Archive for April, 2012


Managing the tension

Last night, I came home to a very challenging situation. My wife told me she could not find the tickets to the Wanee music festival. I tell you all this not for your pity, but to spend a moment analyzing an existential/stressful moment. There was a point between reaction and action in which there was an obvious emptiness dying to be filled. The emptiness arose as a question mark seeking its answer. It was not an immediate reaction, more of a slow freight train of mixed emotions. After all the starting answer, “it’s around here somewhere” soon evolved into “What will we do if we can’t find them”. Wanee is important to us for a number of reasons. Those who know me, probably know that music is my engine. Music charges my batteries, helps me through the hard times, consoles me when I am down, and offers epiphany after epiphany in the midst of live jamming or improvisation. So for me it is a battery charging weekend. For the two of us, it is a needed respite from the cares of the world. My work is emotionally stressful. I hear stories of neglect and abuse every week that would curl your toes and make you wanna wash out your soul. Suzi on the other hand lives in a stress generating universe where the big boss creates struggle after struggle, and Suzi’s supervisor (direct report) has to constantly repair those rifts that the big boss creates. So you can see, Wanee represented more than the money that would be lost. It would be a loss of something very special to the two of us. Add to this the stressful realization that there is no place to point the finger. When we encounter a stressful block in our lives, we are built to seek out the origin of the stress. We like to be able to point the finger. Somehow, pointing the finger and setting the blame elsewhere often makes us all feel better. There is a collective sigh, “Thank God it is isn’t my fault” and then all of the energy is redirected at an attackable source. Then there is anger. Anger rises like a fire breaking loose and generally results in damage to someone or something. In know this experientially, and in my job I am constantly teaching my clients how to manage this emotional cascade.

In this case, I could not place blame. I could not honestly say it was not my fault, as much as I wanted to. In the fallout from our basement flood we went into a state of temporary chaos- one that is still looming just below our feet (and in our garage). So this flood decentered us. It ungrounded us. The usual order that we cling to so strongly was gone after the flood and we went into a repair mode of thinking. We did everything we could within our power to resettle and reground. But no matter how hard you work, chaos and dread are always just around the corner. Don Juan said that death is just over our left shoulder, guiding us to our answers if we only consult it. That is to say that any ungrounding and unsettling event, can only be so because it reminds us of the temporality of our moment in the world. All that we cling to for security and safety can and will inevitably fall apart and we are left with just what we came in with, breath, curiosity, pleasure, fear, hunger, disgust- all of the base emotions. We are chaos born into the world craving order, and when order fails chaos returns, the uninvited guest.

So here I was in the midst of this wave of emotions with no place to go. Oh, I certainly expended energy towards looking for the tickets, but somehow that was not what quelled the fire. I tried throughout to be mindful. This was after all not the end of the world. It was not as if we lost someone we loved, or got into a bad situation. Instead it was the specter of blame and the reminder of frailty, the things humans rail against daily.

One of the things I teach my clients is a concept called Radical Acceptance. It is a difficult concept but it is helpful. Radical Acceptance is the ability to recognize that which you cannot change, and letting go of the will to change it. It isn’t giving up, or accepting derision or pain. Rather it is a letting go and letting be, allowing things to pass and paying attention to that which is solid and real in the moment. So I came to this realization- I could search the house, I could call the ticketĀ  vendors, I could yell and scream (a momentary release of tension), but beyond all of this, I could not change the situation. And so I let it go, as best I could. I surrendered to the moment. I let sadness and anger flow through me. I felt it prior to sleep, I felt it when I woke. I sat with it. I allowed it to be with me. I was disjointed and out of groove. I was the sour note in a beautiful symphony, but I let it be and let go of the fight.

Now, the story does have a happy ending in that the folks at ticketing have told us that we can still come to the show. But this is not the point, the point is that I made it through this in a way that I have never made it through a stressful situation, I let it go.

There was a moment when I really surrendered all of this. Suzi was clearly upset and I realized that she was hurting. At that moment, all of my rage and venom fell flat and all I could think of was that I did not want her to feel all of this. So I comforted her, took my half of the blame, and sat with her. And perhaps that is all we need in a moment of rage or pain, the realization that we are not alone in the experience of loss and chaos. We need look no further than the person next to us to find someone else in pain. And comforting that person, can cause the release we all need. So that is my message to anyone within ear shot, helping others through pain is better than sitting with pain alone. Desires, addiction to order, material lusts, these all have their place but none compare to just caring for someone else.

I will close this message with a verse from Oingo Boingo, the band who soaks up lots of pain. I encourage anyone reading to give someone else the gift of comfort, help them soak up the pain.

Pain

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I woke up today feeling a bit sad, maybe even depressed. I have been trying to identify just what the source of this feeling is. One obvious stressor is that I was told by my professor that there was no way to finish my class for this semester, which will place me in an academic warning status. I am kind of at home with this, because I know I am slow to get things done. I have to truly understand the material I am working on even when I could indeed just throw something together. So papers and projects emerge as part of a very slow unfolding. But I figure that I am smart enough to get things done prior to the beginning of fall semester, and I can certainly talk to the powers that be about what it means to be on academic warning- surely this is not an irreparable situation. Besides, I work two jobs which often results in about 60-80 hour work weeks…no this is not ringing the bell.

No I think it is something deeper and more sinister lurking within me. This week a few old wounds were reopened. Wounds that I thought were well healed by now. Apparently, not as much as I thought.

So the first precursor is the opening of the movie Bully. This is a movie put together to show the public how kids get treated by bullies. There is a huge campaign to get this movie into theaters in every town. The movie has gotten an R rating which is an undeserved rating since what you see on screen you will definitely see in any given elementary or high school. I know, because I not only lived through a hell of a lot of bullying, but surprise! I now work with children who are bullied and on rare occasions bullies. The fact is very few adults know the kind of cruelty that bullied kids endure. I was bullied by friends and enemies alike. I can remember being hung from a locker by my underwear, thrown into a dumpster, and having throwing stars thrown at my saxophone case. These are just a few of the terrible moments I experienced in high school and elementary. Adults either did not care, or wrote it off as “kids being kids”- that is not an acceptable way of seeing things. Adults have to be the example for the children to follow, not the silent accomplices to wannabe dictators. Please support this movie if you feel it is time to take a stand against the bullies of the world.

The fact is, despite my past, I am generally a pretty proud geek. I still play fantasy based board games, watch tons of sci fi and fantasy, geek out on amazing music from Rush to The Grateful Dead, and I have a damn good time hanging out with my fellow geeks at conventions such as Dragoncon. Recent movement within geekdom has spawned a sort of uprising. After all it is geekdom that has brought you your X-box, your episodes of Lost and Battelstar Galactica, your blockbuster movies like Star Wars and Avatar. Ultimately, we are the ones that are cool now. Without us, you would still be using typewriters and watching Knots Landing.

Geekdom has some saints of its own. Felecia Day for instance has embraced her inner nerd and written an anthem for the geeks of the world. It is now available on Youtube on the Geek and Sundry channel. Within one day it has the top 5 at amazon and the top 40 at Itunes. Check it out:

Another geek of note is The Nerdist- Chris Hardwick. Chris has been running an amazing podcast for some time now. He has become a name synonymous with geekdom, hosting Dr. Who events, and now sponsoring an olympic style light saber relay to launch the upcoming Comic-con. You can also check out his Youtube channel:

I recently described Wil Wheaton, formerly Wesley Crusher on Star Trek TNG, as one of us. I simply meant that he is a down to earth guy who is as geeky as they come. He recently launched a bi-weekly show called This show will definitely result in more people playing great table top games, and will likely break me.

These are obviously not the only events in the growing nerdsphere but they are enough to give you some indication that we are present everywhere. I have never been ashamed to admit my fondness for hobbits, or redshirts, but there was a time in my life in which I felt a little embarrassed of all these obsessions; one of those little dweebs that the jocks picked on for whatever mindnumbing reason that they could come up with. I have since dealt with that part of me. I have assessed it and come to the simple conclusion that I am awesome. No one else really needs to offer their judgements of me and mine. However, all of these recent developments have gotten me to thinking about those days of being treated so badly. I am an adult now, and I like to believe that those mini-traumas of my yesterday are well over and done with. However, I still have Vader like fantasies of encasing some of my tormentors in carbonite, or placing an earworm in their heads. You’d think I would be able to forget and forgive, but instead I entertain fantasies of throwing those ape minded schlubs out of an airlock with no probability of being rescued within enough time to save their measly hides. Why so hateful?

I have my own personal demons to conquer, they are buried underneath layers of study and music and they rarely emerge. However, working with adolescents who go through the same damn treatment, plus hearing stories about neglectful parents who would rather chase down their next crack pipe, or who would allow their children to die so they could explore whatever damn obsession they have found, makes me sick. I promise you not a day goes by where I do not hear some harrowing story of abuse or failure to care and I have to brush it aside, because that is the job I do. But eventually, all of this emotional turmoil takes its toll and I reach a day like today. Near tears and wavering between fuck it I am staying home, and dammit I want a nice long break to get my head together.

And then there are the goddamned politicians who all think they can make it a better world if they just inject their religious values into the government. They want to take funds away from the Department of Family and Children services, they want to close group homes and other safe space facilities, and they want to place children in abusive foster care families. Don’t get me wrong, not all foster care families are abusive, but I have seen and heard about my share and it makes me incredibly pissed off.

Then there are the bigger guys who are all pissing on each other at the top. I have not been entirely pleased with Obama. He has made some terrible mistakes with our liberties, but the republican candidates have been hemming and hawing about the socialist nature of Obama policies and it just seems to be a lot of words with no real back up. Romney can’t even keep a single abiding attitude, and Santorum sounds like he would suspend every liberty that is not suggested by the Bible. How can we support people like this. I have no problem with the republican viewpoint of less government, but I have yet to see it presented in a way that would make me vote for any of the present candidates. I do not feel love and peace from the republican party. I don’t feel hopeful that we could somehow stand as a strong and free country. I only hear yarn after yarn about how the Democrats have screwed up the country. Even if this is true, which I rather doubt when I compare the damage in the last 4 years to the damage done in the last 12, the republican party do nothing but cast stones. They do not even attempt to win me over, and thus they serve only to drive the parties farther apart opting for civil name calling instead of rational discourse. They are in effect, bullies all grown up.

So what has got me screaming from my silent cosmos; the failure of the world to recognize the one true value we should all be working towards, love and tolerance of other, maybe even acceptance. So from out here in my little reality, I am begging for people to recognize the hate and venom and squash it. Perhaps you will only view what I have to say as hippie rhetoric, or the cries of a nerd who never got closure. I doubt I will sway any opinions with this silent scream, but it feels good to let it out instead of holding it in.