Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Compassion Is Radical

Everyone is trying to get ahead. Everyone is trying to put everyone else in their proper place. We are so busy trying to prove our position on right and wrong that we have lost sight of doing anything else. We want someone to blame, but we're all too blame. We're all flawed, and we're all doing our part to bring things down. Slow down, and remember, that other person is as lost as you are. A little compassion can go a long way. Wouldn't you rather someone offer you a hand up than a foot down? If we start with empathy, we can build a whole new world where there is no need for blame in the first place.

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Monday, July 22, 2019

No Act Of Kindness

The single greatest thing that can improve our world is kindness. The single most lacking thing from our current world is kindness. The math is pretty simple. Look around you and see where you can add kindness to the world today. If you make that choice more often than not, you are guaranteed to improve your own world. If you can inspire those around you to do the same, you'll change the world.

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Survival Guide

We learn the most from the times that are hardest. Unfortunately, we are frequently not at our best for learning while the times are hardest. The lessons are there but we don't see them because we are too busy just trying to survive. There will come a time, though, when you stand upon a plateau, when that struggle is behind you, and you can look back and appreciate what you accomplished and realize what you learned along the way. When you reach that point, see if you can learn to tell that story. Someone else is walking behind you, through the same harsh terrain, and your survival may be exactly the map they need. Together, we can keep moving forward, and together we can make a better world.

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Keep Moving Forward

Life is going to knock you down. An easy life, by itself, has never paved the way for great accomplishments. You may prepare to fight back, and sometimes that will be useful and necessary, but your fight won't determine how far you go. Ultimately what matters, when you struggle against the difficulties that life may present, is your ability to get back up and take that next step forward. Keep standing and keep moving. If you can do that, you can do all that you need to do. Keep moving forward.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Failed My Way

Never forget, when starting on a new path, that you are going to make mistakes. It will not be unusual if you make many mistakes. Mistakes are not inherently bad things. You can learn more from a mistake than from a success. The important thing is that you do learn. Listen to the lesson, bring it into yourself, and make a different mistake next time. Each mistake can bring you a new lesson, and each new lesson can bring you closer to what you are truly trying to be. Don't fear your mistakes. Learn from them and keep going.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Truth You Cling To

We often believe we know more than we do, and we hold onto that knowledge tightly because our ego becomes bound up with what we know. It can be good to stick to your guns, to not be swayed by every argument that comes along, but it can also prevent you from learning anything new if you aren't careful about how you do it. Your beliefs can be an anchor, but never forget that an anchor has an entirely different meaning to a swimmer lost at sea than to a boat properly used. Never cling so tightly to a belief that you cannot let go if it turns out to be detrimental. Even a boat's anchor has a release mechanism, just in case.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

We Are Free

It is an easy thing to hold on to grievances, to wear them as both badge and armor. We often think this will somehow protect us from future harm when what it really does is prevent us from having future experiences. That armor you think you're wearing is broken and shoddy. It's not protecting you. It's only weighing you down. Try to recognize when your harmful past is sticking around because you're holding onto it, and do what you can to let go. You will appreciate the newfound freedom if you can.

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Project Semicolon 2019

This week marks four years since we began this Frequently Interrupted journey. To celebrate, we're going back to the beginning and reminding everyone where it started. We're going to revisit the first week of posts that set the foundation for what this site set out to do. Let me know what you think, and remember, keep moving forward, one interruption at a time.


As a special note for this one, Amy Bleuel, the founder of Project Semicolon, lost her own battle with depression on March 23, 2017. Her loss made this all the more poignant, and drove home the reminder that no one is immune. Please when reporting on this story, refer to Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide. For whoever needs help right now, you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. (editor's note 2019)


Welcome to the first official Friday edition of Frequently Interrupted. I hope you’ve had a great week, and I hope you have a great weekend. I will be spending at least part of the weekend making plans to bring you another successful week (and yes, I am very happy with our first week together, thank you), but I certainly intend to just relax and enjoy life as well. That is what it’s all about.

Friday’s around here will be dedicated to small messages like this one, and to spotlighting something I have seen that I believe warrants the attention. It might be something inspiring, humorous, cool, or just some random item that caught my attention. No real rules there, so definitely stay tuned.

If you’ve been around and paying attention to the buildup over the last couple weeks, it will probably come as no surprise that the spotlight for our very first TGIF article is going to Project Semicolon. Project Semicolon was founded in 2013 by Amy Bleuel, after she lost her father to suicide, as a means to honor his memory and, hopefully, to inspire others to overcome issues that lead to suicide. The semicolon is a place in the sentence where the writer could have stopped but decided, instead, to pause and then continue. The idea behind Project Semicolon is that the hard times you might be facing don’t have to be the end. Pause, take a deep breath, and then keep going.

The idea has been gaining steam recently, including being featured in numerous news articles, social media posts, and all over Pinterest. I know that I have both shared it on Facebook and repinned it on Pinterest several times now. Many people are getting semicolon tattoos as reminders, often on the wrist, where they are both more visible and often side by side with other, more physical reminders. I have one planned, myself, though it is a bit more involved. I’ll share that with you in the future, when it is more ready to share.

Project Semicolon has grown over the years to include awareness for depression, anxiety, suicide, self harm, and drug addiction, as well as a more general awareness of mental health as a whole, and that makes it a perfect fit for our first spotlight. The overlap is obvious, and there can never be too many people raising awareness of these issues. We don’t come at it all from the same angles, and that is great. These issues need as many angles covered as possible. I don’t share the faith-based approach, but I applaud anyone who brings a good faith-based approach to the table. Many people need that, and we need programs that help many people. From the bottom of my heart, thank you Amy Bleuel for getting this ball rolling.

To all of you reading this, thank you for helping make this a great first week. Have a wonderful weekend, and we will see you Monday.

July 10, 2015

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Who Am I 2019

This week marks four years since we began this Frequently Interrupted journey. To celebrate, we're going back to the beginning and reminding everyone where it started. We're going to revisit the first week of posts that set the foundation for what this site set out to do. Let me know what you think, and remember, keep moving forward, one interruption at a time.


Who am I? Have you ever really tried to answer that question? “Hi. My name is Rhea Jones. I was born in Beeville, Texas in 1971. I’m married, with two teenaged sons, and currently live in Phoenix, Arizona.” That much is easy. It’s just a plain recitation of public record facts, and tells the audience almost exactly nothing. I could probably fill a few pages with that kind of information, and it wouldn’t add a measurable amount to your understanding of who I am.

If you and I were to meet for the first time, you would see a man in his 40’s, about 5’6” tall, and carrying a little more weight than he probably should, though less than he was a few years ago (I have put some serious effort into that, so thank you for noticing). You would notice the full beard, considerably more grey than I would prefer, but most likely neatly trimmed and brushed. It usually is. If we were outdoors, or if we met as I was coming inside from outdoors, I would be wearing a hat, probably a cowboy hat, but sometimes a baseball cap. Occasionally it might be some other type of hat, depending on my mood and what I am doing, but those two are the most likely. If I have just come from the office I will be wearing slacks and a long-sleeved, button down shirt. Otherwise it will almost certainly be jeans and a t-shirt. Either way, boots will be involved. These days I usually keep my hair (still mostly dark brown) buzzed but not shaved, and I’m told that my eyes tend to be a standout feature. They are very dark brown, and just slightly slanted. I usually think they just look tired, but I might be biased. I usually feel tired.

Still don’t really know anything about me, do you?

I like to write. Too obvious? My musical tastes are all over the place, but usually lean on various forms of rock, country, and classical. If I’m not reading at least two books at a time, I might actually suffer withdrawal symptoms. My favorite genres are science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but I’ll read a cookbook if it’s well-written.. I am a comic book fan, mostly super heroes, but my list of all-time favorites includes such titles as Sandman (Neil Gaiman), Hellboy (Mike Mignola), and Poison Elves (Drew Hayes, R.I.P.), so I am certainly not limited to super heroes. I watch very little TV, but I love movies, especially the big, fun, special effects-heavy movies that fall under the heading of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. I won’t even complain if you change it from the book, as long as I still had a good time.

I have a very slight stutter that you’ll probably never notice, unless you happen to spend many hours in conversation with me. I have some very strong beliefs on things like politics, spirituality, and philosophy (that you will almost certainly notice if you ever spend hours in conversation with me), but none of them fall neatly under any organized system of parties or religions. People make me uncomfortable, unless I know them very well, and I find it difficult to function in large groups. I’m not afraid of heights, but I am terrified of falling. My favorite super power is flying, mostly because then I wouldn’t be afraid of falling anymore. We might be getting somewhere now, but we are still very much in Casual Acquaintance territory. If you and I work in the same building then you already know that I am a nerd who looks like a cowboy, with questionable tastes in music and a reading addiction. If we work in the same section, you probably know the rest. Not exactly groundbreaking.

I drink too much coffee, and almost enough water. I don’t often drink much of anything else. I like a cold beer or “adult beverage” now and then, but my alcohol intake doesn’t even register on most medical questionnaires. I quit smoking a few years ago, after smoking at least a pack a day for about thirty years. I did that one cold turkey, which I thought was fairly impressive. I avoid processed foods, and try to eat somewhat healthy, though I’m not, by any means, obsessive about it.

Are we getting into the details now?

I hate pills, and will actively avoid most medicines if there is not a serious need.

A couple years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes, and have to take pills for that every day. This required a rather obvious mental adjustment.

A couple decades ago I was diagnosed with depression, and had to take pills for that every day. This, too, led to a mental adjustment, though one of an entirely different nature.

That adjustment eventually led here.

Notice the descriptions getting shorter? I’ll have to watch that. When it starts to get more personal, I tend to start getting more clipped and more reserved. Despite the stated goal here, I don’t open up easily. Not for real, anyway.

I think that is true for most of us, but most of us don’t have have a real reason to find out. We tend to go through life without looking too closely at who we are, let alone telling anyone else about it, and that is really the whole point of this exercise. Think of it as cleaning out the attic.

It is usually pretty easy to tell people what they already know, or what is common knowledge. It gets more difficult as you start to dig a little deeper, and it can get almost impossible as you get closer to the personal core of who you are. For some people, there is no “almost” about it. For some people, the words just stop coming past a certain point.

Most of the time, and for most people, there is no need to ever go past that point. There is rarely any good reason to share more than you are comfortable with sharing. You should, however, be able to share with yourself. You absolutely need to be able to share with yourself if you have any intention of improving yourself. You can’t fix the dents if you don’t know where they are.

Get a pen and paper and start writing down descriptions about yourself. You’re not going to share this with anyone, so don’t worry about sentence structure or paragraphs or anything like that. Just be descriptive and, above all, be honest. If you can’t be honest with yourself then the rest of this becomes pointless. Believe it or not, you may have to start over a few times before you start being honest, even with yourself and in complete privacy. That’s normal.

Push yourself. Discover where your comfort zones are and see if you can find the rooms inside your head that haven’t been dusted in a while. We all have them. Throw back the curtains and let in a little sunlight. You might be amazed by what you find.

It has probably become obvious by now that we have changed directions a bit, but this is where we were going from the beginning. I had no intention of boring you with my deepest, darkest secrets. They’re not that dark and, to be honest, most of them aren’t all that deep either. They’re certainly not terribly exciting. When I air out the attic, which I do try to do periodically, I do so in private. I strongly recommend that you do the same. This kind of honesty is never easy, but it is easier if there is no fear of outside judgment.

Who are you? It’s a question that is more difficult to answer than you might think, but give it a try some time. If you ever find yourself at a point where you feel that something needs to change then this is a question you will need to answer. You may not like all of the answer, but that is how you determine what to change. It may also turn out that some of the things you thought were a problem really aren’t, or aren’t as big an issue as you had believed. That happens too. It’s all about perspective. If you start laying things out, side by side, you may find that you have tools you had forgotten about, or had not realized would work for a certain situation because you had not looked at them together.

It’s a scary process, but useful. Ultimately, it is almost always worth it in the end. Knowing who you are is the first step toward building a better you.

Do you know who you are? Is it time to find out?

July 9, 2015

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Happy Hump Day 2019

This week marks four years since we began this Frequently Interrupted journey. To celebrate, we're going back to the beginning and reminding everyone where it started. We're going to revisit the first week of posts that set the foundation for what this site set out to do. Let me know what you think, and remember, keep moving forward, one interruption at a time.


I hope you enjoy, and Happy Hump Day.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Finding My Zen 2019

This week marks four years since we began this Frequently Interrupted journey. To celebrate, we're going back to the beginning and reminding everyone where it started. We're going to revisit the first week of posts that set the foundation for what this site set out to do. Let me know what you think, and remember, keep moving forward, one interruption at a time.


One day, when I was about twenty, I found myself in a field with no memory of how I had come to be there. I was about thirty miles from town and thirty miles from the last place I remembered being. It was an unpleasant experience, filled with unpleasant realizations, to say the least.

For the record, there were no drugs or alcohol involved in this story. I had experienced what is sometimes called a fugue state, a temporary loss of identity and memory that usually involves going somewhere, or, more accurately, going away from something. (Disclaimer: aside from a medical diagnosis of depression – more on that to follow – I have had almost no interaction with medical professionals concerning any of this. As such, I will try to avoid using official medical terms, though that will not always be possible or practical.) In colloquial terms, I had experienced a nervous breakdown, and my life took a very distinct left turn.

I was found by friends, taken to a doctor, and diagnosed with depression. That last part was not a surprise to anyone, since I had struggled with issues of severe depression for as long as I could remember, but this was the first time that it was formally diagnosed, and it was the first time that medication was prescribed. I have never been a fan of medication, and this did not change that perspective. In fact, I am probably even more hesitant to use medications today as a direct result of my experience twenty-odd years ago.

If you are surprised by the late diagnosis, do please keep in mind that I grew up in a small town in rural south Texas, a child of the 70’s and 80’s. Things were different, and one of those differences was that most people never spoke about depression. It was not an issue or condition, it was a weakness, and you didn’t admit to weakness, especially if you were male. That was just The Rules, and you broke The Rules at great personal peril. Never mind the fact that you followed The Rules at great personal peril. It took us a while to figure that part out. We are getting there, and things are much better today (though there will probably always be room for improvement) but, at that time and in that place, if it were discovered that you were receiving treatment for depression … Well, you would probably end up with more reasons to be depressed.

So there I was, twenty years old, freshly diagnosed with depression and taking pills that had a terrifyingly long list of possible side effects and warnings. That list was so long that it seemed the only people who might be safe taking this pill were people who couldn’t possibly have any use for it. There was a potential reaction to almost every condition you cared to name, and some of them were so counterintuitive, it didn’t seem possible. This medicine could cause depressive episodes and could potentially trigger suicidal ideations in the suicidal, and this was an antidepressant, being prescribed for depression! I have since learned that this is the nature of mental/emotional conditions, due largely to the fact that we still understand so little of what causes these problems, and that most of these warnings were for potential reactions that were so rare as to be almost impossible, as long as things were taken appropriately and with proper care. At the time, though, it was terrifying.

No, that is not entirely correct. It seemed like it should be terrifying. On an intellectual level, that list of warnings did make me question whether or not it was worth the risk, and I knew – again, on an intellectual level – that this should frighten me. On an emotional level, however, I had nothing. No alarm, no fear, no real gut-level awareness of anything at all. I was living in a cocoon of thick spongey cotton that blocked direct contact with almost everything. None of the more alarming side effects seemed to present in my case, but there was one that was never explicitly spelled out in any of the documentation: This medication might transform you into a glassy-eyed zombie. That one I got, in abundance.

My life had changed and, while it was supposed to be a helpful change, it did not take long for me to begin to wonder whether or not it was worth the cost. I spent some time trying to adjust, but the question occurred to me, did I want to adjust? Did I want to learn to live my life through a filter?

It took me some time to reach an answer through the cocoon, but that answer was ultimately obvious. I am a very This Is Me kind of person, and changing that through artificial means will never be an idea that sits well with me. For good or ill, it is very important to me to face reality without a mediator. Living in a haze was not a long term solution. That bottle of pills went into the trash, and I began the search for what I would recognize as a better way.

I don’t necessarily recommend this course of action. I am not a doctor, and cannot give advice on quitting medication, but they tell me that going cold turkey is usually a bad idea. It worked for me, but a sample of one is almost worse than useless. Do your own research, consult with a trusted physician, and make your own decision.

My decision did work for me, though. That much I can say. Here I am, more than twenty years later, fairly well adjusted without medication, and living a life that I really wouldn’t trade. I would tweak it here and there, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure we could all find little improvements that we would like to make, but that is actually one of the tricks, and one of the ways I know that I am now better adjusted. I can look at something that bothers me, and see it as something to improve, rather than as something overwhelming.

You can’t cure depression. If you suffer from depressive episodes then you probably already know that. If you suffer and haven’t learned that yet, I’m sorry. There is no cure. Maybe there will be, some day, but that will involve medical science that is not even currently on the horizon. There is no cure for depression. Have I beat that horse enough yet? It’s pretty important to this entire project.

You can’t cure depression, but you can learn to live with it. Remembering to keep things in perspective – in fact, remembering to actively look for the perspective – is one of the techniques that I used to learn how to live with it. There were many more. It was a long process that I eventually came to think of as Finding My Zen. As anyone who knows anything about the subject will tell you, Zen is not a destination. It’s a journey, and that journey can sometimes be rocky. Learning to live with depression is a continual process, and a continual reaffirmation of the process. Sometimes, even after decades on the road, you may feel like you have to begin again. You can, though, because the steps will be familiar, even if the terrain has changed.

I’ve reached a point where I feel like a reaffirmation is necessary. I’m 43-years-old, and feeling my years. I’ve encountered a number of changes recently that have rocked my equilibrium, and regaining my balance is taking a bit longer with each upset these days. I do regain my balance - and my confidence in that fact is, itself, a testimony to how far I’ve come - but I’ve had more episodes in the past six months than I’ve had in the past six years. That is concerning, but not alarming. I know the cause, and that gives me a place to start.

This time I thought I would try something different. This time I thought I would invite you to come along with me. It is a somewhat scary thought, because it does involve opening up and sharing some things I’ve never shared with more than one or two people, face to face, but I also think it would be helpful. I am a writer by nature, but I have not, lately, been a writer by habit. I have not been writing. Part of that is the depression. It gets in the way and makes finding the words more difficult than it should be. I start a project, get frustrated because my brain won’t click correctly, and end up abandoning the project. This, of course, just leads to more frustration because a writer who doesn’t write isn’t really a writer, and we who see ourselves as writers tend to wrap a very large portion of our identity around that label. A writer who isn’t a writer quickly begins to question his value in other areas as well. We can’t have that, so we address that part of the problem at the source. We write.

In this series I will be writing about my own experiences with depression as well as my own experiences with overcoming depression. It will often be very personal, but I hope that it will also be in terms that can have a more broad application. Knowing what has worked for me may or may not help you, but it almost certainly will not hurt you, and it might at least give you some beneficial ideas. That is another one of the tricks, by the way. When you suffer from depression, helping others can sometimes be an amazing way to help yourself, as long as you also maintain perspective. That means that I will be helping myself in three ways: I will be writing, I will be reaffirming my processes for coping with depression, and I will – hopefully, at least – be helping someone else who may find themselves at a rough spot on the road.

Finding my Zen has been a long road that I don’t expect to end any time soon. I won’t lie. It does involve a great deal of work, but it’s been loads of fun as well. I’m nervous about it, but I look forward to sharing this experience. I hope we have fun together, and maybe we can lean on each other, from time to time, when that becomes useful as well. The first step is the hardest, and that one is now behind us. Let’s see where this road may lead.

July 7, 2015

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Monday, July 8, 2019

Frequently Interrupted 2019

This week marks four years since we began this Frequently Interrupted journey. To celebrate, we're going back to the beginning and reminding everyone where it started. We're going to revisit the first week of posts that set the foundation for what this site set out to do. Let me know what you think, and remember, keep moving forward, one interruption at a time.


There is an old joke that goes something like this:

Q – Does anyone in your family suffer from mental illness?

A – No, they all seem to enjoy it.

I do my very best to enjoy life. Some days that is more difficult to do, but I believe that those are the days when it is also more important. Life is meant to be lived. I don’t claim to have very many Answers, but I’m pretty sure about that one. I’m also fairly certain that the difference between surviving and living can be found in enjoyment. If you are enjoying life, you’re probably living it. If you are living life, you are probably enjoying it. If those sentences do not apply to you then you are probably just surviving.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, by the way. Sometimes “just surviving” is the best you can do at the moment, and doing your best always counts. The trick then is to survive until you can find a way past that moment. Keep moving forward and, eventually, you will find the sun again.

That part of your journey can often be made shorter if you have a good map.

It is my hope that this might become a good map. It will be a map-in-progress for a while, though. You and I will be cartographers, making notes and sketches as we explore this strange land. That’s right. I said “we,” because we will be exploring together. I’m not about to set off into this wilderness alone. We are going to use the buddy system and help each other out along the way.

A writer writes. Most of us are familiar with that one, but here is one that is just as true, though not as familiar: A writer is incomplete without a reader. While there are some people who write purely for their own edification, they are the exception, and they are very rare. We who write do so because we have a need to create and to express, but most of us also have a need to share. Sharing requires a “we”. Don’t worry, though. This is not the kind of sharing that requires two-way communication. I will be perfectly happy to “talk” while you “listen,” so to speak. If you want to talk, that’s fine too. We will certainly have outlets for that, it just won’t be required.

I write in a variety of formats, on a variety of subjects, both fiction and nonfiction. Sometimes there is so much of that variety that I get lost in my own head and nothing makes it to the page, but there is always a flow of words running around inside of my mind, searching for the exactly right other words with which to connect and create the exactly right sentence to form the exactly right paragraph … You get the idea.

I am fascinated by what makes things tick, and with how to improve on that ticking. I can spend hours thinking about how these pieces fit to those pieces, and what would happen if you replaced a section with that other section over there. I will spin it around in my head and examine it from every angle I can find, which will inevitably lead to more questions jumping off in more directions. If you plan it right (or wrong, depending on the day) this can go back and forth almost indefinitely.

I love to write, and I love to imagine how to make improvements, but I will be the first to admit that it is terribly easy for me to lose focus and “forget” that I am supposed to be working on something. Hence the title here, Frequently Interrupted. I’ve had so many false starts lately that I’ve stopped telling people about the starts because I fully expect them to become stops before they get anywhere meaningful. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I can’t remember the last thing I wrote from beginning to end. Life has a way of happening without your permission, and interruptions are par for the course. In fact, I sometimes think that interruptions are the course. As John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” We all have plans for what we expect out of life, but when was the last time you talked to someone who said that life was turning out as planned?

The universe has a sense of humor, but it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether it is laughing with you or at you. My answer to that is, better safe than sorry. Laugh right back. You may not be laughing at the same thing, but you’ll both be laughing. This is me laughing.

I write, so I live. I live, so I win. I think that’s worth a laugh or two.

I opened this piece with a joke about mental illness. While some might scold me because “mental illness is no joke,” I promise you that it is a subject near and dear to my heart. It is, in truth, a major motivation in writing this. I have my own issues (which we will be covering at some length on a later date), and writing projects of this sort are one of the methods I use to turn “surviving” into “living”. One of the reasons I haven’t been writing is because my issues have been jumping around inside my head wearing hobnailed boots. Makes it difficult to concentrate. Makes it difficult to do much more than go from day to day, truth be told. It occurs to me that if I write about this I can hit two stones with one bird (we have very talented birds around here). I’m writing, which is, all by itself, a victory, and I am reinforcing the tools that I use to get back to living. In the process, I might even help someone else. Bonus!

We will be covering a variety of subjects, but the frame of reference will generally be “This is what I think makes a better me,” and, by extension, “This is what I think might make a better world.” I like to believe that we all want a better world. We just don’t always agree on how to achieve that. We work for it, though, even if we do face frequent interruptions. These are my thoughts on the matter, crooked as those thought might sometimes be. I make the world better by making me better. I make me better by helping the world be better.

I hope you will come along for the ride. We have a great deal of exploring to do, and that map won’t fill in itself. There are many places marked with Here There Be Dragons, but I don’t know. That might not be such a bad thing.

Let’s find out.

July 6, 2015

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