Life got that lump in your throat?
I recommend you swallow it.
Up and down, and round and round it goes - this ride called life. Life hasn't let me off just yet, thankfully. Now that the initial shock of existing is starting to wear off, I rather quite like being alive. In my 31 trips around the sun a few things stand out. There's been one trip to rehab. One excruciating heartbreak. One adult move away from my hometown to NYC. And one paid stand up comedy show. These are what we could call defining moments - moments we're often busy chasing - but it's really in the in-between of life's "big" moments that our narrative about who we are is forged. I've only recently begun to see how faulty I was in my assumptions about myself. I'm having to re-write the whole script.
You could say my narrative was good girl gone bad. Having your needs met AND exceeded as a child is really hard for building character, so I repeatedly lost myself in drugs and alcohol. It wasn't until later I realized on the other side of addiction was redemption, always gleaming, always waiting for me. I've finally arrived. I've been low - sitting inside dank motels accompanied by equally desperate humans waiting to score dope, and I’ve stood high - atop Trolltunga, a 3870 foot cliff overlooking the ethereal landscape of Norway. I’ve been very much alive, and I’ve been the walking dead. I’ve weaned in and out of both lanes at varying speeds trying to find what felt the most comfortable. It took a while to realize, but the road with less substance abuse turns out to be slightly better for me. Although if I'm honest, none of it really feels comfortable. Once you learn life isn't about comfort you can get on quite nicely.
The weaning in and out concept is something my dad Alan Watts would refer to as the hide and seek we play. One moment you're here, the next you're not. We've all done this dance with consciousness, wouldn't you agree? I’ve spent a great deal of time escaping my reality only to later ponder how much time I wasted in those attempts - neither headspace allowing for the present moment. But whether I was in the moment or avoiding it, or thinking about how I avoided it thus further avoiding it, it remains true - I was alive all along. A breathing, living life who has the capacity to know it's so; just a collection of space dust with an existential crisis and a drinking problem.
Our brains granted us the gifts of remembering our past so we can better plan for the future, but to live too long either ahead or behind perpetuates resisting the present. Live in the past and you'll likely be depressed, live in the future and you'll likely be anxious. The past happened so we could learn from it. The future isn't here yet, it's unknown, it's anything, it's possible. But the key is to learn from our past in order to create the most promising (not meaning devoid of upsets, heartbreaks, or suffering) future. Maybe if we used life correctly, it would actually propel us onward and upward instead of encapsulating us. But keep in mind, life is a practice. It's never just right, or just wrong, (or just anything) so living in the present isn't entirely possible all of the time.
There’s a lot of pressure placed on what to do with this one, very precious life of ours, isn’t there? There’s all this money we’re supposed to make, and all these places we’re supposed to see, and all these material things we’re supposed to collect. (And god dammit did you let the present moment escape you again!?) And while all of those things can be quite nice and bring a great amount of joy, we're taught we are lacking without them. That we aren't inherently whole unless we have more. It's as if we come to this planet empty and the only way to be full is through consumption. Which in theory makes a lot of sense, but what if we got confused with the metrics? What if we're supposed to be measuring life in experience rather than status? With the impact we have - with what we give, rather than what we take? With interconnectedness; not just our sole pursuit of happiness?
It's funny to me how a group of humans began telling other humans what their being is for and what they should do with it. Even funnier is how we other humans believe those humans with conviction. But I get lost in it all, too - the battle. The struggle of what it is to be real. Isn't that what we really want? Just to be as human as humanly possible while we get to be human? This might be it, you know? Our one shot at human. So then, what is it to be human? You will have to find that out for yourself, but I have a sneaking suspicion it's not wishing our existence away on what we don't have or what size pants we wear. Hell, it's not even about wearing pants! Fuck pants.
I've been feeling very fake lately. Plastic and hard. Not as malleable as I'd like to be. I can't tell if it's because I'm playing my character or unbecoming her. Both inspire anxiety regarding who the fuck even am I? There are the faces we present to stay safe in the world, and then there is the person behind the mask. But which is real? I can only find brief clarity when I find my breath and recall I am not the material world - the world that tells me who to be. And yet I am that world to the extent that I show up in it. If I allow myself to be fake for the sake of appearances, then I will be so. And if I don't, then I won't. We are never separate, just more or less present - more or less in tune.
I'm barely unique from you, the only difference is my experience of it all. But we’re more or less the same. We all bleed, we all eat, we all shit. We all have the same voices that tell us we're too much and we're not enough. And those voices are one in the same, too. Nature and nurture, it's the same. Up and down, it's all the same in the void. You are the void, and the void is you, too.
Life and death are one in the same, too. We rise, we fall. We wake, we sleep. We live, we die. It's so lovely to observe; no matter how certainly death comes for us, life is equally fighting for itself. The resilience of life is stunning, and not just human life, but all life. If you just look you’ll see it everywhere. Since its dawn it keeps coming back - stronger, harder, faster. It only wishes to exist. So why do we strive so hard to be more than that? - Existing. Because we want to live forever, that's why. We want existence so much we think we can cheat death. We want to be remembered by the masses. But in our lifetimes many of us won't be remembered by the masses - and that is 100% okay. The golden rule of "less is more" or "quality over quantity" rings true here. Focus on your immediate surroundings. Start where you are, make an impact there. This could be as simple as learning the name of the person who bags your groceries! Existing is connecting. That's it (among a great many other things that we don't understand and never will in our lifetimes)!
We've become a very advanced, yet very needy species which only seems to complicate itself as time goes on. Once our basic human needs have been met we're able to move up the totem pole of needs, but don’t be fooled, needs never cease. Once you get one out of the way you'll likely create the next thing you need, which is why learning the difference between what you need and what you want is key. You don't always need what you want, and you don't always want what you need. Okay, maybe life isn't so simple, it's just a paradox wrapped in a metaphor that the Universe took a shit on. But you'll learn! If you just remain open you can teach yourself how you want to be, how you want to exist in this lifetime.
At the very top of the needs list is the goal of transcendence. But I say don't strive to transcend, transcendence is false advertising. You don’t want to get above life, you want to go deeper into life. You want to be so entrenched in your life that you go in the grave dripping with it. Life, after all, is merely learning to live with yourself. You - yourself, as a thinking, feeling creature who can observe its own thoughts and feelings. The humans you meet will reflect back to you exactly who you are. They are your teachers and very important to learning to live with yourself, treat them as such.
A great journey is what you're on - this is what the ride of life is. And what kind of journey would it be without a few pit stops? Along the way you’ll uncover a few miraculous things if you’re fortunate enough to. (You are.)
At some point you’ll find love. This will show you the very essence of what it is to be human - perhaps it's Universal. You will want to cling to it and hold onto it for dear life, but you will one day see that you were never without it. That you can’t ever be without it if you just believe in it. This will be true of many things. Love will play both teacher and destroyer of all you’ve ever known to be true.
Other times you will find yourself in resistance to love. This feels like a pit in your heart that can't be filled with anything, but you will attempt to with whatever you can find, be it other humans, drugs, alcohol, or Amazon Prime. This is just part of it, too. Be aware when this is happening because sometimes all you can really do is just notice. Awareness will be your guide when you've strayed off the path (which is still the path), but I guarantee you can and will find your way back when you’re ready.
At some point you will find death. None of us know what happens after we die, but we sure do spend a good portion of our lives letting it drive our every move, whether consciously or not. It’s big, it’s heavy. It’s hard to accept that you and everyone you know will one day be dead. But this is just part of the life process. If you look to nature as your guide, you will see life dies and returns again. Learn that being human is only one season of what the Universe has given us, and isn't even the tip of what she has to offer.
And in-between all of that you will experience a vast array of experiences. They will feel terribly good and bad. You will often seek the good over the bad because it feels better, but I ask you to remain present for both. For all of it, really. I like to think of consciousness as a lever, and I believe the more you push on it the more it will show you. This doesn't mean you will be rewarded with some form of cosmic karma, but it will reward you with experience. You will fuck up - a lot. You will hurt others and you will hurt yourself. In other moments you will not only spread, but be met with colossal joy. We are all falling down together. I recommend you grab someone else's hand and ask them how the free fall feels for them. Share what it is to free fall for you, too.
Most importantly, what I wish for you (and for me in the moments I forget) is to comprehend life as something to be swallowed whole. That refusing to swallow does not stop life from happening. It will remain stuck in your throat, choking up your words and actions. Life is the one thing worth choking on. Life will always lead you home. It is what you are. You are as apart of everything as everything is apart of you - you are eternal. And I am eternally grateful I get to be here for this once in a life time happening with you.
I hope you stay a while :)