Sitting and Breathing: Day 27

What a wonderfully chill morning! I mean, it’s fairly cold out, sure, but more in the “relaxed” sense of the word. I ate way too much for dinner last night and passed out on my couch watching SNL. I had very vivid dreams punctuated by my dog moving around or asking to be let out or fed. I went in and out of sleep until around 11am, then ate some leftovers, played with the pup, and did some personal grooming. I suppose I didn’t need to share any of that with you, but then, I don’t really have to share any of this with you, do I?

Today’s meditation was a combination of the walking meditation and the lovingkindness meditation. I skipped the bus and just walked to the train station. I repeated, May I be peaceful. May I be happy. May I be safe. Then as people came into my consciousness (seen by my actual eyes or my mind’s eye), I’d put my attention on them, May you be peaceful. May you be happy. May you be safe. The streets of Chicago are hectic at this time of day (wet, slushy roads and sidewalks be damned), and I happened to connect with a lot of good friends electronically today, so I had no shortage of other folks to rest my attention on.

Occasionally I’d catch myself caught up in the rhythm of the words, not putting any real intention behind them. I found it easier to hold the individual in my mind if I visualized myself holding their face and staring into their eyes as I imparted my words of lovingkindness. A little creepy? Sure, but it’s my head and I’ll love people how I want, dammit. Also, this method really allowed me the chance to connect to the words in a much deeper way.

By the time I got to the station, I had turned the words into a song resembling Tiny Bubbles. Singing it allowed me to focus on the pleasant tingling of the cold wind on my face. The light crunch of snow that had just fallen combined with the smush of the snow that had already melted became more satisfying under my heavy boots (like when you’re a kid hopping from puddle to puddle). I had a stupid smile on my lips that started somewhere in my toes and went through the entirety of me.

I came out of my meditation as I got to the station. There was a woman crying on the platform where I transfer to the Red Line. A guy who got onto the train next to me said into his phone, “Did you just tell me to suck a dick?!” I can see the gray of the outdoors on most the passengers’ faces around me, but I also see the curling of lips and the brightness of the smiles that persist in spite of the weather.

Dan Harris got me intrigued by saying meditation can make you about 10% happier, and as week 4 of my practice comes to a close, I’m starting to agree.

Sitting and Breathing: Day 17

Prime numbers, amiright?! Today’s meditation was the flip of day 15, in that I was to call up positive emotions instead of negative ones, then focus on the sensations that those feelings begat.

Pretty much the moment I hit center and was able to focus on my breathing, my dog popped into my mind. My mind conjured an image of him hugging me, and of him holding his head against mine while I pet him. I felt my love for him and his for me in that moment. Warmth radiated out from my center and I felt my face contort in that kind of weird smile people do when they’re overwhelmed by happiness (it bares some similarities to sadness in that everything pulls back and you get teary-eyed).

Then I mentally meandered for a while, trying to imagine this thing or that thing to illicit the positive emotions I was shooting for. My mind flitted through the various women I’m currently interested in, and I imagined being with them, around them, near them, etc, but honestly most of the things I imagined were just daydreams, and not actual events from my past, so I feel like those didn’t count.

I tried thinking of different words for happiness. My usual self-speak kicked in, and I was reminded of my many failures recently and farther in the past. Finally I remembered that I made a bar for myself! I felt awash with accomplishment. It had a similar radiating warmth, and I felt myself sit up straighter, and a smile pulled itself onto my face.

I refocused on my breathing, and found myself putting a lot of mental attention on my alarm and when it would be going off. When I tried pinpointing the reason for my shift in attention, I realized I was anxious about it going off. I was worried that if it went off right then (or in the immediate future), I wouldn’t have really done today’s session right. I wouldn’t have maximized my Good Feels Meditation Day because I how could I? My life is largely in shambles and so on and so forth.

I caught myself before getting too far down that rabbit hole, then took a moment to be happy about that. It wasn’t elation, necessarily, but should elation be the standard for positive emotions? I don’t think so. I think that there’s a whole range of small pleasures worth paying attention to, and if you’re looking for them, you’ll find plenty peppered throughout your day. If I’m looking, they tend to be there.

Back to breathing. And this fuckin’ itch that wouldn’t go away on the left side of my face! I caved and scratched it, which was serendipitous in that it reminded me I just got a tattoo I’ve wanted for almost a decade! I felt giddy! Again, radiating warmth, but also the smile that pulled itself onto my face was tighter than the other ones. My shoulders hunched up and my hands clenched, and I rode the feeling back to my breath.

My alarm went off, and I was largely pleased with the way today’s practice went. I veered off course a few times, but I was able to bring myself back, which is the whole point. After my meditation, I was reminded of a number of other reasons why my life isn’t so bad right now. I’m doing a lot of things that I absolutely love, and I’m doing them with a passion I haven’t had in a while. This blog is a fine example of that, as are the subjects of my happy thoughts for today.

Pleasantness in its many forms sits around us all day just waiting to be noticed – we just have to be looking. I’m gonna look harder.

Clever Title Re: Online Dating

Nothing says, “your life is different than it was” like walking your previously nonexistent dog down a snow-coated alley surrounded by tightly packed brick buildings. It’s so counter to what kinds of things filled my senses four months ago, that it’s comical and jarring and beautiful. On the flip side, nothing says, “your life is the same” like my restless right and left swiping on dating apps.

As it happens, I spend a fair amount of time each day on Tinder or OKCupid doing not much of anything at all. I swipe left and right based solely on a three second judgment of a person’s appearance. Sometimes, if I find their photos particularly attractive, I’ll take a second to read what they have to say about themselves. Then I find myself falling in love (maybe only to a small degree, but that’s definitely what the feeling is) with a person I’ve never met, based on five photos and an elevator pitch.

Brief aside: get your artsy landscape photos out of your profile pictures. That’s what Instagram is for, and you’re slowing down my rapid-fire judgments of a person’s potential for connectivity with your bullshit about flowers. 

Anyway, I don’t spend much time talking to people on dating apps. Presently, I have 215 matches on Tinder and more on OKCupid, and I’m only passively engaged in one conversation and actively engaged in none. I find that my reasons for being on the app as opposed to seeking out dates in a more “traditional” fashion, are the same reasons that I don’t end up actually dating or establishing a meaningful connection with these people – lack of money, lack of time, or lack of emotional currency.

I can’t tell how upset I am about that. I feel like I want a connection with someone. I feel like if my brain is trying to tell me anything with all of its daydreaming, it’s that having a partner would be nice. Then I think about it more, and I find myself wholly satisfied with the quality time I spend with my dog, the quality time I spend on Pornhub (separate quality times), and the quality time I spend with myself, writing or reading or doing whatever random thing pops into my head.

I like this life, and it feels like adding another human to it holds the potential to bring all that enjoyment to a screeching halt. Then I’ll have to deal with a whole other person worth of nonsense, and I just don’t want to. If history is any indicator, I’ll do a complete 180 on that pretty soon and dive headlong into a doomed-from-the-start relationship with someone who would have been perfectly happy having never met me. I’ll make it through about a year of an emotional whirlwind of happiness, anger, and ultimately sadness, and the cycle will start anew. 

Ah well. *SWIPE*

Catching Up With Friends

Considering that I used to see this particular friend on a daily basis, it’d been quite a while since we got the chance to hang out. She was a “traveling kid,” meaning that she hopped trains and hitchhiked her way up, down, and across the country. She also happens to be around my age, intelligent, and particularly attractive, so of course, our closeness was suspect to my girlfriend at the time.

She and I were standing in the kitchen, beers in hand, and I was ritualistically chiding her for wasting her biology degree from UC Berkeley when Girlfriend said, “I’m going out for a smoke if you want one.” It was less of an invitation, and more of a demand.

She puffed impatiently at the cigarette while she told me that she didn’t like how close we were standing. “I feel like you two are doing your own little thing and I’m not allowed in the conversation at all!”

She was right – we were blocking her out for the sake of expedience. When you’re friends with someone for years and you see each other every day, you develop a kind of conversational shorthand that can be exclusive. That, and Girlfriend’s attitude wasn’t exactly making either of us thrilled about having her jump in.

At some point while we were outside, my friend got a call from a fellow traveling kid, informing her that their mutual acquaintance had died. I can’t recall from what exactly – the traveling lifestyle is wrought with dangerous activities like jumping onto fast-moving metal death boxes, riding those death boxes through harsh climates, catching rides with total strangers, and frequent meth and heroin use.

I’m not sure how close they were, either, but my friend was clearly rocked by the news. I did my best to console her, but my expressions of loving sympathy were too much for Girlfriend to handle. She went off the rails (pun intended), and started screaming at my friend. “Don’t think you can just come in here and take MY! BOYFRIEND! with me sitting right fucking here!”

My friend choked back tears and tried to explain that she wanted none of this sweet, sweet lovin’, but there was no getting through the wall of rage and jealousy Girlfriend had quietly been erecting the whole night. All she saw was red.

Finally my friend had had enough of being screamed at while simultaneously mourning the loss of her companion, and she ran out my front door, face in her hands. Girlfriend started after her, and in an attempt to stop the situation from continuing its downward spiral, I grabbed her in a bear hug. She flailed for a second, then reached around and grabbed the underside of my bicep and pinched as hard as she could until I let go. Then she ran out the door after her grieving target.

I took a breath, assessing how much I cared about continuing my involvement. I stared at the recently-slammed door thinking, “If I just lock it…” I sighed, in part because I was out of breath from the struggle, and in part because I knew I had to do something; I needed to help my friend at a minimum. I ran out the door, and found my friend sitting on the grass around the corner, still crying, with my girlfriend knife-handing and yelling in her face.

“Go back inside!” I yelled. I’m not sure why I thought that would work, but it did. She ran back to the apartment. I got about three sentences into trying to make my friend feel better when Girlfriend rounded the corner, steaming back in our direction. There was murder in her eyes, so I apologized to my friend then ran to intercept her.

We went back to the apartment to consume vastly more alcohol, and puff away at countless more cigarettes. My friend took the opportunity to find respite elsewhere, Girlfriend took the opportunity to continue belittling me as best she could for being a philanderer, and I took the opportunity to daydream alternatively about being single and being dead on a train track in the middle of nowhere – both sounded pretty awesome in that moment.

I eventually chose the former, but not before proving Girlfriend right. “If I’m constantly being accused of cheating no matter what I do, then I might as well be enjoying the thing I’m in trouble for,” I thought. Or I could have been an adult and just broken it off, but that’s just not my MO.

Working Title

Are you in love right now? How awesome is that shit? If you’re not, have you been in love before? I bet you remember exactly what it feels like. If you’re like me, the powerful torrent of a river that was that love etched an indelible path deep down in you somewhere. Looking at it, now barely a trickle (but never completely dry), brings a weird combination of sadness and awe – how deep it ran, how wide its breadth.

Every now and again I get brief flashes of it. Sometimes it’s easy to pinpoint – I see a picture of an ex that reminds me of them. Sometimes it’s more subtle – like today when I heard a news story about how women smell their partner’s shirts as a way to calm themselves; just like she used to. I’m instantly transported to her side, and I feel her skin against mine for a split second before I’m thrown back into the present. It’s painful to remember just how happy I was, mainly because no matter how happy I feel now, it pales in comparison to that feeling. It’s a reminder that that shit is out there, waiting for me in the heart of someone I probably haven’t even met, yet.

She sits in a coffee shop and stares at the rain hitting the window. She listens to a combination of podcasts, NPR news stories, and sweet, somber instrumental music that matches the tone of the season. She feels perfectly happy with herself right now, but she too is reminded of the flame that burned in her belly once for that someone. The pang hits her as the music crescendos, and her eyes well with tears, and one sneaks its way down her cheek while she’s distracted by the beauty of the moment.

She’s proud of that tear for its audacity. She’s thankful for it being there for a moment before she wipes it away. She yearns for something strong enough to pull more of them from her someday when she’s so goddamn happy that tears are the only way for her body to cope with the overload of joy, happiness, and true love coursing through her veins.

It’s fucking corny! Deal with it!

Anyway, I can’t wait to meet her. I can’t wait to see her smile for the first time. I can’t wait to feel the electricity pulse through our skin when our hands meet for the first time. I can’t wait to see the glint of realization in her eyes when she finds herself thinking, “Holy shit, I love this guy,” for the first time. I can’t wait to feel that spark in me again.

Then again, I can wait. I AM waiting. I hate waiting. But the leaves are certainly pretty rustling in the fall winds, and I’m happy she and I both have that to enjoy while we wait, sipping our coffee (beer) and staring at the rain hitting the window.

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A Not-So-Brief Review of A Not-So-Brief Engagement – Part IV

We were on the Coast Starlight Train heading north after my mother’s wedding, just past sunset and San Francisco. The conversation turned to our status as relationship partners, as it often does after a wedding. She told me that she had fallen in love her 54 year old writing partner. “Honestly, I haven’t exactly been present lately and you’ve been working closely on an emotionally intense project. I’m obviously upset, but so long as you haven’t acted on it or communicated that to him, I think it’s something we can work on.”

We agreed that we were both at fault and she assured me that she had come to me first, but I hadn’t exactly cooled off by the time the train came to a halt in Sacramento. It was about 1am, there weren’t any cabs and Uber didn’t exist, so we were walking home. It’s tough to communicate your anger in your stride when you’ve got large rolling bags trailing behind you.

When we got home, I was putting things away, and she was typing frantically on her laptop in the next room. That wasn’t exactly out of character given that she was a poet, but this seemed different. I asked her what she was writing, and she said “nothing,” which was definitely out of character. I asked to see her computer – nothing in the sent folder, but there’s a Trash folder in just about every email ever in case you weren’t aware. She was unaware.

“I told Sean that I loved you tonight.” I don’t remember what the rest of it said, but I’m pretty sure that’s not something you say unless you’ve talked about it previously.

“Get out of my home.” I felt confident that the proportion of the bills I was paying allowed me that sentence, so I went for it. She packed a couple bags for immediate use, and I did my best not to talk to her. It was late, and I caved in the face of her crying, and said it would be fine if she stayed there for the night, but the next morning she had to leave.

She did, and that was the end of our engagement and that three-year chapter of our young lives. I waffled on my conviction to end it, but her choice to move in with the subject of her infatuation made it easy to maintain a hard line on both sides. With the gift of hindsight, it was the right choice for a litany of reasons, but when you’re young and in love, it’s nearly impossible to see straight.

I made similar mistakes in the name of love since, and I’ll likely make them again in the future. I drink in spite of the hangover, and I fall in love knowing that it’ll come to a crushing end eventually. I’m a strong proponent of jumping off the cliff and figuring it out on the way down – the rush is worth it.

A Not-So-Brief Review of A Not-So-Brief Engagement – Part I

I was at the tail end of my first year of college, and on one of my too-frequent trips back to The Valley to putz around doing not much of anything. I dropped my friend off in the parking lot of one of the many strip malls that litter the suburbs of my hometown, popped two hits of acid into my mouth and drove away in no particular direction. After three or four aimless turns, I decided to head back to see what my friend was up to for the rest of the night.

“Sean!” I heard a female voice from behind me that wasn’t immediately recognizable, and I turned just in time to catch the embrace of one of my former classmates from AP English in 11th Grade. We hadn’t hung out much, but she was always someone that caught my eye. She was always dressed in ridiculous, haphazard outfits, her hair and makeup were always a finely-tuned mess, and she was absent from class about as often as I was.

“Me and my friends are going to a poetry reading across the street – do you wanna come?”

“Sure!” I eked out, as I swallowed the two small pieces of paper that were still moistening under my tongue. I had never been to a poetry reading before, and per usual, I was in the mood for a new experience.

The event was in the back room of a piano shop. I was ushered in along with my lady friend and her hoard of regulars. It was dark, had a blue hue to it, and was filled with your standard hippy amount of local art, tapestries at odd angles, and stray cushions. I sat at a table by myself, and waited to be entertained.

“Welcome to the [I forgot the name of the show] Poetry Night!” boomed the overweight, heavily-bearded host with an ironic and expensive black hat covering his receding hairline. “As most of you here know, each and every one of the people here is required to come up on stage and perform something!”

Oh shit… I thought. Maybe if I just sit quietly, I won’t be noticed. There are so many people here… They can’t know everybody.

They can. “You there!” The host was pointing directly at me. “I don’t recognize your face, and I noticed that you’ve yet to go up on stage. It’s the end of the night, which means it’s your turn to get up here!”

Just then the effects of the acid started peaking. I hesitantly got up out of my chair, went up on stage, and sat on the stool in the center.

“My name is Sean Farrell, and this is my first time.”

My memory clicks off here. I don’t know what exactly it is that I said, but I spoke for about five minutes. My memory clicks back on as I thank the audience and walk offstage into a sea of applause, hooting, hollering, and women wiping tears from their eyes.

The host came up to me, clasped me firmly by the hand and said, “That was truly incredible, man. You’re welcome to come back here and do that again any time you want!”

“Thank you, but I really don’t think that I can.”

The rest of the evening is a blur, as I was whisked from place to place with this new group of poet friends, and one old classmate who I had managed to woo with my performance. Bottles of red wine were passed around, I drank heartily, endearing myself to the group all the more as that’s what artists do, and to them, I was an artist.