Ryan Heller
Like wet gauze strewn across my face, eyes covered; mouth, throat. Water dissipates and I develop a second skin, a veil. Enough to diffuse senses, to blind me, mute me, shut sound from my ears, sensation from my body. Covered in gauze, plaster. Remember making plaster molds of your hands as a kid? That’s what I’m talking about. But across my face.

Click play above to listen to the audio version of “Transcendence” read by Ryan Heller or check out the entry below!


There’s a white ceramic statue on my desk, a man standing upright with acupuncture points listed along his body. Eyes and mouth glazed over, body shellacked to a pristine gloss. Like glue has been poured over his body. Or milk. Or paint. Whatever.

It’s how I feel.

With an itch behind my eyes, hair a mess, a few pounds heavier, face unshaven. My reflection in the abysmal black of the computer screen behind my laptop. A self-portrait I’d erase if I could. Or stare at in disbelief. Because every once in awhile I catch myself, my image, and wonder when this reflection came to be. I mean, me. In my head I’m still this same bumbling kid who searches for words to fill a void, an off-putting joke to make you laugh. Generally something about feces or awkward situations. I catch myself, gentle lines under familiar eyes, thicker hair growth across my face with unfortunate thinning hair on my head. A reflection of someone I once knew and someone of whom I know nothing at all.

An image remains burned in my head from years ago. I wrote about enduring chaos and the turbulence of life, likening myself to a statue I saw on the beach. A large wood carving of an Indian face that withstood the test of time. Natural color faded to a greyer version of itself, a splintered image of a strong man staring toward the ocean. A weathered face of many storms, great hurricanes, of a merciless sun. Natural disaster, human disaster, everything in between.

Again, it’s how I feel.
It’s how I feel again.
Aged and strong, tired and confused. Lost but settled.

A constant pull toward discovering higher realms without fully engaging in any, like gliding three inches above ground but yearning to be grounded. When is it ok to let shit fall and realize there’s nothing to pick up? What’s left is meant to be held. Consumed. Shared. When is it ok to be still, to empty the clouds from my head? When is it ok to say it’s ok and feel like it’s real this time? When is it ok to accept the missteps, the emotions, the frustration, the love? When is it ok to ask for reprieve? For understanding? For help? And not the kind of help like I’m drowning, fortunately I’ve learned when to wave a red flag. But the other kind of help where I realize I can’t climb any further on my own, not without guidance from something greater. The kind of help where my soul searches for uncovered beauty, the mystical, the magical, the mystery of what’s yet to be revealed and the imperfect perfection of what’s in front of me.

I remember digging a tunnel to China as a kid. Armed with a plastic shovel and sheer determination to cross borders within an hour; gripped by the excitement of pure, boundless childlike curiosity. That day I made it to China after ten minutes of digging, which felt like weeks of expedition – down beneath layers of earthly bedrock, dinosaur bone, ancient secrets and treasure. Beneath layers of molten magma and dirt stained shoes, I found adventure. I found exactly what I was looking for without ever finding what I was looking for.

More and more I discover my humanness. Realizing clearly through fogged lenses that I am perfectly imperfect and that is perfect. That through my hunger for betterment, advancement, enlightenment, is the most beautifully scarred being who nurtures the most beautifully brilliant soul. It has taken me thirty-four years to begin understanding this simple truth and will take another thirty-four seconds to unravel it completely. Because despite what I might learn, what adventures I may endure, the obstacles and growth along the way; despite moments of clarity, profound words and feelings of contentment, I am human. And to be human is to walk through the human experience. There are hours when it feels like my head has aligned with my heart has aligned with my body, all working together in harmonious order, striking a balance that keeps the machine running on a higher level than usual. Suddenly colors are more vivid, dialogue sweeter, acceptance easier. While other moments prove to be more challenging, presenting stumbling blocks or learning lessons disguised as ache. Those moments we step into victim mode or fall prey to the hamster wheel of negativity. I am at my best when living in fulfillment, when my soul is nourished however tall or petite an order. Some days I need the trenta iced coffee, other days only the grande. And there are days when I can go entirely without, those days being far and few in between. Maybe not the best analogy, but roll with it. Most recently it has been a blurry combination of fulfillment and complete desperation, having everything I could possibly need or want in life while itching to connect with it further. With life further. With spirit deeper. It’s not for a lack of gratitude as it is a loss of understanding. The great unknown of what to do next or how to make all the pieces continue to function and grow. Like I’m a father now but what does it mean to be a father? I have these two beautiful babies and realize more often than not I am going through the motions of being a parent without flourishing in the joy of being a father. If that makes any sense.

I was feeding the twins dinner last night and realized how mechanical it has become. Going from one mouth to the next, wiping mashed beans from Connor’s face and picking up peas from Olivia’s seat, to running back for another napkin and so on. As I sat there with these two little wonders in front of me, I was like, oh shit – I’ve got kids. I’ve got kids and I am feeding them food. I’ve got kids, I’m feeding them food and they look bored as shit. I wasn’t connecting with them, I was just going through the motions to get it done then move to bath time to then move to bedtime so I can clean the house then collapse in front of the television before bed.

Where’s the discovery?
Where’s the adventure?
Where’s the moment?

And maybe the moment is just that. The truth of being pulled from one thing to another and suddenly realizing I’m not OK with it. The simple yet profound lightning-bolt revelation that things are the way they are. Nothing more, nothing less. Neither good nor bad, right or wrong. Shit doesn’t have to be any more than exactly what they are. I don’t have to analyze, wrestle in discontent, compare one day to another. I have the choice to agree or disagree with my feelings, with the story in front of me. To be like, hey man I’m not cool with feeling detached from my kids during mealtime, so I’m going to engage. To be human is to be fluid, adaptable. But it also means to fight hard for acceptance while often loosing sight of what acceptance actually is.

Like –
I want to be happy (but I pick apart every moment and compare my life to everyone else).
I want to love myself (so I spend years investigating why I don’t love myself and what’s wrong with me).
I want to connect with my kids (so I get lost in a self deprecating downward spiral of should’s).
It’s totally ass backward.

If I spent a fraction of time living in acceptance as I do picking life apart, I’d be invincible.

Like –
I am happy.
I love myself.
I connect with my kids.
End of story.

This crazy notion of living in the present and wrapping my arms around the moment with no expectation. If I feel the gauze plastered on my face, is it really a problem? Am I suffocating? Or is it simply a feeling? One I can acknowledge and not try to deconstruct, one I don’t need to give power to consume. Just a feeling. And like, whatever, it’s cool. I can feel this right now. I can even write about it because oftentimes that’s how I take my power back. So, yeah, I feel a bit stale and stuck and like a mummified, shellacked statue on my desk. But carry on. And if it’s something I truly don’t agree with, if I know that being a mummified statue today is absolutely sucking the life out of me, well, then there’s nothing wrong with walking through those feelings, knowing I will come out the other side. Whatever the hell the other side even is. Because I’ve done it time and time again and I’m still here. I’m still here, a bit wiser and many years older – I’m still here. The angsty teen, the creative kid, the boy who counted stars – he is me and I am him and we are one.
A union of self.
It’s a feeling of wholeness, of acceptance, despite my shellacked state.
And so when I feed my kids, maybe I turn up the music. Maybe I tell a joke or do a dinner dance, because I swear they appreciate my dance moves more than my jokes. I accept a bite when Connor holds a piece of pasta to my mouth, trying not to act grossed out as I chew what had just been smooshed between booger soaked fingers. I will say thank you and he’ll smile and laugh.
All of these moments – the gauze-strewn face and dinner dances – the desire for more when so much is already in front of me, it’s an eternal tug-of-war. A struggle to remember that I create the struggle and everything is in its right place.
Cue Radiohead –

In it’s right place
In it’s right place
In it’s right place


Thanks for reading