Working the day of the dead
“Would you ever go back to Canada for him?”, The young bearded millennial asks surfer girl. Surfer girl takes a long drag off her cigarette and says, “No. His work is too important and overvalued to him. He’s a photo journalist and all he thinks about is his work.” He got up from making love to me one time to answer his phone. For fucks sake. He will drop his whole life for his work.”
The bearded one gets up and swallows the last bits of Pacifico from a can. As he walks into the bungalow he says,” I can’t wait for tomorrow. I am going to drink coffee and Instagram my ass off.” Taking another pull off her smoke and staring off into the distance, surfer girl says, “I need a guy like you.”
The morning is sweet under the papaya and coconut trees. The roosters are barking and flocks of jungle birds cackle and screech in the distance. Drinking Mexican coffee on a hillside flush with fusia bougainvillea makes the heart ring. There are birds of paradise and clay planters full of flora and fauna on the deck overlooking the seaside town. The day is bathed in the promise of sun and color. I can already smell of chilies and corn roasting in the street. I can feel the blood rise up and take the moment. It takes the moment from something that it is and my mind wants to turn it into something else--into something more. I want to make more of it. I can see it clearly.
I’ve always been about my work. Work is great. But then there is the ambition around my work that is not so healthy. Trying to propel my work beyond its normal joyous flailing has been a lesson and my downfall really. I can expound in a Tao-oian milieu about doing my work and stepping back, but honestly, I’ve never been very good at that. I think, “what’s the point if no one ever sees, hears or reads it?” I act like my work is gonna somehow live on in some kind of glorious infamy. This is the grandiose sickness in my heart and mind. As I look back, I’ve never been in charge of the results. I’m just in charge of the work.
Reading Anne Lamott recently, she said the most miserable people she had ever experienced were “men” who’ve had best sellers. They spent their whole lives, after the best seller, trying to live up to it. I can see that clearly. I can see that my life has been made full as a result of my failure. I’ve had to do things I really didn’t want to do as a result of failure. I’ve had to fall back on family, odd jobs and spirituality to explain my undoing and find my feet. It’s been the greatest gift. I’ve been granted the experience of my limited power in the aching expanding strain of the universal shift. I’ve seen successful people live their whole lives in a tube that they could never step out of. Writing -recording-touring---writing recording touring—over and over- for years. One rock star comes to mind. He died on the top of the heap full of a lethal mix of drugs for his supposed “back problem.” (It’s always a back problem isn’t it?). He found himself using heroin in his 50’s. People, in hindsight, put these cats up on a pedestal. But in the end, they are just like me and you. We are all just another bozo on the bus.
All his dreams came true. What do we do when our dreams come true? Find a new dream? He never was able to find an inside dream. The outside dream is limited. The inside dream goes on into infinity.
In his waning years, our rock star seemed to be walking around in a daze, smoking and talking about himself and his work. We cannot be defined by our work. Its just something we do. I can say this as I spent most of my life trying to validate myself with my work. I was trying to fix my insides with the outside. It can’t be done. I was never able to see and feel the glorious human I had bursting inside of me. I spent years raking my” love me cup” on the jail bars of life, hoping for outside validation for my vacant insides. In all those years, I was never able to feel the glorious-ness of my anonymity. I had to be beaten into submission.
Success for me would have been lethal. I never would have known how to handle it. It would have killed me just like it did our rock star.
When people hit this kind of bottom, others try and lift them up with hope. But hope was always my problem. Hope for more. Hope for success on the outside. Hope for some kind of safety. Hope that if you stood up and flew right, worked a little harder, that I might fit in more, achieve more, be more, and experience more- Hope to fill my insides up with something on the outside.
These days its different mostly, but I do get sucked in by the energy of the American hope machine and ethic. That ethic and energy says, that “more is better.” It says you won’t be safe unless you have more. You can’t help but get sucked in. Especially if you are an artist. (Artists suck in the energy of the outside world and spit it back out as art.) The hope machine ethic is everywhere in America. Its in the air and water. Its in everything you see, do and experience. I call it the T.V. dream. Once you get a taste of an “inner enough”, it leaves you with an uncomfortable feeling, as its not mirrored in our culture. You feel alone. If I say “all my dreams came true because my dreams didn’t come true” people ask me what the hell I’m talking about. It means I’ve seen the end of my willpower. What a gift. At the end of your willpower grace steps in and gives you everything you need. This is the miracle.
So that’s why I come down here to this little town in Mexico. The T.V. dream doesn’t exist so much here. Today-Ill walk the streets and soak in the energy of chilies and corn roasting. Ill smell the ocean spray and try to be good with doing less and not more. Ill walk in the beauty and gift of being that is the day of the dead.
On the highway coming in there is a new monument to the day of the dead. Colorful skeletons dressed and dancing in the middle of the thick jungle. The paradox is if you know you are already dead, you can live your life to its fullest. There is nothing to gain and nothing to lose. They get that here. They celebrate it in living color. They know we are all just dancing skeletons…. just dancing bones. I consider myself lucky to be able to practice it today. ---Ask yourself--Why are the skeletons smiling?