Friday, April 29, 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Peace And Quiet

A peaceful life begins with a peaceful mind. It starts on the inside. If you are at peace with yourself, you can be at peace with the universe. If you are not at peace with yourself, you will not find peace anywhere in the universe. Far too often, people go looking for peace and only manage to take their personal conflict along with them wherever they go. It’s a vicious cycle that can only get worse the more you look outside. If you want peace you have to start at the source, and the source of your peace will always be within yourself.

That is not to say that you can’t get outside assistance. If you have a cut on your hand, it is your body’s own healing mechanisms that will fix the injury, but you’re bound to give it what help you can with such things as cleaning and bandages if you want the healing to go well. If it’s really bad, you may even go to a doctor for stitches. If the doctor tells you to wash the wound and change the bandages three times a day and you don’t follow instructions, though, it’s going to get worse instead of better. You can get help - sometimes you will require help - but it ultimately comes down to you in the end. You can’t just go to some outside source and say, “Fix me;” not without surrendering everything that makes you a living human being, at least. It’s up to you to drive the process for you.

It’s one of those ideas where the distinction is so subtle that it is easy to miss, yet so great that it makes all of the difference in the world. You can’t go looking for peace, but you can go looking for help. If you are having trouble, it’s possible that some of the techniques you have tried which did not work, did not work because you had this relationship backward. Try again, remembering that peace comes from within while help comes from without. You might be surprised by what a difference that little thought can make.

Begin with the belief that peace is possible. You may have to take this on faith at first. Believing in peace while you are in turmoil can be one of the most difficult things you do, but you will need it, and you probably already know it is true. You’ve just forgotten. You haven’t always been in turmoil, but I certainly understand that being in turmoil right now can make that difficult to remember. This is the proverbial difficult but necessary first step though. Believing that peace is possible will lead you toward peace being possible. At worst, what do you have to lose? If things are already bad, believing they can get better will not, in itself, make them worse. Have a little faith, take that first step, and see what happens.

Remove yourself from the problem as much as you can. If you got that cut on your hand by grabbing a knife at the wrong end, let go of the knife. If you are drinking too much, remove yourself from the influences to drink. If you’re arguing with someone and all you’re accomplishing is angering each other, walk away. You can’t fix every possible cause of turmoil by yourself, but fix what you can. Take the immediate steps that are within your power to take, and what is left to address will at least be a smaller problem. You don’t have to handle everything at once. Life can be huge. Give yourself the option to take it in smaller pieces.

Take the time for peaceful activities. You cannot create peace from the outside, but you can encourage peace within by engaging with peace from without. What these peaceful activities might be must be decided by you, but they should be activities that are relaxing and soothing. Take a walk in the woods or on the beach. Meditate or pray. Listen to soothing music. These are not crisis intervention steps we’re talking about here. That is something different. These are relaxation steps, and you should know what kinds of things you find to be relaxing. If you don’t know, take the time to find out. This is important. For that matter, even if you do know, it wouldn’t hurt to find out more. You may find yourself in an environment where a preferred relaxation technique is not available, so having options can only be a good thing.

Be mindful of your situation. Admit when you are having trouble, and name what is giving you difficulty. The first step to solving any problem is knowing what the problem is. If you’re really having trouble, try writing it down. Write down the problem, write down what you think of the problem, and write down your thoughts around the problem. Look at it from different angles. Sometimes doing this will reveal that it isn’t as big or as bad as you have allowed it to become in your mind. Sometimes this will unlock possibility you hadn’t considered that may even lead to solutions. Even just knowing is almost always better than stumbling around in the dark.

Allow yourself to be at peace. Just as you need to begin with the belief that peace is possible, you have to let it happen when that faith is rewarded. Many people find this step to be just as difficult as the initial belief. Some even find it to be more difficult. Maybe you don’t believe that you deserve peace, or that you haven’t earned it. Whatever is getting in your way, set it aside and let peace happen. You won’t become more deserving by going the other direction.

Rinse and repeat. The human mind is capable of making a habit out of almost anything with enough practice. The more you practice the steps to finding peace within, the more peace you will find within. The more you practice being at peace, the more peace you will have. Make a habit of being at peace and you will soon learn that being at peace is your natural state of being. You are going to make habits anyway. You may as well make them good habits.

If you are new to the idea of finding peace within, you will probably face many interruptions along the way. That’s perfectly okay. You may even be reading this because you are already dealing with those interruptions, and that is also fine. Life can sometimes be a series of interruptions, and who you are is largely defined by how you face them. That is something you can change any time you want. Just because you faced your interruptions one way yesterday doesn’t mean you have to do so the same way today. Every day is new, and you can be new every day as well. If you are in crisis of any kind, do what you need to do to get through that crisis, but have a plan for what comes next. After you have bandaged the wound, how are you going to get on with the healing process? Use what you have learned, what has worked in the past, and keep learning for the future.

Most people will never know a life where there are no crises. Even people who do not deal with mental or emotional issues will still find surprises and loss in life. Some people may face crises more often, but that’s a difference of degree, rather than a difference of kind. If you have a peaceful foundation and a working crisis plan, you’ll get through. The more peaceful the foundation, the less often you’ll need the plan. It can be a difficult journey, finding that peace within, but it gets easier as you go. Once you get going, it’s mostly downhill, and the view is pretty spectacular once you find it. It’s worth the trip.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Making Memories

My mom and dad went on their first cruise together in 1996 for their 25th wedding anniversary. By the time that cruise was complete, Dad was in love all over again. He had always been a fan of traveling - as a truck driver, he had even taken on a career entirely devoted to traveling - and this was traveling times ten. Cruises became their new default vacation, and if he wasn’t on a cruise, odds were good he was booking or planning the next one. If you never got to experience my dad talking about one of their cruises, you missed out. He loved it, and that love was infectious.

He loved sharing it too. Dad was always inviting friends and family to go on those cruises. He spent years trying to get us to go with them, but the logistics were difficult, to say the least. For most of those years, I lived in western Washington, almost as far away from the ports they were sailing out of as you can get and still be in the same country. Heather and I moved to Arizona in 2010 - still too far, but closer, just about half the distance closer - and we were finally able to make the logistics work in 2011. They were booking a cruise for that summer, and Dad made it very clear that he really wanted us to go. To be totally honest, we were worried about his health even then. Dad had been having trouble with diabetes-related vision problems and, though he never said much about those worries, I had done my own research on some of what he did say, and the possibilities were concerning. We wouldn’t dream of saying it out loud, and certainly never to him, but knowing there might be a very real limit to how much longer we would have the opportunity played a large role in our decision to make that trip happen, no matter what. We weren’t entirely certain that we wanted to go, but we were certain that we wanted to go for Dad.

We were idiots. We didn’t do anyone any favors. We had the most fun I can ever remember having in a single trip, bar none. We haven’t managed to do it yet, but we were talking enthusiastically about the next cruise as we were disembarking from that one. I couldn’t possibly describe all of the wonderful experiences we had on that cruise, but I did manage to take somewhere in the neighborhood of a million pictures. I don’t think there was a conversation the group of us had after that cruise that didn’t involve mention of that cruise. I don’t doubt that some of us will still be talking about it for many years to come. That trip generated the kind of memories you hold onto for a lifetime.

Did I say we didn’t do anyone any favors? That’s not entirely true. We did me a pretty huge favor. Dad died two years later and I’ve gone through some pretty rough waters since then, but there hasn’t been a time when I couldn’t look at the pictures from that cruise and smile. For Christmas last year, Heather bought me a digital picture frame to go on my desk at work, and I’d guess about half of the pictures I’ve loaded into that frame come from that cruise. The same usually holds true any time I’m putting together any kind of collection of my favorite family photos. It’s not just that those pictures represent the last time I got to spend quality time with my dad. That’s part of it, no doubt, but it’s also so much more than that. It was a great memory, whether first, last, or middle, and we really did have a great time. The enjoyment shines clearly through those pictures, and makes them better pictures as a result. I can look at the memories we made and the love we shared, and that gets me through some pretty bad moments.

That’s an important thing to remember. It’s easy to look back on what you’ve lost and to only see it as what you’ve lost, but you had to gain it first. You had that moment, and nothing will take that away from you. You haven’t lost the experience. It’s true that you will not have more of that particular experience, but you haven’t lost the one you had. You haven’t lost the memory. Memories are a treasure, and we need to treat them as such. I could try to avoid my memories of that cruise, out of fear of the pain they might bring up, but that would be like draping a heavy curtain over a priceless painting. I could let those memories tear me down, seeing only the pain the loss has brought, but that would be like taking a match to that painting, destroying all that was good about it and rendering it useless for any positive purpose. I choose to put that painting on display, cherishing all of the good that went into making it, and letting it remind me of things I sometimes forget.

There is another side to that, of course. You have to actually be there in order to make those cherished memories. I don’t mean you have to show up. I mean you have to be there, present and engaged. You have to be mindful of the people around you and the things that are happening. Recognize each one, hold onto it, and let it find its proper place in the gallery of your mind. You are the painting and the painter both in this illustration. The artist creates the art, and is created by the art in turn. Everything changes every other thing, but you might miss it if you’re not being an active participant. Make memories that you will cherish, and be a part of those memories that someone else might cherish.

There is this one picture of my dad, my brother, and me sitting at a patio table outside of a cantina in Cozumel, Mexico. Three Amigoes sharing a beer on an international trip. The smiles are indescribable, and it is easily one of the best pictures to come out of that vacation. That’s not just my opinion, either. I have yet to see anyone go through those pictures and not zero in on that one. It’s almost like the universe arranged that entire cruise to get that one perfect picture, that one perfect memory. It’s a memory I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, and I know I’m not alone. Yeah, it brings a tear to my eye, but it also brings a smile to my lips, and that means more. We made a memory that matters, and it will always be one of my greatest treasures.

Take the time to make your memories and gather your treasures. There will come a time when you don’t have that chance, so make sure you do it while you can. One thing you’ll never regret is taking the time to make treasured memories. Count on it.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Day Of Silence

Frequently Interrupted will be observing a day of silence today. Thank you for your understanding.

***

Monty R. Jones, 59, was called home on April 26, 2013. He was born May 6, 1953, to Arthur Clyde and Barbara Sue (Barnes) Jones in Freer, TX. He married his love Mary Sharlene Elliott on August 7, 1971, in Beeville, TX.

Monty was a long term resident of Beeville, Texas, and an A.C. Jones graduate of 1971. At the time of his passing, Monty and his wife were residents of Odem, Texas, where they have lived for 15 years. Monty served with the Beeville Volunteer Fire Department for 20 years, where he enjoyed giving back to the community that he had grown up in. He spent many years as an oilfield worker in the South Texas area, where he was able to work his way up to a tool pusher position. He was an owner/operator for Whitey Patten / Lonestar Transportation Service for 24 years, where he was able to travel the country as a truck driver. His love for travel soon turned to the open water. Taking his first cruise in 1996 for his 25th wedding anniversary, Monty had found a new love. Since then, Monty was always looking forward to the next cruise.

Monty was a loving and kind-hearted man who would always looked for ways to give of himself for the benefit of his family and friends. Monty placed a very high importance on family. Never one to miss a family reunion, Monty greatly enjoyed the catching up, visiting and story telling that came with a family gathering.

Monty is survived by his beloved wife of 41 years, Sharlene Jones, and his two sons, M. Rhea Jones (Heather) of Phoenix, Ariz., and Richard A. Jones (Jennifer) of Cleburne, Texas. Also surviving are his brothers, Ricky, Ronnie (Paulette) and Mark (Gloria), and his sister Cindy, as well as his three grandsons, Julian, Collins and Joshua; and two granddaughters, Kayli and Riley.

Visitation will be held from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Monday, April 29, 2013, at Angelus Funeral Home Chapel. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, 2013, at Angelus Funeral Home Chapel with Matthew Gibson officiating. Interment to follow at Glenwood Cemetery, Beeville, Texas.

The family of Monty Jones would like to thank everyone for their prayers and kind words during his last weeks. There is a hole in that family today that will be filled with fond memories and the love of the family and friends whose lives Monty touched.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Finding The Way

What you see often depends on where you look. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? If you look in the forest, you’ll see trees. If you look in the ocean, you’ll see water. The thing is, it is both bigger and smaller than that at once. Clearly you can see more than just the large, obvious parts. You can even see more than the small, obvious parts like animals and fish. Keep looking and you will see the entire universe. It’s all there, in a single leaf or a single drop of water. It’s all there in a single life, but you won’t see it if you don’t look for it.

Most of my readers will be familiar with the tale of the blind men and the elephant, wherein a group of blind men try to describe and identify an elephant based only on the portion that each man can touch. One man grabs a tail, another feels a tusk, a third man feels an ear, and so on. Each man describes the part he has experienced, and each is convinced that the others are wrong when their descriptions do not match. Each man is, of course, entirely correct as far as his own experience goes, but his own experience is limited and incomplete. He is not “seeing” everything that is available, and is focusing exclusively on the one part that has come to his attention.

This is how we tend to live our lives. One part of an experience grabs our attention and becomes, in our minds, the entire experience. If you think about it, though, you know that the odds of truly grasping an entire experience - any entire experience - are slight. Our perceptions just don’t work that way. There are parts of any experience that are giant flashing neon signs, screaming for attention, and then there are other parts that are more difficult to see without actively trying to do so. Even further along, there are parts of any experience that may not be seen without special effort being applied, and there may be even more that will go entirely unnoticed unless someone else already aware brings that to our attention. To make matters so much more fun, there may also be parts of an experience that we simply are not capable of knowing about yet. Think about the discovery of the atom, and then take a moment to wonder about what discoveries are still in the future. There is probably more to every experience in your life than you are ever fully aware of.

When our world is rocked by any large experience, this truth becomes even more true, and even more important to remember. A large emotion, especially one that is a shock or surprise, is like that neon sign with the brightness turned up to its maximum setting. It takes center stage and makes it much more difficult to see anything else, but everything else is still there. It’s just behind the glare.

It’s easy to get stuck staring at the neon sign, but that’s not usually very helpful. The neon sign is there. It will continue to be there, it will probably even continue to dominate the landscape if you look at something else. That being the case, why not see what else is there?

If your neon sign is something positive - a new love, a new baby, a new job - make sure you continue to look around at the more mundane parts of your life. They’re still there and still need your attention, despite not being as attractive or attention-getting as your neon sign. You have to pay the bills, you have to cook dinner, you have to change clothes occasionally. Yes, I’ve seen people forget because they were too happy.

If your neon sign is something negative - loss, illness, pain - it can be even more necessary to remember to look around you at the other parts of your life. They too are still there and still need your attention. More importantly, though, you still need their attention. You need to remember that the neon sign is a part of your life, not the whole of your life. There is still hope in a blooming flower, joy in a child’s eyes, and peace in a summer rain. It can be difficult to find the happy things when your heart is broken, but they are still there. You just have to look.

There is no map with an X marking the spot of where each of these things reside. There is no key that says Here There Be Dragons and Here There Be Roses. The way through to your need is as simple as looking, and as complicated as looking. What are you looking at?

All experience is contained within every experience. The universe is the atom. The proportions appear to be different because of the perspective of the observer, but that perspective is constantly changing. The way out is within, and you already hold the key. It’s up to you to use it, though. It is up to you to look, and, as you look, you will begin to see.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I Love It Loud

A friend of mine experienced a very unfortunate loss this week. We were discussing such things, comparing notes on coping strategies and the like, when another friend suggested, “Have him give you a list of some metal songs to take your mind off things.” We both laughed, but it was an idea. One of the things we do talk about fairly often is music and, while my tastes tend to go a bit louder than those of my friend, we’re both all over the place, and we both do understand the power of music. Sometimes you need to face your demons, but sometimes you just need to drive them away for a little while. Personally, when I need the demons to shut up for a bit (or when I just don’t want to hear them right now, which amounts to almost the same thing, effectively), I prefer to crank it up to 11, rip off the dial, and drown them in a tsunami of sound. The trick is to remember to surf that wave and come out stronger from the adrenaline rush on the other side.

It’s also important to remember, as with all such things, that one tool is not the tool box. Each of us must find our own ways of confronting and continuing through such situations, and the more tools you know how to use, the more likely it is that you will have the right tool when you need it. Don’t be afraid to borrow either. I’m opening my tool box here so that you can use what you need, or just get an idea of what to add to your own tools, if that works better for you. In the end, “We’re all just walking each other home,” (Ram Dass) and it’s a better walk with company than without. As long as we are living together in this great mass called society, we are usually either helping each other up or dragging each other down. I choose to put my emphasis on the former, and so, here we are. We help each other out because none of us can carry the burden alone.

I actually did put together a starter list for my friend, and I thought you might appreciate it as well. This is just a small sample, but you get the idea. These options will definitely not be for everyone, but perhaps they’ll inspire you to make your own list. If they do, I would live to hear about it.

5FDP - Under and Over It
"Did you hear the one about me trying to die?
Fist in the air and a finger to the sky."

5FDP - Jekyll and Hyde
"Supposed to be happy, but I'm only getting colder
Wear a smile on my face, but there's a demon inside"

Slipknot - The Devil In I
"You'll realize I'm not your Devil
I'm not your Devil anymore"

Slipknot - Psychosocial
"Sinking in, getting smaller again
I'm done! It has begun! I'm not the only one!"

Disturbed - Voices
"Wake up, are you alive
Will you listen to me"

Disturbed - The Vengeful One
"As I survey the chaos, taking in the lack of raw humanity
It's as if the entire world's fallen in love with their insanity"

Shinedown - Sound of Madness
"I created the sound of madness, wrote the book on pain
Somehow I'm still here to explain"

Shinedown - Cut the Cord
"Cause agony brings no reward
For one more hit and one last score
Don't be a casualty, cut the cord"

Queensryche - Speak
"Speak to me the pain you feel
Speak the word
The word is all of us"

Queensryche - Screaming In Digital
"I'll teach you to laugh and to cry
They're really the same you'll see"

Savatage - Hall of the Mountain King
"Madness reigns
In the Hall of the Mountain King"

Savatage - Jesus Saves
"So the dice were cast
Today became the past"

Not exactly a part of this list, but I did use the song title for the headline, and I am a fan, so definitely warrants honorable mention:

KISS - I Love It Loud
"Turn it up, this is my attitude, take it or leave it yeah"

As always, all music and art belongs to the artists, so make sure you check out their pages for more great examples. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Unresolved Issues

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of horror fiction, specifically horror fiction that involves ghosts, monsters, and other denizens of the supernatural. Nothing against other entries in the genre, some of them can also be quite interesting, but I have a weakness for the things that go bump in the night. I always have had. It probably goes along with my deep interest in mythologies, legends, and the other dark, shadowy corners of cultural studies. Understanding a society’s monsters can tell you quite a bit about that society.

One of the staples of classic horror is the ghost story. It’s the Go To story idea for horror literature and movies, and no campfire would be complete without ghost stories. Angry, vengeful, or just plain confused spirit hanging around where it doesn’t belong and causing various sorts of mayhem, almost always as a result of unresolved issues. You can take those pieces and form a nearly infinite number of stories from them, and writers beyond count have been working on finding the limits of that “nearly infinite” number for as long as stories have been told. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the original ghost story was among the first stories ever told. It’s that classic in the human psyche.

The recurring theme in that story, down through the nearly infinite variations, is almost always the idea of unresolved issues. From Shakespeare to Scooby Doo to the Winchester Brothers, whenever someone starts trying to unravel the mystery of a haunting the first thing they inevitably look for is what unresolved issue might have the local ghost all stirred up. What business did the departed leave undone, or what regret has kept the deceased chained to this world? Answering that question is usually the key that lets our protagonists end the haunting and allows everyone else to get on with living a non-spook-filled life.

I suspect that there is a reason why this is such a common theme, and I further suspect that you already see where I am going here. Being haunted by unresolved issues is not confined to fiction. It’s a pretty common theme in plain old human life as well, though often somewhat less dramatic in that version. Or maybe not so much less, if you really stop and think about it. Less showy, perhaps, but how many relationships have been lost, dreams abandoned, and even lives destroyed in real life because of unresolved issues? Real life drama is usually far messier than fictional drama, which makes it less plot driven and harder to follow on screen, but it’s still pretty dramatic. It’s just the kind of drama we tend to want to avoid rather than pay to enjoy.

Avoidance, though, is not really the same thing as getting away from or overcoming. Avoidance has a nasty tendency toward being temporary. Things we avoid almost always come back around for another go. That’s why counselors and other such people in the know usually put such an emphasis on confronting issues rather than avoiding them. You won’t always win with confrontation, but you can win, which is not possible with avoidance.

The trouble is, it’s not always easy to determine the best way to confront your unresolved issues. To be perfectly honest, it’s not always easy to determine your unresolved issues. There’s a reason those ghost stories are usually part mystery story, and it’s not just dramatic license. It can take more than a little bit of soul searching and self-honesty to figure out what unresolved issues you might have in need of redress, and then it takes even more searching, usually both internal and external, to figure out what to do about them. It’s difficult, but such is life. We don’t get better by things being easy.

Sometimes just acknowledging the issue may be enough to put it in its place. The way we run around trying to do too many things at once, it’s not at all uncommon that what is unresolved about some issue is just the fact that we haven’t acknowledged it. We haven’t named it and let it be what it is. We try to ignore it, or stuff it into a box where it doesn’t fit, which just results in that haunted past trying all the more to get its proper attention. The more mindfully we live, the less chance we have of encountering this particular problem. See it, name it, and let it be. Like a rowdy child, sometimes a little positive attention is all your personal ghosts need in order to settle down and be alleviated.

Sometimes they need more, though. There is no way around that. If your rowdy child is setting fire to the house, you’re going to need a bit more than “I see you” to properly deal with the situation. Unlike my rather extreme example, though, our unresolved issues can often be rather slippery and difficult to define or properly nail down to just one thing. Sometimes you will have an immediate need that is as obvious as grabbing the fire extinguisher, but you still have the deeper question of why the fire was set in the first place. Mindful awareness, alone, cannot solve these problems, but you also cannot solve them without it. You have to see an issue for what it is in order to have a real chance of properly addressing that issue. Even then, you may have to take multiple cracks at it before you find the right or best solution.

Just so you know, I am talking to myself here every bit as much as I am talking to you. I have always tried to live my life without regrets, but I don’t know anyone who has ever perfectly succeeded in that goal. Usually the regrets that I have had have been the kind I can address with mindful awareness alone. I see what happened, I acknowledge that it happened, and I let it be in the past where it belongs, learning the lessons it had to teach me so that I don’t make the same mistake, but not letting it haunt me in the present. These are the kinds of issues that can be described as, “I might do that differently if I had it to do over again, but I have learned a valuable lesson so I don’t actually regret what has happened.”

Some things, though, some things require repeated effort. The wheel turns round and round, and we continue around with it until we learn what it is trying to teach. The ghosts continue to haunt us until we figure out how to resolve what is holding them here. There is one other idea that is almost universal in ghost stories, though: ghosts are not physical, and so cannot cause physical harm. They can get you to harm yourself, sure enough, but that’s the trick of it. They’re not doing the harm, you are. If you can keep that in mind, you’ll usually find the repeated effort to at least be safer, if not necessarily easier.

Unresolved issues need to be resolved so that they don’t continue to haunt you and interfere with you life. Sometimes these can be resolved simply through mindful awareness but, even when that will not resolve the issue, mindful awareness can always help you to find the resolution. It may not be easy, and it will often be frightening, but you can take steps to confront issues safely and not let them harm you. Learn from the past so that you can have a better future, and just keep chipping away. Keep trying until you get it. You will be learning even from the failures. The wheel keeps turning, and we keep learning.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

TGIF - Out Of The Darkness

Everyone who has read these pages knows that the subject of suicide prevention matters a great deal to me. I have fought that dragon personally, I have lost people I loved, and I have lost people I tried to help. It’s heartbreaking from every angle, and it impacts far more people than many people realize. According to the CDC, there were 41,149 deaths attributed to suicide in 2013, and a staggering 836,000 emergency department visits for self-inflicted injuries. Worse, these numbers are roughly consistent with annual averages. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, and there are actually worse numbers in other parts of the world.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is one of the largest non profit organizations in the world dedicated to awareness, education, and advocacy on the subject of suicide prevention, and their Out of the Darkness walks are among the most successful sources of raising both donations and awareness anywhere. The Overnight is their flagship walk, sixteen miles from dusk until dawn, rotated through different cities every year, with the walks for this year being in San Francisco on May 21 and New York on June 4. State chapters also host Campus and Community walks throughout the year, that are usually shorter than The Overnight but are also more easily accessible to more people.

The Out of the Darkness Community walk in Phoenix this year is scheduled for December 11 at Indian School Park in Downtown Phoenix (map), from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, and I intend to be there. What I am trying to determine now is whether that will be as an individual, or as a team representing Frequently Interrupted. I would prefer to do the latter, but obviously I can’t do that on my own. That’s where you come in. We have time, clearly, but the idea is to do the fundraising between now and then, so the more time we allow for that, the more we can conceivably raise. I haven’t registered yet, but I will be doing so within the next couple weeks. That is not really a deadline, as we can add members or even change the registration type at any time before the event, but just so you know it’s coming.

The way this works is, everyone on the team gets their own fundraising page to use and share as you see fit, and your contributions are tracked both individually and toward a team goal. There are no registration fees of any kind, and no donations required, but we’ll be working together to raise what we can, both in donations and awareness. You can get more details about how it all works here and here. What I need to know is, are you interested? If you are local and want to participate in the Frequently Interrupted walking team, please let me know so I can begin making arrangements. You also don’t have to be local to help, so let me know either way.

The AFSP has set a goal of reducing suicide in the United States by 20% by 2025. That’s a pretty impressive goal, and these walks are a large part of how they intend to do it. Personally, I would love to be part of achieving that goal, and I hope you will join me. I look forward to your input, and thank you.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Screaming At The Wall

There are days when it feels like nothing goes right. It may even seem like nothing can go right. It’s not just you against the world, but you against the entire universe, and the universe is winning. How could it not, with those odds? There is not much you can do in a fight like that except put your arms up over your face and try to minimize the damage. You can’t win. You can’t fix that kind of day - nothing can, really - but I want to tell you a couple things that might help.

The first thing is that you are not alone. I realize how often I say this, but it really is that important. You are not alone. One of the biggest hurdles in dealing with depression is the feeling of isolation, the feeling that no one understands and no one can understand. It’s a lie, but it’s a lie that carries a lot of weight. Most people fall for it at one time or another - You’re not even alone in that! - and some people fall for it over and over again. We are creatures of habit. We are comfortable in our habits and will often cling to them, even when it is our habits that are killing us. I smoked at least a pack a day for thirty years. Believe me, I know about deadly habits. This one is just as important to kick as that one. Mental health or physical health, health is health, so do what you can to improve yours. You are not alone. Make that your new habit.

The second thing is, this too shall pass. Also not an unusual sentiment around here, is it? Change is the only constant. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that your current state is the end of all things, that you will never be better again, that life will never be better again, and that there is no point to anything, but the only thing that will make this even close to true is believing it to be true. You can lock yourself into that downward spiral, but that is a choice that you make, not a natural progression. That is not to say that every situation can be fixed. That is simply not true. A disease that is incurable today will probably be incurable tomorrow, and we all know that there are many losses that cannot be recovered. We can learn, however, to live in a new way and adapt to new realities. Everything passes and everything changes, but sometimes what passes is an old way of thinking, and sometimes what changes is yourself.

That last point is critical to the understanding of this idea. Sometimes what has to change is yourself. There is never going to be a time when everything in your life is under your control, but how you face your life will always be under your control. If your happiness is dependent upon a desire to have rain fall upward, you are going to be living a pretty miserable life. It’s just not going to work out for you. If you can keep your desires in line with reality, though, or if you can learn to find the good in the curveballs reality will sometimes throw at you then you stand a pretty good chance.

It’s hard, I know. Believe me, I get it. There are days when you don’t care that you’re not alone. It wouldn’t help at all if every single person on the planet were going through the same thing, and just getting through today - maybe even just this hour - makes believing in the universal reality of change irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether or not this will pass if you can’t make it through this. If you are very fortunate, you may never face a day like this. You might get through life without ever once slamming into that wall. If you’re like the rest of us, though, you’re probably going to have at least one day in your life where you don’t just wish to die, but you honestly wish you had never lived at all. It’s a horrible feeling, and it is very difficult to get past.

So what can you do about it? Nothing. Not the answer you want, I know, but that’s the whole point. If you ever come to that day, you have reached a moment in your life where there is literally nothing you can do about your situation. Understanding that, all the way down in your bones, is the first step toward surviving that day. Let go and let life happen. Stand in the middle of the storm and let it wash over you. You are not in control. You don’t have to be in control. You just have to survive until it passes. Let that happen, let that be okay to happen, and you’re on your way.

You can’t fix a situation like that, but you don’t have to be nice to it either. Scream. Rage. Let it out. Have you ever stood in a field, miles from anywhere with no one around, and just yelled? Try it. You’re not fixing anything. Don’t make that mistake. I’m not talking about “primal therapy” (sometimes called “primal scream therapy”), which is a very specific and clinically-controlled field of psychotherapy. I’m just talking about a momentary catharsis, a way to feel better when you can’t do anything else, and that won’t make anything worse.

That is the problem you have to keep in mind. Too often when we find ourselves in a situation like this, we make it worse by making foolish decisions. We lash out. We scream at innocent bystanders or at the people we love. Sometimes we do things that will end up making us wish we had only screamed. If you have to scream then scream, but scream at the wall, scream at the sky, scream at something you won’t hurt and that won’t hurt you in the process.

It’s okay to do something that will make you feel better about or during a situation you can’t fix, even if that better is only temporary. Sometimes a temporary better is exactly what you need. Just don’t do something that will make you temporarily better but really worse in the long run. Scream at the wall so you don’t end up screaming at yourself later.

It is really not you against the universe, but I know it can seem that way at times. When it gets that way, just hunker down and hold on. Don’t make permanent decisions because of a temporary situation, and don’t lose control of your life by trying too hard to control it. When nothing else will do, just scream at the wall. Let it come and let it go, then do what you can on the other side.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A To Zen

A few things to keep in mind when trying to live the Zen life, or when simply wanting to make beneficial adjustments to the life you are already living.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Running On Autopilot

I’m mostly running on autopilot right now, and that’s perfectly fine. For one thing, my autopilot is pretty good, if I do say so myself. That’s one of the advantages to being pattern-oriented OCD. When the edges start to crumble, you grab hold of a pattern and ride that comfortable routine until you can find solid ground again. The things you are used to doing get done - and get done correctly - because you are used to doing them. If you’re like me, you just don’t know how to be any other way. Things have to crumble way past the edges before one issue actually manages to override the other and, by the time things go that far, you probably shouldn’t be trying to do routine in the first place. When the center starts to fall, you’re well into I Need Help territory, and it’s past time to start actively working on Plan B.

I’m not into Plan B, and don’t expect to reach that necessity. Autopilot is doing its job, and I know this territory. It’s turbulent and uncomfortable, but it is charted territory, and I’ve passed this way many times. I’m not the best person to talk to on this leg of the journey, and I apologize for that, but autopilot actually requires a great deal of concentration. Yes, I realize the metaphor breaks down a bit at that point, but not really. You just have to look at it sideways. The autopilot is engaged because of the intense concentration required elsewhere. When I’m in this place, it takes most of my effort just to stand still. Anything other than just keeping the plane together is on the autopilot right now. That’s why autopilot exists.

In the second place, there is nothing wrong with standing still. There is nothing wrong with taking a break. There is nothing wrong with needing to take a break. That is the real message I want to get across to you today. When you’re struggling, when you’re having a really bad day and all you can do is scream at a wall because anything else - absolutely anything else at all - is just too much, stop, scream, take a break, and don’t let anyone tell you that’s not okay. Anyone who would try to tell you otherwise has no idea what you’re going through. Anyone who has felt your pain, or has made a sincere effort to understand your pain, knows that there are times when even just enough is just too much. You do what you have to do to survive, and if that means standing still then you stand still.

There is a school of thought, especially in motivational speaking, that, if you’re not moving forward, you are moving backward. Nonsense! My actual opinion is far stronger than a simple “nonsense” would suggest, but that would be impolite here, so we’ll just let that exclamation point stand in for the severity of my response. If you’re not moving backward then you’re not moving backward. Simple. Life is not a river and you are not a salmon fighting your way upstream. There may be times in life when you are fording a driving current, and you will need to push forward with all of your fight during those times, but they are times, not all of time. You have to know the difference or you may be wasting your fight when you don’t need it and, as a result, you may not have it when you do need it.

Everything in the world that moves, moves in cycles, stop and go, movement with breaks. Nothing is always moving. Nothing even can be always moving. If it moves, it also stops moving. If it doesn’t occasionally stop moving, it breaks and then it really stops moving. That’s how things work in the real world. The only thing “Go, Go, Go!” is going to get you is an express trip to the grave. We’ll all get there eventually, so there is really no point in rushing. Let yourself stop when you need to, not just to smell the roses - though that is important as well - but sometimes just to stop. Sometimes absolutely nothing is exactly the right thing to do. Give yourself a break, and don’t buy into the perpetual motion nonsense.

That’s the joy of autopilot. Sometimes you need to stand still but routine things still need to happen. Autopilot. As always, though, know your limitations. Know yourself. You need to have a good understanding of what you can and cannot do under what circumstances so that you don’t bite off more than you can chew and get yourself into trouble that your autopilot can’t handle. Don’t try to autopilot your way through juggling chainsaws. Ouch! You may need to make special arrangements for some things, so don’t be afraid to do so. Better to own up to it up front than for something important to you get broken because you didn’t want to admit that you needed help.

Also, remember that you cannot live on autopilot. This is a short term, emergency mode only. The idea behind autopilot is to get you from Point A to Point C while you deal with B. Going through D and E might work if you really need it to, but if you start trying to autopilot your way through the entire alphabet, things are probably not going to go well. That just isn’t the way to get positive results out of life. Sometimes you may need autopilot, and there is nothing wrong with using it when you do need it. If you’re spending too much time in autopilot, though, it’s time to take a fresh look at your needs and coping mechanisms because something isn’t working and you need to figure out where to make adjustments.

There are going to be times when life doesn’t make sense. Everyone goes through it. If you are living with mental or emotional issues, you will probably go through it more often than some other people, but you are still not alone. No one’s life is perfect, no matter what Facebook tells you. There may be days when it feels like taking even a single step will shatter you into a million pieces. Stop and breathe. If you need to, let autopilot kick in while you hold the pieces together. You’ve made it this far. You’ll be able to take that next step, but you may need to wait for a more appropriate time. Don’t be afraid to wait, if waiting is going to help you keep moving forward in the long run. That’s what matters. Life is not a race. All forward progress is forward progress, no matter how many interruptions you have to take along the way.

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Friday, April 8, 2016

TGIF 4-8-16

Just a quick update for our Friday edition this week. I’m staying busy, keeping myself occupied, and mostly not having to try very hard, to be honest. It’s been a busy week. There have been several adjustments with the day job, and I’m picking up some additional responsibilities - some “temporary coverage” issues, and some just “stepping up” - so keeping busy is coming pretty naturally. Since I’ve made no secret of the fact that this is an emotional time period for my family and for myself, you know that keeping busy can be an important part of processing that.

As for that, thank you for traveling with me through this week. This has probably not been exactly what you signed up for, but it is an important part of the process. Sharing can be difficult, but it makes things better overall. As I have mentioned a few times now, this grieving process is a very large part of what I started Frequently Interrupted in the first place. I was having trouble with the grieving process, especially combined with my natural tendencies, and this was the therapy I needed. Along the way, I can hopefully open some doors for other people who might benefit from the experience. I will be talking about the grieving process and things that can be helpful through that over the next few weeks, but most of that will be through our more usual format of broader topics. Thank you for understanding the occasional speed bump, though. It is really appreciated.

On a far more positive note, for those who have not already heard, we officially completed our foster licensing this week. Heather and I are licensed foster parents in the eyes of the state of Arizona! It has been an unusual experience, and I have let you in on some of the frustrations and headaches involved, but it has mostly been a much easier experience than I expected, and we have completed the licensing process a little faster than the original estimates predicted. Only a little bit, but every little bit counts. On the whole, I would rate the experience more positive than negative, despite those occasional frustrations and headaches, and it has certainly been well worth it.

I have said this every time, and I will continue to say it every time, but there are far too many children in the foster care system, especially in this state, but also in the country as a whole. If you have the ability to help, please consider doing so. That doesn’t even necessarily mean being a foster parent, though the system could certainly do with a good influx of those. There are any number of ways that a person can volunteer to help these less fortunate children. Check into the system where you live to see what the local needs are, or feel free to drop me a line and ask what I know. I get flyers and emails and such on a regular basis.

Life is full of sunshine and rain. Sometimes the sun is too hot and sometimes the rain blows a storm, but it all comes together to make life. We can’t control the weather, but we can control how we respond to it. Sunscreen and umbrellas can do wonders. Know your limits, accept help when you need it, and just live. That’s really what it all comes down to. Just live. Well, live and love, but I think there’s a reason those two words are only one letter apart. What do you think?

Namaste.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

In Memory Of Father's Day 2013

I wrote this on Father's Day 2013, almost two months after my dad passed away. It took that long before I was able to get this much down, but I think what I expressed here actually did manage to say what I needed to say. Time passes and yet, in a way, it doesn't. We do what we have to do, and we hope that it's enough. Time passes, but grief does not. We learn to live with it, we hope. We learn to accept the person we have become as a result. I present this today because it is as fresh today as it was three years ago, and because I hope it can help someone else in need. Your grief is real and honorable, and there is nothing wrong with it. You do not hurt because you are weak. You hurt and keep going because you are so very strong. Remember that, and remember the strength you have in the people around you as well.

***

When I was a kid, I got stuck in a tree. I'm not exactly afraid of heights, but it's close enough to that as to make no difference to this story. I went up, panicked, and couldn't get back down. My dad could have bawled me out for doing something so stupid. It's not like I didn't know by then that I had these panic issues. He could have given me the old, “You got up there; figure out how to get down” routine. He could have done any number of things. What he did, though, was to drive his truck up under the tree and rescue me like I was a kitten.

In my early twenties, I got stuck on a back country highway, somewhere between Austin and Houston. It was the middle of the night and I was a long way from home with a blown tire and no money. I had no spare tire either, because I had neglected to put it back in the car after a recent move. My dad borrowed a spare tire from my brother and brought it to me. He had to be at work at 5:00 the next morning, and didn't get home from rescuing me until sometime around three.

My dad spent twenty years as a fire fighter for a small town volunteer Fire Department. He had a full time job and a family to raise, but when the siren sounded he was out the door, helping to make our a community a little safer with each call. He had a newspaper clipping pinned to his desk at home, about a house fire that almost got him. I doubt that was the only close call he ever had, but he never talked much about those, and they never stopped him from doing the job he had chosen.

We lost my dad on April 26, 2013. After a difficult medical fight, he succumbed to a heart attack. He was two weeks away from turning sixty. Despite being a writer by temperament, this is the first time I've been able to put down more than two or three sentences about my dad since his passing. I'm sorry, Dad. I've wanted to write it. You deserved it. I just couldn't do it. Now we're looking at Father's Day, and I can't tell you how much I love you, how much I miss you. I'm doing my best to get the point across, but some things just can't be covered by words.

My dad was my hero. I don't know if I ever told him that, but I wouldn't be who I am today without him. His first priority was always his family, no matter what. He did what was necessary to take care of his family without question, without doubt, and without hesitation. He instilled in me certain values, without once ever lecturing about those values. He lived them, and I learned from how he lived. This weekend is all about Dad, but don't let that be an excuse to forget about him the rest of the year. If your dad is your hero, and anyone worthy of the name “Dad” should be, make sure he knows.

Tell him. Show him. Live it. It's a hard job, with long hours and no pay but, as a dad now myself, it's the best job in the world. Frustrating but great. Make sure your dad knows how much he means to you.

I love you Dad. I wish with all my heart that I could tell you that face to face, but I'll tell the world and I think, if they help spread the word, that you'll hear it. You were always watching out for me before. I bet that hasn't changed.

Happy Father's Day. I love you.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

No Rule Book For Grief

Your grief is your own. No one else can define it, nor can they define what you need to do with or for it. They can help you carry it, though, so let them. We are all family, and this is what family is all about.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Realities Of Grief

I had plans for the posts for this week. They involved comic books and superheroes, hope and heroics, but I think plans have changed. Turns out, I’m having some trouble just getting three words to line up correctly. My head’s not in the right place to talk about hope right now. Don’t get me wrong. I know that hope is on the other side of this coin - I haven’t forgotten - and we’ll get back to that subject soon enough, just not today. Not this week. Maybe not this month. I just don’t know.

On April 3, 2013, my dad was admitted into the hospital with chest pain and difficulty breathing. He fought for twenty three more days, but he never came out, and we lost him on April 26. I wasn’t there. I live in Phoenix. He was in Texas. We gambled on his getting better, and I would use my time off to go help him through his recovery. We lost that bet, and there hasn’t been a day in three years that I haven’t regretted that decision. To be honest, there haven’t been many when I didn’t cry over that decision. I didn’t get to tell my dad goodbye, and I honestly don’t know whether or not I’ll ever be able to make peace with that. I haven’t yet. I know that. It tears me apart every time that memory crosses my mind, and believe me, it crosses my mind often.

Trying to find a way to be at peace with this memory, with this pain, was one of the reasons I started this blog. Last summer, I was having a bad time of things and I needed to do something about it. This wasn’t the only cause, but it was at the top of the list. I decided to go back to the beginning, to re-examine the tools and I had used and the lessons I had learned through a lifetime fight with depression, and this time I would open up and let others see what was going on. I’ve never been good at that part, but I hope that others can learn from my struggle, and that helping others will also help me. It works that way. Sometimes the best defense against depression is helping someone else find a smile.

Grief is a terrible, debilitating experience. It is one that we all have to face sooner or later. For some, far too often. There is no answer. There is no magic solution. Understanding this is the first step toward peace. If you’re looking for an ending, you’ll never find it, and you’ll never be at peace. I know that much. Grief doesn’t end.

Time does not heal all wounds. That is one of the great lies we tell each other - that time heals - and it can be one of the most damaging lies. The greatest wounds never heal. You don’t get over the loss of a loved one. The wound doesn’t heal. The pain doesn’t go away. It changes, and it changes you, but it stays with you. I understand that the trick is to take an active hand in how it changes you. You have to be the sculptor and the marble at the same time. It’s hard - it’s so hard - and it hurts - you can’t make a sculpture without chipping away at the marble - but on the other side is something beautiful. It’s something that shares fully in your love, and it still hurts, but it becomes a sweet hurt, a hurt you can live with, a hurt that reminds you of joy.

I guess I’ve learned to believe in hope pretty strongly after all.

I miss you so much, Dad, and I’m so sorry I wasn’t there. I’m sorry for so many things in our lives, and so many times I wasn’t there, but mostly I’m sorry for that one. I don’t know how to get through this. I know I will - you taught me to believe that - but I don’t know how. You don’t have to worry though. I have these moments, but I’ve learned that life is more than just these moments. This is a part of who I am, but it is not who I am. Hope is a pretty big part of who I am as well, it seems, and that hope won’t let me forget all of the good on the other side of the pain.

For the rest of you reading this, I hope you will bear with me this week, quite possibly more than this week. This is a hard time for me, but facing this hard time is why I started this process. There is no rhyme or reason to grief. There is also no shame. You will hurt, and that’s okay. You will not be fine all the time, and that’s okay. I’m not going to lie, I’m not fine right now, but I will be. Hope. It’s the only way I know to be. I sat in the woods one day with a knife and a nightmare, and I came out the other side, still breathing. I’ve been coming out the other side since then.

I’ve never been good at sharing my grief. I tell people often that it should be shared, but … Do as I say not as I do? I think we’re all probably guilty of that at times. We’re pretty good at knowing what to do and not doing it anyway too. I’ll try to be better. I’m trying to be better right here, opening up. I hope it helps. I hope it helps you too.

I love you, Dad.

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