2016: The Year of Death… and Rebirth

The huge “trend” of 2016’s theme lately is clearly that this year sucked, that it was full of death and disappointment, and I felt like that for a while, like it was some bottomless pit, until things couldn’t get any worse and I thought- hey, it can only be up from here, and there’s got to be huge lessons to gain from all the pain. I decided to give my next article this morbid name while I was in jail, thinking about the strange year that had been going past and partly referring to the state of mind I felt was going through a transformation or at least major growth process… though no I am not going to preach a Born-Again sermon. I had mainly been referring to the large-scale collective/cultural phenomenon of major famous or infamous celebrities, of larger-than-life public figures, dying at seemingly unexpectedly premature times. Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Antonin Scalia (a different kind of “celebrity”, perhaps not larger-than-life but a strange sounding death), Anton Yelchin (again not “huge” but realllly weird circumstances), and many more in the first nine months of the year.

Though on a more personal and local/friends-and-family scale, I was feeling unsettled with a few passings of loved ones (for those who already know, this was all before the passing of my grandmother), such as my very good friend- one of my best friends, outspoken activist and brilliant writer, Sean Gruber- tragically pushed beyond his limits by the harassing intimidating tactics of the LVMPD; my grandma’s Godson/cousin’s father, Arthur; and my new amazing friend Alia. It all started off with the death of Alia Nicole Hajaj a friend I had made just a year before, a glowingly amazing-spirited girl, who lifted the spirits around her whenever she graced them with her multi-colorful presence, well into the discovery of her cancer that doctors thought would kill her about a year earlier. I wish I got to know her better but our short bondings and the impression she left on me, along with some things I learned after her death, affected my life deeply and I will always feel a part of her with me, as well as with the expressive artistic community she powerfully affected here in Vegas. She was also the reason I went to a hospice for the first time ever, and not the last person I visited in hospice last year.

This was all before my arrest on September 17, 2016. My grandma took a fall on September 11, wounding her head, breaking three vertebrae- two in neck and one in her lower back, and experiencing her worst stroke yet- an ischemic. My arrest/jail details are too lengthy for this topic, but it was basically for singing/yelling along to the an upbeat folksy version of the NWA song “F**k The Police”. I got out of jail on November 8th, at 8pm, at the time the election polls closed (I had decided early in the year this would be the first time I’d most likely skip the elections since I became of voting age, anyway), at which time I asked a few fellow inmates being released who was winning, and they said “Trump”- to which I laughed, but they maintained serious faces and I realized they were serious (again, I didn’t see a difference either way and would not have voted for either- but I saw this as a huge surprise given Hillary seemed to be the destined royal heir). November 8th was one of the best days of my life, having been released after nearly two months of the psychological/spiritual challenge of my lifetime, back with the one I loved since just before jail.

3 and a half days later, my grandmother died. To me, of course, she overshadowed all deaths and losses of the year, with a status no celebrity could ever achieve in my worldview. She was 99 years old (about 4 months away from 100) and died in hospice after deterioration from an infection developed while in a temporary nursing home. I at least was able to talk to her in her final days, though she was unconscious (although, I swear she heard and responded with her eyes moving and mouth moving/puckering quite a bit- as they say, the hearing is the last to go), which she had been starting a few days before I was released from jail. Hours before her passing, I went through a breakup (or initially a break; saved until after jail for courtesy of my sanity I suppose), so of course the proximity of events weren’t planned by any hand of man, but it’s safe to say it wasn’t a great day. November 12th will go down as one of the worst days in my life, in which I felt or perceived a piece of myself die. But the sunset was beautiful, almost as I imagined it in a dream from early in my jail stay, the most beautiful skies I’d ever seen in that dream framework.

 

Since then there have been bumps and facing losses head-on and moments of closure, and I feel the world brightening up even more than it did on 11-8, though that night had a feel of “too good to be true”… this new and wondrous time has a feel of “it must be true”. Since my grandma’s viewing service, and after making a video tribute to her life, a wave of luck (happening to involve 8s) seemed to set in, especially that night (of November 30th), with very clear signs of more higher-hands at work and play. My mood has shifted from the most drastic waves and pits I’d ever felt, to a peaceful and ecstatic calm, hopeful and returning to faith of a beautiful, bright future. The return of lucidity and clarity I felt in jail, with all the factors of my captive person playing on my perspective, now released, and breaking out of the psychological captivity that my mind clung onto in the weeks following my release, and my outside-world traumas. The “real test”, as would be repeatedly spoken of in jail, came upon returning to the outside.

The challenges were quite personal and primarily involving relationships and loss, and I have been noticing many friends/people going through heavy life changes lately of their own. It may just be some social trend or phenomenon of perception of “things getting crazier” or a “speeding up” of time or novelty to a “singularity” or something objective, and I’m sure I’m getting crazier, but doesn’t it seem like something kinda strange is going on? Or some kind of upheaval, on the micro and macro?

 

Well apparently, now (since starting this article over a month ago), most people seem to be thinking that way, the way I was thinking about the period or “transition” our world was entering some years ago when people would give me blank stares or call me crazy or well, quickly change the subject and quickly get me quiet on it, so I would just find my crazy little internet corners to go find solace in. Perhaps that’s still looking into it too much and this is just a pendulum swing and next year will be “calm”, or it’s just a side effect of higher population and accelerating technology and social media saturation… but I do think a lot of this is attributable to a shift of the ages… a mass awakening, if you will, and shedding of attachments, material-centered conceptions, and a whole reworking of how we perceive the world works in general.

Those that we have perceived as gods of modern music have been leaving the Earth in droves… I am certainly not saying that Prince or David Bowie or Leonard Cohen or George Michael are outdated… but times, they are a’changin. Perhaps this is some subliminal yet overt message that there is a new sound now… I don’t mean EDM (and it’s taken me decades to build a kind of enjoyment for that), but who knows… I’m suggesting a new frequency, a new vibration that is here for us to embrace and ride and compose. And perhaps they’re passing on the instruments to us.

We may not control our fate but I believe we can design the paths we take to get to the fate we desire or know we’re headed towards at our core, and perhaps we designed all paths or all destinations before we “came here”, or perhaps a higher creator force/God did, and perhaps an agreement between the “two”… or three. But once we get the map or directions we don’t just lay it on the table and expect to get to the destination happily or easily. It is up to us to lead the path and take the turns we feel in our hearts/soulds/minds are what we should take… as well as the choice to diverge or experiment and explore the wilderness.

 

Overall, I figured death would be an interesting theme to place on the year, but a bit dark and maybe forceful/exaggeratory seeming (before I saw it coming from all directions and “trendy”… and then rebirth came as the natural following theme as it was the transition I seemed to be going through internally and during continued life (and no near-death experiences I can recall this year), as many people that have been through any “death” and continued on living may identify with the term rebirth… eh? Well then of course came real death in the family and by then I felt prepared, aside from her five years of dementia and physical signs. But preparation is a tricky word, for who knows what exactly the outcome of a traumatic event will be?

55 days of captivity surely gave me a lot of time to “prepare” for whatever I was to face on the outside, and I knew a lot was at stake and in store. My grandma’s (second guardian) life, my brand new love of my life, my mom’s well being, and my sanity. And perhaps the world’s sanity. Several were lost, but I have a whole lot to care for and love, still. And I like to think I’m still relatively sane (but insane enough).

All in all I came out of it eager to get back to the challenges of the old and very new world (again, election night) while realizing and adjusting to the reality of the immensity of the change from one confined place to this endless world of (still limited) choices, an innumerable amount of which could lead me back to where I just was, which was and is and will continue to be very unappealing to me. Above all the adaptation effort and anxiety, there was a whole world of opportunities awaiting, and glorious plentiful freedom. Limited again by the law and money (of which the law wants as much as it can get from you, but that’s not where this article is headed- sorry usual readers).

Actually, this blog piece thing does have some sort of “political” message involved… I was already leaning toward this step in my evolution or thought process anyway, but jail definitely nudged me more in the direction of peace and understanding and resolution (still support revolution) than immediate response and acting aggressively with emotions, thinking irresponsibly/lack of thinking straight and self-righteousness, and building on the concepts of compassion, true justice, faith, tolerance, and other values and issues I wrote about to occupy my mind in there… The whole ordeal “vindicated” me as one friend said, in ways, but I was not going to wave a flag about it or turn it into some sob or show-off story, which i hope it hasn’t come across as when I’ve talked about it endlessly, because it’s just a very significant lump of time and reference point in my modern life history that at least is becoming a smaller fraction of my memory and recent reconditioning (attempt) as time passes.

 

I may have subconsciously come up with this title after a deep metaphysical and personal psychological experience of the “epiphany” sort last Spring. I felt a familiar sensation but not one I had so vividly felt before, in my daily-access memory… that of “remembering”, not quite a specific event, or even my life up until now, but something beyond, encompassing this life, my birth, and what seemed to even be a concept of death, and the realm or containing dimension “around” that… as if this life, including the entryway and the exit, are one object that may be perceived from the “outside” and we are here for a purpose, or to learn some kind of lesson that we can at least identify at certain points in our lives… perhaps an ever-changing lesson, and we seem to have free will and capability of choice while in this life to take the paths that will determine who we are, our character, how we decide our stories will play out. Perhaps our character is pre-existing and we will always have made the choices we made in every moment, but this appearance of free will may be completely necessary for us to have motivation to continue living, or to choose whether we believe in free will or not based on our mental/spiritual/genetic framework. Anyway, personally, I felt that the year to come was going to be an immense challenge and I would need to be there for my family- identified at the time as my mom and grandma- more than ever, and to be the best I can be… and then I would be set more solidly on my path of “success”, whatever that may mean to me.

Well I recently- and this is the one paragraph (or two or more, however many until I’m finally done) that I am writing well into 2017 and at a point which I realize barely anyone may have made it reading this far- had a brief “part two” to this experience of “remembering” or what some may perceive as a “transcendental” experience, after all that had gone on this past year and feeling that what was meant to happen, happened… and that I am being there for my mother as much as I feel I can, when she needs it more than ever since her mother’s passing, which is also the most challenging experience of such in my life. I recently felt that this is how it must be, and still I am making my own choices of my own free will, something that I felt confirmed during my very reflective time in jail, combined with a spiritual experience that seemed to prove to me there is a grand cosmic design, with an extremely dark sense of humor, along with a very wise, powerful manner of teaching important lessons. Some lessons seem to get right to the heart of what this entire life is about, and even might have some kind of effect or resonance on that “container” of this life, birth, and death period… when those closest to us die, there seem to be shockwaves in all directions, such as some may perceive in sudden dramatic global or cultural events… we may not comprehend what those shockwaves emanate from, especially before they happen, but I think that they do indeed go outward in time, a construct made linear by man’s mind. We can probably identifty different kinds of shockwaves after the event, or loved one’s death, even sometimes having epiphanies or feeling some deep new knowledge or lesson seemingly passed on by them or as a necessary coping or growth mechanism… though we can also sink into the depths of grief, despair, and helplessness, and lose sight of the beauty of life if we let the darkness overcome.

I feel like my time in jail, the 2 months that ended days before my grandma’s death, were a preparation period for me, a form of the shockwave in one way, as well as for my mother, the most challenging time of our lives- one in which my mother gradually thought my grandmother would make it home ok, and in which I prepared for the worst… but continued to hope for the best. After a while I *had* to have faith in “the best”, or that at least things would be better than they were in jail once I got out. Some of these things did turn out to better, some turned out to manifest as the fears I tried to avoid thinking about most in jail… yet that struggle of avoidance and temptation of the radical range of thoughts in there took my attention to so many scenarios.

Above all, I decided, I wrote, and wrote and wrote, on reflections of what I was learning there, of what I wanted to work on (myself and creatively) once I would be released, and how to contribute to bettering the world, and helping my family, in whatever ways I could. And I knew the return to “normalcy” (which I never really had a firm sense of), or relatively smooth adaptation, would take a while and great effort, and I felt more motivated than ever. I knew it was the transition of a lifetime, and while I had some hopes that didn’t quite pan out as this new phase in life, I looked at every setback, disappointment, and deep frustration that made me scream into my jail bed mat, and got right back to figuring out how to move forward and where to shift focus.  This instilled in me a new discipline, dedication, and motivation to be “the best I can be”, the first strength of such (sober) kind I had felt in decades… arguably, the biggest transformation since I was 27, 5-6 years ago, in which I had several near-death experiences, but this truly felt like rock bottom, and paralleled with my grandma’s death, appeared to present a message I would be making a gigantic mistake to ignore or take for granted.

I was so worried about the rising tension in the nation, and how it would handle the coming elections, the most foreseeably polarizing event in the political history of our lifetimes… and I ended up getting out when the results came in. I didn’t get quite the sense of chaos I worried about months or longer before when I imagined what it would be like if Trump won. Basically, it did feel like an inevitability of a universe gone nuts and that apparentlty I agreed to ride out this crazy ass timeline, and well a revolution is what I’ve wanted, and well this would seem the most likely route to propel us through that threshold.

Anyway, like I said this isn’t a political article (but how can any 2016-themed piece not mention the election/division), so enough of that angle, but I heard and then noticed that many other people I knew were also going through extremely tumultuous times, spiritual transformations and upheavals, and by the final weeks of the year I was blown away by the amount of friends and acquaintances mourning the losses of loved ones, specifically close relatives… and the celebrities, especially the archetypal figures. I mostly didn’t feel very surprised, but still overwhelmed by the quantity, as it felt like a sort of fractal lesson that was blanketing or spreading all over society… or a spiritual shock and shaking of so so many of our personal foundations and living attachments, right down to our genetic core, our blood, and part of the revelations I experienced in jail- the national/global moral or identity crisis was more of a macrocosm of what we experiencing on the individual and familial scales, or microcosmic breakdowns and apocalypse- unveiling of deep truths and shattering of illusion- and for that to happen tragedy may often be the catalyst… and suddenly the large-scale social issues didn’t seem as concerning… or at least not to me, after a decade of deep concern and sometimes obsession over the dark “powers that be” in politics and society. I felt the old me had died (not literally) and this new worldview, involving factors of natural growth and accelerated growth due to strenuating circumstances, was coming in not nice and easy, but with the pains of birth… and the psyche can feel quite strained when the metamorphosis hits hard and fast and forces you to catch up with your new self, the self with the upgraded capabilities to handle whatever new environment/world you’re about to emerge in. And jail was basically my cocoon stage, a really restrictive mentally-testing larva period… the release and turn of events that followed were the biggest challenge of all.

 

We come into this life through pain… the pain of our mothers, and who knows how it felt on our own bodies, but that transition of womb to this air-filled earthly light of man and sun must have been traumatic… and who knows what we might remember from before then if there were some smoother transition and preparation. Or I suppose perhaps if our brains were more fully used also, somehow. Even in growing up through adolescence, we get “growing pains”, and kids go through all kinds of physical, psychological, and in some ways spiritual traumas and challenges, and from that we all grow and learn. So it makes sense that we will continue to go through these growing pains, and transformational traumas, and even perhaps “rebirths” into our adulthood. And since society has seemed to grow and pass through maturity stages as well (with many setbacks, see current era), I don’t think it’s a major stretch to say society/species/civilization may go through these painful phases and traumatic transitions right when we need to learn a lesson or be “reborn”… and perhaps, seeing how research into frequencies and energy has yielded some very substantial evidence that such factors are “real” in this universe, large-scale periods of upheaval and radical change may at times align with widespread personal-level experiences of comparable change.

 

I feel we should embrace chage and growth, and push our way through the pain that comes with it… not embrace or endorse inflicting pain to bring about desired change, but the pain that may come upon oneself or on a larger scale that is a natural and inevitable way of life, that must be dealth with either sooner or later. And repeatedly as I thought in jail, well, when it rains it pours, and bring on whatever it is that needs to happen to open the doors for growth- because by nature we are survivors, and we want to live in the face of odds stacked seemingly against us… and while dying doesn’t mean losing, facing death is a part of life, whether it be our own or our loved ones, and when our loved ones come to that point of crossing from life to death, we come face to face with what will happen to us one day.

Until then, we can make the most of the time we have, whatever we think comes next. Or we can live our lives in a prison, whether it be physical, psychological, or emotional… it took me physical captivity and spiritual/psychological exploration, and the death of the 2nd closest person to me in my life, (oh and the harshest breakup yet), to really make completely clear and stamp deep into my mind the need for personal restructuring, internal revolution, and complete life renewal- and I’ve seen something similar happen with the world, though perhaps a bit more chaotically (or at least in our country) and with more work to be done (myself included), and we should keep 2016 in mind anytime we may slip from being humble, lose faith that all will work out, or feel disempowered or perhaps feel too much power… and do not let a good rebirth go to waste.

2016-2

Rest in peace grandma Phyllis, uncle Arthur, Sean, Alia, Bowie, Prince, Gene, Debbie, Carrie, and the many many others who left us in 2016…

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