writing

Overwhelming and Awe Inspiring Pale Blue Dot

I'm often in awe of the beauty of this world. My heart is full, and I'm in it, presently, in the moment. My eyes go blurry with tears and I think of how lucky I am to be here now, a speck of dust, a collection of atoms floating in infinite possibility.

These are my good moments. In them, I'm able to be fully immersed—one day at a time. The magnificence is bright, but I'm wearing the lenses that allow me to be a witness. I see it, and recognize that I am not in control. I am calm, and the pale blue dot is accepting of my solemnity.

In it—like wholly in it—I am powerless, yet powerful as ever. I am replete with wonder and grace. I am wayward in spirit, I am free. I am mighty. I am capable and proud of who I am.

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And then there's a shift. Jarringly and swiftly I crumble. 

My lens through which I am witness has shattered, and the world, it's brightness, forces me to turn away, withdraw. I look down at my feet, and draw inward—I am alone here.

I am overwhelmed, and I can't see. I look around and I don't recognize anything anymore. I yearn to be a present participant in this wondrous absurdity, but I've lost my tether. 

I flail, reaching out, attempting to hold onto something, but I'm faced with a palpable, eerie, deafening silence.

I am one.

I am alone.

I am terrified.

I am a burden.

And I just want to cease; I have nothing to live for.

These are my struggle moments, the darkness betwixt the brightness, the valley floor in my emotional ebbs and flows. It's only time until I can climb out of that valley and onto the next peak from which I can gain perspective, and learn all over again that I am here now—loved, valid, resilient. 

On that peak, I can see again—a remarkable pale blue dot, in which I am a necessary collection of atoms—for myself, for my wife, for my dog, for my friends, for us vacillating humans in flourish and struggle. 

On that peak, I am not alone.

 

I Run To . . .

I run to forget.

I run to escape.

I run to process the anxiety.

I run for the off-chance I'll see an elf perched in a tree.

I run to combat the depression, a shot of endorphins to overwhelm the dark.

I run for the solace, away from the manufactured stimuli and artifice and societal pressure.

I run to listen to the footsteps on the earth, auditory proof that I am still here.

I run to imagine adventuring with hobbits and trolls and magical sprites. 

I run for the physical feedback—the stab of my hip, the throb of my back—to remind me that I am human.

I run to be humbled by the magnificence of the pale blue dot, the insignificance of my self, an organism of random happenstance.

I run to immerse myself in beauty, in awe.

I run to live.

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On Joy Sandwich, I chatted with author and runner Andrew Smith on the joy of running.

Life is Absurd, So Let's Be Idealists

There's a thing I've learned about myself: I am an idealist. 

I live in a utopia. I am a romantic. My world is puppy dogs and lollipops and blind, wholly illogical giddy adventures until, much to my own doing, the realities of the dour, uncompromising, not-silly-enough world catches up to me and beats me into a maroon-mash oblivion.

To be clear, the world I live in is the same as yours. Trump is president. Old white men are taking away women's rights. People of color continue to be marginalized and treated horribly. Violence erupts in public spaces and school classrooms. The planet, our only home, is suffering mightily because of us lecherous meat sacks.

I see all of those things and my heart breaks. I question why it's happening. Why we can't get along like respectful human beings. Why we can't embrace empathy and kindness and joy. Why we have to make all decisions based on this egotistical urge to prove something to someone, to make them feel less, to insert our will upon others to inflate our own place within the madness.

That's one part of me: the humanistic, empathic, feminist part that is overrun with the weight of the world, melancholy and depressed, drinks probably too much to dull the emotional hyperbole in my brain.

But I also see other things. That's the other part of me: the idealistic, romantic, blind giddy anarchy part of me. I see that this world of ours, this life we live, is overwhelmingly absurd. We are "star dust" on a maddeningly beautiful pale blue dot propelling through time and space. We are creatures with capacity for reason and choice. We create such inspired beauty. We are capable of evoking awe.

So my thesis is this:

The absurdity of this life calls for a certain level of idealism.

I don't mean that we need to ignore the dark realities that surround us. I mean, if we are to more routinely adopt an idealistic lens through which to view the world, I believe that we can more easily embrace joy in its rawest, purest forms.

Before I get to what that really means (for me, as I can't speak for you), I want to share a story that initially sparked these thoughts.

I was seated at my computer, thinking about my dog, Scooby, as I often do. As a work-from-home writer/editor, Scooby is my every-moment (joyful, and sometimes burpy and poopy) companion, either splayed out at my feet under my kitchen table workspace, or pulling me into bushes on his urban adventures in Operation Urinary Freedom.

Scooby will be twelve years old in October. He's an old man. He's slowing down. He can't run much anymore. His paws look like Nicodemus's face. That realization renders me undeniably morose. And so, in my feely place, I decided to sign up to be a part-time dog walker for a company called Wag.

When I told Jessica about this, she was understandably confused. After all, I have a job—a job I love! So she prodded, as a rational, loving human should of their partners: Why would I add a second job into the mix? What were my motivations? Why would I make our tax stuff even more complicated come April? Don't I already have enough to do with the house cleaning, the food shopping, the laundry?

Here's the thing. I didn't think about any of that. Not a bit. You may be thinking to yourself, well, yeah, I mean obviously you'd apply critical thinking to high life-impact decisions.

Herein lies the power (and misunderstood beauty!) of the idealistic side of me. Sure, I upset my partner because I didn't consider how it may affect her. I didn't talk to her about it beforehand, as a partner in this thing together. That's totally valid. And sure, I have a full-time job. And sure, I do a lot of the chores around the house. And sure, I volunteer. And sure, I steer the Joy Sandwich ship. And sure, I may or may not have a reasonable grasp on reality.

None of that factored into my decision* (*=whim) to sign up to be a part-time dog walker. I was driven by the power of puppies. #PuppyPower. All reason and introspection flooded from my brain, creating space for future scenarios of me frolicking wildly with German Shepherd puppies, wrestling into maniacal giggle fits with English mastiffs, romping through woods with brother and sister Redbone Coonhound hunting dogs named, quite aptly, Old Dan and Little Ann. 

To you, that may be childish or irrational or simply selfish. But to me, I think there's a purity in jumping into stuff without thinking about it, driven by your heart, your passion, your eagerness to embrace. When I do it, it's all of those things. It's also a recognition that the life humans live, or try to live, is far too structured, with far too much artifice and rules "we need to follow." (Fuck those rules.)

So, when I was confronted with Jessica's sound logic, I was jostled from my daydreamy place momentarily—enough to see and empathize with her perspective. 

Here's the bonkers part:

She's totally right. I have way too much going on. I don't have enough hours in the day. And probably, even if it hurts my sensitive heart to admit it, not every dog is going to be as warm and cuddly and loving as I imagine them to be.

In the end, I didn't go through with finalizing my application with Wag to be a part-time dog walker. Jessica, in her professorial "crush dreams" wisdom, helped guide me back to earth.

So where does this leave me, and my thesis that this absurd life calls for idealism? Well, I still adamantly subscribe to that theory, even if the outcome of this story speaks otherwise.

The truth is that this life is absurd, no matter how you look at it. (And I don't mean to imply that it lacks meaning; I think anyone can find meaning in anything, and there's value in most of it.) We have very little control over what happens in life, despite what we tell ourselves. We are not special. We are animals doing our best to survive. We—not societal constructs or rules or others—forge our own paths.

I think there's beauty in that. Wild, erratic, passionate beauty.


“Indeed there has never been any explanation of the ebb and flow in our veins--of happiness and unhappiness.” 

Do you relate? Leave your comments below or pester me on Twitter @subjectplusverb. Please listen to my podcast, Joy Sandwich, and consider supporting Joy Sandwich on Patreon!

Joy Sandwich - Episode 081: Running with Andrew Smith

On Episode 81 of the Joy Sandwich podcast, we invite author Andrew Smith on the show to discuss the Joy of Running! We explore how running impacts our creativity, the sweet combo of writing and running, how running is a perfect metaphor for life, Andrew’s favorite running stories, and running tips for those who are just starting out!

Oh, and guess what?! Edgar Wright is adapting Andrew’s book, Grasshopper Jungle!

Thanks to Andrew for guesting on Joy Sandwich, and for you, joy mongers, for listening! If you have a moment, please head on over to iTunes to leave us a joyful rating and review! And be sure to check us out on Patreon to get cool rewards (pins, stickers, guest spots, oh my!).

And as always, embrace your joy!

We Created a Magazine. Meet Hyperlink!

As you all know—perhaps you were forced to watch me do my Footloose dance or you simply deduced from the exorbitant barrage of mid-week at-home dog pictures—I have a new-ish job and I love it.

One of the many reasons I love working at Winning Edits is that we create cool shit. One such shit is the new Hyperlink magazine, a print and digital magazine "exploring the nexus of media, technology, commerce, and culture." We didn't create Hyperlink for a client; we created it for ourselves.

And we're all pretty proud of how it turned out. The premiere issue covers everything from net neutrality and food tech to fake news and how to throw a dinner party. We delve into some of our favorite brands, podcasts, and television shows. We highlight how Pat Flynn has built his brand on embracing empathy and generosity. I even got to make nerdy sci-fi jokes.

I hope you can check it out. I'm really thrilled to be a part of a team that cares about making cool things.

Learn more and subscribe to Hyperlink magazine!

Here's a sneak peek at a few of the spreads.

Married 7 Years to this Adorable Goofball

Before I met Jessica, I didn't really know who I was, or how I fit into the world. I had experienced trauma and suffered from depression and battled an eating disorder.

I was fairly (or unfairly) self-destructive in more ways than I was willing to admit then.

Around my heart, I fashioned what I called my Heart Guard, a protective layering to keep out the love I wholeheartedly felt I did not deserve (still working on that one). 

When I met Jessica, I learned that it would all eventually be okay.

Happy 7 years, Jessica. Let's keep this silly train going for another 7 billion.

(The video below is a highlight video from our wedding. June 5, 2010 at Santiago Oaks Regional Park in Orange, California.)