Woke up a little bit early this morning. Earlier than I wanted to in fact. But here I am an hour into my day and still two hours from sunrise. Wasn’t doing too well yesterday, an old friend came back to visit. A friend that brings a lot of discomfort and pain. I’m still having discomfort in my gut. But don’t worry, just as soon as the talking heads get done dissecting last night’s rhetoric, I’m sure my belly will be fine.
Two old men fussing at each other, that's all I heard. At least when my son-in-law and I disagree about politics, we have enough respect for each other to pause and listen. But most of us just scream over each other for the sake of being heard. And for what, to prove we are right? To slay your opponent? To be the winner? There are no winners in this game of emotions. Only losers and hurt feelings. What are we so afraid of if we are wrong?
Oh, I done my fair share of bragging. But at the moment I’m tuckered out. Exhausted by all the confrontation. Stuck in the house while my body dictates my actions. But I pray, I pray for better days. Maybe not the same way you pray, but I pray. I’m trying to keep my emotions in check about how I feeling right now. But it’s safe to say I’m tired. My gut is tight and I’m cramping up, while my heart aches. Not only for myself, but for the world. As two tired old men just fuss at each other, over the fate of the world.
Overcast skies drape the windows of my mind. As hopelessness and dread foretell my future. Much like the lines of a poem, I do my best to seek optimism. But when I look to the horizon the realities of the coming days say otherwise. I guess I’m too much of a realist to think differently. But such as it is, for I gave up a long time ago trying to purge myself of negative thought.
What I have learned from Zen teaching is that positive and negative thought exist to serve each other. That one cannot be acknowledged without the other. That balance between the two is essential for a healthy existence. So I acknowledge and embrace the negative when it occurs. I listen it I say to it, I understand.
I like to think I am aware enough of my self that I can acknowledge my short comings. I don’t live in some fairy tale world where if I pray or embrace mantras enough; that negativity will magically go away. That my friend is a Slippery Slope that can lead to even deeper depression and hopelessness. The key is to accept your shortcomings and then work to overcome them. You see, I can wish for a good harvest from my garden. But without hard work, wishes reap nothing.
I can’t help but look up into the sky. Sweeping thin clouds of white tapered in front of a blue backdrop. I’m a little light-headed, as I work through this fast. But the clarity it brings is intoxicating. But I do my best to monitor my vitals, in case you were worried. But often circumstance causes sacrifice. Choices are made, so obligations can be met.
We live in a world that feeds off self-gratification. Where selfishness is a virtue and compassion is for losers. We scream as the awaken majority. Yet we’re drowned out the voices of the damned. In a world stoked by fear, the occasional happy whistle is enough to cause hope. But as time passes my side starts to cramp, as the morning sun burns my face.
I suppose it’s time to return to my cave. Put the heating pad to my side and drink some water. To pull oneself from the daily routine, can be a respite from fear. For staying in the game, can often be life shortening. But to pull yourself from reality can be just as bad. So fight for what you believe is right. But remember, peaceful resistance is better than war.
I am one strange bird, when I should be happy, I’m not; and when I should be upset or depressed, I ain’t. Well round here it’s face the music week. I got the last of the monthly bills to pay, I’m over extended due to extra doctor visits, and I got taxes that are due. (As all 1099’ers know so well.) So while anything’s looking a little “thread-bare” around here, for some damn reason I’m optimistic. In a world that is so hyped on keeping us afraid (to sell ad space, in case you didn’t know). We drown in a sea of pessimism searching for a way out, only to be dragged down again.
Our forefathers lived under tyranny where the few ruled the many. (Sound familiar?) But they remained focused, they didn’t let what stared them in the face take away from their vision of enlightenment and free will. Today we tend to get a little lazy. We’ve grown comfortable with the status que, accepting the crumbs given to us by the few. Allowing ourselves to be herded like cattle to the slaughter.
You may ask yourself, what does this have to do with optimism and pessimism? My answer would be, your situation good or bad is real. How you treat that situation depends on you. You can either look at your place in this world and see hopelessness, or you can tighten your belt and seize the day. God knows I got a crappy few weeks coming up, but I also know “this too shall pass”. Fight for what you believe in, but not at the expense of hurting others. Compromise and compassion will always prevail over anger, bitterness, and hate.
There are days when I feel like a folded-up accordion. The skin on my neck over laps the skin on my chest. My knees have little flaps of loose skin and my underarms look like water doodles. Ah, don’t worry if you wanta laugh, I really don’t mind. I can remember decades ago, when I was l teased for quite the opposite. It’s a little sad now, that most of those people that teased me are now alcoholics, drug attacks, perpetual losers, or worse yet dead.
I know, I know I shouldn’t think that way. But when I see these people on the interwebs, they’re all bitter, mad, or in an obituary. I guess I should be one of those sad statistics, flat broke in a one red light town, just 130 miles from where I began. Without a permanent home, no deed, no title, just an 18 year old pick up truck and a pretty steady lawn chair.
But I got friends, people that will check on me if they don’t hear anything. I got kids that stay on my ass and argue back at me like I taught them too. I got a following, it’s no more than a handful, but isn’t more than a handful just too much? Through all my wondrous imperfections, it’s nice to know that I’m still breathing. That I still got most of my wits about me. And rather I admit it or not, I am still capable of love.
Several days of sleep deprivation have taken a toll on my body. It’s amazing how a $15 piece of plastic for a CPAP machine can upset my life. Yet here I am at 2:30 in the morning, my mind in a fog and my body clock all messed up. But I don’t wish to bother you anymore with of my medical misadventures. If anything, I’d just assume make you laugh or at least roll your eyes at something I’ve said. Still even while the conditions are pretty good for sleeping, I lay here, my heart pounding, and sleep nowhere to be found.
It’s funny how beautiful words seem to pour off my fingers, but never out of my mouth. How thoughts of gentle perspective can flow to the screen, yet always bypassing my tongue. I get a lot of comments about my words that often mystify me. Because I am well aware of who I am. An ill-tempered old man, without a kind word passing my lips without some sort of cynical remark. I suppose I can always throw out the being verbally abused card as an excuse. But at 58 years old, is that still the right card to play? But then again is blaming myself for every wrong in my life okay? It’s a slippery slope, one that I don’t wish to travel.
Life is often a long journey of repeating ourselves. Rather it’s dating the same incompatible people or making other stupid life choices. We can’t seem to help ourselves. I pause for a moment searching my mind for the right thing to say. But all I hear are the desperate cries of that hurting child deep within my soul. Closing my eyes that child tells me to carry on. To forge ahead and to not stop. Living is so exhausting at times. But on many occasions, it’s nothing more than minor setbacks in the road. We need to remind ourselves to be patient. For lasting change never comes unless it’s repeated time and time again.
Some things aren’t worth the words I use to describe them. Looking at this world turned so narcissistic, I barely recognize it anyone. I’ve literally spent years of my life discussing and believing in our “better angels”. Yet all I see right now is a world hell bent on falling down a rabbit hole selfishness and self-destruction.
My latest reading has been on the correct use of power. On having compassion and empathy for our fellow human beings. It was debate and disagreement that created this “more perfect union”. But lately it’s been the fear of losing power that has driven us. Survival is one thing, to speak out against injustice another. But to pigeon hole every protestor a terrorist, and every cop a killer is insane.
There are problems with this world, yes. There is injustice and heavy handedness of the law. But the screaming has to stop. I am not always right and either are you. But watering seeds of hatred and fear weeps a bitter chop. I know of the pressures of life. I have the damaged heart and deteriorating muscles to prove it. Let’s step beyond the fear and lack of civil discourse, to allow compromise to win. I fight enough battles with myself both physically and mentally to take up all my precious time. Isn’t it time for you to go to our corner and wait for the next round?
If life were only as simple as our dreams. At 46 years old, I decided to pursue my college dreams. A dream I had stopped and started since 1980. A dream that had haunted me, telling I would never be happy without it. After a number of tries throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, I found a good fit through online schooling. Through five and a half years of struggle, I finally earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology Business Systems Analysis. But in what I dreamed would be the proudest moment of my life, I felt nothing.
It was almost like “buyer’s remorse”. Where you buy something you thought you needed, only to put it on the shelf. Now this is not to say I didn’t get the education I desired. In fact, I walked away with a wealth of knowledge and tons of conference I didn’t know I had. Even now it’s hard to explain. All I know is I fought like hell went on to earn my MBA after my undergrad study. Literally nearly losing my life in the process. But during those months of recuperation, my life, my mindset had to completely change.
You see the driving force behind my dreams was my total hatred of myself. Even through college, with every good grade or excellent report from my classmates and instructors. I still hated myself. All the low self-esteem, the lack of confidence, the overeating; it all stemmed from my total hatred of self. Think about it, if you were verbally and/or physically abused nearly from minute one. What other model of behavior do you have to follow? It’s still taking me a lot of time to break this cycle of self-abuse. But every day I still reach out to overcome another obstacle. Listen dreams are great, dreams are beautiful. But look deep within yourself and ask, is this a life changing moment or just another quick fix for my wounded soul.
For whatever reason, I woke up with a shout this morning. I think I’ll chalk this one up to a good old-fashioned panic attack. This kinda shit would have really worried me years ago. But at this point you tend to just deal with it as it comes. I don’t mean to belittle anyone else going through this or to make light of it. I mean hell, I’ve been dealing with Panic Disorder since 1999. I’ve gone through so many treatment sessions and so many different medication combos. That after a while it’s easy to feel more like a lab rat then a patient.
At this point in my life, I’ve spoken so many times about my illness and treatments, that maybe I gloss over it a bit. But never the less, I’m here and it’s here like an unwanted guest at my party. For a person with enough physical ailments to stop a freight train, you can imagine the health anxiety I often experience. But along with that, I have the strange ability to remain calm during a crisis. My family and physicians often find that irritating, but for some strange reason I’m able to compartmentalize my fear from analytical side of thinking.
Hell, I don’t know why I’m rambling on about this other than to waste time while this episode passes. I suppose the point is to be proactive with your treatment. Question everything, do your own research into treatment opinions. Be honest with your therapist and doctors about your experiences. But most importantly, don’t be ashamed. There are thousands of individuals out that live miserable lives because of shame and fear. And I should know I was one of them. For the better part of 15 years no one but few knew I suffered from mental illness. So be vocal, be proactive, and don’t let the stigma of mental illness keep you from fighting back. Goodnight.
My mind is a blank canvas open to whatever possibilities that come my way. For a while, my mind had so much to say, but it was locked away behind a wall of fear and doubt. While I have been dealing with my mental health issues going on 22 years. It wasn’t until around 2007 that I started making real progress dealing with those demons that haunted me. It was during this time that I starting following the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh utilizing the philosophy of mindfulness and compassionate listening.
It opened my eyes to the idea of self-forgiveness and self-love by quieting the noise my head through awareness and nonjudgement. Listen, even in the Judeo-Christian teaching of forgiveness from God, one must still learn to forgive oneself. I’ve seen so many friends and family that have extended the olive branch of faith to others. Yet deep within themselves, they harbor seeds of guilt and self-hatred.
By allowing yourself to become aware of the noise going on inside. You’re allowing yourself to listen to your broken soul and say, “it’s okay”. This is not some magical cure to all your problems. But it can be a first step towards healing a broken heart and mind. Well this story ain’t going finish itself. And my EMC neighbors seemed to be jacked-up to get back to work. So I will take a moment to clear my head of today’s garbage and breathe.
Taking my last two pills of the morning, I stare at this blank screen, unaware of where it will take me. My head still carries the residual effect of last night’s pain. The aftereffect of a broken-down CPAP machine awaiting repair. I don’t have much to say while I’m confined to quarters, waiting for these high humidity and high temperatures to subside. I often think of the extreme weather I once endured in the name of a paycheck, and how such extremes today would probably kill me.
The persistent pain in my shoulder and neck are little reminders of my newfound fragility. Of how my world is not the same as it was even five years ago. Maybe I shouldn’t harp on such limitations, but when you’re locked in a temperature-controlled closet, what else is there to think about. Yesterday was an unholy 97° with a heat index of 107. At the moment the temperature has already hit 90°, and it’s not even noon. So me and the Calico are stretched out on the bed. Waiting impatiently for cooler days and lower humidity.
One of life’s sweet sorrows is the fact that eventually it has to end. We go about our lives wishing we were the center of the universe. But when outside voices scream, you are not, then the pain settles in. Seeds were planted at our birth. Seeds of comfort and seeds of fear. For so many us we let the garden go unattended. Allowing bad seed to choke away at a good harvest. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By becoming aware one learns how to prune and trim and how to fertilize the garden. Ignoring what is wrong never brings a good harvest. So no matter what the situation, it is you that ultimately has power to create change.
All post written by
FD Thornton, Jr
All Rights Reserved.