Sunday, October 20, 2019

Josh






        There was this kid in the youth group I ran in middle school. Nice kid, always laughing and never causing any problems for anyone. He was quiet most of the time. One day during youth group, his cousin told me he played the piano. There happened to be a piano there. I asked him to play it for us. He got up and calmly played this beautiful piece of art that also kind of hurt me. I immediately liked him.

        Years later, he was in and out of the youth group. He came on a trip to my mother in law's cabin, and road shotgun with me on the way. We exchanged favorite songs from favorite bands on our ipods and he eventually played me an original after I had asked him if he still played piano. It was perfect. It was melodic, a little sad, and also catchy. From that trip, we created a band together, and would never stop playing music together. He would become a brother to me.

        I don't choose many friends. I don't open up to many people. It's a character flaw in me that forced me to open up to everyone here. But I choose to spend my time with very few people. Over years of shooting ideas back and forth and allowing each other's heart's and insecurities to be exposed to each other, you learn to trust that person in a very deep way. If you don't understand that, go try and sing a song that just popped into your head to your best friend as serious and as good as you can. We were both vulnerable. That's why I couldn't make any music without him. He's also viciously more talented than me.

        Then Will died. There was Josh (Also Will's friend). Then Joe died. There was Josh, sitting and making music with me mere hours after, during the most gut-wrenching and desperate moments of my life. He played the piano as I cried through singing lyrics to a song I never wanted to write. He saw me the entire way through. He stayed and played. Not a lot of people keep playing while the ship is going down, but he did. I don't grieve well. Some people figure out more appropriate ways and move forward. I fall all the way apart. He was silently picking up pieces.

I wrote about Laura. I wrote about Andy. Tonight is about Josh. My brother.









Sing.
Migrate.






Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

An Idiot's Guide to Living in Dim Light



        This is the time of year when I usually start writing again. And here I am. Hello world, it's me, I'll be here for a few months, then like a mist, gone again. Depression and anxiety really are a harsh bitch. They change the way you see everything. This year may be the worst I've seen in decades. No idea why, but I want to be someone else right now. My heart is always racing and I can't stand living in my own body. This isn't new to me. It's been terrorizing to me for the entirety of my life.

        I'll do a very brief description, nothing you've never heard before sadly. The world is now full of people like me. I don't know if it's our food, our culture, our environment, or all of the above, but it seems that most of us are dealing with varying severities of depression/anxiety. It's become the norm. Memes are made from such things.

        Depression comes on for me overnight, sometimes with a hopeless and gut-wrenching dream. This didn't used to be the case with me, but recently, these dreams have ushered in darkness. I wake up and I don't want to get out of bed. Everything is dim and dulled. Sharp noises irritate me. People talking too much get pushed to the back end of my consciousness and I am not listening. I don't talk much these days to the people close to me. I sit and stare and listen to music that reflects how I'm feeling. I try not to make noise around the house. I want to be alone with it, which isn't good for me.

        At work, you'll see the opposite. The darker it is inside, the more extroverted I become to people that don't know better. I'm a clown. I like to make people laugh because it makes me feel like a human again. I want to sleep all the time. I stay up late to be alone and wake up late to be alone. All things that are not good for me. I seek to make it worse.

        Anxiety hits during this time at different speeds and periods. The depression I can handle much better than the anxiety. When it comes in, I hate being around people. I hate driving. I hate any noise at all. I hate people looking at me. I hate sitting still. It sometimes makes me feel like I'm dying. I am in fire all the time and feel like it's summer in Arizona.

        Living like this with the desire to live at all produces coping strategies, which is really the reason I chose to write about this. I love life. I love people. I love my family and friends. So I try to figure it out. I try to make sense of it and find weaknesses in my enemy's defenses. Altogether the illness is winning, but can't and won't take me down. Here are a few things I've learned that have helped a little.

Get sleep at night. This one is new strategy, but I've found over the last few months that it helps. Make a schedule and stick to it. Go to bed at a certain time and get up at a certain time, preferably early. This helps manage expectations and forces you out of bed. Plus, an appropriate amount of sleep is really, really good for you.

Breathe. This seems self explanatory, but most people don't breathe effectively. Life is fast and we often let the little things go. We forget that the little things are the biggest things. Breathe from your belly several times a day, focusing on your diaphragm rising and falling. It may even make you light headed at first because you aren't used to breathing properly.

Exercise. I know this post mirrors what every professional tells you. That's why they are professionals. Because it's true. Some exercise makes it worse for me. Lifting weights makes me anxious for some reason, so I add cardio to the end of my lifting days. Running has helped a lot. I sweat and hate it, but in the end, the exhaustion it causes helps reduce anxiety and gives me time in my head being miserable about things other than my depression.  It's good for you and constructive.

Allow zero negativity. If you speak it, you speak it into your personal existence. If you talk positively, positive things follow and vice versa. Fill yourself with what you want to come out. You have to fill your life with things that rival how you are feeling. When I'm depressed, I want to make it worse with sad things. Instead, force yourself to listen to things that bring you somewhere else. I'm a little hypocritical here because I still 90% of the time make it worse for myself. But I've noticed that there is a mood and confidence change when I listen to something positive when down. When I speak positive words into the world...even if I don't completely believe them.

Have a routine. During depressive times, it's common for people to sleep too much. To stop taking care of yourself. To neglect personal hygiene. I've found that the "Look good, feel good" philosophy is best. Set an alarm and get up without the snooze. The thing alarms, you rise up. Shave, shower, put on deodorant and/or cologne. Where clean clothes. Brush your teeth. Get a haircut. Do the things you know normal people do every day, even if you can't currently identify as a normal person.

If they love you, let them in. This one is hard because anyone struggling with depression/anxiety is embarrassed of it and hyper-sensitive about being an imposition to those we love. We have to remember that they really do love us and want to be there when we are hurting. Pushing them away is a death sentence. They are God sent, and we need to embrace them honestly. You'd be surprised I bet, how much people really do love you.

        Eventually, you will wake up. The sun will be bright again and the colors vivid. You'll feel a little better about being you, even if you still aren't sure who that person is. I write this as a person who stopped taking medication because it's side effects were too harsh. This isn't the case with everyone, so medication from a psychiatrist is a very good option. But if you are like me and meds aren't the answer, look for things that make it better. Change the narrative of your life. Take what's left in those guts of yours and fight for your life.






Sing.
Migrate.







Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Terrible Herbst Sboon




        When Will died, I spent so much time hiding in my basement, writing things here: songs, poetry, anything that would offload some of the things that were too overwhelming to me. I took a lot of walks and drank too much in silence...in the night. I disappeared. I shut people out of what was going on with me because I wanted to punish myself and didn't want to hear good advice or any logic that may stop me from hurting myself. It got to be too much and I needed a break. I knew I needed to get out immediately. Out of my head, out of this city of monuments to our memories together, and out of this house that was filled with his ghost.

        My wife and I flew to Vegas to see Andy. Andy is sometimes called Vern here, and although he has different parents, we once sliced our hands wide open so that we could share our blood. We wanted to be real brothers more than anything. Andy knows absolutely everything about me. He's one of the people that I never share casual conversation with. What a blessing that is!

        My flight landed and my wife and I got a week to escape every terrible thing that was waiting for our return. We saw the Grand Canyon, which is the most overwhelming place I've ever been. We saw the Hoover Dam under construction, mountain goats that run fast and climb well, a little old lady named Rosie that hand rolls chocolate raisins on the roadside. We saw grey steak and a friend of ours actually eat it. We saw the world's coldest smoothie that you can set in the sun for hours without melting. We saw this guy flash his headlights at us to warn us that a cop was a half mile behind him. We saw mountains, native American things, turquoise necklaces, men catcalling us at a gay karaoke bar, and the most terrible Herbst that has ever existed.

        As we put our luggage on the rack and turned to say goodbye and return to the misery that would be only partly temporary, me and Andy caught each other in the eyes. People that love each other can see everything in the other's eyes. I think we both almost broke down. I hugged him and I left. I'm not really sure what was hurting me more: leaving my brother when I needed him the most, or returning the the siege that would be my life for the next several years. I don't think that matters much I guess. Because I'm here, and I'm through it, and I'm happy.

       I think it's really important to keep those close to you as close to you as you can. The world isn't going to give you any breaks and it doesn't care about whether you are gonna be ok or not. These are the people that sit with you while your head is in your hands. They will lift you out of it. Laura,  Andy, and Josh were the only people that knew me enough to know I was in trouble, and I am so grateful that God put them in my life.


        I've had some really tough years. I've been so angry and so sad. I've pushed people out and painted the clown mask for everyone else. I didn't think I'd find a way out of it, but God has carried me, through the people that love me most. They've felt the fire carrying me out. I want to thank them now that I'm on the other side of the worst of it. I've written so much about the rock that my wife was when I needed her to be. This one is for Andy. I hope to write about the rest of them soon







Sing.
Migrate.






Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, April 1, 2019

My View From Down Here



        What is it that you need?
        Where do you want to be?
        Where do you have to go to get there?
        What do you have to go through to get there?


        Since I haven't had much to say these last couple of years, and don't have much to say now, maybe I'll talk about some of the things I've learned that have made me a little better along the way. Not everything that comes from really bad things are bad. Some things are good for you, even if you wish you could discard them into the fire. These are the things you take with you when you leave the land of despair. You will now store these things in your bindle and carry them with you always.

        What is it that you need? I thought I needed those I lost. I thought I needed substances to get past them. I thought I needed to be angry and close people off. I thought I needed to be left alone in the dark to wander. I thought I needed to hide what was happening to me from the people that love me. I thought I needed to search the world for alternative answers because I don't want to accept the truth. What I need...something my soul needs...is peace. That is found in God alone. Ultimately, there have been people in this world that have lost everything and everyone, and they carry on with life. God gives and He takes away. It's time that I accepted that.

        Where do you want to be? I want to be happy and full of life, teeming with a spirit for life so attractive that it makes other people happy. I want to stop painting on this clown mask whenever I am feeling like a dirty napkin in some wretched ditch. I want to stop with the bitterness. I wanna be transparent and have faith that the people I love around me will always pick me up without judgement. And they will, because if there is one gift God has given me, it's that I see things in people that help me to judge who really cares about me and who doesn't.

        Where do you have to go to get there? I have to go through repeated moments of forced humility. I have to allow myself to be embarrassed at the cost of others seeing me as weak. I have to acknowledge the things that are broken in me and always have been. I have to force them to the surface so that I can work on them. Mostly, I have to have the desire to work on them. I also have to find the desire to work on them.

        What do you have to go through to get there? I have to be honest. With myself and with everyone. I have to go through some pretty hard moments of letting go. I have to accept unacceptable things. I have to let the world spin around and focus on what's in front of me instead of what's behind me. I think this one will be the hardest part should I even make it this far. Lastly, I have to find some strength. There was a time I was so competitive and ready for a fight. I was born with two strikes against me and have worn that on my forehead my entire life. I have fought everything that has ever come against me. In 2009 I stopped fighting for much. I think it's time I got my hunger back, but I think I'm gonna need God for that.







Sing.
Migrate.






Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Fight

       

        I have a ton of things I could say. It seems like forever since I've written things down, and so many things have happened. But I can't think of anything to really say. I had some pretty extreme ups and some pretty extreme downs which are the great equalizer. In the end, I may be slightly above water. I wanted to write about these great times when I could feel God moving in me. I wanted to tell you all about it, but I was scared it would stop, and I would be left standing there embarrassed that I was so weak.

        I think where I'm at now is a product of both God's intervention and my own destructive traits. I am always trying to ruin what God is doing. It comes easy. I don't even have to practice being an idiot. Give me a blessing and I will shit on it. Needless to say, this is not my greatest feature. So that sucks, so I'll focus on my good ones for now...even though I should be working on the bad ones. I've always been a procrastinator. But in the end, my biggest fear is that my brothers are gonna take me with them slowly. Or really that I'm going to follow them without blinders into this abyss with my stupidity.

        My spirit won't let that happen. My family won't either. When I am weak, they have always been strong. When I've been weak, God has always reminded me who I am. Usually, He takes me through who I was to remind me that I'm not made of anything soft. I fight. You have to fight sometimes. Things go well and you forget that sometimes you have to stand your ground and get bloody.









Sing.
Migrate.


Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

25 Days of Christmas



        Oh hey internet! I'm in the stratosphere still, floating around, watching the world turn around me and in front of me. Usually when I haven't written in a while, it's either because things are going pretty well, or so terrible that I don't want to put that horror into words. Luckily for me, things are going pretty well. I'm getting a hold of myself, building a better me...just in time to tear it all down for Christmas.

        I won't say what happened, but this year I got to mend something that has been broken for a really long time. The pain always sat in my guts and I'm so glad to let it go and see that weight lifted. Some things are silently exhausting you. Any weight lifted is a good thing. I think our lives should be about removing the weight that we carry around with us. If we can get out from under it, we can survive this life and maybe even find a way to salvage some really great things from the damage.


        So it's Christmas and that means I'm gonna have some terrible feelings, but those terrible feelings will be balanced by the beauty of being here...present in my family's lives. I'll try to be present here too, but maybe it's ok if I keep silent too...if things are going well?


        I'm getting to the point where I think maybe it's ok to let things go well and not feel bad about it. It's ok to let people be gone. It's ok to stop honoring their memories at the expense of your own. It's time to make new memories without them. I want it to be time to let them go finally. I'm not sure I can. I'm gonna try and I could use your prayers. I have some thoughts that you can really help me pray to get clarity on.

The world has no idea they are no longer in it. This bothers me the most. 

Neither of them said goodbye, but they both tried and I didn't answer. I could use some help to stop wondering about what those conversations would have been like. 

        I have a lot that I hold onto, but these are the questions that make things really hard for me. I'm guessing they will never get answered and they aren't supposed to. That would make things too easy to keep my faith. Faith isn't supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be terrifying and impossible.


Also, their mom would like to know who actually did burn holes in her new carpet. I have no idea.



       









Sing.
Migrate.




Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, October 1, 2018

Autumn





Light beams in. Then out. Then back again. I know what’s happening. I’ve done it so many times. I’m waking up.

This time, I’m doing it on a dock hanging over a river. We had talked all night, my brother and I. We had these knives Will had boosted and we carved our names into the wooden railing of the pier. It was November and really cool out. Way too cool to be sleeping on the pier. But we weren’t your average teenagers. We believed we were special, and sometimes I still believe we were. We would carve our names on everything we could find so that people decades later would have to admit we existed. They would have to admit that there was a story there. A terrific story of three teenagers that conquered the world, even if that meant something totally different than you might think. We were in search of a better life.

I did indeed get that better life. I was given so many chances and I took one of them and became a person I never thought I was capable of becoming. In hindsight, I sometimes feel guilty for what God has given me. He gave me an exit sign that lit up the night sky and I followed it out of the abyss. They didn’t see it or it wasn’t there for them. They both made a quiet exit while I was sleeping. I don’t like that at all. That’s a point of contention with me and God. I’m wrong obviously, but try and tell my stomach that when I dream about them...which is almost every night right now.

It’s autumn in Michigan and this is the beginning of the slow fading death of summer and the waves are crashing against the shore harder than they did a week ago. They are going to keep crashing now until they freeze and become statues of what they were on their way to what they wanted to be.

I’ve noticed that my life has followed a pretty strict parallel to the waves. At some point, I have to stop freezing on my way to something better...spring.

I woke up on that dock with my brother. It was Thanksgiving. It was freezing and we wanted to go home. But we sat there looking at our names carved in the dock for a little longer. We knew our story was special.








Sing.
Migrate.



Thanks for reading...Z

Friday, September 28, 2018

Objects In the Mirror



        I play the Stop. Rewind. Replay. Rewind. game a lot in my life. Always have. I will hone in on something and become obsessed with a particular moment or time that brings me into something that is long ago, far from me, buried in the mist behind me. I'll focus on people that aren't here with me anymore, and the times I miss with them. I'll focus on the shittiness of them being missing. I'll focus then on all of the other unfair shitty things that happen all the time. But seldom do I rewind to the beginning of the mist.

        I think that's a thing that helps. Dwelling on things that bring me me back to places that don't feel very good, leaves me often pretty angry and detached from the things I should be celebrating. It puts a focus on whatever cloud I'm standing under in that moment. It makes me only think of the clouds. But if you sit and look at your life in whole, and  take yourself all the way back as if you were watching it on a screen, you may see the contrast of black and white.

        I often tell people little stories about me as a teenager, and a lot of people have the same observation: I have come a long way and it is a wonder I am alive and doing normal-ish things. So I sit and take myself back to places that weren't very happy for me to be in. Times that were very tough to deal with. Things a child shouldn't have to deal with. I look at myself as that angry teenager with no concept of a future, wearing a "Fuck the world" pendant, sitting in a jail cell for the fifth time before I even turned 19, and I no longer recognize the world I was living in then. I no longer recognize the broken mess I was. I'm now a different broken mess, but a better one.

        I retrieve memories of my wedding day, the birth and infancy of my children, the work I put in to make a home for us, and the fire that burned inside me to be what I know is really in me to be. I look at these things and a question nags my mind. What made the difference? What was the turning point? Then I remember the bigger picture. It was God. I could never have turned it around. I wanted to die and when I wanted to die, He gave me a life.

       This is a reminder to live it.

Photo credit to: u/V_forvalentin from Reddit






Sing.
Migrate.





Thanks for reading...Z

Friday, August 31, 2018

Climbing Out




"Depression can take the pleasure or enjoyment out of the things you love. A loss of interest or withdrawal from activities that you once looked forward to — sports, hobbies, or going out with friends — is yet another telltale sign of major depression." Mayo Clinic

       Life changes so fast and it's hard to keep up. I have always taken pride in my self-awareness and introspection. I think about what's wrong with me a lot. Probably not good. But lately as life has taken some crazy turns and has become so very busy that  I think I may have lost my grip on what's going on with me. I move along with the tide as it rolls in, breaks, and recoils. I follow it into the sea. This isn't me. It's who I used to be. I have always hated that person.


        I feel a longing in my stomach to create music. I feel the passion to place my life in pieces into words that become my narrative to the world. I want to do all of those great things that I used to do every day. Those things made me balanced and whole. But I don't. Instead, I work, I sleep, I eat, and in my free time, I sit. I want to do them. I just can't. 


        
What I do is normalize instead. I don't want that. I don't want to become a person that just goes on with it...this life, as if there isn't anything inside me that screams at me to fight. But that's where I am. That is what happens when you haven't recognized that you're depressed. I actually have to, after all these years of fighting it, read the description of depression to realize I'm in it. But knowing is only half the battle.

 "The rest is the mess you leave as you pass through." (a quote from the movie, The Heat.) 



         I have always loved this quote because it has inspired me to leave no damage to anyone as I come in and out of their lives. I really try not to. But lately, what I've noticed is this trend of negativity and anger in me. That was me before, not now. I gotta let things go man. I have to relax again and remember that God is in control and that the best thing I can do for me, my legacy, more importantly, my kids...is turn every damned 
negative moment into something different.  


       So here is my action plan and it's easy. 



Say only nice things about people, even if they have angered me.


Stop listening and reading things that feed into my negative nature. Unfollow sites that feed into my bubble.


If I see something positive in you, I'm gonna say it. I think that really helps others along in their day, and in their lives. I often forget that people are effected by things. Sometimes by my words. 


I have to stop thinking that the cards are stacked against me, and it's me against God somehow. It's ridiculous and a total waste of my time. We are all afflicted with something. Let's accept those things we cannot change and move forward with the things we can. 


I'm gonna really try to get back to a place where I focus on beauty and not the wilting. 



I'm gonna make myself pick up that guitar and write myself into everything I can compose. I'm gonna write it all down for you, my friends, to read. I'm gonna have faith again. I'm gonna be to others what I want people to be to me. That's the only way to live I think. 


Sing. 

Migrate. 





Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, June 25, 2018

Growing Up




        It sucks to grow up. A lot of kids wish to keep getting older and achieve these milestones and no one tells them that there will be a hell of a lot of hurt getting there. I've spent a little time over the last few weeks reflecting on how I got to this version of me, that is right now sitting in front of a computer at 1:30 in the morning, still feeling lonely and stupid. The same feeling that prevailed when I was fighting my way into adulthood. It doesn't change. You will always hold on to your insecurities.

But you don't have to respond to them the same.


        For the kids like my son, who is wading through his teenage years, and all other kids trying to make it to your destination, here is my advice. This was advice no one gave me. These words are coming from sorrow, anger, resentment, and also moments of joy that cannot be expressed. They come from my heart...a heart that still hasn't figured out much.

Wait. Feelings can be very overwhelming and powerful. They can make you want to do things that you will probably be glad you didn't do later. It makes me sad to think about what the lives would have been like to those who left on purpose. We won't ever know and thats the saddest part. I think it would be great to sit and have another beer with Will and Joe and talk about the mistakes they almost made.

Be yourself. Trying to be someone else is a huge waste of time and energy. Stick it out if you are embarrassed of who you are. Take my advice above and wait. Be proud of who God is making you. Don't be so hard on yourself. As you get older, you will find a way to navigate who you are. I don't think I knew myself until a few years ago, or probably I never will.

        At 18 years old I was already going through a lot of adult troubles, but with the mind of a teenager. Over the next few years, that eventually ended in a suicide attempt, I realized a very important lesson: All of these terrible things had happened to me and I couldn't control any of them. I had developed a victim lifestyle. It was me against the world. I even wore a "Fuck the World" pendant on my necklace because of my anger toward everything that wasn't me, but directed mostly at me. I let myself live a victim's life and that's a mistake. You can be a victim but when you give in to it and let bad things happen to you, you lose yourself.

        So I pulled my face out of the mud and got to my feet. I put my faith in a God that I now believe cared and then I marched. I decided to take some chances. I took a lot of them. I got courage from my knowledge that you cannot really fail if you put everything out there. This is a principle I believe I have put into this blog most days. I am not a victim. I am who I am because of things that have happened. And while they still pain me to think about, they give me fuel to move on. This gave me the courage to sing. To write. To ask my wife for her phone number. To let all of the bullshit die.

Go For It. You won't get this chance again. In fact, those that don't go for it will have to sit and watch other people get what you wanted because you sat back because of your insecurities. Get up. Show confidence you don't have and put your guts on the table for all to see. They will respect you for it. At the least, you will build confidence...and confidence is everything sometimes.

Confidence helps to not get hurt by people that don't respect you because you are waiting to be a victim.


If It Feels Too Good To Be True...Do Your Best To Keep It. The old saying is not true. It comes from a defeatist attitude that everything bad is going to happen. Everything bad isn't going to happen. Sometimes when something good happens, you appreciate it, fight to keep it, and win it over. It's not due to luck or to them being bad necessarily...It's usually due to you being a good person and appreciating what you have, but also appreciating who you are without compromise.


Integrity. Never break a promise. When I say that, I mean, don't make promises unless you intend to keep them. If you say you will be somewhere, be there early. But don't let them know you were early. Don't lie. Tell people how you feel if it benefits them. If it will suck for them to hear, but you believe it will help them, tell them. Be lovingly and mercifully ruthless. It will help them. Then pick up the pieces with them after.

        Always tell those you love that you love them. Never talk bad about them. Never voice your frustration about them to others. Tell them instead. Then forgive forever. Give those you love everything and never hold back. And don't allow those you love to hold back from you. Don't allow small talk. Don't allow them to withhold. A real relationship requires all of the other person. These are the relationships that last forever. If you want casual, be fake. If you want people to love and love you, give and expect everything.











Sing.
Migrate.





Thanks for reading...Z