Friday, September 17, 2010

Into the Fog


Sodium vapor lamps over parking lots dotted the night like spots of burning sun in the mist. I walked down along Muscle Beach toward Venice through a fog that grew even more dense the longer I was out. Down on the beach path, the lights of the amusement park on the pier shone only as a pastel luminescence hanging in the white sheen. Fellow exercisers, walking, running, biking, skateboarding, came to and fro, passing me, me passing them, in and out of the fog like wraiths seeking solace. I stood in the shadow of an empty beach cafe, shielded from the orange glow of the parking lot lights. "Please make the way for me to stay in LA and establish my screenwriting career," I said in prayer to the Universe.

There are those times when you aren't sure what the next step is going to be. I've been in LA for about ten days now, having come out with the idea of staying, and on several occasions since being here, it has seemed that this will be my home for awhile. But the experience of this week has left a pool of ambiguity in my heart. It's as if I walk along in a fog, and all I have to go on is the internal compass, and then I constantly question it, wondering if it is really telling me to go here or there. 

I joined CouchSurfers.org earlier this week and contacted three of four people. The only people that responded where a couple who are able to allow me to sleep in an extra bedroom until Sunday. That will be a day of reckoning because it's at that point that the path ahead is quite vague. On that bike trip through Central Minnesota, a significant lesson that emerged was learning to trust the Universe. Leaving from camp in the morning, I needed to trust that I'd both make it to the next destination and that there would be a place for me to pitch a tent that night. Having learned that lesson to whatever degree I was able, soon, my path led me back to the Twin Cities and then out here.

It's been a great struggle this week as I have had to acknowledge that whatever happens, it is what is best for me. After contacting couch surfing hosts earlier in the week, I had to trust that those appointed to do so would respond. The week has passed, my stay at the hostel is finished, and I look toward Sunday as the edge of the abyss, not sure exactly what's going to happen or turn up. As one of my previous posts explored, there is a real possibility that I might end up setting up a bed roll next to some homeless guys down on Ocean Ave.

The Original "Muscle Beach," possible bed-down
spot in Mark's immediate future.

A certain number of mental leaps are required to accept that sleeping out on the sandy lawn along Ocean Avenue is what's best for me, but that's the direction things have gone. The fail-safe is going back to Miamisburg, Ohio, and that's a real possibility in my mind as I enter this weekend. Does that constitute failure? It feels that way. And then there's the question of whether that is going to lead to anything in a nowhere, working-class town where I feel about as comfortable as a whale on a beach.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Courage


What’s the baseline of comfort and security, even of propriety, decency, and dignity. In some way, all of these define the boundaries of fear. I don’t want to be uncomfortable; I don’t want to be embarrassed; I don’t want to be naked, alone, in some place where my person and material items are vulnerable, in some place where someone might think lesser of me. In all of these, there is a way to feel afraid. And where there is the presence of fear, there is an opportunity for someone to take advantage of me or manipulate me.

In finding these boundaries, I have strangely come upon the boundaries of ego. It's so easy to think of all of these rules, restrictions, and preference as comprising my essence, of defining who I am in the fullest sense, of making some absolute statement of who Mark Weaver is supposed to be. But I'm finding that these boundaries fail as I move through scary situations. I move through them and see the parameters of self change. I hold onto the limited and limiting aspects of ego, and somewhere in the transfer, of the exchange, of the experience, some aspects of myself are lost, and only because I haven't allowed myself to be defined that way.

Courage can be defined in so many ways, but a part of courage is a willingness to let myself and others perceive me as something that is uncomfortable for me. As I write it, it seems so petty and I wonder if it's really an insight. But it is. It is because I know how much it scares me to think of being homeless. It isn't so much sleeping on the street that bothers me, but the boundary it crosses, the redefinition of self that occurs when you become someone standing on the outside looking in.

Those inside may look out at you with hatred, fear, loathing, or pity, but none of these is flattering. It's that very place that I fear being, where I am no longer defined as one of the "proper" aspects of society, but one of the dregs, the shadows, the shameful and embarrassing. Courage in this instance is a willingness to be something that others would view differently than what I prefer. And this fear is one that is used to keep me in a cage, one that consistently has me reconnoitering my plans so that I might avoid transgressing the boundaries of propriety, dignity, and acceptance.

The Universe doesn't care what my ego thinks or feels. She doesn't care about his petty rules and laws, nor the tantrums he throws when things fall "out of order." The Universe cares that who I really am rises above the constraints of this existence. I turn it into suffering, and I might be considered brave for enduring whatever indignities the Universe might toss my direction. But it does take courage because it all looks, feels, tastes, and sounds so real and important, enough that I've spent most of my life selling my soul for dignity, propriety, and others' opinions.

Monday, September 13, 2010

So Many Cool People


Sitting at Rapidan Dam a week and a half ago, contemplating whether I should continue to go forward or head back to the Twin Cities, I was unaware of my path forward from that point. It was like standing in a dense fog and simply walking forward. The road out to Mankato and back was lonely, especially as I contemplated traversing literally thousands of miles of rural highway through the heartland of our country. There were times that I felt that loneliness keenly, accepting it, knowing that at times in life it is actually better to be alone and naked against the world, that sometimes--perhaps often--the road forward requires it.

Looking back over the landscape of my life, I remember the intense loneliness I felt at times. As a child, hiding my true nature to avoid the cruel scrutiny of those who would ridicule what they couldn't understand. The parched lands of religion, where judges and teachers are a dime a dozen, but friends rank among the nonexistence. The dark days in Ethiopia when I feared facing the truth that religion was not what I thought it should be, and there were no others to admit it. A lifeless, sexless marriage. The desperation of loving someone too much, perhaps for good reasons, but not knowing the necessity of detachment. It was when I realized that loneliness is not the worst fate to befall us, but to abandon oneself to end loneliness is perhaps the worst crime we can commit.

Immediately after arriving at the hostel, I began to make friends, people I doubted existed in the world, people looking to live full, rich lives with courage and vision, trusting their instincts and turning a deaf ear to naysayers. This is a tribe of people who have come to know themselves and use that knowledge to live the life they know they should.


One of the things I learned during the dark days of grief was that we tend to attract people who validate our view of the world. However we conceive relationships, others, and their affects upon us, people will come into our lives that make such conclusions and assumptions irrefutable within the context of our experiences. The encouraging thing is that perhaps the cool people emerging in my life are the result of my own acquiring of a different set of beliefs.

One day after the next, I have met one person after another who shares a passion for life, for living it to the fullest, for standing against fear and embracing the destiny that is unfurling before them. At times when it seems the way has gotten dark and threatening, someone comes along who says, "You're doing the right thing. Hang in there. Hold on. Believe." My new friend Tracy told me today, "You belong in LA. You need to stay here. You can do it. God will give you what you need."

I'm here to stay. I've found my place. I'm finding my tribe. I'm finding my destiny.