Once again, Nick Cave saved me. A few weeks ago, I had a horrible weekend, a mini depression concentrated into two days. Feeling lonely and full of self-pity, I cried all Sunday, unable to stop even when Paul arrived to break my loneliness. Holy crap, did I feel miserable.
Why? Because I have ALS, you insensitive clod. Because movement requires machinery. Because the person wiping my butt isn’t me. Because the repetitive monotony of my daily routine would eventually grind the spirit of even the Dalai Lama to pulp. Because not a week goes by without the nagging thought that I should really be dead. Because I feel lonely, sometimes even in the company of friends. Because everyone is enjoying the summer, BBQs in the park or vacationing to beautiful places, except me. Because I would strangle someone for a beer, or a burger. Because without the distraction of eating, talking, moving, smelling, (should I mention masturbation yet again?). Without the energy to get wheeled outside, or do anything other than staring at a screen and willing my unwilling eyes to produce or consume something, all fucking day, every fucking day … where was I? Ah, yes, that in those circumstances, you can’t help but look at your life, and despite all your oh-so-clever mind tricks and all your glorious little “I-am-still-relevant!” projects, that despite all of that, let’s face it … my life is the shittiest shit of a category so shitty that I might as well have become a lawyer.
Paul has a long history of rescuing me from loneliness. Back in 2000, when I was living in New York (technically, New Jersey, but let’s keep that strictly between us, ok?), every Saturday when he got off work, Paul would call me during his walk home, hoping that I would not pick up. See, Paul ran a club, so his walk home started at 6AM on Sunday morning. Ah, New York, despite all of your ambition and zeal, you’ll be forever behind us Europeans. Six hours, in fact. So his call came at midnight, and every time I answered, Paul would know: shit, he is at home or at a bar that’s so dead it sounds like a bedroom. Yup, there I was, at home, playing StarCraft, or worse, studying to get better at my job. Saturday night. I wasn’t with friends, I wasn’t out enjoying the nightlife of the greatest city on earth. I was at home, alone, even though I wanted to be anywhere else. I hate, I detest lonely dull nights. Paul knew this, so he called and rescued me from loneliness, every Saturday night / Sunday morning.
Do you know what friendship is?
Anyway. Back to last weekend’s wallowing in misery. This time not even Paul, Miga or Menko could pull me out. My mental demons had some pretty irrefutable arguments, like: “What, you think you’re going to talk movement back into his body?” They tried, though, and through that, they got me ready for Nick Cave’s kick to my system that would jolt me out of my blues.
See, I wasn’t depressed, I just had an attitude problem. Saturday night, Miga and me watched an episode of Peaky Blinders. At one point, Bring It On played briefly in the background. It tickled my brain, but I didn’t know why. Late Sunday night, I played it again. It’s from an excellent album, Nocturama. I found the opening song to be an extremely suitable soundtrack to your girlfriend breaking up with you to be with another man. Anyway, Bring It On. It was on the second listen that it hit me.
My very first private interview with a true Zen Master brought me right back to the question I had been asking myself since early adolescence. He said: “Perhaps it is good to ask yourself, ‘what do I really want?'” I was puzzled. Zen was supposed to be about selflessness, letting go of the ego, detaching from desire, etc. Right? Now, this small wrinkly old man was telling me to focus on a super egoistical matter: what _I_ want. Ok then. It kinda was my first koan. I had only been meditating for a few years, so I felt like I shouldn’t bite into it straight away. I would nibble at it from time to time. Later, I would focus a whole sesshin on it, dropping the question down into my belly, twenty half-hour meditations per day. What do I really want. What do I really want. WhatdoIreallywantwhatdoIreally
want. Every now and then, an answer would pop up: a BMW? No? Well, two BMWs then? Still no? No. None of that. Every answer was wrong, until finally, during my sixth sesshin, the right answer presented itself.
I went for my interview with the teacher. Blundering into his sacred room, I uttered, “I’ve finally found out what I really want!” He continued looking at the ground, right in front of his knees. He had been sitting on them, in seiza, for hours. His face was sweaty (seiza hurts, eventually) but serene. “And what, pray tell, is your answer?”
“Everything. I want everything.”
So, Sunday night. Nick Cave. It hit me. I was getting exactly what I wanted. Bring it on, life. Bring it on! I want all that you can lay on me. Not just the good bits – I want it all. Do not hold back, please. Bring it on, and see me fucking thrive through it all. Everything, please. I want ALL of it!
That attitude. That’s what was missing. It bounced me out of my blues, is still bouncing me out and in, ‘coz I’m not out of it yet. But if I cradle its’ spark I might, over time, light a torch with it and make my way out of this ugly place. I’m getting there, I think, or at least, I see some stars pointing the way: watching Zoe eat, I know that at least my appetite will live on. Or, playing Keezbord with Steph and friends, Iris and me, we show the world what happens if we team up. We win in such a devastatingly magnificent way that it hurt. Literally – the next day my few remaining muscles ache from laughing.
You know what one of the hardest things is, that life can bring? Praise. At least for me, it was. But more on that later. Foreshadowing, it’s a foreshadow, you got your foreskin and your foreshadow. That last line is a quote from the Peppers’ lead singer, so it must be true. Oh, c’mon, just smile to politely pretend you thought that was funny. Back to business.
The crux of wanting it ALL is in the “And not just the good bits”-part. When I said I wanted everything, I thought it meant: I want to be a consultant and a carpenter and a cook and I want to be more compassionate and also really rich and take responsibility oh and I want to be able to cook better than Menko and be great at … etc. Like a pig, in a cage, on antibiotics, I think now, looking back on what I thought I wanted back then.
Not just the good bits. Just like your emotions. You can’t just be happy, sadness wants to be felt as well. If you suppress one kind of emotion, the others go: “Fuck you, Mr. Sadness is our friend, if you don’t want him around, we won’t come either.” Life is the same way. You try to strive for pleasure and avoid pain, as you should, but if pain shows up, you can’t just ignore it. If you want Life to flow through you, you’d better be open to all it has to bring, not just the good bits. Don’t prefer. Fuck, this is one of the first lessons of Zen, and I don’t think I ever got it, until now, writing this. Thank you, reader, for giving me a reason to sit down and do this.