A Full Grown Tree
A few years ago, I made peace with my mortality while laying on a hospital gurney in the emergency room of Meadows Regional Hospital. Once the cardiologist was certain I had at least one heart attack, I got wheeled around the hospital for tests, x-rays, and I think an MRI. My home for the next seven days was the PCU, where I had five IVs were inserted filling me with various lifesaving medications. By the time my little vacation had ended, I had received a stent for a closed blood vessel. And I also had to wear a heart monitor-defibrillator for the next six months, which I appropriately named “Bob”.
It’s been nearly five years since Bob and I parted ways. I’ve made a few more trips back to my friends at MRH for various other heart related issues. But life has been interesting and life has been good during this time. As I said, I had made peace with one of my greatest fears, mortality. I mean I knew for most of my life was in sad shape both physically and mentally. And while the mental part was improving a little at the time. My physical health was beginning to catch up with me. So the seeds of my eventual death had become a full grown tree.
The worry I had for my family, weighed heavy on my mind. The upcoming birth of our first grandchild also weighed on my soul. But now with my focus on my recovery, the leftover baggage of fear was taking a backseat to a desire to live. It seems the teachings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh were finally taking root. I learned that the only moment I could change was the one I was living in now. So yeah, a lot of things have changed since then, I’m a bit heathier, my attitude is more focused, and I’m pretty content with my place in life. We all have our worries, but awareness and gratitude are your best weapons for living a peaceful more satisfying life.
Is achievement any more important than the wind in your face? Are possessions any more valuable than peace of mind? You see, I spent nearly a lifetime trying to prove myself worthy. By chasing everything from money, to toys, to fame, and even respect. But when I found myself achieving any of these goals, I only found myself wanting more.
While it is easy for me to use my troubled background, my mental health problems, and my current physical situation, as a reason way I must achieve. In a way these problems have been my blessing. They have taught me the importance of patience. The value of peace of mind. And the hidden truth that compassion is the most important attribute of them all.
Now you may or may not agree with what I’m saying, and that’s okay. Because I doubt, if any of you are going to change my mind. Just know that what I'm telling you is to be your authentic self. With no veneer to polish or anymore lies to live. Because the value you place on yourself, is the greatest gift you can give to you.
What a world of difference between yesterday and today. Yesterday was really peaceful, with a hint of wind blowing. Today I got weedeaters going next door with a group of EMC employees trying to holler over the noise. But that’s okay, it’s just another typical Monday in downtown Alamo. You would think all this racket would bother me, but after living in a house full of kids who don’t know how to knock, this ain’t shit.
Mr. and Mrs. Brown are pulling up the last of the dried sunflowers, popping off the heads for seed. I suppose it won’t be long till they’re planting again. I’d be surprised if he plants something before mid-august considering the heat. On a cloudless day like today, the sun can beat a good man. But the toils of the honest are seldom appreciated, though must needed by the elite.
It’s a little hard to look over a barren piece of ground without dreaming of the reward. Of a harvest of richness and bounty. It’s just that many of us aren’t willing to make the sacrifice to see those dreams through. What I wouldn’t give for the energy of my youth. To know the things, I know today. But each generation has to learn its lesson, believing it’s better than the past. Till then I’ll just sit here watching the clothes dry, grateful for another day.
What You Day Will Bring
It’s 3:15 in the afternoon, and we just had a little flash thunderstorm. But now, some thirty minutes later, it’s back to a warm breeze and partly cloudy skies. Welcome to South Georgia in the summer time. I found me a nice little piece of shade under the sycamore tree. And after a day of disasters, I finally said f*ck it and came outside. But days are what they are. Some good, some bad, but each having a life of its own.
Right now, I’m just breathing out a little bit of the tension I’ve experienced today. Normally I would just lay down under the AC. But with the comfort that it brings, the confinement can become stifling. So here I sit among the twisting leaves, the smell of passing car exhaust, and the ripening figs. Not thinking about much of nothing, just focusing on one word at a time.
A passing ambulance speeds down the highway, a subtle reminder of the many trips I’ve taken. Feeling the stubble across my face, the moments of my life can be measured in the lines across my face. So how do you measure time? As an endless string of days that run one into another? Or in the present moment where leaves shiver under the force of the wind? Either way it’s your time. It’s your choice. So choose wisely, what your day will bring.
Desperately Hiding from the Sun
It’s only 9:30 in the morning and it’s already 83°. So it looks to be another hot and sweaty one. But that breeze from yesterday, is still blowing out of the southeast. So I have a little faith it won’t be as humid as it could be. I got up around five o’clock this morning, checked my messages, and read my paper. Nothing much going on, other than the patients still running the asylum.
I went into town around seven, picked up a few groceries for the week. Then came home and got two loads of clothes washed. Now I’m sitting under the sycamore tree desperately hiding from the sun. But as the sun rises into the trees, I’m reminded of my construction days running heavy equipment on this island in the Savannah River. We’d get there before dawn, fuel up our equipment, then sit on top of our DJBs while they warmed up, and watch the sunrise.
Looking out across the river the city was just waking up. Container ships were making their way to port, while the lights of the city reflected across the water. Memories are often simple reminders of long forgotten truths. That as hard as the work was, working daylight to dusk. There were still quite satisfactions to be found in the day.
As I feel myself waste away under this relentless heat. I still smell the ripening figs, watch the cat pounce on the leaves, and in the distant hear the noise of a trash truck. All reminding me that this too will eventually become a distant memory. To be locked away and remembered when more troubles come my way.
Millions of Years
After a long day of driving in 98° weather and hiding in my room, I’m finally going outside. We got a little breeze blowing out of the southeast and the dew point is at 67°. All day long I’ve been trying to come up with something to say. But after a week of imprisonment in my room, windows blackened, AC and fan blasting; there just ain’t much to say. Sadly, for those of us “at risk” this is the world in which we live.
But as I looked out the bathroom window, I noticed the wind had picked up. So against my better angels, I found some shade and sit outside. It’s only mid-July and the oppressive heat of August has already hit with a vengeance. So while the wind is hot, it’s dry and a welcomed respite from the chilled air in a room with no light. But I got my glass of iced lemon tea with me, and the occasional sweet smell of the petunias.
As the cicadas start to sing, I’m reminded that living in a bubble only leads to isolation and paranoia. With the pandemic and the insane rhetoric of the day being slung around like horseshit against the barn door. It’s no wonder so many live in fear. It’s sad to see how the gift interconnectivity has been defiled to become this instant hate machine, that divides us instead of uniting us. But as I sit here finger touching the keypad, I’m reminded that there’s more to life than just “likes” and “clicks”. That just outside the door is a world that still turns and still breathes as it has for millions of years.
I’ve hit a bit of a dry patch these last few days. My thoughts have been racing in one senseless extreme to another. I’d start to think about something, then as quickly as it came, it’s gone. I suppose that’s a good thing because; it gives me the opportunity to read other writers work, without the hindrance of thinking of my own.
Artist often fear dry spells, but over the years I’ve learned to be at peace with them. Knowing that eventually as quickly as they come, they often fade away. As artist our work often feels like a fire. Sweeping through our brains consuming all the creativity we have. We don’t want to stop. Often, we get upset when we are interrupted. Creating inspiration for others, while at the same time abandoning those we love.
I have no real solution for this, other than to say remain aware. So maybe that’s why we have dry spells. To remind us that life isn’t all self-reflection. But also, about reconnecting with those we know most intimately. To appreciate the sacrifices, they make. Having to live with our creativity.
Highway Called Life
I checked the weather this morning and this going to be a blistering 97° today. At the moment it’s 73° with the dew point at 69°. For most of you dew points might not mean much. But here in the deep south, it determines hair style, clothing choices, and rather you’re going to leave the house at all. At the moment a few gnats have figured out my location. But a slight breeze is keeping them to a low roar.
Outside I can hear the world cranking up after a hot weekend. Log trucks are rolling down the highway with their first loads of the day. While the lawyers in their expensive cars pass by heading to the courthouse. Most everyone else got to work before I woke up, considering all the ag, prison, and customer service jobs are far out of town. Still life rolls on and people get by as best they can. The sacrifices that have to be made in this “new reality” are hard, but at least big businesses are getting bailed out by the bucket full.
As I sit here and adjust to my new reality, things are moving at warp speed. I’m pushing 60, my kids all but one in their 30’s, and who the hell knows where I’ll be in a few years. But right now, I’m not too worried about that. Because I can hear a barn owl calling from the oaks, the constant clicking of the cicadas in the trees. While in the background I hear the roar of the semis rolling across the highway called life.
My Lemon Farm
When life treats you like you own a lemon farm. It’s hard to handle good fortune without a twinge of doubt. But for the last few months, things have been going pretty well for me, both financially and physically. Contentment is a strange word to me. Especially since I’ve spent the better part of my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. So I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but I wasn’t quite sure how I’d tell the story.
When you’ve been called a loser or four-eyed fat boy all your young life. It starts to sink in that maybe they are right. That I am a loser, because I am a four-eyed, left-handed, asthmatic, that can’t do or say anything right. Words hurt and they leave really deep scars. To the point that where even good things in your life start to look like a scam. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve achieved a personal goal, only to be let down by my feelings of inadequacy.
I wish I had some magical truth that could wipe all these emotions out of my brain. But unfortunately, I still deal with this shit every day. All I can tell you is to be aware. When those seeds of doubt come up in your head, let them be heard. Don’t try and squish them out. Because that only pushes the pain even deeper. By giving the pain a voice, you acknowledge the hurt, then you can accept it, then you’re able to forgive others as well as yourself. Maybe it sounds silly or even a little “new agey”. Still it beats the alternative of hating yourself and eventually those around you. So try a little acceptance and forgiveness, you never know what it might do.
A Willingness to Change
It would have been so simple to just stay in the house. My head feels dizzy, my throat’s sore, and eyes ache. Other than that, everything’s peachy. But there is a nice breeze blowing out of the southeast. So given the choice between laying in a dark room or sitting under a canopy of green, I’ll take on the occasional gnat and go outside. In order to live our lives, we usually put up with a lot of shit. And while I do seem to complain a lot, I do appreciate being able to get up each morning and breathe.
I feel like I’ve lived more than one lifetime. I want from idealistic dreamer that thought he could change the world. To a newly married man, living out the American dream. To a broken man stripped to the core of what he thought was love. Back to a believer in love, raising a family. Only to breakdown mentally not knowing which way was up. To end up a stripped-down version of my former self. That learned to treat myself better, despite all the strikes against me.
You’d think that would be enough to fill a book. Well, I’ve written five of them. To say I have a lot of hootspa, maybe an understatement. But much like life I’m ever evolving, seemingly changing with the wind. Some may see that as a bad thing, but if you think about it, change is just a natural part of our evolution. Never stay satisfied with where you are. Don’t be afraid of change, for comfort can also mean complacency when mixed with pride. Do not allow arrogance to steal your compassion. A willingness to change is the engine that drives one towards happiness and understanding.
Who We Are
After running around all morning, I saw some potential in coming outside. There’s just enough of a dry wind out of the West to keep the some of the gnats at bay. So I parked myself under a sycamore and listened as the world drives by. The first load of our daughter’s laundry is done. Just got through mailing off my donation to the state and federal governments. And paid the post office their share of the pie to send them off.
The air still smells of the grass that was cut yesterday. Lisa picked a few ripe figs from the bush/tree, and a little later on I’ll check the tomato vines. The sky is cloudless and the air isn’t humid, damn near perfect weather to get your ass outside. My sons are hidden away in their dark, often smelly rooms. Doing God knows what on their computers and phones. I often ask myself, “are these children actually mine”? But then I remind myself I married into a family of vampires.
Finding our roots, finding our comfort isn’t necessarily a tricky thing. I myself am considered the “oddball” of my family. While I do share many family traits, my views on religion, life, and politics greatly vary from my family peers. But within the scheme of things, does any of that really matter? I mean we all share a bond, a bloodline we certainly cannot deny. I suppose the point is, we all have our shared experiences. We all share human traits beyond the pigment of our skin. Isn’t time to turn off the noise and appreciate who we are… family.
I walked away from the world that I knew. From a life I thought I had built to last forever. To explore a world of the great unknown. But did anything ever really change other than my address? On a trip back home, I went to visit an old friend one last time. Attached to an oxygen tank, a shell of man he used to be. We spoke for a few hours about life and where we were. While we spoke, he mentioned to me, “You know you had to leave in order to find yourself. And now you’ve come home your own man”.
I keep those words in the back of my mind when I’m feeling lost. For so often we lose track of who we are. And for a myriad of reasons, we never seem to be able to find our way back. Like trying to live up to the expectations of others. Or living in consent fear of losing control. Or worse yet, the fear of never reaching an unattainable goal. So much of what the world demands is based on performance and winning. That the art of satisfaction gets lost in the pursuit.
Over the last several years I’ve tempered my expectations. I’ve learned to recognize my limitations and to adjust accordingly. It’s not that I’m lazy, uninspired, or lost hope. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I feel more productive, creative, and happier than ever. It all comes down to what feels right. Am I happy? Is what I’m doing worth waking up for? Our lives are but a tiny link in a much longer chain. We can either run around completely unaware. Or we can find a path. A path that will eventually lead us home.
It All Becomes Routine
Laying here thinking about my current mood, I’m reminded of one my favorite Bill Murray movies, “Stripes”. Within the first five minutes of the film, Murray’s character loses his job, has his car repoed, and his girlfriend dumps him. Murray’s brilliant response to all this was, “And now depression sets in…” After being stuck in the house since Sunday, my ever-cynical mind has come to the same conclusion.
When trying to explain to this to the average person, you either get a “Hope you feel better soon” or worst yet some positive affirmations they saw on a break room wall. I for one am beyond that. No different than a struggling singer in tourist trap bar singing “Margaritaville” for the ten-thousandth time, it all becomes routine. I quit over analyzing these things years ago. And while that may not be the right way to handle it, at the moment it works for me. It gives me a clear path that all this doom and gloom going on in my head will eventually end.
Listen, I’m not down playing the effects of depression and anxiety. I’ve been fighting this shit for well over 20 years. If you want to swap war stories, I got nothing but time. But my goal is to not wallow in my defeats. Instead I prefer to look my pain straight in the eye and give it the attention it deserves. For in my case, while my depression often comes in waves. There is some deeper meaning for its existence. So I use the tools I’ve been given, a keen mind and a cynical heart. To not take myself too seriously and to know, that this too shall pass.
Just Beyond The Door
I’ve been lying in bed for hours now. Yawning excessively but still unable to fall asleep. Normally I fall asleep rather quickly only to wake up around three in the morning. But now it’s nearly four am and nearly halfway through listening to a new audiobook. Usually I’d take this time to be creative, but I used all that effort to write “Seeds of Doubt”. Maybe there is something in that confessional that’s haunting me even now.
But this isn’t something that hasn’t happened before. There have been a many a night where sleep has eluded me, leaving me exhausted, and tried the next day. I suppose I could try a little mediation to distract my restlessness mind. But often it’s writing itself that has become my mediation. I do feel my heart palpitating just a bit, my lower abdomen tightening, and my sinuses closing up. Over the years this kind of fear easily triggers the panic waiting just behind the door.
I suppose I should pat myself on the back for taking this otherwise wasted time and putting it to good use. Still I lay here a bit envious of my bride, who quickly fell asleep the minute her head hit the pillow. Why do I find a need in showing such vulnerability, in a world that determines strength by being stoic? But with so much to say in so little time. Fear is my jailer and my salvation at the same time. Allowing to peel away at the parts of myself, that I just assume throw anyway.
Seeds of Doubt
All it takes is one seed to plant a forest in your mind. Twenty-one years ago, I walked away from a steady paycheck and good benefits because of one seed. And ever since plans and ambitions have been ruined due to one seed. Over the decades verbal abuse and growing self-hatred planted seed in my soul. Seed that to this very day, ruin plans and cause avoidance for otherwise sound judgement.
None of this came about overnight, it all started with the verbal abuse I endured at the hands of my peers and the ignoring of the problem by my family. Call it being a product of that generation, call it what you will. But telling a child to “suck it up buttercup”, only plants more seeds of self-doubt and low self-esteem. Compound that what cognitive health issues such as low levels of serotonin. And you can see how the seeds of depression and anxiety bloom.
Over the last two decades I’ve spent the better part of my life searching for answers. Using a failing mental health system to just barely function. Being put on one medication, then another, like a lab rat in some nightmarish experiment. But I endured, until I found one qualified psychologist with enough wisdom and patience to put me on a course of medication and therapy that has worked for several years.
Still these are often no more than a bandage on a still open wound. Along with my course of treatment, I have used various forms of mindfulness training to search my issues. Having been raised in an Evangelical Christian home, the answer was to always pray your sin away. Unfortunately, I’ve seen more than my share of friends and family die waiting on those prayers to be answered. Through mindfulness and compassionate listening, I have learned that by giving myself the compassion I so desperately needed as a child, I am slowly becoming whole.
My point in all this is pretty damn simple. Don’t take what you hear as the gospel to be true, especially for yourself. I have spent nearly half of my life searching for relief. And while I may have stumbled upon an answer that works for me. There are still moments, such as now, when those answers aren’t doing a damn thing. You are your own best advocate, don’t give up no matter how bad you want too. There are answers, all it takes is your time, and a damn sharp ax.
Crickets & Time
Waking up as I normally do, I go through the living room, and into the kitchen, to get to the bathroom. Walking past the open windows I could hear the sound of crickets chirping outside. And for a moment the sound takes me back to a simpler time. When sitting around a bonfire, drinking beer, and watching fireflies dance, was the highlight of my weekend.
I hadn’t had many weekends like that in a good long time. Between struggling to make a paycheck, raising a family, and taking care of my wife; life hasn’t seemed as enjoyable as it used to be. Not that there haven’t been good moments. But when you’re plagued with clinical depression and whatever else. You tend to focus more on the struggles and regrets.
Right now, it’s still early in the morning. I had trouble falling back to sleep. My belly has been reminding me all morning of all the apparent bad choices I made the day before. Which ironically was a variety of fresh vegetables, tea, and very little meat. But it is what it is, and tomorrow I go back to my Gastroenterologist to hopefully get some answers.
Things never stay the same, no matter how hard we try to make it that so. Friends come; friends go. Kids grow up and move away. Loved ones pass and touches of grey begin to appear. But despite all the discomforts that come with time, the moment is still here. Fair or unfair, blessed or cursed; time takes its toll. All we can do is learn to survive, forgive, and enjoy the moments we are given.
Forget the Past?
Sitting outside listening to the bird’s fuss over squatter's rights, I hear my old buddy the barn owl saying goodnight across the way. Mr. Brown is in the garden picking a few squash, while Boot’s is learning to climb a tree. As for myself, I’m heading back inside, apparently the gnats have won this round. There’s nothing pressing on my mind today. Which means I should keep my mouth shut. Anyway, after pouring the dish water out on the plants, I’m here jabbering on for no particular reason.
While I don’t particularly worry about aging, I often worry about my quality of life. I worry about my wife and oldest son’s future and what kind of legacy I have left for my family. Although I’m pretty sure I’ll be nothing more than a faded memory in a generation or two. It still gives me pause about the legacy we leave others. I am by no means a saint, and neither were my parents. But history often paints a rosier picture then it should.
As I see monuments fall down and history definitely needing a rewrite. We should all bear in mind, no one is perfect. But still the truth should be told, the triumphs celebrated and the injustices learned from. Forgetting the past is allowing it to be reborn. Our lives are often scrutinized and forgotten. But if future generations do not learn from us, that my friend will be a true crime.
Saw my first cardinal in the yard today, it was a female gathering groceries for her young. It’s a little cool outside this morning, if you consider 77° cool. But the humidity is apparently low because I’m not sweating like a pig. But thankfully the gnats haven’t found me yet. So that means I’ll just sit here and enjoy this small taste of decent weather for now.
Life is far too short to dwell on the bullshit we hear every day. I mean it would be easy for me to over obsess about my health or this crazy pandemic situation going on around the world. But at the moment I just want to focus on what I see around me. The call of the birds, the sweet fragrance of the garden flowers, and that determined woodpecker tapping out a winter home behind me. Just being in the moment as nature intended.
Now this isn’t to say we should ignore the pain we see around us. Quite the opposite, this moment should make us more aware of the pain around us. More aware and compassionate towards ourselves and those we see. Life is a crap shoot at best, and to continually focus on the negative or the positive doesn’t create balance. It only creates hostility or worse yet disappointment, especially within ourselves.
Might as Well Tell You
Since misery loves company, I might as well tell you, today has not been a good day. My insides are a twisted mess and I am definitely feeling it. But strange enough I’m not overly upset or mad about it. I guess that’s because I realize it is what it is, and despite my discomfort, I am being proactive in finding a solution.
But often we don’t put actions to our words. It’s like we enjoy the complaining more than creating a solution. Frankly, I’d much rather solve a problem than constantly bitch about it. Not to say that I don’t have the occasional rant. But after all the brouhaha, all your left with is frustration and that same problem just sitting there.
If you take a moment and think about it, all of life can be summed up that way. If you’re happy in your current situation, great! Work to maintain the momentum that you’re carrying. But as we all know, life ain’t perfect and problems will arise.
The thing is where do you want to be. With so much anger and stress around us. It’s a wonder we can think clearly at all. In some way you have to find a way to pull away from the stress and frustration. Rather through exercise or simply walking, prayer or mediation, hell maybe just turning off that damn idiot box (TV). Still we all have to eventually face the music and make a choice, to either live with the situation or work to make things better.
All post written by
FD Thornton, Jr
All Rights Reserved.