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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Thoughts of 2014 and What's Next

2014 is just about behind us and it has been an amazing year - one filled with changes, adventures and even a Seahawks Super Bowl victory.  The challenges for me have been obvious and I haven't been too terribly shy about sharing them in a very public forum.  Battles with depression, wrestling the demons that whisper in my ear telling me  it's time to jump off a bridge, and even the incessant physical pain have followed me everywhere I go and I've shared them with you.  It sounds rather morose, I know, but there is a bright side to it all, a respite in the midst of the chaos that exists in my mind that you all have helped me reach.

What have I learned in 2014?

Time Is Precious
This year, as well as most recently, the doc gave me less than happy news.  There was stabilization in my primary diagnosis, but the pain has not ceased and now, I've developed other symptoms, other problems.  Nevertheless, I march on smartly.  Time is precious.  I know a lot of people who live their lives with anger, frustration and an innate desire for revenge for the times they believed themselves to be wronged, often overlooking the fact that they too have plenty to deal with inside their hearts.  Again, every minute of our lives is precious.  I've learned in 2014 how important loved ones truly are, how much friends really mean and whether the doc is right or I overcome, I'm going to live every second of every day as though it were my last.

Peace Through Strength
When Ronald Reagan was president, I remember the slogan, "peace through strength."  I believe that is true in our own lives.  In order to have peace, we have to have enough strength to weather the storm of difficult times.  Spiritually, we are to lay down our lives - to see the death of self so that we may live for others through Him.  I know this to be true spiritually, but let me tell you, it's hard to live out in practice.  There will always be men and women who see weakness, your vulnerability as an opportunity to tear you to shreds emotionally and otherwise.  Even in light of this danger, it's important to remember that you are in control, not them.  Your weakness IS your strength because it is uniquely you and no one can own that but you.  You will grow to be stronger, and there you'll find true peace.

Don't Water A Dead Plant (Or A Poisonous One)
Water is life-giving.  Without water, we die - and we will die much faster without water than we will without food.  Water changes things; it cleanses us from filth, it nourishes our bodies, and it is used for the sacrament of baptism.  When a plant is dead, no amount of water can revive that plant.  To try to do so is an effort in futility.

Doing What You Don't Believe You Can
I never imagined that I would be where I am right now.  Back in the day, I thought my life would be much more ordered and packaged in a nice little box with a pretty bow around it.  That just didn't happen and as time progressed, things got harder and harder due to some of my really dumb ass life choices.  We all pay the price for our choices and that pain and struggle often convinces us that there is nowhere to turn, no hope for the future.  Some days, I don't believe I can continue - that the universe would be better off were I not in it and all my meds cry out to me to be consumed and to drift off into the abyss.  But it's at that moment that somehow, I do what I didn't believe I could.  I push through it and I live.  I breathe.  I flourish in the midst of turmoil.  I do it because I have plenty to live for and the time I have left is precious and I'm not going to allow any demon on this planet to take that from me - I've lost too much time already trying to be that which I am not.

You Don't Live There Any Longer
There are aspects of our past, I have learned, that just don't need to be revisited.  2014 brought forth some horrifying revelations about my family, and they forced me to do a serious inventory about what comprises the totality of me.  Many of them were built on a faulty foundation to begin with.  I've had to remind myself that I don't live in that place any longer.  That past, that history is no longer who I am and I can't and won't let if have power over me.  Learning about and understanding history is critically important, yet it isn't the sum total of who I am - those moments of joy and the times of turmoil are lessons from which to be learned. The harsh realities of time gone by is like that of an abandoned house.  Visiting it once in a while is entertaining, a worth while effort.  But over time, it decays and becomes something far less beautiful than it was - our minds, of course, romanticize it, hold it up in higher regard than we should. 

Happy Happy Joy Joy
It's funny...I really have spent far too much of my life trying to please others of trying to adjust my life according to whether or not someone in my life is happy or going to be upset.  Many would argue that I'm a selfish dick, and circumstantially, they would be completely correct.  Yet, when I look closely at my decisions - particularly where relationships are concerned, I've not truly followed my heart and pursued happiness.  Real happiness.  Hell, at my age, I question whether it's even attainable - but I'm not going to stop trying.

There is so much more that I've learned, and I've included them in a book I'm working on, but hopefully, you can see the struggle and the victory therein.

What's next in 2015?

Music Lover
I've been involved in music since I was 9 years old and it's something that is hard wired in my DNA.  I may fail at relationships, fail at my ability to communicate, but I love music and my goal is to complete the work we started with Mean Machine and Lord willing, even complete the two originals I've been working on. 

Spiritual Journey
I believe that 2015 will be a year of spiritual exploration.  I know what my faith entails, the creeds of which I believe and affirm, but I think I'm going to try and take it to a new level.  I've had my fair share of judgmental douchebaggery, it's time for some eye-opening experiences free from condescension. 

No Apologies
Everyone has their skeletons tucked away, hidden in a safe, nice little place where they can hardly be found.  Many of mine have been resurrected and to be honest, I've made an effort to come to grips with them and understand them.  I can't apologize for who I am.  I am 50 years old and wholesale changes to my personality just isn't going to happen without divine intervention - and I don't see that happening any time soon.  I'll be much more candid with my loved ones, sharing information that may be painful to hear but candid nonetheless.  We need more reality and a whole lot less posturing.

Family Affair
My family in Virginia, family in Washington state...I have my issues with them, but I think the time has come for that reunion I've been talking and dreaming about.  I'll be heading back to Seattle at some point in 2015 and it will be a particularly wonderful experience.

More than likely, most of what I've typed here will mean little to many of you.  Maybe there are a couple out there who can understand this duality in which we exist.  It's true that for a whole bunch of us, merely getting out of bed is a struggle.  But we do, we keep after it.  And then, someone challenges us at the right moment and the perfect storm is created.  Then, we all get a taste of the true nature of who we are.

Until next time...enjoy.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

All I Want For Christmas...

Growing up, Christmas was a magical time around our home.  My mother worked diligently to ensure that, while we may not have had much, we had enough and every little gift had meaning - the whole day had meaning.  The whole season had meaning.  It was about fellowship, the exchange of our real gift of love to one another.  The dinner was always something to anticipate, the stories and of course, watching a few of the Christmas specials on television were part of the fun.  Of course, my brother and I had our traditional moments - like making Christmas lists.

I thought today I'd share some of the items on my big dream Christmas list.  It's changed over the years, but maybe yours is similar - and remember - the sky is the limit here.  Live on the edge and fantasize about Christmas wishes, make it your wildest dreams and who knows?  You may receive a Christmas miracle.  Okay...probably not.  But it's fun anyway.

1.  Make Peace.  Over the course of my 50 years on this planet, I have succeeded in pissing off probably hundreds of people and hurt the feelings of a bunch as well.  If possible, and I'm sure it isn't, it would be nice to have a few moments of peace with these people.  I know for a fact that some folks just aren't interested in peace and much prefer war, but the rest of them would be nice to have reconciliation with.

2.  Weekend With Kids.  I'd like to have a weekend with all of my kids.  Just one where they were all together and getting along and doing so without distraction or angst.  I love all my kids and I suck at showing it...which leads to the next wish...

3.  Love More.  I guess that "loving more" isn't a correct description, but rather I want to be able to show my loved ones that I really do love them and do so more frequently.  In contrast to most of my biological family, I'm pretty open about my feelings, but that isn't saying much, really.  My family is pretty stoic.

4.  Seattle Supersonics.  It was a total dick move (in my opinion) to pick up and move the basketball team from Seattle to Oklahoma City.  I'm happy for Oklahoma City to be sure, but I sure wish that Seattle would get a team back - the fans have learned their lessons.

5.  Stop Gridlock.   Politics is by design, adversarial.  The two-party system is hard-wired to be adversarial and will continue to be so.  Yet, for Christmas, wouldn't it be nice if the GOP and the Democratic Party would do something that really does improve the quality of life here in America?  Just get along for a little while and solve some problems.  Stop the posturing and just get things done.

6.  Veteran's Salvation.  The Veteran's Administration has problems and the biggest problem is that it is not funded appropriately.  Yeah, that's right - it's not funded as it should be.

7.  One Day Pain-Free.  For a few years now, I've rose out of bed with some degree of pain.  Coupled with the medication I have to take every day, life is just one big foggy moment of ouchiness followed by flashes of moderate pain.  Frankly, the trips to the ER only to be told that there's not a lot that can be done for pain management has just about gotten me to the end of my rope. There are a number of reasons why I'd love to return to my home state of Washington, but the legalization of medicinal marijuana does make it even more attractive - though I haven't used it myself. 

8.  Stayin' Alive.  I know it isn't something to discuss during the Christmas holiday, but the truth is that I'd love to have old Santa bring me a wall to build in my mind to shut off the thoughts of getting off of this ride.

9.  Family Reunion.  One big, massive, family get-together with the whole family from Virginia to Seattle.  Cook enough ribs to make Fred Flintstone jealous and put aside petty bullshit and just enjoy each other's company.

10. Bring Back Dexter.  It was a shame when Showtime cancelled that program, and the series finale was abrupt, emotional and really left it open for more shows.  Showtime needs to do us all a favor and bring it back.  It's my Christmas wish, after all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Law Enforcement Deserves Better

Recent events have underscored just how depraved humanity can be.  The very men and women who get up every morning, put on a uniform, wear a badge and leave their homes knowing that it may be the last time they see their families, are being targeted for destruction by bottom feeding piles of human waste.  What depravity must a man experience in his mind to think of and render violence to men and women who represent the very core of our society - the aspect that we are a nation of laws.  Granted, some of the laws are bullshit, but that isn't the job of the law enforcement profession.  Problems with laws are to be directed at state legislators - not police officers.

Two New York City police officers were assassinated by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a 28 year old nutbag got his panties in a bunch after an altercation with his girlfriend, took a shot at her but she survived, but that wasn't enough.  He targeted and assassinated these two NYPD officers.  Clearly, this piece of shit just didn't get enough attention from his mommy and daddy growing up and he's acting out.  Probably playing too many video games and watching Al Jazeera television for tips.  Let's take a closer look at this piece of dung:
Brinsley has a history of run-ins with the law. He has 15 prior arrests in Georgia for assorted crimes: misdemeanor assault, larceny, shoplifting, and gun possession, dated from 2004 to 2013. He was arrested 4 times in Ohio from May 2009 to September 2009–robbery and misdemeanor theft. He served over 2 years in various prisons, mostly from a 2-year sentence for the Georgia case of criminal possession of a weapon.
Yeah.  He's a peach.  Georgia let this son of a bitch loose after 15 priors and he travels to and fro and ends up targeting two police officers for assassination.  He'll get the chair, but that's too good for this guy.  He needs to be locked up in a mental facility for the rest of his life, heavily medicated and his subconscious mind toyed with like a rubber band around a balloon. 

But that's not the end of it...

In Florida, another police officer was murdered by a little punk by the name of Marco Antonio Parilla, Jr.  A 23 year old kid with far too much time on his hands and not enough brain matter to deal with it.  Check this out:
Parilla shot Kondek because "he felt like a caged rat” and did not want to return to prison.
Parilla ran the wounded cop over as he whipped out of the apartment’s driveway in reverse. He then lost control of the vehicle and smashed into a power pole and pickup truck.
What a little jackass.  He did apologize to the family during his "perp walk," so that should make it all better, right?  Wrong.

What goes through the mind of man when targeting an icon of American justice and law?  To target a law enforcement officer is inexcusable and unforgivable.  Lawyers have been targeted in the past and though there is an intellectual or emotional ascent to understand that logic, it's still wrong.

I don't know if there are solutions to problems like this.  The disaster in Ferguson, MO has really highlighted the fact that the criminal element is actually proud of itself and shameless.  A man gets shot by law enforcement - a clean shoot, by the way - and now, the bottom feeders believe it gives them license to target and assassinate law enforcement.  Pure insanity.

Personally, I believe the douchebag talking heads on the extreme left who want nothing short of anarchy are partly to blame for this mess.  Anyone who wears one of those stupid "I Can't Breathe Shirts" (more info here) is part of the problem as well.  Even the President has talked about cracking down on law enforcement.  It's unreal.

Do yourself a favor and our community a favor - thank a cop.  They do shit every day that most of the sissies protesting them would never have the courage to do.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Free My Mind Friday Before Christmas

I've been pretty open about my bouts with depression as well as my physical health and I've been asked recently why I am so candid.  The person asking had a sneer on his face, as though I were passing gas rather than sharing intimate details of my time on this big blue ball.  He was actually offended that I would do so.  He clearly had a higher view of me than I have of myself because he felt it necessary to recite my resume' to me in a chastising and condescending tone as if I were giving away state's secrets.  My response to him was simple, to the point:  "Look, I don't give a damn what you think is appropriate or what isn't appropriate.  For me, it frees my mind in the hopes that maybe someone else can kick depression's ass by knowing they're not alone.  It's easier to let this stuff out of my head than it is to keep it bottled up for days like this when douchebags question me and I get the urge to rip their f*cking heads off."

He shut the hell up about it.

Some coping tools are probably not so healthy, but writing about the crap I've gone through isn't going to hurt anyone - unless I actually DO start revealing secrets.  But that's just not going to happen because it serves no purpose to hurt others intentionally.  For this little gray duck, it's all about trying to get healthy and helping other folks get healthy for as long as I can.  No one knows how much time we have left with one another here on earth, so it's best spent sharing the truth and maybe extending some love to one another.  Is that too much to ask?

This week has been a strange one.  The fact that we're actually seeing discussions about fracking near Lake Hefner - a major water source for the citizens of Oklahoma City, blows my mind.  I know that Oklahoma is all about the oil and gas industry and we're willing to drop trousers and bend over for any one of those energy companies, but seriously?  To me, it shows the absolute arrogance of the industry and the lack of spinal fortitude our elected officials have where they are concerned.  It proves that in the state of Oklahoma, every single elected official is bought and paid for by someone.  This is emblematic of the week, in my opinion.

Yes, Christmas is right around the corner and I confess, it's been a long time since I've had a holiday season that hasn't made me want to do bad things to people.  This year, however, it's been much nicer, much more palatable.  There is hope, there is joy and perhaps the meaning of the season itself is being made manifest in my life.  The concept of grace, mercy, the deliverance from the darkness of the human pathos - that's what Christmas is about.  Through the birth and sacrifice of One, the whole may be saved.

That's just my opinion, and I could be wrong.  But I seriously doubt it.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pain Is Supposed to Hurt

They loved and cared for one another in ways that were impossible to describe.  When together, it was as though nothing else in the world mattered, it was as though their breaths were dependent upon that of the other.  When they were apart, the glint in their eyes were there because of anticipation of being in each others' arms again.  They were perfect in every way - even when they fought, they did so with a hint of eagerness to make up, to apologize to one another with love and passion.  What the world couldn't see is that between the two of them, there was immense pain.  They knew that their days were limited, time was of a rare and precious commodity.  They didn't know the day, the hour, but they knew that they would have to say that one final goodbye.  He had been diagnosed with a terminal disease.  He would die.  He would leave her side.  On the surface, they were perfection.  Behind the passion, exists pain.

Everyone experiences pain - physical pain of one sort or another.  The human body is designed with nerves that feed information to the brain where pain receptors let us know that something is horribly wrong and action should be taken.  There are medicines available to relieve pain to be sure, but there's another type of pain that kills not only the body, but the spirit of man.  It's the pain that accompanies loneliness, the feeling of utter solitude even when surrounded by people.  It's cliche' to say, but we've heard the axiom of being in a crowded room and still feeling alone and it rings true.  The reasons for such solitude are varied and different for everyone.  It may be different, but it is equally devastating.

Over the course of a lifetime, each of us will experience loss and experience the subsequent pain that accompanies it.  There's a timing to life, a rythm to life, a pace if you will.  For example, parents shouldn't lose their children early in life and children shouldn't lose their parents at a young age.  We're just not hard-wired to handle that kind of trauma.  But still, we see it every day, we experience it within our sphere of influence whether we like it or not.  Life sucks at times and we're the ones being drawn into the tube of maladjusted consciousness, only to be stored in someone's trash heap of emotional carnage.

We lose relationships along the course of life's journey and that too causes a great deal of pain.  More so for some than others.  None of it is designed to be easy and all of it is supposed to cause us pain so we shouldn't be surprised when it hurts.  In some ways, we should embrace it because each one of those moments of loss, those moments of extreme pain build up emotional scar tissue.  Scar tissue deadens the nerve endings both emotionally and physically and sometimes, that's a damned good thing.

Approaching the Christmas holiday, it's important for us to remember that it's not easy for everyone.  No amount of neatly wrapped gifts can replace the energy that human touch and interaction can bring.  Without it, the pain for some is immeasurable.  We're not created to be independent creatures void of contact with one another.  We were created to have fellowship with one another. Is there someone in your life experiencing pain?  Is there someone in your life you suspect is experiencing pain but is just too broken to admit it?  Reach out.  It could reduce the amount of scar tissue build up in their lives...


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Closing the Book

I started writing about the garbage in my life here a few years ago.   I was told that it was the right thing to do, as it would compliment the radio show on WKY and give folks a chance to look a little deeper into the mind and soul of the artist formerly known as the "400lb Gorilla of Oklahoma Media."  I thought my friends were nuts, but they were right.  I've received quite a bit of feedback - both positive and negative - about my opinions, thoughts are various issues.  It's been a blessing either way.  I wouldn't trade any of this time for anything in the world.

From a political standpoint, legislatures across the nation are welcoming new faces, new ideas among their sacred chambers.  The hope for all of the electorate is that what has happened in the past, the adversarial policies could all be left behind.  Maybe, just maybe the future will bring something new and exciting and growth will take place.  In Washington, there's a bit of a changing of the guard, but we already expect more of the same.  The chapter continues...

My brother, Mark
In my days, I've faced some pretty intense adversity and admittedly, much of it is of my own doing.  I've made horrid decisions at many stages of my life on this planet and I've done some deplorable damage.  I think of the days before moving from my home state of Washington after serving 8 years in the Navy and they haunt me.  My brother lost most of his lower extremities due to diabetes and I wonder whether or not if I would have stayed there and took a more active role in his life if his world view would be different - maybe even save those limbs.  Then there's my cousin, Wayne.  He died a horrible death as a result of his lifestyle and I wonder if in that case were I there to plant my foot up his ass if wouldn't still be alive today.

And my two oldest children...Matthew and Heather.  God, what a disaster I've been as a father for them.  There's no one to blame but me.  It's the kind of thing that torments me daily.  They have become amazing adults, incredible human beings and this is in spite of my destructive force.

Mark, Me, Matthew, Dad
I see so many people around me who are having a rough go of it and I confess, I have no answers.  I hate the contrived, "I'll pray for you," sentiment because it's bullshit.  If you have time to "pray," you've got time to get off your ass hug someone's neck - and don't think I've got it down, because I am as guilty or more guilty than the average Joe.  I've tried to reach out, have spent a good portion of my life giving of myself to others but now, I'm just running on fumes.  I have to try and throw myself a life vest before saving the Titanic.  But it still hurts.  Where there is opportunity to be there for someone, I take it.

We often hear the axiom, "time to close that chapter and move on to the next one."  For some of us who have counseling resources on speed dial, we need to close the book and light it on fire and watch it burn until there is nothing left but a trace of an ash.  Over the last few years, I've written new chapters of my life, but they are all from the same story line.  I'm working toward that moment when it's released and the new existence begins.

Why all this depressing shit?  Well, I'm sure that there are many out there who are have a rough go of it during this Christmas season.  I used to think that I was probably the only person in the world experiencing this, but I've come to learn beyond the abstract, that there are others struggling to keep heads above water. Life isn't easy - much of the time it sucks ass.  But not being alone in the sojourn means so much...  To be able to look into the thoughts and heart of another may be the beginning of that walk of freedom instead of the walk of death.

Who knows?  Maybe you're reading the ramblings of a complete lunatic.  Time will tell.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Evil Is As Evil Does

Let me give you fair warning now:  Some of what you're about to read will probably upset your conventional wisdom apple cart.  The discussion of evil and its impact on humanity is a serious subject - but not as serious as we often take ourselves.  This is not for the wimps among you, but rather, I implore you to put on your proverbial "big girl panties," grab a chair and join me around the dinner table of unfettered dialog.

Humanity, when left to its own devices, is incapable of anything but darkness and evil.  For my Christian brethren, read Romans 3 and you will see my premise underscored, highlighted and bolded for your protection.  For my humanist, secularist friends, one need only look at the empirical evidence provided every night on the evening news.   Story after story of one human being harming another, ripping off another, using the judicial system to screw over another human - if that's not enough evidence, consider the following:

  • Every 2 minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in this country.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have experienced stalking in their lifetime.
In a previous blog entry, I covered some pretty scary statistics about domestic violence and how there is a massive under-reporting problem with violence against men in intimate relationships.  That being said, it's simply more evidence that humanity, when left to do what it will naturally do, will never choose to do "the right thing," but rather will embrace the darkness on one level or another.

Darkness doesn't just inhabit the innards of men.  Women are prone to evil just as much as men, but society tends to overlook the reprehensible behavior and attitudes of women because, I guess, the myth that they are the "weaker sex" is still prevalent in our culture.  It's easier and more acceptable on an emotional level to consider women "victims" than it is a man.  But even within those judgments themselves, there lies an evil desire to create imbalance.

Romans, Chapter 3 tells us quite loudly that "there is no one righteous, no not one," and that we have "altogether become useless."  Now, I know that comment goes directly against the doctrine of human potential, but I've already given you just a few examples of humanities inability to make the author of Romans a liar.  Then, in Romans 7, Paul gives is this incredible look at the dichotomous nature of the human existence - "For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing."  According to Paul, we are incapable of keeping at bay the dogs of war that exist within us, but admittedly at varied levels.  For example, how many of us have been on a diet and knowing that our efforts will be wasted by sucking down that fast food, but we do it anyway?  We know our "temple" will be jacked up, but we cannot completely abstain from that dark side of our humanity.

So, Paul asks the question in chapter 7, "Who will save me from this body of sin and death?"  The answer is obvious, and it's evident he's talking of the Christ.  And for me, I believe that.  I don't think that we can have true peace until we make it right with the Creator through the sacrifice that took place a couple thousand years ago, about a 20 minute walk outside of downtown Jerusalem.  And I will take it one step further:

While the act of salvation, the forensic declaration of righteousness is all about the individual, there is a social, a community aspect to it as well.

In other words, we're not intended to be alone and we sure as hell can't survive alone.

The darkness that overtakes us becomes less controlling when we're not alone.  When we have someone with whom we can bare our souls, with a friend who can embrace us regardless of what dirt we have under our fingernails, the evil in our hearts calms, becomes more quiet.  There is a part of all of us that exists through divine intervention that by the nature of its very existence, connects with the light that is in others.  When the puzzle pieces of our hearts don't fit, however, the evil is exacerbated and becomes more intense.  But when the light within us connects with the light of another who truly understands and accepts us as we are, we begin to see a glimpse of who we were designed and created to be.  It doesn't have to be a romantic interest either - it could be a best friend, a family member, someone who just "gets you."

I've seen the evil that men do and continue to do, and it's not pretty.  Hell, I'm honest with myself and I've seen my very own evil manifest itself and I've seen the fallout.  I own it.  It's mine and mine alone.  There's no one who can or will ever take this burden and remove the scars, but you know, I'm honest about it.  But I've also seen moments when I've been able to somehow, miraculously tap into the river of positive consciousness and do good.  Sure, it's rare, but it happens.

Life is more than politics.  Life is more than liberal vs conservative.  Life is more than a damned bumper sticker.  Life is not your denomination or lack thereof.  Life begins with the death of our expectations and dependence upon human potential.  It begins and flourishes when we realize our weakened and evil state doesn't have to own us.  We know that we're not perfect and it is in that real acceptance of who we are that we begin to experience freedom.  There's liberty in knowing the depths of our depravity when we know it doesn't always have to be that way.  And it's a beautiful thing we don't do it alone.

It's just my opinion and I could be wrong - but I seriously doubt it.


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Musical Noise

Life is filled to overflowing with background noise, with chaos at every turn.  We see and hear about atrocities that were unheard of just 20 years ago, and yet we have become a little numb to it all because the noise of life has deafened us.  We're bombarded with noise all day long, both audible and visible, and it's no wonder we are collectively losing our bloody minds.  The political landscape alone in this country borders on the macabre and infects everything we do.  There are constants, however, that can be soothing, that will bring us back to a sense of peace and reality.

For me, it's all about the music.

I am often teased about the eclectic nature of my music collection, ranging from Mozart to Marylin Manson.  Yeah, I'm 50 and I still listen to Pantera, enjoy Slipknot, and even tap my toes to Kelly Clarkson.  Each of those artists represent something different, their songs speak to me in a different manner and address varied emotional states.  When I'm really pissed off and need to calm down, I turn on some Mozart and listen to the Marriage of Figaro.  Or, if I'm really pissed off and want to stay pissed off, it's Five Finger Death Punch or Billy Idol.  When I'm in a good mood, but sort of melancholy, I listen to Matchbox 20 or Rob Thomas - particularly the song, "Someday."

In my estimation, all music is a form of worship to the Creator.  I've seen, heard, debated and destroyed the fundamentalist argument that there is music that is "of the devil" - in some ways I agree...if you've listened to Contemporary Christian music lately, you'd see that it's neither contemporary nor Christian.   But the composition of music, the delivery and the emotion that it can draw is nothing short of evidence of the Creator's handiwork.  The way it touches us in the very core of our being is, well, miraculous in a way.  And for the record, I'm not the ideal Christian - hell, I'm not the ideal anything.  My thoughts and opinions of a theological nature have been battered, beaten and run through the spiritual wood chipper over the last few years, calling into question virtually everything I have ever believed.

Growing up, I always had an instrument nearby.  I played the trumpet, the baritone, the baritone bugle, the soprano horn...there was something always within arms reach to play and it eased much of the tension after mom got sick.  Today, it's much the same, but I play guitar rather than a brass instrument.  The therapeutic relief is much the same and for the last few years, there has been roadblocks to truly exploring the art.  Sure there was never an official blockage, but there was always the looming psychological threat that diving into music too much may not meet the requirements set forth therein.

So, what is the music that cuts through the noise for you?  Have you taken some time to listen, to share it with others?  If not, do so.


Monday, December 08, 2014

Refusing to Release 2014

It's difficult to wrap my already warped head around the fact that December is here, the New Year is rapidly approaching and Christmas is ready to stomp on us like a bug.  Where in the hell did 2014 go?  As a matter of fact, where did the last decade escape to?  It's true that the older we get, the quicker time seems to pass and how we get lost in the minutia of the moment and forget the bigger picture.  Supersonic, speed of light kind of travel is what we're talking about here, kids, and when that time is gone, you can't get it back.  So, again I ask, where in the hell did 2014 go to and how do we get a posse together to hunt that bugger down?

I was fortunate enough to spend some quality time with my kids this weekend and Maddie and Mason never cease to amaze me.  Being 17 and 18 respectively, they have had some pretty wild life experiences already and it has given them a perspective you wouldn't expect from teenagers.  They lost their grandfather a couple years ago and additionally, they are kids who have "survived" divorce.  We watched some Netflix, laughed a bit and talked about their work.  Without going into too much detail, we had some pizza and kind of relaxed.  They understood what it meant to "relax" - I'm not talking about being lazy, but rather simply enjoying one another's company in a stress-free environment.  It was one of those serendipitous moments that I will take to my grave.  My hope is that you get to experience those once in a while too.

Mondays when the Oklahoma legislature is not in session are an opportunity for legislators to show their constituents that they are still important, even if there is nothing of importance on their agenda.  For example, the fact that today, the members of the House are going through the "office lottery" where they get office assignments.  To the average taxpayer, it sounds more like a fraternity initiation than it does actually getting something done that is related to the will of the people.  Until the legislature's session begins, we can expect all kinds of frivolity from those who are elected, but lack self-esteem and are unsure of themselves in their elected position.  After the session begins, prepare for Romper Room.

War on Christmas
This time of year, every year, Fox News and its pundits proclaim that there is an alleged war on Christmas and it has become agonizing.  There was even a book penned a few years ago by one of their talking heads with the same title and yeah, it sold a lot of copies.  So, is there a war on Christmas?  I don't believe so and here's why:  If there was to be a war on Christmas, it should come from the members of the Church who know Church history and see the holiday for what it is - a secularization, an adoptive ceremony with other than orthodox roots.  One of the Pope's declared December 25th to be Christmas, and there it was.  Unfortunately, the date is inaccurate to the Biblical account because there is not a single "harvest" taking place in winter.  Unless you're harvesting deer, but that's not mentioned in Scripture.  But, do I think that we abolish the holiday?  Heavens no!  I just say that it's time to put it into perspective.  That's all.  And no, there is no bloody war on Christmas.

War on My Christmas
Admittedly, the holidays (I say "holidays" because I speak of the time from Thanksgiving to New Years) are kind of rough on me and have been for many years.  I know it's rather childish, but since the loss of my mother when I was 14, the holiday season just doesn't feel or maintain the same joy.  Sure, I've been able to pull it off for the kids and I love every minute of it, but at the same time, there is a darkness that accompanies the holidays.  I can't seem to shake it, have no idea why in the heck it's there with such intensity and I really don't know if I will power through it and put it to bed before I leave this planet.

There's No Place Like Home
During this time of year, we all think about "home" and creating a "home" environment.  For some, there is a big facade created where the house is decorated perfectly with Christmas trappings, the Scentsy has its holiday scents filling the air and the events for the days to come are rigidly planned and organized.  And when the time comes, God help you if you miss one of your cues or you don't follow the Happy Holiday Script.  On the other hand, there are places where there is no focus on pomp and circumstance, but rather a sanctuary where the very essence of Christmas is embraced. No one is afraid to share their love openly, no one cares what you wear - they just care that you're there.  Those are the places we call "home."  Many of those memories for me, those "home" moments, have taken place with my kids - all of them.  I just wish that we could have those moments in my home state of Washington.

2014 is just about behind us...let's say goodbye in style and do what we struggle to do - just let it all go.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Good Old Days

Looking in the mirror is becoming increasingly difficult these days.  Sure, I've lost weight and have a bit more energy than maybe a year ago, but when I look in the mirror, there isn't a damned thing I like seeing.  I'm more gray, my eyes often have dark circles from lack of sleep, I have more wrinkles from putting on so many fake smiles and pretending that life truly is grand and my scars from misspent youth are more prominent.

And then, there's the emotional stuff.  Yuk.

History is a fickle bitch, isn't it?  We often see the "good old days" as something that they really weren't, filtered through our lens of self-preservation and pride.  We convince ourselves of how the past was truly a wonderful place to be, only to learn years later that it was a facade, a smoke-in-mirrors illusion.  Those memories we hold near and dear are far too often little more than exaggerations of extreme mediocrity.  For example, I remember the holidays at my home, the moments of laughter and joy as we prepare for the celebration of the commercialized date of Jesus' birth.   Mom and Dad made sure that the house was festive even though we didn't really have a lot of financial resources at the time.  Years later, I find myself doing exactly the same thing during times of need - creating a loving memory that covers up the deeply felt shame of not being able to provide in a manner we desire for our kids.   We do what we have to, I suppose.

There are aspects of our past that are kind of refreshing, though.  For some of us who are old enough to remember, there was a time when we didn't have to stare at our smart phones for hours on end to feel connected.  We could actually visit people rather than send an impersonal email or text message.  We would gather together over a meal and share a part of our lives with one another.  Sure, there were problems then too, but it was nice not to be slave to technology.  Like when your car broke down, you didn't need a $7,000 diagnostic tool to figure out what the hell is wrong with it.  Or, how about just hanging out on the porch with friends, talking about the week, enjoying an adult beverage?

I remember what it was like to wake up, to live, to not have physical pain.  I remember looking forward to doing this, experiencing that, emotionally and spiritually hungry for life.  I remember when my demons were quieted by a simple smile, a gentle touch or even an encouraging word.  I remember the times when I realized that I was not the sum total of my experiences, but rather I have survived in spite of them.  Finally, I remember when just breathing, wanting to breathe didn't require gargantuan effort...those, my friends, were the "good old days."

If I could go back in time, there are so many things I'd change, but therein lies the rub - I know that I can't and I'm forced to face these demons who have followed me throughout the years.  They whisper in my ears that those "good old days" were the best of times, that my life today is horribly insignificant contrasted with what I had "back then."  Some of it is a lie, some of it is true.

To be honest, I'm not even sure why I wrote this blog - other than having another wrestling session with my own beasts, and somehow I know that I'm not alone.  Or, hell...maybe I am.

Marching on smartly...


Monday, December 01, 2014

The Politics of Mental Illness

He awakened everyone in the house that night with his screams.  The terror that engulfed him while he slept was almost too much to bear, his body trembling, covered in a thin layer of sweat.  He has suffered quietly for many years, keeping his emotional duress to himself, sharing only fragments with the women in his life in the hopes of finding understanding - only to see it used against him by the same people he trusted.  Time and again throughout his life, he tried to find respite, to have that one person who truly understands his struggle but he never did.  This particular night, it became overwhelming, invading his dreams, his subconscious thought.  After the family checked on him, and he reassured them all was well, he quietly got dressed and walked toward the door.  He stood there for a moment, looking back, realizing this would be the last time he would ever see this place he called home.  He left, never to be heard from again.

In American society, men aren't allowed to be emotional, nor is it socially acceptable for men to show weakness.  And in some cases, we can understand why it's so difficult.  The media pushes a traditional view of the "manly man" who should shun all things emotional and if you're a man struggling with mental illness, you're at the bottom of the food chain whether you like it or not.

The recent revelations about Scott Stapp (lead singer for the band, Creed) have been painful to watch.  He is an incredibly talented musician, fronting a band that a lot of the media elites enjoyed ripping to shreds, and now, he is at an incredibly low point in his life.  Wrestling with mental illness, Stapp is an example of the reality that everyone from every walk of life could have to face, the disease of mental illness.  And his case is one that proves that there will always be assholes out there to make fun of emotional distress.

Since the Reagan era when mental health was stripped of funding and multitudes of mentally ill were released from facilities and became the next generation of homeless, it's been a struggle to gain acceptance that there is still a desperate need for treatment and treatment facilities.  Conservatives see it as a problem that should not be funded by taxpayer dollars, liberals want it to be over funded.  Somewhere in the middle lies the answer - at least the beginning of a solution.

And this doesn't even begin to address the number of America's veterans who are wrestling with mental illness and are receiving horrific care.

The truth is that mental illness is an equal opportunity destroyer - it impacts people across the political and economic spectrum.  It impacts men just as much and just as deeply as it impacts women.  The fact of the matter is that men are just not hard wired to talk through their problems or to show weakness of any kind.  If men show weakness, we are somehow looked at as less than men, but rather a hybrid of sorts and the target of ridicule.  We can do better than this.  Our communities deserve better.

This is just my opinion and I could be wrong - but I seriously doubt it.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Losing My Religion

The past few years have caused me to really take a long, hard look at my life, who I am and what I believe.  I've come close to kicking the bucket four or five times in the last three years, and coming face to face with one's own mortality is a horrifying but enlightening experience.  Revelatory, if you will.  It's forced me to look at the carnage of my existence, the joys of being on this planet, and try to solidify just what it is in my heart that I believe.

And it has not been easy.

I was raised in a Baptist home, but it was really my mother who was the driving force spiritually.  My father was, at best, a recreational Christian.  It was only after I had joined the Navy and got together with a group of Christians on the ship that I really started to see what I believed, to begin to have an apprehension of what it was my mother believed and why she believed it.  I dove head-first into the faith, purchasing commentaries, different translations and the like with the hope that I'd learn more, understand more.  A few years later, pursued a seminary education and thought I finally had it figured out.

I didn't.

One thing I learned and have experienced is that religion as we know it today is not at all what the early Christians believed or practiced.  It's a weird, watered-down and funky version of what we think we're supposed to believe and experience.  Since this is my blog and it contains my thoughts, I decided to share with you a little bit of what I believe and have learned about faith over the course of my 50 years on this planet.

I believe that love really is the answer.  When we truly love, we forgive, we have the ability to see the flaws in others but also realize that they are not the sum total of those flaws.  True love sacrifices, it doesn't judge, it doesn't hate but it does get pissed off once in a while.

I affirm the Creeds of the Church.  The Nicene and Apostle's Creeds have meaning and are great barometers to determine whether we're on track or not.  Or if we need to reevaluate our belief system.

Pharisees exist everywhere and sometimes, they reside in our very hearts.  The Pharisees were real jerks back in the days of Christ.  They were the political/religious leaders of the day who used their position in the faith as political leverage - they hounded Christ his whole time on earth and they were ultimately responsible for His death.  Today, their impact on the political landscape is undeniable - with the passage of religious laws that have no place in the Constitution, whose motives are to recreate a theocratic culture that cannot nor will not every come to fruition.  They will fight, kick, scratch and destroy whomever gets in their way of this quest, and more often than not, it's those closest to them that are the casualties in their holy war.  We've all known a few of these people and sometimes, if we're honest with ourselves, we know that they reside in our minds as well.

I no longer believe in the death penalty as we know it.  Don't get me wrong - if we catch someone in the act of a heinous crime, or if we have completely irrefutable evidence, I can understand swift justice.  But if I am going to say that I'm pro-life, I can't intellectually ascend to the acceptance of the death penalty when there is even a slight chance that we may be getting it wrong.  I just can't do it.

Politics should never hinder our ability to fellowship.  Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian...those are just labels that define a political world view.  It does not define us spiritually.  Never should we find ourselves in a position where we refuse to break bread or to have fellowship with someone because of their political proclivities.  That's just stupid.

The beginning of spirituality is the end of self.  To truly have a relationship with the Creator, we have to die to ourselves.  I've not accomplished this task, but I know it to be true.  The absolute embodiment of our love for God lies in our self-sacrifice for others - and not just for those who we know intimately, but even those we don't.  I was once told that the homeless were God's wedding invitation to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and I'll tell you, I don't know that not to be the case.

We've gotten it wrong for so long, it may be impossible to get it right again in the macro.  Televangelists, get rich quick schemes, name-it and claim-it, false healings and of course, the Joel Osteen mega church malarkey has so permeated the fabric of our faith community that we've lost sight of what really matters.  What used to be a place of worship, fellowship and love has turned into a retail establishment wherein we can purchase emotional indulgences and walk away feeling as though we've experienced something spiritual.  It is going to take nothing short of a dramatic reformation of the Church to see these problems go away.

We're approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, followed by Christmas and to me, in many ways, Thanksgiving signifies more than contemporary Christmas does about faith.  At the end of the day, we are to approach all things with a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness.  And before you consider me anathema, remember that I do believe, I just don't believe in the fecal matter being dished out today and called "Christianity."

Merry Christmas!