Meaning and Moments

 

Wrapped up in my crimson bath robe, with Closing Time (Tom Waits) on vinyl playing, rain pouring down, and a strong black coffee, I am enjoying being the happiest I remember in a very long time.

 

We are all just a collection of memories.  Painful, peaceful, plentiful, poignant, and pregnant with possibilities we are packed full of plummy pieces of everywhere we have been, and all that we have seen.

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A couple of days ago, we had some of the tribe around to our home as the skies opened up and sheets of warm rain drenched the decks, our yard, and our guests shoes.  It was a magical day, and my friends held their gaze and asked me: “and are you okay?” or “but do you hear me when I tell you just as you tell me, that you are beautiful and inspirational and good?” and that set my eyes into streams that rivaled those falling from the eves of the home that has hosted so many moments over the years.  This life cannot be perfect, and none of us will walk through it unscathed or safe from battle scars and hard learned lessons.  But we all have our moments.  Moments have made me feel like an outsider and unworthy of the Love and respect I so freely heap on anyone and everyone who crosses my path. Moments have made me feisty and fearless, but they’ve also clearly made me scared and unstable.

 

2018 was a testing time.  For my family, for our friends and their families.  The political, environmental and economic landscape of our planet has been tossed and tried in ways that have left the thoughtful among us confounded, and the fearful unfortunately fortified with an arsenal of untruths and unsustainable solutions to situations they perhaps don’t even understand, as the choices and chances they make and take do not serve them or those around them.

 

Meaningful moments this year were not always good, but sometimes they were magnificent and magical.  A long night at a hotel bar in Edinburgh talking to a totally random team of huge hearted humans from all corners of the world changed me forever. Imagine this:  A priest, a professor, a single mom, several Scots, an activist and some business men walk into a bar, and talk until it closes. Sharing laughter, tears, loving insights and truths often only strangers could see so clearly, and so many secrets that we will carry with us in our suitcases of memories since that beautiful night.  One of that night’s tribe broke his arm skiing on Christmas eve, and others among us are battling with bills and bullshit in our various corners of the world.  We can call on each other if and when we need, and it’s amazing that one or two fleeting moments made us meet and forever be entwined.

 

This year, I wish you magic and meaning in the moments you collect.  I wish you the strength to see the sadness and struggles you’re given as a chance to be the comfort and kindness you know in your heart we all want and deserve. Bitter or better I think are both strengthened together, so seek those who see you for the beautiful being you are and find joy in seeing your success.  Steer clear of those false or fair weather friends with velvet tongues and gimme gloves.  Do the things that bring you joy and challenge you, and be ready to fail so you can then learn, and find a way to fly and coax others to do the same.

So, if you are reading this and you’ve suffered or struggled to the point you wondered where you’d find the strength to keep going, let me stop and congratulate you for carrying on and being here to read my meandering schmaltz.  You made it. I made it.  We made it through this exasperating year and we are both here.

 

The next few weeks will be full of family, friends for some of us, and quiet and lonely moments as well. It has been a blessing to be able to say I Love you to so many friends, lovers, collaborators and mentors over the past few days.  Soon my soul sister Krissy and her two sons will arrive here in Aotearoa and we will travel around the North Island with no itinerary, just a tent and a Tesla.  We will be collecting moments and maybe meeting up with some of you reading this now.  I know we will pass through Tauranga and Thames, and hopefully make it to Wellington as we wend our way around paradise.  Send me a message if you’re up to visitors and maybe we can make some moments of our own.

 

Thank you for reading this and so many of my emotional outpourings this year.  I don’t know much about what this year is going to mean for me or so many of us at this moment, but I do know that sharing it with the vast and varied broken and beautiful angels on earth will bring new magical moments that I can’t yet imagine.  So, buckle up buttercups.  We are in for a bumpy and beautiful ride.

 

Aroha Nui (Big Love) to you all.

Villain, Victor, Victim or Vain

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Be it a time of boom, or bust, know who to trust. A distinct advantage of falling down is seeing who reaches out to offer a hand, and who runs for the hills. Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 10.52.59 PM This isn’t a new or breakthrough notion, it is a well substantiated element of the human experience.

There are so many classic, religious, folk and urban tales of the frailty of friendships and the boundlessness of cowardly self-preservation.  Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss, and Simon Peter denying him when questioned by the crowd. This poor peaceful Bohemian carpenter’s son apparently knew what was coming but still did it rough when trusted friends threw him well under the bus and into the hands of a mob.

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Fiction and non-fiction brims with heartbreak and betrayal.  Reading 1984 as a teenager, my gut told me as soon as Julia entered the story not to trust her. I did, however, have faith in O’Brien for a few chapters, making that betrayal of the rivetingly relatable Winston sting so much more.
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I could exhaust thousands of words recounting stories of misplaced trust and catastrophic consequences.  These stories exist because humans have done this shit to each other since before our ancestors came down from the trees.

Power struggles, pecking orders and plot twists exist even in the animal kingdom, and there’s precious little anyone can do to protect themselves from damage as they journey through their own narrative.  It remains, however, your narrative, you can be the hero, the victor, the villain or trap yourself in a vain brain.  It’s your story, even when you’re thrown challenges you were not expecting, the pen is in your hand and the pages after pain are just as blank as those after your gain.

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But what about the other side of wretched duplicities and misplaced trusts?  What about the angels and advocates soldiering on in silence to help others, with little or no agenda other than a desire to live the kind of virtues they value as a result of their own journey or suffering?  What about the good guys?  What about Severus Snape, Oscar Schindler, Clara Barton, Edith Cavell, and Mary Magdalen? All far from perfect, and they did perfectly brave and beautiful things for others.

What breeds steadfastness, courage and integrity in the face of adversity for some, and turns others into self-righteous shitheads who convince themselves their cowardliness is the best thing for everyone?

Well.  I have no fucking idea.

Here’s what I do know though, we are all many things to many people throughout our lives.  We are all going to be tested and torn too many times to count in our time here.  Seems quite clear to me that no matter how authentic or honest anyone’s intent, they’ll pick the wrong battle or back the wrong horse and feel like a pile of shit sometimes, after the dust settles.  There are also people who are just self-serving assholes, and think nothing of selling anyone up the river on the mercenary meanderings on the Machiavellian road toward their ill-imagined mansion of selfishness. It is not your fault if people are assholes.  You are not a victim if you give with both hands and hope for the best in people.  But, for your own sake, trust but verify.

Before I had children, I’d stay out with friends in San Francisco and we’d engage with the homeless people we’d meet.  They all had a story, they all had their demons, and in most cases, they were highly intelligent and caring people with their own tales of flight and folly and flying too close to the sun.  The thing that struck me back then (and still makes me pensive today) is that I can’t recall any of them blaming others for their choices.  They all had stories of bad decisions, abhorrent behavior, betrayals and beloved and trusted family and friends finding their faults too profound to penetrate.  In each story I was told, the teller laid blame in their own hands and by my reckoning lived an unfathomable life as a result of too many wobbles.

The reason I found that so interesting is I’ve certainly noticed that people who have not ended up quite so cleanly and clearly on the bottom of the heap of the physical human condition so often do not find fault in their own choices.  I suppose there’s some sort of social construct that could explain this phenomenon, or maybe my control group or survey size is not large enough to draw any useful conclusions, but I do still find many healthy, sheltered, miserable and miserly people complaining. Yet the meekest among us often display grace, humility and, sadly, a lot of personal pain and deeply entrenched shame.

Now, I am not saying that any of us needs to get ourselves chucked out on the street to be humbled or decent, I am merely sharing small part of my vast and varied experience as I see it so far.

So, what am I trying to say here?  Well, maybe just that shit will happen.  Shit IS happening.  We are bombarded with bad news and fear mongering metrics across so many channels.  Our resources are starting to seem scarce, and some people are choosing kindness and community to combat what seems to so many of us as an inevitable denouement since the industrial revolution.

Some people are squirreling and shrinking into their own corner and actively choosing blame, fear, greed, and self-preservation to prepare for whatever comes next.  Yet through all of this there are the quirky and kind hearted, often on the fringes of society, sticking up for others and sharing whatever they can afford.

As you journey through this week and the next and all the days that are ahead of you, I do not think you’ll be able to escape being seen as a villain, a victor, a victim or maybe just vain.  You are the person you will have to answer to when tough choices are placed in your lap.  You are the person who will collect the karma you consign.  No matter what you do, no matter how hard you battle with your own conscience or grapple to weigh up your next move, sometimes you will just get kicked square in the guts, left reeling with the feeling that no good deed goes unpunished.  Unless you’re a bona fide prick, narcissist or sociopath.  Those shitheads feel no pain and it’s always about them.  If you are like the vast majority of the rest of humanity, you will do good, you will do bad.  You will be kind, you will be cruel.  You will make poor decisions and you will have ample opportunity to make things as right as you can, by facing facts and firmly finding your own truth.  If you think that sounds trite, fuck it, I am not here to win friends.  Enough people have recently decided they’re duly sick of my shit and we’ve parted ways for the overall benefit of all parties.

But for every dazed and disillusioned fair-weather friend, there’s been an angel to replace them.  You probably already know as you read this that there are people around you who serve themselves and take with both hands.  Listen to that little voice and be cautious with your heart, your time and resources when that slug in your stomach squirms in their company. That instinct is given to us for a reason.  Let go, forgive, move on.  Look for the best in people but learn when you are shown the worst.  And when you find your soulmates, your cheerleaders, your champions and your tribe, Love them, respect them. But for goodness sake do not do what I have done so many times and test them to breaking point, because of your own fears and insecurities.  Give people a chance unless that slug tells you not to, and cherish those who have proved themselves and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Good luck out there today and thank you for reading.