RW219 - Failsafes

This week, Dan and John talk about:

  • Dan having gone through hardship that he won’t talk about in public (Dan Benjamin)
  • How sharing can help others feel heard (Humanities)
  • Materialism, judging wealth only by material aspects (Objects)
  • How different hardships affect different people differently (Depression)
  • Storytelling, digesting your experiences before you can form them into a story (Humanities)
  • John still not fully understanding his walk across Europe (The Big Walk)
  • The journey is the only thing there is and the destination is unknown (Personality)
  • Getting a colonoscopy without anesthetic (Drugs)
  • John not having had claustrophobia / panic in a long time (Anxiety)

The show title refers to John’s friend in college working with decking out airplanes for the super rich and there have to be failsafes when you install a Jacuzzi into a 747 in case the plane gets into some turbulence.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Dan having gone through hardship that he won’t talk about in public (RW219)

Dan is having a little bit of a bouncy day, trying to get everything set back up again. Every time you move one cable you have to redo everything. Yesterday John moved in partially to his new house and he took his recording rig over there to record Roderick on the Line and yesterday he was recording Omnibus and usually he tries to walk between the two houses and he is still going to have to do Omnibus at his daughter's mother's / partner's house for a while because they have a big table and he doesn’t have one at his own house. He walked over there, came downstairs, Ken was already sitting in the chair and John sat down and realized he didn't have his computer and had left it as his own house.

They got in the car, drove over to John’s house, got the computer, and drove back. Ken is very patient, but there are certain spots where he gets a little testy about time. John is pretty lackadaisical and Ken is very list-driven. They got back, came downstairs, John plugged his computer in, they were sitting at the table and John didn’t have his audio to digital interface, so they got back in the car, drove back over, and got the other thing. It was a real goof story. You plug in stuff, you are unplugging stuff, pretty soon you don't have the stuff you need.

Dan is very reticent to talk about his personal life on Road Work and he doesn’t do it on his other shows either. He wished he did had a Dan Benjamin After Dark because then he would be making the big Patreon money and just rake it in. It wouldn't be empathy or sympathy, but it would be just straight up pity. John has talked to Dan offline a lot and Dan is a very good interviewer who spends a lot of time interviewing and he can be mistaken that he is a cipher and the things he does reveal are that he lives in a house, he does meditation and goes to the doctor a lot and has back problems and wears hats.

Whatever it is that he gives away to people, but they have no idea what his last couple of years have been like. John has to report that Dan has been experiencing an overwhelmingly intense journey that would kill a normal man. All of his fans would benefit from him doing a show or two where he outlined his experiences because his experiences are shared in part by a lot of people and it would humanize him, but on the other hand: Where do you even start! Set the Wayback Machine to all the way back!

Dan says that if he would ever talk about it, it would be with John on this show. The impression that people have of Dan is so different from the reality, and that is nobody's fault but his own, but it couldn't possibly be further from what his life is actually like. People imagine a strict routine that involves lots of hand washing and laundering of shirts and ironing, everything is perfect and organized and every drawer is knolled properly. Some of those things, especially the hand washing are certainly true, but that is about where it ends.

Dan remembers John telling a story where he was at a friend's house and might have laid something on a pillow and then withdrew it and no one would know (see RW72), the guy that catalogs all of your stuff (Jochen) will remember it. That is a private thing for John and he gets his own little laugh. Dan is always entertained by what people think. John is one of the few people that he shares personal things with and could probably agree that Dan is the same offline and in person as he is on the air, but the percentage of what he shares privately versus on the air is the only difference.

Sometimes he will read things that other people will share and although you are not supposed to compare with other people and there are people starving in China, his own story is so much worse than that and they are getting all of this empathy and sympathy and everything else from everyone and Dan could use some of that, but he would have to tell the story.

In Dan’s experience of the last year, how much has he yet experienced and how much has he been tested, because he is fielding right now. Somebody is hitting fly balls and Dan is out trying to field them. He was being tested profoundly and his competence is a strength, but also his tendency to try and wash his problems away with antibacterial soap is something that can keep the real challenge out of his mind or can cause him to leave it be, and John really believes that his experience is valuable to other people and maybe sharing it is the only way to process it. We will have to see what comes out of it. Dan thinks it is better to tell a story like that as a retrospective story, as opposed to in the midst of it being ongoing. It needs some time either way.

There is nothing scandalous going on. There is no intrigue, really. It is just stuff, it is not scandal. It doesn't reflect on Dan except that he took whatever paths he took that delivered him onto here and he did make decisions along the way, but he is absolved at least in John’s sense of the thing. There are so many things that John is sure Dan hasn’t told him that still remain to be seen.

Dan truly enjoyed the TV show Lost. There was this big expectation that the majority, if not all of the big secrets would get explained and we would come away in the finale or at least in the final season, saying: ”Oh, I get this now! This makes sense! These big questions were answered!”, but not only didn't they answer most of the big questions, but they introduced more scenarios, situations and other unexplained details in the process of not really explaining some of the other questions that you were left feeling like: ”Well, what was that? What just happened? Why did I invest all of this time in this show?” because you think you are going to get some answer and you don't.

How sharing can help others feel heard (RW219)

John has a philosophy of of sharing. He never feels like he is oversharing because oversharing is when someone gives you too much information and you start to get uncomfortable and you think: ”I don't know you well enough to know all this stuff!” The implication is that the person who is receiving the sharing doesn't want to know it. When John talks about all his travails over the course of many decades he is not interested in people's sympathy. When he talks about things that have hurt or that are bonkers people do offer their sympathy and he tries to be gracious, but that is why he is doing it and hopefully everything he shares helps other people experience those things in their own lives and not feel alone and not feel down and not feel persecuted.

All this stuff happened to John and it is not personal and life deals you some blows and sometimes those blows include losing your front teeth in a fight and sometimes they include just not being able to make your rent, but some aspects of Dan’s story are very recently themed and would not have happened to somebody in the 1970s, except in the very most general sense. It is very specific to our time, a bit like what happened to John earlier this year (the Beandad incident) and a lot of people are suffering in silence, unable to or unwilling to reveal what is going on because it is embarrassing or just destabilizing.

The fact that Dan keeps his general level of competence, maybe the way that he copes is just more handwashing, and maybe what has been going on in his life hasn't triggered anxiety or these things to incapacitate him. Sharing his story wouldn't just flesh Dan out as a character and online personality, but you can never know whom your story is going to reach and how it is going to help them.

All the time people reach out to John and they are quick to say: ”We don't have much commonality in terms of what what our life looks like from outside, but the story that you told resonated with me in this other way!” - ”Yes, exactly! The fact that our material circumstances are very different doesn't change the fact that internally and spiritually we are very much alike!” You can be a wealthy Swede or you can be a very poor person from South America, or you can be a very poor person from Sweden and a very wealthy person from South America, but your emotional experiences can be so similar and you would never know it.

Materialism, judging wealth only by material aspects (RW219)

There is a lot of materialism in our society and on our planet. It has become the way that we see things, not in terms of consumerism, but you look at someone else and you judge their well-being according to their access to material. This person is rich, this person has groceries, this person is without want, and this person struggles and so there is injustice, but that is a very materialistic view because this person could have tremendous spiritual and emotional well-being and the person with wealth is spiritually bankrupt and in terms of actual experience of the world and progress through the world the difference in the quality of life between those two people is maxed out, but we think of the injustice only flowing in one direction, the materialistic direction.

It is unquantifiable and it is uncomfortable for us to quantify and it can be used very condescendingly to say: ”These poor people have dancing, they all get together on the dirt floor and they dance whereas the these people are shut off from one another and living close lives!” and that can be very condescending if what you are talking about in that moment is materialism. But if you zoom out far enough and say: ”What do I want in life?” It is a trope to say that past a certain point adding more wealth and adding more things to your life is not the secret to happiness and a lot of rich people are constantly trying to rid themselves of stuff, not of money unless they are very rich and oftentimes that feels theatrical because they certainly keep a lot of money, but the idea of living an ascetic life intentionally in order to find some spirituality is rich people trying really hard.

Materialism is a cancer of the mind and spirit. To be caught in a limited view of what human life is or is capable of and thinking of it only in terms of what you have, even if that is just at a basic level of: ”This person has enough to survive without worry and that person doesn't!” is to privilege the worry of material things. Yeah, that person has to struggle, but that isn't necessarily the source of pain, it isn't necessarily as great a suffering as to not. To not struggle is a form of psychic disconnect, it is to be less human. Complacency is worse than struggle in many ways. Struggle is purpose, it is energy, it is what humans are meant to experience, if humans are meant to be anything.

Looking at those rich kids on Instagram, some 20 year old sitting in his father's jet and showing off his six watches or whatever, you never saw more miserable people than that. They are just living lives of total pain unless they are empty of feelings. There are people that are empty, but the only way that you could be that and not be miserable is to be hollowed out. John has traveled enough to know that material wealth has next to zero effect on how people are really doing right, and his struggle is the same as a lot of middle class people: He tries to stuff those holes with vintage tennis shoes in the hope that his vintage tennis shoes will briefly alleviate his suffering, and in a lot of ways they only increase his suffering.

But Dan’s story is something that would help people at a level that is not materialistic. What he is experiencing is a psychosocial spiritual disconnect, he is way out in the weeds, and through no fault of his own, which is the part that resonates with people, it is out of his control largely, although he tries, but he is just trying to wrestle a bear back into a mason jar. There are a lot of people suffering in silence because how do you go to a Fuddruckers and tell your High School friend that this is going on in your life? ”How is it going?” - ”Fine!”

How different hardships affect different people differently (RW219)

John is making a good argument for Dan to want it to share it eventually in time. He has never told the story about his sublingual nerve damage. That is a major thing that happens one out of every few hundred thousand people and Dan hasn’t told that story, there is no reason to, maybe it would help someone. He has met one other person in his life who went through that, but it feels like: ”Poor me! Boohoo!” Unfortunately it is a contemporary disease to think of the experiences that you are having as either engines of generating sympathy.

We are living in a culture now where sympathy equates to status, where suffering equates to status. Again, this is very materialistic, because we equate suffering with virtue and suffering is not necessarily virtue. The poor are not virtuous and the rich are not corrupt necessarily. It is the wealth that corrupts, not the corrupt that gain wealth, although that is a hard idea to advance because we are used to thinking that only the corrupt get rich. Particularly the Left is used to thinking of the poor as noble. There is nobility to being poor because you are suffering and that is the thing that brings nobility.

It is true throughout literature. Sometimes it is the rich person that dresses in a bat suit, but the thing that makes him compelling as a narrative device is that we put a child through tremendous trauma in order to create this character of a very rich but troubled bat person, but again: That has been amplified in our present day so that there is an arms race of trauma, particularly on the Internet.

That is no indices of character! The amount of trauma that you have experienced and stacked up doesn't one to one correlate with character or correlate with spiritual development or correlate with happiness or sadness even. John knows two people in his life very intimately who experienced tremendous trauma and he knows a much greater number of people who talk about the trauma they did experience in terms that would suggest that it was unfathomable, but in fact John finds their trauma fairly fathomable.

Our cultural conversation has concluded that trauma affects each person individually and this person can have been covered with napalm and not be as traumatized as this person with a thorn in their paw, but that emphasizes what John is saying: You can have experienced tremendous trauma and you can certainly be wounded, but not incapacitated and it does not define you.

Two people very close to John experienced what anyone would describe as horrific childhoods, but they both are fully fledged people with real souls who aren't repressing it and they worked to have it not define them. John always contrasts that with people who are working hard to define themselves by the trauma they experienced and to recapitulate their trauma because as our culture has evolved, we have just put more and more stock in the idea that that trauma is what builds character. We say it in no uncertain terms.

It imbues what we think of as Western storytelling. In order for that to have been true, there would need to be some truth to it. We all know what it is like to go through hard times and come out changed better for it. Who among us hasn't fought a Balrog to the center of the earth and come out the other side barely recognizing our friends, but it doesn't necessarily follow and there are plenty of people who have gone through tremendous trauma and came out the other side completely unchanged.

There are poor people that are hollowed out inside, too. There is corruption in us all and where we put that energy and how we are made emotionally and how our minds are formed, in one direction you get a Bundy and in the other direction you get in most cases a very selfless person who never becomes famous. All of the truly virtuous people we never hear about and in a lot of ways we don't celebrate them. The truly virtuous people in John’s own life, there are very few and they make him uncomfortable because he doesn't understand.

John feels like Dan has been on a spiritual journey that looks materialistic from the outside because what he has been confronted with, he is just dealing with the material change, he is not floating above it, but he is bouncing along, dealing with the material aspects of it, like: ”This silverware has to go over here in this drawer now and this stack of papers has to go over here!”, but what he is really experiencing reverberates at a level with epic Greek themes like betrayal, mesmerism, Ultimate Frisbee, the three pillars of civilization.

Storytelling, digesting your experiences before you can form them into a story (RW219)

It is the thing John is always trying to express, which is why John is often talking about something in high school and what is going on with me right in the moment is super intense, you would think that he would be talking about it on the show, but he can't because he hasn’t worked it through and hasn’t thought about it enough to understand. The fallacy of being a storyteller is to think that there is a point to everything, but John is trying to find the pivot point or the the reason that this story will be interesting or useful to people.

In college John had a friend James, who was a lovely guy, and his career became decking out jumbo jets bought by Russian oligarchs. He became an interior designer for the super rich airplanes and that is a very Northwest thing. There are big yachts and big airplanes here because they are an airplane center and a boat center. To learn that his job was to go into a 747 and say: ”How do I make this into a luxury apartment?” and he is not a decorator, he is an aerospace guy who puts systems in. How do you have a Jacuzzi in a 747? You must be able to, but it also has to have some failsafes. If the plane experiences turbulence you don't want all of the water in your Jacuzzi to go five feet straight up in the air.

In college they would all be sitting around bullshitting, drinking, and smoking pot and he would start to tell a story, super excited, and he had all the mannerisms of a storyteller, he got the rhythm of storytelling. You see this a lot in kids where they get the rhythm of a joke, but they don't understand the psychology of a joke or how to tell a joke to make it funny. They make it a joke, but they don't quite do the punch line or they don't quite build up the tension the way it needs to go. He would get into stories and they would go and they would go and he would say:

”… and I was coming around the corner and my car lost traction on the road and then there was this motorcycle and it crossed over into my lane and then the motorcycle went back into its lane and I regained traction and we went by each other and then the lights went out and I was driving in and it had no headlights, but then they came back on and then I was driving…” Where is this going?

His stories were all just a series of events that all resolved themselves and you realized after a point that he could keep telling that story for six hours because it doesn't have a point, there never was actually anything happening. It was just a day in his life and he didn't understand what stories were, which is not just that you put words in an order where you are remembering that you were once in a place. What requires so much time is to digest, and often to digest is to find out that the point of the story was something very other than what it looked like at its time.

Hodgman was saying recently that not every story has a third act, not everything that happens to you is a story, some things just happen and then other things happen, but because John is trying to find meaning he is trying not to force meaning on things and he is agnostic about big meaning versus small meaning. When he was a young man he was looking for big meaning and as he got older one of the most profound changes that happened to him was that he became content with small meaning, partly because he became very suspicious of big meaning because when he encounters people who believe they have found big meaning he universally finds that they are dangerous.

John still not fully understanding his walk across Europe (RW219)

John is still processing his long walk across Europe. It has been 20 years and he hasn’t understood it yet and it may be that he never will. He has failed to adequately tell it because he doesn’t get it and that has been very hard because. He set out on it on the trip in order to create a story, not a Paul Thurow story, but a story of deprivation and redemption, a story where he struggled and the struggle produced something, that it was an Eat, Pray, Love before Eat, Pray, Love.

It made him very suspicious of the book, Eat, Pray, Love (by Elizabeth Gilbert) and he got into a fight with her one time at a party because he ill-advisedly said: ”I feel like your book is a little neat and it has created a false idea in people that they go on a trip and they eat and they pray and they love and then they come back and write a book about it and their lives are forever changed. It is a little too cute!”

Elizabeth Gilbert is an old friend of John Hodgman’s, they knew each other when they were young and John has met her several times and what he failed to understand at this party is that she is very smart and very articulate and she just burned him, just flamed him with a flamethrower, and he was very lucky that they had taken themselves away from the party in a back room, it just so happened that way that they were in a group of people and then some people left and they were more or less left alone, except for Hodgman standing there as bearing witness on this excoriation. John was like: ”Now that I got you here, let me give you my overview of the cultural phenomenon of your book and how it made you a rich person and also it made you a byword for a certain kind of spiritual journey that feels very materialistic!” and it was ”a bear into a Mason jar”, but she succeeded and John was the bear.

That version of a story is what John wanted when he went on that walk. It is the grand tour, it the classic one of those, but he had a different vision of it, he was going to reduce himself to cosplaying poverty, in that he had four pairs of underwear and four pairs of socks and a flashlight and a journal and two pairs of pants, and he lived with those threadbare clothes by the end for over six months of the most basic locomotion, but he had it explained to him by a girl in Romania at one point. They had stayed up all night talking and she didn't speak English, so it was one of those conversations where John was speaking English and she was speaking Romanian, but it was mutually intelligible because the number of possible human experiences is actually fairly limited.

She explained to him in Romanian was basically: ”I wish I were rich enough to be as poor as you!” and John wasn't able to protest because she had found something fundamental: ”I am too poor to play around being poor!” and what she meant was that when this was all over John was going to go back to being rich and even if he didn't, even if I spent the rest of his life like Siddhartha sitting under a tree, it would have always been from a place of being rich. Gandhi was rich and even in his most ascetic he was treated as a very rich person. You can eat nothing but Dal Bhat for a lifetime, but still be wealthy, albeit not materialistically.

It contextualized for John his whole affair. He spent 9 months beseeching God to set a bush on fire, please! There were a handful of times when, like in the movie Interstellar God threw a book off a shelf, but who knows if it wasn't Matthew McConaughey? The true experience either of getting hit by lightning or having something gradually dawn, none of that happened to John. Coming back to America and trying to figure out what happened without forcing it, without trying to say… everybody wants you to come back from a long, long solo walk with an epic story about your incredible experiences.

Whatever John was looking for, he didn't find. Telling the story of all of the danger and the adventure rings a little hollow. It was true even at the time, it was early email days and he was e-mailing with some friends back in the States and they were asking questions in that voice of: ”Tell us about your grand adventure! What amazing things?” and even at the time John was like: ”You have no idea how mundane it is and also how much time I am spending alone and how little spending alone helps you understand how to be with other people!”

Spending all that time alone doesn't even necessarily bring you any closer to God and if have intentionally put yourself in a place where you are neither loving people nor loving God nor really even fearing God… John put himself in an isolation tank to the point that the only emotional experience he felt was body pain and an occasional sunrise, which is not actually true and John is being dramatic.

The journey is the only thing there is and the destination is unknown (RW219)

People that believe that they have met big meaning out in the vines are inspired in a way that feels threatening and they are often the revolutionaries or the religious zealots or the people that are politically certain, the people that are emotionally certain, and certainty does not feel like the goal. When he sees that certitude expressed it is like: ”Get thee away from me!” Don't hoist a flag and expect John to rally to it. Obviously he is fairly contemptuous of people that do rally to flags, not that the world doesn't need them, the world needs farmers and the world needs soldiers, but John is neither of those, nor merchant. What's left? That is the problem! Trapper? Ranger? Wizard?

Even a monk or a hermit, certainly a minister, are also trying to tease out meaning from a story and in some cases trying to impart it to others. They have guidance, maybe the hermit doesn't, maybe the hermit is just bonkers, but if you are doing it in a context of a religion or a tradition, and of course John is doing it in the context of a tradition and maybe even a religion in a cultural sense, but to do it with guidelines is to necessarily have it prescribed, and proscribed in a different sense and that has never seemed to be the path.

John will routinely go off the path and walk alongside the path, but through sticker bushes and knee-deep in mud to arrive at the same destination as the people that stayed on the path, and that frustrated him for decades. ”Why am I over here? There is the path! Everybody is on it, they are walking in gentle conversation along an even grade and there is the destination and that is where I am headed to. Why am I here? Why am I here wearing this shirt made out of jute and swarmed with mosquitoes and cut up with these sticky vines? I am just headed there and I am going to be late!”, but he needed to, he did it over and over! ”Oh, you guys are headed up there in the path? I will meet you there!”, but he was going to go this way, not even the road less traveled by the place where there isn't a road.

John still does it. He has tried more and more to be comfortable staying on the grade for the things that don't matter, but the thing is that there is not a thing that doesn't matter, and you never know where going off the road will let you find something interesting. A lot of people feel like: ”Look, there are interesting things enough at the destination! There are interesting things that don't require that I submit myself to suffering that isn't necessary!” Maybe it is an example of having spiritual or emotional wealth enough to go cosplay being flayed, although John doesn’t think so. It is something in a person's nature, it is woven in, and for a long time it was described to him by people as being a component of: ”It is the journey, not the destination!” - ”No, no! It is not really!”

John wouldn't describe it that way, but it is often used to mean: ”Soak it up! It is the journey!” Dan thinks that people who say that are people who have not succeeded in achieving whatever it was they were trying to go for, or maybe it turned out differently and they had a good time getting there. The journey is the only thing in the sense that there is no point to life. You go along and you die. What was there, except the journey? It is almost obnoxiously obvious that it is the journey, not the destination, but that is not a motivation to travel. As someone who whose life manner is: ”I go where the day takes me!” you would think the idea that it is the journey, not the destination, would be just how he governs himself, but it is not!

What ”living where the day takes you” is not knowing the destination and not seeing the destination with the clarity that other people seem to. They are on the road, they see the destination, they are following the signs, they know where they are going, and John often ends up at the same destination, but he wasn't looking for it. He was looking for a destination, not content to follow the signs, and when he arrives at the same destination as everybody else he is often disappointed, but he will quaffanail (?) with you people.

John had a friend named Matt who at a certain point in high school decided that he couldn't live in his parent's house anymore because he was seeking something else. Spiritually he believed that the material comforts of his parents’ house were dulling his senses, and so he pitched a tent in his parent's yard and moved into the tent and was sincere. He lived in the tent and he got up in the morning and he went to school and he came home at night and he went into his tent.

He went into the house, his parents lived there, it was not a case where his parents had thrown him out of the house, it wasn’t like John living in a minivan behind his friend's house where he was no longer welcome, but still welcome to stay in the minivan for a while, but it was a case of him seeking something and that meant he couldn't be comfortable because he couldn't find what he was looking for using comfort as a vehicle. He couldn't dip his toe in and then go back, but once he put his foot in he had to keep wading.

Even if this is all just in service of others, and in a way in service of the road to say: ”Look, I went hither, I went yon, and you might also need to, but let me just explain that at least at sea level you don't need to go: ’I was there, I saw what there was to see!’ It might be the journey, not the destination for you too, come on down into the brambles if you want, but I looked around here and honestly the bike path is just as good because I ended up in college anyway, or ended up in the suburbs anyway!”

Maybe one of the ways John judges himself the harshest is that he always find timidity in himself when he looks hard and a lot of the reason that he tried to project such a lack of timidity is that it is his greatest shame that timidity is present in all the turning points and all the real crossroads. He was not just afraid, it was the kind of timidity where you go: ”Well, yeah, sure, but by the same token…” As somebody to have wandered through the sticker bushes for 9 out of 10 days and then at the 10th day stand at a real crossroads and go: ”Well…” is something that John holds his feet to the fire over, and he has a list of 10 times in the course of his life where it is: ”If you had gone that way, who knows! Maybe all roads lead to here?”

But that seemed like a real path elsewhere. A couple of those 10 times he stood at that crossroads with another person and at least once the other person took the road, they bid farewell there, and John felt that he took the easier path and they went the hard way and in the end they ended up at more or less the same destination that seemed foreordained. One of them was bartending in Santorini and one of them was trying to get a job making Marker ski bindings and Garmisch Partenkirchen, and one of those things looked a lot more fun than the other, but in the long run they were the same people that they ended up being and we are who we are.

Getting a colonoscopy without anesthetic (RW219)

John was getting a colonoscopy without anesthetic (see maybe RL340) and that was a similar thing where they said: ”We are going to give you this anesthetic!” - ”Is it possible to do it without?” and they were all appalled, but they were like: ”Well, sure!” and halfway through John regretted the decision, just as his daughter's mother / partner halfway through childbirth very definitely regretted the decision to not get a spinal, but after the baby was born she didn't regret it. At a certain point during the colonoscopy John was like: ”Whoa, stop what you are doing!” and everybody stopped because they had not seen someone do it without anesthetic and they were all smiling: ”How is it going? What is up? Do you want anesthetic?” and John sat there for a second going: ”Maybe…”

Then it calmed down and it stopped hurting and John was like: ”No, keep going!” and they did all the things and went all the way up to between his ears as far as it felt and then they were done and everybody laughed and John laughed and he felt weird for the rest of the afternoon, but he really feel like it was worth doing without pain medicine. It was 100% more discomfort, but the discomfort created panic, that feeling of: ”Oh no!” You are trapped and there are all these people and you got this thing halfway up you and you cannot run at this point. It is very invasive, perhaps the most invasive.

John not having had claustrophobia / panic in a long time (RW219)

Dan thought of you I thought of you last night, he was laying on the sofa and had slid down so that his head was between the pillow and back corner of the sofa where the armrest connects with the thing, it was late at night, and he momentarily fell asleep and when he woke up he felt this feeling like he was trapped, his head was in a vise or something, and he started to panic for a split second of: ”Oh my God! Oh my God! What is happening?” and then he realized where he was and what was going on and was relaxed again, but he thought of John immediately: ”This is like what John is feeling!”

It is a bad scene. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a meditation practice, or he is always in a state of meditation for 15% at all times, but he hasn't had a claustrophobic or panic event in a long time, not in a year, and he was in Hawaii this winter and had several snorkeling attempts and none of them were very relaxed or comfortable. It was choppy waves, his snorkel malfunctioned for a day and he didn't realize it because it is a complicated operation and he didn't see that one of the parts was dislodged.

Also John doesn’t like snorkeling with other people, he doesn’t want them around him, signaling to him, he doesn’t want them coming close to him, he likes to be snorkeling with other people who are 15 yards away, close enough that if he was: ”Help!”they would be able to come, but he is not out there to party with people. He never got so that it was nice, but he never panicked and he never felt that awful feeling, he was just: ”This is hard and not fun!” and he has read too many magazine articles in the last two years about people dying snorkeling in Hawaii to feel at all: ”I am chill!”, but the whole thing feels like: ”Even though this feels chill, you could die at any moment!”

To be relieved of panic as a constant Goul was really something and it remains really something, he hasn’t had it in a couple of years now and knock on wood! We all have these terrible trials! John can't imagine what it would be like to live your entire life without this kind of trial and he doubts very much that anybody does, that you could go through life and not have at some point a real test and how you field it is… he won't even say it is a test of your character, because Dan had a meditation practice and it wouldn't be a test of character for someone not to have a meditation practice and if he had to suffer the way he did without it it would have been unbearable. It was definitely bad and that was before he had kids and if you have kids you probably would have done something very different. Dan is just glad he had that tool to help him.

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