The Wolf of Wall Street and The Allure of Opulence

The Wolf of Wall Street is a film I had wanted to see for quite a while and this weekend I finally got the chance. I am a lover of film so its not rare for a movie to stick with me. However, this film captivated me for days afterward. The world it created enveloped my thoughts in a strange way. I can’t say I envied the specific lives of the characters in the film or wanted to share in their particular lifestyle. My thoughts were not lost in fantasy. I was, however, completely intrigued by the downward spiral of Jordon Belfort. The struggles with greed and excess he faces are some of the same I have struggled with, although from a distant outsider’s perspective. While Belfort lived the lifestyle, I live under the illusion that such a lifestyle would answer a lot of my problems.

In contrast to this film, I recently listened to a story on NPR about scarcity thinking. Basically outlining the idea that those who live with a mind-set that they lack money, time, and resources seek out short-term solutions to their problems. This is in contrast to those who live thinking they have enough, or more than enough, and who can spare the time and money to plan for the long-term. For example, someone following scarcity thinking may duct taping their leaking pipes instead of doing the long, hard work (or having the funds to hire a professional) to fix the pipes properly. The idea is that eventually the pipe will leak through the duct tape, potentially creating a much bigger problem down the road. Whereas if the problem was nipped in the bud then the larger problem could be avoided. Scarcity thinking forces you to believe that you must sacrifice your well-being to survive.

I know that I suffer from scarcity thinking. While for all basic necessities I have my ass covered so to speak. I have somewhere to go home to, clothes on my back, decent food to eat, a steady job that provides me with health insurance, and hey, even though my car is a constant source of worry it gets me where I need to go most of the time. However, I drift into the thinking that if I just made a little more money that I would be able to afford a more spacious apartment, better clothes, healthier food, a car that I don’t feel I need to cross my fingers in order for it to start on a cold, rainy morning. I understand that I have a lot to be grateful for, but scarcity thinking makes me feel like there is so much more that money could buy.

The characters in The Wolf of Wall Street began as scarcity thinkers, leading them into their eventually doomed positions. While their scarcity thinking lead them to a life of consumeristic bacchanal only to watch it all crumble, mine leaves me imagining this world with rose colored glasses. This fantasy is perhaps even more dangerous in that those rose colored glasses does not allow me to truly see that dichotomous nature of wealth.

I can watch the characters on screen become obsessed with drugs, alcohol, sex, and general debauchery but can’t help but think I could keep a handle on reality. I could make better choices and keep a solid footing. But maybe it is our nature, in this society and culture to always want more because having more means you will be the master of your universe. If it wasn’t the money that made Belfort feel on top of the world, then he turned to cocaine. Lots and lots of cocaine. Even still, he couldn’t keep feeling like he was on top. Neither can the rest of us. The point is, you never stay on top. You will never be master of the universe. Living this life, in the mortal world, is an act in scarcity for most of us. We are not enough. We don’t have enough. This is a feeling that haunts all of us eventually.

Carrying Over a Rut

A new year, a new you. Right? Isn’t that what all the marketing is telling us? I am so very over New Year’s resolutions. The freedom from this particular pressure is a welcome relief but I can’t help but think it may also be a missed opportunity. You see, I think I may be in a bit of a rut. I made a lot of changes a few years ago that left me feeling invigorated and fresh. New job, new apartment, new friends, new hangouts, new hobbies. However, all of these changes are now my new norm and that excited, anything-can-happen feeling is lost. New has become routine and now I feel something needs to shake me up. Yes, something needs to shake me up. I’m tired of doing the shaking and I’m trying to give the universe a chance to do it. But here’s the honest truth: I don’t trust the universe. I like to think I do but I don’t. Right now I feel like I’m stuck in a muddy swamp, knee-deep in shit waiting for the sight of a shoreline or some friendly stranger in one of those boats with the fans on it to come scoop me up and take me somewhere better. My feet feel heavy.

Now I know this sounds melodramatic. I have a perfectly stable job, enough resources to get by, friends and family I love, etc. And I am very grateful for them. However, everyone of us yearns for something more every once in a while, if not ALL the time. That old “grass is always greener on the other side” couldn’t ring more true to me right now. It’s not that anything in my life in particular is dreadful, but things could definitely be better in my opinion. Yes, being happy with where you are on your journey and all that other self help talk has truth to it. However, I often think that if I’m not the one driving myself forward, usually pretty forcefully, that I will fall behind. Behind what exactly? I’m not quite sure, but I’m convinced that if I do fall behind then things will go south fast.

I know intellectually that newness always wears off. Nothing stays sparkly forever. Deterioration is natural for nature, for relationships, for people. Change is something I’ve never been too fond of. Over the past few years I have grown warm to it and even welcomed its uneasiness in my stomach along with the butterflies of excitement. This is what I’m craving now and I’m wondering where it should come from. Is it changing apartments, moving to a new city, getting a different job, a new relationship, a new adventure? I’m not sure. Like I said, I’m trying to let the universe unfold it for me and take some of the pressure off. I have learned that things that are forced are not always best. You give off that ever so putrid stench of desperation. Everyone and everything can smell it.

I’m making an effort to relax into this feeling. While I continue to plan for the future, I am allowing myself to enjoy this part of the journey. The time before the next big change. I can feel that something is coming and I’m excited to know what it is.

On Creation and Inspiration

A strange thought came to me while perusing Pinterest. Scrolling through post after post of creations from crafts to photographs to desserts, it struck me. It has been quite some time since I have had the inspiration and motivation to create. I can easily recall a time in my life when this was not the case.

As a kid I was always in the midst of some scheme I had concocted, in the throws of a project I was trying to figure out, or ruminating on how to make something, anything. When this drive went missing I’m not exactly sure. Maybe it was swallowed by other commitments that seemed more important at the time. Homework, research, second guessing, a new social life, the distractions of ever encroaching technology, a slow development of apathy that began as a teenager could all be culprits.

Sure I have created things since childhood, but that excitement and joy at the beginning stages of creation seems all but lost. My creations seem more out of a sense of duty, lacking any true inspiration, the desire and love that comes with fulfilling that image in your head. These images in my head would plague me when I was young. Creating art was a place where my stubborn personality was an asset, rather than a frustration for everyone around me. I would fixate on an image in my mind and feel utterly consumed with making the vision materialize. I would become frustrated, angry, and upset when this image wasn’t exactly as I envisioned. I had little patience with myself either. Parts of this frustration resurface when I draw to this day. However, it has morphed and become layered.

Now the problem isn’t only that my creation is not measuring up to the image I have in my mind, but that there is no image to critique it against. There is a complete lack of visualization. To write this down is suddenly scary. Where did all those visualizations go? Are they still there but perhaps more complex than I once imagined? The visuals may not be as simple as they were when I was young. Instead of visualizing some cute little animal as a detailed but static image (as I vividly remember doing while sitting in the bathtub as a child), now I think of ideas: desire, experience, perception, misunderstandings, friendship, relationship, peace, comfort, belonging. These abstractions are no longer easily depicted. Maybe that comes with the development of your mind.

How do I get back that spark of creativity when the images don’t present themselves to me anymore? I wonder if they are really gone forever and that spark and excitement of creation is lost once one crosses the threshold into adolescence. Perhaps that innocent but driving creative force becomes muted. I hope this is not the case entirely because it sure would be nice to experience it again. The feeling of being lost for hours on end in creation is not forgotten, but like being lead around with a blindfold on I’m not sure how to get back to where it began.

Do you still have that spark of creation? Where do you think it comes from?

On vulnerability

In reaction to this very powerful TED talk I watched just today, here are my most recent, and personally vulnerable thoughts on vulnerability:

There are things in my life which I thought would be in place right now. I thought I would be different. But I’m not. I thought there was a certain way I should be. But I’m not. There is a part of me that does not feel worthy of any of this life. Part of me also thinks I deserve better. That part of me wants to be better to deserve happiness and love and any of the good in life. As I am right now maybe I don’t feel like I deserve any of it. That it is all out of my reach. That as I am I am not worthy. I didn’t think it was true until I wrote it. I don’t think I am worthy of the good in life at the state I am now. I am fundamentally messed up in some way. That is what I have thought my entire life. Something in me is different. Sometimes it is fun to think I am utterly unique and separate. Really, it just makes me feel lonely and ostracized. I have always felt that something about me just didn’t fit. I never fully belong. I tried and still try to force myself to. To be someone that everyone else likes. To say the right things at the right time. To drink, to smoke, to laugh, to make fun of, to do things I know are wrong, to make other people comfortable at the expense of myself. All in an effort for approval. How childish! How immature! How do I move past this? Where do I get the courage to be myself? I thought I didn’t know who I was, but that’s not true. I think I know exactly who I am underneath all of this. I think I’ve known this entire time, but I didn’t think she was good enough. She wasn’t cool enough. She was lame. She was pathetic. She was VULNERABLE. Sure, I have developed and changed over the years, but she was always in there. Always uncomfortable when things were getting weird. She knows. She knows that things aren’t right. She tries to warn me. She tries to tell me what is right. I push her down, tell her she is a prude. She cares too much. She is a weirdo and no one will ever like her if she keeps acting that way. She isn’t scared. The real me isn’t scared. This thing I have created is scared to let her shine. This “me” I’ve tried to create is blocking her. She is imprisoned under this weird personality I have concocted. When I thought I was getting to know myself I was just testing different ways to stifle her. I was just testing out every tool I could to make her shut up. She is patient. She never left me. She is still underneath all of it. I’m still scared to let her out. I still don’t think I believe she is cool enough, or fun enough, or acceptable. She’s too serious. She thinks too much. There is a darkness and sadness to her. There is hurt there. There is VULNERABILITY to her. I do know she is beautiful. I’ve covered her up. This is the ugliness I see in myself. It seems so clear now. These layers I’ve created to mask her beauty. To hide her soft spots. God, can I wipe the layers away? Chip at them? She has been hiding for too long. She deserves a chance to shine.

Some thoughts swirling around my head lately…

Do you ever feel like there must have been somewhere in your life where you went wrong? There has to be some reason why you ended up this way. In this way you didn’t think and didn’t want your life to become. When did you decide that it was all right to go down this path? There was some point along the way when the fear and the terror and the pain and the heartache was too much and you decided that to shirk away was the easiest, the only comfortable, the only reasonable solution at the time. There was no strength in you to do anything different. There were other options out there, sure. The thing is, they didn’t seem like options at the time. All you could see was there was comfort in running away, in hiding. It was the only way you thought you could survive, the only way if you were going to go on living. The other option was death. Death of yourself. Death of the you that you know. Death of that part of you that you see when you look in the mirror, the part you recognize. Then you decide that the you that is looking back at you isn’t the person you ever wanted to be. You let yourself make decisions that you never thought you would make in a million years. You let yourself get away with things you wouldn’t have imagined in your wildest childhood fantasies. Some of these things are miraculous, most of them mundane and not so remarkable. Or are they? Is making it this far the real remarkable feat? Even if you did hide away, are you brave enough to realize it? You want to live your life. The life you imagined. You’ve dug yourself into this hole and it feels like so many years have gone by and you haven’t even noticed. What have you to show for them? Have you really changed at all? A great measure is needed to live your life, to be able to move forward anymore. A tidal shift has to occur. But you are afraid if you are ready for it. You didn’t seem to be ready for it before. What makes now any different? How many times have you tried? The many times you called it trying and gave a half-assed effort at making things different. Anything different. Always failing but not in any real way because you never stuck yourself out there. You never became fully vulnerable. You never stuck your neck out far enough where you couldn’t jerk it back in a second’s notice. Sure, there is bravery in that. But those are only the first steps. It is time to put it all on the line. Time to stick your neck out and let it get chopped off if it’s going to. Stop jerking back. Getting your head cut off is the worst that could happen. What would be left? Would you be any more damaged than you have made yourself? Stop fearing the death of yourself. Stop thinking that it will be your demise. It has to be your death, but it will also be your rebirth.

Week Eight.

Photo Eight.

Observations: If you knew me as a kid, a tween, a teen, or if you know me now you have probably hear me talk about wanting to move to New York City. For as long as I can remember that has been my dream. I am not quite sure what sparked this. Surely all the movies I watched growing up feeding me the romantic idea of the city of lights had something to do with this notion. As I grew up I also heard not so glimmering tales of my city of dreams. My father was one major purveyor of filthy and crime-ridden ideas gleaned from a 1970s venture to New York. However, the grime and crime only served to enrich my vision of what I had always considered the city at the center of the world. What good was a city that was beautiful and clean and safe? I want danger, and adventure, and sex and drugs. My New York could only be as good as it is with the bad simmering right underneath. Twenty-three years later I finally made it to the center of the world. As soon as I set foot onto the trash curbed sidewalks, saw a real NY rat, gazed up at the towering skyscrapers, slyly observed the black-clad umbrella-wielding pedestrians and yellow taxi cabs I felt alive. Everything in me screamed this is where I have always belonged. I wanted to stay. Everyday that went by I could only think about how soon I had to leave and how much more of this alive feeling I could suck out of the day. Yes there were shitty parts. I did get stuck in a subway. It was gloomy and rainy. My feet did feel like a thousand needles were stabbing them when I finally feel into a restless sleep each night. Even still, I couldn’t help but love every single thing about it.

Week Seven.

Photo Seven.

Observations: To state the obvious, I slacked off on my duties last week. I know, I know. But as they say, back on the horse again right?

This weekend my friend came to visit from Athens. This was the first time she had seen my new place and I took it as an opportunity to take her around the city and explore my new neighborhood a little bit myself. The entire weekend was packed with discovering new places to eat and drink all around the city. Everyday we tried somewhere new. The itinerary included Dark Horse Tavern, West Egg Cafe, American Roadhouse, the Corner Tavern in West Midtown and Panita. This is a pic from West Egg where I got the Elvis French toast which features 3 inch slices of French toast sandwiching the ungodly combination of  peanut butter, banana slices, and bacon.

As far as drinks go, we decided to take our first venture to Dark Horse Tavern on Friday night. Those of you who know me, know that I am much more at home in a gay bar than I am at at straight one. There is a very different bar etiquette that I haven’t mastered yet. After an hour and a half of quietly sipping Malibu and diets on what was becoming an exceedingly crowded porch, I had lost any hope that the night was going anywhere. With much resignation I headed to the bar to close my tab and accept my failed attempt at showing my friend a good time. As I was shamelessly staring down the bar tender in hopes of catching his attention, a group of friends beside me struck up some conversation. Now I don’t consider myself a “bar person” in that I don’t usually talk to people that I haven’t come with or know somehow already. For some reason though, I felt particularly fed up with being bored that night. In fact, these friends actually turned out to be really cool people. The night turned out to be a lot of fun despite its rocky (read: boring) start.

I am a pretty firm believer that if you put yourself into situations with even the slightest openness to whatever could come your way that the world will respond in like. I have realized lately how long I have lived shut off, not allowing anything unexpected or different to happen in my life. As a result, I missed out on a lot of experiences that could have been really amazing or hell, could have been really terrible. Either way, I am tired of the predictable and expected. I’m ready for adventure and I’m going to try to open myself up to it in every way I know how.