Onward, Odysseus, I am with you

My goal when the year began was to live this year with love. To live in love, to live with every action imbued with love, to draw my intentions all in line with love.

It’s an ambitious goal. It requires reflection, introspection, and mindfulness. How else will we uncover our deepest motivations? Our deepest passions? Our deepest...fears?

When I turned my compass toward love, I had no idea what sea I was sailing into.

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Satisfaction/Distraction

ZoloftBlack clouds. Rain clouds. Grey clouds. Large black dogs with floppy ears and wobbly feet. Shadowy hands holding you back. Globs of dark fur, drenched in the rain, peering at you through an alleyway as deep as dreadful. All these things, and I’m sure many more, have been ways that people have tried to visualize depression.

For me, I’ve always considered it a bit more comically, more commercially even. Do you remember that little guy from the Zoloft commercials? It’s so cute, but so sad, so small yet so poignant, altogether insignificant.

It’s a frown, a sigh, an expression of anguish or uncertainty as the weather darkens, but you look outside and it’s still sunny and warm.

Perhaps it helps to visualize depression. Perhaps it helps to make it human. Or perhaps putting a face to these feelings isn’t at all what we need.

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A Return to Happiness

Polarity is an interesting animal. We think we know opposites–day and night, sun and moon, light and shadow–but then we’re faced with nuanced categories that defy perfect dualism–male and female, black and white, good and bad. Here there isn’t so much a binary system as much as a continuum, and it’s easy to get lost in the grey matter.

So lately I’ve been longing, lingering, languishing…and I’ve been fighting against it, feeling frothy and shameful, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere. So I’ve been perusing TED Talks, because they’re awesome, and sometimes a little awesome makes you awesome, too.

And in a way, somewhere in this mess of chaos, a new story began.

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Three Winners

Sometimes the weather says it all: cold and bitter, turbulent, frustrated and uncertain–should it rain? Turn to ice? Remain indecisive, unfulfilled, until it blows aside?

Earlier this week three Muslim students at the blue school up the road (UNC Chapel Hill) were shot and killed over an alleged parking dispute, but in my heart, in my gut, I believe it truly was a hate crime. The small-town feel of our campuses was shaken, shattered.

The students, filled with fear, tragic loss. The weather said it all. A good friend, when I crossed her path yesterday, said it better: “They were our age, Darren. Our age.”

Since Wednesday I’ve heard nothing but the inspiring and heartwarming stories of these three students, their compassion, their faith, their service toward building bridges of understanding and commonness between diverse groups. And I can’t even bring myself to say their names, or write them, because to do so brings them too close, closer than I can handle. I didn’t know them, but I feel now as though I do, and it’s a loss I cannot bear.

I’ve thought all day, repeatedly for days, that hatred against anyone is hatred against everyone; violence against one is violence against all. And the oppression of Islam and Muslims in a Christan-dominated society recalls the same oppressions once faced by Judaism and Jews, and still often experienced if not at the same explicit and violent level as that experience by my Muslim sisters and brothers. I recall, as long as I can remember, the police officers guarding my synagogue’s doors, but what must they go through daily?

It’s rather atrocious, to think of it, that anyone should need security outside a house of worship, but that’s the virulent symptoms of a one-minded, belligerent society.

That’s not what I was trying to say. What I was trying to say is that today they were Muslim, but they could’ve been Jewish. They could’ve been gay. They could’ve been me.

Our age, my friend said. I think too often of death, but death is abstract, and in my mind I run through my obituaries, hopes and dreams of what my life should be: …survived by his husband and their children… well-known for his books of poetry and fiction series… They don’t stop at 25. They stop at 70 or 80 or 90. My greatest achievements are not serving in student leadership roles or working as a tutor–in these obituaries I’m praised for inspiring a hundred mathematicians, for being senator or governor or even president.

They don’t end at today. They certainly don’t end at the end of a gun.

It’s tragic, but that’s the wrong word. It’s sickening. Vile. Evil.

The Sages once asked, “Why was the Temple destroyed?” And their answer was sinat chinam, senseless hatred–and I believe that it is this same senseless hatred that has shook our community and every day still threatens to topple our entire world.

God, however, has provided an alternative: Chesed, compassion and loving-kindness, the lifeblood of these three students and the service that defines their all-too-short lives. Binah, understanding, the open-minded willingness to accept and learn. And gevurah, courage, strength, the candle flame flickering in the wind that holds on, burns brighter, stays alight.

I pray. I cry. What else can I do? I keep breathing, living, believing.

To Silence the Silent

I have never been brave. I feign courage, I swallow my nerves, psych myself in anxiety until the adrenalin overpowers my emotion and I go. But I do not claim to brave. I follow the path of heroes, one step at a time, sometimes barely one breath at a time.

But I manage.

When I wrote last, I remarked about the number of unpublished posts I’ve written–it’s disheartening, the stories I yearn to tell, that I’m too afraid to share.

Today is one of those tales.

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Sloom

Sometimes I wonder what damage those fairytales we were told as children left imprinted in our psyches. Forget the idealized yet ignorant gender norms portrayed in every romance. Forget the blind hopefulness of always waiting for a happy ending. Forget the unbridled belief in magic and myth and mystery.

Maybe there’s a deeper damage to all those Disney dreams.

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The Heartache Addendum

It’s been a few days since I wrote last. On Wednesday I felt like an emotional wreck–a feeling that had been building up for days since parting ways with my boyfriend. But it wasn’t just emotions at play, you see, and when I realized what else was going on, things took a drastic change in direction.

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Eleven Days and Counting

There are still 111 days until the semester ends and already I feel defeated.

I’m scouring my mind for words to elaborate, but that line seems to say everything I can muster at the moment. I came in anxious, and the first week assuaged some of my stress; then things picked up a little in the second week, and though I can honestly say I’ve had a few great accomplishments and some greater experiences since the semester began only eleven days ago, I sit here with the sad realization I already feel defeated.

Where did I go wrong? When did my plans fall apart?

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From Walmart with Love (Reprise)

About a year and a half ago, right after Amendment 1 passed, I wrote about walking through Walmart hand-in-hand with my boyfriend at the time and the woman who changed everything–who was, in that brief moment between aisles, the unending image of hope.

It’s ironic how life, the year turned by, returns us to where we began–wholly changed, mind you, but wholly the same.

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Cardio and Court Cases

I couldn’t sleep last night. I tossed and turned and rolled about, as wide awake as ever. I considered getting up to get a drink. To watch the news. To play around on a design app my sister recommended, but I vowed to be in bed, and I wanted to keep to that goal. And at long last, sometime in the middle of the night, sleep overtook me.

This morning, around six, I began breaking from these binds in small bursts, wanting to sleep more but unable to coerce my mind into crumbling. Finally at nine I jumped from my bed, opened the SCOTUS blog for livefeed of the day’s events, and began my cardio workout.

It didn’t do much, though; my heart was already racing.

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