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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

By Birthday- In Closing



        I've now been alive for 40 years. That's 21 years longer than my expected expiration date. I think some people would have made it shorter. To them, I say, "I see your point, but here I stand." I was always a fighter, even when I didn't think so. When thrown under water, infants instinctively hold their breath and survive. But today isn't about all of that and anything that happened then.

Today is about now.

        I think I've seen both sides of the mountain. At least the heights and depths God has allowed me. I stand. I stand both proud to a fault, and broken to extreme. But I stand here, not surviving, but thriving. I am full and happy and excited to start that climb over the next 40 years. I'm excited about my wife. I'm excited about my kids. I'm excited about my family: both blood and chosen. I'm excited about my friends. I think the rest are just details of life.... a means to an end of something else.

        I think the excitement of all of those people that matter are a reflection of a very present and able God. Those who are here, are because He put them here for a reason, and vice versa.

        The wife threw me a birthday party last week. A surprise. And what a surprise it was. I walked into a room expecting to see people that were there to celebrate a dear friend's birthday, but instead, I walked into bewilderment. Everyone shouted surprise and I didn't get it right away. I looked around the room and saw people that I love from all over. People from every corner and history of my life. People from church. People from my childhood. People from right now. People that have always been with me.

        We spent the night singing songs and talking and laughing and I wanted to cry the entire time. My heart was spilling over. Sometimes you forget how much you love people and how much they love you, until you see them show up for you with their arms open. I hugged my wife for what she had done. What she had done to so important to me, and she knew it...that's why she did it.

        I've been in darkness for a bit, sorting it all out. Making baby steps both backward and forward. I think I forgot that I am someone that still means something to someone. I thank my wife and the rest of you for the reminder that I am more than what I have thought of myself for the last several years.

But again, they always come back. My brothers gone.

        I think they always will and don't ever want them not to. Every happiness is a little bit empty. Nearing the end of the night, I hugged my sister as she was leaving for home hundreds of miles away. She started crying for the same void I was trying to hold at bay. There were two people that didn't show up. Two that didn't think ahead before they made decisions that there would be emptiness without them. We hugged tightly, then parted. I told myself as she walked away to keep it together. This isn't about who or what used to be. This is about now. And right now, most of my favorite living people were in one room to celebrate with me.

       My wife softened the blow of turning 30. She softened the harder blow of 40. So much in fact, that I got sick of it being my birthday week and wanted to hear nothing more of it.  She is perfect to me. I think that it should be a reminder that I am perfect to God.

       




Sing.
Migrate.



Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, February 26, 2018

We Were Meant.




        I used to have so much to say. Now I'm silent. I am presently living my life the best way I can. There isn't a manual for living, so I'm working it out as I go. There is good and there is bad, but I've done well with filling my life with those that make me happy. I fill my life with positivity, and yet, what has always been inside me still lies underneath. It's waiting for me. My plan is to leave it standing alone altogether. Forever behind me.

Forever behind me.

        Isn't that the most difficult task? As much as you want to leave your dead things behind, they always seem to find themselves nipping at your heals. I don't think they are supposed to go away. In fact, I don't think life would be better for you if they did. I think the sunshine wouldn't mean much to you that way. I think that life is learning to live with the dead and move towards life...until you are a dead thing in another's life.

We were meant to live, and to smile, and to grieve, and to suffer, and to love.  Until we have a grip on all off those things, we cannot be whole.








Sing.
Migrate.


Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I Choose to be Happy


        What is happiness to you? What does it mean to be happy? Is there a measurement for how you are doing in life? Is life like dieting? You make some good choices and some bad ones and hopefully happiness is ending the day with more good ones than bad? I wish I knew the answer to my questions. As for me, and hopefully my house, we are happy. I am happy. However, many simply are not. It's those people I wish I could give an answer to.

        Right now, I can only say:

1. Follow God. Even if He hasn't made Himself known to you in ages.
2. Marry the right person. He or she will save your life before their own. If you don't believe they were the right person, give them a chance to be.
3. Find a career you can tolerate. The saying that "If you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life" is only for the rich. Real people hate going to work. Find something you don't hate completely.
4. Always have something to look forward to. You will save your family if you risk debt to go on a family vacation. Go and laugh and soak up every moment.
5. Stop wasting time on people that hurt you. Instead invest your time into the people that love you, even if they annoy you. They will be the last ones standing with you.
6. Try to be nice to everyone: even the people that frustrate you. It hurts both of you to be mean. It benefits both of you to be nice.
7. It's so cliche, but slow down and try to enjoy moments. Sitting and watching a television show with your loved ones may seem trivial, but life is short, and one day when you are gone...they will remember.
8. Give people a chance. I've learned the hard way that you should never judge anyone by first impressions. Wait it out. I think you will find some really great friends this way; even though most will probably confirm your initial reaction.
9. Don't be jealous of anyone. We are all messed up in one way or another. If someone seems to be perfect or have figured it out...know that it's fake. No one has it figured out. NO ONE!
10. Lastly, don't keep secrets. The horrible truth is far less damaging than the horrible lie. At least you can still be trusted and respected. Without trust and respect, you really aren't anything special at all.

        So there is my completely flawed and incomplete list of things I've learned about being happy. Life isn't just for you, it's for everyone else around you as well. We are all connected. Remember that you effect the people you see every day; even if you aren't happy where you are.





Sing.
Migrate.






Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Catch




        I dream about it a lot; my old life. At least the one I used to try and support my family with. It was my dream job that I never thought I wanted. At first, it wasn't a job at all. I did it because I loved it...I loved to help hurting kids. It became my livelihood and I still loved it. Until the end part. The end part is always the kicker. In movies, this part would be the catch. The part where it was always too good to be true and any hopes of perfection are lost. Everything becomes lost when you lose hope.

        The catch?

        I would love to blame it on others not caring about these kids. I would love to shift the blame to someone else. I try to do that a lot. The catch was that I couldn't do the job anymore, because I lost my heart for hurting people...because I was hurting. I had lost my faith in a God that wanted to heal. He could heal, but seemed to always choose not to.

He is God and He is good.

        But I stopped believing that He was a God that did miracles anymore. That's a rough place for me to be in. My own life has been a miracle. How does a person reconcile that? How do I see God lift my face out of the mud, even when I deserved to die, with the same eyes watching his brothers die miserably?

       So I left my perfect life and my dream job and became a nurse out of the desire to see people be cured with science instead. What I got was a lot more death. So much death that I had to find another nursing job with less death. What I learned is that people are going to die and no one is going to stop it. Some that I love died before they should have. That was always the catch.

        Everyone wants to be happy all of the time, and never feel the sorrow that makes happiness real. I was watching one of my favorite movies in bed the other day...a day that I chose to remain in bed half the day. Vanilla Sky came on, and the main theme was that happiness exists because of the bitter.

What a hard pill to swallow.

        So I am supposed to stomach the pain of losing so much to preserve this idea that this loss has created something pure and beautiful?

I look around. Here is my wife. Here are my children... happy and safe. Here are my friends... a list still growing. Here is my job...leading people to life and to death. Here am I... still breathing.


Still breathing.


        This journey has been anything but easy, and I'm guessing it was never supposed to be. But a thing that I've learned is that, it's equally as hard for the faithful as it is for the faithless. We all have to watch our friends and family die. We all have to feel powerless. We all have to weep and mourn and become something you never wanted to be.

None of us get out of this life unscathed.






Sing.
Migrate.




Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Lonely Ones



       I don't write much on this side of my life...the side I have always promised myself to share. Some of the reason is because I am writing short stories for this podcast. I've found a more productive way to express myself with that, and I guess I'm putting more time with what makes more sense and fulfills me more. It's never been easy to write this blog. I write something in a moment and leave it. I've made the mistake of reviewing it later in the past, only to be embarrassed. I do it again for the very reasons I started this blog to begin with. I don't think it's good for people to live alone or to have secrets. I think if others know what you need, they will provide...and vice versa. We are whales in a really big ocean that sing to each other only in the wild.

        Another reason is that I haven't had much to say. There is nothing ground breaking or life changing going on in my life and I'm not really inclined to comment on the going-ons of the world right now. Everyone has an opinion right now and I don't have anything new to add. I'm grossed out like you, and that makes me lonely.

        I'm inclined to write tonight because it's Christmas: And as you know, this is a mixed bag for so many people. Christmas reminds us of our childhood's and the way our parent's home's smelled. Christmas reminds us of caskets with our loved ones laying in them. Christmas reminds us that death remains imminent for everyone. Christmas reminds us that Jesus came to give us hope in that death...and in life. For some of us who have faith in that hope, it doesn't always feel like it. Sometimes, it just feels like the floor has fallen out and we hang there, by a thread, waiting to lose strength and fall.

This is the reality of life that being raised a Christian may have neglected to tell you.

        The last several nights, beginning with the anniversary of Joe's death, I've started having these dreams. I have them every year, but this year, it's different. Usually, Will and Joe are in them. This year, whenever I sleep, it's moments from my childhood...both good and bad. Every time though, when I wake up, I feel really sad. Sometimes I think it's nostalgia, and others, I think it's just a sadness for the anger, and despair, and apathy all around me. I think it's a desire to not be angry, or sad, or apathetic anymore.

        It used to be simpler. You would go outside and find a friend and play in the snow. You would lay under the Christmas tree and look up and try and find the angel resting at the top...barely visible because of all of the lights and beauty. Now we often doubt there are any angels at all. I think that happens when we stop looking for them, and start absorbing the negativity; which is a devil lurking around the corner, waiting to pounce on you.

        My journey has taken so many unexpected turns. Every time I think I have it figured out and feel safe in knowing what's likely to come next, I am redirected by force into another direction. This may be because I am stubborn and always have to learn the hard way; as I have already told you. It may also be that I was built to accept punches and continue smiling. It doesn't mean the punches hurt less, it's just that God seems to resurrect me through important people He has placed around me. And another terrible option is that I was made for garbage. In the Bible, in Romans, it says, "When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn't he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? NLT. 

        I'm gonna choose not to believe this one. It may be true, but I don't think so. I just need to look at those around me who have both held me up and allowed me to hold them up, to see that this cannot be true. Not for me. I've met and called family to some of the most extraordinary people. I've seen too much perfection to believe that. So I am forced to believe that God is not just the Resurrected, but also the Resurrector. Both for Jesus, and for me...for you. 

This is Christmas. We are whales that need only to sing to find each other. The ocean is dark and cold, but the ones that sing are not the lonely ones. 





Sing.
Migrate.




Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Path to Peace



        I think most people find their way to some sort of peace, no matter what their journey has entailed. I think that this is kind of a great gift in a really crappy world. The pain experienced prepares us to experience more, thus giving us the ability to take on more and more without breaking. It's a gift that only people that haven't broken completely enjoy. The rest aren't here anymore, or sadly won't be for too much longer.

        Truly, the world can be a beautiful place and it can also be hell. It isn't all what you make of it either. It's what you become because of it that will direct your steps, if you're either lucky or not careful. When the waves are crashing, we are forced to find ways to adapt and find some peace. Or we fail to find it. Like I've said before, I've made quite an interesting stable of adaptation techniques. From a small child laying next to the heat register, to sleeping on the dryer while it turns and hums. I've practiced imagery and make believe. Music. Running. Sitting in front of open windows when it's cold and wrapping myself in a blanket. A stiff drink. All ways to forget the chaos out there and focus on what's good in here.

       Sometimes, the best way to relax is to just pay attention to people; to actually engage them. I see their nuances and quirks and they usually make me smile. I look at the things people do to make other people laugh and that comforts me. Them laughing comforts me. There is something about watching someone who had absolutely lost it in laughter that makes me laugh too. I start seeing the magic in them. I start to really see what makes the world so beautiful...it's the people that live inside of it.

      I think the cure to the worry and anger is to turn everything off and spend time with actual people. Not everyone fits into the boxes we buy for them. It takes real time to place the correct labels on them. I'm thinking if you take that much time on them, you're likely to throw out the label maker in the process. I think it's time for the world to be friends again. At least it's time for your own little world to reconcile.





Sing.
Migrate.



Thanks for reading...Z