Three years ago I accidentally met a young version of the man of my dreams.
It could have been a little old lady, a dolphin, or a small child in line next to me at that coffee shop in Hawaii, and I would have talked to them in that moment. Talking to strangers in unique circumstances often leads to good things, so I do it often.
But this time it just happened to be a very unexpected, wonderful person I had so much in common with (and just the right amount of not-in-common-at-all), on so many levels, that I was totally caught off guard by it.
There was this energy between us.... This presence. It wasn't just the usual physical chemistry... It was more of a warm glow. An energy that inspired me. Lit me up. Even though it was the first time I'd ever felt like that, it was also familiar in a way.
This presence brought out the best in me.
I was more confident around him then I generally was at the time, and more comfortable in my own skin. Everything we talked about was everything I love to talk about, and nobody ever wants to talk about with me. There's usually a boundary where we have to stop and not get too deep.
But he was (consistently) totally down to go there with me. Wherever I'd wanted to go. Naturally, not in a polite way. It was easy, and exciting at the same time... I even called him out on a few things and he was totally cool about that, too... Very respectful. Thoughtful. But, also really fun...
It was so good he kind of ruined me. I didn't know it could be like that. It was so unexpected I forgot all about it for a few months. We went our separate ways with no contact info exchanged. I even forgot his name.
Note to self: next time you meet your ideal guy... Remember his goddamn name.
Why didn't I bother to remember his name and/or get contact info?
Well, for one thing, I didn't have the confidence to think someone that amazing would be actually be attracted to me (at that time). Oh, and I was sort of... a little bit... engaged to someone else, as well.
Note to self: next time you meet someone-who-gets-you-in-ways-you-never-even-dared-to-dream-someone-actually-could.... Don't already be engaged to someone else.
For the next few months I was immersed in life and traveling so much I hadn't quite processed how much meeting someone like that had affected me...
Probably should have seen the end of the engagement coming after that.
I didn't, though. I'd made a commitment to love someone, and was pretty devastated when we broke up. I'd been happy with him for most of the 10 years we'd shared together... So being single wasn't something I'd ever expected. Or wanted. I am what you could call a True Romantic.
We're a bit of a rare breed, maybe...
After a few months of mourning (ie: crying every day), I was ready to dream again.
Every achievement in my life (both on my own and involving others) can be traced back to faithful, undying commitment to this same pattern: DREAM -----> PREPARE -----> EPIC SHIT HAPPENING
Could it be possible that this process would also apply to bringing Epic Romance into my life?
It was worth a shot. And so Step 1 of the process began: DREAM
My dreaming generally comes in the form of lists and affirmations. Like most things I do, this started out based in fairly primal, hedonistic desires... but as my listing/affirmations of The Ideal Partner refined with time, I realized.... Fuck. I've already met this guy. In an airport. In Hawaii.
And I started wonder... Could it be possible?
Teams of people and I Google searched our asses off, and he was no where to be found.
I half wondered if I'd just imagined the whole goddamn encounter! I was thinking all I could do was go off to Australia to find him Sleepless In Seattle style when... One day, meditating in a very blissful state... Things got even weirder. I felt him. That energy. That presence...
That was enough for me. I was ready to commit to this dream. It felt right and good, so I was in.
I knew it was crazy but I just couldn't help myself. I didn't want normal: dating, bars, the usual bullshit people have to go through to find a worthy person to maybe love.
No, thanks. I want more. I want epic. I want True Romance. I needed to test my belief that the true of heart get what they commit to, and this presence.... This warmth... It was so good, so pure, so worth... whatever amount of whatever was necessary to feel again.
I couldn't settle for less. Not for a day, not for a night.
Not even a fuck buddy?
As one friend asked me.
No, friend. Definitely not even a "fuck buddy." Like I said, a rare breed, I guess.
Commence to Step 2: PREPARE
How, exactly does one prepare for a Most Epic Romance without.... someone else there to love?
Guess I'd have to start with me. Thus began an epic Self Romance.
As with most things I do... this started out fairly primal and hedonistically...
But my methods of energy (sexual and otherwise) release refined with time. Evolution itself seems to have seriously hooked me up for my devotion to Idealism, actually...
I'd rather continue to enjoy my own company than anything less than that... goodness. That realness.
I honestly had no idea when I committed to this dream of Epic Romance that 3 years later I'd still be willing to wait As Long As It Takes, or that I would lose friends over it.
If you want to really piss off a group of Alpha Women, try being one and then wax on about romance and The One and devotion. People can be so cynical about love!
I come from a long line of intelligent women, who admire intelligent women. All my life I've witnessed women I respect use words like "Romance" and "Sentimentality" in air quotes heavy with a tone of... disdain, almost! Like, only weak and simple people would allow themselves to indulge...
It seems limiting to me, to feel like women have to choose between intelligence and romance.
I'm both. I like being both.
Being a Romantic doesn't stop me from being powerful, or intelligent! If anything, all of the things I love most about myself have been dramatically enhanced and inspired in the preparation for it!
I'm not looking for a guy to complete me, I'm already a whole person. I'm already my own definition of awesome. A large part of how rad I am is my capacity to love. I love like a monster! I love like a beast! It feels good to be a lover.
There's much more to the intuitive aspect of this story... To be continued another time...
Here I close with the idea that the people in our world who chase the windmills and dream the impossible dreams are only called dreamers up to the day of achievement.
Then they're called visionaries.
I've been in the business of dreaming, preparing, and then experiencing epic shit happen for a while now. I get how it works, and how inspiring it can be.
So, it's not only for me that I live/love this way. Not just for the very lucky man who will get to experience YEARS of repressed hedonism unleashed upon him, either. It's for all of us: believers and skeptics alike, that I document the process. That I share my story.
Because I have this belief that... When you win big enough, from dreaming boldly enough and prepare for it like a motherfucker... Those wins are universal. When this one comes around, let it be one more drop in the ocean of stories that inspire us all to dream, live, and prepare for epic, monumental, revolutionary greatness.
Romantic and otherwise.
One thing I've learned about my own life is that there's almost never just 1 reason for anything.
There's usually a myriad of reasons. Like a perfect storm leading up to each moment of pure decision making. This is what makes questions that begin with the word "Why" crazy makers, for me. Sometimes I don't know why until many years later. In some situations, I never do. I operate mostly by intuitive and instinctive impulses anyways... Seeing signs and making choices that I often don't understand myself, in the moment.
It's a crazy, wonderful, confusing way to live. Makes people around me nervous, but I like it.
At the end of 2010 I retired (the first time) from competing in the sport I love and became a full time coach. For a myriad of reasons: mental, emotional, physical and as it turns out, spiritual as well.
Of course, I didn't know all that at the time. All I really understood was that I love to travel, was exhausted from leadership, and my back and knee hurt too much to compete. So I hit the road.
Coaching on the road was so deeply satisfying it was ridiculous. But it was a crazy ass lifestyle.
I'd travel out on a Friday, knock myself out trying to download all that I've ever learned/gleaned/intuited about roller derby as not just a sport, but a transformational life experience... all in a weekend. Get home just long enough to recover, and go out again. Brazil one weekend, Finland the next. Wild.
It wasn't my job right away. I was on the grind for a long time, barbering in Oceanside between trips.
One day, at the barber shop, my back pain was so persistent it had me in tears. I don't usually take pills for any reason, but it was so bad. And PS: I've never had (or thought much about) health insurance.
A friend gave me her pain pills, and my boss sent me home for the day. I guess crying between haircuts is not really that cool... for anyone...
I wasn't really sure what to do. I still loved roller derby so much. Half my crying was at the thought that I'd never play again. On my way back to San Diego, I found myself parking the car at a spiritual book store.
Looked like I'd be getting a reading. I'd never gotten one at this particular shop, it was just an intuitive thing. I asked for the shortest amount of time, with the first person available.
Here's the thing about readings: I've gotten many. Mostly at times in life where I felt completely stuck. So, to get unstuck, I've gone to a different person each time, who doesn't know me. I tell them my problem, they give me their insight. I either agree with what is said, or totally disagree.
Either way: $30 and 15 minutes later, I'm not stuck anymore. I usually know what to do.
To get polarized a bit, you could say.
But this time was different because I was in physical pain and so vulnerable upon entering. The cashier sat me down in a small room with a curtain and walked away. He came back, holding the curtain aside and said, Ok, he's ready for you now. And a man in wheel chair entered the room.
Fuck me, I thought.
Am I seriously about to cry about a back injury to a man who's paralyzed from the waist down?
It felt wrong, but at the same time... I felt his energy from the second he wheeled his chair in my direction. This dude was the real deal. Not that most psychics aren't... but he was advanced.
I could feel his compassion and I had no choice. As soon as he asked me what was wrong I was choking back tears. I explained my back pain, and fears about not getting to skate again. He was so kind. I could cry just remembering how patient and attentive he was about the whole thing.
When I was finished he said, I know this feels like a physical injury, but it's not. You hold resentment in your lower back. And it's not even yours. It's other people's resentment against you.
I was like... Um, well, you see there was a specific moment my where I landed on my back...
He said, I know it seems that way. Do you want me to help you release it?
Of course I did. Even though I wasn't really sure how much I believed in what he was saying, at this point. I wanted to, so I said Yes, please.
He said a Catholic prayer, (which I had to decide to be open minded about) and placed his hand on my lower back for a moment. He said I would skate again, and it would be even better than the first time. And that my coaching business would also be very successful.
I'm generally a believer, but... This was so much good news, it made me skeptical!
3 days later I was coaching in Phoenix.
Half way through the day I realized... I'd forgotten to take anything for my back pain... and... It. Didn't. Hurt. At. All... Not at all. Like there wasn't ever an injury in the first place.
My coaching came to be in such high demand that I had to quit my job at the barber shop and life got super crazy busy after that. I moved to northern CA, but 1 year later I was back in Oceanside, announcing I was going to quit my successful coaching business and go back to skating.
My back was strong, emotions healed and I wanted to hug and thank the man who'd helped me in my time of need. But... he wasn't there anymore. He'd left the shop shortly after I'd seen him.
Never did get to see him again. Magic people work like that, though. Giving brief reminders of the magic of life and then they're gone. Should have seen that one coming, I guess. Maybe someday I'll learn how to keep the magic people I meet.
If that's possible?
It was an exciting day (in 2007?) when a spiritual/new age book store opened up in my town, since I'd been driving to shops all up and down the coast of San Diego looking for... Something.
I was tearing through a lot of books, and had this relentless desire to find... I'm not sure what! Something new, I guess. Religion didn't seem to work for me, so I was looking for what did.
Something about the new age style/tone tended to make my eyes squint a little, though. It felt like each book I read lead to one tiny glimmer, but nothing was quite luminously shiny in the way I wanted. So I went from book to book, collecting glimmers.
The owner of this new shop was a revelation to me. She was a real person! A Mom from the mid-west, who just happened to be a psychic/medium. Not a guru! I was full of excitement and enthusiasm, just to meet her. Soon after, she took me on as her first student.
It was kind of like a metaphysical apprenticeship.
She believed, as I do, that it's within the potential of every human to build and flex their intuitive muscles, and I was fucking eager to find out what I was capable of. I tried EVERY modality of divination: tarot cards, pendulums, past life regression CDs, everything. All of the toys.
I had a very playful, adventurous outlook on exploring the unknown. Maybe too playful.
My teacher was new at teaching, and I wasn't very mindful, either. So we didn't quite understand what all that playing around was attracting...
This came in both exciting, and terrifying forms. Scary scary dreams at night, sometimes.
During the day I was seeing signs, synchronicity, had a spontaneous (epic, emotional) conversation with both my deceased Grandparents, and all kinds of other awesome magic things were happening. It was a spiritually wild time. Lots of highs and lows. Like playing... with fire.
And then I wrote a book. It just came out. Took about two weeks.
This wasn't expected. I've always been a writer, but the plan was to rack up a bunch of life experience first. I was still in my mid-twenties at this time. But the book, it wanted to happen.
It was kind of a collaboration, I guess. I'm too big of a control freak to be a straight up channel, but there was a lot of information I was hearing for the first time as I wrote it. Naturally, I assumed it was destined for great things. Great things that had the words Best Seller in front of them.
I got an agent and started shopping it around. This is the part of the story about rejection.
The publisher I felt destined, to work with... the natural fit... was the FIRST one to shoot it down.
But that was honestly easier to accept than the major publishers who wanted the book, as long as I was willing to add comparative religious chapters to it. That wasn't even as upsetting as the fact that my own agent kept passing those stupid messages on to me...
When the whole book was about spiritual... Self Reliance. Not religion.
In other words, they loved it. As long as I'd be willing to turn this unicorn back into a horse.
I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't even consider it. The whole not-publishing process pissed me off, honestly. I sent the manuscript free to friends, friends of friends, whoever wanted it.
One friend sent me an email saying she'd passed it on to a Veteran she knew. He'd been close to suicide since coming back from Iraq with PTSD. Something about this book inspired him. She said it changed his life. I wondered, what if this book was written just for him?
Spiritual season passed and my focus shifted to more physical things.
As time went on, though, people who knew about my spiritual adventures started treating me like a guru. Some who'd read the book started to bring me their life questions, and I may have got a little drunk off the flavor of that particular Kool Aid... Then came the inappropriate text messages:
Bonnie, I want to buy this house. Send me some of your good vibes.
Bonnie, I have a job interview coming up. Do some of your magic for me.
These were alarming! Just what, exactly, did people expect me to be able to do?
Self Reliance was the essence of the whole thing... Not... Bonnie reliance!
At that point I stopped sending the book, and even deleted the original manuscript. If my friends reacted that way, what would have happened if the book ever went to print??
A couple years back, I got curious about possibly publishing an updated (older, wiser) version, and my Mom sent me her copy (since I'd deleted the original). Reading it with fresh eyes... Made them squint a little...
The message was and is still amazing. That wasn't really the squinty part as much as that tone. It came across as a little... bossy. The messenger may have been a bit drunk (off the spiritual energy) at the time of the writing.
Spiritual energy has been kind of like alcohol for me. It's taken time to learn my limits.
I was so sad when that book didn't get published right away.
But... if it had, would I have ever sent it to the friend who sent it to the Veteran? What would the ripple effects have been, if I'd become a successful author that young and irresponsible? (I still get drunk off energy sometimes!) What would the damage have been to my psyche if I'd compromised my values to get published?
Hard to say... Life works in many mysterious ways!
I can say that The Book That Got Away continues to be one of my greatest teachers in life.
I love love love the idea of being a happy painter. That's most likely 100% due to Bob Ross.
There were just so many other things I wanted to try in life that I never got around to it.
Then a paint set and easel just sort of... came into my world. No excuses not to get a canvas and try it, at that point! Naturally, the experience would have to be as Bob Ross as possible.
What I didn't have in painting skills was made up for with enthusiasm, candles and good music.
It took all day. I made a huge mess and spilled the dark water all over the white carpet. Happy accidents everywhere! But, out of the madness and the wreckage a masterpiece was born...
An exemplary work of fine, artistic expression:
A creative experience so perfectly satisfying the urge to paint has never come around again! So much fun, though. I gave the paint set to the thrift store so Oceanside's next great artist would have a chance to emerge. I didn't want to hog all that glory to myself!
Joyful Painting: check!
Last night I had the coolest dream about catching up with a friend I hadn't seen in over a decade.
She seemed really happy and was telling me about how good things were going for her. It was so good to see that. There was a warmth and deep, mutual respect between us. It felt so real!
Of course, IRL she was a nightmare person who disrespected me in pretty much any way one coming-of-age girl can another... Including have sex with almost every dude I ever crushed on and stole my favorite shirt. Our last conversation went something like:
Me: I don't owe you anything!
Her: FUCK YOU, BITCH!!!
Ah, dreams. I still miss that shirt.
That was a tough break up. But, very necessary. If we'd stayed friends, lord only knows how much more drama and madness would have ensued. I've had to break up with quite a few friends, over the years.
Sometimes things would just flow organically, we'd drift off in our separate ways. Sometimes with a big, dramatic scene like that. I don't like doing it.
Still, there's this weird thing that happens between people, sometimes. Where one decides, Hey you're fun, how about I try to control your life from now on? And I'm like... Oh, no... sorry. No.
The hardest break ups are when I have no issue w/a person (or whole group) at all. It's just time. Our moment has passed. Like the Venezuelan sisters I used to party with, back in the day.
They were so fun! Not one argument between us.
There wasn't anything wrong with them, I was just growing and needed to move on... I loved the moments we shared, but they spent (and expected me to spend) every waking minute together... and I'm way too free spirited for that!
Looking back, I can see now that the ugly friend break ups seemed to happen when it was time to move on, and I just didn't want to, or know how. Like any relationship breakup, I guess. I've finally learned to see the signs and just go when it's time, but it's never easy to explain.
I've yet to find a non-brutal way say to someone, or a group: Ok, this was a perfect experience. You're great and I love you. I'm gonna grow now, bye!
It's not easy being a creature-of-variety in a creature-of-habit-world.
For a long time, I wondered if there was something wrong with me. Seems like everyone else likes to stay in one place and keep the same friends, job, location forever... Why do I want to move and change everything all the time?? Why can't I stay still, ever? Is it mean to move on so much?
I finally realized... I just love to taste as many of the spices of life as I can!
In other words, I'm a textbook Sagittarius.
Except for the "commitment" part. I actually LOVE commitment, even knowing that everything is temporary, I commit to the moment. Life, love, dreams and adventures... EVERYTHING is much more fun when fully committed to, in my opinion.
Maybe that's where some get the wrong idea, though? Again and again I see the same tendency in friends to get weirdly controlling and drunk with self importance in the presence of another's (my) undying commitment to our time together. Kind of like people are with their pets, honestly.
Though adoring and loyal, I'm nobody's pet. The departure often seems to come as a surprise.
I got the intuitive message once: Don't worry, when you find the place where you can grow and stay in one place, you will. Which totally makes sense. Hopefully along the way I'll find more friends who get the whole free spirit thing, and don't try to tie me down.
I have no desire to break up with another friend in this lifetime! It's all just an illusion, anyway.
See, the truth is I never actually leave anyone behind.
I commit 150% to the moments we have together, and bring all the best ones shared with me. This is really hard to explain in the transition. I move on because I'm a mover. An adventurer. Even while committing 150% to the new present moment, I will always glow warmly with moments past. In stories, memories and in dreams.
Even if we never speak again, or you stole my favorite shirt. I move on, but I still love.
Ok, so "flirting" and me, is like...
Play sports? Yes. Philosophical discussions? Yes. Honest conversations? Yes. Teasing dudes?
At the end of a very long work day I recently caught myself acting uncharacteristically receptive to the flirty charms of an ambitious, 20 year-old marine with a southern accent, and it was like...
Seriously, I sent myself home for the day. I'm just not a flirt. It's not my thing. But, there was this one time I made a decided exception at the produce section of the grocery store...
With a group of Mormon Missionary boys...
Oh yes. Yes I did.
There were about 5 or 6 of them, scattered around the produce section.
I smiled at one and he grinned with wide eyes at his buddies, and next thing I knew... There was a twinkle in my eye that very few on this planet can claim to have seen, personally.
I honestly cannot say what came over me, but made my way to the watermelons and asked the young man who was standing there (nervously) if he knew how tell if they were ripe? Smile, twinkle.
He didn't, but he did like my tattoos he said, with a smile and flushed cheeks. The others did too, they said. More sheepish smiles.
I flashed another smile with a quick, raised eyebrow and (previously to this point never used tone of a) sultry thank you. I wished them all a very good day and sauntered off to leave them with their thoughts about tattoos and melons before it all got a little too creepy.
On my part. I was enjoying that way too much.
This was wildly out of character behavior for me... But... it was also really sweet and fun!
If one is to make a conscious, creepy, cougariffic no-flirting exception... It might as well be with sweet, young bicycle-riding missionaries, right?? I mean... who better, really?
Being taught not to talk to strangers might have actually saved my life in 6th grade. I was walking to school alone when a dude pulled up in a white truck and tried to convince me to get in.
I did not. I ran the rest of the way to school. Lesson well applied.
This happened again in high school. Another dude in a truck pulled over and rolled along side me for an uncomfortable amount of time, trying to get me to come talk to him. At that age, I was old (and feisty) enough to tell a man to fuck off.
I didn't out loud, but I did think it very intensely. He got the vibe. Lesson applied again.
At what point, though, does a lesson like that lose its relevance?
Do grown ass people still need be leery of each other? I've lived in a lot of places where the neighbors don't even say hi to each other. Wouldn't it be so much cooler if we did, though?
That part in the video about the loneliness, I get that. I've felt very lonely at times. Even in a life full of social activity. Sometimes I just wanna talk to someone who doesn't know me and hear something fresh.
I have been known to spontaneously get into deeply personal discussions with people I didn't know a few minutes before. Not every day, but I'm open to it most of the time. Barbers do that for a living, anyway: cut hair and talk to strangers. So I guess it's the next, natural step for me to take that out on the town.
Once, I was feeling lonely when I realized I'd been single for over a year and not one dude had asked me out. I didn't want to date, but it'd still be nice to be asked!
I was driving around thinking about this and, passing by a park in Carlsbad I saw a beautiful man with wild, long, blond curly hair. He was sitting alone, on a bench with a crazy little pit bull puppy.
I'd made a U-turn, parked my car and was asking him if I could sit down just before realizing what a creepy stranger I was being. He seemed a bit surprised, but yes, was willing to chat.
We talked about everything. He told me he'd basically fled a life on the east coast, where he was a model and an athlete and just couldn't stand the environment of competition anymore. So he moved to CA and became a surf bum, essentially. We sat there for about an hour, sharing stories, theories, dreams and struggles.
I told him about nobody asking me out. He asked me to coffee.
I said no, but thank you for asking! which seemed to surprise him even more than the initial approach. Why would a woman approach a man and not want anything more from him??
I was honest with him, Sometimes I just need to trust someone. Even if it's just for an hour.
Sometimes that's actually way easier to achieve with someone you know you'll never see again than a close friend. An hour of connection with a man was more than enough, for me in that moment. He wasn't my soul mate, I already knew that when I sat down.
But there, on the bench... A stranger was exactly what I needed. I won't be dramatic and say it changed my life, (I have these anonymous connections with people often) but it certainly made my day! And, I'd like to think it made his, too.
All well and good with a hot guy, right?
One morning I was walking to the donut shop and playing an inside game of "Let's count how many people say good morning to me."
I love saying good morning. Before barbering I was a barista and developed many positive associations with highly caffeinated GOOD MORNINGs.
Many people hate mornings, so I didn't want to be a shove-it-down-the-throat-kind-of-gal, on that particular day. (Though I often do!) On this day I would only Good Morning the willing. So the rule was, have to wait for someone else to say it first. Then return with the best Good Morning, ever.
Several people passed without even looking at me. Then another, and another. I was starting to get kinda sad about it when a homeless woman with a mohawk, pushing a shopping cart with all of her belongings piled on it (including a cat carrier with a cat inside) approached.
She was the first and only person to initiate Good Mornings. She seemed to be able to read my willingness and was more than happy to oblige, with a genuine smile that lit us both up.
On the flip side, when I play the reverse Good Morning game (the one where I initiate a sunny GM with everyone I pass and count how many say it back) almost everyone does. Seriously, even people who have a natural don't-fuck-with-me resting face almost always say it back.
Seems like most are willing to return, but scared to initiate. I guess there's a certain fear of gauging someone's willingness to say it back wrong, or being perceived as wanting something.
When I was a little kid, there was a holiday where my Mom, brother and I had nothing. Like, nothing. No beds, no dinner (we were eating popcorn), nothing but a 1 bedroom apartment.
There was a knock at the door and when we opened it, a box full of food was sitting there. When I ran out to see who left it, I saw a group of boys running to a van that drove off. They gave and they ran! I got two things from this that I carry on through life:
1) Strangers can be... GOOD!
People do kind things for people they don't know. It happens. I still don't know if those boys were a church group, Boyscouts, neighbors, or who was driving the van they were in.
2) Give and run.
The fact that they did not stick around, gauging whether or not we deserved their generosity, made them amazing. I was forever inspired.
Give and run left a very strong impression on me. Like, I don't actually give a fuck if someone chooses to return my Good Morning or not. When I give, I do it so I can be amazing, not right about gauging their character!
Combining the wisdom of that experience with a (usual) willingness to talk to strangers has helped me with both loneliness and that inevitable freak out/existential crisis that used to hit me every time a homeless person/church group/charity would ask for money.
Sometimes a Good Morning, honest conversation, or just one genuine smile is all I want, or have to give! Luckily, that's all it takes to be amazing.
There's an art museum in Hobart, Tasmania (MONA) that's bucket-list worthy, if you're into art.
It's not really a museum, as much as.... A mind blowing experience. A MASSIVE, eclectic, eccentric, gaudy, fun, multi-story, state-of-the-art monster is what it is.
When I went, there was an entire floor of interactive art you could play with. Really cool, funny stuff, like a room full of bean bag chairs and people screaming Madonna songs (acapella) on individual TVs.
There was also an entire wall of real-life-women's clay cast vaginas. A great wall of vagina, if you will. Oh, and a fucking mummy!
I love MONA. Whoever owns it is a fearless collector and must be wealthy beyond imagination.
I also learned something about responsibility at MONA. It happened in the shock art section. As the name suggests, it's not meant to soothe. I hadn't known there was a shock art section, though, until I was... in it... So there was no preparing for how it would make me feel.
This is where I'll pause to explain a bit about what being an empath is like.
That sounds nice, doesn't it?
Well, it's not always nice. Like all gifts, there's an uncomfortable side to it. If you look up people's definitions and descriptions of empathy, as I have, they make it sound like a lifestyle choice. A happy option. A sweet idea. And maybe for some people it is.
Mine's not a choice. I don't just identify with emotions, I feel them in my body. Mine and other people's. And, as it turns out, art's as well. When an artist dumps their feelings into a painting, I can feel that, as if they were my own feelings.
OK, back to MONA.
So, one minute I am caressing a plant that's hooked up to sound technology, (so cool, the way you touched it made a corresponding sound to illustrate how plants feel) and around the next corner, I was being bombarded by a cacophony of every one of an artist's darkest demons. Not just one of them, all of them. A whole collection.
There was blood and pubic hair on canvases. Graphic, aggressive images everywhere. It was so intense I almost threw up and passed out at the same time. I started to panic, sweat, and had to leave the building. I tried to go back in, but couldn't enjoy myself. I was covered in someone else's emotional baggage and needed to go back to the hotel.
All those feelings would take a workout, shower, journal, and a full night's sleep to release.
So... I can feel a big difference between the beauty of artistic expression, and an artist essentially... Taking an emotional shit on a canvas. The difference is creative responsibility, which comes down to intention at the time of creation.
Responsible: Intending to process a difficult emotion, to feel/create beauty by the end of it.
Fucked up: Intending to put pain on a canvas, so others will feel that pain.
Seems to me that to have a gift as powerful as invoking feeling... I mean, it's kind of epic, right??
I write, so... I have no idea if the concept of responsibility ever comes up in art school.
Maybe nobody's teaching artists how to create in a way that respects the person who looks at it? Maybe people want to be disturbed? Maybe I could ask? Back in San Diego, I was invited to an art show/party.
Ah, a chance to investigate!
I saw a group of artists standing around together, and approached cautiously. This is where I should mention that I'm a psycho super fan of new art. I was a little intimidated by the artists and would have to put my inner fan-woman on a leash.
AND find an intelligent way to discuss this issue that's so close to my heart. I could do that.
I'll spare the details... In summary: I had to leave the party a little early.
It turned out, the artists weren't really that into a non-artists' feelings. In regards to art. And feelings.
Basically they told me that their key to art was to make people feel what they feel. At that point, there wasn't really much I could say. I agree with them, but at the same time... want more.
Given the option: I'd love to hang someone's hero's journey on my wall. The full range of emotions, sure. Life is full of crazy feelings, and that's what I love seeing portrayed by a skilled artist.
Not just personal issues, but how they can be processed into something new/amazing.
You don't have to be an empath to feel when it's inspired expression on display.
This is one of many reasons I'm completely obsessed with street art. The impermanence and (often) anonymity of street art seems to unleash a totally different kind of beast. One that seems more likely to speak from a collective thirst and desire. To experience something aspirational, something true; and even learn to see something hard to look at in a beautiful light... I feel that's artistic expression in its purest form.
Creative, with a sense of social responsibility to those who could be affected by its vibe.
Customer service... It's so weird, isn't it?
Our culture's reaching this interesting crossroads, it seems. It's very popular to talk about "authenticity." At the same time, we have a huge chunk of the population working in the service industry. Which is, essentially, the culture of kissing the customer's ass... Authentically?
So, be real. And be really, genuinely subservient?
This video made me laugh, cuz I'm not really someone who needs to be told to go the extra mile.
I'm actually pretty ridiculously service-oriented, so for me it was more like... I had to learn not to go crazy and give the customer the shirt off my back. Here's your pickle, and... MY LIFE! TAKE IT!
Serving others doesn't bother me at all, honestly. I love it.
I love it when other people are happy and I was a part of it. However, nature/universe was not without a sense of humor when creating me, because I'm also an extremely genuine person... with a rebellious streak a mile wide. If I go all out to give someone a great experience and they're a super douche in return, I have feelings.
And what I feel... tends to show!
Enter customer service etiquette: at this point, I'm supposed to swallow how I feel and pretend that everything is delightful. That's like giving a spoiled child candy every time he/she pitches a fit.
I've never been very good at that.
To me, it's like each time I had to swallow spoiled-customer shit, an angel lost its wings.
There were plenty of times I've had no other response to someone's spoiled behavior than to turn into the robot they're asking for. No more smiles, no more sunny vibe. Those privileges are lost. Just perform the service and wait for it to be over. But that always feels like losing.
Reinforcing mean-to-service-worker behavior feels like doing a disservice to humanity. The struggle between being what I was taught is professional, and being a person was something I wrestled with my entire adult life.
As a teenager I didn't care about winning in a way where everyone wins, I'd just flip the bitch switch.
I've grown to see that the pursuit of an everyone-wins scenario is the only real winning.
I've been trying to conduct myself in everyone-wins mode ever since. I don't always get it, but I'm in pursuit. Cuz difficult customers, are really just... people who no one's ever called out, properly. That's what I try to think of winning ways to do in uncomfortable situations: call people out.
Compassionately. I'm not always successful, but I've learned to stack the deck in my favor a bit.
In essence, just by being myself. The whole time. I talk to everyone like I talk to everyone. I don't change my tone for customers, my Mom, or people I talk to at the store.
I talk to everyone the same way I talk to my best friend. She's a lot more fun than most people, so I get a little louder and funner with her than others. And I definitely pull back w/dudes, sometimes. (Things get weird) But the tone, character, personality is pretty much the same. I'm not "professional," I'm a person. People seem to respect that, for the most part.
I think we're all a little tired of bullshit, anyways.
On the rare occasion that someone walks right by my realness, surprises me with jerk mode, and I've genuinely shown how much that surprises me and how confused I am that someone would respond that way to kindness...
I have seen a change. Not in the moment, but when they come back later. I've even gotten apologies! Sincerity seems to leave a pretty strong impression.
One time a guy didn't like how I cut his son's hair and totally raged at me. All I could say was, "Wow, you're being so disrespectful right now..."
Because that was the truth. The truth was, he was being unreasonable, so I let my behavior genuinely reflect that. And he just sort of... made his way out the door. He didn't come back, but I'd like to think he might reflect on it and communicate better to the next person.
Maybe he will, maybe he's just gonna be an unreasonable person this lifetime. Either way...
I'm only responsible for my side of the street, which I keep clean by being me. With a sincere interest in everyone winning. Not some weird creation some unknown HR department made up somewhere. Does anyone really want to live in fake world?
There IS an easy way to end fake-nice culture:
I don't claim to be the voice of my generation or anything, but I have been around a bit. In my travels I've yet to meet a single person who enjoys the act of spoiled-customer-shit-swallowing, for any amount of money.
Maybe a previous generation (who created fake-nice culture) were willing to do so, but I don't see any reason for us to keep passing it on to the next. At some point we're gonna have to just... Stop it.
My brothers and I... we take life very seriously.
Nah, just kidding.
We love to act crazy and be funny. It's the American way. For anyone who grows up in a harsh environment, though, humor becomes more like a survival mechanism than a cute idea. Everyone wants to be funny. Not everyone wants to be a comedian.
As kids, my brother Greg and I totally did. We would perform for (and compete with) each other, to see who was funnier. My finishing move was milk. If I could be funny enough at dinner while he was drinking milk, there would be a milk fountain.
That's like being funny twice. Eventually we were forced to sit side-by-side at tables, so we wouldn't be able to see each other directly. No more milk fountains.
Professional comedians were (are) like gods to us. So to be one, even for a day, would be to win for a lifetime. Greg's done a few stand up open mic nights, but I never really knew if I was funny enough.
Last year I had an epiphany, Holy shit! My friend Jazz is totally a sketch comedy teacher! So I finally just... asked him about it. He told me when/where, and my mouth said "OK, I'll see you there!" before my brain could intervene.
So I'd be hanging out with comedians. After a lifetime of putting them on pedestals. No big D, right?
My first experience was all a blur. Sketch comedy was so amazingly positive! I got to act silly, laugh a lot, and I learned two lessons I take with me in life:
1) "Yes, and..."
This is a sketch comedy thing, where you don't say No and shoot anyone down. The idea is to take whatever is on the table and add more awesome to it. It's very feel good, I loved it.
2) "I'm uncomfortable!"
One of the dudes in the class had "the glow." I could just tell he's gonna be pro, so I watched him closely. In the middle of a sketch he seemed to lose his way, and instead of floundering he abruptly shouted out, "I'm uncomfortable!"
Something about the bold statement of a truly vulnerable feeling (right in the moment) made such a strong impression on me, I've been using it ever since. But, like... in regular conversations!
I also learned that (despite my milk move) Greg was actually the funnier one of the two of us, all along. I just like laughing. I went to two classes and my only real contribution was laughing at everyone's jokes the entire 2 hours. I added nothing, but laughter.
Essentially, Jazz had let a fan in the comedy workroom.
I highly recommend the sketch comedy experience, though. It was wonderful! People are so warm and inviting. Very very fun. Stand up comedy, in contrast, was, for me... A lesson in contrast.
A lot of the sketch comedians also did stand up. My second night I was invited to stay for open mic.
In my fan-woman mindset, this was like, such an honor. I was excited and nervous and... totally disappointed and heartbroken 10 minutes into it. 1 hour later I practically ran out of the building. If the sketch comedy room was a dance party, the stand up room was more like... a prison yard.
The guys were so mean to each other and so... depressing!
I couldn't stand the harshness of my sketch comedy buzz being invaded with the brutally self- indulgent, shame based stories and insults the stand up comics were vomiting at each other from the stage. I could see why there was little-to-no audience. There was certainly no consideration for one. It was like a drunken, verbal, onstage... circle jerk. And I'm being kind.
One of the sketch guys tried to get me to stay, but there was no way. I told him, "I don't like it!" and couldn't get out fast enough. As a fan, I was bummed to see no sign of working the craft.
I may not be that funny, after all, but I have an appreciation for the craft. Comedians are supposed to be the magicians who can make the ugly... funny.
Not just show it off.
These guys brought all the truth and none of the curlicue. Stand up is a fantasy officially smashed.
Still, I laughed so much in the sketch room that I basically continue to glow, one year later. I was terrified to try it, so completely terrible at it, and did it (twice) anyways. For someone who gets off on facing fears, this was pretty big deal. Amazing, wonderful experience.
So... comedy... check!
There's a construction site in Long Beach that has those long-plywood-temporary walls up, since it goes all the way to a busy sidewalk. Naturally, every kid w/a marker or spray can has had something to say on it. It's fun to see what people do with a new, blank canvas in their neighborhood.
Most of it's pretty juvenile. I wasn't really expecting to find/be totally spellbound by this picture:
Each time I see it, something has changed. First, it was just the picture.
Then, someone wrote MADIBA in Sharpie on it. Lots of tags went up around it, and were covered in white paint immediately after. But MADIBA was mysteriously respected enough not to be covered.
The edges are torn, but his image remains. It's like a constantly evolving piece of art.
So inspiring. I love everything about it.
Every time I hear someone say "You Only Live Once," there's a little bell that rings in my mind like...
Since reincarnation is part of my belief system. I'm not recruiting or anything, but I will share some of my perspective on the subject. Cuz I think it's a little different from anyone's I've ever heard.
My (personal) spirituality is kinda like shopping at the farmer's market. I just go for whatever looks fresh this week. Next week, I might want something else. Pretty consistently, though, I've held the belief that I've lived before. Many times, as lots of different people.
Exactly how many people and what their lives were (are?) like is something I'm curious about, but it's not a major concern. Because, paradoxically, I do my best to live like it's all come to this one.
Not like this is my only chance, but as if it were my last chance. My last life. Last incarnation. Of course, I have no way of knowing if it really is. That's just how I've been living. In possibility of it.
This helps me deal w/all the unexplainable shit that has happened in the past. I figure it must be because I had to serve out old karma for stuff I must have done in life-times I don't entirely remember right now.
I like that idea a lot more than constantly wondering why. Why is a crazy-maker.
This perspective also makes the concept of forgiveness a lot easier for me to swallow. Forgiveness starts to look like, OK, I get it. Must've had that coming. Well played. Lesson learned.
AND helps me be kinder to myself like: it's cool if situation X makes no sense right now, I trust that if I can manage this with grace, (find the lesson) all debts will be cleared. This time will be the last time I experience this, because I'm gonna get it. I'll get what this is about. Eventually.
It's like an extreme form of taking responsibility for my life, which makes me feel more powerful in it. Not like a victim, ever.
Living as if everyone else is also in their karma-serving lifetime helps me be more patient and compassionate to others, too. I can't prove (or assume) that anyone actually is. I just live as if that's true.
Another aspect of this outlook is racking up good karma.
Essentially: Doing feel-good things (often when no one's looking), with no expectations of return in the moment, and inspire as many people as possible, however possible!
This is how I make the world make sense, for me. That's the goal of my personal spirituality.
Like, it makes sense that there's both a greater plan and that I get to decide what my role in it will be. So I can live in faith that the good stuff I do makes me feel good for a reason. And that the hard parts are also there for a reason.
I may not always understand in the moment, but totally will at some point, I'm sure.
In 2011 I thought I was ready to leave the chaos of city life behind, and fulfill my dream of living amongst the trees of Northern California.
So I did. I up and left one dream location (San Diego) for another. And I lived in walking distance to giant redwood trees. A 5 minute drive to the nearest waterfall, 14 hours from the life I knew before.
It's hard to describe the way these big trees feel to be with.
It's like, if Gandalf was a tree, multiplied by infinity, and hundreds of feet tall. In the redwoods, I feel welcome. Surrounded by calm, warm, wonderful wisdom. I feel small, and very deeply loved by a bunch of green, red and brown Grandparents.
That said, I only lasted about 6 months.
See, I thought I was going off to be with my people. The trees, the free spirits, free thinkers, and the compassionate. I didn't know about the alarming nature of angry hippies, aggressive yoga teachers, and militant vegans until I got there.
The enlightened really kind of (unexpectedly) bummed me out.
I certainly have vegan, yoga, hippie tendencies! Tendencies aren't really the same as righteousness, though. I love variety too much to totally rule out any alternative lifestyle choices.
If there is one path I am consistently committed to, it's evolution. I don't necessarily equate the spiritual aspect of that with full time enlightenment, though.
Here's where it gets complicated:
I feel that, if I'm to develop into my ambitious goal of a universal perspective... Then it's not really for-my-cause if I make things weird with someone if they happen to listen to rap, wear Ugg Boots, drive a Hummer, or vote Republican. My goals are too big for rigidity...
I wanna be able to have an easy, natural conversation with anyone, anytime, anywhere. I wanna be so fluid and universal that people don't care how different we are, everyone just feels comfortable to be themselves in my presence. This requires an epic level of open-mindedness.
HOWEVER: I totally get how people can be "enlightened" and intolerant at the same time. I have been, in the past. Because it can be exhausting... trying so hard to live (and do everything) "right." Not at all easy to do in a transitioning world.
Transitioning out of an unsustainable way of life that makes no sense, (into the sustainable one that the righteous are working very hard towards) can be disheartening when there's so many people around who appear not to have any intention of helping out.
Things aren't always as they appear to be, though...
Granted, my theories change (evolve) from day to day. Today, though, I feel that no one has the ability to decide/discern/judge how anyone else should live, to the extent of totally disregarding them.
In spiritual studies, I see the term unconditional love thrown around a lot. Like it's the ultimate goal. And I've been in expanded states (meditating) where I've felt it. (Fucking epic, feel it if you can!)
Here in life, though, there are personalities I don't love. It would feel like kind of a burden/lie to say I could learn to love every one of them. Respect I can do, though. I like treating others like they are important, anyways.
To me, this is the difference between enlightenment and actualization. I've been loved by spiritual people who are not actually respectful at all. It feels yucky. Like, pretentious or something. Being loved like that doesn't feel actual. It feels like... "love" had the same check box next to it as "Prius."
I'd prefer to be actually respected than loved in a way that feels forced. So that's how I treat others.
For me, life's all about learning unconditional respect. Unconditional acceptance that everything and everyone has worth and is worthy on some level. Even when I don't understand something, or immediately love it. Not quite there yet, but a little closer every day.
There was a time when I had a lot of zombie dreams. Which was weird, because I was never really into zombies, like some people are. Still, they scared the shit out of me in dreams.
It started out in a movie theater.
On my way through the lobby I spotted a broom closet, open slightly, and got curious. Inside the broom closet: creepy fucking zombie!
Why was there a zombie in the movie theater broom closet? I don't know, and I didn't stop to ask!
I see the zombie, freak the fuck out and run. He chases after.
I run out of the theater, down the street. Down many streets. He chases. As fast as I run, he runs. But then I start to get tired. He starts to get tired. We both get worn out from all the crazy running.
Eventually I'm dragging ass, just barely walking, and he's dragging ass right beside me. Both of us entirely too exhausted to make a deal out of it. Totally done.
Finally I look at him, still walking, and ask, "Why were you chasing me?"
He looked right at me and answered, "Why were you running?"
Then I woke up. That was my last zombie dream.
Barbering may not be my dream job, but it does have many benefits.
Not "benefits" the way most people mean... There's no health insurance or retirement fund! But people do, often, get very real with the person who cuts their hair. I enjoy that part, and I learn a lot from the different perspectives.
One subject that often comes up (albeit subversively) is the fear of failure. As if it's an exclusive experience. As if it were one of two options, and therefore a 50/50 chance to any risk.
I think maybe it comes up a lot because, any given time you look at me, there's probably 3 things happening at once:
1) I'm hungry
2) I have to pee
3) I'm failing at something
The first 2 I have no explanation for, but the 3rd is mostly because I try new things all the time. It's not possible to be an expert at something brand new. Expert takes time, so failing is happening all the way up to winning, and even... then!
At some shops I've worked at, the subject came up with guys getting out of the military and into civilian life. At others with college or high school graduates, and more recently; with Dads supporting their families.
So many have both the real dream, and the "realistic" choice they're about to make, (or have spent a lifetime making) despite it. And I'm right there to witness the death of the dream.
Or so it seems. I do my best to corrupt people with some of my faith in dreams, magic, destiny and love of risk.
I openly state that there are probably enough "good" influences in a boy/man's life. Let me be at least one voice that says fuck realistic. Do what you really want. Even if it's just on the side: do it!
And this is something that I'm proud to do. It's really pretty shocking how much the fear of failure stops brilliant, interesting, dynamic people from being all that they are capable of.
I figure a little encouragement from a stranger is better than none at all. I've got enough courage to share, so why not? Also, I fail regularly, so I can give an honest report from both sides of it: it's just one part of the process.
In my life, there's the job and there's the dreams. Dreams are informed, and funded by jobs. There's no question and no confusion in where my loyalty, heart, and true ambitions reside!
There's a certain aura of glory that emanates from a person who's failed a lot and then finally made it.
But there's absolutely no finality in "making it." There's a very distinct "Now what?" that comes immediately after. Still, I'd rather fail 1,000 times, win 100 and eat 100 Now Whats for dinner than live with one single "What if," personally.
And, polling the guys who've shared with me over the years... I can honestly say that they would too. Especially the ones who never even gave their dreams a chance.
I feel a certain urgency in saying this same thing, as often as I can to as many who will listen. Because the pain of failure FUCKING SUCKS. It truly does, I won't lie about that!
But it can't possibly be worse than the feelings I get from the guys who never tried. I promise, it's not the same feeling at all. It's so soooooo much better to fail gloriously than to never try.