“You are a child of the Universe no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should”
These words were written on the brick wall of a tiny deck in a hostel in Kiev, Ukraine.
I was sitting on the deck alone. A friend was with me in the hostel, yet I still felt very alone. I’d decided to leave my adopted home in Portland to travel through Europe, in effect choosing homelessness. I’d conjured up a vague plan to return to New Zealand at some point once I’d sufficiently smashed through my savings. I had a sense of direction looser than a retired pornstar.
The words on this wall in this hostel in Ukraine were desperately needed. I needed to read them. More specifically, I needed to read them when I did. It was the timing of the words which allowed them be heard.
I’m finding this to be a recurring theme in life. Significance of life-happenings lies not in how, what or where something is heard, seen, or experienced… but rather when.
This may seem to conflict with the next point I’d like to make, which is that trying to understand the meaning of a happening in the moment is like trying to make a sandwich with your feet. It get’s messy, frustrating, and ultimately you just end up with tomato-toes (wait…what?). Point is, it’s a futile endeavour. Trust me on this one. I’ve tried (refer to a year’s worth of blog posts on the matter).
Timing is important, but only if you remain open to the idea you have no idea what the fuck you’re doing.
In 2017 I underwent a transition from trying to understand what was happening in the moment, to accepting what was happening in the moment. I’ve come to understand I have little control over my life-situation. What I do have control over is how I respond to it. This is where my 2017 energy has been focused.
New Year’s is a time for resolutions… however, I don’t know whether I like this idea much. I think setting a resolution once during the year is kind of a silly thing to do – WHY ONLY ONCE? Life isn’t a spray and walk away commercial. If you want to be your best self, resolutions must be set CONSTANTLY because if you’re anything like me, you’ll fuck up constantly. Including on things you thought you’d previously mastered. A being which constantly fucks up requires the resolution to constantly do better. It’s a fluid process of incremental growth. The moss, mould and lichen growing on your self isn’t much effected by spraying and walking away…
New Year’s for me instead of being about resolutions, serves as a reminder to look in the other direction: to reflect on the experiences I was open enough to receive but may not have understood in the moment. Last year I wrote a post reflecting on 2016. This year, I’m doing exactly the same… except this post is about 2017, not 2016… I don’t reflect twice in such a short amount of time. That’s some Leonardo-depths-of-the-subconscious-inception-level-hooby-jooby.
It’s time to take a mini-break from my climb to turn and take in the view. To see how far I’ve come. Here’s what I’m looking at:
- I achieved my goal of making it back to the World Series of Poker…
- where I got my ass beat BAD…
- before recovering and whooping some ass in the process…
- only to decide poker wasn’t for me as a profession…
- and so, I packed up my things and said goodbye to my adopted home (Portland), my adopted family (you know who you are), and my love (Cassi, my car… miss you baby xoxo)…
- to say hello to a European adventure…
- only to find myself right back from whence I came…little old Aotearoa (New Zealand).
Sheesh. What a climb.
I find myself set to begin 2018 in the same geographical location as I began 2016. Only, it’s not the same at all. The view’s much better.
- The highest of the highs
The World Series of Poker is an amazing spectacle. Thousands of poker players and enthusiasts from around the world descend on the unholiest of places on the planet to try their luck at winning big. It attracts a felt-laden aquarium of players – fish, sharks, whales. It’s supposed to be fun. In 2016 it was. In 2017 it wasn’t. Driving away from Vegas in July I felt only one thing: relief. Relief it was over. I’m no longer a professional poker player. “Follow your passion, and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’m not so sure. Poker remains a passion. But it was the hardest work I’ve ever done.
The highest of the highs was a camping trip with friends to Crater Lake, Oregon. Smores (how American!) by the campfire, good company, a dip in 0-degree Celsius water, the bluest lake I’ve ever laid eyes on and a butt-load of memories to boot, including this gem:
What more could one ask for from life?
P.S. Hope you didn’t miss the Buns…I mean Puns…
- The lowest of the lows
There were two:
(a) Getting my ass beat BAD in the World Series of Poker.
People invested in me to play poker at the World Series (THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all of you). I went to Vegas for 42 days. For 41 of them I lost. I felt I’d let people down. I felt I’d let myself down. It hurt. I’m talking ripping your toenails off hurt. But the feeling was on the inside. Disappointing others and myself is not something I like to make a habit of doing. Ultimately the low-feels were for no reason. The second to last day, I took home a cheeky prize and a small overall profit from the World Series adventure. If you persist, you will succeed. This doesn’t mean the pain isn’t felt in between.
(b) Ukraine: I’ll explain with extracts from my diary:
Thursday 21 September 2017, Lviv, Ukraine
Look after yourself.
Friday, 22 September 2017, Lviv, Ukraine
Got so drunk last night that I lost my rain jacket… Been in bed all day. It’s 7pm. Haven’t eaten. Perhaps it is time for me to stop drinking altogether? Look after yourself.
LOL… just LOL. The hilarity of writing for a need to look after myself the day before I get paralytic-sea-cucumber-level drunk (in a foreign country no less) isn’t lost on me. However, this is only so upon reflection. In the moment, this was not fun. I’d actually decided to go home earlier in the night, but succame to peer-pressure and did not follow through with this decision. I knew the right choice to make, and made the wrong one. I let myself down.
Monkey’s learn by repetition. Guess I’d better keep at it.
- My biggest learning(s)
A lot of competition on this front. It’s been a big climb. I’m going to go with a nice lettered approach because it’s just too damn hard to pick one single learning.
(a) Meditation stations.
In 2016 I discovered meditation. In 2017 I committed to it. I meditate. Daily. Twenty minutes every morning.
For someone such as myself who’s definitely more than a little ADHD, the benefits of meditation are incredible. It calms me. Slows me down. And is a regular practice to strengthen my ability to remain rooted to the present moment.
Meditation is fast becoming my right-hand man. It’s perhaps a little premature to say, but I feel meditation may have become a permanent fixture in this collection of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, decades I call a life.
Mindfulness deserves an honourable mention (mindfulness is different to meditation, however both are branches of a similar tree).
(b) Respect my needs.
I wrote a post about this. Here’s the Cliff’s:
- I’m sensitive (I feel feels deeply);
- I need solitude/time alone to decompress;
- I need to respect my sensitivity;
- I need to learn how to communicate these needs better to others.
Understanding the first two points is half the struggle. I feel I’ve mostly fought this battle (with a few blips here and there – see point 2(b) above). Now it’s time to work on the other two.
(c) Slow down. The tortoise wins the race.
I’m faced with a battle between the me who wants to experience life in a fun way (the Hare), and the me who wants to experience life in a sensible way (the Tortoise).
- The Hare: travels; seeks fun; shirks responsibility.
- The Tortoise: works studiously; seeks responsibility; doesn’t say fuck and shit all the time.
Depending on how you view the world, the Hare “fun me” and the Tortoise “sensible me” may be described in opposite ways for you. That doesn’t matter. I think what matters is to understand that one will always sound good in relation to the other. It’s a relativity thing.
I’ve come to accept both. The Tortoise “sensible me” is fun in his own way, and the Hare “fun me” is sensible in his own way. It’s about how I listen to each of them, not how they present themselves to me at any particular moment in time (i.e. as good/bad).
The learning for me has been to listen attentively to both. Life can become very unbalanced very quickly if one’s counsel is sought more often than the other.
(d) Life is a journey through the mundane.
I drew this picture a few weeks into my new life in Portland:
Sorry about the artistic ability…my Mum is a great artist. Sister too. Me not so much. Must be a y-chromosome thing.
The picture is meant to be symbolic. I’ll explain.
Life is a never-ending procession of small mundane tasks: doing the dishes, buying groceries, cooking, driving, paying bills, working, bumping around on spreadsheets, feeding the fish, feeding the cat, feeding the dog, eating a sandwich, drinking tea, blah, blah, blah…
The stick man knows this about life.
Do you notice something else about him? There’s not much to notice as he’s a stick-figure so hopefully you’ve seen it.
Here’s a hint: he’s smiling!
The stick-man knows life to be nothing but a never-ending procession of mundanity. Yet he still smiles.
If you can learn to enjoy the mundane (and make no mistake, you can), I reckon there’s an air of unstop-ability built into that…
(e) It doesn’t matter what the world thinks.
While it’s nice to be supported in your endeavours, if you wait for validation, you run the risk of forever waiting.
Clocks ticking. Go and do it.
- Looking forward
Great Scott!! I feel like Marty McFly a little. Back to the Future living in New Zealand once again.
In a strange paradoxical way, quitting everything and going to the USA was my way of taking responsibility for my life (or in a wider sense, my emotions, thoughts, the works!).
Unfortunately, I was like a kid given free-reign in a candy store… I tried to do it all at once. Instead of slowly picking out my lollies, I stuffed 6 gobstoppers in my mouth. I tried to relocate country, be healthy, a good human, all the while supporting myself with a regular but rather unstable income… that’s no easy feat. And it didn’t help matters that I’m small-mouthed. It was hard not to spit the gobstoppers out.
I didn’t. But I also didn’t succeed in a blaze of glory.
At times it was nightmarish. At times it was exhilarating. Always, it was exhausting.
The battle continues, but refer point 3 above. I like to think I’ve cooled the jets a little and am taking the journey toward being my best-self a little slower. Time will tell (refer point 2(b))…
Looking forward: I’m enjoying writing. I have a stable income. And I own two suitcases of stuff and a car. Maybe the Tortoise has taken the reigns? I’m boring. And life’s pretty good because of it. I feel a little more each day like the stick-man in the picture. Mundanity is sublime.
And with that, 2017 says goodbye.
I see you eyeing me up 2018… stop staring and COME AT ME BRAH! …slowly.