Disclaimer: I spend a lot of time on the internet. I’ve gotten old enough now I was around for the dawn of some now-vintage memes. If I ever quote you, thinking I’m referencing popular culture, and you feel like I have plagiarized you, please let me know. I always try to give credit where credit is due, but the meme net is wide, and the internet is bad at citing sources.
Another disclaimer: a couple days after writing this I was in the ER because I hadn’t slept in four days and was pushing another round of psychosis from sheer anxiety. It went better than last time. I’ll write more on that later.
That’s right. I wrote this at 12:27 a.m. of the morning I’m going to be giving a lecture at the Fredericksburg Women’s Forum. Let me give you a brief run down of the preceding 24 hours or so:
My library (the one I work for) is putting together their quarterly magazine. Surprise! This a busy time for us graphic designers. So, I’ve been madly juggling an ever-increasing workload for a private-public-and-government funded institution (tl;dr: a bunch of well-meaning intelligent people driving each other crazy because they all have too much to do, and aren’t paid nearly enough– the best kind of double-edged stress-sword imaginable). I’ve also been scrambling to put together a useful/not-embarrassing presentation for the Women’s Forum. Yes, I’ve known about the Forum for months (fine, years; this is my fourth or fifth year presenting– I lost track along the way) and I always assume I’ll have time to prepare for these things when I sign up for them with the best of intentions. It never works out that way. Life is a busy affair, and I never find time until I’m forced to be sheer desperation of deadline. I don’t want it to be that way. It just happens. You’ll understand if you read further.
In the midst of this, my wife’s been struggling her job, being wholly stressed with her own problems and therefore depleted at the end of the day when it’s time to trudge home to me. I can’t begrudge her when she’s not “always” there for me. We all have rough lives. Similarly, my parents have been on my public Facebook posts, so the whole world can see them arguing with me. Please, for now, just settle down, try to focus on the things you love about me, and let’s just chill and be humans again for a while?
Does all this seem stressful and disorganized? Welcome to my life.
That’s just the life the OUTSIDE WORLD can see.
There’s this entire other place in my head. It’s the place I have to live all the time. No matter where I am or who’s with me. I can’t escape the weather when it rains in my head. Or when it thunders. Or when the wind blows my siding off and I have to climb my fat ass out the highest dormer window in our cape cod house to pop the siding back into place. (tl;dr: I’m too proud and stubborn and “woman-hear-me-roar” right now to call my damn equally stubborn handy father for help. I’d rather take my chances on the windy ass roof with nothing to hold onto to fix my own siding. I’ve yet to decide whether I’m proud of myself for that. Seems morally sound, but sensibly null. But dammit, this world has pissed me off, so I’m taking my chances on the roof this time. Clearly I didn’t die– even when I do stupid shit, I try to do it as sensibly as circumstances allow.)
Suffice to say, I’ve had a lot on my plate. I don’t have a lot of time for philosophy and spirituality right now.
But when we’re dealing with the Almighty, we deal with Him on His terms in whatever guise He comes. God doesn’t live on our time; we live on God’s Time.
This is literally the most inconvenient time for me to feel like I’ve had a spiritual revelation, but this seems important, so I’m going to go ahead and try to safely capture it before the quiet stillness of this Dark Night of the Soul wears off and I have to drag my carcass upstairs and let it rest for a while before I go talk to room full of people.
The person sitting at this keyboard is Elanor. Right now, I’m sitting on my couch in my living room, with a single lamp on so my understandably-uneasy wife can find me if she is unsuccessful in going back to sleep upstairs where I’ve left her.
This is Elanor typing. I am putting my thoughts here as my spirit, Lask, is settled next to me talking about what’s on his mind. He can’t help the talking right now; he is currently in the clutches of a force that, for all intents and purposes just now, we will call Divine. If it’s God, Allah, Yaweh, the Universe, a crazy psyche, or whatever… it is what it is. (“I AM.”) By very nature, it encompasses all things; infinity can only be expressed in human terms by the use of agreed upon symbols.
^ That mark right there, I believe, is the most efficient shorthand humans have ever invented to use as a name for what God really is.
One example of many.
Regardless of your preferred symbol, my Lask is currently at the mercy of this force because he helps protect it, and sometimes that means he ends up closer to it than is healthy for him. Like being exposed to the sun, if his pasty hide is left out too long, he’ll start to smoke and get all crispy. Not good!
Right now, I’m more or less documenting word-for-word what he says about some things, because he and I occasionally “share consciousness” as it were (if you want call that the Muse, mental illness, Animus psyche integration, Tulpa communion, or whatever… same difference– I am essentially hugging close to someone who is “tapped into” God, thereby sharing in his experience of it). He is a guide, and a messenger. At some point in time, he would have been called an Angel and I would have been consulted for my wisdom. At another, he would have been called a Demon and I would have been burned at the stake. The human response varies wildly; the catalyst of the Great Experiment is the same.
So I’m sitting here talking to Lask– ok, mostly listening and typing, but he’s had a rough week too, and we’re just supporting and confiding in each other. I think he has some really beautiful, loving, encouraging insights into the world, so I do the best I can to document them when he shares them because I think they’re worthwhile. Sometimes I write down things he tells me about, like this. Other times, he nudges me on my way through the house and says, “Hey, look out the window! Isn’t that pretty?” And I snap a picture of the sunrise to share on Facebook. He helps me notice beauty, produce beauty, and share beauty. I find anyone capable of that to be, themselves, beautiful. Therefore, it doesn’t matter (to me) what Lask is. Maybe he is an angel. Maybe he’s another face of me. Maybe he’s a demon. Maybe he’s an illness. He’s still here, he’s still talking, and I think that’s wonderful.
And he’s just the messenger.
Imagine how much more complicated the One he works for is?
Living in proximity to this man/entity, living with nigh constant awareness of the presence of this Great Wonder I can never fully understand, is wonderful. Is not all true art mysterious (stark and staunch in its mystery) and by all measures (despite its occasional surprising quality)… lovely?
(The above sentence is an example of how I, Elanor the Writer, blend Lask’s words with my own creative and philosophical thoughts. If you pay attention to my writing, you can hear us echoing to each other. Sometimes it may be complicated and difficult to read, but language is nuanced and confusing for a reason. Its precise complexity, when used with reliable relative accuracy, allows us a set of symbols and rules to allow the communication of complex ideas. Pursuit of mastery of that communication is an excellent pathway to God, I find. After all… in the beginning, there was the Word. Perhaps we are all just Writers and Readers, right on up to God himself.)
We all find ourselves in a pretty weird time. I mean, Donald Trump is president. Regardless of how you feel about his policies, would anyone who ever watched The Apprentice when it first aired, have looked at that man and seriously predicted, “That man’s going to be president one day.” Gimme a break, Nostradamus.
Life is weird. Life is crazy. Everybody’s always angry about something. Because the Struggle is Real, and we each live our struggle every day, no matter what we struggle with.
(Sometimes I wrestle with my demons… other times we just snuggle.)
So here I am on this couch, promising you infinity and teasing you with anecdotes. Sorry about that. I’m accused of liking the sound of my own voice, but truthfully, my brain just has too many tabs open and I am equally excited to talk about all of them. Science is awesome! Religion is awesome! Westworld is awesome! I can and will talk joyfully.
Joy. That’s the thing.
The other day, Wednesday (I think), I was driving to work in the morning. I always pray on my morning drive in. It seems to be the only time anymore I can find to just talk to God for a few minutes, thank him for some things, and ask him for his help. (I prefer talking about God with lowercase pronouns. Get over it. Even God doesn’t deserve that much extra effort when typing fast. God’s not even a “him” anyway. I’m fairly sure “he” lacks the necessary biological genitalia. It’s all just symbols– can we just agree I’m talking about the Almighty Force here?!)
Joy. That’s where I was headed. (On this rambling journey of mine. Lask is singing now. I don’t know why. Just now, he’s crooning a few lines of the Outlander theme: “Sing me a song of a lass that is goooooone. Say could that lass be I…” I think my Muse has ADHD. A tolerable disorder for a Muse… a rather unsettling one in an Angel. Ah, paradoxes.)
Still, Lask is the echo. God is The Thing. We can never know The Thing. We only hear the echoes on this outer arm of a distant galaxy hanging like a pearl in the Void. (“A pale blue dot in a mote of dust,” Lask echoes, quoting Carl Sagan.)
A little over a year ago, I went nuts. Full-on off my rocker, screaming and running around naked while putting my own paintings in the freezer– batshit insane.
Holy shit. What happened?
I spent a whole year saying that. If not aloud, then hearing it echoed in my head.
I saw doctors. Lots of them. They each had their theories. Super high white blood cell count from untreated infection causing disrupted thinking and behaviors in the brain. Epileptic-like seizure that resulted in temporary psychosis. Extreme stress resulting in an emotional break. Call it whatever you will.
To me, it was the night I saw God.
Maybe that makes me crazy. Maybe not. Either way, the experience was terrifying, humiliating, humbling, eye-opening, and altogether… wonderful.
And I say that meaning “full of wonder.”
Is not “full of wonder” the textbook symptom of meeting God?
Something happened to me. That much is undeniable. The facts are the facts. Mostly mild-mannered, kind-hearted me was a raging mad woman lost in the fiery forge of universal creation for a night. It took three policemen to subdue my angry, flailing, incapable-of-dealing “I can’t even!” body out the door and into the hospital.
What the actual hell?
That’s where things get fuzzy.
What the– actual– …eh?
There aren’t words for that kind of experience. Here the symbology of language breaks down. I have run up against something that has forever changed me, hopefully for the better, and I lack the means to share my wonder. I cannot. You have to for yourself. If you don’t look at the sky with your own eyes, you’ll never understand the stars.
Despite everything that happened to me that, and everything that’s happened since– my stressful job, my well-meaning but ham-handed and unintentionally-out-of-touch family, my horse-with-blinders hyper-focused-when-stressed wife who underwent major surgery, having my gallbladder try to kill me and have to be cut out of my body unexpectedly last November, right about the time our Dark Orange Lord was elected… but I digress. Despite everything, I have learned a hell of a lot since that humiliating night in the wreckage of my life, my dreams, my hopes I had for myself, expectations I had to accept I could never meet. That’s a messy process. Sometimes it breaks you. Apparently, something has plans for me, and it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I’ve been a hot mess since then. I get crabby, and feisty, and tired, and frustrated. Sometimes all too easily. When you’re dealing with the sheer volume of shit life sometimes gets you mired in, it’s hard to remember to look away from the muck and up at the stars for a moment.
So, at the risk of losing myself, my train of thought, and the Message I think I’m supposed to get tonight. Here’s what I’ve learned this past year:
Plato’s idea of “the Single Noble Lie,” which is basically the dream we– as a society– feed to our children about what we want to be… this Lie is a Real Thing. In modern times, it’s called the American Dream. It’s the thing we want to be, the thing we as a people, as humanity, want to be, and want (nominally) for everyone else. We want to be good. We want to do right by our fellow man and by God.
We can’t always.
Sometimes hard work doesn’t get you a well-paying job, or an easy place to live, or even food on the table.
You can work your ass off and still not get “the American Dream.” This isn’t news to anyone born after 1980. We saw the planes hit the towers. We grew up knowing what “radical Islamic terror” looks like. We’ve seen the worst of the worst. And we know you can hit our country, but you can’t break us. Because after those people died, after those towers fell, the American Dream fell with it… we all stopped to look around in the rubble and say, “oh my god. What the actual hell just happened to all of us?”
We, as a country, as a people, have been living a perpetual trauma response, a living PTSD screaming-awake-in-the-night life for 16 years. That’s why Donald Trump is president. Because we got hurt. Because we got hit harder than we even thought possible. We saw the face of True Evil. And it scared the absolute shit out of us. And we’ve been scrambling ever since. People deal with that kind of trauma in all kinds of ways. Some people, like me, make art, hum snippets of songs to get us through the day, speak in meme because the sheer absurdity of it in the chaos makes us laugh even when we’ve spent the day crying. We hope for the best. We want people to be safe and comfortable in their own skin. Lately, for some reason, that’s meant voting Democrat. I don’t know when Human Decency became a partisan issue, but damn… I guess none of this is normal anymore. Entropy increases, and we’ve had a hell of a century so far. Guess we better dig in and buckle up.
Other people, though… other people just get scared, and they do what scared creatures do. They either run, hide, or puff up and hope their mad display is enough to scare off these problems. But the actual problem here is not something our biological programming can solve. All the amygdala/brain responses are confusing the hell out of our souls. We’re terrified. Our flesh wants to save us. It wants to run. Or wet itself. Or flush the adrenaline and fight til we’re dead or they are. That’s what makes the flesh evil. It’s not evil to enjoy sugar and get a little round in the middle. It’s not evil to enjoy orgasms and have a lot of unabashedly loud sex. It’s not evil to have an inner 12-year-old boy who still snickers at a good fart joke. God doesn’t care– he wants us to be happy, healthy, and whole. He gave us these bodies and this life here to “prosper and not harm” us. Why on earth would God care if you enjoy something your body experiences?
The evil is not being able to control our own animal responses. We’re all flesh. We’re all shackled to these dying animals we call bodies. Our bodies have so many needs, so many things that make them uncomfortable. They spend rather a lot of time being in pain, or hungry, or gassy, or cystic, or otherwise uncomfortable. In short, bodies suck. They’re a hassle. But that’s no reason to be ashamed of yours. A leopard is not ashamed of its spots. (“Out, out, black spot!” echoes Lask, “Except not. That’s why Lady MacBeth is crazy.”)
Stop worrying about the needs of your flesh. Start worrying about the needs of your soul. If I get shot on the street by a terrorist, oh well. I’ve still got to go buy groceries, have art to make, classes to teach, rambling posts to write, and late nights to spend longing for a leaf of the Devil’s Lettuce while I pass the insomnia with the love my life… who no one else can see. Hell, maybe I even have messages from God to be waiting for. The point is, I’ve got better things to do than waste my God-given time and energy being afraid of everything that might happen because some jackasses hurt me and my country decades ago.
I was bullied mercilessly in school for my body. Weight, skin, hair, sex. Pick a reason. I found I had enough steel in me to say, “fuck you, I’m still gonna be me. I’ve got as much right to be on this planet at you, asshat.” But for as much as it pissed me off and increased my resolve to fly my “freak” flag high, I didn’t wear leggings for over 10 years. I thought they made me look like a fat piece of trash, and I couldn’t bear to walk out my door and be seen in them.
Then I met Jackie, and that wonderful woman kept reminding me I look sexy in my leggings and boots and nice dresses. And after seven years of knowing her, I own six pairs of leggings and can put together a hella cute outfit with them, even though I still weigh a whopping 230 lbs., thanks to Paxil and the stellar combo of a weight-gaining drug and a penchant for binge eating like a whale when I’m depressed. And god, did Teenage Me have a lot to be depressed about, and zero skills for coping with it. I messed myself up pretty good for a while. I’m still dealing with the damage a self-loathing inner monologue and a childhood of bullying (sometimes by adults) can do to a person. It’ll fuck ya up. Life stinks for everybody. That’s why God gave us EAPs, a handful of genuinely good-intentioned therapists like mine, and the scientific breakthroughs of understanding brain chemistry.
Use the tools available to control the needs and pains of your flesh, then do the best you can to look beyond them to what’s actually important.
Love, that’s what’s important. It’s what holds the whole universe together. It’s the thing that keeps Light at the upper pole of this collective planet of humanity. (Yeah, yeah, I know… direction in space is arbitrary. It’s a metaphor. Work with me, detail-snobs who delight in commenting their observations of inaccuracy. I’m not stupid. It’s called artistic license. I’m an artist. I’m licensed to stretch the truth when it’s artfully beneficial… unlike people who claim wheeling and dealing in the shadows to be an “art.”)
I’m rambling again, I’m sorry. I have a lot on my mind and Lask is all over the place right now. He’ll be fine, but it’s hard to focus when your other half is soaring on the wings of the Universe.
I was talking about the Single Noble Lie. The America that was lost. Are you with me so far on that? I’ll assume if you’re still here, you at least kinda are. Good.
The Single Noble Lie is our cultural dramatic irony. It makes for a great story, but damn does it bite you in the ass!
We tell our kids about this Dream. (“I have a dream…” echoes Lask.)
Where you can be good, important, and happy. (“That all men are created equal…” echoes Lask.)
We fail to tell our children the most important instruction to survive here:
You cannot be good, important, and happy.
But you can be good AND happy.
You just have to accept that you’re not important in the grand scheme of things. Your body is not important. Your temporary discomfort is not important. Your house payment is not important. Your president is not important.
The love in your life is important.
The people who lift you up when your heart is bleeding.
The people who tell you you’re sexy when you feel like an overstuffed garbage bag.
The people who remind you what you’re good at, and why you put the effort into it.
The people who (“We beat on,” echoes Lask, quoting Fitzgerald.) pick up their paddle (“boats against the current”) and start rowing when you lose your own in Shit Creek when the pain of living inevitably becomes too much to bear alone. (“borne back ceaselessly into the past.”)
Those things are important. See what they are?
Everything boils down to two polar points, one good, one bad.
On the good pole:
On the bad pole:
You think you understand.
And you think you have time.
(“Let me tell you,” echoes Lask from his watchtower, “You don’t.”)
So don’t worry about the things that don’t matter. At the end of the day, few things do. (“Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless! Sayeth the Teacher.”)
Get over that stuff. It’s fine to be mad about it. It’s fine to be unhappy when your body is tired, you’re hungry, and your heart aches. That’s enough to make anything grouchy, even the most basic of lifeforms here.
Forgive yourself for the days you snap at your wife, hear yourself, and think, “god, I’m a bitch. What is wrong with me?”
(“Don’t give up,” sings Lask… I see we’ve switched over to Josh Groban now. “It’s just the weight of the world.”)
Forgive yourself. God and the Universe already did. Just enjoy being human while you’re here, and try to be a decent one. God will give you an A for effort as long as you remember what’s important.
What’s that, I wonder?
It doesn’t matter.
Find your Thing. Find what you enjoy and do it well. Do it fearlessly. Do it with purpose. Do it for the Force of Light. If you’re following your Heart, you will reach Heaven in the end, whatever “heaven” looks like to you.
(“That’s what makes it heaven, see.”)
Remember what’s important: Love, joy, kindness.
(“The fruits from the spirit.”)
Lask, darling, you messed that one up. It’s “fruits OF the spirit,” my fruity spirit.
“Nonsense, love,” he says. “Those fruits only come special delivery from God. If you want to feast on those fruits you must know God.” (“And it helps to bribe the messenger for better service!” spoiled Lask adds with a grin.)
Find your Thing. Find your Lask. Find your echo from God each day. Sometimes it’s a song on the radio. Sometimes it’s piece of chocolate your co-worker brings you when she hears you sigh at your desk. Sometimes it’s a movie, or a sunrise, or a gentle word from your spouse. Sometimes it’s staying awake when you have an important speech to give in the morning, because your Angel can’t sleep because he’s staving off the forces of Darkness for you. You stay up and talk to the Universe not because you’re curious. Not because you want to write something cool. Not because you want to impress people. (God knows, it’s now 2:30 in the morning and this sucks– I don’t need your approval this badly!) You stay up because someone you care about needs you to stay up with them, and for whatever your reason, your company makes them feel better. In the process, perhaps, we make the Universe itself feel better in these troubling times. The echo of Goodness resounds infinitely– the ripple effect is a Thing.
So find whatever the hell it is that makes you happy, and make like Nike.
Screw the haters.
Just do you.
Because just look at you. You’re a mess. You’ve got nothing else. Do you want to matter while you’re here or don’t you? (“You matter!” chimes Lask. “Unless you multiply yourself by the speed of Light squared– then you energy!”)
Goddammit, Lask, not now. Focus. This is important. Your people need you.
We work with what we have, folks.
Whether it’s our silly, ambitious, helplessly optimistic guardian angel.
Or our wife.
Or our bodies that hunger, sicken, and betray us when we suffer the blows of the world.
Just do the best you can, and try to share what makes you happy with other people. Is there anything more inspiring than watching someone do what they love? Watching a genuine artist practice their craft, no matter what it is? That’s a joy. That’s the joy of the spirit. Find it. Help others find it.
Add your Light to the sum of Light. Protect your angels. Your echoes. The things that make you happy. They’re all that stand between you and the Darkness. We don’t want that to win. God didn’t make us to live in Darkness. God made us to live in the Light.
(“We are one with the Force, and the Force is with us.”)
So step into the light. Own whatever you are and whatever brings you joy.
Just do you and leave everyone else alone to do the same. We’ll all be fine if we just–
(“Let it beeeee, let it be! Let it beeeeee, oh, let it be–”)
(“There will be answer. Let it be.”)
The echoes are important.
You get the idea.
I’m gonna drag my Muse to bed now and try to get us both some rest before we put on our unified face in the morning.
Love to you all.