The school bus is scurrying about town dropping off meals to the new “latch key kids” of today. Our state hasn’t issued a mandatory quarantine. Still the schools are closed and the parents unable to stay at home are making due as best they can. The abrupt change in all our lives is a bit crazy. But looking down the street it doesn’t look any different than any other day.
I had to run errands today, paying bills, picking up prescriptions, and doing a little shopping. The stores were full of “high risk” individuals, such as myself. Cleaning out store shelves and buying cases of toilet paper. I went to stock up on items for my carnivore’s meat, meat, and more meat. It’s funny to find myself so anxious while going through the store. It reminds me of when I was first diagnosed with panic disorder. During the first few years after my initial diagnosis, I developed severe agoraphobia. So it was interesting to once again have those particular feelings of anxiety again.
But it is what it is, so as I sit outside in the cool air, I’m reminded of how the human mind works. When some days simply run into others and where our focus is on working and tending to our own business. Thereby never giving a second thought that our actions have consequences. Then there are those of us that have our eyes so focused on the negative that we even fear our own shadows. But either way these two extremes are unhealthy and can lead to unbalance. Be mindful of the world around you. Be compassionate to the suffering of others and realize fear is a powerful tool that often leads to hate.
Well I made it to three this morning, but I slept well till then. I would like to say I don’t worry, but apparently my sleep habits say otherwise. Most of the time when I’m like this I am focused and frankly I am also anxious. Maybe there’s some symmetry between the two. Some unholy alliance that sparks creativity and also fear. Used to I’d worry that I didn’t have enough time left to say what I needed say. And while that may have been true in the past, I guess old habits just die hard.
But at the moment my mind is focused elsewhere. Preoccupied with concern for another. When you create relationships thousands of miles apart, the sting of bad news isn’t easy. So I lay here and worry as if she were my own child, even though we are continents and oceans apart. But love doesn’t concern itself with circumstance, difference, or even commitments. It roams the world searching for lost souls to bring together.
Some relationships it brings together just as friends, some as a parent and child, while others are lover’s never having tasted the fruits of love. But love doesn’t concern itself with such things, for love is too deep to define. I sometimes ask myself, why am I here? What is my purpose in life? Now my more religious friends and family would say we’re here to spread God’s word or strive to live some holy life. My more “worldly” friends and family may would say it’s to simply live a good life by achieving comfort and standing.
Now I may have failed at most of these things, but that doesn’t bother me. Now I don’t know if that’s a sign of maturity or total surrender. Either way, it is what it is. So as I close this chapter of my life, let me say. We are more than cogs in the machine. We are more than drones to some master plan. We are in this together. So while we are separated by borders, language, and cultural upbringing. At the heart of it, we are the same. We love. We laugh. We feel. So don’t let pettiness and fear separate us. Don’t let old habits keep us apart.
After too long a nap I looked out the bedroom window to see butterflies fluttering in the garden. It’s nearly six o’clock and the sun hangs to my right in the afternoon sky. The rains of February have left us with an abundance of gnats. But having grown up along the sandhills of the Ogeechee River, I’m more than used to swatting them. I sit here facing the highway watching the last of the commuter’s head home. Frazzled from their day, they wonder what to fix of supper.
As for me I’m still trying to wake up. My head’s a bit cloudy like the sky above me. But as the sun sinks a little deeper, it pulls back it’s covers to say goodnight. Reminding me that Spring’s only a day away. C.J. shuffles down the street I assume heading to his mama’s house. He graduated with my oldest daughter in a class with so full of hope and potential. Now most of them are long gone except for the few that stayed. The sycamore trees and the fig bush are budding, meaning in a few weeks I’ll finally get some shade.
So I sit here with my friends the mockingbirds singing me an old hymn. There are a few hardy souls gathered over at the Baptist Church. Tucked safely inside, while the real service goes on outside. It won’t be long before I’ll have to go back inside myself. The last of the empty log trucks sing their diesel induced song, while the sand gnats continue to lit around my face. As the butterflies begin to fold their wings for the long goodnight.
Just to show you how my mind works, there’s a bird nearby that sounds like it’s saying, “what’s up, what’s up, what’s up”. I know, right? It’s been a partly cloudy day today, still it’s warm for this time of the year. I’m sitting here behind one of the sycamore trees getting a little shade from the heat. The isolation of the moment has allowed me to focus on the things I see and smell. Like the fresh blooms I see on the trees and the bushes. The smell of the seeding grass, the fragrant blooms on the dogwoods, and the pungent smell of dogfennel growing next door.
The squawking crow singing in my ear adds an interesting contrast to the songs of the other birds. Creating an almost jazz-like break in the rhythm I hear. But if you think about it, isn’t that just nature’s way. That a symphony of apparent chaos creates its own magical symmetry. Since learning to slowdown, I understand that the methodical pace in which we live; is often counterproductive to our nature. That nature itself is chaotic yet still maintains a certain order.
Our analytical minds strive for order and a sense of normalcy. So while our so-called cognitive abilities grant us some power over mother nature. Our manipulation of nature only seems to create more disorder and harm. So as this afternoon settles in, I know it’s time for me to go inside. For mother nature is persistent, and that in my frailty, I know when it’s best to leave her alone. For all my manipulation and best intentions can’t stop me from getting burned.
I know you got to be tired of hearing me talk about the same shit all the time. The sleepless nights, the endless bouts with depression, not to mention the never ending physical issues. I honestly wish I had something more interesting to talk about. Like maybe an exotic vacation or a fabulous night on the town. But hey, all that ended for me way before the internet and social media even started.
Lost somewhere in a faded memory, there were days when life was just boundless energy. When friends would gather on the weekend to ride Clyde, Jr. down the highways to play gigs and believe we were making a difference. Moments when life had a greater purpose than just the nine to five. Where friends were family and dreams were more than empty calories on a store bought birthday cake.
Maybe my mind is just romanticizing about moments long past. Maybe I’m just wishing for things that were never going to come true. But they are my moments, they are my dreams. Our lives are based on foundations laid a long time ago. And while we live in the present moment, the past is still there. My point is, some of those dreams are real. Some of those dreams are our reality. Take a moment and look at yourself, ask yourself the tough questions. Don’t be afraid to embrace who you are. It’s long past time to embrace our truth and be what we dream.
I told ya'll I was going to be out in the sunshine. The forecast for next week is calling for more rain. So I'm going to take advantage of this for as long as I can. I spent the better part of this morning answering messages and doling out dime store advice to anyone that asked. I consider myself the worse person to be giving out advice. But some people just keep asking, so I guess I’ll just keep giving. My wife says it’s because I’m such a cautionary tale of what not to do. She hopes those that ask of advice simply doing the opposite of what I say.
I’m not supposed to really be out in the sun. One or two of my medications warn against it. But here I am frying my cheeks at high noon, not really giving a shit. Maybe that’s where the cautionary tale part comes in? Still I breathe in and I breathe out. Seeing behind the red of my closed eyelids as the sun shines brightly against the sky. I listen to the world as it hurry’s by wondering, why everyone’s in such a hurry?
Life gives us moments, opportunities if you will, to pause and reflect on ourselves. The unfortunate thing is we often miss those opportunities by blindly running to the next shiny thing. But I suppose that’s just the way we are, with our “highly developed” cognitive abilities. Creating answers to questions no one thought to ask. So as I sit here listening to the birds and watching our Calico cat eat a tree. I pause for a moment and think of nothing, simply appreciating the peace I feel.
Surprise, surprise it’s raining again, only this time we got thunder and lighting. So I put in my earbuds and listen to music, while turning the TV to The Weather Channel so our son can keep an eye on things. As an Autistic person there are certain things our son doesn’t appreciate. For one break ups in his regular routine, and two, unpredictable sights and sounds (aka lighting and thunder). So during storms I know to leave the door open so he can come in and feel comfortable.
After 29 years you get used to it, just ask any caregiver I’m sure they will tell you the same. If anything, long-term care teaches you patience. But even then, you can’t help but be human. So he breaks down, I break down, but we both later apologize and get over it. It’s only natural to often look at life as a curse, especially when you’re dealing with things beyond your control. But in those moments when we look each other in the eye, you know.
Listen we all want to feel comfortable; I mean who do know that wants to live in misery? I mean, I may look like I’ve given up. But inside I’m still fighting, still wanting to create a better me. Recently someone told me they liked me, who I am, and I appreciate that. But internally only I know my struggles and my pain. And it is only me that has to either live with it or improve the situation. So for the moment, I choose to improve and feel comfortable.
You know your life is sad when you have to warm up your glucose meter before you use it. Right now it’s 31° and I’m feeling every degree of it. I mean yes, I’m under a pile of cover. But my breath is smoking and I’m using a cat to keep me warm. But it is what it is, and there’s not a lot I can do about it. Funny though, I have friends that complain when the store runs out of their favorite creamer. But the last two weeks we’ve been rolling up loose change, eating one good meal a day, and eating one pack of ramen for breakfast/lunch.
I know, l know most of you are tired of hearing me poor mouth. But this is not really “poor mouthing” as much as it’s reality and having gratitude for what I do have. Like my grandma used to tell me, “We were so poor during the Depression, we didn’t know there was a depression”. We so often forget gratitude is the key to survival. When looking at one’s circumstance, you assess the things you have and the things you don’t. From there you take the gifts you’re given and use them wisely. All the while focusing on your survival by doing the things that need to be done.
Look these last two weeks have been a struggle and there were days I had to lay under the covers just to make it through. But the point is I made it. So be grateful for what you have, use the talents you were given, and create a support system around you. Look at your circumstances clearly, take small steps, and don’t give up. Hey, the last thing I want to do is “piss on your parade”. But life is real and life is hard. But with enough planning and patience, you’ll make it through.
There are some days when I feel like such a phony. Take yesterday for example I posted a selfie basically bragging about my weight loss. Now to most that may be something to brag about, but to my damaged mind it just felt awkward and creepy. For decades I was verbally abused by family members and peers. You see, I grew up a bit of an “odd duck” I wasn’t any good at sports, I was overweight, nerdy, and worse yet I wore glasses (definitely not cool).
So I was an easy target for Type-A personalities, jocks, and just good old-fashioned bullies. Needless to say, after a lifetime of being looked down on, you start believing the hype. Much like a partisan cable news viewer, if you’re fed enough shit, shit eventually becomes fact. While I recognize that I have a self-esteem issue, that fact will not correct my thinking. In order for me to de-program my brain, I have to forgive myself, practice self-love, and give myself a little compassion.
None of this is easy, when I was reading the comments I received from that post. I felt awkward and a bit like a phony, like I was some “Desperate Danny” fishing for likes and compliments. Look I’m just being honest here, I don’t take compliments well. The mind is a really hard thing to rewire. So like many of you, I see my faults with a glaring spotlight. It’s not easy, but by recognizing those negative seeds, you learn to stop watering them. Understand that you are worthy of love. Now I can tell you that all day, but until you start practicing self-worth, compassion, and forgiveness; nothing much is going to happen. So be kind to yourself and remember love begins and ends with you.
I’m not angry, I’m just tired. Tired of stressing out over things I shouldn’t need to stress about. Things like food, medicine, making sure the special needs people in my life get proper care. The things that keep me up at night, that cause me to make rash decisions. I don’t think I need to tell you about what stress can do to a body. I know for sure it has wreaked havoc on mine. First in 1999 and later in 2015.
I do my best to put things out of my mind through acceptance and self-compassion. But with so many responsibilities slamming me all at once. Hiding under the covers is becoming a viable option once again. The noise of the world can often just be too much. I wish the jester’s mask I wear could just stay on all the time. But unfortunately, it’s only held on by the bullshit smile I must wear. I tell myself I must be strong for the family. But as some members draft away, I’m left holding the remaining pieces. Now much older and much weaker than I ever was before.
So I stand here on my confessional, holding the jagged pieces. Feeling more vulnerable than I have in a while. Maybe I should just keep all this shit to myself. Showing the world only what it wants to see. The success, the vanity, the happy moments that do sometimes exist. But that would serve either you or I. For life is life, and we all have our tribulations. And for most part the only way to survive, is show solidarity. You are not alone.
Between NASCAR on Fox and a new audio book, my Sunday should be occupied. But I’d much rather have a stimulating conversation or work on my great American novel. But not many people even wish to say, “hello”, let alone take a moment to read a book. So I have the TV turned down to a low southern droll, while the audio book got uninteresting really fast. So here I am again, writing to no one but myself, out of sheer boredom.
I wish I could appreciate days like this a little better. But after years of self exile, the need for human interaction often rings through. When you live in the vacuum of failing health and a troubled mind. Silence is often a healing thing, but then there are days when you I wish to be among the living. But as I realize a few weeks ago, those wishes still need to be taken in tempered doses.
Life is a series of gives and takes. Where often a balance of the two is all we can ever hope. So I’m learning to pace myself with the situation around me. Not being so stubborn as to not change or to be so flighty as to not flip on a whim. All we can ask of ourselves is to listen and respond to the changing pace of the wind. To realize when change is an improvement or a hindrance to our growth. So always question your motives and never let the grass die under your feet. For life is meant to be lived, and to not become a stagnate pool of goo.
You know, I want to be happy, I want to have a bright outlook on the day. But at the moment I ain’t feeling it. Some might say, maybe you should just keep your mouth shut till it passes. But you know what? For decades I did that and all it brought me was nothing but more pain and misery. I still have a bad habit out of ignoring things. Just shutting bad situations out of my mind, putting them off as much as I can.
I suppose it’s just a trigger mechanism I learned as a child to avoid scary situations. You know like when you’re defenseless against certain bullies down the street. So you take an alternate route to avoid them, you know kinda like that. I mean you want to be brave, but after getting beat down repeatedly you just give up. So you learn to just avoid the situation just to keep the peace within yourself.
But over the past few years I’m learning to be a “ripe the band-aid off kinda guy”. By using this medium to express my emotions, both good or bad, I just get things out. Through mindfulness practices, I’m learning to look at the pain. To give it a voice, to love myself, and to tell myself it’s okay to feel this way. Christendom has a similar way through confession. But considering my experiences and my mental health background, I’m more of a “physician heal thyself” kinda guy.
Listen life is hard, and I completely understand having bad days, weeks, even months. But you’re not alone. There are clinics, counselors, and just plain other people out there that understand. You don’t have to suffer alone. A great resource that helped me through some dark hours was Panic No More. It is a website that has forums dealing with various mental health issues. All I’m saying is, don’t keep that pain bottled up. There are solutions, there is relief.
Let’s get real, vulnerability is not anyone’s strong suit. In a world that believes in winning at all cost, I am considered a failure. My credit report says so, my bank account says so, hell even my family tells me so. Many would say, it’s best if I just kept my mouth shut. I mean, what do I know, right? But success is often just smoke and mirrors for a life lived in a lie. On the outside we are so put together, but on the inside, we die a thousand times over.
I’ve had enough of trying to live up to other’s expectations. Do I have talents? Yes. But it’s up to me how those talents are used. I thought I wanted money, fame, and comfort. But even when I had that, all I wanted was more. And for what? To have more shit to stuff in my closet? I can publish books from my laptop and an internet connection. I can make art from a $199 smartphone and a free app. Plus I can create and publish my blog from a $6 a month app and a free website.
My life is what it is and it is real. I struggle every month to keep the wolfs at bay. I’m responsible for the welfare of two other lives, while struggling to take care of my own. Honestly if someone had told my 25-year-old self this is what’s going to happen, I might have ran. To deny yourself the ability to be vulnerable, is to deny of yourself an ally. Another weapon in your arsenal to fight back the enemies of pride and self-delusion. Don’t let those things take you down a dangerous path. Be aware, know your abilities, and live your life.
I’m supposed to take my morning medication at 7 o’clock, but I usually end up doing it around 8. This morning things got a little busy, between being the caregiver and getting everyone else ready and answering some early morning calls. I didn’t get to my own medicine till around 10:30. Let alone have breakfast or even a whole cup of decaf. I have to admit I’m feeling a little sluggish and foggy. But this ain’t my first time putting everyone else’s needs first and I’m pretty damn sure it won’t the last.
I’m not telling you this to get put on anyone’s pity party list. Lowd knows, I do enough of that on my own. But we all have to do what we have to do. Rather out of love or obligation, we do things we’d rather out do. But we do them anyway, because they have to get done. Right now I got even more things I need to get done. But to be honest, I’m not ready physically, mentally, or even financially ready to do them. I feel like I’m painted into a corner and that’s a feeling I definitely don’t like.
Some of us lash out when we feel that way. Other’s cower hiding themselves till the danger passes. Then there are some of us that just give in and let the beast devour us, dying again and again. I’ll freely admit that I am often the latter, freezing in my tracks and taking whatever fate I am handed. I suppose it comes from my conditioning to be a good boy and accept whatever comes. But that doesn’t make it right.
I suppose what I’m saying here is, don’t accept anything less for yourself. You are just as worthy of love and respect as the next person. Also, don’t let past pain dictate how you treat others. As I walk this journey towards healing, I’m made aware of my treatment of others. Don’t allow past abuse to define how you treat others, especially yourself.
I hated having to pull away from living. I mean I love collaborating, working with teams, and being a leader in my field. But life threw me a couple of snags, robbing of my mental and physical stamina. So I’ve had to strip down the façade of who I am and get back to the core. Searching for less strenuous ways to maintain my passions.
I suppose it was only natural for me to return to writing. Not only does it offer me an outlet for my joys and frustrations. It allows me to give lessons on how endings can actually be new beginnings; especially in the game of life. So now I spend my days doing the best I can. Seeking truth and healing my body and soul. Still there are days when the desire to do what I was originally trained to do bubbles up, mainly team building and project management.
But in the scheme of things, these are but a footnote in my timeline. The world will continue to turn and generations will continue live well beyond me. But I am at peace with that, still I don’t like to waste time. I don’t like being stagnant; so I pen my thoughts and I continually work to improve myself. Appreciating the moments which I have been blessed. For this is the time I spend doing what I can, clearing my conscience, working to get healthier, and always, always speaking my mind.
Do you remember the old joke about what if the dog ever catches the car, what would he do with it? Well lately that’s how I’ve been feeling. Like something I’ve been chasing for so long is right in my grasp. And I’m like, now what do I do with it? I don’t like this feeling, the feeling of unpredictably. Though I’ve been preaching about letting go and finding your own path. I’m feeling something’s wrong, like I’m taking three steps back instead of two steps forward.
I look back at the memories that are flooding my head. Of simpler times and a more fluid set of support. Yet things have changed, the past becomes deified. And the only solid thing I truly feel, is the shaky ground which I now stand. I left my life back home sure it was the right call. The struggles I’ve endured during this time were all my own. But it’s through those struggles that I’ve became who I am and my family as well. So to uproot that foundation may seem nostalgic, but is it really the right call?
I suppose this shouldn’t be the forum to unburden myself of such things. That instead I should be gathering truth and sharing it with you. Well my truth is that I’m uncomfortable, a little scared, and very troubled. Scared I’ll make the wrong decisions and troubled by the fact I’m not alone. I suppose all I can do is breathe, listen to my troubles, love myself compassionately, and show myself some patience. Nature is not chaotic until outside forces intervene. So listen to your feelings and look for the signs.
I’m feeling pretty good this morning after my late-night confessional. I was worried the day would get off on the wrong foot, considering how I felt around 2 am. My breath was heavy, my heart was palpitating, and I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. Knowing what was going on, I pulled out my phone and started “confessing my sins”. Funny though any number of years ago I would either put up with it till it pass or franticly let my mind race to some worst-case scenario.
Not that it’s much different now, because my anxiety and fear often find new ways of tormenting me. Kinda like a mouse finding new hole into your house after you’ve blocked the others. My defenses are awareness, compassion, and forgiveness. To sit there and blame yourself for the things that happen to you only leads to self-hatred. To continue to blame others only draws the poison for bitterness into your soul.
Listen I’m no guru or spiritual leader. I’m just a man who for the better part of my life has blamed myself and others for my pain. Hell, it may all be true. But to continue to walk around with those emotions in your heart only kills the soul. Appreciate the simple things, like the finch singing on my windowsill, or Shadow purring next to my leg as I type away. It’s these and other things that make life worth living. Not the trappings of frame or glory, or even the comfort of wealth and power. It’s the peace that comes from giving and living and sharing the truth you’ve come to know.
Took a long overdue trip back home yesterday. Down Georgia Highway 204 on the border between Bryan and Chatham Counties. Along the Ogeechee River where on a high bluff lay the remains of Uncle Shed's Fish Camp. There’s not much to it now, only one cabin remains untouched and unused. A few other modernized cabins are there for family. The mobile home my adopted parents lived in and a few other outcrop buildings are all that remain.
But over 40 years ago a lost child drove down to this place. Found a spot in this misfit community and ever since it has been my physical and spiritual home. There are not enough words here to explain my connection to this ground. And while I have no physical claim, it is still my home. So after seven years, I walk around the grounds. Remembering what it was, seeing what it is; and listening to the voices echoing through the Live Oaks and Spanish Moss.
Lately I’ve felt lost, I see no home here where I am other than my children. I have no claim to anything, a nomad if you will, in a community that cares more about physical than any spiritual claim. My only friends are online, but they don’t hear my voice or see my eyes. Or do they know the history of my scares. Over 10 years ago I reconnected with my adopted mother and for a few years I visited and called her every week. My own mother had died a few years before leaving me memories but not much more.
After my exodus from Savannah in 1994 I’ve only had infrequent contact with the city, while I worked here to find myself. But things have come full circle now. I’m living my own legacy, but my place is not only here, it’s back home as well. I wish I could better explain what I’m feeling. The emotions, the memories, the desire to reconnect with a part of myself I lost so long ago. Maybe the next few months I’ll find some answers, maybe even find myself again. Because while part of me has been found, the rest still needs to be rediscovered, reclaimed and welcomed home again.
Laying here I couldn’t help but think about a situation with a friend’s spouse. Over the last several years he and I have traveled similar paths. We’ve both went through physical problems as well as mental health problems. The difference lies in the fact that he has just given up on life. He is bitter, he leashes out at his spouse, and doesn’t seem try or want to improve his situation. He just sits there watching the world as it passes by. Listen I’m not here on my high horse and criticizing him or anyone else in this situation. The fact is I empathize and understand it all too well.
For a while now I’ve documented my struggles with self-worth and even jealousy. And how oftentimes those things still get the best of me. For days and weeks, I’d lie in bed, with the curtains drawn, enabling my demons and fears. But even in those moments I knew, there was something better, something more for me to do than just lie there. It’s taken me a really long time to get to this point of awareness. And while I am by no means a success story, at least by the world’s standards. I am now at peace with who I am.
Still I can see it in the eyes of so many other people. The vacancy, the loss, and the bitterness they carry. While many have not totally given up on life, they seem to have given up on living. These days are rough and they beat the best of us down. Still as I look in the mirror, I take assessment of myself, and move on with the gifts I’ve been given. Don’t let circumstance dictate your value. Do the best you can, breathe in the life around you, and live a life well lived. Please don’t let anymore moments pass you by.
Could I have any crappier a night? First off, the temperature is sitting where one more blanket makes it too hot and one less blanket makes it too cold. Then around 2:30 this morning my $3500 CPAP machine decides to die. Leaving me half asleep and half-awake for the rest of the night in this cold ass bed. But during the night I ended up reading an Instagram post of a young photographer I admire. I discovered the young lady is in the hospital. I felt compelled to send her a note of encouragement and advice, considering the number of days I’ve spent in hospitals.
She asked about my situation, which I spoke of truthfully. She then sent me a word of condolence, which I replied thank you and told her that I am fine; and for her to focus on her own recovery. It’s one thing for me to “spit and sputter” about my situation, which I brought on myself. But to see a young vibrant person, through no fault of their own suffer, that breaks my heart. We all have our burdens to bear. The trick is all in how you handle them. Do you treat the situation with a positive attitude or do whine and bellyache until we simply give up?
Honestly, I do a little of both. I allow myself a time to mourn, to lick my wounds as it were. But eventually I drag myself up and move on. None of this is easy to do. It requires patience’s, a strong dose of self-compassion, and of course self-forgiveness. It’s taken me a really long time to learn that lesson. That despite my own flaws I am worthy of my own forgiveness. It’s funny sometimes how it takes the suffering of another to remind us of that fact.
For the past 15 years I have more or less followed a Buddhist mindset. But for most of this time I've kept that fact pretty much to myself. I do this because of the heavy influence the Evangelical Christian community has on my family and friends. So instead of enduring the constant bickering about silly religious dogma, I decided to keep my mental condition and my ongoing therapies to myself.
After my initial diagnosis in 1999, I began searching for something more tangible and more relatable to help with my situation. My therapist introduced me to form of meditation therapy whereby I took moments out of my day to clear my mind through breathing. It helped me cope with the torturous noise that was going on in my head. So for the next few years I participated in one on one and group therapies, as well as, utilizing medication and meditative therapy.
Over the next several years I functioned well enough in society. Working and participating in family functions. But still there was a lingering emptiness, plus the negative voices within my head had never really calmed down. Affecting not only my work life, but my social and family life. Into 2005 I was still dealing with bouts of depression and low self-esteem. So I once again began searching for a more definitive answer.
As far back as 1999 I learned that trying “to praying through it” or “to have some booger cast out of me” wasn’t going to cut it. That initial breakdown, frankly broke me. I heard no voice of reason. No reassuring words of peace. All I could hear was the silent screams of my own fear. So I stopped looking for any religious escape. What I have learned are that most religious ideas are still rooted in some archaic system of “righteous perfection”. My wife whose beliefs are still firmly rooted in Evangelical Christian dogma, often refers to me as “The Heathen”. Yet we’ve learned to agree to disagree, tolerating each other’s beliefs.
I always knew within myself there was the potential to do better. Yet my unrelenting self-doubt and self-hatred kept me from pursuing my dream of a better life. So with the help of counseling I dove head long back into my University studies. But as often the case my self-hatred pushed me into bouts of panic and self-loathing. Desperate for an answer, I turned to whatever self-help materials I could find. It was during this period that I discovered the works of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.
Through Thich's gentle voice and common-sense writings, I learned how to listen to the voices (emotions) within me. To not judge them and to love that broken child within me. I also learned through mindfulness how to live in the present moment. To forgive the past and to not fear the future. So over the last several years, mindfulness has opened my eyes to peace and acceptance. To have some compassion for myself and from there learn how to forgive.
I don’t mean to bore you with my mixed-up theology. But for a really long time I’ve kept this path mostly to myself. I don’t mean to stump on anyone else’s road to redemption. We must each choose our own way. But to force feed one’s beliefs to other or to condemn another for believing differently, if at all, isn’t right. The idea of it even goes against most religion’s freedom of choice. My path is a quite path that only asks that I walk in peace and awareness. So now that you know, I go in peace.
The sun’s not up yet, but I can hear the log trucks firing up from down the street. Pretty soon CO's from the prison will be driving by, then the school buses will start carrying kids off to school. The headlights cast rays of light across our bedroom walls. Reminding me that another day is about to begin. I for one am already up. I’ve pulled my CPAP mask off for the night, already went to the bathroom, blew my stopped-up nose, popped a Tylenol, and placed the heating pad on my sore neck.
Lisa’s curled up in a ball quietly snoring next to me. Thirty-two years of my late-night shenanigans doesn’t seem to bother her anymore. So I ask, where is life taking you today? Are you off to work, or maybe a doctor’s appointment? Or maybe you’re just doing chores around the house? I carry no concrete plans for the day, and while that might seem romantic or wishful. To many it’s a death sentence not having any purpose or goal. I try and spend my hours working on what you are reading now. Part helpful, but mostly therapeutic; it allows me to express emotions and concerns that I long held deep inside.
Still it concerns me to see so many living without purpose. Just trudging through the day with no life, no real goals or happiness. For a while I had to give up what I thought was purpose. Mostly because it became my only reason for living. When in actuality, it wasn’t a reason at all. My goal for existing is to complete the whole (myself). To fix the broken parts of me and to tell my story. Listen we all wish we could make an impact on the world. But that will only happen when we first learn to take care of ourselves.
At least my toes are warm, that’s what I keep telling myself. And yes, I realize I’m Southern so anything below 40° is cold. We heat the house with electric heaters, which means when one heater dies Dad does without. But I do have five blankets on the bed and a heating pad under my feet, so I’m fairly comfortable so I’m more than used to it. I used to tolerate cold fairly well, but after dropping over 100 lbs. I’m beginning to feel it in my bones.
As a parent, husband, and caregiver you learn to compromise. Sometimes silly little things like letting your son have the last banana or your serving of dessert. Sometimes you do without eating to feed the kids. You put off buying something new to pay for band camp. Give up sleep to watch over a sick wife or kid. Make sure appointments are kept. Be an advocate for those with special needs in our house. You know little silly things.
None of us that have to do these things do it for the glory. We do because it has to be done. When I was first in the hospital, it was hard for me to accept help. I mean I did literally everything myself. To find oneself helpless was not an easy pill to swallow. To give up control is still a real problem for me. The point I’m trying to make here is, don’t let your unwillingness to let go cloud your faith. If it wasn’t for me letting go of my hurt, I wouldn’t be here today. Sometimes it’s necessary for us to be in charge. But sometimes it takes a little faith to see our dreams come true. Trust what you’re doing, learn to let go, feel it in your bones.
I really want to write something beautiful, something with a message. But all I have done today is lay here in bed, listen to my stomach churn, and have cats sleeping on top of me. But I do have the window blinds open just to remind me there is life beyond this bed. From here I can make out branches on the trees stretching out like arms towards the sun. So while the rest of the world bounces across the speed bump in front of my home, the cats warm themselves in the rays of the sun.
I suppose you could say, “I need to get up and take over this day”. Or maybe that I need to get over myself and, “Man up, buttercup”. But at the moment all you would get out of me are a few choice cuss words telling you where to shove it. On the outside I’m a pleasant enough fellow, but deep within I can often be troubled. Growing up in an age of not expressing your emotions can do that to you. And believe me, I was a good student.
While some moments were meant for reflection, others are to be shouted from the rooftops. But then there are does moments when you just lay still and do nothing. Not every moment is meant to be remembered. Not every word meant to be repeated. Life often is what it is, a series of routines we carry out every day. I don’t mean to be so “uninspiring”, but often in moments like this, the most clarity shines through.
I’m slowly pulling myself out of this weekend funk. Where my digestive tract, mental attitude, and overall physical well-being have been at war. Leading me to come to the conclusion that I’m just falling apart. I feel like my hands are tied and that I’m tethered to a chain I’m unable to escape. I mean I shouldn’t feel this way, I’m surrounded by positive messages and positive people. Yet here I sit, without an encouraging word to pull me from this reality.
But this is not my first rodeo with depression, and I’m sure it won’t be my last. I wish I could talk about hope and beauty in the world around me. Instead I'm laying here with my belly going off like a Jazz band. Putting up with 25°f temperatures this morning. So I guess it’s left up to me to pull myself out of this funk. Or is it okay for me to just ride this wave of emotion till it runs its course?
I feel like I’m too damn old and too damn tried to keep asking myself that question. That maybe it’s about time for me to close my mind and become the drone I used to be. Unfortunately, I already tried that route and you can see where that’s gotten me. Life can lift us up, as well as, take us down. Leaving us alone to pick up the pieces. It is through this, that the fires of anger and resentment fuel the hate within us. So when given the choice, do you struggle through it and survive? Or do you just throw in the towel and die? I for one choose to survive. The question now is, what do you choose?