You must have had so much fun

Sunrise in the deep playa, Burning Man 2014

I’m back from touring with Against Me!, Burning Man and Shangri-la. I see the awe in people’s eyes as the ask me about my journey. It certainly has been an amazing journey. I am extremely grateful for all that I experienced over the past month. I had never been to Burning Man  before nor had I been on a tour of this caliber.  Very few people will ever have the opportunities bestowed upon me over the past month. They want to live vicariously through me. They want to hear my tales of adventure and triumph. They imagine me having the time of my life. Well I did, but you know what? It’s still just life and as we know… life suck. I think the imagined is probably far more exciting that the reality so in an attempt to be kind I will let you imagine how much fun I must have had.

I will say that life on the road sucks a whole lot less than life at home. I still don’t know about this concept of fun however. I enjoyed virtually every minute of

[I started writing this on September 9th and that is as far as I got before I broke into tears.]

The reality is that being back in Minneapolis has been really painful for me. I’ve spent my whole time back here trying to figure out why. The obvious answer is that I have depression, that I’m mentally ill, that there is something wrong with me. I’m fine with the depression label. I’ve got the t-shirt and I wear it proudly. What I reject is that having depression is somehow a defect. That there is something wrong with me. That I need to be fixed. If it is what I am, then so be it. If anything, it’s a super-power that I just need to learn how to control. There is no need for judgement about it.

Feelings are not wrong. Feeling are guideposts. They help us understand our world. But, feelings can cloud our perception of things. They can become overwhelming and distort our view of reality. They can accentuate each other and create a feedback loop to the point where everything just looks shitty. I’ve been there. I know about how that works and it can cause a whole lot of problems. When our choices are based on a false perception of reality we make some pretty fucked up choices. Nature has a way of correcting this though. In time, after a series of fucked up choices, reality and our perception of reality merge and we no longer feel insane. I think that is the world in which we live in, and it’s kind of fucked up.

Depression is not wrong but this pain which I’m feeling is an indication that something is wrong. And oh boy is there a lot of shit wrong! That is reality! My goal, is to not add to it. One solution would be to do nothing but to my brain, my depression brain, that literally means death. Now I know some pretty spiritually enlightened people who have become fairly good at doing nothing. I just don’t think that that is my path. It sounds awfully selfish to me. I’m not judging. I have no problem with people being selfish in this way. It’s all done in the name of God after all so it’s not really selfish, right?. I just think that we are all God so it looks selfish to me. Also, I kind of like people. If I’m going to serve God I’m going to do it by loving people. If I have to put anything out into the world I want it to be love.

So back to this idea of fun. I have a hard time with this concept of fun. It seems really important to a lot of people but I don’t worry about it that much. I have fun sometimes but it’s never my motivation. I don’t go out trying to have a “good time”. It just kind of happens sometimes. My motivation, first of all is to survive. For me, that means doing something, anything. My intention is for it to be meaningful and purposeful. My intent is to give. I want the fuel which puts a fire under my ass to be love. If along the way I have some fun, if I have a good time… that just a bonus.

So what do I find fun? I guess I can find fun in just about anything if I look for it. Breathing is pretty amazing if you think about it. I don’t need to go on a national tour. I don’t need to go to Burning Man. I don’t need to go to Harmony Park. That said, the most fun experience I had was sitting outside our camp at Burning Man, sipping my morning coffee while three naked women biked by. I’m pretty sure that if I started every day that way I wouldn’t have depression. Unfortunately you don’t see much naked biking  in Minneapolis. As amazing as that was, it still couldn’t compare to the awesomeness of watching the sun peak it’s head over the mountain range at the edge of the playa while sitting atop scaffolding that we weren’t suppose to be on. Some would say that I am wrong for this but I don’t see how that could possible be true.

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Alcohol is a solution

Alcohol is a solution

My last post was a little cryptic. It was one of my more poetic posts. I was playing with language because I was trying to make sense of things which don’t make sense. When I started I was trying to make sense of big issues like war, poverty, racism and sexual assault. By the time I finished it several days later I was thinking about my own life. Specifically I was thinking about the role alcohol plays in my life.

I’m what is commonly referred to as an alcoholic. I tend to reject labels but as they say, “if the shoe fits…”. The label alcoholic is one that I identify with strongly, I accept it, I embrace and I will even take pride in it. Society tends to look down on alcoholics and attempts to instill shame. Shame is a destructive force and so I reject it. Alcoholics are not defective people, they are just people. Sure they do some fucked up things sometimes but everybody who does anything will fuck up from time to time. Bigger things can mean bigger fuck ups. Combine that with social stigma and ostracization and you’ve got a mess. I happen to find most alcoholics to be pretty freaking amazing people.

For me, alcohol is not a problem. Alcohol is a solution. It may be an imperfect solution but there are no perfect solutions. On the whole, alcohol has served me pretty well. Alcohol has been there for me when all else has failed. Alcohol is like a best friend… only more consistent, and more predictable. Alcohol has been my mentor, teaching me countless life lessons. Alcohol has held my hand as I’ve attempted things I never thought I could. Alcohol has taught me courage. Alcohol has taught me to speak my mind. Alcohol has taught me vulnerability. Alcohol has taught me how to ask for help. Alcohol has taught taught me the power of forgiveness. No matter what I am feeling, regardless of my state of mind, alcohol can put me in touch with my true self or give me an attitude adjustment when needed. Alcohol has been with me for virtually every major life event. Alcohol has introduced me to the vast majority of my lovers, partners and friends. Alcohol has got me through every brake-up and has even helped me end unhealthy relationships when nothing else could. Alcohol has been my medication for chronic illness. Alcohol has been my motivation to keep going. Alcohol has been my reward for a job well done. Alcohol has fueled most of this blog. Alcohol has literally saved my life.

Yeah, alcohol is pretty amazing stuff!

As I look at my life and all I’ve accomplished I realize that I owe alcohol a deep debt of gratitude. Alcohol has worked for me and it has got me to this point. I just have this aching feeling like there has to be more to life. Maybe I’m wrong but I know that I’ll never find out as long as alcohol is in the picture; keeping life exciting and making everything okay when life gets too much.  In order to see what is around that bend, I’m going to have to break up with alcohol. I’m going to have to become a sober alcoholic.

Yeah, right! Like that ever happens. Sounds like a flightless bird to me. 

Well, as it turns out there are a lot of sober alcoholics. They even gather in groups multiple times a day, every day of the week. I’ve been going to these gatherings and what I’ve discovered is that like the ostridge, these people are pretty freaking amazing. Them do seem to be rather down on my beloved alcohol however; blaming it for the problems in their life rather than celebrating it for their accomplishments. Still, despite our differences we seem to have a lot in common. As I listen to their stories it sounds like my life. We may not share the same perspective but the experiences are pretty similar. When sitting with these sober alcoholics I feel like I’m where I’m meant to be. I can’t help but thank alcohol for helping me find this place. I think my new friends feel the same way because when I said, “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for alcohol”, they all nodded in agreement.

I heard a speaker the other night say that the Alcoholics Anonymous steps and program are not something to believe in, it’s not something you learn from, it’s something you do. I think what he was saying was that the beliefs and knowledge come from the doing, not from the steps themselves. I’m not going to AA because I believe in it, I’m not going to learn how to be a better alcoholic, I’m going because I need something to do. Alcohol has been my thing to do and it has works to this point. The one thing I want now is the one thing it can’t get me. I want sobriety and alcohol will no longer get me there. I’m sure that there are other ways but Alcoholics Anonymous has a proven track record of helping alcoholics find sobriety. As they say, “It works if you work it.”

You get what you deserve

Friday night I had two of my closest friends hang up on me. Did I deserve that?!?

Well… yeah, I probably did. After publishing my last post I continued drinking and needed social interaction so I started a mad rampage of drunk dialing. I called everyone I could think of. Some didn’t answer. That’s fine. That is well within their rights. Many did and I am grateful to all of them. Do I deserve to have so many people that I can call upon whenever the mood strikes me. I think so. I’m usually not asking for much and I offer everything I have.

With the friends who hung up on me I asked for more than they had to give and gave more than they wanted.  That’s a common situation with the people closest to me. Thankfully, the people closest to me know how to deal with that situation. There really is no negotiating with a drunk person so the appropriate recourse is to just hang up. It’s not an easy thing to do but it’s far better than feeding into the reality of a person in an unencumbered emotional state with a highly encumbered cognitive system.

I woke the next morning feeling better than I had felt waking up in a long time. I knew I had a couple apologies to make but physically, I felt great. Did I deserve to feel so fantastic after such a full on night of poisoning my body? Probably not!

We don’t always get what we deserve. Life offers no guaranties. All we get with life is life and even that is only offered on a temporary basis. Every day that we are alive is a day to be grateful. Every day that we are alive we have the only thing that life has to offer. Everything else is gravy.

But we are human beings. We are a superior life form. Certainly we deserve more that just life. Certainly we deserve more than a single celled amoeba or a freaking banana. And of course, some human being are superior to other human beings. Some people obviously deserve more than others, right? I mean, take you and me for example. Since I’m the writer and you are just the reader, I deserve more than you.

Oh, I’m sorry. Did I lose you with that last statement?

Whenever we start comparing ourselves to others we are going to run into problems. My daughter informed me this evening that she has a more stressful life than other people. And you know what, she is not wrong. I tried to assure her that I would do everything in my power to reduce stress in her life but the fact is we all take on as much stress as we can handle. The real problem is when unexpected things happen that add stress we didn’t choose to take on. That’s when it’s probably a good idea to hang up the phone. 🙂

The other fact is that we live in a society that is based on comparison. It’s really the only way that we can evaluate anything. This is bigger and that is smaller. This is stronger and than weaker. This is better and that is worse. Yeah, the only thing we are guaranteed is life but it is still up to us to survive. To survive, we need to be able to make these judgement calls. As a result we live in  a very judgmental society.

I spent the day car shopping with a good friend of mine. Her very sensible mom car, the minivan, is on it’s last legs. It’s time for a new vehicle.  Now this person is more than just a mom, she is a smart, classy, outgoing sophisticated woman who belongs in a more suitable vehicle than a minivan. This was a relief to me. I’ve bought three minivans in my life and it’s not the most exciting shopping experience. We were on our way to get a sweet ass ride!

Of course, in this society you can’t just go out and pick the car that suits you. You have to be able to afford it. Well… no you don’t. There is always credit. But you have to be able to qualify for credit and the poorer you are the more it’s going to cost you. In this society, poor people pay more for the same thing than rich people. But that’s okay. Poor people are inferior to rich people and so they deserve less.

Apparently, there is some doubt about that. There are some things that are only available to you if you are poor. I went out tonight with a friend who works for the county and we spend a lot of time talking about programs that are only available to the poor. I’m sure that these programs came into existence because of some idea that people deserve certain things out out of life but no one has to prove their worth as a person to receive them, only their financial worth. This is the system under which we live.

You can fight it, and take down the entire capitalist system, or embrace it and go get the benefits which this system has to offer. I don’t understand why people complain about those receiving government benefits but I also don’t understand why people keep giving all of their money to the rich. Both of these things seem stupid to me.

But then I think that we are all in a symbiotic relationship.

There would be no rich without poor.

There would be no writers without readers.

There can be no cops without criminals.

There can be no human beings without the amoeba and the banana.

There would be no living without those who have died.

We are all in this together and we can keep fighting for supremacy but in doing so we are fighting that which creates us.

Perhaps one day we will stop fighting ourselves. Perhaps one day we will get what we deserve.

Loss of love

Most of my life is awesome. I mean it sucks by conventional standards but so what… I still love it. The only thing that makes me sad is loss of love. I don’t even have a problem with death. Take my money, I don’t care. Take my stuff, it’s just stuff. If you really want to hurt me just withhold love. And I can’t even get mad because I know you have your reasons. All I can do is be sad.

What makes you sad? I promise I won’t use it to hurt you. I would never choose to hurt anyone. I just feel that the best point of connection is through our weakness. This is a pretty safe place. Very few people read this blog. If you would like to share your weakness, this would be a good place to do it. Let me know you and I will love you and protect you the best I can.

Love is a verb

It’s been one hell of week since my birthday. A friend asked me recently if I had recovered from my birthday yet. I assumed he was referring to the hang-over I instilled on that night so I answered, “yes”.   I’ve always been able to recover from the harm caused by alcohol. Now if he had asked me if I had recovered from my birth, that would have been a different story. I may not recover from my birth until the day I die. Until then, it may just be one long arduous process of recovery. What get’s me through is love.

Love has made this past week one of the best I’ve had in a long time. I finally saw my daughter on Monday for the first time in six months. I met with her and her therapist. This was my daughter’s condition and we had been trying for three months to bring it to fruition. For all that time, I had no idea what she was thinking or feeling. I had no idea why she wasn’t talking to me. I didn’t know whether she wanted me in her life of not.  I still have a lot of questions but I have the only answer I need. I know that she loves me and wants me in her life. She asked me to legally adopt her and I told her that I would.

I guess the biggest issue she faced in reaching out was that she didn’t want to burden me. She didn’t want to be an inconvenience. As ridiculous as that sounds to me, I’m finding that it’s a fairly common sentiment among the people I love. I find life to be a burden and rather inconvenient. I was doing just fine before I was born. Love is the one thing that gives my life meaning. The only reason I do anything is out of love. I don’t know what to do to help people understand this.

My daughter’s therapist tried to explain it to her. She said, “Love is a feeling but remember how we talked about love is also being a verb?”

At this point I was thinking, “Oh god! Not this shit!”

It’s not that I’m averse to pop psychology or meme philosophy or even song lyrics. They all have their place and they can all have value.

My problem with this “love is a verb” expression is specific to how it has played out in my life. For me it has been, “If you really loved me you would do _____”, or “How could you do _____ if you really loved me?”

For me, it has been more like the Janet Jackson’s song, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”

I get it. I understand that they way people experience love is through acts of love. We experience love not by how the lover feels but by what they do and what they do affects how we feel. It’s like how people experience God through religion. Most people don’t actually know God but they know that through religion they can feel God’s presence. Religion might be a verb but God is not a verb. To me, Love is God. I prefer this song by Ziggy Marley.

As with any religion, our faith is not measured merely by our belief but by our actions. As with many religious people I sometimes fuck up. As with many religious people, even when I am holding true to my faith I will sometimes piss people off.

All I know is that when my son was conceived it was an act of Love. All I know is that when I stuck by my pregnant friend and married her, it was an act of Love.

I know that when my friend called me in the middle of the night last Friday, I answer… because of Love.

I know that I spent three nights last week creating improvisational soundscapes for my band leader’s performance art piece… because of Love.

I know that I was sad that none of my close friends showed up… because of Love.

I know that when my band leader and h/ir wife made the cover of CityPages this week I was thrilled… because of Love.

I know that I biked across town in the middle of winter to see a friend who had a bad day at work… because of Love.

I know that I survived a fifteen hour day yesterday… because of Love… and enjoyed every minute of it… because of Love.

I know that I got out of bed today… because of Love.

—–

I also wrote this song today. It’s a Valentine to my daughter but it is inspired by everyone I love… which means everyone. Here are the lyrics.  Sorry there is no fancy video.

I love you today
As I do everyday

Whether together or apart
You are always in my heart

Everything that I do
Everything to you I say
Comes from the love that’s deep inside
It won’t ever go away

Sometimes love is painful
It don’t feel like you think it should
No one said love would be easy
But with love I know it could

We all have our doubts
What is love all about?

It’s hard to know what to feel
When we don’t know what is real

Love is not a box of chocolates
Or a Valentine’s Day card
But look inside and you will see
The reason why I work so hard

I can’t prove it to you
It’s really nothing I can show
But I’ll try with all my actions
In the hope that you will know

I love you today
As I do everyday

Whether together or apart
You are always in my heart

Cold is the absence of heat

When I woke up yesterday morning it was 10 degrees below zero on the Fahrenheit scale. That is 80 degrees Fahrenheit colder than it was for me a week ago. That’s not cool! Not cool at all. It is down right sucky! I’ve been thinking a lot about the cold lately. It’s kind of hard to think about anything else, but then I remembered, there is no such thing as cold!

No! Seriously, cold is not really a thing. I’m not talking in an existential sense or in some new-agey mind over matter way of thinking. I’m talking science. I’m talking fact and the fact is that cold does not exist. The world which we have created in our minds is a dualistic world of good against evil but in this case there is no duality. What we perceive as cold is not really cold at all, it is merely the existence of less heat than our bodies would like.

Heat is real. Heat is thermal energy. With more thermal energy, temperature rises; with less thermal energy, temperature falls. At the temperature of −459.67° Fahrenheit or −273.15° Celsius there is no thermal energy. This is called absolute zero and it cannot get any cooler. Icecubes and refrigerators do not cool things by adding “cold energy”, they merely displace heat lowering the temperature.

The same is true for light and dark. There is no such thing as dark, it is merely the absence of light. This is not just a semantic argument. I know what people mean when they say, “It’s really dark in here.”, but that doesn’t make it any more true. We walk around everyday, going about our business, happy as clams believing in this thing called darkness but it is not real. It’s a delusion. And people call me crazy!

But enough fun and games; how about something a little more serious?  What about life and death? I’m not asking a spiritual question about life after death where we are united with all our friends and family who have gone before us and everything is beautiful with clouds and angels and cherubs with harps. I’m asking a real world fact based question with spiritual and philosophical implications.

That fact is, there is no such thing as death. What we call death is merely the absence of life. There is no “death force” to fight against. We can’t fight death because death does not exist. We talk about dying like it is a real thing but the fact is no one dies, we simply lose our life and this is coming from someone who very nearly lost his on multiple occasions. Life is really all we have. We can have more of it or less of it but if we seek death or fight death we are wasting our life energy because death does not exist. Death, like cold or dark is a figment of our delusional minds.

So how about that spiritual question? What about the ultimate duality of good versus evil? As we look around the world it is pretty easy to find examples of evil, but what if this too is a delusion? What if what we perceive as evil is really just the absence of good?

I don’t think that there is a way to definitively answer this question. I don’t think that there is any way to prove the existence or nonexistence of evil, and I don’t see many scientists out there testing the theory. This really is a spiritual question but spiritually we can find an answer. What if we assume that there is no such thing as evil, how would life be different? What if we dealt with what we call evil the same way we deal with what we call cold or dark? What if the only way to  eradicate evil was by providing and protecting good? What if we stopped fighting hate with more hate and accepted that love is the only power we have?

I’m not claiming to have the answer to whether evil exists or not but when I look at the world as it is and try to understand it in the absence of evil, I come up with better solutions. Life is better when I stop expending energy trying to fight evil and focus on doing good. Just as it is when I stop expending energy trying to fight the cold as instead seek heat or when I stop fighting the darkness and instead seek light. Life cannot be lived by fighting death, only by seeking life.

Listen to me

Well that was freaking weird!

We had a lovely drive back from the Twin Ports (Duluth/Superior), talking the whole way and enjoying fall colors. The sun was shining and the air temperature was pleasant. I was eager to get home so I could get on my bike and enjoy what may be one of the last nice days of the season. I even had a great excuse. My cat needs food and litter so at the very least I thought I would bike to the pet store.

But that’s not what happened.

Once home, my energy level dropped. I had a bowl of cereal and cracked a beer but I had no motivation to do anything else. Well, almost nothing else. I did have an erection that needed tending to but I knew if I did that I would just fall asleep; which is what I did.

That’s where it got weird.

Over the next five hours I would have some of the most vivid and terrifying dreams of my life. At times I was aware that I was dreaming but I never tried to control them. As scared as I was I felt that there was a deeper message within. The dreams were a warning and even as the details fade, the message is clear.

I can’t do it all and if I try it will kill me. As I am preparing to embark on the greatest challenge of my life I have to stay focused. I can’t let anything or anyone distract me. But at the same time I can’t do it alone. Those distractions are my guide posts and my life-lines. I need to pay attention to them.

That is my conflict. In a way it has always been my conflict. I have always struggled with how to balance my future plans with the present moment. I have always struggled to balanced my inner desires with external influences.

I realize that dreams are just a way for my subconcious to talk to my conscious. I realize that it is all me. I am every character in my dreams. I realize that it is me scaring the shit out of me. But I think I have a point. I need to listen to myself and I’m telling myself to listen to you.

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