The life that is waiting for you

Flourish Vol. 35

I haven’t felt much like writing lately. Like so many people right now, I’ve spent the past few weeks watching, learning, listening, soul-searching. June was a hell of a ride on just about every front; socially, professionally, mentally, physically. This was initially going to be the month I pulled the trigger on some major changes in my life, but it felt like the earth was quite literally shifting beneath my feet. And so I waited it out; for the pieces to fall into place, for the fog to lift. And the future is coming into focus, little by little, day by day.

I had the opportunity to leave LA for a bit recently, and my god it felt good to travel again, even with everything being weird as hell. Everyone’s comfort level is different and incredibly personal, and everything carries some risk, but planes and hotels (or AirBnbs) have generally been assessed as safer than bars or restaurants — which are open here in LA — so weighing the precautions and potential risks, I felt comfortable traveling after receiving a negative COVID-19 test. I’m lucky, as someone who lives alone, to be able to make personal choices based on my own comfort level, with the reassurance from my test results that I’m not asymptomatic and unknowingly spreading the disease to others. Additionally, Delta is one of the few airlines actually attempting to social distance passengers at this point, hand sanitizer was readily available everywhere I went, and I wore a mask on the plane and whenever I was in public. Except, of course, when I was able to escape to Rocky Mountain National Park (which is open with reservations) and leave behind other people/society as a whole for a blissful few hours. Man, that altitude is no joke, though!

Getting to spend the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, out in the Colorado mountains and the snow-capped tundra was something pretty special. Not only because it was the longest I’d been away from home in months, but because lately, I’ve felt what I can only describe as spiritually malnourished. Exacerbated no doubt by all the cracks in our society becoming more visible than ever before; by the question of what comes after getting everything you thought you wanted — or by playing the game of life and getting nothing at all. I’ve been trying to find meaning in life bottoming out, in this spiritual crisis, this dark night of the soul, however you choose to define it — and I’ve been studying a lot of different definitions. I’ve never resonated with organized religion, but I’ve found myself using this time to delve deeper into spirituality and philosophy, psychology and neuroscience (I’ve been reading a lot of Jung and Nietzsche, as well as Beau Lotto’s book Deviate, which is about the science of perceiving life differently and offers lots of mind-bending explanations about how we are completely unable to ever truly see reality.)

Your heights are your own mountain, which belongs to you and you alone. There you are individual and live your very own life.

If you live your own life, you do not live the common life, which is always continuing and never-ending, the life of history and the inalienable and ever-present burdens and products of the human race.

There you live the endlessness of being, but not the becoming. Becoming belongs to the heights and is full of torment.

How can you become if you never are?

Therefore you need your bottommost, since there you are. But therefore you also need your heights, since there you become.

-Carl Jung

Through all of the ups and downs of recent months, nothing has been more apparent than the fragility of life, the way in which we attempt to build everlasting empires on shifting sands. Fragility not only in the most extreme sense — the countless lives robbed from us by a virus, and police brutality — but also the way in which even the best laid plans make fools of us all. That you can play the game, following all the rules to a tee, and still wind up empty handed. I’ve seen extraordinary colleagues, both at my own organization and across the media industry as a whole, unceremoniously discarded when the going gets tough, despite being incredibly talented what they do, despite having gone to the universities and moved to the cities and jumped through all of the hoops they were told would bring them success.

In society as we knew it, before the wheels came off, it was so easy to give all of our problems and traumas and neuroses and fears a fresh coat of paint, to shove them in the back of some small, dark closet and hope they never came tumbling out. But I’ve never been less interested in looking away from the hard truths, in ignoring what is unfixable, unforgivable, untenable.

“The only way we can really approach this is to realise that when we have received the full conditioning of our society and have attained physical maturity that perhaps we will be able to pause for a moment and try to find out a little more about ourselves. Usually however, this moment of pause only comes when physical or emotional reverses break down the structure of the so-called physical-material-industrial plan for living. Nearly always a crisis: a great disappointment, a heartache, a desperate illness. These are the kinds of pressures that perhaps have been placed here to remind us that we have an individual existence and that this existence must be given expression or the life we are living will remain incomplete.”

― Manly Hall

Sometimes I feel that the longer I spend working on myself, the deeper depths I plumb, the harder things get. Like attempting to renovate a house only to find that its entire structure is rotting, and it must be destroyed and built again. Sometimes ignorance about the implications of my own existence sounds like bliss. Sometimes anything feels easier than this, even buying into happiness as an unattainable afterthought I might find when I retire decades from now, that #hustling is the meaning of life, that self-care only runs as deep as hollow, corporate bullshit.

But then, there is no job, no amount of money, no partner or vacation or distraction big enough to ever save you from having to reckon with yourself, and your purpose, your values, your reason for existing. Wherever you go, there you are — and there is no time like the present moment to remind you of this.

But in the emptiness and loneliness and the sadness there is some kind of truth and radical honesty and maybe some salvation. There are the roadblocks and failures and redirections that are the universe, or God, or your deity of choice that tells you, unequivocally, you’re not going this way. Try, try again. Accept that the things you thought mattered might matter less than you could’ve expected, that you may have outgrown the person you thought you were, and surrender to the possibility of what might yet be.

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”

―Joseph Campbell

On a far more superficial note and complete 180 from ruminating on my higher calling in this life, I got my first haircut in nine months after frying the ever-living-hell out of my hair with bleach, and it definitely warrants a quick flex here because I will definitely never feel this cool again.

Last week was the debut of my longtime fave Phoebe Bridgers’ sophomore album and…I like it! My initial impression is that the singles were the strongest tracks, but I’m partial to a lot of components of the different songs, especially one of the more apt descriptors of LA’s east side I’ve ever encountered on “Punisher”.

I go to the store for nothing
And walk right by
The house where you lived with Snow White
I wonder if she ever thought
The storybook tiles on the roof were too much
But from the window, it's not a bad show
If your favorite thing's Dianetics or stucco

The drugstores are open all night
The only real reason I moved to the east side
I love a good place to hide in plain sight

My music consumption lately has mostly consisted of wearing out this song by TOLEDO, because it feels like summer:

And just about every track from Small Forward’s new album. They’re an LA band I’ve loved for a long time now, and I really hope this self-titled record is the start of them going big places.

My apologies (but not really) that this newsletter is tonally all over the place, but the same can be said for life as a whole right now. And I’m a firm believer that the existential can go hand-in-hand with the more frivolous aspects of life. It’s all about balance, baby!

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” – Henry David Thoreau

Til next time.