Roomie (An Excerpt from my book, Big Love)

I found out from his Facebook page that my friend Kevin had died. I’d emailed him twice with a question I needed answered and hadn’t heard back from him. At first I assumed he was traveling (he was always on a plane to somewhere) but knew something was wrong when a week passed after the second email with no response. That was completely unlike him. He worked on his computer every day and was usually quick to respond to messages. Fearing the worst, I thought to check his Facebook page.

I took a deep, nervous breath and clicked on his profile.

Please don’t let him be dead. Please don’t let him be dead.

This was the first post I saw on his page: “With Kevin leaving us I am reminded of how fragile life is. I saw some movie, I don’t remember what it was, but there was this line at the end of it: What is the greatest thing we can do for one another? Be aware of one another. Be conscious of one another. Do not walk blindly through the day as you pass your brothers and sisters on the street. Godspeed, Kevin. Wherever this has taken you, I pray it is a place of joy and light and that you feel free and happy.”

Kevin was dead. Just like that. My dread of finding out that he had died didn’t prevent the shock. Through tears, I read all the comments left by all Kevin’s other friends, everyone stunned and saddened that he was no longer with us. Many shared happy memories of Kevin, and all had glowing things to say about their friend. I learned more about Kevin’s adventurous and philanthropic past and felt even deeper love and respect for him through their comments.

I wondered how many of them had learned of his death on that page, as I had. If not for Facebook, how many of us would still have imagined Kevin to be out there doing whatever it was we each knew him to do? I wondered how many of his friends still had no idea he had died.

I searched within the comments for an explanation of his death but found none. Though it wouldn’t have changed anything, I needed to know how he’d died — as though his death couldn’t be entirely real without my knowing the cause. Is it possible to learn that someone died without asking, “How?” or “What happened?” Is it possible to accept death as is, with no further explanation? It wasn’t for me.

My fear roared stronger than my curiosity: I hoped it wasn’t a prescription drug overdose.

I knew it was a prescription drug overdose.

I messaged the man who posted the movie quote to find out what had happened to my friend. He responded immediately, letting me know that Kevin had in fact overdosed on prescription drugs a month earlier. His realtor found him dead on his bedroom floor. No one knew for sure whether Kevin had killed himself intentionally or by accident, though authorities suspected suicide. Not that it mattered, really. Both possibilities felt equally tragic, either that he could’ve been so desperate and lonely he wanted to take his own life or that he could’ve been so lost in his addiction he killed himself against his will. I wanted to believe it was an accident, though. I wanted to believe he never stopped loving himself, and that he never gave up hope. And though it was difficult for me to imagine that Kevin could have considered suicide, I knew better than to rule it out. It’s impossible to know what’s really going on in someone else’s mind, even those closest to us, even when they share their struggles.

I replayed the words of the first post I read: Be aware of one another. . . . Do not walk blindly through the day as you pass your brothers and sisters on the street. The words stung. I’d been acutely aware of Kevin’s addiction to prescription drugs and chose, for a long time, to ignore it. To walk blindly around it. Now my friend was dead,...and I’d found out on his fucking Facebook page, an entire month after he’d ODed.

I moved in with Kevin in January 2007 and spent two years in his hillside Marin County home, barely twenty minutes north of San Francisco. The first time I visited his house, he and I got along so well we ended up going to lunch after I looked at the room for rent.

“I think we’ll be good roommates,” he told me, over salads. 

“I don’t need to check any references. The room’s yours if you want it.”

I wanted it.

I rented a furnished bedroom in his basement, with a lovely view of the city across the bay. I had my own bathroom and office space, and a charming downstairs living room all to myself. Kevin and I became friends. We shared meals on occasion, gave each other dating advice, and watched more than a few BBC wildlife specials together. “I could watch penguins do absolutely nothing for days,” he declared. I agreed.

We weren’t especially close friends but we cared about each other. I drove him to the emergency room during an anxiety attack that had him convinced he was having a stroke. He cut the price of my rent for a few months when my money was tight. We looked out for each other. He worked at home as a corporate event producer, the kitchen table his office. I worked as the development guy for a local production company, pitching show ideas to networks like National Geographic and Discovery Channel. He spent most of his time at home, and I spent very little time there. In many ways, we shared a perfect living situation — a lot of respect and a lot of space.

Kevin struggled with insomnia, anxiety, and chronic lower back pain from a slipped disc. He took prescription meds for each of these conditions. He’d put his trust in a psychiatrist to come up with a drug cocktail that would alleviate his ailments. And it worked. He eventually became too doped up to feel much of anything. As months passed, I’d often come home to a somewhat disoriented, slurring version of my roommate — a stark contrast to the insightful, intelligent, and eloquent man I’d come to know.

Kevin and I had a couple of conversations about his meds. “Maybe you should look for a different psychiatrist,” I gently encouraged, “at least to get a second opinion about all your prescriptions.” I told him I worried about his health, and though I believed he was addicted, I never suggested it. I put the responsibility on the doctor rather than on him, fearing he would become defensive and shut down if I hinted at addiction. I didn’t want to invite conflict. It’s amazing how much harder it is to be a good friend when being a good friend calls for more than commiseration, laughter, or BBC wildlife specials. But isn’t that one of the truest signs of friendship — being willing to piss off your friend, and even jeopardize your connection, because you care more about his well-being than anything else?

Kevin told me he planned to wean himself off the meds eventually but that his anxiety and back pain especially were too debilitating to do things differently yet. “I’m not ready,” he said. I mostly believed him. I’d seen the effects of his anxiety in more than one panic attack, and I’d watched him limp around the house at times and shriek in pain from his back. He wasn’t faking either condition. Still, I listened to my mind judge him for all the medication he took and frequently complained to my partner about Kevin’s habits.

It’s easy to judge people for their choices when we haven’t walked in their shoes. Who was I to condemn Kevin for wanting to be comfortable? I couldn’t relate to that degree of panic or pain but suspected that I, too, would want something to alleviate both if that were me. Nobody likes to suffer. 

I knew Kevin was addicted to his painkillers and that he was in denial, but I never mentioned it to him while I was living there. Even though he often slurred his speech. Even though he’d binge-eat in the middle of the night with no recollection of having woken up. Even though it had gotten increasingly difficult to catch him in an entirely lucid state. I didn’t want to get involved. I didn’t want to invest myself in his story. I didn’t want my world to be consumed by substance abuse. Not again. I grew up in a world of addiction and wanted nothing to do with Kevin’s. It was easier for me to hide out in the basement and pretend that all was well, that he would get himself together eventually.

I knew I wasn’t to blame for Kevin’s death any more than I was to blame for his addiction. We can never own the choices of another. I felt guilty, though. I could have been a much better friend. I could have cared more about his well-being than I did about my comfort. I could have put his health first, even if suggesting addiction meant being asked to leave his home, or being asked to support him through his recovery, or being asked to accept his habits as they were. It’s not for us to decide how others take care of themselves.

I could have done something more than nothing. I eventually did.

About two years before his death, while I was living in Brooklyn with my partner, Kevin and I had a long conversation over the phone. He talked about a fight he’d had with a cousin over his prescription drug usage. He’d awakened in the middle of the night and had ravaged several desserts his cousin had prepared for the next day’s Thanksgiving dinner. “I ate the entire pumpkin pie,” he laughed. “And half the cheesecake.”

His cousin exploded and told him she wanted no contact with him until he cleaned himself up — from drugs and alcohol, which he admitted he’d been consuming more and more of in recent months.

“She’s always been uptight,” he said, “and I was sick of it, anyway.” He took no responsibility for his actions, and neither of us made any references to his drug use. I didn’t speak up in the moment but knew I wouldn’t stay silent any longer, especially because Kevin seemed increasingly lost and unhappy.

Once we hung up, I wrote him an email. I told Kevin I thought he had a serious drug problem and that he was in denial, that he needed to find a new psychiatrist, and that his life was not going to improve until he made some drastic changes regarding his prescription drug habit. I told him I loved him and was there if he needed me, even though a large part of me hoped he wouldn’t need me, that he’d handle it on his own or with the support of other friends. I kept seeing flashes of my brother and father, remembering all the trauma their addictions caused our family.

I went back and forth over whether to send the email. It’s hard to speak the truth when the truth is going to hurt or when you’re not sure it’s going to make any difference. And what if Kevin did need me, even more than I’d imagined? What if he needed me as an anchor in his sobriety? I worried I might be committing myself to his life in a way that didn’t feel comfortable.

I sent the email.

Kevin responded by email a week later. To my surprise, he agreed with everything I’d written and thanked me for writing it. Since receiving my email, he’d already reached out to a new psychiatrist, as well as a psychotherapist. He had begun to make changes and said that he planned to work hard to get himself off the meds. I felt relieved by his openness and happy to know he was taking action to heal himself. Though I’d waited such a long time to bring up his addiction, and only said something once I was living across the country, safe from having to play too present a role in his journey, I still felt grateful to eventually have found the courage, and the love, to send the email. It seemed to have helped him in some way.

I don’t judge alcohol and drug addiction anymore, but I still notice myself shutting down around it, particularly when an addicted person has no interest in getting sober. Not that he has to want to get sober. We make it through this life however we can. That choice is his alone. Still, I want to sprint in the other direction, away from all the painful triggers addiction calls up in me — away from the choices of my heroin-addicted brother and my gambling-addicted father. I lived my childhood, in great part, in a world of addiction, on the receiving end of the unstable actions of addicts. Though addiction became the norm in our home, I was always aware, even as a child, of the damage my father and brother caused because of their choices.

I see how my past influenced my choices with Kevin. So often we find ourselves unwilling to face a present reality because we know, consciously or subconsciously, we’ll also have to face the past. The hardest experiences of our lives never stop living with us. They move forward into our day-to-day existence, and we are left to decide how we want to integrate the pain. Do we build walls to hide it or open doors to face it? Walls have helped me survive when I’ve needed them, but they’ve played no part in my healing. Still, I built a wall around Kevin’s addiction for a long time so I wouldn’t have to look through the open door of my childhood, to heroin and gambling and lies and death.

I know that’s okay, and that we show up however we’re able to show up for whatever situation presents itself. Healthy boundaries matter, too, especially in our friendships. We can’t always give what needs to be given. Still, I wish I had shown up stronger with Kevin sooner, even though I know it may not have made any difference at all. He would always have been the only person deciding his fate.

As far as I knew, after his response to my email, Kevin had been doing really well. I had lunch with him in New York about six months before his death, and he looked great. He had put on some weight since I’d last seen him, with a belly that seemed to me reflective of someone choosing food over drugs. He was energetic, optimistic, and refreshingly lucid. The months passed with a couple of quick texts back and forth but not much real interaction. And then he was dead, alone on his bedroom floor for who knows how long before his realtor discovered his body. I’ve tried to consider how lonely and afraid he must have felt in those moments, days, and months before he died. I still want to believe it was an accident.

It was Kevin’s birthday recently. I know, because Facebook reminded me, its algorithm obviously unaware of Kevin’s death. I clicked on his page to spend a little time with my friend. Scattered among a handful of missing you posts were dozens of Happy Birthday, Kevin! posts by those who clearly still had no idea he’d died — they still imagined him at his kitchen table surrounded by stacks of paper, or on his yearly flight to Australia, or planning some corporate or philanthropic event. To these friends, Kevin lived on. Lucky them.

I scrolled until I found the post from two years before that told me of Kevin’s death, and I reread the words that had so struck me: Be aware of one another. Be conscious of one another. Do not walk blindly through the day as you pass your brothers and sisters on the street.

I’d like to believe I’d act differently today if put in the same situation, but I don’t honestly know. We think we’ve learned lessons, until we’re given another chance, until we’re made to act. Then we see what we have or haven’t learned. I would hope to be more up front with my feelings and less inclined to put up a wall, even if I felt the need to create certain boundaries within the experience. Walls and boundaries are not the same thing; walls shut people out entirely, while boundaries invite them in, with conditions.

I’m working hard at being more real with my friends, and more available — at saying the tough things, at holding up a mirror, and at staying open to their truth when they share it with me. I fail at friendship constantly, however. I catch myself all the time biting my tongue, becoming defensive, retreating — because I worry about how my words will land, or because I’m not in the mood for a difficult conversation, or because I fear my friends won’t like me as much afterward.

I want to be a better friend than that. A more fearless friend. A less selfish friend. A friend driven by love, no matter what, and by the desire to see those I love living their best possible lives, whatever that means for them. When I had that final lunch with Kevin in New York, I felt excited to see him back on track, optimistic that he had rediscovered the path to some version of his best possible life.

Kevin was a good man — kind and smart and so very quirky. I feel lucky to have spent a couple of years as his roommate, lucky to have shared space with a man who cared for others, even when he could no longer manage to care for himself. I miss him.

I won’t stop working at being a better friend. I’ll keep pushing myself to act from love, even when love demands the most difficult conversations, or interrupts my routine, or calls on me to give more than I thought I could give. That’s the thing about love: it’s clear. When we put our trust in its instructions and follow its lead closely, we don’t need to think as much about what we’re doing or worry that we’re doing it all wrong. We just have to be present in its energy and listen to however it’s asking us to show up.

Then, we have to show up.

All women.

The words "me too" fill my timeline right now, beneath the names and pictures of dear friends, good acquaintances, family members and complete strangers. All women.

All women.

That's what is so overwhelming to process — that ALL WOMEN have been sexually harassed (likely often) in their lives, and that so many have been sexually assaulted, as well. This is the dark reality we have to accept if we're going to change it.

I spoke with a good friend yesterday, another white man who, like me, considers himself a longtime feminist. We talked about how our understanding of the female experience, at least in the US, has grown so much in the past few years especially. It's not that we were oblivious to sexism and misogyny existing in a big way, but that we didn't really get just how constant the existence of it is. That a woman's safety is something she's considering much of the time, that being dismissed or talked over or called hysterical is not the exception but the rule so often. That women are expected to be quiet, in the face of sexism and misogyny, and even in the face of violence.

All women.

When I say my understanding of the female experience has grown, I don't mean to suggest I have a clue of what it's like to be a woman in this world. I don't have a clue. But I'm listening. And I'm learning. And I'm committed to being a man who supports women's rights and equality and safety, vocally and without exception.

After I hung up with my friend, I started thinking about why it is I feel more aware of the female experience than ever before, and the answer is obvious: more women are speaking up about their experiences, and social media amplifies their messages. It's not fair that it's left to the victims of sexual harassment and assault to have to rip and re-rip open their traumas before enough of us men start listening to and believing them. It's making a difference, though. It's waking up more and more men, even those of us, like me, who felt we were awake already. There's always more to learn when we stop to listen.

If you posted, "me too," thank you for your courage. It's having an impact.

I also get how frustrating/infuriating it is to see men denounce sexual assault only because they have daughters or sisters or are close with their mothers, rather than simply recognizing that a woman's value has nothing to do with their relationship to her. I still think it's a step forward for men to recognize women's rights and equality, even if it takes having a daughter to do it. Attitudes toward the LGBTQ community have changed for the better over the years because more and more people have come to discover they have gay friends, family members and colleagues, and that they want these people they care about to share the same rights as everyone else. In a perfect world (not the one we live in), people would want women and the LBGTQ community and people of color to have equal rights because...well...they're human beings and why isn't this equal rights shit obvious to all of us by now? Baby steps forward are still steps forward, however, and if having a daughter or a sister is what it takes to usher a man into the realm of gender enlightenment, then so be it. Once he's there, there's at least a chance his attitudes about women will ultimately have nothing to do with those he holds dear, and that he'll come to understand the value of a woman — like a man — lives in her independent humanity.

Also...for those of you who could have but didn't write the words "me too," for whatever reason, you are no less courageous than those who did. I hope you know that. I can't pretend to know how traumatic it can be to have to face so much discussion around sexual assault as a survivor of sexual assault. I'm sure, for some, the "me too" campaign was more traumatizing than healing. Though I see great value in "me too," it's always up to the person to decide if he or she wants/needs/feels compelled to share her story. There isn't a wrong way to be a survivor.

I've seen these words I've chosen to post below making the rounds today, and when I read them the first time, it felt like awakening to something that is so obvious that I hadn't even considered before. Men (the great great majority of the time) are the ones responsible for perpetrating violence. Let's make sure men are the significant part of the conversation when we discuss the violence they're perpetrating. Language matters.

One more thing...every day I say some version of a prayer that we elect more women leaders (and people of color leaders). An obvious reality that hasn't been lost on me is that men run most of the world and the world is seriously fucked. Surely that's not a coincidence. We need more women running the show. All the shows. One silver lining to all the darkness we're seeing in our country right now is that women appear to be rising up like never before, more vocal in their expectations and intentions, and I hope this groundswell of female activism leads to many more women leaders.

Madame President sure sounds good to these ears.

Untitled design (6).png

Our hope lives in our power.

I woke up feeling hopeless and couldn't find my breath...in the face of California's wildfires, in the face of Puerto Rico's lack of clean water and electricity, in the face of such toxic masculinity running our world, in the face of so many fucking guns in this country. I have barely been able to breathe. Hopeless.

I thought about why I felt hopeless, and I assumed it was because I was afraid. Afraid of the outcomes of these terrible natural disasters and of the choices made by so many unconscious human beings. But it wasn't my fear that had crushed my hope. I'm afraid all the time, and I'm hopeful a lot of it.

It was the belief that I had no power within all of the darkness and devastation we're seeing. That I had no power within all of my fear. It's powerlessness - not fear - that leads to hopelessness. And that's good news, because we may not be able to stop ourselves from feeling afraid, but we do have a choice in how we act in the face of our fear.

We are not powerless. 
I am not powerless.

I have no control over the fires in California, but I can donate to an organization that's helping victims of the disaster. And that's what I did. Power. 
I have no control over the devastation in Puerto Rico, but I can donate (again) to an organization that is helping victims there. And that's what I did. More power. 
As far as egomaniacal males and lack of common sense gun control, I can work my butt off to help elect politicians (hopefully many women) whom I believe will bring honesty and compassion and a belief in science to our government. And that's what I plan to do. Even more power.

We are empowered all day every day, if we choose to be.

I arrived at this cafe and bought myself a coffee and gave the barista $5 to pay for the coffee of the next person who comes in. Power in kindness.

I left a couple voice messages with friends I haven't spoken to in a while, just to tell them I loved them. Power in friendship.

I sparked up what became a lovely conversation with the woman sitting near me in this cafe. Power in connection.

We are not powerless. And the world is only hopeless when we're not willing to step into our power and continuously choose hope. That's the other thing I realized. I was looking for hope outside of myself, and that's not where hope is found. It's found within. I will not give up my hope to the darkness in this world. Not when my hope is filled with so much light.

If you're feeling hopeless — and we all feel hopeless at times, especially in these times — then remember the power that lives in your kindness and in your compassion, and take action. Connect with a neighbor or a stranger. Contribute to a worthy cause. Volunteer. Share your creativity. Remind yourself that the ocean of hope that lives within you is ignited by connections with others, and by your willingness to step into your power as a human being with so much love to share with our world.

Please, for all of us, and for yourself, share it.

I love you.

Cheerleaders are more fun than critics.

If I refused to write, or to share my writing, as a result of my inner critic telling me my writing is mediocre at best, I'd write very little and would certainly never share a thing. That's to say, my inner critic — like yours I'm sure — is relentless and brutal and positively genius at coming up with reasons why I'm terribly uncreative with not much good to say and virtually no talent for saying it. Conversely, I have only praise to heap on my inner critic — it's doing an exceptional job of being a judgmental asshole.

It's an unfortunate reality that our minds tend to be more adept at knocking us down than building us up. Self-abuse is simply a more natural response for most of us. That sucks, sure, but only as much as we let it. All that means is we have to work harder on the "building up" response. We have to be our own excited cheerleaders, so loud in our exaltations that we drown out the nagging critics who will never be happy with anything we do.

The critic isn't all bad, by the way. It's one of fear's operatives, which means along with making us suffer, it's really trying to keep us from suffering: from being judged, being ridiculed, being ostracized. The thing is, our fears — and our critics — don't give us enough credit. They think we'll collapse under the weight of judgment, or give up after a failure or three. Why would we do that? Right, we wouldn't.

There's no good reason to let our fear dictate how we share our creativity — or ourselves — with the world.

We have to become more aware when we're focused on how worthless we are and reject that notion because it's not true. Follow that rejection with some reasons why we're worthy and lovable and just the right person to express whatever it is we want — no, need — to express. If you're like me, there are countless opportunities throughout the day to interrupt the critic and announce the cheerleader. Go you! It just takes doing so. It takes remembering that fear's job is to prevent us from taking risks, expanding our comfort zone, and generally doing much of anything that stands to transform our lives for real.

And our job is to feel the fear and DO IT ANYWAY. We will survive the doing. We will survive the judgment. We will survive whatever reality comes to pass. And we will be so much stronger and more resilient for it. That's just how it goes.

Fear's not going anywhere. The critic's not going anywhere. We can't wait for them to leave before taking action, because they'll never leave and then we'll never take action.

I'm afraid (or insecure) a good percentage of the time, especially where my creativity is concerned. I just don't care as much about the fear anymore. I don't give it the voice it used to have. It gets a say without getting it's way (I think I just stole that line from someone but not sure who).

Look, life is hard enough without silencing ourselves, our creativity, our freedom. Indeed, one of the surest ways I've found to create a more fulfilling, less miserable existence is to put myself out there — my love, my fears, my heart, my art — knowing that the act of doing so invites possibilities and connections that my inner critic will always be too afraid to see.

Now is the time. It's all we've ever got.

In love and creativity and community...Go team!

Father's Day.

I wish I felt different on Father's Day.

I wish I longed for the close relationship I had with my dad until he died, but our relationship wasn't close — it was nonexistent. I wish I'd wanted to model much of my life on his example, but his actions, more often than not, emphasized what not to do rather than what to do. I wish I could feel in my heart the love I was certain he must have felt for me, but all I feel, and all I've ever felt, is an unknowing — a deep uncertainty about whether he cared for me much at all. I wish I missed him more than anything, but I barely knew him, and much of what I did know about him I don't miss at all.

I wish I felt different.

All I feel is longing, not for the relationship we had but for the one we didn't. Longing for the father he never figured out how to be, and for the son he never gave me a chance to be. Longing for a dad, but not for my dad.

I know I'm not alone.

There are many of you out there for whom today is more painful than celebratory. Each with your own reasons. Each with your own wounds. Know that you're not alone, either.

When I think about the more painful relationships in my life — the one with my dad topping the list — I also consider the gifts that have come from them. It's no joy for anyone to feel unloved, as I felt when my dad was alive, but I am more empathetic and more compassionate because of it. Because I know what it's like to feel unseen, I do my best to make others feel seen, and worthy, and loved. This is a gift.

I believe my dad was a good man. He was also a terrible father — at least to me. I've found much peace over the years reminding myself that he was just a human being, like me, doing his best to navigate a crazy world. He made a lot of bad decisions, but he wasn't a bad person. This truth does help me feel better about him, but it doesn't take away my longing for a loving, engaged, reliable father. I wish I were missing him today, instead of missing what could have been.

To all of you loving, engaged and reliable fathers out there, Happy Father's Day, and please keep doing what you're doing. You're making a profound difference.

To all of you shitty fathers out there, Happy Father's Day, and please start showing up for your family differently. It's not too late to serve up the love they deserve.

To everyone feeling this day today — whether happy or sad or grateful or wistful — I wish you nothing but peace and so much love. Always.

Noisy.

I just ate a pint of ice-cream in one sitting. Something I've done many times before. I didn't sit down to eat the whole pint (I never do), but early in I could tell that I wasn't going to stop until it was all gone. In part because it was really good, but mostly because I'm headlong into my sugar addiction right now and wanted to escape into endless spoonfuls of sugary creamy decadence.

So I sat there and listened to my mind chatter, bite by bite. It went something like this —

"Stop eating this ice-cream. This is not healthy. You're addicted.

Enjoy the ice-cream. You love the taste. Savor the moment.

You always talk about self-care and you are so not taking care of yourself right now.

Don't worry, it's not a big deal. Yes, you're out of control with sugar these days, but you'll find your way back to balance. Relax and enjoy the ice-cream.

You don't have to finish the whole pint. Really, put it down. You're gonna feel like shit. You can make a different choice, right now.

Just finish the pint so it won't be in the house anymore, and you can go all day tomorrow without eating any ice-cream."

Blah, blah, blah. It went on and on and on until the pint was empty and there was nothing left to say.

Sometimes I'm amazed, just amazed by how noisy my mind can be. How I can talk myself into doing something and simultaneously condemn myself for doing it. I wish it only happened with ice-cream, but it happens all the time — with exercise (as in not exercising), with writing (as in not writing), with TV binges, with so very many aspects of my life really.

So I remind myself: you're only human, and it's okay. It's true that downing a pint of ice-cream isn't the best reflection of self-care, but neither is beating myself up for downing a pint of ice-cream. In fact, I've so often savored ice-cream but can't remember even once savoring my own self-abuse. That never tastes good.

We're only human. We sometimes eat pints of ice-cream or __________ (fill in the blank). It's okay. We're still worthy. We're still lovable. We're still totally enough.

I know I'm all those things right now. Along with being super full and a little gassy.

Be gentle with yourselves.

BIG LOVE.

I'm done with walls. I'd rather feel.

I struggle with this reality often. I used to be pretty good at not feeling, at closing myself off to the ugliness and pain that saturates our planet. I walled myself up well enough to keep from feeling much at all. But that was a long time ago. Now, sometimes, it's like I feel everything, and I would give anything in those moments to feel nothing at all.

Sometimes, it's all too much. 

Too heavy. 

Too violent. 

Too malicious. 

Too disgusting.

Too exhausting.

Human beings have mastered being inhumane. And for what? For nothing. Nothing important, anyway. Nothing righteous and real. Nothing that has anything to do with love.

Sometimes, I want my walls back. All of them and more. Whatever it takes to keep out every bit of darkness and all the wretched noise.

Of course, the walls keep out the magic, too. They block out the light as definitively as they block out the darkness. They silence the laughter along with the cries.

So I choose to stay open, and I choose to feel. I understand the truth of humanity—that we are as ugly as we are beautiful, as violent as we are peaceful, as wise as we are ignorant.

I understand the lies of humanity, too—that some are greater than others, that salvation is for a select few, that love comes with conditions. That any of us has any clue what's really going on here.

But here we are, human beings on planet earth, doing our best to make sense of this place, and of ourselves. And though our best is a far cry from anything good sometimes, it's where we are, and it's what we have to give.

So I'll keep giving some version of my best, in an effort to bring more peace and love to our world, and to create more equity among us, and to walk the path of empathy and compassion, and to make a habit of being kind. These actions—commitments—not only serve the greater good of everyone and everything, they help me make it through the darker moments, when I'm overwhelmed by the ugliness of us human beings, and by the misery I sometimes feel in myself.

I'm done with walls. I'd rather feel. As much darkness as there is in our world, and as vile as human beings can be, there's no denying the magnitude of our light. Pure radiance. Being able to see and feel the beauty of humanity makes feeling everything else tolerable, even okay. It gets me to the other side of the struggle every single time.

I will forever be in awe of who we can be when we allow ourselves to be love, when we sink into the beautiful humaneness of our humanity. That feeling will never be exhausting.

Where is the room for happiness in this kind of world?

I woke up this morning feeling content, for a moment, before my mind suggested it's entirely inappropriate to feel content—not when terrorists are killing people everyday somewhere, not when children are being sold and used as property, not when Donald Trump might become our president, not when our world is figuratively and literally (according to the temperature reports) burning up.

Where is the room for happiness in this kind of world?

About fifteen years ago, my partner (at the time) and I moved from NYC to LA. He'd sold his beautiful loft apartment in the city and made a chunk of money from doing so. When we arrived in LA, one of the first things we did was go car shopping. He bought both of us brand new BMWs, in cash. Mine was a black convertible with a dark tan interior. It was beautiful, unlike any car I'd ever owned.

In the next couple of days, along with the new car, my partner paid off my credit card debt, which was the equivalent of buying another BMW. I had used my credit cards freely in those days. Well, not freely. There was a price. I'd dug myself into a hole of debt and struggled just to make the interest payment every month.

So here I was, within a few days, with a brand new car and zero debt. Just like that. As though I'd rubbed a magic lamp and put a genie to work. No car payment! Zero debt! An amazing partner! These gifts were huge. I was the luckiest guy in the world.

But the thing I remember most about that week is how unhappy I felt during it. Not because of the gifts, but in spite of them. I had been feeling down during that time, sad and lost, without a connection to purpose. And the gifts, which were so generous, and for which I was entirely grateful, made absolutely no difference to my state of being. They played no role in my happiness, or lack thereof. How could they? My happiness can only be and has always ever been within me, no matter what else is happening on the outside.

We know this to be true, that "happiness is an inside job" and "money can't buy happiness" and "insert your own happiness platitude here." There's a difference, however, between knowing things and understanding them. After being showered with gifts and still feeling unhappy and lost, I understood something about happiness that I'd always known: it's not to be found in stuff or circumstances. You can have very little in the way of material things and still feel deeply content, just as you can have a life of riches and be deeply miserable. You can be surrounded by love, yet lonely and unhappy, or spend your days alone and content with peace in your heart.

Everything is possible where happiness is concerned, and none of it lives outside of ourselves.

When I woke up this morning, feeling content, and then feeling uneasy about being content in our too-dark world, I thought of my BMW and my paid-off credit card debt. I remembered one lesson I learned so clearly that week: Your happiness and peace of mind are not a given, no matter the circumstances.

To that, I would add: Your unhappiness and instability are also not a given, no matter the circumstances.

I'm afraid of plenty in our world. Heartbroken over much more. Yet I know it's possible, still, to be at peace, even to be content, at least some of the time. Not because the world suddenly becomes safe and united, or that I suddenly become unafraid, but because I know the peace that lives within me, at my core, is a peace that can never be touched by anything going on in our world, or in my head. That peace is not something I've developed or earned. It's always been there, and will always be there. A birthright. It's beyond our world, beyond my fears. It's my home, whenever I want to visit. Just as your inner peace is your home, too.

Our peace and happiness ultimately depends on nothing but our willingness to be present within them, and to understand that the world around us will always be crazy and violent and overwhelming and beautiful and exciting and boring and united and divided and whatever else it is, and we can still be healthy and okay within it all—not because of the outside world, but in spite of it.

Being peaceful is not the same thing as being silent. There are too many injustices in our world, too many marginalized populations, too much pain to be silent anymore. What in our world is breaking your heart right now? Are you making noise about it? Are you acting on its behalf? My answer to myself: not enough. There's already too much noise for darkness. The light needs our voices, too. The light needs our passion. Our brothers and sisters—and children—suffering all over the world need our energy, our action and our love. Who can focus on peace and happiness when you're living in constant fear of violence or death or starvation each day?

Those of us able to browse through our social media accounts without worrying about the next bomb or our next meal are lucky indeed. Beyond lucky.

That doesn't mean we have to be miserable because so much misery exists, or that we have to feel guilty in those moments when we're actually content. True joy can't hurt our world. It can only help it. Any peace we bring to the change we're trying to create only adds more peace to the planet. Peace is a part of us. Just like love. We can ignore it, or we can choose it.

Where is the room for happiness in this kind of world?

It is within us, as it's always been and will always be. It's not likely to be inspired by more stuff, or a bigger social media circle, or endless fun things to do. All of this rarely leads to happiness. Where do I find meaning in my life? How can I be of service to those in need? How can I connect more honestly with others? What do I love to do? I've found these to be good questions that help lead me down the path to peace, and to happiness. A good starting point on the journey home.

In love and solidarity...
Scott

And today, we grieve again.

And today, we grieve again, for Dallas, and for our nation. How many times can a heart break? The only solace I take in a tragedy like this is knowing our whole country cries together, that within all of the anger and blame and division, our humanity unites us against these acts, and, together, we grieve.

All I can think to do right now is pray.

I pray for the families and friends of Brent Thompson, as well as the four other officers who were killed in Dallas last night, whose names we still don’t know. I pray for the complete recovery of the seven other officers and two civilians who were injured in the shootings.

I pray for the families and friends of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

I pray for the families and friends of those who have died, in America and countries all over the world, due to violence at the hands of their fellow human beings.

I pray that the tragic events we’re experiencing, in our country and worldwide, will ultimately unite, rather than divide us, so they we may come together as one people, one family, one human race.

I pray for deeper peace, in each of us, so that violence and murder will no longer make itself known to the weakness of our minds.

I pray for deeper understanding, in each of us, so that we may disagree with one another without being hurtful and hateful in the way we communicate.

I pray for deeper empathy, in each of us, so that we may recognize our own pain in the pain of others and treat all of our brothers and sisters with compassion and respect.

I pray for the courage and clarity to look within, to examine the ways in which I might be contributing to separation rather than unity, and to realign myself with the intention of kindness, compassion and love.

I pray for all those whose hearts have been hardened and who see violence as an answer, that they will allow love to enter their beings and pull them from the call of violence to the call of peace.

I pray for all of us, who are hurting and afraid and confused, that we may center ourselves in the ever-present light within us and share that light as selflessly as possible.

I pray for our country, and for our planet, that together we create a world that reflects the best in humanity, that together we rise to the understanding that we are beings of love, and that love is our greatest hope for changing our reality, and for healing ourselves.
_____

I love this community. You’re an important part of my life, and a continuous source of happiness, support and inspiration. I pray we never stop loving, ourselves and one another.

If you're moved to do so, please add your own prayer below.

In Love and Solidarity…
Scott

Another tragedy for us all.

I've been staring at my computer for over an hour, trying to figure out something to say about Alton Sterling's murder. It's not the first video to show police using inexcusable force and ultimately murdering a black man, but those gunshots—at point blank range—make this stand out, somehow. Of course, it doesn't stand out. It's happening all the time. And people wonder why our black brothers and sisters feel angry, afraid and marginalized, in their cars, on their streets, in their own country.

Police brutality—especially against people of color—is a serious, deadly problem. Is that really up for debate, still? How many statistics, how many videos do we all need to see before we acknowledge something that exists? It should be enough that the entire black community has been telling us for years what's going on. We shouldn't need videos, but now we have them, so let's learn from them.

I don't know anything about anything when it comes to policing the streets, but I know I watched Alton Sterling get murdered in that video, by two police officers. I know there are countless decent police officers in our country, and I wish more of them would stand up and speak out against the brutality that we're seeing so often, and is happening so much more often than we even see. Every profession has those who abuse their power and do a disservice to the profession on the whole. It is not an attack on all police to call out certain officers who have proven themselves to be racist or excessively violent. It’s the only decent thing to do. Another man is dead for no reason, well, other than he was a black man, which is reason enough, too often.

And I don't care about Alton Sterling's record before his death. His past had nothing to do with him being killed, nor did it warrant his execution. All efforts to make him look somehow deserving of his fate only make the system—media included—look desperate and heartless. His death is a tragedy, for us all.

For those who still resist the Black Lives Matter call, watch the video of Alton Sterling being killed. Black Lives Matter activists have never been suggesting that their lives matter more than anyone else's, only that their lives matter as much as everyone else's. And in America, they still don't, not really, not yet. Another tragedy for us all.

I pray this heartbreaking video and gruesome crime generates a newfound awareness and a deeper call to action in all of us to continue to press for equality among all people in our country, not just in the rights we have, but in the way we're treated.

To the African-American community, for whom this tragedy affects most profoundly, and especially to the family of Alton Sterling, I am with you, in grief, in love, and in solidarity.