Friday, February 26, 2016

TGIF 2-26-16

Thank you for taking a musical journey with me this week, and I hope you have a fantastic weekend. Just a little thought to send you on your way.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

When The Music Dies Part 3

I turn 45 this year, which is a long way from old but does mean that many of the artists I grew up enjoying are certainly approaching that category. The recent string of celebrity deaths has been a reminder of that fact. When many people were asking what was going on, when there seemed to be a new announcement almost daily, the answer was actually quite simple. Like it or not, age is catching up to many of the people we currently consider to be legends. Add in health problems - and rock stars of past generations have not exactly had reputations for healthy living - and the prognosis is not good.

We have new artists coming along behind them and, while opinions vary, there will almost certainly be new legends among them. Time keeps flowing, no matter how much we may want it to stop, and that is not a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a thing. It just is. The old gives way to the new, which becomes the old and gives way to the new. Round and round we go, which is one reason why it is so important to remember to enjoy the journey and not spend so much time worrying about the destination.

Peter Steele
1/4/1962 - 4/14/2010

If you are around my age and went through a gothic period, odds are good that it coincided with the rise in popularity of such things as Anne Rice’s vampires and bands like Type O Negative. With his resonating bass voice and imposing physical stature, Peter Steele definitely stood out in a crowd. At 6’8” tall, he was literally head and shoulders above most of the rest, and with stated influences like Black Sabbath and The Beatles, he was a man after my own heart, musically speaking.

It was more than just the music, though. Steele had an outlook that felt almost personal. During an interview in 2007, he was quoted as saying, “I've always been a very depressed person, but that's only one side of me, you know. It makes me feel better when I can express my depression, my anger, my frustration through music... sonic therapy." Sound familiar? Even when I didn’t get the music, and sometimes I didn’t, I always got where he was coming from.

Peter Steele died from an aortic aneurysm on April 14, 2010, and an oak tree was planted in his memory the following year in his hometown of Brooklyn. Aside from the certainly fitting use of such a large tree to remember such a large man, I can’t help but think he would have approved on a spiritual level.

Ronnie James Dio
7/10/1942 - 5/16/2010

It is almost impossible to be a metal fan around my age and not be a fan of Ronnie James Dio. It pretty much is impossible to be one and not have been influenced by Dio. The man had a fifty year career with nearly a dozen different bands ranging from 50’s rock ‘n’ roll to being considered one of the pioneers of heavy metal. In the latter category, he also performed with nearly every other legend at one time or another. Dio had one of the biggest voices in the business, and he had a presence that could not be missed.

This amused some people to no end, since the man, himself, only clocked in at 5’4” tall, making him pretty easily one of the smallest men in modern popular music. The fact that one of the early bands he was known for was called Elf just opened itself up to the jokes. For me, though, coming in at barely two inches taller, this was secretly a source of happiness. I never told anyone back then, but it actually meant a lot to me that he was so popular and around my height. My height doesn’t bother me today, but it was a sore subject as a teenager, and having someone I could look up to, so to speak, helped with that.

David Bowie
1/8/1947 - 1/10/2016

What can I say about David Bowie that hasn’t already been said in recent weeks? He was an amazing performer with a gift for distinctive imagery and self-reinvention, who touched and influenced almost every aspect of modern performing arts. He didn’t just make it okay to be a freak, he made it cool. Bowie took music and theater and tied them together in ways that so few performers are able to do, and he did it with magic. If anyone has made us believe in magic in modern entertainment, it was David Bowie.

He was the Starman and he was the Goblin King. It sometimes seemed like, no matter what he was doing, Bowie was always touching the fantastic. Sometimes he was even doing so much more than just touching, and he always took us along for the ride. Even when we didn’t always understand where we were going, we knew we were going somewhere special. He had a heart that was as big as his imagination, and David Bowie knew that we could always be heroes.

There comes a time in every life when we have to say goodbye and let go. It’s almost never easy, and sometimes are harder than others, but it has to be done just the same. What we lose is never really gone though. Everything that has touched us has changed us, and those changes continue as long as we do.

Music fills our lives with wonder, and gives voice to things we might otherwise be unable to say. We have lost some great ones, but we cannot lose what they gave us. The music is dead. Long live the music. Or, as another one of those legends (one still with us) put it, “You can’t kill rock and roll.”

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

When The Music Dies Part 2

For most of us, our “era of music” tends to be defined by what we were listening to in our high school years. We grow and change continuously, and I certainly hope that would include adding and evolving with music as well, but those last years of adolescence usually make connections that stick with us for life. We may not always look back on that music as the best or our favorite (though doing so is certainly quite common), but most people will look back on that music with fond nostalgia, at least and often, whether we realize it or not, that nostalgia plays a heavy role in how we judge what comes later.

I graduated high school in 1990, so my era of music would be predominantly the late 1980’s, and yes, I am an unabashed hair band fan. I love lots of music, and I actually have something of a reputation for my appreciation of more complex musical genres, but I will always be drawn back to the far-less-complicated glamor of screaming guitars and piercing vocals. It’s fun, and I love fun. Fun doesn’t have to be complicated, though being able to fully enjoy and appreciate more than one thing or one style certainly helps.

One of the bands that defined my era for me was Def Leppard. They were the leading edge of my generation’s British Invasion (and there does seem to be one of those almost every generation, doesn’t there?), and they managed to keep rocking through so many trials and tribulations that doing so became almost a defining element of who they were. In fact, one of those trials would be the first time I can remember a celebrity death having a personal impact at the time, and is the first part of today’s installment.

Steve Clark
4/23/1960 - 1/8/1991

In January 1991, I had been home from Army training for just over a month, and many of the people I knew and cared about were over in the Middle East either involved in or getting ready to be involved in that round of hostilities with Iraq. I spent that entire period on Stand By, and it is difficult to express the stress of those days unless you have been a part of something similar yourself. This was also shortly before the breakdown that would culminate in everything you’ve been reading here. In that environment and frame of mind, I was sitting up late one night working on something (I don’t even remember what, though I think it may have been a photo album or scrapbook of some kind), with MTV providing background noise, as it usually did during that period of my life. The Music News bit came on, and they announced that Steve Clark had been found dead in his home, an apparent result of alcohol and prescription medication. I was stunned. I was so floored by this announcement that I actually dropped what I was doing and drove to a friends house in the middle of the night because I didn’t want to be alone with this news.

Steve Clark had been the heart and soul of Def Leppard, and his low-slung guitar style defined a generation. He was the guitar version of a gunslinger, known alternately as Steve “Steamin” Clark and “The Riffmaster,” with an understated yet masterful style that was all heart. That heart, of course, was plagued by demons, and Clark’s death drove home the reality that sometimes the demons win. Steve Clark’s death hit home, and it hurt, but his music lives on and his fans have never forgotten how much more he was than just those demons.

Freddie Mercury
9/5/1946 - 11/24/1991

Freddie Mercury was a legend in his own time, and his legend has only grown since his passing. Mercury died on November 24, 1991 as a result of complications from AIDs, just one day after publicly announcing that he had the disease. Though he had not acknowledged the illness beforehand, Mercury’s death did much to put a spotlight on HIV and AIDs, and that spotlight has helped improve both treatment and the public perception in positive ways in the years since. I loved Freddie for his music and his art, but as someone who lost a very dear relative to AIDs in 1994, I can’t tell you how much this part has come to mean to me.

I remember driving around town shortly after my cousin’s death and hearing the DJ announce something about new Queen music, coming up. I nearly crashed from the audacious surprise of it. Mercury had been dead for years. There couldn’t be new Queen music. Then I found out about, and subsequently bought and listened to, Made In Heaven, the last album that Mercury recorded before his death, mastered and released posthumously. It was an amazing experience listening to a man who knew and had made peace with the fact that he was dying. That album, as much as it was Freddie’s farewell, was the purest form of innocent joy. That was Freddie Mercury in a nutshell: wild, reckless abandon on the surface and retiring, innocent joy at the core.

Criss Oliva
4/3/1963 - 10/17/1993

My favorite metal band of all time is Savatage, founded by brothers Jon and Criss Oliva, and Criss Oliva could do things with a guitar that many people only dream of. It’s worth noting that most lists of top guitarists put together today will include Criss, and that includes, unfortunately, lists of guitarists who went unappreciated in their own lifetimes. It has often been remarked by guitar aficionados, with no small amount of scorn, that none of the major guitar or metal magazines of the time ever interviewed or featured Criss and they did not do the expected tributes when he died, but they all talk about him now. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

One of the things that makes Criss stand out is that he was almost the opposite of the typical rock star in so many ways. He didn’t have the reputation for drink and drugs (and Jon had enough reputation there to overshadow the rest of the band combined). He didn’t just marry his high school sweetheart, he married his middle school sweetheart. Even his death was almost a perfect reverse of the stereotype: He and his wife Dawn were on their way to a local livestock show when a drunk driver crossed the median and struck their car, killing Criss instantly. Sometimes the universe just happens. Regardless of anything else, though, Criss was loved by his fans, and they have never forgotten him.

As time goes on, we lose more and more of the entertainers who fascinated us when we were younger, but we always have the legacy of what they gave us. Sometimes the memories are all we have, but sometimes memories can be the best things to have. Plus, there is always what comes next, and something always comes next. Sometimes it makes sense, and sometimes it doesn’t, but we play the hand we’re dealt and life goes on. We can go with it or we can die with the past. There really isn’t a third option. It’s just a matter of how long the second option takes. Enjoy what you have when you have it - don’t take it for granted - and enjoy the memory when that is what you have. Life is meant to be lived, so best to live it.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

When The Music Dies Part 1

Music has been my deepest obsession for as long as I can remember and, very likely, for far longer than that. I tend to think in song lyrics and, when I have trouble expression a thought or - more often - a feeling, I turn to music to find an expression I can understand. In school when we used to make book covers out of cut-up grocery sacks (ask your parents if you don’t know what I’m talking about), mine were inevitably covered in song lyrics, band logos, and concert dates. Who am I kidding? Any surface I could write or draw on, including my own clothes (Sorry, Mom), was usually covered in music. Did I mention that it was an obsession?

We who share such an appreciation for music have also shared the loss when musicians important to our appreciation pass away. The recent apparent rash of celebrity deaths put me in mind of this, and inspired me to want to do a small tribute to some of those who were some of my biggest influences over the years. Their music helped define who I am, and who I am defines everything we do here, so it will provide some extra insight into my inner ticking. Putting together such a list was tricky, to say the least, and I don’t want to give the impression that anyone not mentioned here was not important. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m just working with a limited amount of space, even allowing this to be a theme for the week, and have decided to focus on some who especially stand out for me on a personal basis. These are all musicians who meant something special to me as musicians and, with the exception of one, whose deaths had a personal impact as well. I’m always happy to discuss more in the comments. Just let me know.

Jim Morrison
12/8/1943 - 7/3/1971

Jim Morrison died the same year I was born, several months before I was born in fact, so I certainly cannot remember his death and did not know his music during his lifetime, but you would be hard pressed to identify a musician who had a more direct impact on me, my life, and my thoughts on art, life, and living. He was a man who was passionate about everything he did, and sometimes that passion conflicted with everything else he did. Ultimately, that passion would be his undoing, but even that was a lesson for someone willing to learn. To the casual observer, Morrison often appeared to have an obsession with death but, if you look more closely, that obsession was actually with life, all of life, taken as a whole, with death being an integral part of that whole. He lived without a net, and that did eventually catch up with him.

I once did a marathon of watching the 1991 movie starring Val Kilmer, the 1981 documentary No One Here Gets Out Alive, and then listened to every Doors album I owned, followed by dinner at a local eatery where I played every Doors song they had on the juke box. I didn’t come down for days, and the music and the experience was the entire high. He was one of the great American poets and, like all great poets, he had an ability to distill experience in a way that was nothing short of magic. It bypassed the brain and went to work straight on the soul. He was lost far too young, but what he did in that brief time would change the world of music forever.

John Lennon
10/9/1940 - 12/8/1980

Though my love of The Beatles would not develop its full bloom until years later, the assassination of John Lennon when I was 9-years-old was probably the first celebrity death that I had active knowledge of. I knew who Lennon was, of course - you couldn’t love music at that time and not know John Lennon - and I knew right then that he was all about peace, love, and harmony. The blustery, and often angry young man who had been such a driving force behind music in the 1960’s was still someone I had yet to learn about, but the death of the man as I knew of him in 1980 was the first hint of the end of innocence. This was the alarm that signalled something was very wrong in the world.

John Lennon was a man who struggled with life, wanting to be accepted by all, but being almost pathologically unable to conform in ways that would be necessary to make that happen. He had a burning intellect, a dry humor, and a tendency to ask questions that made people uncomfortable. He described himself as a troublemaker, someone whom parents would warn their children to stay away from, but if he was a troublemaker, it was in ways the world needs to be troubled. Sometimes the world needs to be uncomfortable, and I think Lennon was one of those people who is very good at spotting those times. He struggled with his temper, with his self-esteem, and with his understanding of the world, but the important thing is that he struggled. He kept trying, and that is often the most critical difference.

Randy Rhoads
12/6/1956 - 3/19/1982

He was, without a doubt, one of the greatest guitarists in rock and roll history and has been cited as an influence by probably more guitarists after him than any other single player, and he achieved that status after only four albums and about four years. Two of those albums were only released in Japan, and that to less than stellar applause at the time. According to most sources who knew him, Randy Rhoads was getting ready to drop out of popular music and focus on classical guitar, at least for a time, just before his death but, even if true, he had already changed popular music forever. A freak plane crash took his life far too soon, but not before he had left a mark that would become a legend.

By all accounts, Randy Rhoads was a fun, kind young man who loved guitar and lived for his music. During a time when the rock and roll bad boy image was at its peak, Rhoads was the exception who was known for being approachable by fans, and being “such a lovely guy” (former bandmate Lee Kerslake, commenting on Rhoads after his death), who would even admonish against the excesses so common to that lifestyle. According to Ozzy, the last conversation the pair had on the tour bus the night before the accident was Randy warning the singer that heavy drinking would be the death of him if he, Ozzy, didn’t get it under control. He was a man who cared, in a field where that is so often not the case.

My early life was, of course, before the rise of the Internet, and much of it was even before the rise of MTV, so we didn’t always know about things when they were happening, as we so often do now. There was not a 24-hour news cycle yet, and there was often a delay between an event and the knowledge of the event, but some things were still so big that they seemed to be almost universally known almost immediately. Some events are so big, they change the world, or at least one’s perception of the world. This was my early world, and it shaped my early understanding of the world. The world keeps moving, though, and we must move with it. The music dies, but the music lives on. Long live the music.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

TGIF 2-19-16

I don't really have anything special to report on for this Friday, so instead I leave you with these thoughts. Have a great weekend.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Walk In The Woods

There was a creek that ran behind my house growing up. It was more of a dry creek bed most of the time, but it did have water often enough to have developed some seriously overgrown vegetation. It was the local equivalent of woods for kids who had never seen any real woods outside of the movies. For me, it was also frequently an escape route. If things got to be too much for me, or if I just wanted to be alone for a while, I would go disappear down into the creek bed for a while. It was where I went when I wanted to forestall falling apart, or when I needed some peace and privacy to put myself back together.

Since those days, I have hiked through national forests, rainforests, mountain woods, and even a Christmas Tree forest or two. Give me a collection of trees and some flowing water, and I am definitely there. I have long since ceased to be dependent on the movies for an understanding of walking in the woods, but my love of and even need for doing so has only increased over the years. Two things remain absolutely true: walking is my best form of meditation, and in the woods (by some water, for preference) is my best location.

There is a common misunderstanding that meditation involves sitting on the floor, staring at a wall, and intentionally thinking about nothing. While vastly simplified, that is one form of meditation, but a form is not the whole. One way of doing a thing is not that thing. Meditation is allowing your mind to be, just be, unfettered, unencumbered by the daily concerns and tribulations of living. The whole point of meditation is to remove the shackles, not to shackle it down to one thing. The aim of meditation is to experience Right Now exactly as it is, with no intermediary, no translator, and no judgment. It is the ultimate experience of peace and serenity, and, with practice, you can learn how to take at least some of that peace and serenity with you into the daily concerns and tribulations.

There is a Zen saying that goes: “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day, unless you are too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” As with most Zen sayings, there are layers of meaning here, including some that can only be experienced rather than explained, but my concern for the moment is remembering why you meditate. Let go. If you are too busy, you are not letting go. If you are stressing from not letting go, you are doing everything you do less effectively and less efficiently, thus you are too busy and getting busier. Learn how to let go, and remember to let go, and you will find that you are too busy far less often. A little peace and serenity can go a long way.

I will occasionally sit in meditation, though I don’t do that as often as I should. I use Zazen (sitting meditation) as a way to recenter when something has thrown me completely off balance. In my case this often means when a depressive episode has blindsided me and I can’t function through the smothering blackness. Some time spent Zazen will usually pull me back from that edge and help me to re-establish my own inner serenity. It’s a jump start, if you will, and works better for me than anything else I have tried over the years.

I find, though, that I need that jump start less often if I maintain a regular dosage of walking meditation. Walking meditation is easier for me than sitting meditation, because movement is easier than stillness. I’m a fidgety kind of person who is almost never entirely still, but I can focus that fidgeting into an action like walking, and put it to use. Being easier makes it a more effective tool to use on a regular basis because I don’t have to spend so much time working on the tool rather than on what the tool is meant to be doing.

This may seem somewhat contradictory, since being still is a big part of the point of meditation, but there are different kinds of being still, and they don’t all rely on the cessation of physical movement. A person with any type of physical tremors condition can still be still in every way that matters to this discussion. I’ve known some marathon runners who perfectly epitomize being still only when they are running. For me, personally, I have never in my life been more still than when I am walking beside a river in the woods.

Which brings us back to the woods part of this discussion. Meditating for serenity works best when you give it a helping hand. Whenever possible, meditate in a serene environment or, even better, an environment that actually promotes serenity. Meditation can be done anywhere, and sometimes is best needed in the heart of the storm, but that regular dosage, the one you can more often control, will give you the best results if you combine all of the elements that lead to the better results. That is one of those ideas that is so obvious, people forget.

My place of serenity is in the woods (or on the beach, but it’s awfully difficult to find a serene beach anymore, at least in my part of the world). I happen to believe that this is a very old, even primal part of who we are, and so the woods are a human place of serenity, almost on a genetic level, but find your place. It may not be in the woods, though I bet that the woods won’t hurt. Once you find your place, take a walk and let go. Breathe in, breathe out, and just be.

Make this a regular part of your life and you might be amazed at what you find. Peace, serenity, hope, love. There is nothing quite like a walk in the woods for finding important things that you had thought were lost. You might even find yourself, though I doubt you were truly lost. You just lost sight, lost track. Go for a walk, and see what you find.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Everyday People

It’s easy to forget that the greatest changes in the world happen little by little and are committed by people whose names will never make it into any textbooks. History is full of big names and big happenings, but often neglects to record the incremental steps that went into those names making those happenings work. The big things get remembered, but it’s the little things that matter. It’s the everyday actions of everyday people that make the world what it is.

I was reminded of this recently while listening to music. I can’t remember what I was doing at the time but, as is often the case, I had music going on in the background. I often have my music set to play everything on random (and when I say “everything” I come surprisingly close to meaning that literally), which means that I will frequently go long periods without hearing the same song repeated, or will frequently hear songs that I haven’t heard recently (using a rather loose definition of “recently”). In this case, the song was “Everyday people” by Reba McEntire and Carole King, and I remember, as the words sunk into my brain, I just stopped and started listening. Then I started grinning and had to start the song over again. If you haven’t heard it recently, check out the video below, and make sure you listen closely.

It’s a fairly short song, so it doesn’t cover much territory, but what it covers, it covers well. The song opens with a class of college seniors heading south for Spring Break but, instead of going to party, they are on their way to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity (the video even ends with a link for the Habitat for Humanity website). The second verse is about a group of friends who come together to help someone who is burdened with overwhelming medical bills, and this third verse brings us back to those Habitat houses, only this time we see the tears of joy as the college students get to show their work to the family who will be using it. It’s just people helping people with the normal business of living. No history book would ever remember the events, but the people involved would never forget. As the song says, “Everyday People are the ones who are making miracles, and it’s beautiful”.

You don’t need to change the world to change someone’s world. Every act of kindness builds on top of every other act of kindness. Like pebbles in a mosaic, you may not remember each and every stone, but the end result would not be the same if any were left missing.

Too often we fall into the trap of thinking, “I’m just one person. What difference can I make?” It only takes one person to lend a hand. It only takes one person to offer a smile. It only takes one person to give hope. With enough little differences put together, the results are indistinguishable from big differences. You can make a difference, but even if you think your difference might not be enough, you’re not the only one making a difference. They add up.

In the end, history may remember generals, great leaders, and big events, but people will remember lives lived, hearts touched, and the moments that everyday people made better for everyday people. Those big things? They have to happen too, and those of us who aren’t a part of them are often grateful for those who are, but they’re rarely the moments that define our lives. People need people. Thankfully, there’s no shortage. Everyday people change the world every day. Never forget that.

As always, all copyright of music and video remains with the artists.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Few Kind Words

There are days when the words “good job” can make all the difference in the world. Sometimes “thank you” can be all it takes to turn a frown into a smile. The words “I love you” are not thought of as three magic words for no reason, and, of course, we all know the one magic word, “please.” Words are some of the most functional and convenient tools at our disposal, and they are often some of the most overlooked.

There are many things that go into making a better world. Most of them take time. Many of them take work. Some of them take money. It’s a long, complicated process, and it can be easy to lose sight of the end. We get frustrated because things don’t seem to be moving, or maybe they really aren’t moving at that particular moment. It happens. It’s tempting to give up, sometimes, and then someone comes along and says a few kind words. It can be like flipping a switch. Nothing has changed, except your perspective, but changing your perspective can change everything. Suddenly, for no better reason that because someone said the right thing, you’re ready to go again. You’re ready to try again.

Think about a time when this has been true for you. I don’t think I have ever met someone who has not had at least one good experience of this sort, and I suspect they are far more common than just having one. I’m pretty sure there have been times when I’ve had at least one a month. That may be different for someone with depression, someone who tends to stray toward that Give Up line just as a matter of course, but I doubt it’s a severely dramatic difference. More of a difference in degree than a difference in kind. Perhaps you don’t experience it as often, but I’d be willing to bet that you experience it often enough to understand what I’m describing.

Now think about how much of a difference those words made for you and, if you can remember the details, think about how hard it was for the other person. It really wasn’t hard, was it? Saying “Thank you,” or, “Good job,” or, “Please,” or whatever the words were that you needed to hear at that moment may have been one of the easiest things that person did that day. Replacing the toner in the office printer was probably more difficult, and almost certainly took more effort. It probably required more thought too. We have an odd tendency to throw out the right words without even paying attention to doing so.

A few kind words cost nothing and can make the biggest difference, yet we neglect to use them over and over. We spend so much time thinking about the big things that we forget the small ones, but the small ones add up. Enough small things grouped together become big things, and the small things are often easier to do. Don’t overlook the easier victories. Make the difference you can, when and where you can make it.

Keep in mind, though, that if your actions contradict your words then you’re probably not actually helping anything. Telling someone that they’re appreciated can be the best motivator in the world, but it can’t overcome showing them that they are taken for granted all by itself. You usually have to match words to deeds, or at least not contradict words with deeds. How much this requires will depend largely on how much interaction you have. Working or living with someone daily may require extensive effort, while saying “Have a nice day” to someone you’ll never see again may require nothing more than an appropriate smile. It’s a matter of matching the appropriate need to the situation.

Here’s the thing about that: you will have far more fleeting interactions in your life than extended interactions. Even accounting for the amount of work that can be involved in those extended interactions - and it is important work, no mistake - you can still get easy victories, and make big differences with a few kind words more often than not. In fact, for many of your daily interactions, the only significant difference you will have time to make is the difference you can make with a few words, kind or unkind, as you pass in the hall, accept your change, hand over a requested item, or any of the other myriad small interactions we engage in constantly. We don’t get to have deep conversations with most of the people we meet daily, but we can still make deep impacts.

If I can make one recommendation today toward living a more mindful life, pay more attention to the things you say. Remember to say things like, “Please” and “Thank you,” “Good job” and “Have a nice day” more often. Remember that words cost nothing, and the smallest words can make the biggest difference. Remember a time when someone’s words made your day, and just imagine how many times a day you can make that kind of change. Now imagine a world where we all took that one small, simple step. It looks pretty good, doesn’t it?

Thank you, and I hope you have a fantastic day.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

TGIF 2-12-16

Happy Friday everyone. I don’t actually have very much to report today. Things have been a little slow in the area of the things I normally bring up here. Our foster license request was officially filed (Finally!), so we should receive that in the near future. Recent medical appointments have all been positive. The kids and I all got new glasses, but nothing that was unexpected or cause for concern. I continue to use the new elliptical machine and work on improving my exercise routine. The boat of life is sailing smoothly.

I got the new computer built and have been enjoying some Fallout 4. I haven’t yet played enough to give anything like a review, but it looks great. Bethesda really stepped up their game on the appearance side. I have discovered that I greatly dislike Microsoft’s One Drive “service”, but I won’t bore you with the details of that. Suffice to say, I found the off setting and will not be letting it out to play again. All in all, though, it’s been a positive experience with just a few bumps for flavor.

So what else do I have going on? I just finished reading the Tao Te Ching, as translated by Derek Lin, a very fine translation that I highly recommend. I’m currently reading An Introduction to Zen Buddhism by D.T. Suzuki and Jingo by Terry Pratchett. Yes, I am usually reading more than one book at a time, and yes, they are often that different. It keeps me entertained and balanced. If I am away from my books and only have my phone available, I even add the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books by Fritz Leiber to the reading list right now. I just started the fifth book of that series the other day.

The day job has been somewhat hectic, but that’s fairly typical for this time of year. The higher ups are all excited for their plans in the new year and it’s all rush, rush, rush to get things started. Then the routine kicks in and we fall into regular patterns until rush time again next year. No one seems to notice the inefficiency inherent in such a system, but it seems to be the way offices work across the country. Maybe even around the world. I suppose if it keeps them happy and gets the job done, it all works out in the end. It keeps me a little busier, so I’m not getting as much else done as I would like, but it’s temporary and not really a concern. The bills do have to get paid, so no complaints there.

Valentine’s Day is this weekend. I hope you haven’t waited until the last minute, unless waiting is exactly what works for you then, by all means, make it work. Tell someone you love them and help spread the cheer. Hopefully you’re also remembering to do that on a regular basis anyway, but it never hurts to make a special occasion now and then. It doesn’t even have to be commercial. Just make it special.

Enjoy the weekend, and we’ll see you Monday. Take care.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Find The Good

I can remember times when doing anything more productive than getting out of bed seemed to be an insurmountable goal. I have vague memories of times when even getting out of bed felt like too much to ask. I know of a couple times when getting out of bed and even being productive both happened as often as they were supposed to happen, but they happened with little to no conscious effort on my part, and those aren’t really memories. I know these times exist because I can look back and see their shapes in the past, but I have no active memory of having done them. I just know that they were done and no one else did them, so it stands to reason that I did them. It’s one of those things that can’t really be explained if you haven’t experienced it, and doesn’t need to be explained if you have.

Depression sucks. Whether you get that or not, on a visceral level, I trust that you believe that or you probably wouldn’t be here. You may not experience it personally, but maybe you know and care about someone who does. In many ways, that can be just as bad. We do not acknowledge it as often as we should, but, if we’re honest with ourselves, we who live with depression know full well what a pain in the neck we can be for those around us. That’s actually part of the vicious circle, one more reason to feel that life isn’t working. Not only can I not cope with my own life, but I am making it more difficult for my friends and family to cope as well. One more stone added to the burden.

That is, at its heart, a huge part of how depression works and what makes it so difficult for some to overcome. It is so easy to see what’s wrong, what hurts, what is bad. It’s easy to see the negative, and the negative is contagious. Once it starts piling up, it begins to infect everything around it. The more negative you have, the more negative you get, and ever goes the downward spiral. Contrary to the reports of physicists everywhere, perpetual motion does exist. It’s just called depression, and is the most useless phenomenon in the known universe.

There is, however, one little pebble that you can throw into the gearbox of that perpetual motion engine and bring it crashing to a halt. Find the good. Like many contagious organisms, the negative is relatively fragile and needs a particular environment within which to thrive. Upset that environment and you upset the condition. The more advanced the condition the more difficult it is to reverse, but continuing to upset it tends to make progress.

Find the good.

From a relative observer perspective, there is no inherent difference between the good and the negative. Both are abundant, and both often depend on one’s point of view. What we are looking for often determines what we find. If you’re looking for good, you are more likely to find good. If you’re looking for bad, you are more likely to find bad. It’s almost like magic.

The problem is that depression causes you to go looking for the bad without even realizing that is what you are doing. Depression leads you to believe that you aren’t worth the good, and guides your view to everything that supports this belief. Since you’re looking for the bad, you’re finding the bad, and the more bad you find, the more bad you expect to find, so the more bad you find. Round and round we go, world without end, Amen.

It can have an end, though. It feels like it is without end, but nothing in this world is truly without end. Even the mountains rise and fall. Even the stars burn out. Everything passes in time, even time. The trick is to change your perspective. The trick is to find the good.

Not every day will be a good day, but there will be good in every day. Sometimes it’s in a friend’s smile. Sometimes it’s a flower pushing up through a crack in the sidewalk. Sometimes it’s a song that just feels like home. It doesn’t have to be something major. It just needs to be something you can grab onto, something to focus on to remind yourself that there is good in the world. It is possible that finding this small good will snowball, just like the bad can, and lead you to finding more and more good, but that isn’t necessarily the point. It’s great when that happens, but what matters is that you remember the good exists. Don’t lose sight of that, and you can more easily hold onto hope. Hope is how you get through a bad day.

I can remember one of those periods when I wasn’t remembering much of anything, when I could look back one day and realize that an entire month had gone by without my active participation. It is difficult to find the good when you can’t even find yourself. I was working the graveyard shift at a local convenience store at the time, and there are not many jobs better suited to helping you get lost inside yourself. Long hours of no human contact, punctuated by sleeping during the day and hardly ever seeing the sun are not a recipe of ideal self care, especially if you’re also going through a heavy depressive period at the same time. A dear friend of mine helped to bring me back. She would stop in occasionally while I was at work and either ask if I had remembered to eat or she would just arrive bearing food. On the surface, that may seem like such a small thing, but it meant the world to me, and I have never forgotten. There have been days when the best example of good I could find was the memory of that, and experiences like it. What you look for tends to be what you find, and that applies to inside as well as out.

The smallest good can be the difference between life and death. That can be both literal and figurative, and sometimes it can be very hard to tell the difference. You may have to look for the good, you may have to work for it, but it’s always there. There is a light in every tunnel. There is a lining to every cloud. Find it, and find hope.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Communication Breakdown

As someone who spends a great deal of time communicating ideas, and whose day job centers around communication, it may come as some surprise to you that I actually have difficulty communicating with people on a regular basis. I rarely talk on the phone, and I almost never answer it when it rings. Unless it’s from someone I know well, I don’t return “Call me” voicemails. I would prefer to get a real voicemail, one that tells me what the call is about, so that I can decide whether or not it’s a conversation I want to have. Or, as is often the case with work, so that I can do the research and have some answers before we have the conversation. Even better, from my perspective, would be if we can have that conversation by email, so that I can take all the time I want to choose my words and make certain that things say what I want them to say. Making certain that things say what I want them to say is important to me, which can present a surprising amount of interference to communication.

I never learned how to do small talk. I see it done, and I try to imitate what I see, but I just can’t seem to get the hang of it. “How’s the weather?” “Hot.” (Or “wet” or “cold” or whatever the case may be.) It may go as far as, “We had a real storm blow through last night, and now there is debris everywhere,” but that’s about it. I can’t seem to figure out how to make it stretch beyond that for the life of me. If I don’t have anything real to say, I’m more likely to just sit quietly than anything else.

Part of that is learned behavior. At one time, I would often say too much, a fairly common issue for young geeks and nerds everywhere who can’t quite understand that everyone else just isn’t as interested, and then I would get embarrassed when I did finally determine that no one else was interested. The fact that this determination usually came as a result of lots and lots of laughter, and laughter that was inevitably at my expense, only served to increase the embarrassment, and no one enjoys being embarrassed. I developed an almost pathological aversion to embarrassment, and so set about learning various tricks to avoid it. One of those tricks was learning how to keep my mouth shut, and sometimes I learn a new task far better than I intended, or even better than is necessarily good for me.

These days I am more likely to run ten different versions of what I want to say through my head and, by the time I decide which version I want to use, if I even make such a decision, it’s too late to say it, so nothing gets said. Many things go unsaid. I do try to make sure that important things do not go unsaid, but we don’t always know what is important at the time. There are some things that only stand out as important later, maybe when it’s too late. That isn’t something that can necessarily be fixed, but it is something to always be aware of.

Another part is simply brain wiring. We can’t all be Mozart, we can’t all be Hank Aaron, and we can’t all be Tony Robbins. Different people have different skills and, while some skills can be learned or improved through the proper efforts, some just are, or are not, as the case may be. It’s important to not get hung up on the difference. Play to your strengths, learn what you can, and understand that you can’t learn everything.

I can get better at speaking. There are classes and seminars for improving speech skills, as well as the various other skills that can go along with that. I can practice in reverse the same principles that I practiced to go to speaking less in the first place. It’s unlikely that I would ever achieve anything like expert level, but I could certainly improve. Realistically speaking, though, that probably won’t happen. There are only so many hours in the day, and I will never get around to learning everything I want to learn as it is. Don’t get me wrong. I will make some improvements just because improving communication improves life, but those improvements won’t likely involve anything as active as classes or seminars. It’s all about balancing priorities, and I have other priorities that mean more to me.

One final issue to touch on is what we normally think of as disability. I have a slight stutter and am mildly hard of hearing. Most people never notice the former unless they just happen to be around when I am very tired or extremely stressed, but everyone who spends time with me catches on to the latter pretty quickly. I describe these as things we think of as disability because I do not believe that I am disabled in any way, but it’s a classification that people understand, ands these are issues that can be disabling in more severe forms. One day my hearing probably will reach a point where medical intervention is necessary (though Heather and I may disagree on when that day has arrived), but I don’t have any reason to believe that will ever be worse than a simple hearing aid situation. My stutter … it’s extremely frustrating when it does kick in, but that is fairly rare, and I don’t have any reason to believe that will change. These factors can present barriers to communication, but they’re also things that I can and do work around.

These are just a few of my personal issues with communication, but what’s important to remember is that most people do have some communication issues, and they can be a variety of things. Some of these issues will have clear and observable causes, but some won’t. Some communication issues you may never know about unless you have a deep understanding of or relationship with the person affected. If we can remember things like this when we are trying to communicate with people, that understanding can actually help to alleviate some of the difficulties. We tend to believe subconsciously that other people have the same skills and impediments that we possess. It’s human nature, but it’s also usually wrong. They don’t. That other person you are struggling to communicate with may be facing obstacles you know nothing about. A little patience can go a long way in such situations.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Talking About Myself

One of the most difficult things I do here at Frequently Interrupted is talk about myself. Yes, I realize that’s a little odd since talking about myself is, in some respects, the central purpose of this blog, but I’ve never exactly been hesitant about being odd. No, being odd is definitely not a challenge for me. That’s one of the skills I mastered early, and I have done pretty much nothing but get better at it over the years. If there is a normal option and an odd option, the odds are heavily stacked against my even seeing the normal option.

In case you didn’t notice, that was deflection already, right there in the first paragraph. That’s usually how it goes. I start out with the intention of opening up and getting all revealing, and end up heading straight for bad jokes instead. As you might imagine, it keeps things interesting around here. Which side will win when I sit down at the keyboard?

There are several issues at play here, but the simplest one is something I actually do comment on fairly often: My mother taught me better. We learned manners and courtesy at a young age and, while I have always been something of a rebel, that’s one that really stuck. I will usually go to great lengths to avoid being rude, and I’ve always believed that spending too much time talking about yourself can easily slip into being rude. Polite people do not talk about themselves. Polite people have to be reminded, though, that sometimes it is right and proper to do so. Sometimes it can even be necessary.

If we don’t talk about issues, we can’t really resolve issues. If I don’t tell you about my issues, it will be tricky to explain how I have dealt with those issues. It is more difficult to demonstrate that I have reason to believe what I am saying if I do not let you see that reason. I’m not fond of people saying, “Take my word for it,” so I try to avoid doing that. I want you to at least see where I’m coming from, so that you can more readily see if you’re interested in where I’m going.

Another similar reservation is that I have a rather strong allergic reaction to drama. It makes me break out in the gottagetaways every time, and I don’t think there is any cure. I’m not sure I would want any cure there might be. Outside of good fiction, even the appearance of drama sets my feet to tapping, so I tend to avoid it, even in myself. There are times when people have very good reasons for advertising their problems, but it is just a case of Look At Me far too often, and that’s not who I am. I don’t mind people looking at me for positive or even entertaining reasons (I have often gone out of my way to get people to look at me for positive or entertaining reasons, but that is a story for another time), but I don’t really want them looking at me for … less enjoyable reasons.

Of course, that potentially leads to its own issues. I don’t want to be viewed in a negative manner, so I don’t let people see when I need help. That’s a bad thing, no two ways about it. If someone needs help, hiding that fact will only make things worse. So I have to split the difference and walk that tightrope between causing drama and doing what I need to do. Knowing me, I will tend to lean away from causing drama, but I will try to not lean so far that I fall over. Sometimes trying is the best we can do, as long as we are honestly trying.

The biggest thing that gets in my way here is that I don’t want people to believe that my issues are bigger than they are, or to believe that I think my issues are bigger than they are. Neither is true. I have a laundry list of issues, there is no doubt about that, but I also have a good life that I am very happy to be living. I honestly believe that I have one of the best families on the planet, especially that part of the family that is closest to me. I don’t have very many friends, but the ones that I do have are pretty spectacular. I’m not where I want to be, but I’ve been in far worse places. I have that aforementioned laundry list of issues, but I live a normal life without medication and on my own terms. All in all, I sincerely do not believe that I have anything to complain about.

Because of this, it is difficult for me to feel like I am giving the impression of complaining. I’m not. I’ll tell you now, and hopefully you’ll remember going forward, I’m not really complaining. I’m explaining things that are bad, or at least not quite so good, so that I can explain how I turn them around, how I make them better. Come to think of it, hopefully I’ll remember this going forward too. There are far more good things in my life than bad, but sometimes I forget that. This is part of how I remind myself. If it sometimes seems like I spend more time here focusing on the negative, that’s only because the positive doesn’t need my help. The negative is what we are here to address and turn into positive.

There is one other thing that gets in my way but which I can’t really fix: memory. My short term memory is almost photographic. With a little effort, I can quote back entire conversations verbatim, and in all the years I spent in the performing arts - both music and theater - I never had to put any actual work into memorizing my parts. That type of memory just comes naturally to me. Long term memory, though, is often something that happens to other people. My long term memory is like a swamp covered in dense fog. Sometimes, when the wind is just right, the fog parts and I can see land, but even then it’s rarely all that solid.

There are some things I can do about that, and this happens to be one of them. By exploring my own head, I can sometimes find things that have been hidden by disuse. Part of it, though, is directly related to the very issues we are here to discuss. That fog I mentioned has a name, and it’s name is Depression. There are parts of my life I can’t really remember because I wasn’t really there. Some of that we can work through, but some is just gone. All we really have is today anyway, right? Sometimes that is even more true than others.

At any rate, you have no doubt already noticed that I will frequently break up the periods of talking about myself by interspersing discussions of assorted other subjects that are also pertinent to what we do here. If you’re paying attention, you’ll see that I’m really talking about myself then too. I just doing it from around the corner. Sometimes you have to sneak up on the things you want or need to talk about.

Thank you for coming along with me, and thank you for your patience along the way. We have plenty of exploring to do, and some of it is safer to explore in groups. Don’t worry, I’ll do most of the talking. I just might change the subject occasionally. I hope you understand.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

TGIF 2-5-16

Happy Friday everyone. I hope you have a great day, and a wonderful weekend ahead. Me? I’m surrounded by computer pieces and parts, and will be spending the weekend playing electronic jigsaw puzzle. My current rig will move onto being the Family Computer, so that will be good. With this upgrade, I definitely see Fallout 4 in my future, so distractions abound, but everything will fit together nicely. I have all of my files backed up on an external hard drive, and won’t be nuking this one until the new one is fully ready to go, so you should see no interruptions in your Frequently Interrupted services. Fun times.

Foster care update. The frustration level is on the increase. Nothing traumatic, and nothing that will cause any long term problems, but I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t do well with bureaucracy. I firmly believe that things should work, and systems that seem almost designed to not work are a bad thing. Welcome to almost every child services program in Arizona. On one hand, things have been going fairly well and I suppose I should have expected that not to hold, but, on the other hand, I was kind of hoping that things would continue going well and we might actually get to be an exception to the normal rule of bureaucratic inefficiency. No such luck. Oh well, this too shall pass. Nothing has gone wrong, exactly. It’s just more of the standard, “We lost this report that you’ve filled out three times already, so we will need you to do it again,” or, “I know you already did this one, but they’ve changed the requirements so you’ll have to start over from the beginning,” or, “Yes, we’ve already contacted your references more times than a criminal investigation would do, but we need to do it again because we forgot to cross this T.” Like I said, nothing we won’t get through, but still frustrating. Even more frustrating because I know that this state has one of the worst backlogs of children needing help through the foster system than anywhere else in the country, and I’m looking right at a big reason why that is true.

None of which changes my stance on foster care, in general. If I had it to do over, knowing what I know now, I would do it again. I would probably schedule a few more reminders and follow-ups, knowing what I know now, but I would still say yes to fostering, and I still recommend it to anyone who has the time, love, and capacity to do it. The benefit on the important side of the equation is not diminished in the least because of the broken nature of the other side. I would love to take a red pen to the processes and procedures of this system, but we don’t always get to choose the tools we use. Sometimes the best tool for the job is just the only tool at hand. We do what we can and make the best we can with it.

I’m a little behind on getting new items added to the store, so sorry about that. It looks like I won’t be doing that this weekend either, but I’ll get additional colors added as soon as I can. Thank you to those who have already ordered, and take a look if you haven’t. It’s greatly appreciated.

The new writing schedule seems to be working out well, so I hope you are enjoying it. As always, sound off in the comments and let me know. We always look forward to your thoughts and comments here.

Have a great weekend, and thank you for being part of our Frequently Interrupted community. Don’t forget to share with your friends and help our community grow. We can’t do this without you, and we appreciate each and everyone of you. See you Monday.

Namaste

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Peaceful Warrior

In my lifetime, I have been a soldier, a correctional officer, a self defense instructor, and a philosopher. I have made it a point to know how to fight, and I have made it a point to understand the ramifications of fighting. Those ramifications can be severe, in so many different ways, but so too can be the ramifications of not fighting. It sometimes seems to be a competition between the two for which will have the lesser consequences.

Life is about consequences. Every action we take and every action we do not take will result in consequences. There are no exceptions. We don’t always see the consequences, and sometimes the consequences are so small as to seem insignificant, but they are always there. Living a mindful life is not about avoiding consequences, or even avoiding potentially negative consequences, but about recognizing the existence of those consequences and taking all reasonable steps to understand and work within those consequences as they exist.

I mention this because there is often a misunderstanding which assumes that people who prefer to avoid fighting are trying to avoid something which cannot be avoided. There are certainly people who don’t understand the interrelated concept of consequences and so might try such an avoidance, but one cannot be mindful and unaware at the same time. The two are mutually exclusive. Those who choose to live a mindful life may attempt to avoid violence for any number of reasons, but to avoid consequences cannot be one of them.

At the same time, one cannot be a mindful warrior without being fully conversant in the consequences of fighting. We fight because we believe there is reason to fight, and we believe that reason justifies the consequences, but we cannot avoid those consequences or the full meaning of them. That includes those consequences beyond the immediate.

We’ve all seen the concept of consequences illustrated by tossing a stone into water and watching the ripples. You have the immediate effect, followed by the outward-spreading after effects. While it is not humanly possible to be aware of all potential ripple effects, we know that there are ripple effects and in order to be truly mindful, we must acknowledge the existence of those ripples and act accordingly. When it comes to fighting, that includes being aware of such things as collateral damage and long term effects. We know they exist and we cannot ignore them.

No one understands the consequences of violence better than the warrior who pays attention. True skill in combat requires as full an understanding of the consequences as can be achieved. “If I do this, it will lead to this, this, and this.” Understanding consequences, both immediate and ripple, is the very nature of strategy, the cornerstone of the warrior’s art. Without this, one cannot be truly considered to be a skilled warrior. An accomplished brute, perhaps, but not a skilled warrior.

We do need warriors if we are to see a better world. It must be remembered that there are those who do not want to see a better world and are always ready - often eager - for a fight. If people will fight to prevent a better world and no one will fight to achieve a better world, the natural progression will be away from a better world. That is simple cause and effect. We may dream of a world where that is not true, but we do not currently inhabit a world where that is not true. In this world, there is always someone trying to destroy someone else. Without defenders, the destroyers must win, so we must have defenders. We must have warriors, and skilled warriors are preferable to accomplished brutes.

A skilled warrior who wants to see a better world will, by nature, be a peaceful warrior. There is no other way. A truly skilled warrior, one who understands strategy and is mindful of consequences, cannot help but know the damage caused by violence. That damage is exactly what we are trying to prevent. We want a world where people live, love, and are happy. That is not a world of conflict, and cannot be fully realized in a world of conflict. Still, we live in a world of conflict, so someone must be prepared to face that conflict. If we must face that conflict, better we have the knowledge and skill to face it well. That task falls to the peaceful warrior, that person who wields the sword with surgical precision in service to the day when all swords can be beaten into plowshares.

Let those who would take up the sword do so in a mindful manner, ever ready to put it down again when the need has passed. We need warriors, but we need those who understand that the fight is the tool, not the cause. We need those who will be defenders rather than destroyers, and we need those who will be always mindful of the consequences. The peaceful warrior is the guardian of the better world.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Fighting Spirit

I am a fighter, first and foremost. That is not always readily apparent, but it is always true. I don’t spend as much time talking about that part of who I am because I don’t believe it is usually necessary. It’s like liver or kidney function. It just is. As long as things are working as they should, you don’t generally spare any thought to it. There are so many more things that actually require thought or effort or explanation. There are so many more things that are routinely important.

That isn’t to say that being a fighter isn’t important. When it is necessary, it can be among the most important. It just isn’t necessary very often, for most people, and almost certainly not on a daily basis. Most of the time, even those who use it daily don’t use it in an active capacity daily. There are exceptions, of course, but most people just don’t need to understand being a fighter nearly as often as they need to understand other components of living a mindful life.

They do still need to understand it, though. Living a mindful life means being mindful of all aspects of life, including the ones that aren’t used as often or aren’t as popular as others. Generally speaking, those who pursue a mindful life often don’t find fighting - or anything that seems to smack of violence, really - to be a popular thing. It isn’t popular, but it can be necessary. At the very least, the will to fight, the fighting spirit is required. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t live a mindful life unless you are alive. It’s an active process, and requires active participation. As much as we might prefer otherwise, it sometimes requires opposing participation.

For me, the decision to be a fighter was the decision to live. The opposing force was my own mind. For whatever reason, something within me was trying to destroy me, and if I hadn’t decided to fight back it would probably have succeeded. It was well on its way, and not just by the obvious methods of depression and suicidal fixation. Those were present, to be sure, and remain ever-present in various forms to this day, but they were far from the only enemies on that field of battle. Self-destruction is more insidious than self-annihilation, and far more common. There are many people who have never knowingly contemplated suicide who have nevertheless all but succeeded (or, in some case, actually succeeded) through a string of decisions so horribly destructive that, viewed from the outside looking in, could never have been expected to have any other result. When you combine those self-destructive tendencies with an active suicidal fixation, it’s a runaway freight train heading for a bridge that has already been blown to smithereens.

That was me by the time this journey began. I had reached a point in my life where the options were fight or die, and the dying part had far more potential variations than the fighting. Thankfully, I had one overlooked advantage. I had a will to fight, and at least some experience in putting that will to use.

As a child, I had problems with my temper. I learned to fight as one method for addressing that problem. Patience and forethought are natural side effects of the mental preparation necessary to fight well, and those who truly learn how to fight often find that they have less reason to fight. I don’t know that I ever achieved the status of truly learning, but I got far enough along to accomplish what I needed in regard to the mental education. I learned enough to know that I didn’t need to come out swinging at every provocation.

I also learned that I had the spirit, though that was secondary and didn’t require as much education. I’ve always been inclined to stand up for people, to oppose injustice and help people who are being pushed down. Defending others was as natural to me as breathing. What I had to learn, though, was that defending myself could be just as natural. I had to learn that I had as much right and reason to be defended as anyone else.

This was a difficult lesson for me, but learning it became a critical tool in combating my depression. I don’t just know how to fight, I also know why to fight, and I know that my own well-being is something worth fighting for. As much as I want to help the world, I can’t do that if I’m not helping myself. I have to fight for myself so that I can continue to be able to fight for anyone else.

I am a fighter, but you will never see me bragging about that. You will rarely see me making much noise about it at all. I don’t need to. The fact that I am still here and going strong is testimony to my success. I will, however, speak up when doing so might help others to find that needed fighting spirit. That, too, is part of my fight. We all do what we can, when and how we can, and this is part of what I do. I fight, and I help others to learn how - and, more importantly, why - to fight. If you are just beginning, stick with it. It’s worth it, and so are you. If you’ve been doing this for a while, thank you. Much like the more you know how to fight the less you need to fight, the more people we have fighting the good fight the sooner it will be that we no longer need to fight. Every little bit brings that day close, and makes the world a better place in the process.

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