Biting Your Own Teeth


C’mon baby…just one smooch.

Who are you? What are your passions? What do you want?

Orchestral and reaching questions. Too much to think about when lining up to buy your cat food and mouthwash. The type of questions left for the magical “one day” when you are meditating on a mountaintop and the answers come flowing out of you like rainwater spilling over leaves during a monsoon.

These questions haunt me at times. They nip at the heels of my mind and constantly try to pin me down. What do I want?

For years I have dealt with the second question. I listen to many motivational speakers talking about finding your passion, about nailing down those things you were meant to do, about falling in love with your work in life, about using that gift from the Creator to better those around you and yourself. But what if you don’t know what they are? Will we ever know, or are there only a few lucky souls out there who found it and the rest of us are to suffer?

I like naps. In fact, I love naps. And eating. But those aren’t passions as they are functions of the body. I like to write on occasion. I like to run. But they are accessories. They help me sort my brain out and bring me a certain level of comfort, but they don’t drive me daily. They don’t prick at my skin if I neglect them. Sure, I may get a bit surly if I am injured and can’t run, but most runners are like that. I am not compelled to be an Olympic athlete (I’m too old, anyways).


As for writing, I have come to the conclusion that I am not the writer with a capital “w” as I thought I was. In some ways it’s a relief to let go of that banner which I falsely carried for years. I know many strong and hard-working writers, who really immerse themselves in the craft, and in reading, and have a passion for it that eludes me. I admire them. I love their strong will. I see that they need to write. I don’t. I enjoy it and can put a sentence together alright, but I don’t get an itchy pen hand when not scribbling. And that’s okay. I am more than comfortable now that I can verbalise it and feel it.

Alcohol was a false prophet when it came to passion. I craved it for it’s magical properties, to convert a no-nothing guy like me into something, well, special. I felt like I had some passion in me. It made me feel that I knew what I wanted. When drinking, I felt like I could take on the world. And the next day, after the boozy pixie dust blew away, I was left with nothing. A shell within the shell of an idea.

I was listening to philosopher and speaker Alan Watts the other day. He had a fabulous and brilliant mind, and he has a well-known talk about finding out what we want, and about the decay of life and giving it away to keep it. The one part that stands out in his talk is when he states:

Why don’t you really know what you want?

Two reasons, that you don’t really know what you want.

Number one: You have it.

Number two: You don’t know yourself. Because you never can. The godhead is never the object of its own knowledge, just as a knife doesn’t cut itself, fire doesn’t burn itself, life doesn’t illumine itself. It’s always an endless mystery to itself. “I don’t know”. And this “I don’t know”, uttered in the infinite interior of the spirit, this “I don’t know”, is the same thing as “I love”, “I let go”, “I don’t try to force or control”. It’s the same thing as humility.

The idea of already having what we want is a heavy trip. We hear this often in spiritual circles – “you are enough”. The concept of already possessing what we need is one that boggles the mind. As Watts notes in another talk of his, “trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.” We are plenty, we are every changing, and yet we can’t pin it down. We look elsewhere for our happiness, but we have always had it within. And in searching for it without, we deny the happiness we already carry. Spiritual Guru Rupert Spira describes it as: “the self that seeks happiness is like a wave which seeks water”.  The ocean and the wave are separate and yet the same.

The crazy thing about being on a spiritual journey is that it leaves you with more questions than answers, and yet it’s in seeking the answers that truly is the real work, the real path. The questions are the arrows pointing the way. That is where I find myself these days — in existential thoughts as I see myself cresting over the (hopefully) halfway hill of my life. It’s not enough for me to just be sober. I seek more in this life, to give back, to feel truly fulfilled. My goal is that when I die, I will die knowing that I put it all out there, that I didn’t leave anything behind. And that is my quandary — to find the passions that ignite me further, and yet staying within my own confines so that I don’t find myself trying to define myself with a label or a thing…in other words, trying to bite my own teeth.

So inward I dive. All the answers are within. They always have been. I just need the right tools to get in there. A karmic crowbar, or a Jesuit jackhammer will do. Perhaps a spot of tea and the right meditation incense. Or really, the willingness to go deeper. An open mind. Unflinching honesty. And that is where I sit. I look to hold the mirror a bit more towards myself and less outside. I look to delve in and not spout out. It’s not an easy task, but the rewards are worth it.

My morning routine.



24 Comments Add yours

  1. Hearon (HD) says:

    Quandary, isn’t it? I like Mark’s phrase of the “Miracle of the Mundane” because it highlights (among other things) the TRUTH that provider, husband, dad, son are your primary roles. Excel at those without lasting regrets and you will have left here the way you want. Nothing else matters. May sound trite but that’s what I think. That said, I do get it. The sense of “is this all?” can be tough to shake and (trite again) hits most people in middle age. All the best to you, Paul.

    1. Paul S says:

      Hey Hearon! You were the first to reply and I am responding last, because I think you bring up something very important, and yet I still struggle with.
      As I mentioned to Mark in my reply to him, I understand the role of provider, husband, dad, etc. and its importance. For me, those are baseline for me. Minimums. I couldn’t imagine trying to find greater meaning in life when I am being a shitty dad or husband. I am not saying I am Dad of the Year stuff either, but I feel that I work hard at being a good father, partner, worker, etc.
      Having said that, I feel that there is more to it. I feel that there is a calling, or callings, which I would feel disingenuous in not exploring. I am not talking about fleeing my family and rushing over to the Himalayas to be a hermit. Little things. Simple things. Things like running. Things like writing. Maybe volunteer somewhere. Or create something (always a pull for me). Teach. Inject myself with life. The BB talks about what can we pack into the stream of life? Am I content to just pack lunches for my kids, clean house and do my shift at work? Kiss my wife on the cheek when I get home? Those are noble in their ways. But am I being true to the spirit within?
      Of course, I am not talking fame and riches. I am content to know that I am not destined for that. But something deeper. Something that speaks to me in a way that it’s a part of me. That is a part of the puzzle. You know what I mean?
      I speak in grand terms, but like I said, it could be something as simple as taking an art class (I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, to be honest!) or whatnot. Nothing huge. But which gets me.
      Anyways, I may find 10-15 years from now looking at this response of mine and laughing at its naivety, but hey. That’s life 😉


  2. Jocelyn Davis says:

    Paul, THIS!! Just what I needed to hear this morning as I sit wondering what I am doing with the time I have here. Thank you. Jocelyn

    1. Paul S says:

      Thank you for the read, Jocelyn! I hope you find some answers!

  3. I sure have struggled with this since I retired.
    I am trying to understand that maybe just being good to my husband, my family members, and my community, is enough.
    That is my purpose.
    And just think…if everyone did that what a great world it would be!
    Naps are good!!

    1. Paul S says:

      You know, I was thinking about retirees when I was writing this as well. I know that a lot of folks get depressed and such after they retire, as they have attached who they are to their position at work, etc. So thank you for mentioning it.
      I understand what you say about being good to folks, etc. Perhaps I am not at that level yet. I still hold onto maybe something “else” happening – not even sure what that means! But for now, I will search and see what comes up. But of course, I still remain as good a dad, husband, worker, etc. I can be!

      Thanks Wendy!

  4. Now that I have managed to get a bit of lasting sobriety I’m also struggling with many of these kind of questions. Your post was perfect timing for me and I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing 🙂 x

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks for this – glad to know that I am not alone in this. I mean, I know we all struggle with this at some point in our lives. I feel its’ natural for us to examine ourselves in the light of reflection. Some may find answers sooner than others. Or like I said, perhaps it’s not in the answers per se as it is the journey 🙂

  5. primrose says:

    Literally 30 seconds before I read this post I was searching online for Neil Gaiman’s New Year’s wishes… have you come across them? I find them helpful when the existential mud gets too deep to wade through…. wishing you well dear Paul and thanks as ever for your presence and honesty here. Xx

    1. Paul S says:

      I just looked it up and I loved it! Make all the mistakes…brilliant. I really enjoyed that! Thanks for sharing that, Prim! Blessings to you and thanks again for being a part of my recovery circle 🙂

  6. Cassieglows says:

    I am one of those who hates the whole “find your passion” movement because I don’t have a passion really and for the longest time all that shit made me feel inferior or that maybe something was wrong with me. It’s ok to not have a passion. I just like life and living and reading and my family and watching the sunrise/sunset and baking and some days, yes, even vacuuming LOL! I just want to chill out, relax, enjoy the sights and sounds around me. I used to argue with motivational speakers who were brought into work because I could never declare my “passion”. Eff off! I am happy, content, have a few goals.. why am I a failure because I don’t have a passion? I’m not and stop trying to make me fit in your box.

    That was kind of a rant… Anyway, LOVE this post and I love Alan Watts. He is mind blowingly awesome!

    1. Paul S says:

      I know exactly what you mean, Cassie. I was nodding while reading your response. I too have felt that maybe something is missing, or I am not “doing life” properly. I am glad that you have found your passion in not finding your passion, or more to the point, the passion of just enjoying life – that’s a passion! It’s hard for people, myself included, to live life like that. For realies. I have a hard time sitting and just being and just enjoying. We are all so caught up in putting photos and videos on our phones, not actually taking the time to take things in as they happen. Already planning that Instagram post or Tweet (ahem).
      So I am actually envious of you to have that attitude so early on. I may agree with you in 15 years! But I am inclined to move your way, but still there is something…not sure what…that is drawing me in. I just don’t know what it is. It’s maybe not the Passion with a capital P that those speakers talk about, but perhaps a calling? Maybe that is more the word.

      Thanks for this Cassie – loved it!!
      And yes, Alan Watts is the shit.

    2. Hearon (HD) says:

      Cassie, you and I are (again) on the same wavelength! That said, for me it did take some work, some humility (or even humbling) and some therapy bills! What a journey we are on!

  7. jeffstroud says:

    Well I could dive right in here and give you many suggestions, yet I will not! Not at the moment, plus you didn’t ask for directions or suggestions. The questions “who am I, what do I want to be ? etc are all perfectly good questions for a person how is in the midst of recovery. It is one of the reason AA is structure as it is. The founders and early members created the prefect program to assist you in the process of uncovering those aspects of self… for now!

    1. Paul S says:

      Jeff! I love your comments. Ha ha I didn’t even think about asking. I would have thought that too presumptuous a demand! So thank you. I think this is just another part of the uncovering, discovering and applying / discarding. Just perhaps at a deeper level. It’s not freaking me out or putting me in the spinner – just trying to let it unfold as it needs to.
      Thank you again for putting a wonderful note together.

  8. This piece exudes acceptance. You know how I feel about your ability as a writer. But, how you identify yourself is up to you. And I think the real peace is coming to terms with what makes you happy. In that regard, you are leaps and bounds ahead of most people, I think. I struggle with the middle ground, and like you, I’m always working to be in it and sort of pitch a tent there, stay a while.

    I appreciate HD’s nod to the miracle of the mundane. In my right mind I appreciate the struggles–the smelly, funky, ones–as pieces to a larger and better puzzle. It’s seeing the forest from the trees. This post does it. I try my best to do it. But, I’m usually in the lowlands, just trying to find the fucking trail that can take me home.

    I wish you nothing but the best, Paul. I hope your projects will see themselves through. No matter the Writer or writer, you’ve got a damn good book and blog to boot. My best wishes, always, Mark

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks for this Mark – I always look forward to your insight and thoughts in these things, and you didn’t fail here in adding some wisdom to the deal.
      I too want to pitch a tent somewhere and mill about, pick acorns and make a fire. But I love the idea that we are in flux, fluid, ever changing. The river I step in is not the river I stand in type of deal. In the meantime, I try to shed what doesn’t suit me, or serve me. The stories, the facades, the ideals, etc. I carry them like large stones and wonder why my back hurts. The more I shed, the lighter I feel. And that is why the Writer with small w. I am not ready to run with the pack yet, so I am content to type up a few words, show them, and then go back to my tent. Maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s the sense of not being good enough, and that may come out in the next unravelling.
      I am happy to keep searching. I have never been one to settle in one place, anyways. That’s why the tent doesn’t stay for long. As I will mention to HD, I feel there is more out there than just being a good dad, a good husband, etc. Those are baseline for me. Non-negotiables. I am not talking fame and riches. This isn’t Indiana Jones. But something. A calling? A wanting? Something to mark my time here other than two boys who carry my last name. You know?

      Thanks again Mark – you rock.


  9. saoirsek says:

    This is what I needed, was feeling a bit surplus to requirements recently, that I should be doing more, for others,doing stuff for myself feels selfish. Again, it reminds me to have gratitude for what I have. S x

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks for this, my friend. I am glad to hear that it resonated for you. I need constant reminders about gratitude. I find that I get away from it when I need it the most. Typical of me…ha ha. Anyway, hope you are feeling better.

      1. saoirsek says:

        Thanks Paul, yeah , constantly learning even after 7 years. In fact sometimes I feel like I’ve just walked in the doors of Aa😊

  10. I wonder if the reason why we can’t answer these questions is simply that their scope is too broad and they are outside of our normal expressions.
    For example, in the U.S. most people are taught not to talk too much about themselves and that talking excessively about one’s achievements or best traits is bragging and unkind. Therefore, when presented with “What do you like best about yourself?” we draw a blank. Are we allowed to say? More so, did we even bother to form an opinion in the first place?
    Additionally, saying “What do you want for dinner?” or “What do you want to do on vacation?” or other specific, purposeful questions are more the norm. However, simply saying “What do you want?” is so vast and without context. It’s the same with “Who are you?” In relation to who? In what scenario? For what purpose?
    It is not common to practice these broad, “no wrong answers” questions.

    1. Paul S says:

      Yes to this all!
      I agree – we are conditioned to not think highly of ourselves lest we come off as arrogant. Then again, I love how children do it – they are quick to say what they love about themselves, and what they’re good at. They say it as a matter of fact, rather than as bravado. I love when my boys do that. It shows a *healthy* sense of self, something we lose along the way.

      Great comments here – lots to chew on. It’s always a tough thing to measure, in terms of the context, isn’t it?

      Thank you so much for this! Wonderful.

  11. Paul-
    I am still working all of this out in my life. It’s messy and my status seems to change day to day, less enlightened, more “hot mess express” I am
    afraid. Sometimes all of the soul searching feels self centered and narcissistic, at times necessary, and other times exhausting. As usual a thought provoking and beautifully written post.
    All the best-

  12. furtheron says:

    Happiness IS the road…

    Still repeatedly forget that and rush along the road to get to the next junction only to go… Oh this isn’t it, where next and look in the rearview mirror and go – “Oh darn, that bit back there might have been interesting if only I’d slowed down and looked about more.”

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