by Troy Ygnacio Soriano.

I’m gonna do this each year and add one more X-)

39 THINGS I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO!

(-and 10 things I resolve to stop.)

________________________________________

Getting a free Starbucks bday drink..

Writing my arse off this year.

Getting INSANELY, crazy-pills fit again.

FINISHING UNDERGRAD.

Getting some more tattoos.

Seeing a Premiership or Champions league game in the UK.

Making and sewing more of my own clothes, cos I dig it for some reason!!!
Learning to cook and eating more vegan. Yep yep!

Making scads more friends.

Starting my French punk band: PROUSTS PUKE…..
…..

Doing more fasts and cleanses.

Getting involved in the election.

Living somewhere more permanant. Putting some lil’ roots down.

Doing some more subway poetry readings.. Public square type readings..

Reading more books.

Spending time offline.

Spending more time without my mobile phone on me or even around me. Forgetting where it is .. losing it .. throwing it in a tree.

Giving more gifts.
Doing more yoga.

Taking some really good cooking classes/unusual or challenging.

Making more of a big woop about Christmas! Ok.
Throwing a big party.
Being naked or little-clothed more often.

..Surfing.

Writing more letters. Or at least one really long one.

Spending more time in rural nature, and at a great remove from the hustle-bustle.

Take a refresher course in Mindfulness Training.

Get a new pair of glasses or two.

Directing a video for my husbands good tunes!!!!

Starting to information-gather for a food business.

Getting real roots down in a garden. (also plant another secret Garden like the one I put in Golden Gate Park.)

Write a song all my own.

Teach more.

Start building my book library up again.

Giving more of my work out for free.

Buy a record player and put in the bed room.
Putting a big old radio in the kitchen and leave it on NPR/classical.

I’m gonna start sketch-designing my own clothing collection every season and then make a few items from what I designed. In addition to this, I’m gonna create a few jeans-type items for wearing casually and for giving to friends.

Get more involved in Freemasonry.

-10 Things I resolve to do MUCH LESS of this year;

Eating until I am full.
Buying things from chain stores.

Wearing clothes so often.

Eating food that is gross, or fast food, or not good for me, or late at night, or somehow not right.

Coddling my friends delusions or my own. Even if its seems loving to do so.

Looking at the same websites-find some new favorites

Lil less online social networking for real-time friend making.

Stop watching TV, all TV shows ..and save the tv-usage for good movies…..

Couchsurfing. It’s time.

Buying clothes from the mall -any mall.

Bonus ..

Ooo! Things to keep doing well!

running
collecting artworks from my artist-friends.
farming
sharing kombucha
writing
sketching.
Writing down what I eat.

TyS
July 6, 2011
Chicago.

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Posted by: cavemanwithmartini | August 30, 2010

The Mindfulness Training by Troy Ygnacio Soriano.

THE MINDFULNESS MEDITATION.

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION.

Mindfulness Meditation is one of the two main types of Meditations that are popular in Insight Meditation, a form of Buddhism that has been helpful to me. The other one is Lovingkindness, which is also detailed in these Notes. They are non-religious, non-dogmatic meditations which are focused on practical results for every person.

Mindfulness Training, more than anything else, helped me to first slow, and then absolutely halt my very severe anxiety, episodes of which I detail in my book, How To Be Relentlessly Happy. It is a deceptively simple meditation that can have, and has had, very profound effects on many an anxious or troubled persons mental state. Like chess, it takes only a minute to learn but can take some time to master.

You can do this meditation anywhere, at any time during the day. It does not require you to be on a special cushion at a certain time of day in front of a sacred image.

Like all meditation, keep with it, the effects are always cumulative. Just like muscle-training at the gym, don’t expect dramatic results in one sitting, but over time. Also, similarly to the gym, it matters how often you try, not how long you’re in. Better to meditate ten minutes a day for 100 days than to do an hour once and then stop for years.

The three steps of Mindfulness Meditation are:

1. Slow down or STOP.

2. Choose a PRIMARY OBJECT.

3.  Take MENTAL NOTATIONS.

Step One;

If you cannot stop, take the initiative to slow down. Even this level of awareness “I’m going to slow down now”, is a change from our usual harried, moment to moment daily-life. Awareness is already coming in with this step. Slowing down, more than anything else, implies a mental slowing-down, where you arrest the thinking process from a chaos, into a singularly-directed path, with, if not a destination, a general direction, which brings us to step two.

Step Two;

Choose a primary object. This is something to focus ON, and to bring your attention back to, repeatedly. Students usually choose the breath, but other good ones could be; sounds (sounds of traffic, the ring of a bell, nearly any sound), the light of a candle, a mandala or other sacred image, anything you have a positive and non-complicated relationship to. Your attention will stray from your primary-object and that is natural. The important thing is to come back to the primary-object, repeatedly.

Step Three;

Take mental notations. These are, above all, non-judgmental notations, and sound like this … “now feeling hungry, now feeling anxious, now feeling bored, now feeling hungry again, now feeling excited, now feeling … ” and on, and on, similarly describing thoughts or feelings. Keep them short, just the most basic notations, and again, leave them non-judged,

“Now feeling hungry .. that is bad, I’m still struggling with my weight ..” would be incorrect.,

Merely note, “now feeling hungry, now feeling disappointed , now feeling ..”

-would be the correct version of that exact thought-sequence. If you are with the same thought or feeling in a continual way, note that as well like; “Now feeling hungry … now feeling hungry .. feeling hungry ..”

-check in every ten seconds or so, and merely note that it changes, when it changes, and it will change.

Results.

Why do this? There are many, good, long books on why this meditation works. Read them if you’d enjoy that or like that. The short version is that the mind very quickly starts to notice the following …

1. How many thoughts and feelings it HAS.

2. How frequently they change.

3. How it never truly identifies or permanently merges with any ONE state.

This is all very good for the mind to learn. And it learns that in an empirical way, though the *experience*, over time, of the meditation. That is very different from merely understanding this in theory, on an intellectual level where one might think, “of course, I know this already.” There are a lot of things we know in theory-that we haven’t experienced. Experience helps us to know something intimately.

When you know something is true, because you’ve lived it in that moment, it goes much deeper than the mind.This is helpful in innumerable ways. A lot of times our worst stretches of hours and days are when we are overly-identified in one state. When we realize just how many thoughts and feelings we do have, even within that state, then each one will start to have less hold over us and we are a lot less likely to be bullied around by our passing moods. We achieve a base-level of awareness, which is near to calm.

We realize that we are not solely our thoughts and feelings, but something much more, a bright spot of awareness.

Something that can happen in this meditation at some point is when the practitioner loses, quite by accident, focus on both the primary object and the mental notations. Thoughts stop and the mind is supremely restive. This is called bliss. The student doesn’t try for this state, but it can happen on its own, quite wonderfully at some point.

Any questions as always, reach out in the comments.

I’ve had great success with this simple and transformative meditation and many others have as well.

This is my version of a meditative practice extremely popular in Buddhism, and if you like it, you might enjoy reading other versions as well. My emphasis here was on brevity, practicality, results.

Myself meditating, Jefferson Memorial, DC about 1998.

For a great primary-object, you might try the “breath of fire”, popular among yoga practitioners for a breath-technique.

As with all of my original writings I post, feel free to print them out, and share them.

Warmly, Troy.

IV. What Have You Been Through?

I was only about five appointments in, but a very long ways therapeutically, by the time my therapist had diagnosed me with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was diagnosed at Fenway Community Health Center. Fenway mostly but not exclusively served the gay and lesbian community of Boston. A well-regarded, warm and always busy place, it was also known to have some of the most innovative therapists in town. Since the town was Boston, that did mean something.

Lisa was my therapist at Fenway, and a gifted one. In a breezy, confident style completely her own, she lowered my guard by keeping me pleasantly off-guard, but she was not the first therapist I had ever met.

My first experience of therapy was at an office very near where I was living at the time, in Cambridge. My health-insurance provider arranged the appointment, and it felt in every way, like a first date.

I decided to walk, the office wasn’t far, after several stately Harvard acres, I came to a small, squat building with none of the Ivy-league charm of the surrounding area. I thought it looked like a bunker. I soon learned this particular bunker concealed a nun.

Showing up for a therapists appointment would have been a new experience. But sitting in front of a nun, for me, that couldn’t have been more familiar.

“I’m Troy. You’re a … nun”, I said smiling quizzically.

“I am a practicing nun, yes.”

“A practicing nun?”

She didn’t get up, and immediately added: “However. Even though I am a nun, I can assure you that you can tell me anything, no matter how shocking, and I will not be shocked.”

Something about it felt like a brag.

“I can talk about anything?”

“Yes.”

I stuttered, and looked at her trying to communicate this is a joke right you can’t be serious purely with my facial expression..

A long moment passed where we smiled at each other with our mutual eyebrows raised until I was forced to say-

“Nightclubs, music, sex. Drugs?“

“Yes yes”, she said quickly, and then, as if remembering to soften, “- sure.”

Even though the day was bright she had the blinds drawn, her desk light on. She sat behind her sizable vintage steel desk, with a dream-a-little-dream-of-me smile, in full-habit, and sturdy brown wooden crucifix.

In a black leather jacket and ripped jeans, probably smelling of a hard night out, I sat there glaring at her.

We slowly started asking each other random questions. The awkward first date had every potential to be the worst date ever. I considered the massive waste of time this was going to be. At the time, I thought I needed a different kind of therapist, someone tough, sophisticated, maybe well-traveled. I didn’t really know what I needed. But I had been surrounded by nuns my entire life. If one of them was going to help me, I felt like I would have been helped by now.

“I’ve had sex with all my friends” I said, eventually, in a quiet yet resigned voice, “I don’t think I have any real friends.”

“Maybe you should make some friends you don’t have sex with?”

She glanced at me like this simple, nothing of an observation, was only the start of what was going to be her big assistance to me.

“How would I even meet someone like that?” I said, testing for the presence of a sturdy sense of humor. Getting serious, pushing her on her dare, I added, “But tell me. What’s wrong with only making friends with people you’ve had good sex with?”

Even I, even then, could have guessed the answer to this, but I wanted to hear her good answer. She looked at me like a grade-school teacher with a hopelessly crass dunce, I examined her closely for cracks and signs of judgment. Not yet.

Since I had gone to private school for so long, therapy sessions with a nun were going to quickly become a great way to explore my feelings about going to Catholic-school or we’d soon hit a bland dead-end. We said little but both understood we were careening toward the latter.

I honestly think she was so intimidated by me, what I was wearing, what I might say, the faint aura of sex around me, that the appointment quickly became more a torture for her, than any kind of help for me. She seemed to be edging closer and closer to actual tears. I kind of felt sorry for her, and I kind of really wanted to see them.

Fear of AIDS, murderous rage, violence-I didn’t think she could handle my imagination, much less my real life, which did include drugs, anonymous sex, and a creeping, all-engrossing paranoia.

I decided to leave. On the way out she said, again, that I should be honest, that she couldn’t be shocked. Even as she spoke, she looked at me with a please don’t hurt me, frightened-rabbit expression. The entire appointment became her dozen different reasons why having sex was, as she said, “a bad idea”.

I was 24, relatively attractive and had long ago established sex as my main coping mechanism for anxiety. If giving up sex was going to be a cure for me, I never wanted to be well. For this reason alone, I was probably the closest thing to the Devil she was ever likely to meet.

I decided that not only could she be shocked, but that she had been shocked recently, probably a dozen times just in the minutes since we met. I walked out about thirty minutes in, apologizing awkwardly and likely sending her whirling into an appointment with a career-counselor, prayer or both. I don’t remember that well, but I think I went off to have sex with someone.

Our few minutes of knowing each other, only sent us running off to our mutual coping techniques. I didn’t know anything about healing, I really didn’t, I did know that wasn’t it.

A few days after my appointment with the flying therapist, I was walking up Marlborough Street in Boston, very half-heartedly trying again. I was perfectly prepared to give up therapy forever, but not without what I considered to be a decent attempt.

As a backdrop for speaking about unspeakable things, Boston’s picturesque Marlborough Street with its old, stone edifices adorned with fresh, young greenery wasn’t bad. It seemed like a place where things go to die or be born.

My new therapist was just as on the up and up, as the street I went down to meet him was. At the edge of a glamorous environment of cafes and upscale European boutiques, he worked in a smart, hotel-like building, among the flowering-trees of the Back Bay, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Boston. It seemed like the kind of place where you could get to work and let the healing begin. Being a writer, Anne Sexton came to mind, she wrote about the flowering trees of Boston, of being in therapy, being in the Back Bay. But she had also killed herself. And I was aware of that, too much.

Maybe the surroundings would be so uplifting that just going there once or twice a week might be enough to help me. Anyway. It couldn’t be worse than talking about sex with a nun.

I walked in and sat down in a clean and bright, but small office, with a guy only a little older than I was, who told me in a thick Indian accent that he just came to this country.

His accent was so thick, the sound of it literally made my eyebrows raise upon hearing it. He seemed in a hurry to help.

“So! You want to see a therapist. Why? What made you think about seeing a therapist?”, he asked me crisply.

The environment was so elegant, I didn’t feel like I could be ugly-truthful with him. I left out the hours-long panic attacks, the isolating rage, the strong impulse toward violence, the sitting alone in a dark room, in a cold sweat for hours -and just said, “I feel … increasingly maudlin.” If I am prone to using a word like maudlin instead of sad, this was especially true in my twenties.

“What was it? What did you say?”

“Maudlin. I’ve been … maudlin.”

I said it three times, each time a little softer. A therapist making you repeat something difficult to say-that isn’t very nice, but it was better than when, after a minute or so, a big smile came over his face, and he said in a rush of words,“You’ve been modeling!”

I blinked my eyes, stood up.

“Well I think that is excellent! You are very handsome,” he added. “So what is the problem?”

And I walked out.

These were my first-ever experiences of therapy. My hopes that it would help me were pretty dashed at this point. I relate them because many years later I would learn that if the person seeking therapy is determined, careful to select someone with whom they can work, the process of finding a good therapist, by which I mean an effective therapist, can be, just by itself, a tremendous therapy, a powerful declaration of the desire to get better.

Indeed, for many people insisting on just the right match in therapy can be the first, very healthy act of a radically transformed inner-life. It is impossible to overstate how important this is.

A great many people do not push on. After one bad experience of therapy most people stop looking and stop going. I talk to people everywhere I go about when and how they started to see a therapist, almost everyone I talked to had stories like this.

Most often, a person has to work themselves up, quite a bit, to even ask for this kind of help, and then their first experience of help is that much more un-helpful, even aggravating and tearing at the hurt simply because of the kinds of scenarios and people suggested for their therapy. Recovering from sexual assault, no one wants to talk to a therapist who looks in some sense like their attacker-that’s both reasonable and unfortunately, utterly commonplace.

As candidates for improved mental-health, we are going to have enough work with just what we are going in there for, we do not want any hidden grievances against the person trying to help us.

It is true that sometimes meeting regularly with someone who represents in some sense what we are struggling with or against, can aid us in moving past it, in a safe environment, but if you can’t even get going because of a lack of communication due to religion, age, gender, sexual-orientation, even race-it doesn’t matter how impolitic that block to the communication is, we want to move on to someone new. I needed to be able to be honest, feel free to speak, feel heard and even somewhat comfortable. Maybe even encouraged.

Looking back now, I would even take an extra step. I advise practicing saying, before the appointment, “I don’t want to meet regularly, with you. I don’t mean to sound impolite, I just don’t feel as comfortable as I’d like, and I prefer that this be productive time for both of us. For whatever reason-it’s not a match.” Questions will likely follow, being as direct as you can be will make a satisfying match more likely. “I want a male therapist please.” “Female.” “Female and gay.” Whatever it is.

Many people, even those that are educated and successful, don’t realize they can say this. It is completely OK. We wouldn’t go to a job that we got if we didn’t want it, we wouldn’t go on a date with someone who rubbed us the wrong way, but for some reason, many people feel that the therapy they get, is the therapy they get. Not true.

Learning to relate this admittedly difficult and awkward communication could not only change the path our therapy takes, it could change our entire lives. I know that I would have hated having a nun for a therapist. I very likely would have stopped going.

In attempting to talk to her, I felt more isolated than ever. The moment we decide to ask someone for help, and then actively look for it, is a moment to seize. Finding the right therapist is not something we can roll our eyes at. It is one of the situations in life when our input really does mean everything. As a culture, we need to discuss this moment more openly.

I don’t know why I continued to try to find a therapist to help me with my anxiety. I just knew I was desperate. At the same time, I honestly didn’t think having a therapist would change the outcome for me. I went into therapy exactly like one goes to the hospital, during a heart-attack. Only because it sounded vaguely correct. It must be what one does I thought.

Maybe I would get in trouble for not going into therapy when I was clearly falling apart. I didn’t think I would do well, or that the anxiety would stop. It’s not that I was not going to die. It was just that I needed someone to officially pronounce me dead.

As a last request of sorts, I wanted that someone to be a person who I felt could listen and hear me. I wanted to feel understood, if even for one small moment, by someone I respected. And that’s why I didn’t stay with the nun, and why I didn’t stay with the very nice Indian man.

I decided I would try just one more time, and then I would stop.

Fenway was my end-of-the-line in therapy, its offices right in the middle of Boston, and it was teeming with talented mental health professionals. It didn’t look like a bunker, it wasn’t quiet, it wasn’t posh either. It looked mostly like a small school, with classrooms and administrative offices. The people in the waiting room looked like my people; misfits, dragged-out, hopped-up, strung-out types, some waiting for shots of antibiotics to cure them of an STD, others with terrible, obvious anxiety. Lewd, eccentric, hardened, tired, end-of-the liners. These were my people.

Likely my health-insurance provider just figured that with that many therapists in one building it would keep me busy rejecting them for awhile. I was bound to find someone, they told me on the phone, and find someone I did. After an assessment-appointment by someone who asked me a long list of seemingly random questions, assuring me the whole time that he would likely not be my therapist, I was led into a small office and met Lisa.

Lisa was in every way easy to underestimate, and I wasted no time doing so. Short, always dressed in baggy khakis and a pale top, with a warm and earth-colored sweater over that, comfortable shoes, even her curly hair reminded me of a busy elementary-school teacher. After their assessment interview, it was their idea to match me with a woman, since their questions to me revealed that among other things, I had some issues with women. They made sure to ask me if this was okay, though, and I told them, “-as long as she isn’t a nun”.

We go inside these therapists offices, and they are like so many blind dates, we could be excused for giving up dating. They sit there like the wizard, in the Wizard of Oz, and the problems we bring them are like the giant wheezing, shaking computer around them. We think it is just as likely to explode as to grant us our most private wish. We come to them overwhelmed, but so are they, they can’t help but be-at times. The point is that we have an ally. And that’s what I had in Lisa, and then later, with Rob. I had, more than anything else, two very good allies.

Meeting Lisa, I knew I had reached the end of my stamina with this process and that if it did not work even one more time, I was done for. After all, I had daydreams upon daydreams of killing myself, being dead was my one and only true wish anymore and I wished for that all day long. Someone trying to help me, and then not ,and then not, resulted in me, finally at Fenway, bored and faraway, then nervous and ready to leave. I was not interested in this anymore, and was merely going through the motions. I wondered however if this match was going to another easy for me to dismiss solution.

I would quickly learn that Lisa was a lot of things.

Easy to dismiss was not one of them.

Lisa was always smiling and joking, she had a talent for continually displaying, in her physical presence, a tremendous personal warmth. She constantly gave me the feeling, almost from the very first moment I saw her, that she was from the future, when everything was already settled and fine, and that here she is, coming back from that future-moment of your perfect well-being, and isn’t it silly of you to doubt the outcome, when she just came there, from a time when you were sipping lemonade on the beach?

Lemonade, beach, you, fine, it was all just a little ways ahead.

Lisa would ask a question, as if the questions themselves were just a boring formality, and soon you were going to leave them aside and talk about something else entirely-something much more exciting and completely easy.

And somehow in just this way, we talked about my whole childhood, she would dig and probe a bit, and then she’d change the subject-mention something I was wearing, something about Boston, anything.

Making small jokes, making eye contact, speaking in a soft voice and being kind of charming. She made me laugh and laugh, simply because she gave me the sense that she thought therapy was kind of important, but really kind of ridiculous too. I couldn’t make up my mind about her, which was a very important detail. Was she just grasping, was she going to teach me how to be as gentle and easy-going as she was? Was she in over her head with me? Were we going to give up and just go have a salad and some gelato on Newbury Street and then walk me over to the best building in town to take a leap off of?

For a whole month, each week-I felt good when I was in session with her, on my way to the appointment, and on the way back. That’s about all the progress I had made, and the rest of my life was just as dark as it ever was. I woke up, got dressed, sat in a chair in my bedroom, and stayed there in a panic-attack all day long.

But-if she had cleared out even an hour a week of my life, really about three hours going there and back, where I felt even a little bit calmer, then I would agree to be impressed with her, for as long as it lasted. And I even did marvel at her, at that accomplishment. But I also knew, and I believe Lisa was even more aware, that was where things stood.

My inner-life was so dark, so horror-filled, it even intimidated me to think about it, and I knew it intimidated Lisa. My dark stuff sat there, like a monster in a crate that we were having lunch on top of, and that crate rattled and shook, and the growl from inside grew hungrier and more vicious. We both knew that we would have to open it someday, and I felt sad that we would have to, and Lisa made me feel that she would be sad to open it, too.

That is how the first three or four appointments went with Lisa. Until, very unexpectedly, with great energy and flourish, one day, at the very beginning of the appointment, Lisa simply handed me a piece of paper and a pen. Smiling, she told me to make a list, and write down everything I could think of from my past, that I wanted to talk with her about, everything that was bothering or haunting me, even the more shocking stuff, she said, and to not hold back, whatever I did. If it was unusual, or even struck me as unusual, I should write it down.

“And don’t worry”, she said conspiratorially, as if we were both at a cocktail party, and not in a brick building full of severely distressed people, “I’ve heard things that would make your toes curl.” She laughed, brimming with positivity.

You don’t know me, or my toes, I wanted to say, as she left me alone in the room.

I looked around the office uneasily. I picked up the sheet of white paper and immediately folded it in half.

Everything about this appointment felt different. She had joked with me as she left but seemed nervous. For the first time, we were headed toward a specific task instead of seemingly whiling-away the hours. Instead of only being half-interested in my therapy, we were suddenly extremely interested in my therapy.

Suddenly, in a lifetime of hard-to-do things nothing ever sounded harder than what she was asking me to do, now.

I looked around the room, then at the paper, then around the room. I couldn’t believe what she was asking me to do. Couldn’t believe resolving all my past transgressions, my beef with the world, the various nightmares of my life, could really start with something as simple as writing them down, one by one, looking them over, checking them off, like a shopping list. Shocking as it was, she was insisting I do just that. I really didn’t know if I could.

I did nothing for the first ten minutes. Slowly, but steadily, the idea of a list at first nagged, and then appealed to me. OK, a simple list, with no flourishes, I thought I could do that.

Like after a crime, when a cop tells you that you are going to draw a picture of the monster that attacked you, so that you can then hunt him down together, and end this, once and for all. And that was the point-I would have help. And the help was right there, standing right next to me, and the person helping me assured me that she could handle it. We were in a big, well-respected office in Boston, full of professionals trained to do exactly this, deeply capable people.

I shuddered, my mind raced, I was extremely uncomfortable, but I could not ultimately resist this step. My daily existence was so bad, so untenable. If this list represented a new start, even the start of a new start, not even the first step, but the first thing I could do in a hundred that would eventually lead to me taking a first step someday, then I must try to do it.

When I decided to write the list, without difficulty, I wrote down the first five things that came to my mind, in less than one minute.

There are no words to say how much that shocked me. That though I had never thought about my past seriously before, I quickly wrote down five things as if they had been on my mind my whole life long, day and night, somewhere in my unconscious un-awareness. As if I had been memorizing them over and over, to then somehow remember that I must forget them. All so that one day, when it was important, I would know them by heart, just in case someone asked. With great intensity, I looked my list over, like a math equation I had attempted, the successful solving of which might determine everything about my future, and gave it no title.

As soon as I wrote the list, I looked it over closely, and hated its existence.

Now that I had created the list, it was like it had a life of its own. Now I had really done something! It was like everything before was okay, bad but just barely manageable, but now that Lisa was back in the room and the list was done, it was as if I had started a small fire in her absence, which would soon rapidly grow and kill us both.

She sat down uneasily, it was the first time I saw her visibly unsettled, and she reached over for the list. I was more than happy not to have it on my person anymore, and I handed it to her readily, like it was my shame, my terror, my deep sadness, for her to somehow make all go away. She always gave me the sense that she could right? And she was from the future which was secure right? And we had always joked, so easily, even when we were discussing the really dark stuff.

I looked at her after a few minutes and felt very worried that she was still looking at the list. I felt bad to have done this to her.

This was going to end very badly, this was going to be worse than ever.

She stood up and said the one sentence in the world I didn’t expect her to say.

“I am a little overwhelmed by this list. Excuse me. I’ll be right back.”

And with that Lisa left the room.

If all of your worst nightmares came true, one after the other, what do you think would happen to you?

How long would you be able to hold yourself together?

Would you be okay after the first really bad trauma, even the first few?

How many worst things could happen to you, and you still remain you? The you that you, yourself, recognize as you? What combination of events would it take, to really get to you, to really mess you up, long-term?

Does it depend on the severity of the experience, who was with you when it happened, what you were doing when it occurred, maybe how old you were at the time?

Might there might be a way to walk through hell and still somehow not fall apart so much that anyone could tell this just from looking at you?

Of course, the other side of that is, if all the worst things you can imagine have already happened to you, over and over, what in the world is there to be afraid of anymore? What could truly stop you?

If you could heal from it, you could become very powerful in your mind, that is, if you weren’t left with a psyche so fragile you’d have to be hospitalized.

The fascinating thing is of course, that everybody’s list of what would be the most horrific experience, the most traumatizing and debilitating experience, would be so unique to them specifically. Though our troubles and obstacles to peace, happiness and healing are almost shockingly similar, it seems to me how and what we fear in a concrete form is very unique, because it involves our specific personalities. I have a wonderful photo of a moment of an earthquake, and one person is laughing as the ground is starting to shake, and the person next to them is starting to scream.

What is shameful and obliterating to the self for one person is no big deal to someone else. Being exposed nude in front of the whole town for one person could make them attempt suicide the next day. I know people like that, that would experience public nudity as the ultimate moment of fear, leading to tremendous private shame. For someone else, that would be no big deal, they would go through it with an upturned smile. The experience would make them, to themselves, a hero of courage and self-acceptance. I know people like that too. And yet that same person might fear something else-clowns, guns, physical violence.

And there are things that make almost every human-being tremble.

But if I had written out a list, of all the things in life that I imagined to be, from the very earliest days of my life, the most horrific things I could personally think of, or imagine-all the things I hoped in my deepest soul to never experience or see in front of me even one time, if I had added to that list every year, almost as a warning to life to give me everything in the world but the things on that list-well, that would have been the list I wrote that day in that office.

That list would have been the story of exactly the things that began to happen to me, almost as soon as I was born, like clockwork, one right after the other.

DRAFT COPY
COPYRIGHT
2010 TROY YGNACIO SORIANO
CHAPTER FOUR OF BOOK HOW TO BE RELENTLESSLY HAPPY

Posted by: cavemanwithmartini | April 13, 2010

PTSD and Me. from How To Be Relentlessly Happy by Troy Ygnacio Soriano.

III. PTSD And Me.

“You have Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder, Troy.  Called PTSD for short.”

I didn’t say anything.  It sounded a little familiar.  I am surprised that I have something that has a name to it, that twenty-four years of life could fit so neatly into just four letters. I almost had to admire it.

I looked at the door and considered leaving. I could leave, be somewhere on Newbury Street in a few minutes, relaxing. I brought my eyes to the door and kept them there. For the next minutes the door would become an object of almost erotic fascination.

I don’t say anything for a long time, but I am aware she is looking only at me. Finally I speak up.

“When I … made the appointment to talk to a therapist, I kind of just wanted to talk to someone once or twice … about my …” I had to force the words out, “- anxiety attacks. I figured they would go away, then. I didn’t realize it was going to lead to anything, I didn’t …  I don’t … want it to … lead to anything.”

At the words, anxiety attacks, I begin to have one, which I was helpless to stop. I begin to sweat and my heart starts to beat harder and faster, my blood pressure rises, the veins in my neck sprawl out. My breathing becomes labored.

I have the actual thought, your life is about to get very difficult for a long time. My life is already so un-enjoyable and bleak, that I am overwhelmed with this idea.

The idea of death comes in at this time, and stays. It is the very somber thought that I might die, that I could die, that I could take my own life, that life is over, and it is over now. Death as a possibility accompanies every panic attack. I am having them one after the other lately, from the moment I wake up until I fall asleep, late in the night. I don’t think about much, I don’t do much, I just sit there in my room at home, with a cold sweat pouring down my face.

I wrestle with the diagnosis half-heartedly and lose. I wrestle it again, a lot harder, and lose again, a lot worse. My idea was to argue with her, only it fits so well. Though I had no words to describe it, and no real understanding of myself, or powers of self-diagnosis, even I, in my super-hazy, dark and dim awareness could realize that I sat there dripping in post-traumatic-stress-disorder. It made every room I went into a mess.

So obvious, so complicated for people around me, being covered in wet, bright-red paint forever would have been a lot easier to live with in the world by that point, than my PTSD. After eight minutes or so, I recognized how pointless arguing with her would be. And so, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and I sat there, like two people who, once introduced, become an instant, famous couple.

“You have all the symptoms, which are rather specific. I also conferred with three colleagues of mine, on this, to be sure.  We are strongly recommending.  That you go on medications. Troy.

Here is a pause. She is desperate for me to hear her and get her meaning, and I am desperate to try to. For the first time in my life, everything happening feels very important, and that was not a word I ever associated with myself. Previously, I had thought, oh this is important, or that is-but no one ever shared in those ideas with me, about the moments of my life. So, it was finally happening, I thought this development was important, and so did at least one other person, maybe even a few people, and this event of profound shared-meaning was taking place, but how could it not be over something nicer, more enjoyable? Other people I knew were off graduating, or getting married. I was trying to successfully leave the house.

I force myself to exhale and inhale, with great effort, and am very sad.

It was as if she and I were on an island of defeated, crazy people, and any second now, she was going to be pulling away on a ship called Sanity, and these were my last seconds to either jump on the boat and save my life, or step away from her and decide to take my chances. Only, I can’t join her because I have convinced myself that I belong where I am standing, I was born there.

I’m scanning, scanning, scanning. Scanning her, myself, the world which suddenly seems much bigger and more difficult, and much more wretched now, with PTSD in it.

My heart breaks so hard, I can’t believe it’s not audible. For a moment, someone else is closely monitoring my safety, and guaranteeing it. Completely, I wonder, completely? Do I let myself go crazy now and wreck up the whole block or is it more convenient for everyone concerned if I fall on the ground and die? If I could will myself gone with a snap of my fingers, instantly gone from the world, not existing anywhere, I would have disappeared at exactly this moment. Instead-

“A lot of people are on these medications, which are safe, and many of the people on them don’t have even half of your anxiety.  Troy, this could improve your life dramatically.  It could be a whole new thing for you.  I’m asking you … to seriously consider this.”

“Medications.”

“Yes.”

Emphatically.

I had never been on medications before. Though I was in the middle of my twenties, I had only been to a doctor once, since I was born. I had never even been to the dentist. I almost didn’t know what medications were. Self-care, doctors, medications, all sounded exotic to me. If they were essential to life, I was brought up to understand that they weren’t essential to my life.

“But. For how long?”  I said, as if we were talking about someone else, who did not interest either one of us very much.

“A little while at least?  Maybe longer?   We’d .. monitor it.”, she said very confidently, very crisply. “But you need a change.  You need to be able to function, and leave the house, and … care for yourself.  These medications will help with that, I believe.  I believe this is the best option for you.” She nodded slowly, thoughtfully.

I can tell she had thought about all of this, very hard. That was almost the most bizarre aspect of it to me. I was not used to being the focus of deep consideration, and not at all convinced I was worthy of it.

She is being very tender with me, but it is a quiet gesture, and I only barely perceive it. I try to observe her for a moment, as if she is my patient.  My eyes seek her, so that I could show her a small smile. To do this was a lot for me at that moment, and I am trying very hard to just do that. This smile, almost nothing, is my huge thanks to her for helping me, because I am not really sure how to be thankful for another persons help.

I want to speak up for myself. I want very badly to ask her not to make my life any worse, or harder,  I want to beg her for this, but at the time, doing so, actually saying those words, would have been inconceivable for me.  I feel a strong affection for her, and I am curiously charmed by the conversation we are having-if only because it was so different from the rest of my life up to that point.

We shouldn’t be talking about these things, I want to say, but even in my fear-weakened state, I realize how silly that would be. I also pity her, for having to hear all my sad, dumb stories.  Why in the world would anyone want to spend their time this way?

Eventually I decide that it is very kind that she is taking this route with me, and not just kicking me in the head and ordering me to change.  Medications and talking, observing the results politely and acting accordingly, it all seemed so civilized as to be almost ridiculous. Was it, I wondered? I tried to judge what we were doing, from outside myself, so that I could dismiss it, finally.

Would all of this talking eventually be worse, than getting kicked in the head?

Just at that moment, I feel calmer than I ever have. For what seems like a long time, nothing at all happens. Until, eventually, I think of Vietnam.

“Post-traumatic-stress-disorder” I say, trying it on, as if she is attempting to replace my first name with an insult, and as if I am about to let her.

“Yes. -Or PTSD, if you prefer that.”

Tears fall straight out of my eyes, but my face, my expression does not change and my voice is not altered.  Nor my breathing.  Nothing about me indicates a change has occurred, and the tears are the only new element.

“I … I heard about this.  A documentary … on TV … was talking about .. what was it? The Vietnam war, I think.”

She stares at me, and I start to laugh softly.

“This is for people who’ve been in a war, right?  But-I haven’t – I haven’t been in a war.”

But just then, I think:  MY LIFE HAS NEVER BEEN A WAR, MY LIFE HAS NEVER BEEN A WAR,  MYLIFEHASNEVER EVER EVER BEENAWAR.

I’m looking at the floor.  I can’t control my eyes now, and my throat is tight, my breathing feels constricted, and I’m suddenly sweating and crying profusely.  I have to force myself to breathe, or I will immediately lose consciousness. The room starts to feel like it is falling up, on me.  And though a shock of sadness passes into me, and settles deep into my chest, and broadly establishes itself there, my heart is beating very fast as I look up at her and she continues.

“From the things we’ve discussed here? I would not only say that you’ve been in a war, but I would remind you that mostly soldiers volunteer, or at least willingly enlist, for service.  They go as men,  young men.  And with weapons, training, some kind of advantage, somewhere.”

She pauses and this means the world to me. And then she says, very softly:  “More advantages than you had”, and her softness means the world to me.

She leaned forward to let me know this was important.  When she moved toward me, however, I noticed I had to remind myself that she was not going to assault me. It had been my extensive experience that a persons mood could change that quickly. Instead she is going to do something even more unusual than assaulting me, she is going to defend me.

“You were a boy.  You were a boy! You fought through a childhood as explosively violent as any war, but you were untrained for combat, and had no way of fighting back.  You had to stay in that family!  And you were asked to love and depend on people … who were either actively trying to kill you, or, frankly, willing to let you die.”

It was as if with each one of these phrases she had turned on blinding floodlight, after blinding floodlight, after blinding floodlight, in my ever-dark basement world. And made it look easy. I turned toward her, and met her eyes completely for the first time, and really looked at her.

I was extremely shocked that all of these things had been said out loud, and almost couldn’t react. I also recognized all of it, immediately, as true. Somehow the word true didn’t get to the how true these things were. These were all the truest things I had ever heard before, truer than anything I learned in school, or heard in church, or from any authority. In fact, I had never heard so many true things, one after the other, all at once, I was astounded it was even possible.

She had established a grand trust with me by saying these things, and it was such a comfort to me that I felt a miracle had occurred. And now, I almost didn’t want to leave this room. I was not having a panic attack anymore.

There was nothing left to do then, but to look at her, peaceably. She seemed so genuinely outraged at my situation, and this was soothing. It was as if she was angry for me, and so, in that moment, perhaps for the first time, I did not have to be so angry.

It was like suddenly there was so much more room inside of me. I don’t know where the anger went to, or where the new space inside me came from, I just knew that by her saying these things out loud, everything in me had moved around, and I could breathe.

I began to calm down. I wondered how this was going to change my life and what it meant for my future. I had PTSD. The trauma I experienced in my life, had caused me to have a disorder.

I kept on looking at her, on and on. And now I did not look away.

Posted by: cavemanwithmartini | March 9, 2010

Happiness Is For The Heartbroken.

Chapter Two of How To Be Relentlessly Happy:

II. Happiness is for the heartbroken.

As I go to write the book, “How To Be Relentlessly Happy”, it is during the big gold-rush days of happiness, and there are many people going down to the rivers with a pan.

The severe downturn in the economy, the changing of the Millennium, a choose-your-own splay of doomsday scenarios, the aging of the general populace, a lot of people who never asked the question, are now asking the question; how can I be happy and how could I have wasted so much time on anything else? A realization which can only increase tension, and happiness goes a little further away, still.

It’s a stock-portfolio many forgot to build, one that at the same time, others are living quite high on. Imagine a new gilded age, happening at the same time and right next to, a severe economic depression, and you got a sense of this psychological moment on our planet. Many have gambled badly and are now taking heavy losses, hemorrhaging chances to be happy with no clue how to reverse course. Some are running to the safe havens of happiness only to find, sure, plenty of safety, but not much happiness.

At the same time never have we been so deluged with depictions of people being, apparently, happy. These happy people are: traveling, rich, exploring new trends, cutting-edge technologies, plastic surgeries, diet-trends, sex-techniques, you could go your whole day and never be separated from a steady stream of information on how other people are living better, but not necessarily happier, than you are. And many people do spend much of their day that way; watching from the sidelines, other people living happy lives.

The New York Times has added a column examining issues of happiness from the perspective of well-known authors and noted high-profile persons with quirky, chirpy perspectives. I almost feel a regular column on genuinely experiencing grief might actually give someone a better chance at happiness than another aphorism-strewn everything-is-great-or-could-be-if-only item by someone who has plenty of insurance, money in the bank, several far flung homes, and all day to sip tea and talk to their agent about writing a happiness column for The New York Times.

Several well-respected scientific studies have been dutifully released, examining happiness clinically, as if you could put something so ineffable under a microscope. (They can.) And there are books combining approaches and disciplines to amplify results. Get more sunlight, they say, eat more fruit. Organize your clutter, and maybe something will happen! We all rush to try it. As if hearing from a friend that using lemons and the sun is a great way to get natural highlights in you hair, when in fact some people are getting a few highlights and many others are just getting really sticky hair.

I can’t help but feel that, for the average person, lists of things to do and pursue and immediately become can only make things worse. You weren’t happy anyway, and now someone is telling you that on top of not being happy, you could also be eating a lot more salad, getting more exercise and live somewhere much funner. Stop being a loser fatty and get to feeling positive about life! is the subtext here. Advocates of The Secret, I’m looking at you.

Telling people to be happy is a bit rich in my view, demonstrating how people could be happy is a little bit better, but all of it is very tricky to attempt without alienating your already thoroughly aggrieved audience. Advocates of a program like The Secret underestimate how deeply-insulting saying something like Think positive and improve your world! is to the person who has been dealt crippling blow, after crippling blow, by life. Even the title “The Secret”, this implied exclusivity, the whole approach. For many people there’s no entry point to it.

Who the hell asked you, and maybe my life is just fine the way it is, could both be heard as completely reasonable responses to the boot-camp-y, over-caffeinated happiness devotees of some of the more strident new-age disciplines. Bubbling up from a spontaneous assertion of self-acceptance, I daresay verbalizing either of those punky sentiments to someone who was suggesting that of course it’s your own fault you are so fat, might even make an overweight person, for the moment, a bit happier.

What if someone demanded you immediately imagine something you have never even seen or even heard of before? You’d either get angry or wearily dismiss that person.

Our inability to think more positively is more than the fact that we just can’t see the positive, our cynicism is how we know the world, the filter through which we experience everything, precisely because it is a valued link to a previous experience in our lives which we see as the part of ourselves we know or like the best; the time in our lives when we were in love (even if it was painful), the time when our family was all together (ditto). Our pain is the only feeling that we’ve ever fully memorized, to toss it out can sometimes feel like we are wiping out our identity and flinging ourselves into an abyss.

Our identity as something larger, bigger and better, might be wonderful but we almost never know that in a single instant. Something I noticed for myself in my struggles through life was that I had to build my confidence up, a lot, even to do something as beneficial to me, and as obvious, as letting go of all the garbage from my past I was holding to my chest like it was the only greatest treasure I’d ever know. Letting go of that which is holding you back can be, for many people, an overwhelming, even terrifying process. Even as I write those words, I must close my eyes in appreciation that anyone ever does it. What a leap of faith changing our deepest thinking can be!

Deciding how and what to exist for, can by itself contain many difficult even painful decisions. This existential-level pain that we all share should inspire deep compassion in us, not a feeling of, “hurry up and change”. “Hurry up and be exactly like me”. That is a very un-attractive, limited mindset.

The point of view of “hurry up and change”, which is implied everywhere in our culture, should we choose to continue it, will keep humanity in the emotionally-dark ages indefinitely. We need to have much more gentleness, much more patience and much deeper care for each other, and we can get there. I see this process as already started, and the success of this movement absolutely sure.

For too long, the pursuit of real happiness has become purview of fewer; those who have read up on it, who own land, who are hip, who have time to experiment, those who retire early, those who know other people who are also happy and whom they can therefore hob-knob about it with, and those who can afford the never-ending accessories being happy supposedly requires.

The search by so many for something so essential might even be amusing, maybe, if time weren’t passing and our lives weren’t tick-tick-ticking by. If people weren’t suffering. But, we are. The passing of time in a human life with still no happiness must be noted, not just for those without advantages but also for those that have every single one.

In this respect I feel equal concern and empathy, and equal excitement. Let there be a full-accounting, a full measure of happiness, finally, both for those that have everything and have tried everything, and also for those that never for a moment tried a single thing ever. Those who never considered that they could be, because they were too poor, because it wasn’t meant for them, because they don’t deserve it. And for each person I contend, soaring, expansive happiness, is possible. And that is terribly exciting and comforting.

I say, even, that this seismic-shift toward leading a life of greater fulfillment, is the future of humanity, if there is to be one. In the voices of the youngest people I meet everywhere I particularly hear it; that the environment must be protected, that no country is on the earth alone, that people are suffering that are help-able. They are bored of talk and political posturing, and are ready to make sweeping changes to this world themselves. Not only are they ready to act, and not only are they acting, they are ready to act out of something very different than cynicism or a quest for personal power. Happiness would be a very protective aura to enshrine the Earth in. And greater happiness is much more likely to be achieved in our lifetime, than happiness as a by-product of some universally-accepted religion.

If we’re waiting for that to happen, it’s going to take too long.

At the end of the day I don’t feel happy because of any of the factors in any study I’ve seen or heard of, not because I followed some books demand that I immediately think positive, eat a lot of fresh vegetables, live in California, or have a well-organized closet, even though all of it of course helps.

A bit of poetry, a glass of wine-we all know these can go either way-make you feel like royalty or leave you crying with your head down on the table. All of these factors are neutral, on their own. Golden sunlight streaming through the clear air and settling gently on your face? There is no promise inherent in the experiencing of golden sunlight, if all you feel inside yourself is anxiety, insecurity, fear, grief and rage.

And not everyone whose house is clean and whose life is organized is happy, not by a very long shot. I have the addresses to prove it.

I am happy because I learned how to deal with, once and for all, the recurrent obstacles to my happiness. Time and time again, these were:

● Debilitating romantic heartbreak.

● Terror and deep confusion over death and dying.

● Acute sadness and extreme resistance toward dramatic loss and rapid change.

● Because of an inability to build a sense of self on something stable, authentic, interesting to me, and uplifting.

● Because my ideas about God, my relationship with God, was unworkable, painful, and overly complex.

These obstacles which represent a list of things that kept me from being happy also demonstrate what I am going to write about, the outline of this book. But I am able to do that only because more than anything else, this list is my own biography. I will write and tell you my thoughts about these things not as a credential-laden official with letters after my name but simply as a human being who has lived a life, who has suffered through life differently, until I suffered not at all. I will write what I experienced, who I met and what I was told, what books I read, what I saw with my own eyes. Not as a doctor, but as a patient with wounds that wanted for so long, just the right kind of attention, and ultimately got it. My life is one experienced not as a teacher, but a student, an observer, an utter failure. Until it was somehow a success.

I didn’t stop asking questions just because doing so was becoming became harder, stranger, more frightening, or ended in a different result than the one I hoped for. With very little let-up, I only became more resolute to have a few key breakthroughs, until it was nearly the point of living my life. And with every single one, I did.

I wanted my life to mean something. Not just to others, I didn’t consistently care enough what others thought, but to myself, and as much pain as I was going through, I didn’t want to leave this planet without answers, without a chance to face up to what I saw as the grand issues of life. The intention was to bring everything I knew to bear on my pain until either it ceased to exist, or I did. The results were that I, very slowly, became the happiest person I knew or heard of.

I didn’t set out to become the happiest person I knew. I just became this, bit by bit, without realizing it. I never made it a goal. I just wanted to end my constant upheaval over the things on that list, and if I could do that, then whatever happened, happened.

What happened was pure, unsullied happiness. If I added something then, like good weather or a café macchiato, something from someones list of things to try (and for kicks, I do include one of my own way toward the end here) I’d become even happier, just silly happy, ridiculously, mad-hatter happy. But in the absence of any add-ons, any flourishes, I was always, always the happiest person I knew, wherever I went. And that is the case most everywhere I go now.

I realized this, a few years ago, when I began being regularly accused of happiness, by other people.

“Why are YOU so happy!”, I’d hear, emphasis on the pronoun.

Occasionally the emphasis would change and it would be, “Why are you ALWAYS so happy?”

I love when it’s the last word and the question is kind of disgustedly spat-out, “Why are you always so HAPPY?”

One friend pulled me aside and with great curiosity said, “It’s like you have the secret to all of life written down on a little piece of paper in your pocket.”

I laughed. I liked that, but thought if I did, that I should perhaps take it out, and read it aloud. I doubted if I could like it as much if I didn’t share it.

All this continued with more and more frequency until a year and a half ago. I was in a large group of friends and acquaintances sitting in a big comfortable living room, in a light-filled, gorgeous house, on a beautiful warm day in San Francisco, one of the paradises of the world. None of us had work to do, and the only question before us, was how we were going to leisurely spend the day. But-that isn’t what we discussed.

Little by little, the talk turned to how unhappy people were. I don’t mean unhappy people abstractly out there in the world somewhere, but right there in that house. I got very quiet and simply listened as the friends around me; which included some rich people, some medium-income people, and some poor people, people with family, kids, degrees, Well-traveled people, people of worldly or soulful accomplishment, in substantive relationships with attractive people, fit people, all detailed the many ways that they were, to one extent or another, kind of vaguely un-happy people. This continued for some time until there was a pause in the conversation and one friend called suddenly over to me.

“Hey you! TROY! Why are you always so relentlessly happy?”

No particular emphasis on one word or another. Just all together like a river. I didn’t say much just then, but something about hearing it just that way, at just that time greatly affected me. It’s true I thought of myself as happy, and I also had to admit, I identified something relentless about my happy-state.

I knew that I would answer him, and I recognized that the decision to do so had changed the air, and made the moment memorable. Everyone leaned over in my direction, as if to listen to what I would say. I only looked down and became very sober.

I smiled, the moment passed completely. But I continued to think and take my friends question seriously. I knew the only way to possibly answer him, if I dared to, would be with deep compassion for him, for myself and for the life that I had lived that somehow resulted in the idea that I could possibly have an answer to this.

by
Troy Ygnacio Soriano

All my writings on How To Be Relentlessly Happy are on scribd available for your chosen e-reader here.

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Posted by: cavemanwithmartini | December 31, 2009

How To Be Relentlessly Happy (In the Winter) by Troy Ygnacio Soriano.

This is a version of my list from last year, “Winter Survival Guide”.

It’s still dedicated to Diana Clarke, who shines in all seasons.

Do this in the Winter:

1. Play sports( indoors/outdoors). Indoor football gets everyones blood pumping pretty fast, including pets.

2. Invest in a flask and a decent whiskey. Keep it in your jacket pocket.

3. GET MORE SLEEP! In winter you need more sleep.

Lately I’ve learned to sleep anywhere and public sleeping (subways, coffee shops, libraries, museums) is a good winter sport.

4. Consume a bit more calories, calories are heat. Sleep and an increase in calories will keep immunity high during harshly cold weather. They’ve done studies on this.

5. Join a gym.

6. Dress warm indoors, it makes the outside less cold, and more refreshing.

7. Cultivate a home life, do more things at home or at other peoples homes. Feather the nest, make your home a sweet spot for people to drop by in the Winter, cheery + less isolation!

8. Socialize more. Socialize as if it’s something to do everyday, like brushing your teeth.

9. Read more.

10. Stay more social in general.

11. Take fun and varied road trips with friends. Change scenery in Winter, even if you’re just trading one snowy vista for another.

12. Have the right winter gear: polypropelyne/fleece/wool/polar fleece. Wear them with each other in thin layers.

13. See the months as ideal preparation time for something you’ll unveil in warmer months, like abs. I did this one Winter and it was fun. But it can be something like a big, grand artistic project as well.

14. Hot cider.

15. Spiked hot cocoa.

16. Wear a union suit. Have two on hand.

17. Make a ton of cuddle-buds.

18. See live music, it’s often boiling at those events. You end up praying to get outside and be in the cold.

19. Nightclubs are always too hot, go to them.

20. Board games, have pals over with some noshes.

21. Photo shoots at home, or out in the weather. See it as not an obstacle but a temporary backdrop you can appreciate.

22. Write a book. (personal favorite)

23. Drink more hot tea.

24. Always have a stew or soup simmering in a crock pot.

25. Bake bread.

26. Drink beer.

27. Work out at home.

28. Take a class.

29. Make a new human friend every day.

30. Make a new animal friend every day.

31. Go somewhere that’s not work and not home and not school where you’ll see the same people every day. Cultivate a clique to chat up every day. A pub or coffeeshop is ideal.

32. Find a hot tub in the area and crash it, sitting in a hot tub during a snow storm is one of life’s keen pleasures. Add a whiskey to that and you’re living.

33. BREAK A SWEAT EVERY DAY/ inner heat is key. Drummers in rock bands are some of the warmest, calmest people you’ll ever meet.

34. Snow shoe naked. This is metaphorical or literal. Embracing the snow full-on, in a naked embrace changes your relationship to it. Being naked in the snow seems to be a cult more and more people are joining, I think simply because people are tired of letting weather keep them stir-crazy. Yes you are cold, but then as soon as you’re not, you’re not. The cold becomes a memory, almost an abstract memory, once you are warm again. So why let it keep you down? I went snow shoe-ing naked with a buddy last Winter in the moonlight and it was one of the most beautiful memories of my life.

35. Dress up. Winter is not an excuse to put a gray hoodie and sweatpants on for eight months. How you dress is the cheapest, most accessible way to bring a smile to your face and to the faces of others. It can be anything, a bow-tie, a funny hat. Line those stilletoes with polar fleece if you have to. A man wearing eye-liner is not going to have a boring day.

“Age could never wither her. Nor custom stale her infinite variety.”
SHAKESPEARE.

Remember, MILD WEATHER DULLS THE BRAIN. There’s a reason San Diego is like that.

<TYS>

Posted by: cavemanwithmartini | December 5, 2009

Relentlessly Middle.

For most of my life, I can’t say I was happy, or very interested in being happy. A childhood characterized by despair and anxiety, led predictably to an upswing in shallow adolescent self-confidence, more arrogance than anything else. Like millions of others, there I was.

I could have stayed there forever, half-comfortable in the half-crouch, defensiveness-with-a-smile

most people know and do well, and which is currently everywhere in our culture. Call it the human default mood. Snarky, concerned with being right and staying above criticism. Very, very lonely.

It’s suspect to aim for anything better, lazy to demonstrate anything worse. Even if it would be infinitely more authentic, showing up too perky for work is exactly as off-putting to people as showing up endlessly upset about yourself and the world around you.

Whenever the circumstances of life felt overwhelming to me, I focused on survival. When they weren’t, life seemed to come in pre-determined states; one day would be “vaguely alienated day”, another might be “aggravated and castrated”, and of course there was always “day as catalog of depressive states”.

Slipping into an easy and jovial suspicion of happiness-as-goal unto itself, it was the easiest thing to do to harshly judge a happy life from a safe and comfortable distance from it. Doing exactly that seemed to be something I was good at, that I noticed many other people were also pretty good at. The message I seemed to have absorbed from my community, in the just-try-to-survive path I set out for myself was, “Don’t ever be too happy. Or too sad”.

This was the get-ahead path, the popular way with the people and authority figures around me. From them, I sensed either a palpable apathy or a mild-though-invisible fear. I heard one resounding directive -in a thousand different ways, and that was: “Aim for the middle” and get comfortable there.

Or, if not exactly the middle, some point not too far north of it.

I don’t mean the financial middle, or the social status middle, those ladders are easy enough to scurry up and down, and at least doing so is a fairly straightforward process, if you make an outright goal of it. And many people do, and still end up in the middle. By which I mean the mood-middle.

Not terribly happy, not suicidally depressed yet either.

Real happiness, like real success, like real hope, like real satisfaction, glimmered in the tantalizing distance, and stayed there–a condition of other conditions. A result of many other things which were themselves mysterious, intangible, constantly changing in their requirements, and always, always pending. What was most painful about real happiness, was how pending it always seemed. Happiness; like a friend lost in a maze that I could hear in the distance, but who was always not just in another room, but on another floor.

It couldn’t be happiness if it was a now and forever thing. Oh sure one might catch hold of something sublime for a second, (that wasn’t special either but could happen to anyone, the very definition of dumb-luck). What I was to understand from such occasions above all, was that I shouldn’t expect much from these moments of transcendence. They were dreams. And I knew what the world made of dreams, confetti. Still I kept a bright bit of it and waited.

If I did have some “dumb” luck befall me, the event was characterized by myself and others as almost accidental, literally the oddly-chaotic grace of God. Like a free ice-cream cone, better enjoy it while it lasted, because we’re talking about a matter of minutes. Equivalent to the duration of a song, a cigarette, an orgasm. I call it “ the smile from the King”, it’s exactly that fleeting, exactly that rare. The amount of time a kind comment from someone you liked still wafted in the air. Just as fast and it’s over. And then you’re to be back at it: the other ninety percent of life, which was meant to be misery or toil. Pray not both.

And from this mindset, so gray, so limited, we collectively create the world.

It was at these times, when I was being asked to relinquish a happy moment, that I seemed to surrender it unwillingly, and as it went out of my grasp, my so smart-self would do what we all have done and do, which is to idealize and construct and build shrines to our someday-happiness. Out of terror or fear, in dreamy-boredom, with a vague gnawing -we all think the same thing, in what amounts to one of the biggest lies a majority of humans still commonly believe and hold true: that our someday happiness would one day arrive, like a comet in the sky, dazzling in its effects, but just an obvious side-effect of all the other great things that our future lives will of course include. It turns out the sum total of our logic surrounding happiness can largely be described as, “We will be happy in the future, because we will be happy in the future”.

And though I can understand why I invested so deeply, so frequently and intensely in someday-happiness, I no longer agree it was very smart to do so.

And so on to my someday-life, and every thing it contained! If there was an outward representation of it, it would depict everything anyone would expect, you would see all the usual things, and not one unusual thing, the very picture of what a wildly successful life looks like to most people. Except of course all with my own amazing twist of personal uniqueness. Though I had no idea what that even meant specifically.

Here is the pact I made with the Universe, it might sound familiar: If I could hold onto a disciplined frame of mind, If I did all the work, and was careful about it, took all the steps, and made my way toward my goals in a direct and orderly fashion, if I thought positively, (positive thinking was of course key) if I did all of this, as often as possible, well then, my life, if not the world, would of course soon become an enviable paradise. Why? Because it was logical. Because getting ahead is what you’re supposed to want to do. And it was never confusing what “getting ahead” was, or meant. And being successful would make me happy. A happy satisfied life is of course about achievement and material things. Right?

It was all going to be so great. Oh, it was going to be quite the party, my life. When I graduated, when I finally traveled, when my kids were born, when they would grow up and love me, when they left and appreciated me more, when I had a romantic partner, when my romantic partner finally changed every one of their many annoying habits, when my parents would come visit, when they finally left, when I got that raise, when I didn’t have a job, when I had better toys, a new phone, a new car, when all my possessions were organized, when I didn’t have so much stuff, when I lost weight, and gained muscle.

To do lists, after to do lists, after to do lists. I get exhausted just thinking about them now. But I was clear: after I got everything on every to-do list done, and took a vacation and then bought myself a fun, new and expensive toy, then I would consent to be —at last happy. I’d climb up a ladder into the sky never to be seen again. It was all so achievable, just work endlessly hard, and get the results, that it couldn’t help but happen.

Unless it wasn’t going to.

What then?

Doubts? Doubts are one of the main features of pending happiness and someday-happiness.

The very things I needed to do to get ahead, were all directly at odds with what was actually going on around me. Seeing violence, the willful destruction of an innocent persons psyche, and extreme abuse at an early age, again and again meant that for me organizing myself, disciplining myself, positive thinking, staying focused, were all the last things I wanted to do- which was to be violent, cry, or give up completely. It is not said enough though, that whether or not one has had a traumatic beginning to life on Earth, there are many people who would be perfectly justified in having a vividly angry reaction to waking up having to face another day.

Like a lot of other people I didn’t grow up or live in a vacuum or lab. I couldn’t just turn on my uplifting thoughts with the pleasant absence of the many other factors that might inspire just the opposite.

This situation of my early life was searingly painful and only getting worse as I got older. How do you think positively when life is asking everything of you all the time, but not living up to its own few, basic guarantees? When is that ever going to feel authentic? How could I feel all my feelings which I wanted to do so badly, and still make a bridge to a new world, where I didn’t have to feel those harsh feelings anymore, and be authentic about it? When you adjust your expectations lower and lower and are still disappointed and heartbroken that your good thoughts and hard efforts have come to nothing, what do you think you could reasonably expect of life anymore? And of your own solid efforts to make progress and be happy?

And how is a car or a job or a new love ever, ever going to make up for it?

by Troy Ygnacio Soriano

Copy Edit
Draft Copy
2009/2010

Posted by: cavemanwithmartini | September 27, 2009

Happiness Vigilante.

HOW TO BE RELENTLESSLY HAPPY

BY TROY YGNACIO SORIANO.



What returns from oblivion

Returns to find a voice.

-Louise Gluck


Only someone who has been truly miserable, often, could write a book about being relentlessly happy.

Perhaps only someone who has been would want to. I may be the most qualified person to write about happiness, in this particular way, because I believe myself to have been among the most lost and despairing -and have made my way through it repeatedly.

At first, only barely, and quite roughly. And then quicker, and more easily, and then quicker still, and more easily still.

Through a series of quite-startling events which only should have made me distinctly less happy, not only would I get through my sad or down states, their intensity began to shift and lessen, and their nature changed completely, so that eventually I had to admit these were now happy states, or so near happiness that the variance was negligible.

It didn’t happen right away, and I needed help, but one day, I made one or two really good decisions, and then, quite by chance, one or two more. And this continued for a time, unabated. I began putting actions and ideas together and noting the results. Not just the small, immediate effects but the bigger, longer-term ones. I had been very nearly a professionally angry and depressed person, and no traditional therapies had worked, so these were no small results to me.

I began to trust my decisions. And it was then, when my trust in myself was really established, that the whole thing broke wide open.

Soon, I would catch myself laughing for no reason, others would ask me what was going on. What exactly does one say– “Oh. Don’t mind me. I am in the process of becoming a happy person”? That even saying such a thing aloud would be judged as odd, or even crazy, is deeply unfortunate, we need more happiness-pride and much less happiness-shame.

What was going on, was my sadness was approaching me more half-heartedly, and departing with more alacrity. And when the dark spells did depart- the remaining contentment I was left with felt ever more solidly my own. And what is your own, is yours to share. No going back, the peanut-butter had melded with the chocolate now, and there’d be no separating them. I started to sense that happiness had established a permanent base in my soul. Comfy.

I was slowly becoming an expert in feeling good. Not out of a denial or a shame of feeling badly, but out of a genuine, ever-increasing surety that life was simply amazing.

The good feeling I had seemed to expand outwards from me, to affect and influence almost every aspect of life, and the people I encountered in it. And then they began to change, too. I began to meet a lot of new people, and they were happier people, or people just about to be.

Joyful sets of circumstances came my way, with little effort. When one good option disappeared, three new ones stood ready to take its place. When nothing good seemed to offer itself, I closed my eyes and smiling, took what life offered me, in trust-actual trust, something I had never known before, to have it turn out to be the best outcome of all. Sometimes it’s only when your car breaks down, when the bus you get on breaks down too, that, walking alone on a cold and dark road, that you are finally in a position to meet the one person in the world you need to meet the most. And they, you. Oh yes-they need to meet you just as desperately.

But if I was taking careful notes of how and why this happened, it wasn’t for any ones sake but my own.

I hated feeling down and spent years that way. Often I openly and actively didn’t want to be, but there didn’t seem to be much I could do about it. The world was just very terrible, or I was. Likely both.

I could take action toward my sadness, but eventually there it was again, standing there, a towering figure in the doorway. Like an old friend who knew more about me than I did. And it would take so little; a song, some inflection in something someone said, persistent weather states, toxic nostalgia, looking in the mirror even sometimes would do it, and there I’d go, down.

Who knows how long I’d be down there. In some parallel universe I’m probably

still down there. But not this one, not anymore. And if there’s a continuous disco party going on in my head nowadays, trust me, I’m just as surprised as anyone. But who am I to resist one more dance?

The transformative nature of simply being happy is powerfully underestimated in our culture, and radically undervalued. In many ways we have become used to a certain level of existential misery, but why? Like all kinds of prejudice and injustice, it is finally time to look deeply into what we can do to make our next important evolutionary shift, and that is to me, to claim our time on earth more fully, and to dedicate it to something larger than the shallow identities we sometimes struggle with, to embrace a much larger identity based on who we really are in our deepest soul.

This book is about the radical idea that the level of happiness in your life is too valuable and important to leave to chance. The most valuable human commodity in my view is time, it is the one thing which is less every second, for everyone on Earth. And though a lot of things in your life should have the surprise of discovery, finding out you’ve accidentally lived a miserable life for ten or twenty years should not be one of them.

For that we should be willing to look at everything-particularly the romantic overlay we give our reality, by which I mean our faith that the things of this world will fulfill us deeply forever. This alone has hundreds, maybe thousands of expressions for each of us in our daily lives. We have made a bad habit of the rush to comfort. But comfort is not what we truly seek, we seek soul-fulfillment! That is very different. The romantic overlay we give our reality needs to battle with our actual reality, and from that assessment we need to walk away finding our actual reality even more romantic. That is what happened to me, and this book is the account of it.

In some way, it’s already happening-a new regard for how our lives are being spent. Everywhere I see the evidence of it: the time has finally come for a majority of people to live deeply happy lives, who were not living them before. Through a change of emphasis, redirected goals, a broadening of an outlook. It starts from within, the inner-voice, so quiet at first, speaking with an undeniable appeal. It’s a trilling, tickling, lighthearted and friendly voice, with all of the best ideas. Call it the directive of real happiness, not happiness as joke or punch line, it’s an end to highs and lows.

I don’t just mean for the people who were obviously supposed to be happy: those born with no serious issues or problems, who never encountered any, who never did come up against much adversity and who aren’t too curious about what it’s like. I mean the opposite: huge swaths of people of every kind of background and beginning, who have seen a little too much of every kind of adversity, and have almost forgotten what life was like without it, I especially call out to them.

There are no lost causes. No one is in too dire of a situation. Let no one be the victim of a sort of happiness-prejudice. There is no person, for whom happiness would be inappropriate. In this world, the wide gulf in happiness-as-wealth is even more glaring than certain financial disparities, and about a thousand times as needless. Let us change that now, and let the doing of it be part of what we call happiness.

To those that say finding happiness is like finding love, that you can’t wish or work for it, you have to just let it happen I say that finding happiness is not exactly like finding love. Finding happiness is much more important than any other goal. You may or may not meet the love of your life today (I think you may!) but a happy life is not something we can spend a single second more denying ourselves. It is a great responsibility both personally and in the world, to make ourselves as happy as we want to be, with tremendous positive implications the likes of which we can only barely imagine now.

Excuse me for stating the obvious but the situation is that urgent that I will; happy people do not kill, rape, or maim. They don’t even gossip. Happy people do not tear each other down, they are not racist, they don’t hurt others actively or passively. Far from that, happy people don’t even mind if you take the parking space they were waiting for. And they certainly don’t yell for hours over the kitchen table with relatives about politics! To put it in the simplest terms, happiness gets more done, in less time, and with better results. What is not said often enough is that happiness includes many other skill-sets automatically, and these skills are ours to fully possess at any time of our choosing. We’d do very right by the world to make ourselves happy. It is a state luminous with justice and wisdom. It is a very high calling, one that is open to anyone, money or position very much not required. It is noble, and it is active, and there isn’t a whit about it that is dismissible.

This book will not make light of profound sadness and doesn’t aim to cover it up with flowery or sugary aphorisms. In fact, though I consider myself a strong happiness-advocate, I would be averse to doing that.

I actually respect sadness and am fascinated by it, in a strange way it is perhaps this above all that allows me to know it’s opposite so well. When you know every feature of a thing, and don’t hate it anymore, but are merely ready to go beyond it, when the level of curiosity to do so is powerfully stoked, and you are absolutely ready to do what it takes to make some progress, you start to open to the possibility of knowing what is beyond the borders of sadness.

It is surprisingly a lot. Joy is so much bigger and more comfortable to us than sadness. It is so much more us!

Sadness itself will not disappear, nor is it required to. Sadness is just like a land that you leave. You’ve been there too long, and may have forgotten how to. And I’m just the person who, telling you to go grab your passport says, “I notice we’ve got a stamp for this place already, and we’ve been here awhile, and since we aren’t doing much, why don’t we leave? How about that direction!”

It’s sunny over there.

Yes, you will hear that the world didn’t set out to be a happy place, maybe the world didn’t set out to be a lot of things it is. We’re not asking the world to change, now. We, the people who wish to be happy, merely note that if we can make our lives much worse by our decisions, it is our perfect right to arrest them from a wayward course, to pick them up, as if something on the ground, and place them in a bright place, too. And we do so by making better, very clever and creative, very different, and yes sometime odd choices, too.

Grab the moment, try something new, don’t let go until you have tried something. All you need to set upon a new path is an instant, a lifetime after all, is a parade of nows. A happy life is literally many healthful decisions.

I’m not talking about the body here. It is not said enough that a happy body is not necessarily a super-fit body, and happiness is not only for one kind of body, or for waiting for this or that to be perfect as others judge it.

This isn’t about the acquiring of any things, it is about claiming a state. If you want to get your doctorate in something, that is tremendous, but here I’ll be urging you to get your doctorate in peace-making, self-care, every day romance, and being silly, and that is actually much more important and overdue. Actually it is so important that not doing so is hurting you. It’s the resolute statement that you can lose or gain the world, and over a lifetime you can expect to and will, but at the end of the day, what you’ve lost, gained, and lost again, has absolutely nothing to do with who you are.

When I was almost done writing of this book, I found, quite by chance, a note I had written to myself thirteen years ago, when I was 24.

I remembered it instantly. I wrote it at a time in my life when it seemed like everyone was constantly criticizing me and when I always felt alone, hostile, and alienated. It was a time when often I couldn’t leave the house because I had such bad anxiety. And when I didn’t feel so anxious a cold sweat was literally running down my face, my impulse toward explosive, maniacal anger would overwhelm me.

I judged everyone I saw as either far better or far worse than I was, and I was filled with wild, uncontrollable lusts. I was someone hard for me to imagine now, a person completely controlled by fear. I was so afraid, and I was so angry. And though I didn’t know it at the time, things were about to get about twenty times worse.

I am 37 now and had not seen the note since the day that I wrote it. Unfolding it as if I was tenderly opening a flower, I brought it toward my face with curiosity and delight, as the sun came in, over my shoulder, to light up the note perfectly.

It said, simply, “Fuck it. I’m going to be happy today”.

More scrawled than written, it was also underlined.

An eight-word poem, it could have been my eight-word biography. A single sentence as the summation of my entire life, even encompassing that exact moment of standing there, being 37. It was one perfectly angry, determined, joyous declaration. A letter to myself, a message in a bottle, for me to find one day. Something to destroy and remake me the instant I found it again. And how wonderful that I did find it again, tucked in a small forgotten book, in a friends house, in a high-up corner, on the other side of the world from where I originally wrote the note, in a house I was living in, while I was actively engaged in writing a book on: happiness. But there it was.

Who was that guy, fifteen years back? And who was I now? What the hell happened?

I sat down, smiling at myself. First, I couldn’t stop laughing, then I couldn’t stop crying. I loved that note. My soul expanded, and touched each year of my past and all of the people I had met, with simple affection. Everything good and bad that happened over the years, began to have the same taste.

Nothing ever felt so obviously earned, nothing ever felt as flagrantly in my possession, as my happiness, then. And I could have died at that moment, thanking every single person on my way out, just for the experience of living my life. I blessed and received blessings from every place I went, every room I ever stood in, every speck of dust, as humility and grace fell upon me, conquered me with charm, subsumed me and lifted me up, before placing me again, gently, in a sun-filled room, in San Francisco.

This wasn’t just some old note I found, written in ball point pen. This was a bold little flag I had there in my hands. If flags were indeed still things travelers sent up tall posts, on ships bound for far-off places.

2009 Draft Copy

Author: Troy Ygnacio Soriano

This post on Facebook.

Posted by: cavemanwithmartini | September 8, 2009

What I’ve learned (so far) from San Francisco by Troy Ygnacio Soriano.

As part of writing my new book “How To Be Relentlessly Happy”, I wrote this list on my favorite city of the moment, San Francisco.
I was a pretty laid back and non-judgmental when I got to San Francisco. I’ve become even more laid-back in San Francisco, and even less judgmental. There are many people leading extremely happy lives here.
Here’s some of what I learned from them.
-TYS
What I’ve learned (so far) from San Francisco.
1. The families you join are at least as important as the families you born into.
The idea of advocacy is not abstract here. From some of the best child-advocacy programs in the world, to a civic-minded people who you can only describe as electrified, people join here as if their fortunes are tied to each other, take to the streets when they are pissed off automatically, and are arm-in-arm. Food not bombs has nightly meals for the homeless or just anyone who wants to join up. There are new economy models where people meet up to trade and barter, the Free Skool in Berkeley, and an online site for trading items, and public spaces dedicated to urban farming unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Socially, politically and economically –I’m up close and personal, and I’ve never seen people take each others well-being so much to heart. You almost wonder what it means to them, and I suspect there are many answers to that .. but it’s wonderful to see, and even better to be a part of.
You could walk up to any group in any park and just sit down and talk, and I do. I’ve never seen that before.
2.The last place art should be is inside a building with a high admittance fee.
All day long I see tourists taking pictures of paintings. But they aren’t in any museum.
San Francisco has more public murals and graffiti style works than any city I’ve seen –by far. It’s practically a point of pride that gets listed in tourist brochures. The city finally stopped fighting the artists and simply decided to sponsor them. Or at least let them live and breathe.
Hence, a city where you can walk from one corner of the town the other without ever being out of the sight-line of some art. And if the paintings aren’t on the walls, they’re on the sidewalks. Something for those that can’t raise their eyes.
3. What you call impossible someone else is doing and succeeding at.
I’ll never forget the day I met someone selling hand-painted socks on the beach. How much do you make a year?” I boldly asked. I couldn’t believe she possibly sustained herself this way.. She replied breezily .. “Oh probably near .. 30 thousand .. that’s it .. ” she said laughing. A good amount to some, not enough to many others, but I noticed *the smile*. That smile said a lot. She changed my mind forever about striking out on your own.
4. Be part of the Critical Mass.
The bikes-not-cars advocacy group Critical Mass is getting bigger every day … and larger here than any other city. When the people on bikes take over, it’s much funner to be in the streets than watching on the side-lines. When the gay marriage advocates take to the street, you don’t want to be on the sidewalks. Get waist deep in the party, be a part of the moment, feel alive. Life is short feel alive.
5. Perfection is boring.
San Francisco has taught me repeatedly that costumes aren’t for holidays they are for every day. Pretty is kind of ugly and ugly is kind of pretty. The homecoming queen looks more interesting if she rolls around in the mud a little and is holding a knife. The homecoming king should be in a tutu, or at least a kilt. Archetypes exist to be messed with, not taken seriously. Here, meet a cop that smokes pot.
6.Getting older is good. Getting odder is better.
This is one town that seems to really celebrate people who don’t look like models in magazines. And that is far more interesting to be in all day than some other places I’ve been. I’ve never seen older people having so much fun as they do here, it almost makes you wish you were sixty and not 37. When you come across some guy in his bathrobe in the fog on the beach who’s drunk on wine and smoking a cigar you know someone in the world is doing what they want to do.
7. Be outside A LOT more.
I’ve never seen people take the open air as much as here. People of all classes and backgrounds actually USE their parks and green-spaces and beaches. They are swarmed all over them. And though they might live in a beautiful Victorian, you get the feeling they never want to go inside.
8. AM and PM are concepts that are fucking with you. Fuck back.
Doing your cardio in other places might mean forty-five minutes during lunch on the treadmill. Doing it here means a fun-run at midnight in a jockstrap or full drag. And people would join you. Don’t let the hours of the day bully you.
9. Your culture is not the only culture.
Exotic somewhere else might mean some spicy Szechuan take-out. Here you could eat with Ethiopians in their own home. For every interesting culture, there are millions of others. Don’t just go to the next easiest one. Seek out the unsought out.
10. The world will reward you for the interest you show in the world.
There are worlds upon worlds in a city as multi-layered as San Francisco. If your range of interest is very limited then you probably will miss out on a hell of a lot of it.
11. A European pace of life is possible in the States.
If you show up on time for things people might think you don’t have a life.
12. Don’t be shy. You’re not fooling anyone.
If you don’t do any new things how can you think any new thoughts? Experiment. Don’t have a limited sense of yourself. It’s suicide, and not as quick.
13. Right and wrong are not particularly helpful.
The world is more complex than the stories we tell children. Seeing the world as wonderfully complex is a greater responsibility than painting it up in black and white. Always some good comes from evil, and some evil comes from good. The person who sets out to destroy another just might be accidentally giving him all the tools he needs to succeed.
The ending is always, ALWAYS a surprise, to everyone, and it’s all very much out of your control.
14. There’s no schedule for perfection.
These can’t co-exist. Notice how whenever someone envisions paradise it’s in a place with no schedule?
15. Just figure it out.
The time you spend fussing and worrying you can be figuring it out and making it happen. The recipe is simple, involve other people, then invite the Divine …
16. Dream the boldest dream first.
Why brew your own Kombucha when you can brew your own chocolate-marijuana-raspberry-infused Kombucha?
The market elsewhere might be for the odd and unique thing. Here, it’s for the even odder, even more unique thing. You gotta love that. There’s gotta be at least one place in the world for that, and I wanna live there.
17. Indulge your soapbox. It DOES have an effect.
The funny thing about expressing yourself is, you can get really used to it. And someone out there might really benefit from hearing you. Your point of view is a symbol of help to someone. At the very least you might make some like-minded friends. Step up, don’t hold back and share.
18. Road trip. A lot.
The only thing better than living in an interesting place is living in an interesting place that is right next to twenty other interesting places.
19. Whatever you are doing. It would probably be better naked.
From Bay-to-Breakers to Baker Beach, you just can’t keep clothes on these people.
And once you get used to it, well .. clothes are awfully stifling. Something about the chemicals they are soaked in.
20. Every once in awhile. Just stop everything and party.
Maybe it’s the earthquakes, the intrusion of something elemental .. what one person referred to as “our surprise parties”. But about once a week you’ll notice that someone stops traffic and plays a song. You can choose to be annoyed and roll your eyes. Or you can roll with it and enjoy. Move to Montana if you can’t handle it.
21. There’s ALWAYS a celebration going on somewhere. (hear that far off music?)
Earthfest, Folsom, Eat Real, party at Stern Grove, Castro Street Fair, Lazy Bear, on and on .. whoever you are, whatever you are, Pride isn’t a weekend, or even a state of mind. It’s a festival going on this minute, don’t miss it. And if you do sit this one out, party in private.
22. Exercise all the heavy food feelings away. (You don’t need to be in the mountains to hike.)
Ever seen how vertical San Francisco can get? Go ahead have that slice of chocolate cake, we’re climbing up Duboce past Castro.
23. Don’t set limits on yourself.
Whatever it is, whether starting a small business or trying something new. Just go on the journey for the hell of it. The only true journey is one with NO destination.
If you know where you’re going then it’s a trip. Don’t trip.
24. Judgmental attitudes and morality probably have a place somewhere. Sex ain’t one of them.
Between consenting adults, why not see what is possible? Why not explore the outer limits of what is possible? When we are busy customizing everything we CAN, why settle for a sex life that is pre-packaged by others and handed to us in a plain white box? Dice it up, put it on wheels, plug it into the socket and hang it upside down.
Shake gently.
24. And gender is the biggest lie.
I see men dressed as women driving buses, working in restaurants, all over. Some are trying hard to “look like women”, some are fully-rocking a mustache with that mini-skirt. (See #5)
Women are everywhere here in a suit and tie look, or work clothes, Brill-crème Don Draper’s as cute and capable as handsome men. They want to live that way and they do. Far beyond styles of dress, many people are un-burdening themselves of stifling and outmoded gender roles here, and that is very freeing to see. It takes a lot of courage to live your dream, when the world is smoggy with fears and restrictions and limits.
These people are breaking through.
There are those who got other things from San Francisco but this is my experience of it.
I salute you, Bay-Area California, for showing me what is possible.
For teaching me, for helping me.
-TyS.

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