novice Buddhist, expert neurotic. writer. aspiring adult.
sophcw at gmail dot com
Audio post with 10 notes
Time is elastic. I have been so busy the last week or so (moving, training for a new job) that I didn’t notice the passing of my three year New York anniversary. I am beginning to understand how time flows, how tricky it can be. My first seven months here, messing around as a broke intern, time was relaxed and mischievous. A week would sneak by here and there but there were mostly isolated incidents: one amazing show, an epic drunken night, magical and frightening new experiences. Once I had a full time job and multiplying commitments the speed of things increased exponentially. The graph of the buildup lives inside of me, viscerally entrenched; everything getting faster, brighter, and more important, all climbing and heightening. And the sudden, inevitable drop that has characterized the last few months. Sweating on the corner of my couch in my giant unruly apartment, anxiously enthralled by my computer screen, desperate to get a glimpse of where anything was headed. Mounting concern seems to slow down time, like a car crash you remember in slow motion. When everything almost stopped dead, when it seemed like nothing could save me, there was, as always, a gentle stirring. Things started to come alive again, poking up through the layers of malaise I let settle over the oppressive summer and working themselves into a flurry of stress, activity and hope. This is the way of my life, at least for now. I can see the paths branching in front of me, and their scope is still overwhelming to take in. But maybe next time I stumble into a dark patch I’ll remember that even when my vision is obscured the future is still waiting, and I will have faith, I will keep moving.
Quote with 29 notes
I’m told that it was not always this way. Apparently there was a time, not so long ago, when an acquaintance’s news that she was skipping town would have been met with the same level of incredulity as an announcement that she was planning to jump off the Empire State Building. In her famous 1967 essay “Goodbye to All That,” Joan Didion wrote that her friends thought of her move from New York to LA as a “curious aberration.” But these days, the New Yorkers I know are more likely to react with congratulations or even jealousy. Departures that might have felt to previous generations like selling out or admitting defeat have become more like graduations; the people who leave New York seem not to have struck out, but to have gained some great insight about life, work, and happiness that’s been denied to those of us who remain. We become like those eternal graduate students who never manage to earn their degrees, stuck in the place that was supposed to make us into fully realized adults and forgetting, little by little, what exactly we had envisioned for those grown-up people we now realize we might never become.
Post with 10 notes
If I work at a job that I find morally reprehensible but makes me good money, then I’m doing well and a good citizen and fulfilling my obligation to society. Maybe someday I’ll make enough to give some money to a non-profit that’s doing good work to address all these problems we keep creating.
If I quit that job and try to do things that are at worst only somewhat morally questionable, or even that I actually think are good for the world, and I don’t make much money and require any kind of assistance if I have that option, whether it’s from parents, relatives, friends or the government, then I’m lazy, selfish, ungrateful, a “hipster,” a self-obsessed millenial, taking what doesn’t belong to me, a “rich kid,” over-privileged and full of hubris. I’m not the right kind of poor person. I should just get over it and grow up. I’ll understand when I’m older and have succumbed to the desire to be “comfortable” and stable. When I have some money of my own to protect and soothe my moral turmoil.
Which of these options leads to a system like this continuing to exist indefinitely?
Post with 7 notes
Yesterday I got back from a 5 day meditation retreat. I thought about writing an exhaustive description of my experience there (against the recommendation of the teachers) but I decided I won’t for now. I will say it was one of the hardest and best experiences I’ve ever had, and I think has significantly altered the way I want to live and experience my life. What you do on one of these retreats is to seriously attempt to reprogram the way your mind thinks, reacts, observes and experiences everything. It’s pretty intense. Leaving the center yesterday everything felt so bright and new.
I’ve been reading Infinite Jest, and before the retreat I had just gotten through the part where he talks about AA at length. One thing that kept coming to my mind during the retreat, when I’d be listening to these talks that I sometimes agreed with and sometimes really pissed me off, or doing these exercises that sometimes felt dumb or contrived was how the narrator of that section describes people who come to AA and can’t believe it’s going to work for them, but that those who keep doing it realize against all logic it really does. I don’t think that Buddhism and meditation are as hard to grasp as AA can be for an addict, but it is hard to believe you are actually going to have a serious shift in your perception from just sitting around observing your own mind all day without any agenda.
Anyway, the reason I felt compelled to actually post about it at all was going to this yoga class today. Now, I would hate to become one of those people who’s like “let me tell you about this wonderful yoga class I went to!!” But as someone who’s been doing yoga on and off for about three years, and has liked it at times but usually struggled with it to some degree, today was really different experience. It was still really hard, physically. But the number of times when I felt like giving up or where all I could think is “ughh how much longer do I have to do this” or even thought at all, were dramatically fewer. And I could actually physically stretch further, much further. What this and my other experiences in the last few days has demonstrated to me is how closely the body and mind are really connected, something I knew before intellectually but hadn’t really experienced for myself. Being online all day makes me forget sometimes that I am really just a collection of matter that has developed a consciousness. It makes me think I can get by on mind alone. But that was clearly not working. Now I have gained an understanding of the interconnectedness of my mind, body, and even the people around me. As I thought several times through different mental states while looking at statues of the Buddha around the IMS center, “what the fuck, dude.”
Post with 5 notes
Someday we won’t remember this.
We now exist in fragments. When I was a 14 year old in my freshman humanities class writing about literature from around the world I titled the finished anthology “Fragments of Meaning.” Now our digital selves are spread over ever-expanding, auto-updating unfeeling data while our physical bodies remain an anxious, organic, decaying whole.
I have been unbelievably fortunate over the last few years. I have had opportunities that allowed me countless amazing experiences. I’ve played music to crowds of hundreds of people and traveled across oceans. I’ve made enough money to exist in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I’ve also faced clinical depression, anxiety and severe insomnia. My parents are getting divorced and both are struggling to figure out anew how to survive, emotionally and financially.
My country commits countless atrocities at home and abroad. I live in an apartment a stones throw from people who were born into a life with no hope of escaping abject poverty. My dad’s ex-wife tells me that life isn’t fair. Her young husband is dying of ALS.
I just want to make things right, but I know I can’t. I am only one in six billion of this silly species, diligently destroying this beautiful planet we don’t deserve.
And when the day breaks, try not to hate the light.
Someday we’ll learn to walk upright.
I’m awake too early on a Monday morning. I have almost no obligations at the moment. My boyfriend is sitting at his desk below me, preparing for his day by watching an episode of a television show about vampires. Soon I will walk home through my colorful, harsh neighborhood, and hold my uncomprehending cats for five seconds each before they squirm away. I will try to fall back asleep and then wake up and apply to jobs I probably won’t get. I will go on Facebook and look for signs of life. I will clutch these fragments of meaning, tightly, desperately, in my hands: like keepers of a magic in which I can’t believe.
Post with 10 notes
Last night I couldn’t sleep, and I thought of what I’d do with a million dollars. We’d watched the crazy Metallica documentary from the mid-2000’s earlier in the night and what stood out the most was how easy everything seemed when you’ve been sheltered in a bubble of money and success from a young age. The scene where they casually offer their new bassist a million dollars is a striking example.
If I had a million dollars randomly gifted to me, I’d probably invest most of it. It’s not as much money as it sounds (as Dr. Evil famously discovered), so I’d want to make it last.
I would stay in the neighborhood I’m in now, but I’d get a really nice two bedroom loft for my friend Molly and I, and I’d pay all the rent. I’d give each of my parents a bunch of money so they wouldn’t have to worry so much. I’d only buy organic locally grown food. I would travel whenever I wanted, and visit my family in California whenever I wanted. I would go on Kickstarter and give money to anyone who was doing something cool. I’d book my favorite bands to play shows at my favorite venues. I wouldn’t have to compromise what I believe in order to survive. I would give money to politicians I believe in, if I could find any. I would buy my cats the fancy cat litter. I’d go back to school.
Photo with 14 notes
In the past month I’ve seen mountains. Lots of them, some with slivers of snow still on top. I’ve been so hot I couldn’t sleep. I’ve cried on the subway, in Wallgreens, on my couch with a fan on full blast two feet away. I’ve read a little of a long book and a lot of a shorter one. I’ve seen fireworks. I’ve tried to find work and mostly failed. I’ve learned that what I know intellectually doesn’t seem to have much affect on how I end up acting and feeling. I have spent time with people with much worse problems than my own. I’ve felt like everything needs to happen now. I’ve become more ok with the multitude of selves I possess, but I still worry I’m not inhabiting the best one. I miss caring about what I wear every day. I worry I’m not creating enough.
I want to do so much.
Audio post with 3 notes
It’s happened. Everything that was once buzzing, churning, bubbling has ceased to move, has settled, has given up and cooled off. What was speeding up has slowed down. We have reached a stand still.
And now there is only whatever I am, in this vast emptiness, staring into nothing, trying to see. Sometimes I don’t see anything. I am lying down, waiting for something to run me over. I am submerged. I bite my lip until it bleeds and taste the salt of my blood. I sleep and then wake up and then sleep again. I get up and go places and spend time with friends and try to feel like it matters. I don’t know what matters.
Audio post with 14 notes
I thought about this song last night when I couldn’t sleep. I remember seeing the movie in theaters for the first time at the one art house in my county, which has since been shut down. At the time, this film checked every box for me: the emotional folk music, the almost cliche indie film aesthetic, a non-romance that was still meaningful. It was instantly, for a time, my favorite movie. When we got home I ran through our yard to my dad’s office and immediately downloaded the soundtrack. I found this song and played it. Staring down at our house past the dark acre of land I had grown up on: this was the only sound I heard. I was 17. Later I would learn to play it on guitar and I still can with a few tries. Last night I thought about this film, this song, how Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova did eventually date in real life and it felt like such a triumph, their Academy Award acceptance one of the most moving moments I’ve ever seen on live TV. Of course they broke up, but they still play music together. With this all in my mind, lying there, for a moment, all I felt was an unfulfillable wish to be the person who heard this song for the first time, feeling full and sad and hopeful, staring into the quiet rural darkness and without once thinking about the future.
Page 1 of 16