Peaking on acid, about to freak out, I opened the window for air.
“Yeah, buddy, you should jump out the window. Do us a favor!”
Keith had been needling me all night long. He was smart, with a good sense of humor, so his mockery was strong, but he never came right out and said anything openly shitty: I couldn’t tell if he was really being a total prick or if I was just imagining things. And if you’ve ever been that high you’ll know the feeling: you think something is happening but you’re not really sure…
…and the topic is potentially embarrassing so you don’t really want to bring it up…
…and if you do bring it up you can’t really say what you mean and people just look at you…
…and you can’t tell if they’re just looking at you kindly or if all along have they’ve felt you’re a complete fucking tool and it’s only now coming out.
Anyway, at this moment it became clear that Keith had been after me all night long, but we were all friends, more-or-less, and it was kind of weird for him to be picking on me for no obvious reason.
Of course now I can imagine many reasons he might’ve disliked me: I could seem like an arrogant prick sometimes, and even though I already had a girlfriend I’d been sleeping with this girl Keith knew and had probably been generally callous about the whole thing, and Keith was good friends with another local band with whom we had this sort of unspoken rivalry: they were the Beatles and we were the Stones (or, as the singer of that band said, they were a sneaker band and we were a shoe band.) And even though that band was several orders of magnitude more popular and successful than we were, we came on like we were the Stooges crossed with the Gun Club, and that brand of not-give-a-fuckery was not guaranteed to endear oneself to the citizens of our quiet little town.
So I think it’s quite likely Keith was just trying to bring me down a peg.
The thing is, though, that I was already quite convinced that I was a piece of shit and that nobody liked me, so it was no great achievement to make me feel bad about myself. So ha HA Keith (not his real name,) joke’s on you!
I already felt like jumping out the window!
I don’t know where this feeling came from, but I can pinpoint the first time I was aware of it. It was in a church basement in Butte, Montana in 1982, at a family reunion with my mother’s people. (Good folks, all of ’em!) I had recently fallen in love with punk rock and, the night before we left, cut my own hair in the style of John Lydon.
My mother, god bless, didn’t make a big fuss, but I must’ve looked terrible…and here I was with my fucked up head and my ripped up t-shirt, surrounded by all these red-blooded, corn-fed American teenagers with bright white smiles and nice hair.
They were all very nice to me but I wanted to die. I just couldn’t talk. I felt like a different species, alone in that room. And not only alone, but strangely pitied and despised.
And the feeling that I am a freak and a flake has never since left me, though to meet me you’d probably assume I felt like the wise, kindly, handsome, charming, confident, middle-aged citizen I present to the world.
I don’t really care about that any more, though: I don’t believe everything I think and I don’t listen to everything the voices say. (To be precise: I only listen to the voices when they’re speaking English.) (Just joking! The voices hardly ever speak English any more.)
I don’t really think I’m a piece of shit and I don’t even think it makes sense to think I’m a piece of shit. It doesn’t make sense to think that I’m anything all the time. And although I frequently disappoint myself (in fact I probably disappoint myself daily about some stupid shit or other) on the whole I think I’m just fine the way I am right now. And you are, too.
You’re fine the way you are. Right now.
Do you see?
But when I say “You’re fine the way you are,” it’s important to be clear exactly what I mean. Because you might actually be completely fucked up. Which is fine! But that doesn’t mean you want to stay that way.
You’re fine the way you are because everything that has happened to you, in fact everything that has happened to everyone, in fact everything about the life of the Universe up to this moment has conspired to make you precisely the way you are. And there is absolutely nothing you can do to change the past.
It’s gone. Kaput. Into the Time Hole.
So in that sense you are obviously completely fine because there is no other way for you to be at this moment.
So get off yourself, for Christ’s sake!
However, nothing about this suggests that you are in a desirable state or one that is conducive to flourishing or that you need be resigned to it or that the way you are is the way you will always be. The usefulness of knowing you’re fine is that you don’t need to waste a bunch of energy feeling shitty about yourself or bemoaning past failure.
You can immediately dispense with the illusion that you are inherently bad.
Which is good to know! Because this kind of fruitless self-loathing is a terrible time sink, and you can pour your whole life down that drain. Don’t do it! Accept that you’re fine, that the past is gone, that you have this moment to work with and that with every new moment you are reborn.
You’re fine, love yourself, accept the world as it is and love everything…
…but by all means quit drinking, or cheating on your wife, or resenting your husband, or stealing from your boss, or treating your employees like shit, or envying rich people, or despising poor people, or hating brown people, or loathing white people, or whatever other bullshit keeps you from thriving with an open heart and bringing light and love into the world.
Try that, why dontcha?
Riot cop photo by Mohamed Abd El Ghany