What might have been, pt.1

I film newspapers for preservation on microfilm at my job. I’m currently working on a project from Missouri which includes various titles (newspapers) from pretty much every county in the state. Most of them small town or rural areas. The batch I’m working on is all recent dates. I have to move quickly, but one catches headlines and photos while filming.

There were a lot of high school sports, band events, concerts and such in many titles and issues, especially one I worked on yesterday. It made me start thinking about my own high school years and even earlier childhood.

I thought about how different my life could have been if I had been good at, or even interested in sports. I was popular for the first couple years in grade school, but when the other boys started joining Farm Team (baseball, if you don’t have that where you’re from) and playing kickball at recess, I stayed away. I think it was my anxiety that made me not want to give them a try. Or, maybe it was because my dad never played ball with my brother or me. I feel like I’m kind of whining now, but it’s true, I guess.

Also, no encouragement from either parent. to join in athletic endeavors or try different things. As mentioned in a previous post, I didn’t even learn to swim. That left me out of a lot of time that could have been spent with other kids in the summer. I remember feeling so lonely in the sunny days of August after a couple months of limited contact with others. I did see my best friend about every day, but somehow, it wasn’t enough.

I can remember my fifth grade teacher trying to get me to join wrestling. He must have seen that it would do me good, and as a short but scrappy kid, it probably would have been good. He pleaded with me over and over to join, but I didn’t even think about it. I just thought that was for other boys. I was no good at that sort of thing.  I can only imagine how different my life might have been if I had joined in all the “normal” activities.

So, that left me with academics and arts.

I was an excellent student and played clarinet in concert, jazz and marching band. I had perfect pitch, but lacked dexterity. I could never seem to get the fast parts down. In retrospect, I don’t know why I stayed in band the whole time, except that I made some really good friends and a lot of acquaintances that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. That was very important for a shy, anxious, depressed, fatigued misfit.

Still, I wish I had stayed in photography club my junior year instead of joining jazz band at the band director’s suggestion. I’m pretty good at photography and had gotten a nice 35mm camera over the summer with my McD’s money. Developing (pardon the pun) that skill would have been far more valuable.

I could’ve used some guidance, but I didn’t get that from home  or school. But then, I really didn’t share my thoughts or decision-making with anyone. Actually, I didn’t really think about things. I just stumbled along doing what I thought was expected of me and looking for acceptance.

 

I’m going to wrap this up tomorrow. Trust me, it’s going somewhere, somewhere good. I’m happy with how things are going now.

Til next time.

Where are we going in such a hurry?

I thought of this on my drive home Friday.  Those of you who ever tried to find a new place while driving, without the aid of GPS, or even in the BC years (before cellphones), can relate to this.  Actually, maybe it holds true even with GPS, or anytime you’re passing through an intersection with multiple turn lanes, or other tricky situations.

When you’re nearing a destination, you slow down, right? At least most of us do.

You may also turn the radio down. I remember a comedy routine about that, as though the sound affects your vision.  It may have been George Carlin. I’m not sure.

The point is, when we’re not sure where we are or where we’re going, we tend to slow down and try to focus more. It just makes sense.

Now, let’s look at humanity as a whole. Everyone says that it seems like time flies by faster and faster. The pace of everyday life has picked up considerably. Like Brooks in the movie Shawshank Redemption observed, “.. I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside….. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.” Having been in prison most of his life, he didn’t get acclimated gradually like everyone else.

Yet, no one is putting the world’s brake on, even though we have no idea where we’re going or what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone 50 or 500 years from now.

I know my Christian friends’ immediate thought: God is in control. Yes, he is. I firmly believe that.

The follow-up thought to that is that the second coming of Christ will bring a new beginning, a new Heaven and Earth.  One thing about that is that we don’t know when that will be. A day is but a thousand years to God.

I’m going to go way out on a limb here with my next thought. What if the second coming is an individual, spiritual event when we die?  “Every eye shall see…” Jesus’ return. Well, we all die. I’m no theologian or Biblical scholar. I have read the Bible in its entirety, but that was years ago, so maybe I’m forgetting something that would blow my theory. In any case, we don’t know how long we must maintain God’s creation to sustain us.

I guess as we collectively face long term challenges, we can only individually act to contribute what we have the ability to do. And we can pray, meditate, study, and reflect. We can invent, adapt and expand.

Finally, we need a safety line for this bumpy, chaotic, joyful ride through the torrent of time and space.  I hope you have found yours. Could be religion, a relationship, a strategy or belief system.

In the meantime, turn off the technology every so often and see where the spirit takes you. It’s okay. Take your time.

 

T(a)inted sands

When I was around 7 or 8 years old, I attended bible school at the church of some friends of the family.  One day, the craft activity was making those landscapes with colored sands in a jar.

Everyone said mine was the nicest one. As I was making my way out the stairwell of a side exit afterward, an older boy and his friend stopped me and commented on my sandscape.  One of them said he could show me something really cool. He said to shake the jar, which I did gently at first, instinctively cautious. Unfortunately, I was naive and gullible and shook harder at his urging.

The beautiful layers of colors were a uniform, ugly green. I remember being surprised at how thoroughly ruined it was. The other boys saw that on my face and laughed.

I’m sorry to tell such a sad story, but don’t feel bad. It was an important lesson that stuck with me. I was less naive after that. Maybe it kept me from something worse.

I used to feel like I was that jar of sand. Actually, anyone could be. We all start out pristine and beautiful. Then life shakes us up.

All the teasing and bullying and exclusion left psychological issues to work through, which I have. There were physical things as well that mixed up the colors.  I have less than half volume hearing in my right ear due to having a growth remove. It wasn’t a tumor. It had to do with chronic infections damaging the ear drum. I let the growth go for about two years after I knew about it, thinking my boss at the time was going to get health benefits for me, as he had talked about. I was also paralyzed into inaction and indecision by depression, so the time slipped by, though I did get it done with the help of medical assistance and private grant program.

Another thing was the surgery I had for a bowel obstruction and appendicitis.  My Crohn’s disease was never diagnosed before that. It should have been. Now I have to mix and drink a powder medication that keeps me from having severe diarrhea 24/7. I basically can’t live without it.

There’s also the loss of self image with the nasty scars from the incision and the colostomy.  Everyone said the incision scar would be a thin white line, but there’s an inch wide swath. I was only 28, then, and still in good shape.

All the undiagnosed, unrecognized problems and issues that I spoke of in yesterday’s post, took their toll as well. I remember feeling totally burned out after two years of community college and working maybe twenty hours a week, when I was in my early twenties. I didn’t know yet about the sleep apnea or Crohn’s disease, or even the bipolar depression. That’s a long story, but suffice it to say that I went through a period of personal growth and discovery after I graduated.

The important thing to take away here, is that, I’m still standing! With a God-given resilience and strength, I kept going and learning.

The colored grains of sand are still in there. And, unlike the literal ones, they can be made beautiful again. No one can take your inner beauty, your soul. So, I hope you can feel uplifted from all this. The last thing I want is to depress anyone.

Go live life to the fullest. Don’t worry about what was or what might have been. Discover what life has in store for you.

I’m ok, but falling apart, at 46

Unless I live to be 92 or more, I’m a little past mid-life. Let me take stock. Nest egg = pitiful. Career = meh (doing something tolerable while working on creative endeavors.) Social life = a little quiet, but improving. Love life = mind your own business. Well at least I have my health…. problems.

I’ve got Crohn’s disease, sleep apnea, bipolar depression, and high blood pressure. With the Crohn’s disease comes joint pain and stiffness. Fortunately, pain is infrequent for me. It’s more stiffness. I look like an old fart when I get up after sitting for a while. (No offense to the old farts. Actually, I am an old fart to people in their 20’s. It’s all relative.)

Tomorrow will have a dubious distinction: I’ll be starting on high blood pressure medication.  I declined going on it, as my doctor suggested, for the last several months, hoping to bring it down after quitting smoking and losing weight, and drinking less caffeine, and working out more…. Well, I did the first thing. I was only smoking little cigars mostly on weekends for the last year and a half. Quit cigarettes on 10/10/16.  Completely smoke free for almost two months.

Anyway, my doc was more insistent on this visit than in the past, so I figured I’d humor her and take the silly pill, until I lose some weight and see how it goes.  I call my cat Chub-chub. If he could talk, he’d probably be saying, right back at ya. Just kidding. I’m about 55 pounds overweight and it’s all on my belly.  So, I’m on a blood pressure medication, even though I’m far too young for such a thing. (Is that delusional? They say the mind is the first thing to go.)

I take a lot of pills already, so what’s one more? The pharmacy staff aren’t tired of seeing me yet. My insurance company hasn’t dropped me. I have more doctors than an aging millionaire. Life is good.

All kidding aside, I really do feel fortunate. My Crohn’s disease has been quiet for a number of years, my manic depression has never been severe, and I have a CPAP machine for my sleep apnea.

I can’t say I’ve always felt that way, but I’ve learned that self pity is poison to the soul. While it’s important to let yourself feel what you feel, it helps to keep a positive outlook and enjoy each moment as much as you can.

Signing off, so I can go get some beauty rest. Too late. Oh well, I need to sleep anyway.

 

 

Irritable days

For those who don’t know, I have bipolar disorder. Well, technically, it’s bipolar depression, which is basically the same thing but with tendencies more for the low side and not the extreme manic highs.

I’ve done well for many years, and thankfully, I still am doing well. I did, however, recently request a change from my doctor regarding one of my medications. I’ve been trying to get in shape and not getting anywhere. I’ve had increased appetite and sometimes pig out almost compulsively. I didn’t make the association with the med until recently.

My doc didn’t want to stop the med altogether right away, so he just reduced the dose. It’s been a couple weeks and I’m feeling very irritable. I also finished up my nicotine gum treatment last week.  It could be either one. I haven’t smoked cigarettes for a year and a half, but was smoking little cigars on weekends and occasionally in between, until the last 6 weeks.  I haven’t smoked at all in that time, but chewed a few pieces of the gum a day.

So, it’s hard to say what’s causing the irritability. I’m just sharing this as part of my experiences with bipolar. It’s something people probably aren’t real aware of, the irritability, that is.  Everyone knows about the mood swings, but there are a lot of secondary symptoms, too.

I also find myself losing interest in things over the years, like film making and origami. But I still like writing and photography, so it’s not all bad. Maybe that’s not a depression thing, but just a normal getting older thing.  I may be over-analyzing. I do that.

Then there’s the anxiety, but I’ll save that for another day, and make this post a short one for a change.

Those who serve(d)

I attended a play today that was immediately followed up by a talk back where audience members asked the actors questions, but they stayed in character, answering as the person portrayed, not the actor. They all did a great job and made it real.

Combat Conversations: Families Affected by War was the name of the production put on by One Fight Foundation and Impact Theatre NYC. It was powerful and eye opening. It was also based on true stories.

The play opened with a unit of soldiers, male and female, who were clearing a building when one of their unit was killed by an explosion, and carried out by two of the soldiers, one male and one female.

We then followed those two home to reunite with their families, the main gist of the play. It did not go as expected for the characters. Joy very quickly disintegrated and turned to disappointment and conflict through no fault of the servicemembers. I didn’t feel like it was about judging either side, though. It showed the difficulty of returning home to changed situations and being expected to instantly reintegrate to work and family, surrounded by those who have no way to know what they’ve been through.  All with little or no support from anywhere.

It also acknowledged that the family of those serving are also dealing with their loved one’s absence.

Not that it’s always so tumultuous with family dynamics, but it often is, and even when it goes better, it’s still not easy. The point is to get more support for our servicemembers returning from combat. It’s not a political issue. It’s a human issue. One that gets far too little attention from either major party, the media, and all of us.

Toward the end of the presentation, one of the members of the play’s presenters asked veterans/servicemembers to stand. I had 4 veterans within a couple seats on either side of me. The same man who asked them to stand made a really good point, that we don’t even know our neighbors names most of the time. There’s no sense of community. How do we offer help when we aren’t even aware who has served?

The media shields us from graphic photos/footage in America. In my work, I see a lot of foreign newspapers. They don’t hold back. I see photos of terror attack aftermaths with dead people lying all over, lynchings, and one very haunting image which appeared in several different papers. It showed a young boy face down in the wet sand, his image reflected in it, where he had washed ashore after he and his family drowned while fleeing for their lives from a war-torn country. I’m afraid I don’t remember which one. There’s so many parts of the world in turmoil.

Our troops are in many of them, out of sight and out of mind.

We’ve never seen war on our soil. Only veterans and those serving can truly understand. But programs like Combat Conversations are helping.  It reminds us that, while servicemembers are away facing a daily kill-or-be-killed environment and their lives back home are on hold, the rest of the world they are a part of keeps moving. Things change. When the service people return, worlds collide.

I could go on and on, but I’ll just wrap up with a heartfelt Thank You to our soldiers and veterans. I have a renewed appreciation for their experience, on the battlefield and off.

 

 

Father Time Fly-by

Did you ever get awakened by your bladder in the “wee” hours of the morning? Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun. It happened to me this morning at 4:30, about an hour before I get up for work.  My sleep apnea allows me to always get right back to sleep, so that wasn’t the problem. It was the fact that I merely blinked and the alarm was going off. Seems that way sometimes doesn’t it? So, off to work I went. Friday! Only a voluntary OT, half day tomorrow. Whoop, whoop!

To the newcomers, my day job is microfilming material for preservation. It’s mostly newspapers, for historical purposes. Not that anyone goes to the library to use a microfiche reader to pore through old papers. So, anyway, I was working on a project that involves various titles from all over Missouri, mostly smaller, regional papers. The issues were from just the last couple years, so I remembered a lot of the news since it’s not that long ago. It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for our nation, and the world really, but I’m not going to talk about the specifics.

Instead, I just wanted to share the perspective it gave me. Like that hour that passed in a blink this morning, I went through events of the last couple years in a couple of hours. (Only scanning over headlines as I worked. That’s all you have time for.) It got me to thinking about how little time we’re here, relatively speaking.

World conflicts, brutal regimes, scientific discoveries, medical advancements and all the grand spiritual experiences along with the crushing emotional agony of humanity, countered by the ebb and flow of progress and reactions. Is that what it’s like for God? A day is but a thousand years, according to the Bible. Mountains push up and fall, oceans form and dry up, civilizations come and go with a raucous cry that, cosmically, goes as quick as “the wave” at a stadium. (Do people still do that?)

Some people affect the entire world, for better or worse. Most of us toil away in obscurity. But the people around you feel your presence in the world. The majority of the masses will continue their family line and be remembered that way.  Others are remembered for their accomplishments or for the many kindnesses they extended. That makes it all worthwhile. To connect to one another and the world around us allows us to prepare our souls for the journey beyond, whether you believe that’s heaven or hell, a higher spiritual plane, or something else.

I speak to myself more than anyone when I say, make good use of your time here. Fill your days with meaning and it won’t feel like the days have slipped by too fast and empty. That’s why I’ve finally started to write more, and to engage more with others. We can actually slow down time in a sense, by deeply experiencing each day, absorbing and reflecting on events. Don’t just push everything out of your head because you don’t have the time or the energy to think about it. Live it!

Whatever you’ve been putting off, pushing down inside, denying or shutting out, stop!

Look up an old friend, make time to read, visit an elderly neighbor or relative, get back into that hobby you used to love, and most of all, seek out humanity in the fragile, flawed, awesome travelers around you. And as always, we’re all in this together!