What visiting my parents taught me
I’m in L.A. and I don’t know what to do.
I just returned from the east coast, visiting family. The trip made me re-evaluate what I want. I'm also in limbo, here in L.A., living with my brother and nine other professional skateboarders in one giant and messy house. I don’t know if I should stay or go. People are having their input on this decision and it's starting to drive me mad. There seems to be so many external forces, pulling me in so many directions. I didn’t realize I had that many arms.
I’m constantly juggling my future, mentally. Constantly, I think, "What am I going to do for money? Am I happy? Is this what I want my life to look like?" I can’t stop challenging myself. Like a ball, that has been abruptly thrown into a dead end corner, flailing around, trying to find an exit and thrashing into the walls around me.
I can’t just STOP.
And yes, I practice yoga.
I have this mental momentum that won’t ease, though. I am aimed towards something I cannot see.
In life, I hope to accomplish a state of deep relaxation and exhaustion. I want to fill up my body with everything and sit with it’s weight inside of me. I want to be heavy with strange noises and sick with visual delight. Jedidiah Jenkins, a current author, says that he hates the phrase older people use, "It all went by in the blink of an eye." He says he desires to stretch out his life into something gigantic and heavy, so that when he sits down at 90, he says, "Wow, I'm tired." That's what I want, too.
My main fear about leaving here: I'm scared to lose out on a good thing and good connections. Los Angeles has been a compassionate, bountiful provider. Things have been relatively easy, except for the traffic and parking tickets. It lulls me into a sleep. I am beginning to feel comfortable. I have friends. I have a roof over my head. I have family. I have a semi-regular routine. And now I have a flexible job, that will provide me with the time and elasticity to enjoy PoembyBecca. But if I could just Carrie Bradshaw this for a moment, I can’t help but wonder, Why am I so antsy?
I feel like wet plaster that has not yet hardened. I still want so much more. The question is, where do I go from here? And how? I was counting on the trimming job to provide me with the money to stay on the move. Without that, I am uncomfortably poor. $800 in the bank account. PoembyBecca has the potential to provide me with money for basics, I just have to put in the time and hard work.
But I do know I can’t let fear guide me. That’s not what this journey is about. I read something recently, that said, when we are faced with two roads, always pick the harder one. I think part of me thought that by staying in Los Angeles was the harder decision for me, because I am always moving, But, I’m starting to think I might have picked the easy way out and tricked myself. Staying here would mean my “journey” is over. That's a terrible thought! I don't want to stop! Here, I have a job, foreseeable future, friends, chores, groceries, commuting, movie on Tuesday…Did I really give up so fast?! (no offense to people who have and love this.)
I am still determined. I am still unsure, as usual. I am still passionate about PoembyBecca, but I can’t hold on because I’m too scared to let go. I wish I was better at planning my life. I should be listening to myself more, writing more. I hardly write! I’m too busy surfing the web and commuting 30 minutes to Venice every day, on a good day. Not that I don’t absolutely love being on Venice...and the people and the salt air and CD sellers and lovely homeless youth that talk to me openly and passionately about writing. I just can’t fight this feeling of standing in a doorway, shifting my weight back and forth. I want someone to tell me what to do!
Here I am, struggling to be in charge of my life and I can’t even decide what I want.
Here’s an idea: Keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t look back. Get your feet dirty. empty out your wallet, scrub a floor with your pride. Find the bottom and find yourself. That probably doesn't sound so inviting to most people, but it does to me.
Is that self-destructive? I don’t know. Maybe I feel like I’m not worth building myself up in life, and I only want to tear myself down. That’s exactly what my mom would say.
But fuck that.
Let’s be honest. Our family doesn’t always know what’s best for us. Especially when your not of the same religion. Said mother wants me to “REPENT!!!!" (direct text quote) for dating women and go see a christian counselor ASAP. She can’t be trusted.
She had no idea what I even did on some basic levels, until my grandma asked about it in front of her! I think she might have genuinely thought I was one of the adorable homeless youth talking to strangers passionately about writing.
...Wait a second.
I don’t mean to sound harsh. I’ve just been meditating on family lately, and coming to terms with the reality of mine.I know everyone's family is complicated and love can be forged over anything. But, there has to be more than one willing party for that Disney movie.
They still think I am a “backslidden Christian,” and anytime I open up or allow them to enter into the advice room, I’m left feeling alone, nodding my head and pretending that my dad’s aggressive instruction to say “Dear God, I’m sorry” is cute and funny.
They think they are doing me some real good. But I can’t get over the pure blindness! Their house is like a nocturnal exhibit at the zoo! They think who I am right now is an act of rebellion. I’m just out here, trying desperately to do right for myself and to go confidentially in the direction of my dreams, in Thoreau’s words.
In order to take shape as myself, I've had to not only reject my parents advice for me, but invert it into one of those creepy color flipped, webcam photos. That’s a difficult thing for someone to do. It takes rock hard emotional abs to carry your own weight in the universe and that’s where a lot of my issues with loneliness stem from.
A lot of people have no idea what it feels like to truly be on their own - to be fully responsible for themselves and not have the rope, dangling down from above, just in case. I have severed ties with their unhealthy relationship with me, for my own sanity and am learning how to tie my own rope.
So, what do I do from here? Can I figure my way out of this? Am I smart enough? frugal enough? (that’s the hard one) and suicidal enough to once again, push my little boat off the dock and drift out into the American wild?
Today, I am asking a lot of questions.
How have I changed since I left Fairbanks? Am I accomplishing what I set out to? Or falling into the same habits that led me to take this journey in the first place.
It’s hard to admit that we aren’t on the right path. Especially, when our social media shows everyone else that we are.
One of the people I met here in L.A. had a really interesting thing to say about how we heal. He said that it’s like getting a physical injury. When it first happens, it doesn’t really hurt that bad. You can touch it and not be in pain. But, when wounds begin to heal, they become sensitive. Touching them, or hitting them on something is excruciating. He said that the healing process is where we find ourselves hurting the most, but it isn’t a sign that something is wrong, it is a sign that we things are changing.
Family is such a delicate, beautiful thing. It brings out the worst and best in people. I don’t know if I’ll ever figure it out. While visiting, things hit harder. Over and over, I felt wounded by things said or not said. There was a genuine and innocent misunderstanding shown towards me by my parents. The worst part is this made me angry, and I wasn’t able to hide it.
I realized, when I am doing something that reflects well on them and within their values, I am worth supporting and loving. When I am no longer fulfilling this obligation, I should be chastised and put back "on track”,
I regret not speaking out about who I am and what I value, sooner. I regret having to figure this out at 25.
I do not regret, however, making them uncomfortable and making them question when and why they support their daughter, and why they deem her unworthy of their approval.
I used to see a counselor at the university. It was free and I’ll try anything that’s free. I ended up becoming captivated by the process and visiting this therapist for a long time. One of our most difficult sessions was when we discussed my family and he made things painfully clear.. “You need to accept that you have a hole in your heart from your parent’s lack of love. and it will always be there.”
"Can you accept that?” He asked me. I couldn’t answer. It was too painful. We ended the session and I sat in my car and cried, overwhelmed by the clarity.
I am aware, now, that I cannot continue to roam around, trying to shove unhealthy things into my injury.
The roaming around part I'm fine with.
I have to become comfortable with the structure of my heart, much like women and their vagina's in the 1950's. I have to break the mirror out.
Even though it does not look perfect (the heart), I can live perfectly, with it. I will never win their love. I can not love myself enough to make up for them. It just needs to “exist” and I need to believe that that’s okay.
I will be okay.
My friend Eran talked to me about how he was strong enough to stand up to his family when he told them he was gay. He said, “I didn’t really need their love, so I was fine with whatever happened.”
This is a crazy thought! But I understand, exactly. The season is changing in my life. I'm rotating into a different light and the heat of an unknown sun burns, but illuminates the cracks and crevasses, the beautiful terrain of my inner self.
There is so much love in my family. I hope one day, it finds a bridge and my world and my parent’s worlds can meet, sniff bums and learn to get along. But that’s a risk I’m finally willing to take.
Today, I am thinking. I revisit some old questions and re-evaluate my priorities. I prepare to decide what my next step is.
I want to thank everyone who is a part of my journey. When I receive messages from people, I am so full. This is such a personal, painful journey I find myself on. Knowing there are people out there that believe in going out alone and eating life like a peach, and this personal undertaking...and me, propels me forward. Thank you for all the kind words over the last few months.
Do you ever come across a song that you have to listen to as much as possible until you hate yourself?
You either watched that entire video happily and thinking about doing it again, or you stopped it after 20 seconds.
Share if you want to save it for when you are sad. It helps.
11/9/2015 0 Comments
We hiked in Los Padres National Forest and found free camping on the south side. There's no cell service and food is pretty expensive. Apparently, camping costs $50! I can only attest to $6.50 giant calzones and .50 cent bananas.
11/9/2015 1 Comment
Living with Intention
I recently exchanged some emails with my closest friend and roommate for the previous three years. In the emails, we discussed how to love ourselves freely, and to live with intention. I want share a small excerpt from that conversation that I kept returning to. I've been thinking on this subject since Big Sur. I feel a deeper sense of happiness and contentment since exploring this part of myself.
"I want to say yes to life! I want to not be afraid of asking for help or if someone can take a picture of me standing against a breaking ocean, topless. I want to meet people with the full force of my kind spirit and love them. I want to answer questions with grace and brutality, not with giggles and jokes. I am fully capable of wreaking havoc on my fear. I am determined to act when I only feel like watching. I find that when I don’t know the answer to a question, if I think in love, and imagine myself as an orb of positive, radiant energy, directing it at the question or the person, the answer (or at least the feeling) will fall into my body like a feather or a leaf from a tree.”
This week, my brother Will and I went to Big Sur. I wanted to get away from the city and have been dying to go there. It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The coastline was severe and took my breath away. I had to stop taking pictures because I was in too deep in awe. In some areas, the mountains looked like chocolate cake, sitting atop a blue plate. Or, like claws gripping deep into the ocean floor. I felt so small.
We hiked 20 miles roundtrip out to Sykes hot springs. These are free and rest on the edge of a steep cascade of rock, falling into a river bed. It get's pretty crowded in the summer, but we only saw several (naked) fellow soakers and I accidentally surprised two who were letting the romantic scenery get to them. We soaked all night and hiked out the next morning. Our tub was right next to the river and before long, we were seeing who could lay in the ice cold water the longest. I did 50 seconds. Wil did 75. We hopped back and forth, all alone and giddy with the excitement of having made the hike and found the perfect camping spot, a few feet from the tubs. The hike was difficult and I found myself thinking a lot during it. I contemplated what living with intention means to me and how I can embody that. I felt, as I struggled to gain 400ft out of a river bed, that I don’t live as honestly as I could.
Someone I care about very much is planning to visit me. He and I have been talking about it since before I went to South America. We haven’t known each other for very long and have only interacted in a controlled and comfortable environment. I am eager to have company, while at the same time, defensive and nervous of inviting someone into my inner sanctum (my car house). Not only that, we are planning on driving across the country. I’ve hardly travelled with ANYONE! My brother is basically the only person I can imagine traveling with and never getting sick of. I’m worried about not being able to express myself and in the right way. What if I need some alone time and I don’t have the nerve to tell him and I bottle it up until I freak out and run off into the Utah desert, barefoot.
I panicked and my inner voice screamed, “I haven’t thought this through!” What if I don’t want to do this? And then I realized how weird of a question that was. Did I really just ask myself this incredibly basic question and not know how to answer it?
We need to deal with this.
I asked a new question. "Where is my voice?"
I realized that I was keeping her (him, whatever) shut up. I couldn’t hear my intuition because she was too scared of being belittled by my negative thoughts. Right then and there, I started focusing on my breathing, deep and steady. Not just because I was struggling to lug my 35 pound pack, but it helped. I imagined myself as a pure orb of love and actively radiated that feeling throughout my body. I felt that feeling of happiness. I looked around at the wild scenery cradling me like a womb. I could smell the dirt and leaves and sweat. I let my body feel open and waited for my intuition to come out of hiding and fill me.
This all sounds a little wacky to the average person, but whether we want to admit it or not, we’ve all felt the feeling I’m describing, of heavy, holy love. Whether it’s when you look into your lover’s eyes (or dog!), or when we sit at a full dinner table of loved ones, or when we get that compliment we never even knew existed.
What I’m talking about when I talk about self-love, is controlling and creating this healthy emotional experience for ourselves. Just like Wim Hof, the Iceman can regulate his endocrine system with his breathing, we can tap into our bodies and access and create spiritual experiences. Meditating, yoga, etc. teach methods for this.
Haven’t you ever wondered why yoga instructors are so damn cheery all the time, almost to the point of being cheesy? Perhaps, because they spend every day tapping into their inner sanctum of emotional power and using it to feel good.
I struggle a lot with listening to myself. I tend to not like making decisions. Instead of saying no to something, I weasel out of it. Instead of saying yes to something with the full force of my intentions, I say maybe or I don’t know and then I wait and see what happens to me. Get it? Not a sustainable method for living a happy life. Too often, I excuse myself out of life and watch from the doorway.
I had five more miles to go on the trail. I was delirious from too long in the hot springs the night before and not enough water. I wasn’t convinced I would make it. My pinky toes had doubled in size due to new blisters and my left knee and hip, which I always have problems with, were about to melt into useless goo. It was the hardest hike I’ve ever done, and I’ve climbed a mountain in Denali, by way of nothing but a dried up glacial rock-bed, during a forest fire. I could feel my face clenching with every step. And here I was, trying to give myself a therapy session in my head.
But, there’s no time like the present. And it seemed like a damn good distraction. I decided right there, that I was going to work through this dilemma in my head. I was going to decide how I felt about my possible future travel companion. I asked myself again, “What do you want?”
I felt like Noah in The Notebook, on that boat dock. “WHAT DO YOU WANT?! WHAT….do you want?”
“You are love. Breathe. Feel. Love. Breathe. What do you feel?”
It’s hard to describe, but it became clear that I was afraid. I was afraid because I didn’t think I was strong enough to handle the situation. I didn’t believe in myself and therefore felt nervous about the unknown. Stress is our belief that we are not capable of dealing with a situation. I didn’t feel like I knew how to "adult". It made me angry at myself for trying to wiggle out of the responsibility when I was more than capable of handling it.
(Pep talk alert)
I can handle ANYTHING that comes my way. I can handle the excitement, the heaviness and the consequences my decisions provoke. I am determined to face the world head up and smiling. I DO want to see this person. I am excited to experience this fantastic landscape with them. I am confident that we will communicate effectively and exist in a place of mutual love and adventure. I’m comfortable being myself and expressing myself.
I realized that I really did want them to visit and us to go on this adventure. I don’t know how it will all go down and we will probably be poor, dirty and tired. But, leaps into the unknown and off the beaten paths of living are scary. I like comfort, and feeling safe. I forget that my new life is the opposite of that, and I have to learn to navigate the waters of this lifestyle and thrive, or I will just go stagnant. I am my own ship and captain.
It is a lot easier to sit back and let others have our responsibility. We tell ourselves that things our out of our control. “I can’t leave my job because I don’t know what I would do.” or “I just don’t feel like it right now.”
Truth is, every time we hand over the keys, we get more and more comfortable, sinking into the chair deeper and deeper. It gets harder to get out. When we do, it feels unnatural and we get scared. It takes a strong person to live outside of their comfort zone and society’s established agenda for them. Freedom isn’t free. That sounds cheesy, but it’s true. You have to sacrifice comfort.
In my heart, I said yes with the full, brutal force of my being. Yes to the plan. Yes to personal responsibility and yes to my intuition. Yes, you may speak because I am hear, listening to you.
When we reached the car, it was dark. We laid down on the cold cement of the parking lot. I slumped the backpack off my shoulders in pain. My body felt hard as a rock. 20 miles in 24 hours. The most amazing hot springs I have ever seen. Ten peanut butter and jellies and one bottle of vodka.
I felt pure, unadulterated happiness balloon from my stomach and spread all over my body. I could have shot out into the sky like a shooting star.