What is my highest goal? Is it to just survive or is it to conquer? Is it the accumulation of wealth or to just give it all away? I don’t know, that question has been stuck in my head for a while now. When I started writing it was a therapy. Then it became a way to pass the time while my body recovered. So I decided to give my little stories away for free. Then I thought that maybe I could make a little money selling collections of my work in book form to make a modest living.
What I have learned over the years is everyone’s fine with logging in and reading my work. but they are definitely not willing to support the art. Maybe I shouldn’t be so honest or greedy with my little gift. But it is what it is. At this point I would love to just go back to work, but my stamina is definitely not what it used to be. While my doctors agree, apparently the powers to be think I should become a beekeeper or something.
So this all takes me back to my original question, what is my highest goal? Life is nothing without purpose. Our damned higher cognitive function insists that is should. So here I sit with a shit ton of blah, blah, blah and not much else. Maybe I’m just fooling myself and the world is nothing more than a selfish game of take, take, and more take. At this point I’m not even going to speculate, but the evidence seems clear. Art is the act of giving without daring to ask anything in return.
I’ve been dealing with panic attacks, anxiety, and depression for over 20 years. I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Chronic Depression back in 1999. That’s funny because people who know me, never saw a thing out of place. But my mental health issues are here and they sure as hell ain’t going away. Since coming out with having “mental health issues”, I’ve had so many people tell me I should go and have this thing “prayed” out of me. Or still other people saying, “if I’d only embrace positive thought and meditation, it would all disappear.”
Well here we are, after much prayer and positive thinking, I’m still sitting here stressing out and having my ever-present panic attacks. My medical doctors are often at a loss as to why I manifest certain physical health conditions. Sadly, they fail to look at the underlying mental health conditions that manifest themselves through physical problems. Listen I am no physical or mental health doctor, but I am a researcher and systems analyst. I know how to look at a problem wholly and with an eye for detail.
My point here is, there is no “magic pill” for a lot of situations. My panic and anxiety know me, because they are me. They are not some alien life form that took control of me. Simply put they formed from the seed that live inside of me. So every day I do my best to not water those seeds. But life has a way of raining down on them and causing them to bloom. The best I or any of us can do is accept that and continue to work and find our balance.
The solitude of my life is often disturbed, by the uneasiness of the night. I sit here now at five in the morning half trembling, half hot; from the fear and discomfort I feel. While I so wish I could cast aside these emotions, the fact that they are here gives some resolution. That my life is both blessed and cursed by this affliction.
I don’t mean to sound so melodramatic, but the artist in me searches for some deeper meaning. When in fact it’s probably no more than a trick or imbalance of the brain and nothing more. The silence in which I live only increases the torment of my soul. The mask I wear so well has a veneer that has worn with age.
The darts I once cast aside so easily now pierce the skin cleanly. I don’t mean to make excuses for my trouble. We are taught from an early age to dry our eyes and “man up”. But those words ring hollow to a troubled soul in need of relief. Troubles come and troubles go, but the steady pulse of mental affliction isn’t often ignored. So we walk the streets by the millions, often unseen, often unknown.
People of means sometimes wonder why the poor among them seem so burdened or sad. Or they marvel at the hoops the poor will jump through just for a crumb from their table. But I’m sure most of the elite simply amuse themselves with the laziness they perceive of the poor as moochers. “Sad isn’t it, that they don’t want to work harder for their piece of the pie.” Funny that in a society built on dreams and fair play, we still adhere to a mindset of elitism, racism, and gender inequality.
That little nugget at the core of our brains creates fear. It is a survival tool that has served us well since our species was formed. But despite the development of our frontal lobe, the amygdala still plays a major role in our perceived paranoia. In the Christian and Buddhist traditions I follow, self is important; but so too are compassion, selflessness, and generosity. To hold a perceived prejudice against another person is simple wrong.
Yet here we are, holding on to the notion that anymore different than us is somehow less. Power corrupts. It seems to me the ones in control of the purse stings are the ones most guilty of sowing discourse and fear. Rather through elitism, the caste system, or good old fashion racism; the fear we carry is continually stoked by what we perceive as losing control. One day maybe we’ll figure it out, “that he who has the gold rules”. Money is a tool, nothing more. Money cannot create peace of mind or give you self-worth. If anything it makes you paranoid, sad, and fearful. Maybe we should all take a moment and ask yourselves, what mindset do I follow?
Don’t let my lack of sleeping abilities fool you, I worry. I worry a lot. I suppose it comes from my refusal to live in a fairytale world. Where butterflies and rainbow ponies dance. I see the ugly, I see people stretch their last dime to feed themselves. I’ve gone days, weeks without electricity. No running hot water and a damn toilet that keeps stopping up. I so wish I could speak of beauty and exploring myself. But who the fuck am I fooling, most of the time this is who I am.
I often speak of nature and the benefits of breathing in the life it gives. But what about the rigged system in which we live. Where success is everything and the basic needs of life have a price. For the old, the sick, and those stuck in the margins; what do we have? Nothing. I’m sure by now you’ve grown bored of my ranting and I can’t really blame you. For in a society that rewards hard work with crumbs from the master’s table. The starving mutt keeps his mouth shut.
Forgive my bluntness but every so often we need an outlet for the rage. If you’ve made this far, congratulations. I am often surprised when someone gets through more than 140 characters. We all need to slow our roar. I see death and violence every day, even in these small towns. Fear and worry have gripped the world in a choke hold. But harm and abuse aren’t the answer. Neither is working yourself into an early grave. Life is to be lived. Breathe in the stillness around you, even in the midst of chaos. Awareness is an ally we cannot do without.
I walk the along the trail, the sounds of the birds and the rustling of leaves
I look around at the blankets of brown, green, and grey that surround me
And it calms me
Walking along the beach, the waves dance endlessly along the shore
The salty air fills my lungs, the sound of the wind and the gulls
And it calms me
Along the empty streets, businesses closed, and I am left alone
The smell the mold from abandoned buildings, log trucks racing down the highway
And it calms me
No matter where life takes you, if you look, you’ll find peace
Serenity isn’t just found on backwoods streams
But in the rhythm of a city or in a conversation with friends
Calm isn’t just about silence, but about awareness and focus
When you learn that, peace comes, and serenity awaits
I noticed this morning that I am becoming my Grandmother. I pulled a tissue from the box wiped my nose, then folded it up and put it in my sweater pocket. I know, right! We like to think of ourselves as more enlightened than the generation before us. And in some ways maybe we are. We treat other cultures with a little more respect, we see woman as equals, and we think more about the environment. Who the hell am I kidding? From what I see, all we’ve done is pull the shiny wrapper of politeness towards others off.
No disrespect to Granny, but my Grandmother at least to me never showed disrespect towards anyone. But today I see more outward displays of hatred, then I have since I was a child during school integration. But it’s not just about race or equality, it’s the outward display of selfishness. The fear that someone’s going have more than me. Listen I lived that life. For years I lived a life jealous of other’s successes. The bitterness, the anguish all has its roots in fear and self-hatred. Frankly, it’s no way to live.
While we wallow in our jealousy and fear, the world is dying. Children are torn from their families. Woman work for less pay and respect. And the environment is quickly decaying into a wasteland. All because we think only of ourselves and our own petty fears. Listen, I don’t mind people disagreeing with my views. Hell, debate and compromise are a healthy thing. How about we put aside our paranoia and see the commonality we each share. Then who knows, maybe Granny can rest easy knowing we finally learned something.
We all have moments, moments where fear overcomes the mind and takes us to the darkest places of our soul. I can stay calm under pressure, but beneath it all there’s a ground swell of panic and fear. Last night I was awakened by such a fear. A moment when the panic overcomes the comfort of sleep and takes over my mind. I don’t mind speaking about my secret shame, mostly because I have learned the best way of letting go is by telling my story.
It’s hard to describe in 300 words the process in which I use. But through a tremendous amount of trial and error, I discovered that confession, forgiveness, and letting go have brought me the peace I so desperately sought. Make no mistake, I am no walking miracle. There are days, weeks like this one where I feel like I have been drained of every ounce of energy. I wish I could be the bearer of some new miracle cure, but I am not. All I know is what works best for me.
To breathe in and breath out, to pause for just that one moment. Call it prayer, call it meditation, call it what you will. The silence gives me relief. But now I fight a new ailment watching myself wither away. While the presents of an old friend come’s back to haunt me. The panic and fear, the anxiety and depression envelopes my soul. Feeding me lines of helplessness and dread. The sting of death doesn’t bother me as much, as the withering away.
I know it sounds a bit silly but looking at my life I see so many things I wish to accomplish. Yet here I am staring out a lone window into the grayness of the morning. Still I am here typing out my thoughts, my fears hoping for a break in the clouds. Enabling myself once again to make it through another day.
It’s a little cool this morning, it’s cloudy and damp unlike yesterday’s cold but sunny. Sitting here crossed legged on the bed I’m wrapped in a blanket; I’m trying to keep my fingers warm. All this a little new for me considering I lost over 100 lbs. When I was over 300 lbs. I was quite warm during the winter months with little extra clothing. Now I’m cold to the bone, wondering how “skinny people” make it.
While all this weight loss might seem like a blessing in disguise, it still makes my General Practitioner nervous. She says I’m losing weight way too fast. But without any outward discomfort other than my overactive digestive tract, it’s all a mystery. I’m going for a colonoscopy in early December and do a colon screening every year. So other than some elevated something in my liver from one of my medications. Some of my doctors think maybe it is a blessing in disguise.
So I sit here, the panic side of me wanting to over-obsess with the situation. While the calmer more reasonable side just sits here and waits. Now my ever-present satirical side is thinking, “Here you are worrying about a chronic heart condition, all the while, it’s probably going to be something totally out of the blue that takes us out… Typical.” (Insert eyeroll)
Listen I can moll over these hypotheticals all day; but what good does do but cause even more anguish and worry. Ignoring the problem certainly isn’t the answer but wishing it to go away is even worse. I remain proactive in my treatment and pay attention to what my doctors say. In fact my doctors have commented me on just how aware I am of my treatment and my situation. You can’t go through life “wishing” for happy dreams. Always walk your path aware of where you are stepping. Life can be a beautiful adventure. But only if you look at things wholly one moment at a time.
After a lifetime of either hating myself or lying about it. I now look at things with a much more aware filter. In polite company I know I should say the right things. But more often than not, I end up wearing no filter. My family likes to refer to me as the “grumpy old man”, but I look at myself as a “truth teller”. Writing has become my preferred form of communication. Not only because of my lack of a filter, it allows me more moments of clarity and less opportunities to put my foot in my mouth.
This morning I was awakened with a shout, this time around two in the morning. As usually I went through my social accounts and left notes to a few friends across the world. I listened to some messages sent to me, again giving back as encouraging a word as I could. I don’t have many face to face friends anymore. Frankly most people simply don’t have the time. So my little social circle is pretty much it.
But I don’t think of myself as lonely. I suppose that’s because I enjoy my own company. Still many people I see are lonely. Oh they’ll smile or give a polite wave, but deep down they seem to be dying. Not so much physically as they are spiritually. You can see it in their eyes.
At this point of my life, I’ve learned to be reasonably content with the way things are. It’s not that I am not motivated to do better, it’s just that I find life much more pleasant than I ever have before. Through the simple act of accepting and loving myself. I have discovered, things don’t have to be perfect. That most of the dissatisfaction in my life came from my own self-hatred. Through the simple act of acceptance and forgiveness, I have learned that working from the inside out. Is the best way to change myself and the world around me.
It’s just one of those days. Not much on the agenda, maybe watch a little football, go to the store and pick up some things, that’s about it. I suppose I should just keep my mouth shut and go with the flow. But that ain’t my style. Because I’ve had some really weird dreams lately. Mostly about me parents and grandparents, you know the ghosts in our lives. Nothing horrible or tragic, just memories and dreams.
I’m sure other people dream the same thing, about pleasant or maybe unpleasant things from their past. Strange how those things work, you think you’ve sweep things under the rug. Only to rediscover they are right there where you left them. Maybe that’s way I’m having “one of those days”. Before I would bury deep the emotional garbage, I kept inside myself. Only to discover that much like hazardous waste it eventually seeps out and poisons everything.
Relief came through creating an honest dialog with myself. By facing the things that were hurting me and listening to the pain. I learn to give yourself a little compassion. So many times, we “guilt ourselves to death” for the things we have done.
To forgive yourself and to ask forgiveness of others, is the first step to a greater understanding of who we are. Life is so much more than just a paycheck or shiny new things. It’s about living in the moment and taking the happiness we feel and spreading it around. Don’t continue to live your life drowning in your own poison water. Breathe. Forgive. Dream.
The realities of life are often hard to bear. I know that in my life I see the responsibilities I face as a mammoth mountain I can hardly climb anymore. Years of selfless duty have taken a toll, not only on my mind, but upon my soul. Just a few years ago I would have never written this down on paper, let alone posted it online. But I have come to a point in my life where I can freely express my emotions, at least in the hopes of relating to other kindred souls.
I don’t mean to sound like a winy ass complainer, but even when you know what you’re getting into. You are still unprepared for the realities that you must face. I’ve spent 30+ years facing the responsibility of being a caregiver and guardian to two beautiful people. They have enriched my life in so many ways, but there are still moments when fatigue and frustration overtake me.
We have to create balance in our lives. Rather at work and in our home life, things just have to even out. No matter how obligated you may feel, you can’t just give, give, give. I don’t know what it is about some of us, we feel this constant compulsion to give so much of ourselves; even to the point of ignoring our own needs. I suppose it’s a craving for the love we never received. I know that selflessness is a virtue, but when given to feed our own needs, is it still? You are worthy of your own attention. Focus your mind first on restoring your own soul. The rest will come freely. Be honest with yourself. Listen to that inner voice. The rest will work itself out.
Well I’m back outside again. A place that over the last few decades has become a weird place to be. As a kid we stayed outside, we played out there from daylight till dark. The alternative was staying inside and doing chores or watching “Days of Our Lives” with Mom. Luckily enough we had woods to explore and bikes to take us there. We don’t have cellphones or trackers; we could ride our bikes to other town, just as long as we were home by supper.
I got laundry hung on the line, the clean scent of washed clothes blowing towards me. I hear the sounds of the world around me, a tractor-trailer locking its brakes to make a delivery. Cars passing on the highway and the sound of an annoying leaf blower down the street. The sky is a cloudless blue while the remaining leaves rustle in the trees.
Here I am, bearing the scars of three days of poking and prodding. With the sun behind my back, I’m still trying to get my bearings. Today has been nice, so I can’t really complain too much. But I can’t help but feel a little disappointed with yourself. Going an entire year without ending up in a hospital, only to land right back there…again. Life is a continuing journey. Full of ups and downs you can never predict. The best you or I can do is live moment to moment doing our best to be kind.
Life can be a vague inconvenience, pulling us from routine to unwanted adventure. My mind is still a bit groggy from the weekends adventure. So I’m sitting outside after a week of being locked in my room. My eyes strain from the sunlight and senses distracted by the sounds of nature and man. Trying to find my center to all the madness I sense and feel.
I’m really trying not to think too much, the probing and information I received is still being processed. My cardiologist told me to take it easy for a few days and allow the new medications to sink in. But I’m still surprised how “out of sorts” I feel. My balance is a bit shaky and my insides a little uneasy. But I push through hoping at some point it will pass.
I guess I should tell myself to just take it easy. To just go back to bed and shut out the world. But here in the backyard I feel a connection. A connection between myself and the world around me. I want so desperately to just get up and move. But my heart tells me it’s time to rest. So I’ll end this little story by simply saying, give yourself time. The world isn’t waiting on you, so let the inconveniences go for another day and breathe.