Identity–things that must be removed

Identity–things that must be removed:
I liked this or did this in hopes of pleasing someone in a shallow way.
I liked this or did this in order to rebel against the first thing I liked in a shallow attempt to assert my individuality.
I continued to like or do the above things out of habit, addiction, etc. long after I stopped doing them for the above two reasons.

Big brother(s) did it, parents didn’t approve of it, I was sad when big brothers left, I did it and tried to do even more of it to get parents attention (to make parents see that bio kid was just as bad as adopted kid and re-unite with adopted kid), after these motivating factors ceased I continued to identify myself as being a rock n’ roll rebel or marginalized from the main crowd.

Do I even like rock music? It’s okay, but it’s not really not that good. Most of it is too simple, obvious and re-hashed from previous decades. Even the Beatles and groups like that sound simple and lacking in depth compared to classical and jazz music.

Do I even like music enough to learn it intimately? I’ve proven that I have no ear or talent for it in order to be nothing more than a casual fan of it.

But, this is just an example of one thing that has directly shaped and defined my identity. Yet, I never got tattoos, I never played music professionally, I never even played in front of an audience beyond rehearsals and talent shows.

I could throw out: writing (except when using it as a tool to help me understand myself better), painting, liking or not liking certain movies, sports, travel, etc., drinking beer, running, hiking, riding my bike, computers, technology, science stuff, etc.

All of these were taken on at some point to impress, please, or rebel.

I can’t really determine how/when I will actually have a few days to myself to put everything on pause and consider who I really am. Life doesn’t work that way when you are married with a three-year-old and a brand new mortgage. You are doing what you need to do to get by during the work week, and dead tired on the weekends–it’s like you’ve given completely of yourself with mind, body and soul and you have nothing left to give back to yourself.

So, I have to steal away minutes here and there to consider these things.

At my core, I am not someone who really needs much of anything. I could spend most of my day in my head, alone, just letting my imagination wander and drift into dreams, being entertained by the weirdness and novelty produced by the subconscious. This I could do in a tent in the woods with minimal provisions.

I am compelled to do and be more only because of a sense of duty to pay forward what was given to me from my parents to someone else. I have a sense of duty about keeping the family line going. This sense of duty is harder and different than the silly people-pleaser whims of my younger years. Those were really more about giving me immediate gratification–I was pleased if someone close to me seemed immediately pleased as well. I had no need to climb a corporate ladder as long as I was pleasing my coworkers. This has boxed me in to being someone who appears to be only fit for service and support roles rather than managerial ones.

But, I am not setting out to change the professional rut I’ve gotten stuck in. I’ve tried that too many times only to be met with failure. That is simply a survival thing that is tied to the above sense of duty. It is my duty to be a decent father and husband, if never a great one who is highly honored and flattered with special attention.

That said, I don’t thing that the sense of hard duty that comes with being a father and husband encompasses or makes up the totality of who I really am. At the end of the day, I crave an identity that is uniquely me, and set apart from my familial roles.

For me, there is also a sense of duty in removing all of the bullshit in me that has accrued from past misguided attempts to please others and be someone I am not. This is far more important than picking up a new hobby and seeing if I like it, and then moving onto another one and another one.

There are bullshit vices and bad habits I don’t need to detail here, that get in the way of me being more focused and productive.


Yesterday morning, after writing the above, I smashed our security system control panel out of pure frustration at something taking control over my house. I took personal offense to it. I felt bad afterward, sort of, but I was still mad.

My dreams have been pretty varied and interesting, but I haven’t been inclined to try too hard to remember them and write them down as of late. The reason being that so much dream journaling has never seemed to get me anywhere.

I feel like I need to spend much time focusing, re-focusing on what my core identity must be, and less time latching on to some thing that I will just allow to lead me around by the nose.

In essence, most of my failed attempts to get anything done stem from an unwillingness to improve my self motivation–my proactive output, where I give out of a self-initiated willingness to give and work. I keep trying to find some kind of interest or activity that will engage me because I am so captivated by it.

In other words, I have this weak-willed character flaw that prefers to be led and motivated from the outside. Think of the example of wanting to get into learning mathematics or going to seminary. I was hoping that sheer necessity and compulsion laid upon me by outsiders would keep my momentum of moving forward in play. But, the truth is, unless you are being compelled by the necessity of a paycheck and familial survival, you aren’t going to remain engaged in something unless you yourself keep pushing yourself forward.

It all seems obvious and yet at the same time it subtly is not. It is easy to slide down a slippery slope of going back to your old ways of hoping that variables outside of you will keep you going.

Suddenly, I find myself doing almost nothing at all on weekends. I am not getting myself up off the couch to run, ride a bike or anything else. I continue to write, just because habit dictates that I do. My writing is probably not much different than any other vice or habit. It isn’t usually done out of pure self-motivation.

Keeping my mind in a state of being solely compelled by my own will, and not falling back into a trance, a learned pattern of behavior, an autopilot mode, a willingness to be passively entertained by random thoughts, etc.–it can be exhausting and feel like I am constantly walking on a tight rope.

You wake up and you don’t have a solid lock on any particular identity.

You wake up and you don’t have a solid lock on any particular identity. Every time you try to land on a solid patch of ground, the ground moves. In spite of all this, you are convinced that there is a solid reality out there–that the world is not an illusion. None of your arguments for why this is would hold up if you were confronted by some mindfuck philosopher-wannabe type, but you have your set of things that you know, your things that you hang onto by faith alone, and all the other unexamined beliefs that you actually probably be convinced to let go.

You sit on a couch typing this with your young son. This alone is an area worthy of exploration. You can say things that every parent says about a child who is loved more than the child will ever know. Indeed, the parent himself had no idea how much he would love his son until his son came along. Then, there is the whole matter of being 41 with a 3 year old son. For sure, you live in a culture where parents are having kids at older ages, and your own father and grandfather did not produce their first biological male offspring until the respective ancestors were almost in their 40s.

Then, there is the old and lingering ache for your first nuclear family. Your older, adopted brothers abandoned you. Your little, biological brother, whom you spend ten years tormenting and ignoring in emulation of your older brothers, died in a car wreck at the age of 16. Your mom left the world at 61 after fighting cancer since her 40s. Your dad is more interested in hanging out with old ladies he meets online than talking to you or his grandson. Your surviving older brother is all but completely estranged from you and your father. When you see your little boy, you see the tiny start of a new, precious flame that requires constant monitoring so that it isn’t snuffed out.

You aren’t even sure what the flame consists of. You have this sense of there being something important about retaining your humanity and dignity as it is connected to the earth. How disconnected are you today? You abandoned the seminary to return to the world of the office, technology, and people who are happy to avoid nature as much as possible. But, the flame is more about something else than becoming a tree hugger or a luddite.

Is the flame about retaining and maintaining a belief in the Christian God, in spite of how little you are like a true disciple of Christ, and how little most Christians really are, either? Perhaps, but it’s not completely a religious thing.

Is the flame your very soul? Are you, at the end of the day, hoping to build up some good karma by raising a child as well as you can? Are you considered about the corporate world and the suburban life consuming you to the point where your entire identity is swallowed up in the same bullshit preoccupations of most everyone else your generation seems happy to obsess over?

Is the flame the dreams that your parents had for you, that you had for yourself, that you now must pass on with the desperate hope that your own son won’t much up his adolescence and early adulthood the way that you did? But then–what are these dreams? A better life? Becoming famous, rich, etc.? Those are shallow dreams to have, and you know that this isn’t quite it, either.

Whatever the case may be, the fight every single day is against becoming so lacking in any hope that your professional life will get any better, will amount to anything more than just being a random office schlub of no account–one that nobody ever sees as being worthy of anything other than taking orders and carrying out their orders. Surely, there is still the grand possibility of waking up one morning and realizing that you are part of something much grander than an average career.

What are we talking about? Can we get more specific than: you’ll know it when you see it? Are all these human attempts at fame and fortune nothing but striving to keep a flame alive, as misguided as most of them appear to be?

The flame is the burning quest to know the Truth, and to know it with all bullshit pretension removed. You know in your heart of hearts that there is some type of objective reality that is more than what is out there or in here, but you aren’t sure of what it is. You know that most people give up, cash out, and gladly accept flame substitutes for the rest of their lives. Maybe the reason the movie the Secret has its appeal is that you know there must be a Secret of some kind, though you are yet left with skepticism that some kind of Law of Attraction is the ultimate Truth of what the Universe has to offer. After all, what if everyone woke up and started living according to the principles of the Law of Attraction? Would the Universe melt away into nothing at all? Would we all get to be billionaires? Or, would we all be billionaires, except, people like Gates and Buffet get to be worth a hundred billion times more than us, just like they are today?

The problem starts with expecting Truth to align with your own expectations of who you are. Truth is Truth, no matter what. How, who or what you identify with is part of a process you have started, and may or may not have much to do with who you ultimately are. To negate yourself, and say, “I’m enlightened because there really is no ego after all,” is merely another choice you have made to identify yourself with non-identity.

First, you have to clear any and all pieces of yourself which were made throughout this life in an effort to discover and/or form your true identity. You can’t declare, “I’m going to stop trying to force myself to be this or that, and just be,” only to find yourself just being someone or something you had previously tried to force yourself to be.

To declare “I am really and truly a woman” because there are so many culturally-defined stereotypes of who or what a man should be is to simply declare that you favor experience a series of culturally-defined stereotypes of who and what a woman should be. The same mistake is made with any other binary sort of approach to identity, where you declare that the only ways of being are this vs. that and you must be that since you don’t fit in with this. But, there may be binary realities or archetypes around the feminine and masculine, the materialistic and the spiritual, the lover of good vs. the lover of evil–however, when you try to impose poorly-formed culturally identities on top of these binary archetypes, you are simply shoehorning something that can never perfectly fit, and you end up never perfectly happy.

Of course, you could simply declare that you believe reality to be simply whatever you make of it…or, if it is actually more, then let reality show its True Self, and if it won’t, then why bother pursuing it? Why not simply declare who or what you shall be the rest of your life, and force yourself to be that individual no matter what? After all, what feels right may again be simply an older, learned pattern of behavior and no more “you” than some new “you” that you could strive to be.

We all know that you have attempted these things. You have tried to force yourself into a hippie-liberal box and a manly man box and an uber geek box. We know how far this has gotten you. You wake up one morning realizing that if you were going to live in one of these boxes, you should have started your box life a long time ago.

…and you are still alive.

The morning arrives with the cat entering the bedroom and scrabbling around on papers. You are already awake, so you aren’t terribly incensed at this. The house has reached an equilibrium where it feels too hot to sleep, but it isn’t hot enough for the A/C to kick on.

You must pause before you begin again the role of an active man in this world and reflect on the simple fact that you are still alive. The night passed by uneventfully, and the angel of death did not snatch up your soul while you slept. Another day has been given to you to do with as you see fit.

You might not think very much at all about it, this state of being alive. It could be that you are one of those people so richly blessed with good health, that you can and do take it for granted. It might be that you saw no reason why you wouldn’t still be alive when you woke up this morning.

But, what you didn’t know is that you were briefly cast in a state of utter vulnerability, where forces from within and without could have done with you as they wished, had they access to you and believed that you weren’t protected. Who’s to say that the day isn’t far off when the forces will see more clearly just how weak your defenses are, and come looking for you?

You want this to be a day in which you can take at least a little time to give thanks to the Lord, even if you don’t drive down to church and make it to the pews among the more devout and faithful folks of the town. This should be at least in part a day in which you aren’t overly concerned about worldly matters, and chomping at the bit to accomplish a lot of little list items that all amount to only giving you a slightly refined peace of mind.

The stillness and silence in the first hour that you are awake from 6 AM to 7 is a great emptiness that begs to be filled with as many memories, ideas and thoughts as you can possibly cram into it. But why are you so insistent on having a head full of noise, when you’ve been given a rare gift of time and space without the endless interruptions and insistent demands of the day? Are you too frightened by the fact that being more alive might ultimately mean being more empty, yet full of the peace which passes all understanding?

The air outside is as you’d expect on a late Central Texas spring morning. It is still early enough in the year to be refreshing, but the hints of the hard, driving sun are already starting to appear in the air. The warmth and humidity are like old friends ready to tell you stories of every other warm, humid early summer morning you walked outside–especially those mornings when it really meant something, like the first day of a summer vacation.

But, the stories that the morning might tell you are nothing more than tales about a man who once lived upon this earth and looked a bit like you. You are not sure anymore that you were him, or he is you, for you seem to recall him having a thicker, darker head of hair and an array of cares that he didn’t necessarily need to have. To be for sure, you are still alive, but you can’t be so sure that you might have died many times along the way to get to this morning where you are breathing the Central Texas early summer air.

Yes, you are certain you are alive, but you can’t be for sure exactly who, what or which “you” is still alive. Certainly not a you that looks like the you you wrote about some four years ago inside this same journal. You are older and (you hope) a bit wiser than the you of four years ago. You also hope that you are a bit softer, less judgmental, less concerned about the fate of the nation and the world of man. You hope that you are slightly more adjusted to society to be a more right and true upstanding character, but also much more reticent to accept anyone’s flattery at face value.

You are less political, and when you do pause to give a damn about the noise people make for nation states and politics, you take much of what they say with a grain of salt, since most of them are charlatans hawking their particular brand of salvation in exchange for simple monetary gain. The older you get, the more you tend to think that the people with the real solutions hardly ever make history. They are the ones who go out and get the job done, solve the problem, promote the peace and welfare humanity so badly needs, and then hang up their shoes without any hope of seeing their names mentioned by fourth graders during the history lessons. You want to meet and understand more of these kinds of people, and spend more time reading news stories about the people who solve problems, rather than the politicians who seem much better at exacerbating and re-creating the problems they claim they’re trying to solve.

You wish sometimes that you could still be young enough to appreciate the start of summer as being something chock full of promise and meaning, and a radical break from the nine months that have gone before it. As it is, all you can really do is give thanks to the Lord for this one single morning, a morning in which you are indeed still alive–alive enough to write a few words and move on into the world of flesh, to-do lists and conflict.

… and you are tired of judging people.

You went through this period of getting yourself cleaned up, and you felt the need to call attention to every single flaw in every single person. A flaw could be anything the individual did or said that wasn’t aligned perfectly with you, and the things you did and the things you liked. If the person was running faster than you, you criticized them for being a showboat, and wanted them to slow down. If they were moving slower than you, then by God, they were being willfully ignorant, and needed to start using their brains more. Of course, this could be applied to just about anything — they traveled more than you did, they bought more brand name clothes than you, they drove a better car, had a bigger house, they got more attention on the Social Media channels. And the ones who were inferior to you, with the smaller salaries and cheaper cars and less social skills (there were a few)–they were just as wrong for how they lived.

But, today, you are tired of trying to pawn yourself off as the most correct being in the universe. You are tired of critiquing every new song for not being as good as the music made when you were young, and complaining about A list male actors not being as cool and masculine as the actors were when you were a kid.

Nobody was listening to a word you said, anyway, thank God.

You are much happier. After all, this constant judgement of others who were not your perfect twin in every single way has pretty much brought you nothing but endless self loathing and unwillingness to pay the least bit of attention to you and how wonderful you are.

Imagine starting over one morning and loving the heck out of yourself, but every single thing you love about yourself never has anything whatsoever to do with being a thing compared against another soul. In other words, what could make you great can never be achieved by way of any relative measurments made to other human beings and their progress. Even more radically than this, you should stop comparing your present self against some impossible future self to make you sad or some godawful past self to make you feel better.

Today is the first day in which you are great because of everything there is inside of you that makes you great in the here and now. And none of it has to do with anyone else, including your past selves. Is this redundant? Perhaps, but it probably can’t be said enough.

Because, you will inevitably lapse back into the old habits of measurement against others if you aren’t careful.

What makes you great today in this here and now moment are all of the things that you’ve been blessed with — things that you probably don’t deserve, but things that you should be inestimably grateful to have, and wouldn’t trade all of the riches in the world for.

Let’s look at these things.

You are healthy. You wake up every single morning with only minor aches and pains. You get really sick about once every five years. You haven’t had a serious accident in almost ten years.

You are full of a love of learning. This is different than being well educated or intelligent. You enjoy receiving new knowledge on just about any topic.

You have the opportunity to work from home, doing what you do, and take breaks to write stuff like this. You don’t have to steal away to your car, or feel like someone is breathing down your neck to get your work done.

You have a wife and a dog that love you, and you see them every single day.

You live in a safe part of the world that sees very few natural disasters or crimes.

You are carrying next to no debt right now, and you have some money saved up in the bank.

You are going to be a dad in five months.

You always gravitate toward the good and right thing to do, no matter how much your mind wanders toward evil.

You have great memories of friends, family and travel from years past.

You grew up in a home that was relatively stable.

You are able to sit and listen to whatever music you want, watch whatever movies you want, read whatever books you want and play whatever games you want thanks to the fact that you live in an era where technology has rendered information cheap and abundant.

You are struggling with each sentence you write not to turn it into a comparison with other people, be they real or straw, past or present.

You can just say this: I am a good, blessed person, and I have greatness within me. I will diligently pursue this fact no matter what evidence is presented to me in the contrary, and I will celebrate the greatness in others–my greatness will never take away an ounce of greatness from an other.

…and you are mildly appalled that this is the same world.

The problems you were trying to solve in your dreams slowly start to retreat back into your deepest reaches of consciousness. The waking world seems to be utterly foreign in its own peculiar set of problems. You struggle to put back on your “suit of you” that you wear in this world.

In some ways, you are relieved. The problems that you face in the waking life are mostly trivial ones. The kinds of problems that would all disappear in an instant if you simply decided to let them go.

You’ve been clinging to your problems for too long, and not letting them go because you feel them to be an intrinsic part of your identity.

“Without my problems, I wouldn’t exist,” you say.

At the very least, you would no longer be interesting.

In dreams you were an interesting human being, someone who mattered on this earth. You mixed with famous people, and fell in love with them. Your first reaction upon waking is that this all must be some kind of big mistake, and then you remember the life that you’ve been living.

The waking life can turn issues that are little bits of nothing into great crises of the times, because the body in the waking life is convinced that Death is always waiting around the next corner.

You are convinced that if you can carefully sneak up on Death, perhaps you can catch him and tame him to stay away from you and your family for at least a few centuries.

You are convinced that every single person who doesn’t smile at you in passing is perchance a collaborator of Death, a willing conspirator who is ready to do Death’s bidding. All of the drivers on the road who do not match your speed and obey as many traffic laws as you do are probably there to take you out.

Sometimes you feel like you’ve been dropped into someone else’s subconscious, like in the movie Inception, and the entire world is trying to eject you, the foreign being from it. But, you never feel this way in dreams. In dreams you always belong, and the people you encounter greet you like a long lost friend.

You are taking a kind of medicine that keeps you careening thoughts at bay. It has been prescribed by Dr. You, and it seems to be more effective than booze ever was, though it will probably destroy your liver one day soon. You love being able to wake up and not frantically dash about the house seeking and creating additional drama that requires resolution.

You hope to one day find a little place in the waking world where there are people who behave as they do in dreams. You want friends like friends from the TV show Friends. Won’t that be grand?

…and you are the subject of this entry.

You feel isolated, removed, cut off from a group of others who would validate your existence. You have held yourself up to standards that you will never meet. It breaks my heart to see you here, in this place.

You were the platinum album singer, the Oscar winning actor, the next great American novelist, the science editor, the brother, the mom. You couldn’t shake the demons, and so we had to bitterly bury you.

You were loved.

You are loved.

You are sitting there, saying, “but I am none of these.” But we will tell you that you are. You are loved for all that is unique about you; all that the world will reject and call defects.

I’ve been where you are, and I probably will be again. It’s not some pinnacle of success to shake the demons and enter the garden of Eden.

What breaks my heart is how cut off you’ve become from the rest of us. You have removed yourself by degree each year out of fear of being hurt again by the rest of them. And, we understand.

But, let me be clear: what matters on this earth isn’t anything made of flesh, or stone, or steel, or words, or data, or money, or information, or memories. No, not even memories matter.

What matters is that on this earth there are more of those who hold more light than dark in their hearts. The balance is about to tip as you hold that tip of blade or gun or pharmaceutical poison up to your face to take the plunge into the non-space that is the Void, from where you may or may not return. Do you want to be cut off completely for all of eternity?

You may be plucked from the Void and invited to return, but it’s likely to be on behalf of the dark, not the light. At that point, you matter nothing to us, because you have crossed over past the point of no return.

What matters is the fact that you hold so much light within you. You are standing in a dark place with a small candle in your hands. Your flame will get much bigger if you seek out the rest of us and join your light with ours. Your flame will get much bigger even if you seek out but one of us whose flame is faltering, and join your light with his or hers.

We love you when you are fat, do you understand? We find great beauty and exquisite finery in your wrinkles and sagging skin. The thinning, greying hair is a treasure to our eyes, and your crackling voice a treat to our ears. Our standards of beauty are much different than those of the world, because we see the entire spectrum of time–we know you as an infant, and we know you as an ancient one. Who you are to us includes everything in between. The sum of all of this is what makes you part of the light.

You know in your heart of hearts that you are still part of the light and not the dark, in spite of what the demons might be whispering in your ears.

In this dark night of your soul, you are experiencing a transformation, and the pain you feel is real. But the pain is there because all of the parts that are still dark can’t stand to see the light. Those areas of yourself are very much like vampires. They are attached to you, sucking the blood of your soul, and when you shine your light on them, they scream in pain and dig in deeper to your nerve endings so that you know the pain that they know. But, their pain is only theirs to bear, you should stop listening to their screams, and state clearly that you don’t need to feel what they feel, for their pain inflicted upon you isn’t real.

That’s right, go ahead, and shine your light on all of those dark-lurking demons that only come out to feed when you are certain that your soul has gone pitch black, and you are desperate for a friend, or a doctor to put the pain to its end, and all you can do is lie there paralyzed without any effort to stop the vampires from rising up and seizing you and making you believe that you can only obtain release from their sick pleasures.

Shine your light upon them, to watch them burn up into ash, and leave you clean and white as snow underneath the layers of years of sorrow.

…and many things are still the same.

It’s hard for you to remember now what it was like to feel the need to buy a six pack every single night. Somehow, you were able to put a stake in the ground and say to yourself that this kind of fellow was just not you. But, you didn’t want to be one of those wide-eyed AA believers, either, and so you somehow managed to retrain yourself to almost never need to drink more than two drinks on any one occasion, and only drink two drinks a few nights a week. But one memory that jumps out from those years is one of waking up in the middle of the night, and having a brief moment of thinking that you had successfully abstained from buying a six pack this time. And then, a recollection of the purchase and consumption happening the evening before would appear, and you would mutter “oh yeah,” and lie there trying to go back to sleep for hours with your scatterbrain thoughts zooming around in your head–a state of mind that always seems to arrive around 2:30 AM after a night of drinking too much.

These days, you’ve been waking up with a similar sort of brief moment of blissful forgetfulness. Oh, I didn’t lose my temper today. Oh, I didn’t masturbate. Oh wait, I didn’t let my mind lapse into endless fantasizing. Oh wait, I didn’t devote a bunch of time to feeling sorry for myself. Oh wait, I did.

What you need is a talisman.

You have obtained a talisman of sorts for the weekends, mornings and evenings. She’s called your wife.

With your wife around, you don’t feel the least bit inclined to jump into that evil place outside of your head and take the trip to porn Disneyland to ride all of the rides.

Because you are working from home full time now, it becomes utterly impossible to avoid the tempation. The wife leaving creates a vacuum. You need to fill that vacuum. Work can wait. How is this any different than getting up for a coffee or water cooler break? And so, the rationalization goes. You end up working more than eight hours every day, but that’s not the point. The point is that you are still carrying around inside of you this…thing that has been there since you were quite young.

The actions and the addictions aren’t the thing. The thing is really simply a “not you” entity that lives inside of you, and perpetuates certain kinds of behavior that include much more than masturbating or losing your temper. The thing doesn’t want you to grow up. The thing wants you to whine and complain when you have small pain to get attention from your pregnant wife.

The thing is a thing that men going back to Grandfather Larry have seen in your eyes and caused those men to dismiss you as being too queer for them to communicate with. How they defined “queer” should probably be left open-ended to include both “gay” and “weird,” as there is no doubt that at least some of them probably drew conclusions about you that simply weren’t true.

The thing can be kept silent with alcohol, which is why the booze cycle lasted for so long. Sometimes it was a matter of a tradeoff — carry around a bunch of anger and masturbate every chance you could get vs. drink enough to dull the thing into submission.

Maybe you should capitalize The Thing. You’ve been reluctant to give it even this kind of generic title–no titles at all for The Thing, please. But the truth is, you’ve never really sat down and drawn a line in the sand, stating unequivocally, “The Thing is on that side of me, and I am on this side of it. All of these thoughts and deeds go with It, and all of these go with me.”

For years The Thing had you hooked on fantasies of the future, and now these fantasies have come creeping back. Except, now that you are 37, married and living in a nowhere Texas town, it’s pretty damn hard to make even your most gullible parts of your self believe that you will one day find yourself living in New York being toasted and feted as the next great writer, artist, musician, etc. So, you take your fantasies back in time, and The Thing helps your most gullible and pathetic self come to believe that perhaps through some trick of forces in higher dimensions, you will wake up one morning far enough back in the past to right most of the wrongs created by you (but very much egged on incessantly by The Thing), and become that great New York man.

You will go back far enough to never once tell your little brother Roy that he’s dumb, and never once bully him or make him feel inferior to you. You will go back far enough to eliminate the year where you made fun of Bob Larson and his dad, bringing Bob to tears every other day. You will go back far enough to see once and for all if there ever could have been anything between you and Priscilla Chernier or Susan Parker. And, etc. The irony is not lost on you that The Thing is actually happily screwing you over twice–the first time to convince you that certain patterns of behavior were acceptable and even expected for you to be one of the cool kids, and the second time to seduce you into thinking that you could go back to the age of ten or eleven and kill The Thing at its roots.

This kind of fantasy isn’t quite as toxic as the old ones about the future. Those old fantasies took a huge chunk out of your adolescence and young adult life, because they prevented you from having so many real experiences with real people for fear that those real life people would never live up to the fantasy ones. The “relive my past” fantasy is a time waster, and prevents you from seeing clearly who you really are in the here and now, but your gullible self that is willing to suspend disbelief for a few minutes of daydreaming is a pretty small self these days.

You should be clear that you aren’t assigning responsibility for your past poor behavior and current vices to The Thing. You and you alone are responsible for the way you think and talk and act. You are responsible for letting The Thing inside like a vampire to suck a more productive, wonderful life right out of you. But, you need to become crystal clear on what things you do and say come from handing your power over to The Thing, and letting it control you like a puppet, and what things you do and say are come from you being you in charge.

What you need is a talisman of some kind. A talisman that you can hold and look at, and say “as long as this talisman is around, the thing can’t get to me.”

You used to think that people who kept tokens in their pockets or wore crosses around their necks were weak and too focused on the material world. But, do you have the mental fortitude to build a cross inside your head that you can mentally grab onto every time that The Thing comes calling?

You need a talisman and you need structure. You need to build something in the outside world, the physical world, that places frames around the otherwise fluid day. Each hour, on the hour, you have to wake up again.

Waking up, of course, means much more than you wake up after a night’s sleep or a nap. It seems almost beyond cliche to say it, yet you seem to forget this too often.

It’s too easy just to go back to sleep, and let the old established thought patterns govern you. Where you’ve made inroads at changing your behavior, and establishing more healthy patterns, this can get you by to some degree. But, the shock always comes when you realize that the healthy patterns had their dependencies on the outside world being constructed a certain way. When life changes–a move to a new house, a new job is started, you get married, etc.–the healthy patterns seem to not thrive as well. What’s profoundly disappointing is that the negative thought patterns seem to thrive in just about any environment, like hardy weeds.

Writing is, of course, another kind of talisman. It is an activity where an added amount of focus is required, and that focus is at least to some degree connected to the moving hands. The thoughts that grow to be out of control inside your head become quite manageable and morph into something else when they are forced to be put down into written words. So many crazy, paranoid moments of letting anger toward your fellow man get the better of you become ridiculous petty whining once the thoughts are transferred into neatly formed black and white text.

Writing is practically worthless, however, if it’s not really tied to any particular goal or project. Writing a random rant every few days might help alleviate some of the buildup, but it does little to ward off The Thing for much more than the duration following the writing. Writing without any sort of recognition about whose voice is in control can be especially dangerous. If The Thing is speaking through you, then you may very well end up codifying and solidifying some of the negative thought patterns. At the very least, you could be validating them and giving them authority to live on the side of the line you’ve drawn between you and The Thing.