Searching for greater meaning can often be a fool’s folly. For all we have is what is right in front of us. Oh, we can change bad habits or make improvements in our standing. But I truly feel we are who we are. I guess what I’m trying to say is, all the power to improve or get worse lies deep within ourselves.
I grew being told that I was flawed. That I had sinned and come short of God’s love (Romans 3:23 paraphrased). So for a great deal of my life I felt unworthy of love and was doomed to a life of misery. Even though Christian teaching gives a way out through “grace”. It still didn’t calm my soul’s paranoia that somewhere I would slip up and burn in hell. So I spent the bulk of my life walking on eggshells worried that no matter what I had done, it still wasn’t good enough.
The thing that I eventually discovered was, that in order to accept myself, I had to learn to love myself. In my Christian upbringing denial of one’s self is key to living a “righteous life”. Some would say my thought process here is flawed, but it is what it is. But for me to find peace I had to learn to embrace and love myself, flaws and all. Most of my life I hated myself. I hated myself physically, mentally, I hated my habits, basically anything. So no matter the amount of “grace and “forgiveness” I was given. I still hated myself.
My point here is not to step on anyone’s belief system. As stated, this is about me. All I ask is that you listen to cries that come from within. Far too often we compensate for the misery we feel by giving of our whole selves to others or by drowning our sorrows in destructive behavior. Believe me I know. Until I learn to face yourself, listen compassionately to my pain, and learn to let go; I was never be truly happy. Life is more than just giving; it’s about receiving as well.
Creativity is such a fickle lover, moving in and out of our lives on a whim. While I didn’t consider myself much of an artist, I still see inspiration move in and out of my life. Either giving me moments of creativity or drought. I prefer to write in the short story format, first because I don’t have much of an attention span. And secondly, because it allows me to throw bursts of spontaneity into my work. I guess you could say I’m a, “throw it against the wall to see if it sticks”, kinda guy.
But seriously that is nothing new, most artist of today find solace in the idea of spontaneity. Creating from what the moment brings. It’s funny for me to say these things, because I was such a planning. On a number of projects I worked on, I’d usually end taking the lead as project manager. A job I accepted timidly, but soon learned to relish.
But since my health scare and its aftereffects, I’ve taken a long hard look at my life. What I concluded was that some wholesale changes had to be made. While I thrived on many aspects of project planning, at the same time it was killing me. Maybe I should be more specific in saying is that my lifestyle and mental health habits were killing me. What I required was a complete turn around in my thinking and my physical habits. While a lot of damage was done, it was up to me to turn things around.
The eventual solution came by returning to my first love writing. While therapy and medication helped, it was my discovery of mindfulness and meditation that put me on my road back to finding myself. The idea of living in the moment brought a certain degree of peacefulness. It let me know that living in the here and now is where I truly needed to be. Worrying so much about the next moment brought on such anxiety and stress that it nearly killed me.
In the world in which I currently live, I maybe a lot poorer, but my mind is clearer and more focused than ever. I have written thousands of short stories and hundreds poems. I’ve become more in tune with nature and the world around me. I have more patience and compassion for others. In general am thriving in a world led by spontaneity. It allows to explore places in my mind I once feared to tread, adding to the peacefulness I feel. You may not feel like you are an artist, but we all live in a world of performance and net value. But how much easier would it be to place more value on your true self and on those that surround you.
Some finches are out chirping around the bird feeder. I can hear the school bus drive by as it heads to school. Looks like it’s going to be another Indian Summer day here in late October. I got a load of laundry going, while I sit here pecking at this keyboard. Life around here can get pretty dull; I wish I could say it was more exciting. But in all honesty, I don’t think my body could take it.
I’m sorry, I don’t mean to bore you with my pitiful existence. But these are the plain unflowering truths that come out of my mouth. No beautiful imagery or clever lines, just me pushing through another day. I wish I had more positive things to say, but at the moment my digestive issues are going full throttle. After going through all the mental health issues, then the heart thing. You’d think life would be done fucking with me. But I am wrong.
I’ve come to the conclusion that all these digestive issues are stress based. These last few months have been extremely stressful affecting me mentally and manifesting itself physically. It’s happened many times before over the last 20 years. The sleepless nights, the irritation, the anger, the fear. All leading to stress induced physical issues.
It seems no matter what I do mindfulness training, therapy, medication; I can’t seem to shake this damn thing. My medical doctors are at a loss, all they seem to be able to do is treat the symptoms. I’d go back to therapy, but the cost and the total lack of mental health funding makes that impossible. I really don’t mean to dump all this on you, but life is what it is…pretty dull.
I stare out the window, the same old scene I see every day. A garden, a church, a pecan tree. Each in their own way a bit timeless, each in their own way changing. I’m working from the laptop today my word software is easier to work from the laptop. But I do miss the more causal feel of my phone app. Life feels so temporary sometimes, maybe it’s because my life isn’t so much doing as being.
I guess I could just hoe the grass out of the turnips or rake around the back porch. Instead here I sit holding my hands in prayer and punching these keys. What messages am I sending? What is my purpose? My focus? I always dreamed of a life of speaking, yet here I sit telling stories to no one.
Partially fixed in this purgatory, doing what my heart tells me to do. Living out dreams I only once imagined. Writing words that have touched a few. But is it fulfilling enough? Am I doing all that I could? Too many questions for a mind, it’s time to clear out the thoughts. Allowing myself to breathe, to hone my skills, to tell my tale. For no matter what we do, isn’t worth it if the passion doesn't shine through.
In a world obsessed with selling us a better life. I find myself blinded by the advertising. Believing that if I only had this or that, my life would be complete. Neglecting the fact that only being in the moment is the true path. So we worry about tomorrow, without seeing today. We worry about yesterday, without living in the now. Lost in a sea of useless information. We look for the next distraction to pull us from our pain.
I lay here this morning regretting past mistakes. Blaming myself without any chance for forgiveness. It’s a pattern I’ve repeated over and over. A vicious cycle of self-destruction and endless shame. That makes it hard to appreciate the victories that come my way. I try and stay engaged with the world around me. But often I feel like such a hypocrite, encouraging and cheering on others, while wallowing in a sea of my own self-pity.
I suppose I could revert back to my old MO of ignoring the problem. Sweeping the emotions into a corner, till the stench gets too strong. But my past is documented all too well as to how that method works. Good, bad, or ugly we have to face our situations. Accept them for what they are and move on. To stop looking at what the world calls the “gold standard” for happiness. For the things that make me happy aren’t necessarily what makes you happy. So please don’t look at me with envy, thinking I have all the answers. Let’s just appreciate the gifts we each bring and be grateful for the love we share.
I dreamed of friendly neighbors sharing the bounty of their work. Of victory gardens and kind words, of diversity and shared values. Yet I see faces turn to stone, beliefs that have overcome our humanity. And signs of respect melting into cold hatred. I have often said I was a dreamer, witnessing a world losing its grace. But to not be hypocritical, I to have my moments of intolerance and ire.
We are all human capable of great good and evil. Yet we often justify our reactions with our own feelings of inadequacy. By making targets of those weaker than ourselves. How convenient it is to pry on the weak. An instinct born of our need to survive. We should be wiser than that, but our weapons of war and death say otherwise.
Growing up only to be torn down, I relied on my wits to survive. A skill that has somewhat served me well. But buried deep within me are still the scars, the pain of those hateful words. So I learned to make peace with myself. Not with false bravado, but with forgiveness and action. Yet I claim no mantle of brilliance. I’m just a man living one moment at a time.
But I still have more evolving to do, more tendencies towards hate to overcome. For I am not perfect, just someone doing my best. Forgiveness is our first step towards redemption. Not only of those we wronged, but of ourselves. Breathing in and out is one way. Listening, centering yourself, being in the moment are the ways I use. For life is the moment in which we are living. What better time than now to live it in peace.
Well it’s cool enough and breezy enough that the damn gnats aren’t bothering me. (At least not yet.) The skies a pretty blue and except for a neighbor running a noisy ass lawnmower, it’s otherwise really nice. As you can see from my selfie, I haven’t washed my hair or put on any makeup. But out here in the backyard there aren’t too many to impress, other than a few squirrels and some mockingbirds.
My mind has been really crowded the past few days. The worries of life and my feelings of helplessness have really been weighing me down. It’s been raining so I haven’t been able to go outside. So my breathing in nature has been relegated to sitting in the house and watching Natgeo.
But we all have our problems I suppose, at least there’s food in the refrigerator and the lights are still on. For some they are being forced to leave their homes or they are being exterminated due to their ethnicity. How can you justify killing another soul because of their color or faith in which they live? Maybe I’m just too New Agey or just too liberal. But even within the repressed, dogmatic religion in which I was raised, it says “love thy neighbor” and to “turn the other cheek”.
I don’t know, maybe I should just stick to my own problems and let the rest worry about themselves. But how can I do that when I know we are all connected. The earth, the sky, myself, and even my noisy ass neighbor. The impact of one affects the many. Let’s all do our best to be a little more grateful and tolerant of the world around us and of the people that live in it.
Who am I? For the most part we all have a pretty good idea of who we are. For some it’s the portrait of a father or a mother. For others it’s the portrait of a child. The portrait can change depending on the situation. In my life I’ve been all those things and more. I suppose what I’m really asking is, what do we see in ourselves? Are we assured and confident or are we fearful and afraid? I suppose the answer lies deep within each of us.
I see myself as a bit of a façade. Not so much a fake, just someone that wears a lot of disguises. Now most of us put up a front given the situation, because opening up and be one’s self is a really vulnerable thing. Within my writing I have found a refuge. A place that has become my saving grace.
For me, it’s all about letting go. My whole life I have internalized every negative emotion. Till eventually all that destructive energy just exploded. It took me a really long time to figure out how to open up the pressure valve. But once I did, I learn to let it go of all the negative emotion I carried within me.
Now I not saying I don’t still go through moments of anxiety and pain. It’s just that now I have a way of walking through it without imploding. Writing and mediation have been my relief. Your path to relief maybe different, but if you honestly at yourself and listen to your inner voice. Then then you will find the answers you need. Don’t let negative emotions rule your life. Life is all about balance, both good and bad. Find your center and be at peace.
I know I talk a lot about overcoming the obstacles and how we shouldn’t let our disabilities rob us of our abilities. But the utter unpredictability of my current situation, has me bound with a chain. Heart wise I seem to be doing fine, no harm, no foul. But this is a new ailment that has slowly creeped up on me and pretty much taken over my life. I’ve spoken about it on the odd occasion, but now it’s really just pissing me off.
I can see opportunities coming up over the horizon. But this ailment has bound my hands, as much as my initial heart issues. The thing is till 2015 I worked my whole life. But just when I feel like dipping my toes back into the work pool again, Bam! I know, I know I should just let it go and flow with it; like I have on so many other occasions. But you know me, I’m not one to blow smoke up anyone’s ass. So I’ll be honest and say, I miss the daily grind of just being a normal person.
I know I should look at this as a growing period or some cosmic life lesson. But I’m just an ordinary guy, who tends to overthink things. I suppose if anything, I’m just tired and ready for a change. But I’m stuck here with what this life hands me, so I guess I’ll just “grin and bear it”. By continuing this journey of dropping my little words of “wisdom”.
I suppose I could take some perverse pleasure in the fact that the world is just as lost as I am. But what good would that do? The best any of us can do is pause, reflect, and ask ourselves, “Am I where I want to be”? Then learn to find a little moments of joy in each moment we live.
So it’s like three in the morning, my wife and I couldn’t sleep. We were worried about our kitten that just had surgery. Lying in bed I was showing her my Instagram feed and the various people I follow. Well, after about 15 minutes of me going on about each of these people and their posts. Lisa rolled over and went back to bed. It’s funny how after nearly 32 years of marriage, two people can still be together, yet be so vastly different.
I’ve been asked on a number of occasions, “What’s the secret to a long marriage?” To be honest, maybe the best answer is to find someone who will challenge you. Oh I know, hormones and horniness play a part. But I think longevity comes with challenges and fiery debate. Now I don’t mean fussing or arguing. I mean learning from each other, yet being your own person.
Me and Lisa are two very different people, and frankly most of the time we prefer our own company. But we still have enough commonality and civility between us to continue our partnership. That may sound a bit clinical, but after 32 years attraction will only get you so far. Oh, we tire of each other, roll over when the other starts getting boring. But that’s okay.
Marriage is a give and take, and sometimes the taking outweighs the giving. “Have I ever felt that way?”, you may ask. I’d be lying if I said no. You may also notice I didn’t say much about love. Well love is a slippery slope, it’s different things to different people. My definition of love maybe different than yours. It just all depends on what you give each other. So while the scales may seem tilted, there’s enough comfort to keep things going.
Driven to the depths by fear, my mind wants to shut down. These are the moments when I wonder how I’m not an addict. Searching for whatever means to escape this hell. I suppose responsibility is what always grounded me. Though there are moments. So I suffer through battling the endless “what if's” that scan across my mind. You’d think by now I would have discovered a magic cure. But sometimes even medication and therapy are mute points. So I turn to my one coping mechanism, my words.
Who knows what direction this thing is going into? Sometimes it’s a message of hope, sometimes just an explanation of why I am. Either way, I’m buried under the covers. Lisa knows well to just let things be, the rest of the house just stays the course. I don’t really know what brought on this attack other than a moments worth of attention. When it comes to my insides, does it ever really need a reason?
So I cross the plain of knowing better and just not giving a shit. Accepting the emotions as they come and exposing my pain for all the world to gawk at. Bitterness, fear, anger, hate they all become a part of it. So I’m sitting here believing, this too shall pass. But for the moment those words ring as hollow as a church billboard sign.
No amount of positive reinforcement pulls me from this muck. Only time and listening to what my insides say. But life continues to turn and no matter what, bills need to be paid and things need to get done. Maybe's that’s my saving grace, purpose of life. Meaning and drive see other day. And while I’m sure I’ll pull through this; at the moment I lay here and grieve.
My church is the earth. Through the trails I walk, the birds I hear, and the wind I feel. A long time ago my Uncle Mack told me his tabernacle was nature. An imperfect man, Mack seemed to enjoy his own company over people. Not that he wasn’t friendly, just quiet and reflective. A solid man with more demons then he’d care to recall. A gentle man that I would dare not cross.
I grew up in the suburbs of Savannah, hung out a lot down on the Ogeechee River. But still a city boy at heart. When I moved my young family up here to Central Georgia in 1994, my Grandma and Uncle Mack were the rocks we leaned on. When Granny died, Mack took on an even more important the role. Over the years I learned a lot from that man. His philosophy on nature and God, how to hunt, how to just enjoy the quiet, and how to be compassionate to the world around me.
It’s been a years since Mack passed away, but when I walk a trail and catch the sound of a passing whitetail; I cannot help but remember. The quiet serenity I learned from just sitting still and letting life give me it’s lessons. I don’t claim to be much of religious man, although I was well indoctrinated. But with mediation and the quieting of my fearful mind. I learned to see how the human soul is tied directly to the earth. For we rose from the ashes of the ground and one day we will return.
For a summer day this would be nice, 88° (31°) and not a cloud in the sky. But considering it’s nearly the middle of October, seriously? I shouldn’t complain too much, at least there’s a breeze blowing. And the Good Lord has left a few leaves on the trees to provide some shade. But ain’t that how life is, there are just enough good days to make up for the bad.
For the first time in months I went down to the state park. And much to my surprise there’s still water in the lake and even a few water lilies still blooming. To be honest, it was quite a meditative few moments. Being out there in the quiet, with hardly a sound but the wind and the water.
Far too long I’ve been cooped up in this house waiting. Waiting for cooler weather, waiting to feel better, waiting for just one break. But it’s time to quit waiting and start doing. Yes, I may be bound by my physical circumstance, but that has never stopped me before. It’s time to breathe deeply the breath Mother Earth gives and to open my eyes to what I can, instead of what we cannot do. You see, we have but one life. Maybe it’s time to stop waiting and start doing what we can. For the benefit of ourselves and the world around us.
After making about a dozen different disgusting noises this morning. I’m up and ready to go. Although to be honest, I have been up since 3:30am. I spent those four hours reading my newspaper (yes, I still read newspapers) and I caught up on my messages. I don’t mean to sound like a disgruntled employee of life, but sometimes life just sucks. So you’re probably thinking, “Here we go again”, but hear me not.
As much as we wish to make life this grand adventure, for the most part it’s just a boring routine between stops. But you know what? That’s okay. Because just as in nature, our lives consist of routines. Everyday deer, squirrels, and birds forage for food. And sometimes if they are lucky, they have specific spots they can to every day. Also important things like bringing up their young depend on routines to teach them to survive.
For better or for worse we humans have more choices. Our frontal lobes plan and worry and grow bored with our routines. I know that in my own life, anxiety and stress pulls me away from the basic things like rest and yes, even routine. Even in the Christian Bible there’s a verse “Consider the lilies…” there it says, they don’t work or worry, yet they continue to grow.
Life’s all about choices. Where we live, where we work, and what brings us joy. For the most part a lot of us are pretty miserable. I know I get that way staring at these four walls with not a whole lot of exciting things to do. But then again, that’s okay. I have my family and my friends, and I have a talent I love to share. Life maybe full of routines, but the routine of sharing your love and being compassionate, can bring the rest of the world a little joy.
Once again my insides are twisted, by the very thing I once desired. So I lay here feeling somewhat distorted, but at peace all the same. With arrogance there must be judgement I suppose. For the foolishness we have done. But there are also times when pain comes by no fault of your own. Yet the pain is just as real as if you’d caused it yourself.
I see lives broken, yet I have no solutions. All I know is that I accept the moment and work my way through. To listen and to have compassion are the best gifts we can give anyway. But to cling tightly to anger and oppression, only steals and causes more pain.
So I refuse to hold on to those emotions, giving instead words of kindness and wit. For the greatest gift I can receive is to be remembered as a good man. For I’m long past the dreams of fame and fortune. Long past the hopes of single-handedly changing the world.
But with one light, you can change one life. That will hopefully continue to burn beyond your reach. So as I lay here a little weary, but hopeful. All each of us can do, is give a little kindness and just a little compassion to this sad and lonely world.
I won’t say it’s cool, but it’s sure as hell nicer that the 99° we had yesterday. I just got through taking a shower, so I decided to throw some sweats on and come outside. I used to do a lot of walking on the local trails. But a setback forced my doctor’s hand, so I was ordered off the trails till fall and winter. While most days I feel pretty good, yesterday walking those school halls with those 100° temps, really wiped me out.
Much more so than I’d like to admit in fact. But I’m feeling better today and looking forward to hopefully some cooler weather tomorrow. Looking at these selfies I just took, I see a shitload of my Dad and a little of my Mom’s cockiness. They’d probably laugh at me if they could, with all this reflecting I do. I think for the most part they just lived in the now and to hoped to see the next day. And isn’t that what we should do, live in the now and hope for another day?
I sometimes get paranoid with fear. The slightest heart flutter or shortness of breath can send me there. It usually takes me a few days to get over it. Oh, but I put up a good front saying “everything’s fine”. But it doesn’t make the internalized fear any less potent. So I live each day as it comes or at least I try. I am not the same man I was 30 years ago nor am I the same person I was yesterday. We all grow and change, just like the weather. So let us all hope the impact we make on this life is a good one.
It’s funny after so many years, that I would find myself creating again. In my youth writing and performing were just second nature. But with the responsibilities of a family and my subsequent mental breakdown, I abandoned art. It has only been in the last few years that I have actually gone public again with my work. Art has become my release, writing and photography have now become an extension of myself.
Hardly a day goes by that I'm not snapping a pic or jotting down a line. Since going “social”, I’ve befriended a lot of other artist working in different mediums. Some are painters, others are photographers, I’ve even befriended a few musicians along the way. Each of us doing battle with that thing that burns deep inside, that need to create.
Unlike many of my peers, I am totally untrained. I majored in System Analysis and Networking, then went on to earn an MBA. Who knew I would end up back at my roots? Doing the very thing I did hidden in my room with a notebook and a pencil. Jotting down scared thoughts for no one but myself.
So where do we go from here? I for one, haven’t the slightest clue. All I know is I’m happy and more at peace with myself then… well ever. My point here isn’t to tell you to quit your “day gig”. We each have our own level of comfort to keep. All I’m saying is don’t let your dreams or desires die. Because at some point little pieces of you will die, when you abandon the thing you truly love.
I am all but tired of scrapping up pennies. Yet I am in no condition to do the work required. So I contribute where I can, putting out words of love and patience. Yet it’s impossible to fill bellies on the kind words in reply. I understand the frustration of an impatient world that sees the few with more and the many with less. Yes there are the outliers that work hard for their piece of the pie. But what price do they pay to keep their standards that high?
I’m just disillusioned by it all, just another angry voice in the crowd. Fueled by anger and rage seeing my small piece of the dream fade away. So we look for excuses, anything but ourselves. For the mess we are in, the lies we believed, and dream that we are really free. So we cling to our guns and our God’s, but do they ever talk back? While nothing but bitterness and vile pours through our veins.
My heart often reminds me, anger is a bitter pill. That fear is a poison that kills the soul. Still I lay here in the dead of night losing sleep, while the world around me gently sleeps. I’m reminded of the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, “The only way to ease our fear and be truly happy is to acknowledge our fear and look deeply at its source. Instead of trying to escape from our fear, we can invite it up to our awareness and look at it clearly and deeply.” I am such a fool sometimes for the things I fear. I often have to laugh at myself for my folly. But fear, anger, and worry are all a part of us. But it is also a part of us to find balance and peace.
Defeated, how can I put it any plainer. I know that people don’t like to hear words like that, it brings them down, makes them sad, or forces them to look at their own situations. But that’s just how it is. This is looking to be a bad month, the end of the year bills are pouring in and impending medical test are looming. It’s shit like this that creates stress where stress is already at a premium.
I really don’t enjoy spilling all this crap onto this page. I’d much rather talk of “taking lemons and making lemonade”. But I was always told confession is good for the soul. For the first 40 or so years of my life I bottled up every worry, every anxiety. And what did it get me? Years of taking antidepressants, more trips to the psychiatric clinic then I care to remember, and decades of hiding my shame. So if I make you uncomfortable reading this, well welcome to my world.
Despite sounding a really shitty motivational speaker, this too shall past. There are so many motivational gurus out there to are selling nothing but “snake oil” cures for real world problems. I’m not saying my way is the only way. Lord knows, I’m not that arrogant or stupid. What I am saying is, look within yourself. Listen to what your heart is saying. If somethings wrong, then somethings wrong. The stresses of life are real, and they will eventually cause you harm. So find your truth, use avenues of relief that are comfortable and uplifting. Be your own best advocate but seek help when needed.
Through a glass darkly we see what we want to see. Good or bad our perception of a situation depends on our willingness to accept what is in front of us. Every day I am reminded of my limitations. Yet within this tinted glass there lies are still sparks of hope. Acceptance can seem like a narrow street. But when taken in context of sheer will, the possibilities are endless.
It would be easy for me to look at my current circumstance and simply give up. Laying on that gurney in the ER some four years ago, I could have easily written myself off as a lost cause. Sitting in a state-run psychiatric center with anxiety and panic attacks that were so severe, I couldn’t take care of my family. Should have definitely written me off 20 years ago. But I persevered, I clung to the hope that I will make it.
Faith is a funny thing, it can lead you greener pastures or it can run you into the ground. Faith is not a sure thing, it not only takes hard work, but a willingness to change. I think about some of the people I know, so scared and unwilling to change. They see they’re situation and simply give up. Or worse they cling to some stubborn idea that never really was.
So while I see things as they are, I also see things as they could be. I’ve learned to put faith in the better angels around me, to listen, to try, and to keep an open mind. What I have gained isn’t fortune or fame, but a better understanding of who I am. That yes, life doesn’t always turn out like you plan. Which doesn’t mean giving up, it just means you adjust your sails.
All post written by
FD Thornton, Jr
All Rights Reserved.