Micro-Autobiography in Seven Year Cycles

I recently launched The Metta Method, 21-days of training for $21, and so far one single person has signed up for the course, which was a decade in the making. The fault is entirely my own, for I focus on content only, and have completely neglected any sort of marketing. It feels like a passive form or sabotage. 

My second, third and fourth novels continue to receive rejections. The publishing industry is an entirely different realm than it was when my first novel was released over a decade ago. 

Lately I suspect my memory of deceiving me. Events, concepts, principles I thought I remembered seem to have vanished, or exist as a half-life of what they once were. The consequences are jarring: the architecture of my identity crumbles quietly within, as foundational beliefs break like support beams in abandoned houses. 

 Lost in thought in Rae-Edzo, NWT.

Lost in thought in Rae-Edzo, NWT.

Memory, I have good reason to believe, is the foundation of identity. And yet it is utterly fallacious. The moment I realized I’ve been remembering all the wrong things, I understood with no small sense of betrayal that the foundation of my own identity has been crumbling for some time. 

At the age of seven I wanted to be a librarian, craving not a life of active adventure but wall-to-wall solace in the presence of books, each page a portal to another dimension of possibility, each page an affirmation that I wouldn’t need to hide from my drunken father forever, that I wouldn’t be enmeshed with my codependent mother until the end of time. I had loving parents who did their best, but as an unwitting empath who didn’t understand how to protect myself, I picked up on all the dark undercurrents of energy and absorbed them. Despite this, I was blessed with a palpable host of non-physical guides and teachers who helped me navigate 3-dimensional reality and brought solace to my already uneasy heart. I communed effortlessly with the natural world and was surprised when I found out this wasn’t the case with everybody. 

 First Communion, shortly before I suspected I was being taught half-truths.

First Communion, shortly before I suspected I was being taught half-truths.

At the age of fourteen I wanted to be anything but a cop; I wanted to be anybody other than my father. The smell of Lamb’s Navy Rum jolted me with panic, and the rigidity of the household led me to vow that I would be free in the world as soon as physically possible. This was a vow I broke in spectacular fashion when I joined the Artillery Reserve two years later, surprising nobody more than myself. It was a solemn event, during a year in which I cashed in my books and already-broken dreams for combat boots and a C-7, the Canadian version of an M16. With a driver’s license and my first real girlfriend, I found the idea of freedom without enjoying it, and I found intimacy without being able to surrender to it. I erected razor wire around my deepest sensitivities, still hoping to somehow, in some way, please my father. 

 The era of skinny leather ties and Miami Vice. Times (and people) were simpler then.

The era of skinny leather ties and Miami Vice. Times (and people) were simpler then.

My father is a good man, and apart from the common human denials, honest to his core. In response to the current madness on planet Earth, he and my mother have retreated further and further into right-winged religious fundamentalism; it baffles me how they continue to miss the shallow irony of how the Roman Catholic Church calls its congregation the flock.

 Sick beats? The Family Connection: MC Cassanova and DJ Chips

Sick beats? The Family Connection: MC Cassanova and DJ Chips

My father used to rip telephone books in half at social gatherings, and all his life he has refused to seek comfort for chronic pain. One thing I learned from my him, and from men in general, was how to avoid facing vulnerabilities head-on, and to not seek or accept outside help. The old idea of male strength involves a curiously simplistic ritual of displaying various physical strengths while masking—or quashing—any elements of the Feminine within oneself, behaviour which helped evolve the male cultural plague of self-loathing and the fear of women, and all its tragic attendant consequences.

 I still find this picture remarkable for countless reasons.

I still find this picture remarkable for countless reasons.

At the age of 21 in a rusty trailer in Gagetown, I got a tattoo of a shamanic mask on my left shoulder, to serve as an emblem of my intention to remember and follow through on my solemn vow to find peace and genuine freedom in my life. I was already drinking alcoholically and looking for a way out of the army. As an Infantry Officer, I knew I was slated to head to Bosnia as a platoon commander, and the reality of the impending job was too much for my psyche to bear. I had recurring nightmares of going to house parties, pulling out the DND-issued Browning 9mm against my own volition and, to my extreme horror, shooting my own friends. Always in the head. Sometimes the bullets would obliterate the familiar faces in front of me, but more often they would become inert, impotent, as if I was shooting BBs that only stung rather than wounded. Instead of being grateful, I would panic and keep shooting, as if I had crossed some line in my behaviour that necessitated finishing the job of killing, however loathsome it was.

 That time I went AWOL to drive to Victoria and experiment with LSD.

That time I went AWOL to drive to Victoria and experiment with LSD.

I came clean with the military psychologist—what a mindfuck that job would be!—at CFB Kingston about my reservations, and my depression, and the panic attacks, which had me gasping for air every night. The psychologist wasn’t remotely interested in the hazing I’d experienced which had, much to my shame, broken my autonomy and rotted my self-respect. Instead, she was singularly interested in my casually admitted desire to never take another human life under any circumstances. I was already referring to war as state-sponsored murder, and this not only appeared unpatriotic, but to the machinations of the Department of National Defence, extremely dangerous. I could not see, until years later, that this casual assertion of my authentic self was my first autonomous act of strength. 

I misremembered my release from the army for a long time, and it wasn’t until years after I finally sobered up that I recollected it was, of all people, my father who suggested I exit the armed forces in any way possible, even if it meant through a medical release. I suppose I didn’t see it the way it happened because I couldn’t fathom my own father finding me so unsuitable for the role of soldier. In the mind I carried at the time, I no doubt feared he would determine that I was weak. I forget to remember it happened that way because with his surprising input he was trying to save both of us, and he was making himself vulnerable, something I’d learned to distrust and deny. 

My father’s validation, as it was, of my desire to leave the hard-assed world of terror disguised as courage, murder disguised as duty, and patriarchal zenophobic, homophobic, masochistic entropy that was, ironically, just a broader version of the worlds both my father and I had grown up in. 

 Eventually the bill for our behaviour comes due.

Eventually the bill for our behaviour comes due.

By the age of 28 I was a full-blown addict, drifting from city to city and job to job, only a few short painful months away from being homeless. I would often wake up from a chemical coma to find my jeans soiled with my own urine, or my shoes missing and my feet caked in dried black blood. I alternately tortured and soothed myself with narcotics, barbiturates, and dread. I experienced panic attacks strong enough to knock me out of waking consciousness. 

 Trying to get clean as a tree planter in Northern BC.

Trying to get clean as a tree planter in Northern BC.

Eventually, the shame and pain was enough to prompt me to walk into a detox centre in Northern Ontario, after taking some advice from my newly sober father. In the interest of holding on to childish resentments, I have often forgotten to remember these things: it was my father who had taken my call in the wee hours of the dark night of my soul, it was my father who had driven the 10 or so hours to drop me at the treatment facility, and it was my father who gave me my first sober job, which was clearing trees and brush with a smokey Husquevarna and an antique axe. This was important work, a persistent metaphor for all the weeds I had to pull from my own mind. 

So there’s this mundane dichotomy of filial existence which crops up to this day whenever I step foot into my parents’ home. On the one hand lives his sobriety, his compunction to act with this clunky old notion of honour, his ability, or rather need, to work hard and not complain and to never cheat another soul. On the other hand live the breathing imprints of how much and how quickly I learned to fear him before I had a brain that could rationally process what fear really is. To deny these imprints outright invites all sorts of reflections and behavioural complexes I’ve already spent years unlocking.

 At a writers' workshop, Banff Centre for the Arts.

At a writers' workshop, Banff Centre for the Arts.

When I was 35 I was six years sober, a father, a published novelist, a Canadian diplomat posted to Asia, and dug in to a doomed marriage that was as ill-conceived as much as it was necessary to bring two very unique souls onto planet Earth.

As I raised my son and my daughter, I found great joy and great sorrow coexisting within me. I was gratified to see how my die-hard penchant for play bridged my world to theirs. I was also horrified to witness how quickly I could snap and growl and glower at these two innocents, whose mere curiosity could, in my tired moments, incite a rage that seemed channelled directly from the father I had as a child. This nebulous anger seethed in me like some long-term dormant infection. 

I suffered from alienation, the disease of the Self, making my way through my work diligently, disappearing into countless immigration files and the less mundane problems of other families. I navigated my sexless marriage via Vietnamese massage parlours, always incredulous and ashamed at my need to be touched. 

By the age of 42 I was divorced and had lost any claim on custody by staying to work my job in India. I navigated legal vitriol and divorce papers from a refugee camp in Damak, Nepal, where I was stationed briefly to interview and resettle Bhutanese refugees. By 42 I was just completing my slow yet dramatic exit from the Foreign Service, exhausted by decades of pretending I had my shit together, hiding behind one critically-acclaimed novel and a red passport. I was constantly seeking through channels that were far from unique—meditation, yoga, ayahuasca—seeking some avenue to that elusive state of authentic freedom. I moved seven times in seven years, I changed five cars in five years, I forgot everything I’d ever learned about “as within, so without.” I dropped my abused will, left it for dead as I succumbed to a depression that verged on despair. 

It has taken me almost this long to acknowledge that I’ve always known what I needed to do. I was simply unwilling to do it. As much as I like to imagine my efforts as a writer, as a yogi, as a soldier-cum-buddha sitting on my buckwheat-hull-filled zabuton in a meditation posture while mentally renovating the imaginary house I haven’t built yet, the house I fear I will never get to build—as much as I’ve enjoyed imagining myself as a lightworker, and illuminated artist, I had essentially only replaced the booze and drugs with specific patterns of thinking, with social media, with Netflix. I have worn the marks of acedia into half a dozen couches which are linked by a trail of stale potato chip crumbs. In my unconscious effort, however, I have relentlessly struggled to find my way back from the plane of inertia to the place of joy, of peace—that pinnacle of genuine freedom I have so far only glimpsed in my life. 

And now I am 45, and all of this is, in a way, to admit that the strangest thing I realized while creating The Metta Method was that I’ve known all along exactly what works. I knew as a child that I could elevate myself out of despair and anxiety simply by doing a few simple things to raise my vibration. But I was trained and educated away from this inherent knowledge, and I was taught to distrust and belittle my own intuition for not being rational or scientific. I started toying with my despair as a puppy might toy with a feral cat, chancing to see if I’ll get wounded by ignoring the daily needs of my ever-thirsty spirit. I had been craving freedom while keeping it at bay through my own actions.

This whole story is so fucking mundanely human it bores me. And fascinates me. While I continue to evolve into the man, the father, the writer, the healer, the lover, the fighter, the human I’ve always envisioned I could be, every day I feel like I’m lagging behind where, and who, I am supposed to be, trapped by the somnambulant consumerism that informs our every nervous tic. 

And yet, this story is evolving as I am. We are in the midst of massive, unprecedented energetic change on planet Earth right now. By becoming so enslaved by our corporate governments, by our archaic brain-numbing institutions, by our own lemming senses, we have forced the hand of Freedom. True authentic power has never been so close within our grasp as a species precisely because the reflections of our own denials—such as, for instance, chemtrails, or the tragicomedy that is the Presidency of Donald Trump, or the broken oceans, or endless war, or the poisons in our food, drinking water, vaccines—have never been so odious.

Most days I understand how all this is necessary to shake us and wake us. Other days I’m disgusted with the human race and cross my fingers for our extinction.

But most days, like I said, a weird new hope blossoms—whether it is for earth-shattering technological innovation to help save us from ourselves, or for a smooth transition into five-dimensional existence. Through all of the ups and downs I have to keep reminding myself that I might as well be joyful. In fact, it is incumbent upon me (if I am who I think I am) to find that elusive sweet spot we call happiness.

By the time I’m 49, I’ll have it all figured out. I swear.