Monday, July 31, 2017

What You Planned

If you read as much motivational material as I do, you are already fully aware of many stories about people who gained success after going through apparent failure. It's a surprisingly common experience, and serves as a reminder that plans are not the beginning and end of all things. Just because a plan goes awry doesn't mean you can't succeed. Sometimes the best things come as total surprises. Keep going and see what's around that next corner.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Let Go

We often need the reminder, and the universe provides. What you cannot change is not meant for you to change. Learn to tell the difference. Work with what you have, and marvel at what you can accomplish when you are doing what can be done instead of stressing over what cannot be done. Appropriate effort on appropriate tasks makes all the difference.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Illness Does Not Define You

Are you beginning to see? Is the signal getting through? You are a wonderful, unique expression of the universe. What you might be wearing at the moment doesn't change that. Don't let labels and tags define or change who you are. You are you, so be that person all the way through.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Missing Signals

I had an amusing conversation the other day. I was speaking with a colleague at the day job who is also familiar with my work here at Frequently Interrupted, and a comment was made to me about, “since you’re a pacifist …” I laughed. I am certainly not a pacifist, and I pointed out this mistake. I used my favorite “try to imagine a viking who has discovered the benefits of Zen meditation” analogy. I quoted the “I’m always angry” scene from The Avengers movie. I explained that, while I view violence as an absolute last resort, I do still view it as a possible resort. I dislike violence, and will do what I reasonably can to avoid it, but the operative word there is “reasonably”. If there is no reasonable way around it, if circumstances have conspired so that violence is the reasonable answer, I will no more hesitate to use that reasonable answer than I would any other reasonable answer. The right tool for the right job. There are just vanishingly few jobs for which this is the right tool.

As I said, this was an amusing conversation, and we were able to understand each other in short order. No harm, no foul, and no big deal in any direction, but it did get me to thinking along related lines. There are often times when we view a single source of data and, for whatever reason, believe that we have received enough information to draw reasonable conclusions, without realizing just how much is still missing. Sometimes it is a matter of mixed signals but, more often in these circumstances, the signals are missing entirely. It is a classic example of the seven blind men all trying to describe an elephant by touch. Each man is not wrong in his own sphere of understanding, but he is still wrong in expecting that his sphere covers the entire understanding.

Such is the case here. There are many subjects that I don’t tend to discuss within Frequently Interrupted because they are not necessarily pertinent to my mission here, and sometimes people draw conclusions from this absence that are not valid. Assuming that I am a pacifist is a fairly common example. Though this case was amusing and easily resolved, I have actually received harassment and derision at times based on the same erroneous conclusion. Even more frustrating, this has, at times, even come from people who have every reason to know better. Some people see what I discuss here and assume that it is an entire picture, when it is really only a trunk or a tail or a leg. It is a true piece, but only a single piece of the entire whole.

Allow me to provide an example that I hope will present a clear picture. We have all seen the bumper stickers that say, “coexist”. These are artistically designed so that each letter represents a different religion or philosophy, and the obvious message is, “Let’s all get along, regardless of religious differences.” It’s a pretty straightforward philosophy and clearly one that I promote here in various forms. I will happily coexist with anyone willing to happily coexist, whether or not we agree on the various details, and this seems to be a pretty easy solution to me. Inevitably, though, someone comes along and points out that one cannot coexist with someone who is trying to harm you, and then I have to mentally change gears to try to understand how that caveat wasn’t already obvious. If I am happy to coexist with anyone willing to coexist, the obvious corollary must be that this is a two way street. Someone who is not willing to coexist must obviously be approached in a different manner. How many times can I use the word “obvious” in a single paragraph before the point becomes, well, obvious? Even the most vocal advocates of “coexist” do not generally mean “coexist at any cost.” There may be some who do, but they are outliers, not representative of the idea. Every idea has outliers, which are usually irrelevant. They do not contribute to the actual definition of the idea.

For me, at least, this idea is true across the board. I do not believe in “coexist at any cost” or “peace at any cost” or any of those related ideas. I don’t honestly know anyone who does believe in such an idea, though I do understand, intellectually, that such people exist. They are alien to me. The concept is not something I can truly understand as anything other than a thought exercise. “Peace at any cost” is just a fancy way of saying “slavery,” and I will oppose slavery at almost any cost. There are lines that cannot, must not be crossed, and if violence is the only way to prevent that crossing then violence must be an acceptable, even occasionally a correct answer. I would hope that we do our best to make certain this happens as rarely as possible, and I do believe that we can do better in that department, but I also believe that we must be ready for it to happen. As long as there are people who are unwilling to peacefully coexist, it will happen.

A problem that we run into with this discussion, and one reason that I tend to avoid it within these pages, is that too many people profess this philosophy and then go looking for exceptions. You are not really minimizing the use of violence if you are looking for excuses to use violence. Again, I would think this is obvious, but I have long since made peace with the fact that the general public and I have very differing definitions of obvious. In my opinion, too many people don’t like to think things through. It’s easier to say, “no violence ever,” (whether or not you actually mean it), or to just resort to violence whenever it is convenient. It is far more difficult, but, I believe, far more useful to allow for the possibility while setting clear restrictions. The more people who honestly adopt this view, the less it will be required while we will remain prepared for those occasions when the requirement occurs.

I will peacefully coexist with anyone who will return the favor, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, sexual preference, number of limbs, planet of origin, spelling of name, or any other irrelevant criteria. If someone threatens my loved ones or an innocent victim where I can make a difference, I will do what is required to remove that threat, also regardless of extraneous details. I think that is a pretty sensible dividing line. I believe it is foolish to create enemies where they do not already exist, so I will not go looking for reasons to not coexist, but I will respond honestly and accurately to reasons that are presented. If that response requires violence, so be it. It would not be my preference, but I will do everything in my power to make certain I did not create that requirement, so I will feel no guilt for working with reality, as is. I will also continue to promote ideas and practices that will make that necessity less and less common.

That, ultimately, is why I do not usually discuss this subject here. Promote what you love or want rather than bashing what you hate or don’t want. Spend more time on the positive, and the negative will usually see itself out the door all on its own. Once in awhile, it needs a small nudge. This is a small nudge. I will probably still receive some harassment, but possibly less, and even that may be more educated. One can always hope. I will continue to promote what I love and want, regardless, but I do so with eyes wide open. If you didn’t already realize that, consider yourself told.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Depression Isn't Pretty

I don't know how many different ways it can be said, but I'll keep trying them as long as it needs to be said. I am not my illness. You are not your illness. We all carry stories, but we are not the stories. We are more than the stories. Learn the distinguish the carried from the carrier, and remember to treat people as people, not illnesses, objects, or effects.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Invisible Demons

I’ve had a rough few days. Stress overload at the day job, no peace and quiet to be found anywhere, this crazy world we’re living in getting crazier by the day, Chester, then some of the responses to Chester … So many little things I couldn’t possibly describe all coming together at the same time, added to the fact that sometimes I just have bad days. It’s been a trial.

On Friday evening, I snapped and left a rant on my personal Facebook page that probably bugged a few people. It was longer than I typically post there, almost more appropriate for here, but I was angry, and I try to keep most of that away from here. I’ll tell you about being angry, but that’s not the same thing as being angry or doing angry. I was definitely doing angry.

The responses were mostly positive, and they did bring home the fact that I don’t generally talk about, or even really acknowledge my illness in public. I talk about it here, but this is a special place set aside for that purpose, so not really the same thing as “in public”. I’m not entirely certain what to make of that realization - I suppose we’ll find out along the road - but it also caused me to want to spend a little more time going into some detail here, where I do discuss such things but have been doing quite a bit of skirting around the issues lately.

I mentioned in my rant that if you don’t have Depression or suicidal ideations - or live in extreme closeness with someone who does - you can’t really understand the situation. I said this as an argument that we should not judge what we cannot understand, but it also highlights a gulf between those who struggle and those who don’t, and that gulf is part of the struggle. That gulf is part of what makes it so difficult for people with this illness to get appropriate help.

Too many people who don’t know make assumptions followed by judgments, and this leads to stigma. Stigma says you’re weak if you succumb to depression. Stigma says you’re a coward if you reach your breaking point. Stigma says you can just snap out of it if you try hard enough or want it badly enough or remember your responsibilities. Stigma lies, and stigma is the root cause of so much pain and death that it’s about time we start charging it as an accessory. It’s time for a paradigm shift; time for the people who don’t understand to stop thinking they should be the ones to set the rules. Their rules aren’t working, never have worked, and never can work. We need to look in new directions where we can possibly prevent more tragedies rather than adding guilt on top of tragedies that have already occurred.

If you don’t face the struggle you can’t understand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t empathize and demonstrate caring compassion. You don’t have to have cancer to be properly helpful toward one who does. It’s no different. Just because you can’t see the illness doesn’t mean that you can’t respond to it in the same manner that you would use for physical ailments. If you can’t personally treat the condition or the symptoms, you can still support the person who is struggling. You can build them up, help them stand, and help them keep their head up. Or you can tear them down, make them feel worse, and encourage further destruction. Which seems more likely to lead to positive results?

On Friday morning, I considered not going to work. That, in itself, is a pretty big statement on how I was doing. For those who don’t know me personally, I have reached a point in my own self care where I almost never have to take unscheduled time off to “get my head together”. That I would even consider doing so says the invisible demons were latched on tightly and doing their hobnailed dance at uncharacteristic levels. I considered taking the day off, but I didn’t. I possibly should have, but I’m still not certain that would have made anything better. I didn’t because of the workload I knew I had waiting for me, and it was there in spades. It would have still been there on Monday, had I taken the day off, and it would have been combined with Monday’s workload. Not really the best solution. Things are tight right now, and there just are not many alternatives. It’s a temporary situation, so we manage. I’ve always been pretty good at managing whatever I have to manage if I know it’s temporary, but it’s definitely tiring.

I went to work and did my best to hold things together while I felt like everything was trying to spin apart. Again, this is a trick I have … not perfected, but certainly developed to a high degree of efficiency over the years, and it is not a trick I necessarily expect or even encourage anyone else to have. It’s a bandage on a broken bone; not terribly helpful but it might get you through to a real solution. Heavy emphasis on “might”.

I got up and paced around often, because it’s difficult to sit still when I’m spinning that way. I sat down and put my head down on the desk, because it’s difficult to summon the motivation to actually do anything when the demons are dancing that way. The old self-destructive urges are calling, saying they can wake me up from the lethargy if I will just let them out. The lethargy promises to keep me safe from the urges if I’ll just sink deeper and let it all go. I spent the day walking the razor's edge between mania and depression, knowing that a victory for either would mean utter destruction, but also knowing that holding them both off for too long could result in just another form of destruction. I was holding on so tightly to prevent falling in either direction that I was stretched taught, everything that was me pushed to the limit and brittle as fresh-blown glass. A misstep from that edge could mean falling off into the abyss on either side, but even a wrong step that doesn’t fall could still result in shattering into a billion starlight pieces, and that is a jigsaw puzzle that’s going to take more than a rainy afternoon to put back together.

I came home and I jittered, feeling like bacon grease skittering across a hot pan surface. I put on music and I cried. I put on music and I raged. I turned off music and I cried while raging. I didn’t talk much because words were hiding or twisting, or just doing their own thing. It was probably one of the worst days I have gone through in recent memory. Thankfully Heather saw what was happening and was there as I needed, a light touch at the right moment, a small word, a smile. Nothing big, nothing revolutionary. Sometimes the worst moments can be helped by the smallest things.

I made a few Facebook posts, I got angrier, I typed my rant. It got some responses, mostly positive. That was somewhat reassuring. The invisible demons insist that you can’t do anything positive, but they’re wrong. One of the comments mentioned that, “sometimes it's damn near impossible to spot who is being shadowed by the Black Dog.” More than a few people were surprised by my admission. Another valuable lesson. They are invisible demons. You don’t know just by looking who is being hounded. That’s something to keep in mind before passing judgment. We don’t know how much someone can carry, and we don’t know how much they are already carrying. We all have different breaking points, and we would all do better if more people were helping to spread the load rather than insisting you should be able to carry whatever someone else has decreed. Help each other out; don’t tear each other down.

I have Depression. I have fought this war for as long as I can remember. Most days, these days, I do pretty well, but I have bad days. Still, to this day, I hit the wall far more often than I care to admit. I still have days when I wake up believing that, not only would the world be better off without me, but the world wouldn’t even notice I was gone. It’s a contradiction lived daily by some people with mental illness, and it cannot be explained. Don’t make things worse for people you do not, cannot understand. Give a hand, not a boot. Help people up, don’t push them down.

On the other side of the message, I had one of my worst days in recent memory on Friday, and here I am, still pushing, still typing, still being a voice. I don’t expect you to live my life, I don’t know your limits, but I would like to offer you hope. The clouds break, the sun rises, and new days come. You are not alone, and sometimes we each know tricks that can help each other. I’m still here, and I’m still offering you a hand. I can do it, you can do it, we can do it. We can make the world a little more peaceful for those fighting this ongoing war, and we can make the world a little more peaceful for those living with the ramifications of this ongoing war. There are casualties and collateral damage. Let’s do what we can to make things better.

I’ve had a rough few days, but I’m still having days. I call that a win. Now we just keep moving forward.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

What Works For You

It is not necessary that other people understand your life. It is your life. It is for you to understand, and it is for you to live. There is an oft-forgotten corollary to this, though: the same is true for everyone else. Do unto others, but also don't do unto others. The Golden Rule is the same, whether spelled forward or backward. We share the road and we can share companionship, but we must each take our own steps.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Minutes To Midnight

I don’t even know where to begin, though I feel like I should. Those who have followed Frequently Interrupted with any regularity are well aware of my passion for music. Those who know me outside of these pages know that this passion borders on obsession, and those who know me well know that singers are the pinnacle of that obsession. I love music, but I get lost in the right voices. If you asked me at any point over the past fifteen years or so, Chester Bennington would have been the owner of one of the voices on the “right voices” list every time, without question. Chester’s voice helped me over some bad times, and I know I am not alone in that. The music of Linkin Park speaks to the lost, the lonely, and the damaged, and Chester’s voice - from soaring melody to devastating scream - was the heart of that music. That heart has stopped, and many more have broken as a result.

It is easy to forget that the most brilliant art often comes from places of pain. We see celebrities, we see glamour, we see thronging crowds of screaming fans, and we forget the months away from home, we forget the distance from love and support, we forget that the people who get into this life don’t usually come from the most secure starting points in the first place. Rock and Roll - especially the loud and passionate variety - calls to the broken, and those who excel in this industry tend to have some of the largest cracks. They are beautifully broken, they show us things that couldn’t be seen without those cracks, but there is so much risk and so little support. We turn to them when we don’t know how to say what we feel, but who helps them? Far too often, the answer is no one. No one helps them, and then we cry because it’s too late.

There is so much stigma attached to mental health, and that does not get better in the metal music scene. You’re supposed to be tough. It’s all growls and screams and anger, but anger comes from somewhere. Anger is almost always pain trying to find an outlet. If we, as a society, could learn to let those outlets happen in productive and healthy manners, maybe we wouldn’t have to keep having this conversation. It’s worth a thought, right? Can we try it?

I am trying to string together some good and helpful words, but I am also trying not to scream, myself. If I’m being perfectly honest, I am typing through blurry vision. That might be hard to understand for some people, but some will get it. I wish someone had known more, sooner. I wish Chester had asked for help, or maybe asked more if he did. I wish we allowed people to feel comfortable asking for help. I don’t know what was involved, what was done, and what was needed - we can’t know, not entirely - but here’s what I do know. I know that Chester Bennington was only 41 years old. I know that he was a husband and a father, he was a friend to many and an inspiration to so many more. I know that he had one of the greatest, most moving voices in the modern rock industry, and I know that voice has been silenced. This matters. It matters in so many ways, big and small, personal and social, but it also matters to me, and I’m not sure I know how to say that correctly.

Chester Bennington, you would never know it, would have no way or reason to know it, but you brought me back from the edge once. You saved my life, and I wish so much that someone could have done that for you. I hate these words. I hate typing them, and I hate feeling them, and still I know that what I’m feeling isn’t a candle to your wife and children, to your loved ones, to your bandmates. I’m so sorry for their loss, and I’m so sorry for your pain that led to that loss.

The minutes tick ever closer to midnight for us all, but sometimes we don’t know just how close. The clock will stop. That is an eventuality we must all face. Make sure you have lived before then. Make sure you have loved before then.

Rest in peace, Chester Bennington. You will be missed.

March 20, 1976 – July 20, 2017

If you need help, if you love someone who needs help, please remember, you can reach out to the Crisis Text Line 741741 and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline '1-800-273-TALK (8255)' 24/7.

(All music and videos copyright Linkin Park.)

“If they say
Who cares if one more light goes out?
In the sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone's time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
Or quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do”
One More Light
Somewhere I Belong


In The End

Bleed It Out

What I’ve Done

Castle Of Glass

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The Bravest Thing

Sometimes we need the reminder, and some people need it even more. I have been there, and I have come out the other side. If you are standing there, the other side is real, and it is here for you. It isn't easy, but you can be brave. You've done it so far. Let's take one more step. Only one, and then we can talk about what comes after. Live in this moment until this moment becomes the next. Be brave. You are stronger than you know, and you are not alone.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Humanity And Love

The details may differ, but the underlying truth remains. We are one people with one need. The more we remember that, the more everything else falls into place. Things get complicated because we make them so, but we can be so much better, so much more. We are one people with one need and, if we could only learn to live that, there would be no limits.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mindfulness Is ...

Be where you are. See what you see. Touch what you touch. Are you here? Are you present? Are you truly involved with your life? This moment is all of life. Don't waste it.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Success Is ...

Maya Angelou was one of the wisest women who ever lived, and one of the greatest poets. Those two, combined, let her sum things up in such perfect beauty. There are many details in life, many things that make one path different from another, but there is a truth beneath all of that, and sometimes it is the simplest idea of all.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Listening To The Universe

What might you hear, if you take the time to listen? Will it be educational? Motivational? Inspirational? Let's find out.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Understanding Ourselves

This is one of those hardest lessons to learn, but it is at the heart of all human understanding. What moves us comes from within. That outside source we often mistake for the cause is really just the light, illuminating what we already hold.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Your Own Truth

Make no mistake. There are things which are true, and there are things which are you. This is no binary universe. If I touch the flame of a lit match, I will burn my finger, but if I am walking through the woods, should I turn left or should I turn right? Learn to tell the difference, learn when the difference matters, and your path will open up to whole new worlds. It is your path. Walk it.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

You Are The Sky

I think this is a great way to keep things in perspective. Emotions, feelings, events, these all come and go, like the weather. I am what they pass through. I am what remains. I am what is true. I am the sky.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Add What Is Your Own

Pick and choose, but do so wisely. Do not be weighed down by what does not work, and do not ignore what does work because it has less useful neighbors. Above all, make your own mix. Everyone is unique, so be unique.

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Mind Is Like Water

Be calm and see clearly. Do not stir up the mud and then wonder why you don't understand. Take a moment, take a breath, and let things settle.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Answer Is Not Separate

When you truly understand the problem, you inevitably understand the solution. They are two sides of the same coin. Our difficulty often comes from believing that we understand the problem when we are only picking away at the edges.

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July. Happy Birthday to the United States of America. Have fun and enjoy your day, but spare a thought for those less fortunate as well. Please be respectful with fireworks, and check in on your vets and pets. Some noises are less fun for some. Happy Holiday!

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Be Yourself

Be careful where you interact. Sometimes it's just not worth the effort or the risk. Be your own positivity. Don't let other people bring you down, and don't bring yourself down because of other people.

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