Tag Archives: freedom

Listening for the Unreturned Echo


“Sometimes the world seems like a big hole. You spend all your life shouting down it and all you hear are echoes of some idiot yelling nonsense down a hole.”      -Adam Duritz

I double-checked the address. The flap was sealed without a crease. A Forever stamp was cleanly tucked into the corner.  I watched the mail carrier slide it into his satchel. An irrefutable delivery confirmation teased the idea of progress. So why am I left staring at empty inboxes? How can every call made to the universe go unanswered? Why should a desire to bring positive change be met with such opposition?

Recently, I was discussing the sensation of life in LA with some friends. I used the metaphor of a series of tall concrete walls. Placed strategically in a circle with just enough space between them to present the false illusion of freedom, the only way to escape the enclosure is to sprint, at full velocity, directly into the unbending slab. You crash, stand up, shake the dust from your shirt, and then speed head first into the next one. Being an isolated idea maker isn’t a job for the faint-hearted.

In your mind, you believe it’s tenacity and the will to succeed. You subscribe to all the theories that recommend attacking a problem from a unique angle, never doing things the same way and expecting a different result, keeping your nose to the grindstone, etc. There is an addictive false sense of forward momentum, simply because one foot is traveling in front of the other. But racing on the surface of quicksand will only bring you so far. Like dancing in the open jaw of an alligator, execution ultimately falls short of strategy.

So, is the answer to stop trying? Should you simply refuse to acknowledge the impetus to help others through your work? Do you chalk up years of tireless toil to one giant strikeout? After innumerable swings and countless misses, do you throw the bat to the ground, shake your head, and wave that white flag?

No. Not now. Not ever.

Adolescence Interrupted 

Advertisements

Grateful for the Example Set

Growing up with squinted eyes blinded by the light of a seemingly untouchable force of grounded pragmatism and consistency made for an interesting cocktail of security and rebellion. Organized order, punctuality, and checked boxes built a foundation of unwavering dependability. With only one captain on the ship, there were few available alternatives. But oats strain to be sewn, and rigid rules stand as giant impediments to any misguided notion of freedom.

While nonchalantly savoring the spoils born from a hard-working parent’s willingness to haul that load alone, I dismissed the concept of a career that fit snugly into a spreadsheet schedule and haphazardly charged into the sandstorm of artistic instability. Assuming that everything would simply “work out” has made for a marathon of quicksand sprinting and rugs that seem destined to be pulled just when I think my feet are stable.

My life was so regimented and routine, I couldn’t fathom my work following suit. I felt compelled to float on top of that salted sea of possibilities and available options, so a door could always remain open when the need to run or pivot presented itself. I made certain no relationship would sustain, no child would be born, and no personalized nameplate would ever adorn some mahogany office throne.

Well, I got exactly what I wanted. By eschewing balance and structure, I have floated inside an artistic bubble, arbitrarily drifting from one project to the next. Dreams imagined. Dreams crushed. Blueprints written. Blueprints erased. Never seeing past the three illuminated feet in front of you makes for a precarious stroll, and my walking stick is now saddled with an inconspicuous nub.

I cursorily studied a road map clearly created by the cartographer responsible, and I wish I had at least learned to split the difference between margins and maybes. I will never live up to that example set, but I am beyond grateful for the cataloged tray of nuts and bolts offered to build my engine.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Inoperable Pause

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Recently, there was a study done proposing that most people tend to live in the moment, with little worry about past trouble or the future consequences from present actions. Even when shown a timeline of past difficulties, unanticipated bumps that lined the road, or undeniable proof that life was anything but smooth, it was human nature for participants to project positivity. They couldn’t anticipate the pitfalls, only the victories.

We want to believe that there is always a better version of the world waiting for us. We want to trust that the work we do to improve ourselves and our surroundings will lay the foundation for some distant attainment of self-satisfaction, comfort, or achievement. The energy put into the process should be directly related to the spoils gained at the finish line. Well, it’s not.

As we sprint after rabbits like greyhounds in the ring, life is disappearing with each passing lap. Eyes stubbornly fixed on the horizon, we’re stumbling over the sidewalk at our feet. We are forsaking today for tomorrow, while the planet—and its need for speed around the sun—is ignoring our desire for a reduced pace to accomplish these goals.

Life is constantly in flux. The moments we want to hold forever last for flashes. By the time we’re fully appreciating the significance of the situation, it disappears. Single friends start to marry. Sweatpants are replaced by suits. Freedom is limited by families and responsibilities. Stasis is a concept, not a reality.

Embracing each event and living in the present are notions as old as time itself, but when we carefully examine the particular context of that advice, the picture comes into sharper focus. This is more than the normal evolutionary process of aging. A specific feeling and mood are lost with each clock’s round trip. There’s a palpable shift in the dynamic, and that shift can bring about feelings of loss and regret that far outweigh the joy.

So hold tightly to the good stuff when it surfaces. Chances are it will be long gone before you realize it was even there.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Necessity of Art

art1Without creative expression, we are nothing more than automatons, robotically plodding through each day under the command and watchful eye of moneymakers dropping us on hamster wheels to sprint for our supper.

It is the liberation born from artistic endeavors that enables human beings to break the chains of conformity to stand as wholly unique individuals. Whether it’s a song, film, painting, or book, the idea that something can occupy space in the world where there was previously only a lone notion is a beautiful and mysterious thing.

Inspiration born from the deep recesses of the mind is an inexplicable phenomenon. Lightning strikes come without warning, and suddenly the picture begins to find focus. Since my primary arena is words, I can only speak from that perspective. But there have been countless situations when my fingers were writing something without assistance from any earthly grounded force. I stop typing after 15 minutes and wonder who filled the page with these phrases and metaphors. I liken it to composers who listen back to a piece of music as if they’re hearing it for the first time.

We are simply conduits for creativity, and the results are generally more succinct and better developed than the head-spinning process of trying to generate poetry by pounding two pieces of clay together, struggling to form a shape.

Everyone has a place and a purpose. Scientific minds are here to answer the world’s most complex questions. Educators instill the next generation with the necessary building blocks of knowledge. The woodworkers and craftsmen are indispensable pieces of the equation. Farmers literally keep us alive. But without art, the very core of what makes us human would be lost.

So the next time you hear a perfectly-constructed melody or read words that seem to dance off the page, remember that it takes a very specific energy and talent to generate something that stirs the soul.

Adolescence Interrupted

Men Who Hurt the World

men4aI should begin by disclosing that I am a feminist. However, I am by no means someone who denigrates either sex. To be a modern feminist is to see a patriarchal world as a giant even playing field for any gender. But, it is behind this blurred lens of equality that I routinely witness some terrifying trends of global behavior.

History has rewarded men with inflated egos, wolfish greed, insatiable sex drives, abusive proclivities, and domineering DNA. Tyrants and despots set on slaughtering the less formidable to conquer and subjugate natives in the name of imperialism were hailed as victors and kings.

Compensating for a lack of personal prowess by unabashedly executing or manipulating those who were too weak or ill-equipped to defend themselves was practically a right of passage for autocrats like Mao Zedong.

We live in a world of war and perpetual power upheavals. The notion of simply living in harmony is so far removed from the collective consciousness that it feels like fiction. But, what is the catalyst at the core of the chaos?

Simple. Masculine. Ego.

Perhaps being raised by a single mother has strapped blinders to the sides of my sideburns, but I just don’t get it. Are sex and violence and domination and control such attractive entities that it’s comfortable walking through bloodshed with your ostentatious head held high? Is the suffering of innocent people in the name of greed and avarice so lucrative that it’s worth lacerating the fabric of your own culture?

If the answer is yes, the argument is sewn. There is no extinguishing the fire-eyed focus of a madman. Our only options are to sit quietly on the chessboard, played as pawns for some oppressor’s amusement. Or, we stand up to these crotch-grabbing, gun-toting, yacht-collecting psychopaths and take the power back.

Checkmate.

Emerson Was Wise

road4

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

A life in limbo isn’t a productivity death sentence…as long as that limbo stick keeps moving.

Having multiple irons in the fire is a good way to generate heat. But, when momentum is only the promise of future rewards, the waiting game can become water torture.

Lately, I’ve been in the odd position where a number of factors and individuals have universally conspired to make me wait. I suppose it’s a good test of my patience but, because I love to routinely take inventory of my neatly arranged ducks, allowing the ball to rest in any court other than my own is an experiment I have been less than thrilled to undergo.

Writing prospects, job opportunities, investments, publishing possibilities, acting upswings, and the self-starting loop of my freelance existence have made living in Skytown an interesting—and often frustrating—experience. To know there is gold at the end of the rainbow, without the ability to personally capture the coins, has painted my landscape a color I’ve rarely had the opportunity to see.

I’ve spent a lifetime focused on finish lines, so stopping to smell the roses has never factored into my schedule. However, it has taken this metaphorical traffic jam to shift my attention away from the results and back to the process.

We have so little control over the future, and this includes the various pitfalls that may or may not sneak beneath our feet. The best we can do is stay centered in the present moment and allow the plan to organically take shape. As long as we direct our efforts toward a general goal or intention, the stubborn details have a way of falling in line.

Regardless of my typical grind against the grain, I’m grateful for the opportunity to take stock of my environment. I have had patience forced upon me but, if those efforts result in a more lucid outlook, then this temporary interlude will have been more than justified.

Until then, it’s back to watching sunsets and waiting for checkered flags.

Sharpened Perspective

Thank you for being a wonderful mother

It’s often too easy to get lost in the mundanity of daily life. The interval between turning a white noise sleep machine off and turning it on again can feel like a timeless loop of repetitive habits, vibrating on skipping needles, powered by hamster wheels.

My Groundhog Days are normally of little concern. I accept that baby steps lead to Olympian leaps, so I tackle my routine tasks and always sweat the small stuff. As a writer and proofreader, details are kind of a big deal. These are my cards, and I’m happy to play them.

But, sometimes—even when the marathon tennis sessions have beaten my body and emptied my energy reserves—I find myself squirming inside my skin for a change of pedestrian pace.

Normally, I ignore these impulses and continue punching computer keyboards in my never-ending attempt to accumulate tension headaches. But, two weeks ago, I was delivered a surprise fuel injector in the form of a fellow tennis aficionado from NY with the desert on her mind and a pro tournament in her sights.

Mom knows just when to rescue her overthinking, word wrestler of a son from his stationary bike, and exactly how to throw some excitement and a change of scenery into the mix.

It was just what the proverbial doctor ordered, and I was able to unplug and detach from the busy, serpentine track of LA life.

My chiropractor believes that the mountains in Palm Springs have a way of inexplicably extracting the stress from our bodies and, although I don’t normally subscribe to  teachings of the mystic variety, I’d have to agree with him.

So, now it’s back to work and back to that hamster wheel. But, like mainlining lemon-lime Gatorade, I feel refreshed and ready for the race ahead.

Thanks, Mom…for always knowing what I need, even when I don’t.

Searching for Sugar Mama

money-origami-dress-greenOn the eve of Hollywood’s most spectacularly star-studded night, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on a trend that is now so routine, it’s becoming boring. I’m referring to the sea of doe-eyed twenty-somethings securely fixed to the arms of men who are old enough to be their fathers.

With pretty hair and perfect teeth, they amble along red carpets and media lines, pandering to the city’s power players, and desperately trying to stay afloat in an ocean of ennui. They nod affably while listening to recycled stories about pranks on set, the triumph of the cast and crew, the challenges of the role, and how this particular film is going to alter the way people experience cinema. The mechanical Barbies are never acknowledged or introduced. They straighten their too-small dresses and take the hand of Mr. Hollywood as they’re ushered to the next press pit.

Beauty has been a valuable commodity for as long as humans have had eyes. That beauty is often rewarded with gifts and opportunities. This is nowhere more prevalent than Los Angeles. We are a city of young, meritless actresses tagging along with rich, old men. It’s modern prostitution with a Hollywood sheen, and my feminist sensibilities find it nauseating.

There is nothing more impressive or attractive than a strong, intelligent, and capable female. There are plenty of women who understand references without having them explained, who are in on the joke while it’s being constructed, and who can fight to support their stance on any topic. They appreciate music and art. They read books and remember specific lines. They laugh at themselves and knock you down to size when you deserve it. They think and they question and they seek information. They are interesting and thoughtful and open and honest. They can carry the weight of the world and never let you see the strain. They are intuitive and emotionally connected. There are levels of virtue and resilience in a woman that can easily trump those of a man.

Why anyone would choose a plastic robot in heels is beyond me. It shows how little that person is valued. She is simply a trophy, a prize to be flaunted in front of those who crave a similar emptiness. She has a very limited shelf life and will soon be exchanged for a later model. But, she blindly swallows the promises of auditions, meetings, and connections guaranteed to propel her career. The result is compounded rejection. She finds herself more alone than when she started, with an extra layer of judgment to shed at the therapist’s office.

But, maybe this is how the game is played. Perhaps I need to find a sugar mama who falsely encourages my talents and abilities, filling my head with assurances of book deals, media tours, New York Times Best Seller lists, and a life of security, lavish luxury, and endless happiness.

If you feel you fit the bill, please don’t hesitate to offer your pitch. I will be accepting applications immediately.

RSVP + 0

It__s_my_birthday__by_Eman333

The anxiety-inducing realization that the only thing accompanying you to most social functions will be a hefty gust of wind whipping through an empty passenger’s seat is a daunting prospect. But, in a world of significant others tagging two steps behind to every conceivable soirée and backyard barbecue, the unescorted visitor is often met with sideways glances, overcompensating high-fives, and hearty hello hugs.

But, why is that something seen as sad? We’re okay. Granted, the first few seconds from the car to the front door of the house, bar, restaurant, coffee shop, graduation ceremony, funeral, etc. are instant pulse raisers. Fight or flight takes the wheel and tries to steer us back to safety. Sometimes it’s even enough to make us call the whole thing off and dive into another Netflix Portlandia marathon. But, after the initial awkwardness, the party pieces fall into place and everyone settles into a communal space. There was a reason we decided to attend. We like these people. These are friends with shared histories and they’ve seen us at our best and worst. Sure, they’re dropping off into family mode faster than flies stuck in a Raid cloud, but that doesn’t mean we’re lost on an island of misfit toys.

We’re just as funny and personable as ever. Besides, maybe the fact that we’re not spending the entire time bickering about some mundane squabble we couldn’t leave at the house, or chasing behind a two-year-old with a penchant for destroying anything at adult knee level, makes us the more desirable company. Let’s face it. Freedom packs some serious appeal, especially to those who have lost it.

So, let us embrace the solo label, wearing it like a crown of independence. We are the kings and queens of our sequestered castles.