Category Archives: Byron Katie

A Mother’s Day Letter

Dear Mom,

We both know what today is; it is May 12, 2003…

I am in the “treacherous stairway” at the Tricou House at 711 Bourbon St. I am carrying a large black plastic bag of wasted food, left over and careless tourist nibbles poshly pushed off their plates to say, “oh, no, no, this Andouille sausage simply will not suffice, it is just too spicy.”

Twenty-four hours into the past I am on the phone with you, your voice is dragging the way too much alcohol, too many narcotics, too many anxiolytics, too many all at once taking control from a tongue and mechanically touching random ridges, bumbling over bilabials, stumbling a cough and glottal stop…

“Mom?

(I can hear breathing, shallow, breathing like seeing the leaves or gnats pirouette on the sidewalk and hearing nothing, hearing no thing, breathing like a wind vain, breathing like a hemispherical cup anemometer spinning only when I look away and it’s only a squeal, a squeak off in the periphery.)

Tomorrow I am working, I won’t have time to call, I’m sorry, I want to wish you a happy mother’s day, how are you?”

(I’m praying for the first time in 12 years.)

“Fine, I’m, somewhere and doing- ok.”

(I can hear your deep breathing, your dry mouth and too much saliva collecting around your tonsils. I can hear your eyelids like a diver splashlessly clearing water. I can hear your lips turn down, I can hear your mouth unable to open wide, lips like waiting over petals, lips like turning the page in a book that I’m not sure I will keep enjoying)

“You don’t sound very well.”

(You sound like you are dying, you sound like a voice I will never hear again. You sound like I am now lost–losing you.)

“I think I took the wrong. Something pills that shouldn’t mix. The Dr. said I’m fine, I love you.”

(“I love you.” The words come out hollow in a Milton form of vacant chaos… There is nothing I can say to convey how much I need you.)

“Happy mother’s day, if I find time- can I call you tomorrow?”

(It is already 24 hours into the future, I know this is our last conversation.)

“Yes. Tomorrow. Thank you, I love you. Don’t forget.”

It is 24 hours into the future, 5:15pm, May 13th, 2003. I am in the “treacherous stairway” at the Tricou House at 711 Bourbon St. where a woman, Penelope, is said to have lost her footing decades ago and fell to her death, I am carrying a large black plastic bag of wasted left overs, careless tourists nibble poshly at pushed off plates to say, “oh, no, no, Oysters Evangeline simply will not suffice, how is this even palatable to these southerners?

I can feel my mobile vibrate in my right pocket, there isn’t anything I can do. It vibrates again, 5 more times. A voicemail is left. I’m pouring water down the cobble stone hallway flushing vomit into the gutters of Bourbon St. Errol, the porter, hands, under table, to me a shot of Glenlivet and with index finger to lips he exhales with a tongue pressed against his alveolar ridge, “shhh.”

My throat and belly is burning.

My phone is vibrating again.

“Hello? Dad, what’s up?”

(It is 3 minutes into the future- I can’t even breathe to speak)

“Are you busy? You sound like you are at work?”

(It is 2 minutes into the future- my boss is just telling me, “go, you’re covered, whatever this is, go home, you’re fine.”)

“Yes, but I have a break, what’s up?”

(It is 1 minute into the future– I am nearly asphyxiating.)

“Sit down, light a cigarette, if you can- light two.”

My father is on the other end of my mobile in broken words, no sentences that I can understand, “your mother,” a ringing presents itself in my ears, temporary tinnitus, “it appears to be suicide, she hanged herself” (I didn’t call her), “are you ok?” (I didn’t call her, I said I would), “I will call Molly, Jason? Are you there? Don’t go anywhere, I’ll have Molly come get you. Just stay where you are.”

It is 5:25pm, May 13th, 2003. I am at the corner of Orleans St. and Bourbon St. watching a kaleidoscopic of vomit and tears pool into fractals between my feet. A man is approaching me he says, “can’t be that bad, and this, this you can not do here.”

“My mother,” I can barely gasp, “suicide, mother’s day, I didn’t call her.”

It is 5:30pm, May 13th, 2003. A man is taking his hand off the shoulder of a crying boy, he is walking backwards and trips over the curb. Speechlessly he mutters something rhyming with compassion.

Through a haze of a chiaroscuro, almost sfumato, blur of tears, white hyperventilation stars dance in my vision and color, for the first time in my colorblind life, is all I can make sense of…

Neon, cardinal, agate quartz, Ares red.

Vitreous humor, bone, teeth, lightning white.

Acorn, hawk, bear, haire, duck brown.

What I am is a fragment of jumping leaping skipping falling and flashforwards, flashbacks, flashups and downs and flashsideways. (I didn’t call you.)

I am in the passenger side of my 1987 Chevrolet Cheyenne like leaves carried from corner to building, to hawk eyes, and birds, to lakes, and rivers, to corner by your death breath rattle.

I am bones strung together by too thin wire in an opaque translucent skin sack centripetally, centrifugally, moving like a marionette guided by a motion puppeteer and vacant.

You are not gone, you cannot be.

“It’s a suicide, she hanged herself.”

It is 7 years into the future. I am on my road bicycle leaving my North Side apartment to go to work. The route I take is from the North Side up California and down Allegheny Ave. When I hit the tail end of the hill on California ave. I am, always, all ways, experiencing the exercise high that people talk about. I do this 7 miles to work and then 7 home.

I am at the peak of California’s hill and my mind is nothing but an LHC of thoughts I couldn’t even begin to describe. The distances between all neurons are collapsing from minute distances to–no longer measurable. The bike is the road is the path is the commute to work is the responsibility of a job is the reason I have a job is the reason I live in Pittsburgh is the voice…

That shouts from within to ask me, “why?”

“Why did you leave New Orleans 7 years ago anyway?”

(I can only imagine what the residence on Lincoln ave felt when they saw a solitary cyclist maudlin and weeping over his handle bars.)

“Because… It should have changed.”

I am convincing myself that moving back to Pittsburgh, staying in Pittsburgh then somehow, someway, somewhen– you’re suicide did not happen and if it did, I can reverse it.

It’s 5 minutes into the future and my truck bed is full of everything I own. It’s 30 seconds into the future and I am driving down Route 376 to catch a connecting road to take me to New Orleans again.

And In the French Quarter I see your face
in ever middle aged women in passing.
My face turns down, embarrassed, you
take a picture of me while blushing,
I tell you to “stop, put that thing away,
you look like a tourist, turn it off.”
In the backs of women shorter than my
slouched shoulders – I see you. Black hair,
curls, walking away from everywhere I am.
I want to grab them, embrace them all,
saying “stop, no, wait, let’s go home now,
there is the market we must stop at first.”
You wave a hand waving away my face
telling me “it’s just a picture, I want some
thing to remember you by, this town is
the oldest form of beauty, there is a gallery
I want to see, I’ll be back in a minute.”
At my desk I sit with cigarettes, myriad
cloves driven into an orange, Nag Champa,
like a scent mobile, a swamp in the air,
a typewriter, Abita beers, my cell phone.
At night it stays on, plugged in, waiting
for you to call saying, “I’m sorry, got lost,
which street do I turn from if I’m on
Chartres? Are you busy? I found this
wall, the hurricane must’ve damaged
it. I took pictures, it has a wonderful
scene in it. The rocks, displaced, are
children playing red rover. Or maybe
it’s a willow tree. No, now that I look
harder – these rocks, it’s two lovers
but the man is kissing himself, she’s
not really here. He’s pretending. Well,
I’ll back soon, I love you, don’t wait up,
make sure there is still some whiskey
left over so I don’t have to run to
the store at 4 am. Goodnight. I love you”
With the sun and hooves clopping upon
Decatur St. each morning my eyes adjust.
Sleep rubbed from the corners of my face.
2 more years blink with my open balcony shutters,
since your death, since we last spoke.
I keep wondering when you’ll be
back. Still and calming words. Telling me
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know how much you
needed me. I didn’t think this would hurt
you this bad. I just needed a break. This
was just a joke. Some paperwork got
mixed up. I’ve been on vacation. Can you
forgive me? How have you been? Are
you teaching yet? Are you in love?
Can I hear some of your most recent
poems? Do you still look away every time
someone makes you smile?”

John is now convincing I am convincing myself that there, really, is nothing more besides grief and mourning that I can approach this. John and Blake are convincing I am convincing myself that people exist in our minds and hearts. That we project who we believe who people are onto them, onto things they left behind, onto ourselves. You’re dead and no one can change that. It has been 7 years since this happened and I am now stepping slowly out of denial’s fire escape.

It is 2 years into the future and I sit on my flat garden roof at midnight on mother’s day. The anniversary of your death–mother’s day.

I couldn’t ever hate you, I couldn’t ever stop crying, I can’t ever stop mourning the loss of our future together.

The thing is– I do carry you within me, I carry your heartache, your bipolar, your depression, your suicidal ideation. But I carry something more; I carry what you left between the lines, what dad came to be. I carry your heartache in the pocket next to my notebook, I carry your bipolar, your depression, your, “danger nights,” next to my phone with Emily, Kitty, Blake, John and my father on speed dial. I carry your suicidal ideations on my back, like a mule, away from razors, away from drugs, away from guns, away from alcohol.

I carry my mourning into the evening tonight hearing you whisper that, “this year will be better than the last,” because– it always is. I am tumbling, like an echo, far away from the pain of feeling I could have saved you. I am mossless and tumbling away from–could have, should have. You are gone, you are missed, you are loved and you are right… I can get better at being me even if it means tackling our genes.

I love you more than the day I opened my arms, slap footed and screaming bloody on your chest. I love you more than every ocean visit we took.

Happy Mother’s Day…

PS. If you were here… You would know…

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I can’t keep things nice… Is that true? (A Byron Katie Worksheet.)

(Current mood setting… Vetiver incense… Thank you Molly Sorice… And Aphex Twin ambience… Thank you Skot Jones.)

Yesterday, I sold my car…

Image

And while my car was–just another thing, an object that I wish to detach myself from, an object I wish to remove associative pronouns from, e.g. instead, The CarThe Cadillac, ridding myself from my attachment to it– it is very difficult.

The Car
The Caddy

I was left with a feeling of sheer upset, a nagging sense that something else was wrong. What was it? Why was I feeling so horrible about this? I know that I no longer want a car. I know that I would much prefer the bus and have already purchased my April pass so that I may travel freely about town as I wish without having to pay more than a car would cost and, to boot,– I would be doing my part in environmental care.

So why the empty feeling?

Let me back up…

Why do I even have to sell the car?

Two years ago, during the, “2010 Pittsburgh Snowmageddon,” I had the thought in my mind that, “it’d be fun to see how the Caddy handles in the snow,” and decided to travel from Bellevue to Shadyside to Bellevue. Which, in total, is roughly 18 miles of driving.

I had made it to Shadyside without issue. I even made it back to Bellevue, within blocks of my apartment, without issue. And then it happened…

Damned warning signs...

I couldn’t have, possibly, been going more than 10 MPH at most. But when I hit that bridge, I may as well have been doing 80.  The Caddy did the old, “Kansas City Shuffle,” and the rear end went right while the front went left. A complete 100 degree fishtail into the wall of the bridge in the passenger lane.

(I’m still thankful there were no other cars on the road at the time.)

The front of the Caddy was almost completely destroyed…

"The frame damage alone," they'd said, "is going to cost you more than you paid for this car..."

I know– it doesn’t look like much. But we’re talking about a 1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham D’ Elegance and I swear, searching for replacement parts for this car, you’d think they only made 10 of them, and only 5 were still good and I had 1 of them while the other 4 were in Florida.

I knew that I was without option at this point– the Caddy needed to be sold– I couldn’t afford what was needed to pass inspection.

I posted a sentimental add on Craigslist.com asking the potential buyer to, “take care of her.” And I did, actually, pass up a few offers because it sounded as if the person had minimal, to no, intention of maintaining the integrity of the vehicle.

Finally I found someone who was not only a mechanic but also someone who knew Caddies fairly well. I could hear the excitement in his voice, “oh, I can fix that, yeah, I got the tools at home, can’t wait- I want that car, seriously, I’ll be by in two days to give you cash in hand for it.

And so he did just that, and my Stela (her moniker for how incredible she was– you see, Stela, with only one L, is an anagram for Tesla while simultaneously something I can scream at a woman who no longer desires my street car…)

So I went, cash in hand, to the bank, made a deposit and said goodbye to Stela.

I walked into my house with Kitty and fell sullen, depressed and in danger mode. Train wreck mode. Soon, I knew, a depressive episode would come upon me– I could feel it.

I put on a, relatively, terrible movie and decided to, “veg out,” alone with my favorite wine

And then I heard it… Mr. Ego… Mr. Hidden Within…

“You really… Just can’t keep anything nice can you?”

God, shut up, shut up. Not now, I don’t want this now, I can’t… Not now… Not after I just sold the best car I’ve ever had… Not after I ruined my car…”

“Look around you… Look at the black scuff marks on your ceiling… Look at your iPhone- it’s cracked… Look at your body for christ’s sake- it’s a piece of shit and everything is broken on it.”

I can’t take this, not now, not while I’m still mourning the loss of my car and mourning the loss of the future with her.

“Remember when you were a kid? What, 8 years old? Dad let you wear his letter jacket from high school and you jumped a fence– snagging its pocket and tearing it?”

“…”

“How about your motorcycle? You left it parked in the street until it rusted…”

“…”

“Your last computer… The Dell… How did you try and fix the fan on it? By pulling the blades off of it with your leatherman? Which you also, somehow broke. Ha. You can’t keep anything nice can you? I mean- nothing! Look at the hole in the wood paneling in your living room! Look at the state of your body! You’re on an electric stim machine now! You’re body’s a lemon just like you made that car into.”

“…”

“Everyone of your ex-girlfriends hate you too, don’t forget about those lives you fucked up. Your dad hates you, your sister hates you, your friends just pity you…”

“Enough!”

“…”

There is a multitude of ways to derail a train…

And when we feel a depressive episode coming on– there are means to getting ahead of your train and laying down trees, cars, cows, boulders or anything in its path to derail it.

One of my preferred methods of derailing my trains is, as I’ve mentioned before, The Work of Byron Katie

Bryon Katie... My Mrs. Hudson.

So… I set out to do, “The Work,” and see what I could learn from this experience. And this post is the process of me going through a worksheet in the moment and not from a copy that I did.

“Don’t do this, you won’t get anywhere with this, this is not going to work and you are going to keep ruining things.”

Use your perceived enemy, to defeat your real enemy.” – Guy Ritchie.

  • I ruin everything that I own, and everyone that I know.

1.) Is that true?

  • As I look around my apartment, I can see a multitude of things that are not only intact but also in very good condition. My Semi-Recumbent bike is something that I’ve been using for a long time and it’s still in perfect working condition–and it’s helped me repair my body. The lamp that I bought from the antique mall down the road is still beautiful and illuminating my living room as I type this- it’s in great shape. My 1950’s radio, my yoga matt, my printing press from 1890, my framed portraits of Billie Holiday– all intact and in great shape. And Kitty loves me, my dad loves me, my friends, I know, love me– and I can’t ruin them, they are all far too strong for me to do that.
  • So… No, this can’t possibly be true.
2.) How do you react when this happens? When you’re internal voice, your ego begins to bully you? What do you do? What do you reach for? How do you stop it?
  • I tend to listen to it and have a drink, or two, or ten. And then I find myself wanting to be alone. I enter into what I call an, “Episode,” what some friends have known to be called a, “Train Episode,” or a, “Danger Night.” I become lethargic, I berate myself, I call myself names, I ask people to leave, to leave me alone, to wait for me to call them. I’m prescribed pain-killers for my spinal condition and when I’m having an, “Episode,” I will sometimes take more than the recommended dose. I try to reach out to people (e.g. dad, Emily, John) but then feel that I don’t deserve their support and I don’t respond to their responses. Etc.

3.) Who would you be without that thought? Without the thought that, “you ruin everything that you own, and everyone you know?” If everything you own and everyone you know were standing in front of you and you couldn’t possibly think this thought– who would you be? What would you think? Who would they be?

  • All of my things would not be my things. They would simply be objects that, well since I can’t take them with me when I die, they would be things that only… exist and that I utilize for the time that I am lucky enough to utilize them. They would all be things that I am lucky enough to be able to spend time using until someone else takes possession of them. They would be objects without ownership. All of these things would just be things, and not my things. I would be altruistic with these things and allow people to use them as they please, I would be helpful to those in need by lending them to people. I wouldn’t believe that things get ruined; because they can either be fixed or modified or turned into art. As for the people who stand before me– I would feel nothing but love towards them, I would trust that they know that my 30 year old story has caused some difficulty in relationships, I would trust them, I would believe in their strength, I would know that regardless of how I treat myself or how I believe I hurt them– they’ll stick with me. I would look at my loved ones, my friends, my companions and I would tell them, “I will always, all ways, do my best by you.”
  • And thus I realize, which is the, I believe, central point of The Work, that it is the thought, the ego, the inner voice, that is causing all the trouble and not the perceived “ruined” objects and people.

4.) Now turn it around, the thought itself… Negate it… And provide examples of why these are more true than the original statement.

  • I don’t ruin everything I own, nor do I ruin everyone I know.
  1. I look at the art on my walls, the art that I have created and I see beauty. These are things that I have not only created but also continue to maintain the integrity of.
  2. My car being sold has required me to tune-up my bike… My bike! I’ve had my bicycle for years! I have kept it in great shape and put at least a thousand miles on it! And I keep it tuned up and oiled. I’ve never allowed it to be broken.
  3. My Rollerblade Twister Pro series– I’ve been using these since college! I’ve kept the wheels greased, I’ve rotated the wheels every 6 months of use. They are still in great shape and I’ve had them for 5 years.
  4. The chair I am sitting on is getting old, very old, and I have fixed it 3 times to where it is consistently useable.
  5. My drill bits are all in their right place.
  6. The desk that I type at was given to me by John Lambert; it was his mother, Donna’s, and after she passed away I inherited it. I loved her more than a blog could express and I keep it, the desk, in great shape. In the front of it I engraved, perfectly centered, the apt word, “Adytum,” and it looks wonderful and describes the desk perfectly. I’ve even modified this desk and added shelves to it and hanging mechanisms for necessary tools and the desk, while cluttered, is as strong as Donna was.
  7. I think of my friend Emily (The Statler to my Waldorf)… Who once said to me, “being friends with you– I knew I was signing up for a team with someone who had problems that I never had– it didn’t stop me from being your friend then, it’s not going to stop me now.
  8. I think of my dad, who would, at the flash of a New Orleans storm, jump in his car to be with me when I am in crisis mode.
  9. I think of Kitty and all her affection each time I’m in a, “Train Episode.” The epitome of compassion… In a scientist no less.
  10. I think of Blake… My brother-in-arms… And how he’d burn red lights and tire treads to be at my side.
  11. I think of Diane, Tiffany, Amy, Jerry, Aunt Wanda and all of my loved ones who have time and again sat with me while I cried and broke down over something affecting me in a anguishing manner.
  12. I think of Skot Jones, the newest of my friends, who has always, each time I called– listened to me or demanded we have drinks and discuss. I think of all the simple things he says that stick with me, “Do easy my friend,” “You have to be the barrier.”
  13. I think of John Lambert and the 11 years he has spent mentoring me and know, that if it weren’t for him, I would be lucky to be alive. (Thank you John).
  14. And I think of how this list, for this turn around, can reach into the hundreds… So I move on to the next.

4… Continued…) Can you think of another way to turn this around? To the self? To the other? If there is an other?

  • Things can’t be ruined, people can’t be ruined.
  1. I’m immediately drawn to cite the Conservation Laws of Physics which states that, “no energy can be created or destroyed, it can only become something else.” For reasons that would take a whole other post, I have a tendency to not believe in reincarnation, but imagine the idea of the reincarnation of objects. A typewriter is destroyed or becomes useless over the years and is taken apart and sculpted from. Calcined clays, calcium carbinate, pryogenic silicas, talc, vinyl, oils, aliphatics, various stabilizers and emulsifiers are all “ruined,” or “destroyed,” to make paint which an artist uses to create something stunning. My car is gone and it has gone to a mechanic who respects Cadillacs and plans on repairing it to a condition that I could not afford to do… My time with Stela is done and she has a new life to attend to.
  2. In October I am eligible for an upgrade on my phone and will be able to afford a new one.
  3. People who have been, “hurt,” by me have, I hope, grown from the experience.
  4. People can not be ruined, they can grow, learn, succeed, thrive. Even if and when they grow heart broken– it’s as Leonard Cohen sang, “There is a crack, a crack in everything– and that’s how the light get’s in.”
  5. I can’t ruin other people– no one has control over my emotions and actions besides me and this goes for everyone, I simply do not posses this power. If I did– we’d all find beauty everywhere…
  6. Even in death people can’t be ruined. I think back to Robert M. Pirsig‘s “afterward” in his book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” where he, regarding the tragic death of his son, states–

“[…]Now Chris’s body, which was a part of that larger pattern, was gone. But the larger pattern remained. A huge hole had been torn out of the center of it, and that was what caused all the heartache. The pattern was looking for something to attach to and couldn’t find anything. That’s probably why grieving people feel such attachment to cemetery headstones and any material property or representation of the deceased. The pattern is trying to hang on to its own existence by finding some new material thing to center itself upon.Some time later it became clearer that these thoughts were something very close to statements found in many “primitive” cultures. If you take that part of the pattern that is not the flesh and bones of Chris and call it the “spirit” of Chris or the “ghost” of Chris, then you can say without further translation that the spirit or ghost of Chris is looking for a new body to enter. When we hear accounts of  “primitives” talking this way, we dismiss them as superstition because we interpret ghost or spirit as some sort of material ectoplasm, when in fact they may not mean any such thing at all.[…]”

And now? What is the point? What is the outcome? As with each time I complete a worksheet of Byron Katie’s I find myself feeling uplifted. Some say that the idea is a form of, “Circle Logic,” that life requires suffering (which is something I sincerely disagree with).

What I know is that after I complete Byron Katie’s methodology- I feel relieved- I feel the proverbial bricks fallen from my shoulders.

I often do these worksheets in private but wish, due to this being a mental health blog, to emotionally expose myself and do them here from here on forth to share with, and show, others what sort of self-improvement and discovery may come from it.

It does, however, go without saying that those worksheets involving identifiable people will either have one of two things happen; the worksheet will remain in my private handwritten journal or, upon their approval, names will be changed and the worksheet will be done as a blog.

Moreover, I do plan on experimenting with other forms of methodologies devised by those self-help authors, psychologists and others that I respect (See also: Brené Brown, Melody Beattie, Paul Tillich, Seth/Jane Roberts, Bashar/Darryl Anka) and openly posting the results on this blog.

And soon, I will say the next post, I will continue with either the story of my mother or how I had the magnificent opportunity to teach a group LCSI the other day while being given the chance to incorporate my research on ASL facial grammar and the problem it causes due to mirror neurons and microexpressions.

Until next time…