Good Damage

This past Friday, the final episodes of BoJack Horseman were released onto Netflix. It’s a cartoon about talking animals and their lives in a fictional Hollywood/Hollywoo/Hollywoob, California. It’s also one of the most intensely perfect shows ever written, with a unique ability to tackle heavy subjects like depression, anxiety, addiction, sociopolitical issues, and death.

I was resistant to BoJack when it first started airing. A cartoon about a talking horse? Even if it was never intended as a kid’s cartoon, it felt like something that I just wouldn’t “get”. When the fourth season came out, a friend of mine on Twitter was live-tweeting the show. And he was expressing how serious the show was and how hard it was hitting him. And, because I am the way that I am, I wanted to check it out and did.

I was instantly hooked. The characters are deep, complex and the writing is rich. It’s one of the most well-written shows I’ve ever seen, striking the perfect balance between hilarious and heartbreaking. I literally found myself laughing through tears at points.

For six seasons, BoJack has told the story of its main characters, mostly animals, and their struggle through life. There are a handful of main characters, all with their own positives, negatives, and pitfalls. And while the show is one of a kind, there are some patterns and tropes that exist as well.

Each season, for the first four seasons, was mostly fun and light. Then, they would drop a hammer on you in episode eleven and have a fallout in the twelfth episode. That was the way the story was told. But in season four, the eleventh episode, Time’s Arrow, depicts BoJack’s mother’s dementia. It is a tragic image of the possibility of how life could be experienced by a person with the disease. It also could have been the signal for a shift in the show.

Season five starts off similar to the last but starting with episode five, it’s gut-punch after groin shot, every episode landing its blow (or sometimes several). And from that point on, it never really lets up. Maybe my memory is fuzzy, but I don’t recall a truly lighthearted episode from that point on from start to finish, including season six.

And that’s the thing about BoJack: even if you’ve never experienced the heavy things that they explore, you somehow can’t stand and also feel empathy for almost every character, sometimes at the same time. It’s part of why the writing is so brilliant. They can take characters who do absolutely despicable things, like encouraging a sober addict to go on one last bender and make you feel sorry for them.

However, it’s not just the writing that makes me love this show. It’s also helped me confront a lot of my own traumas and, honestly, learn how NOT to handle them. The stories are so wrought with mistakes and there are so many times where you can see a character headed back down a path that you know will end poorly. And holding that mirror up and asking yourself “Right, so is that the path you’re going to go down too?” is an honest moment with myself that I needed.

As I sit here, having just finished the season, I think back to those moments. The moments where I related to the alcoholic horse. Or the moments where I related to his depressed best friend, Diane. Other characters had their moments too, but those two, I waffled between relating to the most. I’m ultimately more similar to Diane: a stubborn, self-righteous writer who can’t get out of their own way and struggles mightily with self-confidence. But I also relate to BoJack’s struggle with self-control, his false bravado and his knack for making things worse when they start to go a little bit bad. At least, that’s what my mind does.

It’s really that relationship that drives the show, BoJack, and Diane. They recognize the brokenness in each other and, rather than try to fix it, or even make it better, they accept it. They push each other away; they comfort when they know the other is the only one who won’t judge. Diane is even the one who eventually takes BoJack to rehab, at his request.

BoJack and Diane have, in my eyes, a perfect relationship. Maybe not perfect, actually, but symbiotic. While they are never romantic, there are moments of tension. But it’s because they call each other on their shit, that they are in unison. A perfect example is the ending to episode 11, season 1. BoJack goes to a Q&A for Diane’s biography that she wrote about him. There is an extended dialogue, but this is the main part. BoJack asks:

Season 1

And, because the writers are better than I will ever be, she does not oblige. She stammers and finally rests in silence, knowing it would be a lie for her to say it. And there’s a beauty to being so close with someone, that you can’t lie to them, even when it’s the only thing they’re asking you to do.

There are a series of other quotes through the show that ties every season to the others. These canaries in the coalmine light the way for the audience to connect these threads over the course of six years. For Diane, it’s about processing the trauma she has experienced in her life.

Season 3

And from season 6:

“If I don’t write my book of essays now, I never will. I have to! If I don’t, that means all the damage I got isn’t good damage, it’s just damage.”

Similarly, BoJack is focused on his own trauma as well, but he is manifested in a different way: in feelings of loneliness and wanting to feel “good”.

Season 1

And from season 6:

“No matter how many (fresh) starts I get, there’s always the same ending. Everything falls apart and I end up alone.”

I share these quotes not to scare anyone unfamiliar with the series off. In actuality, I believe those to perfectly depict the brilliant storytelling of the show. While each of those quotes is separated by many episodes, the characters change so dramatically over those time frames, while still struggling with their inner demons.

I also appreciate the yin and yang nature of BoJack and Diane’s relationship. Diane is someone who has, largely, always been alone and is comfortable in that feeling. But she craves real connection. BoJack, on the other hand, is surrounded by people and is totally uncomfortable with being alone. In a way, Diane is trying to figure out how to be happy with someone else, while BoJack is trying to figure out how to be happy alone.

Having now finished the series, but without spoiling anything, I now know that they are twin flames. I’m not sure if that’s what the writers intended, but it’s how I interpreted it. Twin flames are two people who, when they meet, their lives change. They can be, and often are, people you fall in love with, but they are a catalyst to change in your life.

BoJack and Diane fundamentally change each other through the course of the show, and by the end, it can be debated how much each truly changed. But they definitely had an effect on each other. And just like real-life twin flames, they enter and exit each other’s story at various stages, dispensing the much-needed honesty when those around them refuse to give it. Sometimes, they are very necessary to the other’s story, and sometimes they don’t talk for months. But they find their way back to each other inevitably.

I end on one final quote, one that I believe sums up BoJack and Diane perfectly. Ironic as it is, the line is from season one. They’re sitting on a rooftop, as they do, and Diane says:

Season 1

I believe that this show gave us, maybe not what we wanted, but what we needed.

Is it really just a name?

What is in a name? A logical mind might suggest that every name, and really every word in any language, is just a made up spelling using made up inflections derived from made-up symbols. A more free-flowing mind would suggest that our names are a reflection of who we are. Names, just like any other word, do have meanings. But so few of us think about them in that way.

We may not think of our friend Nolan as “a descendant of a chariot fighter or champion. He’s just Nolan. And Mackenzie is our cousin, but is she actually a “child of a wise leader”? While some of our parents may not have given much thought behind the meanings of our names, some parents spent hours trying to find the exact right name for us before we were born.

My parents named me after my father (Daniel), and William was, to my knowledge, a fun throw-in. I was never overly fond of my name. I’ve been called Danny by most everyone in my life, save for the four years of high school where I went by Will because I viewed it as a chance to have a clean slate. But Will didn’t stick, and I’ve never really felt settled in my identity with that name.

When it came to social media, I was always trying to “brand” myself; anything to get people to call me something else. It’s not as if I have a great disdain for my name, my family or my life in general. I truly didn’t feel “right”.

So, I started digging. I wanted to know the origins of my name and understand more the disconnect with it. My first name, William, means “resolute defender”. Very apropos considering the layers of my life that I’ve been pulling back over the past few years. And remember, this is where I drifted to when I was feeling lost as a teen. But we’ll come back to this.

Daniel, on the other hand, means “God is my judge”. Now, I don’t begrudge anyone’s religious or spiritual practices, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone. But organized religion isn’t my thing at all, and I’m still very much figuring out my path in the spiritual realm. Which, to me, points the finger directly at that name as to why it wasn’t resonating with me.

~ ~ ~

I began my search for a name that spoke to me on my level about a month ago, maybe longer. I poured over web pages of names, their meanings, and really anything I could find about them. It sounds unromantic, but I didn’t want to just have a name that was elegant and looked good on paper. I wanted the meaning to back up this new era of my life. I wanted something that honed in on the changes I’ve made in my spiritual, emotional and mental life. And most importantly, I wanted to feel good when I introduced myself, to feel confident that this was who I am.

I love my family, and in no way is this an attempt to distance myself from them, nor do I desire them to call me by anything other than what they are comfortable with. And to be honest, I’m not sure when I’ll have this discussion with them. It’s a weird feeling trying to bring up that you don’t want to go by your given name anymore. But at the end of the day, you have to be true to your authentic self, and that is what I’m doing.

The name I chose is William (Liam) Silas Beaumont. I wanted to keep William because I still value that name, its meaning and hang on to those ties. But when I was known as “Will”, it never felt natural. Better than Danny, but not quite right.

Silas means “of the forest”. There is no greater peace that I find than being in the forest, amongst the trees, with my feet firmly on the dirt. I’ve talked about that ethereal experience before here. It fit so perfectly for me, and it’s a beautiful word.

Beaumont means “beautiful mountain”, which is in reference not only to where I want to live (near the mountains) but also the beginning of this journey for me. Two years ago, I took a trip to visit a friend in Colorado and it changed my life. To this day, I’ve never been in such a beautiful environment as the Rocky Mountains, and it started me on this long, slow, winding path.

~ ~ ~

To those of you that aren’t happy with your names, you have the power. Don’t change it flippantly or for a superficial reason. Be yourself and let your name come to you, however that may be. And to those that have names that they love, congratulations. I know I love mine.

Alone But Not Lonely

This is not one of your typical “loneliness” posts where I tell you how to be happy when you’re single, talk about how great it is to be alone, or tell you how you need to find someone because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Actually, it’s kind of the opposite.

I do a lot of reading, in particular on Medium, and I’ve noticed quite a few posts recently talking about the negative health effects of loneliness. And on the whole, I agree with most of the research (it is science after all). Loneliness does age you and if you are lonely, it contributes greatly to detrimental health, including higher rates of depression, anxiety, and general poor self-confidence. Additionally, lonely people tend to have shorter lifespans. That being said, some of the articles like to conflate loneliness with being physically alone, and that’s just not the same thing.

Loneliness is a feeling. A feeling that you are totally isolated, sad and have no connection to the outside world. It is NOT the same as being alone. I can (and have) been in rooms full of hundreds of people and felt lonely. Conversely, I’ve spent an entire weekend in my car on a road trip alone and never felt more connected to the world.

Mostly, it’s about perception and where you are mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically within yourself. I have felt absolute loneliness, and I have felt a total sense of community without constantly scratching that social itch. And while I have never and will never claim to have all the answers (or any answers), I can talk about what has helped me. No solution is ever going to work for everyone, and anyone claiming they have a fix to a problem for everyone is full of shit. I honestly believe in the idea that everyone is doing their best with what they have, so I just want to help spread as much good as I can.

So these are the things that help me live my life on my own terms, connected with my community, without feeling lonely and isolated. If these work for you, then I’m glad. And if not, keep trying things. Again, we are not a monolith, so we all should be doing whatever works for us individually. I’ll start with the most important one:

You have to love yourself first. 

Unfortunately, none of the rest of the things matter until you figure this one out. A few years ago, I took a road trip to visit some National Parks in my area (Cuyahoga NP in Ohio and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky). I wanted to clear my head, but also take some alone time. And it didn’t really work. I had a good enough time, but it was just an okay trip. And I didn’t realize until a year later, when I took a trip to Colorado, that the first trip was lacking.

When I drove to Colorado, everything that could have gone wrong, did. My engine blew up in the middle of Kansas, I had to rent a tiny car to finish my trip, then catch a one-way flight back to Kansas two weeks later, two days before Thanksgiving, to get my car. I say all that to say, I enjoyed that trip a thousand times more than the first. And it was because I was more in tune and comfortable with who I was and loved myself more.

Loving yourself is the deal breaker. You can do all the meditation, all the yoga, eat the cleanest diet, and go to the gym every day. And all of that can bring self-love, mental clarity, and self-confidence. But if it’s not coming from a place of love, it will be tainted.

Seek joy in the activities you’re doing and let go.

Piggybacking off my road trip stories, another reason I enjoyed the trip to Colorado more was the intention of the trips. When I went to Ohio and southern Kentucky, I was trying to get away from things: my thoughts, my connections, my life. I wanted to be anywhere else. And it put an unnecessary pressure on the road in front of me. “I will clear my head. I will have a good time.” Forcing life isn’t an option.

When I went to Colorado, I had two goals: meet up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while and experience the mountains for the first time. I had no expectations of my friends (we had a great time) and I had no expectations of the mountains (they were better than advertised).

That release of pressure and expectations contributed to my enjoyment of the trip, in the same way that doing so contributes to the joy of life. Seek out experiences of value and then let go. If it’s truly something of value, you will be guided in the right direction.

Social isolation isn’t an option.

I spend most of my time alone. Even putting sleep aside, I’d say I spend roughly 2/3 of my waking hours alone. And this doesn’t bother me because of what I do with those six-ish hours. I work in a service industry job, so I talk to 50–100 people every day. I eat at restaurants a lot and I try to create relationships with the people that work there. I’m not saying I’m a social butterfly, but I do interact with enough people to get my fill.

If you are more extroverted or don’t have your social needs met now, I’d suggest local groups based on your interests. If you’re a runner, join a running group. If you love books, check in with a library about any “Book of the Month” clubs. Even social media is a place to interact with people you see eye-to-eye with. It gets a bad rap, but social media is exactly that: social.

There are always ways to socialize more, you just have to know your limits. If you are socializing too much or not enough, you will wreck yourself. When I’m forced to be a social butterfly are the times that I’m most withdrawn. And if I isolate myself too much, I start to feel hopeless. Finding that right balance and respecting your own time will ensure that you keep your loneliness in check.

Rethink the way you interpret connection.

This was the biggest realization I had when starting to shift my thinking on being lonely. None of us are ever alone. There is always energy around us, coming from every living thing. When we drive down the street, we are connected with the other drivers around us. We have to be. If we weren’t we would disregard law and sense and put others in danger.

The place that I find connection in over anywhere else is in nature. Nature is one of the best places for connection because of the amount of living things that surround us. If I’m in my apartment, I’m surrounded by a bunch of man-made objects and a few neighbors. If I’m in a social setting, I’m usually surrounded by a bunch of people who are so sucked into their phones, they aren’t even connecting with the person in front of them. But when I’m in nature, unencumbered by technology, the only things left to connect with are the trees surrounding me, the dirt beneath my feet, the bugs and wildlife building homes and working together. And that clarity can improve your chances to connect with yourself.

When you start to feel connected to everything around you, it’s a lot hard to get lost in the day-to-day shuffle. Your sense of community grows and your loneliness fades. It’s so easy to limit connection to the ones we experience with humans, but expanding that to every living thing is a game changer.

~ ~ ~

I want to emphasize that this is not an advice column and these are not guaranteed practices toward success. Too many people claim to be experts before dispensing knowledge that “should work for anyone”. And if it doesn’t work for you, then there’s something wrong with you.

I am just a man who has noticed some things that have improved my life, and I want to spread the good word. I’d encourage everyone to try different things to enhance their lives in whatever way they feel they are lacking. Just make sure to listen to your self when your decisions start to point you in the right direction.

It’s Never Too Late To Start Over

I’ve been absent for a while now. It was some combination of lack of spark, ideas, and general motivation. I’d like to pretend that I have developed the ability to push through these lapses in motivation, but I’m not there yet
So, a little about my last few weeks. I went to a friends wedding in the middle of September. It was a blast, and it was fun catching up with a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a while. As much fun as I did have, it was also the beginning of my spiral. I had been pretty diligent with my running, meditating and being sober up till that point. 
I haven’t run, or worked out in any capacity, since then. I haven’t meditated since then. And what started as a glass of wine at the rehearsal dinner turned into a three-week collapse on my sobriety.
I’ve talked before about my particular “brand” of alcoholism so I won’t rehash it completely now, but it’s not the one portrayed in the mainstream. I drink heavy, to forget, but am functioning in a normal capacity. It also affects my headspace and sleep in a negative way, which continues the negative tailspin
To be very clear, I had a great time. I enjoyed the company of the people around me. The problem comes in when that’s all gone. When I’m back home, alone, with my thoughts. And to be honest, it’s my own fault. I haven’t put in the work to be able to withstand that carnal reaction when I’m in those settings. I caved way too easy at the rehearsal dinner and I need to be better. 
Jump forward a month, at another wedding, and it felt like the wheels had come off for me. Those bad habits continued in my everyday life and I’ve gained weight, feel very lethargic and generally “bad” about myself. And while I was drinking there last night, it became clear to me that I didn’t need the alcohol to have fun. Which sounds like a simple revelation, but it was the source of my drinking in those social settings. 
I’m generally less “fun” than some of my friends. It’s hard for me to loosen up, and alcohol has always been the grease on the wheel. But somewhere in the blur of dancing, music, bright lights and being around people that I care about, it became obvious that I could still have fun around those people. I’m not sure what the trigger was that flipped the switch in my head, but I’m certain it’s permanent. 
“It’s true that…after 35, 40 things start to slow down and it’s harder to do the stuff that we did when we were younger. So does that mean you roll over and are like “Oh yeah, alright I’ll gain 40 or 50 lbs and lets Netflix and chill for another 30 years before I die, or do you push back? Do you turn and fight? Do you say “I’m not done being a human yet and having a full life. I’ve still got a ton of shit to do, man.” ~Mishka Shubaly
So, heading into this week, I want to redirect myself. Not only in the ways that I’ve fallen off but my whole life. Change only comes when the pain of the current situation reaches a breaking point. I’m tired of not putting the work in. I’m tired of feeling like I have more to give. But most of all, I’m tired of starting over, even if it’s never too late. 

Emotional Vacancy

Link to picture.

A review of relationships post-addiction.

I’ve heard for most of my life that when you finally quit an addiction, you pick up another. People can drop cigarettes but pick up subconscious eating. It can even be positive. You may stop eating like shit and start working out more. And for a long time, I thought I wasn’t addicted to alcohol anymore. But I need to go back a bit.

I’ll give the cliff notes version of my early twenties. When I was 19, I met a girl while I was away at college. Hindsight would tell me later that it was my first love, and that when she broke up with me, it was my fault. And as that wave of realization crept from my heart to my head, I started to spiral. I started taking antidepressants and, as I turned 21, started to combine the medicine with alcohol. I stopped taking the antidepressants when my prescription ran dry, but the damage had been done. From then to about 24, my life was a sad mixture of drunken nights, confused understanding about what was wrong with me and relationships that I wasn’t ready to be in.

My addiction is insidious, designed particularly for me.

My addiction to alcohol isn’t the one portrayed in television and movies. Some might call me a high-functioning alcoholic. I wasn’t sitting at the bar every night, alone, drinking until I couldn’t see and then waking up to do it all again the next night (although that happened on occasion). My addiction is insidious, designed particularly for me. It is a sickness that crawled into a crevasse in my brain and molded itself to become undetectable, a part of me. I spent so many years wondering what was wrong with me because I couldn’t see it, no matter how long I stared at my reflection.

My addiction is drinking alone in my room when I was at home or in college. It’s drinking to blackout at parties because I’m not comfortable in those situations. And the most dangerous aspect, it’s drinking to blackout in public at crowded bars and clubs. Add in the challenge of getting home after you’re already gone, and it led to a situation where I should have been arrested.

Long story short, I got drunk at a bar. My friends decided to go to another bar that I didn’t want to go to, so I stayed, got more drunk, then tried to leave. I drove around the parking garage, lost on how to leave, until a cop stopped me and realized I was drunk. Somehow, he only took my keys and told me to call my friends to come pick me up.

My friends didn’t answer so I leaned myself against the wall and drifted between consciousness for what felt like hours, at some point throwing up on myself. It was closer to an hour and a half. When my friend finally called me back, he came and picked my keys and I up and I crashed at his place. I only called him because he had been out with me that night. I couldn’t call anyone else because of shame. I couldn’t imagine having that conversation with my parents, or someone who knew better. In that moment, I felt like a peer would be the only person not to judge me. And I’m still ashamed of it today.

I was allowing the darkness to consume me and the demons to run rampant in my mind.

My drinking problem bled into every relationship I tried to pursue. The women never knew, no one did. Or they did and never said anything. Even when I explained to my mom recently about how I struggled with alcohol in the past, she was surprised (I couldn’t go into details). I was leading two lives, one where I was pretending to have my shit together and the drunken mess I had become. And most of the time, I was pretending. At work, when I was with my significant other, any time I wasn’t drinking, I looked the part. I had a decent job despite not having a degree and all seemed to be going according to plan.

But when I drank (which wasn’t every day), I was myself. I’m not addicted to the alcohol, I’m addicted to the escape. The relief it brings to the misery I was experiencing when left to my own devices. I was allowing the darkness to consume me and the demons to run rampant in my mind. I wouldn’t realize it until later, but I was a shell of a person during this time. Or, I was an unaware shell. I would argue there’s still a part of me missing, but I’m more conscious of it.

I was (and may still be to a degree) emotionally vacant. That’s what alcohol took from me. It deadened my senses until I felt nothing. It fed that addiction that had burrowed its way into my brain, allowing it to sustain there, doing nothing but destroy hope. It ensured that no matter what front I put on, my relationships were dead on arrival. I wouldn’t understand why I was hurting people, I would just do things. And this isn’t to give myself an excuse, in fact its the opposite. I own that these were my issues alone. The women I dated in this stretch were phenomenal, and I do believe that, at a different stage, we would have made things work. But I also believe that everyone is in your life at the exact moment they are supposed to be.

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the theory that we all have three loves in our lives, each one for different reasons. For those unfamiliar, the first is said to be young love, the one that is idealistic and comes from fairytales. It looks right. The second love is our tough love. It’s narcissistic, unhealthy and unfair to one or both parties. It’s the love you look back on wishing it had gone right. And the third love is the one we get blindsided by. We never see it coming, and yet it feels right. My 19 year old self experienced the first, and my broken, disheveled 23 year old self experienced the second.

I fought through the surface level issues a few years ago when I started using running as a therapy, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve started digging deeper. The election in 2016 and the aftermath has kind of forced my hand in dealing with my issues. If 2018 was happening while I was in the middle of my struggles, I don’t know that I would have made it to the other side.

Alcohol has exacerbated a lot of my issues in my life. And only recently have I completely stopped drinking. I’ve found that things like meditation, consistently running, and reading and writing have proven to be just as effective an escape. It’s a process, and we’re all on our own journeys. But becoming conscious of what’s going on within you and how you handle the things that happen to you is so crucial. Unawareness may have led to years of me not being present in the life I was leading. That change in awareness likely saved my life.

Keep Your Headphones Coiled (Sometimes)

A few weeks ago, I went hiking on the Appalachian Trail. You can read about my experience here. Because it was unfamiliar territory, and because there are legit BEARS in the mountains, I went hiking without having my headphones in. I needed to be able to detect threats if needed or be more in tune with my surroundings in case a worst-case-scenario happened.

I’m usually the person that doesn’t go anywhere without headphones. The grocery, walking down the street, even at work if I’m working alone, I’ll have my headphones in. It’s my safe space and my bubble that will usually deter people from trying to disrupt me. So to hike for three hours in the middle of nowhere without headphones was definitely outside my comfort zone.

I won’t rehash my entire experience again, but it ended up being a beautiful experience where I was able to clear my head. Without the constant noise to distract me, I was able to dig deep into some issues that I’ve been having and find answers. And I also was able to think of new things I wanted to investigate or do. It was a great place to find some clarity.

I knew I wanted to try it in the city, where the images aren’t so picturesque and the sounds aren’t so serene.

When I came back to the real world, I knew I wanted to try it in the city, where the images aren’t so picturesque and the sounds aren’t so serene. I wanted to see if I could find that same happiness when the elements weren’t in my favor. And while it wasn’t the same experience, the few times I’ve run without headphones since have been beneficial, in most of the same ways.

Make no mistake, headphones are still necessary for me most days. I’m getting back into running shape, which means the majority of my miles are arduous and painful. And the podcasts or music that I like to listen to are a big help toward getting me to the end of my miles for the day. But every once in a while, it’s nice to unplug and listen to the silence (or cars) around you.