Some of the happiest I’ve ever been is when I was on drugs. There was one time where I took liquid acid in nature, at 11 in the morning, and even though I was with two other people we spent the entire day alone – exploring the wilderness and laughing to ourselves at the absurdity of existence. I’ve done cocaine on the beaches of Costa Rica, ecstasy in clubs in New York, mushrooms on a mountain. I’ve giggled to the point of near insanity on weed, and truly felt the oneness of all things… also on weed. The common link of those experiences that brought so much bliss was this sense of freedom of forgetting myself. Allowing my identity to slither away into the background, leaving behind my worries about the future and anxieties about the past. Of course some of my worst memories are on drugs too – puking off a balcony for 3 hours, waking up on to the sound of my own puking on a grimy bathroom floor, and desperately shoving my fist down my throat attempting to puke because I ligit poisoned myself. So… everything has a price.
Of course the happiness experienced with drugs is synthetic and manufactured. It’s not the same as the deep cultivated happiness that comes from a genuinely good time. There are many cases when I’ve experienced that authentic type of joy as well, but it’s hard to come by, and only visits in the most unexpected moments. You have to wait and around and see if it will come, and sometimes like that Dad that went out for cigarettes, it can take a minute before it comes back.
What is happiness really? It’s such an illusive feeling, yet something we all seek. According to the American constitution it is even our RIGHT to be happy! Can you believe that? It’s my god give right to be happy!!! Yet despite our forefathers insisting on it’s availability I find myself chasing happiness, trying to capture it in a cage it can always escape from.
Maybe the quest for happiness, that assumption that happiness is something I deserve, is part of the problem. Contentment seems like a more reasonable goal to strive for. I don’t need a happy life; I would just like to feel content. Perhaps I would feel more content if I wasn’t so focused on wanting happiness? I should see happiness for what she is… a flighty sprite who dips in and out of life at a whim – a gift not to hold onto, but to set free for others to find.
CAN YOU GUYS TELL I’VE BEEN HAVING A HARD TIME!?
This is what’s going on with me. For one… my back went into spasm. AGAIN!! This JUST happened to me last month so I’m kind of wanting to shoot myself in the face. The problem with my back going into spasm is not only am I in state of constant agony, but also my limited ability to move takes away my main sources of joy. I can’t dance when my back is in spasm, and dancing is my antidepressant. The minute I enter into the dance studio I feel like nothing else matters. I love teaching, I love my students, and I love the journey we go on together. I always leave with a renewed sense of purpose. Who cares if I just got rejected from that film festival, I taught a woman to twerk today!
With my back debilitating me, I also can’t make my videos, or write because sitting is so excruciating; I can’t do anything that feeds my soul and spirit. I just have to exist. WHICH I AM NOT GOOD AT!
Doing nothing but allowing myself to rest and heal is my PERSONAL HELL! Relaxing has become super stressful for me. So instead I try to be really proactive about my getting better, and work really hard at it. Yeah yeah, I get the irony too. But I have shit to do, places to go, and adventure to be had. I did not schedule in debilitating discomfort!
So far on this back pain journey I’ve seen my acupuncture lady and had her jab her needles in me – 3 times. I’ve been drinking the Chinese herbs she gave me that taste like licking the taint of Satan. I’ve done meditations, picked tarot cards, sat with my suffering, did ceremonies of gratitude, and drank more demon brew.
It’s been my thinking that I have to dive into the esoteric when I’m experiencing discomfort because there is this part of me that believes I deserve these moments of pain. I see my misery as a lesson – a teacher to tell me how I’m not living life right. So I self-reflect; convinced my back pain is an emotional necessity of my development.
In the midst of dealing with this back drama, I wake up Sunday morning and go downstairs to choke down some Chinese herbs/devil drink. As I’m retching, I absentmindedly feel my neck. There’s something there. I knew right away it was an embedded tick. I hobbled to bathroom praying… but when I look in the mirror my stomach drops. There was a deer tick sucking away at my blood like a mini Dracula, yet with less sexual swagger.
Now if you don’t live in New England and don’t have your prerequisite PHD on tick breeds, deer ticks are the bad kind – the kind that carries Lyme. Lyme is the most feared disease of the North East. There is no real cure. It affects everyone differently. It can fuck you up for life. Lyme is like the AIDS of New England. I checked the tick’s dick to see if it was wearing a condom.
I knew it had been on me for while. Because of my back I hadn’t exactly been showring, so I was not doing daily tick checks. I also didn’t even think of it because I hadn’t been outside either, and was too busy watching old Twin Peaks episodes. But my cat sleeps in my bed so I guess it had crawled off her and on to me? I got tweezers and pulled the tick off, wishing David Lynch was directing my life because this was a great moment for red curtains and a little person to speak backwards yet forwards.
I stared at the tick that was still holding onto a huge chunk of my neck with his little mouth-claws. I then looked at the bite. Holy fuck he was really in there.
I put him in jar and sat there watching at him. He crawled along the sides of the glass, still carrying a piece of my throat with him. We were bonded for life now.
I staggered to my car with my tick, threw some pillows on the seat so I could attempt to drive, and headed to the hospital to get him tested. Yeah… so it turns out hospitals don’t really appreciate you’re bringing ticks to them.
Nurse: You need to have your physician call first.
Toni: It’s Sunday… and Memorial Day weekend? How is that going to happen?
Nurse: Sorry. You’re gonna have to take your tick and leave.
So I did just that. I gathered up my tick and left. At this point I’ve fully developed Stockholm syndrome, carrying my tick around from place to place, feeling the need to take care of it. I put a piece of grass in the jar in case it got hungry, buckled him up in my kid’s car seat so he would stay safe, and then named him Noam – hoping that like his name sake Chomsky, this tick would fill my blood with knowledge about the political system in the Middle East and not Lyme.
Noam and I headed to my acupuncture lady – for the 4th time in 4 days. She did her best to suck the poison out by stabbing the bite a few times with a needle. She then light some shit on fire and “cupped” the bite. With a giant hicky on my neck, she sent me on my way. Noam and I got back in the car, because of course I brought him in the house with me so he didn’t get lonely. Before driving off, I stuck my head out the window.
Toni: Wait? What should I do about my back? It’s still really bad?
Acupuncture lady: Keep drinking herbal.
While driving home my physician finally called back and said I have to send the tick away to get it tested, but I can’t until Tuesday because of the holiday weekend. She suggested I put a small piece of wet paper towel in the jar to keep some moisture in.
I bring Noam home, and set up his new apartment in the jar with some Ikea furniture. He’s officially my pet now. I feel love for him. It’s not his fault that global warming means more ticks to destroy humanity. He’s doing his best.
The next day I see my healer. My back is a mess. My bite is festering. My emotional state is borderline Jack in The Shining because I haven’t been able to sleep. I’ve been having nightmares every night about ticks and bugs crawling all over me, and keep waking up in a panic to check my body. And my stomach is a mess from all the herbs, aka the secretions of Lucifer’s loins.
The healer and I talk about my back and the reality that I’ve been getting about five back spasms a year for the last five years and how to solve the problem of this chronic pain. I can’t take it any more. I don’t know what else I have to learn about myself. How much more self-reflecting I can do? I’m done thinking about me. I’m boring myself.
Healer: I don’t think this pain is emotional. I think it’s skeletal. Your hips are so torqued and twisted.
Toni: Do you think it’s from my pregnancy?
Toni: Car accident?
Toni: Well, I guess this all started when I was in the 5th grade. That’s the first time I remember getting this kind of back pain. At the time I was jumping on the trampoline about 6 hours a day so…
Healer: It’s the trampoline.
Where everything stands now is not only is my back still all fucked, but also my hips, AND my right foot from walking so weird because of my fucked up back and hips. So now I have this shooting pain in my foot and can’t walk on it. Turns out it’s nerve damage. Cool. I look so hot in crutches – the perfect tool to impale myself with.
Even though I can see how this is a physical misalignment of my bones, I still did learn a lot emotional soul searching from this current bought of suffering. Might as well since I have the time right and can’t work?
First. I keep hearing about horrible things happening in other peoples’ lives – stories of friends that had a fire at their home, friends that lost a child. These real devastations that force me to realize how lucky I am. How lucky most of us are most of the time. There is so much potential for tragedy in this world, and it’s a blessing when you are not experiencing it. Perspective is crucial when feeling sorry for yourself because most of my pain is of my own making.
I also realized that I’m motivated by the wrong sources. Much like a car that is powered with dirty fossil fuels, I need to shift what drives me. I need to become electric.
When I was in my 20’s I wanted to change the world. I was politically motivated, and compelled by social consciousness. I had so many ideas of how I would make a difference, and even though my visions had merit, my executions never panned out. I got discouraged by life, and started to see the whole system as rigged. I felt useless in this paradigm of the New World Order and lizard elite with their alien DNA pulling the strings of the hallucinatory global economy. What could I possibly do considering all the massive corruption and greed that is the guiding principal of everything? I’m just some 25 year old that no one takes seriously.
In the midst of this despondency and desperate feeling I was meaningless, I got pregnant. There is this assumption that a baby ties you down, but in a certain way it frees you. After the birth of my child, the world became so small. This infant was my world and nothing else mattered but her eating and sleeping. It was so simple. Just love this baby and keep her alive. It was this profound break from not only my own troubles, but also the troubles of the planet. This time in my life was like an altered state, the ultimate drug experience. I escaped into this sweet bubble of caring for my baby.
As the Munch grew and I had more time for myself, I had to redefine who I was. I had to get to know myself again. There was less time to be spent on mothering, but now what? I was no longer living in New York City, and sequestered amongst trees. That’s why I started writing, and making art more seriously. I had always dabbled, but seen it as a hobby. Something shifted in me. I figured maybe I couldn’t change the world from the bowels of rural New Hampshire, but I could at least try to entertain it?
Yet somewhere along way, my motivation of why I do the things I do got convoluted. I’m no longer in that adolescent state of my 20’s when anything seems possible. I’m in my 30’s. Reality and responsibilities color my every decision. I need to have a career. I need to figure out my place in this world. I want my art to be that driver. I don’t know if it ever will. But there is a pressure that sits on my chest making it had to breathe.
Yet I can now see the only motivation I need is not one of success, or recognition, but rather to be propelled by the same force of my 20s – that naïve belief that I can make a difference in this corrupted world. Idealism gets beaten out of us so easily because of the overwhelming task of it all, but fuck that. I don’t want to be cynical. I want to be impassioned by the same ignorance of my youth. The benign belief that if you try hard enough, shit will change. It will get better even if it is just in your small corner of the world. Even if my only true contribution to society is that because of me, a woman can pulse her pelvis to the beat of hip-hop music at my dance studio.
Noam with his paper towel.
My tearful goodbye, sending Noam away.
The culprit… my cat.