A Life of Detours
I was known for acting crazy and weird. These days I’m more on the relaxed side. Not sure if its depression, my inevitable death one day, or just sheer exhaustion.
I swear I have nothing to complain about. LOL. The anxiety will still cause me to get up and do things. I’ll still say hello to strangers on the street. I do helpful things cooking, cleaning and reading with my son. I’m still in love with the clouds, mountains and recently I basked in the heavenly waters of the Smith River surrounded by tall coastal Redwoods. Amazing!
But hey, we have a recession, global warming, solar storms, political violence and societal unrest to look forward to everyday. I’m not sure if it’s me or not, but I’ve always fixated on war, conflict, and disasters as a past time. Immediate fear, frustration, and anger have been in my thoughts almost daily. My mind doesn’t get much rest, and I am constantly skipping beats. You wouldn’t know unless I told you. In fact I wasn’t very apt at expressing the plague of bad thoughts as a kid or adult. It’s only in the last few years that I dug deeper into our health care system, including the VA, to ascertain by other means- what is ‘wrong’ with me. I’ve used meditation, positive affirmation and even astrology to guide me but I’ve always had the genetic and developmental issues to retard my efforts.
I only recently came to the independent conclusion that I am neurodiverse or have ADD/ADHD. I have lived a life of detours because something, on a daily basis, stops me from being consistent. Procrastination is my biggest strength, and I mean that facetiously because I was raised with lots of sarcasm and not a lot of encouragement for my future. I was raised to be independent, not successful. I can cook, clean and organize things. I’m great with logistical problems but, those are just everyday things I take for granted. They don’t make me money, they’re just good skills to have, and at the end of the day I can feel more relaxed when I can see the results of my efforts.
Impulsivity, deviance, legomaniac urges and American Exceptionalism ruled my actions as a kid. Top Gun, Red Dawn and Apocalypse Now were movies that shaped some of my thinking. And then there was that movie- The Day After. My oldest brother once told me in the kitchen, I was probably around 8 years old, that –“We’re all going to die and be vaporized in a nuclear war one day……It’s gonna happen!” I remember in the 1980’s lying in bed at night before I could fall asleep hearing the sound of commercial airliners flying over my house en route to LAX, and I would wonder if they were the Russian bombers. I played war a lot with friends. We were all experts with no experience what so ever. Once, when I was about 6 years old my parents pulled some old stuff out to sell in a garage sale and some old army clothes, WWII-Korean War era stuff, that my dad had worn when he was an Army brat became an immediate obsession. I wore these plain old fatigues not knowing that I would actually serve in the Army one day. Funny how that works out. You see, our US history played an important developmental role in who I am. No doubt about that. Being stuck in a mindset of perpetual conflict and fear has never been the highlight to my success. When my parents separated at the ripe age of 18 and I had to move out of the house and neighborhood I grew up in, success was a delusional cast of dreams in a long period of depression and a new found love for self-sabotage. I lived with these ups and downs that vacillated between short moments of absurd extroversion and longer periods of isolated introversion sprinkled with dreams, doubt, and self-loathing. A sense of hyper arousal didn’t help either. My hormonal impulses did not help at all. The desire for sexual experience was an improvised explosive device waiting to destroy any encounter with an attractive female. I had girlfriends in my later teens (17-19) but the relationships always ended in pain and heartache. I was obsessed with commitment to another person and whatever attachment issues I had modeled from my parents. I wanted love, monogamy, marriage and children- at the ripe age of 18. I wasn’t ready for any of it. And what a blessing that I didn’t get married until I was 37 and had my only child at 40. I had sometime to grow and evolve. I had even graduated from UCSB at 38. Really, some serious milestones for a person like myself but, it didn’t stop me from having detours. My goal these days is to have a real home base. If I could boil down what is wrong with me sometimes- it’s that I still don’t have a home. I rent an apartment. I decorate and maintain it like a home, but I’m constantly perplexed by my lack of home ownership, the future need to pay property taxes, and humanity’s propensity to treat our earthly land masses as speculative and impulsive ventures of consumption and greed. In my heart I agree with Native American ideas about us not owning land; we are simply part of the Earth. These are not encouraging thoughts for me. I also could care less about American Exceptionalism- I have outgrown it.
Thanks to my military experience, I got to take the biggest detour of my life probably, only bested by living in Peru, and meeting my wife. Are we really supposed to be able to make sense of our experiences? Are they all supposed to seem so logical and reasonable? No but, we can reflect on what we perceived to be the facts and truth regarding what happened. It’s like in the moment, I was sewing thread for a fabric that has no plan or finish date. It would look like a mix of hand sewn- heat transferred- machine embroidered- stone washed – weaved plastic bags as a tribute to an errant soul trying to pick up pieces and drop off baggage simultaneously. I shouldn’t give myself such a hard time but, I know from direct experience that following a straight path has never been easy for me. When I graduated from UCSB in 2013, I actually got eight UC unit transfer credits for getting a top score of five on the Advanced Placement Studio Art Portfolio exam 30 years earlier in high school (1993). Although I didn’t go to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena as I was supposed to and got accepted to, I can still see the positive results of what I did 30 years before I graduated with a BA in Geography. In light of the fact that I had no emotional or financial support to begin studying art at that time, I can still feel a sense of accomplishment. In that period of 30 years, the detours took me to Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Maui, San Francisco, Mexico and Peru to name a few. I’ve lived on sofas, floors and cots if there wasn’t a bed. I’ve been homeless more times than I want to count. I’ve felt lost, worthless, and lacking resources and support although, at times, I had friendship and companionship; it never crossed my mind that it was so difficult to settle down and make a commitment to something without mental health issues getting in the way. I just tried to rationalize and dream away my pain and frustration. Many of my moves, to and fro, have involved burnout along with the sense that I was alone with no support. Before I felt a situation might get worse, I would quickly pick up and leave. Many times this would happen without saying goodbye. The destruction this has caused to friendships is something I don’t take pride in. Apart from feeling homeless, when you feel friendless even when friends do want to help is a serious problem if you want to grow up and get over personal defects. A life of detours is convenient when you are running from fear. It feels like a total failure when you try to make sense of it all.
Notwithstanding, I have a beautiful family who a love and care about so much, a secondary education, military service, I speak two languages and I recently developed a logo/signature for my art which does help me feel accomplished.
So let’s talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder. I remember in the 1980s that we had lots of good rain in Southern California in the first half of the decade. Afterwards we had a drought and somewhere in between I felt for the first time, a sense of sadness and desperation related to the weather and changes in the seasons. I did not understand an ounce of it. But I remember I would chant in my head circa 1985 maybe- ‘let it rain, hail snow, let it rain, hail snow and thunder.’ In high school social studies class, circa 1991, I was able to answer current events questions that nobody else knew because my obsession with the weather forecast on TV led to me being forced to listen to the news! So inadvertently, I became aware of world events. What I wasn’t completely cognizant of was how my mood and SAD would also help create a backdrop to my never ending thoughts related to external things in an excessive way. It’s hard to focus on other important things when you are looking at the sky wondering when the weather is going to change. Or feeling down about no rain in the forecast.
Now, I’ll add some other important ingredients to this milieu of distress: being easily distracted. I don’t know if this is the hallmark of being neurodiverse or what but, when you are constantly distracted by sights, sounds and smells, it can take a while to get back on track. Sometimes it seems impossible. Procrastination isn’t a thing by itself- it can’t be won over by Tony Robbins style enthusiasm for success. I have read and heard so many inspiring things. Ram Dass- ‘Be Here Now’, is probably the most useful mantram I have ever heard. Since I’m a space cadet in thoughts- to be here now is comforting. I still believe in positive affirmation but practicing it is very difficult. I can say that I wouldn’t have accomplished things, even years or decades after setting a goal if, it wasn’t for some kind of positive thought at one point in time.
I have a really good short term memory due in part to obsessive circular thoughts regarding things distressing like fights I have in my head with people I have no reason to want to fight with. Where did all this anger come from? Is it really just developmental? Like the fact that I was in the womb for an extra month, and mom says she had an out of body experience giving birth to me? I figure that is anecdotal evidence that suggests I have an important bond with my mother but, what else I’m not sure. I could laugh it off and joke that- I was overcooked as a baby. Is that it? Can I boil it down to that? If I had such an explanation that is convincing and truthful I might want to promote that theory more often. I digress- I want to talk about my short term memory. I hold on to facial expressions, tones of voice and more when it comes to my short term memory. But I can retain knowledge well sometimes if it is part of circular thoughts that cause me to doubt and double check and in some cases totally forget. Plop
I made a detour to Peru recently. I went solo- made my first leg from Medford to LAX on Mother's day to help my Peruvian mother (in law) who I have an important connection with. She was living alone in a house that wasn't completely finished because of a two year Covid pause on construction. The visit was marked by some real moments- very real. The most real part came when mom flew back to Lima with me. That was a beautiful and miraculous day I will never forget. I did an important job for someone who most deserved it. It was a shared experience that forged an important human bond. Life is precious and fragile, and it's good to stop and reach out to those who will benefit from your effort. Especially if they have helped you in the past. We like plants and animals. We understand the communication with them. She is wise and intuitive. Determined. I fancy myself a member of a matrilineal family at times. She is the leader still. We have to be here or there for her. We are like a psychic unit that functions optimally when our bonds are strong. She had a new set of memories made by my visit that provided an exciting exchange of trust and conversation. She can joke about some of the things we shared. She is happy to see me on video calls because she knows something positive and life affirming about what happened.
In many of my detours I was chasing a life affirming feeling- even when I was chasing death- it felt life affirming. When I was about 19 and feeling deep cosmic waves of loneliness and desire, I had a feeling about life and the future on a drive out to Anza Borrego desert in California. I wrote something prophetic in my sketchbook. I wrote about death and choosing your own death. I felt really depressed, oppressed, and confused about how to live life. This new idea about choosing your death also sounded like a call to action- to live your life to the fullest- even if it gets you killed. I’m still in doubt about whether this was a call to action or just a death wish.
So many detours in planes have caused me to feel like I’m above it all sometimes. Like I landed but my head is still in the clouds. I wish I could be more grounded and that is my goal. To ground myself with out being in the ground; dead. Not just yet.
Via detours, I slowly make progress but, I do finish projects. I have many projects though. I can create a project in a moments notice- it's how I procrastinate best- by seeing how I can install, devise, or create something from anything. I'm a hands on person.
In my detours I save receipts. That is one of my obsessions. I’m usually not getting reimbursed for anything. I have always kept receipts. I remember I was proud of my collection of ATM transaction summaries when I had my first bank account. It was fascinating to think about all those times I used the ATM and had proof of it. I kept them wrapped in a rubber band and in order by date.
I filed for bankruptcy over a year ago. Saving all of the receipts in the world will never help me be a responsible person financially. If I obsessed about saving I would lose my mind. Somehow spending is a release for me but, something that I also try to avoid too. Being married is a huge financial challenge. I live in a country that prides itself on senseless consumption so maybe I should pat myself on the back for trying.
I like saving food scraps from meal preparation that could be composted or given to animals. It irks me to throw it in the trash. I wish I could grow more plants. I want to build my future house with my own hands. I want to obsess about the things that will help ground me. The detours will always happen at times but I know that I have a nice partner and son who give me a great reason to stay home and be here now. Grounded. Loved. With no reason to run and hide. With every reason to celebrate and just be alive.
Thank you for reading