I WAS SOCIAL DISTANCING BEFORE IT WAS THE NORM

     I’ve lived half a lifetime trying to get out of social distancing, and now I’m back at it again. “I tried to get out,” Michael Corleone says, “but they pull me back in!” Throughout my teens and twenties, I had few friends and no romantic interests. I could get along with and work with co-workers and classmates, and I could even manage a few phone friends, but for the most part, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling alone and with no one to talk to.  Like Kate Moss was the definitive model of Calvin Kline when Calvins were cool, I was the definitive model for social distancing when ‘cool’ and ‘social distancing’ weren’t even in the same sentence. 

     In middle school, I thought high school would be like the Saturday morning TV show, Saved by the Bell. I thought that I’d have a cool group of friends, and we’d get into adventures. Any American sit-com was my oracle on countless aspects of life, but this particular high school fantasy wrapped itself around my mind like nothing else. Every year, I thought I’d finally be cool, I’d finally reach Zack Morris level of infamy and coolness. I would try to make friends and sometimes we’d hang out. I even tried to get a girlfriend by giving her flowers, but by senior year I was sitting at the lunch table by myself, reading books and writing screenplays by hand. If they weren’t going to love me in high school, they were going to see my movies in a few years. 

     Not much changed after high school. I met people at community college and got along with everyone at the 4-year college that I attended, but I never got into a clique. I was never really comfortable with that. I thought that only through a group of friends could life have purpose. I dropped out of college by the second year. If they weren’t going to love me in college, they were going to love me somewhere else. Somehow.     

     For the next decade, I built myself up. I went to karaoke at least twice a week, I wrote poetry just to perform it at open mic, and I found a friend or two that I got close to. By my 30s, I started to talk to therapists and soon I started a real dating life with real relationships, not just a patchwork of dates and phone conversations. Over those years, I kept writing and experimenting with writing. I began practicing meditation. By my late 30s, I felt just as confident about myself as a person as I felt as a writer. “I am not weird and never have been,” I could finally tell myself. And it felt good. 

     I think about why it was like that all those years ago. Was I really just an introvert that was afflicted with shyness? Was it just the cliquey nature of Lehigh Valley Pennsylvanians? Was I just too nice in a world where that’s looked down upon? It’s probably a mixture of everything, but I’m grateful for it. I have inner emotional resources that many do not have. 

     I told myself that I could handle this, that I could be isolated as long as this goes on, that I could dip my toes inside my old self while maintaining my newer, happier self. After a few days of this shut it, things got funny. I needed to talk to someone, even if it was just small talk. I’m not alone in my home. I have people to talk to. I even have people that I can call and talk to here and there. But it’s not the same. It’s not the same as my job, working with kids that say ‘hello’ to me in the halls.  It’s not the same as attending my writer’s group and sharing ideas. It’s not the same as going to an open mic and reading what I’ve put my heart into. I tried to get out, but they pulled me back in. 

     I feel that things will get interesting these next few weeks. There’s so much more that I want to say about my predictions and deeper thoughts that I have. I’ll save that for later. I just want to say that I hope this makes us appreciate each other more. We need to start valuing human life more than “likes”. Relationships are and always have been the only real currency that matters.

     Good luck, World. Rich or poor, many of us are now in the same boat. And it’s that thought that reminds me that I’m not alone as I was all those years ago.  

Post-Meditation Journal Entry # 14

12/26/2017 (6:39 am – 6:54 am)

And the thought arose from the ocean of my mind and said, “Ask the breath. The breath will tell you both your question and answer.”

I had a vision. I thought about a current situation that I cannot control and a thought-emotion-image popped into my head. I was in early elementary school and I felt a bad feeling. I didn’t like early elementary school. Especially, the first two grades. I remember coming home crying to my mother one kindergarten day, saying how no one likes me. School was a jungle to me. People were wild and heartless animals and I could not understand their language. I was used to a certain level of attention and nurturing from home, from mother, but these kids just didn’t react to my jokes and TV references and my personality.

People were just mean without reason and no matter how many decent classmates were actually there, the sucky people stuck out the most. They were into who-likes-who-type things and who’s-being-bad-type things.

I always wanted to go home early in kindergarten and first grade. I was quiet and inside myself with no sense of social intuition. These kids were like Soviet gymnast on steroids when it came to socialization and I was Popeye pre-spinach.

I felt those feelings in that split second of meditation. I could see how those feelings began in early grade school and still follow me until this day. I had no control. Everyone and everything else did have the control, at least the illusion of it. But it’s better than nothing.

I formed my ego in the middle of a cursive writing lesson, writing out my name in the hope that one day I could sign autographs like Michael Jackson. The seeds for becoming a writer were planted on that paper with that lead pencil.

I don’t know what seeing that image and feeling that feeling will do for me. My guess is that its benefits will not take effect for another few months. For now, I’m made a connection and I know now with more certainty what meditation has been telling me for last year: God is in the breath, not the concept.

Post-Meditation Journal Entry #7 and #8

5/18/17, 1:23-1:46

I am changing. Every second a new thought to cling to, all dictating how to feel and perceive. So many thoughts.

I was successful and I don’t know how I was able to let them go one after the other. It was like changing cloths.

I can only vaguely remember one thought. It was a white male in his 30’s. Short, curly hair. He reminded me of the fat pledge from Animal House. He was wearing a white arctic outfit. I did not feel threatened by him. Although maybe I felt as though he was a loser. The type I’ve often needed to feel better about myself.

    

7/25/17, Time of day unrecorded, 8 minute duration

Chunky thoughts welled up. Or should I say a very big, chunky thought. Or a chunky chunk of thoughts. It was good and made me happy. And somewhat at peace. I’ve been having a lot of negative thoughts about my future these last few weeks, very gloomy. “Create your future,” the closest interpretation of the meditation’s message.

Post-Meditation Journal Entry # 4 and # 5

5/12/17, 5:00pm-ish, duration unknown

Today’s sit went by fast, but was hard. I want badly to catch the previous experiences, that deep experience. You feel like you’ve touched something. Today, I just didn’t touch anything.

I’m blocked as a writer, so I tried to start a screenplay today. I’ve completed screenplays in the past in between ages 14 and 21. I was bad at it but you couldn’t tell me otherwise back them. I thought that maybe since I completed screenplays in the past, I could finish one now and at least have a piece of work in my hand.

I had an interesting idea. But I couldn’t see the world of the story nor the protagonist. The elements that would compose the word of this story seemed flat and uncertain of itself. It was grey, cold and ashy. I reasoned that it was because I picked the wrong protagonist, so everything else fell apart. Story just might be too boring for me anymore. Not enough time to indulge in another writer’s stories, not sure where my story is going.

5/13/17, 10:00pm-10:20pm

The last thing I saw was Moby Dick. Also, I could see the sea vessel on choppy water.

Sometimes meditation is like dreaming. When you wake those thoughts and images slip away. But with meditation they just fade out like a candle and all you have is the smoke.

Post-Meditation Journal Entry #3

5/8/17, 7:20pm-7:40pm (Group Meditation)

I sat out during walking meditation. It goes too slow for me. I don’t like it. But what did I experience? I almost jumped at an uncomfortable thought. I inhaled and exhaled through it.

There’s a place somewhere in your breath. It’s a knot, a knot of thoughts. I saw people in it. Or maybe just a person. He/she/them was in the same mind set I was in. It’s a good place, maybe even a peaceful one, but I know it’s good.

The person was male this time, and he was in this knot.

I’ve denied myself this experience, definitely during my sits, maybe in other aspects of life. It’s scary. It’s real. It was a true object of the mind.

Gordian knot, Alexander’s challenge. The son of a bitch just cut the rope, honoring no mystery.

Post-Meditation Journal Entry #2

5/7/17, 8:20pm – 9:00pm

More messages this time. They’re almost dream-like and too hard to translate. I’m grateful for them. I feel as though I’ve benefited from this sit. I saw betrayal, that’s the word that comes to mind. It usually comes in the form of the image of a woman. So what comes to my conscious mind when I think of betrayal?

Mom’s 1990’s ABC soap operas and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

My interaction with betrayal has been minimal. I don’t set myself up for it. Betrayal requires that you let your guard down and assume loyalty from another. I’ve never felt loyalty, always the loyalty-bearer. I’ve been careful in this life to not act on any oath-breaking impulses with friends and colleagues, it’s not who I am and I don’t want the problems.

So why would betrayal popped up from the subconscious? Is it what the universe wants me to do, to be more vulnerable to those impulses, to take advantage of imbalanced relationships and live a little and stop being so nice?

Post-Meditation Journal Entry #1

May 7, 2017, 1:01pm-1:07pm

I don’t know why I can’t meditate for longer than 5 minutes without looking at a clock or watch. This time I held the urge. It made me realize that I was just looking for an excuse to break from my practice. A fact like that, so obvious, evaded me. Seemingly obvious things have often evaded me.

The meditation itself: I saw someone observing me, my reaction. It was real. Not real as in a sentient being, but an image. He reminded me of the alien at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The one with the beer belly who did the hand sign, but his face was tall-like. He had a light-blue tint to him and he seemed to be smiling, but he was curious about who I was in this new environment, his environment (a new job maybe). I don’t know if I could trust this image/thought/person. I’ve always gotten along with people, but I’ve had mixed results with whether or not I can really trust him or her, 50/50. The Unknown is always 50/50, malicious or benign, the universe its record playing its notes.

Photo and writing by Marc Alexander Valle.

The Bargain by Marc Alexander Valle ©2015

A piece from 10 years ago. I don’t see myself publishing it as I don’t feel that my work from back then is strong enough.

The Bargain

If what you see is what you get

and what you feel is what you fret

then what you’re dealing with is death.

Right?

But first,

I will say it twice

that karma is the weight of the universe

wearing a mask called ‘your life’

that knows there is no worse

than living on the blade of this knife

that is a gift or a curse

hanging on the roll the dice.

Second, back to the top:

The human heart’s yearning can not be stopped.

Why?

Cause we are who we are cause we are who we are.

What more do you need to see the stars?

The ones beyond the wrath of Mars.

Is it possessions you need

or to see someone bleed?

Is it to want what you watch

or is it a life without a blemish. . .a blotch?

Is it a dignified name?

Maybe to drive your foes insane?

Is it to justify your grudge?

To justify the verdict of who ever you judge?

And is that all we’ve got?

A complex knot,

non-stop

saying how life is good with a lot?

Maybe.

But let’s suppose, just supposing,

that we were meant to go neither fast nor slow,

wisdom is loving what we’ve yet to know.

Let’s suppose we are toy soldiers

to gods, who push feathers and boulders.

And gods are merely metaphors

for a meaningful life when the weather pours

the world’s illusions after begging for more.

That would mean, greed is betrayal.

It’s what you decide to become when you fail.

to set sail

on the sea of your dreams. . .so you bail.

But this is what you call a hypothesis

and I am just an obnoxious twit,

who still believes that a Superhero-type God exists.

So I am not looking for converts.

Believe what you must and what you feel works.

But if you take any heed to this unproven theory

Then there is one more thing that I want to state clearly:

Choice is an extension of individuality

that, of course, comes with its own duality

where the world says, “I am your life’s totality,”

and the true self whispers gallantly,

“Know your heart and you shall know reality.”

by Marc Alexander Valle

Mixed Media Artwork by Marc Alexander Valle

Writer’s Process: On Subject Matter

This is how I pick the subject matter for each short-short (or flash) autobiographical story that I write.

My mind is a giant field in the summer sun. There are colorful flowers on top of it. There are also, nickels and dimes that are hidden by the grass. I always want to write about the flowers because they stick out, seem so dramatic. But if I just move around the field a bit, the unexposed nickels and dimes will shine. I am drawn to them. This is how I pick my subject matter. They are moments in life, that when first thinking about them, seem dull. But if you look at it another way or at least give it a shot, they turn out to be turning points in how your philosophical outlook was formed. This is where I have been finding inspiration, in the little moments.