Despite How My Gut Feels
After two days of high humidity, drizzle, and shitty temperatures; we finally got a little sunshine, wind, and pleasant temperatures. The leaves are tussling about the yard like children on a playground. Blowing ever which way with no particular direction in mind. I’ve felt pretty crappy the past few days since Thanksgiving. But the cloudless blue sky has turned my frown upside down despite how my gut feels.
Circumstance can be a huge motivator in ones life. Maybe you grew up poor and you’ve dedicated your life to accumulating wealth. Maybe you’re just the opposite and don’t see any way out of the poverty experienced by your family. Circumstance definitely played a role in my development. Leaving me fearful and silent to fight back at the shortcomings my existence left me. Circumstance is certainly a valid excuse when one is needed. Doing my best not to sound like a, “Hang in there, Baby” kitten poster from the break room. The incidents that formed your life are real and can be crippling.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t let your circumstances dictate your outcome. Hey, I got a shit load of strikes stacked against me. I struggle with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. I fight low self-esteem from decades of bullying . I ended up being abusive and treating others with indifference myself. Physically as I was coming to terms with my mental situation. My physical health came crushing through the floor. Leaving me to this day struggling just to do everyday task. But despite it all, most of the time, I try. And that is all you can ask of yourself. Moments of pain and fear, they come and they go. But finding peace with yourself and your circumstance, will open doorways you never saw before.
What Would Be the Point?
Vulnerability, considered such a weak and yet arcane word. For years I fought against it, yet in the moments of my deepest despair, it was my salvation. Even now I wage war against it, especially when others throw their perceived arrows against me. From early childhood I had to build a defensive wall to protect my insides. You know, those things I held dear like my dreams and my emotions. Mentally abused from an early age, I sought shelter in my imagination. Then later on in my sharp wit and bravado.
Not gifted as an athlete, I started as a skinny, four-eyed rut. That communicated much better with the adults in my life than with any of my peers. Through my inactivity and isolation I became overweight. Simply meandering through school dreading the next bully around the corner. After high school I had no focused ambition. Like many of my generation I sought solace in distraction and momentary pleasure. Kidding myself I was tough when on the inside I was just a puddle of shit.
Over the decades it only got worse. Gasping at one straw or the other, hoping the next one would be the key. But I only ended up falling apart first mentally and then physically. It’s only been over the last several years that I have felt like my shit has been coming together. My secret, if you want to call it that, is searching. Taking time to reflect and not being afraid to be vulnerable. To face my demons and to ask myself why? I give my fear a voice, I allowed that vulnerability to speak. But instead of bottling it up and hiding it. I learned and I’m learning to let it go. I could go on and on, but what would be the point? Each of us has our weaknesses and our strengths. It is the searching for our truth that brings peace. It is our self-awareness that creates understanding.
Life's Going to Be Okay
Well it’s the day before Thanksgiving and I’ve finally got to stop running around town. As you may or may not know my wife broke a bone in her foot. Her podiatrist has her in a brace and ordered off the foot for two weeks. She’s supposed to be in a wheelchair but it won’t fit through the door of our 100+ year old house. So I’ve been doing the cooking and cleaning, which I do some anyway. It’s just the dressing her and waiting on her that’s a little hard to get back in the routine of doing.
But I’m getting it done. We’re doing Thanksgiving at our oldest daughter’s this year. She’s doing most all the cooking so I’ll show up early just in case. Thinking back to all the thanksgivings we’ve endured, it’s a wonder I still celebrate the holiday. But now that we got grandkids and my overly sentimental wife, I am contractually obligated to still attend. I don’t know why I am like I am. It used to not bother me to drive 75 miles to my in-laws, parents, or my sister-in-laws house for the holidays. I guess it’s because I couldn’t afford to give my kids any of the nice things they got from them. So I grinned and bared the questions from family, all the while hiding the shame of my mental illness.
So I’m sitting outside with that all too familiar headache I get before the holidays. Dreading even the little driving I have to do tomorrow. I guess it’s a little like PTSD, but mine is mostly self-induced. For too long I kept quiet about this shit. Listening to that voice in my head calling me a lazy idiot. As moments float by, neighbors stop by and cut turnips and mustard out of the garden. It’s sorta of a neighborhood tradition around here, Mr. Brown giving away from the garden’s bounty. We all give of ourselves, it’s pretty much what we do as humans, but often it can be too much. So I sit here and greet my neighbors, take in the pleasant weather, and watch more leaves fall. Knowing that despite the emotions, life’s going to be okay.
It’s funny, in about two and a half hours I’ll officially be 60 years old. Like I’ve said a million times before, I have a warranty that’s only good till I’m 60, after that it’s all gravy. It’s unfortunate my parents didn’t get to see this day. Tomorrow there won’t be a gag birthday card from my mother in the mail. No celebration or birthday cake, but I did get a nice gift from my nameless daughter.
You figured I’d be fast asleep by now, but a certain amount of anxiety has been on me for a week now. I guess it stems from my anxiety of reaching a goal. You see, over the years once I obtained a goal, like getting my degree or overcoming a health issue. Instead of feeling proud of my accomplishment, I’d start to feel let down. Almost like the trophy was tarnished before I even unpacked it. I supposed I’m thinking the same thing will happen in the morning when I get up.
So I’ve pulled away from any kind of goal setting or even worrying about my day. I was a great planner, I have been commended and rewarded for my ability to plan for any contingency. But even with that skill the final outcome only made me unsatisfied and hollow. So I pulled away. I suppose whatever memories or emotions this particular landmark brings, should be left on it’s own. Focusing on the moment is a hard goal to achieve. Marked by bouts of regret and “what ifs”, it pulls me away from the goal of contentment. Hell, if you’ve figured any of this out drop me a note in the comments. I could use a little wisdom.
Keep You Motivated
Friday I went for my 3-month check up with my primary care physician. She checks my weight, my blood sugar, my A1C, my blood pressure; you know the usual stuff. I go every three months due to all my outlaying medical issues. I call it my “Check to See if I’m Breathing Visit”. Well surprise, surprise I’m breathing. In fact except for my blood pressure being a little low, she’s pretty satisfied with my visit. After nearly dying on a few occasions, I tend to do what my doctor says. There’s something to be said about a near death experience that’ll keep you motivated.
Anyway, this morning was the first real cold we had this season. In fact it was a crisp 34°f this morning. Now only a few years ago this wouldn’t have bothered me. Back then I was well insolated enough (weighing 356 lbs.) that I hardly wear a heavy coat outside to work. But now at 230 lbs. with much thinner blood and less heart pumping ability, I’m freezing my ass off. As the picture above shows I am under multiple blankets with two heating pads in my bed. With the added pleasure of a calico cat laying on my belly. Now none of this reeks of motivation or overcoming obstacles. But it does say a lot about taking what you have and making the best of it.
If you don’t take anything else from this pathetic, semi-humorous look at my life, take this. Life throws grenades at your happiness pretty much every day. For those of you seeking happiness I’m sorry. But eventually you have to brush off the dirt and bandage your wounds and carry on. And for you that say, “then what’s the point?” I’d say, it’s because there’s an energy and hope in living. Back when I was initially suffering with my mental health issues, I wondered myi if there was a point. But you know what, those struggles laid the foundation for overcoming these current struggles. Telling me that no matter that pain, the weakness, or the cold; that I matter, and the ones I covet matter. No matter how humble the reward of living is, it outweighs any supposed comfort you may find in defeat. Stay motivated, be alive.
Enrich Your Days
I learned a long time ago not to force myself to be creative. I mean I hear about artist and writers that sit themselves down every day to work on something. I don’t know, I can’t subscribe to that discipline. It’s not like anything I put down is really art. My compositions are more like a conversation than anything else. It’s stuff that just spills out my head and onto the screen. And besides, who am I to say if any of this is any good?
I write stuff, essays or poetry, that I think are pretty good. But once I publish it, I may get little to no response to it. Then there are things I throw together that I don’t really think that much of, that get liked, praised, and shared all over the place. It’s really weird. I guess that doesn’t make me much of a professional artist does it? But truth be told, I’m just a hack anyway. But I do enjoy hanging around “artsy” types. And every once in a while I may learn a little something from them.
So I hunt and peck at this tiny little keyboard, searching for meaning or at least something to make you laugh. And I don’t know, oftentimes it’s either right there in front of me or I have peck around a few hundred words to get it out. I’m pretty straightforward I’m not much on flashy words or symbolisms. I tend to get to the point. Hell, even my spell check / word anticipator have just about figured me out. As humans we are destined to create. It may not be some priceless piece of art, but it can be a delicious meal, or a sage piece of advice for a lost friend. Either way embrace your creativity, and although it may never sustain you, it can definitely enrich your days.
I’m just sitting outside watching the leaves fall from the sycamore trees and covering the backyard. Lisa’s getting the laundry from the weekend hung out while the rest of town is waking up to another week. The winds are light and warm coming out of the east. I spent the weekend watching football and muting every political ad that I saw. Between democrats fretting about democracy and republicans looking for a new Boogeyman to blame, at least my water and sewage still works despite them.
Late last night I woke up to go to the bathroom. Going back to sleep I turned on an episode of Tara Brach’s mindfulness podcast. In this episode she discussed the difference between doing and being. It was a good reminder of how often we often end up “over-controlling” and not just living our lives. Several years ago after I was just getting a handle on my own doubt and self-loathing. I suffered from the first in a series of physical setbacks. These setbacks haunt me still today with my ever-growing/ever-changing intake of life saving medication and treatments.
But despite all these setbacks and the to-do list of therapies I rely on, I still find time to just be. You see, what I suffered from the most was the over-controlling and over-correcting of my actions in order to achieve my goals. And while goals themselves aren’t a bad thing, the obsession and abuse they can generate often are. The worrying over projects, the continued fighting with self-doubt, and downright self abuse of my body; all brought me to a point where it all came crashing down. What I’m trying to say is, often letting go is the key to true contentment and satisfaction. In the last few years, while new physical problems have presented themselves. Through mindfulness and trust I’ve learned that “sweating the details “ is often an unnecessary stressor; that awareness and silence often supersedes and overcomes.
A Little Grace
So I’m sitting outside after a day of piddling around. I got our daughter’s dog smelling blankets and covers washed and back to her, then took myself for a walk down the Oak Trail at the local state park. I needed to clear my head after yesterday’s fiasco at my doctor’s office in Savannah. I drove two hours to get to his office on the Southside, fighting 90 year old drivers and log trucks all the way there. Only to be told the doctor was running at least two to three hours behind. At first I agreed to stick around, then common sense got the better of me, and I went home.
I haven’t rescheduled my appointment, I’m waiting to see if he misses me first and calls me. I figured since he has a satellite office in Vidalia (26 miles away) we’ll meet up there instead of me burning gas on a 125+ mile exodus to the hell town I left 30 years ago. Recently I spoke about examining ourselves and changing things in our own lives. The same holds true for the empathy we should feel towards one another’s life situations.
You see, I’m not really mad at my doctor, I mean shit happens. But he does have a office full of employees that could have called but didn’t. Anyway I’ve wasted enough brain cells worrying about that situation. The goal in becoming aware is to focus on the bigger picture as well as bringing yourself to some sort of center. Life is full of so many U-turns and detours, it’s easy to loss focus and the achievement of peace. Other than my mindfulness practice, I spend time alone emptying my thoughts, I listen to the sounds around me, and observe the order in which nature runs. Walks in the woods was a major benefit in my troubled minds recovery. Hopefully I’m getting that back to that again in some small way. That is why I should show my doctor a little grace for giving that pleasure back to me.
Who You Need to Be
Six decades is a long time to try and figure out who you are. It’s pretty much a 20/80 split between those that are still searching and those that really don’t give a shit. At least that’s true for most people I know. Most label themselves by the work they do. Others by the good they have done. And yet they’re still others that could care less. Honestly I waver between all or none of these processes.
My immediate family would say I don’t give a shit, while a few others would say I’m exceptional and kind. Then there’s the vast majority that don’t even know I exist or at least act like I don’t. We are riddles wrapped tin foil, because the outside tells us nothing and inside even less. Unless you put a label on it you soon forget what it is you put in the freezer. You usually have to wait till it defrost to find out. And by then you’re stuck with whatever you got.
Focus and awareness are not bad things to center your mind on. Either is emptiness and cleansing. I’ve discovered that both have left with a clearer mind and less clutter. Oh I still have my moments of stress and anxiety. But I’m mindful enough to know, nothing last forever. Saint and sinner are the images we all project. It’s usually not left up to us to create that label. We’re born and then we die, and whatever essence we leave behind becomes our legacy. Don’t get tied down to one label. Allow yourself to explore, to make mistakes. Labelling is often a condemnation. It limits who you can become and who you need to be.
All post written by
FD Thornton, Jr
All Rights Reserved.