I realized something was wrong with the way I think when a woman at the Sabido vigil was nearly in tears, lamenting that she has been working too hard in her graduate school studies and has not been helping other people or spending enough time with Rosa, the Mexican national who had been living in sanctuary as an ICE fugitive at a Methodist church for 600 days.
She used to devote herself to helping others, she said, but apparently had lapsed in her ways.
I couldn’t understand why this young woman was so upset with herself. I typically don’t care about anyone but me. I don’t know if that is a side effect of being a reporter and feeling like I am not allowed to participate in the community that I am covering, or that journalism is the only form of community service I was allowed to perform. Or living alone and only thinking about making enough food for myself, providing for myself, playing video games when I want, rarely if ever thinking about calling a friend or being around other humans in my free time. I can do everything myself. Except be happy.
Eknath Easwaran says that’s the wrong way to live and I believe him. He writes:
I am told that people now want to be loners and live by themselves. If you ask why, they will say it is more convenient; they can do what they want, when they want, in the way they want. When they shuffle in the door from work, tired and edgy, they don’t need to concern themselves with squabbling children; they can kick off their shoes and drop their clothes anywhere. … All this is called freedom. I call it sterility and the surest road to making ourselves more separate and self-willed.
Ouch, man. That’s exactly how I live — in sterility — and it will take time to change that behavior and outlook on life. How can I unlearn my habit of being self-willed and understand that it is in giving that we receive, it is in loving that we are loved if I am always alone?
I’m reminded of a Desmond Tutu quote: “A person is a person through other persons; you can’t be human in isolation; you are human only in relationships.”
When I stay in my apartment with video games and marijuana and darkness and isolation, I feel less and less humanlike, more robotic as I interface with screens all day.
A toxic thought crept into my mind when I was out for a walk a few weeks ago. My brain pondered the concept of making a friend. Of meeting a like minded man or woman and spending time together, maybe invite them over to my apartment to do… what? Hang out and watch TV? Talk? What do people do?
I immediately thought that that was the stupidest idea I’ve ever had. How weird that would be, to make a friend and spend time together. Then my brain told me that it was exceedingly weird to think that making a friend is exceedingly weird.
At least I’m checking those thoughts and recognizing that I need to change. That’s the first step in this process, I think.
My byline sat atop every story I wrote for the past two-and-a-half years but with each edition I slowly lost a part of myself.
The reporter was stealing my life. There was a monster inside of me, in my mind, always lurking above, below the surface. I was afraid that if I didn’t kill it, it would kill me first. [REDACTED] stopped being a reporter so I could live. By the way, who am I?
There was a day that [REDACTED] couldn’t go to work. He couldn’t be a reporter that day. He couldn’t stop thinking about suicide. He was trapped in his bed, filled with anxiety and depression and fear and guilt and so many emotions that ended in hopelessness. He didn’t want to go back to the newsroom that another called suffocating or that courthouse where poverty, mental illness, substance addiction and overwhelming sadness are always present. I imagined what it would be like for my Mom and Dad to travel to Colorado from Virginia and walk into the duplex where their son died. I told my Editor I couldn’t go to work that day.
[REDACTED] stopped caring about covering these fucking redneck assholes who can’t seem to understand the concept of returning a damn phone call. They all love their guns and spreading fear more than they care about living. There is a victim mentality, a sense of entitlement, in rural, white America.
This is our land. We’ve been here for four generations. If you don’t like how we do things, then leave.
Excuse me, sir, but the land itself has been here for many, many more generations. What even is a generation to nature? You do not own it. You have no claim. Your rights do not exist. You follow the law of man but you seem to have forgotten the laws of nature, my friend, and what about the Natives? Or the Anasazi? The ruins are right over there, but, I am sorry, you have been grazing and homesteading this land for the past four generations. I should step out of your way. Sorry. I don’t belong in the world you stole.
Hey, [REDACTED], stop thinking that way.
I want to get back to that feeling of standing in the kitchen of my childhood home knowing I would never step foot in that house again, as my Dad kicked me out and was going to sell it, and that I might go to Australia. A beam of energy surged through me — as I thought about the possibilities of life — from my feet to the crown of my head. I want to find that feeling, harness it. Untethered freedom.
That feeling of sitting in the dirt on the side of the rough, two-lane road beneath the Southern Alps with my thumb out, heading further south further south further south more south than I have ever been. Back then, I was on the spiritual path. I was trying to figure out who I am, but I lost all sense when I became a reporter in chains.
For the first time in two-and-a-half years, I feel like I am back on track. Me. Not [REDACTED].
Page views is all that matters here. Shock and awe. Death and disaster. Chaos. Staff cuts. Newsroom consolidation. Parent company sold. Publisher fired. Editor quits. HR rep quits. Reporter quit. Everyone quits. Downsize. Misery. Two papers. Two-and-a-half years. The train never stops so you better keep up.
Car crash on the bridge, fatal, run past cars parked on the highway. Take a picture, not knowing someone died in that classic yellow pickup. Call sheriff. Call fire chief. Call state patrol, fatal, he said. House fire, fatal, interview the man who just lost his partner, burned. Take a picture. Call sheriff. Call fire chief. She died and you interviewed a man who just lost everything except his dog.
Do you hear that siren? It’s snowing. Turn on your police scanner app. Dispatch just said what mile marker the semi vs. subaru crash is at so you better get your jacket and and grab your camera and start driving. Is was fatal, later, after a coma. I didn’t follow up.
Drive to three car crashes in one day and send your photos and info to the Editor on his day off, but he never takes a day off. Chaos. Protect yourself. Don’t get sued. Don’t get in a car crash. You should just stay in your house where it’s safe and you can smoke weed and perseverate about your stories.
It’s dark in the newsroom when you come back from the last crash and the Editor is sequestered in his office. I’m on two hours of overtime now, so I shouldn’t work anymore. I gave him everything but the story isn’t up. I can tell he is sad, maybe frustrated, definitely lonely, when I leave. He is alone with his newspaper. I felt guilty, leaving him there with the car crash and Facebook.
Now I’ve completely abandoned him. [REDACTED] had to do it so I could live. I’m sorry.
My first day as a housekeeper at the Holiday Inn Express by the National Park was unusual.
Me and Patrice — who commutes one hour from the reservation in Utah for a job that pays Colorado state minimum wage for five or six hours a day — were supposed to watch Cory, the veteran, clean the fuck out of a hotel room like she has done for 20 years, but Maintenance was going to turn off the water in an hour so we had to clean all the bathrooms first. I didn’t really get the whole picture of how to clean a room. It’s not rocket appliances, though.
I quit being a reporter on a Friday, had a job interview at the hotel on Saturday and started cleaning on Monday. I have worked in hotels and resorts before, in food and beverage, but they were all in Australia so now I constantly fight the urge to call everyone mate and say, “How ya goin?”
The work isn’t bad but it gets stressful when your cart wasn’t refilled the day before and Laundry hasn’t restocked the storage room. It’s not bad if you’re assigned to the first floor, but when you’re on the far side of the third floor and have to briskly walk across the entire hotel to find a queen firm pillow case and you’re supposed to clean a room in 25 minutes, the stress can build. Breathe.
Today, the first day of week two, went swimmingly. Everything was in its right place. Rooms not too messy. Satisfaction. Clock out and there is no monster lurking because I killed it. I’m still lonely though. It’s hard to meet people out here in this isolated town — especially if you never try. Change that, please.
I have now returned to the spiritual path and I already remember what I began to learn in New Zealand. I have time now for it and space in my mind, now that I’ve killed the monster.
They, the unnamed spirits, have already reminded me that if I ask for help, they are there. If I slow down, if I listen, if I am willing to accept spiritual knowledge, they will provide it. They provide happiness, affirmation that you and now are all you need.
Go for a walk, clear your mind, they will drift in.
I started reading a book called “Meditation,” by Eknath Easwaran. He told me to wake up early and don’t be rushed. He told me working constantly, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes and giving your body little to no exercise is a recipe for a heart attack, which is something I am concerned might happen to the Editor.
Easwaran told me that the first stage of meditation is to realize that you are not the body. The second step is to realize you are not the mind. So what are you then? That’s the third step. Figuring that part out. I don’t know where it leads.
I am starting down a long path that I believe will help me control my mind, control my emotions, manage my stress, manage my depression so that [REDACTED] can someday be a reporter again. Journalism needs me, at least that’s what a reader told me once.
My therapist said today that he is excited for me. I am excited too. I don’t think I’m crazy.
I jumped off the train that never stops. Journalism is grueling, toilsome work with pay that doesn’t match the emotional damage and mental stress. You finish a story that took several days, hours and then all you hear is negativity. Nothing changes. Your story doesn’t matter. And tomorrow you have to find something new to write about that won’t matter.
You never hear from the print readers who genuinely appreciate your work. Reporters only hear the anger and hatred. They are forced to live in it.
[REDACTED] had to stop being a reporter so that I could live. The spirits have told me that [REDACTED] is a powerful creator, but I need to work on myself before he can save the world, save humanity from itself.
When I was learning to drive, my Dad would tell me that people are stupid. People are stupid, he would say, they might pull out or slow down or turn off. People are stupid and you shouldn’t trust them.
He was talking to me, a teenager, about how to drive, but I knew that he meant it about people in general. I thought people are stupid for a while and then I lived and traveled and met people from from the World and I thought maybe people aren’t stupid. I thought my Dad was wrong. He felt superior, maybe. And then I came back to my own country and I’m not so sure anymore.
I went shopping in a Walmart in Utah this morning and just looking at people I wondered about their lives, about what goes on in their heads. What do they think about when they pick out the milk and the meat and the sodas and the processed foods. What do they think about when they put on those clothes or put their hair up in that way or put that makeup on their eyes. I wondered why they would have so many children and why they all just stand in front of my cart until I say excuse me after 30 seconds, just waiting. I wonder if they know what it’s like to just be alone and think. Do they just live?
I wonder about people when I write stories for the newspaper and I read the comments from people in this isolated valley and I wonder why people think these things. I wonder how people can be so stupid. Why do they hate people who are different when their God tells them to love. They water their lawns in the desert and they drink sodas and eat meat and they farm dairy and they drive big, loud trucks and they have a boat, a trailer, a camper, a four-wheeler. They fly Confederate flags and pray.
All these things I am morally opposed to. The Hydrologist told me there isn’t going to be snow in Utah by 2080 if humans continue emitting carbon. That’s where the water comes from out west, from the snow up in the mountains. Like a bank. They won’t be able to keep their lawns green and they won’t have water to grow crops to feed their dairy cows. Why don’t they think about this. It will be 2080 in a few days. Why doesn’t anyone care?
They have lived here for generations, in this isolated valley, like their grandparents and parents and they always hear the same thing. Life here is one big tradition. But I am an outsider and I have been to the upside down. I have seen the Truth and I have seen what we are. We are wrong and we are killing ourselves and we consume consume consume without thinking. I don’t think they have seen that. They think their god tells them that everything is for them and they are the Israelites. Everybody thinks they are the Israelites. But there are no Israelites. Somebody just made it up to make you feel special.
I dropped acid with my sister at our cousin’s wedding with our whole family in the hotel, below, and I was compelled by the forces there to do yoga in the hotel room. I saw it. When I did yoga I was able to see it. Everything. I saw us. We are all in the twisting, shifting, malleable nether and we are all floating through, in, out, up, down, around. Across. We are moving in it. I saw everyone. I saw my Mom. She had so many dark hands and arms pulling her down. My brother was holding hands with his wife and they were floating on, in peace. That’s how I saw them. But my Mom, she had so many dark pulses around her. It was her Mother, her Sisters, telling her she is a coon ass. Her husband telling her who to be. Her children sucking the life out of her. They made her. We all made her. I understood, just then, that you can’t judge anyone for anything. We are all a product of moments, relationships, struggle. We didn’t live the life they lived. How would they know any better.
None of us are ourselves. We are a reflection, a mirror. I have lived for 27 years and six months and I am here, now, thinking these thoughts because of every insignificant decision and random event. I went to a therapist in Virginia when I returned from it all and she told me I should do what I want to do. Dance in the rain, she told me. Dance in the rain. If she didn’t tell me to dance I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t write for the newspaper and see the stupid comments or go to the Walmart in Utah and see the people. I don’t know why they wear those clothes or why they put that makeup on their eyes because I am not them. I wasn’t born where they were born. I didn’t grow up with parents and grandparents telling me to move the cattle, to get up early and milk the cows. I grew up with sidewalks and property taxes and well-funded schools. I grew up with a Dad who told me people are stupid.
But we change. We see things, experience things that change us. If I didn’t work on that dairy farm in New Zealand with Digger and steal the baby cows I wouldn’t be vegan. I would still be lost and ignorant. Before the farm, before I was me, I slammed the cabinets in the home where I grew up and my Stepmother kicked me out. So I went to the other side and saw everything and I would never have gone there or be here if I didn’t slam the cabinets. Maybe people aren’t stupid. Maybe they just never slammed the cabinets.
I wish we didnt have so many screens. Or any screens. I think its making everyone depressed. Or maybe its just me. I want to go back to the forest. To sleep under the pines and feel the wind pass over my face. Now its all walls and ceilings. They are meant to keep us in. To separate civility from chaos. It makes us forget what we are. Be wary of the illusion. The ducks play in the water all day because they can.
I should chill on this wine, I haven’t been drunk since I moved to Utah. It’s new year’s eve and I’m alone just like I was alone on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I will be alone on my birthday in 22 days. It’s OK. Last year on Christmas I was at a pool party at a hostel in New Zealand and on new year’s eve I was at a friend’s wedding in Australia. Now I’m here. Listening to Childish Gambino’s new album. James Franco is the white Donald Glover don’t you ever forget. He said he just makes everything for everyone. That has stuck with me. I just write shit and see what happens. God damn he is so creative. Best TV show of the year, great music and he’s going to be fucking Lando. No one can just be one thing these days. You have to be a powerful creator. Powerful creators can do anything and everything. It’s something inside your bones that radiates electricity. I remember the last time I felt electricity. I was with the one I pine over and it was years ago. She was right though she saw the future and I have no control.
I am just a breathe.
That’s what yoga has taught me. I am just a breathe. My legs are different lengths and nothing is perfect I have a scar on my back from the same cancer that took the Singer. When I walked into the surgeon’s officer he said, melanoma, that’s what the Singer died of. Did he know that I sing his songs or did he just assume since I have long hair and a beard? Some things just can’t be explained. I just wonder sometimes if this is all a game and things are thrown at me, no they are thrown at everyone but most people don’t listen. They are distracted, busy dealing with what is placed in front of them. I found this notebook full of drawings when I worked at the recycling plant. I don’t understand how people can throw away such meaningful, inspired pieces of art. Some artists just create and create and create and then their final work of art is to throw it all away. But I found it and they have no idea. They don’t know that everything people throw in the recycling bin floats by on a conveyor belt and humans watch it and some let if float by but sometimes these humans feel something. Cardboard, newspaper, plastic bottles, a lawnmower, and then a beautiful work of art. How did that get there? Why did someone throw this away?
The book is full of cathartic sketches. The one I can’t stop thinking about says: “a fox contemplates the skull of his dead mother in his den. he resents death and is trying to justify to himself his existence as a meat eating creature.”
Why am I here? I don’t eat meat anymore but I still consume. I have to consume. I have to bend otherwise I would break. I don’t want any of this. I am surrounded by humans who ignore the truth. They don’t think about what I know. They didn’t sit under the mountains in New Zealand for hours just staring into the eyes of the world. They didn’t grab the calves and throw them into the trailer an hour after they were born. They didn’t hear their mother’s screams. I’m sorry. I’ms ororry. I;msorry. I didn know. I didnlt kmnownijsdfjf HOw can I eve be forgiven for thes etransgressions. This is the way I was raised and no one told me what it was I just consumed. I;m sorry. WE are the same. I would graldy give myself for your life. I am sorry. Esther forgive me. They don;’t know. They don;’t knoe waht I feel inside. They didn’t hitch hike up and down and up and down the south island and they never talked to the people I talked to and they never stood on the street with a backpack and a guitar and they never stuck out their thumb and waited. Just waited. In the rain. I just waited and then a sweet little old lady picked me up and she said she just lieks driving. I love you. I love everyone. I love you all. Hitch hiking gives you so much overwhelming love. SO many strangers that touched me and I know I touched them. Thanky you all. It’s 9:59 it’s almost a new year in Virginia where all of my family lives. Happy new year.
There’s a good chance the world as we know it will end in 2017. I am a journalist how do I inform the public of our wrongs? I can’t. It’s a losing game. The Earth will always win. Let your climate anxiety go the Earth will be fine. Everything will be fine. Animals, humans will die off, never to be seen again. But the past 100 years is a blink of an eye. The Earth is strong. The Earth will prevail. Us? These human bodies that we occupy? ha. hahah. Yoga has begun to teach me. I know nothing, I am nothing. But I am on the right path. Yes, I know that. I am sure of that. It takes years and years and years and life times and life times but eventually a human can come face to face with god. A human can become god with enough patience. It takes time. I am nothing. I am nothing. I am just a breathe. My guru is tough. She pushes me and I don’t even know if she knows. But I know.
My aunt wrote me a Christmas card and said she hopes I find true happiness in 2017. That was the best Christmas present I received. I grew up with a living room full of things on dec. 25. So many things that I didn’t even really want or need. I mean I wanted them at the time. But that was before I was me. I didn’t know we are in a crisis. How can I justify my existence now? I need a new laptop I need new gloves and I need new boots but do I really? The harddrive is dead and it’s not working right now and my fingers and my feet were freezing this morning when I woke up at 5:30 to ride along on a snowmobile with a cross country ski trail groomer and I saw the stars twinkle above and the foot of snow sparkled below and he yelled back at me telling me facts about skiing. The wind was whipping and biting my fingers and legs and all I have is the 30 dollar steel toe boots I bought for working at the recycling plant. But do I NEED anything? Hitch hiking taught me that everything will be OK as long as I’m not going to die. It taught me to wait in the rain because eventually someone would see me and accept the quest that I presented. I am a quest. I didn’t need anything. I gave away the clothes that I spent 100sand100s of dollars on because I was rich with Australian bartending money. I had so much money from Australia and then New Zealand taught me that I don’t need anything. I bought so much shit from Kathmandu and then I gave it all away. I was buying life lessons. If I had never left the cave I would never be sitting here in a Mormon’s living room writing these words on new year’s eve, alone. But that cave was so comfortable. I never knew that an entire world existed outside of that cave. We should have never left that cave.
But it is selfish to stay in the cave. And it is selfish to reproduce in multiples of threee. I want to reproduce too but you guys are clogging up the world with all of your babies. Please, stop. Every organism wants to carry on their genes, but not when we are in a global crisis. And, no, I won’t write run on sentences, thank you very much even if you expect that since I am drinking wine and I have a very low tolerance. I have style, OK? I refuse to be predictable. But maybe you already knew I would do this. WTF.
Wine is a high functioning drink for me. Beer makes me annoying. Liquor makes me blackout and do dumb shit. But wine, wine gives me a clear head. At least I think it does when I drink wine. I wish I had some friends around here. But I chose this fate and I write things in the newspaper everyday and writing about people makes it hard to make friends. I have a coffee date with a 29-year-old single mom next week. Tinder is fucking lame.
OK, you’re losing steam here, buddy. Find where you were. I wasn’t anywhere, man. There is no point to this. You were watching King Ragnar Lothbrok drink wine with King Ecbert and speaking in kings’ riddles and you were drinking wine with them and laughing and jesting and enjoying the company of two old friends and then King Aella killed Ragnar.
God damn I fucking hate how Macs had to make everything different from PCs.