Friday, September 12, 2014

Two Years, or, Giving Up

Last year I dedicated 1 year of sobriety to my mother, and today I wanted to focus on where I am now with 2 years alcohol and drug free. More recently, being clean and sober defines me less than it used to. It's been nice to write a few comedy bits that aren't related to being a retired drunk and junkie. It is who I am, of course. I am certainly not cured by any means. I'm just thankful I have lengthy spans of normalcy now and that every thought I have isn't "I'm going to the store sober", "I'm taking a sober shower", "This is me feeding the cat drug free", or "I am not high while I am skateboarding."

Where I'm at physically: I still enjoy my job washing dishes, and I live in an apartment with my name on the lease. Considering the bulldozing job I've done on my credit, I am very happy to officially be living somewhere on paper. Apparently, doing nothing negative for 4 years is considered a positive thing to the credit score people. "Hey, you didn't skip out on a bank in a long time! Let's up that score to higher than your IQ!"

Where I'm at emotionally: Not being a fan of my feelings hasn't changed much. I did, however, tear up at the end of the "Bones Brigade" skateboarding documentary… so I'm not a monster.

As for where I am spiritually? That one requires a lengthy, rambling answer.

A favorite answer of mine when people ask how I've been is "Zen as fuck." I like the phrase because I feel that way at least once during each day where I have the sensation that I'm on the wavelength of my world and I'm coasting right along with it. Skating, dishwashing, reading, writing and performing comedy all bring this feeling out of me.

I also enjoy the phrase as it has the f-word in it. I'm unabashedly immature.

I have spent a significant amount of time over the past two years being introspective and searching for "the meaning of it all." I've been looking for a purpose or an answer.

There is a guy I know who has posted "Want To Be Enlightened?" online a few times followed by an example of self-improvement he thought was worth sharing. And while his suggestions have been positive, my initial reaction to his use of "enlightened" is, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Philosopher Alan Watts once said that a person who says they can teach you something is like a man who steals your watch and tries to sell it back to you. A good spiritual leader or guru should provide you guidance to find what is already inside you. They don't have anything to teach or give you. There have been a few times over the past year where I have felt enlightened, and they weren't really positive moments. In fact, they were a little depressing. Opening your eyes to a more realistic way the world works versus your distorted view can be a huge downer.

I think when people are looking for enlightenment, they really are just looking for happiness and a sense of purpose. That's what it seems to me, at least. I have spent a significant amount of time over the past two years being introspective and searching for "the meaning of it all." I've also been looking for a path or a sign to head in a certain direction.

The answer I've found for me is two words: Give up. It came from three different sources, which made it all the more an "oh shit" moment for me and helped me find my center.

In the essay collection Become What You Are, Alan Watts states that we suffer because we desire things. Desire can never be quenched so we always want more...and we're never satisfied. I can't be happy just because I try to be and want to be so badly. I can't find spirituality by desiring it and looking for it. Nothing I attempt to attain in life really matters because I'm going to die. Birth is falling off a cliff, and eventually we're going to hit bottom. Striving for some kind of spiritual fulfillment is basically clinging to rocks that are falling with us. It doesn't matter. Life is not going anywhere as it happens and ends regardless.

Great. So what do I do with this shiny, happy realization? Nothing. I don't pursue a Way to Enlightenment. There is no Way. I just stop trying, and I do nothing but watch. Watching without purpose. The first step is to give up. Essentially, I am treating my spirituality like breathing. I don't try to make myself breathe, I let it just happen. For me, it is a matter of accepting inevitability and appreciating the present without some lofty unattainable spiritual goal.

This idea gets an almost immediate confirmation from my favorite book/movie combo, Fight Club. "You have to give up. You have to know, not fear, that someday you're gonna die." I usually ignored that particular tidbit and focused more on letting go and not trying to control everything, so it was interesting to have that line flash back at me in my head.

And then there is my favorite street artist that I've been a fan of for almost a decade. Give Up is truly authentic: no Photoshop, all original content. He essentially is telling people who are miserable but feigning happiness in their fake jobs, families and lives to just...well, you know. I own several of his shirts that I wear all the time, and it was funny to me to have one on when having my little awakening moment.

The answer was on my shirt this whole time? Huh.

And it's working for me...or should I say, it is not working just fine. After soul searching and trying to "find myself" since becoming sober, it's been a hell of a relief to let go and just observe. I don't mean that I am doing nothing with life as a whole, just the part where I try to find the meaning of it. Everything I am working on now - quitting smoking, eating better, pursuing community service, writing, meditating, developing empathy - they're all things that will help me better myself and enjoy the life I have left.

I don't have any answers, obviously. I have no idea if any of that makes sense, and I'm not trying to win you over on this idea. If I was, it would be a hard sell to a cynic. "Hey, I found spiritual peace from a dead British guy, a vandal and a Brad Pitt movie."

Watts even said at the beginning of some of his lectures, "I want to make one thing absolutely clear. I am not a Zen Buddhist, I am not advocating Zen Buddhism, I am not trying to convert anyone to it. I have nothing to sell. I'm an entertainer. That is to say, in the same sense, that when you go to a concert and you listen to someone play Mozart, he has nothing to sell except the sound of the music. He doesn't want to convert you to anything. He doesn't want you to join an organization in favor of Mozart's music as opposed to, say, Beethoven's. And I approach you in the same spirit as a musician with his piano or a violinist with his violin. I just want you to enjoy a point of view that I enjoy."

Life is good, and I'm doing well. Let's have coffee some time.