Thanks, Dad. A Valuable Lesson On Letting Go From Beyond The Grave.

As an old guy looking back, I can tell you we all have the same vivid sense of elation and depression haunting every day that we live. Have we done enough — Why can’t we do more? Relax. There’s lots of time to work it all out. Take it as it comes. Don’t worry so much about where you’re going. Enjoy where you are. “Go with the flow and ride with the tide.”

-Grady Lyda

In the process of writing a long reflection on today being 5 years since my dad’s death, I decided to look up one of my old blog posts from 2013 entitled “Restless,” in which he wrote a comment I didn’t actually read until a year or so after he died. It wrecked me then, and it very appropriately wrecked me again today. For some context, this post was written when I had just started to pursue a career in animation but was feeling horrible because art already felt like a “job” to me, just from the minimal freelance I had done. I was feeling absolutely stuck, and I came to the stunning realization that I didn’t know how to balance my life and that something must be seriously wrong with me. HILARIOUS. I wish I could go back to 24 year old me and tell her “It’s ok, you’re just bipolar! Watch these videos! Read these things! Start working on it now!”

In that post, I mentioned this podcast about Andrew Forsthoefel, a 23 year old kid who walked across America, and how jealous I was that he had gone on a true adventure that changed him forever. I felt like I was missing out and wanted to see the world, meet new people and hear their stories. It’s not like I’ve walked across America, but I have gone on some serious life changing adventures since then. When writing that post, I never in a million years could’ve guessed that I’d get married in Hawaii, meet Mother Ayahuasca in Peru, or sail through Drake’s Passage and have a chance to cruise around Antarctica. I also really have met tons of interesting people all around the world with amazing stories who have shown me that living an alternative lifestyle is possible, and that there can be another way to live your life.

But even after all the life I’ve already lived… This wise message from the great beyond will always bring tears to my eyes. Because life IS overwhelming, and no matter how much cool shit I do, no matter how much inner peace I manage to attain at times, I feel like that pressure to do it all will never quite go away. That feeling of needing to rush things because I always feel behind. And it’s because we’re human. And we die. Everything we are inevitably turns to dust. His words are validating, inspiring, and enlightening all at once. Reading a message like this at exactly the right time is proof that my dad’s spirit will always be here to guide me, and a deep reminder of the importance of learning to let go and live in the moment. When you think about it, that’s really the best option we’ve got.

This is GREAT! I love your commentary and all the heartfelt responses you received. I heard the same “This American Life” episode, and I was also touched by his discoveries.

It reminded me of one night when I was sitting at a Winchell’s in Santa Ana in the early 80s, innocently drinking coffee and eating donuts. A guy in his mid-20s came in with a big grin wearing a cowboy hat, and he looked at me and said, “I just walked across the US, from the East Coast to California. Now, here I am!” I said, “Wow, your feet must be tired.”

He was a cool guy, and the crowd in the shop was happy to hear what he had to say. He represented all of us who listened to his stories. Everyone wished they could have done the same thing. Actually, many of us HAVE done similar things. Life is a fantastic adventure that never ceases to amaze us. We make plans, but more often LIFE leads us into directions we never expected. The best we can do is be ready for whatever happens. Always be prepared to “go with the flow and ride with the tide.”

You have a wonderful list of goals and I hope you can accomplish them all, plus many more you haven’t thought of yet. Remember, you are in this for the long-haul. You might feel desperate to prove yourself and experience the whole world immediately. I’ve felt the same way, and I’ve criss-crossed this country several times, and visited other countries as well. It’s a fantastic planet and you have plenty of time to explore it.

As an old guy looking back, I can tell you we all have the same vivid sense of elation and depression haunting every day that we live. Have we done enough — Why can’t we do more? Relax. There’s lots of time to work it all out. Take it as it comes.

On my blog about my life 40 years ago, my younger self is always fretting about how nothing happens fast enough. Of all the entries so far, maybe this would be of interest to you:

http://truetimetravel.blogspot.com/2013_03_01_archive.html

Don’t worry so much about where you’re going. Enjoy where you are.

My dad had a blog he called True Time Travel Tales where he archived this journal my aunt returned to him from a trip around the country that he went on when he was 18 years old. I always meant to read it but never got around to it because I always found myself “busy” with something else. Then, after he died, I felt so guilty that I hadn’t been able to talk to him about it when he was alive I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. But then at one point shortly after his death I noticed there were a ton of broken images and contacted the hosting site to make sure they got it back up. Now, years later, I still haven’t read the blog, and again there are tons of broken images. Upon clicking that link, I had a straight up panic attack. I started shaking and couldn’t breathe, and completely lost it when I found out that the hosting site he had used no longer existed. The first time I had got the site back up, I vowed to myself I would save all the photos before this happened… but again… never got around to it… and now they’re gone forever.

My mom has a serious hoarding problem that was awful to grow up with, even getting to the point where me and my dad wanted to see if we could get her on the Hoarders show. When I was a kid I didn’t really understand it… I just thought we lived in a messy house. But as I got older and started seeing the hoarding tendencies within myself, it became clear to me that hoarding physical items represents underlying emotional issues of not being able to let go and move forward. Fears of the temporary nature of life and the inevitability that you and everyone you love are someday going to die. I’m not as bad as my mom, but I do take thousands and thousands of photos because my memory is so terrible and I find myself desperately clinging to certain moments of my life and not wanting them to disappear. I often have nightmares about losing all these photos somehow — in a fire, in a flood, in a zombie apocalypse, accidentally spilling water on my hard drives… I know this actually does happen to some people, which Eddy would constantly remind me of and make me more upset. Until today.

Clicking on that link in my dad’s comment was beyond upsetting. I cried and cried and cried. In a way it felt like losing him all over again… losing these parts of him that I really truly wanted to discover, but again, being so caught up in myself that I never found the time. Familiar guilt and shame crept back in, and I felt myself grieving like I had in the beginning. I thought I had come so far and healed so much, yet the wound felt as raw as ever.

But then Eddy reminded me that this is basically like my worst nightmare… and now that it’s happened in this capacity, I should see that it’s ultimately fine. I’m still alive, I still have the memories of my dad, and life will go on. He also reminded me that my dad was never the type to cling to photos or physical objects. He was throwing things out all the time! In fact, the whole reason he made the site was because he had thrown out this journal years ago, and somehow a man found it and tracked down my aunt who had returned to him. Considering he was already sick and died 2 years after he made this blog, he was no doubt already feeling the need to reflect on his life somehow. He was never the type to hoard, and he was especially put off by my mom and would always try to throw out her garbage because he knew she never would.

When my dad died, I looked frantically for this journal because I wanted it so badly, but me and my mom discovered that he had already thrown out most of his things. It became clear that he had planned his death, and in the beginning I was super angry at him for not leaving behind any of this stuff for me, or even a note explaining himself. I suppose he thought I wouldn’t care… and it’s taken me a while to get over the idea that I should’ve just asked him… that I should’ve shown some interest while he was still around. All these familiar feelings of self hatred and regret came back today when I found out his hosting went down, until Eddy talked some sense into me and reminded me what kind of person my dad was. How he was never the type to hold onto things and wouldn’t expect me to either. He would want me to just keep moving forward and enjoying life…

So when I came back to my senses and actually read the post he had linked to me, I couldn’t help but laugh. Even though the image was broken, it was literally just a blank page. Just like life. Just like this moment. He said that he wanted to preserve the beauty of the page before adding his thoughts onto it. It’s just like him to make this sort of point… and I started to see that this is an incredibly important lesson for me to learn. Even though he’s no longer around, he will always be here guiding me, helping me break through these walls that are such a natural part of the human condition.

From the March 29th entry: ONLY THIS PAGE WILL HAVE TO SUPPORT MARCH 29, 30, & 31 IN THE INTEREST OF PRESERVING ONE SMALL PORTION OF THIS BOOK AS IT WAS BEFORE I MARRED ITS BEAUTIFUL BLANKNESS WITH MY THOUGHTS AND DEEDS.

We as humans can’t help but be so deeply affected by mortality. I felt so terrible losing these photos that I know he had thrown out. There was a time years ago that I started to try and save all the photos on each of his entries, but it took so long I couldn’t see myself doing it for the whole year. I also see that a bunch of videos he had posted have already been taken down… which really hurt in the beginning, but thinking about it logically… that’s just the nature of the internet. All this important stuff is just located on the cloud, and once it’s gone… it’s gone. This was a way for him to reflect on his life when he knew he didn’t have much longer in this world, and I have to just be grateful that he at least created this website and I have his words to reflect back on. And stop thinking that losing all of this was my fault…

In the end, all we are is dust in the wind. Just because these images are gone doesn’t mean he didn’t live a rich life, and it doesn’t mean he’s no longer my dad. Life is just a series of moments and experiences, and the best we can do is live in the present and enjoy where we are. And if something is important to you… don’t WAIT like I did, or it may be too late. I am so sick of waiting, of avoiding, of thinking “I’ll do that thing tomorrow” and never getting around to it, the weight getting heavier and heavier… JUST DO IT ALREADY.

A fantastic reminder for a 5 year death anniversary. Thanks, dad. Maybe now I can truly listen to your advice. Everything does indeed happen for a reason… lesson learned. All of this will be over before we know it. Perspective is such a trip.

I close my eyes
Only for a moment, and the moment’s gone
All my dreams
Pass before my eyes, a curiosity

Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind


Same old song
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do
Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see


Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Now, don’t hang on
Nothin’ lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away
And all your money won’t another minute buy


Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Everything is dust in the wind.

Reclaim Your Own Power

“I now break any contract I have ever made with another, consciously or unconsciously, that has given them power over me, power over my sense of self, the authority to approve or reject me or anything about me, including my voice, body, creativity, spirituality and way of living. Of my own free will, I now choose to directly perceive my own inner beauty and turn within with kindness and compassion to see myself through the eyes of unconditional love. So be it.”

One of my friends in our yoga group just shared her card pull from Alana Fairchild’s Sacred Rebels deck. Given that I just watched Labyrinth the other day, I’m absolutely loving it!!

youhavenopoweroverme

Been thinking a lot about “power” lately, and how funny it is that we so easily give ours up. Any time you assume that someone is thinking poorly of you, judging you, or talking about you behind your back… you allow them to take that power away. You focus too much on THEIR thoughts of you, rather than just going on with your own life. It’s so funny that we do that…

Also been listening to Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” and he talks about how the nature of nature is to eat itself. That’s what the ourobouros is… right? LIFE EATING ITSELF. THAT’S NATURE. THAT is what we have to accept. It’s a tough pill to swallow.

ouroboros

It became really clear to me when he said that tribal societies would have sacred festivals for the animals that they would have to kill and eat… it was their was of honoring the sacred balance of nature. But our modern world does NOT honor that balance, and it puts us in a rough spot to figure out the power balance within society. We’re all capable of being “predators,” in the nature sense… having power… or giving up that power to accept being prey… being that one “eaten by” others.

Shudder. This is why Beastars is so great — brings up those important “cycle of nature, these are our instincts” questions.

Anyway.

I don’t wanna be prey anymore. I probably never truly was, but I THOUGHT I was. Thinking about it though, I wouldn’t wanna be a predator either. I want to be like Gaia… watching it all and experiencing the beauty of it, rather than getting caught up in any type of power struggle. Detached, observant, blissful, accepting… and I guess the only way to do that is to reclaim PERSONAL power. Not let anything else bother you. And this quarantine… separated from any energies competing with my own… it’s been a nice time to begin to honor my own energy. And I’m starting to see…that energy truly IS divine. And guess what, so is yours! 🙂

For the first time in my life I feel like I AM reaching out for that power, and finally claiming what’s mine.

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. 

The Human Disease

“Our minds can do ANYTHING when we’re told we CAN, but the world tells us we CAN’T.” – Jennifer Lakhmi Chand

For a long time I’d been trying to figure out why I felt so broken, looking into things like psychology, spirituality, and reading a lot of self help books to try and find the answer. Being diagnosed last year began my true journey with mental illness, and Ayahuasca made me reconsider it all. This past weekend in Kundalini Yoga Teacher training, what I learned has made me wonder if mental illness is even a real thing at all.

Our entire modern society is sick. In some parts of the world, people still have to fight for their survival, but in places the United States, it’s almost like we create our own problems since we no longer have to fight for our lives. Don’t get me wrong, some people still do, but it’s not like we need the same stress responses that we had years ago as hunter gatherers. Now we have completely new stresses in order to invoke those responses, like jobs, relationship and family drama, racism, sexism, road rage, etc. In order to even get by in this world, the majority of humans ingest altering substances such as caffeine, alcohol, weed, pharmaceuticals, and all manner of hard drugs. We’ve forgotten what our TRUE NATURE is even like… and the fact of the matter is… we’re ALL living this human condition, and we’re ALL being affected by the environment around us in subconscious ways that frankly, fuck us up. And most people would rather cover it up and put a bandaid on it, just for that bandaid to repeatedly be ripped off… because they’re AFRAID to actually see their own scars. We are all SO AFRAID to take a good hard look at ourselves… because we can’t handle what it is that we’ll find. If we get off the substances, we actually have to FEEL. And that’s SUPER uncomfortable for people nowadays when all that other stuff is so easily accessible and constantly thrown into our face with marketing.

But all that shit is MESSING US UP. The food we eat, the substances we ingest… SUGAR. All those terrifying food and drug documentaries exist for a REASON, yet people remain ASLEEP.

What became really clear to me this weekend in yoga learning about the 5 Kleshas (The Root of All Pain and Suffering), the 10 bodies (The Bodies that comprise us beyond just our physical body), and the Ayurvedic Diet (Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic foods) is that there is SO MUCH that affects us that we are COMPLETELY UNAWARE OF, and SO MANY ASPECTS to our personality and SO MANY WAYS for us to fall off the path… that “mental illness” is inevitable. In fact, this morning in the Daily Sadhana I’m doing (daily spiritual practice beginning every day at 5am), at the end my teacher mentioned something about how meditation and this daily practice would “free us of the disease” and it became clear to me that it’s true! As humans, we are ALL diseased. Unless we truly commit to beginning to see our true selves, to recognize that deep within we’re all shining with the light of the universe and make attempts to have a relationship with that light… we’re going to keep feeling shitty.

This past weekend I had such insane revelations about my negative patterning from childhood, and so much came up regarding my ridiculous self hatred that left me a crying mess on the floor… But really… sometimes being a crying mess is absolutely necessary to begin to cleanse yourself of the emotions that you need to. CRYING DOESN’T MAKE YOU WEAK. IT’S A NATURAL PROCESS FOR OUR BODY THAT WE NEED TO DO FOR RELEASE. A symptom of “bipolar” are these emotional extremes, and the deeper I go, the more I’m able to find the source of these extremes, and am really wondering if the combination of the parenting that I had and the world that we live in (including marketing programming and diet) is what gave me these symptoms/caused these hormonal imbalances in my body that have led to this diagnoses. We can’t just blindly accept what people tell us — we have to learn to seek the answers out ourselves, and those answers only lie within. We are SO TRAINED to look to OTHERS for those answers and that’s HONESTLY part of WHAT FUCKS US UP. I am just beginning to SCRATCH THE SURFACE on that one. Really start to ask yourself who you’re looking to for guidance… I now see that a lot of my self hatred comes from the fact that I’ve never learned to look within for the answers, which has led to me acting out in ways that I have never bothered to understand but would only ask OTHERS to tell me why I was acting certain ways.

There is SO MUCH I want to go into right now about all of the above, and I probably will during the week… it’s just a LOT to go over in one post, plus I’m starting a new job today and gotta start getting ready! I’m going to be a character designer on Rick and Morty and although I’ve been freelancing, it’s my first day in house! 😀 All of these revelations are coming at a good time… and although I know that stress and worry are inevitable, I’m finally learning the proper tools on how to deal with life. And I’m also FINALLY starting to see that it can never be a MAGICAL SOMETHING that helps you deal… true healing is a lot of work.