Module 2 Discussion Topic

WEEK 2/ TOPIC 2

Hey there. As you know, I’m going to school for psychology. This semester I started taking my first psychology class: The Psychology of Sex and Gender.

So, far, it’s been very interesting, especially with everything going on in the United States today. Add to the fact that my child has come out as Pansexual as well as Non-Binary, and the timing couldn’t be any more perfect, either.

Anyway, so given that I hardly have any time to blog right now, I figured I would share what I’m doing. Every week, we read two chapters out of the textbook, and then as our weekly assignment, in addition to a quiz, we submit a Discussion Post on the Class Discussion Board. Modeled after Facebook et all, classmates are required to comment on two other posts besides the one they bring to the board. This is the topic question in bold, and below that is what my own reply is. I’m not going to bother sharing with you the comments I left on other classmates, or what the other classmates have commented on mine, for obvious reasons. But, if you’re interested in getting a glimpse into the world of Psychology of Sex and Gender, here it is.

What are some advantages and disadvantages of upholding the ideal manhood? What are some advantages and disadvantages of upholding the ideal womanhood? In what ways does the ideal manhood compare to the ideal womanhood? Do they share any advantages and disadvantages in common? If so, what are they?

I was torn on whether to answer this question or the one about what I learned about genes and chromosomes contributing to intersex, because pretty much 90% of all that was new information to me, and reminded me just how magnificent this universe tends to be.

I’m choosing this one because frankly it’s been a very long day for me at the job and I’m exhausted, and I would be basically paraphrasing the section in chapter 3 where they talk about the genes and chromosomes. This one seems to come more naturally to me.

I was raised by a single mother who didn’t just play the role of hunter/gatherer as well as caregiver, but even went back to school, got a degree, and changed careers when I was a toddler. Needless to say, my mother did away with every stereotypical role society had tried to assign her. Growing up in this way, I feel, put me at an advantage when it comes to rejecting any sort of gender norms – at least from the female side of things.

As a man, and as a husband and father, I can speak from experience that during those times (rather recently, thanks to COVID) where I was out of work and unable to play that “ideal manhood” role out, I felt inadequate at best, and downright useless and depressed at the worst.

As you can see, just off of this one example, upholding the “ideal manhood” is a double edged sword. I can’t tell for certain how much of this is engrained societal pressures and how much of it is evolutionary and biological. And, I literally don’t have a basis with which to understand the “ideal womanhood” if any part of that includes not joining the workforce or furthering your education. So really, I’m not even sure what the “ideal womanhood” really is. And, I gotta say, I was surprised to learn that all those times I soothed a crying baby, my testosterone levels went down. So if upholding the “ideal manhood” means passing off that particular responsibility to the woman, count me out.

In short, both have disadvantages, and that boils down to limitations. As far as the advantages go, I guess both would have those as well, mainly being the satisfaction of fulfilling some deeply ingrained part of who you are.

The Misfit Philosopher #2

“The Powers that Be”

The rain tonight has made a curtain

Of which I’d love to hide behind;

Turn my face up to the Heavens,

Let it wash away my mind;

This thing that’s caused me so much pain

And left me feeling broke inside;

Consumed the outside world to fix it,

But nothing seems to satisfy.

Confide

In the powers that be;

Is this really all that’s meant to be?

There must be more

Than just the daily mundane;

But every time I try

Life just gets in the way;

So tell me how to rise…

I have a tendency to read

Way too damn deep into things;

Receive that text message from God

Inside that stale fortune cookie.

You laugh, but that’s just how I cope;

When by all appearances

There is no hope.

If faith is the evidence of things unseen,

Then how shall I define reality?

Confide

In the powers that be;

Is this really all that’s meant to be?

For I must have more

Than just the daily mundane;

But every time I try

Life just gets in the way;

So tell me how to rise…

Hey there, long time, no write. Life, right?

When I first started this whole website thing and made the decision to follow the advice of other aspiring writers and do a blog, I had no idea what to write. In all honesty, I still don’t, but here I am, doing it anyway. My first blog post was done just after starting the website, which was just after moving out here from Georgia, and it was called Up From Here, with good reason. I felt – no, I knew, that I was starting over completely, beginning a new life, and I was scared, and overwhelmed, and I really just needed a pep talk.

So I gave myself one, and decided to publish it.

Then I started Dog Walk Epiphanies. That was pretty much exactly what it sounds like – I would be out walking my dog Kipper, and be pondering and ruminating and introspecting and all other kinds of just plain over thinking about all my problems, and all of a sudden, I would have this… epiphany… where, through the simple act of walking my dog, my head would clear, and the answers I was seeking would come through. So I wrote about it. I wrote about it, and shared it, in the hopes that maybe I could help someone else.  

I did that twice, total, and they were months apart. My life had literally changed completely from on to the next.

And unfortunately, for all the times I’ve walked the dogs, and all the problems I still face in my life, I just don’t seem to ever have an epiphany.

Or, maybe I do, and I just can’t formulate it into words.

Then the pandemic hit, and 2020 was… well, you saw. You were there, too. America’s deep-seated mental illness and racism floated to the surface like that turd that just won’t flush. Between the exponentially rising death toll and the anti-maskers and the Karens and the Black Lives Matter protests that turned into riots and Trump just being his regular self, suddenly I had too much to write about.

I’ve never been one for politics. I just didn’t pay attention. As John Mulaney said, I didn’t really have to pay attention. Whoever was in charge just always seemed like they knew what they were doing, so I didn’t have to pay attention.

And honestly, had it not been for the lockdown, I probably would have just gone on not really giving a shit about how incompetent that man was. I mean, he’d already been president for 3 years by that point, and while I heard all the crazy nonsense, I just sort of wrote it off as another form of entertainment.

But I was on lockdown, like everyone else, out of a job, staying at home literally 24/7, going out only for the essentials then coming right back home, so it was pretty hard to not pay attention anymore.

I used the time wisely, of course. I decided to take advantage of the situation and go back to school to change careers, and of course, finished another novel, and published it. Naturally, that’s where most of my writing went – either polishing off my final draft of The Light Through the Cracks, getting the second draft of my next novel knocked out, starting the first draft of yet another novel, or doing the homework writing assignments for my university classes. Any responses I had to what was going on around me was immediately posted straight to either my Facebook or my Twitter.

I was angry, and disgusted, and fed up just like everyone else. And I, like everyone else, chose a side, and voiced my opinion.

What was weird was realizing that I was actually in opposition to most of my friends and family. That was perhaps the most disconcerting thing about 2020, at least for me. I’d remembered reading about the Civil War, and how entire families were torn apart over it; friendships dissolved, marriages ruined, siblings falling out with each other – and I felt like I was starting to see it again. I’m sure you heard the talks about civil war. A lot of people were calling for it. That is how divided this country has become.

So it was almost in response to the animosity online that I created The Misfit Philosopher. I realized that a lot of people who were seeing my posts were definitely not going to like them, because they contradicted what they themselves believed in. At the time, I was taking a philosophy class for college, so it just made sense. I pointed out stuff that actually managed to not just piss off the Republicans, but even the Democrats as well.

So then my blog went from a sort of introspective, self-help page, to a social and political activism page. It was perfect timing, too, because I was already writing papers for college that were in response to the current events going on in the country.

But there was just something… unappealing about it for me.

Don’t get me wrong – I see so fucking much in this country that’s broken and needs to either be fixed, or just demolished and rebuilt completely. And I’m all about sharing my ideas with you. But I’m actually going to school for the sole purpose of just simply doing my part to actually make the changes that I want to see in this country – if it’s not too late by the time I get there. Social and political activism is something that I’m still very passionate about, but there’s a difference between writing about what essentially amounts to nothing more than my perspective and opinion, and actually getting out there and doing something about it.

Besides – it’s just too hard for me to write a blog as a social and political activist and not sound like one of those angry ranting extremists I like to make fun of.

And if I were gonna do that, wouldn’t I just be The Misfit Activist?

Doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I remember as a kid growing up, my schizophrenic uncle would have a smart ass remark to make every time he heard the term “philosophy.” He’d say, “Full of what?

Maybe you’d have to have a schizophrenic uncle to really get the joke, but if you’ve ever tried to read Kant, or Mill, or Locke, or any of the other historical greats, you’d probably have to reread them at least a few more times chipping away at the mountain of intellectuality, before you began to grasp what it was they were trying to say… and even then, it would only be your interpretation of it. Ever met someone who was so intellectually superior that the poor sap didn’t even know how to socialize?

And I mean, what is any of this but just an expression of opinion?

And as they’ve said before, opinions are like assholes… and I have a tendency of being one.

The term “philosophy” literally means, “love of wisdom.” It’s an activity people undertake when they seek to understand fundamental truths about themselves, the world in which they live, and their relationships to the world and to each other.

Now that’s something I’ve been doing my entire life anyway, so I guess I was born for this. It’s not limiting, either, in the sense that sticking to political and social activism was going to be. So maybe I was on to something I didn’t even realize at the time when I decided to brand myself as The Misfit Philosopher.

I can still hear my schizophrenic uncle saying, “Full of what?”

Full of shit, dude. Obviously.

And I mean, he ain’t wrong.

One thing I’ve always known about people is we see the world though pre-programmed filters that most of the time we aren’t even aware are there. I know I’ve got them. I’m currently going through trauma therapy to uncover, discover, and discard them. Because they no longer work for me.

Something 2020 really showed me is just how vehemently people cling to their beliefs – even if they aren’t serving them anymore. I think that’s why I backed off the political posts, and changed my mind altogether about making this blog of mine about social and political activism. It’s like one of my mentors in Alcoholics anonymous once said to me:

“Who’s crazier: the drunk guy? Or the man who’s trying to reason with him?”

99% of our belief system was handed down to us by our parents and our teachers. To challenge that is something people take rather personally. Some of these people react with violence when their belief systems are challenged.

And some of us are so stuck in our belief systems that we’ll discount anything that goes against it. And when asked why we believe what we do, we can’t even come up with a solid answer.

“Why are they wrong?”

“Because we are right. And if we are right, well, they must be wrong.”

“Why do you think that’s a stupid idea?”

“Because they came up with it.”

It’s gonna be hard to do this without at least bringing up politics, but I’m going to stay as objective as I can. I can’t say how many times I’ve heard a valid point made by a Republican, or a Republican come up with an actual good idea, and the Democrats shit all over it for no other reason than it came from a Republican viewpoint.

To subscribe to a set of beliefs or principles does not mean we have to make all other beliefs or principles wrong in the process. Life is about learning, and growing, and evolving. Sometimes what used to work, doesn’t anymore. And if it’s not working anymore, why hold onto it? Fear of change?

I’m still learning and figuring out my place in this world. And I’m 40. I’ve recently become more social, better able to make new friends, and that’s because I’ve gotten rid of the belief that I don’t have anything in common with other people. That’s a belief that, for 35 years, served me very well. It protected me from harm. All while missing out on some very good conversations, conversations that could have turned into friendships.

What else is not working anymore?

What am I full of?

Because I can tell you, from bitter, hard, ugly experience, that, whatever I’ve got inside of me is how I’m going to see the world, and is going to be the basis of how I interact with it. Ever hear of the saying “Garbage in, garbage out?”

What’s your operating system based on? Who’s it made by? Are there any glitches? Any bugs? Maybe a virus?

Or are you even aware?

Are you woke, or do you just think you are?

If you’re offended, it’s probably because you’ve been pointed to a truth about yourself that you’d rather not look at.

And how many people are offended these days?

The Misfit Philosopher #1

Nevaeh Wen

Biophilic Living. Sustainable Design. Holistic Wellness.

Welcome.

Welcome to Nevaeh Wen, a holistic living community connected to nature on the outskirts of [A Major Metropolitan City]. Our vision and overall philosophy is simple: To live as we were created to live: in harmony with ourselves, with each other, and with our environment. In the words of Yiran Wang, “All we have are the connections we make.” These connections are physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, occupational, intellectual, and social. At Nevaeh Wen, we consider holistic connection to be our top priority. Holistic Connection is that connection to ourselves, to each other, to the world, to the earth, and to the universe. Our main method of accomplishing this is through a combination of Environmentally Sustainable Design and Biophilic Living. Biophilia literally means “Love of Nature,” and its benefits are all-encompassing: from societal (lowering the crime rate) to environmental (lowering the Urban Heat Island effect) to personal (improving cognitive abilities and emotional wellbeing).

Our purpose, our mission.

Guiding our city’s growth and development are a number of Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainable Development, as defined by the United Nations General Assembly, is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” But it goes much farther than that. Perhaps an even more modern definition of sustainable development is “the organizing principle for meeting human development goals while simultaneously sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services on which the economy and society depend.” Each of these goals is equally important as all the rest, as they are all interconnected with each other.

End poverty in all its forms, everywhere. Imagine not having to worry about money. Your job actually provides a decent enough living to meet all of your basic needs, from shelter and clothing to health and education. Imagine living in a community where your education, your health – mental, physical and spiritual – as well as your social safety – are also considered basic amenities on top of the regular water, sewer, trash, electricity, and clean, running water. Every citizen of our city has open access to social protection and social services, healthcare for both body and mind (yes, including vision and dental because we don’t see these as separate from the rest of your body), and education all the way through University-level Higher Education, as well. Our economy here is circular in nature, meaning that every business in Nevaeh Wen is community owned and operated by our citizens. While not all of our citizens choose to work here, everyone that works here is a citizen. And, our economy is real, whole, and complete. We have everything from cooperative grocery stores and gourmet restaurants and farmer’s markets to live music, theater, dance, cinema, and art. We have tourism destinations with nature trails for hiking and horseback riding and bed-and-breakfasts. We export some of our surplus goods at outside farmer’s markets as well as open our basic services to the “general public.” Here at Nevaeh Wen, there is a career for everyone with every interest, hobby, or talent.

End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. Nevaeh Wen’s housing is divided up into “districts,” each with its own community “micro farm.” Each garden in that district has its own “Master Gardener” who oversees the general operation of that micro farm. Members who live in each district are encouraged to participate in the tending, maintenance, and harvesting of their district’s micro farm, and are educated as to the benefits, of both mind and body, that they will receive by doing so. As an extra incentive, work hours are logged onto a digital “Key (to the city) Card” that can be redeemed at the “extracurricular,” “comfort,” and “luxury” levels. As a way of ensuring sustainability of each micro farm, produce supply is distributed on a ration system based on the nutritional needs of each individual member of that district. On top of the agricultural spaces in each district are “Edible Landscaping” throughout all of Nevaeh Wen’s walking, hiking, and horseback riding trails. Children walking home from school in the afternoon can enjoy fresh blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries right off the vine, or perhaps an apple or peach or orange, depending on the time of year. All walking trails lead to the heart of our city, where we have the “town square”, or “Centre.” Here you will find the cooperative grocery store that is owned and operated by the members of the community, a handful of gourmet “from farm to plate” restaurants using Nevaeh Wen’s Alpha Farm, from which we bring the produce sold each week at the Farmer’s Market we bring into the metropolitan area.

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.  In the words of the United Nations, “Education enables upward socioeconomic mobility and is a key to escaping poverty.” Nevaeh Wen provides educational opportunities all the way from preschool through your PHD, at no cost. We have several preschools, elementary schools that go from K-5, middle schools that go from 6-8, high schools that go from 9-12, and an accredited University that provides Higher Education at no cost for members of the community. Our approach to education is unique in that we use the Holistic Education method, which is, in a nutshell, the method of educating the whole person, beyond just the “core curriculum.” Holistic Education is “a comprehensive approach to teaching where educators seek to address the emotional, social, ethical, and academic needs of students in an integrated learning format. Emphasis is placed on positive school environments and providing whole-child supports (services that support academic and nonacademic needs, also known as wraparound supports) to students.” This means that students are actually taught to reflect on their actions, and how they impact the world around them. They’re also taught how to learn from the world around them, as they grow up seeing the entire universe as their school. All learning is project-based, which means that not only are our students learning the core curriculum subjects, they are also learning how to apply critical thinking skills toward solving real-world problems. The benefits of Holistic Education go way beyond mere knowledge. Not only do you end up with improved academic achievement because you catered the teaching method to the needs of each individual student, you’re also going to have enhanced mental and emotional wellbeing, increased problem solving ability, and a reduced impact of inequities. Long story short, children who grow up in Nevaeh Wen are going to be better prepared for the world when they join the working force.

Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all ages. As mentioned above, all of these goals, like all of us, are interconnected with each other. Perhaps the best example of this is how education ties into poverty ties into health. Healthcare for all of our community members is free, paid for by an allotment from taxes. Our on-site facilities are state-of-the-art and are mostly staffed by our citizens as well. “House calls,” are no longer a thing of the past, as we have on-call family practice physicians who will come to you if for whatever reason you aren’t feeling well enough to move. The layout and design of our city is centripetal, meaning that everything points inward to the main town square (but really, it’s a circle). We have made it so that Nevaeh Wen is 100% walkable, with walkways, bike paths, and hiking trails weaving through that never even cross a road or street. In fact, we’ve built the drivable streets in such a way that it’s actually more convenient, if you’re traveling within the city limits, to just walk or ride a bike (or a horse, if that’s your thing!) to wherever it is you’re going. Again, it can’t be stated enough that Nevaeh Wen is, by design, a Biophilic City. And the benefits of being immersed in nature are extensive, proven to support cognitive function, physical health, and psychological wellbeing. We’ve incorporated biophilic design into our offices to increase productivity by 8%, creativeness, and well-being by 13%. We’ve incorporated it into our schools to increase rates of learning 20-25% as well as reducing the impact of ADHD. We’ve incorporated it into our healthcare spaces to increase post-operative recovery times by 8.5% as well as reducing the use of pain medication by 22%. We’ve incorporated it into our retail spaces, increasing sales by 8-12% as well as dropping crime by 7-8% by incorporating into our homes. But if the statistics don’t convince you, just take a walk through town, and in between playing on all the jungle gyms we have scattered throughout, feel free to pick an apple from one of the trees, or some blueberries from one of the vines…

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. The United Nations says, “Conflict, insecurity, weak institutions and limited access to justice remain a great threat to sustainable development.” The accuracy of this statement can be seen just by reviewing the events of 2020 and early 2021 in the United States. From the inefficient response to the Covid-19 pandemic to the Black Lives Matter protests and the White Supremacy reaction to those protests to the January 6 insurgency on the Capitol, the only other time in history where our country has been this divided against itself was during the Civil War. The evidence speaks for itself: where there are inequities, inequalities, injustices and insecurities, there is also instability. And where there is instability, there is unsustainability. Promoting a peaceful and inclusive society isn’t just about equality between races, or gender equality, it is about reducing the inequalities in every category. This is what’s going to promote a peaceful and prosperous community. Not only do the majority of our walkways and bike paths not cross any main roads where there might be motor vehicles driving on, these paths are well lit, with call boxes every 100 yards for use in an emergency. While we do have a police force to deal with actual criminal activity, we also have a Mental Health Emergency Services Team who will usually be dispatched in place of the police. Rather than sending the police to a situation more appropriate for a licensed mental health professional, such as a non-criminal emergency involving either a mental health crisis, a domestic disturbance, public disruptive behavior, or just substance abuse, we just go ahead and send the mental health professional. We are not the only city to be doing this; more and more cities in the United States are realizing that this approach is more effective in actually solving the problem, rather than exacerbating it with unnecessary jail time or police brutality. It not only saves money and allows the police to concentrate on law enforcement, it saves lives.

Weaving the Urban Fabric of a Sustainable Civilization

Nevaeh Wen’s urban fabric is modeled after Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities, and especially reminiscent of my own hometown, Greenbelt, Maryland. Laid out in a centripetal wheel pattern, the city is traversed “from center to circumference,” by eight main boulevards, evenly dividing itself into eight equally sized districts. Starting in the center and moving out from there in concentric circles are the main avenues connecting each of the districts. At the center of town beats the heart of the city, with the Town Hall, Law Enforcement and Mental Health Crisis Teams, Fire Station, University, Hospital, Theater, Concert Venue, City (Alpha) Farm, Community Center, Recreation Center, Restaurants, Shops, and Cooperative Grocery Store. Immediately across the main avenue connecting the heart of the city is the “Central Park,” a greenbelt wrapping around the downtown district and containing lakes, streams, hiking trails, playgrounds, and seasonal activities, including an ice skating rink in the winter, “Shakespeare In the Park” in the Summer and Fall, and botanical gardens in the spring.

Each district has its own different theme of architecture, from Bauhaus and Art Deco to Craftsman, Mediterranean, and Ultra-Modern. Bisecting each district while tying them all together is another “greenbelt” park wrapping all the way around the city as its own concentric circle. Inside this “greenbelt” is where you’ll find variously themed community learning science centers geared specifically to a particular branch of science (i.e. biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, etc), public schools ranging from pre-k on up through 12th grade, and art/music exhibits, all comfortably mingled with a variety of religious and spiritual denominational and non-denominational Houses of Worship and connected by walkways and bike paths and trolleys. The idea behind this rather diverse “Melting Pot” approach is so that children growing up in Nevaeh Wen will come to appreciate the balanced and symbiotic relationship that science, art, and religion actually have. Each district also has its own park, playground, micro garden, cooperative kitchen, health clinic, gym/recreation center, shopping/entertainment/business district, and housing community, all of which are each “individually wrapped” in its own greenspace, and connected through a series of walkways, bike paths, and trolleys.

Housing is made up of an even mixture of apartment buildings, duplexes, and townhouses, and are allocated based on the size of the family. Every building in Nevaeh Wen is built using a combination of rammed earth and structural insulated panels for maximum environmental sustainability. Each rooftop is comprised of Solar Roofing Tiles as well as other technologies utilizing both hydropower, wind power, and thermal radiation. Sewage and Water is recycled and reclaimed in a cyclical fashion, with predesigned plumbing strategies already taking the guesswork out of the separation and treatment. Rain gardens throughout make use of what mother earth bestows, as well as melted snow in the wintertime. Waste is collected through sorting cans throughout the city. Recyclables are recycled, and waste is used for biogas fuels and other purposes. Composting bins are also strategically placed throughout the city, not just at the community gardens and micro farms. All of our recycling, composting, biogas manufacturing, and sanitation and treatment facilities are what line the perimeter of the city, along with our domestic product export facilities, so as not to disrupt the flow of the design. With that said, they are also designed to have zero toxic releases into the environment.

Along the main avenues, roads and boulevards of Nevaeh Wen is where you will find a variety of public transportation services, ranging from electric cars and buses to trolleys running on electromagnetic tracks. While these services are for everyone equally throughout the entire city, they are in fact designed with our senior, elderly, and disabled population in mind, and are accessible and accommodating as such. As already mentioned, the design of the roadways in Nevaeh Wen is strategic and purposeful in making it quite inconvenient to drive a personal vehicle anywhere but on the boulevards that simply head straight out of town. And even on those eight boulevards heading out of town, you have access to trains and buses that will take you right into (the) [Major Metropolitan City].

Given the fact that all of the vast variety of businesses in Nevaeh Wen are owned and operated by the Citizens of Nevaeh Wen, it’s implicit that we not only have our own economy, but this economy is circular in nature. In other words, we are self-sufficient, with exports of our own ranging from excess produce from our Alpha Farm that we sell at famers markets in surrounding cities, to clothing, jewelry, crafts, art, music, and of course, excess energy production from our various alternative energy systems. Looking at it from the perspective of a business as a whole, our philosophy is to “promote from within,” literally raising our children, through the Holistic Education talked about above, with open minds, open hearts, and open opportunities, as well as empathetic guidance, and professional instruction, allowing them to pick their own paths best suited to their individual talents, passions, and goals, so that when the time comes, should they chose not to stay and work in their “Hometown,” they are fully prepared to meet the challenges of – and contribute to – any other city they decide on moving to. In other words, perhaps our finest and most valuable “export” is the man or woman who was raised here.

A final note on our culture, our politics, and our vision. We believe in inclusivity, peace, and understanding – even where there is disagreement. We believe in laying a foundation of guiding principles based simply and solely on What Works and What Doesn’t Work, rather than political agendas furthered by propaganda backed by personal preferences, petty differences, and pocketbooks. When we say that ours is a government “Of the People, By the People, and For the People,” we actually mean it. And a person, by definition, is a human being. We don’t go by race, age, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. We believe in the difference between Equality and Equity, and we value the importance of Equity as it pertains to actually taking the time to understand and meet the needs of the individual. In fact, the Milken Institute of Public Health, out of the George Washington University, says it best: “Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.”  

Our City Counsel serves as the final decision maker, and is comprised of the heads of each department working together to ensure a smooth operation. Regular surveys and votes are done via a website, as well as “stations” throughout the town. A weekly “Check In” at town hall is held, and all citizens are encouraged to attend. This not only includes regular topics such as infrastructure maintenance and community events or issues, but also serves as a safe space to work out whatever deeper issues are at hand. Examples include arguments between neighbors, crimes committed that can be dealt with in more constructive ways than incarceration, and anything else the community deems necessary. As an added service, for those adults new to Nevaeh Wen who don’t have the benefit of having already been raised here, we also provide free seminars in those things that, through no fault of your own, you were just never taught; things like: Personal Finance, Relationship Values, Mindfulness, Survival Skills, Mental Health, Sustainable Living, Human Rights, Applied Mathematics, Sociology and Anthropology, and Nutrition. We teach these things, not only to our children, but to our parents as well, for the simple reason that we believe that the majority of the problems facing today’s society stem from an ignorance of these basic – but essential – life skills.

And we believe you, the Newcomer, deserve the same opportunity your child now has. Thank you for coming, and again, welcome.

And on those days that you head out of town into the bigger city, be it for business or pleasure, or both, be sure to take a look in your rearview mirror, and see the Nevaeh Wen Welcome Sign smiling back at you. For it will be in that moment, that you realize the importance of going within.

Afterward:

While Nevaeh Wen is quite obviously a fictional city, more characteristic of your typical “Utopian Society” than a modern American Development (and I certainly slacked off on Photoshopping together a stunningly attractive brochure to hand out), I beg to differ on the notion that it just isn’t possible. Or feasible.

For one thing, I grew up in one of three “Green Cities” built during FDR’s New Deal initiative. So I know they exist. All three of these cities were inspired by Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City Movement. Ebenezer Howard himself was able to build two of his envisioned Garden Cities, over in England, and they’re still around today. There are Sustainably Designed Cities springing up all over the world: Sweden, Germany, France, are all waking up to the need for Sustainable Communities, and are already taking the initiative to build them.

In this particular description, I’ve listed nothing that isn’t already being tried somewhere else. Nowhere in this imaginary town is a technology that we don’t already currently have at our disposal. If Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui could design and engineer Machu Picchu to not only survive 700 years through numerous earthquakes and an average of 77 inches of rainfall each year and not just mudslide right down off the mountainside its built into but actually use all that water for irrigation, drinking water, and bathing water – and keep all of them separate – then I’ve got faith in our modern day engineers to figure this one out as well.

As for the educational and political systems, and the “too-close-to-communism-for-comfort” universal healthcare, just check out Finland, with their education system, France, with their Healthcare system, and Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands with their governmental systems and their listings on the “Happiest Countries In the World” blogs, and tell me how this isn’t possible. And since Denver, Oakland, Portland, and Eugene have already started sending Mental Health Emergency Teams out in place of Law Enforcement, maybe we’re not that far off after all.

Just saying.

Dog Walk Epiphanies #2

The last time I did this, I was walking through one town with only one dog. Now, I’m walking through another town with two dogs. Sometimes three, depending on the night of the week. Sometimes my girlfriend’s mother takes the other one with her to the ranch.

I’m currently going through the steps again, with another sponsor, because, well, this is what those of us in recovery who want to reach that next stage of development do: We continue working the steps. And the timing could not be any better for all that’s happened: I’m currently on Step 3: Turning, once again, my will and life over to the care of God as I understand Him.

Or at least making the Decision to. LOL. And at 5 years, 9 months, and 3 weeks sober, going through the steps for the fourth time, not surprisingly, my view on this step – indeed, on the whole Concept (or lack thereof) of God has, well, changed… rather dramatically from where it was almost six years ago.

And as always, I’m wondering… reevaluating… questioning… Pondering… All of it.

You might have noticed that “Or Lack Thereof” quip back there. Let me explain. It has been my experience that, the moment I think I have “God” figured out, “God”, like the obstinately beguiling contradiction that He is, changes Her modus operandi … Just Because.

So I gave up a while ago trying to figure out what I’m obviously not meant to figure out.

However, I’m still trying to figure out this thing called Life. (But then again, who isn’t?)

And because I’m still trying to figure out this thing called Life, I can’t help but at the very least, continue questioning this thing called God. Chris Cornell said it best: “You gave me a life – Now, show me how to live.”

Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy, though?

Does anybody else wish for that text message? Does anybody else look for the “signs?” Does anybody else read WAY TO FUCKING DEEP into things, in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, what the Masters say is at least partially true? That this thing we call God does have a plan for us, And its better than we could come up with ourselves? Does anybody else feel like they’re playing the guessing game? Like life is a matter of trial and error with no instruction manual? Like when they’re asking the Big Questions, that the Universe does more of a game of “Red Light, Green Light” or a game of “Marco Polo” or “Hot/Cold” as its way of answering?

Does anyone else question this whole “God Thing”? And whether or not there’s really a Plan? And if so, What Our Part is in it? Does anyone else wonder what the point of All This is? Does anyone get really frustrated at the statement “You Plan, and God Laughs”? Especially because that really and truly feels like what happens? But then He’s not nice enough to cue you in on What the fuck it is You’re SUPPOSED to be doing? Does anyone else struggle with their faith – whatever that may be – and wonder sometimes if there really IS a divine intelligence behind everything?

Let me back up.

All the way to my Uncle/Boss’s Driveway in Georgia, during a smoke break on a rainy day. My roommate was moving out, and all my friends had been asking me what was I gonna do? Was I gonna find another roommate? If so, who? I had decided that, no, I was NOT gonna get another roommate, for the one I had was so good of a roommate, he spoiled me and I’d basically decided that I was never gonna find another roommate as good as him, so I wasn’t even gonna try (yes, I’ve got trust issues, I know this); besides, I wanted a dog, and I figured it was time to finally go on the market for one.

“Oooh, good idea,” my friends all said. “What kind of dog do you want?”

A Black Lab, I’d told them.

“Purebred Black Labs ’round here go for about $1300,” my friends all said.

Well, then I guess I’m not getting one.

And that was that. No trip to the pound, no research, nothing. Just… Whatever.

Until the foreman of our crew – who, I assure you I did not think of as a friend (and who, as a matter of fact, right up till about Round Three of Step Six I was secretly plotting his untimely fall off a roof he had pissed me off so many times) and therefore, had no recollection whatsoever of having even mentioned wanting a dog much less a Black Lab – turned to me, as we were standing there smoking cigarettes in my Uncle/Boss’s Driveway, looked up from his phone, and said:

“Hey, are you still wanting a Black Lab? My sister’s friend is a breeder and they’re just trying to find a good home.”

And that’s how Kipper came into my life. Kipper is the name given by my oldest daughter, who had also recently come back into my life after years of estrangement.

Flash forward one year, to when Kipper and I make our cross country trip out here to Southern California, to – you guessed it – reconnect with my kids.

Kipper, by this point, is 65 pounds – a good 15 pounds heavier than the maximum allowed by any apartment complex in the area. The game plan for where to live has of course been officially laughed at, placing me and my dog in a predicament where I’m about to work the system and get him registered as an emotional support animal just so I can keep him.

Then an apartment opens up that happens to be part of a house – with a massive back yard for Kipper to run around in. The landlord lives upstairs in the main house, has a Pit Bull that becomes Kipper’s best friend, and treats me like I’m a part of her family.

Something inside of me says, This is why God laughs, bruh. Because, as creative and intelligent as you are, you still haven’t got a clue.

I drop the carpentry to get back into restaurant work, on the basis that the schedule is more flexible, giving me more time to rebuild that bridge with my kids, as well as to work on my real goals and dreams, while not wearing me down physically the way carpentry did. I also have this magnificent idea that if I don’t put a cap on my income, if I leave it open to the universe, maybe I’ll actually make more money. I also have this magnificent idea that getting back into restaurants will allow me more social interactions with the human race.

Both of these ideas turn out to be the very reasons I end up kicking the restaurant to the curb after only 14 months, but that’s another story altogether. After only two months at the one location, I wake up and realize they’re not doing even doing enough business to warrant giving me the hours I need in order to make ends meet.

So I get a transfer to another branch.

Immediately, my income doubles, and, in short time, I prove my worth to the management to finally get the hours I need.

Unfortunately, this means Kipper is spending a lot of time at home all by his lonesome. My landlord, as wonderful as she is, starts letting him out while I’m at work so he can play with his best friend the Pit Bull, but this only happens when she herself is home and has the energy.

So I start feeling guilty that Kipper doesn’t have a sibling. Maybe if I get a second dog, he can have the company while I’m gone, and he won’t be so lonely.

So I start looking into it. The German Shepherd rescue center charges a ridiculous adoption fee. The Humane Society is overfilled with Pit Bulls, and while I know Kipper would get along great with one, even their adoption fee is out of my price range. A couple times, I fill out the adoption form, but don’t even get a response.

Maybe it’s not meant to be quite yet, I think to myself.

Meanwhile, the family that lives directly next door to me has a Corgi-Dachshund mix that they keep locked in the back yard that Kipper has already made friends with. They talk to each other through the fence like convicts on the yard. Conspiring.

And when I say “keep locked in the back yard”, I mean it. He stays there, alone, with no human interaction except when my landlord or myself drop some love and kibble through the chain link. Other than that, as far as I know, this poor little guy is neglected completely.

Time rolls on. At work, I’ve developed a friendship of sorts with this woman who I apparently, according to our coworkers, hover around like someone who’s already fallen in love with her at first sight. Pshh, yeah, right.

Apparently, I do however wear my emotions on my sleeve, because even she is like, “Yeah,dude, you’re like constantly staring at me every time I look up.”

Every time she’s running the window, I’m getting the most food run. I try playing it off like I’m just a hard worker, a team player, but apparently, if its anyone else running the window, I’m nowhere to be found.

Okay, you got me. She has coffee. And lets me steal sips of it. I’m totally using her for her coffee, I swear.

Anyway, long story short, our sarcastic jabs and witty remarks inside the restaurant slowly turn into longer conversations in the parking lot after work. And those longer conversations in the parking lot after work turn into Facebook messenger conversations that last past both of our bedtimes at home.

And that’s when I notice the neighbor’s dog has somehow gotten into my yard.

Remember that convicts conspiring on the prison yard metaphor? While I’ve been focusing on courting Camilla, and somehow by some miracle getting past all her defenses, Kipper and the neighbor’s dog have been communicating with each other through the fence, Kipper digging a tunnel from his side, and the Corgeenie digging a tunnel from his side.

Now, two things should be noted here:

1: My perception, at first, with my limited knowledge of dog breeds, told me this was actually a Chihuahua. (Shrugging Shoulders.) He sure looked like it to me. Same size, and facial features, all that. Even Camilla thought so. Chihuahua mixed with a Dachshund. A Chiweenie.

It was off this assumption, that, not knowing his real name, I started calling him Chapo.

Yes, after El Chapo, the notorious drug lord.

2: Kipper, being the big, clumsy, rambunctious, 65 pound black lab that he is, was absolutely going to severely injure this poor Chihuahua playing so roughly with him. This was most definitely not going to be a good match. No, Kipper needs a dog his size to play with.

Besides; this was the neighbor’s dog. Not mine. I couldn’t just take their dog, no matter how neglected he was.

I was wrong about ALL OF THIS, as I soon came to find out.

Chapo’s size mattered nothing to him. He actually wore Kipper down. For every toss and toggle and rough landing he got, he’d come back all the more playful. It was almost like he enjoyed being stepped on and tossed around. And the moment Kipper got worn down, Chapo was all over him, nipping at his ears, humping his leg, climbing onto his back… In the end, it’s safe to say Chapo made Kipper his bitch.

And that neighbor I expected to come looking? I would come home from work, and he had gotten Chapo and put him back in the yard, only to continue neglecting him. Like he wanted the dog to keep in the backyard, but that was it.

And every time I’d come home from work, Chapo would be panting and barking and wagging his tail…

And then I’d let Kipper out, and we’d start on our nightly walk together, and the next thing I knew, I’d hear Chapo’s nails click-clicketty-clicking along the pavement as he ran to catch up to us, having made yet another prison escape.

And he would follow us, without being on a leash, for the whole 2, 3 mile walk Kipper and I would do.

And then he would stay to hang out, until it was time to go to bed. He would come inside, and play with Kipper, and lay with Kipper, then whine up a storm when I sent him outside.

Realizing he would be stuck all alone in the back yard, I started letting him sleep over with Kipper.

The neighbor never came looking, until four or five days later when I’d come home from work to find Chapo locked in the back yard again, only this time the neighbor barricaded the tunnel with boards and sheet metal.

This didn’t stop Kipper and Chapo from getting together to devise another plan of escape, and of course, the moment they accomplished it, there Chapo would be, on my door step, smiling and wagging his tail and trying to hump Kipper.

Needless to say, it became apparent that This was the sibling Kipper was supposed to have, and there was no adoption process necessary, because Chapo had adopted Me.

Go where the love is at, right?

I told Camilla about the situation, when the Facebook Messenger had turned into texting and talking on the phone, and her response was the same: “You’ve absolutely been adopted. Do not let him go back over there.”

So I started letting him stay inside with Kipper while I was at work.

The neighbor never came looking for him.

When it came time to move in with Camilla, I at least gave the guy the option, told him what was up. He said he was just happy to know that Chapo was gonna be well taken care of.

So yes, I plan, God laughs, because, although I think I’m a creative genius, apparently I still don’t know jack shit, about what’s best for me, about what direction to go, about anything.

The restaurant served it’s purpose, too, apparently, as within just a few months of our becoming a couple, both Camilla and myself ended up quitting. I got back into carpentry, and she got back into school.

And God laughed, joyfully, mischievously the entire fucking time.

I started this post back in November. It’s now February 2. Life, man. Ya know?

I’ve since picked up my 6 year sobriety medallion, so I guess you can say I’ve finally graduated Kindergarten and entered the First Grade.

Chapo is currently on the couch, sleeping on his back next to Kipper. That little dog has gone from the cold dusty backyard surrounded by chain link fence to a plush couch surrounded by a two other dogs, and three cats. I’d say his world has grown a little.

And me? I can still remember the chain link fence as well.

And the crack motel.

So I guess next time you’re doubting whether the universe truly has your back, whether your Higher Power really and truly has your best interests at heart, and knows better than you do what path is most efficient, remember this story.

Next time you’re wondering if your prayers are even heard, remember this story – because even the prayers you thought you kept to yourself have been heard.

Next time you’re wondering if there’s a Master Plan, or a Grand Purpose, or at least a fucking Method to the Madness, remember this story.

Because yes, there is.

No, it’s none of your business.

Will it show up? Absolutely.

Will it be on your time? Nope. And for good reason too.

Will it be what you expected? Definitely not.

Will it be better than you could have ever possibly conceived with your puny little human brain?

LMFAO.

Dog Walk Epiphanies #1

Something tells me this is going to be a thing.

Because usually when I have my major breakthroughs, it’s during the 45 minute walk i have with Kipper.

So, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has trouble “enjoying the process.” I feel sometimes like I should be a lot farther along than I already am, I get impatient, I get hard on myself, because I’ve got goals, that, apparently, are gonna take a shit load of work to accomplish, and I find myself falling into that “Are We There Yet?” mentality.

And this, for me at least, tends to steal all the joy out of the process for me. I’ve noticed it causes unnecessary stress and suffering (to go a little Buddhist on you) and makes me forget what literally EVERY wise person has ever said over the years: “It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.”

But even remembering this, lately, I’ve been struggling with it. In fact, that phrase has just been pissing me off. And it’s not because I don’t agree with it, but because I’ve managed to intellectualize it, but haven’t yet been able to move that information down into my heart, where things really take effect.

And trying to force it doesn’t work (Surprise! More Process here!).

Oh, and by the way, I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who struggles with this, because, just the other day, a close friend of mine was getting down on himself because he kept taking “Two steps forward, one step back”.

And I reminded him that even “Two steps forward, one step back” is still making progress.

But anyway, being so good at giving insights and advice that I hardly ever follow myself (can I get an Amen?!), this convo actually brought to light one of my greatest struggles:

I have a really hard time letting go and just enjoying the process. I get so bogged down in my impatience over achieving that particular goal, over reaching that particular destination – (Are we there yet are we there yet are we there yet are we there yet are we there yet are we there yet are we there yet are we -) that I lose all sight of the scenery as I go along.

Which, for me, as well as I believe everyone, whether we realize it or not, is sort of defeating the purpose.

So I’ve just spent the last week asking myself, and my Higher Power, and the whole Universe, Why is it I have such a hard time with this? And how can I change it? Why do I get so stressed out over not making the progress I feel I should be making that I overlook the progress I very obviously HAVE MADE?

And how can I change it?

So I’m out walking my dog, Kipper, and I’ve got all this going through my head: When is this gonna happen, and When is that gonna happen, and Blah Blah Blah Let’s just not be grateful for anything ever again, right?

And it’s like I finally banged my head against that wall long enough that I just busted right on through it.

A thought came to me (or rather, several at the same time): This time next year, you’ll be trying to figure out how to juggle all the things you’ve accomplished, and you’ll be stressed out about THAT, so why are you trippin’?

It’s on it’s way to you right now. You’re on YOUR way to it, right now.

Then: Oh shit. Is this what they mean when they say “Act as if”? Is this what all that Law Of Attraction stuff is talking about when they say “Feel like you’ve already got it?”

Is this what Jesus meant when he said “Even before you ask, know that it’s already been done?”

I mean, Einstein basically showed us that time is just an illusion anyway. And quantum physics is proving it; that past, present, and future are really all one big thing and it’s our puny human minds that are breaking it down and categorizing it so we can understand it.

So I flashed forward in time to when I’ve already got all these things I want, and several things happened:

First, yes, I felt the feeling of already having it. But second, and most importantly, I think, I actually remembered a few other teachings Ive heard over the years:

Don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff).

And “If it’s not gonna matter five years from now, don’t spend five minutes worrying about it.”
Then I took this into work with me the next day, where I work in a high volume restaurant. And if any of you have ever worked in a restaurant, you’ll know how stressful it can be.

What happened during the course of that shift was nothing less than a miracle. For every shitty, ill-tempered guest that came in wanting to pass their personal suffering onto us, for every coworker who was standing around, too lazy and engrossed in their refusal to do even one of the ten things of side work that needed to be done, I just asked myself:

“Is ANY of this going to matter a year from now?” The answer, as you might have guessed, was obviously NO.

Shit – It wasn’t gonna matter 5, 3, 1 HOURS from now when my shift ended and I walked out of there with a fat wad of cash to deposit.

So why bother stressing over it now?

And then something magical happened: not only did none of that stress me out, I actually started being amused by it.

I even started laughing at it all.

But my epiphany didn’t end there. Oh no.

Flash forward to my nightly routine with Kipper, walking through the neighborhood at midnight:

Same questions going through my mind: IF I already know that all my goals are gonna be met (HAVE already been met, according to quantum physics and Jesus), why this sense of impatience? Where’s the joy?

I get so caught up in the destination, wondering if I’m ever gonna arrive, when apparently, that’s not even what’s important. It’s the journey that’s important. It’s where the joy is at.

And really, I keep getting signs from the Universe that reassure me that I’m most definitely on the right track. I’m absolutely going in the right direction, and if I’m on the right track, going in the right direction, then it’s pretty much inevitable that I reach my goal, sooner or later.

So why not relax and enjoy the journey?

All of this, here, now, is temporary.

Then I remembered something I wrote a few years back, but apparently had forgotten, because, well, that’s what we do when wisdom never moves from the head to the heart:

When I fully accepted the impermanence of all things, all people became special, all moments became golden. My life became full, and yet, I had nothing to lose. I was free.

I had forgotten about this. And, as I read it, something interesting happened:

As I was walking Kipper, my mind flashed forward in time, then forward again, and I saw us both, in the Grand Scheme Of Things, as nothing more than bones in the ground.

One day, that is all my dog will be. Just a memory, his physical form nothing more than bones in the ground.

One day, all I will be is bones in the ground. Just a memory.

(None of this, by the way, was depressing or morbid in the least. In fact, it filled me with a new appreciation for the present moment, and the joy that it contained.)

I was actually able to see all this, in my mind’s eye: my current body, as nothing more than bones in the ground; the world, and my soul, moved on to other things.

I looked around me at all the houses Kipper and I were passing, and saw vines growing over them, because, eventually, society as we know it will also move on.

And then it hit me: my life, THIS LIFE OF MINE, is but a single, solitary tick mark on the timeline of the Universe. That’s it. Just one, little, tiny tick mark. On one long fucking timeline.

And this moment, on the timeline of MY LIFE, is but a single little tick mark. That’s it. Nothing more.

Kind of puts things in perspective for me, reminds me to focus on what’s really important.

And let everything else be the nonsense that it is.

And as far as enjoying the process? Not focusing so much on the destination?

There’s and analogy for the Third Step that I like, where I’m in a boat, and I’m rowing the boat, and God is at the helm, and I just have to trust, and have faith.

And there’s one thing God will NEVER do for me: Row the boat. He’ll let me drop the oars, and spin wildly out of control, and just wait patiently for me to pick them back up again and begin rowing. And once I do, I’m almost immediately set back on course again, but He will NOT, under any circumstances, start rowing the boat for me.

That’s MY JOB.

His job is to remain at the helm.

My job is to trust that He’s steering me in the right direction. Along the way, I’ll see things that will indicate, Yes, I’m going in the right direction.

So all this Learning to enjoy the journey, and not focus so much on the destination?

Well, if I flash forward far enough, I’ve already accomplished all my goals. I’ve already written the books, I’ve already made the movies, I’ve already played the music, I’ve already seen the countries, and I’ve taken a bunch of pictures just to prove it.

Flash forward just a little ways past that, and I’m nothing more than bones in the ground, a memory in the mind of the Almighty.

So this begs an even more important question: What exactly IS the “destination”?

Scientists have discovered that the Universe is still expanding.

Which means that not even GOD HIMSELF has reached His destination.

Which, quite possibly, means that perhaps, THERE IS NO DESTINATION.

WHICH WOULD MEAN THAT IT’S ALL JUST A JOURNEY.

So maybe we should relax, and enjoy it.

Are we there yet?

Up From Here

So thus begins it, as I’ve already said. It’s time to wipe away the tears, face the fears, and rise. . . To my full potential.

Growing up, I was taught that success, on the scale that I’m going for, only happens to “the lucky ones”. That no matter how hard you may work at your dreams, that no matter how badly you may want it, that you will only succeed if you get noticed and discovered and THAT happens only if you’re lucky.

This was during a period of time in my life where the people I looked up to and relied on for my sense of self were also telling me that I was not lucky. That our family actually had very bad luck.

I was also rejected in many ways shapes and forms, from general emotional neglect to actual physical abandonment. I was told to shut up. I was told not to bother, because nobody cared.

And so these dreams I had as a kid, to write stories and to share them with the world, to make music and to share it with the world, to make movies and to share them with the world, got repeatedly shot down by everyone around me.

I was told that they were “good hobbies”, but not worthy of actual careers. I was told that my ideas would never be made into movies, my stories would never be published, my music would never be recognized, because I was unlucky. I was told that I needed to get a real job, to go to college, and get a degree. Or to find a trade.

I was told that my dreams were just that- DREAMS.

Combine those messages with all the various ways I was rejected, neglected, and abandoned, and the general image, the general belief I had about myself was that I was unworthy and undeserving of accomplishing my dreams.

Meanwhile, over the years, I continued to see more and more people find the same success I myself wanted. More and more music artists making it big. More and more filmmakers coming out with their ideas. More and more writers publishing their work- and their work getting turned into movies.

And these childhood pipe dreams of mine to do the VERY SAME THING I KEPT SEEING PEOPLE MY AGE – and then, as the years dragged on, YOUNGER THAN ME – accomplish didn’t go away at all. No. They burned a hole in my heart.

I hit my 30’s, and they were still there. I grew up, matured, cast away ALL THE OTHER CHILDISH THINGS, even got clean and sober from a 20 year addiction to drugs and alcohol, found the trade, earned the paycheck, and yet…. they were still there.

Apparently they were not childhood pipe dreams after all. Because if they were, I would not, in my mid-30’s, still be burdened with them.

Then a guy in the halfway house I was going through said something that opened my eyes. Not just my eyes, but my heart and my mind. He said “Until you start doing what it is you came here to do, you are going to stay restless and discontent.”

He was an artist as well. His “happy place”, as I like to put it, was in painting, drawing, and designing fashion. He is an incredible and gifted and talented artist and fashion designer.

And upon graduating from the treatment program we met in, went on to pursue his dreams – and accomplish them. He’s now earning a living doing what he loves.

So I asked myself: what the hell did he have that I didn’t? And not just him, but everyone I’ve seen accomplish their dreams and goals of earning a living doing what they love? My “happy place ” is writing, telling stories, making music, drawing. And I’ve seen other people make it their careers.

And if they can, I can too… right?

Not according to my teachings. Not according to my programming. Not according to my beliefs.

So I researched. Found out pretty much everyone I admired found their success because they didn’t give up. They put in the hard work necessary, and they didn’t settle. They faced their fears, they went through the rejection, they kept on and kept on doing what the fuck they wanted until they had built their own success.

That’s it. No fancy formula.

And luck, they all say, HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.

They all just worked their asses off in the pursuit of their own happiness, ignoring the naysayers and overcoming their fears and their demons, keeping their eyes on the prize, until it finally paid off.

Now, I don’t know what individual demons each of these people had to face and overcome. I don’t know what kind of support network they had helping them. All I know is that whatever obstacles, both physical and mental and emotional that they had to overcome, they obviously managed to overcome them. They persevered until they finally won.

And that’s enough for me to finally do the same.

And yet… these demons I face are still here. They’re whispering in my ear, right now, that you who are reading this don’t care, don’t give a shit. They’re telling me right now that I’m not worthy of being known. That I have nothing to offer. That it’s too late to accomplish my goals and dreams. They’re telling me it’s useless. That it’s impossible. They’re telling me I’m alone, that I’m on my own, that nobody cares or is interested, and that I should give up.

They’re telling me, right in this very moment, as I write this, that I’m not worthy of the success I crave. That I’m not worthy of happiness. That I’m not worthy of love, or attention. They’re telling me that I’m not good enough. That I’m not what you want or what you’re looking for.

They’re telling me that I’m not lucky enough.

So I’m doing this anyway.

But I’m no longer just doing this for me – and yes, that’s how it started out. And that’s definitely going to have to be a major motivator in this journey. However, I’m also doing this for my children, to show them that they can accomplish whatever the fuck they want to. That they can accomplish whatever they set their mind to – they just may have to lose it first, to get rid of the limiting beliefs the world had implanted into them.

And I’m doing this for you, whoever you are, because if you’ve read this far it means you can relate. And if you can relate that means you too have felt the fear, felt the pain, felt the rejection and the neglect and the suffering of not doing what it is you know you came here to this life to do.

And you understand what it took for me to write this, and to post it, while the choir of angry demons fought and protested the whole fucking time.

I’m 5 and a half years sober at the time of this post, and I’m just now uncovering these voices of neglect and rejection, and the power they’ve held over me for so long, holding me back.

The opposite of addiction is connection, and vulnerability opens the door to healing. How ironic is it, then, that connection and vulnerability just happen to be my two weakest areas?

And yet, how else am I gonna accomplish my goals and dreams of earning a living off my creative talents?

All the advice I’ve gotten about how to build a following is to have a strong social media presence, to blog about my life, to reach out and connect with others….

And yet, it turns out, the biggest hurdle I’ve ever had to face mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, just happens to be the very hurdle I absolutely MUST overcome if I am to accomplish my dreams.

Fucked up, ain’t it?

And you already know – or at least I hope you do, that, when you and I are on our death beds, it’s not going to be the things we did that we really regret the most, but the things we did NOT DO.

I heard a while ago the parable of the goldsmith: how back in the olden days, the way the goldsmith would get the gold ready for market was that he would put the gold through the fire – a rather intense, super hot fire, that would literally burn out all the impurities in the gold. And he would repeat this process, over and over again, until all the impurities were burned out and the gold was ready for market.

And how he knew the gold was ready for market was when he could see his reflection in it.

Some say this is what God does for us. Or the Universe, when we set our intentions to finally be who it is we came here to be, come hell or high water.

A friend of a friend used the analogy of a “dunking then wringing out” process of all the demons I carry inside me that want to hold me back and tear me down.

I recently – and I mean like literally a few days ago – went through a process that can only be described as a “dunking then wringing out” , where I looked those demons square in the face and told them “YOU ARE NOT EVEN REAL”.

Whatever analogy you want to use, let’s all get one thing perfectly crystal fucking clear:

It’s Up From Here.