Tag Archives: Adolescence Interrupted

Brain Pain

head1

The pressure is mounting. My skull’s nerve endings are a direct gauge of what’s happening inside, but the psychological sludge is far meaner a foe. I never imagined I would have been so thoroughly thrust back into the guessing game after all these years, but apparently there is no such thing as healed.

Anger has taken occupancy where tears used to reside, and my naked defiance has been a strange bedfellow. As I’ve gotten older and further away from the hospital sheets and question marks, I’ve also become less tolerant of a body that refuses to play nice.

I live in a constant state of mild pain. Tennis, car crashes, too many years spent sliding around on skateboards…who knows? I’m fine accepting the fact that an aging body put through the rigors of extensive activity will show some signs of wear and tear. That’s normal and acceptable.

But after what I had to go through to be free of the daily shackles that kept me clutching CT scans and neurosurgeon phone numbers, this universal slap in the self-esteem seems unwarranted and cruel.

I feel like I’m karmically aligned. I try to treat other people well, give to those less fortunate, and walk a path of positivity and integrity. But there is a devil on this shoulder, and I can’t help but wonder if I’m making up for past transgressions.

I believe we have a series of lives and experiences built into the core of our foundation, and this particular lap may simply be penance for sins from an old story. I suspect I’m supposed to learn some universal lesson as I clutch a head of such unbearable compression that I’m waiting for it to explode in my palms, but it’s hard to make peace with a timeline of souls that I can’t even see.

Some wackadoo massage therapist once said that the tension and strain I carry around my neck and shoulders are from hangings I was subjected to in past lives. She told me all about the villagers who gathered to burn me in the square and detailed the number of times I suffered a fractured spine at the hands of these irate mobs.

I left that day thinking she was quite possibly the most insane person ever to work at a spa. Now I’m starting to believe she was onto something.

Adolescence Interrupted

Advertisements

Dropping Shoes

falling1

“Western man has tried for too many centuries to fool himself that he lives in a rational world. No. There’s a story about a man who, while walking along the street, was almost hit on the head and killed by an enormous falling beam. This was his moment of realization that he did not live in a rational world but a world in which men’s lives can be cut off by a random blow on the head, and the discovery shook him so deeply that he was impelled to leave his wife and children, who were the major part of his old, rational world. My own response to the wild unpredictability of the universe has been to write stories, to play the piano, to read, listen to music, look at paintings—not that the world may become explainable and reasonable but that I may rejoice in the freedom which unaccountability gives us.” ― Madeleine L’Engle

The headaches are back. They’re not the “bad” kind, so I guess they’re simply the “new” kind. Either way, a giant debilitating pause button has surfaced, and after far too much research and straw grasping, I’ve decided they are best classified as migraines.

Now I’ve always touted the fact that I never got migraines, and I even specifically mentioned it in my book. It seemed more than fair that after all the brain-based obstacles and excruciating pressure pain endured from the complications associated with hydrocephalus that I would be spared any additional suffering once those symptoms retreated. But that’s just not how life works.

We can plan and plot and cross our fingers that once we emerge from the flames, the fire can’t catch us. But whatever is burning behind is also burning ahead. Living is navigating, and no amount of precaution can halt the birth of unforeseeable variables. Duck and weave. Jump and slide.

There is no crystal ball, and no chance for a second take. The cards slid from the dealer are the result of universal randomness and haphazard order. We can play or fold, but the odds won’t transform with a fresh deck.

So instead of analyzing all the ways we might lose if the fates decide it’s not our day to soak in the sunshine, let’s just pull up a seat and roll the dice.

Adolescence Interrupted

Lost Ones

lost1

“Life seems sometimes like nothing more than a series of losses, from beginning to end. That’s the given. How you respond to those losses, what you make of what’s left, that’s the part you have to make up as you go.”  -Katharine Weber

The impossible unpredictability of our daily existence is enough to rattle the most grounded of souls. Add to that the utter lack of control we wield over the trajectory of our loved ones, and we become nothing more than walking/talking test tubes trapped in a centrifuge, forced to endure a dizzying dance of expectations, invocations, and crossed fingers.

Yet we are told that hardship and grief define character, that we must embrace the dark days to appreciate the sunrises. Nothing worth its salt is easily procured. A silver lining sits on the back of every storm cloud.

But I don’t think I’m capable of swallowing the force-fed doses of wishful thinking.

There is a chasm left when people leave and a heaping helping of affirmative visualization or positive manifestation can’t change the fact that we are all sprinting on hamster wheels built with a finite number of rotations.

My mother and I both lost a parent when we were 25. We recently talked about this odd shared life experience, and I realized that the finality of some moments never fully vacate the consciousness. Her loss was far more devastating than mine, but seeing how emotionally affected someone could be more than forty years after an incident was proof that no amount of elaborate window dressing can hide the fact that your store is sometimes empty.

The moments missed and the absent days are tough pills to swallow. We all have clocks that are counting backward, and perhaps death and loss are the brightest beacons of that reality.

So until Kurzweil cracks the code to give us a little breathing room, we’re stuck in this particular place and time. I suppose we should try to make the most of it.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Last Gladiators

tennis1As another French Open peeks its head around a shadowy Parisian corner and into the sun, illuminating Roland Garros’ mythic red clay, I can’t help but reflect on the role this incredible sport has played in my evolution.

From the moment my uncle (“Just Steve”) gave me a junior Henri Leconte Head tennis racquet to gauge whether or not I had any inclination to explore this odd game of chase and retrieve, it was obvious I was hooked. There was something undeniably invigorating about sprinting and striking. Tennis was tailor-made for me, and I could feel its grip deep within my bones.

Now, with the love affair nearly 30 years old, I can appreciate much more than clean backhand winners and the satisfaction of straight-sets victories. This sport has taught me about perseverance, focus, concentration, and the simple beauty of a meditative activity to block out the daily chaos. The tennis court is the only place where I can center my full attention on one thing, and the deafening static from a world filled with toxins, distractions, and neuro-interrupters fades away.

This is the last non-violent vestige we have of the excitement and energy generated from two opponents put to the ultimate test of strength, stamina, and mental muscularity. For all the aficionados of that bouncing yellow ball, I don’t need to explain what superhuman abilities were necessary to complete that 6-hour Australian Open final in 2012. These are athletes at the apex of their incredibly fine-tuned abilities, and watching them work is nothing short of spectacular.

I am grateful every day for my exposure to this phenomenal outlet, for the consistent cardio thrashing, and that my knees, ankles, and shoulders are still willing to stand by me in the trenches. I have watched the evolution of equipment and technique, and I appreciate the skills of past champions as much as the potential of tomorrow’s trophy lifters. For me, this is not only a sport, but a lifestyle…and I couldn’t be happier to live it.

The Insecurity of Security

worried1There is no such thing as an unfettered path. When the cards are all placed neatly in stacks, ready for their integration on the tower, a gale blows in to splash them across the ground. We can’t rewind the clock or reset the decks. It was fate that they found the floor.

Acceptance of these uncontrollable universal slaps in the face is never easy. Regardless of conscientious strategies or meticulous safeguards, we remain at the whim of unknown, and unforeseen, variables. Life is a spinning roulette wheel, and we’re left playing a number and hoping for the best.

It is the reluctance of this acceptance that speaks to the core of our collective weakness. We want to fix the game. We want guarantees and assurances that the moves we make are the most prudent, considerate, and cautiously plotted. No one should be left holding an empty bucket and wondering where it all went wrong. But someone must…and someone will.

Those winds will continue to blow, and we’ll find ourselves on our knees, sweeping up the broken pieces of our plans. We’ll lament the fact that we’re tested and we’ll gnash our teeth and clench our fists. But a deep breath and the acknowledgment that road spikes aren’t laid to stop the race but merely puncture the tire, can help us bandage the bruises and find that finish line.

So, it’s imperative that we soak up every second of the good stuff before life decides we’ve had our fill. Best days are easily followed by bad, and vice versa. Allow the variables to exist without fighting their inevitability and all that extra energy can be spent on the people and moments that really matter.

Forcing the Hand

hand1We are all ships at the mercy of the sea.

Although our paths feel self-directed, typically we are left waiting for a signal generated from someone else’s control tower. It is the patience to allow a process to properly unfold that separates those with longevity from life’s one-hit wonders, brilliantly burning out after a temporary blaze.

So much of this has to do with restraint, and the acceptance that we cannot govern the motivations or inclinations of others. There is a level of cooperation that is absolutely essential to building a product, creating a concept, or arriving at a finished result. We are a collaborative species, and the checks and balances that exist are as crucial a part of the system as the lightning-in-a-bottle moments of inspiration.

When we grind against the grain, the friction causes a fire.

It’s one thing to understand this philosophy, and quite another to put it into practice. But the mounting stress and strain of pulling teeth offers little in the way of a reward, no matter how ardently we believe we can convince, persuade, and influence someone else’s thinking. The act becomes nothing more than heads knocking firmly into walls.

Life is learning, and those lessons sometimes come at a price, but the benefit of seeing the unnecessary roadblocks built by our own hands is worth more than the satisfaction of watching someone else crash into them.

A Ghost at the Gate

gate1“We should not fret for what is past, nor should we be anxious about the future; men of discernment deal only with the present moment.”-Chanakya

I look at this quote and I’m shocked by how thoroughly misaligned my life is with this concept. It’s a popular notion, and philosophers and spiritual advisers have preached the benefits of “living in the now” for almost as long as we’ve been questioning the purpose of existence.

Fear is a funny thing. It’s hardwired into our survival brain, enabling us to avoid potentially life-threatening situations. But left unchecked, it can significantly hinder our growth, fulfillment, and sense of adventure. Factor in a dash of trauma, and we’re reduced to rats spinning circles in the corner of a cheeseless maze.

My car was hit two weeks ago by another vacuous LA burnout. There weren’t any injuries, but I was subjected to the thrilling roller coaster ride of insurance company phone calls, repair shop appointments, and rental car confirmations. There was also a hovering tension that the other driver would devise a nice piece of fiction to wiggle his way out of responsibility, and at the conclusion of the proceedings…there was the fear.

It’s typical to be jittery behind the wheel after a smash, but I’ve realized that this gun-shy, knee-jerk reaction never sits too deeply beneath the surface, regardless of my station, environment, or circumstances. I walk through the world with a wary eye, untrusting and cautious, nervous and neurotic. I want controllable variables in an uncontrollable game, and the desire to maintain that power puts me in uncomfortable positions. This recent situation falls under a much larger umbrella, and lands in line with a trend that appears to be growing only more potent with each passing year.

As an introvert, I gain energy from my own fuel cells, as opposed to needing someone else’s power pack. I’m self-reliant and feel most at peace when I know that nothing will disrupt my carefully-calculated balance. I’m more productive and relaxed when I’m not watching for curveballs in the batter’s box.

But how far will I go to maintain these systems?

Will fear and trauma always hold the pen, charting my course from point A to point B, or will I regain the sense of freedom I found as a younger man, chasing a future of hope and potential? Is it possible to uncover a layer of my psyche that’s willing to bend and morph to accommodate surprises and the hidden gems waiting in the wings?

These are questions not easily answered, and there’s no definitive proof that one lifestyle is necessarily more optimum than another. But fear is a sturdy beast, and it will take some strategy to murder a monster that retains residency in the mind.

Cupid’s Broken Bow

bow10_3C474CCA-DD84-22E1-F8B879731EDC7353Another Valentine’s Day arrives to reflect on the intentional decision to avoid that most primal human urge to seek comfort and connection in the arms of a mate. As this calendar holiday disappears, I find myself as happily content in my choreographed singledom as ever. My life is of my own orchestration and the fewer cooks in the kitchen, the better the stew.

Understandably, there are those who are more than satisfied sharing this 80-something-year journey with a fellow traveler. They like to discuss the details of their respective workdays, synchronize their meals, think about what particular shade of green would look best in the den, vacillate about vacation rental properties, and fall asleep in a tangle beneath the muffled sounds of The Tonight Show’s opening monologue.

That may very well be the blueprint to build a rewarding and fulfilling life. But I’m not calling the contractor just yet.

My wiring screams at me to follow that heavy bass rumble of a distant drummer. I’m not going against my instincts or intentionally banishing myself to a fortress of solitude. Removing even the notion of chasing after some unattainable eligible single, trying to prove my merit, and ultimately spending any effort or time rebounding from the imaginary rejection, miscommunication, or misaligned timing seems like a much more rational and logical approach to living.

I haven’t been on a date in 18 months, and I’ll be just as satisfied and untroubled if that number hits 118. I have always found strength, motivation, and productivity from within. If anything, my numerous relationships and dalliances have hindered my growth, stunted my evolution, and routinely stood as roadblocks or speed bumps on the freeway to awakening and self-actualization.

But there’s always a chance I’ll strike up a random conversation with someone who is intelligent, insightful, opinionated, and rips the socks out of my Reefs. Then this diatribe will simply stand as a bullshit rant on a blog about independence, empowerment, and autonomy. Anything’s possible.

Gobbling Gratitude

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the eve of another Thanksgiving that will be spent volunteering with an incredible organization in Los Angeles called Gobble Gobble Give, I can’t help but reflect on what can only be described as a momentous universal shift in luck, opportunity, and resources.

As history has proven during my last decade on the left coast, life is generally a series of lofty surprises and roller coaster dips and dives. The unpredictability is enough to summon madness, while the discovery of hidden coins in the corners of the carpet never ceases to inject carefully-calculated doses of hope and possibility into creatively-dehydrated veins.

The last couple of months have been so cosmically summoned, it would be impossible to believe some unbridled forces of focus and intention weren’t at play. The juxtaposition between gasping for air and getting strapped with an oxygen mask in a matter of weeks not only made me contemplate the untapped potential of my influential energy, but shone a spotlight on the frivolity of spending any time or effort fixating on flaws.

This is not to say I’ve slowed my growing obsession with economic and cultural inequality, or that I’ve abandoned the various doomsday scenarios that cycle through my mind like a broken horror film reel on an unattended projector. I’m simply recognizing the gifts being delivered, disguised as happenstance, and I’m accepting them with a smile.

I am healthy and fortunate and loved. There is no greater reward than that of authentic, reciprocated care and respect, and I count myself legitimately lucky for the small corner I’ve carved.

But, I almost cried building my donation care packages for tomorrow—realizing the scope of suffering that exists for so many— and the light that glows inside eyes that have no reason to shine will forever be a reminder of the relative nature of this journey. Those who have so little, saddled with an almost impossible climb out of despair, can still find faith to walk into the unknown, without hesitation.

We may be a broken society with warped priorities and blind, detrimental ambition. But, some of us are still holding tightly to tubes of glue, waiting for a chance to mend the fractured pieces.