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Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Vague Guide on how to Chase a Dream.

I was musing over New Year's resolutions, and I realized something:

I'm totally chasing my dream, just not yet...

We grow up expecting to put our best on hold. We're told "When you're older", "When you grow up" and "someday". These are soft, safe, indefinite periods of time that will just come to us. The days certainly do, especially "When you're older".

New Year's resolutions are smaller versions of this. We get a little hope in our eyes when we quantify something we want for ourselves, and tell ourselves we'll get right on it...As soon as this year's over. Why not now? Today isn't a round number. There aren't enough 1's in the date.

We're so used to putting things on hold. I want to lose weight, be healthy, and not want to die just because I stood up from the couch. I won't DO anything today, even though my desire to change is at it's most fresh. Even though right now would be the time to make the change.

With bigger changes, there's no reason to tell yourself to flip a switch. You know, I'll continue to absolutely abuse myself, but as soon as I see all those 1's in the date, I can change. I'll excercise 3 hours a day and only eat baby spinach and tofu! What you don't even let yourself think about is by making a little change now, say, getting out and going for a little walk, is so amazingly easy to do, we can't accept it as a step to change.

We aren't used to effort when it comes to our dreams. Dreams are happy thoughts. Putting them off until "someday" lets us imagine they could be real, without the risk of trying and failing. Real effort ending in failure is one of the most genuine disappointments in life. Another disappointment is what people choose to accept as failure.

"Everything didn't go as planned..." so what? That's just life. Did you learn something? Is your goal now unattainable, or even scarier, what if you got close but realized what you truly want is something different?

But, oh wizened Ben, how can I change my motivation?

Think about this: Person McPrimate wants to be a famous actor. He's pushing 40, and has never even pursued this dream.

Parallel World #1: Person joins an acting class. Person memorizes some Shakespeare. Person auditions for a few local plays, never cast. Gives up.

Parallel World #2: Person does nothing, aside from actively resenting award shows.

Guess which one is happier? World #1. He tried, he failed. He still learned a lot, met some new people, stepped outside his comfort zone. He never regrets not doing something.

Most of us could easily live in World #1, there's always something we can do to chase our dreams, even if it's just ask advice from someone who can give you advice on your dream. There's another world, though. The world in which Person never chooses to accept failure, eventually lands a speaking part, maybe another. He may choose to improve his skill. He may choose to try and get on TV, he may choose to stay on stage. As long as Person knows what he wants, he's always going to make strides in that direction, however big or small.

The only thing that separates any of these is choice. In what you choose to do or change, there may be a big step needed that you may not have the resources for, be it money, time or any number of things. A lot of us might be surprised that as much as we hold this excuse to be sacred and all-ending, there's always something we can do. If we can't do the big thing, that's no excuse to hold back on the little things.

Trying is hard. I'm tired...

You have to give yourself permission to take a step back. Sometimes we need to assess a situation, our wants, our needs, from another point of view. We might need a nap. We may need to re-evaluate. We may just be burnt out. Life happens to all of us. Give yourself some conditions, like sulk for two days and do (name an action) immediately after, even if I don't want to at the time. Don't feel bad about your vacation, and try to look forward to beating your own reluctance to take that action. Realize that if you do, you don't have to feel bad about needing your own time, and that puts less pressure from you onto yourself.

If you consider any trial a success or failure, make sure you learn something from it. If you need to be disppointed with yourself, make that disappointment count.

So, I've got some dreams to get to. Later on in life, I may regret not going for it sooner, but at least I won't regret not going for it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

My Experience: Instead of Ending it all, I'm Starting Again.

A few years ago, I was in a customer service job. I was good at it. I talked to people, and even better, I talked gadgets with them. I started zoning out and feeling dizzy most nights, and was asked to leave early quite often.

One time, on the hour and a half drive home, I blacked out for almost half an hour, and found myself quite off course, in the opposite direction of home.

I decided to see my doctor, and it was discovered that my *fasting* blood sugar was 599. My doctor called me after hours on a Friday, and had the pharmacy stay open a little late so I could get some meds and supplies, or else I would have to go into the hospital.

This began a period of change. Mostly for the better. Suffering from depression, I had always felt "not quite right" so I didn't even notice the havoc that daily fast-food lunches were wreaking on my poor body.

So, I figured, one more thing to deal with, I got this shit.

Change is always stressful, even if it's for the better. About the diabetes, it's been 4 years now, nearing 5. I got my diagnosis a month after my daughter's Rett Syndrome diagnosis.

Yeah, pile on the worries.

Sometimes, I don't feel the worry on the surface. It's always there. It still is. I know now how to let myself feel it, and get it out.

If I jump ahead, it's because this gets darker, then it gets better.

So, for a while I was out of work. After medical leave, I'd try to go back, and get asked to leave again. I was "hurting the company's numbers", though still doing a great job as far as the customer was concerned. I was using the knowledge in my head, getting things right, but not following "work flows". I couldn't focus on those. Not while talking to someone and looking up info for them at the same time.

I've always enjoyed the feeling of a job well done. I hadn't had that in too long at this point. I wasn't an earner. It was costing me money to go to work. I had to go out on short-term disability.

While out, things at home got tense, and I was kicked out of the house by my now ex. Don't worry about that, we're civil, even friends most of the time.

I stayed with my sister for a few months, then, near the end of this round of medical leave, I found a place to live nearer to work.

I moved, closer to work, but much farther away from anything familiar. I still had to deal with crippling social anxiety, depression, you name it. And I still just couldn't think straight.

I went back to work around the holidays. I was a mess. A bad phone call, and I'd be in tears, and I wouldn't even know why. Needless to say, I was asked to leave again.

So now I was rooming with someone I barely knew, almost two hours from my children without a car(their mother had it), and the holidays were upon us.

To top it off, I have Rheumatoid arthritis. I had a major flare up, so on top of it all, I was dealing with intense physical pain. That alone is hard to think clearly through.

I stayed in my room, sometimes all day, with the lights off. I've always been able to deal with a lot, as long as their was something, even small, that I could do or work on to make things better. There may have been something I could have done, but I couldn't figure what it was.

I thought about ending it all. My sister was good enough to reach out, but people's pity didn't help me at this point. I was low, and withdrawing more and more.

For a few days, I wouldn't let anyone even know anything was wrong. I was in crippling pain, and when people were there, I made sure I was sitting, and if I had to get up, it was when they weren't paying attention. I couldn't laugh at anything. Nothing had meaning.

I was so overwhelmed, I laid in bed for two days, only getting up to relieve my bladder. I felt so amazingly useless. I couldn't pay my rent, see my kids, or even go to work if it meant finding a new job. I was in no shape for that.

Finally, I went to the medicine cabinet, saw I had the better part of a month's worth of prescription sleeping pills, and some vodka. I swallowed the lot, and laid down, expecting never to get up. It didn't even upset me.

Fortunately, a few hours later, I felt a little wet nose on my face. My dog, London
Someone was rooting for me.
, was nuzzling me, wanting affection. I realized what I had done, gave my dog a hug, and I knew that if I waited, I'd just feel like I did the night before again.

I called 911. It had only been about 3 hours, and I didn't know if I'd make it otherwise. It turns out I'd have to take a few hundred of those pills to really do any damage, but I didn't know that at the time.

I was taken to the emergency room, questioned, and left there for most of the day on a hospital bed. They asked if I would go to a CSU - Crisis Stabilization Unit. I agreed, hoping removing myself from society for a few days would help me get my head on straight.

While there, I learned to make origami. My flare up spread to my right hand, so I made a swan entirely left handed.

I drew some. I found peace in that. The first peace I could remember in months.

I draw, I paint. I make wire sculpture. I play music. Mostly for myself, but in rare cases, I get paid for it. I found a sort of usefulness for myself.

Even though it's been nearly five years, and my head is back on for the most part, things do NOT change overnight. It's hard. It's hard to find what actions one can take. It's hard to see things in a better light. It's not impossible, and if you can manage to stick it out, and find what centers you, maybe find at least one person you can really connect with, you don't have to talk about your problems all the time. Just work on finding out who you are, and be that person. Work on that person. Make that person better. For yourself.
This guy can be your best friend if you treat him right.

When you do things to make yourself better, you are worth so much more to those who need you. However useless you can feel when the darkness inside almost wins, I promise, somebody out there loves you and needs you. Sometimes you just haven't met them, or made them. Sometimes, they're not human.

Whatever you do, be true to yourself. It takes time to really find what that means. It's not easy, and there can be so much chaos in the meantime. Learn to let go of what really doesn't matter so you can focus on what really does. If giving in to anger, hate, or sadness won't help you accomplish something, don't let it win. Do cry if you need to. Crying releases endorphins, our brain's natural mood stabilizer.

Health-wise, I'm healthier than I've been my entire adult life. I've got my strength back, and added some sexy man-muscle, I can even run again. Taking care of yourself is always worth it.

For me, this holiday season, I'd rate as my most stressful yet. Everything I've been afraid of, without going into detail, has happened. Yet, I'm optimistic. I've made changes, and I'm looking forward to a new phase of my life. I promise great things, and for once, I really feel it, too.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Magical Time of the Eighties

I realized I was officially old once I accepted that I liked the time in which I grew up. There was a tension to the times, no different from today, we just weren't as able to feed it. We were just getting an idea of the concept of globalization, we were naive.

The 80's was a decade of excess. More colorful excess than the 70's, which was a mostly brown, yellow and avocado time. The 80's brought us fluorescent color technology, bubble letters, and lots of triangles and checkerboard patterns. It was a visual assault brought on by marketing execs who were doing entirely too much cocaine.

Music was amazing. It was THE time to listen to pop music. Like today, people complained that modern music sucked. Like any other time, the best stuff stays with you and makes the past seem better than it was at the time. Electronic and Synth, which where mostly experimented with in the 60's and 70's, really hit big. People understood better what to do with sound. As with anything, there were those that would overdo it, but we got some of the most emotionally charged, yet deceptively simple music. 

For example, this always makes me happy, but don't look for any deeper meaning:

I should add, as obvious as it is, that computer graphics were in their infancy. Traditional art, therefore, led to one of the most amazing music videos(and songs) EVER.

We had movies. Oh my, did we ever have movies. The 80's brought us The Last Starfighter, The NeverEnding Story, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Labyrinth, The Goonies... so much good stuff. So very much. I could write several posts just on the movies, and several more just on the music.

Things were not ideal. There was tension. There was turmoil in the middle east. We had a president who wanted to take our guns who was involved in scandal. This is not a 21st-century invention. USSR was united and Germany was separated. We all had more nukes than anyone could survive long enough to use. We had the Cold War.

As much fun as the 80's reeked of, there was still a message trying to come out.

The political climate was just as dire in the 80's as it is today, we just didn't binge watch TV news or have internet. Though, in 1980 America boycotted the Olympics in then-USSR who had just invaded Afghanistan. The 1980 Olympic games were a failure. In 1984, with the popularization of cable TV, The US hosted the Olympics. We wanted to show what capitalism, done right(?), could accomplish. The Soviet Union attempted a boycott of their own. The US-USSR events were tense, it's the only time I remember real people showing real pride in their country. Not only did the US win some gold in the deal, but we started winning the "culture war" without even trying.

People got their first glimpses of American TV. People living in other places saw the American ideal. It was the 80's, we lived in excess. The rest of the world thought we must be such a happy, ideal place to live in(some did), and so began the "Americanization" of certain aspects of world culture.

This would set off events leading to the end of the Cold War, and the re-unification of West and East Germany. It turned out to be an amazing time to be alive.