy to indicate to another person, “You‟re pushing my buttons in a bad way,” or “You‟re hitting a wall with me.” I think it would have been best for both Ross and I if he had just said at the very beginning of the relationship, “I‟m a very messy person, I‟m not going to change, you‟re not going to change me, don‟t try to change me, don‟t try to make me change, and don‟t even bother trying to clean because I‟m just going to mess things up. You‟re just going to bring conflict and strife into the relationship so give this up.” And then we would have both moved on and been happy. I‟m sure I would have done little cleaning projects here and there, but nothing like the constant and major cleaning wars that I was fighting in error. Instead it was always this passive avoidance technique of “Daniel‟s cleaning – I‟ll let him do it, and hide while he‟s doing the cleaning,” or “I‟ll watch him clean and clean until he‟s so frustrated and angry and then we‟ll fight about why he‟s frustrated and angry.” Ross would occasionally help in minor ways, but most of the time he just hung out on the sidelines watching me get increasingly frustrated. So it was this constant and vicious cycle of me struggling to clean the mess – growing increasingly frustrated and angry – and Ross passively watching me – feeling my anger and frustrating and resenting my anger and frustration, and then getting pissed of and angry with me for getting pissed off an angry with him. It‟s amazing the vicious cycles that we engage in because we‟re not strong or brave enough to just step up to the plate and say, “Enough is enough, we need to stop this.” I think if Ross had clearly and firmly stopped me from obsessing over the cleaning, then I would have simply looked at things and said, “Okay, I guess that‟s not going to happen,” and I would have moved on to something else. I think the same would go for the television watching, if Ross had just said, “This is what I like to do, and this is what I‟m going to do, and you just need to accept this,” then I think I would have accepted that reality and again, I would have focused my energy and attention on something else – rather than wasting it on a useless campaign to get him to stop watching television. I think we all have very powerful forces and very strong currents flowing in us that we can never alter or change, and I think that we owe it to ourselves and the people around us to acknowledge these forces and be true to ourselves and say – “This is who I am, this is how I‟m going to be, and I will not change no matter what, so you‟re going to have to accept me or leave me alone.” And I know that I would have accepted Ross for who he was. After all, we both had HIV, and I still loved him and I still wanted to be with him and I wanted to marry him, I think that if I could get past something like that, I could certainly get past messiness and being a couch potato.
If we don‟t tell other people when they hit our currents or walls or whatever you want to call it – we‟re doing ourselves and other people a disservice. If we don‟t tell other people, “What you‟re trying to get me to change, will never change. This is who I am, this is how I‟m going to be, and this what I‟m going to do, and if you‟re trying to get me to change, you‟re just wasting your energy and time and you‟re going to make both of us unhappy. ” It‟s sad because Ross‟ last words to me were, “I hate you.” To me, we really drove each other apart with our fighting, but more particularly – it was our fighting with each other on things that we could never change and yet in some misguided notion, we thought we could change. Ironically, I think that if we had just stepped back from the situation and realized, we can‟t change these things, I think that both of us would have been happy to accept and embrace the other person, instead the knives came out and the bloodletting started and it just turned into a war zone. I suppose that‟s what happens when you combine to strong willed people and they clash at a fundamental level. Yet, now I know the importance of accepting and tolerating because I‟m realize that there must be many professional relationships as well as romantic relationships and friendships that go down in flames because one party is trying to make the other party change, and it‟s a situation where one side needs to say to the other side, “You‟re not going to change me – stop trying to change this situation.” To this day, I want nothing more than to put my arms around him and say I‟m sorry and ask his forgiveness and put everything behind us, and I know it seems silly, but what can I say? I know for my part what I did to destroy the relationship, and I‟ve come to terms with that, and I regret it and I‟m deeply sorry for it. The past sits there as the greatest of currents and it hurts – it really, really hurts – and time and reality become things that you simply cannot control. Now that Ross and I aren‟t together, this is one of the things that I‟m constantly tormented by, “Is Ross seeing someone else? Is he sleeping with someone else? What if he‟s having unprotected sex with someone else?” or worse, “What if he‟s having sex with women? What if he‟s turned straight?” Then there‟s the case of his dubious friend Mike, the one that likes to make jokes about clowns molesting and killing little kids, and Ross once confessed that he and Mike had fooled around together, and so I panic and think, “What if Ross is rebounding into Mike‟s arms?” Of course Mike is presumably mostly straight, but still…It‟s sad because I did object to certain things that Mike would say, like the clown jokes, and I think that drove a wedge between Ross and I because Mike had been one of Ross‟ closest friends, if not his closest friend for something like eight years, and I think that the end Ross felt like he had to make choice between Mike and I. All these crazy scenarios go through my mind, Yet, I know intrinsically that I cannot control these things and I just have to let it all go. These are all the anxieties and fears that I have and I have to just let them flow around and past me like currents that I cannot control. Fear and anxiety – these are the currents that flowed from me – the currents that overwhelmed Ross, and I think that this is what Ross tried to change and neither of us
were able to stop. The abuse and neglect that I experienced as a child are forces that I have tried to change, alter, and ignore – with little or no success it seems. Likewise, I‟ve seen many therapists, psychiatrists, doctors – and then friends and family members have also tried to help me – and Ross of course did what he could to try to change the tide. To be honest, I don‟t know how I will ever come to fully heal from what happened to me as a child. I live with pain and fear on daily basis and it never seems to get better, in fact it often seems to get worse. For example, as a child, I was beaten – spanked – whipped – whatever you want to call it – for wetting the bed. The fact of the matter is you don‟t spank or beat or whip a child for wetting the bed – it‟s essentially and involuntary behavior that occurs when sleeping and a severe physical punishment like that does nothing but instill pain and fear in the worst possible ways. Perhaps the worst memories of my life are waking up with the bed wet, the sheets wet, and my pajamas wet, and the awful realization that I would be beaten for wetting the bed – what made the experience so much worse was the overwhelming and salient knowledge that a severe and painful punishment was coming and that there was nothing that I could do to stop it and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it – powerlessness – that was the worst part of the experience – the fear and powerlessness. Then there was my mother on the sidelines, who as aware of everything, but today claims to remember nothing. I don‟t know what her issue was then. She did nothing to protect me. She didn‟t try to clean up or hide the mess or shield me from my father‟s wrath. I don‟t know if mind was still fried from all the drugs she used or she was just too self absorbed to see how much fear and terror I was experiencing. To be honest, I don‟t think she should have ever been a mother. She was the worst possible mother in the world. I think I probably would have been better off if the state had taken me away – although who knows, I might have just ended up shuffled around from foster home to foster home with more people to beat and abuse me. So maybe it was better that I just stayed in one place with just a few people to beat and abuse me. My mother‟s attitude was always, “Well, you just wait until your father gets home,” because he‟d be out surfing, so I‟d just sit there in my wet clothes on the wet bed, waiting for the inevitable lashing. My parent‟s philosophy was that I should have woken up and gotten myself out of beat, therefore if I wet the bed I deserved a beating in order that I be motivated to wake up at future points. The results were not what they expected. To this day, I still have a phobia about my bladder. I have constant anxiety when I feel my bladder getting full and I immediately want to go to the restroom whereever I might be – whether in a meeting or a movie or wherever.
Maybe if my father had been a gardner, I‟d see life analogous to a growing tree or garden or something similar. Maybe if my father had been a carpenter I‟d see life like a construction project. He was a surfer and I‟m glad that he was because I see life as an endless surfing trip – and I‟m happy for that. I will never stop looking forward to tomorrow. I will never stop being excited to see the next day. I‟m thrilled to try new adventures and I‟m not afraid to fall on my face. Surfing is all about starting on the shore and going out and coming back and then going out and then coming back – it‟s about cycles – and it never ends. Unlike many other sports, it doesn‟t really have a time limit, there‟s no specific objective, there‟s no opposing team, you can‟t lose, there‟s no true beginning or end to the activity, and it really is endless. I will always be overjoyed to see the sunrise, because that‟s what surfing is all about, the dawn patrol, the next day – those are my earliest memories. t.s. elliot said, “in my end is my beginning,” I would say, “in my beginning is my end,” because I know that when I die I will be looking forward towards the sun and sea and I will be looking out at waves whether in reality or just in my mind because that‟s how I see life – it‟s just an endless set of waves. You ride them or you break your neck.