Freeing Myself from My Twenties

I’m beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me. My story isn’t pleasant, it’s not sweet and harmonious like the invented stories; it tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream, like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves

Herman Hesse

It’s no coincidence Hesse wrote this north of thirty: no twenty-two-year-old could write this. Realizations of this depth remain beyond reach until you’ve lived long enough to make a mess of your dreams. Only adults, those over thirty, know what it is to see a dream in decay and no longer want to lie to themselves about it.

For maturity arises not from years but from the myriad of inescapable truths about oneself and the world, which can either be accepted, thus furthering your maturity – or denied, thus retarding it. However at a certain point, you may find that, like me, you’ve passed through some invisible threshold, after which it is simply no longer possible to continue averting your eyes from the most base and inglorious truths. Truths which are, in fact, the bane of your existence for their weight binds like chains, locking you in a personal prison from which your only chance of freedom is to be had in confessing and confronting the truths you’ve buried. So it is: man is his own jailer.

Most people don’t knowingly engage in self-deception but all unknowingly do. This cunning defense mechanism is usually employed to cover up something we feel unable to admit or accept; so, instead, we live in denial. This amounts to treason; although, no traitor sees himself as such. Treason is always justified as better, or at least easier, than allegiance to the alternative, which we almost always undeservedly betray. In the case of denial, it is the self, the soul, whom we play Judas to.

Betraying ones soul is always a toxic and destructive thing. Eventually the body demands palliatives to bury the pain and cognitive dissonance created by the lie you have chosen to live. People then turn to vice: sex, pills, booze, food, and any other anodyne which masks the pain of their secret betrayal. However if you are lucky, the masks simply stop working on some fateful day and the blissless ignorance you suffered so greatly to maintain all at once loses it’s function.

Actor Bradley Cooper, at age twenty-nine, had this to say on his own coming to truth with himself:

“I realized I wasn’t going to live up to my potential, and that scared the hell out of me. I thought, ‘Wow, I’m actually gonna ruin my life; I’m really gonna ruin it.'”

Note: Bradley cooper subsequently got sober and went on to become one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood.

It’s not easy to admit you’re going to ruin your life or that you’re not being true to your soul; however, shedding denial is about ushering in the unsexy feelings you need in order to make a beautiful life. It’s about being honest with yourself rather than being enslaved to the illusions of your ego, which cares naught for the truths of the soul.

Once the long buried truths of the soul come to the light of day, they are forever exiled from the darkness. Addressing them, fixing them, repairing them then becomes your personal crusade; the goal to become happy and whole as never before. With the possibility in sight the prospect takes possession of you, using you as a means to an end. The end: a more peaceful heart than you have known in all your years.

At thirty I have such a deepened sense of myself, of my place in time – headed all the way to the end. At thirty you come to realize you are amidst your destiny and this shitshow is, indeed, your life. It’s all at once a comfort and a horror. A comfort to know you survived your twenties and a horror to know your current life is the result. While every twenty year old thinks the coming decade the best, every thirty year old knows better.

In my twenties I made mistakes equal in magnitude to victories. However, the only real mistake is not learning from your missteps. Continuing to live the same destructive actions of your past reveals the deficiency of your character, whereas taking ownership of your life and learning from the past repairs it. Remember that whatever you may view as a mistake ceases to be one the moment you learn something from it.

I intend my thirties to be a time of leveraging my mistakes, of reaping the fruits of my life experience.

I could not look out before me with the ambition and optimism I do had I not lived the past decade of my life exactly as it was: flaws, heartache, angst and all. Frankly, I’m thrilled my twenties are over. My twenties were a decade of thinking I knew more than I did and operating from that supreme, arrogant ignorance.

It’s nearly impossible for a modern man to go though his twenties and not be, for a time, an asshole; however, by thirty a man usually finds calm resignation toward the world’s capacity for coldness, rather than meeting it with his own. He realizes fate is indifferent to his dreams and if they [his dreams] are to be, it is up solely to him. He learns you cannot compartmentalize life; that success in one facet of life, e.g., health, spirituality, is intertwined with every other facet. This holistic approach to life is the only logical response to having settled on so many parts of life at times in our twenties in order to succeed in others – only to later realize that to settle is to suffer.

At thirty a man either wants it all, or nothing at all; thirty can be the beginning of a man’s life or the end of it. The difference is in whether he leaves his dreams buried in his twenties or whether he resurrects them with a definiteness of purpose unlike he has before shown.

Of course this is all based on my mindset at thirty, bolstered by my beliefs, among them the notions: good men get better with age, and a man’s thirties are his time for making hay.

While I made hay for a time in my twenties I was too full of excuses to yet attain everlasting success. These excuses ranged from “I’m heartbroken”, to “I’m a writer”, to “This is just a phase”, but they all served a singular function: to justify me not giving my all or not trying at all. Every excuse was nothing but a way of deluding myself into believing that either the wrong thing or the easy thing was the right thing. As is said, the easy thing and the right thing are seldom the same.

Now that I can see the errors of my ways in the excuses lies I told myself, I can’t help but think, what the hell was I thinking?

Because the truth is, most people don’t know why they do the things they do – they only think they do based on what they’ve told themselves. And so it is, your twenties are a time of rationalizing your existence, whereas your thirties are a time of living from your innermost truths. However to make that shift, you have to become completely honest with yourself. You have to burn all the masks and shed all the excuses.

I have held onto the past for a long time. I’ve for a long time carried torches of my past loves into the night. Tonight I’m casting those torches into the sea where they belong. I’m grateful for my past but it’s nothing compared to where I am going.

Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “Character is destiny,” so it is, I intend my thirties to be a decade of great character and great destiny.

I never want to lie to myself again; not about my happiness, not about my past, not about my future, not about my present. I never want to see the world through the eyes of my past again. I never want to betray my own soul again. I never want to feel the need to wear a mask again. Never again will I trust someone more than I trust the voice of my soul and the teachings of my blood.

Note: I wrote this over the course of three or four days during which I had the flu. Stylistically, I’m not in love with it, and it feels even perhaps a bit pedantic, but sometimes you just have to declare something.

At Thirty: How I’ve Shaped my Disposition

I turned thirty Saturday.

The last time I felt this much psychic shock and bewilderment was after my first time making the angel with four wings. I was fairly young, but I remember feeling more alive, more at one with humanity, as if I had somehow deepened my sense of belonging.

Now a new chapter of life has begun, and I again feel markedly different. My twenties have been put to rest and all the fears they contained have been allayed by the reality that, like all fears, most never came true.

Of the fears that came to pass, I was – and am – no worse off, but, rather, better, stronger for having passed through the crucibles fate placed before me.

Some of the things I went through in my twenties hurt terribly and I scarcely felt I possessed the resources to survive, but I know better today – for I see the world through eyes that have seen much, and I know the depth of my soul as only one who has suffered does.

I have survived heartbreak and its aftermath. I have been scared and alone, and in times dimmer than I’d care to recollect – but I’ve never forgotten my dreams. I’ve kept faith in something bigger and brighter than my world when its felt small, and this has kept me whole, but I was not always this surefooted.

If I could pass on a message to my younger self, it would be:

Look inside.

You spend your twenties looking outside for answers, defining yourself based on the world around you, but eventually you learn the world has no answer equal to the silent, still voice of G-d rustling in the quietude of your soul. You are everything you have been looking for, and it is you. No one can complete you. They might help teach you how to love yourself, but ultimately the responsibility is yours.

I would be lying if I said my experience was limited to my own mistakes; my growth was seeded by those who left me breadcrumbs, people like Marcus Aurelius, Carl Jung, and Alan Watts. These spiritual grandfathers taught me that my world could be born of my disposition – rather than the inverse, which is the case for most people living today.

Disposition could be the defining word of my turning thirty. For at thirty the cement has begun to harden. Not to say you are stuck – but, in large, you possess a definite outlook at thirty, a defined character. The notion of disposition as something unique and inherent to all living beings (for even a dog has a disposition) is something I’ve only become cognizant of this past year. At thirty I am naturally mindful of my own disposition, and acutely aware of the disposition of others.

My Websters Dictionary defines disposition as, “The predominant or prevailing tendency of ones spirits; a characteristic attitude.”

I think of disposition as, the quality of baseline anxiety or peace a person has, resulting from their beliefs about the world. Maybe this belief-centered basis is why little outside love, the spiritual, and psychedelics has the power to alter our disposition. Perhaps Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – but even then, ones disposition is difficult to become aware of, much less alter.

Merriam-Websters defines disposition as, “The usual attitude or mood of a person or animal”. Viewed in this light, you can see how paramount disposition is in determining your happiness and wellbeing.

As Martha Washington stated: “I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our disposition and not on our circumstances”.

My disposition changed greatly in the course of my twenties, specifically the second half, and, naturally, there were times when it was clouded by a fog of transitory emotions. Times when my entire being was disrupted through loss and adversity, but, ultimately, I returned to my default set point, just as the sea finds it’s level between the ebb and flow of the changing tides, for change is constant and the future unclear, unwritten.

Aside from accepting that flux is guaranteed, studying Stoic philosophy (a passion of mine) and adhering to Stoic principles and practices has not only altered my disposition but insulated it from the forces of change.

Note: if you’re not familiar with Stoicism, do explore: here and here.

Beyond the ancient and timeless wisdom of the Stoics, I’ve altered my disposition through mindfulness and meditation.

And of course, if you are so bold and so desire to alter the beliefs your disposition is founded upon, there is always the two trips of love and psychedelics – the latter of which I cannot in good conscience recommend – for obvious reasons, but I have heard when done in a safe setting and in a non-recreational context (i.e., you are at home, have done all your research, have someone sober nearby, have meditated and set your intention beforehand, have a candle and incense lit, comfy clothes on, water, and a journal to write in after) psychedelics can provide an expansive and therapeutic space, in which you can shift your perception, for the better, in ways that wouldn’t be possible without first altering it.

Of course, that’s not at all necessary but I’d feel dishonest had I omitted it. Just beware: psychedelics are a double edged sword and the dangers of their abuse, specifically from a mental health perspective, can far outweigh their purported benefits. Don’t think you can just go drop acid and you’ll be happy afterwards. It’s not that simple; although, if you are going to explore your inner world, I recommend you do all your research and approach it with the same reverence a shaman would. G-d help me if someone reads this and does something stupid or dangerous – please don’t. I do not view psychedelics as recreational fodder and I’ve partaken no more than a handful of times – beginning in my teens. At thirty, I feel no desire to use them again – but who knows, something major could change that, so, knowing their power, they remain in the far reaches of my toolkit – the day-to-day tools being: mindfulness, meditation, Stoicism – and spirituality.

At thirty, having a belief in G-d is one of my greatest assets. I won’t get into a theological dissertation, beyond stating that you can conceive of G-d in any manner you wish and in doing so you will give yourself a great gift – a gift modern, mainstream society increasingly denies its followers in favor of more vapid and commercialized idols. We all worship something. For some it’s money, looks, status, and other things bound to decay in time. For me, it’s the mysterious; the possibility; the unknown; serendipity; chance; the magic in my soul and the sacredness of my connection to it.

Finally, the habit of reading and writing has changed my disposition. I’ve published over two-hundred entries in the four years I’ve been writing on 7Saturdays, some quite transformative. Writing is therapeutic and beyond that I’ve written the things I needed to read, the things that allowed me to choose a stance true to myself.

In regards to reading, I read constantly. For most of my twenties, I read only non-fiction and only insofar as I hoped to better myself with the best pop-self-help books; however, today the non-fiction I read is primarily comprised of ancient religious and philosophical texts, and more modern books on psychology and literature – with an occasional biography of someone whom I greatly admire thrown in, so as to remind me of my duty to make my life count.

Given my passion and plans as a novelist, fiction accounts for the majority of my reading – thankfully, I love it. The best [fiction] always being that which alters or heals me.

Of the books I read this year, the most life altering and healing have been:

Another Country, James Baldwin
Home, Toni Morrison
The Death of Ivan Illyich, Leo Tolstoy
Fountainhead, Ayn Rand

But at the end of the day, you don’t need to read books to be whole. You don’t need to do a damn thing to try and change yourself. Simply taking control of the conversation in your head will do wonders for you. Learn more: here, and here. Books are, however, wonderful tools for helping you become aware of your own inner narration and dialogue.

Ultimately, you have to follow your own inner voice. My message in setting forth the methods I’ve used to alter my disposition is that you can change your relationship with the world if you change your relationship with yourself. I may have royally scrambled a few good eggs in my twenties, but I got the right things right: I took my own path.

I leave you with a current favorite quote of mine from Jung:

“My path is not your path therefore I cannot teach you. The way is within us, but not in Gods, nor in teachings, nor in laws. Within us is the way, the truth, and the life. Woe betide those who live by way of examples! Life is not with them. If you live according to an example, you thus live the life of that example, but who should live your own life if not yourself. So live yourselves. The signposts have fallen, unblazed trails lie before us.” – C.G. Jung

The Souls Journey

I’m 1 day, 20 hours and 18 minutes away from my thirtieth birthday and it’s not so much the birthday that matters, but the milestone; as a man hits thirty he realizes: there is no stopping this train.

I realize I am in time.

As Albert Camus writes in his 1942 philosophical essay on Absurdism and the human condition, The Myth of Sisyphus,

We live on the future: “tomorrow,” “later on,” “when you have made your way,” “you will understand when you are old enough.”…Yet a day comes when a man notices or says that he is thirty. Thus he asserts his youth. But simultaneously he situates himself in relation to time. He takes his place in it. He admits that he stands at a certain point on a curve that he acknowledges having to travel to its end….Tomorrow, he was longing for tomorrow, whereas everything in him ought to reject it.

So, here I am, taking my place on the curve, looking out to the end, yet living in today – and no – this is not the same as the idiotic notion of YOLO, I’m merely accepting my place in a mortal life and thus accepting the power I have over it; the power to acknowledge – yet revolt against – what Camus calls The Absurd, that is, the contradiction that exists between man’s search for meaning and his place in a seemingly meaningless universe.

In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus suggests that man’s only real option is to become completely free, leveraging “…a humans natural ability and opportunity to create their own meaning and purpose; to decide (or think) for him – or herself,” as opposed to the alternatives, which are essentially to kill yourself or to believe in G-d as a means to give your life meaning, which, the latter, Camus sees as “philosophical suicide,” since, in doing so, man is rejecting absolutes and evading the truth by resorting to a supernatural solution to a human problem.

Life, Camus says, can “be lived all the better if it has no meaning.”

How can that be? Because, according to Camus, everything is permitted. Not that the free man, who creates his own meaning, is immoral, but, instead, amoral; he lives according to his own integrity, this is part of what makes him free: he creates his own code to live by.

I agree largely with Camus – we all search for meaning – most of us either placing our meaning in a predetermined solution [the church] and then going on to live fairly meaningless lives, or we choose to reject the church but nonetheless adopt banal answers to the question of life’s meaning that rationalize the decisions we have made: the meaning of life is family, or – if you are particularly young – the meaning of life is to enjoy yourself, and, of course, these stock answers change with our life story. To someone for whom the meaning of life is love, once their heart is broken: their world is shattered; life has ceased to hold meaning – thus, they can either kill themselves or they can choose a new answer.

In choosing to create my own meaning and purpose I am by no means stating that there is no G-d, but, rather, I am deciding to conceive G-d as part of my meaning – instead of the meaning. I personally believe in ones personal mythology as a means to the sacred and a life lived according to my meaning and purpose as a means to the holy – originating from the word, whole.

Thus far this has been a sort of stream of consciousness, but this is my blog and I want to document the evolution of my inner world, which, to me, holds the key to the outer world.

Per Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung: Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.

In this same thread, Jung wrote something in The Red Book, which I find complimentary to the views put forth by Camus, as well as my own:

My path is not your path therefore I cannot teach you. The way is within us, but not in Gods, nor in teachings, nor in laws. Within us is the way, the truth, and the life. Woe betide those who live by way of examples! Life is not with them. If you live according to an example, you thus live the life of that example, but who should live your own life if not yourself. So live yourselves. The signposts have fallen, unblazed trails lie before us. 

My path is not your path therefore I cannot teach you. The way is within us, but not in Gods, nor in teachings

Putting this all together – along with the work of Joseph Campbell and others – I’m gaining a sense of my soul’s journey: my life as a product of the myths I have lived. These myths have often corresponded to archetypes, i.e., The Hero, or The Puer, according to my surroundings (In those cases, the military and a codependent relationship, respectively) but we all have one central, core myth; although, it too may correspond with an archetype, such as The Martyr (many of our mothers); however, 99% of us are unaware of our core myth – our personal mythology; our inner story.

To quote Jung again, “Until you make the unconscious conscious it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

Our personal mythology is almost always unconscious, and, as such, our lives are a product of the (often bullshit) stories we tell ourselves. Thankfully there are many good books on personal mythology, my two favorites being, Change Your Story, Change Your Life: Using Shamanic and Jungian Tools to Achieve Personal Transformation, and Carol S. Pearson’s The Hero Within. While I’ve finished the latter, I’m still doing the story work within the former, but as I become aware that my myth controls my purpose(s) and my meaning, I’m increasingly compelled to discover my personal myth – a question Jung referred to as: “The task of tasks”.

My purpose and my meaning are the key to me living a meaningful life – and while I essentially know the two, I must ensure I am living a myth that is congruent with them, as, to fail to do so would be to live a completely inauthentic life. It would be akin to a mother who knew her purpose was to write therapeutic children’s books; although, subconsciously, her guiding myth was that she was a martyr who had to work to put her son through school, and, thus, never lived a life true to herself (Most people realize this kind of thing right before they die.)

That’s what we really want, right? We want to live our soul’s purpose. However, so few of us ever take the soul’s journey – opting instead to live a very outwardly centered life.

Awhile back I wrote something here about only publishing my journal entries thereafter, but as of my last post (a poem) – and now this – I have contradicted that intention; however, I’m totally okay with that. If you read My Purpose (see menu), you will understand why. I don’t just want to write fiction and I don’t want to write spiritual fiction. I want to write fiction that serves as myth and philosophy. To do that, I need to live and breathe my own.

I’m one of the lucky ones. Last year, I neared the limits of my mortality when I got blood poisoning while on a business trip. After a very scary ten days and three hospitals, I pressed pause on my life. I stopped living and I began to live. Through fate, serendipity, kismet, G-d, synchronicity, a lot of meditation, and a couple inward journeys, I discovered who I was. I wasn’t a lot of the things I had been – despite being them, or at least pretending to (And believing it). Thankfully – my soul, my subconscious; the unconscious forces that guided my life fucked everything up for me. The wrong career, the wrong relationships, the wrong road.

This is the first time I have written about what happened [my blood poisoning]. Few outside my family know. When the nurse told me, “Just so you know, G-d is real,” I knew I was I was in peril. But today it’s nine months later, and although my life was completely changed by it, I’m still processing it.

On that note, good morning. I’m going to publish this (unedited) and go meditate on my souls journey. It’s been a long road to find this path.

Reflection

Alone in my kitchen,
Liking; tapping, scrolling; swiping,
Unable to simply set my phone down and enjoy my coffee –
For no reason, I lean forward:
Catching a glimpse of my reflection;
“Who is this tired man I see?,”
Asks the forever boy inside of me
And so, I write this; to invent an answer,
Knowing in five minutes:
I’ll jump in the shower,
And try to look young again –
Hoping my reflection pleases the boy then