Category: Blog (page 1 of 2)

Duck. Flip. Freedom.

I’ve been a teller of stories through images and words since as far back as I can remember. But the true birth of my creative-state occurred one Autumn night when I was in the fifth grade. I was sitting on the living room floor, drawing a giant picture of Daffy Duck on a piece of white pasteboard when – WHACK – a received a light, but surprising, smack to the back of the head. I turned around to find my mother, eyes burning holes into me, and myself unsure of what I’d done.”What. Is. That?” she asked through clenched teeth.”Daffy Duck?” I sputtered, wholly confused.”I see. Well, did you create Daffy Duck?””No,” I said.”Then why would you waste your time drawing some other character that makes other people money when you could be making your own?”Before I could answer, my mom flipped the poster board over, revealing its blank side. Satisfied with her noble deed she returned to watching Oprah.

I remember the feeling I got when I looked at that fresh empty side. The possibility. The opportunity for me to put my pencil to nothingness and turn it into something all my own. Over the next half hour or so, my pencil and I created The Thunder Mammals, a team of mammalian super heroes who protected the Animal Kingdom from menaces within. Sure, I had made up my own characters by that point- tons, in fact -but that smack to the back of my head was the catalyst for a fundamental shift in how I looked everything.

I had a relationship to characters like Daffy Duck and Wile E. Coyote whom I would draw often and one as well with Super Kitty and Clay-Guy and others of my own cartoon pantheon, but the true difference between my attention on one group or the other was negligent. What my mother had taught me in that direct, swift way that defines her methods, was the power of ownership. Daffy was their idea. The Thunder Mammals was mine. Mine. And with that ownership comes a strengthened idea of individuality and, with that, strengthened creativity.

As my artistic relationship with Warner Bros. decreased dramatically and my own characters’ worlds grew into rich, enormous things, the lesson learned quickly spread into other facets of my life. What else was I pouring myself into that was not mine?

Suddenly, the world in which I had lived for over a decade appeared to be, for the most part, not my own. What did I feel about things that did not directly come from the opinions of my parents? What did I know about things that did not directly come from the books that other people had given me? I was nothing more than the receptacle for other people’s creations; a realization that allowed me to set forth on a quest to free myself from it.

In the coming years the word “why?” became my best friend. When I was told how to act, or what to think, or (a major theme in my Roman Catholic schooling and upbringing) what was right or wrong, I immediately rejected the answer and, if the question were one I had never heard before, asked myself how I felt about it; if my opinion was in line with the “me” I am always in the process of building.

I’m sure that a lot of people are reading this and going “Duh!”, but the more I do and the more people I see the more I am sure not enough people have actually received that smack in the head (metaphorically or otherwise) to get them to step outside of the socio-environmental boxes they were placed in. The reasoning behind this, I think, is a healthy blend of social conditioning, rationalization, and laziness (known also as an “addiction to easy”) – By the by, these three things are secret recipe for the perpetuation of a great many terrible, terrible events that have occurred throughout human history.

I’m AWESOME!
We often tend to congratulate ourselves too much, treating a mild victory as an overwhelming success. Certainly we should be proud of our accomplishments and congratulate ourselves for every good thing we do, but much like the teenage girl who treats the discovery of a pimple with a explosive emotional outpouring of someone who’d just lost a loved one , we tend to give our personal progress more weight than it deserves. I’m not saying that getting a tattoo or or boat aren’t steps toward becoming closer to the person you want to be, but so often do we glorify these surface things to the point of glazing over the deeper opportunities for embracing our individuality, sometimes to our detriment. This leads to people thinking things like, “Well, my hair is blue and this yacht is great, but why am I not totally happy and content?” The answer: go deeper.

The way it is.
When the strongest themes of one’s society mix with laziness and a heaping helping of rationalization what you get this is phrase “That’s just the way it is.” Basically, these six words, whether spoken aloud or kept within, are one of the most powerful forces blinding a person to their own creative potential, freedom, and individuality (these three things being the exact same thing, really). If you hate your job, why do you stay there? If you’re in an abusive relationship, why do you stay in it? “That’s just the way it is” is such a convenient answer. Not to mention its close friend, “You can’t have everything,” which, while technically true, allowing it too much pull is the equivalent of blowing off your own leg with a bazooka constructed of your mind’s self-defeat.

The truth is that these debilitating mantras are self-imposed prisons where the guard and prisoner are one. To act against them is to loosen their grip immediately. Search for a new job. Move out of the house of your significant other. Sure, these escapes offer varying levels of difficulty depending on the situation, but merely believing that such a shift is possible is a form of creative freedom.

Is it the way?
Okay. Great. We’ve got blue hair, a yacht, a new job, and are no longer being abused. That’s it, right? We have assumed our individuality and drawn our own life’s picture. All is well, right? RIGHT?

Ha, you wish. Believe it or not, this is still the surface. Physical, tangible things. Toys. Cars. Other people. Houses. Dogs. Jobs. Money. Important things, yes, but to reach the truth of your individual, creative self you must be willing to go deeper, to ask “why” to the very core of who you are.

Compared to this next part, the bad jobs and bad relationships are easy. No matter how we rationalize them, it’s obvious in our hearts that they are bad. When it comes to things like one’s religion or morality or philosophy, things that are sometimes so deeply ingrained in a person’s psyche that they seem as much a part of them as their genetic make-up, “That’s just the way it is” is a force so all-encompassing that it is simply “Correct.”

The African American side of my family comes from the deep south where certain things were a certain way for people of different races. Some of them today are distrustful of white people. I’d say something as simple as “I got an A on my Biology test today” and that would garner the response, “Aw, that’s great Trystin. Now don’t let those teachers try to put any of them white boys ahead of you even though they ain’t as smart as you.” Is this response coming from a place of utmost love and concern? Yes. Is it a dangerous bit of hate based on a generalized and (arguably) outdated assumption that is just as harmful to peaceful race relation as any teachers who might “put any of them white boys ahead of” me? Certainly. If my handful of relatives and others like them would consider the times and their own recent experiences instead of clinging to cultural-spun philosophy then maybe their tune would be different.

The product of a Catholic upbringing, my learned concept of right and wrong was a compilation of carefully selected and translated excerpts from the Bible, everyone’s favorite religious tome. Early on we learned things like “Stealing is bad” and “Killing is bad” and “Not going to church on Sundays bad”. Then as we matured, so did these excerpts increase to combat our newfound urges: “Sex before marriage is bad”, “Adultery is bad”, “Homosexuality is bad”. To many, too many, the words of this book are the be all end all of the core of who they are. These people are so deeply Catholic or Baptist or Jewish that their unique self (them as “Sarah” or “Rachel” or “Greg”) comes second.

To truly reach one’s full potential one must fully look into their own morality. They must first look at the whole and then tear it down piece by piece. The latter is where laziness can come in, too. People love their quick fixes and when they can get the answers to all their tough questions in a simplified single place, be it a bible or a political party, they hold on tight and then concentrate on that new car they’ve had their eye on. This stuff takes work!

Looking at the bible holistically we see the usual excerpts, but also some really odd and disturbing things like men sleeping with their daughters without the least bit of negative connotation and Jesus himself condoning slavery (in quotes that were used in the American South to support their pro-slavery views). And then, once the whole picture has been put together, go ahead and see it as a number of pieces, not one single lesson that you can be for or against.  Just because you think killing is wrong does not mean you need to think missing church on Sunday is, too. Pre-made view sets are not YOUR view sets. The same goes for your parents’ morals and our little two-partied system. Pick and choose what you feel is honestly right for you and, if in the end your moral code seems an awful lot like the one you left behind… Fine! Great! When I drew a picture on that poster board one of the Thunder Mammals was a platypus and looked an awful lot like Daffy Duck…but he wasn’t. He was a conclusion I reached on my own based on a desire to create from within myself. And as I thought holistically and my worldview expanded from the resulting questions, that platypus (and just about everything else) changed as well.

I’ll have you know he looks nothing like Daffy today…except for, you know, having a beak.

Creativity is more than coming up with great ideas for your writing, speaking, business, or art. It is accepting and embracing the fact that you are a unique individual part of a whole and in order to do the most good, to be the happiest, you must forge your own path, your own philosophy, separate from those who have been made by others. They are theirs. Not yours.

7 Missing Tarot [Chapter 1 preview].

I’ve got a novel in the works. Here’s a preview for chapter one of “The 7 Missing Tarot”…

Chapter 1 – In the cards.

“Son of a FUCK!”

I didn’t always curse like this. My parents would have never allowed it. They’d send me to my room without dessert or some TV shit like that…even though we weren’t allowed to watch  much TV growing up. “A box of sin and temptation” and all of that. I mean you’d swear, too if you cut your leg while shaving in the tub. I probably shouldn’t have been so focused on hitting the high notes of Whitney’s Bodyguard theme. Or maybe I shouldn’t use an old razor I found under the sink. Regardless, blood is blood and my thigh is gushing like a motherfucker. My name is Okimbe- Kim for short -and I’m going to pass out now.

It’s roughly ten minutes later and I’m lying…laying?…lying in bed, my roommate Tina holding my hand. Her deadbeat-but-harmless boyfriend Dave is looming over her, scratching his head, his face dopier than usual. Something about me: I pass out at the sight of blood. So whenever I shave in the tub I make sure that I leave the door open and let Tina know so I don’t, you know, drown in the lamest fucking way ever.

Okay. So I guess you’re probably wanting to know more about me than some shit about passing out in tubs. Fine. To tell you the truth, my adult life pales in comparison to my backstory. Like, seriously. My life has been a series of uneventful stumbles and falls since the bad old days. I’m talking newsworthy stuff. Google my name- Okimbe Cuthbert…or Malawe -and you’ll see. Actually, don’t. I’ll just tell you:

You know those weird, creepy cults that pop up from time to time on the news? They’re always in the middle of nowhere on some compound and no one ever knows about it until EVERYONE knows about it. That’s where my story begins. I was born in a shack to a kidnapped twelve-year old girl who died in childbirth. My shit-eating fuck-brained monster of a father- the father of everyone who wasn’t kept in a cage, actually -was the undisputed and omnipotent ruler of the Malawe Compound.

Ogun, he called himself. He was dark skinned with tufts of wild graying black hair framing the entirety of his long face. He stood frighteningly tall, especially in my memory, long legs placing him up close to the heavens he claimed to have descended from. What I remember the most about my father, though, were his eyes: large yellow orbs, glazed over by drugs and delusions; piercing things that shone with the wrath of God.

I was five years old when the S.W.A.T. team stormed us, an army of white-skinned men brandishing weapons and armor like the demon hoards in Ogun’s sermons. I was washing clothes with sisters in the courtyard. My brothers were around, skinning food or hunting or berating the captives. We were all caught unaware. Ogun emerged from the main house at the sound of our screams. He didn’t lift his rifle a fucking inch before a dozen bullets dropped him on his porch. Two of my brothers and one sister, attempting to avenge our prophet-father’s death, were killed as well. All I could do was wail, wide-eyed, as curses and gunshots thundered in the air all around me. I wailed and I wailed, tears rolling down my dry dark cheeks. Wailed as I lost my father; my siblings. Wailed as a strong armored arm picked me up, kicking and screaming, and then hurled me into the back of a black van, promising over and over again that I would be safe now.

“OW. Motherfu-”

“Oh, settle down!” Tina scolds me in her sweetest voice as she applies some weird organic cream to my cut. She’s a skinny white girl with green eyes and blonde hair and dresses in expensive flowy earth tones. She’s been out of college as long as I have, but unlike me, her parents continue to pay her rent and give her an allowance so that she can skip around the city without the slightest care in the world. Lucky bitch. I love her though.

I pull my leg away. “That’s enough, Tina!” Shortly after, I realize that I’m only wearing a towel and her boyfriend Dave now has got front row seats to my goods. “Dammit!”

Dave smirks and shakes his head. Tina giggles as she pulls my leg toward her, once again covering up my ladyparts. “It’s cayenne and cinnamon infused, Kim! For once in your life shut up and let someone do something nice for you.”

My streak of independence (read: stubbornness) might originate from my dead biological father, but it’s more likely that my adopted parents were the ones who instilled those traits in me. Suck on that, nature. Nurture for the win!

After I’d been abducted (read: rescued) from the evil clutches of my fucking backwards backwater Georgian childhood, I was all over the national news. As the youngest and least corrupted of my siblings cameras were on me all the way through my adoption process, where upstanding citizen and (white) Protestant Minister Charles Cuthbert and (white) wife nabbed my high-profile ass and dragged me to a small (white) town in the middle of nowhere, Iowa. I was probably the only black kid for a hundred miles and grossly undereducated. Some would say I was born to be an outcast with a shit ton of anxiety and identity issues. And they’d be right.

More on this later, but for now just know that I was a semi-famous preacher’s daughter who spent my entire childhood in the fucking Whitebread, USA. Oh, and Mr. and Mrs. Cuthbert already had a two-year old son named Ricky, my brother, who I will certainly be talking about more later because he’s a goddamn brilliant mess and I love him more than life itself.

“We’re grabbing bagels at the bodega,” bubbles Tina from a room away. “Want something? My treat!” I can feel the bile rising in my throat when she say “my treat” because I know she knows I’m having money trouble and I know I shouldn’t be angry at her generosity because there isn’t a judgemental bone in her skinny freckled body.

“I’m good!” I reply, ignoring the comically timed rumbling of my stomach.

“You sure?!” It’s Dave this time. I can practically hear the beard and torn skinny jeans and filthy Chucks and flannel shirt and ironic trucker cap in his voice. Fucking hipsters…says the vegan girl with a degree in literature from Sarah Lawrence, an apartment in South Williamsburg, and a wardrobe almost exclusively comprised of locally purchased used (read: vintage) clothing. Ugh, me.

The star-crossed lovers go on their bagel run and I get dressed and do a quick review of myself in the mirror. Tired brown eyes: check. Full lips: check. Thick black hair with streaks of fading gold that doesn’t really know what its doing or where it’s going just like me: Uh huh. And a curvy body that could probably use a couple weeks of cardio, but oh well all my gross online suitors don’t seem to mind so whatever: Yep. Fuck Cosmo. Twig-ass models and shit. I look…okay. Okay enough. These thighs, though. Ugh, me.

Sometime between high school and college I really got into New Age shit. I started doing it to piss off my parents and that bible studies bitch, but it stuck. Astrology, crystal healing, numerology, I eat that stuff up. Because today feels especially directionless and bleak I decide to give myself a full-on tarot reading. The Celtic Cross. Classic. I reach into the wooden red box in the top drawer of my nightstand and pull out my deck. The deck and I walk into our little kitchen/living room/dining area dripping with art and half-dead plants and I take a seat at the faux-wood Ikea table. Let’s all take a quick second to praise Ikea, okay?

Cool.

I promise you I’m not some weird hippy freak who’s always checking her horoscope and yammering on about Reiki and magic spells. I’m not. I love those things. But I’m not. I mean, it’s my religion, you know. I believe in it. We all draw answers from the collective universe in our own ways. Sometimes its putting on a pretty hat and singing to Jesus on Sunday. Sometimes it’s raping and killing girls in the middle of the woods. And, for me- right now, at least -it’s doing a fucking Celtic Cross.

I shuffle the cards with my eyes closed and concentrate on a question. Figure I’ll go with the old standard: What the fuck is my life?

I place the ten cards in the cross-formation, face down like so…

The first card represents the present. I got The Moon. It represents fear. Anxiety. Confusion. That sounds pretty legit.

The second card is the challenge – the main thing standing in your…my….way at the moment. Ah, and it’s good old Seven of Cups: fantasy and illusion. Like maybe it’s all in my head? Ugh.

Next card: the past. And it’s…the Eight of Swords. Not surprising. It’s all about loneliness or feelings of abandonment or imprisonment. I sigh.

Okay. Time for the immediate future. Oh. The Fool. This is one that rarely comes up for me. Despite the negative connotation of “fool” (one that completely fits me), it’s a pretty badass card. It’s a card of new beginnings, spontaneity, embarking on new adventures. If only. The only new adventure yours truly can go on is the quest for a new place of employ-

The apartment door swings open. “Heyy!!” Tina chirps.

“Gah!” The abruptness of her entrance scares the shit of out me and I end up knocking  half my spread and most of my fucking deck on the floor. In fact, the only card that remains completely unmoved is that damned Fool.

Tina’s cheeks flush red. It doesn’t take much. “Oh, Kimbi! I didn’t mean to scare you!”

“Shit…” Dave slurs the word in that lazy baritone. He’s holding a full paper bag with both hands.

“Dave.” Tina commands, already reaching for the bag. “Give me that. You help Kim with her cards.” I try to protest, but that’s never worked before and it won’t work now. Dave lumbers toward me, the docile servant, and gets down on his knees, collecting my fate.

A warm wrapped bagel slams against my boob, stopping me from joining Dave and my fallen cards. “Here. Eat. It’s an everything bagel with vegan sausage, egg, and cheese. Your uzh.” Tina holds the item against my chest and makes her best angry face, which is fucking adorable- like an angry baby or puppy. Oh, and her squeaky-ass voice gets kinda deep and she basically sounds like a Muppet or some cartoon-ass shit. “Take it. Sit down. Dave’ll take care of your little cards.” Like I said: adorable.

I sigh. I moan. I sit my ass down on the couch and eat that bagel because I am fucking starving. That bagel had no chance. Tofu warped into more familiar non-vegan forms is annihilated between my powerful feminine jaws.

Midway through my breakfast I spot Dave at the table, separating my tarot cards into five piles. “What are you doing?” I ask him, spitting chunks of much-desired nutrients as I do.

He shrugs and says, “Organizing them.”

“Why the fuck-” I stop myself. Well, actually, Tina’s wide-eyed death glare stops me. Bitch doesn’t have an intimidating inch over ninety-nine percent of her body, but those fucking eyes, man. Prettiest fucking things in the world when she wants them to be, but upset her and you feel like you’ve been spotted by a pride of lions in the fucking Serengeti when she looks at you.

Once my bagel is sufficiently no more, I down a glass of orange juice Tina places in front of me. “Yo…” Dave begins. My insides are already preparing themselves for the stupid that’s about to happen. “Is this all of them…?” He sifts through the piles of cards with a face overwhelmed with confusion.

Certain of this guy’s incompetence, I march over and sort through the five piles, one each for Cups, Wands, Swords, Pentacles, and the Major Arcana. Fuck. The complete set was not accounted for. I get down on my knees and look for stragglers. Nothing. Fuuuuck. Using my incomparable powers of deduction (read: process of elimination) I count seven tarot missing from the deck:

  • Empress
  • Knight of Cups
  • Five of Cups
  • Three of Cups
  • Heirophant
  • Six of Wands
  • Three of Swords

I search the floor under the table again: nothing. My little red box: nothing. The floor around my little red box…This isn’t fucking happening. What is my life?

I get frantic, shuffling around my room, the living room, opening drawers and closets, digging in pockets, groping every nook and cranny of our little apartment with reckless abandon. I can feel the eyes of Tina and her pet boy boring into me, not quite sure what to do as I scuttle around like a fucking crack crab with my heart thumping hard and fast and my hands and knees coated with dust and the garbled curses I mutter to myself with every fucking fruitless attempt. I hate it when I get like this. Like, I can feel myself losing it, make no mistake. I can feel all the logic and the calm getting the shit kicked out of it by fucking crazy inside of me. The missing cards are just the trigger, really. A minor incident acting as a fucking catalyst, opening the dam of losses. It’s been almost a month since I’ve had a job. My financial security is nonexistent. Chills go up my spine over my daily realization of possessing zero marketable skills. I’ve been single for months. And the last time I’ve had sex- FUCK. And great. Here come goddamn  tears…

“Kimby?” Tina’s voice trembled. She wanted so badly to comfort me but was terrified of approaching me sliding around on the floor, knocking things over and talking to myself. Who’s the scariest thing on the Serengeti now, bitch? Except instead of a ferocious lion I’m a fucking hyena with rabies, begging to be put down before I put down you.

I’ve never been diagnosed with panic attacks officially, but these fucking episodes, whatever they are, have been happening more and more lately.

“I’m fine,” I assure them in a heavy exhale, eyes bulging out of my head and sweat beads dripping down my face like a fucking crackhead in withdrawal. “Fine…fine…” I pick myself up from the floor and wipe the crud from my hands and knees. We’ve sucked at cleaning lately. I stagger to the table and sit down, my gaze roaming from my fraction of a deck to Tina and Dave then back to the deck again. “Missing…”

“I’m sure they’re around here somewhere!” Tina bubbles, no longer worried. “I’ll help look as soon as I put all the groceries away.” She smiles her pretty, pretty smile. I know in my gut that she’s wrong. Any new age person worth half a shit knows that missing tarot cards have meaning. Hell, more meaning than present ones. If I think about those seven cards for a fucking second it’s obvious. I mean, the Empress?! Come on! Come the fuck on!

Maybe the crazies haven’t fully worn off, but the knowledge of what I have to do next hits me like a fucking hydrogen bomb. Or the end of The Sixth Sense. My life is an empty, directionless, depressing hot mess right now and there’s no one to blame but fucking me. Okimbe fucking Cuthbert: certified idiot. The cards said as much. And I’ll be damned if the stuff I need to do to get out of this shit-nest I’ve built for myself rests in the cards that aren’t there. Or, more specifically, the unresolved shit from my life that I’ve been running from, hiding from, ignoring or straight up suppressing.

I guess I’ll be the Fool after all. Time to take impulsiveness by the balls and embark on that new fucking adventure into some old baggage.

Oh, and I’ll try not to curse so fucking much.

I Hate Myself (And So Can You!)

Alright, I’m going to keep this nice and short, but it’s important nonetheless:

Complainers. We all know them. These are the people that, instead of taking many any actionable responses to the less-than-perfect pieces of their existence, turn to people around them and whine about it. These people are lazy, attention-hogging, and/or self-loathing sorts who, by merely existing, bring down the world around them.

Obviously, this way of living isn’t healthy. They’ve set themselves on a downward spiral with only an explosive impact with rock bottom to look forward to. But I’m here to talk to you about you; the one who has to listen to all this crap. Just like surrounding yourself with happy people boosts your morale, allowing this sort of person to cling to you is toxic. They will drain you of your joy, your ambition, slowly but surely, no matter how strong you are. By prolonged exposure to them you are becoming more and more like them. We’re like sponges to the emotional energy of others. It is what it is.

So if you’ve got a complainer in your life you’ve got a couple choices. If you really care about this person then tell them to make a change. For every complaint, tell them to take action and work to resolve it. If you really care about them you should be doing this already. Don’t enable. Don’t coddle. You’re messing things up even more. The second choice is breaking off the relationship. If you tried your hardest, or they’re not even all that close to you, break it off. Move on. Surround yourself with people who will grow you, not screw you up.

Is this pretty obvious? Sure. Do I see and hear it occurring around me so much that I felt the need to string together a quickie-blog about it anyway?

Ohhhhh, totally.

A Black, a Gay, and an Artist Walk Into a Bar…

…and his name is Trystin.

Labels. Names we give to generalizations that we attach to people so that we can easily digest them like swallow-able pills. Using my experience with the three that light up the title of this very blog (black, gay, artist) let’s take a look at the uses and abuses of “the label”, shall we?

Black.
Of the three, this is easily the first label that was bequeathed upon me. I mean, it’s a no-brainer, right? As clear as the skin on my face. Black. Also known as “not white”. White people get the jobs and black people get the shaft. This is more or less the vibe I got from my Southern-bred grandparents and, to a lesser extent, from much of their offspring (my parents, aunts and uncles). Perhaps the most interesting part of this is that I am an ethnic puree of African, German, Native American, and another unclear caucasian source that is possibly Irish. That, of course, is of very little consequence, because genetic make-up is secondary to physical appearance when race labels are involved.

Fortunately, my life experiences were in direct opposition to the “anti-white” way of thinking and thus it never stuck. Those life experiences include, of course, the racial cornucopia that is my family, as well. I got that one’s skin color should not be a factor in who is an acceptable acquaintance, friend, lover.

The second part of my Black Saga kicked off not too long after the first, this time the focus being less on what I was and more on what I wasn’t…or should be. It was brought to my attention by various children on the streets, classmates, and a handful of lackluster relatives that being black wasn’t simply a color, but also a complete “YOU”-in-a-box, encompassing fashion, religion, demeanor, interests, manner of speech and all sorts of things so you don’t have to come up on them on your own!

Much to the dismay of many, by the time this wave of pressure washed ashore I had already formed the foundation of an albeit young, but strong and individualistic personality. A personality that was not tough, sports-oriented, or sexual enough to be “black” and so I was pelted with questions like “Why do you act so white?” or “What’s wrong with you, white boy?” for years and years. It was in high school, when an enormous football player singled me out with this sort of talk, threatening me and whatnot, that I became decidedly anti-label. In my angry rejection I rebelled against anything that was seen as “black” or “white” or “male” or “female” or “old” or “young” and decided to form my own opinions on the individual. Taking it a step too far, I also rejected anyone who seemed to have given into their label. The stereotypes. The whole thing infuriated me and I swore that I would be my own thing and make sure others knew that it was okay to be, too.

Gay.
Then this came along. And by “came along” and I mean “came out” because it was most certainly bouncing around in me since I could feel romantic feelings.

Always socially awkward when it came to prospect of love, I was a slow bloomer. Raised and schooled Catholic I was taught that homosexuality was a sin…a mortal sin…but due to my War on Labels I didn’t really care about what they had to say. I remember thinking during one class, “If it turns out I was gay, that’d be fine. Because I’d be so much more as well. It’s just another piece.” Keep in mind I had been crushing on a dude from my Art class and two from my theater crew at this point so there was no “if” about it.

In 2006 I met a guy who made me feel like no one else did. Awkwardly I expressed these feelings and -POOF- I had a boyfriend. I was g- No. That was a label and I was against those to the point of having a complex. Seriously, people. A bristly chill of anger would creep over me if someone called me “black”, “white”, “mixed”, “Pennsylvanian”, “male”, “American” so when the “g” word (and everything that goes with it) became something that could be associated with me, I freaked out. But on the other hand I was so happy that I found love that I had to tell all my closest friends and family and coworkers and teachers that I was…an individual person who “had a boyfriend.”

And when I was forced to label myself; when someone cornered me with a “Trystin, what are you? What do you consider yourself?” Once I’d responded things like “I am Trystin” or “A guy who is in love with another guy” more times  than they would accept, I would satiate those label-hungry beasts with “bisexual” for while it was a label it didn’t come with much assumed cultural and behavioral aspect other than a shroud of confusion and the general idea of “not being able to trust them”. I could handle that.

Let’s not forget those times I was accused of “not understanding what it’s like to be gay” because I didn’t go through “enough pain” or I didn’t “lose enough.” You know the stories where kids come out and they get disowned or lose all their friends or get mixed up with the wrong gay crowd or bullied then rebel in a sexual fabulous frenzy. I sorta bypassed all of that and thus, according to some, I missed a key chunk of what being gay means.

Now today if the question of my sexuality ever comes up, I answer with a matter-of-fact “I’m gay” and that’s that. What changed? What broke through the bonds of my operant conditioning and anti-label zealotry?!

Find out after the next section.

Artist.
Truth be told, I was going to leave this out. Why? Because it kind of went against everything I said about labels up until this point. Then I decided I had to keep it in…because it kind of goes against everything I said about labels up until this point.

I was raised in a sporty family. Basketball this and football that. Meanwhile, I spent my free time escaping into a magical world of imagination through my drawings. From a very young age I was “the creative one”, “the artist”. This followed me through grade school, high school, and continues into today. It was a label…and I never had a single problem with it. Here’s why:

First, the artist label in itself is an anti-label. To me it was always a symbol of one’s creative individuality and ability to sidestep society’s mainstream views and ideals to the beat of their own drum. It was a label that allowed for such a spectrum of interpretations that I never once considered it for what it was. A generalization.

Another difference between the “artist” label and the labels of “black” and “gay” is that actively being an artist is a choice; something I had power over sharpening, honing, and ultimately delivering to the world. My race and sexuality, not so much. My skin color is there for all to see 24/7 and unless I want to live in a romanceless Hell, lurking in the shadows from those I’m close to, there’s no way I was going to keep my homosexuality hidden.

So that’s how I justified my OK-ness with being called an “artist” and my aversion to being called “black” or “gay”. But in my OK-ness with one and not the other two, appeared the fatal flaw in my perception of the situation…

In the Dark Ages artists certainly existed. They would make paintings and things that were in line with the powerful hand of The Church. Were they to produce something that diverged from the hyper-religious mainstream they would be punished. Potentially severely. Excommunicated. Killed. For producing something different.

The general idea of an artist in 433 AD Holy Roman Empire did not include such lovely thoughts as individual thought, going against the grain, and forming one’s own beliefs about things. Such traits fell under the label “heretic” and “Off with his head!” followed shortly after. From there I thought, “What if I was labeled ‘heretic’ instead of ‘artist’?” Suddenly, the very traits I enjoyed, positive and open, have become a negative means for which to generalize and persecute me. Suddenly, the “artist” label seems an awful lot like the other two and my avoidance of acknowledging them starts to seem an awful lot like fear; a lack of acceptance of those parts of me.

Do not remove this label under penalty of law.
I realized that my war on labels was more or less as effective as completely ignoring their existence in myself. And, taking the “gay” label today especially, ignoring the label pretty much makes it look like I’m ashamed of the label…that being gay is wrong. And in this absolutely crucial time for same-sex rights it’s all hands on deck or nothing at all.

Labels can suck. They tend to come as these neatly wrapped sets with all sorts of parts that society has deemed inseparable from the trait itself. Like black and “droopy pants”, “ebonics” and “unprovoked violence”. Like gay and “limp wrists and lisps”, “sex-pervs”, and “crimes against nature”. The fact of the matter is that in rejecting these labels so completely because of the parts attached I was also rejecting my total embracing of those parts of myself. That’s not to say I was ever ashamed or afraid, but that I spent all that time avoiding them completely when I could have been out there saying “I’m gay!” and then proving to the world that myself and people like me were more than many people’s image of us.

It was a gross miscalculation , founded on the frustrations of a child and left to build, now something that I have made a point to override and rectify in these past years.

I suppose that if this post had a moral, that moral would be to embrace yourself completely; to share yourself completely.

Or even better…

Define your label, don’t let it define you, and then give it to the world.

Carry on.

Fact.

Faith is belief in what you cannot prove.

Hope is belief in your own potential for greatness.

Never lose hope. If you lose hope, all is lost. If you keep it, and take action in its name, it will prove your greatness to the world.

Mirror, Mirror

Let’s talk about reality for a bit, shall we? Reality is what’s real. It’s the truth of all existence. The funny thing is, we as human beings aren’t programmed to know jack-diddly about reality. Our thing is perception. When we look at an ice cream sundae, for example, our mind isn’t sending us this universal “ice cream sundae” that all mankind see when they look at this thing. What we get is our very own personalized perceived ice cream sundae. Our ice cream sundae is unlike anyone else’s. Imagine how these people would react to the treat:

 

Someone with a severe sweet tooth

Someone with severe diabetes

A health nut

A person who hasn’t eaten in days

Someone who’s lactose intolerant

The person who made the sundae

 

All six people would agree that this is indeed an ice cream sundae, but what that term means varies GREATLY.Other more intense examples of different levels of perception in action include people with colorblindness, or total blindness; people who believe the Holocaust never happened, religious fanatics. The point is, what is real and what we perceive to be real should never be mistaken for each other. Having said that, let’s look at these three “selves”:

 

  1. Your current self (according to you)
  2. Your current self (according to your social network)
  3. Your ideal self

 

By the way, there are TONS of other selves (your future self, past self, your self if you hadn’t turned left instead of right on the way to that party last night), but for now we’ll only care about these three. To repeat my past self, all three of these selves are perceptions and are, as such, prone to be REALLY off.

 

1. Your current self (according to you)

Think of those people who are so delusional as to who they are. We all know them.The slimy and gross guy who is convinced that he is God’s gift to women. The self-important actress with the chalkboard-screech voice who is 100% certain she’s destined for Broadway. Their confidence is admirable, but everything else is utter nonsense. Then we’ve got the incredibly talented people who, for some reason or another, don’t think they’re good enough; smart enough; pretty enough and therefore never have the confidence to reach the potential they have within. These examples are on the obvious side, but every single one of us has a set of perceived traits that are quite off the mark.

 

But what is “the mark”? In a world of perception, this is certainly a tricky question. After all, if everything is perception, how can we possibly know what “real” is? The short answer: we can’t. We can only take educated guesses at what the truth is and go from there. Some truths are obvious and almost impossible to refute: the law of gravity, aging, the existence of dogs…other things are not so simple: the existence of dark matter, ghosts, the wrong- or rightness of homosexuality. I’m sure I’ll tackle these scientific, metaphysical and moral subjects in near future, but for now let’s talk about you and how to get as close as humanly possible to the real you.

 

2. Your current self (according to your social network)

One of the crudest, but most important ways of discovering how close perceived self is from your true self, is through how you are perceived by the people around you. From birth we are told not to care what other people think of us. While that works very well from an individualist perspective, it’s not entirely correct. We are social creatures and as such what people think of us impacts our life and therefore is certainly something we should care about. As far as the world is concerned, what other people think of us IS who we are. They will treat us as they perceive us- not as we perceive ourselves. The genocidal dictator might see himself as a great champion of his people…certainly we do not. The talentless actress I mentioned before won’t be viewed as the next Bernadette Peters by the theatrical world. Examining the way others react to you; what they think of you, is a quick and dirty way of getting another perception yourself.

 

Of course, there are some HUGE risks involving this method of self-evaluation: First up, the dreaded “yes-men”. There are some people who are surrounded by a pack of people who will bend over backwards to tell them how great they are, supporting their every decision whether it be out of fear, greed, or pure admiration. These people have successfully bent their social world to mirror their self-perception, thus creating a safe bubble completely impervious to the truths and growth potential that a more diverse group would offer.

 

And how could we possibly forget the other end of the spectrum: those people who are, for one reason or another, surrounded by morons. Say there’s an island where every year, at the first full moon, a virgin must be sacrificed to appease their gods and ensure another year of good fortune and plentiful crop yields. One person decides that this tradition is wrong, inhumane, and she stands up against it. Obviously, this woman in this the right, but the other members of the tribe see her as a traitor. It’s this scenario that the cliche “Don’t care what other people are thinking” is referring to.

 

Basically, relying on what others say about you to truly know who you are is risky business…and not the smartest way to go about things, but never forget that the way you are perceived is the way you will be treated and must be taken into consideration in all you do.

 

3. Your ideal self.

Repeat after me: You CANNOT become the person you want to be if you do not know who you are.

Looking back to the crappy actress with delusions of theatrical superiority, because her self-perception is so off, she cannot become the Broadway starlett she so desires. Let’s say she had a potential to be truly great, all she needed was a few voice and acting lessons. In her current mindset, she is already a fantastic singer and actor, so lessons are out of the question.

 

Then there’s the guy who is attractive and gifted, but doesn’t see himself that way. In this instance, he is so blinded by his low self-worth that he’s convinced that his ideal self is impossible. Or maybe he’s aiming too low. In  both instances, faulty self-perception ruins opportunity for becoming the ideal.

 

So…?

If the opinions of others are a mixed bag when it comes to knowing yourself, our own perceptions could be just as volatile, and the ideal self is of no use UNTIL you know yourself, then how the heck do we figure out who we are?!

 

For starters, let’s take a crack at the people in our social network. How do they interact with you? Do they constantly shower you with praise? Do they think everything you say is a joke? Do they look for reasons to hate you? Once you’ve gathered answers from diverse groupings of your life (family, friends, coworkers, teammates etc…) it’s time to ask yourself, “What do they have to gain by thinking of you this way?” Once you’ve reached your results, take the answers that primarily focus on the other party getting something out of you (attention, money, pain etc…) and throw them away. Then take the answers that focus on giving something TO you (advice, training, critique etc…) and ask yourself, “Why do they feel this way?” The answer to this final question will get you to see yourself through the eyes of someone who has your best interests in mind; it is a foundation to figuring out your truest self.

 

Example #1

Subject: The Yes-Man.

Question: How does he interact with you?

Answer: He agrees with everything I suggest.

Question: “hat does he have to gain by thinking of you this way?

Answer: I am his boss. He says ‘yes’ because he doesn’t want to upset me. He doesn’t want to get fired. He wants to keep his job.

Verdict: The Yes-Man is saying “yes” for himself, not for you, and thus his opinion is irrelevant in this exercise.

 

Example #2

Subject: The Mentor.

Question: How does she interact with you?

Answer: She offers guidance and coaching in forming and achieving my goals.

Question: What does she have to gain by thinking of you this way?

Answer: Nothing, really. She just wants what’s best for me.

Verdict: The Mentor’s primary focus is to better you and therefore her opinion is quite relevant, because it is for YOU.

Question: Why does she feel this way?

Answer: Because she sees my potential to become something more. Because she wants me to succeed; she believes I can succeed.

 

Example #2 provides us with a beneficial relationship from within one’s social network. First, we’ll put this dialogue in the context of the bad actress. The mentor tells her that she’s not as great as she seems; that she needs practice or she’ll never make it. This may be hard for her to hear, but it’s coming from an honest and compassionate place and therefore should be considered…and rightfully so. On the other hand, let’s return to the island where virgins are being slaughtered. The mentor of the person who stands up against this act begs her to adhere to tradition. Sure, the mentor’s advice is coming from a caring place (she’s trying to convince the person that she is doing what she believes to be the right thing)…but the advice is misguided. Like I said, any info gained from social networks is a mixed bag.

 

Fortunately, there’s a little thing called “extending your worldview”. Extending one’s worldview is important because it forces a person to remove themselves from their usual area of thought and see how other cultures might view you. If you live in a small town, look to a big city. Or vice versa. If you live in one country, look to another. Look to areas that are known for their diversity and open-mindedness; where they are not governed by hatred, fear, or a severe control of freedoms of speech; for these places have themselves used an extended worldview to evolve themselves into progressive and welcoming places. New York City, London, Rio De Janeiro, to name a few. The anti-virgin-killer, those in support of gay rights, of racial equality, sexual equality, would find many friends.

 

Lastly, never underestimate the power of your gut. The fact of the matter is that most people know EXACTLY who they are; but they hide behind a mask out of the fear of embodying their true selves. They willingly alter themselves so that both they and the people around them can perceive them as something different than they truly are. What’s to be afraid of? Lots, actually. Losing the support of loved ones. Losing stability; easy answers. Having to start over again. In certain situations people might even fear for their lives. Whatever the fear, know that you will NEVER be happy unless you’re honest with yourself and your surroundings about who you are. So listen to your friends, your world, and, most importantly your heart. Don’t fear what others think of you, but consider it, and fear only what you will not become if you continue to be something you’re not.

 

And for all those who’ve got it all figured out…rock on and dominate!

 

You’ve Been Warned

You get a little hands-on in a bar and someone punches you in the face. Your mind wanders while engaged in your morning routine and you accidentally iron your hand. You throw caution to the wind regarding your Halloween stash and all of a sudden you have an intense throbbing in your lower bicuspid.

Physical pain. The body’s warning system that something is wrong and changes need to be made in order to make things right: Apologize to the burly bar man…or fight back, if you’re into that kind of thing. Pull your hand from under that iron. Go to the dentist and hope the damage is reversible.

And then there’s emotional pain, which works pretty much the same way…

Your significant other breaks up with you: sadness. Your d-bag co-worker decides to spread various distasteful rumors about you behind your back: anger. You think you’re home alone until you hear something that sounds an awful lot like footsteps one floor up: fear.

Contrary to popular human behavior, emotional pain isn’t something to wallow in. That’d be the physical pain equivalent of waking up covered in hungry fire ants and just…sitting there, taking it. Emotional pain is occurs so that you no, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that changes need to be made: Sometimes things don’t work out, so define who you are and what you want alone. Confront your co-worker and work to dispel the nasty rumors. Get the heck out of your house and call the cops…or go upstairs and check it out, if you’re into that kind of thing.

No matter what, pain, whether physical or emotional, is meant to be a signal to you to bring it to a swift and secure close. Physical pain, left to continue, generally leads to death. So…that’s bad. Emotional pain, on the other hand, if let to carry on and on, leads you to something nearly as life-ending as the ol’ Grim Reaper’s work himself: a rut.

Ruts, in their most common form, are the result of allowing something in the sadness family (hopelessness, depression, loneliness) to persist. The feeling acts as a weight that gets ever heavier until all forward momentum is at a halt and all desire to act is all but squashed out.

Ruts based in the fear or anger families (terror, anxiety, contempt, disgust) are function a tad differently. In drug terms (emotions ARE chemical reactions in our heads, after all), sadness is a depressant and anger and fear are stimulants. Therefore, whereas the sadness rut de-energizes a person and takes away their will to act, fear and anger ride on waves of adrenaline that pumps you with negative energy which consumes all other abilities to envision and interact with the world. You see all things through fear- or anger- colored lenses. If let to take over,  anger and fear lead to ruts better known as “rage” and “paranoia” respectively.

“Bu -but Trystin? Paranoid people can be super active?” This is true, quote. This is true. But what is a rut really? It’s not a matter of being active or not. The guy in the sad rut is TECHNICALLY being active as he sits on his couch, clicking through, channels, shoving ladle-fuls of ice cream into his mouth while crying over happier times. Ruts, my friends, are not defined by a person’s inability to take action, but instead of their inability to be productive, to grow as an individual. This is why, while the rage-fueled rutter might concoct all sorts of maniacal ways to destroy the world or the paranoia-fueled rutter might have turned their house into a mighty fortress to keep out the aliens when they land, this behavior is isolationist, self-destructive, stunting and warping all other aspects of their lives, and therefore the very definition of counter-productive. A very accomplished and active set of ruts indeed, but ruts nonetheless.

Now that we’ve ID’d it, let’s see what we’re dealing with here; pull back the ol’ mask and see how to get to the bottom of this. Aaand…AHHHH!!! It’s…it’s….oh. Anti-climactic. While ruts might seem like these impossibly debilitating and life-sucking forces of nature, at the end of the day, they are nothing more than a clump of very stubborn emotions…painful emotions…and, just like sadness, fear, and anger in their lesser forms, ruts are NOTHING more than your body telling you that you need to take action. To change. If you’re the guy crying on his couch, turn off the TV and write a list of what’s RIGHT in your life. If you’re the person all locked up in your house, fearing the alien uprising, take a single step out of your barracks. These are little things, but these are the ways to move on, move forward; to beat the rut; to take life back and make it your own instead of being the whipping boy of your own insecurities. Act in defiance of your negative emotions every time and every time you will come out stronger and ruts and moments of perceived failure won’t even be an option. Rut: OWNED.

And it would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for this meddling blog…

Table For One?

The romantic self. If any of the six selves (see “The YOU Network” [Mar. 24th] for all six) deserves their own post, it’s this one. The desire to love. Or, more specifically, the desire to love something and then feel a sense of completeness once that “something” has been attained and THEN, equally importantly, the returning or rewarding of that emotion by the object of desire. Great. Awesome. While I fully intend to get into the nitty gritty of that last statement, the true reason for writing this post is to thoroughly answer the ultimate relationship self question:

Is it possible to reach the ideal self in this system without finding, loving, and being loved BY, a significant other?

Let’s start by examining why finding your husband/wife/life partner is so sought after. Aside from the occasional monk on a mountain or hermit in a cave, we are social creatures. We rely on one another for growth, support, nourishment, success, and a whole slew of things. Relationships are key to life and there is no type of relationship that exemplifies this idea than that of the healthy romantic relationship. Not only does it serve to fulfill all the needs mentioned above, but it also has a exclusivity to it. One person who has a special focus in one other person. When it comes to your friends, you are one of a group of their friends. When it comes to your teacher, you are one of a group of their students. When it comes to your significant other, you are their ONLY significant other (we’re talking standard healthy relationships here, remember, ha). Just as they are your only significant other. There is power in the fact that your relationship is unique amongst all your relationships with everyone else in the world.

Sure, the same could be said about your best friend or your parents, but the parent-child relationship is one that is expected to part. The whole goal of it is to create an individual, you, who is prepared to go out into the world and create your own life separate from them. As for a romantic relationship versus a best friendship, it’s a tad trickier. The best friend is someone who you can depend on, someone who helps you to grow, someone there for you in your darkest hours. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on your best friend for intimacy. Passion. Sexual stimulus. Its the physical side, that special part of the romantic connection, that gives the best friend a run for their money. Unless, of course, your lover IS your best friend in which case…well played.

The government likes romantic relationships because they create nuclear families which are more stable, spend more, and are a generally better economic tool. Religions like romantic relationships because they produce hopefully well-adjusted spawn to continue the religion into the future. Society likes romantic relationships because they feel so darn good and religion and media tell us that its all part of our destinies and the fulfillment of the American dream. Media likes romantic relationships because society does. Whatever the reason, they’re mutual, they’re exclusive, they’re physical, they’re sexual, they rock.

We also have men or women with many wives or husbands. It follows the same principles above because of the sexual aspect…just more of a handful.

And for the sake of mentioning them: relationships that are fruitlessly arranged or involve cheating, abuse, or any other array of unhealthy and non-romantic things are NOT a part of the point of this post in any way, shape, or form.  After all they are none of them ideal.

This brings us to the main event. Can we reach our ideal romantic selves without a significant other. The answer: yes.

While I stressed the physical and sexual side of the romantic self above, that was more as a means to separate it from other types of mutual healthy relationships than to establish sex as a required piece of the self itself. You see, dear readers, the only ingredients needed to fulfill is romantic self are a) an object of desire, b) an exclusive connection to it, and c) passion towards it.

We here the phrase “married to our jobs”. Truth be told, some people kind of are! Or their hobbies. Or, in some odd cases, certain objects (you’ve heard of those people who marry bridges and monuments). It’s a sort of connection that comes with a level of passion that is at a level so far greater than it is towards any other aspect of their lives that a deep love results and they are fulfilled. Take those who have decided to take a vow of chastity and sincerely devote their lives to a deity. The priests and nuns of the world. They are fulfilled. Take that hermit I mentioned earlier who, defying the norms of the human condition, craves the art of being at once alone and one with nature. Their passion lies in their solitude. They are fulfilled.

This alternate path of reaching the ideal self is ripe with options and not for everyone. Be it social conditioning or our biological needs, for some of us even the thought of living out the rest of our days this way seems all but terrible. Three of the biggest deterrents come in the forms of children, sex, and mutuality. People like kids. We are raised to have them. Plus, the idea of continuing our personal legacies in the form of a little version of us, hopefully embodying our strengths and void of our weaknesses, is a pretty powerful driving force for relationships in the first place.

Sex. Ohhhhh sex. It’s a thing we tend to like. It’s a thing we tend to want; expect from life. The romantic self is inseparable from it in the minds of many, but, if a person can feel exclusive passion towards something that sexual intimacy with is impossible then the sexual intimacy, one can assume, becomes replaced with other physical forms of expression. To the artist “married” to his work, the painting becomes the sexual experience. To the religious devoted to God, doing God’s work becomes the sexual experience or, since that’s kind of awkward, the apex of passionate exclusivity.

Lastly, there’s mutuality. The idea that the thing you love, loves you back in a tangible way. A painting won’t give the artist a hug when they’ve had a bad day. The squirrels aren’t going to bake the hermit a cake on his birthday. Even the priest will say that God loves him back but the “tangible” and the exclusive aspects are majorly lacking. In this situation, a strong core self is extremely necessary. With that highly tuned sense of self, confidence, and overall awareness, the desire for getting those tangible rewards for the love you give is greatly lessened. Add to that the exclusive passion towards one’s romantic object and being loved back becomes a non-issue in reaching the ideal romantic self.

By the way, a strong core is just as required in the romantic relationship. The last thing any partner wants in a healthy and not at all abusive relationship is to be partnered up with the “needy” one.

In conclusion, while nature, nurture, and the world at large tend to point in the direction of the standard one-on-one romance to fill the romantic self, there are alternatives that, with ample passion and desire, are capable of doing that job very differently but just as well.

7. The Core Self

Continuing onward from “The YOU Network”, let’s move on to the seventh (and most important) “self”: The core self.

Why didn’t I include this one with the rest? Well, unlike the six selves of “The YOU Network”, the seventh does not deal with WHAT we desire/want/need (a new car, a sultry lover, better coping mechanisms…). It instead defines WHY we want these things; HOW we want these things. It is the motivating force behind the desires that manifest the six selves. It is also our status quo.

The core self is the foundation of who we are, what we think,why we do the things we do. It includes powerful intangibles like confidence, passion, spirituality, beliefs, durability, standards, and moral code. It is at the heart of ourselves, a fruit of nature and nurture, and as such, a part of each aspect of “The YOU Network” as well as the center of the network itself.

The strength of one’s core self governs their capacity to function in the world. In other words, the more you know who you are, the more you know what you want. The more you know what you want, the greater the chances of you being able to have it. A strong core is crucial to becoming the ideal self, not only because it can solidify your desires, but also because it will sustain you when things don’t work out and give you the drive to try again.

An example: Let’s take the extracurricular self’s desire to join a weekend volleyball team.

Person A, someone in peak physical condition with all the athletic skill in the world, marches into the gym for volleyball tryouts only to find out that they’d misread the email and tryouts had ended thirty minutes before. Person A, someone with a weak core, is devastated. The failure to act in time results in them feeling a sort of invasive sadness that, in turn, spreads to the other five selves. They’re not so good at work that day. They don’t connect to their lover. They won’t try for another team that starts later in the summer. A strong desire on a weak core is like balancing a boulder on a toothpick. If that desire teeters and falls, the core is shattered and thus the entire network takes a hit.

Let’s put strong-cored Person B in the same situation. Are they upset? Of course. But with the strong core comes the idea that “life happens.” Mistakes were made, but no amount of anger will change that. They still know who they are. They still have a good job, a loving lover, plus there’s another team that starts in a few months and they’ll make extra certain they are there in time. There’s nothing better than a strong core to accept the unexpected and then adapt to it. The act of adapting only makes the core stronger, more resilient, than it was before.

A weak core perpetuates its own weakness. A strong one, own strengths. And the unexpected makes sure that growth continues in new directions.

Posts on change, the unexpected, and more in-depth takes on the other six selves to follow…

The YOU Network

I’ve acquired an addiction recently.  And while I’ve never had cocaine, heroine, or any of their friends over, I’m going to go ahead and assume mine is just as addictive. What is this mysterious thing that has made me it’s slave?

I’ll tell you: My ideal self.

My ideal self. The “me” that I can be. The perfect Trystin.

What set this addiction from being a harmless pastime to a full-blown obsession was a task I received from my Life Coach last week.  The task: Write for 5 to 10 minutes in your journal every day as if you ARE your ideal self; as if you are and have everything you want to at this point in your life. The goal of the exercise is to make a person form a stronger attachment to their desires, making them seem all the more attainable. There’s also the aspect of manifesting your desires, but that’s a little more metaphysical than I’d like to go right now. (We’ll save THAT for later)

The exercise has the effect on me that it was supposed to; one that I’ve preached but never felt so strongly. Try it some time. You’ll love it.

It also succeeded in bringing to the foreground another idea that I have always spoken about but never put in writing or lived as deeply as I should: The YOU Network.

We each consist of a single self. That self is what we refer to as “me” or “I” (or by our names if we’ve got a case of the Elmo’s). It’s who we are. It’s what we are. But we are creatures of desire, of need, and these desires fall into categories that tend to separate the self into six pieces. These pieces include:

  1. The work self (Your job)
  2. The social self (Your friends/family)
  3. The health self (Your physical and emotional health)
  4. The extracurricular self (Your hobbies/interests)
  5. The romantic self (Your love life)
  6. The material self (Your belongings)

As these creatures of desire, we often have the tendency to want one of these so badly that others suffer. A new job. A better relationship with our mother. A book club that selects more than the latest John Patterson every month. Whatever it is, it’s SO easy for us to allow that one thing to stunt our growth or attention to the others. It’s a danger of seeking out the ideal self. It’s not the ideal health self…or the ideal material self…it’s the ideal self. Singular. If we ever want to find true happiness and balance, we’ll have to grow them ALL.

To take it to an extreme level, let’s say someone is ALL about satisfying the romantic self. It’s all they can think about. It consumes them. The pain, the fixation, is so deep that all they can do is think about it. They think so hard that it interferes with their work life and they get fired. It intereferes with their health life and they stop going to the gym. They don’t have the drive to engage in any of their hobbies either and just spend the day shuffling through online profiles for “the one”. Tell me: Who’s going to fall in love with an out-of-shape, jobless obsessive with no active interests? Exactly.

We are each a single entity, but our desires form a sort of network. A YOU Network. And only by maintaining a balance between all six pieces (and the mysterious seventh) can the ideal truly be reached.

 

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