My Friend Reality
Updated: Apr 13, 2020
It’s funny to think for more than half of my life I’ve avoided reality.
And I don’t mean I avoided a little bit of reality. I mean I full blown tried to black-it-all-out-so-I-didn’t-have-to-face-a-thing in reality. Hilarious - at least now it is anyway. To me anyway. But I’ve had some time to sit with myself, and usually with time comes laughter. And with laughter comes some peace. And when peace comes, then and only then can acceptance find its way in.
I feel my Buddha nature is to laugh or make light of things, which is both beneficial and isn’t. It’s good to have an airy approach to things, but it’s also good to get worked up over important matters instead of just constructing a joke over them. I don't really know how to construct a joke, just see me do comedy. I have a few theories on this phenomenon of laughing at the things we’re uncomfortable with. One being, laughing is easier than crying - laughing releases feel goods not feels bads. Simple enough. But laughter can also be viewed as inappropriate if you do it a the wrong time. But who is to say who's timeline is correct?
Ever notice how with a little bit of time* (*varies per person) after a friend’s passing you can laugh at them again? Whether you’re a micro-ambitious, dark-humored comedian like myself or not, we all have a sense of humor on some spectrum. Yet, what we're willing to laugh at is deeply personal. I think death can be quite funny in an existential sense. But to admit this during a pandemic is probably crass and inappropriate. Timing can be everything, and everything is definitely timing. That’s why when you find someone who laughs at your darkest, sickest thought, you know you’ve found love - you keep them close.
I believe we're all capable of cultivating laughter over our tragedies - with some time and space and the acceptance of reality of course. And while our timelines will vary given the circumstances and emotional nature of the humans involved, this is a powerful shift in our grieving experience. Suddenly, where there once was an edge, there is a softening. And while the laughter may come and go, nothing is truly linear I find, how lovely it is to find peace in the thoughts of somebody who is no longer.
For those of us who arrive at the laughter-after-or-even-during-a-tragedy, what we all have in common is we’ve allowed enough time for reality to set in, and once reality sets in I find you can more easily remove the personal aspect from the situation. The joke is no longer on you. No longer is the thought: Nichole overdosed and left me here to fend for myself as a 21 year old missing her best friend. With some time and space it became: I lost someone I loved, just like every other human on Earth will experience - how terribly sad and profound that is we humans must go through this.
My friend's passing actually had very little to do with me at all, it just felt that way at the time. Which isn’t to say it's not a personal experience. It is. But I don’t have to take it personally anymore. But hey, this is just where I arrived. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong or good or bad. It’s just what is so for me. It doesn’t have to be what is so for you. Your pain is yours to keep or let go of.
I remember the father of Nichole told me after her passing that there is a hump, and you either get over the hump or you don’t. The following year his other daughter passed away from a drug overdose. This man lost two daughters to a hump named heroin. I imagine to this day this is still a deeply personal experience for him. I would never tell anyone they need to stop grieving or learn to laugh on any timeline - it is up to us to determine these things for ourselves. I've only recently become aware of my pain-holding/accepting-reality timeline, ironically, through my relationship of how I avoid it.
I’m lucky, and also surprised, I never ended up in the grave in my younger years. Alcohol and drugs (alcohol is a drug) revealed themselves to me as a form of divine intervention early in my youth. I believed they offered me protection from the harsh world we reside in. The world is tough when you’re young. You have no idea what the fuck is going on, other than a surge of hormones and needing to be so skinny. Without the proper guidance it’s easy to stray off course. And thank goodness for straying off course, because it was also my becoming. I'm lucky I got over the hump. But in our becoming, we may also die in the process. That’s life, you live some and you die. Hard.
But in reality, there is nothing personal about it.
It is just literally the nature of reality; birth and rebirth.
You may be asking yourself, what is this reality you keep speaking of. I'm happy to show you. Let’s take a walk down reality lane together...
Reality is where the physical world resides. According to the dictionary Reality means: (n) the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. A tree outside your window, that is a tree in reality. But also in reality, it is not a “tree”. A tree is just the name we gave the tall, wooden thing that sits outside of our window. And regardless of what we call it, that “tree” is there - in reality. We (humans) also exist in reality. Our bodies do, anyway. The majority of our lives can be summed up as lying horizontally, standing up, or sitting down. Yet our minds create a totally different story, often a much more tormented story.
Language does not exist in reality. All of language is conceptual. The only way to take language and put it into existence is to physically create the thing you’re thinking. Once upon a time a chair was only a thought. It wasn’t real in reality. It only became real in reality when it's inventor (the Egyptians I believe) put their thought/idea into the physical world. Even things like states and countries, although they appear very real, are not in fact real in reality. They only exist in language. You can’t find them in reality.
Much of what goes on inside of our heads 24/7 does not exist in the reality. Your opinion of your ex-boyfriend is not real, nor are your religious beliefs should you have any - not in reality. These are all concepts that stem from language. And while our ability to create language distinguished our evolution as the most capable animal there is, it’s also the cause for the majority of our bullshit.
If you think about a natural disaster, you can spin a billion different stories about how awful it is. You could also spin some stories about how good it is, but what makes any of these stories real? Nothing, because they aren't. Not in reality. In reality a tornado is just a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground. Nothing more, nothing less.
It is our blessing and our curse to make stories.
These stories are both the reason for our advances and our failures. Stories are how we share our human experience and how we get other humans to cooperate with us. Stories are equally vital and destructive to our existence as homosapiens. There is a consequence to everything that happens here on Earth, for better or worse. You could call it our karma. But not a cosmic scoreboard kind of karma - which is usually how we think of karma in the west - but in the truest sense that our actions bring forth our realities. And again, whether we spin these realities as good or bad is purely a matter of opinion.
There is a lot of literature on this concept of accepting reality, most of it is written by white people, and it is incredibly privileged and frustrating to read. So I’ve gathered only the best parts (in my opinion) to keep and express in this blog. There are so many moving parts to this world to say that any one way is “the way” would just be arrogant. There are arguably 7.53 billion ways to be on this planet, and that’s just to name the people alive. There will be more who come in and create whole new ways of existing. Assuming we don’t all self-destruct at any moment now…
I’ve racked my brain trying to find the right way to be. To exist properly. And after years of torturous ups and downs, I’m so happy I finally decided to admit there isn’t just one! How could there be? This is the whole fucking problem of everything; we can’t just accept there isn’t only one way to be. And it is most definitely not “my” way. Not for everyone anyway, my way (only recently) works really great for me because I am me. I know we all want to be right. I know this more than anyone. But I find when I must be right, I lose nearly all of my compassion. And if the world is lacking anything, it’s compassion. And understanding. And acceptance.
So, now we know our version of reality is just our version, and it is not real in reality. Again, a mountain is real in reality. A squirrel is real in reality. Liking or disliking either is just a place in your head. Most of what we think is nothing more than a commentary on what we see in reality. Now, this doesn't mean we aren't entitled to feel our feelings or express our thoughts. We absolutely should. We have them for a reason, and it's important we nurture them. But not everything we think needs our attention. And we must keep in mind not everyone else is entitled to our opinion. They have a whole separate Universe spinning in their head commentating on everything they see! Cooperation among humans is nothing more than a shared hallucination; an agreement upon what we perceive as real.
The past already happened, so why must we keep reliving it in our brains every single day?
Perhaps this makes some sense. I hope it does! When you open your mind to this way of seeing things, some things may actually not seems as bad anymore. I don't know about you, but my mind tortures me constantly. It’s always chiming in; you’re doing this wrong, you’re not doing that right. She doesn’t like you. ‘They’ don’t like you. They’re judging you. They think you’re fat. They don’t want you here, yes, even if they invited you, you should leave. If you weren’t invited, why would you go? And blah, blah, blah, into eternity my mind will commentate on just about everything that happens for better or worse. My guess is yours does too.
Now, there may be some evidence from reality that alludes you to these thoughts, but your perception may also be completely skewed. In my honest observation, I believe most of us are living from a shitty experience that happened when we were 7 that we project onto everyone around us. Once when we were young something happened and we told ourselves it meant something. We did this so we could survive. But there isn't a magic off switch once you hit 21. No, you live with this skewed view of the world and place it onto everyone and everything until you do the work to confront it.
Luckily there is hope for us dirty little projectors! And, don't worry, we ALL do it. Next time someone says you're projecting on me, just politely agree with them. There are things you can do to become more aware of this, and even prevent it down the road. One thing I’ve found that stood out to me like a silver lining of hope at the end of a storm is, we can question our thoughts. Yes we can and yes we should, because they are not always to be trusted. They are not inherently real, remember?
Now, I can’t say this is the best word of advice for everyone in every moment of their life. That’s another thing I’m finding is many concepts make sense and ring true, but not 100% of the time and not for 100% of people. Life is not so black and white. I truly believe you must find what resonates for you personally, and only apply it when it applies. What seems to be safe to say overall is that you must befriend your mind to figure out how it works and what it responds to. I don’t pretend that my advice is the end all be all for all of humanity. But I do believe many of us (not to be confused with all of us) living in 2020 have more than enough access to learn how to understand our own minds.
But not so fast. Before I move on you may be thinking, aren't my thoughts who I am?
Well yes and no. Your thoughts are part of you; they're part of the human experience being that our minds are designed to understand our surroundings, thus adding an often unwanted narration of what we see in reality. We often consider our thoughts as part of our identity. But if you read enough self-help/neuroscience/eastern philosophy you learn (if you chose to accept it) that your identity isn't even real. Essentially, nothing is real. Except for the tall wooden thing outside your window.
We create identities to fit into the cultures/societies we’re brought up in. We create identities to survive. It’s how we fit in and learn from one another. It’s completely natural, and in fact, impossible to avoid. But just because you’ve created this identity you call "you" doesn’t mean it’s actually "you". Or the right one for you. Or even the wrong one for you! But it’s important to question it so you may begin to understand what truly rings true for you.
So, if you’re not completely confused and frustrated by all I’ve written so far, I made a listicle of things you can explore if you’d like to learn to accept reality and question your own thoughts. These are only examples of what I’ve tried and liked for myself. There are many more things you could potentially find better suited for you outside of this list.
This list may also do nothing for you, but I bet if you try on a few things you’ll find something, with time, that relieves some of your impending doom. I am not the expert of you - no one is except you! Remember that next time you find yourself reading some self-help article written by some dweeb in her apartment! . You have a whole lifetime (not guaranteeing that) to explore what works for yourself, and the best part is you can keep what you want and do away with what you don't. Because that’s really what your journey is about; finding what works for you, so you may possibly support others as they do the same.
8 Things I Believe to Be True (For Me)
Meditation is the elixir of life. Meditation is now scientifically proven to help reduce anxiety, stress, thus promoting your overall wellness. Meditation allows us to learn about our own minds from within, and how to be less enmeshed with our thought patterns. This may sound counter-intuitive. You may believe my thoughts are how I do everything. My thoughts are me! But just think for a moment - just consider how much nonsensical, painful, bullshit you think at any given moment. And then consider all the positive affirmations or thinking you use to counter it. If you’re capable of thinking both, and even believing both, is any of that really you then? You could argue that all of it is you, which I can get behind - it is. But that still sounds frustrating to believe every single thought you think, especially when it contradicts itself regularly. Learning to disassociate from all thoughts is the key. Once you disassociate, you can pick which ones you want to give your focus (you) to.
Bring yourself back to reality. When your mind is swirling about how that person didn’t text you back, so surely they hate you, and they must think you’re god awful, and now you will surely die alone - just stop. Place your hand on your heart and feel it beating. Feel it? That means you’re still a living, breathing animal whose forgotten she/he/they are just living on a globe floating in space. Look at your surroundings. Notice where you are. Breathe. Come back to reality. It is always waiting for you, though it’s never waiting on you. Remember that.
Before believing a thought, positive or negative, question it. Freud may have argued that all of your thoughts are your repressed desire to have sex with your mom or whatever, but new science emerges all of the time, just as humans do. And there is a lot of evidence that argues we don’t have to believe our thoughts, and thank goodness for that. Some eastern philosophies say who we truly are is in the pause before we respond.
Be easy on yourself. Just no matter what, make this a hard and fast rule. As soon as that internal dialogue comes up that you’re worthless, and ruining your life, or not utilizing it as you should be - be easy on yourself. No one has this shit figured out. No one. Some people may manage it differently, or have more “success” or “wealth”, but there is no denying none of us know what’s really going on. Life is incredibly stressful and painful, and that’s just getting out of bed. Again, be easy on yourself.
Watch a docu-series on space/Earth/fungus. This always puts things back into perspective for me. Our minds forget all too often that we are not the only thing happening. There are whole systems, much higher functioning systems, that have existed long before us, and will exist long after we're gone. We are not special and that’s perfectly, beautifully okay.
Learn what you can love about reality VS. change about reality. Question everything, especially everything that hasn’t been working. You know the AA motto, accept the things you cannot change and change the things you cannot accept. This is essentially that. Not all of reality should be tolerated. Not to be confused with accepted. You can accept reality and not tolerate it. Learn these differences.
Read books, all of the books, on neuroscience, psychology, spirituality, love, death, life, Alan Watts, people of color, marginalized people, indigenous people, injustice, revenge, and liberation. The fool who follows in his folly becomes wise.
Learn to laugh at yourself. We all make mistakes. It's how we learn. A good chuckle in the old learning experience makes it all bearable. Oh, and learn to laugh at yourself before you go laughing at everyone else who can't seem to figure it out.
You can’t do it wrong. You can’t live life wrong. There are things that will likely bring more or less pain, but I'm truly an advocate that you can’t do it wrong. So relax. Let go. Have a laugh. And lean into this one measly, puny existence you have.
And that’s just to name a few. Well if I’m honest that’s just what I’ve done. And it’s all helped. I’ve been hard on myself over the years, always telling myself I’m not doing it right or enough (that pesky brain of mine).
But here I am, actually quite proud of who I’m becoming. Or rather, who I’m unbecoming. And all it’s taken, really, is the willingness to unlearn. To re-learn. And to believe that this whole happening - this strange, precarious life thing - is meant to be utilized for the exploration of ourselves and others so we can evolve - both individually and as a species. What matters is now. What matters is happening all around you. What matters is love. I cannot know for sure what happens after we die, so I decided not to live my life based on that.
To come into consciousness, to bear witness to this reality with our limited, beautiful senses is a rare/beautiful/horrific happening. And whenever I’m spinning out of control wishing things were this way or that way, I remember nothing is under my control. But I'm not helpless either. I can sort my thoughts and decide which ones are worth putting into reality. So choose which thoughts to pay attention to, and choose wisely. You can start by learning to not be ruled by them. I love you all.