Day 72. My Gypsy Soul.

As I am writing this, the exotic sounds of Arabic fueled gypsy music are wafting through the Bohemian atmosphere of this weird cash-only bar.

Surrounded by the most diverse crowd of hipsters, artists, immigrants of all creeds and races (on a side note  how is it possible that Eastern Europeans can manage to sound racist even when not trying to be? – overhearing conversations), my mind travels to places that I have only read about or seen in films or on television. And yet, my traitorous mind still manages to bring up the images of Her, my greatest love. She would love this place and this music. Whenever I imagine myself in some exotic locales, I keep seeing Her next to me.

The great thing about imagination is that I can imagine anything. So why do I keep thinking about Her rather than being happy without Her? She is not even that good looking. I can imagine being 6′ 4″ and being hugged by Uma Thurman but instead I dream about a plain looking girl with a very average body. But, of course, to me she is the most exquisite and intoxicating creature in the Universe.

I still love Her. I am so thoroughly fucked.

We Are What We Read.

Growing up as I did in a country where government restricted what people read, watched, said, it is perhaps of little surprise that one of my most favourite genres became science fiction. In sci-fi it is possible to say things about the future that the author might not be able to say about the past or the present.

Jumping forward to the present time, those who have been following my musings will realise that I got issues. So on my recent trip to the book store, this is what I got:

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The “Feeling Good Handbook” was recommended to me by my mind technician. The Kathy Reichs book is because her books are really good. Can’t say I like the show “Bones” but the books are good. Christopher Moore is absolutely hilarious and I will read everything he writes. I suppose his genre is sort of fantasy but really, it is quite undefinable. And I could really use some cheering up right about now. The other three books are pure science fiction.

So what is it about sci-fi that is so enduring for me? The sci-fi genre is about imagining the most unusual of worlds and circumstances and putting ourselves there. So in that way, this genre is all about dreaming and exploring the unknown which usually signifies the here and now rather than the distant future. Between not being at peace with my Self and wanting to escape, it is easy to see why sci-fi has got such a hold on my soul.

So what shall I start with? Any suggestions?

Day 43. Universe Is Fucking With Me.

The tendinitis in my right wrist is still going strong. Typing is torture. Plus I’m starting to get busy again. I am still at the very beginning of my journey and there is still a long way to go; so I am really not where I need to be but at least I’m not where I was yesterday.

It would also seem that some people out there actually like me. There are my improv mates; we had a great practice tonight for our long-form narrative show in two weeks. It will be an improvised play done in a specific genre. The practice, as I said said, went well. I managed to remember what I told myself before: go in with an emotional choice and not a cognitive one. I think it is helping and letting me relax and play the game.

And I am also in demand for my photography skills apparently. I will be covering the local improv festival and I will be starting to cover a bunch of shows here in town for an entertainment blog. Things are starting to get back to the way they were but I am no longer the way I was. Or at least trying not to be the person I have been. There is good reason to be optimistic about the future but my mind is stuck firmly in the past. On Her. So as I am trying to forge a better life for myself and become a better man because even though she will never see the results but she is the one that makes me want to be a better man. So as I strive to get ahead, it is imperative that I forget Her and learn to live without thinking of Her.

But I still love Her.

Day 35. Running On Empty.

First things first, let me get this out of the way: tomorrow morning I am supposed to pitch over the phone (not my strongest suit) a long-form narrative improv show for some sort of a Jewish festival. The organisers want an improv show that is interactive and based on classic Jewish stories. So some time between now and tomorrow morning I have got to figure out what the heck is a classic Jewish story.

Now, let’s move on to what has been on my mind today. A talented young standup comedian friend of mine wrote on Facebook asking what does one do if one has nothing to talk or write about. My suggestion was to write about stuff he does not want to talk about. As cathartic as writing this blog has been for me, I have not felt the ability to share my less appealing side. One can suppose that this is largely because I have two psychologists telling me to concentrate on the positive and not dwell on the negative. However, I believe I should discuss all of me here. Over the next few days this will be at the top of my thoughts.

I am supposed to be leaving to spend this weekend in the mountains. It is highly unlikely that I will be able to update my blog, thus breaking my pledge of publishing one post per day. Nevertheless, I shall strive to still write the posts even if I will not be able to upload them until getting back to civilisation.

My main hope that I will be able to maintain the following order of cognitive priorities:
1. safety in the mountains;
2. writing about what I do not want to talk about;
3. my beloved (not voluntary).
The reality though is that #3 has the tendency to displace everything else.

Peace out.

Day 29. The Bar.

The Bar. It actually has a name but for this post it shall simply be known as The Bar. And the Bar has the most disparate clientele.

The Bar doesn’t have much in terms of decor. There are a couple of worn out pool tables, a couple of well used foosball tables, and lots of cheap bear and salty popcorn. The Bar is a dive bar. It is, however, located in a trendy and artsy neighbourhood. There are independent galleries and rooms where young artists show of their craft and young actors and comedians can do their shows and dream of making it big. This being a student town, the student population is everywhere. This is precisely the type of area where a homeless junkie will try to sell you a locally procured $1,000 fixie (the fixed gear bicycles being the current hipster affectation) for $10-$20. The area is awash in equal parts cheap beer, expensive wines, low-cost food and fancy restaurants, sluts, douchebags, idealistic pursuits, and broken dreams.

The bar has a certain ambiance though. The froshers and those new to the city won’t be found here. The clientele is usually devided between the students and the older regulars; the one trait that unites these folks is that they all have already learned to be dissapointed. Here, the doggedness of artistic, scholastic, and professional pursuits has been considerably dulled by the above-mentioned fare of cheap alcohol and salt from the popcorn.

As I sit at a corner table, the din of music and overlapping conversations drowning out my own anxieties, with the view of the passerby’s on their way to a fancy night out on the street and a mixed crowd of the young and the old, it is impossible not to wonder what brought them all to this place? This is not the only bar around and it is definitely not the nicest. There’s a football game on television but no one is paying attention. The old-timers are usually sitting solo and drinking quietly; the younger generation is always in groups. Tellingly, there are no couples on a date. All the folks here are either locals or those who got this city totally wired. They are not here for the gimmicky decor or sexy waitresses (although they definitely have the sexy “suicide girl” thing going). They are here for each other’s company. Even those sitting alone are here for the established status quo of the Bar. This is “Cheers” without the sycophancy.

In the end, we all want the same thing. We need to feel like we belong. The Bar is the type of place where everyone – regardless of their station in life – feels accepted. Even yours truly, who has been feeling so incredibly dejected and down this past month, can feel safe here.

Cheers. Sláinte. L’Chayim. Wàn shòu we jiãng. Nazdorov’ie. Santé.

May your life be plentiful and your enemies disappointed.
May your cup be full and your worries few.
And may you live the kind of life that will bring you peace of mind.

‘Til soon.

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Day 28. Me, Myself, and I.

The Self – that most elusive of notions. How do we define it? Is it the soul, the mind, the id, the ego? Is it set for all time or is it constantly in flux? Then there is the whole notion of fractured Self. It is also intrinsically linked with how we view ourselves: for example, whether do we feel young or old regardless of actual age;

In my case, I am starting to realise that my Self is not what I thought it was. In fact, the current state of feeling totally lost is because I spent a large portion of my life hiding my Self from the world and myself. I have written about myself here before but I am realising that I have not really touched on the subject of my Self. I have no clue what or who I am. Is it the Me the funny guy? Is it the Me the improviser? Is it the Me the climber?

Some people (ahem, me) tend pile up stuff in a closet during cleanup and just shut the door. Later, when that was thoroughly forgotten, the closet gets opened and everything that was piled up falls out. Since I have started doing improv, I feel that is the psychological equivalent of what has been happening in my mind. The recent Breakup just swung all the doors open and now I am drowning in all the emotional baggage that was suppressed there.

And yet, I am still having trouble confronting my issues. Is it because I am afraid to find out that I am a total loser? Granted, that is not the kind of validation I am interested in. I do know that feelings of low self-worth and fears of inadequacy are my constant companions, à la Dexter’s “dark passenger.” 

So I am considering the possibility that my Self is in a transitional period. I am changing from the Self I deluded myself into and moving towards discovering my true Self. Hopefully, this will not end in bitter disappointment.

Love thy neighbour.

Patriotism. It has been called everything from the refuge of the weak-minded to the greatest virtue. Patriotism though cannot be defined so simply. We all have our own version of that concept. We understand it differently through various mind prisms of life experiences, upbringing, religion, philosophy, and metaphysics.
The reason many of us define patriotism differently is because people disagree on what is most important to their country. I have a number of friends who claim to not be patriotic at all because they do not like the way things are and want them to change. I would posit that this is still patriotism. They want things to be different, to be better for their country and regardless of whether their particular beliefs are right or wrong or whether they consider themselves patriotic, they are patriotic.

Here is my recipe for healthy patriotism.

Social Contract.
As members of society we tacitly or explicitly (especially in cases of immigration) accept the social contract of our respective societies. Citizens of the United States of America pledge allegiance to the flag and constitution. Citizens of Canada pledge allegiance to the Queen and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But the society is so much more than that. We sometimes forget that there are certain national cultural values that exist and it is *our* responsibility to know them and respect them.

Civility.
We are all different. We are all snowflakes. We look differently, we think differently, we express ourselves differently. Perhaps it is not so but it seems sometimes that we have are losing the tradition of civil discourse. We do not discuss, we argue. We listen just long enough and attentively enough to object. Let us get that back. We will all be better for it.

Civics.
One of the problems that is observed throughout western societies is that people are not well versed in the subject of Civics. We do not sufficiently know how our own countries, our own governments function. There are a couple of wonderful videos where actor Richard Dreyfuss explains the importance of that subject. So rather than let me try to do it, I will turn it over to the master:

Education.
Education is the cornerstone of a successful society. How can we even begin to understand the concepts of governance and patriotism without knowing the history of those concepts. This does not mean that I value humanities over science. The logic inherent in science, especially mathematics and physics is paramount to being able to reason logically about subjects that cannot be easily defined. They are also important when it comes to understanding economics. Claiming to be a patriot but not to care at all about one’s country’s economic and monetary policy is an insanity, especially in the light of the current recession and its causes. Everyone apparently has a opinion on what the governments should do about the recession but ask many of the people what their thoughts are on the current monetary policy of their government or even who is in charge of it and you will get blank stare.

Freedom of speech and expression.
This ties in with previously mentioned subjects of civility, Civics, and the social contract. We can all scream and seethe at each other from our respective camps but that will not get us anywhere. Without being able to express ourselves, we cannot move forward as a society. And yes, I do count hate speech as an important function of this. I know I  am about to lose great many of you but consider this: banning  hate speech will not make it magically disappear. In fact, it is impossible to ban hate speech; we can only ban public expression of it. And that my friends, is equivalent to sticking our proverbial heads in the sand. Hate speech is rooted in ignorance and the only way to fight against it is with education not the with silence and ineffective laws.
I am not being merely academic about this. I grew up in the country where I was hated and discriminated against (sometimes publicly) based on my ethnicity. So I have experienced racism and I still say let the assholes spew their hatred. Forbidding them to speak in public will not make them change their minds.

So these are the ingredients for healthy patriotism. The cooking methods can be multiple but the constant must always be respect for others, knowledge to empower change, and earnest will to make life better for everyone and not just the people who agree with you.

Peace out.

Day 23. A Sneak Peek or I’m On A Horse.

Everything we do as bloggers, tends to reveal a part of ourselves. For some, it shows merely through the way they express their thoughts. For others, like myself, over-sharing is the name of the game. Sometimes, when you go through some bad times, you just need to talk to someone who will not necessarily respond with tired old platitudes but will jut listen. We do not even need to have an actual human listener. That is one of the reasons dogs have been so beneficial for soldiers suffering from PTSD.

I have no time nor strength to care for a pet. I can barely take care of myself. Flatmates (at least the good one) are a lot like pets: they are there when you feel sad and when you’re happy. Except that they (usually) clean up after themselves and pay their share of the rent. However, sometimes, you need something a lot less encumbered with humanity: a pet or a computer. This blog is me screaming into the void. Sure there are others who read this blog and give feedback through likes and pingbacks but there is that element of actual human interaction that is removed. It gives us freedom to be far more open then we would be otherwise.

This blog is my way of being completely open. There is no need to peek sneakily: take a gander. Here I am in all my anonymous glory. This is me.

Day 19. Struggle.

Lately, it has been a struggle to keep writing. The novelty of having to write at least one post a day has worn off and the boiling geyser of feelings has subsided. Now it seems that all there is left is dull ache of sorrow.

Sunday night I had been able to get myself to the theatre and do a pretty good improv show. In the fit of irony, the universe has arranged that in the very first scene I did in the workshop before the show, my scene partner’s character broke up with my character. All I could think of is “Shit! Just don’t start crying.” I managed not to do that. There was a small crowd but it was better that way for me, though I imagine, not for the theatre. As smoothly as the show went, I still struggled with trying to keep positive. It is not easy for me at the best of times and I am not going through the best of times at present.

Getting back to writing though, the challenge of doing one post a day or more has been beneficial in establishing a discipline of writing. I need that structure now to help me get through this shit.

It should also be of help in my therapy. I am actually supposed to write two letters: one to my dead grandfather and one from him. The first one is relatively easy. He is on my mind a lot and I think of the time we could have been having together often. The second letter will be hard. I can’t even imagine what to write. It has been almost 19 years since he passed away. I remember his face but not his voice. I rarely think in my native language these days and that puts me even further away from trying to access him deep in my psyche. What would he say? How would he say it? At best, that letter “from him” would just be me saying what I think I know I should do. I wish I could hear his voice. I wish I could listen to his advice. (I will definitely need to do a post inspired by him, about him very soon.) In the meantime, I will have to find a way to keep at it.

In improv we say (I believe Meisner pioneered this) “if you are stuck in the scene, state something that is true. This writing challenge has been doing exactly that for me: a way to say something true about myself in order to keep going. A constant lighthouse of stability and common sense to keep me away from the rocky shores of dark, evil thoughts that would eviscerate me.

I am taking this life one day at a time.

I just have to keep on writing one post at a time.