Confessions From Quarantine 04

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We all put up a facade to the external world to hide the parts of us we don’t want anyone to see. If someone asks us how we’re doing, even if we’re having the shittiest day we’re not expected to actually talk about it. For people who feel so intensely and deeply like myself, it’s tough to show up for work everyday and even in a great environment, still be so affected by those around me. Having to work from home for an extended period of time has taught me just how much energy I naturally expend around other people to project this “bubbly” persona. Some days yes it would be genuine if I was feeling it, but most days I’d be depressed and anxious, worrying what other people will think of me if I CAN’T be in a good mood. And this feeling would take over my entire day, making work absolutely MISERABLE. Those FEELINGS were all I could focus on. For me, there’s a certain shame in not being “on” for people, even though my logical mind tells me that it really doesn’t matter, no one cares, and everyone has their own shit to deal with. It’s a huge part of why I quit social media. It’s unhealthy to feel like you need to “portray yourself” a certain way to the world. I knew that pattern I had developed needed to be changed, to be healed, but there was never any time to really do it.

Having to stay at home has finally made me sink into who I really am, accepting that there are different sides of me that need to be honored and expressed. It’s taken a lot out of me to hide these parts of myself for so many years, expecting that someday I WOULD just be able to just be happy and bubbly for people ALL THE TIME and come back into the world. Absolutely ridiculous. It just got worse! Having the opportunity to slow down has allowed me to shift that perception of feeling that I need to “be something” for other people. After living so much of my life moving WAY TOO FAST to really take in and enjoy ANYTHING, I see now that slowing down IS actually an option, and it’s so necessary for someone like me. In order for me to stop feeling so much shame, I’ve decided I HAVE to talk about who I really am in order to move past this wall that’s gotten so high over the years. Hiding our true selves takes a HUGE toll on us that just piles up over time until we’re crushed under the pressure. It’s so important to just…learn how to be you.

Phew! Been meaning to say this for quite some time! It’s funny how liberating even drawing that image of me was….

I set out to do this comic for “art therapy” reasons, but I guess I really didn’t expect to feel what I’m feeling working on it. For me this whole thing is a legit life reflection session…it’s like sifting through broken glass to find pieces of gold.

When I did this page I was the vibrating, pulsing kind of manic and I feel like as much as I tried to control it, to me it shows through even in how I wrote it. I love that I’m learning how to channel my emotions into this… it’ll be so valuable to look back on when I’m in those dark times 🙂

And such a great release to finally let go of all this!!!

Confessions From Quarantine 03

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It’s been SO WONDERFUL to finally feel like I have an outlet to express these emotions… I was never able to before and it was so painful ;__; Phew!!! These are some insights from my depressive episode last week. I think it’ll be interesting to see the comic flip flop in styles depending on my mood haha!

Confessions From Quarantine 02

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I just have to say… I’m really grateful for being on the path that I’m on during this crazy time. I feel like I’ve made such immense progress as a person over these past 10 years and it blows me away how I am where I am right now. I would NOT be able to handle it as well otherwise…

Seriously… going to meet Mother Ayahuasca broke me open in ways I’m just beginning to feel and understand. Moving forward as a species, we have to all be able to connect with nature in a similar way as taking ayahuasca… She has a way of making you feel it.. feel it ALL…that warmth of connected oneness with the universe. And we’ve done so much to damage her so now we’re paying the price…

I watched this pandemic series on netflix and in one of the episodes a student asks this virologist “Why do you think humans haven’t evolved to take care of this virus yet?” and he replies something like “That’s the question isn’t it…” But to me it really does seem something like… this is just part of the cycle. As humans we have to collectively learn how to handle the pain of the consequences of history if we’re meant to move forward once this quarantine is complete.

And what kinda person will you be then?

The Pain of Duality

“Grief is the space between what you expect and what you get.” – Dan Harmon’s Therapist

Yesterday was my first day as a character designer on Rick and Morty. I felt really lucky because it ended up being one of their monthly screening parties where they show a finished episode and have pizza and beer and do a raffle. In the beginning the creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland got up to say something before showing the episode, and Dan’s speech really got to me. It’s been a rough season and a lot has happened, and he wasn’t afraid to reflect that in his speech which was so admirable to me. He mentioned a “sociopathic god” and how we don’t know if he loves us or hates us so what we end up getting is “randomness”, and how his therapist said that “grief is the space between what you expect and what you get.” At the end when he was thanking the crew for their great work, he said that as creatives our minds are different, and basically how we should embrace that. He said something like “so have your anxiety, depression, autism—whatever! Your brains are brilliant how they are, and because of those brains coming together we’ve made the best cartoon in the universe!”

This REALLY got to me, more than I even realized. I was still contemplating it in sadhana this morning, and it turned into a meditation on the nature of duality and mental illness. I feel like this year I’m really only starting to feel the real effects of my bipolar diagnosis from last year, which I can only say because of a drastic perspective shift. Working in animation has always been a love/hate relationship for me, because even though it IS a dream come true and what I’ve always wanted to do, working the jobs themselves simultaneously makes me hate myself for my current skill level, and also makes me wanna quit and do my own thing because I feel like I’m wasting away helping someone else complete THEIR vision, even though I haven’t felt like I have adequate skills to make my own thing ANYWAY. But starting at Rick and Morty and hearing Dan’s speech…I couldn’t help but feel welcomed in the best way possible. I felt like because of what these creators experience, they’ve created something really special…something that has managed to become the most popular cartoon on TV and find a place in cartoon history for a reason. They are able to inject existential angst and the struggles of life in these high concept sci-fi adventures which lightens it up enough to be digestible by the general public, and make everyone who watches the show feel like they’re not alone cuz “Hey! Someone else is feeling this way too!” Hearing them talk, especially Dan, made me feel like it was DEFINITELY the place for me. A place that understands and welcomes the pain of existence…a place where you can just be. A place where I can truly work on a show with a message that I’m proud of because it’s the message that I too want to spread. 

Anyway. All of that stuff made me realize that as humans, we ARE duality manifest. ALL of us. And within the duality we experience, we begin to cling onto SPECIFIC aspects of duality and obsess about them. For me…something that hit me real hard today was noticing that I go back and forth between thinking mental illness is real and thinking it’s fake. Back and forth between believing I’m “bipolar” and wanting to just attribute what I feel to “being emotional” and I’m just how I am because of my past and environmental factors. Nature vs nurture right? But what Dan said about artists brains made me think…

Diagnosis or not, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US HAS A DIFFERENT, SPECIAL BRAIN. That brain makes our minds function in complex ways that we spend our entire LIVES trying to cope with and figure out. But I think…as a human…this is always how it was meant to be.

The fact that I’ve been stuck in the duality of “bipolar or not” shows me that, even though I wanted to kinda “transcend the label,” I’ve still been focusing too much on the “label” without fully accepting how I actually am. I suppose this is the first step to acceptance…and it’s not that I’m necessarily trying to accept the diagnosis itself, I’m more just trying to accept MYSELF — myself and how my brain makes me think and function in this reality. It’s incredibly liberating to see that this is one of the prisons ive been trapping myself in. Now hopefully I can remind myself I’ve come to these conclusions next time this arises! That’s the challenge, right? Haha!

Something else that came through during sadhana this morning was this thought of “are we all just constantly somewhere on this duality spectrum until we cross a line from light to dark, negative to positive?”

Maybe “bipolar” can just be thought of as a term for people who cycle between those opposites quicker than others, who make their home at the actual POLES rather than the in between. And maybe this definition is an easier way for me to accept how my mind operates.

In a similar way, people who are depressed are more inclined to the negative pole. We’re all just vibrations and frequencies anyway right? And one of our goals in life is to raise our frequency go move more toward the light? Easier said than done but…that’s why I’m doing this Kundalini Yoga Training! 

In sadhana, the song choices that my teacher picked were a completely different vibe than yesterday. To me, they all sounded melancholy, somewhat urgent, yet angelic…seeming to express “it’s tough to live in a world with duality, but that’s what makes it beautiful.” 

This past weekend we were learning yoga nidra, and one offshoot of it is called iRest, a program developed by Robert Miller I think in the 70s to help with the PTSD of war veterans. In this set, we did an exercise to experience opposites — hot/cold, anger/joy, light/heavy — first separately, and then we were asked to try and experience them together. I could very easily feel the opposite sensations in my body separately, but when trying to feel them together I got frustrated and confused because my body just wasn’t able to grasp it. And after feeling that confusion for a while, I ended up just relaxing and achieving a sort of “calm.” When asked how we felt after the exercise, I raised my hand and described my experience and one of my teachers said that “calm” I felt is essentially the experience of infinity and the goal of yoga — to embody that stillness BETWEEN opposites. She went on to explain that in our human experience we can ONLY feel opposites SEPARATELY, which is why the darkness is necessary in order to know the light…the pain is necessary in order to know what it feels like to be happy. It’s that age old concept of yin and yang, and although I always “knew” about it since it’s so widely spread in our culture — that idea of the light and dark being NECESSARY to balance the world…to FEEL IT in my body was a COMPLETELY different experience. One approaching a more “true understanding.” 

I think BECAUSE I feel so much being bipolar, it’s so easy to be at and experience the POLES, because they’re EASIER to feel. Even though the negative pole of depression is difficult to be IN, it’s more apparent to feel THAT than some vague in between, and it’s also easier to feel the “positivity” of mania. But thinking about what Dan Harmon’s therapist said with GRIEF basically being the in between…it makes so much sense to me. I would RATHER experience the POLES than the IN BETWEEN because the grief of knowing that sooner or later I have to go back to one or the other is maddening. And that’s the melancholy I heard in the songs this morning — it’s almost like a constant state of underlying sadness, knowing that each day inches us closer to our deaths, and if we hold ourselves back and continue to have unrealistic expectations, then being in the in between will always somehow feel like failure. And that’s constant grief…grief about our potential not living up to how we see ourselves in our heads…grief that sooner or later we’re gonna die not having done what we want…grief that sooner or later, no matter WHAT we do, everyone and everything we love will turn to dust. 

I definitely feel like I’m beginning to grasp something deeper…and although it’s instilling more of a sense of “peace” I can’t help but be a little sad about it. Yet…I think I’m going in the right direction? I just keep trying to remember something else I learned in yoga…that we chose to incarnate in this exact lifetime at this time in history for a reason, and everything we go through is the exact thing our soul is yearning to learn. Regardless of how sad I feel, I still get the sense of being on the “right path,” and maybe that’s all that can bring us solace in this difficult human existence. 

Honor The Ending: Time Is An Illusion

It’s the time you spend on your rose that makes your rose so important. … You’re responsible for your rose.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Two weeks ago my friend Amy and I got back from an ayahuasca retreat called Dreamglade in the Peruvian Amazon. I wanted to kick off this blog with that story, but when I started looking through photos and videos I realized that it’s just too big, and rushing would be doing a disservice to the whole experience. It also put me in a really strange mood that sent me spiraling into a familiar darkness.

I foolishly thought that, with all the progress I’ve made because of the ayahuasca, I would be impervious to pain. One of the themes throughout the journey was recognizing that pain is temporary and all you can do is move through it, rather than wallow in it. I felt like I had made a major breakthrough, but coming back to this “reality” I now see that pain manifests in so many different ways. Modern society is naturally overwhelming because we’re all constantly overstimulated, so to be able to isolate reasons for feeling a certain way can be difficult sometimes. It was much easier at Dreamglade because we were literally only working on ourselves, and had so many of those stimuli taken away to detox from this mess we live in. Eddy reminded me that a retreat is literally “backing away from a battle to recuperate,” and for me, coming back to Los Angeles to live my “normal” life is like returning to battle.

I wanted SO BADLY to honor our two week Dreamglade anniversary and spent hours yesterday trying to get it done in time, neglecting so much else. I fell into the same patterns of beating myself up about it when it got later and later and realized I just wouldn’t be able to do it. Looking at photos made me feel even worse, like I was losing something important by not having archived it quickly enough. Watching my video journals while the emotions were still fresh, seeing myself talk about little details I’d already forgotten made me so afraid that I’d forget everything I’d learned and felt. That this whole ayahuasca journey, the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life, was already fading into a dream and it would all be for nothing. I heard Drew’s voice echo in my head “You’ll remember what’s important” and responded with “No I won’t, that’s bullshit.”

But then I remembered this “meditation for endings” that Adriene released on her Yoga with Adriene channel yesterday for New Years, and how she emphasizes the importance of “Honoring the Ending” and a “Resolve to Evolve.” I did this first thing in the morning as soon as I got the email, and it made me cry because it resonated so deeply. It’s amazing how we as humans all struggle with such similar issues of not being able to commit to practicing what’s good for us because we crave “perfection” or “instant gratification” which makes no sense when we’re still new to something!

“This is one of the most maddening things about human nature: we quit doing the things that help us most.” – Phil Stutz & Barry Michels, The Tools

My whole life I’ve struggled to commit to anything, allowing myself to wallow in the dark hole of my pain. It’s resulted in me feeling depressed, stuck and unable to follow through with anything important…life continually slipping through my fingers. Being diagnosed as bipolar, I am very much a slave to highs and lows, not understanding how to balance that duality and live in the normalcy of life.  Another Drew quote from the retreat when I was going through some pretty bad shit — “Maybe this is a sign that you just need to start living.”

But what if you’re not even sure how to live, after not living for such a long time?

This is a very common problem with our species, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because we’re all slaves to time, and need to constantly remind ourselves that time is an illusion — Something my dad also clearly struggled with, expressing his frustrations in a comic where time is literally the enemy, “Tempus Fugitives.” But time is something so abstract, a force we’ll never be able to control as mere mortals. This is why “honoring the ending” is SO important, and something great to keep in mind while moving into 2019.

There’s talk about how, after doing ayahuasca, you experience a lot of synchronicity in your life… things that seem to just be meant to happen. Reading The Last Unicorn (and also The Little Prince) has been part of this for me, because I am getting so much life changing advice from both of these books. There’s a part of The Last Unicorn that completely blew my mind regarding time, which I think sums up the issue quite beautifully. It made me realize that what ayahuasca does is open ourselves to receive messages from the higher powers, allowing us to see the world differently and experience magic. Because what is magic? Things that we don’t understand that inspire wonder, similar to when we were a child. And, ayahuasca or not, I believe that magic is always there. We just live so blindly on a normal basis and float through life without recognizing what’s actually important. And this is why art exists, as a desperate plea from people who have experienced these universal truths — a reminder to take the time to see.

“When I was alive, I believed–as you do–that time was at least as real and solid as myself, and probably more so. I said ‘one o’clock’ as though I could see it, and ‘Monday’ as though I could find it on the map; and I let myself be hurried along from minute to minute, day to day, year to year, as though I were actually moving from one place to another. Like everyone else, I lived in a house bricked up with seconds and minutes, weekends and New Year’s Days, and I never went outside until I died, because there was no other door. Now I know that I could have walked through the walls.” – Peter S. Beagle, Last Unicorn p.236

This literally made me tear up just typing it out for this post, because it’s SO FUCKING REAL and WE ALL SUCCUMB TO IT. We feel constantly busy, constantly behind, things piling up to such a crippling extent that we don’t allow ourselves to live…but what are we even living for at that point? It’s such a joke! “A house bricked up with seconds and minutes, weekends and New Year’s Days”… “New Years” is just another excuse to put more pressure on ourselves to set resolutions that we won’t commit to if we don’t see the root of the problem.

Even now, attempting to honor endings, part of why tears came while during the meditation was my fear of failure. The fear to just let go and experience life, rather than try and control it. The fear of TRUE CHANGE. But the same behavior has prevailed time and time again and caused me so much pain…and what is insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. The results won’t be different unless you make the choice to change, and that choice is where all our power lies. That choice is our magic.

“The clock will never strike the right time. Haggard scrambled the works long ago, one day when he was trying to grab hold of time as it swung by. But the important thing is for you to understand that it doesn’t matter whether the clock strikes ten next, or seven, or fifteen o’clock. You can strike your own time, and start the count anywhere. When you understand that — then any time at all will be the right time for you.” – Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

Time is much more fluid than we think…it moves backwards and forwards, and if you pay attention, the more life you live the clearer this becomes. I’m already starting to see it, but that’s for a future post. This quote from Haunting of Hill House explains it well for now.

I thought for so long that time was like a line. That our moments were laid out like dominoes and that they fell one into another. Days tipping one into the next into the next… in a long line between the beginning and the end. But I was wrong. It’s not like that at all.Our moments fall around us like rain…or snow. Or confetti.” – Nell Craine, Haunting of Hill House

As we left Dreamglade, Amy and I were huddled in tears in the front of Stacy’s car as he was playing sad, appropriate songs like this one:

And she said “I feel like the end credits are rolling” which made me cry and cling to her harder, not wanting the moment to escape because it was too perfect.

Indeed, that’s exactly how it felt, and during these magical times I try my best to “live in the moment” but can’t help feeling like it’s never enough. But this too is part of being human. We live in the painful space between past and future, a space that doesn’t truly exist. The tragic beauty of humanity is that nothing lasts forever, and everything comes to an end.

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Me and Amy in Stace’s car during the “end credits.” Huge thanks to Erik for the photo!

To make me feel better last night, Eddy reminded me of the concept of “eternal return,” and the idea that time is infinite and because we can’t even fathom the nature of infinity, it’s nice to believe that time will repeat itself someday. So every experience that we have is part of us forever, and rather than be sad about an “ending,” focus on how beautiful it is that we’ll always have these memories within us. People constantly take photos and videos to capture a moment, but, like Mother Ayahuasca told me in Peru “The best camera you have is your mind.” As badly as we want to cling to the past, we have to trust that regardless of details, we’ll remember the feeling we had at certain times in our life, and that’s what we have to treasure.

This is a constant message in tons of books, movies, songs… because it’s such a universal struggle and requires effort to remind ourselves to focus on gratitude rather than sadness. And this is what “honoring the ending” and “resolve to evolve” means. All we can do is be grateful for the joyous experiences in our life and use them to better ourselves… to remind us to commit to practices that clear our minds so we CAN focus on the good rather than the bad, and be patient with ourselves when we fall into the trap of being human.

We have to remember that the most important thing about life is to enjoy it with the time that we have and the people who we love. And to be patient with ourselves so we don’t miss this opportunity. Happy New Year everyone, 2019 is going to be different. Let’s approach it without fear or expectation. Remember…pain is temporary.

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