The Key to Happiness and Survival: Finding Our FLOW

Part of mental and emotional freedom is being able to write and say what you want, WITHOUT fear of awkwardness, rejection or embarrassment. So often, we worry about this, and we don’t even think of it. Look at that hot guy over there, omigod, I have to say the *right* thing so he’ll like me.  Or: Omigod, I can’t stand up for what I believe in online, because I teach at a school.  Speaking freely would damage my saintly reputation with the kiddies…

But when one agrees to live a life of censorship, we find our lives and our relationships stifled and censored as well.  I have experienced this firsthand.  I used to teach, and I was always worried about getting “caught” with evidence of my creativity seeping into the hands of Google-happy parents.  And I’ve had my share of unrequited love, looking longingly on at boys at school, or hipster-ish men who would never, ever deign to fancy my frowned, intelligent face.

Thanks to Clozapine, I no longer frown.  Shameless advertising plug there, but that’s what has changed my life.  This and strong friendships, and a great place of work.

In any case, one’s capacity for success is not measurable by money or reputation, or even personal happiness.  I’ve learned that it is actually measured by *flow*. Are you able to move seamlessly from one endeavor to the next? Are you able to have conversations that you don’t dwell on thereafter? Can you come home from work not worrying about your day? When you eliminate the attached thoughts that come with rumination, you then free your mind to focus on other things.

A mark of one who ambitious enough to earn and keep success perhaps is… a desire for increased productivity.  The kind of productivity that can be documented in a lengthy Wikipedia entry.  That is the true mark of success these days, as trivial as we try to say it is.

News flash: heightened productivity is not achieved by creating pressure on ourselves!  Pressure is a false source of “energy.”  Why?

  1. Pressure is a temporary occurrence.  It pushes against a “deadline,” and then dissipates when the deadline has disappeared.  It is not a condition or a state of mind that can be permanently maintained.
  2. Some people try to live pressured lives.  However, this is an exhausting experience.  As strong as we may be, we eventually wear ourselves out.  And if we don’t wear ourselves out, then we end up wearing out everyone around us.  Picture the “boss” at work that must be pleased.  That corporate machine works because people are too afraid to lose their jobs.  A source of pressure.  Negative productivity.
  3. Pressure is a source of energy that a high schooler or college undergraduate uses to finish a term paper for an uninteresting gen-ed class.  Unlearning procrastination is one of the greatest things one can do.  If one can find joy in the process of learning, then completing tasks is easy.

One thing that impedes people is the desire to do everything “just right.”  Perfectionism.  But really, this is not the way to develop oneself.  This just results in a smaller output.

Instead, we have to *develop ourselves* to the point that everything we create, no matter what it is or no matter how long it takes, is really amazing. So the only thing that we need to learn how to do is become more efficient. Do things faster. How is this practiced? By doing things and not holding onto the result. Just doing it, and moving on.

How else do you think those classical composers wrote as much amazing stuff as they did? By just writing! If you notice, everything that Mozart wrote sounds like *Mozart.* Because that’s HIM. That’s his STYLE. As one develops the skill of “flow,” one develops her/his own style.  One can discover his/her own talents and creative expressiveness as well.

Developing this skill can be one of the happiest experiences known to man. It is more possible than ever as well, due to the speed of technology.

One thing that people fear these days is being “plagiarized.”  I have this great great idea, and I have to keep it to myself.  I’m going to do an internet start-up, and market this idea, and then I will earn millions… but if I tell someone else, my idea will get stolen, and I’ll be robbed of my life’s well-earned fortune.

Guess what?  If you’re idea is good enough to earn millions, then you’re smart enough to have it stolen and then come up with something else equally as brilliant.  Or even more brilliant, given that the stolen idea was concocted by a younger version of you.  But how does one do that?  By cultivating FLOW.

But it’s not so easy as you say.  I’m not a philosopher, or a bank of life-coach statements.  I’m a scientist!  A personage of research!  I must thoroughly study what I suspect to be true.  I must then keep the results all to myself until I’m am ready for unveiling… so that this new electrical engineering innovation can be named after ME, and that I would earn a fat chunk of royalties and be remembered with renown and reverence, as one regards Edison.

Ah yes.  Edison, a square example of success, when compared to the circuitous Tesla.  But isn’t Tesla more intriguing?  And electric?

In regard to inventors and scientists who fear having their ideas stolen: The world can’t wait.  We are facing massive problems here.  Global warming.  Economic failure.  Extreme poverty.  Instead of having different sets of scientists scrambling to reach the moon first, they should work together so that we all can get there faster.

In order for this to happen, people really have to lose the “fear” of getting “fucked over.”  You could say that there’s always one asshole that will exploit the do-gooders and manipulate everything so that the honest workers will potentially get the shit end of the stick to ensure his/her wealth… but again, the world can’t wait.

I really like this idea too as it relates to global warming.  Because the battle to stop global warming isn’t a “deadline.”  It’s something we must do continually, forever.  It is a lifestyle we have to adopt.  A mentality.  Once mankind can adopt a mentality where we are able to survive peaceably and indefinitely, we are then finally ready to move on to greater things.  Things that require faster intellect to devise.

The notion of personal ownership of wealth, patents and discovery can give way to… FLOW.  Like the instantaneous speed of the internet.  FLOW.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear comments.

Mucho Thankies!

NYC is Too Damned Warm… Global Warming?

As much as atheism is touted as a fatalistic, deathly perspective, it is actually the most vibrant and alive. So many faiths preach the end of the world… but simply this is negative thinking! If we instead believe that we *ourselves* are responsible for our own survival, we will then take action, instead of waiting for divine intervention to end it all, Deus ex Machina style.

Things need to change regarding our mentality: We must stop valuing money. We must stop exploiting our planet’s natural resources as a source of income. We are completely unjustified to do this. What right do we have to deplete our stores of oil? Or our fresh water in aquifers? What about the atrocities we commit to create GMO products? And regarding factory farming of animals, different people have varying levels of what they think is exploitation. Some advocate for veganism, which unfortunately does not work for me, for whatever reason. Nevertheless, I believe that whatever resources we do take for ourselves, we must do with honor, and we must make efforts to replenish to the earth what we take, tenfold.

It is not even a matter of us not having discovered or invented the technology yet. We know damn well what to do, whether it is composting, solar panels or hydropower. (Again, don’t quote me.) The problem is not that we don’t know what to do. It is that people *refuse* to do what’s right, because they are greedy and want to fatten their wallets.

I only postulate ideas, all uninformed. I am not an expert on energy conservation, but I know enough that turning off the lights in a room I’m not using can help. Or bringing my own bags to the grocery store. Or declining a bag from CVS when I buy a power bar. I make my wasteful choices, I’m not going to lie. But I try to remain mindful at the same time. As we should all.

It is now so grim, experiencing 60-degree weather at Christmas time in a normally-colder region, New York. People bitch and moan about global warming, and yet people are happy at this “comfortable” weather. Wake up! We must cherish our winters. Instead of turning up the thermostats for comfort, we should lower them a bit and wear sweaters. Or maybe the cold can help us “develop character,” as Calvin’s father would say. Imagine that! By bracing the elements, or by living more basic lives where we are mindful of conservation, I believe that not only will we preserve our planet, but we will also develop mental strength and resiliency. This can then help to fight mental illness or dissatisfaction.

This being said, we should not allow ourselves to go in a backward direction, technologically speaking. We should still continue to prescribe medications that save people’s lives. (I certainly cannot live without all of my psychiatric medications, believe me.) Health care should not be declined to people who cannot afford it, nor should the working class be drained of every penny they have to pay for it as well.

There must be SOME way, eventually, that not only our cures help ourselves, but that they help the environment as well. Why does it have to be that the world suffers if we thrive? Again, I am no expert. But if we start asking ourselves these questions, we will then reprogram our minds, and then start developing solutions. It also is not only a task for scientists. Most of us can employ self-introspection, in order to improve character.

There are some who are opposed to all facets of the psychiatric profession. But in the very least, I think the process one undergoes in psychotherapy, individual with therapist, should be a process that everyone experiences. Those people who are unwilling to look at themselves will certainly be unable to accommodate themselves for the benefit of others. Or change their behavior at all. We need not employ draconian measures to impart this idea. Instead, people should simply be aware of “mental hygiene” as much as physical. We wash our hands before leaving the bathroom. We treat everyone around us with respect.

How can we make this happen? Must we cause our planet to suffer before we wake up? Or can we wake up now, and act with greater wisdom and cooperation? If not, our efforts to save ourselves will be as effective as a college freshman pulling an all-nighter to write a term paper. I hope people have more self-pride than to let this happen.

Nerds are Materialist Consumers.

As much as we want to praise nerds for being non-conventional and bravely counter-cultural, they sadly are also shining examples of people who fall prey to consumerism. Purchasing of video games and movies and paraphernalia associated with such, their passion for merchandise only serves to fatten the wallets of the powers that be. Nerds are therefore easily controlled and influenced by mega-corporations.

We need to stop embracing nerd culture. If a nerd gets a kick out of saving the world by playing a game where s/he is a ninja, then I suggest the nerd gets out of the house and takes karate classes. Instead of vicariously living an adventurous life through a computerized avatar, s/he could actually experience martial arts personally, and get a real taste of the mental discipline it takes to be a martial artist. They’d learn that it is not just “cool,” but a real lifestyle.

I am especially turned off by nerds now, because I briefly dated one previously. He was unable to forge a friendship, because he was so consumed by games. I mean, my own entire childhood was consumed by Nintendo… I’ve spent thousands of hours playing games, believe me. But games are things for children. Nerds who continue to embrace this are just stagnant creatures. Mostly, I am sure there are exceptions.

Classical Music is Dead, etc.

As much as I want to keep classical music in my life, I simply cannot. First off, I am allergic to a vibrating violin under my jaw. The resonating of a string causes “sickness” in my mind… in that 1) I have psychotic delusions, where at the times the instrument might give me messages, and 2) I start to have physical discomfort, such as shaking, cold sweats and such. When I feel a vibrating string under my head, the left half of my brain becomes as static as white noise. A physical feeling of overwhelming sensation.

Also, I just think that classical music instruments are for some, but not most. The acoustic properties, while natural, are not what the brain craves most. We like music of today, and of recent past, because the vibrational qualities feel good to our minds and bodies. Classical instruments simply don’t feel as good as electronically amplified ones. Classical instruments are a strain to listen to. That is why people don’t care anymore.

Additionally, the nature of musicianship has changed as well. Back then, people had their musical parts to play, and the pinnacle of musicality was to play your parts all at the same time, so that the composer’s intention could then emerge. A musician was a technician, responsible for dutifully playing what was on the page, and naught more. Disagree with me all you want, but classical musicians are simply cover artists.

These days, music is different. In the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s… you have bands playing together. Each musician wrote their own part. There is improvisation, where people are feeding off each other’s energy, going with the flow, and taking the music to places unreachable by mere following of notes. Funny… I used to play music like this when in string quartets, and was infinitely frustrated when I saw idiot violinists following faithfully what was on the page, from every forte to every piano, to every staccato to every legato. And for what? To read and copy, is not an indication of understanding of WHY. I was somewhat crazy, in that I wanted to experience energetic trading during string quartets. But classical musicians are immature people, and have not adapted their playing style to the modern conventions. That is why theirs is a dying art.

Sadly, it seems that music is getting more conservative these days. Seems not so, given the raunchiness of our lyrics. But… you might notice that today’s songs are orchestrated tunes with featured singers as mere puppets of marketing and profit. Who composes these tunes? Perhaps a single person, or a handful of people. And then the instrumentalists and singer(s) simply perform these tunes faithfully. Sound familiar? Just because the years progress, doesn’t mean that we become more free, and more liberal. As much as we think we are expressing ourselves freely, it is quite the opposite. We live in socially conservative times.

I’m Happy. Don’t Rain on My Parade

Recently, I haven’t quite been feeling like my chipper, medicated self.  Instead I feel a bit draggy.  I took a week off from work to refresh and rejuvenate, but instead I’ve been helping my brother clean out our apartment.  Which has been amazing, don’t get me wrong, the house is FINALLY breathable.  But… I’m feeling worn, and regretting I didn’t enjoy myself more this vacation.

I’ve still got 2 days left… etc.

My brother told me: “Neesa, I really like when you’re like this.  Before, you’ve been too peppy and happy.  People like that piss me off.  Now you’re normal.”

I guess.  It is a nice change, to try on a different personality at times.  But when you wear it for too long, it wears you down.

Sometimes, I think this is a blessing in disguise.  My ability to morph into a different person when around others.  If you are able to modify yourself to get along with all different types of people, in a way that you truly understand how each person’s mind works, then you are truly a diplomatic, peaceful person.  Genuine connection and understanding, instead of feigning tolerance while annoyed underneath the skin.

An analogy to help illustrate this: my mother owns an adorable corgi.  He is an intelligent dog, very much so.  I notice that, 1) he is able to sniff out the “friendly people.”  I’ve walked him in Manhattan at night, and he’ll go up to a group of kids stooping on a staircase, looking all scary… and then they erupt into smiles and say he’s cute.  I like to say he fights racism.  2) He changes the way he interacts with each specific person.  Everyone loves him, and he seems to understand how to interact with different people differently.

Brilliant, isn’t it?  I like to learn a bit from him.  Being able to change myself so that I can understand others better.  On their own terms.

It’s hard though.  A friend of mine recently criticized me for not being a genuine friend, because I didn’t give her a gift for her birthday, and because I expected her to do some housework when she stayed at my house.  I explained my reasons, but they weren’t really satisfactory to her.  I eventually promised I’d write some poetry for her.  It was an uncomfortable argument, but I didn’t cower.  Surprising.

Indeed, I’ve been less afraid of confrontation these days.  Before, I used to always go with the flow, agreeing with people even when I didn’t in my heart… because not only was it “easier,” but it was the only thing I knew.  I never learned how to stand up for myself, because my father was cruel and we had to agree with him to avoid getting crapped on.  Home felt like prison, I have said before.  We had to laugh when he did, and always when he said, “I am always right,” we said “yes.”

I suppose these days, I have to have the bravery to be happy, even when people around me try to bring me down.  If we are able to fuel our own happiness, instead of relying on others around us, we are then truly independent in our own mental wellness.  As some Americans say: “Don’t tread on me.”

 

My Unmedicated Mind is Like a Brain on Acid

These days, I am discovering my poet voice once more.  I’ll sit at the computer, and type a sentence that occurs in my mind, and then another follows, and another.  The topic is undetermined when I start, but it sculpts itself as I write, and then I have a finished product that is as perfectly formed as… hamster droppings, I don’t know.  The process is painless, but perhaps this is because I am a newish writer.

It wasn’t always this way though.

I started writing poetry in February of 2011, when I was hospitalized at NYU Langone Medical Center for psychosis.  At the time, I was wrestling with thoughts that I was the reincarnation of Beethoven.  The poetry allowed for me to release so much that I kept bottled up within me.  And when I left the hospital a couple of weeks later, I lost my job and had to quit grad school.  All the work I had done to foster a career as a classroom music teacher… gone.  Wiped clean.  Back to square one.

All I had was my poetry.

I was instantly inspired to share it with whomever.  I filmed numerous micro-videos of me, reciting my poetry, and then put them on YouTube.  The words were abstract, but not in the “right” way, perhaps.  Parents of the school where I taught, friends of mine on Facebook… they saw these videos and immediately knew that I was not well.  I was overweight, my eyes had a frightening-stare quality to them, and at times I spoke in a baby voice.  One poem was about a child looking at his wee-wee in the bathtub.  While this sort of creativity was good for my soul, it embarrassed my reputation.

And yet I didn’t care.  My wellness and freedom of expression trumped all.

Fast forward to November of 2012.  This psychotic break was worse than the previous one.  Although I still thought I was Beethoven again, I also thought that I was a soulless person with the spirit of a Satanic dragon, destined to one day break open like Pandora’s box and instigate global apocalypse.  It was frightening.  A couple of days before being hospitalized, I sustained a blunt hit to my head, which then caused me to have then-permanent British accent.  During the 4-week hospitalization that followed, I walked around like a little genius, always with a pen and notebook in my hand, scrawling down poetry at every whim.

The doctors thought I was clever.  My accent, the studiousness, my sudden extroversion… they bought my act.  But that is another story.

I had the strangest methods of writing though, perhaps reflectant of my mental torture?  Or perhaps it was simple creativity.  While reading a biography of Lord Byron, I would intuitive select perhaps 5 or 8 words from a paragraph, and then write them at the top of the page.  I’d then spontaneously write a poem using these words, and deem the poem finished when all of them were used.  I suppose I could adopt this strategy again now.  But back then, it seemed VITAL.  Like it was a spiritual calling to select each word… each word spoke to me “PICK ME: I AM ETERNAL WISDOM.”

So many people complain that medications stifle creativity, and that they must be off of their medications to harness their God-given creative gift.  A birthright.  I used to think this way.  I went off my meds dangerously, cold turkey, with no supervision.  Whatever creative freedom I achieved due to this, was soon dwarfed by my incapacity to function and interact with the real world.  My mind invented its own reality, which became too distracting for me to even allow me to wield a pen.  At my very worst, I was afraid to write with a pen, period.  Because whenever I read my handwriting, I thought it was the handwriting of Satan.

Looking back, I realize that heavy medications are the answer for me.  Because when I am NOT medicated, my brain runs at a million miles a minute.  I have frightening paranoia and delusions non-stop, similar to a bad acid trip that never ends.  It is paralyzingly creative.  With the medications, it slows this stuff down and allows me to actually function in the real world.  Now, my delusions become my creative well-spring.  I am lucky to have such a “gift.”

I am thankful to my lucky stars every day for the societal stability of New York City.  If ever there was a disaster that shattered my life as I know it, and I lost access to my medications… my life would be over.  If it became an apocalyptic scenario, I’d run straight to the pharmacy and ransack all the Clozapine, Effexor and Lamictal in the place, and then send my family out to go to other pharmacies to do the same.  I am an addict, and there is no getting around it.

I remember that scene in one of the X-Men movies, where Jean Grey-turned-Dark Phoenix has a last word as Jean Grey where she tells Wolverine to kill her.  “Kill me…” she pleas.  And then he stabs his three talons into her chest, murdering the axis of evil.  Well that’s me.  Because when I am ill, I get commands, telling me to move my body here, grip that piece of metal there.  One time, I blacked out while attacking people.  Humorously, I started screaming about being an X-Man once I came to, still writhing under the grip of seven or so people.

Perhaps we, the mentally ill, are indeed X-Men.  But there is nothing glamorous about what we experience.  Whatever “powers” we may have, they are often not something harness-able.  Instead, they simply destroy us.  It might be that we need to have a Professor X to emerge to teach people how to utilize what they have, but nothing yet has been devised.  It might be that such a leader would have mental illness him/herself.

This is why the career of being a mental health peer specialist excites me.  I am at the forefront of mental health care.  And since I’ve been through a shitstorm, I really can offer compassion and support even to some of the most broken people.

That is why mental illness is so isolating.  We suffer more than society is capable of understanding.  Society cannot console us.  Why?  Too many niceties.  What is the answer?

Evolution?

Rebellion?

Or simply, education?

“Hail, poetry, thou heav’n born maid!” – Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance