Words of Wisdom

Just wanted to share some words of wisdom from my dad, which I didn’t appreciate enough at the time.

Two wrongs don’t make a right

I was really upset about a Mean Girl at school and came home in a black fury, spewing venemous threats of violence against her and how she was going to pay for that. My dad heard all the ruckus and asked what on Earth had me so upset; I explained the situation and through my tears of hurt and anger, I plotted my revenge and the bloodlust drowned out any humanity I may have possessed. My dad (used to this and thus unfazed) explained to me that just because she was mean didn’t give me license to abandon my morals and “get in the gutter” with her. He went on to explain that evil works that way; it appeals to the ego, the vanity of the person and lures you down a road of hate, violence and loss of compassion or reason. “Two wrongs don’t make a right, Michelle, no matter what your reasoning. Be the bigger person; turn the other cheek and forgive them or you will be the one who suffers, not her” were his words of wisdom to me. Easier said than done, which leads me to

Anything worth having won’t be easily gotten 

I wanted to learn how to work the speed bag (always trying to keep up with my brothers) but it was difficult; my knuckles were red and sore, my arms were tired and felt like lead. I was two seconds away from bursting into tears when my dad came in. He took one look at me and told me to come outside with him so we could talk about it.He explained to me that the things that come to us easily are not necessarily good things; anything that is worth having will require hard work, dedication and a desire to overcome all the obstacles keeping us from what we want. He said this will help me to realize what is important and what is not. If I am not willing to the hard work, I will only make it so far before I encounter some difficulty; if I turn around and go back, I have accomplished nothing but taken a leisurely stroll and then came back, empty handed. But if I dig in and do the hard work, get through the obstacle, I will reach my goal and I will have the confidence that comes with overcoming obstacles, facing fears and standing strong. A half an hour later, I went back into the family room determined to master the speed bag, no matter how bloody, bruised and painful my hands became. And I did.

There are many, many more but these are the ones I find truth in even today, especially after the events around the world that have been unfolding and will continue to do so.

“Resentment is like drinking poison then hoping it will kill your enemies” -Nelson Mandela

A Walk to Remember

Yesterday I participated in the Out of Darkness walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). This is the second year I have walked and both years I have been overwhelmed by the emotions that accompany me on it. There is so much love in the crowd, not just for the loved ones they have lost but for those they wish to keep alive and protect against such a destructive, secretive and shameful act. I say shameful because that is how society (in general) sees it; a coward’s way out, not thinking of those who are left behind, selfish. What they don’t understand and should thank God they don’t, is the pain. The unrelenting pain of simply being alive; the thoughts that drive one to believe it IS hopeless and NO ONE cares, there is no other way and this is THE ANSWER. Depression to me is a magnifying glass to the tiny imperfections and doubts every person has; those who do not suffer from it can put those doubts into perspective, focus on the positive and realize it’s all pretty much good. When under the influence of depression, there is no perspective, no light, no tunnel, no nothing but blackness and sense of doom. This is why it’s so important to be vigilant with our loved ones, family members, friends and even people we just know. Our society seems to encourage independence and if you know me at all, you know I’m all about independence but there is a time and a place for everything and when dealing with depression, independence should take a back seat to seeking help and triage. Get talking with someone, whether in a phone call, Skype, tin cans attached by string, smoke signals, Morse code or Ham radio; the way in which communication takes place is not important, only that it happens.

The men and women of our military are coming home and the numbers of suicides by service members is growing and that is a number we cannot afford to rise any further; these men and women have put themselves in harms way for their country, for us. We need to be there for them. I’m not speaking of the government, although that is the obvious choice, if our world was fair and just and if their priorities didn’t begin and end with their benefit, the stroking of their egos and caring for their own personal agendas. I’m speaking of you and me, Joe Citizen. We can donate to causes that we know support them, we can spend time volunteering, writing letters, sending care packages and being a thorn in the side of the government until they do the right thing, recognize they have a mental health epidemic and get off their fat, entitled asses and take some action.

Sorry – bit of a rant there, but it is something that I have witnessed first hand; the devastation resulting from lack of action and heads deeply buried in sand or up their collective asses. The damage to families, friends, fellow service members and society in general is impossible to grade or measure, as the ripple effect will continue through lifetimes yet to come. Children who will be born without a father to raise them, a father will never get the chance to walk his daughter down the aisle, a mother will have to bury her child, a son will know mother only from stories and photos; this all doesn’t have to happen. We can get OUR heads out into the sunshine, take a deep breath and try in whatever way we are able to fight the good fight against not only suicide, but mental illness left untreated, people suffering because they are afraid of the shame and ridicule associated with mental illness STILL. For God’s sake, it’s almost 2016 and although we can clone sheep, genetically modify food and update our Facebook status every 3 seconds, we still cannot come to the place where we treat mental illness like it is – an illness. Not a personal choice, a personality flaw or a bad strand of DNA, it is an illness just like any other. Cancer used to have the same sort of stigma attached to it but we’ve gotten past that. I would like to write someday that we have gotten past all the negativity surrounding those who suffer with depression, anxiety, mania and all the other flavors of mental illness. We are not to blame and we cannot simply think happy thoughts, suck it up and put on my big girl panties or just get over it. Tell someone who is suicidal to “Get over it” and they will, just not in the way you had in mind.

This walk is a walk to remember; to remember those we have lost, to remember that it effects people of all walks of life, races, religions, social and economic classes and levels of intelligence. This is what its name implies, bringing the issue and those who suffer out of the darkness and into the light.

For more information on mental health in general please visit NAMI.

For more information on our service men and women, please check out the Wounded Warrior Project. Sorry – I tried to add links but couldn’t make it happen.

Thanks for stopping by!

Seeking Purity At Some Point

“O Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet”.
-Saint Augustine

I couldn’t agree more. I have the desire to be pure; to think pure, loving thoughts and fill my days with gratitude and working in service of others but at the same time, I am reluctant to let go of my old ways. Critical, never pleased, always finding fault, judging harshly (not just others, but myself included) and holding grudges.

I have some serious issues that I haven’t even begun to work out regarding my ex-friend/roommate/leech and the whole experience with feeling like a ghost in my own house; not having a voice, being trapped in a situation by my own inability to just speak up and draw a damn line. A boundary line so that people know they can only go so far and the rest of the way is PRIVATE PROPERTY. NO TRESPASSING. As I said, I have not even begun to deal with all of this but I can tell you that it is slowly oozing into my current life, back into my thoughts and coloring the experiences I’ve had and continue to have. Mostly because it’s unresolved and so like a rotting corpse in a body of water, it will eventually bob up to the surface, all it’s ugliness and buried secrets exposed. This doesn’t keep me from saying that others should seek counseling; others are stuck in the past and need to WORK THROUGH IT so they can GET OVER IT and MOVE ON. If only I could take my own advice on that front.

I know there will come a point at which I will have no other choice than to deal with it; it will damage me, damage my relationships and take me down a road of darkness that I have no desire to travel again. It’s so scary to know that is what is in store if I continue to ignore it, but it’s terrifying to open that Pandora’s Box and let out all the hurt, sense of betrayal, rage at myself for being weak and easily manipulated, for “keeping my word” while I lost my sense of self. What good does it do to keep your word in an agreement that basically guarantees you are going to be far worse off than when you started while your “business partner/best friend” walks away without a scratch; a brief inconvenience of having to move house and life goes on with no real marks or scars?

If I am to become pure, I have to forgive myself, him, and let go of all the negative, hurtful, black-hearted, broken hearted wishes of revenge and karma returned one-thousandfold.

So yeah, I guess you could say that I want to be pure, but certainly not right now.

(Reality) Check Please!

If you’ve been reading this blog for very long (or at all) you have probably gotten a fairly good grasp of how my little brain works. Sometimes it tends to get stuck on a particular thought or something (some would call this an obsession or fixation, I just call it serious thought) and I just can’t shake it. Thank God for my best friend in times such as these. This woman should get the Purple Heart, Medal of Honor and a host of other symbols in recognition of her friendship and for walking beside me through the minefield that is my world. For someone who is blessedly free of mental health issues, she is unfailingly supportive of my “special wiring” and even though I’m certain she’d love nothing more than me to be free of such burdens, she has never made me feel like less of a person because of it. I can’t use it as a get-out-of-jail-free card, though. She will call me on my shit faster than anyone I know and always with good reason. I seriously don’t think I would be here today if it wasn’t for her friendship and her bravery in the face of Manic Michelle – something no one should have to endure. I know there are things that some people feel that a mental health disorders are deal-breakers, usual somewhere in the Top Five. To find a friend that accepts you, warts and all, is a wonderful thing and a rarity, from what I’ve experienced.

Today I had something happen that really “got my Irish up” and before I opened my mouth or let my fingers fly in a flurry of e-mails and insults, I had the foresight (thank God) to check in with my friend. She didn’t say I was being stupid or blowing stuff out of proportion, but she did give me what she always gives me when I ask; an ear to bend, a shoulder to cry on and some really good, sensible advice. It may seem like a really small thing to do, but when I’m feeling like tearing the walls down with my bare hands to get to someone’s neck, it’s a big deal to get some perspective from someone who is walking more on the sane side of the street. My friend is usually on that side of the street, even though she’s got a full life, complete with kids, sporting events, practices, proms, a hubby & the whole career thing going on. She manages to do all the things her life demands and still have time to listen to my cries for help, heartfelt tears because someone has (in my mind) been mean or hurtful, pick me up off the floor when I’ve given up and administer a serious dose of tough love when all else fails. I admire her more than I could ever say and I wish to have her in my world as long as humanly possible. At least long enough for me to return the favor of being a real and true friend all these years…..decades actually, but who’s counting?

So, I asked for and recieved my reality check and while my day is still not fluttering butterflies and serenading knights, I feel like I’m closer to joining my friend on the sane side of the street. That, my friends, is truly priceless.

Happy Friday!!

Anger Revisited

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. 
Buddha 

I have shared with you before how I have issues with anger and how at different times in my life it has almost been my undoing. I had heard the quote above before (Kevin?) and it really spoke to me. I had been holding anger against so many people, situations and just in general. To me, there was no other emotion that made me feel so alive, humming with emotion and intensity. The only problem is that it was a very damaging state to maintain for long. Anger is like battery acid, eating away at anything it comes into contact with and it wasn’t long before it began to eat away at my self-esteem, my outlook on life and how I dealt with the world in general. I was like a walking furnace of anger, radiating negative energy all around me. People instinctively pulled away from me, as if knew that getting too close would be harmful to their well-being.

There is a seductive pull of anger, the absolute power of it; it made me feel as though I could fight the world and win. I could blaze a path through a crowd, scare the Hell out of any fool who had the bad luck to try to make me feel better. But, at some point, the anger turns inward and the acid eats away at me. I had managed to wound myself seriously, push away all those who care about me and put myself in a position of great unhappiness. This would be the time I would go out and drink until I blacked out, trying to numb myself from that unhappiness. The unhealthy behaviors would gladly jump to the forefront of my consciousness and before I knew it, things had gone from bad to worse.

It has taken me a great deal of time to fully understand where this anger came from, why I felt justified in blaming others for it and how to undo or heal from the anger I’ve inflicted upon myself. It’s very easy to blame others for my feelings and my failings and very difficult to turn that critical eye inward. Accepting responsibility for my choices, my thoughts and my actions is the only way that I believe I’ll ever find true happiness. Forgiving myself, loving myself and learning from those bad choices are the healing balm for the burns of anger. 

I recognize that a lifetime of behavior cannot be undone in one day and that I will more than likely spend the rest of my life adjusting my thoughts, pulling back the reins on my anger and finding ways to cope with the consequences of my actions that are not self-destructive or destructive to those around me. I believe that anger comes from a place of powerlessness, of feeling as though fighting back is the only option. I no longer believe that I am powerless; I know that I have no power over others’ actions, but I do have power over how I respond to them. Rather than judge them, I need to have compassion and understand that they are driven by things that I cannot see nor can I understand. But just like me, they are doing the best they can with what demons and limitations they carry with them. It’s hard work, though. The force of anger is always right on the surface, while forgiveness, compassion and understanding are further down and take effort to access. I cannot expect things to change if I continue to follow the old behaviors and thought processes. I am no longer the victim, the wounded child or the misunderstood manic-depressive. I am just me, a child of the Universe searching for my destiny and my own self-realization. The people that I meet along the way are on their own journey and when our paths cross, I believe we each give something to the other. My gift will no longer be red-hot, scalding, soul-killing anger. I have many gifts to offer that are healing, understanding and loving. I will do my best to holster the anger and reach deep to find the positive. 

One day at a time.

Expectations (or Setting Yourself Up to be Disappointed)

I’ve been commuting for about 15 years now and my drive is just over 21 miles one way. Each and every morning I set out with the expectation that I will be able to complete this commute with little to no drama. My expectation is that people will use their turn signals, use the “fast lane” to go fast and to at least drive the speed limit. Each and every morning I find that the rest of my fellow commuters are in no way living up to my expectations. It’s almost as if they have all met at a coffee shop prior to getting on the road and coordinate how they can maximize the amount of irritation I experience in the 30 minutes or so I’m driving. From the cute little blonde that thinks her turn signal is actually something to hang her jewelry from to the guy in the ridiculously huge 4×4 truck that thinks because his vehicle is the biggest, it’s ok for him to drive 10 mph under the speed limit, while traveling in the fast lane, these people test my patience daily and I usually fail to some degree. I’ve tried deep breathing (you know you can almost pass out if you do it enough) to praying (it’s not so much the praying, but what I’m asking for when I pray…”please send down a stream of consciousness to this zombie in the BMW, Lord”) to absolutely losing it (that’s when I use all my special words) I have tried about every way possible to deal with this phenomenal and ongoing irritation, except the one thing that would work – adjust my expectations. Expect that people will not use their turn signals, rear and side view mirrors, expect that they will text, talk on the phone, put on makeup, shave, space out and try to plan their Thanksgiving dinner while driving. Expect that there are at least 5% under the influence of some sort of mind-altering substance, including sleep deprivation, on the road at 6:00 – 6:30 a.m. Expect that there will be those drivers that are so righteous that they refuse to move to another lane, even though there are 20 cars piling up behind them. After all, these are human beings I’m dealing with and as we all know, are imperfect and flawed. What on Earth would make me believe that my expectations would be met?

So, this morning when I head out, I will adjust accordingly and make another expectation; whatever will happen, I will be able to handle without losing it, I will listen to some soothing music and expect people to do what people do. It sounds like a wonderful idea, doesn’t it? We’ll see how it goes.

TGIF!