As an old friend of mine used to tell me, “Well we gave it the old college try”. I woke up around 3:30am and lay here trying to go back to sleep till 5am. I didn’t wake up to any stress or panic, I just woke up from a sound sleep. This as you know, is nothing new for me. I suppose it could all stems from my old pick-up not starting yesterday. I know I shouldn’t really get too worked up about it, and I thought I wasn’t. But you don’t never know how your subconscious is going to do you sometimes.
I don’t really know how to continue this line of thought other than to say. Moments in our lives are going to break us. Oh we can say, “that’s okay, I'll get by”. But shit takes a toll. We can vent our frustrations through physical activity or healthy conversation. But for some it comes through with violence, verbal abuse, and self-destructive behavior. I’ve seen my share of all of these as a victim and perpetrator.
I suppose could lay here and put on a bright shiny face and say, “think good thoughts and this too shall pass”, but it’s never that simple. We take upon ourselves all kinds of expectations that we usually never live up to. I try my damnedest to live in the moment. But when two other people depend on you for food and shelter. Oftentimes that notion gets thrown out the window. All I can tell you is, do the best you can. Look for positive outlets for that frustration (exercise, communication, mediation, or writing). Fear, pain, and heartache will always be with us. Don’t beat yourself up for failing. Do what you can and move on. Aha! The first peek of morning is coming through my window. I guess it’s time to face the day.
Inside my own life compromise and sacrifice are second nature. Duty and service to others is the foremost priority. Within the bubble which I was raised, God and service came first and self came last. For a very long time I lived by that code. More so to indoctrination than true belief. For a very long time I was afraid to raise my doubts. But over the past several years, especially since separating myself from my past life. My mind has changed.
Remnants of that life often still haunts me. I don’t mean to sound anti-religious and stand fervently against other beliefs. It’s just that I want so desperately to find myself somewhere within this pool of guilt and grace. While I walked this life with the best of intentions, the pressure to do right comes with a price.
I’m I selfish to say these words out loud? Is it truly beyond my control to ask for my freedom? Or do I go along keeping all this to myself, while wearing a smile? I sure as hell wish I had an answer. I mean I am blessed with the freedom to express my feelings at least on this screen. But beyond that I live within these four walls in which I'm confined.
Time is a luxury I can no longer afford. So while I sit here typing away, the world is moving on without me. Life is moving without me, as I sit here isolated and alone. I know I should be grateful for what I have (that’s what God would say). But I still want to feel the touch of true emotion. Love and respect given without strings or demands. And the simple passion to just be myself.
Their lives were built on a foundation of scorn and abuse. Two people finding love not knowing what it was. Throughout their lives, they were talked about for things they’d never done. Marked with badges of contempt never measuring up to the standard others placed. So they kept their feelings silent while the world talked behind their backs.
Over the years their lives became fodder for the “I told you so” among them. Trying to do the best they could, limited by their chains of self-doubt and unworthiness. They stumbled through both the good times and the bad. Still playing with the “what ifs” they carried in their hearts.
Some thirty years later, with hearts still burning, they still keep the truth to themselves. For one because they have a lot of history between them. And two because a lot of those emotions buried beneath them, still tell them how worthless they are.
But it hasn’t stopped the love. It hasn’t stopped the passion or the desire. For pain and criticism bring there own kind of wisdom. Unwavering love brings is own as well. Together they have created who they are. Two lost souls finding solace in the hearts of one another.
It’s hard to be in the moment, when your whole life has been spent counting days. Always looking towards the horizon, waiting for the moment when everything’s going to be okay. I got some more bad news in the mail Friday. Not that I wasn’t expecting it, but still it’s like a gut punch. Even after jumping through all the right hoops, it just made me just want to give up. But there’s still a tiny breath of life left in me that won’t let me give up.
Over the last few years I’ve tried my best to “be in the moment”. But like everyone else that has obligations, it’s hard to not think about tomorrow. So I use my writing to focus my attention on where it needs to be. To give myself a little peace, for the moment. Pulling my mind away from those things that want to drag me down.
I suppose this is the part of the story where I give some lesson on being in the moment. But as you probably know this is a no bullshit zone. Hey, I’m only human and I bleed like the rest of y’all, maybe a little bit more. What I’m trying to say is, I’ve been there, hell I am here.
Laying here in this out of control heat, I can’t help but worry. Worry about the bills, the medical payments, my wife, my son. To walk around and not worry seems a little ridiculous. I suppose that’s where focus and determination come into play. To calm the mind is to focus and listen. To not ignore the worry, but move forward and face it. Because every journey begins with a step. So instead of counting days, maybe I need to listen and move on.
If misery loves company, then I would be the best friend you ever had. For the past few weeks anxious thoughts of doom and dread have been building up in my mind. You see, my Panic Disorder mostly centers around my health issues. I am very aware of everything that happens to me health wise. In a way it can be a blessing, but mostly it can be a curse. The sleepless nights, the anxious moments can be as much of a problem as an actual physical issue.
I suppose it’s not much different than worrying about other things in life. Like obsessing about our jobs, worrying about our bills, or being concerned for our families. Hell, most of us even worry about the weather. The stresses of life can be terrible, especially on the mind and the body. But this isn’t a forum on who’s problems are worse. It’s about getting relief.
Other than the doses of the classic PD and anxiety meds I take. I rely heavily of meditation and cognitive therapy (talking to someone). These things combined with my 20 years of experience with panic give me a unique view of it. First, I don’t talk about cures. I speak mostly from the prospective of survival.
For one I get up everyday knowing my adversaries (PD, Anxiety, Depression) are looking for new ways to trip me up. Some work, some don’t. All I know is that I get up and do the best I can. It may sound a bit blasé how I deal with it, but it works for me. Also, the guilt you can carry and the self-hatred you can feel are never going to fix shit. But trying to make an effort and live, those are the things that can bring a little light back into your world.
I look out my window and I see a beautiful world. Through the glass I can see the garden, I can hear the song of the songbirds, and I can marvel at the simple complexity of it all. Last night and today haven’t been great, my stomach and digestive tract are all out of sorts. I’m feeling dizzy and lightheaded, so the best I can do is simply lay here and hope it will soon pass.
I often wish I could grow beyond just writing about myself, but I am learning. I suppose this makes you my guinea pigs while I learn this craft. My bride washed the bed linens this morning. Hanging them on the clothesline, under the canopy of sycamore and pecan trees. It’s usually quiet today, even for Alamo. But my aching head appreciates the silence.
I’m blessed that my life isn’t overly complicated, at least not anymore. After all is was the demands of my former life that started my downward spiral. I read how so many people are desperately trying to find peace and balance in their lives, but find it so difficult to obtain. That I can totally understand. Hell, it took me damn near dying to figure it out.
All I know is, find yourself a quiet place. Make moments in the day where you can clear your head and listen. Feel the cool breeze as it blows, hear the sound of rustling leaves. Notice the melody of the songbirds and smell fresh linens drying on the line. Still none of these things will bring you peace unless you first start listening to yourself.
Sometimes it takes something you love to remind you of who you are. I was raised in a little community outside of Savannah. But my greatest lessons came when I moved to Uncle Shed's Fish Camp on the banks of the Ogeechee River. It was there that I learned about love and charity and how to be a part of something greater than yourself. While not much remains of that place the cabins are mostly gone and what’s left has been fussed over and divided up by family. Even the narrow dirt road that once welcomed everyone now has a gate with a padlock on it.
I haven’t been there since Betty the owner died; I can’t seem to bring my heart to see it again. The memories are just too precious. Like the time I went back to the house where I grew up. It’s so much smaller than I remembered, looking so insignificant next to the larger homes built around it. I have spent so many years being a nomad without a home. Putting down roots for a while, only to be uprooted yet again.
Still my life’s experiences have taught me, that nothing is really ours anyway. That the things we have are only ours for a time. That the only thing we keep are the memories we’ve lived. Maybe it’s better that way, to just be a part of something greater than yourself. To live your life doing as much good as you can. Then at the end moving on with the four winds, to become something else. Yeah, sometimes the silliest things can jar a memory and take you back to who you are. Like the idealistic young man that thought he could change the world, never realizing he has each day he’s lived.
There’s nothing really bothering me now other than the usual. The selfishness of humankind, the anger everyone seems to carry, and the outright disregard we all have for our planet. No other than that, I’m good. For the last few days it’s like my mind has been shut off to woes of the world. Focusing instead on my own little thing inside these four walls.
Our minds focus on negativity, it’s like life knows how to grab our attention. Deep within the very core of our minds lies a hidden little nugget. A nugget controls our fear response, our panic button. I know all about it because it is at the very core of my mental health issues. Suffering from Panic Disorder my little panic button has a way of getting stuck.
At first the attacks were multiple and quite devastating. Then heavy medication made them tolerable, but not without long lasting side effects. Now the medication is lighter, and with the help of mediation and forgiveness; the attacks have slowed to a low roar. Sometimes I have to remind myself I still have PD. Because there are moments when I have irrational fears. And if I don’t remind myself, I’ll worry, and I’ll panic all day.
Life has a way of pushing our buttons. So to do advertisers, news networks, and social media. The last few days I’ve really paid attention to how all these external forces vie for our attention. Lately I’ve spent my evenings under the shade of a pair of sycamore trees. I have no internet connection outside my house. So I’m left there with my thoughts and a solitaire game. Just watching the world pass, as the evening breeze moves the leaves and allows my mind to rest. It’s not much, but sometimes it’s all I need.
Lately just walking around the block is getting a little harder. Between the vertigo and the shear exhaustion of getting around, I’ve pretty much confined myself to walking around the yard. (Grass is much softer than asphalt.) Yesterday after I got out of the shower, Mr. Brown had just finished mowing the yard. So I decided to pull out a lawn chair and just sit under the sycamore trees.
I figured since I can’t seem to walk that much, I’d at least get my ass outside and get some fresh air. While I’m very allergic to grass, I still love that fresh cut smell. The canopy of the trees, along with the gentle breeze made being there very nice. We live very close to a major highway, but the two buildings in front of the house offer a nice sound buffer. Some songbirds have nested in the sycamores, so even with the ramble of semi’s rolling by, you still get a feeling of isolation.
I say all this to talk about adversity. Many of us use our disadvantages to make excuses for not living. I’ve spoken before about how my son and wife, don’t use their “disabilities” as excuses. Each in their own way has found alternate routes to overcome their disadvantages. So for me to throw my physical problems in the way of living my life, seems a little wimpy. All I’m saying is, do the best you can. Don’t give up and do what it takes to live your best life.
At the moment I’m feeling pretty rough. My head is aching, and my eyes are on fire. The pecan trees are blooming, and the grass pollen has my head spinning. Still this morning I received three touching notes from three dear friends who had good news to share. As humans it is in our nature to share our stories, both good and bad. But I was so proud of the news I got from these three women; I didn’t want to spoil them with my own sad situation.
Sometimes life doesn’t give us the best of everything. It seems to indiscriminately give out loaves and crumbs in unequal portions. Some respectful except this as the fate they’ve been handed. While others fight and kill for every scrap they can get. Me well I suppose I’m in the middle, excepting what I have and fighting to do more.
Laying here I must look a pathetic sight, with my feet propped up on pillows, under a blanket, the lights out, and an ice pack across my head. I look out the window at a delightfully sunny day. The wind gently blowing the sunflowers and the trees. Yet here I am, not so much drowning in self pity, but instead accepting things as they are at the moment.
I do use this time as best I can, for one writing this story and I’m planning our meals for the next few days. Eventually I’m going to have to get up, considering I am the caregiver of the house. But for the moment I accept things as they are, preparing myself for the moment I have to fight and do what I have to do.
I try not to think too much about how things are going. By the world’s standards my life must seem quite pathetic. None the less, I am happy and isn’t that what’s most important? In this oh so imperfect world it can seem all hope has been lost. But if you look just a little closer, you might be surprised by what you find. That beneath the layers of misery, there is a world, that despite our best efforts, moves peacefully along.
The practice of mediation and being mindful has given me a clearer sense of vision. It has opened a window into a world that is much more peaceful then it appears. I marvel at the detail of creation. Watching seeds grow into plants that then nourish the body or the smell of flowers that fragrance the air. This can also hold true for the creations of humankind. A beautiful piece of music, the emotions of a piece of art, or the telling of a good story.
But there are still moments though when the weight of the world drags on me. So I allow those waves to flow, being compassionate with myself and emotions they carry. Because to ignore how you feel, is to carry with you a seed of fear or hate. Which in time will only rob you of the ability to love or have hope.
As you read this, I hope your life is good. That the fear and pain are balanced out by love and appreciation. To me mindfulness isn’t a religious act, but more a state of mind. In which the mind, body, and soul work together to live in harmony. Peace is obtainable if you only look around you and see.
Where do I want to be? That was a question recently asked of me. The honest answer is, I don’t know. I mean I look at my life and it’s pretty fulfilling, but there are still things, secrets that I long for. I often think, if I had only done this, my life may have gone differently. But in all practicality, those wises are long past the point of realization. So, I’m left with a lot of what if’s, a shit ton of wishes, and a nasty pile of what could have been.
But life doesn’t have to work that way. While obligations and responsibilities have their place, for us abandoning who we are simply isn’t in the cards. I suppose this could leave us living very unhappy lives. But our lives are what they are, so we take what we have and create a livable situation.
It would so lovely to live in the paradise we’ve created in our dreams, but that world simply isn’t real. The best we can do is change a bad situation for the better. For those of us that have live our lives’ we know the truth. We've made the decisions we had to make, yet we survived. We rebuilt a love that was abandoned, and we know it will never change. That is a dream turned into reality. So while life can hand us moments of pain, true love has a way of living forever.
On the surface my life seems so temporary. I don’t have a place of my own. Don’t have any money in my bank account. I have no inheritance to leave my children. Hell, even my mail comes to a rented Post Office Box. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, where Dads worked one job and retired. They owned their own homes and could pay them off.
My life the other hand seems to be on loan. Don’t get me wrong, I made peace with my situation a long time ago. Still it does sting a little to hear my peers talk about building up their home equity and buying new bass boats.
I suppose you could say my lifestyle affords me the luxury to be a minimalist. That having little means you have little to worry about. Man, if only that were true. I suppose it’s more a mental thing then anything else, to see yourself in such a temporary state. Knowing that the thousands of dollars you’ve invested in rental properties has lined the pockets someone else’s nest egg.
But I try to keep those thoughts out of my head. Reminding myself that everything in life is just temporary. The time we have on Earth, the comfort or discomfort we endure, and the impact we have on the world around us. All we can really do is be where we are right now. At the moment I am writing this story. Reminding you and myself that life gives no guarantees. That the best we can do is live in peace and try to leave things in a little better shape than we found them.
As I watch the garden getting watered, a thought came to my mind. That in order to exist in this world, we all depend on others to help us along the way. The watering helps the garden grow, the garden then nourishes the body, and the body tills the ground to grow the garden. The same is true for all things. Rather we want to accept it or not, no one stands alone, we all depend on each other in order to survive.
Laying in a hospital bed, my life depended on the skill and dedication of dozens of individuals. I depended on my children to take care of their mother while I was healing. You see, no matter how proud you are no one is an island. Us, the planet, and everything around us are interconnected. Each time a proud man takes in a deep breath, it’s because of Mother Earth.
Too often we think only in terms of ourselves. Never considering the thoughts and lives of others. A very dear friend and her family are observing Ramadan, a month of reflection and fasting. Despite whatever you may think of a particular religion (or any religion in my case). We should be respectful of others beliefs.
Too often I have seen comments stereotyping and alienating other human beings because of their skin color, nationality, gender, or beliefs. Sometimes touting themselves as superior or worse “God anointed”. Just as the earth, the sun, the elements all play a part in creating life and balance. Isn’t it about time we do the same? Beauty is only skin deep. Beneath it all we are the same, we all need the same things to survive. We all depend on each other, rather we believe it or not. Isn’t it about time we started acting that way.
Looking outside my window from this self-imposed cage. Not living in a world of remorse or regret. Instead living in a moment resigned to patience. Because at the moment my mind is unproductive, drained as it were, of creativity and light. So I lie here patiently waiting for that spark to reappear. Not long ago it would have drove me crazy to wait and think in such terms. But with each passing moment wisdom presents each of us with the opportunity to learn more.
To ask who I am is a loaded question. But for many of us we have no time for such foolish things. Between trying to keep food on the table and pay the bills, we are doing a we can just to survive. That’s who we are. Yet here I am asking myself that question. Between doctor’s visits and the need to create words, that question comes up all the time. But there are times when I’d love to shut my mind off. But that ship sailed a very long time ago.
For the past few weeks my mind has taken me to some pretty dark places. Worlds within myself I haven’t visited for a long time. I can’t point to any one event that may have triggered it. All I know is it’s firmly planted in my mind. For the past few days I have alluding to this in my work. Its impact on my emotional state, and the seeds of doubt, pain, it’s planted in the forefront of my mind.
The thing is, I am ultimately the one that must deal with this. Going to places I most fear to tread, dealing with the twisted emotions that haunt my soul. Through mediation and compassionate listening, I am able to listen to the pain, thereby giving it a voice and letting it go. Self-love and self-forgiveness are the key. While many seek forgiveness from a power beyond themselves, true forgiveness and greater self-esteem doesn’t begin till you forgive yourself. The questions aren’t as important, as the compassion we give ourselves.
Some days shower like the sun, while others just shower. I believe I’m sliding into one of my blue periods again, this time because of my health. You see a seed was planted that I may have a new health problem. While it maybe nothing, for those of us that suffer from health anxiety, nothing often becomes something. Those of us diagnosed with anxiety might appear to have it together on the outside, but inwardly, the fear can be overwhelming.
Mediation and medication help, but sometimes the best thing I can do is just hide under a blanket till it passes. I am sure there are many sincere people out there that would tell me to just stay positive or rub a rock against my forehead. Believe me after twenty years, I’ve tried a lot of that stuff and more.
The best thing I can tell you is, don’t get mad at myself for having a mental illness. I know that my anxiety issues are annoying and can be really out there. But to beat myself over the head thinking I am somehow at fault is ludicrous. For decades I beat and bullied myself, probably more than the actual bullies in my life. It required and still requires a lot of self-healing and self-love to overcome.
Listen I’m not going to sit here and blow smoke up your (you know where) and tell you I have the answer. All I can tell you is; I understand. Emotions often flow like a tide. But sometimes they come in unexpectedly and catch you be surprise. So continue to live your life, understand troubles will come. Learn to breathe through the bad times but most importantly, learn to treat yourself with a little compassion.