Monday, April 27, 2020

Another Path

When I began working on Frequently Interrupted, I had no idea this would still be a thing five years later. That’s not typically how my projects of this nature work. I mean, it’s built right into the name, you know? I get interrupted. I move onto other things. I just stop. That’s always been this way. This time, though … Five years with no significant interruptions.

Things haven’t gone entirely to plan. After the beginning stages, I didn’t get nearly as much long form writing done here as I had intended, and we never did quite build the audience I was hoping for, but there have been plenty of words and the audience we have has been great. Considering that, ultimately, neither of those were the point, things have worked out fairly well.

I began this project as a way to work through grief. After my dad died and I wasn’t there … To say that I was having a hard time holding the pieces together would be a severe understatement. It would, in fact, be a disservice to what was really going on at the time. I was not doing well, and I needed to find a way to get back on track. I decided that the best way to do that was to go back to the beginning of the track, to work on the foundational principles of mental health and awareness that I had used many years back to “get on track” in the first place, and, furthermore, I decided that this time I would share. If these thoughts and ideas could help me, I reasoned, I could also hope that they might be able to help someone else.

My dad died on April 26, 2013. I am writing this on April 26, 2020. So much has changed, and yet, so much remains the same. There is a hole that will never be filled, but I have learned better how to walk around its edges. I trip and stumble sometimes - Don’t we all? - but I don’t struggle quite so much these days. It’s better, and I think that’s all we can hope for. I still have those times when I want to tell him about something but I can’t. I guess those times are never really going to go away. I’ve made peace with the conversations we didn’t have. I’ve spent years saying goodbye now, and I’m still working on that part, but it isn’t like chewing on broken glass anymore. Again, it’s better. I miss my dad every day, but I can do that now without that fear of falling in and drowning. I think we’ve gotten to a good place, and I think he would appreciate that. I love you, Dad.

I’ve been considering this for a while now, and today feels like the correct time to write it. It’s been five years and I think it has served its purpose. It’s time for me to move on, to see what’s next down the path. I began Frequently Interrupted as a way to get back on track, and I believe that I am now back on track. I don’t know where, exactly, this track leads, but that’s life, right? None of us knows what our path may bring. We have to walk the path to find out. We live and, hopefully, if we’re doing it right, we learn along the way.

Thank you to everyone who has been walking this path with me, whether it has been for a few minutes or for five years. I couldn’t have done this without you, and this has been more important to me than you might know. If it has helped you in any way then I am grateful for that as well. The lessons we learn while we are walking our path can help to make us a better person, but the lessons we share can help to make a better world. That is the entire idea in a nutshell. I told you five years ago that I believed in making a better world one person at a time, and I will continue to follow that belief in one form or another, wherever I may go.

I’ve spent much of the last five years sharing with you some of my favorite quotes, and my own thoughts on their meaning and significance. One that I have returned to over and over again is that, in the end, “We are all just walking each other home.” (Ram Dass) We are all walking a path, and it is our path to walk. Those paths twist and curve, and, if we’re very lucky, they spend time with good people walking side by side, sharing company and sharing burdens. You have helped me with a very large burden, and I thank you for your company. I don’t know where this path leads next, but we’ll find out. Perhaps we’ll even walk side-by-side again at some point. We’ll see.

From a practical standpoint, I’ll be keeping the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts open. I don’t promise to use them as often as I have in the past, but I will use them. I won’t be publishing to the website anymore, but I have some thoughts as to the material that is already there. No promises, but I’m going to look into capturing some of that in a more permanent form. We’ll see what happens next, and you can believe that I’ll let you know.

Remember, you have survived every bad encounter life has thrown at you so far, so your track record is pretty good. You’re stronger than you may realize, and you’re never alone. Someone is there, and someone can help. Keep moving forward, regardless of the interruptions. Stop and rest as often as you need but then keep going. The secret to making a better world is to make a better you. The more people who do that, the better the world gets. One light at a time.

Thank you, and we will see each other along the path. Namaste.

As always, if you or someone you know needs help with a difficult stage in life’s journey, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available at 1-800-273-8255, or at their website: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Text HOME to 741741 (in the US and Canada, 85258 in the UK and 086 1800 280 in Ireland) if you would be more comfortable going through text rather than voice.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Knowing Is Not Enough

If you know the importance of being kind but are not being kind, what is it you are hoping to accomplish? If you know the importance of love but are not demonstrating your love, what do you think will be the result? If you know that we are one family but do not treat the strangers you meet with familial bonds, what are you saying to the family you know? Knowing is not enough. We all know things that are beneficial and of value. We cheer the heroes in the movies and we mourn for those who have lost or are in pain, but then we step back into our lives and forget to act on what we know. We must act on what we know in order for that knowledge to have value. We must act in order to make the world a better place.

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Very Healing

When the world around you is troubled and troubling, it is important to do what you can do to make things better. Do the work you need to do, of course, but do it in a way that accomplishes more than just the work. Be uplifting and encouraging. Be the light that will help others find the way. If it is your goal to make the world a better place, make sure that what you are doing can help to make the world a better place. Be kind, be generous, and be uplifting. Be the reason people around you smile.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Happy With Me

Be careful what you wish for. Most of us have been told that in some form our entire lives. It's easy to lose yourself in the storm of everything around you. It's easy to forget that the soul of who you are is you, and not those things around you. No matter your circumstances or environment, it's a good idea to take some time, periodically, to sit down with yourself, alone and without distractions, to remember who and what it is that makes you you. Learn to be happy with you, and the rest is just flavor. A little variety is nice, but don't forget what's at the center.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Seed Is Already There

The potential for all you can be is within you from the moment of your first breath until the moment of your last. No one can make you be anything other than who and what you are. The people around you, the experiences you live, these are like soil and weather. They can bring out what is there, but they cannot make it something new. Who you are is influenced by everything around you, but it is ultimately up to you. Make your decisions, own your decisions, and be the best you that you can be.

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Monday, April 20, 2020

Our Favorite Quotes

Think about your favorite quote and what it says to you. Now turn that around and think about what it says about you. We are drawn to ideas not just because of what they show us externally, but also because of what they show us internally. Those thoughts and expressions that resonate with us do so for reasons hooked into our very souls and psyches. Think about your favorite quotes and then think about what that says. Do you like the answers? Are you living the answers? Something to consider.

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Friday, April 17, 2020

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Act The Way

Words alone can't tell
The way through life's many paths
Show the way through deeds

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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Friday, April 10, 2020

When The Music Dies 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Posted as When The Music Dies Part 1 2-23-16

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Thursday, April 9, 2020

I Am The Fire 2020

I have never been shy about my love of music. I freely admit that it is what some might consider obsessive. I live in a soundtrack and I think in lyrics. I have always had an easier time expressing myself through music than any other way, including this way (blogging is hard work - try it some time). Back in school, when we had book covers that were made from paper grocery bags (children, as your parents, or maybe your grandparents), I was the kid whose book cover was adorned with song lyrics and band logos. I even had clothes that were all marked up with song lyrics and band logos. Some songs get into my soul, make themselves comfortable, and take up permanent residence. When a song speaks to me, I tend to drive the people around me crazy with that song.

This has probably been the case recently with Halestorm’s “I am the fire”. It’s a great song from a great modern band, with a driving beat, lots of energy, and powerfully self-affirming lyrics. I already enjoyed the song just from the surface feel of it, but the first time I truly heard the line, “I am the one I’ve been waiting for,” I was hooked. Hearing that at around the same time that I was starting this blog was fortuitous, to say the least.

It’s not a new idea, but it is a new presentation, and it needs to be presented. It needs to be thought about and remembered. I am the one I’ve been waiting for. We spend so much time looking outside that we forget to look inside. We forget that what we need first is what is within ourselves.

It is easy to forget. There are so many distractions in the world, and we are so accustomed to looking outside. We look to others to make us happy, to lift us up, and to make us complete. We even let others make us unhappy, tear us down, and make us incomplete. We are social individuals, without a doubt, but we often get so caught up in the social part that we forget to take care of the individual. Human beings don’t exist without individuals, though. Being individuals is a huge part of what makes us human.

I am the architect of my own happiness. That has been a difficult lesson to learn, and one that I am still learning, to tell the truth, but it has probably made more of a difference in my life than any of the other lessons I have learned along the way. I spent so much of my young life basing my value - my happiness and self-worth - around other people, and that is a recipe for disaster. It’s not that other people won’t lift you up - many people will, and will do so often - but other people are outside, and you can’t control outside. You can’t define what other people will do, so defining yourself by what other people do is no definition at all. It will change faster than you can keep up with, and often without warning. Other people, especially specific other people, can’t always be with you. Even the ones who mean the best and do the best for you will come and go and, as a result, will often not be there at some critical moment. Without even considering any malignant causes, other people cannot be dependable foundations for your value.

Worse, though, is the reality that we cannot dismiss the possibility of malignant causes. There are some great people in this world, and you probably know some of them; people who will help others to rise at every opportunity. There are also people, though, who are not so great. There are people who will go out of their way to break people down and generally make the world around them a worse place to be. Some of those people don’t do it on purpose, but they do it just the same. Some of them are sneaky too. Some of them act like they have your best interest at heart, and may even believe that they do, but end up with results that are anything but the best.

Whether for good or ill, other people cannot be the cause of your happiness without also being the cause of your unhappiness. What you receive from others can be taken away by others, and the power to bring happiness must also include the power to bring unhappiness. There is no other way it can work. Don’t wait for someone else to do what is within your own power to do. If you’re waiting for happiness, you’re waiting for you.

That’s the secret. We spend so much time waiting - for someone to make us happy, for someone to make us better, for someone to lift us up, for someone to complete us - when the one person best equipped to do all of this is the one person who is there every moment of every day. You never leave yourself, and you are never without yourself. You never really have to wait for yourself, but we wait anyway because we don’t understand. We think we are waiting for someone else. I thought I was waiting for someone else, but the one person I needed was the one in the mirror. I spent all that time waiting because I didn’t understand that I already had what I needed. I was waiting for me.

Being in control of my own happiness has a cumulative effect. If I am unhappy with myself, I am more likely to notice and focus on the unhappiness around me, and am more likely to spread unhappiness. If I am happy with myself, I am more likely to notice and focus on the happiness around me, and am more likely to spread happiness. I can become more happy or unhappy as a result of external sources, but it has to start with me. External sources can add to my happiness, but cannot create it from scratch. By the same token, my happiness can add to the happiness around me. I can spread what I have. I am the fire, and so are you. We each carry the flame within ourselves. It is up to each of us to decide what we will do with it.

They say that no man is an island, and that is true. We spend our lives immersed in social interactions, and everything we do impacts and is impacted by the actions of other people. What we do, each and every one of us, however, begins with each and every one of us, individually. The starting point of every action is the individual. I must act to change my life for better or worse and, ultimately, my actions are the only ones I can control. What I do will impact others, but it will impact me first, so it behooves me to take control of my actions and make them the best that I can.

There comes a time when you have to look in the mirror, face yourself eye to eye, and admit that everything holding you back is you, and everything pushing you forward is you. It all begins with what you do and what you allow. You have to be the change you want to be in your own life before you can work on changing anything else. Don’t wait, because the person you’re waiting for is you. The person you’re waiting for is always you. Everything else is incidental. Once you get started, the rest will follow. It won’t be easy, it’s never easy, but it will go where you go. If we each are all always and honestly our best, a better world would be no work at all. You are the one you’ve been waiting for. You just have to believe.

“I promise to myself, me and no one else
I am more than this
I am the fire …”

Music and video copyright belong to Halestorm, of course. Check it out below.

First posted 11-19-15

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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

It's Only Forever 2020

(Today's regularly scheduled article has been postponed in favor of this small tribute I wrote Monday, after learning of David Bowie's passing. It's not exactly what we do here, it has nothing to do with Zen mental health or any of the topics we usually discuss, but I hope that you will appreciate and agree that it still belongs. David Bowie made it okay to be weird, and man, I can't tell you how important that was sometimes. Maybe I don't have to. Maybe you understand. I hope you'll enjoy my small tribute, and we'll be back to business as normal tomorrow. Thanks for coming along. Rest in peace, David Bowie.)

The first thing I saw when I went online this morning was a headline about the passing of David Bowie. I then spent the next several minutes clicking through links, hoping to find one that said it was a hoax. It wasn’t. David Bowie passed away Sunday, January 10, 2016, after an 18-month battle with liver cancer. He was one of the most influential artists of the past forty-odd years, with some more odd than others, and he will definitely be missed.

At my age, I have seen more celebrity deaths than I can count, we all have, but there have been a few in my life that hit home, that struck a special chord for me, as an individual. When John Lennon died, I knew there was something seriously wrong in the world. When Steve Clark died, I knew that sometimes the demons win. When Freddie Mercury died, I knew that sometimes the show doesn't go on. When Criss Oliva died, I knew that it's not always in your own hands. When Robin Williams died, I knew that sometimes the brightest souls conceal the saddest hearts. When David Bowie died, I knew that even beauty wasn’t immortal. We all must go, but what a difference we can make before we do.

While I was certainly aware of Bowie earlier, my first engaged experience was with the music video for Blue Jean. I was twelve years old, and Bowie’s grandiose performance was like nothing I had seen before. Then I saw Ziggy Stardust, and learned what grandiose really meant. I don’t remember for certain now, but the movie must have been playing on late night TV somewhere. That is usually where I saw obscure, music-related movies. All I do know for sure is that I was fascinated. I wanted to be Ziggy for Halloween, but could never quite make it work. By the time I saw Bowie’s spectacular turn as Jareth the Goblin King in the 1986 cult classic Labyrinth (which would quickly become one of my favorite movies), I’m afraid that was how I believed Bowie to be. I had, by that time, completely lost track of the difference between Bowie and his various and wonderful characters. The Thin White Duke had fallen to Earth and, in the process, become something so much larger than life.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was an impressionable child, and the over-the-top fantasy elements of Bowie’s performances during that period were a definite attention-getter for me, but that was only the beginning. Thankfully, I had friends who had a much deeper knowledge of music than I had at the time, and I was quickly introduced to such classics as Space Oddity, Young Americans, and The Man Who Sold the World. The music was amazing, and I was fortunate that my discovery of Bowie just happened to be timed with a resurgence in his popularity. It was a great time to be a David Bowie fan. with hits like China Girl, Let’s Dance, and the wonderfully fun Magic Dance (from Labyrinth). To make things even more fun, it sometimes seemed that Bowie was doing duets with everyone during this time, so we got Under Pressure (with Queen), Tonight (with Tina Turner), Dancing in the Street (with Mick Jagger), and the one my Christmas is never complete without, The Little Drummer Boy (with Bing Crosby).

He was an icon in music, but Bowie became a cult favorite on the screen as well. Having begun his musical career with characters like Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke, it was no surprise that Bowie would also branch out into acting. He started early with the documentary/concert movie for Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1973), and then followed with the similarly-themed The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). A series of small parts followed, including the Jazzin’ for Blue Jean (1984) that so caught my attention, and then Labyrinth (1986) happened. From that point on, Jareth the Goblin King would be forever remembered as one of Bowie’s beloved characters. Today when people think of Bowie and movies, Labyrinth tends to be one of the first things people mention, but he didn’t slow down there. My personal favorite was his portrayal of Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006) but, if I remember correctly, that was also my favorite movie of that year. It’s definitely one to go back and watch again, whether for Bowie or otherwise.

David Bowie didn’t just redefine a genre. He was a genre unto himself. From psychedelic space odyssey to plastic soul, from electronic to new wave, from classic to contemporary, David Bowie reinvented himself over and over again, and reinvented the music every time he did it. He did it all, and he did it all well. With his passing, the music world has lost a legend. This is my small tribute to that loss, just reminiscing on some of what meant the most to me. To be honest, I can see David and Freddie Mercury getting together right now to plan out some new jam sessions. Can you imagine how that would sound?

David Bowie has been lost to the world, but his music and his legacy will live on. The Man Who Fell to Earth has moved on again, and we are the poorer for it, but the treasures he left us with are a wealth that cannot be defined. "It's only forever. Not long at all." You will be missed, Mr. Bowie.

---

David Bowie left us with a last gift, his final video for the new song Lazarus. As always, all copyright belongs to Bowie. Wherever he is now, you can bet it isn't boring.

First posted 1-12-16

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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A Light In The Darkness 2020

One of my favorite bands, Disturbed, has released their first new studio album in five years, and the new single, “The Light,” turns out to be one of my favorite songs from the album. It also has people talking. The common sentiment seems to be, “A positive song from Disturbed?” While I can understand the hesitation, I can’t really see how anyone who has paid attention to Disturbed’s music over the years can be surprised. Yes, the band has tended to focus on darker themes, but that’s the whole point: “Sometimes darkness can show you the light.”

That theme has underscored much of the music from Disturbed over the years but, for those who don’t do subtle, it has been spelled out quite clearly with the new single. As singer David Draiman explained in an interview premiering the new video (seen below), “I think that people have utilized our music in particular to get them through the difficult periods in their lives, to triumph against adversity, to overcome obstacles. Sometimes you have to go through dark periods in your life in order to find the answer that you need,” and I think that anyone who has been following this blog knows that I believe that as well. You can’t have light without dark. You can’t have dark without light. They define each other.

There is nothing that we go through in life that can’t be used to teach us to be better at life. I am not going to tell you that we go through hardships in order to learn, because I don’t believe that to be true. We go through hardships for many reasons, but mostly just because hardships happen, and we can’t get past them without going through them. The University of Hard Knocks is just a metaphor, and tough times probably aren’t celestial lesson plans laid out with the careful intention of making us better people. Sometimes life just happens. That doesn’t mean that we can’t make use of what just happens though. If we are going to go through hard times anyway, we may as well get something out of them. By learning something from hard times, it may even be possible to transform them into something else, maybe even something better. You’re not going to make life an easy ride, but you can make it easier by learning every lesson available along the way.

It also helps to be more appreciative of the good things, and it is unfortunately true that human beings tend to need some bad things in order to remember the good things. If all we see is good, we tend to take the good for granted. We forget that it is special, and even fragile. We are rather fickle that way. While there can be exceptions, it is generally understood that the person who has to work for everything will appreciate it more than the person who was given everything. There is an entire story archetype centered around this piece of human psychology. One of the lessons we can learn from the darkness is to appreciate the light.

It is not our lot in life to suffer, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Pain is going to happen. Life has thorns and rocks and all sorts of sharp edges and steep cliffs. If you are living life, you are going to come up against these and you are going to get hurt. That’s inevitable. That is not suffering, though. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. These are not the Middle Ages and we no longer excuse suffering with an “Oh that’s just the price of being human” fatalism. We fight the darkness, and work to make things better. We don’t give up and we don’t give in. The darkness can serve a purpose, but that purpose is usually subordinate and transient. It can be a stepping stone to greater purpose, but we have to take that step, and move on with purpose.

In the bright light of day, a candle can be invisible. In a darkened room, a candle can be beautiful. Sometimes it is just a matter of perspective. On your darkest days, look for the candles. Those spots of light that can lead you out are the people who have been there and overcome. They are the people who are reaching out with a helping hand. Sometimes they are the people who are right there in the darkness with you, but shining a light through sheer determination and a refusal to give up. A candle’s flame may be small against a spotlight, but that flickering flame has lit our way through most of human advancement. The smallest flame can push back the darkness, and we each have it within ourselves to be that flame.

Sometimes that flame will reveal what you didn’t know know you were missing. We can get so used to seeing things a certain way that it becomes the only way we see things. The way it’s always been done is not necessarily the only or even best way for something to be done. It can be. Don’t throw out the past just because it’s the past, but do be prepared to let go and change if a better way presents itself. If we spend all of our time with the lights on, though, we can only see things from that one perspective and may never learn what other possibilities exist. Try this experiment sometime. Sit in a room with which you are intimately familiar; your office or study, your kitchen, your bedroom, or whatever that might be. You know every inch of that room because you have seen it every day for however long you have been there. Sit in that room and close your eyes. Stay like that for a while and see what changes. Notice the smells and sounds. Walk around and notice the touch. It’s a different perspective, and we need to change our perspective sometimes if for no other reason than to make sure we haven’t overlooked something important.

The simple truth about the darkness is, you have to go through it to get through it. The darkness tends to be stationary, so we have to be mobile. You have to keep moving to get out the other side. You can’t go backward. Life doesn’t work that way. You can sit still or you can move forward. Those are the only options. If you sit still, you will stay in the darkness. If you move forward, you may find the light. It might be just around the next corner, or you may have to feel your way around the blind tunnels for a time. There is absolutely no promise that it will be easy, but you already knew that. If you are reading this, you have almost certainly walked through that darkness before. You may have forgotten, but you already know that you can do it. As the song says, “Don’t let hope become a memory.” Hope can be your candle, and the funny thing about candles is, you can use one to light another and you have lost nothing. One candle can light a million without losing a bit of its light. One candle can ignite an inferno.

I am definitely one of those people that Draiman was talking about. I have turned to the music of Disturbed many times over the years to get through hard times. Sometimes spelling out the darkness is your reminder to fight, and sometimes you have to fight. See it for what it is and let the darkness ignite the fire in you. You’ll be stronger on the other side because of what you have learned and what you have overcome. I know it can be difficult - I’ve been there so many times, myself - but never forget, “sometimes darkness can show you the light.”

Music and Video Copyright 2015 Disturbed.

First posted 12-3-15

We're revisiting some of our most popular musical posts this week, so make sure your sound is on and enjoy.

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Monday, April 6, 2020

Musical Therapy 2020

Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. You spill the coffee, burn the toast, and drop the eggs all over the floor, and that’s just for starters. Then you make the mistake of turning on the news,where someone with an impossible haircut and 100-watt smile spends thirty minutes trying to convince you that the world is a cesspit sitting on top of a bomb, and the timer is about to kick into overdrive. Nope. On days like that, all you want to do is crawl back into bed, hide your head under the pillow, and then staple the edges of the pillow to the mattress, just to be sure.

Worse still are those times when you are already well into your day when it all goes wrong. Someone backs into your car in the parking lot, that special project you’ve been working on for two weeks goes to digital heaven and takes all backup copies along for the ride, or someone swipes your lunch from the office fridge and you didn’t bring any lunch money to work today. (Don’t think that last one is as big a deal? Try being a diabetic on a carefully restricted and scheduled diet.) You just want to scream, but the boss is already giving you funny looks, and that conference call is not going to dial itself.

There is no denying that sometimes life is so great that you just might explode if it gets any better.

That was sarcasm, by the way, just in case you weren’t sure.

Unless you live in a secluded hermitage or have achieved permanent balance through applied chemistry, you are probably going to have bad days from time to time. If anyone has discovered a solution to this, they do not appear to be sharing. They are probably chemically confined to a hermitage. Or something like that.

You are going to have bad days. Accepting that fact is the first step toward preventing it from being a major challenge. Step two is remembering that it’s a bad day, not a bad life. Nothing lasts forever and, easy as it is to forget, this includes most problems. “This too shall pass” can be a very handy mantra when having a bad day. The trick then is to prevent explosions until it passes.

One of my favorite tricks for getting through this period is what I like to call Musical Therapy. In short, get a collection of the right songs (“right,” in this case being defined as “right for you,” and no one can make that call but you), play them as loudly as you need for as long as you need, and let the music carry you away. Depending on your current location, headphones might be a required element of this therapy. For most situations, I would recommend using upbeat, high energy songs, but even that cannot really be narrowly defined because what works is largely defined by circumstances and personal taste.

It is worth noting that this recommendation does not mean that the music needs to be happy or uplifting. Sometimes that would be great - there is certainly nothing wrong with converting anger or frustration into dancing or laughter, if you can manage an honest transition - but sometimes it’s just not what you need. Sometimes what you need is a way to give voice to rage in a way that won’t come back and kick you (or anyone else) in the teeth. Sometimes sound and fury is exactly what the doctor ordered. Those are times when you want to crank it up to eleven and throw away the knob.

Just me? Anyone?

Okay, it’s not just me, but it’s not going to be for everyone either. Music can be helpful for most people, but not always the same music and not always in the same way, As with most things, I can give you some general pointers but, when it comes to specifics, all I can do is tell you my story and let you decide how it fits in with your life.

In my early twenties, when I was having more bad days than good, my neighbors probably knew far more of the lyrics to Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime” than they ever intended, because that was my go to mood killer at the time. People who know me today probably notice when my Facebook feed starts to fill up with the likes of Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch, and Avenged Sevenfold. I’ve mentioned in the past that my musical tastes are extremely eclectic, but there are times when only a screaming guitar will get the job done. A wall of screaming guitars might earn overtime.

There are other times, though, when what I want is to soar, to fly through a landscape that only music can reach. Yesterday, for example, I spent a few hours listening to Lindsey Stirling make magic on the violin. This inevitably led to a round of Halestorm, because I can’t listen to Lindsey without listening to “Shatter Me,” an incredibly powerful duet she has with Lzzy Hale, and then I need to hear more of Lzzy. So it goes. Some days I might disappear into the folk worlds of The Chieftains or Blackmore’s Night, and still other days, especially if I’m feeling homesick for Texas, only the rodeo stylings of someone like Chris LeDoux will do.

The point is, the exact nature of the music isn’t what’s important. What matters is that music can carry you away and left you over whatever is troubling you, at least for a little while. It can help you to find perspective, and it can help you to find peace. Sometimes it can help you to find that critical few minutes of just not obsessing over your troubles. When you can’t let go on your own, sometimes music can help you let go. Depending on your troubles, they may still be there when you get back from your musical odyssey, but you will hopefully be refreshed and in a better place to address them.

Music will not have the same impact for all people but, in my experience, it will have an impact for most people. Music is a major factor in my life, so it is a huge influence on my moods and thinking. It may not have quite the same pull for you, but most of us do have that song that makes us smile, or brings back a certain memory. Tap into that, and let it help you through the bad times.

Keep in mind, though, that this association can work both ways. If a particular song or type of music tends to bring up sad or painful memories, that is probably not the song or music you want to use to try to break out of a funk. Looking at those memories can sometimes be useful or necessary, but try to keep it in context. If you’re trying to overcome a bad day, pick music that will actually help you to do that. Don’t wallow.

It has long been understood that music can tap into a fundamental, primal portion of the human psyche. Use this to your advantage and let it help you to go where you want to go. At this point in my life, I would suggest that you be more courteous than I was back when I was educating my neighbors on the joys of Queensryche, but there are so many options now that this shouldn’t even be a problem. Find the music you love and that works for you, and let it work for you. Your life can be epic. Give it an epic soundtrack to help it along the way.

By the way, I've tagged some good examples all through the musical section of this one, in case you're curious. Give them a listen, if you haven't already.

First posted 7-30-15

We're revisiting some of our most popular musical posts this week, so make sure your sound is turned on and enjoy.

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Friday, April 3, 2020

Already Home

Home is where you lay your heart, but you can lay your heart wherever you are. You can be at peace wherever you are, and that is the only real requirement for being at home. Make peace with yourself, make peace with your surroundings, and you can be at home wherever you may be. You can rest securely in the knowledge that you are at home and peace begets peace. Be at peace, and be at home.

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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Someone Like You

There is no one better positioned to make changes around you than you. There is something you can see that no one else can see, something you can do that no one else can do. You can add to the world in ways no one else can do, and we can all add something in a variety of ways. Each of us adds to the others, but each individual contribution makes the difference. Without you, that piece will not get done. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Someone like you can make all the difference. Will you?

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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A Wonderful Day

Every day is something new. That may not always be obvious, but it is still true. Every day is something new, with new chances, new opportunities, new struggles, and new experiences. Today is something you have never seen before, and tomorrow will be something altogether new again. Take the opportunity to experience these new days, to learn from them, and to live all you can in them. Each new days is a chance to be more of you, and to add more pieces to the puzzle of making the world a better place.

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