I Don’t Care Anymore

Vinnie Paul died June 22, 2018. I have been mourning a man I have never met, except in the music that nourishes my soul, since that date. Pantera found me when I was an angsty teenager hiding behind a keyboard in AOL chatrooms. I barely had any real friends. My honest problem was I was terrified to be myself outside of the written world. When I was writing, I felt like I could be honest, and I could be myself. It was not even so much I was afraid to own my words, it was I was afraid of myself. Everything about me felt wrong. It started then, and it’s only recently become a thing of my past. I mean, as of this week, it has become a thing of my past.

My life has a distinct soundtrack, and there are several Pantera songs that play these memories. Cemetary Gates and crying in my bed because I wished I was dead or while I was cutting myself trying to understand why it felt so good to hurt. Suicide Note Part 1 & 2 for obvious reasons. This Love and taking Evan to a strip club for Valentine’s Day because I am the best, coolest, awesome-st girlfriend/wife/best friend (and so very humble). The memory of sitting there drinking beers and watching a chick in camo strip to This Love brings a smile to my face every time. Or the memory of long drives with Evan and me doing interpretive finger dancing to Walk (that’s probably one I would have to show you, it’s very “special”). Pantera was one of the bands that got me through teens and 20’s, a soundtrack to a younger me.

When Dimebag was murdered, I was devastated. I don’t think I had seen Evan cry before the day the Zakk Wylde tribute video came out. I’m talking huge heartbroken sobs so hard he made me sob, and I think it was more from shock. (He may not appreciate that overshare!) I remember being so depressed thinking how Vinnie had to watch his brother die before his eyes. The pain, I couldn’t imagine it.

I believe pain is the precursor to beauty. I believe the most beautiful people in the world are covered in scars that are naked to the eye. I believe the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate people have spent many days in hell, and of those, many of us have put ourselves in that very hell. But what about someone who had to suffer a loss like that? Who had to watch his brother’s life bleed out, as he sat helpless on stage at a concert? Can that pain be transformed? Can it be transmuted?

Of course it can. And it did. A supergroup emerged from this tragedy. Chad Gray, who is one of my all time favorite singers – probably second only to Corey Motherfucking Taylor – started HELLYEAH. Vinnie came on as the drummer. I’ll be honest, I did not pay any attention to them when they started. It was 2006, the year I got married, bought a house, and became a mother to my first born son. It was 4 years after the adoption and Evan and I started dating. Until that time, our lives were filled with music – particularly metal, particularly Pantera. In my 20’s, I lost my connection to music because I spent most of my time waddling around pregnant and becoming the world’s most fucked up Stepford Wife.

After Evan and I separated, I found music again. I think my soul had been starved and cut off beyond the brink of sanity prior to that. Remember Interview with the Vampire, when Lestat comes back after being in the swamp and he talks about feeding off crocodiles? That’s how my soul felt. Slowly, music nursed me back to life. HELLYEAH came into my life 2 important times. The first was when my best friend surprised me with tickets to Mayhem, and my journey home to music and myself tentatively started. My marriage was struggling, it was the summer before my hospitalizations started. HellYeah was playing, and I stood in the sun drinking beers with my best friend and remembering why music was everything I needed in life. They released Unden!able in 2016, and I remembered I had forgotten about them. I listened to I Don’t Care Anymore for months. It was incredible hearing Dime’s guitar again, and I kept thinking how much peace that must have given Vinnie. The song fucking rocks, and became a guiding mantra for me. I wanted to stop caring. Not apathy about life, but apathy about opinions. Why do so many of us care so much what other people think? Why do so many of us spend our lives ruled by the court of public opinion?

That song became the soundtrack to me starting writing again. What did I have to hide? What was I so fucking scared of? Maybe I am half decent at writing and people will like it? Maybe I suck ass and people will not like it? Who gives a shit? Why was I hiding so far back in the closet of my life?! At this point, I was still struggling with whether or not I believed in Catholicism but tentatively taking steps towards philosophy, Buddhism, and pan-theology. So, either I have one life to get my ass to heaven or one life to set me up for more lives based on this life. (That is so rudimentary it is not fair to either philosophy, but that was my fear.) I was terrified of going to hell. The me inside of me was damned, despicable, unworthy of love. For most of my life, I believed my parents hated me. Not because of them, not because of anything, but because I was convinced no one could love me. It’s why I became so obsessed with music. It was my first coping skill. It was the first time I felt I wasn’t alone. I have cried so many tears to so many albums, as so many of us have. Music is like Novocain for your mind and cashmere sweater for your soul, right?

This song started a fire in me unlike any other. I just wanted to stop the bullshit. It’s taken me two years to really, genuinely truly stop the bullshit. I have barely been able to write. Every time I would sit down to type, I would lose my shit. I’ve talked about the psychosis a lot lately, because I have to. I have to heal this wound. It’s been gaping and festering and oozing as I’ve been gingerly cleansing myself (and feeding off alligators) slowly. So slowly. Part of my psychosis centered around blogging. My old blog, Mahbuttitches, caused so much seemingly irreparable harm to my family and people I love. I used it as an outlet to be angry, to be a victim, but to heal. I started putting pieces of puzzles together, and I started seeing all of my demons, my darkness, my shadows. All of the pain I had caused myself, the things I had done to myself for 2 decades, it was too much.

A mind can only handle so much, and true to my nature, I pushed too far. But you can only break out of your comfort zone by pushing to far. Muscles need to rip and tear and be broken down to grow anew. Destruction breeds creation. I finally see the beauty in how epically I burned myself alive, because I do believe the meditation caused the psychosis, and I do believe I caused my psychosis by not taking care of myself. I was unmedicated, I was refusing to listen to anyone telling me I was bipolar, and I was angry at the world. I was a blindfolded dragon who lit herself on fire. Or, apt to my tattoo, a phoenix. And I’m not saying this because it’s anything but how I see it. I like to see life as poetry, forgive me for too much description.

Then Vinnie died,  and the timing was aligned. Don’t for a second take I’m saying Vinnie died to save me from my sins, it’s just synchronicity at work. The constant ripples of consciousness that create the mystery, beauty, and surprise of life. Like music, there is no end to the experience, if you just shut up and enjoy. Bands like HELLYEAH transcend the mundane consciousness and use poetic metaphors triggering insight, growth, and beauty that makes my words feel hollow. Listen to the words, in HELLYEAH, in Mudvayne, if Chad isn’t a singing Buddha, I’ll eat my hat. The man went through hell – listen to Hush, and he comes out of his own self discovery, a similar path I’m walking, to see his own power, the power of his truth, his voice, and what he can make people feel with his honesty and vulnerability. This is art.

I put Hush on as soon as I finished reading Vinnie died, which I had really weirdly, started listening to HELLYEAH again obsessively maybe a few weeks prior to this death because of Hush. It came up on my Daily Mix on Spotify, and a few songs later, Moth played and I could not stop listening to them. Seriously, the lyrics in just those two songs – mindblowing wisdom and companionship.

It’s August 9th, and I have been listening to HELLYEAH since May? At this point? Almost nonstop, I can’t stop listening, it just makes me feel everything I need, it’s like a treasure map into opening my heart, opening my mouth, and writing again. I’m telling you, the full circle thing is overwhelming. I remember playing I don’t care anymore as I was typing about Evan and I fixing our marriage. I was terrified to write about it, because I was still worried about people thinking I was an idiot. It was that song that kicked me in the heart to STOP FUCKING CARING. I love the man, who gives a shit? He’s my best friend, and I don’t want to walk this journey without him by my side. Forgiveness is my terms, not theirs. That day, June 10th, was our 12th anniversary (we never actually divorced, I don’t think we could handle it…). Our 11th anniversary we were just living together and terrified of how bad it could turn out. Our 12th, we finally stopped lying to ourselves and admitted we wanted to get back together. We put our wedding rings on that night. My left hand feels whole again. Because of a song by HELLYEAH.

I am so addicted to this band, and every time I hear Vinnie drum, I am so overwhelmed with this bittersweetness. I’m so glad he has been woven back into the fabric of us, and I know he’s here, he’s with his brother, and he is immortal. I’m not even saying that from a spiritual perspective, I am saying it from literal reality. His songs live on through us, my obsession with HELLYEAH has led to my kids becoming obsessed with HELLYEAH. (I’m a terrible mother who does not censor her children’s music, because I feel the emotional value, healing, subconscious triggering/awakening is far more valuable than them avoiding the inevitable F-Bomb, from their sailor mouthed mother or the many artists we all adore. I also don’t care what you do with your kids, heh)

The point in that is: through two generations, his drumming lives on. In me, and in them. I listen to so much music from my parents, so there’s every chance my grandchildren will listen to his music. I’m obsessed with Westworld, and the line from Ghost Nation: “You only live as long as the last person who remembers you.” has been burning like a hot coal in my mind. Vinnie contributed to music that saved my life – over and over and over again. There were so many times I wanted to kill myself, there were so many times I pulled myself back from pushing deeper on my wrist. There have been so many times I almost let go of the steering wheel, and it’s music that stopped me every time. Because I watched these souls turn their pain to beauty and in that transformation, they have become immortal. They will be remembered long, long after they are gone. They will be passed down in stories of concerts, or drives with the windows down and the music up. They will live in memories of pain and joy. And every time they are remembered, they’re here with us.

I can spend hours, hell days with Vinnie, and I always have. Their music unlocked the truth in me: I couldn’t write anymore, because I had to learn to talk first. To stand firm, beautiful, and strong in my truth. To take myself out of the closet in my skull and smile genuinely into this world. See the beauty in everything. Write the beauty in everything. My psychosis was the greatest blessing I’ve ever had. I see life is music. I am free, because I am me. I can express myself like I’ve been watching, learning, and healing. Music. Vinnie’s drums, Chad’s voice, Christian & Tom’s guitars, and Kyle’s bass have been playing the soundtrack to my journey home to myself, to my writing, to the point where this all began:

I don’t care anymore. I don’t care what  you say. I don’t play by the same rules, anyway. I won’t be there anymore, so get out of my way, let me by. I got better things to do with my time…I don’t care anymore.

And as long as I am able, I will remember and I will write about this journey and every immortal that is helping me scatter my soul into the universe.

How about you? If you made it this far (AND THANK YOU!) what’s the band that has profoundly affected you? What song? Comment here or link to your own memory post about an artist that saved or changed your life. Tell me about the song that makes you float away from this world, or the vocalist, let’s just celebrate the beauty of music, and especially Vinnie Fucking Paul. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your gift. I will see you in the eyes of my children, because you are a reason I can still gaze in them.

A Tale of Synchronicity (Part 1)

If synchronicity is an unfamiliar term, I’ll summarize it like this: seemingly unconnected events that work together to put you in the best (or worst) place possible. Carl Jung said, “Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see” For me, it has always been: everything happens for a reason. Synchronicity taught me to come away from the illusion of instant gratification and trust everything serves to bring me where I’m supposed to be, even if it makes absolutely no sense at the time. It makes it easier for me to relax and be present in the moment. Synchronicity is often talked about it relation to repeating numbers, probably the most popular one is 11:11

There is no end to possibility when you trust that all is well. I could not say that until I finally stopped doubting myself – I was seeing repeating numbers constantly and literally asking out loud “What the hell could possibly be okay, I’m a mess!!!!” and it wasn’t until I accepted I do not know better than the universe, and if She’s telling me everything’s okay, I should say thank you. Once that click happened, every piece of the puzzle I will attempt to tell fell into place within months. This story is a series of dominoes, with even more connections I am leaving out for the sake of clarity and brevity.

Leah Painting

Did you ever meet someone and have a feeling they are meant to be in your life? I have always held a belief that everyone I meet is for a purpose because I believe everything in life happens for a reason. I learned this when 19 and placed my first daughter with her adoptive parents. I understood the pain was worth it, because if I had not dated her biological father, I would never have met my husband and had my three children. I have always been able to find the bright side of life, so to speak, and I have always found when I sought it, I would find it rather quickly.

That was until I met a man named Jake. I cannot explain why I felt the way I did about him, or why I allowed the relationship to become what it was. He somehow a catalyst to me going on a journey of looking harshly at myself in the mirror, healing my traumas, battling my demons, whatever term you’d like to use. I finally started writing again after giving up on myself, I stopped killing myself with alcohol and eating disorders, allowing myself to be used by men, and on and on. I started, instead, practicing yoga, meditation, journaling, and on and on. The pain of unrequited love is exquisite. It pushes you to darkness you did not know existed. There are so many songs and works of art distilled from the place of a broken heart. Sometimes I would joke my emotional poetry about him alone was worth the price of admission.

I’ve spent two and a half years becoming myself. After my life shattered and I went to the mental hospital again, I tried to rebuild the pieces. I scrapped that and decided to just be who I wanted to be, instead of what everyone had told me I should be. I think that is a journey we all must go on. Maybe not to the extremes I had to go to, but I’m stubborn. I really liked being miserable, clearly. I’ve always been grateful to him for that.

The pain of Jake helped me become who I am, but I struggled with accepting that as closure. I could not get over this dude, it was like MRSA. It would get a little better, then come back with more crap. I spent 2 years pining for a man who literally told me over and over he did not love me. I spent 2 years begging, messaging, stalking?, a dude that blocked me, rejected me, etc. But this taught me how pain and beauty are an inseparable process. Pain teaches you to appreciate the beauty, and beauty heals the pain.

This week, the pain taught me to appreciate the beauty when this journey and chapter came to a close. I had met a woman named Rachel through Jake. I kept in touch with her since  because the second I met her, I knew she was special. Have you ever had that? Where you just know this person is meaningful? We barely saw each other – 2 times since! But, she stayed in my heart and mind thanks to Facebook. She posted an incredible mural earlier this year. My friend Claudine, who owns Shanteel Yoga Studio, mentioned she wanted a mural, so I did not hesitate to recommend Rachel.

This is Rachel’s first mural. If you don’t see why I recommended her immediately and why Claudine hired her immediately, please get your eyes checked. It’s almost impossible to believe she and Leah could outdo this!

A few months later, Rachel and her friend Leah began work on one of the most beautiful and inspiring pieces of art I have ever seen. When I think of synchronicity, I think of stars aligning. It’s a series of events that put you in a place you are meant to be. In this instance, Jake put me in a place to meet two women who created a masterpiece, and changed my life for the better. The three of us – Rachel, Leah, and I – spent the week of the mural creation bonding,  inspiring, and changing each other’s lives. I am not exaggerating when I say, I’d go through this all over again for this project, and to meet these women. The pain I have overcome makes the appreciation of the sweetness, beauty, and magic that much more pleasant.

I keep thinking this is only the beginning. This mural came from a place of healing, opening our hearts, and expressing our souls. The only way this is possible is from synchronicity. I went from doubting myself, doubting my belief in how the world works, to seeing I was being impatient. Everything happens in the time it must. There were so many pieces of this puzzle that had to fall in place. Shanteel opening, Rachel painting, Leah and Rachel meeting, and me recommending them. The synchronicity of these events alone is a magnificent work of art, and my words don’t do it justice. The mural they created, the poetry it is inspiring, the healing, and the loving connections and community this is building is transcendent. A chance meeting while I was on a bad date began a  journey towards immortality. Leah, Rachel and I put our souls in the mural. In art and love, we are eternal.

This story taught me the greatest lessons: patience, trust, but most importantly: to appreciate the ever present reality of synchronicity – this week gave us all eyes to see it.

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Please follow along as I develop this story further. This is one tiny piece of the mural, a silly selfie of me (glasses) and my two new sisters.  We will all be unveiling more pictures across our social media in the coming days. They say a picture says a thousand words, but I say this one has only one word: Joy! Please follow us on this amazing journey by following these links and experiencing beautiful art:

Daina (OurBeautifulLies)- WordPress, My personal FBOBL Blog Page on FacebookTwitterInstagram

Rachel – Instagram

Leah – Instagram, Facebook

If you are nearby, please experience: Shanteel Yoga Sanctuary – Website, Facebook

Would Buddha Take Medication?

This has been a question I’ve been ruminating on for well over a year. I am curious if there are others in a similar spot: for me, my alphabet soup of diagnoses led me to spirituality as did working through various addictions. Yet, I’ve found myself in a conundrum of: can I be spiritual and take medicine? Would Buddha have popped pills?

I began studying Buddhism when I realized modern psychology is basically renamed Buddhism. I figured I’d just go to the source. Buddhism is not a religion; it is a philosophy. The focus is disciplining the mind.

When I started meditating, I lived in fear of my mind. It was noisy, chaotic, nasty, and full of should have/would have/could have. I had always felt there were at least 2 me’s in existence. The mask and the fucked up girl behind the mask. When I came to meditation, my life had become a confusing blur of lies. I didn’t know who I was anymore because I lost track of the lies and reality.

In this journey, I’ve flip flopped between believing I am seriously ill and in need of help and believing there is nothing wrong with me, it is society making me sick.

The psychosis I had over a year ago was the great leveler. In that, I am forced to accept both answers to every question. There are things I saw and experienced that are so real to me even today, I shudder at the memory. Yet, no one else saw or heard these things. No one saw melting faces, or had any reason to believe the weird weather was all my fault. I can’t find the things I read anymore, yet I swear I read them. It’s a case of accepting what is: I cannot explain this, but it happened all the same.

The harder thing to accept is this absolutely started with meditation. I experienced something that I can not describe in words, and from that point on, my life was turned upside down. I did believe I was God, so it could be full delusional grandeur and mania. I also believed I was here to help people, and that too could be mania. I don’t know. The problem and solution always is: I don’t know. I’ve researched it endlessly. Kundalini awakenings resonate with what happened to me. Jung’s concept of the shadow is almost a verbatim account of the 3 or so weeks I was in psychosis. Everything, and I mean everything I was afraid of, worried about, hiding away, etc. came into my reality. It was as if my life was a Stephen King novel.

I still struggle talking about this, because I couldn’t write out everything that happened in those weeks if I had a lifetime to type. If I can one day, it will give Mr. King a run for his money.

After begging to be taken to the mental hospital, knowing if I didn’t go, I was going to kill myself: I’m still left with fear. There’s still a part of me worried I was wrong. On bad days of depression, I can worry I should have killed myself then, because at the time, I was convinced someone was going to kill my kids if I didn’t kill myself. I’ve never been more terrified of my mind. Yet, I had two choices, I could either get back on good terms with myself, or spend the rest of my days terrified of me as I had been.

It took me a long time to come back to meditation. Buddhism obviously teaches meditation, but I learned in the mental hospital. No one told me about needing a guide or a teacher. No one told me what meditation could unlock. The experience I had is very similar to what has been described as Kundalini awakenings, and there are warnings abound that this should not be undertaken without serious inner work to clear your demons. Me? I was obsessed with meditating because it made me feel good. I didn’t really know chakras or anything spiritual then.

Was it spiritual? Was it psychological? Those questions have plagued me for so long.

In reality, the only thing that did happen is all my worst fears did come true, and all the things I repressed came to the surface. I was terrified I was crazy, so I went crazy. I lost my mind. It doesn’t matter what was real or not real, because in my world, it was all true. In others, it was not. For me, I created a self fulfilling prophecy. I believed I was crazy, so crazy is what I was.

This is the nature of life. My truth is something only I have. No one sees the sky the same way, and we have no way of proving or disproving it because we can’t describe blue. This leads me back to my question. The Buddha taught how to discipline the mind to alleviate suffering. I believe he used the complete power of his focus, by watching his thoughts and choosing where he gave his focus.

The Buddha believed all suffering exists in our minds. We cling to the past and reject change, we chase the future and lose the present. We create huge expectations to bring disappointment. We live in extremes and reject reality. I have to wonder, though, how would Buddha deal with now? Look at the world we are in. He’s long gone, and many follow his way, yet does it resonate now? Ancient wisdom is wise, but does it make sense in a culture so vastly different? Would he need Effexor and Latuda to stay centered?

The world is so obsessed with labels and words. Everything has to be specifically characterized and in a box – we’ve turned ourselves into nouns and forms of grammar instead of living breathing constantly changing verbs. God is now an iPhone, I think. It’s very different from a monastic lifestyle in India. In the present, I think suffering is caused by our obsession with the word “or”. My suffering with the puzzle of my psychosis is an easy example of this. The reality is “and” not “or”. That is to say, everything I experienced was completely real, completely caused by meditation, AND bipolar. Why must they be mutually exclusive? Does mania make it false? I used to believe mania made my happiness a lie, and I would use analysis to rob myself of joy with the fear of being crazy.

In reality, to me, bipolar is a description of a particular form of suffering: attachment versus non attachment. I flee the bad days and run for the good days. Medication has helped, meditation helped, yoga helped. I don’t fear my bad days, and I enjoy the good days as they last. Non attachment.

The psychosis is forcing me to accept “and” because it’s the only plausible answer. It’s all of the above. Yet, strikingly, this is precisely what the Buddha taught in non duality. Everything in this life is a process. Sadness is necessary so that happiness is experienced. Rainy days are needed to grow flowers in the sunshine. All of the cliches. But it is truly everything. All the mental anguish I go through attempting to pick a side can easily be avoided by accepting both and sticking to the middle. Any extreme is bad for our minds. Moderation is key in everything.

If you can think about the most painful situation in your life, I am willing to bet there is an “or” you are struggling with. “Did he cheat on me because I wasn’t good enough or is he a shitty person?” Both. It’s both. He believed you weren’t good enough and that does make him a shitty person. It can be everything because it’s all part of one unified process. It’s up to us to decide and move forward. Obsessing with the why, and trying to label it disconnects us from reality and keeps us in fear of the unknown. The reality is: it is all unknown and known. Every moment is exactly as it’s meant to be, and suffering comes from constant ruminating and questioning thoughts. The only reality is action.

The rising diagnoses seem to flag this problem. As we all attempt to force ourselves in one particular box at the loss of another, trying to encapsulate ourselves in neat words and labels, we are losing our minds. Our sanity. Our obsession with words and thinking is making us insane.

Isn’t it interesting that modern psychology and Buddhism are so closely aligned? Why is meditation so crucial? Why did meditation help me go crazy? I appreciate it now, because now I have the opposite – I know what it feels like to lose my mind. I no longer need to analyze myself for crazy indicators.

Meditation is the art of doing nothing, because we all do too much. It is rare we have that counter balance. Like pushing do not disturb on a cell phone, meditation can create the space for truth and reality to shine through. The truth that we always need both. We need activity and we need stillness. We cannot be healthy in any one or the other situation.

What is the truth? What is reality? I don’t know anymore. I think that’s the most truthful I can get. This journey started whether I wanted to or not, but I’ve been holding myself back by shifting my fear to medication. I finally connected I’ve been so stifled in everything because I’m terrified the medicine I am on is changing my brain.

When I started meditating, I saw colors. So many colors. It was like hanging out in a kaleidoscope. Now, I can tell you this is called a siddhi and means very little. Since I started the medicine, I stopped seeing colors. I’ve been worried about this for so long. Yet just last night, I asked that question: if Buddha was here now, would he take medicine to help with the journey?

The answer is: why do I care what Buddha would do? This is what I keep missing. At the end of the day, it’s only me that can move my feet on this path. Buddha may be a guide, Watts may be a guide, but I’m the only one who can choose. If I believe the medicine is hurting me, of course it will. Self fulfilling prophecies are reality. I take supplements and I take medicine. Why not both? Both help me. I have a stigma against myself with the medicine, and I’m tired of bullying me about it.

No sooner did I come to peace with this – after 1.5 years of struggling and fighting with this choice to medicate, I saw colors again. Brighter and more vivid then I remember before.

The Buddha taught me to stop fearing my mind by embracing the beauty of my mind. Meditation taught me how powerful all minds are. They can create beauty or suffering, depending on your focus. In each of us is this power to create or destroy our worlds. Most of us need to destroy before we learn to stop creating our destruction with the stories we tell ourselves.

Are you pondering similar questions? Let me know in comments, I’d love to pick some brains.

On This Day…

I met my husband 17 years ago today. It was Ozzfest in Camden, NJ. I was with my best friend, and we were the furthest thing from sober. We watched a morbidly obese Samoan gentleman annihilate the mosh pit with a shopping cart, I waited around to get Dave Draiman to sign my chest, and the late Dave Williams to sign my ticket stub. It was the best day of my life, and it only got better.

I bumped into a friend, and he introduced me to the dude who would be my hubby 5 years later. As a natural seductress – smooth like chunky peanut butter – I offered the (as I described) hottest dude I’ve ever seen my soft pretzel and pointed repeatedly at my chest babbling about Dave Draiman. This clearly had an impact on him, because I didn’t see him for a year, though I talked about him off and on.

I never in a million years would have thought this random encounter would be a milestone in my meandering river of life, but hot dude at concert is now hot dude who fathered my children and is my best friend and husband.

I wouldn’t see him again until a random coincidence had me invited to his Fourth of July party where I was 8 months pregnant and in the adoption process for the baby. When I saw him again, I tried to get his attention by awkwardly attempting small talk and commenting on how nice his air conditioner felt.

Clearly, my feminine wiles had a dramatic impact on him, because we finally started dating a few weeks after my first child was born. I’m sure many successful relationships start with a woman meandering the adoption process and healing from labor. I’m sure Lifetime has these movies all the time. It probably appeared weird to a lot of people, and clearly my emotions were a train wreck, but I had said on our wedding day: my husband was a gift from God to help me through the darkest days of my life.

I remember those weeks after she was born so vividly. I barely spoke and chain-smoked on my parents’ deck, staring at the sky praying the clouds would give me an answer. When I gave birth, I had the option to see or not see the baby. I spent every minute in the hospital with her. At 19, I had a surprisingly level head with this. I knew I had to let myself fall in love with her to know if I was strong enough to say goodbye. The weeks after she was born and before he randomly popped back in my life, I was staring at those clouds trying to decide if I was strong enough to say goodbye.

He and I started dating September 2. She was born August 12. Just days before, I had called the adoption agency and confirmed my decision to proceed. My reasoning was as painful as it was logical. My daughter deserves more than I could give her at this time. I wanted her to have a mother and father, and I did not want to have her struggle as I tried to care for us, finish my education, and start a career. I knew her father and I were not capable of that relationship, nor could I alone give her a life even comparable to my childhood. Every parent wants the best for their child, and I knew I did not have that.

The pain of this decision and experience taught me the first big lesson of love – one so many overlook – letting go. Of course my love for her is the love of a mom, but love is not always easy or perfect. Sometimes, the most love you can give is to say goodbye. To make the choice for something better for the one you love. It was a lesson I got beat over the head as a reminder of when my husband and I finally let each other go after trying to reconcile and heal so many times.

After I decided to proceed with the adoption, I randomly crossed paths with him, and I started smiling, laughing, and talking again. From the get go, I was open and honest with everything I was going through. I trusted him completely, and he became my best friend immediately. It always felt, to me, like I had known him all my life. I remember telling him how safe and happy I felt in his arms. Like all my troubles couldn’t touch me when I nuzzled on his chest. I always loved how perfectly I fit under his arm. I’m 5’5″ and he’s 6’1″. My ear sits on his heart when we hug.

There’s more to this story than a long soliloquy of a chance metalhead encounter becoming the weirdest love story ever. I mean, flash forward 17 years, and we’re back together after a 3 year separation after years of a toxic marriage.

This story is where I first really started seeing God/the universe/Tao/insert word here in my life. It’s simple, so simple I could have just as easily overlooked it, because the past is just a story we tell ourselves now. I could change the words and have an equally accurate representation of my life but it would be full of negatives and pity me bullshit. It doesn’t matter. The past is only useful if you allow it to elucidate your present and make a choice to see the beauty repeat in your life.

I would have never met my husband if I hadn’t dated my daughter’s father. It was his friend I went to say hi to. I would have never known these people otherwise. I was 19 when she was born. It’s been almost 16 years now of me fucking my life up in new inventive ways, then cleaning my mess up in other equally inventive ways. At the time, it was the most pain I had ever known, and he was the person by my side making me smile. It taught me pain leads to beauty. Suffering teaches happiness. It taught me hope. Looking back now, it was the first time I really had to trust everything happens for a reason and let it be at that.

I get why people can feel punished by life or God. There’s so many reasons to be miserable about suffering. In the moments, pain can seem like there’s all there is to life. It can seem pointless and hopeless. This all taught me to hold on. All these years later, I have the words to put to this lesson: I am not in charge of my life. What I can say is “bad” has always ultimately led to what I can say is “good”. That helps me to stop lingering or trying to escape the bad. It helps me to accept life as it is. To get so worked up in labeling life and experience is like crying about arithmetic in school. Everything in life is a lesson. Everyone is a teacher.

My husband, over the 17 years we have been in each other’s lives, taught me unconditional love. He taught me by making me a mother to our three kids, when I forgave him and he forgave me after we both committed “unforgivable” sins against each other, and by always accepting me exactly as I was – which is quite often unstable at best – as I describe myself. Through my love for him, I learned my purpose – everyone’s purpose – on this green and blue orb. It’s love. Love isn’t always soft pretzels and air conditioning. Love is fighting, forgiving, and being human. Mistakes and accomplishments are equal in the eyes of love.

This is why duality is so harmful for all of our minds. It causes us to label love and forget the nature of love. If love and forgiveness are placed as synonyms, there can be no true bad or true good with love. If your child fucks up, you don’t stop loving them. If anything, you offer more love. There’s nothing that cannot be forgiven with love, and if that’s the case, everything in life simply brings you closer to love. Love for yourself, love for others. Compassion with the knowledge of your own personal stumbles to make you less judgmental of others. The same is true of the whole spectrum of life. Everything is a lesson in love to show us all there’s never any bad, there’s nothing to actually fear, because you will always end up exactly where you were meant to be.

I knew 17 years ago when I looked in that man’s eyes that I wanted him in my life. I could not have expected he would become the love of my life and my partner in crime forever, and I’m glad for it.

The best part of life are the surprise endings you can never see coming. It’s the best love story of them all, because if you really can trust the process of your life: it is a love story written personally to and for you from God (or whoever resonates – love doesn’t get hung up on labels).

And to my partner in crime, thank you for helping me be the woman I am today. Our love for each other and our children taught me love for myself. Our love has saved my life countless times. Our love has superseded and risen above pain and misery that made this story seem like a cakewalk. You are the sun to my moon, and the sexiest man at Ozzfest. I love you.

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I Cannot Worry About The Future if I Am Experiencing My Present

Right now I’m reminding myself frequently: I cannot worry about the future if I am experiencing my present.

That does not mean I don’t have thoughts or worries about the future. It simply means I redirect my focus to the present. In the mental hospital, I was taught a grounding exercise: identify things through the five senses. What do I see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Feel?

Not surprisingly, there are many types of meditation that teach this presence and mindfulness is taught as a way to connect with now.

I also learned positive affirmations in the mental hospital and from my psychologist. This is very similar to a powerful invocation called the Sankalpa, or your heart’s desire. You meditate quietly for a few moments, then allow something you want to arise from a place that transcends your thinking mind.

In any of these practices: grounding, mantra, Sankalpa, mindfulness, meditation, etc. gratitude is fundamental to reaching these states. Gratitude is a place that transcends the ego, the anxiety, and the depression because it places power outside of your thinking mind. If a few moments are taken to see and appreciate everything – good and bad – by acknowledging everything has happened to bring this moment, the ego becomes quiet, confused, and powerless. Gratitude helps with acceptance too. In my journey, being thankful for being bipolar taught me to stop fighting being bipolar. In any situation, I guide my focus to gratitude. Even the worst situations, I can still be thankful I’m breathing.

Once gratitude helps center, I can “hear myself think” better. This is when positive affirmation or Sankalpa helps. It’s a statement in the present of something you wish to accomplish. My first Sankalpa was “I am peaceful, loving, trusting whenever I am confused or upset” this arose as a need for me to shift because as soon as my moods did what my moods do, or depression made me feel worthless, etc. I question every decision I’ve ever made, doubt myself, and worry about my entire journey.

Pretty quickly, I saw this shift. I couldn’t say how specifically, but I started listening to myself and trusting myself more. I recited the Sankalpa after connecting with gratitude and repeated it three times. I also recited it before meditating and bed.

Right now, my Sankalpa is “I am love”. This has led me to stop getting into my head about the future and experience the present instead. Love is action, not a noun. It’s a dynamic, ever changing energy. Love is not clinging or fear, so worrying about the future is the opposite of love.

If these practices are of interest, hop on YouTube. There are guided meditations to set a Sankalpa, to connect with mindfulness, and gratitude practices. I do general searches and just pick whatever I feel pulled to pick. This helps to connect with intuition too. If the spirituality side of things feels weird, check out positive affirmations and I Am statements, mindfulness exercises for depression or anxiety, and try journaling 3 gratitudes daily. It’s the same, just different words and more or less talk of God.

Do things that resonate with you and you alone. Never force a practice that doesn’t resonate or force yourself to do anything a certain way because someone else does it. All the self help books, guides and all this have good intentions, but each of us walks differently with different feet, shoes, and baggage. Meet yourself where you are at and with what you want, and find the resources that support and work for you. At the end of the day, being in your life and experiencing your life now is what is important. Not the past, not the future.

Me vs. me

The most frustrating aspect of bipolar or mood disorders (including ADHD) is there are essentially at least two diametrically opposed personalities in your life. There’s the person who can handle it and the one who can’t. They’re both you, it’s not multiple personality disorder, but one you is on the ball and trying to improve and the other you is overwhelmed, anxious, and wondering how the hell to get half of what was done before done now.

This has been an ongoing battle in my life. When things are good, I’m on the ball, organized, house clean, and dotting all my lower case j’s. When things are not, I don’t even know where to start. I call it going down holes. It’s frustrating because as far as I can go up is as far as I can go down. Most of this year has been me trying to teach myself baseline. An area where I can manage and cope without too much pressure either way. Things that are easy on good weeks are difficult on not good weeks. I make commitments on good weeks that are impossible on bad. And then I have to dig myself out of the holes my moods can go to.

Buddhism taught me impermanence and to relieve myself of expectations. The largest part of my suffering was in comparing myself to myself and to others. I am not the person I was five minutes ago, let alone last week. This frees me to just do my best every day. It doesn’t matter what I did or didn’t do previously. It’s also okay to be overwhelmed, because I have a lot going on. Carving time to meditate creates space to just be and allow myself to be however I am without fixing me.

I am not my house or my to do list. Some days, I just need to cope with my Newtonian moods watching me go up and inevitably come down. Ram Dass said his stroke is a grace from God, because he finally learned to ask and receive help. He is paralyzed on his left side saying this is grace. I’ve been pondering his beautiful words for a month, and I agree.

Bipolar is my grace from God. If I had not gone into full blown psychosis, I would never have started asking for help. If I hadn’t started seeing my mood swings, irritability, and suffering, I would never have turned to Buddhism for help. I would have followed the path others laid for me, and never become me. I would have never accepted me. I would never have expressed me. I look at the weeks I go down in the hole as me just needing rest. Does it suck to have to dig out and try to get back to baseline? Sure. But I have a baseline now. I know when I’m off, and I know what to do when I’m off.

And I know how to ask for help now. I’m not ashamed for needing help. I am not ashamed that I can’t do it all. I’m not ashamed of myself. None of this would be possible without the grace of bipolar. My creativity, problem solving, personality, empathy, and compassion all come from being “batshit crazy” as I called myself before. There are kind of two or more me’s in here, and at least we’re all playing nicer in the sandbox. Even if I gotta pick up my slack sometimes.

I believe our greatest challenges are our greatest strengths. This becomes apparent when we stop fighting with ourselves and love the good, bad, ugly, and all in between.

Bring the Inside Out

I just watched this fascinating video on why “today’s music” sucks. The gist of the video was that almost all the biggest pop hits are written by the same 2 dudes. Each popular song has an entire marketing machine behind it, and in truth, they all follow the same formula for success. Admittedly, I do like a good amount of pop songs, but now I’m wondering how much my enjoyment is mine and how much has been shoved down my throat by the marketing machine. The video was pointing out how these songs play everywhere constantly, so after awhile, it grows on you.

I’m eclectic – I will listen to anything but country, and there are even a couple country songs I can tolerate. My first loves, however, are metal and rock. Right now, I’m on a HELLYEAH kick because I’ve been so sad about Vinnie Paul dying. For the last few days, though, it’s been weighing on my mind how metal is ostracized by the majority while pop is so embraced by the majority. I listen to the magic these musicians create, and I’m overwhelmed by the talent, feelings, and places this music can take me. I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon, but I struggle to understand how a drum machine is more popular than the incredible beauty Vinnie Paul created, or the raw, beautiful power of Chad’s voice vs the autotuned crap on constant rotation. There is so much talent kind of ignored.

Then I wonder, though, if that is actually an industry tactic, to make metal fans believe we’re rebellious outsiders while being fed the same type of formula. Maybe that sounds tinfoil hat mentality though. It just confuses me how a two chord song can outshine the deep complexities of melody, harmony, and a full band experience. In order to hear my favorite music, I have to go to YouTube or Spotify, because it’s never on the radio.

Pop music works for me if I’m in a good mood, bored, or if I’m trying to ignore my problems for a bit. Metal, on the other hand, makes me feel the shit I don’t want to feel. Ponder realities I shy away from. Admittedly, there are metal songs that are just heavier pop, feeding that mentality of fuck ’em all, etc. Despite my eclectic ways, I am picky about vocals and lyrics. Rap, Rock, Metal, Pop all can fall into repetitive traps of “let’s get fucked up and party” I prefer shit that makes me think and feel. The music industry now tells us what we like and plays repeated hits to the point of nausea. Anytime I turn on the radio, I hear the same songs from 3 or more years ago. There’s been no change, save 1-2 “monster hits of the summer” or whatever. 

I love to disassociate from reality. I spent many years feeling like a caged up bird looking in this world. I can still shut myself down effectively to the point I am numb. When that happens, I have no personality whatsoever. The only way I can help myself snap out of it is listening to music. I’ll find the song that sings my feelings until my feelings come back. I love songs that make me sob or make me feel less alone. I don’t often get that depth from Pop music, though. Pop lets me stay in a disassociated state, because it has no emotional resonance for me. My life has been very fucked up for a long time, so fucked up people are who I love to hear. I think everyone is fucked up to varying degrees, but not many like to admit it. Yet, our scars are what make us unique, precious beings in this world. Why do we try so hard to be the same, when not even our fingerprints match another person. This is how creativity changes lives: we tap into what makes us feel like ourselves. The more I can express myself here in writing, I am even more expressive in life. The very things I tried to hide away before are the things people like to read or hear about. Because we all feel less alone when it can be related to.

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My idols have all taken their demons and painted beauty. In Jungian terms, their creative self expression brought light to the darkness, and released them from the past. Every time I create something – hell it can be a good dinner – I feel better. Even then, I fight myself and fight my creativity. I get scared to write, because I don’t know what I want to write about. I feel like an imposter attempting to follow a dream half-assedly. I doubt myself because I can come up with things to write about so easily, and create it in 15 minutes. That makes me believe I suck, it shouldn’t be this easy. But what if that is the essence of our gifts? With practice and expression, it falls out of us like water poured out of a pitcher. What if we all lie to ourselves about our gifts, keeping them pent up inside, leaving us feeling hollow and lost?

I learned awhile ago that the only way I can heal myself is to express myself. Talk about what is actually on my mind, write what is actually on my heart. No masks, no social media perfection, just who and what I am at the time of writing. I’ve grown up admiring band after band, author after author, yet always telling myself I cannot possibly be like them. The proof of my self-delusion is constant: every band I love takes pain and transforms it to something beyond themselves. It’s alchemy, it’s transformation, it is the power of creativity and self expression.

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I’m going to go on a limb here and wonder if the rising rates of mental illness and deaths by suicide is correlated with an inability to express ourselves. Doesn’t anxiety often feel as though you have a million things caged up inside you? Doesn’t depression often feel as though you have no purpose in this life, so why go on?

Isn’t this a war most of us have? Jekyll and Hyde? Yin and Yang? I feel as though I have two diametrically opposed me’s in my life. I feel crazy admitting that, but it’s the truth. There’s one who digs the shit out of life, and the other one that likes to tell me how much everything sucks. Music is the only middle ground for me. Music takes analytical precision (left brain) with infinite creativity and connection (right brain). I suspect most of us suffer from being too left brained, leaving our very notion of creativity up for analysis and speculation.

The ego – the talking voice in our heads – will never let us feel sufficient. The ego was formed to protect us, keep us alive, and analyze the environment for threats. The ego is our problem solver, so when we stay stuck in ego-based thought circles, we lose connection to our intuition and inspiration. The ego can’t trust that, because there is no past data to support it. If anything, ego compares others to make us feel defeated before we began.

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I’ve been reading a lot on hemispheres. The right brain cannot speak in words, but can recognize faces, images, and so forth. The left brain can communicate and problem solving. The problem stems from the fact most of us don’t understand the ego is your conscious attention. It analyzes everything for potential threats. So then, the ego attacks our creativity in the same way the music industry is attacking music. The ego wants predictable and safe. If they are investing 500k to 3million dollars in marketing, they want a guaranteed hit. The problem is, they just repeat everything. Lyrics, backing tracks, personas, etc. The only way we can truly express our creativity IS to take a leap of faith. That’s not something the ego is capable of doing, but every artist, actor, musician, author, business owner, inventor, etc. had to take a leap of faith to get to the other side.

What the music industry is doing to music is what the left brain attempts to control our lives. Analyzing the past to predict the future outcomes. This makes us completely batshit crazy, because we have no sense of reality. We live in two states: past or future, with no eyes on the present. I’m not surprised that music is this way anymore, because we are all choosing to ignore the present moment in order to feel safe. Life and music have the same purpose: experience. Music has no purpose beyond listening and enjoying. Great music makes you think bigger than your problems. Great lyrics can make you think and feel that you are not alone. Music quiets the perpetual argument of left and right brain, which is what I suspect is the constant chatter going on in my head. Ego doesn’t want us to express our feelings and truth, because that transcends the idea that we are weak and in need of protection.

Music can unite people – how many friends have you made because you both like the same band? I met my husband at Ozzfest. Our relationship started with music, and fell apart when we stopped listening to music. We both were so miserable, we disassociated from our primary coping skill. Music can unite your left and right hemispheres, because both are needed to enjoy the experience. It’s theorized music existed before verbal communication. I personally think life should be like music, a perfect balance between analysis and logic from the left brain, and creativity and expression through the right. “A perfect union of contrary things” is what Pythagoras defined music as. It is math and creativity brought together in harmony. I also think that’s a metaphor for all our lives, but most of us eschew creativity for the safety of logical analysis, which will all tell us creativity is not part of survival, of what needs to be done, etc. The left brain limits self expression because it lacks emotional resonance and looks for sure bets.

How many of us stay in jobs we hate, because we don’t know what to do with our lives? How many of us have something they’ve always wanted to do but told ourselves they couldn’t? I listen to so many metal lyrics telling all of us, essentially, you can do this too. Anyone can do this. The biggest hurdle is the fear of the unknown and the fear of failure. Yet failure is a guaranteed outcome if we don’t express ourselves, if we don’t allow our unique gifts come to light.

I don’t have any answers on how to change the music industry from cookie cutter manufacturing personas, lyrics, and beats. I do, however, believe very strongly everyone needs to take their creativity back. As focus and attention span are being undermined, it is harder and harder to find the courage to just be yourself and express yourself however is fitting. Hell, look at the formulas so many of us are trying to follow with blogging. Keeping word counts in certain ranges so people will pay attention. Fuck that, I’m done pandering. I’m just writing what my fingers want to write, and if someone enjoys it, cool. If someone doesn’t, cool. My measurement of success is achieved every time I push “publish”

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I think a lot of us get defeated by measuring ourselves to the end goal. No one picks up a pen and becomes Stephen King or the lead singer of ___. Everything about transforming life, focus, and mental health is a process that is ripe with ups and downs. Life progresses like music. The low notes offset high notes, the progression of chords, lyrics, and beats flow together, just like our lives.

I believe each of us has a gift, and it is our duty to ourselves and happiness to express that gift, whatever it is. I believe anxiety is often unexpressed creativity. If any of this makes sense or resonates, then go back to childhood, pick the thing you loved then, and start there. The best way to not make a dream come true is to say “I wish I had just ____” Look at how the world has changed now, anyone can create an account on WordPress and be able to write. Anyone can create a YouTube channel and put their songs, thoughts, animations, whatever up. There is no barrier into the creative world. If anything, the only barrier to creativity is the belief we can’t do it. The more I express myself authentically, I am getting healthier. I don’t care what happens with my writing, all I care about is that when I write, I have peace. Buddhism taught me to have no attachment to outcomes, and no expectation of outcomes. So I write whatever I feel like writing, because at least I have honored my gift.

What lies are you telling yourself about your dreams? What limiting belief can you let go of to start working towards a dream? What small act can you do today that may influence a better tomorrow? What part of you are you disconnecting from reality? How often do you listen to the opinions of others versus yourself? No one broke through by playing it safe and predictable.

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Should’ve had that Coke

Dharma is the way of life. To be one with your dharma is to trust and understand (not know) that your life is always just so. Complete and utter perfection. Everything you do is meant for you to do, because it is happening. If it was not meant to be so, it would not happen. It is impossible otherwise.

Karma is your thinking mind. It is the fruit of your action. Karma happens when you question doubt or deviate from

Dharma. The Buddha stressed there is no bad karma. That is because there is no scorekeeper punishing you except you. Karma comes when you question life as it is just so.

Say you want a coke but you doubt and question and ultimately get a sprite. Well, had you gotten the coke, x would Have happened. You created karma in your thinking and getting sprite. X will still happen, but there is now t, u, and v in the way of coke and x which will still Happen. And there is nothing bad about the sprite, nor the thought, just karma.

So the only punishment comes from you wishing for that coke and questioning your sprite decision.