Where Are Your Demons?

Abyss
Abyss

*Note…after I wrote this, my son woke up. With blankies and his juice, he curled up at my side and we sat together in the silence of the house. Lying his head on my shoulder, he said “love you, mom,” and in that moment, there was not a single black ooze in sight. He reminds me almost every day that amidst the darkness is a light so pure as to burn the rest away…and it doesn’t even matter if it is only for a little while.

Something to be pondered for later. For now… the demons:

This is the Way the Morning Arrived

What is your capacity for kindness?

Are you kind to strangers? To people that you know? Coworkers? Family?

Are you kind to yourself?

I have lost my capacity for kindness. I am not sure where it went or when it went, but the soul-kind has left the building. I’m not saying I am a terrible person to people (though I do have that ability), but rather that the underlying kind is gone.

I used to be nice.

Maybe.

Was there a time I did not see the dark in everything that goes on around me?

Perhaps there was a time that not everything was met with a snarky thought or an awareness of banality. I am not talking about truth, in all of its variable and changing versions, but a kind of permeation that saturates everything with insincerity and surface application.

I have done so much to tackle and try to tame the beast that is my personality and depression. I have books and books on spiritual Christain, Jew and Muslin thought. On yoga. On meditation. Mindfulness. I have worked with people on how to be nicer. I have stood in a Tree Pose. I have prayed. I have meditated.

I have worked on how to see the world with a glow rather than with a black that drips from everything in a slow ooze.

I sound like an angsty teenager.

Have I never grown up?

Lost.

Somewhere.

I am not sure where.

Why do I bring this up today?

A couple of things.

First. I was a complete and terrible human being to my husband this morning. I had dreams all night about him and his mum going off on me ala what happened this summer when we visited her for two weeks. I won’t go into the details, but suffice to say that those masks I talked about, well mine was forced onto my face whilst kicking and screaming. It took me months after we returned to even be somewhat okay, and apparently I am not okay if last night’s dreams are any indication.

Second. I went on and did my usual peruse of wordpress, twitter, facebook etc. and there were so many quotes from Buddha, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Jesus that I shut my computer with a slam. Quotes about the way we think is the way we are. Quotes about filling every step with peace, love, and joy.

All of those things that sound wonderful, that people subscribe to, that I have subscribed to on numerous occasions… but yet have not done a damn thing to disappear the darkness that I see every damn day.

I know, and I have worked, and I have meditated on my way of thinking. I have worked to change the negative to positive. I have tried, so very, very hard to create a positive outlook.

And I can’t do it.

I would like to think that once upon a time I was kind.

The way we think is the way we are.

I would like to think that once upon a time I had ability to see pureness in people.

The way we are.

Demons. Dark. Deep.

They can’t be pulled out with a tweezer of thought.

They are embedded.

They have taken life times to create chasms.

They are not eradicated by a thought.

Where do we go from here?

Restless with Tea

Ruins
Ruins

You want to know why I enjoy apocalyptic fiction?

I’m sure you do.

It’s because petty bullshit goes away when faced with the apocalypse. When trying to survive the destruction of humankind, there is less room for people to be obsessed with things.

Should we eat bacon!?

Sure. Because we’ll probably be dead by tomorrow anyway!

Should we eat sugar?

See answer above.

What about breastfeeding?

Oh, well that is a cheap way to feed your baby… but why the hell are you having babies anyway?! We’re all going to die!

Seriously. The amount of time, angst, judgement, and other mostly negative interactions that people have with one another would entirely disappear if the apocalypse faced us.

Maybe that’s why people like to read, write, and discuss the end of humankind. There is an awful lot of that, and it has been around for quite some time. Top of my head, the oldest reference I know of is Revelations, though I am sure there are earlier references. Just taking it from the New Testament, that is a good couple of centuries.

Now, it is all about zombies. Zombies, zombies everywhere. And the killing of zombies. And the surviving from being killed by zombies.

The eventual doom of humans.

Why the fascination?

I really do think it has to do with the exploration of stripping away all the excess and taking a good look at the bare bones.

Sometimes those bare bones are pretty stark indeed. I am thinking of Cormac McCarthy’s Road. That book is the epitome of bleak… but no one is talking about breast is best or whether or not bacon will kill you.

I don’t really care about the bacon thing. I am one of the few people in the world that doesn’t like bacon. The breastfeeding thing is a particular point for me, but that is probably best left for another post. Those really are just two examples in a huge amount of examples that show off our privileged lives; lives that allow us the room and ability to care so much and be so vehement about views that have nothing to do with making it through the day.

I am not advocating the end of the world, at least not today, but it is an interesting thought exercises.

What would you care about if faced with the end of humankind?

Masks and Burning It Down

Some say the end is near. Some say we'll see Armageddon soon. I certainly hope we will. I sure could use a vacation from this Bullshit three ring circus sideshow of freaks
Some say the end is near.
Some say we’ll see Armageddon soon.
I certainly hope we will.
I sure could use a vacation from this
Bullshit three ring circus sideshow of freaks

Last week, I wrote about the Mask, also known in the Jungian-verse as the Persona. These are the identities that we assign ourselves and they consist of a myriad of different masks that we have and use. Think of the mask as a role, and the idea might be slightly clearer.

The interesting thing about how Jung viewed the Persona/Mask is he felt that they are necessary for the well-being of society. I put my mask on because it is my duty to social peace, and social progress.

This goes against my 90s Seattle-self. The grunge and hard rock era of Nirvana and Marilyn Manson, when those who were in their teens embraced a f*ck society kind of approach to the world, all the while attempting to discover our authentic selves. We resisted any attempt by our parents, teachers, and elders to place identities upon us, and those who did “conform” to social expectations were shunned and looked down upon as weak and willing.

This is the environment I grew up in.

Fast forward a couple of decades.

I am a mom, wife, and daughter.

I am a writer.

I am, as my lovely friend so lovingly puts it, a big-headed owl.

Which of those things are my authentic self?

None.

But also all of them. Just a little bit.

When I was a teenager, and even more so when I was in college surrounded by super-rich assholes and professors that catered to them, I wondered at my authentic self. I was angry. I viewed the world through a lens of red upon a pedestal of self righteousness.

Was that, then, my authentic self?

Or is it who I am now, sitting on my couch in my yoga pants, too big Old Navy sweatshirt, and computer on my lap? I count down the minutes until I have to leave to pick up my son from pre-school, while simultaneously trying to be there for my husband who stayed home from work today because he isn’t feeling good.

Wife. Mother. Writer.

Are these aspects of my authentic self, or are they masks that I wear?

And that is where the interesting dichotomy lies.

The mask, according to Jung, is that aspect that you perform in order to better society. Put it like that, I sort of see myself wearing a mask when I am unfailingly polite to the cashier at the grocery store or my local barista. I might be in a terrible mood, but those individuals will never know it.

Jung says that the “persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual.”

But what if the persona/mask is deeper than the fake smile you plaster on your face for strangers? Is the mask at the level of identity? What is this “true nature of the individual?”

Identity is an amazingly complex and confusing rabbit hole. What is it? How do we become it? What is the purpose of it?

These are questions that philosophers have tackled for as long as there has been the ability to tackle complex thought. The basis, however, is the need to have an identity. I find myself most at sea, most lost, when I am not able to say I am something that I respect, or the identity structure I have created is unraveling because of a lack of success, or inability.

So. Where is the line? Where is the link between our authentic self, that identity that is our true being, and those masks we place on in order to fit in, and in order to better society?

Is my role as mother, wife, or daughter a mask, or an aspect of my true self?

What about writer?

Cook?

Reader?

Or perhaps the line does not exist and there are pieces of me scattered like the red, orange, and brown leaves scattered across my front yard.

Pieces.

Jung says that “if we do not fashion for ourselves a picture of the world, we do not see ourselves either, who are the faithful reflections of that world. Only when mirrored in our picture of the world can we see ourselves in the round. Only in our creative acts do we step forth into the light and see ourselves whole and complete. Never shall we put any face on the world other than our own, and we have to do this precisely in order to find ourselves. For higher than science or art as an end in itself stands man, the creator of his instruments.”

My world is fragmented. Perhaps that is a clue.

I am fragmented in my fragmented world, with a need of restructuring.

Rethinking.

That seems to be a theme.

What are the masks that you wear? Do you feel they are a piece of your authentic self, or entirely separate?

The Shadow

          Shadow Man
Shadow Man

We did persona and the anima/animus earlier this week. I will talk a little bit about my progress with those archetypes next week, but before Friday bleeds to the weekend, I thought I would put another archetype out there for you to mull over.

This one is the most intense, in my very humble opinion.

Let me know what you come up with.

Terminology and Names

Archetype: Universal, primordial images

C.G. Jung: Born July 26, 1875, Jung was a Swiss psychologist who founded analytical psychologist, as well as coined the terms “archetype,” “collective unconscious,” and “extroversion and introversion.”

Collective Unconsciousness: A shared unconsciousness, different than a personal unconsciousness

Projection: A process of placing a shadow trait on someone else, or something else

Shadow: Archetype that embodies that dark or negative

In his book on primitive mythology, Joseph Campbell explains that “a polarity of light and dark, above and below, guidance and loss of bearings, confidence and fears (a polarity that we all know from our own traditions of thought and feeling and can find matched in many parts of the world) must be reckoned as inevitable in the way of a structuring principle of human thought.”. Jung, much more succinctly, says that man “ought never to forget that the world exists only because opposing forces are held in equilibrium” (Jung).

There is light and there is dark. There is God and there is the Devil; such is duality of nature. In his Red Book, Jung says that it was only by recognizing his shadow (which he calls the serpent), uniting himself with it as a man would with a woman, does he negate the influence the shadow has on his person.

“Thus I built a firm structure. Through this I myself gained stability and duration and could withstand the fluctuations of the personal. Therefore the immortal in me is saed. Through drawing the darkness from my beyond over into the day, I emptied my beyond” (Jung)

The Shadow

“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is” (Jung).

The Shadow is one of the hardest archetypes to confront, as the very definition of the soul’s archetype are those things that remain hidden in the darkness. The shadow is those things that we do not like in other people; the slips of tongue that cause embarrassment; the flashes of darkness that everyone of us experience at points in our lives.

“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges that whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge, and it therefore, as a rule, meets with considerable resistance” (Jung).

Jung speaks specifically of the idea of projection; the process of projecting on others and the world an illusion-based reality.

So, what do you fear?

What do you dislike in others?

Where is your shadow?

A Beginning

The Masks
The Masks

I mentioned in my post yesterday that one method of self discovery is understanding how we interact and assign meaning to certain archetypes. A name for this journey is individuation. Individuation is a spirit journey, “the process by which a person becomes a psychological ‘in-dividual,’ that is, a separate, indivisible unity or whole” (Jung).

C.G. Jung underwent a series of self-examinations during a three-year period (1913 – 1916), using creative methodology to find his personal myth. This process of individuation he collected and later put together in one folio he called Liber Novus, better known as The Red Book.

The process he underwent was a deeply personal one, and during that time he continued his professional work, developing his theories on the psychological types introvert and extrovert; and later, partially due to his personal exploration, the idea of archetypes and the collective unconsciousness.

I say we undertake a journey of our own, going through the different archetypes and exploring how we view them. Let’s start at the beginning and work through how each archetype gives us clues as to what is True for us (understanding that Truth is not a singular construct).

Before we get started, however, let me break down some terminology.

Collective Unconscious

“A more or less superficial layer of the unconscious is undoubtedly personal. I call it the personal unconscious. But this personal unconscious rests upon a deeper layer, which does not derive from personal experience and is not a personal acquisition but is inborn. This deeper layer I call the collective unconscious. I have chosen the term ‘collective’ because this part of the unconscious is not individual but universal; in contrast to the personal psyche, it has contents and modes of behavior that are more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals. It is, in other words, identical in all men and thus constitutes a common psychic substrate of a suprapersonal nature which is present in every one of us” (Jung).

This is the home place of archetypes as Jung explained it.

…and just to reiterate.

Archetypes

Ancient mythologies, religious texts, fairy tales and modern media all deal with the SAME kind of forms and images that appear to transcend time and place. Jung says the “archetype is essentially an unconscious content that is altered by becoming conscious and by being perceived, and it takes colour from the individual consciousness in which it happens to appear.”

Archetypes have no inherent meaning, the viewer (the subject, us) assigns meaning, but we know them when we see them. Most anyone has and does attach meaning to the concept of “mother,” “hero,” or “trickster.”  Jung used archetypes in his work with patients, having them “converse” with different archetypes as a way of reducing their psychosis in the way of an alchemist reducing metals into their pure form. He called this active imagination.

THE ARCHETYPES

anonymous-maskPersona

“The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual… Society expects, and indeed must expect, every individual to play the part assigned to him as perfectly as possible…” (Jung).

The persona, the mask, is an essential aspect of society’s health. We must play roles; neurosis develops when those roles overtake the individual self. The Mask has always existed as a Role(s) that is required. We, through interaction and social pressure, assign meaning to the universal image. Often times this meaning is in the form of our gender-based identity as a male or female.

Anima/Animusyin-yang-male-female

“It is a well-known fact that sex is determined by a majority of male or female genes, as the case may be. But the minority of genes belonging to the other sex does not simply disappear. A man therefore has in him a feminine side, an unconscious feminine figure – a fact of which he is generally quite unaware. I may take it as known that I have called this figure the ‘anima,’ and its counterpart in a woman the ‘animus'” (Jung).

In correlation and intertwining with the idea of the persona, is the idea that we encompass both the masculine and feminine. Like the idea of yin/yang, we combine the male and female to create an individual structure, SEPARATE, from the persona that we present to the world.

The anima/animus are those flashes of “otherness” that take hold on occasion, those quick feelings that are opposite of how we would normally act. Our anima/animus present themselves in dreams (day or sleeping) and in bursts of energy, thought, or even vocalization that is at direct odds to how you would normally act.  

Where to Go From Here

With the persona and the anima/animus in hand, where should we start our exploration, or more specifically, where am I going to start my journey? My persona and my animus are linked, pieces of identity, but as I have talked so much about social expectations and what I am versus what is expected of me, I think I am going to start with the masks… the persona.

This should be interesting.

Where is your jumping off point?

Rediscover Self with Archetypes

Jung's amazing Red Book... a journey of self discovery
Jung’s amazing Red Book… a journey of self discovery

I have dusted off the books. On my desk there is a stack of C.G. Jung books that I have not delved in for at least a year. They are well-worn from my days in grad school, combined with the years of thumbing through to read passages here and there.

I have forgotten how brilliantly well done are his ideas.

I have vast array of different Jung material, but by far my favorite and most insightful take away from Jung is the idea of archetype. It is a fairly common word now, with a lot of people understanding what an archetype is and is not, but just in case, here is a brief overview of the original definition.

The Archetype

Archetype is an idea or theme that is primordial, meaning it is something that exists before we assigned meaning to it. It does not ave inherent meaning, more it is an empty vessel, something that we dump meaning into thereby creating individualistic meaning, unique for us as the interactor.

Archetypes include God and Goddess, Mother, Father, Hero, Trickster, Shadow, Persona and of course the Anima/Animus (Jung terms for our opposite gender side). There are others, but those are some of the most familiar.

The beauty of archetypes is that they, by their very nature, malleable. They are reflections of us and our society.

Superheroes are a perfect example of this phenomenon. Read a 1940s superhero comic (Superman) and you are going to get a much different picture than a 1980s superhero (The Watchmen) and the 2015 superhero (Thor, Ironman, Hawkeye, etc. etc.). These heroes are reflections of the social construct that created them. The creators and the audience mold the hero to be relevant to current issues, thought, and culture.

How cool is that, seriously.

And it isn’t just comic books. No. It is art: literature, music, art. All the creative endeavors that surround us are made up of archetypal thought patterns, reflecting and broadcasting the way society sees and hears and knows the world. It is why art (in all its forms) is so incredibly important.

It shows us reality no matter how much time has passed, or how our own thoughts influence the current outcome… art is like a time machine.

Magnificent.

But I got off track.

Archetypes.

Archetypes is the bones of it all.

Jung identified them and believed that in understanding our relationship to archetypes, we are able to know more about ourselves. It is self study, a way of finding and understanding our own myth:

“I was driven to ask myself in all seriousness: ‘what is the myth you are living.’ I found no answer to this question, and had to admit that I was not living with a myth, or even in a myth, but rather in an uncertain cloud of theoretical possibilities which I was beginning to regard with increasing distrust… So in the most natural way, I took it upon myself to get to know “my” myth, and regarded this as the task of tasks—for—so I told myself—how could I, when treating my patients, make due allowance for the personal factor, for my personal equation, which is yet so necessary for a knowledge of the other person, if I was unconscious of it?”  (Jung, Red Book, 15)

What is our myth? How do we view the archetypes I listed above? If they are but empty vessels, everything that we think about those identities, those ideas, are significant in understanding ourselves.

It is a road map to the psyche.

How brilliant is that?

Death

My grandfather died last month.

He was sick for a long time, being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the late 90s. Two years ago I walked into his room at his veteran’s hospital/care facility, and I was a stranger to him. He remembered my mom, but to him I was still the little girl with the curly blond hair and the big blue eyes.

Not me now, with the glasses, the dark hair, and the wrinkles.

Not aged.

Not with the heaviness of life dragging my step.

He remembered me young. Perhaps not carefree (I don’t think I have ever been carefree), but definitely with an innocence and a peace that no longer exists. He recalled the little girl that used to walk around in his too-big wellies, following his every step through the garden.

I am glad that is how he remembered me.

It is in those days that I hold some of my most precious memories as well.

This particular blog post is a tribute to my grandfather. I loved him hugely, completely… sort of like the bear hugs he was always bestowing. I have not talked about his passing, or written about it. I am not good with grief. I hoped the choking feeling would sort of go away. The sadness would fade without me having to do anything in particular.

It hasn’t.

So this is my tribute. This is my grandfather.

He was a quiet man. He had watery, light-blue eyes with bushy eyebrows and a beard the same color of rain-cloud gray. He always had a belly. A great lover of sweets and food in general, my grandmother was always getting after him about what he ate. He largely ignored her, sneaking in the sweets when he could, and that second helping too.

The way I remember my grandpa most is with a belly, gray beard and bushy eyebrows, a twinkle in his eyes that he always bestowed upon me, and kindness, a warmth and love that always shined down on me.

Always.

My mom was 16 when she had me, so for the first couple of years of life, I lived with my grandparents. I have impressions of those times. He was the quiet man who didn’t say much but was always watching. He made me a doll house for my Barbies in his wood shop and created with his strong and calloused fingers the table and chairs that now sits in my son’s room more than 30 years later.

He never said much. His love was in the showing. The giving.

In being aware of what would make the people he loved smile.

Partially deaf from his time in Korea, he could always hear helicopters before everyone else. Looking back, I think he knew that I got a kick out of it, because he would never fail to come find me and tell me a helicopter was going to fly overhead. The deafness meant that he would watch the nightly news with an earphone, the long cord connecting the television to his ear. I would crawl into his lap, secure, loved, always knowing that I had a place there, that I was accepted there, that for him, I mattered.

When I got too big to sit on his lap, I would sit on the floor in front of his chair, leaning up against the side of his leg. Every once in awhile he would place his palm on the top of my head.

Reassuring.

He would stand up for me. The only time I heard him yell was when my sister (two years younger) took my toys in the way she did all the time, and though most people told me to share with my little sister, he told my little sister to give those toys back to me.

He was always on my side.

I stayed at my grandparents a lot. Even as I got older, I would stay there for periods of time in the summer. It was and still is one of my most precious of places. My grandfather never really slept, existing on five or six hours asleep. It might have been from his days in the Navy, or perhaps it was just a natural inclination; whatever the case, every morning before he would go to work, driving the 45 minutes to his job as county examiner, he would whip together batter for pancakes. Nothing, ever, has tasted as good as my grandpa’s pancakes first thing in the morning.

He also made the best popcorn.

I love popcorn, perhaps because of him. At night after dinner, every once in awhile he would get a hankering for popcorn. The smell of oil, the smell of popped corn, and the nightly news.

He introduced me to musicals. He taped “Oklahoma!,” “Show Boat,” and “South Pacific” to watch together. He knew I loved Anne of Green Gables. When the series came on PBS, he recorded the entirety of it.

There were rows of VHS tapes containing shows that he knew my sister and I would like. Christmas specials. Movies. The first time I saw E.T. was from a television special he recorded for me. He constantly showed how much he cared by these little gestures of thought. He never said “I love you.”

He never had to.

The meaning of work, and working well, is also one of his legacies.

I spent one summer moving wood from the pile next to the barn, to the shed in the back. Listening to Smashing Pumpkins on my Walkman, I would load the yellow wheel barrow up with wood, hands encased in too-big garden gloves. I would then wheel it to the back and stack the wood in precise lines, making a wall in the shed. My grandpa would come home from work, NPR blaring as he drove down the dirt road, announcing his arrival, and I would wait for him to inspect what I had done.

He would, never saying anything other to make a suggestion or two.

Then he would hand over some cash and tell me “good job.”

It was my first taste of being recognized for a job well done.

The last time I really got to see my grandfather was immediately following graduation from college. He had sent me money in congratulations and I used it to fly to Alaska where he was living at the time with my aunt and uncle. It was many years after his initial diagnosis. Much more slender, the belly all but gone, his hands shook noticeably and his movements were limited.

His smile, though, it was the same. As was the bushy eyebrows and the beard, and when I sat next to him on the porch, leaning my head up against his knee as he sat in his chair, the feeling of his palm on the top of my head was just as I remembered.

Safe. Reassuring.

As if I mattered.

I loved my grandfather with all my being. I still love him, and as I sit here and write this I am crying for the first time since his passing. He was the quiet giant in my life. The constant in a world that has very few of those. I never had to, but I always knew on some level, that if needed he would fight to the death for me.

I miss you grandpa. I hope your somewhere awesome, eating your triple caramel brownies, eating your popcorn, and watching “South Pacific.” Maybe one day we can watch it together again.

Save me some popcorn.

Parenting and the Break of a New Era

Parenting in my house
Parenting in my house

Parenting is hard. In my opinion parenting is one of the best and worst things that anyone can go through. You have these amazing highs and then you have these amazing lows, and they can happen within mere seconds of each other.

There is this idea before becoming a parent that you will be able to handle the stress, and the complications, and no matter what happens you will always love your child. And all of this is pretty accurate. What you don’t realize is that there will be this terrible, horrible guilt that will constantly plague you. Why?

Because you will forever and always feel that you are doing everything wrong.

Because of the worry that something you are doing will forever impact your child’s life in a profoundly negative way.

Because of the need, the almost overwhelming instinct, to take away their pain, both the pain they experience now and the pain of the future; like the pain of bullies, of broken hearts, of not being good enough in someone’s eyes. Those pains that have never even happened yet.

My husband and I were married for six years before we decided to try for a child. We weren’t even sure we wanted to have a child; not sure if bringing a human being into this messed up world was a good decision. There was and is so much terribleness in the world, and we wondered if it would be fair to bring someone, knowingly, into the screwed up situation.

I remember at the time, I was talking with one of my co-workers who had two children of his own. His children were(are) adults and they were(are) fairly successful and normal human beings. He told me, as I was wondering in the wandering way I do, that my husband and I should have a child because we would raise a conscientious, kind child in a world of hate and terribleness. He explained that the world needs children who are raised by smart, loving adults because those children, in turn, would become smart and loving adults.

I liked the argument at the time and thought there was something to his point of view.

I question it now.

I look at my son and worry. Constantly. Hopefully only a fraction of my worry is apparent to him, because if any more is, oh boy is he going to need some therapy.

Seriously, I worry, because as the years have gone by I have realized that sometimes it just doesn’t matter what the parent does. We can be intelligent, loving and kind parents, and we might raise someone who will be addicted to heroine and steals for a living. We might help him through the rough patches in life (as much as we are able) and provide a loving home for him always and forever… he might still hate us and never want to come back to that loving home. There are so many negative outcomes, so many pitfalls facing my son as he gets older, and we, as the loving and kind parents, seem to have such a very small influence.

I am a reasonably smart individual, and I know that stressing and worrying about the future pitfalls he faces is not going to help the situation; so, instead I worry about the current pitfalls. Am I helping him enough with his speech issues (he has problems saying ‘k,’ ‘l,’ and ‘f’ correctly), or should I be doing more? Is there more that I should be doing for his reading? His counting? Am I obsessing so much that I am causing a psychosis in him?

9f507f11da50326da31415b94ef93caeBecause here’s the thing: I KNOW I have a myriad of psychosis, obviously if you have read anything that I’ve written over the last week, but hell no do I want those psychosis to move on to my child. Not everything is going to be rainbows and happiness all the time, obviously, but if I could somehow create a barrier between my psycho self and his fragile being, I would sleep better at night.

Where is the line? Where is the balance?

And of course, where is that point where social standards start influencing me as the parent? Where do my instincts come in? Do I even know what is good and what is bad for him? Does his teacher? Does his peers?

And I suppose that is where it is, because there is no answer but to do the best you can do and hope it doesn’t keep you up too much at night.

One step in front of another.

Pitfalls as they come.

And not lose sight of what is actually good for this little man who sits next to me on the couch, curled up at my side, warm and soft, smelling of shampoo and outside… me reading my book and him watching his show.

Relentless Pursuit of Happiness

Pursuit of Happiness handed down from our forefathers...
Pursuit of Happiness handed down from our forefathers…

Happy. Happiness. Being content in life. Even when we are not content or are not happy, we wouldn’t dare admit such a thing on a blog or a website. Blog posts are how to be happy, how to be content, how to find peace and contentment. Self help books are about the same thing. Websites dedicated to mindfulness, meditation, yoga, peace and happiness. So much happiness.

But.

Those things. They exist because an amazing amount of people… like in most of the population… are not all happy and content; yet, always, we attempt to get to that place.

At first glance, this is pretty self explanatory. Who wants to be unhappy? Who wants to be miserable?! Not me, which is the purpose of rethinklifeproject. I want to figure out why I am miserable and write it out because I can, because perhaps others will find sparks of familiarity and not feel quite so screwed up when confronted with my screwed up self.

There are a lot of us out there. And the unhappiness continues, even with all the self help and the relentless pursuits of happiness.

Example:

I went to Albertsons yesterday. For those not of the northwest United States region, Albertsons is a grocery store. I had picked up my pizza at Papa Murphy’s and was at the grocery store for a bottle of wine and a “fancy” beer for the husband. Those two items were the only two items I purchased. The lady checking me out (tall, robust, in her late 40s) appeared to be greatly affronted by my purchase. She asked for my ID. Yeah yeah yeah. It’s the law that you have to be older than God to not have your ID checked, but, I will tell you, I look much much much older than 21. Much.

She did it because she was being ornery. She looked at my ID, looked at me, looked at my ID again.

I will repeat, I AM MUCH OLDER THAN 21.

She was being mean. Or ornery. Or unpleasant, or who knows what… but not nice.

I know when someone is not being nice. I think we all do on some level. You walk into a grocery store, let’s say, and suddenly your irritated, almost angry though moments before you were in a fine mood. You get your bread, and as you are walking out of the bread aisle you run into a woman with her hair perfectly fixed and her nails perfectly done, and you realize that she was the one that you cut off in the parking lot. She is glaring you daggers. She wants to take your throat out with her perfectly white teeth.

Moments before, you had no idea she was standing there, you just felt the effect of her hating you. On some level you had picked up on the woman’s emotions towards you. You knew before you actually knew, that she was being a bitch to you.

Humans have this talent. When we are unaware of this talent, there is a lot of bad mojo going around unchecked (think of a bus full of grumpy people; walk on that bus, instant bad mood). When we are aware… well, then we are just aware that everyone else is in a shite mood and we have to work to not be in one as well.

Anyway. Back to my story. The cashier lady. She thought my buying alcohol at noon on a Tuesday was a great offense. Who knows why, I didn’t much care or think about it. Instead, I walked away muttering under my breath about her sure being friendly (sarcastic tone implied).

And then I paused. Literally. I stopped walking for a moment as I was leaving the grocery store.

Light bulb.

I have been writing this little blog for a couple of days now. I have talked about misery and about unhappiness and about feeling like I was dying.

This woman likely felt all those things.

I almost went back and asked her if she was miserable in her life.

I didn’t.

I am not that… yeah, I don’t even know the word for someone that could turn and around and ask a stranger that question. So, I don’t know for sure that she was miserable in life, but let’s say she likely was, and then I started looking around.

The lady at the bank who scowled. Miserable.

The guy at Big 5 asking me listlessly if I needed help. Miserable.

The dude in the huge black truck riding my ass as I go five over the speed limit.

Yeaaah. Ok. He probably was just a dick.

My point in all of this?

I don’t really know. Is there comfort in knowing that everyone around you is miserable? I suppose in a way. What it does do, however, is explain the multi-million dollar business of self help and therapy.

We are all miserable.

But why?!

The Good Life as Seen on the Shopping Network

f46e8897b13e9519fdd7c00e4154bcdec5c83ea61fd7443ee44c717bac7649d4Back in the day, I would wake up in the middle of the night and meander my sleepy self to the bathroom for a nightly pee. The bathroom was located slightly down the hall from my room and around the corner from the hallway that led to the living room. Inevitably, every time I went for my nightly pee, I would hear the sound of the television from the living room. I never peaked around the corner, but I could always conjure the familiar sight of my step-father asleep with my baby brother on his chest, the shopping network channel displaying a woman with too much makeup trying to sell completely random and wacky stuff.

Only wacky stuff was sold at 2 a.m.

Social networks are kind of like the old shopping networks. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… and that is only naming the ones I am familiar with and not the billions of others…they all have people trying to sell wacky and crazy stuff to others.

It’s a familiar complaint, one I am sure that you, my dear reader, are familiar with as no doubt you have at least one of these accounts. The perfect pictures and posts that are all about the awesome and amazing time a family had on the vacation, effectively leaving out the part about the screaming and terrible scene their kiddos made at the airport that required security.

My particular favorite sell is the super skinny women pretending to eat really terrible food. This giant cookie with the two inches of frosting, oh yes, it is going in my belly. Wrong! It is going within inches of your mouth and not even a morsel of that caloric frosting will dust your perfectly puckered lips.

But. Everyone will think it is going in her belly thereby defying all laws of biology.

Get in me belly.

Hawking the wares. Selling the wacky.

In the day, it was “you would look so fabulous in these huge sapphire earrings, and OMG, they are what price?!”

Now it is more like “OMG, I DO look fabulous in these earrings,” so let me post pictures of myself calculated to show off the earrings and hide the duck neck I am developing as I age…

…and we’ll just ignore the fact these earrings are giving me an infection that requires massive amounts of antibiotics, a drug that I am taking to get rid of the infection but will simultaneously make me more receptive to other infections.

Yay!

In a meandering way, this brings me to my point.

Social networking is the devil. I mean, it’s nice to quickly touch base with old friends, and when I lived far away it was perfect for posting pictures of my son for my family to see; however, it is so filled with the false, the veneer, the mask, that it is just a big pile of horse poo.

I know. I know. This is old news, EVERYONE knows that social networks are horse poo, but I write it in reference to my own current issues.

I felt like a failure even before my old teacher also sent over waves of disappointment about what I had done in my life (see explanation here). After talking with her, I felt like an epic failure. Every time my formerly fat friend runs another race and posts pictures of her wonderful and easy time doing it, I think about my own swollen knees and lament about my race days being over. And then there is an old coworker who is truly changing the world with her high style and her feminist thought and her push to the top. She is wonderful. Inspiring.

She makes me feel like shite.

And I’m a reasonably intelligent person, so I know that what I see is not the entirety of truth. That runner friend probably downs Tylenol and wakes up aching. That chic changer-of-the-world likely questions her decision to not get married and have children, placing her career first. I get that the story is only half of what is posted… but…

It’s the pressure. Do you feel it? Even when you know you shouldn’t? That spark of I am not good enough in *fill in the blank* when looking at your friend’s sites?

I try more or less to stay away from friend’s social sites. I am on Twitter but only to follow celebrities (yes, I am one of those people). All the others, I avoid.

Because, really, it is the same as the shopping network. Back then, I didn’t need those wonderful, better than you can believe deals in my life; and now, I don’t need people’s wonderful, better than you can believe lives either.

Do you?