In Which The Ocean Provides Her Infinite Wisdom

I love the beach.

I can sit on the sand for hours if left alone.  I run my hands through the grains, feel the ocean break.  I watch the gulls and sea eagles drift by.  

Silence comes and goes in rhythm with the waves.  The silence in my mind sometimes matches it.  Thoughts swim by, in and then out of my field of view.  At other times they will stick around while I turn them over and over like a seashell in my hands, running my fingers on every curlicue and ridge upon it.

I jump in the cool ocean.  No matter the weather, save for a scary stormy sea, I’m in there in the morning.  Sometimes I stand only knee deep after a quick soak.  Sometimes I drift with the current in a clear turquoise sea, looking towards the headlands and the secrets they enclose, then seawards towards the rising sun.  I squint from the salt and brightness, feeling the soothing bath of the elements relaxing and yet somehow energising me.

I look towards the house where my family is staying.  We come here a couple of times a year in various seasons.  My family is asleep still, rocked by the sound of the crashing surf.

We live the mountains a couple of hours away, but the beach is where I feel refreshed and reawakened.  I bring problems to the ocean for solutions.  The ocean brings perspective.  In some primal amniotic way the ocean either integrates or flushes the problem, leaving it for the scavengers in the deep.

I want to buy a beach house.  I want to have a place to bring my family whenever I want.  I spend some time each day looking in the real estate windows, dreaming.  My wife and I sit at the table with the ocean outside, and discuss the potential for buying, re-mortgaging, borrowing, finding an investor, buying and renting through Airbnb.  We lounge on the deck with champagne and measure the costs, imagining how we can pay the rates, the electricity, the water.  We muddle in the sand and dream our little dream of being at the beach with our family and each other, warm in each other’s embrace, cuddles on the couch and adventures by the sea.  We imagine our boys catching puffer fish in the rock pools and fishing off the headland, cooking their prizes in butter and lemon, flour and salt. 

I wake up and head to the beach.  I feel the sand between my toes, grainy and cool.  I walk straight into the water and she welcomes me, swirling between my legs, drawing me gently in to her cool enclosure while I take long breaths in and out, feeling the joy of my aliveness.

I look towards our house, where we stay each year.  It’s a beautiful mansion to us.  Our friends own it and we stay here for free, a week at a time.  We pay no rates, no bills, no maintenance fees.  We spend no time checking Airbnb to see if anyone is staying this week, if we can afford the mortgage.  We have no stress over having two properties miles apart.

And in the oceans embrace, I finally see.

We have our perfect beach house.

We just don’t own it.

If You Wanna Be My Friend

If you want to hang with me, if we are going to be friends, you’ll behave within certain parameters. Not like “you gotta do this”, but because you are like this. 

Its totally cool if you don’t behave in this way, but we are not going to hang out.  We are unlikely to be friends.  And that’s ok.  If you have respectable ideas, I will respect them.  If you voice your opinion, I will listen to it. But you will not be a part of my circle nor any of the advantages and disadvantages that come with that.

I used to be flexible.  That guy who continuously adjusts their behaviour until connection is found with the other person.   The one who flexes their boundaries ever so slightly so that others can be a little more comfortable.

I now have little need for flexibility in establishing connection.  If I’ve had to make more than a couple of flexibility adjustments to my character to connect with you, I probably won’t be talking to you again, not in any real, deep sense.  And, I’ll be making a quick exit. 

Flexibility is exhausting, and certainly inauthentic.  However some people armour themselves, and it can take them a little time to find that dialogue with me is a safe space.  They’ll armour with humour, or accent, or trivialities.  I’ll take a little time to see if there is something worth pursuing in the other person, to find a connection that is rewarding.  A connection that has you walking away with a feeling of joy, humour, warmth or lightness, and a desperate need to talk with them again.

These people I want to connect with again are usually recognised within the first 2 to 3 minutes of conversation.  They are the ones that dive deep straight away.  They are talking of their likes and dislikes, talking of their fears and loves, talking from the heart.  They are not parroting shit from TV.  They are not repeating the tripe of the social media day.  They are not outraged about anything. 

They are explorative. 

They are learning. 

They are unsatisfied with how little they know. 

They are feeling.

They want answers.

They are blackly humourous, you know?

They are probing.

They ask questions. 

They deftly reinsert conversational threads that we had barely unravelled ten minutes ago before being distracted by another fascinating turnabout. 

They disagree, healthily. 

They criticise, constructively. 

They bear the same from me with grace and good humour, without a trace of defensiveness. 

These people understand that it is ideas that are to be argued, discussed and disembowelled, not people.  They know that the idea and their Self are utterly seperate, thus an idea can be hung, drawn and quartered without the Self suffering in the least.  They are grateful for torture that teaches.  I know I am.

I want dialogue.  I want interaction. I seek connection above all else. 

And what a beautiful thing it is to connect with another fascinating human.

The Australian Fires and the Fresh Start

We’ve been burning here for months now.

The Blue Mountains, from the north of the Wollemi National Park to the deep south of Kanangra, has slowly but surely transformed from a stunning vista of eucalypt forests into a black moonscape, bereft of identifying features.

The fire has destroyed homes and threatened villages with new dangers appearing almost every week, fuelled by hot conditions, dry landscapes and wind.

The anxiety comes and goes, wondering whether this will be the week it’s our turn to lose our house, our belongings, our lives.

What surprises me is how many people secretly wish since the beginning of this fire season, to lose everything they own and start again.  How many have longed for a fresh slate?  I have talked with many people and been surprised at the sentiment of “the fire can take it all… I’m insured”.

It seems we don’t really want our stuff, but we don’t want to get rid of it ourselves.  We want an external force to remove it from our lives.  We want to be free of the weight of our belongings, those “things” that tie us to earth, to our past, to our background, to our fears of loss and our anxieties of the future.

The Greatest Detective Story Never Told

I’m a man who likes to be solitary.  I love to be alone with my body and my mind, exploring both.  I ran into trouble early with your mum, as she comes from a family where no one is ever alone, ever.  No one from her family does anything solo, or quietly for that matter.

Walk into my family’s house at Christmas time and you’re likely to find everyone with their faces in a book.

I had a realisation last night.  To really learn about myself, I have to truly be alone.  When I say truly alone, I don’t just mean on my own without other people.  I mean alone without distractions.  No devices, no books, no shows, no chores.  They are all colourful and entertaining noise that prevent me from touching that deep place where the boundless lies.

It’s tough to be truly alone.

It’s difficult to not distract myself with all this novel and wonderful noise, these nostalgically photographed cookbooks, those five-star self-development books,  some new and shiny techniques for saving time and achieving… stuff.

However, after years of practice, I’ve observed within myself a personal trend towards entertainment boredom.  I can’t watch shows or movies without a deep sense of boredom.  They all seem so infantile, so shallow.  Not one of them touches on what it means to be a human alone.  No show discusses the pain within and the way to heal it.  No one talks of the ocean of creativity that lies deep beneath the surface where monsters and beauties and the most incredible creations lie.  No one seems to know of the greatest detective story never told – the uncovering of your history, past, present and future.

If more people knew about it, Netflix would be out of business.

Anxiety As Fertilizer

The boar stands, sniffing the wind.

 

Wild pig

 

His blood will soon fertilise the ground in sad, sodden spurts.

For now he stiffens, hair on end, alert. Piggy ears have heard me, but porcine brain has not processed bow-hunting humans in the past.

Seventy pounds of force sit between my two hands as I aim the bow.  My heart races, keenly feeling the abyss of taking a life before me.  The boar and I stand frozen, in a state of incredible tension.

This terrible anxiety yearns for release.  My guts want it to be over.  I don’t even care if I get the boar.  All I want is a result. I shoot and I hit, or I shoot and I miss.  Either way, a result.

This, my friends, is weakness.

 

This is the way most people live their lives.  The moment tension arrives they want it over.  They’ll do their best to end the twisting, grabbing fingers gnarling their way into their guts.  They can’t handle the gnawing sensations of uneasiness, and the yawning, sometimes snarling, abyss that threatens to upset their balance.

These people will happily let life stomp all over them if it means they don’t have to feel anxiety.  They are the ones who cannot meet their bosses eye, who rush through confrontation, who “just get it over with” in everything, with everyone, every single time.

The inability to withstand the force of bodily chemicals is weakness.  The body-mind dialogue goes something like this:

Body: “I don’t know whats gonna happen here, and this appears to be similar to another situation which ended badly.  I’m gonna prepare you for the worst!”

Brain: “Oh My.  Body has just released the Holy-Shit-Bad-Stuff-Is-Gonna-Go-Down-Chem-Combo. I’d better ignore all the evidence in front of me that says everything is cool, and follow body’s lead.”

Body: “THIS ADRENALINE RUSH IS MAKING ME SUPER-RESTLESS HOMIES… so I’m gonna force something to happen through my actions to release the tension I’m feeling.”

Brain:”Oh Fuck.  Willpower: Down.  Self-Control: Down.  Logical thought: Down.  Shit gonna hit the fan.  Sooner we get a Result, the sooner we can get this ship back to homeostasis-thingy.”

Body is losing his shit because somewhere along the way he has noticed a trigger.  A trigger might be social or psychological, a product of a long forgotten negative memory, or an actual dangerous sign. Except for real danger, it’s useful to hold the tension until brain can make sense of it and force the body to act in a useful manner.

 

In other words, hold the tension until you get what you want.

 

Tension is a growth medium.  It’s fertiliser.  He who can hold tension the longest grows the most, but only if it is eventually allowed to enter it’s sister state, relaxation.  One cannot exist without the other, but people certainly enter one state then refuse to leave, rather like a refugee.  Some examples:

  • The Entrepreneur – He works hard, plays hard, and endures endless tension and anxiety.  He quickly builds a high tolerance to tension, but his inability to truly relax eventually leads to burnout.
  • The Iron Lady – She loves domination, confrontation, and watching people squirm under her gaze.  Often these women (and their male counterparts) carry this tension in their bodies.  Watch for tight facial muscles, strong jaws from clenching, and high shoulders from inadequate breathing and stress.
  • The Marshmallow – These people fold like yoga chicks when under pressure.  Their tension tolerance is too low.  They rarely relax either, because they operate in emergency mode.  People often take advantage of them because they cannot say “no”.

Yoga chick leg up pose
Just say no.

 

How do you increase tension tolerance?

  • Practice saying No.  When you don’t want to *insert unwanted horrible thing* stand up for yourself.  Don’t suck metaphorical cock like a TV presenter, do what you want.  I sure as fuck appreciate it when people tell me NO, rather then a tentative yes, and leave me out in the rain like Nicholas Cage in the godawful Weatherman while they eat corn-chips on a polar bear rug in front of re-runs of A Simple Life.  This is hands-down the easiest way to quickly improve your tolerance.  It will be difficult.  A lifetime of saying yes to everyone for everything has reduced your backbone to spray cheese, and you need to Pecorino Romano that shit up.  When you say no, the unknown will rise like Cthulu from the deep, with the wash of anxiety breaking against your pathetically small form.  But you will grow, and will eventually stare down upon that slack-jawed, tentacly motherfucker like the baby clam he is.  Fuck you Cthulu.

 

  • Stop being a Psychic.   You start feeling anxious about something.  “It doesn’t feeeeel right”, you whine, like a four year old girl to her uncle Kevin.  You are giving absolute credence to a chemical reaction.  Your body is feeling habitual discomfort in this specific situation which makes you want to avoid it.  You then call this feeling ‘intuition’ and tell yourself you’re psychic, that you *Just Know* that something bad will happen. Skip all that, admit that your body feels anxious, then continue anyway.

 

  • Deliberately put yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable.  I put off breaking my gym-going virginity for years.  I didn’t know how to use the machines, I didn’t understand the social structure, I didn’t know the process for working out.  It was all too much, and it created incredible tension when I though about going.  Facing this tension transmuted the anxiety around gym-going into a lesson about trying new things.

 …

Back to that pig.

I hold my breath as the boar relaxes.  This bastard son of pork will soon be garnishing my plate, I think.

I release.  The arrow flies.