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. 

Day 6/7: Overflowing With Gratitude

Yesterday was a blur and I thought I’d have time to write at the end of the night but I got so wasted and passed out! So this is technically an entry for yesterday (day 6), even though I’m writing today (day 7) and I’ll write another one tonight because I feel like this is just one of those like…really important weekends.

Anyway.

I feel like I’m literally overflowing with gratitude right now for so many reasons, and I wish I could remember this when things get rough…hopefully I do. But I guess that’s why it’s good to write these, right? Everything that happens in our lives is such a unique moment in time that we share with everything around us. It’s all connected and even THAT is worth appreciating. But yeah.

Yesterday I had to leave early to visit my, I call her my pseudo mom, Karen. Even though I had to leave early, it was Eddy’s last day before going back to work on Monday so I wanted him to bring Han by the office to meet my showrunner’s dog Kiwi, and also to see where I work and have lunch with me during the day before he goes back. Just the fact that my showrunner is so cool that she would urge me to bring our dog into work to meet her dog (dogs aren’t allowed btw) made me so grateful to work where I work ;_;

Working in animation really offers a flexibility that you don’t really see in other more “normal” jobs, and I think when I get into a dark headspace I fail to remember that. On my good days though, I’m able to step back and be like “Holy shit I made it. I’m here, this is where I’ve always wanted to be. I’m SO LUCKY.” Yesterday was one of those days.

It’s also SO dependent on the crew you find yourself on. Talking about this, I can’t help but remember the jobs I had where my supervisors didn’t understand me. Like working at the garden nursery in Newport Beach and being told not to bring dolls to work and also to dress nicer, or the retail shop in Yorba Linda where my supervisors turned my desk around so they could monitor what I was looking at on my computer. Working in animation, I feel like they understand that artists’ minds work differently and the flexibility accommodates for that. But even still…the current crew I’m on like…as long as we finish our work then basically anything goes.

It was so nice to see Eddy during the day. The more time goes on, the more I feel like he’s my rock. He grounds me and even if I’m feeling uncomfortable, everything changes when he’s around. He really is like the other half of me that is able to calm me down and make me remember that life is worth living. I wish we had done more lunches during the day because now it’s too late… the 6 months he had unemployed and we never did it once until the very last day. It taught me a lesson to seizethe day more. Carpe diem is a saying for a reason, and I think I’m just now really starting to feel it. It was so nice to take a break during the day and visit with Lynn’s dog, then go eat ribs in a park with Eddy and Han. I imagine that’s what heaven feels like…it really is a place on earth 🙂

Here’s a video of Han and Kiwi together! Kiwi is still just 3 months old so she’ll never be this small again! I wanna remember this ;_; I really wish more people could’ve seen Han while he was small. You really don’t know how quickly puppies grow until you have one 😦

Shortly after Eddy and Han left I had to leave work to visit Karen in Huntington Beach which is like a 2 hour drive in rush hour, but always totally worth it. She completely surprised me with an AMAZING wedding gift, even going to far as to make her boyfriend record her presentation of it to me for good reason.

Karen never fails to amaze me. I hate even saying it because she doesn’t like to think of age, but she’s about as old as my mom but chooses to see life as a gift, and so much more positively than anyone else I know. To me, she transcends age and gives me hope that if I work at it, I can someday be like her. I guess you could say she’s a mentor to me, but she’s way more than that even…you know it’s like one of those things where words aren’t good enough to describe her. I love her energy and how she chooses to live her life. Both her and her boyfriend Jay are an inspiration to me, and I’m beyond grateful to have them in my own life.

She just came back from going to like a billion countries in Europe for school (she went back to college for a degree in her 50s.) Jay was explaining that the whole time she kept telling him that she wanted to get me a present, but that it needs to be meaningful. She always thinks “well Elora is an artist, she would appreciate this” sorta thing. I’m very much not a materialistic person who likes things because they’re expensive or a certain brand. I love things that are different as sentimental, and Karen is that way too. Boy did she deliver.

She presented me with something called “legendary lace” from a small Island in Italy called Burano. She went to tour this lace factory which I can’t even really describe so here’s a link. But she told me they were saying that 7 women made the lace handkerchief she gave me, and only together could they have made it. The lace is so gorgeous and fragile and special, I got so choked up because I dunno…I feel like with her giving me this lace it’s the beginning of a family heirloom that I want to pass down. I’ve always loved the idea of tradition and meaningful items that are embued with the power of those who came before, and I really do feel like this is exactly that. I was excited to tell Amy about it, and she describes it as a magical quest item which it totally is! Karen says that in olden times, due to the importance of this lace for trade, the women making it were required to stay on the island and leaving would be punishable by imprisonment or death (it doesn’t say this online, I’m assuming it’s from the tour she did.) Obviously they don’t do that anymore, but in my mind there’s something magical about these ladies coming together to create something so delicate and beautiful.

On the way to Karen’s I was thinking about art and how essentially what it is, is an expression of those fleeting moments in time. It’s the attempt to grasp a feeling that’ll be gone in an instant. And to me, this lace that Karen gave is a representation of just that. When she got it, she didn’t even know I had 7 bridesmaids, but it was 7 maidens who made the lace. Coincidence? I think not. More like a reminder to cherish the important people in my life because they make me who I am.

After the glorious and beautiful bachelorette party my girls planned for me last month, Amy (maid of honor) had mentioned that working with them as a group made it clear to her how each one of them was a reflection of me. Years ago I was terrified I wouldn’t even have bridesmaids if I were ever to get married, cuz I never really had good girl friends until now. It’s shocking to me that somehow I have 7, and really I need to be more grateful to all these girls on a regular basis. Amy is right… Really thinking about it, anyone who knows me well enough can break down why each of those girls is in my life, and why I chose them as my bridesmaids.

We can’t share our full selves with anyone. Everything in life is so reactionary, and who we think to share moments with, only THEY can share that moment, no one else. Our friends, everyone we interact with really, sees totally different and unique parts of us. And the friends we choose to keep around and continue to interact with, over time collect fragments of our souls and hold onto them like no one else can. The people important to us will always hold a part of our hearts that no one else can ever have… and I feel like that’s what this lace represents. 7 maidens make a whole. And even better, these lace makers are all women who would pass their knowledge down from mother to daughter. I can’t wait to use it on my wedding day cuz I’ll be bawling like crazy, but using it will basically be like I have my 7 bridesmaids and Karen there as a shoulder to cry on (in the form of lace handkerchief lol.)

Here’s the lace and Karen’s poem that she wrote to accompany it 😀

Last night was amazing. Karen and Jay took me out to a great dinner and dancing afterwards. Something amazing about Karen is she lives life with no regrets, and doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks of her. We were dancing like fools (way more than anyone else in the bar) but just being with her gave me the energy and courage to also not give a shit, something I wish I could take back to my normal life. And I can! Who’s stopping me really?

I just need to make more of an effort when those irrational moments of fear or self consciousness set in — What Would Karen Do? 🙂