The Stoner Rationalizes Time

Looking back, those hot Santa Barbara days in 2002 now feel like an age ago, a time capsule of a life once lived, as if someone else bore my name and carried my memories. I was still a transplant back then, a young Midwesterner caught in the allure of a coastal paradise, or so it seemed. My life, much like the ochre hills and blue Pacific, was a tableau of contrasts: barren on the surface, yet teeming beneath.

The summer sun was unyielding, as if challenging everything to grow or perish. My worn-out couches bore the brunt of my escape. They stood as sentinels, witnesses to the silent battles waged between the hot Santa Barbara afternoons and my nighttime TV reruns. The comforting hum of canned laughter was often my only companion, filling up the spaces left empty by my brother’s departure.

“Back East,” he’d say, almost as a mantra, “I’m going back East.” His voice echoed in my head. That phrase became another habitual part of me, entwined with the scent of weed and the flavor of shrooms. His accident had drained the color from our lives, the uninsured driver who hit him and fled, a ghost in the machine of our existence, leaving scars that were more than skin deep.

2002, a year of contradictions and juxtapositions, was the stage for my own escapism, an inner journey of sorts. In avoiding opiates, I had chosen other companions. Weed and shrooms, my twin anchors, tethered me to a reality that was both inside and outside. In the middle of all the ugliness and chaos, they offered solace, a departure from a world too bitter to swallow. I reveled in their comfort, nurtured them until they became more than habits, escalating into an addiction that I only understood in retrospect.

In those years, the Pacific Ocean was my constant backdrop, a silken sheen under the sun, wild and restless under the moon, reflecting my turbulent self. Its tides resonated with the ebb and flow of my own life, a mirroring so uncanny, it felt almost divine. When I stood by its vast expanse, the world, with all its chaos, seemed far away, contained within the confines of the horizon. It made me believe in the illusion of control, that I could keep the world out by simply shutting the door.

Looking back, the house in Santa Barbara was more than just a home. It was a refuge, a stronghold amidst the bedlam outside. It sheltered me, gave me the freedom to be, to unravel, to discover myself. I had settled into its crevices, its familiar rhythms and patterns, its odd creaks, and squeaks becoming part of my everyday symphony. The winding lanes, the Sunday farmer’s market, the beatnik cafe down the street – they were all pieces of a jigsaw that slowly fell into place. I was an outsider looking in, yet gradually becoming a part of it all.

The neighborhood was a microcosm of Santa Barbara itself. A melange of people: the reticent old lady next door who had stories etched on her face; the boisterous surfers chasing waves, their sun-bleached hair and tanned skin a testament to the life outdoors; the taciturn barista who knew my coffee before I did. These relationships, fleeting as they were, carved out a niche, helping me shape my identity amidst the isolation.

Now, in the lucidity of hindsight, I understand that the choices we make often stem from a place deeper than we realize. We are but intricate weaves of our circumstances and decisions, the past and the present, constantly evolving. And in the crucible of that summer of 2002, in the sweltering heat and balmy nights, in the very heart of my escapism, I was growing – slowly, painfully, but undeniably. For the first time, I was truly confronting myself, the barrenness of my existence mirroring the harsh Santa Barbara landscape under the cruel summer sun.

The epiphany came gradually, like the Santa Barbara fog that crept silently over the hills, softening the world with its quiet touch. I realized that we are all seeking, always seeking, something – an answer, a connection, a means of escape, or perhaps, ourselves. It was my escape that led me to myself, my addiction that brought me face-to-face with my demons.

My addiction was not chemical. It was not the drugs I used at all. My addiction was to time, to controlling it, to structuring my life such that nothing was asked of me and every minute was mine to consume. And how I squandered it…

I latched onto the unfettered hours of the day like a shipwreck survivor clings to floating debris, each minute a stepping stone on the tumultuous sea of existence. The hours ticked away in front of the TV, the love seat imprinting its fabric pattern on my bare skin. Time, in its infinite abundance, was both my sanctuary and my tormentor.

How I squandered it. How I burned through hours, days, weeks, like a wasteful child blowing dandelion clocks, each seed of wasted time floating away in the hot Santa Barbara breeze. The clock was my accomplice, conspiring with me in my self-encapsulated solitude, the digits on the screen morphing from afternoon languor to midnight madness.

The frenzied carousel of daytime television characters was my refuge, their faces projected onto the craggy hills and starlit nights of Santa Barbara, blending reality and illusion. I drowned in reruns and sitcom laughter, using the contrived plots and rehearsed banter as a veil, obscuring the increasingly evident reality of my addiction.

Each sunrise was a declaration of my dominion over time. My day began when the world outside started winding down, when the relentless California sun gave way to soft shadows. My twilight excursions were journeys into the bowels of my escape, walking the moonlit beaches, smoking, thinking, and staring out into the vastness of the Pacific. I would ponder my place in the universe, the cosmos mirrored in the ocean’s depth, and how I had become a slave to time, the one entity no one can truly master.

My addiction to time was a bizarre one. It was not the thrill of being high, nor the dread of coming down. It was the thrill of existing, of experiencing life on my own terms. In the landscape of my solitude, my addiction gave me a sense of control, an illusion that I could orchestrate the ebb and flow of my existence.

It took years to untangle the threads of this addiction, to learn that my desperate need for control was a response to the chaos of the world outside. It was a false sense of empowerment, a misjudged rebellion against the order of things. Yet, it was also a critical part of my journey. It was in the throes of my time addiction that I began to unravel, to comprehend the contradictions that made me who I was.

Fast forward to now, standing on the precipice of the past, looking back at my 2002 self, I can’t help but feel a strange sense of gratitude. For in my struggle against time, against chaos, against my own demons, I stumbled upon the most profound discovery – myself. I learned to navigate the tumultuous currents of existence, to ride the waves rather than be submerged. I found the strength to step out from the artificial rhythm of my days into the light of self-understanding, to embrace the true essence of life that is messy, unpredictable, and beautiful in its chaos.

Santa Barbara, 2002, the year of my rebirth, was not a period of my life, but a lifetime in itself. It was the chrysalis, the winter sleep, the journey through the underworld. And the me that emerged was not the same as the one who had entered. It was a time of profound transformation, a voyage of self-discovery, as much a part of me as my flesh and bones. And for that, I am eternally grateful

How did I get out? How did I become a person who can look back on all that time wasted and know that it was not wasted, but a period of growth, albeit a rather distorted one? There was no moment, no event where the hands of time stopped. There was no greater thing that pulled me from it either, it was not love or responsibility, it was not a belief that set me out into the world. It was simply a matter of tolerance. I had built up too much, to the weed, to the trips, to time itself. My addictions became a bore because as a person I was a bore, even to myself.

A mirror hung in the small hallway leading to my bedroom, an ordinary rectangle of reflective glass. The man that looked back at me, day in, day out, was at first a stranger. He was vacant, void, almost transparent. His eyes were not the vivid, enthusiastic eyes of the young man who had made the daring leap from the Midwest to the Californian coast. They were now empty pools of color, devoid of the spark that once flickered there.

Each passing day, I looked into that mirror and saw a specter of myself. I realized I was becoming a ghost in my own existence, a sleepwalker moving aimlessly through the haze of escapism. The sitcoms became white noise, the laughter a hollow echo, the faces on the screen merely a blur of colors. Everything that I had consumed so voraciously, every minute that I had hoarded so fiercely, turned to ash in my mouth.

The weed lost its magic, the shrooms their luster. Even the hands of time seemed to move with an agonizing slowness, each ticking second a cruel reminder of my life’s stagnation. Boredom, the silent tormentor, began to gnaw at my edges. I was drowning in the quicksand of monotony, stuck in a loop of my own making. There was no exhilaration, no euphoria. Just an endless expanse of ennui.

And then, it hit me. A stunning realization, like a clap of thunder on a clear day. It was not the world outside that was the problem, but my own perception of it. The chaos, the ugliness, the trials – they were all part of the grand, unfathomable spectacle of life. And I had been trying to hide from it, to construct an artificial reality within the confines of my small Santa Barbara house. But I had grown tired of my own company, bored of the stagnant existence I had cultivated.

The mirror became a portal, a gateway to self-awareness. I saw the dullness in my eyes, the lethargy in my posture. I was not just a spectator anymore. I was an active participant in my own deterioration. And that realization shook me to my core. It jolted me out of my stupor, forced me to confront the truth. My addiction was not my shelter. It was my prison.

There was no epiphany, no sudden shift in the cosmos, no divine intervention. The path to my liberation was a gradual unlearning, a slow and tedious dismantling of the self I had created. It was a re-evaluation, a re-discovery, a re-birth. I started small, taking little steps toward re-engaging with the world. I stepped out of the dim glow of the TV and into the brilliant Santa Barbara sun, squinting at the harsh light of reality. It was uncomfortable, it was intimidating, but it was also invigorating.

The process was neither quick nor easy. But with each day, each minute that I reclaimed from my past existence, I felt a sense of purpose seeping back into my life. I was shedding layers of past selves, each one slightly closer to the person I wanted to be. Each moment in the relentless Santa Barbara sun was a moment of rebirth, of starting anew.

Fast forward to the present. Yes, you see an older man, back on that well-worn couch, a bong cradled in one hand, Judge Judy’s shrill voice cutting through the haze of nostalgia. You might say I’ve come full circle, back to where I started, back to 2002. But I’m not the same person I was then, not by a long shot.

Life is not linear, not a clear-cut trajectory from point A to point B. It’s a meandering path, full of twists and turns, detours and dead ends. Sometimes, we move forward, only to retrace our steps. Sometimes, we expand, growing into the person we’re meant to be. Sometimes, we contract, withdrawing into the familiar cocoon of past selves.

Between then and now, I’ve journeyed far and wide. I’ve delved deep into the intricacies of my own psyche, discovered my strengths, confronted my weaknesses. I’ve grappled with my demons, wrestled with my fears. I’ve been out there, really out there, weathering the storms, basking in the sun, living life in all its chaotic glory.

Now, I’m back here, back in the comforting embrace of my past addictions, taking a brief pause from the whirlwind of existence. I’m savoring the moment, drinking in the sweetness and bitterness of life, like a connoisseur of time. I’ve returned to my old habits, not out of desperation, but out of choice, out of a newfound appreciation for the intricacies of life.

I am here, back on that couch, older, wiser, the ghost of 2002 a mere shadow in the corner of my eye. And yes, I’m lecturing you about the beauty of knowing, of understanding, of growing. Because I do know. I know that life is not about avoiding the chaos, the ugliness, the trials. It’s about embracing them, about learning from them, about finding the beauty within the chaos.

Yes, I am back in my old haunt, but not as a prisoner of time, rather as its master. I choose to be here, to sink into the worn cushions of the love seat, to lose myself in the familiar drone of daytime TV. I am no longer fleeing from life, but rather, savoring it. I am here, not because I need to escape, but because I choose to engage. I am here, not because I am lost, but because I have found myself.

So here I am, back to where I started, but with a twist. I have not regressed, but rather, I have evolved. I have grown, I have changed, I have become a better version of myself. And that’s the beauty of it. Life is not about reaching a destination, but about enjoying the journey, no matter how winding or challenging the path may be.

I have come full circle, back to 2002, but with a fresh perspective, a renewed sense of self. I have returned to my addiction, not out of necessity, but out of a newfound appreciation for life, for time, for the beauty of being. And for that, I am eternally grateful.