Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category
Had an ecstatic moment on my ride on the trails this morning. Zooming around the lake, it hit me: The whole universe is conspiring to bring us joy. You may feel like your life or things aren’t going in the direction you want, but trust me, it will change.
So many times in our lives, we feel like we’re stuck. We think that nothing will change, and we feel like the rest of our life will be dull and gray. But that’s not true. You have to know that the clouds will pass, and that when they do, the sun will shine.
No matter where you are now in your life, that is where you’re supposed to be in that moment. Everything in your past was supposed to happen–the good and the bad. Every person, every experience, every encounter is supposed to be there. Instead of fighting all of that and wishing we could live elsewhere or have had a different childhood, we have to acknowledge the current state of our life, and then resolve that it’ll change.
That’s the first step: Resolve to make a change. Every moment is a chance for a new start. You have to decide what you want to do with your life.
Sometimes we want to do something so drastic or so different that we get scared that we’ll be doing it alone or that we aren’t strong enough. It feels like we’re jumping into a deep dark void without a parachute–and that fear can paralyze us. But we aren’t alone.
In every moment, the universe (or God) and all of our ancestors are present with us. And it may be hard at times to feel it, but when we are present with ourselves in the moment, we can feel their love. So take a deep breath. Feel the air coming in and going out. Take note of all the colors and objects and sounds and sensations around you. Become aware of the feelings within you. Don’t get too attached to anything, just return to the present moment. Allow yourself to stop all thinking and let go of all fear and anxiety you have in that moment.
Now remember that you are the physical manifestation of a lot of energy. You are a child of God. You are a manifestation of the joy and greatness of the universe. You are the result of all the hard work that your ancestors put in to surviving on this rock. ALL OF THAT POWER IS INSIDE OF YOU! Have faith that that power will give you the strength that you need. That power will wrap you up in a warm security blanket and then take you by the hand and guide you down the path to your destiny.
Believing that everything will turn out ok is not enough. Without action, there is no result. You have to actively move towards your goal in whatever capacity you can. You have to take the time and make what you want to do into a habit. That means block out time each day to focus on nothing but that thing you want to do.
For example, if you want to be a writer, spend 15 minutes a day writing. Want to lose weight? Do something active for 15 minutes or 5 minutes every day, rain or shine. Want to become a more peaceful person? Calm your mind and meditate for 5 minutes or 10 minutes. This can be for anything you want to do, you just have to move it from the realm of fantasy, make the commitment, and then DO IT.
Change takes times. And each step will move you forward. Even if they are teeny tiny steps, one day you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come, and that will propel you even further–but it all starts with that first step.
Once you’ve started developing new habits, your view of the world will slowly start to change–and one day you’ll look around you and realize that the entire universe is conspiring to bring you joy.
This last week was bumpy. I just couldn’t find peace. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried fighting, the outside forces just wouldn’t stop attacking.
All week long, things just kept getting worse. My patio garden, aka my sanctuary, has been off-limits and strewn around my yard/house while the owners paint the deck. Insurance investigators played phone tag all week while I waited to dispute an inflated auto claim. And work days stretched into nights, leaving me worn out and fatigued.
At first, I tried to stay calm. Everything changes. Life is never constant. But by Thursday, my normally good-natured self turned bitter, and everyday interactions took on a different tone.
An unreturned “Good Morning” from a neighbor was definitely a sign that Austin was indeed turning into Dallas. No return smile from a stranger signaled the downfall of society. And did that coworker look away as I walked by because she hated my edits?
Feeling broken as I went to bed, I thought, “Why do I smile? Why do I strive for peace? Does anyone even notice?” And then I gave up. “Maybe I should just let the world descend into chaos and hate.”
When I woke up, I decided to wipe the slate clean. It was a fresh start, a new day with twenty-four brand new hours ahead of me. Anything was possible.
On the bike ride to work, the trees stretched to the sky, welcoming the morning sun. Wildflowers smiled bright colors as they perfumed the spring air. And with a clear head, I realized that it’s not up to us to decide what gets thrown our way.
That afternoon, I found out a friend had committed suicide.
Sorting through the full spectrum of emotion, I struggled to understand what happened. I hadn’t seen him in a week and a half. Had he left any clues to his depression on Facebook? Could I have prevented this?
The truth is, we never know what someone is going through. Outward appearances can be deceiving. And sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives, that we often forget that others might be going through the same thing.
Ultimately, smiles, good mornings, and waves are not about me. It’s selfish to expect or want anything in return. Instead, smiles transform you so you can remind folks of the joy and peace that surround us.
This quote from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh sums it up:
To smile is not to only smile for yourself; the world will change because of your smile.
Here’s the full passage from Awakening of the Heart: Essential Buddhist Sutras and Commentaries:
After reading that, I went out and sat by my flowers. It all came together, and I made this note:
Just like a flower bringing peace and joy, I will rise above the muck. With my smile-bloom, the universe shines through me.
And that is why I smile.
- Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh – This is a great, easy-to-understand book to help beginners understand how to integrate mindfulness in your life.
- Awakening of the Heart: Essential Buddhist Sutras and Commentaries by Thich Nhat Hahn – A nice collection of Buddhist sutras with commentary to help explain the sutras so you can apply them to your everyday life.
In light of another friend’s suicide–the eigth in my life–this week, I’m reposting this article about my own struggles with suicide and depression. It originally appeared on Republic of Austin in October 2010.
I’ve learned so much over the years. Things change. What we once thought was important becomes trivial. And no matter what your age, it does get better. I’m happy to report that, after struggling with depression for 15 years, my mom is happy again.
If you are struggling with depression and feel suicidal, please tell someone. If you don’t feel you can talk to anyone you know, please reach out to counselors. The world can’t lose any more light.
Young Austinites, it does get better: My personal struggles with suicide and sexuality.
October 20th, 2010
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s post deals with two rough topics: suicide and sexuality. If you’ve got a problem with either one of them, don’t read. And if this post offends you, eff off.
Today I’m wearing purple in remembrance of the recent suicides by gay teens affected by bullying. I’m also here to tell everyone of all ages, straight, gay, queer, that things get better. Suicide is not the answer. It does get better.
Suicide and sexuality are two things our society would like to sweep under the rug. Television and movies make us feel we have to look, act and be a certain way–but that image doesn’t always fit with the person we are inside. My entire life, I have been one of those people that doesn’t fit.
My first bout with depression was when I was 9. I remember sitting in my room wanting to kill myself. But being too young to know about knives, nooses or carbon monoxide, I thought I could smother myself with a blanket. Wrapping my head with my quilt, I sat on my bed and waited to run out of oxygen. Nothing happened.
Growing up, I was a little awkward. Not necessarily effeminate, I had a high-pitched voice. Although I love sports, out on the field I’d often get distracted by butterflies or flowers. Plus, I spent a lot of my free time drawing and painting.
I started getting called faggot in the 2nd grade. More than a few times guys spat on me at the water fountain or at recess. Thankfully, my grandfather taught me to laugh it off; my mom taught me a bunch of super dirty retorts–’bloody cunt scab’ being my favorite; and my spirituality taught me to turn the other cheek.
As I moved into my teens, the feelings of depression turned into anxiety and anger. It was hard to connect with other guys. And I was getting into a lot of fights.
Finally in 8th grade, I met someone with whom I immediately clicked. His name was Brian. And although neither one of us knew it at the time, he was gay.
Gay. To a young boy, the word is weak and anti-man. For some, it can also feel like a death penalty: Either you spend your life dressing in women’s clothes or you have AIDS. Oh yeah, and God hates gays. There’s no gray, only black and white.
The first person I came out to was my brother. I was 15. He was 11. We were camping. Early one morning I told him “Mikey, I think I love boys.” He said, “That’s cool.” It would be several years before I knew what any of that meant, but I somehow felt free.
In High School, I started going to raves every weekend. I met folks who were accepting of all types of people. My close friends were also supportive and full of love. But still I felt different: I wasn’t like my gay friends and I wasn’t like my straight friends. I’d get so angry with myself for not knowing who or what I was. The suicidal thoughts came back. The bullying started up again.
One day in the locker room after swim practice, I was cornered by two swimmers and another athlete. They shoved me against the lockers. One of them put his forearm against my throat while the other two held me against the wall. “Kiss me, faggot,” he said, inches from my lips.
Freaked out, I kneed him in the crotch and started screaming “GET OFF ME YOU FUCKING FAGGOT!” They let go of me, and I ran. When my Tongan friends caught wind of what happened, no bullies ever messed with me again.
College was better and worse. During my freshman year, I knew that I was not normal. At the same time, I was meeting new people. I didn’t want them to not like me, so I kept the curious side of my life secret. I experimented with guys and girls, and guess what: I still couldn’t figure a damn thing out.
Things weren’t so easy for my friends from High School. Brian, my first non-sexual “boyfriend,” put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger during a thunderstorm. Two other gay friends similarly took their lives after struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.
For months after Brian’s suicide, I would drive around Austin and scream at him until I’d go hoarse. He killed himself 11 years ago this month. He’s missed a lot of amazing experiences. He’d probably be living in New York now. He would have loved (and then hated) Lady Gaga.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I’m NOT gay. I’m a proud bisexual. I’ve learned that nothing about me is “normal.” My ideas, my outlook on life, my experiences are all my own. And I’m happy with that. My life is full of joy and happiness. The world has plenty suited businessmen and worker drones. A healthy world needs color and variety.
It took me a LONG time to understand that. For years I had suicidal thoughts. In San Francisco I worked at a firm that hated me. In not so many words, they told me I was dumb. They told me I’d misrepresented myself. And for a second, I believed them. Thankfully, I quit that job and followed it with an amazing firm that embraced my creativity and gave me the confidence I have today.
It DOES get better. There’s not one path. There’s not one type of person. You will move away from home. You will meet other people like you. You will have a life full of joy, happiness and love. You will walk in the light of the Lord.
If you are feeling suicidal, please get help. If you don’t have anyone close you can trust, please email me. I promise it will get better.
Since my grandmother’s death last month, I’ve been slipping in and out of sadness. Last week was really rough. And although I know she is still with me, it sent me a jolt.
Jolts aren’t always bad things–and I’m learning a lot. But during this processing time, I need some guidance to help me do the things that are best to keep me at a day-to-day functional level. When times are tough, I turn to my personal instruction manual.
I wrote the first draft of my instruction manual in Berlin. Leaving the city I love to help my brother and deal with my own depression after I’d had everything stolen, I decided to make a list of accomplishments in Berlin, including things I’d learned about myself during while there.
The list ended up being 5 hand-written pages of insight. And instead of feeling like my time there had been full of failure, I felt like I’d actually accomplished something. I’d also discovered the basic needs to keep me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually happy.
A lot has changed in the 6 years since I drafted that list–but many of the elements still hold true. I’ll spare you the 5 pages and will instead share my most recent revision. Let’s call this the Reader’s Digest version of what makes me tick.
My Personal Instruction Manual
- Maintain a regular schedule.
- One hour before bed, switch off the computer and put on some calming music. This is my time.
- During that hour, straighten up the house: Put dirty clothes away, clean or rinse dirty dishes, etc.
- Drink a glass of water during that hour.
- After those tasks, start my series of yoga stretches, thinking about nothing but the movements, really reeling my body and become one with body and mind. Feel the spirit shine.
- Brush teeth, wash face, smile.
- Be thankful you survived another day.
- Once in bed, meditate on a glowing white light.
- Sleep 7 hours minimum.
- Wake up thankful: “Good morning, world. Thank you for letting me survive another night.”
- Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner (when hungry).
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Your best at morning exercise–but afternoon or evening exercise is good, too.
- Do intensive cardio like interval training or cycling when you are feeling anxious, stressed or panicky.
- Eat a good mix of food. My body is best suited for: more veggies; little to no sugar; no wheat; nice amount of healthy oils; relatively low carbs and an even amount of protein.
- Tell people thank you when it’s deserved.
- Tell people why what they are doing is good–and how it made you feel.
- Talk to good friends frequently.
- Spend time with people who make you feel good, accentuate your positive qualities and stimulate you.
- Disregard the negative people–laugh off their silliness.
- Always remember to ask: What can I do right now to improve my state of mind? What can I do right now to better my standard of living?
- Remember: Being alive is a beautiful gift.
- And don’t forget to say hello to the trees.
Yeah, so that’s my list. Some of the things are particular to my health issues (bad heart, celiac’s disease). Because I tend to slip into bad habits when I’m depressed, a lot of the items try to rewire those habits through behavioral reprogramming. Sometimes starting a few of these, it moves me in the right direction.
When was the last time you made a list of your accomplishments instead of looking at defeat?
When was the last time you listed your strengths instead of honing in on your weaknesses?
What do you do when times are tough?
Do you have a personal instruction manual?
I’ve been holding off on posting this, because I wanted to make it thoughtful; however, since I’m still developing my thoughts, I realized a complete post on may never come to fruition. So, this email I wrote to a friend will just serve as a brief update until I can write something more thoughtful:
My grandmother is on pain medicine and she’s doing chemotherapy. She has lung cancer. It’s been such an interesting experience for me since I found out in August.
It was weird. One Wednesday I had the urge to book tickets to see her for a weekend visit. I called her on Thursday to tell her I was gonna be there on Friday. On that call she told me she had just been diagnosed with lung cancer. It didn’t freak me out–it was like my spirit already knew.
When I went down there, we spent a lot of time just doing nothing. She lives in an assisted living apartment near a beach, so when I was driving to my aunt’s beach house at like 1.30 in the morning after hanging out with my grandmother, I pulled the car up on the beach all the way to the waves and I started crying.
That night, what I realized is that death is nothing to be scared of. It’s just the next phase. I started reading Buddhist texts about Death and Dying, and I’ve started to understand that there is no end and no beginning. It’s just transformation of form. My grandmother is starting to understand this, too.
My grandmother didn’t want to do chemotherapy. She wanted to just accept this as another stage of her life. She told me she has had 87 years of beauty and love–something most people don’t get to ever experience. She was happy just taking pain medicine until the end.
We do so much in life to try to run from death and aging–but it’s part of this existence. We can’t hold on to memories or people or things. Everything changes and transforms–but people we love and moments we love are always there, it’s just our perception of their form that has changed.
Anyway, later in the month, I’m bringing lots of good food and champagne to my grandmother, and she and I are going to have a party to celebrate the time we shared together on this beautifully twisted roller coaster ride called life.
Ever since I realized that life is just transformation of state, I’m not scared. I’m happy to understand that everything is interconnected and woven into the underlying fabric of the universe. You and I–all of us–are always changing state and are always a part of everything.
I’ve always been one to say I’m not scared of death. The last 18 years of Buddhist studies helped mold those ideas. And although I suffered a lot of loss early life, it was the underlying youthful fearlessness that propped up my lack of fear towards death. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve become more aware of the value of life, and the concept of death being an “end” started to form.
It’s that notion of an end that we are scared of. We run from it and pretend that death won’t happen to us–but it will: Like a slasher film, no one leaves this place alive.
The thing to know is that there is no beginning or end. There’s no coming or going. There’s just transformation. The right circumstances arise and we are blessed with a human manifestation. Like a wave, we have our own form, but its underlying essence of ocean or water is unchanged. When a wave crashes against a shore, it doesn’t end, it just transforms. It is always water.
I’ll explain the esoteric stuff in a later post. This is just an update. Most of my personal writing lately is happening in a hand-written journal. I’m thinking about scanning the entries and posting those raw. Maybe I’ll transcribe them. In any case, I hope to have that up before the New Year
<3 + V + \m/
Several months ago, my mom brought down a box of stuff that I’d left at the house about 10 years ago. It includes stuff from Junior High, High School and College. When she brought it down, I barely dipped my toe into it; I couldn’t really handle all the emotions it might release.
I’ve always been kind of obsessed with Alice in Wonderland. In a box somewhere, I have some large reproductions of John Tenniel‘s illustrations from the 1st edition (1865) of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel. Wasn’t sure if it was the box that mom dropped off, so I started digging through it.
I eventually want to photographically chronicle some of this stuff, but for now I’m just going to list a few things I’ve found.
- A t-shirt I painted when I was 13. It’s so tiny–a boy’s medium. I remember it being way oversized. It has a yin-yang on the back.
- Contact sheets of the first modeling pics I took when I was 19. A famous photographer took them. They are in black and white. At the time, I didn’t understand why anyone would want to take my picture. Typical teenager, I didn’t think I was attractive. I was really happy and care-free, although in some pictures I’m def self aware. I still look basically the same except now my face is thinner and my body is not quite as cut LOL
- My photo scrap book from Senior Year in HS and the first 2 years of college. So young!
- 8th grade year book (1991). Shoved inside were 3 sets of matted photos from our district winning cross country and track teams. Someone’s parent took a lot of time to take the photos of us out on the track or on the cross country course. They also matted the pictures. Unlike the actual yearbook pics, these pictures are candid and feel more like real memories. I look at the pics and I can feel the polyester shorts, the cold wind and my tight lungs. Funny: I was so intimidated by most of the other guys on the team. Looking at them now, I realize how silly that was. I look sad and very unsure of myself. I started crying looking at these pics and thinking about how much I was going through at the time. Shocks me that that little boy was me.
- One of my sketchbooks from when I was 20. I was going through a cubistic phase.
- Le Journal de Mickey – a French comic book from 1988 in which Mickey and crew go to the Olympics!
- An autograph from 1990 from Jim Wright, former speaker of the US House of Representatives. When I was a kid, I loved him because he was from Fort Worth, went to my mom’s High School and went to UT.
Yeah, so that’s just a small sampling. My mom is going to bring another box down soon. Hoping it has those Alice in Wonderland prints. If it does, that will also include all my wall decorations!!
Just got back from spending several days in Galveston for my grandfather’s 90th birthday. While there, I shot several pics of my grandmother. Thought I would share them with you!
My grandmother is the person who has inspired me the most. She has always been there to give me the emotional support and courage I’ve needed on my many voyages throughout life. A truly classy lady, she taught me to respect people regardless of their race, religion, social status or sexual orientation. She’s also extremely compassionate, which is why she was a superstar nurse before she retired.
A few years ago, she and my grandfather moved from their home in Dallas to an assisted living center in Galveston. Before the move, she had a very active life: personal trainer, book club, shopping at Central Market and eating healthy food. Her life is completely different now. Not sure whether it was leaving her friends, downsizing from a house into an apartment or the stress of watching my grandfather suffer through Parkinson’s disease, but she’s been off-and-on depressed since the move.
When I was living in Berlin, she used to call me every day to chat. Those calls got me through the severe depression I suffered after having everything stolen. Now I call her almost every night with the hopes that I can lift her spirits.
While depressed, she had gained a lot of weight. A couple of months ago, she decided she needed to lose the weight so that she could regain a little esteem. Over this last visit, she looked like the granny I grew up with: active and fit. For a woman in her late 80′s, she looks amazing. I couldn’t stop taking pictures!
This one is probably my favorite of all the photos I took. We were in the elevator heading out to grab dinner. Surprisingly, the light was amazing. She looked strong.
This is obviously not the best quality picture–but the situation was so beautiful. We were walking to her car. It was sunset, and the sky was flushed with pinks and purples. We stopped to admire the splendor. When I turned to look back at her, she was bathed in the pink light reflecting off the sky, as if she was glowing. Behind her, a bush with pink flowers was blowing in the breeze. I snapped this picture to remember the moment.
This is a picture of my grandmother dressed to go to dinner. She loves pink and purple, and this outfit looked great on her!
This was her outfit for my grandfather’s birthday dinner. She reminded me of a Spanish Catalan woman.
This is my grandmother with Tennille, a family friend. I love this picture because this is her natural smile. It’s so peaceful and happy. It was the only time I captured it during the trip. The joy of having everyone there for my gfather’s b-day kinda shines through. And she loves Tennille.
This is my grandfather. He is also one of my heros. He taught me that I can create my own world.
Even though he’s 90, I think he still looks very handsome. I snapped this picture before we headed to the Lone Star Flight Museum. Because of the Parkinson’s, it was tough to take a picture of him. For this one, I hopped in front of him and said “Smile, Bobby!” He smiled, and I snapped the pic!
My grandfather is the love of my grandmother’s life. They’ve been together for 65 years. The compassion she has for this man is amazing. I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch as your loved one slowly deteriorates in front of you. But they have each other. And their love is so beautiful.
This is the best picture I think I’ve ever taken of them. My grandmother looks devoted and strong. <3
So yesterday I made my New Year’s Resolutions. To help me with those, I’m posting my goals for 2010. They don’t all have to do with the resolutions. Some are personal. Some are professional. Some are shooting for the stars. Some are minimums. Take a look:
- Continue growing Republic of Austin:
- Add staff and hone our focus to meet our reader community’s needs.
- Continue finding new ways to connect with our reader community.
- Throw 3 events that connect with three different segments of our reader community.
- Get better at webdesign, with a particular focus on WordPress and CSS.
- Complete a course.
- Build one site.
- Get better at Final Cut
- Complete a course.
- Launch Molotov Mocktail, the next experiential site focused on Self Sufficient Living, by March 2010.
- Learn to identify more edible plants for urban foraging.
- Record two songs. They can be silly.
- Have a DJ residency by February 2009, at least once a month.
- Spend more time with the people I love. Increase communication via phone or email with those who don’t live in my same city.
- Meditate once or twice a day.
- Get back into the gym to build muscles, 3 times a week. Continue biking for fitness everyday.
- Cook at least 4 dinners a week.
- Make lunch 4 days a week.
- Yoga 3 times a week.
- Try to take 3 trips outside of Texas by the end of the year.
- Write 3 short stories by the end of the year.
- Get me or my business in one national publication.
- Learn how to make soap and cleaning products.
My heart is glowing today. I’m so grateful for what I have. I’m thankful to be alive.
It’s been a year since I was laid off. In that year, I’ve moved to a new city to launch a company. I don’t have much money. I don’t have a lot of material things. But I do have a great team and I’m surrounded by people I love. The future looks so bright.
One of the things about Berlin that I loved was the sense of camaraderie and community that everyone had. Everyone was a struggling something-or-other, and everyone was living their dream. In San Francisco, it kinda felt like everyone was looking out for themselves, like some race to the top. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my colleagues at SHIFT and met tons of amazing people–but on the whole, everyone was really too busy to pursue the things they loved.
Austin reminds me of a level-headed Berlin. In Berlin, the frenzy of the city could get a little crazy. Austin, on the other hand, always feels nice and even keeled–even at its craziest. Whether in tech, music, art or even marketing, this city is full of so many creative people who gather in very active and vibrant communities. You don’t feel alone, and that’s makes a huge difference.
Kinda rambling, but the point is: I’m in a city I love, surrounded by people I love, doing what I love.