Life is but a fleeting moment
changing day by day.
When this mortal coil comes unplugged,
the screen flickers,
and the dream slowly fades away.
We wake up every morning
with our heart beating,
and every day
that same beat repeating
starts a joyous dance,
to step to the rhythm of life.
Wrote this on my Facebook wall. Thought I’d share it here:
Holy smokes. Sept 11th crept up on me this year. Waves of sorrow overwhelmed me in the shower, sobbing uncontrollably as I remembered waking up in Brooklyn 11 years ago today. So thankful later that morning when I finally found out that my family and friends were alive.
2012, for me, has been about letting go of the narrative of the past and not clinging to the projection of the future. Yes, I will remember the family friends who didn’t make it out of the towers. But I need to let go of all the chaos, horror, anger, and pain from that day and remember I am alive. This moment is *so* beautiful. Every day is a blessing. Love every person in your life. We never know when our last moment will be.
Never forget, but let go of all the anger, sadness, and pain. Embrace the love planted within each of us. Water the positive seeds. Let the sun shine through your soul.
Remembering the monks chanting at the Remembrance Walls at Union Square, “Across The Universe” will forever be imprinted as the song that best describes my relationship with September 11th.
This last week was bumpy. I just couldn’t find peace. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried fighting, the outside forces just wouldn’t stop attacking.
All week long, things just kept getting worse. My patio garden, aka my sanctuary, has been off-limits and strewn around my yard/house while the owners paint the deck. Insurance investigators played phone tag all week while I waited to dispute an inflated auto claim. And work days stretched into nights, leaving me worn out and fatigued.
At first, I tried to stay calm. Everything changes. Life is never constant. But by Thursday, my normally good-natured self turned bitter, and everyday interactions took on a different tone.
An unreturned “Good Morning” from a neighbor was definitely a sign that Austin was indeed turning into Dallas. No return smile from a stranger signaled the downfall of society. And did that coworker look away as I walked by because she hated my edits?
Feeling broken as I went to bed, I thought, “Why do I smile? Why do I strive for peace? Does anyone even notice?” And then I gave up. “Maybe I should just let the world descend into chaos and hate.”
When I woke up, I decided to wipe the slate clean. It was a fresh start, a new day with twenty-four brand new hours ahead of me. Anything was possible.
On the bike ride to work, the trees stretched to the sky, welcoming the morning sun. Wildflowers smiled bright colors as they perfumed the spring air. And with a clear head, I realized that it’s not up to us to decide what gets thrown our way.
That afternoon, I found out a friend had committed suicide.
Sorting through the full spectrum of emotion, I struggled to understand what happened. I hadn’t seen him in a week and a half. Had he left any clues to his depression on Facebook? Could I have prevented this?
The truth is, we never know what someone is going through. Outward appearances can be deceiving. And sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives, that we often forget that others might be going through the same thing.
Ultimately, smiles, good mornings, and waves are not about me. It’s selfish to expect or want anything in return. Instead, smiles transform you so you can remind folks of the joy and peace that surround us.
This quote from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh sums it up:
To smile is not to only smile for yourself; the world will change because of your smile.
Here’s the full passage from Awakening of the Heart: Essential Buddhist Sutras and Commentaries:
After reading that, I went out and sat by my flowers. It all came together, and I made this note:
Just like a flower bringing peace and joy, I will rise above the muck. With my smile-bloom, the universe shines through me.
And that is why I smile.
- Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh – This is a great, easy-to-understand book to help beginners understand how to integrate mindfulness in your life.
- Awakening of the Heart: Essential Buddhist Sutras and Commentaries by Thich Nhat Hahn – A nice collection of Buddhist sutras with commentary to help explain the sutras so you can apply them to your everyday life.
In light of another friend’s suicide–the eigth in my life–this week, I’m reposting this article about my own struggles with suicide and depression. It originally appeared on Republic of Austin in October 2010.
I’ve learned so much over the years. Things change. What we once thought was important becomes trivial. And no matter what your age, it does get better. I’m happy to report that, after struggling with depression for 15 years, my mom is happy again.
If you are struggling with depression and feel suicidal, please tell someone. If you don’t feel you can talk to anyone you know, please reach out to counselors. The world can’t lose any more light.
Young Austinites, it does get better: My personal struggles with suicide and sexuality.
October 20th, 2010
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s post deals with two rough topics: suicide and sexuality. If you’ve got a problem with either one of them, don’t read. And if this post offends you, eff off.
Today I’m wearing purple in remembrance of the recent suicides by gay teens affected by bullying. I’m also here to tell everyone of all ages, straight, gay, queer, that things get better. Suicide is not the answer. It does get better.
Suicide and sexuality are two things our society would like to sweep under the rug. Television and movies make us feel we have to look, act and be a certain way–but that image doesn’t always fit with the person we are inside. My entire life, I have been one of those people that doesn’t fit.
My first bout with depression was when I was 9. I remember sitting in my room wanting to kill myself. But being too young to know about knives, nooses or carbon monoxide, I thought I could smother myself with a blanket. Wrapping my head with my quilt, I sat on my bed and waited to run out of oxygen. Nothing happened.
Growing up, I was a little awkward. Not necessarily effeminate, I had a high-pitched voice. Although I love sports, out on the field I’d often get distracted by butterflies or flowers. Plus, I spent a lot of my free time drawing and painting.
I started getting called faggot in the 2nd grade. More than a few times guys spat on me at the water fountain or at recess. Thankfully, my grandfather taught me to laugh it off; my mom taught me a bunch of super dirty retorts–’bloody cunt scab’ being my favorite; and my spirituality taught me to turn the other cheek.
As I moved into my teens, the feelings of depression turned into anxiety and anger. It was hard to connect with other guys. And I was getting into a lot of fights.
Finally in 8th grade, I met someone with whom I immediately clicked. His name was Brian. And although neither one of us knew it at the time, he was gay.
Gay. To a young boy, the word is weak and anti-man. For some, it can also feel like a death penalty: Either you spend your life dressing in women’s clothes or you have AIDS. Oh yeah, and God hates gays. There’s no gray, only black and white.
The first person I came out to was my brother. I was 15. He was 11. We were camping. Early one morning I told him “Mikey, I think I love boys.” He said, “That’s cool.” It would be several years before I knew what any of that meant, but I somehow felt free.
In High School, I started going to raves every weekend. I met folks who were accepting of all types of people. My close friends were also supportive and full of love. But still I felt different: I wasn’t like my gay friends and I wasn’t like my straight friends. I’d get so angry with myself for not knowing who or what I was. The suicidal thoughts came back. The bullying started up again.
One day in the locker room after swim practice, I was cornered by two swimmers and another athlete. They shoved me against the lockers. One of them put his forearm against my throat while the other two held me against the wall. “Kiss me, faggot,” he said, inches from my lips.
Freaked out, I kneed him in the crotch and started screaming “GET OFF ME YOU FUCKING FAGGOT!” They let go of me, and I ran. When my Tongan friends caught wind of what happened, no bullies ever messed with me again.
College was better and worse. During my freshman year, I knew that I was not normal. At the same time, I was meeting new people. I didn’t want them to not like me, so I kept the curious side of my life secret. I experimented with guys and girls, and guess what: I still couldn’t figure a damn thing out.
Things weren’t so easy for my friends from High School. Brian, my first non-sexual “boyfriend,” put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger during a thunderstorm. Two other gay friends similarly took their lives after struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.
For months after Brian’s suicide, I would drive around Austin and scream at him until I’d go hoarse. He killed himself 11 years ago this month. He’s missed a lot of amazing experiences. He’d probably be living in New York now. He would have loved (and then hated) Lady Gaga.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I’m NOT gay. I’m a proud bisexual. I’ve learned that nothing about me is “normal.” My ideas, my outlook on life, my experiences are all my own. And I’m happy with that. My life is full of joy and happiness. The world has plenty suited businessmen and worker drones. A healthy world needs color and variety.
It took me a LONG time to understand that. For years I had suicidal thoughts. In San Francisco I worked at a firm that hated me. In not so many words, they told me I was dumb. They told me I’d misrepresented myself. And for a second, I believed them. Thankfully, I quit that job and followed it with an amazing firm that embraced my creativity and gave me the confidence I have today.
It DOES get better. There’s not one path. There’s not one type of person. You will move away from home. You will meet other people like you. You will have a life full of joy, happiness and love. You will walk in the light of the Lord.
If you are feeling suicidal, please get help. If you don’t have anyone close you can trust, please email me. I promise it will get better.
Have y’all heard about the super tan mom? She’s been charged with allegedly taking her 5-year old daughter to the tanning salon. She is the current talk of the Internet because she is so tan.
Buzzfeed, the source of everything meme-worthy on the Internet, captured 40 pictures of the Tan Mom in this post. I guess they posted it so people could laugh at how brown and burnt she is. Stripped of all humanity, she becomes a character–until you get to picture 38:
Looking at this pic, you see a little girl looking at her mom with such loving eyes and a happy mom looking at her daughter. And while the outside world looks at this lady as a circus freak, I don’t think it’s my place to judge her obsession with tanning or this family’s relationship.
I’m not denying that she’s dangerously tan, but instead of judging her, we should, in fact, be using this moment to look inward, noticing that we all have our own little things we do to control our outer appearance. Some people starve themselves. Some people spend money they don’t have so they can present a better image of themselves. This lady likes to tan.
We’re all sick.
That’s kind of why I’m starting to hate how the Internet uses people. It makes us all feel like we are better people because we aren’t like this person. Everyone has a laugh, and then we all feel normal. What it actually does is keeps us from focusing on our own problems.
It reminds me of this quote from the Bible:
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you’ll see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Why don’t we judge the magazine editors, the TV producers, or the actors and models who continually force feed us an idea of what pretty or happy looks like? They’re the twisted mothers who make us feel like we can never live up to a certain standard. It’s time to evolve.
You wake up on a cold, stone floor. It’s a jail cell. 3 sides are solid walls. The fourth wall is a locked, cage-like door. High on one wall is a barred window. It’s night outside.
At first, you try to remember how you got there. Then you get up and call for help. No response. You scream and shout that you want out, but your voice bounces off the walls and echoes down the halls. You are completely alone.
Well, not entirely alone. At the end of the hallway is a guardsman standing in front of the door. His ever persistent gaze watches you, keeping you from acting out of line.
On his belt, you see the glint of a set of keys, the keys that will free you. You beg him to please let you out. You cry to him that you are innocent. The whole time, he’s silent, no words, just that steady gaze, reminding you that he’s in charge.
Day after day, you live in that cell. Food is delivered while you sleep. You never see anyone come or go. You pace around your cell. You feel helpless and alone.
You might try to escape–but there’s no way to get out. And with each failed attempt, your cell feels a little smaller. You start to hate the walls for keeping you trapped. You hate yourself for not being able to escape. But most of all, you hate the guard for not letting you out.
After a while, the hate turns to desperation. You are so sure that the guard is your only way out, you tell him you will do anything to release you. You make bold offers. But he continues to stare at you, no more or no less.
When the guard doesn’t succumb to your offers, you start to think that he wants you to behave a certain way. Maybe if he is convinced that you are a good person, he’ll release you. You change your behavior. You want to prove to him that you are worthy of freedom.
More time passes. You’ve started to accept your situation. It’s not so bad. The walls keep you safe. You’ve got food. And since you can’t remember what life was like before you entered the cell, you start to believe the guardsman is protecting you because you are special.
Yes! You are a king, and the cell isn’t a jail, it’s his majesty’s chambers. The guard is a royal guard. He can’t talk to you because he’s beneath you. That explains the lack of other people around you. That’s why food is delivered daily. Only a king would have servants and a guard!
But one day you have a dream. You’re in the middle of an endless field. The sun is shining. The sky is blue. In the distance is a beautiful mountain range. No limits. No walls.
When you wake up, you realize that despite all of your rationalizing delusions, you’re still trapped in jail. Remembering life before, you surge with anger. You attack the walls, punching and kicking as if your tiny blows could knock it all down. You run to the guard, screaming and shouting, you want to kill him so you can set yourself free. But the bars stop you. He just stands there, blank and unphased, holding the keys that could set you free.
Exhausted, you slink back into a dark corner. You feel completely hopeless, more trapped and alone than ever. You’ve tried everything, but nothing you do seems to lead to freedom.
What you don’t know is that this is an enchanted jail. The walls are just an illusion. The guard is just a mannequin. All the result of a spell you cast on yourself. You wanted it to protect you, but somehow it trapped you.
Once you understand this, the jail will vanish. The guard will lose his power. In their place, you’ll find a world of limitless freedom.
How is your life a prison?
[PHOTO CREDIT: Prison by : Dar. on flickr]