Not Bloody Sundays

Sunday is typically a day of rest (thanks religion) and as such it is the lazy, wasted day we spend loafing around waiting for the brick machine of Monday to come and crush us. The less we actually do the slower the time may pass.

The last couple weeks we’ve had Sundays off and a little routine is starting to form. It is broken down into 3, natural phases that all complement each other.

While I don’t look forward to many things, Sundays are slowly becoming my favorite part of the week.

PHASE 1 : The Work

I know I said we’ve had Sundays off. But that just means we haven’t been running any shoots. There is still a mountain of admin and editing that helps round out our 80 hour work weeks. And while most people try to put work off on Sunday I like to spend the first 3 hours of the day getting it done.

Since no one else is working I can count on 3 hours of uninterrupted, productive work. Emails aren’t coming in. Phone isn’t ringing. Just me and a short list of things that I need to do in order to have a light transition into Monday – which is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

When I’m working for a shorter cycle – say 3 hours instead of 8 – I get a sense of excitement at the thought of being done with my work. Makes me work harder and with more ease.

PHASE 2 : Activity Break

After 3 hours of concentrated work I need to give my eyes and brain a rest. Two weekends ago we went swimming in the ocean. Last week we went to Little Italy Food Hall to have lunch and listen to music. And then Salt & Straw J. This is the time I like to insert any leisure activity that makes me feel like a kid who is free without care.

I’ve always been a fan of the swing work day. Few hours on, few hours off. Enough time away from the machines to let your mind and body process other things. After a few hours of this I usually feel some eagerness to get back to the computer to push through another work cycle.

PHASE 3 : Housekeeping

We’ve recently been rearranging our apartment. Moving the office into the bedroom and the bedroom into the office. Every few months we like to change a piece of furniture around. We’ve even redone our floors and put subway tile into the kitchen. We are renting and someone might call it a waste of money but we love where we live and we love our apartment every second we are in it. I can’t think of money better spent.

The last few hours of Sunday we like to dedicate to cleaning, rearranging, and spending time putting work into the place we live. If we’ve been talking about wanting a mirror in the hallway for a while, Sunday is the day the mirror happens. A rule I like to live by is that if I’ve been thinking about something for more than a week and continue to say things like, “I wish I…” then I just do the thing I’ve been thinking about.

In the last two weekends we have moved in a new dining table, rearranged two rooms, put together a futon for guests (come visit us please), installed shelves in the living room, and ordered the frames and artwork from our Ireland trip to hang in our bedroom.

By the end of the evening we might sit down and watch Glow or just take the Woodson for a walk.

It’s the only time I feel like I’m doing it right.

I understand the appeal to veg out or lounge around or have a lazy Sunday. But that just leads to a fucked Monday. And putting things off doesn’t create a sense of lightness, it causes stress and anxiety and prevents people from spending time on things they want to do

The best way to relax is to stay on top of your life and to feel in control. Sunday is the perfect day to be productive and still enjoy a bit of freedom.

It’s Normal For Things To Feel Old

It’s hard to believe that I can spend so much time thinking about how to be happy without actually being happy.

We’re in therapy right now. I guess this comes with the necessary bout of defensiveness. Dealing with the assumptions running around in people’s heads about what could be wrong with us.

I suppose there was a time when I thought that too. This is America after all. No whining. Just a pressure cooker set for the course of a lifetime.

Now I look at couples that aren’t in therapy together and wonder what might be wrong with them. So many conversations they could be having. A guaranteed hour of stripped down exposure and connection. Checking in even if you think you don’t need it.

It’s like everything. If we can imagine it then it’s like we already know. Except we don’t. Because the experience carries weight like bricks and the thought is just a convenient way to sidestep real work.

If I wanted to get in the best shape of my life I would hire a trainer.

If I want to have the best relationship possible I would go to therapy.

Anyway, now that I’ve laid the foundation for my position, we can talk about why.

I don’t think it’s a large secret that I tend to run on the depressed side. Or that my anxiety lives inside my blood and knows the route to every corner of my body.

I’ve also written extensively on why I don’t take medication. Which means I’m left to my own discoveries on how to make up the additional 70% of serotonin my brain neglects to produce every day.

I’m not an adrenaline junky. I would have to knock myself unconscious and fall out of a plane to say I went skydiving. But I am a junky for newness.

You can only kiss someone for the first time once. I know this and yet I am expected to carry on.

In the past I’ve found great success circumnavigating my condition by going from one relationship to another. The rush, the uncertainty, the joy in putting yourself out there and being granted permission to enter a new person’s life. It has a never-ending loop of something new. Until the loop itself becomes predictable. And the progression of intimacy is just a blueprint waiting to be followed. And the broken hearts stacking up inside my stomach become too much to look past.

There comes a point, about 3-6 months in, when you see your partner’s face and you don’t feel the way you did the first time. This is the time when people say it’s normal in relationships.

It’s also normal not to have sex often.

And to go to bed at different times.

And to spend meals on your phones.

And to not talk about how you’re feeling.

It’s hard to know how the world ended up as it did. With all the possibilities and all the things that could have been made we’ve ended up with this big flaming turd. For the sake of self-preservation, one must assume there is a hidden method to it all. Or at least that all the scenarios have already played out. During one simulation everyone lived abundantly and shared and operated without ego and took care of the planet living in this utopia. Then the itch of being a human and being alive took over, as it always does – like our new car that won’t let us swerve into another lane without slapping us back – and everyone started fucking everyone else’s wives and then all the men killed each other.

In all this time we haven’t figured out how to be in relationships. How to deal with conflict. How to remain vulnerable even when we have everything to lose.

Or we have and just forgot.

It wasn’t just depression that was causing me to go from one relationship to another, looking for a certain high to keep me going. It was the sheer lack of tools I possessed to increase intimacy after the initial infatuation was gone.

And now I’m here, 2.5 years into marriage, still trying to figure out ways to blame relationships for my lack of happiness. Even though we have built a family, a home, an empire, and a bond. Even though this moment in time marks the absolute richest life I have ever lived by an exponent of 99 I don’t know how to find that juice.

I think of juice because I feel dry. My insides are concrete.

Wherever the love is, my heart moves just a little bit the other way.

I want to dip my head in the glowing warmth. Let my heart be touched. I honestly do. I just don’t have control.

All of this right under your nose. As I live out one of the greatest lifetimes there could be. As I push and pull to be a better person, a loving partner, a man who can be wrong and not feel like his existence has been put out like a cigarette butt.

Along time ago I learned how to detach from emotional situations. I assumed I was independent and just not a person getting crushed by the drama of being human and having feelings. Turns out I’ve just left my body. Turned off the parts I didn’t like. Because I feel so much. So much that I can barely handle it.

Routines Are Just More Things You Have To Do

I do my best to get into routines. Meditation, exercise, waking at 6, drinking tea, stretching before bed, and making sure to always cross everything off my to-do list. This usually lasts about 5-8 days before the routine itself starts to feel like more things I have to do. At which time I lose motivation to perform any of the tasks, even if they are the ones that I rely on for my well-being.

Of all the years I’ve been writing I continue to come back to central themes. One of them being that I am a lazy, depressed kid trapped inside an over-achiever’s body. That on my best day I am still questioning every decision and feeling the pressure of a 1000 pound self-judgment hammer.

Alexis left this afternoon for Buffalo. A flutter of excitement. Something new. A sense of freedom. Maybe I’ll watch porn. Stay up late. Eat at Whole Foods. Or maybe the flutter will slowly leave my body and I’ll be left with the realization that I am still the same person, with the echo of loneliness kicking back a little louder.

I get little knocks up and down. Happiness and sorrow. Moving back and forth trying with aggressive precision to find that line where I can hover. A bit of peace. A moment where all is well. But that line isn’t straight either. It’s jagged, composed of sharp edges breathing drops of anxiety into my blood. A coffee elixir into my jugular. But like Leo in The Departed, my hands never shake. The outside cage never rattles.

I texted Alexis today that I was stressed. Something that is becoming more frequent. I don’t know why. Money and work seem to trigger it. But it doesn’t make sense because work is great and I have more money than I ever have. When anxiety mixes with stress it’s like a gas bomb with the lid loose enough to leak into your body until you are taken over and left in a ball rocking just hoping it will pass or you will die or anything other than this.

When I think about anxiety my old friend punches me in the heart. A zing. And a blow. Both dense enough to shake me and sharp enough to cut me. And the more I think of ways to beat it the deeper it roots itself into my existence. At this point I can’t remember what life is like without it. Maybe for moments during sex or after a good laugh, but otherwise it presses constantly. What does normal feel like?  A massage won’t do. Meditation isn’t working. The entire world I’m standing on is unstable.

So I routine. To build bridges and places of salvation. To escape what it feels like to feel like me. So many routines that I could write 100 years of courses on motivation and discipline. But what I can’t write about is the softness. The sweetness that comes from being in the place you know you belong. From not doing anything. Looking around and seeing the loving eyes that are going to be there no matter what. Hands held out ready to take mine. To be together. To be safe. At the moment I’m working too hard to see those eyes even if they are there already.

Certain things can’t be beat. There’s comfort in that too.

On Marriage : Two Years of Sometimes Perfect and Often Difficult

Alexis and I have gone on some amazing trips in our two years together. Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Paris, Columbia, Seattle, Portland, SF, Barcelona, and Cambodia. There might be more but I started to feel boastful. You can’t do anything without someone thinking something about it. That is why your intent is the only thing that can be considered when deciding what to say/do/write. My intention is to write as close to the truth as possible about my experience being married.

I have always seen marriage as the enemy to my freedom. It’s a key construct of my thinking that contributes to much of my daily struggle. Half of me would like to overcome this belief. Half of me would like to submit to the impossibility of being happy with one person for an eternity and walk away labeling myself as unmarriable.

Life is hard, all on its own. Relationships offer you a break from that at first. You start liking someone, thinking about them at night, getting sick to your stomach, then they like you back and everything is perfect and the world stands no chance.

Eventually we stop being our best. And life goes back to normal, only this time the harshness of it is multiplied by two.

We’ve been on some amazing trips. And we take good pictures together. And if you read us in our writing group or follow us on Instagram you’d probably be thinking #relationshipgoals 9 times out of 10. But on some of those trips we (after I have one of my monthly existential crisis) discuss the concept of how hard it is to be married and possibly not being together anymore.

It happened on our honeymoon. We were walking the streets of Paris at night and I was hit in the chest with all of the realizations of being with just one person for the rest of my life and I wanted to be teleported to a mountain in China or into a colosseum with a lion.

Everyone says they have the best significant other. Like when they write cards or FB posts. And they also think their kid is the smartest when it’s little. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve overheard talking about their kid being a genius. I’ve met these kids and I’m sorry to report, not a genius.

But I can honestly say without hesitation that Alexis is the best partner I could ever imagine. The thought of her tenderness never fails to make me emotional.

It’s the actual living together every day that brings the feeling of a wet rag slowly being stuffed into my mouth.

We didn’t talk much on our honeymoon. It was cold and rainy. I was pouting about the straight line trajectory of my new life. She was probably devastated to confirm that she couldn’t trust her partner with all of her heart. I had, intentionally, placed the thought of impermanence in her mind. A sure thing will always die. We both cried and I probably became deeply aroused at the emotional chaos I had stoked.

A year later, on our anniversary trip in Cartegena, we all but broke up. We packed the whole thing up nicely and all that was left was putting it in the mail. But you go to bed and when you wake up it was just a dream and there is nothing to do.

We concluded that coupling ruins a person. Turns them basic. Stops you from being scared and uncomfortable. Turns you into a safe and predictable version of yourself.

We both admitted we felt like cooler people when we were single. I was more proud of myself. The freedom inspired me.

I had my wedding ring stolen a few months into our marriage. I can’t bring myself to buy a new one. The band around my finger was subconsciously around my throat.

I am not emotionally abusive. I am not physically abusive. But my obsession with perfection is wearing, I’m sure. I work on it every day. Which makes every day I’m alive a job. Whenever we are together we are working on something – her being more organized, me being less judgmental. I am chased through every room in the house by the need to improve on something or make a compromise. There are few moments when it is just her and I in front of each other with nothing in between.

I have come to need something in between. Whether it be work or, well, more work. The distance between gives me an option out of the intense work that is intimacy.

People just stop liking each other. And then they get hobbies. Home just in time for late dinner on their phones together. Then perfectly time the night routines so it doesn’t seem like anything is out of place but you’re never colliding or having moments. Under the same roof navigating routes like Naval strategists. Always doing something, never just being together.

We sat in our bedroom in Colombia overlooking the ocean talking about whether or not we were happy. Two young, smart, and talented people on their 5th vacation in the last twelve months talking about how being together has taken away our sense of excitement.

It didn’t matter where we were or what we were doing, we were still battling the reality of being in a relationship with each other. No longer friends that shared special times together but a couple that shares every time together.

When you’re in a relationship you’re in the business of making concessions, somewhere close to 10,000 a day I’m guessing.

We are sold on a dream. A picture of a moment – the best moment – becomes the representation of what is to be expected. Sweaty nights on Havana streets surrounded by beautiful women with music in the air and the taste of tequila on your mouth. When really it’s just hot and you’re mostly praying the sweat hugging the curves of your ass doesn’t breach the fabric of your clothes so the whole country knows what a loser you really are.

Real life is never used to tell stories. Because real life is difficult and slow.

All of this in a conversation, her sitting on the bed, me on the couch.

And then, suddenly, you’re on a mountain surrounded by a village without so much as a single TV and filled with people in rags who stare at you slowly as you drive by in your taxi and it’s bedtime and you hear loud music and fireworks and buzzers and dogs barking and you’re legitimately scared so you roll over and put your arms around your wife and hold her tight like you used to and feel the small frame of her body that you memorized in your hands and it becomes fresh again even if just for a second.

There are so many good moments and things I’ve learned from her but “We” means that “I” have died and that’s the only person I’ve ever known so I feel a bit lost.

And then we’re riding horses through the jungle and onto a private beach where we drink from fresh coconuts and wade in the warm Caribbean water. And on the walk back the dark clouds roll in and blast us with thunder and lightning and rain and we are soaking wet but so happy because we are kids again and that’s all we ever want.

To be a kid with someone else who is always watching and always expecting is the most difficult work in the world.

So why not hang it up? Accept the millennial curse of short-term love and move onto the next exciting adventure.

In every breakup I have gotten the ‘I’m done’ feeling inside. Shortly after, I’ve moved to end it. My explanation is always logical and well thought out like I expect to give her a gold watch and leave with a handshake. Then it’s time to move on.

I don’t have that feeling with Alexis. Her tenderness has carved a small space in my heart. She touches me despite all my efforts to keep her out. Which creates the bigger feeling of wanting to see what is on the other side of this paralyzing fear of intimacy. But I have no tools for it. And it’s not exactly something they teach you after algebra. It is incredible work. I’ve always avoided incredible work. My friend once told me that talent never thinks it has to work. I agree. I also know there is no talent for long-term relationships. Charm dies after the first few months. The rest is the work.

This is how I feel about relationships on March 4th, 2018. Alexis, I love you very much and I’m sorry I’m so difficult.

 

The Mask I Wear

I’ve got my new office setup. While Alexis was in LA for a dance workshop I redid the apartment. And filmed a commercial. And ran three photoshoots. And made Christmas lists. And ate like shit. And didn’t do any of the things that make me a happy person. I got hungry and then just didn’t eat. Until I was nauseous. Then I didn’t have to eat.

If I were to keep track of all the things I need to do in a day to feel like myself then I would never start a day. You get 10 seconds in the morning where things are pure and there is potential and the mind is soft and then the memory kicks in – lays out the schedule for the day, replays the conversations from yesterday – and you remember you’re back trapped in the world you never intended to create. Every morning a fresh punch to your muted soul.

There’s the eating right – no grains because it makes my head feel like a thunder storm. But I need rice to fill me up. And I think the whole health industry might be a scam and if I thought nails were healthy I could eat them and feel great. So there’s a conflict right there. Enough conflict has compounded in me to where the small things are the most infuriating. Everything is poking me just enough to never let me ease into comfort. I’ve stopped looking for the wins. I’m looking for what’s wrong. Because it’s fucking everywhere. The world is filled with missteps and waste and blind people walking around getting fucked in every direction by everyone they know and still smiling and trying to make the best of it. I guess I’m waiting to see the worst of it. I’m hoping to be around during the time when we all stop being so fake.

We can go in any direction and be anything we want but we keep picking the straight line of those in front of us. To think for ourselves would be too scary. Somehow less scary than lying on our deathbeds filled to tears with regret. We say we’re waiting. For the right moment. Because we’ve learned over time to justify everything with clever reasons. We’re waiting for another time because this time just isn’t quite right. Meanwhile, those regrets are piling up. Inventory is getting hard to manage. We start to show the cracks.

Then there’s exercise. Creativity. Socializing. Meditation. Keeping a clean living environment. Completing my workload. The rest of my list. Each one with its own sublist.

I have a real fear of expressing my truest self. The comforts I have come to know could all be taken away. There’s also a soft whisper telling me it’s okay. That things will definitely change, but I’ll finally be me.

I’m angry at the world because I think it is the reason I can’t be myself. But I’m the reason. My deepest conflict is that I’m just as scared as everyone I see and judge so harshly. Because in my own version I’m walking a straight line and following the people in front of me. In my own way I’m scared to death to be me.

I think we’re all insane – at least a little – walking around having sick, twisted, and unhealthy thoughts all day and then we see someone and we have to snap out of it and play into our Stepford roll and ask about the weather and TV and smile through it even though we want to rip our fucking hearts out and stomp them to death to reflect how meaningless the conversation is. But if we all talked about what we really thought about then it would make everyone quiet. Because we aren’t equipped to deal with that stuff.

When we were younger there were moments. Family dinners. Gatherings. We were just at waist height for most of the crowd always looking up seeing who we wanted to be like. I remember the silence when I knew I needed to see courage. Someone to step up in the moment and show me what a true person looked like.

It’s possible all of the laws and all the stories in the bible were created because we are afraid of who we really are. That while we know we do a lot of good and feel a lot of love, there is an incredible amount of hate and rage and darkness in there too. Hate and rage and darkness that has put thoughts in our heads that are so uncomfortable we wouldn’t say them out loud. Only posed as jokes, just to gauge the reaction. Hey guys, do you ever think about….. haha, no, me either, I mean, that would be weird.

Alexis and I pretend to snap each other’s necks sometimes. I’ll walk up behind her and do a Rambo move and make the sound of a crack and then she’ll pretend to drop to the floor. She tells me that sometimes she wants to punch me really hard. And sometimes I tell her it’s okay and she hits me in the arm or shoulder a few times. And I can see her teeth clenched, I can see the tension in her body. She wants to destroy me. And not because she doesn’t love me, but because there are feelings people feel that make you want to destroy in the absence of articulate words. And it’s okay. At least in our house. But you’re not taught it’s okay. You’re taught to be happy and calm and look around the whole fucking world is miserable. And yet we go back to those things because at least they are established. Doesn’t matter we know they will fail and are completely failing. Doesn’t matter the people we love and swear to raise to be safe are floundering in this real world in all its tiny little jabs.

Just stick to the program because watching our entire life slowly turn insane is more comfortable than trying something new and possibly failing.

I can’t go 5 minutes without checking my phone. I need the screen. I don’t know why, I just have to look. First it’s Instagram, then the Chase app, then FB, then my Bitcoin app, then gmail – at this point I’m starting to get desperate because I’m coming to the end of my arsenal and have felt no satisfaction – so I might open Instagram again in hopes that 30 new people have come out of the woods and started following me and one of them might happen to be a famous producer that is looking for a guy that produces above-average digital media.

And then there are all the things I actually want – learning how to play piano. Speaking Spanish. A deeper meditation practice. Health and fitness. A deep connection to my wife. To be a dancer. A writer. To live in NYC and ride the subway and walk quickly because I know where I’m going. I want to be a better dog parent. But his fucking bark. Last night he wouldn’t stop and I smacked him on the butt with a kitchen towel. Sometimes I do better. Sometimes I work with him and practice our training and get treats and distract and reward but it’s so much work and I know he’s just going to bark at the next dog he hears walking by so I lose my patience and I become angry. And once I give into anger I can no longer see anything else. I can’t dig a hole deep enough to bury this redness.

A simple thing like exercise. Essential for someone like me. A clean hit of endorphins that only requires 45 minutes of my day. But I’ll start saying some shit like I haven’t eaten enough and my blood sugar will be too low to perform well. Or I don’t like the gym because it’s too small and I can never build out a proper circuit.

The piano sits there and doesn’t get touched every day. Doesn’t matter that I had to have it. Now that I do it’s just another burdensome obligation.

All the things I need to do to become who I want to be. I know them all.

And they are the things I avoid the most.

This, of course, is when I’m on the downswing of a manic-depressive brain I have reluctantly accepted. There are many days, even weeks, when I’m doing all these things well and life seems to be fair and possibly even hopeful. I see an ab or two and I can finally play sharps and flats in tempo.

But then an interesting thing happens, once I see the results of my efforts, I stop giving a fuck. I am no longer interested. I know what is going to happen so I stop wanting to participate. It’s so boring now. And I need raw life experiences. Once a week I don’t brush my teeth before bed. Because I’m tired of people telling me to brush my fucking teeth. I want them to be dirty and anyone that cocks their head sideways can kiss my ass. I explain it as an immune system building activity. Preparing my body slowly for the apocalypse one less brush stroke at a time.

We have to eat three times a day. And we spend so long preparing it. And then it’s gone and we have to do it again. Many people have accepted this as inevitable. I get upset about it at least once a day. There are people who enjoy cooking, love the smells and the tastes. Want to let the garlic and onions cook 5 minutes before the rest to build the flavor. Just fucking feed me please.

My body seeks an alternative to whatever environment I am in. I am kind in New York, angry in San Diego, talkative around introverts, and cold in the face of love and affection. I just can’t be where the moment is.

They don’t really teach you the things you need to know when you’re young. How to love, how to be vulnerable, admitting when you’re wrong, recognizing your own ego, having difficult conversations – they leave most of that out. Because it’s a dark hole and no one exactly knows what’s inside. Instead we tuck it neatly away and focus on algebra, something that has a definitive process and answer while the subtleties of life and relationships start to pick us apart and over time we are left with the messes we never intended to create but unfortunately didn’t know any better. Look around you and see all of the broken relationships, the resentment, the lack of joy. We’re broken.

I don’t have the tools I want to have. I am trying to teach myself. Trying to change behavior. But I’m going against a lifetime of wiring and conditioning and the battle isn’t easy. I wonder sometimes how people can stay the same. How someone I went to school with can be the same person now, 15 years later. It’s just more comfortable.

We know comfort slowly destroys us. But we insist on having it. Our best memories aren’t of all the days we made the fucking bed.

Some days I wonder what happens if I don’t pull all this together. If there is no great life revelation at the end of this constant personal push of paradigms.

We’ve built an economy of hope and faith. A white sheet to cover the fear and darkness. A few people propping up an entire world on the idea that their lives are cleaner, loves are deeper, and bills are paid on time. Then you meet them and see in their eyes that they are broken too.

Who is going to pull away the mask?

Thank You Colleen : Day 5

This old man is sitting in the corner staring at me. I think he wants to come sit at my table. I also think he might want to fight me. He just got up and walked past me and said hello.

Three minutes later he walked back in and says hi to me like the first time never happened.

“I never forget a face,” he told me as he pulled up a chair to my table.

I never forget a face I just saw either.

He told me a story about a 4-year old girl he danced with at his friend’s party in San Antonio. “I ain’t no goddamn child molester if that’s what you’re thinking.” Actually, yes it was. And how yesterday he saw her and her mom and the girl was 28 now.

“They both wanted to plant one on me I can tell you that much!”

Then it turned military as it almost always does with veterans coming to their end.

He told me about a his foster dad saying he’d be a failure. “I’ll show you,” he said. And how his doctor said he’d never walk again after breaking 16 bones in his back. “All I heard were the words ‘you can’t,’ that’s all I needed to hear.”

Then he told me how god decides what happens, not people. “I shoulda been dead 9 times but he isn’t ready for me yet.”

Another man joined us – Cory, aged 35 with deeply intense eyes and a little PTSD on his face.

He asked me what I did and I panicked and said I was a writer. I thought about lying and saying I too was in the military. 4th battalion. Turns out, Cory is a professional fighter. 4-time national grappling champion and world silver medalist.

He was about 6’3”, 250 pounds and looked mean as hell. That was before I saw the tattoo of a series of broken arms on his forearm.

“This is a record of all the arms I’ve broken in my fights.”

*gulps as he looks around for check

Then Shane the vet was getting all bothered because we weren’t talking about how tough he was anymore so he started talking about how they trained to rip a man’s heart out through his stomach.

“They started by pouring sand into a bucket…”

I turned my shoulders back towards him to be polite.

“Then they added hard beans. All the while we are punching it with our 4 fingers. I don’t like to talk about this, but I could pull your heart clean out.”

I’m sure you don’t like talking about it. That’s why you keep talking about it.

Then Shane turns to me and asks about artificial intelligence and I’m thinking this just took a turn.

“That’s the devil’s work right there.”

-his actual words.

Meanwhile I’m trying to eat my salad and wings and reflect on my day in peace. Society stifles the spirit.

Tomorrow we have our last ride and I write a fat check to Colleen because this is a therapy retreat after all. God ain’t free people. I’ve already started researching horse lessons back home. As much as I love the emotional work, I love the horsemanship more. Like when Colleen told me to collect the horse by shortening the reigns in my trot it was a tactical point I could apply and see immediate results. I want to know more of those things.

There was no poetic ending to Shane and Cory. It didn’t make me realize the power of strangers and the interconnectedness of all humans. I was mostly just me wondering if I was supposed to turn and engage him or if he was like the neighborhood street cat that is best ignored. I was looking around for clues but the waitress seemed content to let me figure it out.

MON 7.31.17

7:21am

My last meal (presumably) at Yarnell Family Diner. They know my order without the menu. The same old guys are at the same corner table, the man at the end with a cane and his leg sitting straight drinking his sweet tea eating his eggs. The old man in plaid and suspenders talking about “no wonder we are 3 trillion dollars in debt.” All of them talking about the end of the world in between sips of their coffee.

This town is abandoned and from what I can tell the people are sitting around waiting for the jobs to come back to them, talking shit about this and that and blaming everyone they can name. No matter what, their position has nothing to do with their own actions and if you mentioned that they would take a grudge with you to the grave.

Maybe these men are hurting inside like I’m hurting inside because they don’t get to be themselves.

Being yourself in this town would be harder than I can imagine.

8:10am

Horsehair. I took this note in my journal because I caught a look at myself in the mirror and thought I discovered beauty for the first time. It’s actually better than ocean hair. Ride around in the dust on a big hairy beast for a few days and your locks will be looking like an Abercrombie ad.

10:35pm, San Diego.

Alexis’ flight was delayed almost 2 hours. She doesn’t get in til midnight. I’m laying with Woody pretending he is a mini horse.

We drove past some 6 month old horses on the way back from our ride this morning. Tiny little friends.

I felt Lance was my horse today. We probably logged close to 10 hours on the trail and that stubborn gus gave me shit for about 9.5 of them.

But today I got him going on some figure eights out in the desert hills. At first he wasn’t doing shit. Barely even walking. I looked at Colleen and even she knew he was being a bastard. So I got on him a little bit and eventually he started to cruise.

You’re supposed to ride on the outside wall when you’re in a trot. When he is making left-turn circles his right shoulder is my cue to lift my hips. When his right leg steps forward it moves his right shoulder forward in the socket. As that is happening I need to lift my hips up off his body and then sit right back down. Back and forth – lifting and sitting in time with his legs. To get the timing right on the other side I just sit twice in a row at the center of the figure eight and set myself up to rise on his left shoulder. It seems simple enough but it’s hard to practice the technical skills when you’re still getting used to the 1600 pound animal under you that could toss you at any second.

Colleen was proud of me. I miss her. Saying goodbye to her company left me with a sense of fear and abandonment. Such a sincere and honest lady. We drove up and down that countryside half a dozen times a day and she told me all about her late husband David and how much they loved each other. When I asked her a question she took her time and answered meaningfully. She never sugar-coated anything. I was inspired by her directness and noticed how she delivered in a way that wasn’t for the effect of being the ‘honest one’ but because her speaking the truth put her in a state of grace and flow. Being around her made me at ease, unafraid to ask her questions about anything. Most of the time we sat quietly and watched the sky change colors across the desert hills. I became accustomed to the simple routine of eating, riding, and feeding the horses every day. Being in tune with the storm clouds that brought the rain. Sitting outside my hotel room and writing in my journal in my dirty jeans and plaid shirt. All of these things that were strange initially felt very comfortable to me. I am left with a calm and a quiet and a sense that there is softness in me and it can be the thing that makes me feel the most like myself.

I’m having a hard time being back. Already the emails are coming in and the traffic on the roads. The noise. It’s aggressive. No wonder we are all losing our minds.

David used to say cities were viruses. I love cities so much but it sure seems like they just keep trying to fit more shit into smaller places at the expense of someone’s ability to stretch their mind across open space. If I learned anything in the past week it’s that you become your environment. And whatever we’re surrounded by will affect our mind in ways that are so fundamental we don’t even see them.

Alexis and I decided we’re going to work for 3 more years and then buy some property out East. We want a German Sheppard brother for Woody, two horses, hens, and a mini goat just for the entertainment. I will do things like chop wood and drink black coffee and have a separate room just for writing.

Colleen says EMDR gets the brain lit up again. It rewires trauma. Turns it into something better. She said it only gets stronger as time passes. I already hear myself reframing things. When I want to speak hatefully my body tenses up. When I let it go, it softens. Simple.

It’s okay to be angry. And it’s okay to be happy.

I’m glad I feel an emptiness where that trip just was. I feel something and that is the goal. To feel as much as possible. To feel all of it. And to know that my words are sacred and everything that comes out of my mouth contributes to the way I think and feel. Quiet is okay. We all need more quiet.

I just miss those fields.

 

 

Native American Spirits : Day 4

SUN 7.30.17

6:45am

I was at a restaurant with Seeds people and they were going to screen my trailer then someone ordered the wrong thing and we all had to run out. Prior to that the hostess took forever to seat us and I was very upset. Two Asian girls just walked in and sat at an open table and no one stopped them. Outside, my horse was walking up to the fenced area where they kept the animals. Then a tiger walked up and did the notion of testing to see if he could jump the fence. I panicked and quickly walked around the corner into a house.

Slept eight hours straight last night! Had incredibly vivid dreams. My body is very sore but this horse life suits me.

7:18am

Back at Yarnell Family Diner. To my surprise there is a table of old vets talking about their war injuries and how young people just ain’t tough anymore. I think about my extensive martial arts background and how I would knock the teeth through the back of their heads if given the chance and how their entire military bravado composition would be tossed into space when the whole lot of them was beaten to a pulp by someone who voted for Bernie Sanders.

Colleen wants me to work on thinking less and feeling more. I wake up in fear because my brain is already gone to the day before I’ve even taken a breath.

She also wants me to drop into emotions more. She says I am what you call love-avoidant. Which is pretty self-explanatory but in case you’re curious it means I have extreme resistance towards love and intimacy. I have built a tremendous wall around my emotions that even I can’t explore. I want to be closer to Alexis and be able to tell my friends I love and appreciate them without wanting to run home and punch myself in the head repeatedly.

To determine where these things start is a game of speculation that doesn’t really interest me but the most common theory is that I am an empath and at some point took on my parent’s energy during a very rough period of their marriage. As a result, I have a core belief that all love comes to an end and all people will eventually hurt each other.

Which explains why I never miss people and have little to no issue with losing friends or girlfriends because I know I can easily replace them with new people that fulfill a specific role. In a way, people and relationships have been expendable.

Some nights when we lay in bed I am afraid Alexis is going to touch me and want to have sex. It will challenge me in deep ways and make me feel too exposed. And other times I can’t wait to touch her. I wish I knew what made the difference.

If the brain is plastic – meaning it is always changing and learning – and composed of wires and memories then it is conceivable that at any point we are capable of feeling any thing.

So what we believe is true and what we feel must be a matter of preference. And most likely, preference is determined by our fears. Meaning, we build up an impenetrable line of defense against the things that will most deeply challenge us so we never have to face them. And in doing so we become experts at rationalizing all of our most closely held and sometimes denied shortcomings.

We’re all just out here eating our eggs, eating our toast.

9:15am

This morning is EMDR therapy.

I still feel the tightness in my chest spreading through my body. Especially on walks when my mind is most active. I think I would need a few months in this kind of life before it was ‘lifted’.

The thought of going back to work is difficult and stressful. I output at a pace that is not human and if I stop to think about all the work I do and the psychotic motor the revs inside my chest I can turn sideways and panic at the fear of missing a step.

On one hand I am excited to share all of this with Alexis and on the other I want to keep this experience to myself and never speak a word of it. It is mine and I don’t want to dilute it. Rather, just hold it very close to me and feel it as long as possible.

So many things are expected of us at all times that we never really get the chance to just stop and be ourselves.

I have the heart of a young boy. I am a joyful person. I love people. But all of that has been covered by the need to protect myself from all of the letdowns lurking around every corner.

I remember getting that call while living in Taiwan. I think it was my brother. He was very brief. Mom and Dad were splitting up. A single tear down my cheek. Love was not real. It did not last. Everyone eventually lets you down.

I have so much preference. Such a strong opinion. So much power to control my environment. Enviable by a lot of people. I have a remarkable sense for business. Incredibly disciplined. Successful. But hard as iron. Driving the softness right out of everything, including Alexis – the softest of them all.

I read that book Daily Rituals and felt so validated that I had so much in common with all the great minds of history. I felt at home when I heard others say that work was the most important thing to them and must be put above all else to know peace and satisfaction.

*pauses to smell second-hand smoke

But I’m on the edge of a difficult decision – would I rather be someone who puts work before all else or someone that finds the answers to the fears inside my heart? I do not find balance and moderation to be an option at this stage in my life. I cannot stand to ride in the middle and would rather smash my head repeatedly against opposing edges to carve out an ‘average’ than prevent myself from pushing the extreme.

11:44am

EMDR is a TRIP.

Yosemite was my safe place. With Alexis sitting in the meadows by the river.

Every time I thought of her I started crying, because of the goodness I could feel in her.

As time passes I can feel myself hardening back up.

What I don’t understand – I genuinely love getting emotional but spend all of my time blocking it. Probably when it involves other people and removes me from a place of control.

I thought of my sister and how badly I wanted her to know her true worth. I cried for her.

I thought of a time in 9th grade when I made a heart-felt comment and one of the girls said, “God, why do you always have to be so deep and talk about faith?”

I was embarrassed and sat on the steps away from the party. Turns out, yes I do always have to talk about it. And as the saying goes, look at me now, bitch.

The people in my life who make me feel silly for being who I am are just afraid of their own depth. I saw that. I’ve heard people say it before but I actually felt the fear in their hearts. It takes courage to be who you are and those that don’t have that type of courage will constantly make comments about your and your life.

I had no idea what EMDR was. I’ve been in talk therapy for the last 7 years. In 1 hour I made more progress on emotional clarity than those 7 years combined. And I have an amazing talk therapist.

I sat in a chair in my dingy hotel room with a light bar in front of my eyes, vibrating paddles in my hands, and headphones over my ears. Back and forth the sound went as I thought of critical moments in my life. Random things hit me out of no where. And the whole time Colleen is sitting next to me taking notes so that I can work on redirecting my thought patterns.

This was a sequence of sentences that came out of my mouth. At the time I felt like I was on a truth serum. Everything was flowing out without consequence. I felt free.

I’m emotional and I have a lot of fear
I am sorry for me that I am so afraid
I feel like I need to contain it
I often feel like I have to contain everything
I’m a little wild and out of control and need space for me to be
It is fear itself that is living in there
If I continue to be afraid of it then it will grow
I’m letting the emotions come through
It’s okay to be afraid. It will always pass
I’m pretty incredible
Many people can go their whole lives with this inside of them
I can use this moment to grow beyond
When I’m fluid I’m not afraid
I do need time away
I need to do what I want to do
I am different and interesting
I’m so happy for me
There’s a fear of loving someone
I’m lucky to be feeling
I should feel every bit of it and not be scared
Whatever happens I will always grow

At the end of it I was left with the sense that my words were sacred and should be spoken gently and thoughtfully.

12:00pm

YFD. Chicken wrap, sweet potato fries, and ranch dressing. A perfect meal for mind and soul.

I texted Alexis about my EMDR before I lost the emotion. Told her how incredibly special she was to me and how much I appreciated her ability to love me so freely.

12:28pm

A major takeaway from this trip is that I definitely need suspenders. They are a classic man accessory.

My bills at YFD have always been $9 and I have left a $20 every time. The first one I was feeling generous. New guy in town rolling around with a fat stack of cash. And the second one I was still feeling kind of generous. But now it’s like the 7th time and I’m starting to do the math and have second thoughts but since I’ve set a precedent I have to stay consistent. I’m plagued with thoughts of them thinking I’m a rich writer from CA or just an idiot. At the end of the day, it feels good to give something to this place that is giving me life.

7:01pm

Lance and I finally clicked. I rode him up and down the wash. Learned that he was cantering because I was hitting him with my heels inadvertently in the trot. Colleen had to watch. I got my bounce to match his lead and it felt like soft butter being rubbed on a warm piece of bread.

8:57pm

I know this seems more like a poorly written coming of age tale but it’s just the last few hours have been nuts.

Colleen was in here with her medicine box teaching me a ceremony to pray to her late husband’s bald eagle feather. She asked me not to write about the specifics of the ceremony out of respect for her husbands Lakota heritage as they only passed down traditions orally and they are not recorded in writing anywhere in history. The temptation of the white man is real here but I’m going to respect her because that shit was crazy and I can only imagine what happens if you upset Native American spirits.

Her voice was beautiful. She loved her husband so much. I didn’t know it at the time but she hadn’t opened his medicine box since he passed. Hadn’t sang his songs in 4 years. Her tears or mine, I can’t remember.

And then she was gone. And I had this feather and a bundle of sage and a bag filled with cedar.

Funny thing is, I don’t even feel like meditating tonight. I’d rather just pass out. But then David would look down on me from Native American heaven and say no wonder you’re depressed you lazy piece of shit.

Hold it to your heart and speak the truth he said.

Gas Station Chicken : Day 3

SAT 7.29.17

Self-esteem always improves when you share your reality with someone.
– Colleen DeRango

5:06pm

I’m eating frozen chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn from a gas station for dinner. The diner is closed and I’ve already exhausted The Dollar General’s grocery aisle.

We just got back from a two hour ride where Lance almost bucked me. I ran him up and down the wash getting him to break his quick canter habit. He spooked and jumped to his right without notice and everything got blurry and I leaned back and yelled “Woah!” and assumed I was going to be splattered into a tree. But I was able to pull myself off his right hip and get back centered on the saddle.

Earlier today I had two full-grown adults rocking me back and forth in their hands while I held a horse. As you can imagine, it was a unique situation. Colleen on my left telling me to let go of my thoughts and Buddy on the right not saying anything. Hard to get out of my head and not think about what all my friends from high school were doing at that exact moment. And what they would think if they happened to walk by.

I did not believe they were holding me right. I didn’t think Colleen was strong enough to hold me if I fell into her. Buddy’s hand was a little forward on my shoulder. Ultimately no trust that they were able to do the thing that they probably do every single week. They caught me though. Which showed me that knew what they were doing. It built some trust and allowed me to turn over control. I just swayed back and forth and tried to focus on a quiet line of stillness between my ears.

Buddy was not what I expected. He wasn’t warm. He was hardened and had the pursed lips and hollow cheeks of a former drug addict. He was quiet and always looking around taking stock of everything. But his cowboy hat was on fleek.

It was 95 degrees while we were working. We did a guided meditation – well first we ate our breakfast burritos together at the plastic round table under a tree – then we meditated. Cowboys are more practical even in their spirituality. You walk through enough shit (literally) every day and you stop worrying about perfecting and controlling every fine detail and just take care of the things that need taking care of. So it didn’t matter that we had a sausage and cheese burrito before doing deep healing work because we were hungry and hungry people eat.

After the visualization they made me ‘Walk the Line.’ Essentially, walk down the property until I made a connection with a horse.

I was thinking, WTF does that mean, make a connection? I mean, I already knew which horse I wanted because she was fucking gorgeous and looked like she had won awards for being such a perfectly sculpted beast. But I thought they were probably looking for something deeper than that. And then I thought maybe I’m not that deep.

I walked around a little more and stopped in front of a little tan horse that had a nice way about him. I decided he was my guy, Ranchero.

DSC_0119

Buddy had me take him into the round pen and work some drills – walk, trot, canter in a circle. I failed miserably because I had no idea what the fuck I was supposed to be doing. And when two grown cowboy healers are staring at you from the periphery it makes you think that if you don’t do it right the first time then you’re not treatable.

Colleen kept asking me what I was feeling and where I was feeling it in my body – the somatic work. The mere asking of those questions was giving me tremendous anxiety but I tried my best. Eventually the tense ball in my chest started to dissipate and got replaced by a more fluid sensation down my neck.

After multiple failures Colleen could see frustration on my face.

“What are you feeling?”

“Like I don’t know what I’m going.”

“What would help with that?”

“If I could see an example of how it’s done.”

“Very good,” she said. Like Mr. Miyagi.

Buddy walked over on cue and showed me a few techniques that made perfect sense. I applied them and got results immediately.

“How does that feel?!” Colleen asked enthusiastically.

“I don’t know, good I guess,” with a little kid grin.

“Okay great. Now give the reigns to Buddy and walk away.”

As soon as I felt calm in my body she wanted me to leave the horse and stand by myself and let it spread through me. Eventually the tight ball of anxiety would come back and then I would re-approach the horse. The somatic work. We went back and forth like this for maybe twenty minutes until the anxiety would not come back even if I tried to summon the worst thoughts on Earth like dog hair on my black pants or not eating for over two hours.

I keep hoping for a big cry, a release. When they asked me to look into Ranchero’s eyes I came close. I started to well up for no reason. “Look at him and let him see you.” And I was searching for the reason when Colleen said to just let it happen. Tears started to roll down and the most beautiful sadness took over my entire body. This particular sadness is the most familiar feeling in my body.

“Get out of your head!” They kept yelling. Wouldn’t that be fucking nice.

I took Ranchero for a walk down this long path and at the end there was an opening and we stopped to look. Soon, three other horses and a funny looking mini horse came running over to say hello.

Then I took Buddy’s photo next to some giant rocks on his horse and he did not smile. I was lingering around waiting for him to tell me something nice but no.

The desert was green. The sky was pink. We heard the coyotes yelling in the distance. Hawks flying through the brush. So much space for things to take their time.

DSC_0273

Tomorrow we are doing EMDR therapy in the morning. Hopefully it’s like the first time I did shrooms where the foundation of my perspective shifted forever.

Oh, did I mention that I bought a cowboy hat and plaid shirt and said, “Howdy,” to someone? Because I did.

The Roof Is Leaking : Day 2

Friday 7.28.17

7:47am

People here have their dogs to bark at people who walk by. They are mostly outside, just animals. Not inside cuddling, eating organic dog food. Showing showing up on stories in their strange belly-up positions. They have a big bag of Kibble poured into a large trash bin and they get a scoop every day and that’s it. Maybe sometimes they get a pat on the head and a ‘good boy’.

There is still a bell to ring in orders at this restaurant. The ceiling is leaking into a bucket that takes up a seat at the bar and no one seems to mind.

Going to bed at 9pm makes it easier to get up at 6 when the light is first coming in.

I went on a hike with Jesus this morning. A random trail took me to an outdoor church and another trail took me to the top of a hill where Jesus was carved into a cross looking out over the town. Places that have the least believe in god the most. Then had breakfast with some retired cowboys and listened to them tease the female waitress about being too slow and not caring about them while she replied with something snappy and witty so they could then say, “Oh that Brenda is a tough old gal,” and all have a laugh about it.

I wonder what factors contribute to the evolution of thought and consciousness. In the cities you are filled with so many different forms of information that stimulate thought and debate and allow conversations to move at rapid rates. In the country the information sources are limited and it seems as though people will sit around the table and have the same conversation day after day. Someone’s health is bad – the weatherman said sun but there are clouds in the sky – the coffee is strong this morning – The Lancaster’s lost their pup last night to a coyote (pronounced Kigh-Yote) – and so on.

Perhaps I am stereotyping. But I’m taking fairly rigorous notes and I haven’t found any of this to be at all exaggerated.

Sorry, a tractor just drove by on the freeway.

There are signs on the door that say, “EAT BEEF – the west wasn’t won on salad”. And people will look at that and have a good chuckle and think of all the flimsies eating vegetables and look down on them even though the last seven generations of their own family have died from cancer or heart attack. I suppose it’s better to be a man than to change.

All that said, I really like it here. It is quiet. There’s nothing to do. So everything becomes a big production. Walking to breakfast was the highlight of my morning. It was next door. Later, I’m going to walk to The Dollar General to peruse the aisles and see if there is anything I can eat later as a snack. That’s another hour down.

I don’t even feel much like writing. I don’t want anything to do with screens. I would rather stare at the mountains and the sky and listen to the hiss of the window a/c unit next to me. Up until now I have been doing my normal writing in my journal and also taking trip-specific notes on my laptop. I’m going to go full journal and type out later, when I’m back in the city and not concerned with my eyeballs or well-being.

There is only one place I can get wifi here and that is at a picnic table outside of the motel office.

I have a lot to learn when it comes to riding horses. The walk and the trot are no problem but when we get into cantering there are moments when I feel like I am not in control. My right stirrup was lower than my left yesterday and I didn’t realize it until we were flying down the trail. I had to compensate by leaning left while also trying to maintain the reigns and not fall on my face. Oh, and breathe. The horses like it when you breathe. That way they know you’re stable and not going to run them into a tree.

There was a moment, though, when Lance and I were in a good run and it felt like I was gliding through a zero-gravity chamber. I weighed nothing and we were flying. The rhythm was so clean I was forced into presence. And then I almost fell off because he took a side step while I was being a zen master cowboy.

Colleen says she usually only lets horseman ride Lance. But she thought I could handle him. I like when people say that kinda thing about me because it means I am special and potentially one day will wake up and realize I can move spoons across the table with my mind.

The reality is that I am often scared when it matters most. I am scared when Alexis thinks there’s a bear outside our tent in Yosemite. I am scared when the racist in the old white pickup yells at the Muslim girl crossing the street. And I am scared when my horse takes off to run and I don’t know how I’m supposed to ride him. I have all of these brave thoughts in my head about the way I will act in moments that require courage but very often the reality has me standing their holding my tongue.

There’s a certain barrier around freedom. Stepping out and doing something unexpected is like being blind for a moment. And once you step out on that ledge there is no way to know what is going to happen.

I want to scream and I want to cry. Those are the two most pervasive actions I have building up inside of me. But what I will most likely do is keep my composure and stay within the lines of expectation.

Because I am a city boy in the country I am going to watch YouTube videos on how to properly canter on a horse so I am more prepared for my lessons today.

Tomorrow I meet Buddy, and I am most excited about that.

2:34pm

I am back at the family diner. It feels different this time. More familiar. The old people in overalls are interchangeable but necessary at this point. My eggs and bacon were great with the buttered sourdough toast. The table behind me is filled with farmers and cowboys talking about their hayday.

The buildings here are all boarded up. People are waiting for jobs to “come back”. This is Trump country. They don’t realize that life doesn’t come back, it just keeps changing and doesn’t care if you come along or not. And if you don’t evolve with it then you will end up an old man in a town where there is only one restaurant and the second best option for food is The Dollar General.

I am just back from a four hour session with the therapy horses, Colleen, and a very odd horselady named Kim.

I’m not sure exactly how to describe it.

I am walking a fine line between fantasy and reality and I don’t want to come off as someone who has lost their gd mind.

Kim was walking on all fours and rubbing her head against the horses bodies. I couldn’t stop wondering if she knew we could actually see her. I would never do something like that around other people. Only a kid would. And Kim.

Three separate horses walked up to me and put their foreheads on my heart and rubbed their heads up and down. Not in the aggressive way they do when they are itching after removing their fly masks. This was gentle. Thoughtful. One of them walked away and rolled in the dirt and began running around in the grass. If you read the initial setup piece for this series then you know the significance of the horses putting their heads where they did.

I learned how to halter them, walk them, run them, and get them to walk circles in different directions just by holding out my arms.

I look over and Kim is suddenly freaking out. Closing her eyes, rubbing her head, and pacing back and forth.

“You just locked in with him and he did with you too. I just saw a swirl magenta – I don’t know, it looked like electricity – come out of your chest and into his eyes. I’ve never seen colors before. They are all around you right now. This is totally crazy.”

And if she’s calling something crazy then I’m inclined to believe it.

I told them I don’t want to hear too much more about the energy world. I wasn’t denying its merits but wanted to stick to the observations that could help shed light as to why I was suffering inside.

The real reason I avoid social situations isn’t because I’m a super introvert. I love people. It’s because I cannot control myself from feeling what everyone in a room is feeling and the pressure to modify all of their experiences so they aren’t suffering is overwhelming.

The horse I was drawn to was named Hawk. He was a bit of a loner. Rebellious. Quiet. But sweet-hearted. We stared at each other for a few minutes. Just standing there looking back and forth while Kim apparently watched a scene from X-Men.

It seems as though things are only worth the value you associate them with and truth is designed to fit within our agenda. Their heads on my heart could mean they were trying to break up the black rock in my chest or it could just mean that they were itchy from the fly mask. The same duality can be applied to every situation we encounter. I know which story I’d like to believe.

I feel tender towards these animals, just like Woody.

Colleen said she wanted to give me her late husband’s eagle feather to hold onto while I was here. She has never done that before. She said he called to her and asked how he could help this young man standing in front of her.

I tried to halter Hawk for 30 minutes. Colleen told me to be honest and vulnerable with him. I tried. I would get close, pet his head, and he would walk away 10 feet and then turn around and look at me like, are you gonna be real or what?

At some point it felt forced and I told Colleen I didn’t want to feel like I had an objective with him because Hawk felt like he was me and I would hate what was happening if it were me. Another horse then walked up to me and I put the halter on him without argument.

I worked a few horses and eventually I had a different walk. Colleen and Kim asked what was going on. I said I felt like a cowboy. They both started laughing and said I was walking like one. They took video and when I watched it I started laughing because I could barely recognize myself with the wide gait.

I need to go buy a proper cowboy hat. And some sunscreen.

6:52pm

I’m back at Yarnell Family Diner for the third time today. Doing an extensive tour of their menu.

Things you text your wife while in Yarnell, ” Hey, our ride got rained out so I’m gonna walk down to the diner for all-you-can eat fish fry Fridays.”

It’s a riot here though. A guy playing the banjo. Tables of past generations drinking wine talking about wind and kayaks.

I was pretty disappointed that our ride was rained out. All of this treatment is nice but it’s the movement that I need. It’s not the words or the mindset, it’s moving and feeling free and connecting with an animal that was born to be free. But there was a lot of lightning. And Colleen didn’t feel safe. I would have gone in a heartbeat.

I am quite tired. I’m gonna try to take photos tomorrow AM while Colleen feeds her horses. I was able to get a discount on this trip by offering my photography services. Then we head down to Billy’s ranch.

I asked Kim how empaths are supposed to make a living. She said, “You just do. Money is it’s own energy and it’ll find you when you need it.”

It’s an energy that has power over the entire world and causes us to live in fear, far removed from what’s in our heart.

I am realizing on this trip that I need to offload more of my work to Todd and possibly hire another assistant so I can spend more time with horses.

I will come back here with Alexis at some point. Maybe the winter. Colleen says February is best. But that means it will be busy. She said we could do a week together.

Time apart is important. When I’m inspired I treat everyone better.

My Life As A Horseman : Day 1

Thursday 7.27.17

6:45pm

I can’t decide if I want to start with the drive or the motel. I guess the motel. I feel homesick. I am in a dark box with a TV from the 80s and a microwave from the 70s. I paid $5 extra/night for this microwave.

The desert drive through Arizona was blue. Blue cast on everything. The mountains, the sand, the shrubs. It was pretty. I listened to The War on Drugs, Pearl Jam, Jackson Browne, and some other greats. I ate a sausage and cheese sandwich from a gas station and then a chicken wrap with fries from Applebee’s in Yuma. Applebee’s doesn’t do many things right but this is one they do. It was 110 outside for most of the trip. I was relieved to see the coolant still full when I pulled over to check. I wonder how many people I drove by cooking meth deep in the desert in an RV. I saw border patrol apprehending two young men, Hispanic, covered in dirt just across the border. There were many trailer parks. A lot of old cars. I was perplexed by the fact that people actually seemed to chose to live there.

But Yarnell takes the cake. When I pulled up to the motel I was sure the actual, fully renovated Hotel with a spa was just behind it, tucked away from the main road. But nah. Just this leaning pile of boards and bugs with a blown out sign and the scent of murder-mystery. For $57.50 a night I get to assume everything I brought with me will have to be incinerated before heading home. I just can’t pass up a good deal on accommodations. And the only other option was a tent in the middle of the desert 2 miles removed from the nearest establishment. Which might sound cool to some but that’s just a liiiitle too outdoorsy for me.

There was just a loud knock on my back door. I didn’t even know I had a back door. But a loud door knock was something I had predicted in my head since arriving. Soon they would kick down the door and try to pistol whip me before stealing all of my electronics. But this time it was just Leslie, the motel manager, asking me to back my car up three feet so she could park her car – that was already parked. I’m not sure on this – will have more info in a couple of days – but what I think I just witnessed was her driving her car around the building for absolutely no reason just to repark it in the exact same spot.

“Thank you so much. I’m just terrible at parallel parking and didn’t want to hit your car!”

But your car was already parked…

She couldn’t have been nicer about it. But why the lap? Was that a tick? A superstition? If I don’t do that will I not wake up tomorrow? Why the Guy Fieri haircut and cargo shorts? I’ll keep an eye on it.

I stopped seeing Priuses (Priuii?) about 100 miles East of San Diego. Out here if you drive a Prius then you’re ‘some kinda queer.’ Even my horse whisperer therapist – 64 year old miniature sized person Colleen – picked me up in a Ram 2500. So imagine everyone’s surprise at the local hoot n’ nanny when I pulled up in my Toyota Prius with black rims and stepped out in my brown leather Frye boots that double as the foundation of my cowboy look.

I am going to sleep with all of my belongings on the bed in a big pile. And then maybe me on top of the pile. I don’t think scorpions can crawl that high.

Lance stopped in his tracks when she opened the trailer gate. Then I talked to him. What do you say to a horse? I wasn’t sure so I just leaned my face close to his and he headbutted me which was a reassuring sign that we were bonding because that’s what I do with Woody.

I rode him for two hours through the desert landscape. There were no people, no cars, no sounds, no distractions in any direction as far as I could see. We walked, trotted, and cantered for a while. I had a good rhythm with him and a few times I would think about him doing something and then he did it. The great horsemen in the world say that horses are telepathic. I’m uncertain on this but think they have such an incredible sensitivity for movement and expressions that their read is as good as anyone’s.

I wasn’t supposed to ride tonight but I got in early and Colleen wanted some company on her evening ride. I was given the advice coming into this trip to take it very slow. That it wasn’t about getting on a horse but being in relationship with one. People can get very hurt riding horses when they aren’t ready and that wasn’t the goal for me.

“Well, you’re here early. I’ve got a horse that doesn’t really like anyone to ride him but I think you could handle it. What do you say?”

And hour later we were side-stepping a steep rock cliff before cantering through a wash surrounded by deep grey clouds dropping lightning and thunder in the distance.

My interpretation of taking it slow.

My first big realization was that horses are very dirty and I don’t like seeing the hair from their backs accumulate on my palms after brushing. Perhaps I can have Colleen bring Lance to me already brushed in the future. It is a good thing I brought baby wipes and a Purell pump for after the saddling. I just wasn’t expecting to be the only one who did this.

I don’t know what is supposed to happen. I’m trying to keep my expectations low. My motel room is helping. Maybe a little too low actually. I am guessing the death count in here is in the high 30s. It’s 8:30pm and I’m hoping I can pass out soon. Because there is absolutely nothing to do.

No wifi, no cell signal, I didn’t bring any fucking books. What kind of vacation is this? But the stars should be nice. Although there is a barking dog out back and it doesn’t feel inviting as I can only imagine who is out there. Leslie just yelled for it to shut the hell up, goddamnit! I like Leslie a lot.

A man earlier spat on the ground in front of me and then said, “How’s it goin’ boss?” in a very nice and neighborly tone. I met Santa Claus at T-Birds and broke a cardinal rule of respect for mountain people by secretly taking his picture for Instagram. The long white bear, red long-sleeved shirt, and blue suspenders were too much to pass up. It’s easy when you do it an no one sees and there’s no consequence. But when he got up and walked out with his pizza box I noticed a big limp he probably sustained while working at the mill. He couldn’t get the door open and kept talking to himself. When he finally got it he said, “See, there you go old buddy.” That’s when I hated myself hard in my gut for the next 18 straight minutes for capitalizing on his look among my constituents. Even though it got a ton of comments.

I could be talking to all of these people and having an experience. Immersing. Instead I’m sitting outside and documenting. Something I always do. Perhaps I will be inclined to change that at some point. It’s hard to think I have anything in common with these people but that kind of thinking gets all of us in a lot of trouble. I can simply ask them where they are from and what brought them to Yarnell. Ask if they ride horses and if they have hobbies and shit like that.

So I tried it. Asking a wobbly man in his 40s where he was from and what kind of horse he road. He told me he rode a steel horse and I nodded my head like I knew what kind that was because I didn’t want him to know the Prius behind him was mine or that this morning I had avocado toast and apple cider vinegar tea. “Oh cool, is that like a quarter horse or a thoroughbred?” He laughed and stumbled away with his Bud Light can.

It later dawned on me that he was making a Bon Joni reference and there was no such thing as a steel horse and I fucking hate everyone and that’s why I don’t talk to people.

8:37pm

Everything is so quiet. Quiet is a sound here.

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